Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Beef Stew

I had a cold all last week complete with nasty hacking cough. By later the middle of last week, my husband felt like he was coming down with the same thing (sans hacking cough). We passed on our original plans for Saturday night and stayed in so we didn't get anyone else sick. The last thing anyone wants to do is hang out with a hacking germ-ridden friend and her potentially just has germ-ridden husband.

I had bought ingredients to make beef stew later in the week in the crockpot but since we stayed in Saturday night I decided to make it then. I always make stew in the crockpot but I'd had this Martha Stewart recipe tagged for quite some time and decided to go this route instead. It was delicious! I didn't make any modifications really except for the fact that I thought I had tomato paste and only realized after I opened the can that it was actually tomato sauce. I used it anyway and the only effect it probably had was to make the liquid part of the stew a little more liquidy (which I actually prefer). Oh and I left the bay leaf out - otherwise I pretty much followed this to a T. This one is definitely a keeper!

Beef Stew
(from marthastewart.com)

3 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound medium onions (about 2), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound small white or red new potatoes (about 6), well scrubbed, halved if large
1 pound carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a Dutch oven (5-quart) with a tight-fitting lid, combine beef, tomato paste, vinegar, and flour; season with salt and pepper.

Add onions, potatoes, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until meat is fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaves and if desired, season with salt and pepper before serving.

Crockpot chicken

Whole chickens were ridiculously inexpensive on sale at the supermarket last week. After reading up on a variety of recipes in my "Fix it and Forget It" cookbook and on allrecipes.com I determined I should try one in my crockpot. It came out so juicy and tender. The recipe is mostly a fusion of various recipes I read. I did stuck mostly to how I'd typically season a chicken going into the oven with a few tweaks.

And... let me just say that the Reynold's Slow Cooker Liners are so worth it - they cut my cleaning time down of my crockpot significantly! I use them all the time since I discovered them a few months back.

Crockpot Chicken

1 whole 4-5 lb chicken
1 medium onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tabelspoon butter
1/2 can chicken broth

Rinse chicken thoroughly and pat dry. Be sure to remove any innards.

Chop the onion into large hunks. Mix onion in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon celery salt. Stuff this mixture into the empty cavity of the chicken.

Season chicken with remaining minced garlic and remaining celery salt as well as pepper, paprika, and Italian seasoning. Dot top of chicken with small pieces of butter. Pour 1/2 can of chicken broth into the crockpot.

Cook chicken on low for 7-8 hours or until done. (p.s. I made a gravy with the broth/juices from the chicken by adding about 3/4 cup of water mixed with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch).

And if you don't believe me that the chicken was tender, just check out this picture! The chicken literally fell apart when I removed it from the crockpot. This made it oh so much easier to clean it all off of the bone!! (p.s. On top of the chicken those are the onions that were stuffed into the cavity).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My First Blog Challenge: Master Baker!

I am happy to report that I am participating in my first ever blog challenge. I've been eyeing a few lately but I wanted to find one that I thought I could handle my first time out, some of them are a bit intimidating. That's when I found the Master Baker blog challenge. The rules were simple - create something with the featured ingredient in it, and that ingredient was cinnamon.

So I set out to create up a cinnamon-esque concoction of some sort. My mind immediately went to something with apples and I began brainstorming a plethora of different desserts using apples - there's apple pie, apple sauce, apple cake, apple cobbler, apple tarts, apple turnovers. Wait, I thought to myself....apples are a little too obvious and mundane, how about another fruit? After some careful thought, I decided on pears. They were similar to apples in texture and I knew they'd work well with the cinnamon. So I began replacing my list above withe pears. Pear pie? No. Pearsauce? Nope. Pear cake? Eh. Pear cobbler? Feasible. Pear tart? Maybe. Pear turnover? Yes!

I love turnovers. Delicate layers of puff pastry wrapped around fruity goodness is my idea of delicious whether it be for breakfast or dessert. But, I couldn't just made a plain ole pear turnover- enter almonds for a little extra oomph. I also needed a yummy icing - enter inspiration from the Peanut Butter Cupcakes I made a couple of weeks ago. I had modified that cream cheese icing recipe by adding a little peanut butter. I decided I could modify it again (sans peanut butter of course) to fit the overall theme. My husband, aka my guinea pig, was my fellow taste tester of the final product. Knowing that a blog challenge was riding on this taste test, I was giddy that he gave the final product an overwhelming two thumbs up.

And so I introduce to you the results of my first blog challenge.....

Pear Almond Turnovers with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
2 medium pears, sliced thinly in 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup slivered almonds + 2 tablespoons (for garnishing on top of finished turnover)

3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
(This makes enough icing for 2 batches of turnovers)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Cut puffy pastry sheet into 4 squares.

Combine pears, lemon juice, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, sugar, and 1/4 almonds in medium bowl. Place about 2 - 2 1/2 tablespoons of mixture onto each puff pastry square. Dab water edges of pastry with a little bit of water. Fold pastry over pear mixture to form a rectangle and seal by pressing edges together. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden.

Meanwhile, make icing: Combine cream cheese and butter and mix on low speed with hand mixer. Add vanilla and continue mixing. Add confectioner's sugar gradually. Then add cinnamon continuing to beat on low until well combined.

When turnovers have cooled for about 5-10 minutes. Place a generous amount of icing in a plastic resealable bag. Knead icing down into one corner of the bag and snip the tip of the bag off with kitchen scissors. Use the bag to drizzle each turnover with icing. Sprinkle each with extra slivered almonds. Serve warm.

I've been Meme'd again

My blogging buddy from Australia, Dell of Cooking and the City, has tagged me for a fun meme...so here it goes!

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Hmmm....10 years ago I was a junior in high school trying to figure out life probably, stressing over things that would probably seem weird and inane now, and trying to figure out why I didn't have a boyfriend yet. Little did I know that in a few short months I would be meeting who would turn out to be my future husband!

What were you doing 1 year ago?
I do believe a year ago today was my friend Denice's bridal shower so I think I, along with the other bridesmaids and Mrs. H., were probably trying to get everything in order.

Five snacks you enjoy
1. Chocolate
2. Chocolate
3. Chocolate
4. Chocolate
5. Chocolate :-)

5 Things I would do if I was a millionaire
1. Travel to my heart's content
2. Get involved in some volunteer work, help with my money if I could
3. Buy a summer home on Cape Cod
4. Buy a boat, I love boats
5. Get new cars

5 Bad Habits
1. I bounce my leg up and down when I'm anxious/excited/stressed/nervous
2. I hate running the dishwasher too often so I'll jam pack as much in there as I can
3. I'm clumsy
4. I can't think of anything else, I'm pretty perfect I guess (HAHAHAHA)

5 things you would never wear again
1. Neon anything (ahhhh to be a child of the 90's!)
2. Shoulder pads (I'm stealing this from Del...what were we thinking?)
3. Blue plastic framed glasses (ahhh to be 10 again!)
4. MC Hammer-esque pans (yup...90's again)
5. Opaque pantyhose (all set with those unless they make some kind of crazy comeback)

5 Favourite (kitchen) Toys
1. Cusinart mini-prep
2. Sandwich maker
3. Cookie scoop (I have a few in various sizes)
4. Bread basket with warming stone (comes in so handy when you have guests over!)
5. Keurig Coffee maker!

And I tag....
Danielle from Make No Little Meals
Erin from Erin's Eats
Kayte from Kayte's Kitchen
Samantha from Our Sub Life

Friday, February 22, 2008

E for Excellent!

I am so happy that I've been given an award from the very sweet Dell of Cooking and the City! It was such a pleasant surprise.
Now I guess the rule is that I get to tag 5 more blogs that I think are excellent!!! This should be fun!
My first tag has to be my friend Danielle from Make No Little Meals - now, you may say I'm partial since we are friends but just read her blog! Danielle's creations are nothing short of ordinary and I bow to her culinary expertise which blows mine out of the water! Oh and did I mention she is an awesome photographer too?
Second is Bridget from ...and a Cookie for Dessert. I just really love Bridget's cooking style, her willingness to try different meals and bake different goodies. I really enjoy reading her blog in general and I've made a few of her recipes myself.
Next up is Stephany from Realistic Eats, I "know" Stephany from my local nest board. Her blog title says it all, down to earth and wholesome. Just how I like it.
Lindsay and Taylor from Love and Olive Oil - I just love their recipes and the photography of their food makes my mouth water. Definitely a blog worth checking out.
And last but certainly not least, Amber from Amber's Delectable Delights. I love Amber's witty commentary about her recipes, nevermind that she has made some pretty awesome recipes along the way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Balsamic Chicken & Chorizo Pasta

Greg: So what's for dinner tonight?
Me: I don't know....I am going to make something up as I go along....

And so, Balsamic Chicken & Chorizo Pasta was born.

I had a link of chorizo in the fridge, and 2 boneless chicken breasts. While I ruminated on what I could make for dinner last night, for some reason, mixing those two into some spaghetti sounded like a good idea. It was! Serve this up with some salad as a starter and you've got a fulfilling meal.

So here is my creation, with my best estimate of measurements (which I think are pretty accurate) and my best explanation of techniques! You could ,of course, add more spice to this recipe if you wanted. Overall I was really happy with how the flavors of this dish came together.

Balsamic Chicken & Chorizo Pasta

2 large boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 link of hot chorizo, cut into chunks
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
About 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
About 1/2 of a medium onion, grated
2 - 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
About 1/2 cup white wine
About 1/2 pound spaghetti, cooked

Bring a salted pot of water to a boil. Cook spaghetti until al dente.

Toss chicken chunks in salt, pepper, and paprika Place about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and toss until almost cooked. Add chorizo, onion, and minced garlic. Add balsamic vinegar. Cook until chicken chunks are cooked through and garlic and onions are browned.

While still on medium heat, add about a 1/2 cup of white wine to chicken/chorizo mixture to deglaze pan. Make sure to get all of the brown bits on the side of the pan. Add spaghetti to skillet and toss in meat mixture and resulting "sauce" until well coated and pasta is heated through. Add an extra tablespoon or two or olive oil if you feel you need more of a coating on your pasta.

Monthly Muffin Challenge: February

It's Monthly Muffin Challenge time!

This month's muffin is a spiced carrot muffin a la Martha Stewart. I made a few modifications like replacing some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, using sour cream instead of yogurt, and cutting down on the carrots a little and adding raisins (I made some sans raisins for my raisin hating hubby). Overall, a good recipe, but not the best muffin recipe ever. I'm sure I'll discover that one at some point during 2008!

Spiced Carrot Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sour cream
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk.
1 ¼ cups peeled, shredded carrots, (about 2 medium)
½ cup raisins

Line 12 cups (each 2 1/2 inches wide) of a standard muffin tin with paper liners or spray each muffin cup generously with cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, pumpkin-pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, butter, milk, and egg. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add yogurt mixture. Stir until just combined. Fold in carrots. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Valentine's Day dessert

My husband and I had decided earlier in the week to just call for takeout on Valentine's night, since we rarely get takeout and did not want to deal with the Valentine's day crowds. I did want to make a special dessert nonetheless. So I decided to make this recipe that I'd been wanting to try for a Skillet-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie that fit the bill (i.e. not very time consuming so I could kick back and relax).

Problem is, while at work on Thursday I realized I didn't have chocolate chips at home. I didn't want to make a supermarket run after work, especially since it's not a convenient trip (I actually have to drive past my house to get there). So I used my noggin and I stopped at a CVS downtown (which I could just walk to on my way out of work to the parking garage). I bought a couple of candy bars - one dark chocolate, one milk chocolate and cut those up to make more of a chocolate chunk cookie. Either way, the results were delicious. We served warm this with ice cream of course. Nothing better than a giant chocolate chip cookie on a cold winter's night!

Skillet-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie
(from MarthaStewart.com)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) mixed milk- and semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; mix until they are fully incorporated. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Transfer dough to a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (I actually used my 12-inch skillet and cut down the cooking time to about 30 minutes), and press to flatten, covering bottom of pan. Bake until edges are brown and top is golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Don't overbake; it will continue to cook a few minutes out of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges. Serve warm; top each wedge with a scoop of ice cream.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ouefs en cocotte

Oui, oui, sounds fancy, no?

If you haven't figured out by the picture below, ouefs translates into eggs. This is another Nigella recipe from my "Nigella Express" cookbook which I love. I made these for brunch the other day. I was such a nice wife and left my husband sleep in until about, oh, 12:15 or so and I was in the mood for brunch type food. So I made these - they were rich, creamy, and tasty. I had some asparagus in the house and Nigella had suggested that was a good dipper for the eggs. I also made some potatoes and served these with some bread. It was a nice, filling, and a little bit different twist on the usual sunny-side up eggs or omelets I would typically make on a weekend. My husband was a tad confused when I handed him a plate with asparagus and eggs on it, but I reminded him it was nearly 1pm which makes it perfectly acceptable and in the end, he was happy to oblige.

Ouefs en Cocotte

Butter for greasing
6 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons pepper (white preferably but I used black pepper as you can see)
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 tabelspoons white truffle oil (I just used EVOO)

Preheat oven to 375F and put a full kettle of water on the stove.

Dip pastry brush in a soft stick of butter and grease 6 ramekins (4oz each) putting them in an ovenproof 9x13 pan as you go.

Crack an egg into each ramekin, followed by 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon cream, and finally 1/4 teaspoon of oil.

Pour boiling water into the pan to come about halfway up each ramekin. Put in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately with bread, and/or steamed asparagus.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cookies for Co-workers

Not my co-workers though, my husband's!

Today my husband is working a not-so-normal day (since he usually doesn't work Sundays!) with a bunch of his co-workers. When they have days like these I tend to whip up a couple of batches of cookies for them.

The first recipe for Grandma Bennet's Sour Cream cookies is from the "Made in Heaven" cookbook I mentioned in a previous post. It was submitted by Alison Mancini and these came out great. Kind of fluffy and cakelike, but still yummy. I only made a minor change to the recipe in that I rolled the dough in cinnamon sugar rather than sprinkle it on top of the dough before baking. These were definitely snickerdoodle-esque in nature, just without the butter! I don't know Alison, or Grandma Bennet...but thanks nonetheless!

The second recipe is from my Cookie Bible cookbook. This cookbook could keep me busy forever! The original recipe called for peanuts, M&Ms, and raisins. I, however, didn't have peanuts or M&M's so I used about 1/4 cup of mini-chocolate chips I had sitting in my cabinet, about 3/4 cup of heath bar toffee bits that I also had sitting in my cabinets, and 1 cup of raisins. It was a good way to use up some leftovers since just about anything could go in these cookies. The result: yumminess!

Grandma Bennett's Sour Cream Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 cup sour cream (I used light)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add vanilla and eggs and beat until fluffy.

Sift flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add sifted mixture to shortening mixture alternately with sour cream. Mix thoroughly (I used low setting on my hand mixer).

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture. Drop onto greased baking sheets spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes or until done.

Makes about 4-5 dozen.

Super Chocolate Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup candy-coated chocolate pieces
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
(see above for other add-ins that I used)

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in medum bowl; set aside.

Beat brown sugar, butter, and shortening in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in candy pieces, raisins, and peanuts (or whatever other mix-ins you are using).

Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake cookies 8-10 minutes or until almost set. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets then transfer to wire racks. Cool completely.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

A delayed entry...

Generally I actually like to go grocery shopping. I actually sort of enjoy it! What I do mind are the prices of 3 household staples:

1) Deli meat
2) Cereal
3) Pre-packaged cookies

Let's face it, these three items are WAY overpriced. I can buy a ham, cook it, slice it and get way more for my money making sandwiches that way than buying meat at the deli counter. Cereal is expensive, even on sale and with coupons. There has to be huge profit margins in that industry. And then pre-packaged cookies - those are ridiculous too. You pay, if you're lucky, $2.50 for a package of cookies, on sale.

Alas, we all have to give in to buying these items. They may be pricey, but they are often convenient. However, I like to avoid purchasing #3 when I can. Not only is my husband incredibly picky with pre-packaged cookies (I think I may have spoiled him with all of my baking) but also, I can make a batch of brownies from a box that can go pretty far and are a lot less expensive. I ran across this recipe from my hero of all heroes, Paula Deen, which was a nice twist on just using the plain old brownie mix. I made these about 2 weeks ago and totally forgot to blog about them. I used Heath Bars for thise one (Paula suggests Symphony bars). Enjoy!

Toffee Brownies
(from foodnetwork.com)

1 (17.6-ounce) package brownie mix with walnuts
Vegetable oil cooking spray
3 (6-ounce) candy bars with almonds and toffee chips (recommended: Symphony brand)

Prepare the brownie mix according to package directions.

Line a 13 by 9-inch cake pan with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil cooking spray. Spoon in half of the brownie batter and smooth with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Place the candy bars side by side on top of the batter. Cover with the remaining batter.

Bake according to package directions. Let cool completely, then lift from the pan using the edges of the foil. This makes it easy to cut the brownies into squares.

A Meme...

So I was just tagged to do this meme from Bake at 350...here goes nothing :-)

So, here are the meme rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

1. I don't have my ears pierced, I don't know why, I just have zero desire to pierce them. Oh well!

2. I didn't have to change my last intial when I took my husband's name....and neither did my mom when she married my dad! What are the chances of that?

3. I have a hugely, gigantic crush on Mike Lowell of the Red Sox. I am sooooooooooo glad he's coming back for the next 3 seasons!

4. I fell and lost one of my front teeth when I was about 2. The dentist was able to put it back in but a couple of weeks later it fell out once again so they had to put a fake tooth to save the spot so that my adult tooth would be able to come in when it was ready (which wasn't until I was about 8).

5. I have a lot of trouble finding shoes. I wear a 5 or 5 1/2, and I have a narrow heel and a high instep. It makes shoe shopping difficult sometimes especially since most department stores carry shoes starting at a size 6. I actually can't remember the last time I bought shoes at a store, I do most of my shoe shopping online. All hail shoebuy.com with their awesome search function, free shipping, and free return shipping! It has made my life so much easier!

Here are my tags:

Danielle at Make No Little Meals
Kayte at Kayte's Kitchen
Stephany at Realistic Eats
Cake Spy at Cake Spy
Diana at D.S. Brennan Photography

Friday, February 8, 2008

Frosted Peanut Butter Cupcakes

My friend Sam gave me two super cute cookbooks for my birthday this past summer - a Cupcake one and a Muffin one. I was flipping through the cupcake one the other day and decided the Frosted Peanut Butter Cupcakes recipe looked delish, so I made them Wednesday night.

I pretty much followed the recipe to a T, it says it makes 16 cupcakes, I only got 14 and in the end, I definitely could have just made 12 slightly fuller ones. The frosting recipe definitely makes more than enough for this recipe. I may try to make use of the leftovers at some other point this weekend for something else. The only real change I made was to the frosting recipe, adding some vanilla and a bit of peanut butter to kick up the flavor. Also, as you'll probably notice, this recipe has really odd measurements that you don't see everyday (1/8, 5/8, "heaping,").

One snafu occurred while making these - somehow I either didn't turn the oven timer on or accidentally shut it off when I went to check on the cupcakes at some point. As the minutes went by I questioned why the timer hadn't gone off yet. Lo and behold, I discovered the timer wasn't on. Quite luckily nothing was burnt, just slightly overdone so I got lucky in that respect. My husband said they were good, just a little dry, which I expected given the situation. Next time I make these I'll just have to make sure the timer is on!

Frosted Peanut Butter Cupcakes
(from Cupcakes by Susanna Tee)

4 tablespoons butter
Heaping 1 1/8 cups firmly packed brown sugar
Heaping 1 1/8 cups firmly packed brown sugar
Heaping 1/3 cup crunch peanut butter (I used smooth)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Scant 1 5/8 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Generous 1/3 cup milk

8oz cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 350F. Put 16 muffin liners in muffin pan.

Put butter, sugar, and peanut butter in a bowl and beat together on low with electric mixer for 1-2 minutes or until well mixed. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla extract. Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl, and then, using a metal spoon, fold them into the mixture, alternating with milk. Spoon batter into muffin liners (about 2/3 full).

Bake cupcakes in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown. Transfer to wire rack and cool.

To make frosting: put the cream cheese, peanut butter, and butter in a large bowl and use electric mixer to beat together until smooth. Sift the confectioner's sugar into the mixture and beat until well mixed and smooth.

When cupcakes are cooled, spread frosting on top of each cupcake. Store cupcakes in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Quick Crab Stew

I made Paula Deen's Quick Crab Stew recipe for dinner last night and served it in a bread bowl. Yum! I figured it would be good to make the full batch of this to have for leftovers for lunch today and on Friday since Lent began today.

I'd call this more of a soup than a stew as it wasn't super thick...maybe a "stoup" at best. Either way, this was very tasty and satisfying. I made a few minor changes, one being that I used canned crab because I'm mildly lazy and kind of cheap! Also, in place of dry sherry since I did not have it on hand, my friends from my local nest board suggested using apple juice as a substitute and it worked out just fine! I will definitely be making this again.

Quick Crab Stew

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of potato soup
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup (I used 98% fat free)
1 soup can milk
1 soup can half-and-half
2 6oz cans lump crab meat
1/4 cup dry sherry (I substituted with 1/4 cup apple juice)
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the soups, milk, and half-and-half. Add the crabmeat and bring just to a boil. Add the sherry and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately. Or allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate or freeze immediately in plastic microwavable reusable containers with lids.

Wings 'n ribs....no pictures though

There was too much excitement/stress during the game Sunday night, and too much scarfing down of food for me to really think about picture taking. Heck, I'm lucky I even took one of the nachos (which was part of our "appetizer" course - the game had just started). And the only reason I have a dessert picture is because we have leftovers!

Either way, I'd decided you can't go wrong with typical "football food." For Sunday night's main course we had Sweet and Savory ribs which I've made before (but prior to my blogging days) and Quick Chinese Chicken Wings. The latter came from a recipe book from a local church called "Made in Heaven" where parishoners submitted recipes. My aunt and uncle gave me this along with some other great stuff for Christmas (see my post a few entries down about my apron). I made a couple of minor changes to the recipe that are incorporated below. These wings came out fantastic, so thank you, Betsy Moody...........wherever you are!

Sweet and Savory Ribs
(from Taste of Home)

1 large onion sliced and separated into rings
2 1/2 - 3 lbs boneless pork ribs (I used about 4lbs of bone-in ribs the other night)
1 bottle honey barbeque sauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Place onions in 5 or 6 quart slow cooker. Top with ribs. Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over the ribs. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until meat is tender (or in the case of using bone-in ribs - falling off the bone!)

Quick Chinese Chicken Wings

1/4 cup canola oil
2 tabelspoons molasses
1 teaspoon dry mustard
8 oz. light soy sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
25 whole chicken wings

Place wings in a glass baking dish. Combine the rest of the ingredients and pour over wings. Cover and marinate overnight in refrigerator (I marinated a full 24 hours).

Place wings on baking sheet covered with foil. Pour some of the excess marinade on top and place in preheated 350 degree oven for about 1 hour.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Nacho ordinary nachos

In trying to decide what to make for the big game, I was browsing through the Food Network's website as they of course had a whole section dedicated to the Superbowl. Among some of the recipes was this one for Chorizo Bean and Cheese Nachos by Emeril. I don't really like Emeril much to be honest, I thin he's a bit annoying, and thinks he's a lot cooler than he really is. I thought this recipe of his, however, sounded fun, different, and worth trying. I made a few modifications, per usual, and they appear as so below. I only remembered to take a picture after they were half eaten...oops...but at least the picture proves that they were good!

Chorizo, Bean, and Cheese Nachos

1 hot chorizo link removed from casing and crumbled
1 lb mild ground chorizo
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 15oz can pinto beans
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bag Tostitos hint of lime tortilla chips
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
1 small white onion, sliced into thin rings
Pickled sliced jalapenos – amount of which to your own taste

In a large skillet, cook the chorizo, garlic, and cumin, stirring, over medium-high heat until the sausage is browned and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Drain about half of the water from the can of beans. To the fat in the pan, add the pinto beans (with remaining water), chili powder, salt, and ½ to ¾ cup water.. Cook over medium heat until warmed through, smashing with the back of a heavy wooden spoon or potato masher until chunky/smooth. Add any additional water if needed to achieve desired consistency. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a large, oval ovenproof platter or in a large baking dish, spread 1 layer of chips. Top with a layer of 1/2 of the beans, then 1/2 of the sausage, cheeses, onion rings, and chopped jalapenos. Repeat with another layer of chips, beans, sausage, cheese, onions and jalapenos. Bake until the cheeses are melted and the mixture is hot, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven.

p.s. For Sunday night's main attraction I made ribs and chicken wings, they'll show up in the next entry, whenever I get a chance to make it!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Desserts first!

We had my BFF Michelle and her fiance Jay over for the Superbowl last night. Born and brought up in Rhode Island, I am a fan of the losing team and was pretty disappointed, but congrats to the Giants, they played much better than the Pats did. That's all I'll say about that.

On the bright side, at least the food I made last night was good!

I am posting about the dessert first, because I can...so there. I made this from "...and a Cookie for Dessert." I love this blog and I loved this quick, easy dessert idea even more. For mine, I used oreo ice cream for one layer of the ice cream, and coffee ice cream for the other. Two of my favorite flavors all wrapped up together in between layers of brownie!!! I believe Jay's exact words were: "This is slammin'!" Mmmm! Thanks, Brooke!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A turkey burger worth gobbling up....

....get it? The title of the post? Oh I crack me up!

Flipping through my new Rachael Ray "Just in Time" cookbook the other day I was inspired by her New England Chicken Patty Sammies recipe. I gave it a go with the turkey and a few other alterations to the original recipe and wow, what a great burger this was!

I'd like to apologize upfront for my picture. I was obviously too busy drooling over the site of the burgers to really focus on plating it properly with melty cheese hanging all over the plate....nevermind that one of the burger buns is upside down. I've got the bottom bun on top! Oh well, it was worth rushing through the picture taking step so I could down my burger that much faster!

New England Turkey Burger Sammies
(inspired by "Just in Time" by Rachael Ray)

1 package of ground turkey (usually around 1 - 1 1/3 lbs)
Celery salt
Onion Powder
4 tablespoons EVOO
1 small onion thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
4 rolls of your choice (or go with the English muffin option suggested by RR, I didn't have any on hand)
Sliced sharp cheddar cheese
3 tabelspoons honey mustard

Preheat your broiler.

In bowl, mix turkey with salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder to your desired taste levels. Form 4 thin patties (I did 3 bigger ones, but you could easily get 4 out of 1 package). Preheat one large and one medium sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of EVOO, twice around the pan, to each skillet. Place turkey patties in large skillet and cook for 5-8 minutes on each side (or until cooked through).

Slice buns in half, place on cookie sheet and into preheated broiler for about 2-3 minutes or until toasty. Take them out of the oven and put them aside.

Meanwhile, add apples and onions to second skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook until tender about 6-7 minutes.

Place a turkey burger on one half of each toasted roll and top them with some of the apple/onion mixture and then 2 slices of cheese. Spread the other half of the roll generously with honey mustard. Slide baking sheet back into the oven for another 1-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.