Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

As you may gather from some of my posts, I have this addiction to the grocery store. I could spend endless hours reviewing the sale ads, creating my menus, & grocery shopping. I think my favorite mail day is Wednesday, b/c that is when I should get the weekly grocery store ads. I am always a little disappointed when it doesn't come until Thursday.

So you can only imagine how excited I get for the grocery store pre-Thanksgiving ad. Sugar, flour, butter, Cool Whip, pumpkin, all things baking are always on sale for super cheap. Like $1 a piece. And thus I stock up.

With my 5 cans of pumpkin, I decided to try pumpkin muffins first. I was making breakfast for my husband & his cousin before the disastrous Chiefs game that I refused to go to, and while I had eggs, bacon & hashbrowns on the menu, I wanted something sweet as well. Plus I woke up at like 7am and was bored.

Pumpkin Muffins
Cooking Light
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture.

Combine pumpkin and next 6 ingredients (pumpkin through egg white); add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon the batter into 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

Combine 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and brown sugar; sprinkle over muffins.

Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

I will first & foremost apologize for the horrible picture. I had to take it at work b/c I forgot about taking one, and these muffins deserved a picture. Initially I had made them without frosting & just the crunchy sugar topping.
But the sugar topping soaked into muffins by Monday morning. I had about 12 muffins leftover, so I told the hubs to bring them into work. I had the pumpkin yumkins on my baking list, but since they were pretty identical to these, I decided to just use the frosting recipe.
1 (3oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp fresh squeezed orange juice
2 c powdered sugar
zest of one orange, preferably organic
I am not sure if she has her measurements wrong, but 1 tsp of OJ mixed with 1 cup of powdered sugar & 3 oz of cream cheese makes a paste, not a frosting. I added another oz of cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat) and probably 2 Tbsp of OJ to the mixture.

Olive Garden Endless Soup & Salad

Last Saturday the husband & I decided to pull out the Christmas decor & get to decorating the house. Last year, we braved the day after Christmas sales at our local Target & stocked up on outdoor lighting & decorations. (I'll post some pictures of that later)

Since we would be spending most of the day outside, and there was a slight chill in the air, I decided to make a few soups for lunch & dinner. Apparently I was recreating OG endless soup & salad b/c the two soups I made are both on that menu.

First up I made Zuppa Toscano. I found the recipe over at Amber's Delectable Delights. I pretty much followed to recipe to a T, except that I already have some Italian Sausage cooked. So instead of crumble sausage, we had chunks. I wish I had caught that she mashed some of the potatoes b/c that would have made the consistency much better. Our was a little soupy & little oily. It was still delicious.

1 pound spicy Italian sausage - crumbled
1/2 pound smoked bacon - chopped
4 cups water
2, 14.5 ounce cans (about 3 2/3 cups) chicken broth
2 large russet potatoes - scrubbed clean, cubed
2 garlic cloves - peeled, crushed
1 medium onion - peeled, chopped
2 cups chopped kale OR Swiss chard --> I used Spinach
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper - to taste

1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as you fry it; drain, set aside.
2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown bacon; drain, set aside.
3. Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot; simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender.
4. Add sausage and bacon to pot; simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add kale and cream to pot; season with salt and pepper; heat through.

I also made minestrone soup. I liked the recipe however, I would have liked more beans in it. I felt they were drown out by all the vegetables. I really liked the recipe because I was able to use some of the frozen vegetables from the garden.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chopped yellow squash
3 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears) --> I used canned corn
4 cups chopped tomato, divided
3 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta (very short tube-shaped macaroni)
1 (15.5-ounce) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until softened. Add oregano and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in squash, zucchini, carrot, and corn; sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat.

Place 3 cups tomato and 1 can broth in a blender; process until smooth. Add tomato mixture to pan; return pan to heat. Stir in remaining 1 cup tomato and remaining 2 cans broth; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Add pasta and beans to pan; cook 10 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in spinach, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Ladle soup into individual bowls; top with cheese. Garnish with coarsely ground black pepper, if desired.

This was a nice healthy option to the very unhealthy Zuppa Tuscano. For lunch we just had soup, but for dinner I added a tossed Italian Salad & breadsticks. The minestrone made a TON of soup. I froze about half it & we still had enough for 3 days of lunches for 2 people. The Zuppa made about half as much as the minestrone.

Chicken with Sherried Mushrooms

I found this recipe in my Cooking Light Complete cookbook as well. I forgot how much I really enjoy Cooking Light recipes. I my opinion, I haven't been impressed with the past few magazines I have received. They have a lot of baking I try or would like to try, but the meals have been either too over the top or just no interest to me.

Of course the recipe is only available via the Cookbook, so I will need to post it later, but I feel like a blog-slacker so I am going to post the pictures today & update with the recipe later.

I served this with some steamed broccoli & a box of creamy Rice-A-Roni. Yes, I do fake it sometimes. The chicken had wonderful flavor and I was impressed that the mushrooms didn't turn mushy, they kept their shape & texture quite well.

Here is the recipe:
1 (14.5oz) can fat-free low sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp butter
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp minced shallots
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

1. Place broth in a small saucepan & bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1 cup, about 7 minutes.
2. Combine flour, salt & pepper. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture. Place a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken & cook for 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from the pan.
3. Add butter, mushrooms, and shallots to the pan. cook over medium high heat until mushrooms are light browned, stirring constantly. Add sherry; bring to a boil. Add 1 cup reduced broth, cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups (about 7 minutes).
4. Return chicken to the pan; cover & reduce heat; simmer for 12 minutes until chicken is done. Remove chicken to a serving platter or plate, keep warm. Bring sauce to a boil; cook one additional minute. Stir in parsley. Serve mushroom mixture over chicken & top with a little sauce.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Cookies

I said I was addicted, I was serious. These cookies are all so easy & quick to make. I just start up a batch and in 30 minutes we have fresh cookies at home.

This came from the Cooking Light Complete Cookbook again.

These are kind of like a cookie version of a molten cake. They are very chewy on the inside, but crisp on the outside.

Double Chocolate Chews
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate mini-morsels
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp light colored corn syrup
1 Tbsp water
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, powdered sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
3. Combine 3/4 cup chocolate morsels & oil in a saucepan and cook over low heat until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Pour melted chocolate mixture into a large bowl. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, water, vanilla & egg whites to chocolate mixture. Stir in flour mixture and 1/4 cup chocolate morsels.
4. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake for about 8 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans for for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Freezer Meal

For a quick meal, I pulled out some of my homemade marinara sauce & some Italian meatball from the freezer.

I just boiled some whole wheat rotini pasta & dinner was ready in about 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Icebox Cookies

I had intended to bring these to my cookie exchange, but due to circumstances beyond my control I will not be attending. But these cookies have gotten me on a baking addiction. I found my Cooking Light Complete Cookbook & have been cooking/baking from it for the past few days.
I was interested in this recipe b/c it showed how to make striped cookies. In the book, it also shows you how to make spiral ones.
I'll post the recipes first:

Peanut Butter IceBox Cookies
2 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons stick margarine, softened
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
Combine first 3 ingredients, and set aside. Beat margarine and peanut butter at medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugars, beating at medium speed until well-blended. Add vanilla and egg white, and beat well. Add flour mixture; stir well. Turn dough out onto wax paper; shape into a 6-inch log. Wrap log in wax paper. Freeze while you make the chocolate cookies

Chocolate Icebox Cookies
2 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons stick margarine, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl; set aside. Beat margarine at medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add vanilla and egg white, and beat well. Add flour mixture, and stir until well-blended. Turn dough out onto wax paper; shape into a 6-inch log. Wrap log in wax paper. Freeze for about 15 minutes, until slightly firm.

To make the striped cookies
Take the cookie logs out of the freezer. Cut each log lengthwise into 4 pieces.

Make 2 stacks of dough, alternating chocolate & peanut butter dough. (You will have 4 stripes)

Wrap each stack and freeze for 3 hours or until you want to bake the cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. As soon as you remove the logs from the freezer, cut into ¼ inch slices with a very sharp knife. Place on baking sheet & cook for about 10 minutes.

The upside to these is that not only did that taste freaking awesome, they looked pretty damn cool too! The dough can stay in the freezer for something like 3 months, not that these would last that long. I think I am going to try the spiral kind with chocolate & plain sugar cookies.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cheesy Beer Bread

I was trying to come up with a snack to bring to my book club yesterday. I opened up my "Holiday Baked Goodies" document to see what I had saved to make during this holiday season. The beer bread looked so easy to make and since I am not drinking beer these days, I guess this is the only way I can taste it.

I wasn't sure what to serve with the beer bread though. The original recipe suggests chili, but that wasn't really what I was looking for when I was baking this. I needed something more appetizer-like. So I picked up some ranch dip. I mean, cheese, beer & ranch, sounds good to me!

Easy Cheesy Beer Bread
Annie's Eats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
12 oz. beer
2 tbsp. butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9×5” loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder. Whisk to combine well. Add cheese and whisk to combine. Slowly add beer to dry ingredients and stir lightly until just combined, and all ingredients are completely moistened. Place into a prepared loaf pan and pour melted butter over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I had some bread leftover so we are going to try it with the chili today. I can see how this would be a great base for many flavors. Apple beer with sharp cheddar, Stout beer/Guinness with some dill. Use your imagination.

Fireman's Chili

Before the hubs & I went to Ireland, we spent the weekend in Chicago with my aunt & uncle. Since we knew we would be eating out for the next 10 days, we decided to make something homemade before we left. Something we couldn't get in Ireland. My aunt Kathy found a very old recipe stored away in her files. It was actually from 1986 copy of the Chicago Tribune. The story told about a chili competition between firehouses & had the recipe from the winner. We loved it! Although we had to tone down the spiciness, it was very hearty.

**For warning, this does take awhile to cook, so set aside a Sunday morning to put it together, turn on some football & it should be done by the end of the first game**

Fireman's Chili
1/2 cup butter
1 # green peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped
3 C chopped onions (3 large) chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 # coarsely ground chuck
1 # coarsely ground pork
1 T ground cumin
1 t basil
1 1/2 t cayenne pepper(I used 1 t)
1/2 t black pepper
5 T hot chili powder (I used 2 1/2)
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, chopped
1 (10 1/2 oz) beef broth
1 C dry red wine(Burgundy)
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1/2 t crushed hot red pepper
1 T salt
2 (16oz) cans dark red kidney beans

Description / Cook's Notes:

1. Melt butter in large pot and saute peppers about 10 min. Add onions and garlic; cook 5 more minutes. Add beef and pork mixture; increase heat to high. Cook stirring occasionally until meat is no longer pink.. about 10-15 min.

2. Stir in cumin, basil, cayenne, black pepper and chili powder. Stir in tomatoes, beef broth, wine, tomato paste, hot red pepper and salt. Simmer, covered, about 2 hours.

3. Add kidney beans, simmer for an additional 45 minutes serve with extra sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream

The one thing I learned from this recipe is to add the beans later. They keep their texture so they aren't all smushy when you go to eat them.

This serves a lot.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thyme Coated Pork Tenderloin

The true purpose of the mac n cheese from the other night was to supplement a roasted pork tenderloin I had intended to make. However, the tenderloin was not defrosted enough for me to cook, so we just had mac n cheese.

Last night my tenderloin was ready to go. I have one complaint about pork tenderloin. Its very sneaky. They package it in a way that it appears to be one tenderloin, when in fact it is two. You would think that I would have figured this out by now, b/c every damn time I make pork tenderloin I say "Oh look there is two in here!" So now I have 2 pork tenderloins defrosted that I have to use before they go bad, which means they are both getting cooked the same way. Boring? Yes, but whatever.

I found Thyme-Coated Pork Tenderloin on (CookingLight)

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon instant onion flakes
1 slice day-old hearty white bread (such as Pepperidge Farm), torn
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place thyme, onion, and bread in a food processor; pulse until fine breadcrumbs measure 1/3 cup. Place breadcrumb mixture in a shallow dish. Place egg whites in a shallow dish. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Dip pork in egg whites; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place pork on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155°. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

I made a few variations. I used a Lipton Onion Soup packet in place of the salt, pepper & onion flakes. I also had breadcrumbs on hand, so I didn't need to make my own.

My question to fellow food bloggers. I always cook my pork with a meat thermometer. While the recipe said 155F, I cooked it to 165F. So why was it pink? Am I paranoid & pork can be pink and still not make you sick? I mean, sure, a tapeworm would be awesome if I was trying to lose weight, but not so much while I a pregnant. Of course I gave the Hubs the pinker pieces, and he survived the night. I was just curious what others do.

And as a side note. I must have thought I was wonder woman if I was going to make this & the mac n cheese in one night. The mac n cheese took almost an 75 minutes to make & bake and this was in the oven for at least 45mins.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Gourment Mac N Cheese

Ok so I know I said we would be eating healthier and I swear to you we have. I have had some delicious string cheese over candy bars for a snack, I made Ragin Cajun Jambalaya the other night, with turkey sausage. But last night I caved. Well really last week I caved when I put this on the weekly menu. I didn't get around to making it last week, and last night I needed to make something for dinner that didn't require any defrosting.

I saw this Mac N Cheese recipe on Danielle's blog. My husband will eat anything that is wrapped in bacon, has some kind of bacon product in it, particularly he loves proscuitto. So the pancetta in this recipe caught my eye. I almost always opt for the proscuitto, but for this I stuck to the recipe & got the pancetta.

Mac and Cheese with Pancetta
Bon Appetit, September 2008
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups (or more) whole milk (I used 2%)
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 8- to 8.8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups panko
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound orecchiette or large elbow macaroni
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; saute until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper. Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cool; cover and chill. Rewarm, stirring over medium heat.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley. Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Return pasta to pot. Add warm cheese sauce; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

I did sneak in some 2% milk & some 2% sharp cheddar cheese, so while the 8 Tbsp of butter probably did us in in the calorie category, I shaved some of the fat off right? I also omitted the red pepper flakes, we had enough spiciness for the day with the jambalaya.

Now a fair warning, I cook for 2 people and didn't really read the recipe before making it. Yes it does say a 13x9 pan and yes that pan is filled to the top. Needless to say, I have a TON of mac n cheese leftover. And you really can't eat a lot of it, b/c it is so rich & delicious. So if you are only cooking for like 4 people, I'd cut this recipe in half.

And b/c I felt guilty about just eating mac n cheese for dinner, I forced us to have a salad.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I saw this on my friend Stacey's blog while trying to catch up on Google Reader. Stacey is more known for her baked goods than her cooking, but since I have eaten many of those baked goodies, I knew she wouldn't steer me wrong with her cooking.

I love to make new things at home. I am always a little hesitant when making Chinese/Thai at my house. I can never get the sauce to taste just right. But this recipe was wonderful. I didn't have any red peppers, but I did have some green & yellow from our last harvest in the garden to use up. I am sure you could add whatever veggies you'd like.

Thai Chicken with Cashews


1 bunch scallions
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (or 1 ½ tsp. dried)
¼ tsp. roasted red pepper flakes
¾ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce
1 ½ tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. sugar
½ cup salted roasted whole cashews
cooked white or brown rice for serving


Chop scallions, separating white and green parts. Pat chicken dry, then cut into ¾ -inch pieces and toss with salt and pepper. Heat a wok or 12-inch heavy skillet (not nonstick) over moderately high heat until a drop of water evaporates immediately. Add oil, swirling to coat, then stir-fry chicken until golden in places and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add bell pepper, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and scallion whites to wok and stir-fry until peppers are just tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

Stir together broth, soy sauce, cornstarch and sugar, then stir the mixture into the vegetables in the wok. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in cashews, scallion greens and chicken along with any juices accumulated on plate. Serve with rice.
A few side notes. I didn't have any scallions, so I used half a chopped yellow onion. I also decided to use my Srichchahah( I don't know how to spell it) Chile Sauce in place of the red pepper flakes. It made it pretty spicy. I put in about 1/2 tsp. And I used chicken breasts as opposed to chicken thighs.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Yes I was serious!

For those of you that left comments, yes I am pregnant.
Funny how I tried to slip it past y'all!
We are expecting the new arrival in April.

A few other notes. I have been cooking, I made a few things that we haven't seen on here in almost a year. Oh how I have missed Fall!!!

Making its second appearance at Julie's household is the Pumpkin Layered Bread. As soon as my husband saw I had pumpkin in the pantry, he said "Oh are you going to make that bread with the cream cheese in it?"
I didn't take any new pictures, so here is a link to the old post

Next up, we had chicken pot pies. So good!!!
Again, no new pictures, just a quick link & reminder that these are delicious!