Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chicken, Peas and Pesto...OH MY!

We visited my husband's sister recently who is gluten-intolerant and I scored an AMAZING recipe from her.  Well, not a recipe as much as an idea.  I've been trying to eat less bread/carbs an increase the amount of veggies I get in my diet.  Because how can you encourage your child to eat their veggies when you aren't serving them!  My sister-in-law threw together a quick meal of leftover chicken, pesto and peas to make a quick salad.  My carb loving gut instinct was to turn my nose up, but I felt obligated because I was her guest. :)  SO GLAD I FELT OBLIGATED!!!!  I've been thinking about that salad for three weeks and decided to finally make it myself.  Only requirement...MAKE OR PURCHASE AWESOME PESTO!!!

Chicken, Peas and Pesto:
1 breast of chicken cooked and cut into bite sized cubes
1/4 cup pesto (homemade or store bought)
1 cup frozen peas

Combine everything into a skillet and cook until peas are warmed through on medium heat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ellie Krieger Pumpkin Muffins

I am ALWAYS on the search for ways to use pumpkin, in part because I LOVE pumpkin and also because it is a good way to sneak in vegetables into my daughter's food without her knowing. :)  Ellie Krieger, Food Network Celebrity Chef, is all about making yummy comfort dishes healthy and flavorful and I am GLAD for it!  Because if it is healthy, it means I can eat more of them.  I actually made these muffins in a mini-muffin pan so I could freeze them for later gorging.  It actually paid off...except for when I defrost the zip-lock bag full of mini muffins.  I have managed to eat the entire bag each time. 

These muffins are chalked full of spice and flavor, which is why I LOVE them...I don't just love them, I'm addicted to them.  I've even used the measurements from the spices for these muffins to make pumpkin pancakes.  LAAAAAAAA!!!!!!  Those are the angels singing. 

Ellie Krieger Pumpkin Muffin Recipe:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.

Salmon Salad with Balsamic Reduction as a dressing

Several months back I took my daughter to the Children's Museum in Pueblo, Colorado.  Pueblo is a pretty small town so you wouldn't imagine they'd have a cool Children's Museum let alone a SWEET cafeteria that serves gourmet meals.  I ordered at a window that reminded me of Mel's Diner from the t.v. show Alice and quite honestly didn't expect much from the salmon salad I ordered.  I was happily surprised when my salad arrived.  It was loaded with lettuce, salmon, tomatoes, carrots and...a balsamic reduction salad dressing that was TO DIE FOR!!!!!  Why don't I come up with idea's like this when I'm cooking?!

The dressing was sharp, but full of HUGE amounts of flavor.  It wasn't think like a buttermilk based dressing or runny like a vinaigrette, it was...PERFECT!  I have made this recipe a couple of times and it really doesn't do justice to the reduction at the Children's Museum.  In the meantime, I'll take it!

Balsamic Reduction:
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed

Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan, and add the crushed garlic; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the vinegar has reduced to 1/4 cup. Set aside, and cool to room temperature.

Corn Bread Heaven!!!

Alex came home with leftover smoked BBQ beef brisket from a work party last week.  What goes with BBQ'd beef brisket? Besides coleslaw and baked beans?  CORN BREAD!!!!  I have tried several recipes and find most of them quite bland, especially the one on the Quaker corn bread package.  BLECH!  I'm not totally sure what steered me to the following recipe, but I am GLAD I tried it out.  I don't think I will make another corn bread...EVER!

Reader beware...this recipe actually calls for mayonnaise.  I was pretty squeamish about it too, but I put my faith in the good folks of Tennessee that they wouldn't steer me wrong when it comes to corn bread.  And they didn't.  I HIGHLY suggest using a heavy dutch over skillet for this recipe.  Put some canola oil in the bottom of the pan and I PROMISE you won't be disappointed!!!!  I didn't have buttermilk when I made this recipe so I used regular milk and added a Tablespoon of lemon juice to curdle the milk.  

You know what is the BEST part about this recipe?  It's gluten free!!!

West Tennessee Corn Bread:
1 egg
1/4 mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt  

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg, mayonnaise, buttermilk and oil until smooth. Combine the cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt; add to egg mixture and beat just until combined. Grease an ovenproof 6-in. skillet or round baking dish; dust with cornmeal. Add batter. Bake at 425 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. 

This is a KEEPER!

I LOVE Chinese food!  Let me clarify, I LOVE Chinese take out.  However, I am pretty wary when it comes to finding a new take out joint because of MSG issues and the super fried factor.  I found a pretty sweet recipe for Sweet and Sour Sauce on Allrecipes.com.  I was a little nervous because the last recipe for Chinese food I pulled from Allrecipes.com was HORRIBLE, despite all the great reviews (which could very well be a result of the chef...i.e., ME). The sweet and sour sauces you get at regular Chinese restaurants is a cherry red, this sauce is the color of whiskey.  This makes a sweet and tangy sweet and sour sauce.  I TOTALLY prefer this to the stuff you get at take out restaurants. 

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
3/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 tablespoons cornstarch 

Place the sugar, vinegar, water, soy sauce, ketchup and cornstarch in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir continuously until the mixture has thickened. 

I poured this over pan seared cubes of chicken breast over rice.  Even my picky two year old LOVED this sauce!!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes & Peanut Butter Icing...Uh HEAVEN!!!!!

I LOVE CUP CAKES!  What an ingenious idea to create a pan in which to make mini-cakes.  Don't want to make a whole cake?  Make a cupcake!  I was asked to bring dessert to dinner at a friend's house, but I didn't want anything super decadent because I'm trying to watch my calories so I decided to make cupcakes in hopes it would keep me from eating too much dessert.  Nice try. :)

These cupcakes can best be described as Reese's Peanut Butter Cupcakes!  NO LIE!  The frosting tastes EXACTLY like the inside of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  Oh my!  I thought with the sour cream that these cupcakes would be super moist, but no so.  :(  I'm not sure if it is the altitude (remember I'm baking at 7,000ft), the recipe or (more likely) me!  I would definitely be interested in feedback on how these babies turn out for you!

Ina Garten's Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Icing

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.