Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins and Donuts

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon my blog's soulmate: Macaroni and Cheesecake!  In addition to loving the name of the blog, I found tons of fantastic looking recipes that I want to make really soon.  This is the first recipe I've made from the blog, but we're having another of the recipes for dinner tonight.
This recipe for Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins was supposed to make 30 muffins.  I have exactly enough muffin tins for 30 muffins, and even had exactly 30 orange muffin papers.  Perfect!  Unfortunately, as I was prepping the tins for the (already made) batter, I couldn't find one of my 12 hole muffin tins.  This seemed like the perfect time to finally use the donut pans my mom gave me, so in addition to 18 muffins, I got 6 normal sized donuts, 12 mini donuts, and the rest of the batter I baked in 3 Fiesta bouillon bowls.  I'm honestly a little skeptical that the batter would have only made 30 muffins!  
Regardless, everything turned out great.  I brushed the donuts with melted butter and rolled them in cinnamon sugar.  My husband loved them.  I liked them, too, but preferred the plain muffins.  They're very moist and light, with a delicate pumpkin flavor, barely a hint of cinnamon, and of course, the melty little chocolate chips.  I chose to use mini chocolate chips (personal preference in muffins), and that was definitely a good call since I ended up making mini donuts with some of the batter and full sized chips would have been huge.  For some reason, in my opinion, when they were freshly baked, a bit of the flavor of the muffins was lost with the addition (and added texture) of the cinnamon sugar.  By the next day, the flavors of the donuts had melded nicely and I actually liked them better then.
I froze most of the muffins so I could put them in my husband's work lunches.  I'm pretty sure I'll be making this recipe again because we both really enjoyed them!

 Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
15 oz can pumpkin puree
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C canola oil
4 eggs
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 C flour
10 oz bag mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 400 and either line approximately 30 muffin holes with paper liners, or grease the wells of donut pans.
Stir together pumpkin, sugar, oil, and eggs until smooth, then stir in baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir in flour until batter is smooth, then stir in the chocolate chips.
If you're making muffins, you can just spoon batter into the muffin liners 2/3 full.  If you're making donuts, I suggest placing the batter into a gallon sized Ziploc bag, cutting off one of the corners of the bag, and piping the batter into the pans.  You want the pans to be about 2/3 full.
Bake pans of muffins/donuts until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for muffins for about 10 minutes for donuts.
If you're making donuts, as soon as they come out of the oven, melt butter (probably about 4 Tbsp, maybe more) in a bowl.  Stir together about 1/2 C white sugar and 2 tsp ground cinnamon.  Run a plastic knife around the edges of the warm donuts to loosen them from the pan, then place them on a wire cooling rack.  Brush both sides with the melted butter, then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.  Place them back on the cooling rack to cool off.
If you want to freeze the muffins, let them cool completely, then place them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  Transfer them to the freezer until they're completely frozen, then place them together in a gallon Ziploc bag and store them in the freezer.  You can either let them thaw at room temperature, or warm them in the microwave.
The leftover donuts can be stored in a container at room temperature.
Yield: Approximately 36 muffins (my guess) or a lot more donuts!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Summer Vegetable Tian

This is a recipe I found on the Budget Bytes blog.  It's called Summer Vegetable Tian and was just too pretty to resist!  My husband surprised me with an amazing food processor as an early anniversary gift a few days after I first spied the recipe, and we rushed out and got the ingredients for it, then made it that day.  You really only want to make this recipe if you have either a food processor or very good knife skills, but the food processor cut prep time down to maybe 15 minutes.  The tian turned out beautifully and was amazing served with a simple chicken dish.  I can't wait to make this recipe again!

Summer Vegetable Tian

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow summer squash
1 large potato
1 large tomato
1 C shredded Italian cheese

Preheat oven to 400 and grease an 8 by 8 baking dish.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high, then add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Spread evenly in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Slice the zucchini, summer squash, potato, and tomato into very thin slices and place each type of vegetable in its own bowl.

Fill the baking dish with rows of the vegetable slices placed on end, like in the picture.  You don't need to do them in a specific order, but I kept each row with the same type of vegetable.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake tian 30 minutes, then sprinkle with the cheese and bake 10-15 minutes more, or until the potatoes are tender and the cheese is golden.  You can cover the baking dish with foil if the cheese gets browned before the potatoes are done.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

This is another recipe from Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen series.  Book #8 is called The Cherry Cheesecake Murder, and the book contains recipes for both a large cherry cheesecake and miniatures.  My husband loves both cherries and cheesecake, so I had to make him one of them!  The mini cheesecakes are very easy to make, very cute, and very yummy.  He brought them to work when he started a new job and said everyone liked them.  In the future, I'd like to experiment with making a graham cracker based crumb crust for the cheesecakes instead of using whole Nilla wafers, but the wafers are nice, too.  I think they've shrunk in recent years though because they don't cover the entire bottom of the cupcake papers.

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

2 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
24 Nilla Wafer cookies
can cherry pie filling (you won't need the whole thing)

Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tins with cupcake papers.  Place one Nilla Wafer in the bottom of each cupcake paper, flat side down.  Set aside.

Mix together cream cheese and sugar until well combined, then beat in eggs.  Beat in lemon juice and vanilla extract until mixture is completely smooth.  Divide evenly among the cupcake tins.  The papers won't be super full, but they will puff up some when baked.  Bake cheesecakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, about 20 minutes.  Let cool completely in the refrigerator, then before serving, top each mini cheesecake with 3 cherries from the can of cherry pie filling.  The topped mini cheesecakes will stay good in the refrigerator for several days.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Waffled Biscuit Sandwiches

This is just a fun, easy breakfast recipe that I found on the Buns in My Oven blog.  Karly uses eggs and cheese in hers, but I decided to add cooked bacon as well.  These freeze and reheat very nicely, so would make good breakfasts on the go!  I would like to actually try these with homemade biscuit dough, but canned dough works well, too.

Waffled Biscuit Sandwiches

1 can flaky layer biscuit dough with 5 large biscuits
3 cooked, scrambled eggs
2 1/2 slices cheese of your choice (I used half a slice per biscuit and folded the rectangle of cheese in half to make squares)
5 slices cooked bacon, each broken into 3 pieces

Preheat a waffle iron to medium-high and grease it.

You can make the sandwiches while the waffle iron preheats.  Use a serrated knife to cut each biscuit almost all the way in half horizontally, like a sandwich.  Place 3 small bacon pieces inside each biscuit sandwich, then top with the scrambled eggs and squares of cheese.  Try to squish the edges of the biscuits back together as best you can, but don't worry if you can't seal them completely.

When the waffle iron is hot, grease it and place one of the biscuit sandwiches inside.  You may be able to cook multiple sandwiches at a time (I have a square iron and can cook two at a time), but do one first so you can see how much space it will need.  Gently close the top of the waffle iron and let it cook for a minute, then place a potholder on top of the waffle iron and press it shut as much as you can so the sandwich will be flattened.  Continue to cook until the sandwich is golden, then remove it to a plate.  Repeat with the rest of the biscuit sandwiches.  You can keep the cooked sandwiches hot in an oven set to warm while you cook the rest.

Yield: 5 servings

Friday, October 9, 2015

Colombian Chicken Stew

This is my adaptation of the Kenji Lopez-Alt's Colombian Chicken Stew recipe from the Serious Eats blog.  It's a very simple stew, with only a few ingredients and no liquid added.  It's made in a pressure cooker (I used my Instant Pot) and the tomatoes, onion, and chicken make a good amount of very flavorful broth, without needing to add any liquid.  It's pretty cool and very, very yummy with simple, but really good flavors.  I should note that while this is called a stew, it's almost more like a soup because the broth is not thick at all.  You can get a slightly thicker stew if you cut your potatoes smaller because they will break up and thicken the liquid a bit when you stir it up at the end.

I made the stew once according to the original directions (except wasn't able to fit all the vegetables into my Instant Pot), then made it this way.  The original method is very tasty, but the broth is quite greasy and it requires a lot of careful sifting and straining to get all the bits of bone and skin out of the stew.  This time, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and put them in a soup sock.  Everything turned out just as delicious, but it was even easier to make.  I'm sick with a pretty bad cold at the moment and was craving this stew, so it being easy to make was a definite perk!
Colombian Chicken Stew
2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 large tomatoes, diced large
1 large onion, diced
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced large
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken breasts in the bottom of an Instant Pot and top with all vegetables.  Add the bay leaves and sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper.  Plug in Instant Pot, put on and close the lid, make sure it's set to sealing, and cook on manual for 30 minutes.  It will take a while for enough pressure to build up to seal the pot, so don't worry!
After the 30 minutes are up, release the pressure by pushing the little lever on top with the end of a long handled spoon.  Let the pressure completely release, then remove the lid.  Discard the bay leaves.  Pull out the chicken breasts, chop/shred them however you like, and add them back to the pot.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.
Alternate Prep:  I haven't actually tried it this way, but you could probably put all the ingredients in a greased slow cooker and cook on low until the chicken is cooked through, then proceed with the recipe.  How long it will take completely depends on the slow cooker.
Yield:  About 6 servings

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Pannukakku

For this month's SRC, I was assigned the blog Cook Lisa Cook.  Lisa lives in New England with her husband and her adorable little girl, Maisie.  Maisie has some food sensitivities that her mom lovingly accommodates, so this is a great blog to check out if you need to do some wheat, egg, and dairy free cooking.

Lisa has lots of tempting recipes.  I'm actually planning to make her Slow Cooker Ranch Mushrooms later this week to go with meatloaf.  My husband really loves oven pancakes, though, so I decided to try her Finnish oven pancake, called Pannukakku.  It has a very high ratio of milk and eggs to flour, so I knew it would turn out differently from our other favorite oven pancakes.  It was very good and the pancake turned out with an almost creamy texture.  My husband and I polished off almost the entire pancake between the two of us, but he took the rest for lunch at work the next day and said it reheated very nicely.  I didn't know that I needed three different oven pancake recipes, but apparently I do, because this is definitely one I'll hold onto and make again many times.  Thanks, Lisa!

8 Tbsp butter, divided
4 eggs
4 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 C milk
1 scant C flour (halfway between 3/4 C and 1 C)

Put 1/2 of the butter into a 9 by 13 baking dish and place the dish in a cold oven.  Turn oven to 425 and let the butter melt while you prepare the batter.

To make the batter, melt the remaining 4 Tbsp butter in a small bowl in the microwave and set it aside.  Place eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, milk, and flour in a large blender.  Add the melted, microwaved butter.  Blend until batter is smooth.

By now, the butter in the oven should be melted.  Remove the dish from the oven, tilt it a bit so the butter evenly coats the bottom, and pour in the batter.  Bake until puffy (it will rise a lot!), browned, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  You can cover it with foil if it starts browning too much.

When the pancake has finished cooking, let it cool for a couple of minutes, then serve.  It will deflate while cooling.  Cut pancake into individual pieces and serve with powdered sugar and lemon juice, fruit jam, syrup, or whatever you would like.