Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Apple a Day

My husband loves to cook up some apples around this time of year. It makes the house smell amazing, and his recipe is delicious! It's great as a snack on its own, as a side to pork chops, as a topping on some vanilla ice cream, or as a sweetener for your morning oatmeal.

Homemade Stewed Apples ~ Homemade Apple Sauce

1 cup of water
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

Heat up the water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it is simmering. Stir in cinnamon and cardamom.

Pour in the apple slices.

Turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered, for at least an hour - until the apples are tender and the water is nearly gone.

You can also do this in a crock pot - just cover the mixture and turn it on low for 4-8 hours.

If you want to make applesauce out of the stewed apples, simply blend the mixture in a food processor or blender. For lumpier applesauce simply blend using your mixer.

Healthy, Hearty Bran Muffins

This is a hearty, lightly sweet muffin that is packed with flavor and goodness! Nothing beats the crispy tops and the moist insides, studded with bursts of sweet raisins. You can mix them up the night before, put the batter in the fridge, and bake them up fresh in the morning. They also freeze well. They are wonderful with a thin pad of butter and a drizzle of honey, too.

Bran Muffins
From "The Coffee Cup" cookbook of the Lachine General Hospital Women's Auxiliary in Montreal, Canada, printed in the 1950's or 60's

4 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark or some of both)
3 tablespoons molasses
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins or more (black or golden or some of both)
A pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, and/or ginger (optional, not in original recipe)

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add molasses and egg. Beat until smooth. Sprinkle the baking soda into the buttermilk, stirring to dissolve. Add buttermilk mixture to the creamed mixture, and add the bran. Mix until just incorporated. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices, and add to creamed mixture with the raisins. Stir only until blended. Fill prepared muffin cups about 2/3 full.

Bake in 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Makes about 12-15 muffins. This recipe is easily doubled and extra muffins freeze well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hubby's Veggies

My husband loves southern veggies. He could eat a veggie plate every night for dinner and be happy. One of my favorite veggie dishes that he makes for us is his Beefy Veggie Soup. It tastes so amazing that you would never believe how easy it is to make. We always have it with some nice hot cornbread on the side. Yummmmmm....

Hubby's Beefy Veggie Soup

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can of corn
1 can green beans
1 can sliced potatoes
1 can sliced carrots
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can butter beans
1 can vegetable juice (recommended V8)

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef, onion, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook through, drain, and pour into a large pot or crock pot. Dump the rest of the ingredients in. Note that you should not drain the canned veggies - pour them in, juice and all. Stir ingredients together. If you're using a pot, then simmer for 1 hour. If you're using your crock pot, cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 2-4 hours.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Make-Ahead Mexican Fiesta

I've seen a lot of different versions of recipes for Salsa Chicken in the crockpot floating around and decided to throw my two cents in! Here's my version - it's easy, healthy, and full of flavor. I hope you enjoy it!

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken

4 uncooked chicken breasts, cleaned
1 jar of your favorite salsa
1 can of mexicorn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fajita seasoning
Whole wheat tortillas
Fresh chopped cilantro
Fat free sour cream
Shredded cheese

Place chicken breasts, salsa, mexicorn, beans, lime juice, cumin, and fajita seasoning in your crock pot. Mix ingredients up a little bit, making sure to cover chicken.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours. Serve as is OR you can shred the chicken up, stir it into the veggies, and serve it with tortillas.

Garnish with cilantro, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In Mourning for Cottage Living . . .

So I'm in mourning this month for Cottage Living, which has been discontinued. I have loved that magazine from the very first issue. Sadly, the November/December 2008 issue was the last one. So in honor of Cottage Living, I want to share a recipe from the very first issue with you, dear readers. It has become a staple in my kitchen, and I hope you enjoy it.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the premiere issue of Cottage Living

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups uncooked regular oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and/or butterscotch chips
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a baking sheet and set aside. In an electric mixer bowl, beat butter and both sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the oats and stir well. Gradually add to the butter mixture, mixing until well blended. With a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool on pan 2 to 3 minutes before cooling on wire racks.

Yum. Can someone please help me stop eating these????

Jesuit Parker House Rolls

My mom gave me this wonderful book as a gift when I decided to go to college at a Jesuit university. For those of your who are in the dark here, Jesuits are a group of Catholic priests who are known for their involvement in missionary work and education. But little did I know that they were also excellent bread-makers!

The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking is a charming book of recipes collected by Br. Rick Curry, S.J. He travelled around the world collecting bread recipes from other Jesuit bakers. Here is one of the recipes that I've tried from this book. These rolls are heavenly - ever so slightly sweet, light and airy as a cloud, buttery and tender. Everything a homemade dinner roll should be!

Jesuit Parker House Rolls

2 3/4 - 3 1/2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup warm water
1 egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup of butter, melted

Combine 1/4 cup of the flour, the sugar, the salt, and the yeast in a large mixing bowl. Cut the softened butter into tabs, dropping each into the mixing bowl. Blend for 30 seconds, until crumbly. Gradually add the warm water to the mixture and beat for 5 minutes. Mixture will be a bit clumpy. Add the egg. Beat for 10 minutes, very gradually adding flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-12 minutes. Add flour as necessary to avoid stickiness. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl. Place bread dough in the bowl, turning it to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free place until it is doubled in size. This should take about one hour.

Next, grease a baking sheet and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Turn the dough out again onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Roll out each half until it is 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into rounds. use the dull edge of a knife to create a line across each round, a little off center.

Dip a pastry brush in the melted butter and brush each round within 1/4 inch of the edge. Pull the larger side over the smaller side so the edges just meet. Pinch to seal.

Place on baking sheet so that rolls are almost touching. Cover with a tea towel and allow the rolls to rise for another hour - until doubled in bulk. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Yield 2-3 dozen rolls.

Check out this photo - Sophie was EXTREMELY interested in the heavenly-smelling goodies that I was photographing on the kitchen table!

Guinness Beef Stew

My brothers and I calculated it once, and I think we came up with the figure of 85% - we're 85% Irish. My maiden name has an apostrophe in it, and the only bad part about being married is that I miss my apostrophe. ;-)

I like to put together a special Irish menu every St. Patrick's Day, and a couple of years ago I was inspired to try to re-create the amazing bowl of Guinness Beef Stew that I enjoyed one night in a pub in Dingle, on the west coast of Ireland, when I was studying abroad there. Now it's become one of my favorite slow-cooker recipes!

Guinness Beef Stew

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1.5-2 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1" pieces
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 large or 2 medium onions, roughly sliced
1-2 baking potatoes or 5-6 red potatoes, roughly chopped
3 large carrots, coarsely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 16-ounce Guinness
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 15.5-ounce can low-sodium beef broth or stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Clean the beef and pat it dry. In a bowl toss your stew meat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle with flour, salt, and pepper, tossing to coat all pieces. Arrange the meat in a single layer in the heated skillet. Cook just until the pieces are browned on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Note that the meat will still be raw on the inside.

Meanwhile, toss all of your veggies into the crockpot. Pour the Guinness and Worcestershire sauce over the veggies, sprinkle the thyme on top, and drop in the bay leaf. When all your meat is browned, pour it into the crockpot, too. Return the skillet to the stove and pour in the can of beef broth. Stir in the tomato paste, and use a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits on the bottom of the pan into the broth. This not only saves you some cleaning time but also ensures that you don't lose any of the flavorful bits left behind in the pan!

Pour the broth mixture over the contents of the crock pot. Season with salt and pepper, and gently stir everything together to mix thoroughly.

Put the lid on the crock pot, and cook on low for 6-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. Meat should be very tender (falling apart, melting in your mouth) and veggies should be fork tender (and wonderfully cooked in the broth). Remove bay leaf and adjust the seasoning before serving, adding additional salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, egg noodles, or some hearty bread.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mom's Chili

Chili is just one of those classic dishes that reminds me of a chilly fall night when I was a little girl. No one's recipe will ever compare to my mom's because mom's chili is the culinary manifestation of comfort and warmth. Mom always serves it on a bed of rice, topped with shredded cheese. It's just the best.

Great things about this recipe: It freezes really well in freezer bags. It can be made super-lean by using ground turkey and serving it on brown rice. It can be spiced up with sausage and bell-peppers or spiced down with just the listed ingredients. This recipe can easily be adapted to a crock pot, too. I love coming home to the smell of it after a long day!

Mom's Chili

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 lbs. lean ground beef, bison, or turkey
2-3 cans tomato soup (recommended: Campbell's)
1/2-1 soup can of water (use 1/2 first, adding more as needed)
2-3 15.5-ounce cans kidney beans and/or black beans, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic in the oil for 3-5 minutes, and transfer to a large pot or crock pot. Return the empty pan to the heat and cook the ground meat in the pan, draining off all fat when it's cooked all the way through. Pour the meat into the large pot or crock pot with the onions. Add all remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. You can have this simmer in the crock pot on low for 4-8 hours. Remember to taste the chili and adjust the seasonings (chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper) before serving.

This chili is great served on white or brown rice, on a baked potato, on cornbread, or on its own. Top with cheese, chopped green onions, or fat free sour cream. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Chicken

My mom has been making this dinner for our family my whole life. She got the recipe from her good friend Bobbie Kearns. The chicken comes out so tender and the creamy tang of the buttermilk sauce compliments the chicken AND the rice and veggies that you choose to serve it with!

Buttermilk Chicken

2-3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cleaned
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dip chicken into 1/2 cup buttermilk. Roll in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Melt butter in 13x9x2" pan. Put chicken in pan. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn each chicken breast over and bake for 15 more minutes.

Blend remaining 1 cup buttermilk and soup and pour over the chicken. Bake 15 minutes more, until sauce is bubbly.

Serve with rice, spooning sauce from the bottom of the pan over the chicken.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cozy Winter Dessert

People often ask me when I became so interested in baking and cooking. I usually say "pretty much since I was tall enough to see over the counter." But that's not entirely true, because I used to love to pull a stool up to the counter in the kitchen to help my mom with whatever she was baking.

It was for this reason that she enrolled me in a baking class for kids when I was about 8 years old. Our teacher held the classes at her house. I was soooo excited sitting around her big kitchen table for the first class, where we received a folder of the recipes we'd be making each week. And the very first entry in the folder was for Apple Crisp.

My recipe for Apple Crisp has changed over the years - to be honest it often changes from crisp-to-crisp based on what type of apples I have around the house, what spices I have on hand, etc. But here is my basic go-to recipe that I am happy to share with my dear readers!

Oatmeal Apple Crisp

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, well-chilled
3 McIntosh apples - peeled, cored, and sliced
1 Granny Smith apple - peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar. Using a knife, cut the butter into this mixture in thin tabs. With a pastry cutter or a fork, blend the butter into the oat mixture until it is well-combined and crumbly.

Toss apples together in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, tossing the apples until they are evenly coated. Pour the apples into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle oat mixture over the top, spreading evenly. Bake in preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes, or until apples are bubbling and crisp is well browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Freshly whipped cream spiked up with a little sugar, vanilla, and Irish Whiskey is divine!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Southern Boy's Corn Bread

No one, I said NO one, can make cornbread like a good ol' southern boy. And I'm a pretty lucky gal because I'm MARRIED to one! No matter whose house we're going to, no matter what event we are attending, everyone gets my husband to make the cornbread. It is the best (and only) food a southern bachelor learns to make, and my husband has mastered the art. Crispy crust on top, fluffy buttery center, and perfectly balanced flavor. He says the secret lies in his grandmother's well-seasoned cast iron that he inherited. I say he puts LOVE in it!

Southern Boy's Corn Bread
1 cup cornbread mix (hubby prefers Three Rivers brand)
1 egg
1/2-3/4 cups buttermilk
A few tablespoons Crisco

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Generously grease a 8-9" cast iron skillet with the Crisco. Place the skillet in the oven to preheat for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, measure the cornbread mix, the egg, and the buttermilk into a bowl. Remove the skillet from the oven and pour off the excess grease into the batter (there should be about 1-2 tablespoons to pour off). Stir your ingredients together until they are smooth and combined. Pour the mixture into the pre-heated skillet. This is my favorite part because it should sort of sizzle as it is poured in. Spread evenly and return to oven for about 20 minutes or until desired crispiness of crust is reached.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Brownie Roll-Out Cookies

For every season of the TV show 24, my parents have invited all of the kids plus a few of their friends over every Monday evening for a viewing party. We all eat dinner together. Then, when the show starts, all the boys (plus me) go downstairs to watch 24 while all the ladies stay upstairs and drink tea and talk.

A few years ago when my wonderful husband got me my set of 101 cookie cutters, I came up with the idea to make 24 cookies - cut-outs of "2" and "4" stuck together. For this year's season of 24, I wanted to try a new and different roll-out cookie recipe. I've done shortbread, sugar, and lemon cut-outs in seasons past, but was in search of something chocolate.

I was so excited when I found this old family recipe from the writer of Smitten Kitchen. The only thing I have changed in the recipe is adding a tiny bit more cocoa powder - to ensure an extra chocolaty treat! They turned out so great - everyone at the party raved about how moist, chewy, and tender they were - nice and thick like a fudgy brownie. Definitely a keeper!

Brownie Roll-Out Cookies
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.

In an electric mixer bowl, blend butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mix at medium speed until dough is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes.

Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk and a hot dose of Jack Bauer!!!


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