Friday, September 28, 2012

What's Baking: Lemon Poppyseed Loaf

It was my time to host the What's Baking Challenge this month.  The girls in this swap usually come up with some really good themes, and I am not creative at all.  The one thing that I thought of was that in cooler weather, I love quickbreads.  I have made several banana quickbreads lately.  While they turned out fantastic, especially the Nutella Banana Bread that I tried, I decided to try something else.

I love lemon cakes.  When we're in the store and I see lemon cake of any kind, I always say that I'm going to go home and make a lemon poppyseed bread, but then never do.  I usually eat the loaves alone, so I try not to tempt myself too badly.  I decided to break down and finally make my lemon poppyseed loaf, especially since no one else made anything similar.

Lemon Poppyseed Loaf
barely adapted from StoneGable
3 tablespoons milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon loosely packed grated lemon zest (~5 lemons)
2 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/8 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (~2 lemons)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease large loaf pan. 
2) In a small bowl mix together milk, eggs and vanilla.
3) In a large bowl of a mixer, mix together flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and poppy seeds on low speed for 30 seconds.
4) Add all of the softened butter and 1/2 of the egg mixture. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds increasing speed to medium and mix for another 30 seconds. Add the rest of the egg mixtures in 2 parts mixing for 20 seconds in between.
5) Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
6) Put 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup lemon in a saucepan and cook until sugar dissolves.
7) When pound cake is done, poke holes over the top of the cake with a skewer.  Brush glaze over cake.
I may be biased because I love lemon cakes, but I thought this was a good recipe.  I baked it about five minutes too long and it came out a little on the dry side, so I adjusted for the time difference in the directions.  The glaze made the cake moist and even more flavorful.  I wish there was a little more lemon flavor in the actual cake than the zest, but it is still a very good cake.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

12 Weeks of Christmas Treats: Puppy Chow Cookies

A week ago, someone on my cooking forum posted about the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, hosted by Meal Planning Magic.  For the next twelve weeks, the group will be posting all types of different treats.  Anything you might have out on a holiday table for munching on or serving at your holiday parties is game for the blog hop, so check back every week for amazing posts that will be perfect to make for the biggest holiday of the year.

Every year around Christmas, my mom breaks out the puppy chow.  The delicious mix covered in peanut butter and powdered sugar.  Our family is addicted to it, so it disappears VERY quickly.  I think she makes more and more batches every year.

Right before I found out about the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, someone pinned these Puppy Chow Cookies on Pinterest, and I pinned them.  I knew they were an absolutely perfect start to this blog hop, so I jumped on making them. 

Puppy Chow Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies from Jenna's Cooking Journey,
Puppy Chow ingredients from Betty Crocker 
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
2) In a mixing bowl, combine the shortening, sugars, egg, vanilla, and peanut butter until the mixture is smooth.
3) Scrape down the bowl, and add the flour, baking soda, and salt to the wet mixture.  Beat slowly until dough is just combined.  This is a dry dough, so it could take awhile to mix.  If the dough seems too crumbly, add a little water at a time until the dough is no longer crumbly.
4) Using a scoop, drop the cookie dough onto your baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. 
5) Take a fork and flatten the cookie to a 1/2 inch thickness, making a cross-hatch type of design.
6) Bake the cookies 12-16 minutes, until they just start to brown around the edges.  The tops will not brown at this point.
7) Allow cookies to cool completely.
8) In small microwaveable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, butter and peanut butter uncovered on High for approximately 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds; stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
9) Place powdered sugar in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag.  Coat each cookie with a thin layer of chocolate and then coat each cookie with powdered sugar in the zip-lock bag.  Repeat until all cookies are coated.

I made peanut butter cookies from scratch not too long ago, so I decided to use freshly made cookies instead of package ones.  I guess it depends on how much time you have in the Christmas season to do everything from scratch or you decide to do things the "Semi-Homemade" way.  I loved these cookies.  It had the same ideas as puppy chow but in a cookie form.  The powdered sugar isn't as messy (in eating form) as I thought it would be.  The cookie making process is definitely messy, but fun times will be had by all in the kitchen.

Please take the time to read all the other recipes below.  Check back next Thursday for another tasty treat!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Artichoke Bread

I think that I've started to like football more than my husband.  He admits that he really only likes to watch the Packers play, but there is something comforting about lounging around on Sunday and watching football.

Part of football fun for me is eating something yummy.  Sometimes my husband just wants chips and dip to snack on, but sometimes I try to whip up something more.  When I saw this recipe on Closet Cooking, I instantly thought football.

Artichoke Bread
slightly adapted from Closet Cooking
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 green onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half lengthwise

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2) Mix the artichoke hearts, green onions, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, greek yogurt, mozzarella and parmesan cheese reserving some of the cheese.
3) Hollow 1/2 an inch out of the center of both halves of the bread.
4) Spread the mixture into the hole in the bread slices and top with the reserved cheese.
5) Bake in foil for 20 minutes.
6) Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

This bread was awesome.  It was a little messy, which fit with watching football, but mostly delicious.  The artichokes give this bread a lot more flavor than just normal cheese bread.  I think this dish will definitely make a showing at the Superbowl, and probably a few more times before then (we'll just be honest).  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Red Velvet Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

My husband and I were talking about Red Velvet things recently, and he asked me to make a Red Velvet dessert.  I can't eat Red Velvet things because I am allergic to red dye, so I thought I'd attempt to make whoopie pies.  Shortly after the first batch came out of the oven, I knew I messed up the size of my cookies, and I wouldn't have enough cookies to make pies for everyone in Jacob's office.  So, I just decided to turn them into frosted red velvet cookies.

This past weekend, I bought a cookie scoop, so hopefully my cookies will be more uniform in the future so that I can attempt whoopie pies again.

Red Velvet Cookies
from Annie's Eats
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablepsoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 oz. red food coloring 

8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
3) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
4) Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Blend in the vanilla.
5) With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients.  Do not overbeat.
6) Blend in the food coloring.
7) For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.
8) Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.
9) When cookies cool, frost and enjoy.

Jacob really loved these cookies.  He said they flew off the table at his office and his office mates wished there were more.  He sat at the mixing bowl and ate the extra frosting that wasn't used on the cookies.  I think all in all, they were probably just as great as the whoopie pies would have been.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gnocchi Mac and Cheese

It's time for another Recipe Swap! The theme for this swap was Blogger's Choice, so I received Tasty Treats by Tina, and I could choose any recipe from her blog that I wanted to make.

It's getting cooler here in New Jersey.  To me, it feels like the humidity has left the air, and it has been hitting the low to mid-70s everyday instead of the low to mid-90s.  I thought I'd try to make something a little more comforting and fall-like, and landed on this Gnocchi Mac and Cheese.

I've only had gnocchi twice, and both times were at Olive Garden.  I thought the dishes were very good, and my favorite is their Chicken and Gnocchi soup.  I'm going to try to re-create that dish from A Taste of Home Cooking sometime this fall too. Can't wait.

Check out Tina's blog for other tasty creations.

Gnocchi Mac and Cheese
barely adapted from Tasty Treats by Tina
6 slices bacon  
1 sweet onion, diced
2 tablespoons white cooking wine
1 pound gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 tablespoon flour
1 Cup milk
1/2 Cup Gruyere Cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup Fontina Cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, shredded

1) Preheat oven to 375.
2) Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium low heat, turning frequently until crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate, chop and set aside. 
3) Add onion and cooking wine to the skillet with the bacon grease and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and caramelized, anywhere from about 30 minutes.
4) Drop the gnocchi into a pot of salted boiling water and cook until they float to the top, 2-3 minutes. Drain in a colander then return gnocchi to the pot.
5) Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and sage and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
6) Add the flour and whisk until it bubbles, then add the milk. Cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
7) Add the Gruyere and Fontina and stir until melted. Mix in the bacon and caramelized onions. Pour over the gnocchi and stir until combined.
8) Transfer the gnocchi and sauce to a lightly oiled baking dish and cover with the Parmesan cheese.  
9) Bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I appologize for the picture.  It isn't the best.  However, this mac and cheese is fantastic.  The bacon and the caramelized onion add such flavor to the gnocchi, which are soft and amazing.  This was the perfect fall-type dish, and I can't wait to make more things with gnocchi.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mexican Rice Casserole

I watched Ree Drummond on her first episode of Pioneer Woman and cringed.  I thought she was terribly awkward and that it made the episode absolutely horrible.  I have met her in real life and she was so easy-going and personable that it was hard to watch her be so cold and forced on the show.

I still tape the show every weekend and watch it if I have time.  I still see a very different woman on the show than the one I met, but I can make it through the show without cringing.  A few weeks ago, she had a Fiesta episode, where she made this Mexican Rice from scratch.  We have a four pound bag of rice in our pantry, so I figured it would be a great recipe to try.  The recipe she makes serves 12 people, and I scaled it down so that it served four people, and the two of us still had 3 meals worth of rice, so beware, even this recipe makes a lot of rice.

Mexican Rice Casserole
slightly adapted from Food Network 
1 tablespoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 cup long grain rice
14.5-ounce cans whole tomatoes
One 10-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chiles, such as Rotel
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar
Fresh cilantro, chopped, for serving


1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the garlic and onions. Cook, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the rice. Stir constantly, making sure the rice doesn't burn. Cook over low heat, about 3 minutes.
3) Next, add the whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, cumin, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and let cook, about 2 minutes.
4) Finally, add the water and stir the mixture together. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Cover, and simmer until the rice is not quite done, 10 to 15 minutes.
5) Top with the cheese, and then bake with the lid off until the cheese is melted and the rice fully cooked, about 15 minutes.

This rice was amazing.  Ours was a little bit spicy, but I think I got a spicy can of Rotel.  This definitely is a little more work than packet Mexican Rice, but the flavor in the end is the payoff.  Even only using one cup of rice, we had a lot of leftovers, which were happily eaten.  I'll definitely make this as a side to many of our Mexican dishes to come. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

BBQ Chicken Pasta

One of the first meals that I ever made for my husband was this BBQ Chicken pasta recipe.  He absolutely loved it, but then again, he loves BBQ Chicken.  This is my go-to dish for coworkers that have just had babies or are on bed rest and can't cook.  It is easy, yet something good and filling.

BBQ Chicken Pasta
slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
1 red onion, diced
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
2 cups water
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces penne pasta
2/3 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1) In a large nonstick skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken, onions, and seasonings and saute, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken and onions to a plate and set aside.
2) In the same skillet, add the water, chicken broth, penne and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed and the pasta is tender.
3) Stir in the barbecue sauce and greek yogurt. Once mixed, add in the reserved chicken, onions and shredded cheese. Stir to combine and cook until everything is heated through.

I love the smokey flavor of the barbeque sauce mixed with the creaminess of the sour cream.  It is a delicious weeknight meal that is satisfying for everyone. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Oatmeal Caramelitas- Guest Post for Christine's Kitchen Chronicles

I know Christine from Christine's Kitchen Chronicles through on online food forum that I post in during the day.  When she asked for guest posters while she went on a trip, I thought it'd be fun to help since I had fun posting for A Taste of Home Cooking back in August.

I found these Oatmeal Caramelitas on Pinterest, and they are fantastic.  Head over to Christine's blog to see the recipe for the Oatmeal Caramelitas, and to make them for yourself.

While you're there, check out her other recipes.  I can't wait to try to make Foccacia for panninis, or her Vanilla-Peppermint Cupcakes for Christmas.

Thanks Christine for letting me be a part of your guest posts!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

My husband and I really like goat cheese.  Whenever we talk to people about it, they wrinkle their noses and talk about how it is so strong.  So, we just eat it alone and talk amongst ourselves about what they are missing.  Everything we've tried to date with goat cheese has been fantastic, so when I saw this meal, I thought it would be great.  On Jessy's blog, she says this meal comes in at under 350 calories per serving, which makes it that much more of an amazing meal.

Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
barely adapted from Gourmet Day to Day, originally from Elly Says Opa
2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper 
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 button sized baby bella mushrooms, chopped 
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, chopped and drained, if they are oil-packed

2 ounces goat cheese

1) Sprinkle chicken breast halves with salt and pepper.
2) Heat skillet over medium heat and add oil. When oil is hot, add chicken breasts. Cook through.  Set aside and keep warm. Drain off excess oil.
3) In the same skillet, add garlic and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add mushrooms, and saute for a minute.
4) Add wine and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium-high and cook liquids down until reduced by half, being sure to scrape up the browned bits from the chicken.
5) Add in sun-dried tomatoes and heat through.
6) Take skillet off the heat and stir in goat cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I have to say that this is hands down the best meal that I've made since my husband and I have been together.  My husband said it was way better than he thought it would be.  The sauce is so flavorful and everything works so well together that it is really hard not to lick all the residual sauce off your plate when it is done.  If you love goat cheese, this must get put on your menu soon.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Better Than Sex Cake

The theme of this recipe swap was desserts.  I was excited because I am definitely on a dessert kick, and I now find baking soothing.  It passes the time since I am new to New Jersey and still do not know many people.

My husband invited some people over for dinner, and since this recipe seemed really simple for a get together.  I wanted to make it so that I wouldn't spend all night in the kitchen, but instead getting to know the people that were coming over to the house.  It makes a 9 by 13 pan, and less than a third of the pan remained when the guests left that evening.  The guests absolutely loved it.

Better than Sex Cake
slightly adapted from Cheese Curd in Paradise
1 box chocolate cake mix (+ whatever it calls for on the back)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 jar caramel sauce (or hot fudge sauce)
1-8 oz container of cool whip
4 Heath Bars, crushed

1) Make and bake cake according to box directions. As soon as it comes out of the oven, poke holes with the handle of a wooden spoon all over the cake. 
2) Pour sweetened condensed milk over the top. Let cool completely. 
3) Next spread caramel over the cake, and put in the fridge to set. 
4) When it is cool, spread cool whip over the top and then top with crushed candy bars. Refrigerate leftovers. 

 I think this cake has all the perfect elements: crunchy, gooey, chocolatey.  It is hard to keep it in the fridge and not eat it.  Everything absorbs and makes this one of the most moist cakes that I've ever had.  The Better than Sex cake that I've had before had caramel instead of hot fudge, so I used that to try to cut down on the richness.  This is definitely a piece of cake that loves a glass of milk.