Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

After reading my blog entry about traditional banana bread, my friend Kelly mentioned that she loves to add chocolate chips to her version. This seems like such an obvious pairing and I'm so upset that I haven't played with it before now! (Thanks, Kelly!) Any time that I can play the chocolate card, I'm much more likely to get a favorable response from my little boy... and this recipe was no exception. The thing that I liked most about this recipe was that the muffin itself had much more of a cupcake texture and was very light and easy to enjoy. These are a definite 'make again' for our household.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used a bit more than this!)
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1 cup mashed bananas

Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips into a large mixing bowl. Mix well and make a well in the center of the bowl. Beat the egg in a small bowl until frothy. Mix in cooking oil, milk, and bananas. Pour the mixture in the well and mix only to moisten. The batter will be lumpy. Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Source: AllRecipes.com

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baked Apple Doughnuts

As we've been working on our cookie bouquets for Valentine's Day, my friend Christy and I have been spending a lot of time together planning, rolling, baking, decorating, etc. What better way is there to spend our downtime while the cookies were in the oven than to bake something else? :) Christy had mentioned that she found this great breakfast option and we decided to play together to make this for the first time. These doughnuts came together quickly and baked right in the oven (providing a slightly healthier option-- at least until we rolled them in the butter, cinnamon, and sugar). We did make one change with the directions. The recipe calls for rolling each baked doughnut in the butter before the cinnamon/sugar mixture. We decided that this would be a bit excessive, so we instead brushed each with the melted butter before rolling in the sugar. This worked just fine and is definitely the way to go in the future. These little doughnuts had a great texture and a wonderfully simple apple flavor. They even passed the picky toddler test in our home!

Baked Apple Doughnuts

1 1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup peeled and grated apple
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter

Stir the first four ingredients and 1/2 cup sugar together in a bowl. Cut in the shortening until crumbly. Stir in egg, milk, and apple, mixing well. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Mix 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Remove the doughnuts from the pan and brush with the melted butter, then roll in the sugar mixture.

Source: Adapted from A View of America - Recipes

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cookie Bouquets

I'm so excited to share pictures of our new business venture! My good friend Christy and I decided to take our love of baking to the next level by selling hand-crafted cookie bouquets, as well as other cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, pastries, etc. I think Christy said it best with, "If you can dream it, we can bake it!" We took advantage of the Valentine's Day weekend (given that it is a personal favorite of both of ours) and opened up for business. We sold many bouquets, each with our signature raspberry-flavor iced sugar cookies (the icing flavor that we specially designed for Valentine's Day) and a hand-painted pot.

The bouquets were a hit and we are so excited to continue to share these delicious treats. Keep an eye out for our adorable St. Patrick's Day and Easter bouquets, both of which can be ordered for those you love! I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pioneer Woman Chocolate Sheet Cake

If you have not already done so, you MUST check out the Pioneer Woman website! In addition to her beautiful photography and hysterical stories, she posts the most mouth-watering recipes with step-by-step, photography-filled directions. This recipe has been on my 'must make' list for quite some time, and had I known how easy it was going to be to throw together, I certainly would have made it before now. Tbe entire cake was put together from start to finish in about a half hour-- including baking time. It's a great quick fix and has a wonderfully rich chocolate flavor. Pioneer Woman says this is the 'best sheet cake ever' and as quickly as ours disappeared, I'd say she's telling the truth!
One hint that the Pioneer Woman offered and came in incredibly useful was regarding buttermilk. Buttermilk is not an ingredient that I typically keep in my refrigerator. She suggests that you fill the measuring cup a little under the 1/2 cup mark (for this particular recipe) and then fill with vinegar to hit the 1/2 cup mark. I used this substitution and it seemed to work wonderfully.
Pioneer Woman Chocolate Sheet Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 and 3/4 sticks butter
8 heaping tablespoons cocoa, divided
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1/2 cup pecans (I omitted)
6 tablespoons milk
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Combine the flour, granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl. In a saucepan, melt the 2 sticks butter. Add 4 heaping tablespoons cocoa and stir together. Add 1 cup boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool. In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk. Add the eggs, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
While the cake is baking, make icing. Chop the pecans finely (I omitted these due to nut allergies in our house.) Melt 1 3/4 sticks of butter in a saucepan. Add the final 4 heaping tablespoons of cocoa, stiring to combine. Turn off the heat. To this, add the milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir together, then add pecans, continuing to stir. Pour the frosting over the warm cake.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sweet and Sour Chicken

As explained in an earlier post, I am a huge Chinese food fan but have yet to find great Chinese food on the west side of Indy. I typically prefer a traditional beef and broccoli dish, but my husband always looks for a good sweet and sour chicken. When I found this recipe on Amber's Delectable Delights, I knew it was one that I would have to play with for him! The flavor of this dish was wonderful and certainly reminiscent of some of our favorite restaurants back up north. Amber recommends making an extra recipe of the sauce to pour over the finished chicken and I was glad that I had followed that advice. The sauce has a great flavor and most of the sauce used to cook the chicken was absorbed into it by the time it finished cooking. It was nice to have the extra sauce to pour over the rice.
Sweet and Sour Chicken
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until brown but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish. Mix sauce ingredients (below) together and pour over chicken.
Sauce ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Bake for one hour at 325 degrees. Turn the chicken every 15 minutes. If you like extra sauce, make another batch of sauce and bring it to a boil on the stove top. Stir constantly and let cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced-- about 6-8 minutes.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cream of Mushroom Soup

When I saw this soup posted on Annie's Eats, I knew that I would be making it in the very near future! I've always been a big fan of a good pot of soup, especially when it is so blistery cold outside! The day I made this, it was below zero outside and snow was blowing everywhere. A big steaming bowl of this soup was the perfect way to warm up! Until this point, I had only had cream of mushroom soup that came from a can (I'm ashamed to admit!). I was really anxious to try this recipe for homemade and it did not disappoint!
Cream of Mushroom Soup
8 ounces white button mushrooms
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme, plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
kosher salt
black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks, white and green parts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Clean the mushrooms by wiping them gently with a slightly damp paper towel. Do not wash them. Separate the stems from the caps. Coarsely chop the stems. Slice the caps, cutting in half if necessary so that the pieces are bite-sized. Set aside.
To prepare the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a Dutch Oven over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the chopped mushroom stems, onion, carrot, sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain through a mesh sieve, reserving the liquid but discarding the solids. You should have about 4.5 cups of liquid. If not, add some water to make up the difference.
Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook over low heat, 15-20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the heavy cream, milk and parsley. Adjust seasonings to taste and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.
Source: Annie's Eats, originally from Ina Garten

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dutch Oven Dinner

This dish is another of the wonderful surprises that we had made for us during my period of bedrest during the last part of my pregnancy. My friend Christy started a special section on her blog called "Sundays for Sarah" through which she had me select some new recipe that she would then prepare for my family each week. Her idea was that people could read the post about the new dish while saying a prayer for my little one. The response was phenomenal and we truly felt everyone's prayers. We are so appreciative for everyone's support!
Dutch Oven Dinner is a recipe that I found on another friends blog, "Annie's Eats." Annie commented that the recipe reminded her of a casserole that her parents would have made. I agree completely and this recipe certainly falls into the comfort food category. It is easy to throw together and simmers for an hour in a dutch oven. It couldn't be much simpler and has great, classic flavors.
Dutch Oven Dinner
1 pound lean ground sirloin
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2/3 cup chopped mushrooms
2 cups frozen corn
1 package (10-12 ounces) egg noodles
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with juices
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Brown ground beef in a 5 quart dutch oven or a large skillet with a lid. Add the onion, mushrooms, and corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread uncooked noodles evenly over the top. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the noodles. Pour the entire can of tomatoes over the noodles (be sure to cover the noodles entirely or else they will get chewy around the edges of the dutch oven). Simmer, tightly covered, for one hour; then let stand 3-5 minutes before serving.

Chicken Con Broccoli

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I need a lightbox-- or to start making dinner earlier in the day so that I can get a decent picture of it! :)
I've yet to find an Olive Garden dish that I didn't love. . . it's one of those places where I can blindly point on the menu and be satisfied every time! My sister forwarded me this recipe years ago for an imitation of one of the Olive Garden's famous dishes. It's been so long since I have been there that I can't even tell you if this one is still on the menu, but the knock-off recipe did not disappoint! There were a few minor changes that I would make in the future. To begin with, the pasta that the recipe calls for (orecchiette) fell victim to my husband's grocery shopping (which I do LOVE him for doing for me while I'm home with our newborn). In place of it, I used medium shells. I do have to say that this worked out well, as it trapped more of the sauce in each delicious bite. I did go ahead and partially cook the broccoli before adding it to the pasta-- I was afraid it would be too 'raw' if I didn't do so. Giving it just a few minutes really worked well and gave it a nice bite. You would have to be careful, though. If it were to overcook, it would fall apart in the pasta or be too mushy. This time around, I cut the chicken breasts into slices. The next time I would definitely cut into bite-sized pieces. One final change, I did add some parmesan cheese to the sauce while it was thickening. This gave the sauce a little extra kick and definitely was a positive addition.
Chicken Con Broccoli
1 pound chicken breasts
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 ounces orecchiette pasta (I used about 8 ounces)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup broccoli florets
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (plus additional for sprinkling as garnish)
Spice Mixture:
1-2 teaspoons dried basil, parsley, and rosemary
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients from spice mixture. Rub onto the cleaned chicken breasts. Cook the chicken in the olive oil until cooked through and browned on both sides. Set aside. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until it is almost done. Drain and return the pasta to the pot. Stir the butter and garlic in the saute pan, cooking until the garlic carmelizes. Add the cream and cornstarch at medium heat and cook until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the parmesan cheese and mix well. Add the sauce to the pasta, along with the chicken and broccoli. Simmer until the pasta is done and remove from the heat. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.
Source: Adapted from That's My Home

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Strawberry Sorbet

As I attempt to lose some of my baby weight from this pregnancy, I am looking for some healthier alternatives to have around the house. My little boy has been working with quite a sweet tooth lately, so I decided that this would be the perfect time to experiment with a sorbet in my ice cream machine. (Another huge thank you to Carrie! She bought us the ice cream maker as an engagement gift and we use it all the time! We love it!)

The recipe I chose incorporated a few different time periods where it was necessary to let the ingredients cool completely before continuing. I was starting this sorbet a little later than I had originally planned, so I was a little weary about how long it was going to take. To speed things up a bit, I used a bag of Dole frozen whole strawberries in place of the fresh ones that were listed. (This is also a much more feasible winter option from a cost perspective.) Using the frozen berries sped up the process quite a bit. They still broke down nicely in the food processor, only leaving a few pieces of berries. The recipe called for using a mesh strainer to strain out the berry puree, but I skipped this part. I personally liked the idea of a few berry pieces in the sorbet. The texture of the finished product was very smooth and I think I would definitely take these shortcuts again in the future.

Strawberry Sorbet

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 quart fresh strawberries, stems removed, quartered
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bring the sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer, without stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely. Combine the strawberries and the lemon juice in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to chop the strawberries, about 15-20 times, then process until the strawberries are completely pureed (about 1-2 minutes). Press the strawberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Combine the strawberry mixture with the sugar mixture and the corn syrup. Chill for 1 hour. Freeze according to your ice cream maker directions.

Source: Cuisinart

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mustard-Roasted Fish

I know that on previous posts I have joked about my poor night-time photography. . . but this one truly deserves an apology of its own! I think I might have to break down and build a light box if any of my food pictures are going to look good enough to make! Despite the picture, I decided to post this one anyway because the recipe itself is so good that I would have felt guilty not sharing it!
The recipe itself calls for fish fillets, such as red snapper. I had sent my husband to the store looking for a nice piece of trout, and he came home instead with rainbow trout. I truly didn't want to cover such a flavorful fish with a rich sauce, but in an effort to not hurt his feelings, I decided to go ahead with it anyway. In all honesty, I wouldn't hesitate to make it this way again. It was such a delicious flavor combination and was perfect with this type of filet-- but I honestly think it would be great with most any type of fish. The only other change I made was due to the fact that he also couldn't find any 'creme fraiche' at our local store. Instead, I used a heavy cream and hoped for the best. (Online instructions for substitution recommended a recipe combining buttermilk and cream. For my use, the recipe came together just fine with only using the cream.) My husband and I both loved it and it is definitely one that I plan to make again!
Mustard-Roasted Fish
4 - 8 ounces fish fillets such as red snapper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounes creme fraiche
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons drained capers
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, or use an overproof baking dish. Place the fish fillets skin side down on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Combine the creme fraiche, two mustards, shallots, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish fillets, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it is barely done. (The fish will flake easily at the thickest part when it's done.) Be sure not to overcook it! Serve hot or at room temperature with the sauce from the pan spooned over the top.
Source: The Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics

Monday, February 2, 2009

Traditional Banana Bread

As mentioned in the previous post, we can't seem to use our bananas fast enough before they get too ripe to eat on their own. Banana bread is one of those old stand-bys that bring me right back to my childhood. This is one recipe that always turns out perfectly moist and has just the right amount of banana flavor. It is a great breakfast option, but my little boy also loves to eat it as an afternoon snack. It comes together very quickly and smells wonderful while baking!
Banana Bread
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts, if desired (I left these out due to allergy issues.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom only of a 9 x 5 loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter. Beat until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Add bananas, milk, and vanilla, blending well. In a small bowl, combine flour, nuts, baking soda and salt, mixing well. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Pour into the greased pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool completely before wrapping. Store in the refrigerator.
Source: Pillsbury: Best Muffins and Quick Breads

Banana-Blueberry Mini Loaves

My little one loves bananas, so they are restocked with each visit to the grocery store. No matter how many we buy, it never fails that there are a few left that don't get eaten before they get too ripe. I'm embarrased to say how often these simply get pitched, but whenever I can I try to make a loaf of banana bread with them. (The recipe for my traditional banana bread will be posted next!) I was searching for something a little different to do this time around, and came across this recipe for banana-blueberry mini loaves. I didn't have any mini loaf pans available so mine was made in a 9 x 5 loaf pan instead. The bread was incredibly moist and the blueberries gave it a really nice, unique punch. This is definitely a variety that I would try again!

(My friend Christy, from Christy's Kitchen Creations, suggested adding powdered sugar to the top of the bread and it was a great addition! I would highly recommend this before serving.)

Banana-Blueberry Mini Loaves

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil

1 cup (2 medium) mashed ripe bananas

1/2 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour the bottom only of three mini-loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine sugar and oil beating well. Add bananas, appleasauce, vanilla and eggs-- beating well again. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in blueberries. Pour into the greased and floured pans.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, then remove from the pans. Cool completely before wrapping. Store in the refrigerator.

(For the 9 x 5 loaf pan, I followed all directions, only baked for 60-70 minutes instead.)

Source: Adapted from Pillsbury: Best Muffins and Quick Breads