Sunday, November 16, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Yummy note: Yes, the dreaded kitchen pantry, you know that closet that is often bare and I hear, "there's nothing to eat but random stuff..." Oh, someday I hope to have a larger one or perhaps one that is laid out a bit nicer, to achieve better harmony in my kitchen. :)  So this "random stuff" is what Feast on the Cheap calls a "well-stocked kitchen".  I was very excited to run across this "well-stocked kitchen" idea as it helps me justify better some of my odds and ends things in the cabinets. haha. so thanks to the mother-daughter duo of Mariel and Mary Anne from the Feast on the Cheap blog, as they were my feature for this month's Secret Recipe Club. Earlier this year, they featured my 3 ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe here with the SRC, so I was happy to finally return the favor back to them. 

 I had a few recipes in mind for this month's assignment, so I went rummaging through my pantry to see what I could do... I was making myself a quick lunch with the kiddo, so I wanted something small, quick, yet lunch worthy..  I went back and forth between the Gourmet Pizza and those Brussels Sprouts. It came down to time, and finally realizing, I don't think I have pizza dough in my freezer anymore, so the Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Garlic won. 

Mariel mentioned it would be a good Thanksgiving side dish with a healthier twist, and oh I'd totally agree... I thought it was good as a small lunch or meal just by itself,  however, my little guy was not as excited about them as I was. My youngest took one bite and was like "no thank you" - so we try, that was good, as hopefully the flavors and textures will grow on them the more and more they "just try a bite." So I guess, it's ok as it was more for me to enjoy!



Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon and Garlic


Ingredients: 
2 pints (about a pound) of brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half
4 ounces of bacon or pancetta, diced
5 tbsp of olive oil (I used a roasted garlic grapeseed oil.)  
2 tbsp white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio.)
5 cloves garlic, sliced
pepper to taste

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare brussels sprouts by trimming of the bottom end of the sprout and then slicing each one in half. Next, in an oven-safe sauté pan, heat the oil until it is hot and then lay the brussels sprouts, cut side down in the pan. Reduce the heat slightly, and add in the diced bacon, sliced garlic, and white wine. Cook until they begin to brown slightly on the bottom, about 5-8 minutes. Next, transfer the oven-safe sauté pan to the oven. Roast for about another 15 minutes or until the bacon is nice and crispy and the sprouts have a nice brown coloring and are fork tender. Remove from the oven and enjoy!


Just a few ingredients needed to make some big flavors!


Everything getting all toasty in the sauté pan on the stove.

Next, it heads straight into the oven for more roasting. No extra dishes or pans to clean-up when you use an stove/oven-safe pan! 

Finished product of Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon and Garlic 

A little dish of crispy, salty, savory deliciousness.  


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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pumpkin bars

Yummy note:  I almost was able to grow enough pumpkins for us to carve this year, but fell short by one. I had three nice pumpkins to start. Two were perfect, but one smaller pumpkin appeared to be not quite jack-o-lantern ready. So instead, I ended up buying another to carve, but saved the other one for roasting. I made some nice pumpkin puree out of it and got about 2-3 cups, which was awesome for a pumpkin bar recipe I've been meaning to try out. I've wanted to lighten up this Paula Deen recipe, and try and make it dairy-free and this combination below worked perfect. The applesauce addition was used to eliminate some of the eggs and oil in the recipe, while not taking away from the pumpkin flavor. I am happy to say that it got rave reviews and I will be making this again for a Thanksgiving treat later this month. 




Pumpkin Bars 
(dairy-free) 

Ingredients: 
Pumpkin bars:
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
about 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup oil (can use vegetable or coconut)
15-16 ounces (roughly 2 cups) of pumpkin puree
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice

Frosting:
8 ounce package cream cheese or non-dairy alternative, softened (The non-dairy brand, Tofutti, was preferred- as it set up well and tasted very close to regular cream cheese.)
1/2 cup butter or non-dairy alternative
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Directions: 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the eggs, sugar, oil, applesauce, and pumpkin puree until it is mixed well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and spices. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and combine until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter in a prepared greased 9x13 pan (or bigger) baking pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Next prepare the frosting, by combining the non-dairy softened cream cheese and butter and mix until smooth. Add in the sifted powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until it is all incorporated, if it is too thick, you can add a few drops of water or if the frosting is too thin, you can add more powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency. Make sure the pumpkin bars have cooled completely before you frost them.


Add some festive candy to the top for a cute treat. 


I made these in a 9x13 pan, and got a very moist, cake-like pumpkin bar. The bars raised nicely, so I think next time, I will use a slightly larger pan and make a slightly thinner bar.
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

canned applesauce

Yummy note: This summer I've been all about preserving my garden goods (aka, lots of tomatoes) by freezing, canning, and even tried pickling. Last year, I canned zucchini salsa, and that was my extend; this summer I've made several salsas, canned seasoned tomatoes, froze tomato sauce, and even canned some apple pie filling. What else could I try and preserve while I was at it... oh, ding ding, cue in my Secret Recipe Club October blogger -Brooklyn Locavore- for my answer. Melissa from Brooklyn Locavore had some fantastic choices to pick from in regards to preserving local produce. Her main focus is dedicated to living local and only purchasing local ingredients. With that in mind, I wanted to use the same "rule" for my blog post this month. My tomato crop had come down to a halt, so I decided to visit a local apple orchard in hopes to make fantastic tasting applesauce. I selected a small family owned apple orchard, Plank Road Apple Orchard, where I spoke with the owners and they were wonderful in helping pick just the right variety of apples. In fact, they said they put five different varieties of apples in my bag! Melissa noted on her blog, "most important is to use a blend of apples for the best flavor" and "keeping the sauce simple." So true...this applesauce was one of the best tasting ones I've made, and I didn't even have to add any additional sugar or spices. It was pretty amazing that these hand-picked apples were just the right mix of sweetness and tartness to make this applesauce perfect.  



Canned Applesauce 

Ingredients: 
About 15 lbs or so of a variety of apples*  (yields roughly 8-9 pints)
few tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cup water

* Note: When you go to an apple orchard, ask about the best varieties they have for making sauce and baking with. Baking/sauce varieties might consist of Gala, Spartans, Empire, Jonathans, and/or others. Also ask about "seconds" - apples which are slightly imperfect. These "seconds" are fantastic for cooking or baking with, not to mention they are often a fraction of the cost, perfect for buying in bulk to use for canning or freezing. 

Directions: 
Prepare apples by cutting them into quarters and remove the core. Place apples in a large stockpot and add about a cup of water, along with maybe a few tablespoons of lemon juice to the pot. On medium to high heat, bring the pot of apples to a boil. Closely watching the apples, keep stirring the pot and smashing the apples with a potato masher to prevent apples from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Keep simmering the apples until they get very soft. It will probably take a good 20 minutes, depending on your apples. Once all of the apples appear to be mushy, transfer them to a food mill to remove the skins. At this point you have your applesauce, if you wish you could freeze it or begin the canning process. To can the applesauce, make sure you have your waterbath canner started and the water is boiling. While the waterbath canner is getting ready, put the applesauce back into the large stockpot to keep it warm while you prep your canning jars. Keep the applesauce simmering on low, as you want to keep the sauce warm while you are filling the warm canning jars. Ladle the warm applesauce into the canning jars, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles in the jar, wipe the rim clean, and place the lid and fasten the ring to the jar with a fingertip tight fit. Process in your waterbath canning for about 20 minutes. Remove the jars and let cool for about 24 hours before you check the lids for proper seals.
   



Plank Road Apple Orchard was so helpful in helping me find the perfect combination of apples to use for my sauce. Oh, and I HAD to get one of their apple cider spice donuts before I left. Yum


Apples heating away in a large stockpot turned to mush! Just right for pushing through the food mill. Using a food mill is simple enough so that my 3 yr old can be a big kitchen helper. Round and round we go
This food mill pictured here was one from my grandma that we used many years ago. I am glad we were able to find it after she passed away so we could be able to use it and keep it in the family now.  
Don't be afraid to try waterbath canning! It is fairly easy with just a few tools. Make sure to check the Ball® website for additional canning tips for starters.

Recipe runner-ups- Even though the canned applesauce recipe won out for this month, I really want to go back and try this strawberry/rhubarb jam, as I have some rhubarb I froze from earlier this year tucked away in my freezer.  Also, my daughter wants me to make these fresh mint chocolate cookies as we have a bunch of chocolate mint that she planted this year and we are not quite sure what to do with it all!   


Please take some time and visit all of the other great bloggers in the Secret Recipe Club Group C that have taken the time to share these recipes! If you want to learn more about the Secret Recipe Club or join the fun, check us out at http://secret-recipe-club.blogspot.com/
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Iced Banana Cookies

Yummy note: I came across this recipe for Iced Banana Cookies this last month from one of my bloggers in the Secret Recipe Club. Oh boy, was it a hit, these banana cookies were almost classified as breakfast-on-the-go for my youngest kid. They were fantastic and will most definitely be making them again soon. This recipe came from Julie over at the Texan New Yorker blog. Her iced banana cookies were very moist, cake-like and flavorful, and such a nice way to use up those brown bananas! They tasted almost like banana muffin tops, perhaps more than a cookie, either way they were super delicious and the kids couldn't stop eating them. 




Iced Banana Cookies 

Ingredients: 
1/2 cup butter or non-dairy spread, softened
2 1/2 cups flour, divided
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, mashed
*optional handful of chocolate chips

Glaze: 
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
up to 3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: 
Beat the butter or non-dairy alternative for about 30 seconds, until it begins to cream. Add in 1 cup of the flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla to the mixing bowl. Mix well and then add in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour. Finally, add in the mashed bananas to the mixture and mix well. Using a cookie dough scooper, drop dough on a prepared baking sheet with either a silpat or parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 9 minutes. Next, mix up the glaze, by adding the powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl and begin to mix in a few teaspoons of water at a time. Begin to mix together until a thick glaze forms. If you accidentally add to much water, just add in a little bit of powdered sugar to thicken it back up. When the cookies are done, let them cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Frost banana cookies with glaze and enjoy!






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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yummy note: I looked into my freezer the other night and gasped... omg, I ran out of my frozen cookie dough balls! How can that be, it looked so bare, cold and empty, oh so sad. :(  They are like my secret little addiction, I will take out a frozen cookie ball and eat it like that or pop it into the microwave for a few seconds and par-bake it before devouring it before anyone notices. lol. Shh...mommy needs a treat at night too. So, I needed to change that empty cookie dough container immediately.  Luckily for me, I had just been doing some reading up for my Secret Recipe Club assignment and Julie from The Texan New Yorker had plenty of good stuff to choose from that might just fit. Cookies were on my brain that's for sure, so I had noted a few... I do love my sweet potatoes... never made those before- Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies, or wait a minute, Duck Fat Cookies - woah, looks awesome to try, but not sure where I'd find the duck fat, but it would be a refrigerator style of cookie that would hold up to the freezer. Then I saw these, Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies; it had been awhile since I've made cookies with butter. Yes, butter is a like an evil word around here, since my youngest is allergic to dairy, it is a treat when I use it. So why not, I'll just keep these tucked away in the freezer for myself to enjoy ;-)  


Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies 





Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter (make sure you have atleast 1 stick at room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp molasses
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks/chips



Directions: 
Julie notes a great tutorial here to view if you've never browned butter before. That is the first step of making these cookies. Place 9 tablespoons of butter in a stainless steel pan or skillet and heat over medium heat. Melt butter. Once the butter completely melts, it will froth, bubble and begin to crackle. It starts to begin to smell delicious, too, haha. At this point, keep a close watch and make sure it doesn't start to burn or blacken. This is basically the water being cooked out of the butter, as then it begins to brown. This happens very quick, it can go from golden to brown in minutes, so be careful. 

Once the butter has browned, remove from the heat and pour into a different container to cool. Make sure to scrape all of the brown butter bits at the bottom of the pan out too. Next, cream the remaining 8 tablespoons of room temperature butter with the granulated sugar. Cream for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and molasses. Next add in the cooled brown butter and brown sugar. Cream until well mixed and add in the egg and the egg yolk. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Once eggs have been mixed in, then add in your flour mixture to the batter and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips or chunks by hand. Cover the bowl and chill for about 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Once dough has chilled, scoop cookie dough using a tablespoon scoop and bake on a silpat or parchment-lines baking sheet. Bake cookies for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned on the outside. The inside will still be slightly soft in the center when the timer goes off, so make sure to let cookies rest on the pan for 5 minutes before removing them to cool.  


Brown the butter first, then mix up the rest of the cookie dough. 

At first, I wasn't sure if these cookies were going to make it out of the oven. The dough itself was nibbled on quite a bit. I loved the caramel-almost nutty flavor tones in these cookies. 

The cookies were slightly crispy on the outside, and yummy gooey inside. 

Golden brown butter chocolate chip cookies, looking pretty perfect. 

All ready for the freezer to keep my cookie dough stash nicely stocked!


Oh, and I felt a little guilty for enjoying these delicious Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies all by myself, so I had to make some other cookies to share with the kids. I made some of Julie's Iced Banana Cookies as well. They were so moist, cake-like and flavorful, and such a nice way to use up those brown bananas! They tasted almost like banana muffin tops, more than a cookie, and they were super delicious and the kids couldn't stop eating them. I will post that recipe later this week as well, as I don't want to loose that recipe! :) Thanks again to the Texan New Yorker for these scrumptious recipes I got to try this month for the Secret Recipe Club!





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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Margherita Bagel Pizzas

Yummy note:  I've really appreciated tomatoes more this summer than ever before probably. Our garden produced some larger varieties this year and they were much tastier for eating than some of my smaller Roma tomato varieties in the past. I do enjoy my Roma tomato variety for the sauces I make, or the cherry ones for salads, but the big boy variety is more fun to eat in big ole slices. Mm, slightly warmed cheese covered tomatoes is a small lunch perfect enough for me. My kids, they like their bread, just like me, haha, and we really love to make quick bagel pizzas. I make a wide variety of bagel pizzas -- a dairy-free variety for my youngest, then typically my daughter likes a meat-free cheese only pizza, and then my husband and I usually like more meat and toppings on ours. Then came along this simple margherita pizza, one night when I ran out of tomato/pizza sauce and they really wanted bagel pizzas. It is just the right amount of flavor to enjoy a simple, yet delicious pizza! 


Margherita Bagel Pizzas 

Ingredients:
4 bagels, halved (can use regular sized or mini bagels)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced or shredded mozzarella 
2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
4 basil leaves, sliced 
Few tablespoons olive oil for drizzling 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the bagel halves on the baking sheet. Drizzle with some olive oil and place a slice of tomato on each bagel slice. Top with fresh basil and mozzarella.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve immediately and enjoy! 



Enjoying my wonderful tomato crop this summer by making fresh bagel pizzas!  
Layer up the tomato, basil and mozarella! 


After about 2 weeks of enjoying these little guys, I realized one of my pint canning jar lid rings was the same size about as a bagel. It made for a fantastic cheese ring funnel thing, lol. Not sure the name I'm looking for, but it was handy to contain the cheese when sprinkling it on my bagels. 

Golden brown cheese covers this nice warm tomato. 


Yumyum. 

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tomatillo salsa

Yummy note: It's been fun to watch our little garden boxes flowering nicely with zucchini and pumpkin flowers this summer, and the fact we are finally getting some produce is even more exciting. :)  My neighbor and I have been working together to keep it all alive, and critter-free, lol, while my husband and kids enjoy checking out our garden boxes every morning to see what new things have popped up overnight. We have had a nice run of tomatoes, peppers, and zucchinis. We've been making zucchini bread, zucchini salsas, and next on my "fun" list to try is some zucchini "cheese," but, first, I had to try this fresh recipe for tomatillo salsa from my SRC assigned blogger. The Savvy Kitchen was this month's selection from the Secret Recipe Club group C. Amy's blog- The Savvy Kitchen has some fantastic quick and easy recipes that are super family-friendly, too. Speaking of family, she has an adorable little toddler that she features on her Tiny Tot Tuesdays, really, how cute is he?! So this tomatillo salsa, it was a bit tangy, zesty, yet mild compared to your traditional tomato salsas. This fresh tomatillo salsa has similar flavors of salsa verde, but the zucchini and corn added some great texture and crunch to the salsa, instead of the smooth green sauce-like salsa verdes. This is really a fresher approach to traditional salsa verde, and with the inclusion of zucchini, it was a fun dish to try out. 




Tomatillo Salsa 


Ingredients:
1 lime, juiced
11 oz. of fresh tomatillos or 1 can of whole tomatillos, drained 
1 zucchini, peeled, seeded, and diced (or cut into small cubes)
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped 
1 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil 
1/2 cup of sweet corn, cut off the cob (about 1 ear of corn)
1 tsp. of minced garlic
Black pepper, to taste 



Directions: 
Prepare tomatillos by chopping them into smaller pieces and slice off corn from the cob and place into a large bowl. Add the chopped zucchini, lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, garlic and pepper. Mix all of the ingredients well together and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until ready to eat.

Yummy notes: I couldn't find canned tomatillos in the store, so I used fresh one for this recipe. I unfortunately ran short of the 11 ounces of fresh tomatillos, so I improvised and added a small red tomato to the mix to equal 11 ounces. Also, I have a slight allergy to raw zucchini, so I sauteed up a bit of the salsa on the stove, basically just enough to soften and start cooking the raw zucchini so I could eat it. My husband got to try the fresh version, while I got to enjoy the partially cooked one. 

zucchinis! 
My neighbor and I working in the garden boxes.

Such a fun fresh dish of tomatillo salsa! 


My portion of cooked tomatillo salsa, not as colorful, but just as tasty as the fresh counterpart.



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