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Friday, September 30, 2011

Zucchini Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

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You know about my summer obsession; I’ve mentioned my mourning of the end of the season a few times. Need additional proof? I spent the first few weeks of September in a panic each time I went to the grocery store or farmer’s market, fervently praying that this wouldn’t be the week that watermelon disappeared. I continued to buy one and eat it in about four days, pouting when I felt like Ryan was eating too much of it and whining that he was stealing my happiness. Dramatic much? Don’t answer that.

Thankfully, much as I love summer temperatures (and watermelon), I also really love the foods of fall. Butternut squash, hearty soups, and pumpkin are welcomed with open arms into my kitchen each September. I like to think of this bread as the perfect compromise between fall and summer. The zucchini, leftover from summer’s abundance, gives moisture to this bread that is heavy on fall flavors: pumpkin, cranberries, and cinnamon.

I took a recipe from allrecipes.com and healthified it, knowing Ryan and I were likely to finish off the two loaves in a matter of days. We aren’t exactly a picture in self control when it comes to baked goods! :) I used mostly whole wheat pastry flour, cut the sugar in half, and reduced the butter, subbing unsweetened applesauce for most of it. The result was a minimally sweet, light-tasting quickbread that, as expected, didn’t last long in our house. I suppose if summer has to go, this is a pretty good way to wish it farewell….!

Looking for other quickbread recipes? I’ve got a whole bunch of them here!

One Year Ago: Pomegranate Banana Bread
Two Years Ago: Best Ever Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Zucchini Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
inspired by allrecipes.com
-3 eggs, lightly beaten
-1 cup sugar
-1 cup canned pumpkin
-1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
-6 tbsp butter, melted
-1 tbsp vanilla extract
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
-1/2 tsp ground cloves
-1 cup shredded zucchini
-1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries
-3/4 cup pepitas

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Combine eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix in pumpkin, butter, applesauce, and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir into wet ingredients, mixing just until combined.
4. Stir in zucchini, cranberries, and pepitas, mixing to combine. Divide batter evenly among two prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula.
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool. Remove bread from pans once cooled completely.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

French Onion Soup

I have never once ordered French Onion Soup in a restaurant. Growing up, the idea of onion soup just sounded gross and as I've transitioned into adulthood, I never thought to order it and try it because, quite honestly, I didn't know what I was missing out on! It wasn't until my soon to be sister-in-law made it to go along with our French-themed dinner one night (where I made the Zucchini, Lemon, & Ricotta Galettes) that I discovered the bliss that can be found in a bowl full of caramelized onions topped with cheesy bread.

Since then, I've been meaning to make it again, and a cool September Saturday a few weekends ago ended up being the perfect time. This soup is a labor of love, requiring you to stand over it for the first half an hour or so before allowing it to simmer for two hours. If you don't have that kind of time on the day you want to serve, it would be just as easy to make this a day or two ahead of time and then reheat and add the bread and cheese just before serving.

The friends I shared this with liked that it wasn't nearly as salty as your typical restaurant French Onion Soup, so be sure to use the low-sodium broth. Because I took these pictures when it was basically dark outside (gotta love the wonders of a DSRL camera!), I had trouble capturing just how gorgeous the melted swiss and toasted French bread was atop the soup. Trust me on this one, though. It had us "mmm-ing" our way through every slurp from the spoon!

Do you have any foods you never tried until recently and discovered that you loved?!

One Year Ago: Basil Parmesan Crackers
Two Years Ago: Veggie Stuffed Peppers

French Onion Soup
from Cooking Light January 2005
*makes approximately 8 one-cup servings

-2 tsp olive oil
-4 cups thinly vertically sliced sweet onion
-4 cups thinly vertically sliced red onion
-1/2 tsp sugar
-1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 cup dry white wine
-8 cups less-sodium beef broth
-1/4 tsp chopped fresh thyme
-8 (1 oz) sliced French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
-8 (1 oz) sliced Swiss cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions to pain and saute for 5 minutes, or until tender.
2. Stir in sugar, pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt. Reduce heat to medium; cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high and saute for 5 minutes or until onion is golden brown.
3. Stir in wine and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours.
4. Preheat broiler. Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil for 2 minutes or until toasted, turning after 1 minute.
5. Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a jelly-roll pan. Ladle 1 cup of soup into each bowl. Divide bread evenly among bowls; top each serving with 1 cheese slice. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eggplant and Mushroom Veggie Balls

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At first glance, this looks like your standard plate of spaghetti and meatballs. However, let me introduce you to Veggie Balls! Before you meat-eaters click away, thinking this sounds like some crazy vegetarian experiment, let me assure you that these are one of my favorite things to come from my kitchen in the last few weeks!

I recently stumbled upon an article in St. Louis’ Sauce Magazine where the author experimented with an assortment of veggie balls, including some inspired by a meal she had at Ranoush in University City. The magazine shared her recipe for Mushroom and Eggplant Veggie Balls and I was eager to try the take on a faux meatball.
Though the process was a little time-intensive for a busy weekday after work, I still managed to have dinner on the table by 7 pm. That being said, if you’re a fan of quick and easy meals, you may want to save this for the weekend. Whether you’re a diehard meatball lover or a proud vegetarian, these deserve a spot in your dinner repertoire. Meatballs, they are not, though they resemble them in appearance. Do not make them expecting meatballs. Still, the mushrooms and eggplant have a meatiness to them that led both Ryan and I to exclaim several times throughout the meal, “This is really good!”. They’re much more tender than your typical meatball, but also much more moist. Served atop whole-wheat spaghetti noodles and a simple homemade red sauce, this just might be your new favorite meal too!

One Year Ago: POM Banana Blueberry Popsicles
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Marshmallow BarsCaramel Apple Dip, and Tortilla Pinwheels

Eggplant and Mushroom Veggieballs
from Sauce Magazine
*makes approximately 30 veggieballs

-1 whole eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
-8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced (mine came in a 10 oz. package, so I used that)
-8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced (mine came in a 10 oz. package, so I used that)
-1 medium onion, quartered
-1/2 cup olive oil
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 tsp sea salt
-1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper (I used black pepper)
-cooking spray
-1 egg, gently whisked
-1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a large plastic bag, combine the first 8 ingredients (eggplant through pepper) and shake to evenly coat vegetables.
2. Coat a large glass baking dish (you may need to use two) with cooking spray. Spread the vegetables in an even layer on the dish(es) and bake, uncovered for 30 minutes.
3. Remove vegetables from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir the egg and panko into the vegetable mixture. Transfer the mixture in small batches to a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.
4. Pulse batches until minced, but not pureed (mixture will be very wet).
5. Form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet or glass dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand for  5 minutes before serving. Serve over spaghetti noodles and easy red sauce (recipe below).

Easy Red Sauce
from Sauce Magazine

-1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
-1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
-1 tbsp sugar
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients. Heat over medium heat until the sauce thickens slightly and mixture is hot (approximately 5-10 minutes).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nuts and Bolts Snack Mix

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The summer before my senior year of college, I did an internship at Walgreens. Although I wasn’t interested in going into retail management, the position was going to look good on my resume and the pay was above average. It ended up being more fun than I anticipated. The job definitely had its lows—like confronting shoplifters and restocking shelves late into the evening—but I worked with a colorful cast of characters and I enjoyed chatting with customers while working the cash register (nerd alert!).
When it came to restocking, my favorite items to put away were in the snack foods and candy aisle…no surprise there! I always volunteered to do those over the shampoos, the paper products, or the medicines…especially the medicines! One snack food I remember restocking frequently were the bags of Chex mix. I was rather familiar with the flavors, including hot & spicy, peanut lovers, and honey nut, occasionally buying a bag to snack on during my shift.
I must say, this homemade mix from Martha Stewart Living beats any of the bags I ever bought! Cayenne, garlic, and rosemary are the key flavors here. The original recipe made a puny amount. I tripled the recipe (my version is below) and it filled a gallon sized Ziploc bag.

This ranks right up there with the Life cereal mix and is leaps and bounds of what you’ll find at your neighborhood Walgreens! 

One Year Ago: Coffee Ice Cream
Two Years Ago: Praline Party Mix (a chex mix for SWEETS lovers!) and Super Easy Spinach Dip

Nuts and Bolts Snack Mix
from Martha Stewart Living, June 2011

-9 cups toasted corn cereal (Chex)
-4 1/2 cups bite-size pretzels
-3 cups salted dry-roasted peanuts
-6 garlic cloves
-1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
-15 tbsp (2 sticks less 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
-6 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
-4 1/2 tsp paprika
-3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-3/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 225F. In a large bowl combine cereal, pretzels, and peanuts (may need to divide into 2 bowls).
2. Mince cloves of garlic and mash into a paste with salt. Stir together garlic paste with melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Pour over cereal mixture and toss to coat with a rubber spatula.
3. Spread mixture evenly on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake, gently stirring every 20 minutes, for 1 hour 20 minutes. Sprinkle chopped rosemary over mixture and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container (will keep for up to 10 days).

This content was originally posted on Honest Cooking in my featured column "Cooking the Magazines". This post is also linked to Eat At Home.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Whole Wheat Jam Filled Ebelskivers

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What's your ideal day? There are a lot of things I could name to be included in my ideal day (like ice cream! non-negotiable!), but a few things stand out in my mind. Waking up without the alarm clock after 8 hours of sleep (even at the crack of dawn; it's still waking up without the alarm). Lacing up my running shoes and heading out for a run, ideally with Ryan. Returning, exhausted and hungry, and having the opportunity to stretch, foam roll, and then leisurely make breakfast (key word: leisurely), with no rush to shower, clean up, or head anywhere.

I was lucky enough to have a few of these days this summer. One that stands out was while visiting my family over the 4th of July. We slept. We ran (HARD, thanks to humidity and hills...but we'll overlook that!). We ate. We relaxed.

Then, Labor Day, I had a similar experience with Ryan. We slept it and then headed out for a little run together. The little run turned into a ten mile long run; the miles flew by as we enjoyed the first cool morning of the season and the fact that we were out running on a late Monday morning instead of sitting at work. We returned, excited to relax the rest of the day, and decided to make breakfast together: Ebelskiver Pancakes, a new food to both of us.

Ryan bought me an Ebelskiver pan for my birthday, knowing nothing about Ebelskivers but knowing his kitchen gadget loving wife would get a kick out of it! He was right! We loved this form of pancakes and tag-teamed the process: he'd fill with batter, I'd drop some jam in, and he'd top with more batter. These turned out perfectly browned and cooked through, and we found them sweet enough to need nothing more than a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Strawberry jam was our filling of choice, but we've been brainstorming other good fillings: mashed banana, berries, peanut butter, and NUTELLA! These are a fun breakfast-well worth the need of the extra pan-and I can see us making a dessert version of these sometime in the future too.

The batch made about 20 Ebelskivers, which the two of us managed to finish off in one sitting. Ten miles makes for hungry runners! :)

One Year Ago: Maine & Boston Foodie Recap (great trip. great food.)
Two Years Ago: Double Oat Breakfast Cookies

Whole Wheat Jam Filled Ebelskivers
adapted from Perry's Plate 
-1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (could sub all-purpose)
-1 1/2 tsp sugar
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp salt
-2 large eggs, separated
-1 1/4 cups buttermilk
-2 tbsp butter, melted & slightly cooled
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-strawberry jam, for filling
-butter or cooking spray, for the pan

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Stir in buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until well-mixed. Batter may be lumpy.
3. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form (not dry stiff peaks). With a spatula, fold about 1/3 of the whites into the batter. Fold the remaining whites into the batter until no white streaks remain. Use batter immediately.
4. Heat ebelskier pan over medium heat and spray each cavity with cooking spray or add butter to each and allow to melt in the heat.
5. Place 1 tbsp of batter in each cavity. Top with 1-2 tsp of jam and top jam with another 1 tbsp of batter.
6. When the sides begin to bubble and start to dry, use wooden skewers or chopsticks to flip the ebelskivers over (not as difficult as it sounds). Continue to cook until golden brown. Remove from pan and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter.
7. Serve warm with powdered sugar, honey, syrup, or desired toppings.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Snack Bars

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No witty story or anecdote to share with you regarding this recipe today. Honestly, these bars don’t need one. They can stand up for themselves. You can tell from the pictures that they’re the kind of treat that will be hard to stop at one (or two…). The marriage of salty and sweet is something I can’t get enough of lately. Throw some gooey marshmallows in there and I’m swooning. These are probably one of my favorite (and easiest!) desserts I’ve made recently. It’s likely you have most of the ingredients in your pantry already; these are great to make when you need to use up a bunch of odds and ends. I’m already excited for the next time I have a few cups of chex cereal hanging out in my pantry and M&Ms in my freezer!

One Year Ago: Cinnamon Raisin French Toast with POM Syrup
Two Years Ago: Cinnamon Cranberry Almond Oat Pancakes

Snack Bars
from Buns in My Oven
-3 cups pretzel sticks, snapped in half (or regular pretzels, snapped in half)
-2 1/3 cups chex cereal
-2 cups m&ms, any variety (I used 1 cup dark chocolate & 1 cup chocolate covered cookie dough candies I had--thanks Maggie!)
-1/4 cup chocolate chips
-1/2 cup butter
-1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
-5 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

1. In a large bowl, combine pretzels, cereal, candy, and chocolate chips. Set aside.
2. In a large sauce pan, melt butter and peanut butter over low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in marshmallows and continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until marshmallows are melted. Pour over the snack mixture and stir to coat well.
3. Press mixture evenly into a 9x13 pan lined with wax or parchment paper. Cover and refrigerate until cool. Once cool, cut into bars and serve.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mexican Baked Eggs with Black Beans, Tomatoes, Green Chilies, and Cilantro

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My runny-yolk egg obsession continues! I had a can of black beans on hand and was looking for a new recipe to try when I stumbled upon this one for Mexican Baked Eggs with Black Beans. It reminded me of a combination of Shakshuka and the Breakfast Tortilla Strata, two meals Ryan and I both really liked. Though this takes a bit of prep work, it’s all incredibly simple and the whole meal comes together in just over 30 minutes. Ryan was actually the chef behind this one. I worked alongside of him in the kitchen on a yummy quickbread (coming soon) while he prepped this weekend lunch for us.

Served with sour cream and cilantro (I forgot to add this before I took the picture), this makes for a good anytime meal. If it’s a little too savory for your breakfast tastes, enjoy it for lunch or dinner…you could even dip tortilla chips in it! The dish has a kick thanks to the green chilies—don’t use the whole can if you’re sensitive to spice.

It goes without saying that the runny yolks mixing in with the other ingredients were my favorite part. Am I pathetic for already being sad about the (FUTURE) day I’m pregnant and have to stop eating runny yolks for a few months?!

Are you runny yolk obsessed? Any recipes I should know about?

One Year Ago: Cooking Lobster and Shucking Oysters
Two Years Ago: Apricot Bran Bread

Mexican Baked Eggs with Black Beans, Tomatoes, Green Chilies, and Cilantro
from Kalyn's Kitchen
-1 small onion, finely diced
-1-2 tsp olive oil
-1/2 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp chile powder
-1 can (14.5 oz) tomatoes with juice (preferably petite diced)
-1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained well
-1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles (alternately--use 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilies already included)
-4-6 eggs
-1/4-1/2 cup grated cheese (I used monterrey jack)
-chopped cilantro for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Spray a medium-sized casserole dish with cooking spray (could also make in individual ramekin/gratin dishes).
2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan with deep sides and saute onions for 2-3 minutes. Add cumin and chile powder and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice, drained black beans, and diced green chilies to the pan with onions. Allow to cook at a low simmer for 20 minutes, until the mixture is slightly thickened.
3. Spoon half of the mixture into prepared casserole dish. Carefully break the eggs on top of the tomato-bean mixture before spooning the rest of the mixture around the eggs, avoiding the yolk.
4. Bake at 450F for 10-15 minutes, until eggs are set but still fairly wet looking. Remove dish, sprinkle with cheese, and return to oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese has melted but yolks are still soft.
5. Serve hot topped with cilantro. Can also serve with sour cream, salsa, and/or tortillas for dipping.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Peanut, Peanut Butter, Pretzel Bonbons

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Ever since making the Chocolate/Peanut Butter Covered Oreo Cheesecake Pretzel Bites for my Cheesecake Extravaganza, I haven't been able to get them out of my mind. Of course, this was partially because I had some leftover and was enjoying them on a daily basis, straight from the freezer (seriously. make them. freeze them. eat them. you will looooove!). When my stash started dwindling, I planned to make another batch, but didn't have all the ingredients on hand. Lately, my pantry has been overflowing and I'm making a conscious effort to use what I have, so I used some internet inspiration and ingredients from my pantry to make a similar treat.

This time, instead of cream cheese and oreos, there was peanut butter and peanut M&Ms. The constant in both? Pretzels and chocolate! These were more like jazzed up peanut butter balls than the cheesecake pretzel bites I had originally wanted but the end result was the same: an irresistible sweet and salty treat that I could pull from my freezer!

These are highly adaptable. The original recipe used toffee instead of peanut M&Ms. Reese's pieces or mini chocolate chips would be other great fillers. You could also decorate these with sprinkles, or not at all. They'll be headed straight for your mouth soon anyway!

I still have some extra dipping chocolate on hand. The verdict is still out on what freezer-friendly treat I'll make next!

P.S. Today I, along with 8 others--my awesome parents included--are doing the crazy RAGNAR Relay in DC that I've mentioned a few times. We'll be running about 200 miles from Cumberland, MD to Washington D.C. over the next day and a half. I have about 27 or 28 miles to cover in that time and when I'm not running I'll likely be stretching and eating...so don't be surprised if I don't reply to any emails or comments for a few days! Posts are pre-scheduled as usual so keep checking in for the next few days. I'll return to St. Louis on Tuesday and there will be an update on the race some time after that...assuming we survive ;) Check out my twitter--I'm sure I'll be updating along the way!

One Year Ago: Sweet and Spicy Citrus Tilapia
Two Years Ago: Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut, Peanut Butter, Pretzel Bonbons
inspired by Mel's Kitchen Cafe
*for approximately 50 bonbons

-4 tbsp butter, at room temperature
-1 cup powdered sugar
-1 cup smooth peanut butter
-heaping 1/2 cup peanut M&Ms, coarsely chopped or crushed, plus additional for decorating
-1 cup chopped, crushed pretzel sticks
-dipping chocolate melts

1. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until evenly combined. Mix in peanut butter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the peanut M&Ms and pretzel sticks with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
2. Place dough in freezer for 15 minutes to chill slightly. Remove and form 1-inch balls (approximately) of the mixture, placing on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Freeze for 15-20 minutes, until firm.
3. Melt chocolate candy melts. Remove peanut butter balls from freezer and, using a fork, dip each one in the melted chocolate, rolling to coat completely. Immediately garnish with chopped M&M pieces or garnish of choice. Lay covered balls on lined baking sheets and continue until all balls have been dipped.
*Store in freezer in an airtight container until ready to serve

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pineapple Ginger Granola Bars

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I made these one afternoon, around 3:00 pm. By 6:00 am the next morning, there was about 1/3 of the pan remaining. Now, in mine and Ryan's defense, we did both pack some in our lunches for work the next day.

Okay, not much defense. We still consumed over half the pan in about twelve hours and twelve hours after that the whole pan was gone! Homemade granola bars are my weakness. I've justified it in my head, telling myself they're soooo much better than chowing down on a dozen cookies. Don't tell me otherwise, I'm just going to keep making and enjoying them. They're at least full of better ingredients than a store bought version, right? Right?!?!

These rival the Mocha Coconut Granola Bars that were my previous homemade bar obsession.Although Joanne's original recipe called for hazelnuts, I was without and instead used macadamia nuts. A brilliant substitution, if I do say so myself. The sweet pineapple, the spicy ginger, and the salty macadamias, all wrapped up with chunks of chocolate is, quite literally, one of my favorite combos to date.

These are thick, chewy, and addicting. They also managed to settle the debate. Macadamias are worth the price. I'll be forking over the cash to make these cookies and these granola bars again and again and again!

P.S. Two days ago Glamour featured my Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries on one of their online blogs! Check it out here...fun stuff :)

One Year Ago: Greek Turkey Burgers

Pineapple Coconut Granola Bars
slightly adapted from Eats Well With Others

-1 cup unsweetened applesauce
-1/4 cup + 1/3 cup honey
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-3/4 tsp vanilla extract
-2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
-3/4 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
-1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
-1/2 cup dried pineapple, chopped
-1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or foil. Spray with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine applesauce, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla, stirring to combine. Stir in oats until fully moistened. Add nuts, ginger, pineapple, and chocolate chips.
3. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool in the freezer until firm (approximately 1 hour) before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week (not that they'll last that long!)

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Artichoke Stuffed Turkey Burgers

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I am drafting this post on September 6th, but you're reading it today, on September 21st. On September 6th, I am refusing to accept that Summer is on its way out and Fall (and close behind it the big evil W*****) is arriving here in St. Louis. As much as I'm loving the cool morning runs and the ability to turn on my oven without infuriating my heat sensitive husband, I'm in denial that the dog days of Summer are now just a memory, at least for the next 9 months or so.


In my denial, we'll keep grilling out, so long as Ryan's willing to man the grill. I can't control the temperatures or the fading daylight, but I can control the foods we eat and the memories we evoke. You'll see soups and casseroles and plenty of other comfort foods in the months to come, but for now do me a favor and cut me some slack while I indulge in summer-like foods for a bit longer. It's for my health and sanity, believe me!

If you're in the same boat as me, appease your summer-loving spirit with these turkey burgers. Stuffed with artichokes and cheese, they're a bit more exciting than your typical turkey burger. Next time I'll add even more cheese to the middle, or possibly melt some on top...more cheese is rarely a bad thing!

One Year Ago: Fruited Bulgur Salad
Two Years Ago: Eggplant Lasagna 

Artichoke Stuffed Turkey Burgers
from C+C Marriage Factory
-1 lb lean ground turkey
-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
-1/4 medium sweet onion, finely diced
-1 large pinch garlic salt
-ground black pepper
-2-3 artichoke hearts, diced
-4 oz. sliced Fontina cheese, cut into 4-1 oz. pieces (I subbed some Havarti that we had on hand)
-4 sandwich thins or burger buns
-additional desired toppings

1. In a large bowl, combine turkey, balsamic, onion, garlic salt, and pepper, mixing to combine well.
2. Divide mixture into 8 equal balls and flatten into thin patties. Top 4 of the patties with artichoke hearts and cheese, covering each patty with another patty and pressing together to seal.
3. Cook over medium heat until browned (approximately 8 minutes). Flip and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes. Remove from grill, place on buns, and top with desired toppings.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cream Cheese Fruit Tarts

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Ryan’s a fruit dessert lover through and through. Some of his favorite desserts to date are my grandma’s apple pie and last year’s birthday dessert: the lemon tart. I didn’t know if I could beat the lemon tart, it’s the kind of dessert that stands in a class of its own. Instead, I asked him if I could make a fruit tart for his birthday. I was confident he’d like it and it wasn’t so difficult that I’d spent our fun weekend in Chicago stressing over it.

The dessert ended up being easier than I imagined and everyone, Ryan included, seemed to like it more than I had anticipated…I’d call that a win win! Southern Living’s original recipe made 6 four-inch tarts, but I doubled the recipe (and made a little extra filling) to make 12 tarts since Ryan forewarned me he was going to want at least three for himself!

Any fruit would be good on these—berries, bananas, pineapple, whatever floats your boat! My friend Maggie and I used kiwi, raspberries, blueberries, and peaches, which ended up being aesthetically pleasing and gave us the chance to enjoy summer produce while we still could!

The original recipe also called for a shortbread cookie crust but after tasting how good the crust on the No Bake Orange Creamsicle Cheesecake was, I opted for a vanilla sandwich cookie crust, a decision I don’t regret!

Make these when you need an easy dessert that looks impressive, or if you too have a fruit dessert-loving spouse/friend/neighbor that needs a birthday treat!

One Year Ago: Tilapia with Black Bean Salsa (and a rather interesting salsa ingredient!)
Two Years Ago: Mediterranean Skillet

Cream Cheese Fruit Tarts
adapted from Southern Living, June 2010
-20 oz. vanilla sandwich cookies (you'll want about 4 cups of crumbs)
-12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
-16 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used low fat)
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-assorted fresh fruit

1. To prepare the crust, preheat the oven to 325F. Pulse cookies in a food processor to get crumbs. Stir together crumbs and melted butter. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of 12 (4-inch) tart pans with removable bottoms. Place on 2 baking sheets.
2. Bake crusts for 9 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer tart pans to a wire rack and allow to cool completely (about 30 minutes).
3. To prepare the filling, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spoon mixture into crusts, using a knife to smooth evenly. Cover and chill for 1-24 hours.
4. Just before serving (or 1-2 hours before), remove tarts from pans and top with assorted fresh fruit.
*Note: tarts are best eaten the day they're topped with the fruit!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cake Batter Rice Krispie Treats

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The cake batter craze continues. I purchased another box to make a few more batches of Cake Batter Ice Cream (still the most popular ice cream flavor to come from my kitchen), and couldn't resist trying another cake batter goody. On par with the pancakes, the flavor in these is not nearly as noticeable as, say, the cake batter blondies (a MUST make!). Even so, you'll find that they provide a fun little punch to your typical rice krispie treats.

I was actually disappointed in my first batch, which completely lacked any cake batter flavor. I added additional batter the second time around, but am tempted to try a third just to see if the flavor becomes even more pronounced. The addition of sprinkles makes these extra fun--don't sprinkles just make everything happier?!

Pick up a box of cake mix and give these (or one of the other cake batter recipes) a try. I still have a few more uses in mind for my box!

{Looking for other kicked up rice krispie treats? How about cookies and cream or scotcheroos?!}

One Year Ago: Creamy Vegetable & Edamame Risotto

Cake Batter Rice Krispy Treats
slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is 
-3 tbsp butter
-1 (10 oz.) bag of mini marshmallows
-3/4 cup Funfetti cake mix
-6 cups rice krispies cereal
-1 (1.75 oz.) container of sprinkles

1. In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows, stirring until completely melted. Stir in cake mix to combine completely.
2. Remove mixture from heat and stir in cereal, mixing to coat well. Add half of the sprinkles to the mix.
3. Press into a greased baking dish (8 or 9 inch square pans yield the best treats in terms of thickness). Top with remaining sprinkles. Allow to sit for 30 minutes before cutting into squares.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sweet Potato Chorizo Empanadas with Avocado Cream

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Several weeks ago, we had a tapas themed dinner with a group of friends. The spread of foods on the table was impressive, everything from an artichoke salad to corn pudding to baked black beans with chorizo to champagne sangria….I practically had to be rolled away from the table! Kara made empanadas and I was smitten with the cute little hand pies, mostly due to the avocado cream she served them with!

It turned out the recipe she used was from Handle the Heat, a food blog I already read on a regular basis. I decided to make my own variation—using sweet potatoes and adding chopped zucchini—to serve at our team meeting for an upcoming RAGNAR race (only 5 days away now!).
I wanted to make the empanadas ahead of time, since we were going to be in Chicago for the meeting. What I meant to do was form the empanadas and then freeze them before baking them in Chicago. Instead, I accidentally formed them, baked them, and then froze them. Thankfully, they turned out fine! I slightly thawed the pre-baked empanadas and then baked them for about 15 minutes at 400F. It’s good to know for the future—feel free to make these and bake/freeze, etc. according to your needs. These are a perfect party appetizer or a quick dinner to pull out of the freezer!

These “Mexican hot pockets”, as my friend James called them, were the perfect food to enjoy as we discussed the upcoming logistics for Team Nipguard (yes, that’s our team name…more details to come eventually ;)) These are especially good when paired with the avocado crème (thanks for making that Mom!), so don’t omit!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Fudge Drops

Sweet Potato Chorizo Empanadas with Avocado Cream
makes about 20-22 empanadas

for the dough-
-1 cup water
-1 1/2 sticks butter
-2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-2 tsp salt
-pinch paprika

for the filling-
-1 lb Mexican chorizo, casings removed
-1 medium yellow onion, minced
-1/2 zucchini, diced
-2-3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, finely diced, and boiled

for the avocado cream-
-1/4 cup sour cream
-1/4 cup half and half
-1/2 lemon, juiced
-1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
-2 avocados
-kosher salt

1. To make the dough, heat the water and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Allow to cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, salt, and paprika with a well in the center. Pour the melted butter into the well and mix with your hands until dough is well combined and wet. Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
2. To make the filling, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and onion, cooking until chorizo has broken into small pieces and is cooked through. Remove from heat, add diced and boiled potatoes, and allow to cool completely.
3. To assemble, preheat oven to 400F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper. Roll dough into golf-ball sized balls (should get 20-22 of them) and, with a rolling pin, roll out on a lightly floured surface into a circle (or, if you're me, a circle-ish shape!).
4. Place a few tbsp of filling into the center of each dough circle and fold dough over filling to make a half moon shape. Press edges to seal and crimp the edges with the back of a fork. Place empanadas on baking sheets and bake until golden brown (15-20 minutes). Allow to cool.
5. To make the avocado cream, place sour cream, half and half, lemon juice, and jalapeno in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth before adding the avocado (peeled, pitted, and diced) to the blender/food processor, pulsing until creamy. Season with salt.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Toffee Cappuccino Muffins

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Isn’t it funny how coffee cake doesn’t taste like coffee? I know, I know, you’re supposed to enjoy the breakfast cake with your morning coffee…but don’t you think there have been a few people in all of time who dug into a piece of coffee cake expecting coffee flavor?

Those people need not be disappointed any longer! While I wouldn’t call these coffee cake muffins, persay, they are muffins that taste like coffee! As like other coffee-flavored goodies I’ve made, the flavor is present but not too overwhelming. In fact, I think coffee haters might find themselves grabbing an extra muffin or two when they realize just how nicely the bursts of sweet toffee are accentuated by the cappuccino flavor.

I made these to bring for after-church treats several weeks ago and was worried they’d be a flop. Despite cooking them at an oven temperature 25 degrees lower than it called for (my temperature is in the recipe below), they still cooked rather quickly and I was worried I’d overcooked them. No matter how good the flavor is, no one likes a dry, hard muffin! Instead, they were a hit! The solid muffin was actually a good base for the melted toffee and while they weren’t crumbly, they also weren’t overcooked. Just be sure to watch yours and remove them when they’re browning on the outside!

For my toffee, I chopped up mini Heath bars…but you could also buy a bag of toffee chips. Personally, I like the Heath bars because they’re chocolate covered toffee. If there’s anything better than coffee and toffee, it’s coffee, toffee, and chocolate!

One Year Ago: Copycat Egg McMuffin
Two Years Ago: German Chocolate Cookies

Toffee Cappuccino Muffins
inspired by allrecipes.com

-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2 tsp baking powder
-3 heaping tsp instant coffee granules
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 egg
-1 cup milk
-1/2 cup butter, melted
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 1/2 cups Heath bars pieces, chopped into small pieces

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, coffee granules, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk together the egg, milk, butter, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
2. Fold wet ingredients into dry, just until moistened. Fold in Heath bar pieces.
3. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4ths full.
4. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans and cooling completely on wire racks.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Portobello Mushroom and Goat Cheese Sliders

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I love the idea of making sliders for a party or dinner with friends because it means you can try multiple types of burgers without having to try and demolish full-sized sandwiches. Along with the Asian turkey sliders I talked about yesterday, Maggie and I also made some portobello mushroom and goat cheese sliders. I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, because this meatless slider was also delicious in its own right. Topped with red wine caramelized onions and spinach, and of course the goat cheese, these bite sized sandwiches were loved by the whole group. I have yet to find something goat cheese doesn't taste good on!

Served on a platter as party appetizers or alongside salads for dinner, you'll love these meatless burgers!

One Year Ago: Peach and Brie Panini
Two Years Ago: Homemade Kettle Corn and Coconut Marble Cake

Portobello Mushroom and Goat Cheese Sliders
*makes 12 sliders (you'll probably have extra mushrooms though!)
-1 onion, thinly sliced and caramelized (Add about 1/4 cup of red wine to the pot when onions are nearly finished. Season with salt & pepper and let the liquid reduce slightly. The end result is AWESOME!)
-olive oil
-salt & pepper
-4 oz. goat cheese
-4 portobello mushroom caps
-12 whole wheat dinner rolls, lightly toasted

1. While onions are caramelizing (heavy saucepan over medium-low heat with a few tbsp butter for 15-20 minutes), brush both sides of (rinsed and dried) portobello mushroom caps with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Grill mushrooms over medium heat for 4 minutes. Flip and grill for an additional 4 minutes. Remove from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
3. Cut mushrooms into 4 quarters and slice each quarter into thin strips. Top toasted rolls with mushrooms, goat cheese, caramelized onions, and spinach.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Asian Turkey Sliders

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I've been thinking about making sliders for over a year now. Yes, a year. Ever since my mom bought Ryan a Williams Sonoma slider press last year for his birthday (hangs head in shame). The problem is, I have an overabundance of recipes that I want to make: recipes from cookbooks, recipes passed along to me, recipes from magazines, recipes from other blogs...you get the picture. The good news is I will never, ever run out of things to make. The bad news is the list just keeps growing! The important thing is that eventually I'll get around to making them, as I did with these sliders.

When my friend Maggie and I decided to have a "sliders" dinner over Labor Day weekend, Ryan asked if we could make sliders topped with pickled ginger. This request came out of left field, but I love catering to requests and immediately starting googling for ideas. I stumbled upon a recipe that I slightly adapted, and in the end, Ryan got to top his sliders with pickled ginger. He was on to something here...I loved the bite of the ginger and the sriracha that complemented the fluffy Hawaiian buns we ate these on. My sister Julia, on the other hand, decided pickled ginger tastes like potpourri, but still found the sliders fabulous without!

One Year Ago: Mexican Stuffed Mushrooms

Asian Turkey Sliders
adapted from Steamy Kitchen
*makes 10-11 sliders or 4 regular sized burgers

-1 lb ground turkey
-1 large garlic clove, smashed in garlic press
-1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
-1 tsp soy sauce
-1 tsp sesame oil
-1/2 tsp fish sauce
-1/2 tsp brown sauce
-1 tsp sriracha (optional)
-1 egg, beaten
-salt & pepper

-Hawaiian bread buns, for serving
for topping: green onions, tomato, pickled ginger, and sriracha

1. In a large bowl combine all burger ingredients, mixing well. Form into slider sized or regular sized patties (slider press not required!).
2. Grill over medium-high until internal temperature is 160F (be careful with the sliders; they're a bit fragile!).
3. Place burgers on Hawaiian bread buns or other buns and top with desired toppings

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pesto Berry Balsamic Flatbread with Goat Cheese

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There's a lot going on in this flatbread. And, to be honest, I probably wouldn't have ever come up with the combination myself. However, while on a business trip in Ottawa (that's in Canada for all you Geography-challenged readers...I consider myself one!), I had a very similar dish at a restaurant our group headed to for dinner one night. In addition to a rather fabulous berry mojito, I also devoured--and I mean devoured, no crumb left behind--this flatbread. 

Between the cucumber, the pesto, the goat cheese, the berries, the balsamic, the tomatoes, the almonds, the jalapeno...you have some craziness happening.On paper, the description might seem a little overwhelming, but together, the unlikely combination will have you cleaning your plate! Though the original recipe called for strawberries, I used raspberries. Everything else in the recipe stayed pretty true to what I enjoyed at Mambo. I think they went a little heavier on the jalapeno--I remember it having more a kick--but this version seemed to be the best balance of flavors.
Two additional notes about this recipe. First, I made my own flatbread. I used Joy the Baker's recipe and it couldn't have been easier. I love that it has a short rise time and that you "cook" your flatbread in the skillet. I know I'll be whipping this up frequently for an easy dinner or appetizer...flatbread is about as versatile as you can get! Second, a special shoutout and thank you to my mom's friend Brenda who recently gave me this awesome handheld chopper. I used it to chop up the jalapeno and cucumber and it was 100x easier than doing it by hand or dragging my giant food processor out of the cabinet. Great product and a bonus arm workout with the little lawn mower like pullstring ;) Thanks again Brenda!
This crazy flatbread will please your palate, I promise! Let me know if you give it a try, or what spin you put on it!

One Year Ago: Hot Bean and Cheese Dip
Two Years Ago: Veggie Bagel Sandwich

Pesto Berry Balsamic Flatbread with Goat Cheese
dish inspired by Mambo Lounge in Ontario, Canada

-2 pieces of flatbread (purchased or homemade)
-1/2 cup pesto (purchased or homemade)
-1 small cucumber, peeled and finely diced
-1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped, and finely diced
-1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
-1 pint raspberries
-4 oz. goat cheese
-1/3 cup sliced almonds
-1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Spread each flatbread with pesto. Top each with finely diced cucumber and jalapeno. Sprinkle with tomatoes and raspberries.
2. Top with almonds and sprinkle with chunks of goat cheese.
3. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, reduce balsamic vinegar until thick and syrupy. Drizzle balsamic over each of the flatbreads.
4. Cut into pieces and serve immediately.