Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple Nut Muffins

Let me take you back to the last week of September.  My kids had already started begging me to let them put up Halloween stuff.  I put it off as long as I could, but the last Saturday before October I gave in.  I brought out my giant bin of Halloween decorations, set it inside, and I went back outside to finish cleaning the garage.  My kids took it upon themselves to put out all the decorations- in the best way that they could as a 6 and 8 year old.  It was all I could do with my OCD issues to let some things be different than they have been for years and years.  Luckily, I baked some of these tasty muffins to mellow me out.  These were great!

If you read the post that goes along with the Caramel Apple Pie, I still have some apples from my friend that gave me a giant load of apples and pears!  They are never going away!  When I went to get apples from her, she handed me some photocopied pages of a small cookbook and smiled.  When I read the title, it was a "Fall Baking Cookbook" and there was a whole section on orchard fruit baked goods.  Oh, dear!  I could have made a different one every day of the week for two weeks!  I did try these muffins, which were phenomenal.  My kids gobbled them up,  

Source: From a small "Fall Baking" cookbook from a friend

1 1/2 c flour
2/3 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c oats
1 T baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/8 t nutmeg
1/8 t ginger
1 c coarsely chopped peeled apples
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c chopped pitted dates (I omitted these- mainly because I think they look like mummified cockroaches)
1/2 c butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/4 c milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease muffin tins or use paper muffin liners.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger in a large bowl.  Add the apples, walnuts, and dates (If using)

In a small bowl, whisk the butter, eggs, and milk until well-mixed.  Stir into dry ingredients until all the flour is incorporated.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.  It makes 12 muffins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  

Cool and eat!

Pumpkin Streusel Waffles with Vanilla Syrup

I always like to imagine that someday I'll own a little Bed & Breakfast in some beautiful vacation spot where I can cook amazing meals for guests.  If I did, I'm pretty sure that these waffles would make an appearance in the fall.  The vanilla syrup and waffles came from two different sources, but they are so perfect for each other.  I may have to keep canned pumpkin on hand year round for these bad boys.  I promise they are worth the effort!

Source for waffle recipe: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/pumpkin-cinnamon-streusel-pancakes/

Source for vanilla syrup: http://houseofyumm.com/banana-cream-waffles-with-homemade-vanilla-syrup/

Vanilla Syrup:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups water

For the cinnamon streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Pumpkin Waffles:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the syrup:
In a medium-sized pot, bring the water to a boil.  Combine the cornstarch and water.  Add to the water, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until thickened.  Remove from heat.  Add in the butter, salt, and vanilla.  Let this cool while you make the waffles.

For the waffles:
Prepare the streusel topping first.  In a bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Mix with a fork.  Add the cold, chunked butter and using a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the waffles.  In a medium bowl, mix the milk, canned pumpkin, egg, oil, and vanilla.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix just until all the flour is incorporated.  

Heat the waffle iron and spray it with cooking spray.

Pour about 1/3 cup onto the waffle maker.  Close the waffle lid and let it cook for 3-4 minutes or until it's golden brown.

Place the waffle on a plate, sprinkle some streusel on top, and drizzle with the vanilla syrup.  

The original recipe was for pancakes, so feel free to use it either way.  It's delicious no matter what!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

World's Best Rolls #2 (actually should be #1 because they really are the best!)

Well, folks, hell has had another ice age.  It has frozen over again!  Last time, it was because I asked my oldest brother, who never used to cook, for a recipe.  This time, my mom asked me for this roll recipe.  WHA??!?  My mom has been using the same roll recipe for as long as I can remember, and it is fabulous.  They are wonderfully soft and tender crescent rolls.  They've graced our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and many Sunday dinners for years and years.  Well, I bring these puppies over to dinner today, and they were hands-down the best rolls I've ever tasted.  They were so soft, and the texture was perfect.  With a little bit of butter (or a lot), I thought I'd died and gone to buttery roll heaven.  I swear that henceforth I shall never make another roll recipe again.
World's Best Rolls
source: http://fabulesslyfrugal.com/delicious-rolls/

Makes 2 dozen
  • 2 Tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1-1/2 cup scalded milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 6-7 cup flour
In a small bowl, combine the warm water (it should be between 105-110 degrees for the yeast to work), yeast, and sugar.  Stir to combine.  It will foam up after five minutes.  If it doesn't foam up, the yeast has been killed.  Start over!  

While that is foaming, put the milk in the microwave for about two minutes to scald it. Pour it into whatever you'll be mixing the dough in.   Let it cool for a couple minutes and add the oil, sugar, and salt.  

Stir in one cup of flour.  Add the two beaten eggs.

Add the yeast mixture.  Mix.  Add the remaining 5-6 c of flour, one cup at a time.  Stir after each addition.  I added 5 1/4 cups of flour.  It should be a bit sticky.  

Knead the dough until it is smooth.  Cover and let it raise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Grease two 9x13 pans.  Shape the dough into 24 rolls- put 12 in each pan.  Cover and let raise for 30-60 or until doubled in size again.  I once read somewhere that the less you handle the dough, the more tender it will be.  Once the dough is out, I gently rip it in half, then each half into fourths.  (eight pieces total)  Then I break each of those into thirds.  Who knew you'd actually need to know fractions as an adult. Do whatever works for you as long as you get 24 rolls out of it.  

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Brush those babies with butter and devour them!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Caramel Apple Pie

This.  Pie.  Apple pie on its own is over the top delicious and as American as it gets.  Well, take that and add caramel sauce, pecans, and a streusel topping.  Sweet mother of cute little baby animals.
It's a must try.  By using a pre-made shell, it comes together really fast.

Don't forget to serve it warm with a scoop or five of vanilla ice cream!
Caramel Apple Pie
source: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/caramel-pecan-apple-pie

  •  1 teaspoon lemon juice
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  3/4 cup chopped pecans
  •  1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
  •  4-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  •  1 tablespoon cornstarch
  •  1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping, room temperature
  •  1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)
  •  3 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  •  2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sugar
  •  6 tablespoons cold butter
  •  1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping, room temperature
    *If you're going to make two pies with this recipe instead of one massive one, double the streusel topping.

In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, lemon juice, and vanilla.  In another bowl, combine the pecans, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch, Add this mixture to the apples and toss to coat.  Pour the caramel sauce in the bottom of the unbaked pastry shell.  Top with the apples.  Drizzle with butter. 

As a side note- this recipe is supposed to make just one massive, mound of apple pie deliciousness.  I made it into two pies that weren't as high.  You can see in the pictures that there was still plenty of apples to go around for two shells.  

In another bowl, combine the flour, chopped, pecans, and sugar.  Add in the cold butter.  Using a fork, cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle over the top of the pie.

*If you're doing two pies, double the amount of struesel topping and divide it evenly among the pies.  
Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden.  Immediately drizzle with caramel topping.

Cool on a wire rack.

Grilled Pork Chops with Basil-Garlic Rub

My poor students....  As an online teacher, I tend to have a little too much fun with my lessons.  I always throw in cheesy jokes, pictures of superheroes talking about sedimentary rocks, and ridiculous memes.  For example, I was teaching about limestone, and I found a picture of a lime with the head, arms, and legs of Optimus Prime, and it said, "I am Optimus Lime."  See what I mean?!  It's the kind of humor that makes you shake your head in shame and say a little prayer for me in the hopes that I'll grow up at some point in my 30's.  Well, some of my students appreciate the humor.  One of my students stayed after class to tell me a joke that made me laugh out loud.  Here it goes... Brace yourself...

Q: How many South Americans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: A Brazilian!

Ha!  Get it?  Instead of a bazillion... Sigh.

That story has absolutely nothing to do the recipe.  It just made me laugh, and when life is so busy all the time, I've got to find humor in anything to keep my sanity!  :)

As for this recipe, when I told my husband that I was making pork chops for dinner, he had the look on his face like a dejected fan whose team just lost the Super Bowl.  "But Mother Mary appeared to me in my bowl of Corn Flakes and swore that the Broncos would win!"   He's never really liked pork chops, so he hesitantly took a bite of these and his jaw dropped.  He said that they were the best pork chops he'd ever eaten!  Woot, woot!  The marinade is delicious, and they cook up so quickly.  He actually polished off the kids' portions that weren't eaten.  Between eating pork chops and zucchini in one sitting and asking for seconds of both- my mind was blown.  This recipe is a keeper.  It's easy, fast, and delicious.

Grilled Pork Chops with Basil-Garlic Rub
source: http://worldsbestrecipes4utoday.blogspot.com/2013/12/grilled-pork-chops-with-basil-garlic-rub.html#.UqOaW86mX4s

4 pork chops, 3/4 in thick
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 c fresh basil leaves, packed
2 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

Alright, folks.  This gets a little difficult.  Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until it makes a thin, wet rub.  Put it in a Ziplock bag and add the pork chops.  Let it marinate in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.

Prepare the grill to medium-high heat.  Grill the pork chops for 5-6 minutes per side or until a thermometer reaches 145 degrees for the internal temperature of the pork.  Let the pork rest for three minutes.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Grilled Zucchini with Parmesan

My husband, who has been deemed as "his worshipfulness" in the past for his particularly picky palate, who also can't stand the thought of zucchini, went back for seconds of this zucchini!  Thump!!  That was me falling out of my chair.  I couldn't believe it.  This is a really quick and really easy way to prepare zucchini.  It's great because with only a couple minutes per side, the zucchini doesn't get overcooked and mushy.  The lemon and Parmesan give it a great flavor.  Besides, everyone knows that sprinkling Parmesan on anything makes it a billion times better.  

Grilled Zucchini with Parmesan

2 zucchini, medium sized
2 T olive oil
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t pepper
1 whole lemon, zested
Parmesan cheese

Slice the ends of the zucchini off.  Cut them into quarters, lengthwise.  Place them in a Ziplock bag.  Add the olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and the juice of 1 lemon.  Seal the bag and swish it all around to evenly coat the zucchini.

Let it marinate for 15-20 minutes in the fridge.

Preheat the grill to medium to medium-low heat.  

Place the zucchini on the grates and grill each side for 2-3 minutes- being careful not to burn them.

Top with Parmesan cheese.

Margarita-Marinated Chicken with Mango Salsa

I love to people watch.  It's one of my favorite things to do because this world is filled with so many interesting people.  The gym is always a fun place to people watch, and I'm sure I've been on the other end of this as I huff and puff while jogging 4.3 mph and sweating like I just ran a marathon through Death Valley in the dead of summer.  This morning at the gym, I was in the back of the room on a stair machine, and I saw something that you don't see every day.  I saw a grown, slightly heavy, bearded hipster man in his 30's skipping on the treadmill.  Skipping!  For about ten minutes!  I'm sure I had one eyebrow raised for the duration of his ten minute skipping session on the treadmill.  When he got off, I think my heart was hoping that he would continue to skip over to the free weights to pump some iron while whistling "I'm off to see the wizard." No such luck, my friends.   Not five minutes later, I saw a guy on stair machine in his socks and then a girl that 1. must not own a padded sports bra and 2. must have been really, really cold.  Good times at the gym in the morning.

That intro has nothing to do with this recipe, but this chicken was tasty!  The margarita marinade left the chicken with great lime flavor.  The mango salsa was delicious, and I may have eaten the rest of the mango salsa single-handedly.  At least it wasn't the rest of chocolate cream pie, although I would have opted for that- given the choice.

Margarita-Marinated Chicken with Mango Salsa
source: Southern Living Big Book of BBQ, page 145

Serves: 3
1 lg lime
1 c liquid margarita mix
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 t salt
1/2 t ground red pepper
1 1/2 T tequila (optional)
3 chicken breasts
1 c uncooked long-grain rice

Mango Salsa:
1 mango, peeled
1 avocado, peeled
1/2 red bell pepper
1/4 red onion
1/2 T fresh cilantro
1/2 T vegetable oil
1/2 T lime juice

Cut lime in half and squeeze the juice into a Ziplock bag.  Add the lime halves into the bag.  Add the margarita mix, vegetable oil, cilantro, salt, and Tequila (if using).  Add the chicken and shake to mix the marinade well.  Marinate in the fridge for 2-6 hours.

Prepare the mango salsa:
Dice the mango, avocado, red bell pepper, and onion.  Mix in a bowl.  Add the cilantro, oil, and lime juice.  Stir to evenly coat and mix everything.  Cover and chill until ready to use.

Prepare the rice according to package instructions.

Preheat the grill to 300-350 degrees (medium heat).

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.  Grill the chicken for 6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.

Serve over the rice.  Top with the mango salsa.