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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Quick Bread

I am waaaaaaay behind on the posts I had hoped to make. I still have an entire summer's worth of farm-share related blogs to get to, but I'm going to not even think about those until after this holiday season is done.

Although I love yeast breads, the joy and simplicity of a simple quick bread never ceases to amaze me. After I went on my annual apple-picking excursion, I wanted to try some new things with my apples. The first recipe I settled on was an apple quick bread, which is a variation of Paula Deen's zucchini bread, which I became well-acquainted with this summer during my farm share, when I had zucchinis coming out of my ears. At the time, I thought the base would be good for other fruit or veggie mix-ins, and I was right. With a little tweaking, I made this recipe work beautifully for apples.

But first, a little interlude (or skip down for more baking!):

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday, hand's down. Not only do I love Halloween-themed treats, but I love Halloween tradition as well.  Last year, around this time, I paired my Halloween and Fall-themed posts with little blurbs on the background of some common Halloween tradition and/or lore, including the history of Halloween and trick-or-treating, vampires, zombies, jack-o-lanterns, and bobbing for apples. This year, even though I am starting a little late, I am continuing that tradition with this latest topic:

"So useful to have him swooping around like an overgrown bat."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Quick & Easy Dinner: Buffalo Chicken Breasts

Sorry for the crappy pictures in advance, I know they leave a lot to be desired. But, take it from me, this recipe is totally worth making!

Buffalo chicken breasts have fast become one of my favorite quick chicken recipes because it is a snap to put together. I've hardly had any free time lately due to work, and anything that is quick and tasty is at the top of my cooking list. This dinner is a no-brainer for anyone who likes buffalo wings -- but if you don't like regular hot sauce, substitute a mild version (or an even hotter version if you like more heat).

This dish only has a handful of ingredients: combine hot sauce, melted butter, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce together.

Set aside 1/4 C of the sauce, and use the rest to marinate chicken breasts (I used the thin sliced, as always) in a sealed ziplock bag for about 30 minutes at room temperature (it won't kill you, I promise). A little longer won't hurt, I think I actually marinated for closer to 45 minutes because I got side-tracked doing other things. But, if the thought skeeves you out, marinate it in the fridge for at least two hours.

Then, remove the breasts and discard the marinade. Saute the breasts in a cooking spray-coated pan over medium high heat for about 4 minutes per side (more for thicker breasts) until fully cooked.

And that is it! Such an easy, hassle-free recipe, and it's huge on taste!

...Incidentally, do you know what Worcestershire sauce is? I had heard of it of course, and even occasionally dabbed it on some steak, but I had never bothered to really find out what the heck was in it. Turns out, Worcestershire sauce was first made in Worcester, England by the pharmacists (or, in British lingo, "dispensing chemists") John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins (of Lea & Perrins fame), and was first commercialized in 1837! It is a type of fermented fish sauce, believe it or not (I had no idea!) containing anchovies, malt vinegar (or white vinegar in the US), onions, garlic, molasses, cloves, soy sauce, and other spices.

Buffalo Chicken Breasts
(Printable Recipe)


  • Anywhere from 1 lb to 1.5 lbs of chicken breast halves, anywhere from 6 oz (regular thickness) to 3 oz per half (thin sliced)
  • 3/4 C hot sauce
  • 1/4 C butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce (aka Worcester Sauce)
  1. Combine hot sauce, melted butter, Worcestershire Sauce, and onion powder to make buffalo sauce
  2. Reserve 1/4 C marinade, and set aside
  3. Marinade chicken and remaining buffalo sauce at room temperature for 30-45 minutes
  4. Remove chicken and discard marinage
  5. Saute chicken in a cooking-spray coated pan over medium high heat for 4 minutes/side (thin breasts) until chicken is cooked thoroughly
  6. Serve with reserved sauce

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Quick & Easy Dinner: Goat Cheese and Prosciutto-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Here is yet another easy, quick, and relatively light weeknight dinner recipe: chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese and prosciutto. As with other quick chicken recipes I make, these are with thinly sliced breasts folded over a filling, but you can adapt it to work with full-sized breast halves by slicing into the breast and creating a pocket, then adjusting the cooking time accordingly (and perhaps finishing it in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350F after sauteing)

Quick & Easy Dinner: Olive and Pimento-Stuffed Chicken Breast

Here is another quick and light weeknight chicken meal: chicken breasts stuffed with pimentos/olives, cheese and bacon.

The original recipe, which I modified a bit, calls for just pimentos. However, I had never bought "just pimentos" before, and didn't have a clue where the supermarket by my house was hiding them. I looked by the olives, which seemed logical, and also by the jars of roasted red peppers, garlic, sundried tomatoes, etc etc and no dice. So I bought a jar of sliced Spanish olives with pimentos (I think this is called "olive salad" sometimes), and this is why there are olives in my pictures. I have since discovered that jars of just pimentos were hiding in the Spanish food aisle, which was probably the only aisle I didn't go down for some reason. I think the recipe was very yummy with the olive/pimento mix, although the taste of olives was strong...and salty. If you don't particularly like green olives, I'd recommend using pimentos only.

Quick & Easy Dinner: Hawaiian Chicken (Light)

I've been trying to cook lighter lately, in a concerted effort to lose weight. Because of my working hours, I've been trying to concentrate on entrees that are not only light, but also quick and easy. Many nights, this means some variation on chicken, because it cooks quickly (especially if you pound it out thin, or buy the breasts that are sliced extra thin).

The great thing about chicken is that it is so versatile -- you can completely change the meal just by changing the sauce and or accompaniments.

This meal, Hawaiian chicken, I modified off of the Cooking Light site. It is a recipe for chicken breasts which have been marinated and basted in a soy sauce-pineapple glaze, and quite easy to put together.  If you are interested in some lighter versions of meals, I suggest giving this site a try. Just make sure to check out the serving size of any recipe you intend to try, because I've noticed that some of the "light" recipes have less fat and calories because the portion size is a lot smaller, not because of adjustments to the recipe. But in most cases, Cooking Light is a great resource, and most of the recipes seem fairly simple and fairly adjustable to your individual tastes.

French Toast Casserole

My friend Allie, of Grover Cookie fame, recently hosted a brunch get-together so that we could all spend some time with her new little man. So I decided that now would be a great time to try one of those overnight breakfast casseroles I keep reading about -- you know, the kind that you assemble the night before, pop in the fridge overnight, and then just pop in the oven the next morning? I read about people who make such casseroles for Christmas morning, because all you do in the morning is bake it, which leaves you free to enjoy Christmas morning with the fam while breakfast takes care of itself. So with visions of being a domestic goddess on Christmas morning dancing in my head, I decided to take one of these breakfast casseroles for a test drive.

There are two main categories of breakfast casseroles that I have encountered: sweet, meaning that it is more along the lines of waffles, pancakes, etc; or savory, meaning it is usually egg based, with meat, cheese and occasionally potatoes. Since eggs were already on the menu, I decided to save an egg-based casserole for another time, and concentrate on the sweet, in this case, a French Toast Casserole recipe modified from Paula Deen.

It has very simple ingredients: eggs, cream, milk, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, all assembled the night before, and the recipe also calls for a wonderful pecan praline topping that you sprinkle on right before baking. It is, essentially, a French Toast bread pudding.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lemon Blossoms (Easy Things to Do With Cake Mix #3)

And, with this post, I am finally done with the three boxes of yellow cake mix that I had left over from Christmas. The first two were used to make Pecan Cake Bars and Raspberry Oat Bars, respectively. Both recipes are delicious and quick ways to use cake mix, with the raspberry oat bars being a real stand-out in terms of flavor and ease of assembly. For this last box of mix, I decided to stick to the fruity route, and I chose a recipe called Lemon Blossoms from Paula Deen, which are tiny little lemon cakelets baked in a mini-muffin pan and covered in a lemon glaze. I had it in mind to test as a potential Easter recipe (for some reason, Easter and lemons are always associated in my mind), plus it sounded like a great, bright, spring-time recipe now that Spring is officially here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shepherd's Pie, Lightened Up

As you might have detected from several of my past blog posts, I like themes. I highly enjoy seasonal cooking and baking, to the point where I will cling to any excuse to incorporate a theme into my kitchen experiments. This post is no exception, although with far more legitimate origins. It is, after all, still St. Patty's season, which means, for me, that all things even slightly Irish in origin are a-go. So I decided to give Shepherd's Pie a try.

Shepherd's Pie, aka Cottage pie, is a meat pie topped with a mashed potato crust. Termed "cottage" as a reference to the poor people who could not afford to indulge in extravagant meals, this pie was originally conceived in the 18th century as a way to use up leftover meat scraps. It was paired with the potato due to the latter's affordability (potatoes were relatively cheap at the time). Originally, cottage/shepherd's pies were made with beef mince, and although both terms are still used interchangeably, many current shepherd's pie recipes contain mutton instead of beef (due to the connection between shepherds and lambs, presumably).

Hey, I'm a meat and potato kinda girl. But I'm also a "trying to get back in shape" girl, so I decided to give this recipe a try with some heavy modifications because: A) I don't like lamb; and B) I'm on a diet, so I need to try and keep things light. Mashed potatoes and "light" are not exactly synonymous, but I think this recipe does a good job. Don't get me wrong, because of my modifications, you won't entirely mistake it for a full-fat version, but it is flavorful and pretty healthy, while still tasting like comfort food. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that many of the ingredients in this recipe can be swapped out in favor of their full-fat counterparts if you wish.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Oreo Balls That Don't Need Refrigeration. Is there anything butter can't do?!

This isn't even a real recipe, but it is important enough that I wanted a post about it.

Oreo balls are amazing. They are one of the easiest and most popular things in my entire food prep repertoire. If you haven't tried making them, I can't recommend them enough. Wherever you bring them, people will love you. There's just one problem. They contain a block of cream cheese, which means they have to be refrigerated. While this isn't often a huge deal (they normally disappear too fast for this to be too much of an issue), it can present a problem if fridge space is short, or if they are going to be sitting out for a while (for a picnic, etc), or if you want to use them for something like event favors.

Oreo balls are already delicious and addicting, but I wanted to find a way to cut out the cream cheese without compromising the flavor, yielding an Oreo ball that would be just as delicious, but could be stored at room temp.  This St. Patrick's Day was the perfect opportunity since I was planning to make a batch of Shamrock balls (mint Oreo balls) anyway.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

King Cake (Mardi Gras Style)

I have always wanted to try my hand at making a King cake, that purple, yellow and green colored sweet confection traditionally served during Mardi Gras, and this year was finally the year I managed to work it into my schedule. This recipe is a yeast dough, and is a little advanced because of the extra steps involved in using yeast, but it is not difficult. I will try to be as explicit as possible for those who have never baked with yeast before.

But first, how about a little background info on these colorful cakes?

In the title, I specify that this recipe is specifically for a Mardi Gras-style King Cake. I have to make this distinction, because there are actually many different types of King Cakes in many different cultures. Typically, these cakes are associated with the Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas (aka Twelfth Night) when the 3 Wise men (aka the 3 Kings) finally arrived in Bethlehem to visit the Baby Jesus. The King Cake "season" extends from the Epiphany all the way until the day before Lent (Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday).

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

This is my second recent posting on pecan bars, and it is a recipe I have been wanting to try forever: a shortbread-based pecan pie bar. My previous pecan bars from a cake mix, while tasty, were not quite what I had in mind, so I decided to start from scratch, and make my own recipe. And this time, I decided to do something I had never done with pecans before: add some bourbon.

Now, bourbon has a long history of being paired with pecans in pecan pie, although how long, no one knows for sure. For certain, it is a Southern tradition. Bourbon, the drink, is named after Old Bourbon (present day Bourbon County) in Kentucky, the place associated with its invention. To this day, 95% of the world's bourbon comes from Kentucky, and the export of bourbon to the rest of the world is a billion dollar industry.

This recipe starts with the creation of a shortbread crust. I did this all in my food processor today, but I've made this dough before (for thumbprint cookies) in my mixer. Both work fine, so don't worry if you don't have a food processor. I have included directions for making with a mixer in the printable recipe at the bottom of the post.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Jacked Jambalaya!

As in build muscles, that is! Just in time for Mardi Gras, this Jambalaya is chock-full of lean protein and whole grain carbs, perfect for anyone trying to stay healthy and/or watch their fat intake! It is modified from Emeril's Kicked Up Jambalaya, made up to be a healthier version: turkey andouille sausage, chicken breast, shrimp, brown rice, low-sodium chicken stock, and cooking spray.

But first, a brief interlude into the origin of that famous Louisiana dish, Jambalaya!

Jambalaya is a combination of meat, vegetables, and rice, similar to paella, and indeed it is of dual Spanish-French origin. There are actually two types of jambalaya: Creole and Cajun. They both start with what is known as the "holy trinity" of ingredients: onion, bell peppers and celery. Meat is then added, most often a spicy smoked sausage (andouille), poulty, and seafood. Stock and rice are also an integral part of the dish. The main difference between Creole and Cajun jambalaya is the addition of tomatoes. Creole jambalaya contains tomatoes, and is often also referred to as "red jambalaya" accordingly. Cajun jambalaya is more brownish in color, and without tomatoes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Raspberry Oat Bars (Easy Things to do with Cake Mix #2)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently baking my way through some of the excess baking supplies I purchased during the holidays, most notably several boxes of yellow cake mix. If the pecan cake bars of my previous post were easy, this next recipe is still easier, and quite tasty. It has a great fruit flavor, which makes it a perfect bar to make now that the weather is (supposed to be) getting warmer. It flurried by my house this morning, and I heard on the radio that there was 6" of snow on the ground in Bergen County. So maybe these bars can make you feel like Spring is coming (so long as you don't look out the window or go outside).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pecan Chocolate Cake Bars (Easy things to do with cake mix #1)

This post is short and sweet. After Christmas, I was left with an excess of certain baking ingredients that I intended to use over the holiday but never did. Things like 4 boxes of yellow cake mix, 2 boxes of pumpkin bread mix, 1 box of red velvet cake mix, 2 bags of bright red candy wafers, 2 huge jars of marshmallow fluff, a box of graham cracker crumbs, bags of chopped pecans, gads and gads of bittersweet chocolate chips, and 3 cans of pumpkin. Now, my apartment is the size of a shoebox, which makes my closet about the size of a postage stamp. I just can't possibly horde baking ingredients forever. Well, actually...I probably could, but according to my horrified husband, I just can't possibly horde baking ingredients forever. So I need to use up my supplies, pronto.

Red velvet cake mix and red wafers are already gone, as Valentine's Day cupcakes with red molded chocolate decorations on top. I made the pumpkin bread last week, and sprinkled on some pecans. One box of yellow cake mix had a hole in the plastic holding the mix, so when I went to open up the box, it poofed all over my clothes. Said box is now in the trash, potential morph into baked goodness unfulfilled. So sad.

But this is the story of Yellow Cake Mix #2.

Yellow Cake Mix #2 has become Easy Things to do With Cake Mix #1. Still with me? Good. This yellow cake mix was destined for great things, although not the thing I thought it was destined for. I thought it was destined to become a yummy pecan pie bar, like a shortbread bar with a buttery crust.  But instead, it turned out to be more of a yummy pecan cake, and I'm advertising it as such.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Easy Favor Packaging

I have now made cookies favors for two different events, both baby showers. The first was for my cousin, where I baked up really cute Mickey Mouse sugar cookies, and packaged them to be consistent with the Disney theme that her mom chose for the shower.

The second were the Grover Cookies of my previous post, which were for my friend Allie's baby shower.

Since the process of making these favors was pretty much the same both times, and since it really can be applied to almost any favor that you would like to make, I thought a separate post that just talked about favors and favor packaging might be useful to some people wanting to create tidy-looking favors for an event. The two examples I have listed here are both edible, obviously, but this method of packaging can also be used for non-edible favors, if you like the look.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Grover Cookies (Cookie Favors)

Presenting the further adventures of everybody's favorite hero. A monster who is faster than lightning, stronger than steel, smarter than a speeding bullet. It's...SUPERGROVER! (And he's cute, too)!

This posting is about a month overdue. I had some deadlines at work to deal with, and my baking/posting predictably suffered accordingly. But within the next few weeks, I hope to be entirely back on track.

This posting isn't technically a recipe.It is a decorating and packaging idea for making Grover cookies (which could easily be adapted to make pretty much any Sesame Street monster into a yummy cookie. And, because of their very nature, they are also a great thing to make with kids!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Baklava Bars

Around the holiday season, I like to trot out my family's traditional recipes -- food of either Greek or Polish origin. One of the recipes that makes an annual appearance every year is baklava, a traditional confection made with nuts, honey and phyllo dough. Although I make it every year, by and large, baklava is a pain for the occasional baker because the phyllo dough can be a challenge if you aren't used to working with it.

So when I saw this recipe for "Baklava Bars" on the Betty Crocker site, I was instantly intrigued. It called for a sugar cookie base, a layer of nuts, crumbled phyllo, and a sweet syrup drizzled on the top.  Needless to say, I was anxious to see how this would measure up to traditional baklava.  So I decided to modify it a bit according to my family's usual recipe, and check it out. And might I say, if you like baklava, but have always been intimidated by the phyllo, or even if you are Greek or Middle Eastern and looking for a quick way to get that baklava taste without spending a ton of time, then this recipe is for you. I modified the original recipe to use the filling and syrup that I like best, which I think will be tasty to most people, but if you are already a baklava maker, you could easily substitute the filling and syrup you normally use. The only adjustment I would make would be to omit water from your usual syrup, to keep it a little thicker and avoid drenching the bars. Use less of it than you would normally use, since your syrup-sans-water will now be thicker and sweeter than normal.