Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins with Pecan Crumb Topping

Three overripe bananas are staring at me from across the kitchen.  Eventually they will go in the garbage and I just can't have that.  Yet I'm not the biggest fan of banana flavored anything...there needs to be something else going!  And a....crumb topping!!  Are you as excited as I am?!?  Good.  Now these muffins came out perfectly amazing.   Perfect for a quick breakfast.  If you want to be able to eat one in the car, I'd omit the crumb topping though.  Otherwise, a could foresee a very good morning becoming a not so good morning pretty quickly.  My husband would wince with every falling crumb.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins with Pecan Crumb Topping
makes 12 muffins

For the muffins:
3/4 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 overripe bananas
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
5 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup chocolate chips of your choice (I use 60% dark)

For the crumb topping:
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, mash the bananas.  Then beat in the egg, vanilla, sugar, milk, and butter until thoroughly combined.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and combine until just moistened.  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Fill your muffin tins with paper liners and divide the batter evenly amongst them.  In a small bowl, make the crumb topping by combining the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter until crumbly.  Then add in the pecans and mix together.  Sprinkle these evenly over the batter.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until a toothpick cleanly comes out of their center.



Friday, December 27, 2013

Chicken and Dumplings

This is the best recipe ever.  I have been waiting very patiently to share this with you favorite recipe to date.  This dish reminds me of my Bubby's chicken fricassee - but with dumplings.  She made a dumpling with gravy recipe too, but it is nothing like this.  Her dumplings were very flat and dense.  These are round, light, and fluffy.  This is the most comforting meal possible for a human being to prepare.  It's so warm and filling.  It's perfect for a cold, snowy night in front of the fireplace.  I've eaten it on a night just like this and it was pure perfection.  I've also eaten it at the table on a sunny day and that absolutely does not change the deliciousness of this meal.  So if you like comfort food, then definitely try this as soon as possible.  It's best during the cold weather months for sure.

Chicken and Dumplings
adapted so very slightly from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 6 to 8

The Stew
5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
salt and ground black pepper to season the chicken
4 tsp vegetable or olive oil
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1-inch half moons, rinsed well
1 large onion, minced
6 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry or cooking sherry
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen green peas (I use a little bit less)

The Dumplings
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
1 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1. For the stew: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Pour off the chicken fat and reserve. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off any chicken fat.

2. Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves. Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.

3. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones, then return it to the stew.

4. For the dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.

5. Return the stew to a simmer and stir in the peas. Following the steps below, drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, about 18 minutes. Serve.

To make the dumplings: Gather a golf-ball-sized portion of the dumpling batter onto a soup spoon, then push the dumpling onto the stew using a second spoon.  Cover the stew with the dumplings, leaving about 1/4 inch between each. When fully cooked, the dumplings will have doubled in size.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


So I discovered what an alfajor was on a field trip to East Boston one day.  Does it shock you to hear that I signed up for a three day class on the food cultures of Boston?  Obviously not.  What did this entail, did you ask?  It was three days spent travelling through East Boston, Chinatown, and the North End talking about food, looking at food, buying food, and of course, eating food.  Best. Class. Ever.  So it was on our first day traipsing around East Boston that I ate food that was the most foreign to me.  We stopped in almost every little store, bakery, and restaurant to sample as much as possible.  East Boston has a huge Latin American culture, and we ate everything from empenadas to arepas to my new favorite cookie...the alfajor.  This amazing little cookie is made up of two shortbread wafers sandwiching a dollop of dulce de leche and then dusted with powdered sugar (if it's done up in the Peruvian style...apparently it is rolled in coconut in Argentina.)  This is quite possibly the most delicious cookie I've ever had.  I couldn't wait to go home and look up recipes for them.  Which I did...and they have made it into this year's Christmas baskets (because I really love them so very much.)

I followed the recipe exactly, but the only thing that I would change is that I would roll the dough out a little thinner...I thought that the wafers were a little too thick.  Other than that, I would change nothing.  I'd actually even make lindsor cookies with this recipe, swapping the dulce de leche for raspberry jam.  It would be perfect.  Also, don't worry about boiling the can of condensed went smoothly.  There were no explosions (I made sure to keep the cans covered in water the entire time.)  So enjoy the recipe and have a happy holiday with friends and family!

from A Cozy Kitchen
makes 25 mini-cookies

1 can sweetened condensed milk (label removed)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract done
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (for garnish)

In a large pot, fill with water to cover the can of sweetened condensed milk. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Let simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, making sure to add more water as necessary in order to keep the cans covered in water.  Remove the can of dulce de leche from the water and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350˙F. In a medium bowl combine flour and salt. In a stand-up mixer cream together butter, sugar and vanilla extract for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. As mixer is going, add in flour mixture and mix until combined. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a heavily floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. (The original recipe said 1/2-inch, but I do think that was a little too thick.)  The dough will be a little sticky so be sure to flour your roller, too. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cutter (or bigger if you'd like, but that will result in less cookies), cut out shortbread cookies and place on baking sheet. Poke a series of three holes, using a fork, in the center of each cookie. (I forgot to do this for my first few batches and it didn't make any difference.)  Transfer cookies to oven and bake for 10-12 minutes (mine needed 12), or until edges are slightly golden brown. Let cool on wire rack. To assemble the sandwiches, open the can of dulce de leche. Lay half of the shortbread cookies bottom-side up. I used a cake piper (but you can just spread it with a knife) to put about 1 teaspoon of the dulce de leche on half of the cookies.  Top with the other half and lightly press down until you’ve gone through all the cookies. Dust with powdered sugar.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chocolate Drizzled Pecan Florentines

I read this recipe for pecan florentines with egg nog frosting on Smitten Kitchen the other day and I just had to try it out.  'Tis the season, afterall.  I give gifts of these sweet and salty nuts (also a recipe from Smitten Kitchen) every year along with some other dessert - brownie, cookie, truffle - it varies every year.  I've already decided to try my hand at alfajores this year, but it's always an option to give more than one type of cookie - and why not when they have egg nog frosting?!  So I got all the ingredients together and tried it out.  The florentines were delicious and I would definitely use this recipe again, but I'm open to trying out a different recipe next time...I've already found a few others to try that have very different ingredient ratios from this particular recipe, so I'm curious to see what making certain changes would do to the texture.  Also, my pre-baked dough looked very different from the pictures on the Smitten Kitchen web site.  Mine looked much greasier.  My finished florentines looked different as well.  They definitely spread out more than hers as they cooked.  I'm not positive why this happened, but it could be that I decreased the sugar as she suggested.

Unfortunately, I was not a big fan of the egg nog frosting,  I wanted so much to like it, and I really did try, but I just didn't like it one bit.  For one thing, it was overly sweet - and that's an understatement.  The florentines are sweet enough, so it was truly overwhelming.  I also didn't like the texture of the was so stiff that it was close to being gritty.  When I tried to spread it on a florentine with a knife, the florentine would break.  When I attempted to use an icing piper, the piper couldn't even push the frosting out.  You'd think I created egg nog colored, edible (barely) cement.  At least it smelled really good.  I might want to try it again, but with half the sugar.  That change could fix both of these problems.

So the frosting may not have been a success, but I decided to try to salvage my efforts for the day by drizzling chocolate onto the florentines.  Totally brilliant.  The chocolate actually made the florentines even better.  So, all in all, this story had a happy ending.

Chocolate Drizzled Pecan Florentines

6 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold is fine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup, honey, or golden syrup (I used honey)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup 60% dark chocolate chips

Add the flour, pecans, cinnamon, and salt to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse for about 60 seconds until the pecans are finely ground.  Pour this nut mixture into a bowl.  Place the butter, sugar, cream, and honey into a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Boil the mixture for one full minute and then remove from the heat and add the vanilla.  Pour this caramel mixture over the nut mixture and combine.  Set aside for at least 30 minutes to cool.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place teaspoon size balls of the mixture about 3 inches apart.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes (mine took about 7-1/2.  I found that the back rows were cooking faster than the front rows, so for one batch, I tried to cook them for 8 minutes making sure to rotate the pan halfway through and the cookies burnt to a crisp.)  Remove from the often when a pale golden color and let sit for 5 minutes to cool before removing them to some paper towels so any excess butter can be absorbed.  They will come out of the oven very soft.  They will crisp up as the cool.  Wipe any leftover butter from the parchment paper with a paper towel before placing another batch on it to bake.  Put the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring between, until the chocolate is just melted.  Dip a spoon into the chocolate, and while holding a florentine over the bowl, drizzle chocolate onto the florentine.  Place the finished cookie on a clean piece of parchment or wax paper.  Repeat with the remaining cookies.  Allow the chocolate to cool before enjoying with a hot cup of tea.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef

I love throwing some delicious ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and letting it do all the hard work for me.  Today was definitely that kind of day.  I had holiday shopping to do and have you seen what the line at Kohl's looks like the week before Christmas???  I ended up abandoning my items because the line was ungodly (ironically.)  So upon returning to my house after a whole lot of shopping and nothing to show for it, I felt extremely unproductive...until I smelled my dinner.  At least that was a success today.

I found the following recipe for brisket, but Jim understandably didn't want me spending thirty dollars on a piece of meat...and chuck roast it is.  Brisket could not possibly have tasted better than this did, so frugality wins again.  The recipe also included cooking the beef with all the spices, but I forgot to throw them in the slow cooker.  (Did I mention I was simultaneously making pancakes for breakfast?  Proof positive...Multitasking doesn't work.)  It totally worked without it though, and I just added the spices to the sauce after the meat was done cooking.  Also, the original recipe included a good amount of cumin.  I have fallen out of love with cumin.  It happened recently.  I'm not sure exactly when, but I don't even like the smell of it anymore.  So I omitted it completely from the dish.  No cumin and all, this was a delicious way to cook beef in the slow cooker and extremely versatile.  You could shred the meat and put it over some rice or use it for tacos/enchiladas/quesadillas, or even make some barbecue beef sandwiches.  I plan on doing all of the above over the course of the next three or four days.  

Slow Cooker Southwestern Shredded Beef
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 3-lb chuck roast, visible fat removed
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups water
1 14-1/2 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander

In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat just until it begins to smoke.  Season the chuck roast liberally with salt and pepper.  Then sear both sides in the hot pan for a total of 10 minutes.  Transfer the meat to the slow cooker.  Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute for a minute.  Then add the vinegar (don't inhale the steam), scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and cook until the liquid is gone.  Stir in the water and add this mixture over the beef in the slow cooker.  Then add the tomatoes, crushing each through your fingers, the remaining juices, the chipotle peppers, bay leaves, and molasses.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  When the meat is just about done, add the remaining spices to a small saucepan on very low heat.  When the meat is done cooking, take the meat out of the slow cooker, set aside and cover to keep warm.  Strain the remaining liquid into a fat separator.  Let sit for five minutes and then pour off any excess fat.  (Mine had barely any fat whatsoever, but I'm sure every piece of meat - especially if you use a different cut - will differ.) Pour the remaining liquid into the sauce pan while whisking into the spices.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced.  Spoon this sauce over the beef on top of some rice or for sandwiches or tacos.  These quick and easy pickled onions and jalapenos go perfectly with this dish.  

The before picture...


Monday, December 16, 2013

Pickled Red Onions and Jalapeños

These are quick, easy, and delicious.  They go amazingly with any tacos, nachos, and burgers.  They are especially good all by themselves straight out of the jar.  They're so worth the minimal amount of effort that I will never buy pickled jalapeños from the can ever again.  Enough said.

Quick Pickled Red Onions and Jalapeños

1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, sliced

In a small bowl, combine water, vinegar, sugar, and salt, and whisk until the sugar and salt is dissolved.  Place onions and jalapeños in a jar and cover with the liquid.  Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and the refrigerate for up to two weeks.  Need more liquid to cover your onions and peppers, just make some more and add it to the jar.

Hyper Smash

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Egg and Potato Breakfast Scramble

My husband is shoveling out my truck because, although a snow storm was hitting during the night, I forgot to not park it in the street before we called it a day.  So while he burns three thousand calories outside so that I have a car for work tomorrow, I am inside making him breakfast.  One of his quirks is that he absolutely cannot eat eggs without potatoes.  So I finally found an extremely easy recipe for two that cooks up pretty damn perfectly.  I am sure you could play around with it and add whatever type of herbs you might like - fresh or dry, throw in any type of onion (I used shallots one day when I didn't have scallions on hand and it was equally delicious), use a different cheese, add peppers (I will absolutely do that in the future one day), or crumble in some bacon (yes please!)  But what I've done here is the most straightforward, the least time consuming, works really well, and is completely satisfying for a quick and easy breakfast that tastes like you worked long and hard.

Breakfast and Potato Scramble
adapted slightly from Cookie and Kate

2 red potatoes (about 8 ounces), diced small
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 tsp dried dill
4 eggs, beaten, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used reduced fat cheddar)

In a bowl, combine the potatoes and oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour them into a nonstick or cast iron skillet and add the water.  Turn the heat to medium-high, cover, and bring to a boil.  Continue to cook for about 5 minutes until the water has evaporated.  Uncover and loosen the potatoes from the bottom of the pan.  Continue to cook for about 5 more minutes until lightly browned, tossing occasionally.  Add in the dill and scallion.  Cook for another minute or so.  Test your potatoes with a fork to make sure they're cooked.  You can continue to let them brown if they need an extra minute or two.  When they are cooked through, add in the eggs, stirring until the eggs are set.  Then stir the cheese into the mixture.  Serve immediately.

Hyper Smash

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Toasted Mushroom Pasta

This is one of the first recipes I ever found and tried out from the blogosphere.  It's a good thing that I started with this recipe because it is a winner, and if I had started with something that was gross (and there are plenty of loser recipes out there,) then I may have never continued to search and cook like I do...I may have never even started my own food blog!  So thank you, toasted mushroom pasta...for being absolutely delicious and for proving to me why parsley is actually worth buying.  (In most recipes, I can easily forget about it if I don't have any on hand and don't feel like running to the store.  In this recipe, however, it is necessary.  It makes the dish.  So don't leave it out, and enjoy the amazing smell.)  For some reason, Gimme Some Oven, the blog where I found this recipe, no longer has this recipe.  I have no idea why not, but it's a damn good thing I discovered it (and wrote it down) before it was gone.  You're welcome :)

Toasted Mushroom Pasta
slightly adapted from Gimme Some Oven

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
8 oz. fresh mushrooms (approx 2 cups), cleaned and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 oz macaroni, or other pasta
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup freshly grated romano cheese
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
pepper to taste

Heat a large heavy skillet over very high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan. Saute the mushrooms until browned, but not cooked all the way through, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the parsley, garlic, oregano and cook for another minute or so. Pour in the wine and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and remaining sauce to a bowl, and set aside.

In another large skillet or saucepan, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil and the butter. Add the macaroni and stir it constantly until it is a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Be sure to watch carefully, as the pasta can go from toasted to burnt very quickly!!

Once toasted, pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the pasta is al dente, or almost tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the mushroom mixture and cream and cook for a few more minutes to let everything come together in a beautiful creamy, but not claggy sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the romano and pepper. Taste for seasoning, add salt if needed, but the romano is usually just salty enough. Sprinkle with a bit of fresh parsley, and more romano if you’d like before serving.