Friday, October 31, 2014

Mint Chocolate Halloween Brownies

I'm not expecting very many trick-or-treaters tonight. That's why I simply made one pan of brownies to give to everyone who comes to my door. I whipped up a pan of mint chocolate brownies. I wanted to try something a little different, as I do not often pair mint and chocolate together. This gave them an entire new depth of flavor. These are the really fudgy, chocolaty brownies too - my favrotie. They don't even need icing unless you want to decorate them, as I did. Next, once they were cool, I spread them with a thin layer of simple icing. Then I decorated them quickly a few different ways, as they were still slightly warm and I could hear hungry trick-or-treaters prowling around. I probably should have baked the brownies yesterday, but I did not get the chance, so I just made and decorated them today. 
I did a few different decoration techniques - spiders using milk chocolate balls and melted milk chocolate, as in my peanut butter cookies from earlier in the week; BOO piped in both melted chocolate and white icing, and some more cobwebs piped in white icing. 

My idea of a jack-o-lantern this year? I couldn't really drag home a big pumpkin, so I bought a mini one at a farmer's market over a month ago, and kept it in the crisper in the fridge to keep it fresh. It was much too small to carve, and I didn't have any paint, so I simply grabbed a black sharpie and wrote "TAKE A BROWNIE" in the creepiest writing I could. It is tradition on my blog to post a picture of my food-related jack-o-lantern each year, so here it is!!!
Happy Halloween Everyone!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Cobweb Brownies

Here is another Halloween recipe edition. It is simply a basic brownie recipe with the cream cheese swirl topping. There are plenty of recipes like this around, and any one of them will work. It is the procedure that changes slightly. Instead of putting dollops of the brownie batter alternately with the cream cheese batter into the pan; pour all of the brownie batter into the pan, then pour the cream cheese batter on top. Then use a butter knife to swirl the two batters together into a cobweb design. Then sprinkle black and orange Halloween sprinkles over top. This is a picture of the brownies before they were baked. 
They don't look much different once they are baked, and they taste just like any other cream cheese brownie - with a Halloween twist!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies seem to be one of those sweet treats that can go well with any occasion - all you need is a good variety of different shaped cookie cutters. These are some sugar cookies I made for Halloween. Any sugar cookie or shortbread cookie or any other type of cut-out cookie recipe will work, so make as many as you like! I prefer sugar cookie recipes that do not require chilling the dough before rolling, cutting, and baking. Sometimes I just want to make a batch of cookies from start to finish and enjoy them hot within an hour. Not that I don't try to plan ahead, but even then I find it difficult to know how thick to flatten the dough before chilling it, then how long to take it out of the fridge prior to rolling it so that it is warm enough to roll but not too warm so that the dough sticks. 

Here I have used a ghost cookie cutter and a bat cookie cutter. The ghost cutter was quite flimsy around the edges and as you can see, some of the ghosts ended up armless, though some ghosts don't have arms anyway. The bat cutter was much easier to work with. I find the best tricks are to flour the cookie cutter in between cuts and to use a small metal spatula to lift the cookies from the surface to the baking sheet. Alternately, just roll the dough out on a sheet of parchment paper, pop it on a cookie sheet, make the cuts, then gently pull away the excess dough. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cobweb Cake

This is a quick Halloween cake I made the other day. All it is, is a simple white cake recipe baked in an eight inch round pan (well, actually I made two of these cakes). Then I used a simple, chocolate sauce to make the web. It either needs to be a thick chocolate sauce or a chocolate syrup so it will not run all over the place. Then I did the simple cobweb design. This "feathered" design is used to decorate many different cakes and squares, and isn't necessarily made to resemble a cobweb for Halloween. I used a squeeze bottle for the chocolate sauce and squeezed out circles, each one getting bigger. Then I used a knife to draw straight lines through the cake to create the web design. A simple and easy cake recipe. This is a simple chocolate and vanilla combination. Now that I look and think about it, the cake could have been flat-iced first before the chocolate sauce was put on for a sweeter cake and to make the design pop slightly more. Any flavor combinations could be used - white cake, chocolate fudge frosting, and icing sugar vanilla glaze; marble cake, vanilla frosting, and caramel sauce; or pumpkin cake, cream cheese frosting, and coffee sauce.

The only problem with using a squeeze bottle - the squeezes aren't always even. Especially when releasing the bowl and beginning a new circle, the sauce may come out in squirts, which is what you see on the left side. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Peanut Butter Spider Cookies

Halloween is coming up, and I have been baking up some Halloween goodies. I found the idea for these spider cookies online, and I thought they were simply adorable! It is really just an easy peanut butter cookie recipe, you could probably use your favorite recipe. Then chocolate balls are placed in the middle. I used small milk chocolate balls, but you can use any flavor truffle chocolates as well, just adjust your cookie size according to the size of chocolate you have. Then just pipe on some eyeballs and legs! You could also use any type of chocolate you wish for the legs, and if you prefer, you can purchase candy eyeballs to use instead. The decorating of these cookies is the part that takes time, but they are fun to do and well worth the extra effort! 

Peanut Butter Spider Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup natural smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour 
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
small milk chocolate balls, approximately 40
icing sugar
chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and peanut butter, then cream in both sugars. beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Roll into small balls, using about two teaspoons of dough for each cookie. Place a few inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for ten minutes. Remove cookies from oven and use a spoon handle or your thumb (though the dough is hot) to make a small indent in the middle of each cookie. Return to the oven for about six minutes until cookies are set.

Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet and allow to cool until they are just slightly warm. If the cookies are too hot, the chocolate will melt, but if completely cooled, the chocolate will not stick. Place a chocolate ball in each indent, then allow cookies to cool completely.

Mix a little icing sugar with a little water and place in a small plastic bag. Cut a small hole in the corner, and pipe two eyes onto each ball. Then melt some chocolate chips and place them in a small plastic bag. Use this chocolate to pipe eyeballs and eight legs onto each cookie. Allow chocolate to stand to set. Makes about 40-42 small cookies. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mini Broccoli and Onion Quiches

Mini Broccoli and Onion Quiches
8 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 head broccoli, finely chopped
1 small onion, diced
salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease 12 muffin cups. They can be lined as well, though paper liners may stick to the quiches a bit.
Beat eggs with milk and spices. Stir in vegetables. Divide evenly among cups. Bake for about 30 minutes until set. 

This recipe takes about five minutes to whip up, then I freeze the quiches and have them on hand for quick breakfasts. A good way to use up milk and eggs too. Feel free to add cheese or use different vegetables. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hashbrown Casserole

Hashbrown Casserole
2 packages frozen hashbrown potatoes
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup butter or had margarine, diced
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream

Combine all ingredients in one large or two small casserole dishes, mixing well. Bake at 350◦F for 45-60 minutes until hot and cheese is melted. 

This casserole goes together really quickly once all ingreidents are prepped. The frozen hashbrowns and canned soup are big time savers, but to save even more time, buy pre-shredded cheese or use a food processor and grate the onion in there too while you are at it. This is a little something different you can do for a potato dish and seems to always go ever well. In addition, it makes plenty for a crowd and can be made in advance, refrigerated, and baked just before serving. Leftovers are tasty too. This is something like that hashbrown casserole with the crisp cornflake topping, which could easily be added here if desired. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Apple Pudding

Apple Pudding
6 large cooking apples, peeled and thinly sliced
ground cinnamon, to taste
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon all-purpose (plain) flour
1 Tablespoon butter or hard margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups hot water
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13 inch pan.
Spread the apples in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon.
In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, egg, flour, sugar, and baking powder. Spread batter evenly over apples in pan.
In a separate small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients. Pour over batter, do not stir.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until topping is cooked and apples are soft. Let stand for several minutes before serving and serve warm.

This is a fairly quick and easy fall dessert, snack food, or sweet breakfast dish that used some nice, fresh apples. It is something like apple slices in a caramel sauce topped with a cake-like batter, but really combines all in one to form a nice pudding. It is excellent warm from the oven and needs no more garnish. It may not look the prettiest, but you could dress it up with some nuts or a little ice cream or whipped cream. It is something like an apple jack, apple cobbler, apple crisp, or apple pan dowdy dish. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cranberry Coffee Cake

This may seem a little fancy and special, but is in reality easy and quick to make. Enjoy it warm or cooled with afternoon tea or coffee.
Cranberry Coffee Cake
2 large eggs
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine
1/3 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch tube pan.
CAKE: In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then beat in the oil and milk. Stir in the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the cranberries. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
TOPPING: Combine all ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle over cake.
Bake for about 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for an hour before removing.

Paré, Jean. "Cranberry Coffee Cake." Recipe. Muffins & More, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1983. 147.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Garden Brussels Sprouts

It is Brussels sprout season! Brussels sprouts have a relatively short season that corresponds around Thanksgiving. I really like Brussels sprouts, but I don't get to eat them very often. I find you either really like Brussels sprouts, or you don't. Some people enjoy the bitter taste and cabbage-like layers of texture, and others do not. Brussels sprouts can be slightly chewy or firm if they are not overcooked, or soft and tender if steamed longer. I find Brussels sprouts are best when combined with simple flavors - they can be incorporated into more complex dishes but I find this hides them, and if you need to hide them to enjoy them, then they aren't really worth eating, and there are plenty of other vegetables. Some simple flavors to pair with Brussels sprouts are: balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, orange and red onion, lemon juice and garlic, maple and bacon, and more. Brussels sprouts can be steamed, boiled, roasted, baked, or sautéed.

These are the Brussels sprouts my father grew in our small backyard garden. We did not have a large yield, but I was both impressed and surprised considering this was his first year growing them and I wasn't aware he had planted them. They were ready for me just when I came home at Thanksgiving. We just satuéed them up in a little oil. Because it was still early in the season and these were garden-grown, they are quite small compared to the Brussels sprouts you would purchase at a grocery store. However, their flavor is the same (no sweeter actually), and there is nothing quite like fresh vegetables from your own backyard. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Old-Fashioned Pear Dessert

The final post in my pear entries, and definitely my favorite (although my sweet tooth may bias things a little) - dessert: old-fashioned pear dessert to be precise. Really it's a pear tart with a nice crumble on top. This dessert consists of a rich, buttery tart shell, piled high with fresh sliced pears, drizzled with a sweet, thick caramel sauce, and topped with a buttery, sugary crumble containing a few chopped, toasted nuts for added texture and flavor. I bet a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream would go lovely on a hot slice, but it isn't necessary. This tart is good cold as well, perhaps even for breakfast. We made a double recipe, which made three large tarts. Here is the step-by-step process:

  1. 1. Make the tart shell crust and line three greased and floured tart pans. Parbake the crusts for about ten minutes.
  2. 2. Meanwhile, peel and slice the pears and combine with a little cornstarch.
  3. Make the caramel filling.
  4. Make the crumble topping.
  5. Divide the pears evenly among the hot crusts.
  6. Drizzle with caramel sauce.
  7. Top with crumble.
  8. 8. Bake again until golden, hot, and bubbly. 
  9. 9. Allow to cool for a few minutes to set up if you can stand it, then dive in!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pear Buckwheat Pancakes with Pear Caramel Sauce

Perhaps I should have featured this pear dish first - breakfast. However, it is sweet enough to be served as a dessert as well, but dessert will follow tomorrow. This recipe is spiced pear buckwheat pancakes with pear caramel sauce and mascarpone cream. The pancake recipe is a basic buttermilk pancake recipe, with the addition of a little buckwheat flour for some extra heartiness and some chopped pear into the batter. They are then topped with a sweet, decadent pear caramel sauce - which is basically a caramel sauce made with honey and candied ginger, with again some chopped pear. Alternately, a pear compote could be used instead. The pancakes are then topped with some mascarpone cream, which is really simply a mixture of mascarpone cheese and heavy cream whipped together with a little lemon zest. For an attractive presentation, use a long plate and layer the pancakes on the plate. Drizzle with the caramel sauce and top each pancake with a swirl of the cream and a twirl of lemon zest. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Grilled Pizza with Pear

Here is the main course in my four course pear installment: grilled pizza with pear, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and caramelized onions. It is literally as simple as it sounds, yet the flavors combine so well together and makes a delicious, thin-crust pizza. It isn't your typical tomato-sauced pizza, or a thin crust triangular pizza slice, but it is something spectacular.
Any type of pizza dough of your preference may be used, but I recommend rolling it relatively thinly - thick enough to hold up the toppings but no thicker. Grill the pizza crust; it is fine if the dough is neither a perfect circle nor a perfect rectangle - it won't matter. Then top the pizza in any fashion you wish, using rings of caramelized onion, thinly sliced pear, thinly sliced fresh mozzarella balls, some arugula leaves, and prosciutto. Then bake at 450F for about ten minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted. Then cut into bite-sized squares and eat a bunch of them! Arranging them in a staggering pattern on the platter is easy to do but really upscales the presentation factor. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bacon and Blue Cheese Sliders with Pear Ketchup

This is the first pear dish I shall feature - the appetizer. Here, the pear stars in the condiment on top - the pear ketchup. It sounds a little different and unorthodox, but using pears rather than tomatoes to make a ketchup yields a sweet, pleasant result. The appearance is more like applesauce than ketchup, but the taste is sweet and tangy. There are strange foods like bacon jam and pineapple relish, so why not pear ketchup? The ketchup is the only condiment you will need for these bite-sized, miniature burgers; no mustard or relish required! 
These burgers are actually based upon challah bread, a sweeter, rich bread, but when sliced as it is here, it works for these burgers. You could of course use miniature hambuger buns instead, but I think these special burgers require a fancier bread. Toasting the bread is definitely a smart step as well. The actual burger itself is literally just bacon crumbled together with blue cheese. Surprising, but with just two ingredients, these burgers pack a lot of punch - no further seasoning required. The texture is surprisingly pleasant and satisfying too, you would think you are biting into a pork patty. Pear and pork pair well together. These miniature burgers also have a short cooking time - a quick sear in a skillet and finished off in the oven. 

The pear jam is a mixture of pears and onions, sautéd together until soft, then combined with some apple juice, vinegar, and seasoning. The mixture is then puréed until smooth. These burgers then just need a few simple garnishes - a leaf of arugula, a cherry tomato half, or a little extra blue cheese.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pear Season

We are coming upon pear season now. Fresh, juicy ripe pears - often compared to an apple but actually quite different in flavor. Apples seem to be a staple year-round, but pears are often savored in their prime fall season. There are several varieties of pears, from the familiar Bartlett to rounder Anjou to red pears. Many people do not know how to recognize a ripe pear. When ripe, pears are soft and juicy and sweet. When under-ripe, they are firm and starchy and more like an apple. Pears ripen at room temperature after picking, but then must be refrigerated and enjoyed rather soon. Pears are excellent sources of fiber, even more so than apples, especially with the peel, which is often thinner than an apple peel and may be left on during baking. Pears pair well with flavors such as soft cheeses, pork, ginger, hazelnuts, chocolate, and caramel. 

Recently I attended a pear cooking class demonstration where we made and enjoyed four different dishes all incorporating pears. I will feature these dishes in the days to come, but for now, here is a sneak peak. I will definitely be making more pear dishes in the future, as I am trying to develop an excellent pear dish to enter in a competition. I also received several new recipe booklets with pear recipes that all look tantalizingly tasty! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apple Muffin In A Cup

As I have said so many times before, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. It is also the meal I often take the most time to make and like to experiment with the most. Many people will say they don’t have enough time in the morning to do this, but I feel most refreshed in the morning and like to start my day with a healthy and energizing breakfast. This is a variation on the Muffin In A Cup recipe (found here {Muffin In A Cup}). I have featured before. I often change up the mix of grains I use in the muffin, but this time I changed a few more things.
  •          Use apple pie spice in place of cinnamon in the muffin.
  •          Use 2 Tablespoons of applesauce in place of the coconut oil.
  •          Slice the warm muffin in half and spread with your favorite nut butter.
  •          Place sliced apple on top.
  •          Sprinkle with a little more cinnamon.
    • Enjoy sitting down or on the run, hot or cold. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chocolate Potato Cookies

It appears I have been sneaking potato into quite a few baked goods lately. I am trying to get through a ten pound bag of potatoes on my own, without eating potatoes at every meal. Potatoes are pretty versatile, and I like to try new, and potentially strange things with them. My chocolate potato fudge is always a hit, so why not chocolate potato cookies? The flavor and texture in these does not give away their secret ingredient, however, they were not quite chocolaty enough for me, as I did not add in chocolate chips. I would definitely recommend doing this next time!
Chocolate Potato Cookies
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup mashed potatoes (unseasoned, no butter), at room temperature
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips or miniature chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 400F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Mix in the chocolate chips and potato. Stir in the flour, soda, and salt, then the chocolate chips if using. Spoon teaspoons of dough onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake ten minutes until just set.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Pumpkin pie is a classic dessert this time of year. The filling is quite simple to make, it’s the crust that is the fussy part. If you would rather not bother with crust, and you would prefer miniature individual pies instead of one big one – this is the perfect recipe for you! All the flavors of the pumpkin pie filling (the best part of the pie) in a small, individual size. They are even good for breakfast, and can be dressed up as you wish. Just a note of caution: these are meant to be like mini pumpkin pies, so do not expect a firm muffin or cupcake texture. In fact, if you are using paper liners, they may stick to the filling a bit. These pies are quite soft and should be kept refrigerated, and are best enjoyed fresh.
Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
1 ¾ cups (15 ounces) pumpkin purée
¾ cup milk
2 large eggs
½ cup granulated (white) sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line 12 muffin cups.
In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes. Cake will not test clean, and will seem a little soft, but that is desired. They should not have a muffin-like texture but rather a pumpkin pie-like texture.

Cool to room temperature. Do not be surprised if the cupcakes sink a little upon cooling. Refrigerate until cold. These can be dressed up with a dollop of whipped cream, or a swirl of any type of icing, especially caramel or cream cheese). They may also be dusted with cinnamon, icing sugar, or sprinkled with pumpkin seeds or pecan pieces. Alternately, they may be enjoyed while still slightly warm as well. 

I dressed mine up with a swirl of caramel icing and some walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Best if iced fresh - otherwise the pies may absorb the icing - still tasty and sweet though!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Turkey Pot Pie

Turkey Pot Pie
1 large carrot, sliced
2 medium sweet potatoes, in small cubes
1 tablespoon margarine
1 small onion, diced
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup skim milk
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups cut-up cooked turkey
1 can peas
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon margarine
1/3 cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350F. 
Boil the carrots and sweet potato until tender. Alternately, use frozen vegetables. 
In a small saucepan, sauté the onion in the butter until tender. Mix 1/4 cup of broth with the cornstarch, then add remaining broth and milk, salt, and pepper. Boil for one minute. Stir in the turkey and vegetables. Spoon mixture into an 8x8-inch square pan.

CRUST: In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the margarine. Mix sour cream and milk until smooth and stir into mixture. Knead dough lightly on a floured surface. Pat into an eight inch square, then cut into four equal squares. 

Place crust over turkey mixture. Bake for about 30 minutes, until mixture is hot and biscuit is golden. 

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone! We had our big turkey dinner yesterday, and decided to make a turkey pot pie with the leftovers today for a little something different  - homey and comforting. The vegetables may be varied as you wish. Chicken would work for this recipe as well. The crust is really easy to put together and the pie is simple to assemble because it only has a top crust, but it is very flaky and delicious. 
Crocker, Betty. "Turkey Pot Pie." Recipe. Low-Fat Low-Cholesterol, New York: MacMillan, 1991. 89.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pumpkin Truffles

Pumpkin Truffles
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup solid coconut oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pumpkin seeds
chocolate chips (optional)
In a medium bowl, blend together the pumpkin and coconut oil until completely smooth. Stir in the honey and cinnamon. Place the bowl in the freezer for at least ten minutes, until the mixture is firmer, but not too solid to scoop. Use a small ice cream scoop or a spoon to shape the mixture into small round balls. Place a pumpkin seed in the top of each one to form the stem of the pumpkin. Place the truffles in the freezer again briefly to firm up. Makes about 15-20 truffles.
Melt the chocolate chips. Use a toothpick or pipe some chocolate up the sides to resemble the lines on a pumpkin. Chill to set the chocolate. Alternately coat the truffles in chocolate completely, or skip the chocolate all together. 

Pumpkin is not a typical truffle flavor, but it works for this time of year! Since these truffles are based on pumpkin purée and not chocolate, the texture is slightly different. The truffles must be kept cold, and they will be quite soft. They are tricky to transport while still maintaining presentation. These truffles may be completely coated in any type of chocolate, if preferred.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Overnight Pumpkin Oatmeal

Overnight Pumpkin Oatmeal
1/3 cup pure pumpkin purée
3/4 cup milk of choice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup large flake rolled oats
chopped pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds
Stir all ingredients together in a mug or small bowl and allow to refrigerate overnight to thicken. Enjoy as is, or microwave until warm. 

Another pumpkin spice breakfast! Prepare the night before and enjoy in the morning. It does not have to be refrigerated overnight, but will be much thicker if you do so, and should be especially if you plan to eat it hot, which will thin it out a little more. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hamburger Noodle Casserole

Hamburger Noodle Casserole
2 pounds lean ground beef
12 cups hot water
3 cups milk
2 boxes or one large bag medium egg noodles
4 packets hamburger seasoning mix

In one huge or two larger skillets over medium heat, heat a little oil. Cook the meat in the oil until browned and thoroughly cooked. Stir in the remaining ingredients (if using two pots, put half in each). Bring to a boil, then boil slowly or simmer for ten minutes until the noodles are tender, stirring often. This mixture can then be left in the pot for a few minutes to thicken, or transferred to a pan or casserole dish and allowed to thicken, or kept warm in the oven. It may also be cooled and reheated later. 

This is a really quick recipe that is always a hit with those who like beef and pasta, and you can make a huge batch in just a little bit of time. The recipe is forgiving, holds up well, can be made ahead, and makes good leftovers. In order to make a quantity this large, I sort of made two separate batches, but made them at the same time, so everything I added to one pot I also added to the other. Then I combined it all in a large pan, 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Pumpkin Pancake

Pumpkin Pancake
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, or pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup pure pumpkin purée
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons sweetener of choice

Preheat a little oil in a small frying pan over medium heat.
In a small bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients. Stir in the wet ingredients to make a smooth batter. Pour batter evenly into prepared pan. Cook for a few minutes per side until pancake is golden. Serve with desired toppings - fruit, nuts, yogurt, nut butter, pumpkin seeds, syrup, etc. Pictured here is some almond hazelnut butter and pumpkin seeds. 

It is pumpkin season - Halloween and Thanksgiving are approaching! This, like a few other individual pancakes I have posted on here (blueberry, banana, paleo) makes one large, fluffy, filling pancake - a complete breakfast in one! You can, of course, choose rather to make many mini, thinner pancakes if preferred. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Dark Orange Sauce

If you need a quick dessert sauce for anything from angel food cake to fruit salad, to dark chocolate brownies, to fruit cake, to ice cream - this is it. The subtle orange flavor pairs well with chocolate, fruit, and spice. This is a really quick and easy sauce to make up when you don't have any berries or other fruit or do not want to bother boiling fruit for a long time, but don't want a sweet chocolate or caramel sauce either. The sauce is already fairly dark, but if you'd like an even darker color and a more caramel flavor, use brown or dark brown sugar. This makes approximately one cup of sauce, so scale the recipe accordingly. 

Dark Orange Sauce
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine
1/2 cup sugar (granulated or brown, depending on desired flavor profile)
3/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons orange juice

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the sugar until dissolved. Stir in milk and bring mixture to a boil. Boil carefully for eight minutes, stirring every so often and ensuring the mixture does not burn. Remove from heat and stir in orange juice.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Apple Oatmeal Parfait

Apple Oatmeal Parfait
1/2 cup hot whole grain cereal (see NOTE)
2 Tablespoons Greek yogurt (I used plain)
1 large apple, chopped 
2 Tablespoons hazelnuts
honey or maple syrup, to taste
ground cinnamon, to taste

NOTE: For this recipe, you will need about 1/2 cup of prepared hot cereal. I use my favorite hot cereal mix, see {Hot Cereal Mix}. You will need 1/4 cup dry mix and 1/2 cup water, then cook according to recipe directions. Alternatively, you can simply use 1/4 cup rolled oats and 1/2 cup water or milk and cook them.

Prepare the cereal as required. The cereal can be used hot or cold. If you desire a cold parfait to transport, I recommend either allowing the cereal to cool, or making it up the night before and putting it in the fridge - even less prep work in the morning. Some people do not like the combination of the cereal and yogurt - as the cereal heats up the yogurt and the yogurt cools down the cereal. I happen to like this mixture of flavors, textures, and temperatures, but do as you wish.

I just kept this in a bowl and didn't layer it in a glass or parfait dish, but do this if you wish, or wish to transport it. Simply layer all ingredients as desired!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Confetti Squares

Chocolate Peanut Butter Confetti Squares
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 packages (250 grams or 8 ounces each) miniature multi-colored marshmallows
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips until melted. Allow to cool until bottom of pan is cool enough to handle, then stir in the marshmallows.
Pack mixture evenly into a 9x13 inch rectangular pan lined with foil. Cool, then refrigerate and store in the fridge for easier cutting and storage.

These may not look like much from the photo, but they are a really quick, easy, and tasty square recipe. They are no-bake, and come together and are ready to eat in merely minutes. The pleasing flavors of chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow are popular among youngsters. You could always use white marshmallows, the squares just won't have that 'confetti' appearance. These squares really remind me of the squares our neighbors used to send us over every year at Christmastime. They were essentially the same, but used butterscotch chips instead of chocolate chips, giving a slightly different but rich flavor. Though never something I would have though of making myself, I greatly looked forward to receiving these squares every year. I finally decided to make a similar square recipe myself, for others. Similarly, you may use all chocolate chips of any type, all butterscotch chips, a mixture of the two, or even peanut butter chips. 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Snappy Scalloped Potatoes

This has become a new favorite potato recipe of mine. Honestly, I find it almost as easy as mashed potatoes, but in this form it is easier to make a larger batch and easier to hold them. I give them a good ninety minutes in the oven to ensure they are tender, and after that they can always be held at a lower temperature in the oven as well for awhile to keep warm. I find every scalloped potato recipe differs slightly. Some have cheese, some do not, some have onion, some are really creamy, some are thick, some are thin. This is an easy one using some onion, and a thinner cream sauce just to add a little moisture and some extra flavor. The presentation isn't great here, but the flavor is good and comforting!

Scalloped Potatoes
10 (approximately) large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1 large (or two medium) white onions, sliced into thin rings (or diced)
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
4 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425F.
Arrange the potatoes and onions in a large, long rectangular baking sheet. There should be no more than three to four layers overlapping. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir. Stir in the milk and seasonings. Cook, stirring often, until mixture becomes a thick sauce. Pour over potatoes in pan. Seal pan with foil. Bake for about ninety minutes or so until tender. The potatoes must be sliced thin, but because they are layered, they will take a while to become tender. If they cook too quickly, you can always turn the oven down to simply keep them warm.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Sticky Gingerbread

This is a deep, dark, spicy gingerbread loaf that is easy to make. It has a robust, spicy flavor and goes well with a nice toffee sauce. 
Sticky Gingerbread
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cooking molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease or line a 9x5x2 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, measure the first eight ingredients. Add the baking soda to the water and stir until it foams, add to bowl. Beat all together well.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Friday, October 03, 2014

Honey Mustard Ham

Here is a really quick and easy recipe for a juicy and flavorful ham. This is my go-to recipe whenever I need a quick main-course meat dish that doesn't require much preparation work, and goes with a variety of different side dishes. This recipe is easily scaled up or down, depending on the size of the ham used. In fact, I never measure the ingredients, I just eyeball based on what kind of ham I have. I have always used the fully cooked hams without the bone. Since the ham is fully cooked, the method used and the amount of time for cooking the ham can vary, but you do want to ensure the ham is heated thoroughly. This is what I do:
  • Steam the ham for thirty minutes.
  • Prepare a simple honey mustard sauce. I heat up two parts of pure, natural, creamy honey until liquidy, then blend it with one part of prepared yellow mustard. I add any spices and seasonings as desired - paprika and garlic are particularly good.
  • Place the ham in a pan, pour the sauce over top, and spread on all sides to coat the ham.
  • Bake the ham for 45 minutes at 300F.
  • Remove ham to a cutting board and slice thinly, or remove rind and cut into pieces.
  • Baste with sauce again.
  • Either serve immediately with a spoonful of sauce, or cover with foil to keep warm before serving.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

My New Job

Since I began a new job recently, you will probably be seeing some posts from me with a slightly different style. I have started a new cook job, preparing the three daily meals, as well as desserts, baked goods, and snacks, on weekends at a senior home caring for twenty-seven residents. This is a good starting cook position, as it is not as stressful, busy, or demanding as a busy restaurant kitchen. This job requires me to make larger batches of homey comfort foods, and ensure I keep plenty of small sweet treats and healthy snacks around. The types of dishes I prepare are certainly not fancy, exotic up-to-date dishes, but rather simple, basic, old-fashioned dishes - such as meat and potatoes, with steamed vegetables. 

So you will definitely be seeing some basic, big batch homey dishes on my blog, as well as good, simple, old-fashioned desserts, cookies and muffins. The chicken pot pie I featured on Monday is one example of such a dish. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Small Bran Machine Bread

Quick, easy, and tasty. Featured with this picture is my father's homemade rhubarb jelly. 

Small Bran Machine Bread
3/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup natural wheat bran
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional) 

Place all ingredients in bread machine pan in order given, or according to manufacturer's instructions for whole wheat cycle. This makes one small (one pound) loaf, although size setting will depend on machine.