Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Seeds

Fall means pumpkins and pumpkins means roasted pumpkin seeds! This is one of my families favorite things to do and eat. Living in Florida it is a little strange to go to the pumpkin patch in shorts but at least we tried to get the feel of it by going to an actual farm even if the pumpkins weren't grown there. This morning we carved our pumpkins just in time for Halloween. Jason had never saved the seeds before so I showed him how to sort the good seeds from the pumpkin guts and get a little messy. I love how simple this is and makes such a healthy and delicious snack for the week. They are also versatile so you can use whatever combination of seasonings you like, could even make them sweet with cinnamon and sugar. I stuck to traditional salt and also seafood seasoning like old bay...mmm

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat oven to 300 degrees
Rinse, lay out and pat the pumpkin seeds dry on a rimmed cookie sheet.
Season with kosher salt or old bay seasoning and shake to coat adding more seasoning if necessary. I did a sheet of each to please everyone!
Place in the oven for 30 minutes then shake to mix up the seeds. Then put back in for another 20 minutes or until dried out and crunchy but not burnt.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Tequila Glazed Grilled Chicken Thighs

Our kitchen is finally coming together with the boxes mostly unpacked and everything put away. There are still those random miscellaneous items that we don't know what to do with but are feeling more settled. Only problem is remembering where we put things. I must open at least 3 cabinets or drawers looking for a utensil or pot or pan. Hopefully things will become second nature soon enough. 

The best part though was being able to make and enjoy our first meal in our new house. I found the box with all of my cookbooks and stacks of recipes ripped from magazines or printed from online. While the grill is not hooked up yet this recipe was just as easy to do inside using our grill pan on the stove. I hadn't found the tequila so I used the recommended substitution of more pineapple juice. The spice rub was really flavorful and the lime juice shone through refreshingly. I think the tequila would have given the sauce a little extra kick to cut the sweetness of the pineapple juice but it was a moist and flavorful chicken recipe I would try again.

Tequila-Glazed Grilled Chicken Thighs
Source: Cooking Light June 2011
Serves  6

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
2 lbs chicken thighs, skinned (about 6 pieces depending on size)
¾ cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup tequila (can substitute for 1/3 cup pineapple juice)
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons grated lime rind
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high heat

2. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a small bowl and rub evenly on chicken.

3. Bring pineapple juice, tequila and honey to a boil in a small saucepan; cook until reduced to
¾ cup (about 10 minutes). 

4. Combine cornstarch and 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl and stir well. Add cornstarch mixture to juice mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in lime rind, 3 Tablespoons lime juice and red pepper flakes.

5. Spray cooking rack with cooking spray. Place chicken on grill rack over direct heat. Cover and grill for 5 minutes on each side, basting occasionally with juice mixture. Move the chicken to indirect heat. Cover and grill an additional 5 minutes on each side or until done, basting occasionally.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Apple Pie Muffins

We moved into our new house this weekend which was exciting and exhausting all at the same time. Our boxes are still not fully unpacked but most things are put away or the box is cut open on the floor.  I had pulled this recipe and bought the ingredients before moving but when I turned my back, everything was packed up. While my baking box is not unpacked yet, I was able to pull out my muffin tins and found some cute paper muffin liners on clearance at Target so I could whip up some muffins for breakfast.

As I have mentioned, I love apples and since you don't get a sense of fall down here this sounded like a great fall recipe that could also be used throughout the year. This might be one of the few recipes I have made that looked like the pictures and even like the muffins you buy at the bakery! I was really impressed with how they turned out with the crumble/streusel topping and soft chunks of apples and moist muffin. It was fun to be able to use our new oven and make the kitchen smell delicious. Now I just have to be careful not to eat them all!

Apple Pie Muffins
Makes 12-16 muffins

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2  Granny Smith Apples, peeled, chopped

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12 cup muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/4 cups flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, 1/2 cup melted butter, vanilla and 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved.

3. Pour butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in apples. Use a large scoop to fill each muffin well, filling the cups to the top.

4. In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, rolled oats, and cinnamon. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of melted butter, mixing until well blended. Sprinkle this over the tops of the muffins.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed.

6. Cool on wire rack. Store at room temperature or freeze.

- If you choose to finely dice your apples, take not that they will disappear into the muffin. I left my pieces a little bigger to ensure nice bites of soft apple goodness.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Perfect Vanilla Cake

As I mentioned it is a busy yet exciting week for us. Yesterday was Jason's birthday and no birthday is complete without cake! I was surprised that he wanted a simple vanilla cake with buttercream. I was expecting his usual red velvet cake or something crazy. I have made yellow cakes before but never a vanilla one. Since our cook books are packed I scoured the internet and blogs for the perfect recipe and of course one that didn't require a last minute trip to the grocery store.

This cake recipe was delicious. The inside was moist and actually tasted like vanilla! I put some chocolate chips in between the two layers for a little bit of crunchy texture and because chocolate makes everything better.

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
Recipe adapted Glorious Treats 

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1 cup buttermilk
(or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice- add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using)

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  2. In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together with whisk, and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds.  Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds.  Add vanilla and oil, beat.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture.  Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk.  Beat until just combined.  Scrap down the side of the bowl. 
  5. The batter will be thin. Pour batter evenly into two 8 or 9 inch cake pans that have been sprayed or greased with butter.
  6. Bake cakes in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes.
  7. Cool in pan, then remove cakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.
  8. Frost as desired when fully cool.  I love to use my favorite Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.   

* A note about Cake Flour-  Cake Flour has a lower protein content than traditional all-purpose flour, which results in a more tender, delicate crumb in the finished product.  If you can not find or access cake flour, feel free to substitute as necessary, but your results will vary from the original recipe.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

1 month!

Today we have been married 1 month! I know that seems like a silly anniversary but as a newlywed it is exciting. Time has flown and to be quite honest being married doesn't seem any different than beforehand. Except of course all of the paperwork to change my name! Jason was sweet enough to bring home some flowers for me and luckily we hadn't packed all of the vases. This is one busy week for us. today is 1 month of marriage, tomorrow we close on our house and Wednesday is Jason's birthday!

So before we packed all of the pots and pans and dishes I wanted to make a home made dinner I knew he would love. There are 2 things I know Jason loves, the first being chicken (that was all he ate when we first met) and the second is lemon anything. This dinner covers both bases.

I must say while delicious it did take a bit of juggling and a few pans. After cutting the potatoes and putting them in a saucepan you can make the mixture for the chicken and get it in the pan while you wait for the potatoes to boil. I used a small saucepan causing them to take longer because they were on top of each other. But they all cooked like they should. The lemon and rosemary are such a great bright flavor combination that you can't go wrong with.

Lemon and Rosemary Chicken
4 servings
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3/4 pound small red-skinned potatoes, halved
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus 1 Tbsp leaves
1 clove garlic, smashed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Juice of 2 lemons (squeezed halves reserved)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Cover the potatoes with cold water in a saucepan and salt the water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Pile the rosemary leaves, garlic, 2 tsp. salt and the red pepper flakes on a cutting board, then mince and mash into a paste using a large knife.  Transfer the paste to a bowl and stir in the juice of 1 lemon and the olive oil.  Add the chicken and turn to coat.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken, cover and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.  Turn the chicken; add potatoes to the skillet and drizzle with the juice of the remaining lemon.  Add the rosemary sprigs and the squeezed lemon halves to the skillet; transfer to the oven and roast, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Be extremely careful when removing the pan from the oven as the handle will be hot! I had to learn this the hard way and grabbed the handle once on the counter to serve..ouch! 

You can serve this with a green vegetable or just enjoy it as is.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Perfect Fall Lunch

Growing up in new england in the fall meant apples, apples and more apples. One thing that goes well with apples is sharp Vermont cheddar cheese. I could eat it on sliced up apples as a snack or you find it on a lot of sandwiches. Today I tried to replicate one of my favorite fall sandwiches. It doesn't even require a lot of ingredients. You need a crunchy granny smith or your favorite type of apple, slices of sharp cheddar cheese, roasted turkey and hearty, nutty bread. All my store had was multi-grain Italian but any type will do. 

Thinly slice the apple for the sandwich. You can have the remainder on the side or as a snack later.
Layer the turkey then apples with cheese on top. For extra flavor add apple butter if you have or any other vegetables you like. 
Put the top slice of bread on and put in the toaster or panini press if you have one to brown up the outside and melt the cheese. The apple will be slightly warm but still provide a nice crunch. While the weather may not feel like fall here in Florida, this sandwich reminds me of fall at home.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Pennsylvania Dutch Pumpkin Cake

As much as possible here in Florida, fall is in the air. This weekend it was finally under 90 and even in the 70s in the morning and evening! I took full advantage and made something using one of my favorite fall ingredients, pumpkin! This was a new recipe my mom sent me and I must say was moist and delicious. My judge is always if anyone goes back for more and this time my father-in-law did so I consider it a success. It is more of a spice cake in flavor than pumpkin but it was still very yummy.

Pennsylvania Dutch  Pumpkin Cake

serves 12
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups can solid pack pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla
Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven 350.
2. Grease 12 cup bundt pan.
3. Sift first 8 ingredients into medium bowl.
4. Using electric mixer, beat shortening and 2 cups sugar in large bowl to blend. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Add pumpkin & vanilla and beat until combined. Stir in dry ingredients. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
6.  Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
7. Cool cake in pan on rack 20 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack & cool completely. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead.)
8. Sift powdered sugar over top.

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Best Noodle Kugel

One of my all time favorite foods is noodle kugel. I don't know if it is because we only have it for Jewish holidays or what but to me this is noodles filled with yummy goodness and a sweet crunch on top. This recipe is one that my grandma's best friend used and somehow got passed down to my mom and aunt and now to me. So it only makes sense that no holiday is complete without noodle kugel and I of course made mine for both Jewish holidays. You can even freeze some of the leftovers (if there are any) and enjoy later on. Please note that this recipe needs to sit overnight so you have to plan a little bit ahead of time to make it. Below is the infamous recipe with a few healthier tweaks like lowfat sour cream, cottage cheese and milk.

Noodle Kugel
1lb extra wide noodles (I use yolk free ones to be healthier)
1 cup sugar
1 stick melted unsalted butter
1 pint low fat sour cream
3 cups skim milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1lb low fat cottage cheese
7 eggs (can substitute some egg beaters)

1 cup crushed corn flakes
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Boil noodles and drain with cold water.

2. In a big mixing bowl, beat eggs, then add in rest of the ingredients (let butter cool before adding so it doesn't cook the eggs)

3. In a very large roasting pan, pour moure than 1/2 the noodles then 3/4 of mixture, then remaining noodles and mixture. Mix thoroughly.

4. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

5. Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle on top with a few dots of butter.

6. Bake at 350F for about an hour.

7. Let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving so that it sets and you can cut it up without the pieces falling apart.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This is Jason's favorite type of cookie and I never make them. Or if I do it is full of all sorts of other ingredients and isn't a simple oatmeal raisin cookie. One of our friends had their second baby and we are bringing over dinner to help them with one less thing to do. But as you know, no dinner is complete without dessert. They already have a little girl and I wanted to bring over something relatively healthy. Since I don't know the age that kids can eat raisins without choking I made 2 trays of cookies without raisins and then mixed them in for the rest of the batches. This is an easy trick if you have picky eaters since you can do those batches first and always add in nuts, raisins or chocolate chips later but it is a lot harder to remove them once mixed in. This recipe is straight from the lid of Quaker Oatmeal. It is easy and delicious so no need to change anything for a chewy cookie.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup granulated Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Salt (optional)
3 Cups Quaker Oats old fashioned, uncooked
1 cup raisins (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350
2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy
3. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.
4. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix well.
5. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well.
6. Drop by rounded Tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. (I used a medium cookie scoop to keep them uniform. This is one of my new favorite tools)
7. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet and remove to wire cooling rack while still warm.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Holiday Dinner

This was the first year I was not near any of my family for the holidays. While that can be difficult it was an opportunity for Jason and I to celebrate on our own. We did things a little bit different by having our big dinner the second night of the holiday since we went to the earlier services session. I was pleasantly surprised that the services reminded me of home despite some of the songs having different melodies. The best part was that the rabbi was actually funny and didn't have a boring sermon that left you checking your watch. Afterwards, it was back into the kitchen to start our feast. I tried to keep our dinner close to the traditions that I am used to with my family. This meant lots of phone calls home for recipes and advice/help along the way. All in all, it turned out pretty well and we were able to use some of the beautiful china, silver and crystal we received for our wedding! Below is the recipe for the apple cake that my mom usually makes for the holiday to incorporate the apples for a sweet new year.

This was an easy recipe with lots of flavor from the apples and cinnamon. The middle apple layer keeps the cake nice and moist lasting for a few days or until it is all gone!

Apple Cake
9x12 pan or tube pan

4-5 apples peeled and sliced
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup Sugar
3 cups Flour
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
4 Eggs
3 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
7 Tbsp. Orange Juice
2 1/2 tsp. Vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Mix apples with cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.
3. Mix all other ingredients together on low speed of mixer or by hand.
4. Pour 1/2 of batter into a greased and floured  tube or 9x12 pan.
5. Cover with 1/2 of apple mixture. Repeat with rest of the batter and then finish with apple mixture.
6. Bake at 350 for an hour until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.

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