Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones

Happy Halloween! At one point earlier this month I entertained the notion of making some sort of ghoulish cupcakes or muffins, but that just didn't happen. However, I did buy a pumpkin this year, not to decorate but to use for baking. These scones took exactly half of a small pie pumpkin.


Typically, I despise all pumpkin dishes from baked goods to savory pastas. I do, however, enjoy baking and cooking with pumpkin because I know I won't go nuts with the tasting. My various pumpkin creations over the years have included pumpkin chocolate muffins, pumpkin muffins with raisins, and a classic pumpkin pie. Originally, I had the notion of making some sort of ghoulish cupcakes or muffins. However, when I came across this recipe from Mommy Hates Cooking for chocolate chip pumpkin scones, I had to try it. I love scones, especially these, so even though there's pumpkin in the recipe, I was open-minded.

They're not bad. I know that's not the most roaring of endorsements, but I do mean to be positive. There's a little too much pumpkin in them for me as I can still taste it. There may not be enough of the flavor if you love pumpkins, but if you're somewhere in between they're just right. These scones are also more of a flatish muffin or cake than what I think of as a scone (which should be heartier than a muffin). I also think they're missing a texture piece and wish I would have added oatmeal or some nuts before baking. But that being said, they ooze with chocolate and are extremely moist. Conveniently, this recipe took exactly half of a small pumpkin so I have another half (a cup or so) to try another recipe if I'm so inclined. I followed the original recipe precisely except I swapped in 1 cup of whole wheat flour instead of using only all-purpose.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones
3 Cups Flour (you may use part whole wheat, part all-purpose flour, if desired)
1/2 Cup Sugar
5 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
3/4 Cup Butter
1 Egg, Beaten
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Pumpkin Puree
1/2 Tbsp Pumpkin Spice
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 400*.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cream in butter and add egg, milk, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice.

Fold in chocolate chips.

The original recipe suggests turning the down out on a floured surface, kneading a bit, then cutting rolling into a circle and cutting into wedges 1/2" thick. I simply used my large muffin scoop.

Bake on parchment paper or a greased cookie sheet for 15 minutes or until browned.

Makes 12-16 scones.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cornmeal Parmesan Pizza Dough

While visiting Chicago recently, my husband and I were astounded to learn that my mother-in-law had never tasted Giordano's pizza despite living in Chicago for over 30 years. She'd had deep-dish, of course, but never Giordano's which in my opinion is the best big-chain deep dish place in town. Naturally, we had to expose her to its delicious goodness.

Perhaps we had built her expectations too high but she didn't care for it. Crazy, I know! Her criticisms included that the Giordano's pizza had doughy crust, rather than the cornmeal one featured by a competitor who shall remain nameless. Even though I had tasted the competitor's pizza before and noted that the crust was different, it never registered in my mind what the difference was (other than that I preferred Girodano's deep dish). I also had never heard of a cornmeal crust, only that cornmeal was a popular dusting ingredient. Then I stumbled upon this recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Bread Machine Cookbook, which I had checked out from the library, and had to try it. It was fantastic! The texture is crisper than my regular dough recipe and the Parmesan is subtle but definitely there. Though I am not sure that it will replace my regular recipe, I will definitely make it again in the future and likely start some sort of dough rotation on Pizza Fridays. :)


Cornmeal Parmesan Pizza Dough
1 c water
2 TBS olive oil
2.5 c bread flour
1/2 c cornmeal
1/2 c grated Parmesan
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast

Add ingredients in the order recommended for your bread machine. Set to dough cycle.

For thin-crust pizza, divide dough into desired portions and roll or pull to 1/4-1/2" thickness, depending upon your preference. Grease pan. Pre-bake in 425 degree oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Add toppings and bake for another 10 -15 minutes until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly.

For thick-crust pizza, shape into a 13-14" pizza. Cover and rise for 30-45 minutes or until nearly double. Pre-bake in 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Add toppings and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until topping is bubbly.

Makes two 11-12" thin-crust pizza or one 13-14" thick-crust pizza.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Creamed Chicken and Rice with Broccoli

Some 20+ years later, I still remember my very favorite dish from my elementary school's cafeteria. It was called "creamed chicken and rice" and was basically just that-chicken over white rice, sans vegetables and probably as laden in fat as you can get for the cream sauce. But it was sooo good and I looked forward to it whenever it appeared on the menu. My version here has zero cream in it or cheese, but it was pretty darn good. If you'd like, throw in a handful of grated Parmesan and use any sort of milk/cream product you prefer.


Creamed Chicken and Rice with Broccoli

2 c cooked brown rice (or 1 c uncooked rice and 2 and a splash c broth)
2 c broccoli florets
2 c milk
3 tbs butter
3 tbs all purpose flour
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 lb chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
salt, pepper,olive oil

Cook rice however method you prefer (I used my ricecooker.

In a small sauce pan, make a roux by melting butter then whisking in flour. Cook for a minute or two. Whisk in half cup of cold milk and whisk briskly until all the lumps are gone. Stir in remaining milk. Cook on medium low until thickened, stirring frequently, about 10-15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. If desired, add half cup of Parmesan or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese in the last few minutes.

While the sauce is thickening, in a high rimmed skillet or another pot, saute onion in olive oil until beginning to soften. Add chicken, garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until chicken is cooked through. At this point, I noticed that there was a fair amount of liquid so I tossed the broccoli on top and covered the pan loosely. Cook until the broccoli is tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated.

Add rice to veggie mixture. Pour in sauce and stir until well-combined. Cook for a minute or two, then adjust seasoning to taste.

Serves 4.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos


I adore roasted sweet potatoes and black beans, as well as burritos, so when I came across this recipe from The Tasty Kitchen for a dish that put all three together, plus more yummy veggies such as red bell peppers and red onions, I had to try it. It most decidedly did not disappoint. Healthy and fantastically flavorful! The roasting process brings out the sweetness in the veggies and the ones in this dish really complement each other.

A few notes on what I did differently from the inspiring recipe. First, it called for 2 jalapenos but being the timid sort, I only used one unseeded. The heat was minimal, so I might try using more in the future. I also omitted the finishing ingredients of a squirt of lime juice and cilantro because I didn't have either on hand. I didn't miss their flavors, but you could certainly add them if you'd like. Definitely a tasty meatless dish that's probably reasonably healthy for you since sweet potatoes and red peppers are loaded with vitamins and the beans provide protein and healthy fiber.

This recipe makes a lot depending upon how much filling you include in each burrito. I think I make pretty generous portions but still had enough filling for five big burritos, two salads, and a whole lot of a tasting.

2 whole Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cubed small
2 whole Jalapenos Diced
1 whole Red Pepper, Diced Small
1 whole Red Onion, Diced Small
2 teaspoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1 pinch Salt And Pepper
1 15-oz can Black Beans, Rinsed And Drained
2 cups Shredded Cheddar
6-8 Burrito-Sized Wheat Tortillas
Handful of cilantro and juice of 1/2 a lime, if desired.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss veggies in olive oil and spices. Roast for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through.

In a large bowl, combine roasted veggies, black beans, cilantro and lime juice if using. Once cooled, this mixtures may be stored for later use.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking dish large enough to hold all your burritos.

Warm tortillas before filling. Fill with 2 heaping tablespoons of the veggie-black bean mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. To fold the burrito, fold the sides in first, then close the roll. Place fold-side down in the baking dish. I sprinkled mine with leftover cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.


Makes about 6 burritos.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Naan (Breadmaker)

Since I plan on trying another recipe this evening, I figured I'd better get this one up. Taken from my favorite bread machine cookbook, The Bread Machine Bible, this recipe was quite tasty (there were no leftovers to photograph) but a tad blander than what I've enjoyed at happy Indian or Middle Eastern restaurants. It also didn't brown much before I worried about burning the bottom so it could have been less chewy. Finally, the yogurt component makes whipping this recipe up on a whim possibly challenging as I don't always have plain yogurt on hand. All in all, this is a nice and easy recipe that I would try again. (The recipe I plan to try this evening requires just milk, so I'll report back with the comparison hopefully in the near future.)

Naan (bread machine recipe)

1/2 c milk, room temperature
4 TBS plain yogurt, room temperature
1 TBS oil (I used canola)
2 c + 2 TBS bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp instant dry yeast
3 TBS melted butter for brushing

Add all ingredients except melted butter in the order called for by your bread machine. (mine is in the ordered listed). Set to "dough" cycle.

When dough is ready, divide into 4 portions. On a floured surface, roll into oval shape at 1/4" thick and 9" long. Cover and let rise for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with two large cookie sheets or a pizza stone in the oven.

Place dough on preheated pans and brush with butter. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.

Makes 4 large breads.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Indian Butter Chicken

I enjoy Indian food, but for whatever reason do not have very many recipes in my repertoire. Thus, when I came across this recipe at Mel's Kitchen Cafe I had to try it. In general, the dish was very yummy but I thought it a bit heavy on the ginger. The original recipe called for jalapeno which I didn't have so I omitted--perhaps that would have offset the ginger but since I'm not much of a ginger person in general, I'll likely half the amount the recipe calls for when I make this again.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeño, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon coriander
6 oz tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fat free half-and-half
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter

In a large 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, ginger and jalapeno. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in garlic, garam masala, chili powder, cardamom, and coriander. Cook while stirring for another minute.

Using a stick blender, puree the mixture until smooth. Mix in tomato past and broth. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and add the half and half. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and add the chicken pieces and the salt and pepper.

Keep the sauce at a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has slightly thickened.

Stir the butter into the sauce until melted. Serve the chicken and sauce over hot rice, preferably jasmine.

Leftover sauce goes great with naan. (Recipe to come!)

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Monday, October 22, 2012

Summer Vegetable Minestrone

As the crisp, cool weather of fall rolls in, I'm starting to think soup. However, since the markets are not entirely devoid of summer veggies (e.g. zucchini, yellow squash, colored peppers, etc.) and since I had quite a few veggies that were aging, last week I decided to whip up a quick vegetable minestrone. (Note: Most minestrone soups have beans, but I wasn't in the mood. However, this would be great with some northern or navy beans.) Though I looked at quite a few recipes, I really just threw everything in a pot and kept seasoning until it tasted good.


Here's more or less the ingredients used:

1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium colored bell pepper (red, yellow or orange preferred)
1 c mushrooms, diced
14.5 oz diced tomatoes or 4-5 roma tomatoes
1/2 c shells
4 c chicken broth
1-2 c water
1/2 tsp dried oregano*
1/4 tsp dried basil*
1/2 tsp dried parsley*
1-2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
olive oil
*I eyeballed the measurements. Alternatively, use 1 tsp Italian Seasoning.

Saute onions and carrots in olive oil until tender. Add mushrooms and cook until liquid has evaporated.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes or until pasta is tender.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Menu Plan for Week of October 15th

During the last week of August, I made a 30-day menu plan. It was more of a list of 30-some odd meals which relied on tried and true recipes and utilized what I had in my freezer. The intent was that each week I'd go through the list and select a week's worth of meals. Though I only posted the weekly menu three times, I more or less relied on this master list for about 6 weeks, which included leftovers and a few spontaneous dishes that weren't in the plan. All and all it was a decent success as I made at least 75% of the dishes listed. It was so handy to always have an idea as to what to make for dinner and a quick resource to make my shopping list. Plus, I cleaned out the vast majority of my freezer stash paving the way to restock with goodies for fall and winter.

It is my intent to make another 30-day list, however I don't really have the time at the moment. Thus, I'm going to share what I have so far for this week. Since last month relied heavily on familiar recipes, I will incorporate some of them, particularly with stuff that will likely stock the freezer for lunches, but also some new recipes that have been lurking on my Pinterest board waiting to be tried. You'll note that the list includes tons of chicken and a few meatless dishes. That's because we just returned from visiting my husband's parents where it's red meat, red meat, and red meat.

Here's what I'm thinking about for this week:

Monday - Slower Cooker Shoyu Chicken, broccoli, and brown rice

Tuesday - Indian Butter Chicken with naan (breadmaker) and zucchini

Wednesday - Roasted Veggie and Black Bean Burritos

Thursday - Baked Plum Chicken

Friday - Taco Salad, Nachos or Pizza

Saturday - Roast Chicken with Paprika and Shallots, mashed potatoes, and tossed salad

Sunday - Unstuffed Bell Peppers

I also want to make some Potato Cheddar Soup, French bread, and vanilla yogurt for lunches this week.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Lamb Lettuce Wraps

Though it seems that fall has finally arrived, I thought I'd share a dish we enjoyed in August--lamb lettuce wraps. Though I often enjoy lettuce wraps when dining out, especially for Thai food, I never think to make them at home. This recipe appeared in the August 2012 Cooking Light caught my eye, so I decided to try it. Other than omitting mint and using butter lettuce instead of Boston lettuce, I followed the recipe precisely. The result was very tasty, though I recommend that you accompany it with a hearty side dish or treat it as an appetizer when serving a meal. I paired it with toasted tortillas, but we were still a bit peckish later.

Apologies for the terrible pictures. I was too hungry to make sure they were actually in focus.

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6-8 ounces lean ground lamb
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup hummus, red pepper recommended
8 lettuce leaves, Boston lettuce recommended
2 tablespoons torn mint leaves (I omitted)
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 5 ingredients (through lamb) to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until lamb is done.

Combine parsley, tomato, and cucumber in a medium bowl. Stir in lamb mixture.

Stir together yogurt and hummus in a small bowl.

Place about 1/4 cup lamb mixture in each lettuce leaf. Top each wrap with 1 tablespoon hummus mixture. Divide mint and pine nuts evenly among wraps.

4 servings, 2 wraps each