Monthly Archives: October 2012

Scarecrow Crunch

Need a little snack to get you through the marathon of scary movies on TV tonight?  Or maybe just something to snack on in between rings of the doorbell as you hand out candy to the ghosts and goblins at your door?  Check out this Scarecrow Crunch.

Oatmeal squares cereal, pretzels, candy corn mix, Reese’s pieces, chocolate grahams, and caramel corn are mixed together to make for a sweet and salty snack perfect for autumn.  Put some of this into baggies for your kids or just take it to work for people who need an afternoon pick me up.  This made a big batch so you’ll have plenty to share.  My friends and I noshed on handfuls of this while we were hunkered down during the hurricane.  And leftovers should last for a while if you keep them in an airtight container.  Turn off the outside light, hunker down in the dark with a blanket, light a candle to cast eerie shadows, and munch on a bowl of this for tonight’s Halloween marathon on AMC.  If you have power, that is.  If you don’t, try not to get freaked out by the fact that you have to spend every second of Halloween in the dark.

The ingredients:

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Just Make Stuff

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the northeast is getting pummeled by Hurricane Sandy right now.  This is the second hurricane that has hit the Philadelphia area in a little more than a year and for those of us not used to it, it is two too many.  As I write this, I still have power but considering I lost power for days last year with Hurricane Irene, I’m fully expecting to lose power again.  I’m a little more prepared this year though: I’ve loaded my kitchen table with my emergency necessities (which you can see here – and yes, that includes bourbon) and I have a flashlight this time which will prevent me from using my iPhone to see in the dark (and hopefully reduce my risk of dropping said iPhone into the toilet à la last year).  Because losing power is inevitable, I had to make food this past weekend that wouldn’t require refrigeration.  Which means I’ll be eating these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins for days.

Canned pumpkin and mini chocolate chips are mixed into a simple muffin batter to create a moist, light, flavorful treat.  These muffins have a lot of butter and sugar so they are not low-fat but given my circumstances of enduring the hurricane, I’ve got more to worry about right now than calories.  The recipe calls for 3 to 4 cups of flour but I only used 3 cups and it was plenty.  This batter is thick and makes puffy muffins like the kind you see in bakeries – yum.  I used mini chocolate chips which I’ve come to love more than regular chocolate chips.  These muffins are really, really good.  I just hope I’m not sick of them by Wednesday.

The ingredients:

Blend the pumpkin, brown sugar, butter, and eggs in a large bowl mix until creamy.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg).  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined when batter is moist and thick.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Scoop or spoon the batter into greased muffin tins or muffin liners.

Bake in an oven preheated to 350ºF for 20 to 25 minutes.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  The Idea Room

Puffy Vanilla and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

When it comes to sweets, I tend to make desserts in waves.  When I’m craving brownies, I’ll make brownies non-stop for months.  My cupcake period lasted about 2 years.  But I’m going back to my roots and I’m falling in love with making cookies all over again.  I don’t know what it is about cookies but watching the dough come together, dipping a finger or two into the dough to make sure it’s just right, and dropping the scoops onto the baking sheet and waiting, waiting, waiting impatiently for them to bake…it’s bliss for me.  I bake cookies one sheet at a time so for a dough that makes a lot of cookies, this means I might be baking cookies all night.  But that’s okay with me.  I dare say I like a cookie-scented kitchen just as much (if not more) than a bread-scented kitchen.  Although that’s a really tough call.  Anyway, I made some cookies a few weeks ago and they were such a hit at work that I decided to make another batch of cookies I found on Pinterest: Puffy Vanilla and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies.  Vanilla and peanut butter?  Yum and yum.  I’m sold.

These cookies are made with vegetable shortening (à la Crisco) instead of butter which helps to make these cookies puffy.  And a healthy 2 teaspoons of vanilla really keep the vanilla from getting lost behind the peanut butter chips.  It’s rare that I don’t like a cookie, especially one with any kind of peanut butter, and this is no exception.  Although, I’ve become pretty particular and I’ve decided I like good ol’ butter in my cookies.  There is that flavor that butter has that just cannot be captured with vegetable shortening.  These cookies are great and if you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of puff for a little bit of flavor, make these with butter.  You won’t be disappointed.  Of course this is coming from someone who could eat peanut butter chips by the spoonful.

The ingredients:

In a large mixing bowl, combine vegetable shortening, sugars, egg, water, and vanilla until batter is creamy.

Add the cinnamon, salt, baking soda, flour and mix until just combined.

Fold in peanut butter chips by hand. Cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheets lined with silicone mats or parchment paper.

 Bake in a preheated 375ºF oven for 8-10 minutes.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Averie Cooks

Garlicky Kale

I was in Illinois this past weekend for a family event and got to spend every single minute with my sister and niece who I just don’t see enough of.  I love a weekend get away as much as the next person but it can take a lot out of you.  After flying home yesterday afternoon, I was ready to put on my jammies and climb under the covers before the sun had even set.  I was exhausted and hungry and since I’ve been on a routine of doing all of my cooking on the weekends, I had nothing to eat.  I turned to my good ol’ stand by, a fried egg sandwich.  Looking for a quick side, I whipped up some Garlicky Kale (adapted from Garlicky Swiss Chard).

Fresh kale is cooked and steamed with nothing more than olive oil, garlic, red pepper flake and salt.  What a better way to eat your green leafy vegetables, especially when you can probably benefit from some of it’s vitamins?  Light, garlicky and slightly spicy, this is a simple and healthy side dish that comes together fast.  Whether you eat this with eggs or something more substantial like meat or pasta, this is a good, quick go-to that can easily be switched up with any leafy green like spinach, swiss chard or collard greens.

The ingredients:

Wash kale pieces and place in a bowl (or use prewashed bagged kale to save some time).  In a large lidded pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes to pan. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to burn garlic.

Stir in greens and increase heat to medium-high; place lid on pot and cook 2 minutes.  Remove lid and stir with tongs.  Replace lid for 2 more minutes.  Remove lid, stir and cook for 2 more minutes, uncovered.  Greens should be bright green.

Stir in salt.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:

  • Kale
  • Jarred minced garlic

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Family Circle Magazine

Buffalo Chicken Soup with Orzo

What is it about buffalo sauce?  Why is it that it took me years to find out the I loved it and now I can’t seem to live without it?  The first several times I tried it, I didn’t like it.  But back then, I was happy having mild, bland, and boring tasting food.  Now, I put spice in everything.  Granted, sometimes I’ll come across a buffalo dish that is so spicy that I can barely get through it.  But Frank’s is spot-on perfect.  So the fact that the bottle of Frank’s in my fridge is almost empty is nearly sending me in a panic.  I put in on chicken, I put it in pasta, I toss it on veggies.  It’s my go-to.  And this time, I even put it in my soup – Buffalo Chicken Soup with Orzo.

Chicken, carrot, onion and cooked orzo are mixed together with chicken broth, buffalo sauce, and cheddar and parmesan cheeses.  With some added flavor from green onions, ranch seasoning, and cilantro, this soup is not short on flavor.  You really need to be a buffalo sauce lover like me to appreciate this soup.  But you could also use as much or as little as you want if you just want a slight buffalo taste.  I’d wait to add any cilantro until the end rather than at the beginning because heated cilantro, once it turns almost black, is pretty unappealing and almost tasteless.  Throwing some at the end will add a huge punch of freshness which tastes so good with warm soup.  This is a good soup which I think would be good with a dollop of sour cream on top or with a splash of light cream mixed in.  If you like buffalo chicken, you’ll like this soup.

The ingredients:

Cook orzo according to package directions, cooking halfway (I cooked mine about 5 minutes) to allow for more cooking later.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sauté onion, garlic and green onions until opaque and fragrant.

Add carrots and ranch seasoning.

Add broth, buffalo sauce, cheeses and precooked chicken and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Return soup to a boil and add the orzo and cook until al dente.

Top with green onions, cilantro and blue cheese crumbles (if desired).

Additions:  None

Omissions:

  • Blue cheese

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Bake Your Day

Curried Chicken Salad

I don’t know about you but I feel like I post a lot about egg salad or chicken salad but the fact of the matter is that I grew up in central Illinois where mayonnaise was always in my house and a mayonnaise sandwich wasn’t necessarily out of the question when no one was looking.  But since mayo is bad, bad, bad, I’m not willing to give up on egg salad and chicken salad, two of my favorite loves.  I keep trying to make it healthy and whether I’m satisfied enough or not, I’m always willing to try it a different way.  So there you go.  I was curious about a Curried Chicken Salad recipe from Martha Stewart but it required a lot of chicken prep which I wasn’t into.  So this is my version of Martha’s version and it turned out pretty darn good.

Precooked chicken is mixed with a combination of Greek yogurt, light mayonnaise, curry powder and scallions before being tossed with toasted almonds and Granny Smith apple.  Using precooked chicken makes this dish come together fast and the combination of yogurt and light mayonnaise keeps it creamy.  The curry adds a bold flavor punch (but not too much) and the almonds and apple provide a fun crunch.  Since I typically like a bit of sweetness in my chicken salad, either from grapes or dried fruit, I love the addition of the Granny Smith apple which not only adds a little sweetness but also a tart edge.

Curried Chicken Salad (makes 4 servings) – adapted from Martha Stewart

  •  9 oz precooked chicken, chopped (such as PERDUE® SHORT CUTS® Carved Chicken Breast, Original Roasted)
  • 6 tablespoons non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 small Granny Smith apple, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lettuce or baby spinach

In a large bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, scallions, almonds, and apple.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in chicken until combined.  Serve over lettuce, baby spinach or on your favorite bread.

The ingredients:

In a large bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, scallions, almonds, and apple.  Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in chicken until combined.

Serve over lettuce, baby spinach or on your favorite bread.

Pausing…

I want to take a moment away from talking about food and cooking for a second to remember two special people today.

Two years ago today, I lost my dad to cancer. I still think about him everyday. He was the kind of guy who didn’t care what I did, so long as I was happy doing it. He left this world too soon but I get comfort in knowing he’s back together with my mom now after living without her for 20 years.

Also, today I am writing to you from Ellicott City, Maryland where I’m attending the second annual Kelly D. Heflin Foundation Golf Tournament. Kelly was a dear friend and amazing woman who also lost her battle to cancer last year. Kelly is another person whose life was cut way too short by this horrible disease.

Her family has set up a foundation in her name, the Kelly D. Heflin Foundation, which helps to support people living with cancer and provides them with important necessities such as wigs, transportation to and from treatment, and financial assistance. Considering I lost both parents to cancer, this foundation is important to me and I’m proud to be in Maryland with Kelly’s family and friends celebrating her and celebrating life while also celebrating my dad.

For more information about how Kelly’s Foundation helps, please visit www.kellysfoundation.com.

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