Monthly Archives: October 2013

Witches’ Brew

When I first started this blog, I made a cocktail each week and posted it every Friday.  After all, when you’ve had a long week at work, what a better way to unwind than to sit down with a new tasty beverage? I love trying new drinks but as a result of making a cocktail each week, I ended up with an overstocked liquor cabinet and needed to slow things down.  Well, as the weather gets a little cooler, it’s got me in the mood for trying more new drinks.  With Halloween being this week, there is no better time than now to try this Witches’ Brew.

White beer (like Blue Moon) is jazzed up with pomegranate liquor and pomegranate juice.  That’s it.  Being a lover of white beer, I was curious to try this concoction but at the same time freaked out.  Why ruin a perfectly good beer? But it doesn’t ruin it. Instead, the pomegranate adds a little something-something and mellows out the beer’s flavor which makes this taste more like a cocktail than a beer. Pomegranate has a hearty flavor which you may or may not like.  I personally love the flavor of pomegranate so I think this works well with a white beer that already has citrus tones to it. Now, I have no idea why this is called Witches’ Brew as there really isn’t anything particularly Fall or Halloween-y about it.  But who cares? While I’m cuddled up on the couch shivering from watching Halloween for the millionth time, I’ll be glad I have this to calm my nerves a bit.

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The ingredients:

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Stir together beer, liqueur and juice in a pitcher.

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Serve in a glass over ice.

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Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Family Circle magazine

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I hope that putting vegetables in your baked goods doesn’t freak you out.  Some people are no stranger to zucchini bread, muffins or pancakes while others, who’ve never tried it, cringe at the very thought. These just might be the same people who can’t stand any fruit in their salad.  (Sorry, I just don’t get it.)  I know someone who would never go near a cake with zucchini in it like this Chocolate Zucchini Cake, but I’m all for it.  Would I ever sit down and make a chocolate cake for no reason if I couldn’t justify it?  Well…probably.  But regardless, somehow in my whacked out brain, zucchini justifies it.

Chocolate cake batter, flavored with cocoa, reduced-fat cream cheese and reduced-fat buttermilk, is made even more healthy with the addition of shredded zucchini.  An extra toss of chocolate chips in the batter along with the mocha-like chocolate drizzle on top only establishes this a decadent chocolate cake.  The zucchini not only adds a healthy component to this cake but it also helps it to stay moist so your aren’t left with a dry clunky dessert.  If you handed a piece of this cake to someone and didn’t tell them zucchini was in it, they’d never know unless they inspected the tiny green flakes in each piece. So why not give yourself a break and make yourself a chocolate cake? You really don’t need to justify it.

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The ingredients:

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Preheat oven to 350°F. To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust pan with 1 tablespoon flour. Place sugars, cream cheese, and vegetable oil in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Lightly spoon 2 1/2 cups flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour and next 5 ingredients (2 1/2 cups flour through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

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Stir in zucchini, 2/3 cup chocolate chips, and nuts.

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Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

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To prepare glaze, combine 3/4 cup powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons cocoa in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

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Combine milk, 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, coffee, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract in a 1-cup glass measure. Microwave at medium 45 seconds or until chocolate melts, stirring after 20 seconds. Combine powdered sugar mixture with chocolate mixture, stirring with a whisk.

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Drizzle glaze over cake.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Cooking Light magazine

Chicken Stir-Fry with Corn, Pineapple and Red Pepper

If you’ve read my blog for a little while, you might have noticed that I have thing for stir-fries. When I’m trying to eat healthy, my brain goes right to chicken and vegetables.  And since sitting down with a plain plate of baked chicken and steamed veggies doesn’t really get my blood pumpin’, I’m more likely to chop everything up and turn it into some kind of stir-fry.  The thing is: I’m pretty boring when it comes to stir-fries. If it were left to my creativity, I’d make chicken and broccoli stir-fry every time. But that is exactly why I have this blog and why I have so many recipes tucked away waiting to be made.  This Chicken Stir-Fry with Corn, Pineapple and Red Pepper is exactly the type of stir-fry that never would have occurred to me to make on my own.

Chunks of boneless chicken breast are stir-fried with sweet corn, crispy red pepper and tangy pineapple in a flavorful sauce of ginger, cumin and chicken stock. A dash of Sriracha added at the end adds a kick to the whole dish which helps to balance out the natural sweetness of the produce. This stir-fry slightly reminds me of a healthy sweet-and-sour chicken mostly because of the juxtaposition of the sweet and spicy. It never would have occurred to me to mix these vegetable together, let alone paired with pineapple. I’ve never considered throwing together a stir-fry without any green veggies or soy sauce but now I realize that nearly any combination of fruits and vegetables could work together.  Nectarine, asparagus and pea?  Why not? Plum, cauliflower and spinach? Sure!  My mind is officially blown.

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The ingredients:

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In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the chicken and stir-fry over moderately high heat for 3 minutes; transfer to a plate.

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Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Add the onion and ginger and cook for 3 minutes. Add the red pepper, cumin and stock, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring a few times, for  4 minutes.

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Add the corn, pineapple and Sriracha and stir-fry over moderately high heat until hot.

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Add the chicken and stir-fry for 1 minute.

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Season with salt and pepper; serve.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:

  • Red onion

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Like It

Source:  Food & Wine magazine

Sausage, Fennel, and Ricotta Pizza

I’ve been on a little bit of a pizza binge lately.  Whether it’s greasy takeout pizza, frozen pizza or homemade pizza, I’m all about it.  Earlier this year, I was in the habit of coming home on Fridays after work, throwing a frozen pizza in the oven, popping open a beer or two and settling in to watch Grimm with the lights off.  Yes, it’s sad, I don’t go out on Fridays.  By the time work is over for the week, I’m exhausted and look forward to a Friday night at home.  Well, now that Grimm starts again tonight, I’m right back into old habits except this time, I’m challenging myself to make a different pizza each week instead of those inexpensive frozen pizzas I’m used to having (no matter how much I love them!). This Sausage, Fennel, and Ricotta Pizza was no disappointment.

Refrigerated pizza crust is topped with browned turkey sausage, thin fennel slices, and dollops of creamy garlic-laced ricotta. Red pepper flakes and fennel seeds are scattered over the whole pie before it is baked until golden and crispy. This pizza uses fennel 3-ways: in the sausage, fresh from the bulb and the seeds. I have decided I’m obsessed with fennel. I’ve used fennel before in soups and other recipes but this pizza really stands out to me as a way to really celebrate fennel’s unique flavor. If you haven’t used a fresh fennel before, this is a great way to try it.  The slices get soft when baking and the flavor mellows out perfectly. Of course, if you really aren’t into fennel bulb, you can leave it out: the fennel seeds provide perfect flavor alone.  Pizza and beer sounds like the perfect way to spend a Friday night to me.

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The ingredients:

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Preheat oven to 500° (keep pizza stone or baking sheet in oven as it preheats). Let pizza dough stand at room temperature, covered, while oven preheats. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove casing from sausage. Add sausage to pan; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring to crumble. Add fennel bulb; cook 4 minutes or until tender.

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Roll pizza dough into a 16-inch oval on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle cornmeal over pizza stone or pizza pan; place dough on pizza stone or pan. Brush dough evenly with oil. Sprinkle sausage mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1-inch border.

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Combine ricotta and garlic in a small bowl; top pizza with teaspoonfuls of ricotta mixture.

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Sprinkle red onion and remaining ingredients evenly over pizza.

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Bake at 500° for 11 minutes or until golden. Cut into 8 slices.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:

  • Red onion

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Cooking Light magazine

Sausage-and-Feta Cheese-Stuffed Peppers

Do you ever come across a recipe and think If only I liked (fill in the blank), I’d love this! Well when I came across this recipe for Chorizo-and-Goat Cheese-Stuffed Peppers I thought, if only I liked goat cheese and if only I ate chorizo and if only this used basil instead, this would be right up my alley! Well, when in doubt, substitute!  I recreated these appetizers using what I wanted instead to come up with something similar yet my own.  Introducing Sausage-and-Feta Cheese-Stuffed Peppers!

Turkey sausage and peppers are cooked together before adding in creamy cream cheese and tangy feta cheese.  The whole mixture is scooped into mini-sweet peppers and baked creating a perfectly small, appetizer-sized stuffed pepper.  The flavor of the turkey sausage, mixed with the difference cheeses and sweet peppers make for an overall perfect appetizer in my opinion.  Yes, removing the seeds of the peppers and making them into cute little boats may be a bit time consuming but the rest of the dish is easy as pie and quick to come together.  The hardest part is waiting the fifteen minutes for these suckers to be done.  The best part of the hardest part? Eating the left over sausage mixture out of the pan with a spoon while you wait.

Sausage-and-Feta Cheese-Stuffed Peppers (makes 24 appetizers)

Adapted from Coastal Living Magazine‘s Chorizo-and-Goat Cheese-Stuffed Peppers

  • 24 baby peppers or mini-peppers
  • 1 lb turkey sausage or pork sausage (hot or sweet, up to you!)
  • 2 ounces reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 4 ounces 1/3-less fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut about 1/4 inch from top of peppers to form a “boat” (see picture below). Seed peppers, if desired, and finely chop pepper tops. Combine chopped peppers and sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until sausage is browned. Drain well, if necessary. Add feta and cream cheeses, stirring until well blended. Spoon or pipe sausage mixture into pepper boats. Place on prepared baking sheet, and bake 15 minutes or until cheese melts and peppers are tender. Garnish with basil, if desired.

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The ingredients:

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Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut about 1/4 inch from top of peppers to form a “boat.” Seed peppers, if desired, and finely chop pepper tops.

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Combine chopped peppers and sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until sausage is browned. Drain well, if necessary.

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Add feta and cream cheeses, stirring until well blended.

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Spoon or pipe sausage mixture into pepper boats. Place on prepared baking sheet, and bake 15 minutes or until cheese melts and peppers are tender.

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Garnish with basil, if desired.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions (from adapted recipe):

  • Turkey sausage
  • Reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1/3-less fat cream cheese
  • Basil

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Adapted from Coastal Living magazine

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies

Whenever someone claims to have the “Best Ever” recipe for anything, that’s a mighty tall order.  I mean, who do they think they are with all that noise? Well, I can be a sucker for new products (especially when it comes to nut butters) so when I came across this dark chocolate peanut butter in my grocery store recently, I had to give it a try.  Alone it was more peanut buttery than chocolatey which was okay with me.  With an entire jar left, I found this recipe for the “Best Ever” Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies so I put both the chocolate peanut butter and the recipe to the test.

The result was pretty much the best ever peanut butter-oatmeal cookies I’ve had.  No joke.  I mean, look at the pictures of the cookies I made.  Can they get any more perfect looking?  Since the dough was thick, I scooped equal sized amounts into my palm and rolled them in balls which made them perfectly circular when baked.  These cookies are soft and chewy, just the way you expect a cookie to be. I have to say though as far as the dark chocolate peanut butter goes, I didn’t really taste a difference in these cookies so use whatever your favorite peanut butter is. I love peanut butter cookies and I love oatmeal cookies so there’s no surprise that I loved this combination of both.  The recipe also calls for optional chocolate chips which I didn’t use but why not combine 3 kinds of cookies in one recipe if you want? No doubt, they’ll still be the best. Like, ever.

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The ingredients:

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Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside.

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In a large bowl, beat peanut butter and butter with an electric mixture until smooth. Beat in sugars, eggs, and vanilla until blended.

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Beat in flour mixture just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips, if desired.

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Drop by rounded spoonfuls, 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 13 minutes until golden brown.

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Additions:  None

Omissions:

  • Chocolate chips

Substitutions:

  • Dark chocolate peanut butter

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source: Skippy peanut butter website

Asparagus-Ricotta Tart

Sometimes I’m not sure how I should feel about seeing produce that is on sale when it’s not in season.  Usually, that’s when out-of-season produce is most expensive. So when I saw that bundles of asparagus were on sale at my grocery store, I had to wonder if something was wrong with them.  But at this point in the fall, I can only eat so much broccoli. This asparagus looked perfectly green and the spears were nice and thin, the way I like them so I scooped them up. This recipe for Asparagus-Ricotta Tart was a perfect fall-time use for them.

Eggs are mixed with ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, milk, chives, salt and pepper and poured into a pie pan before being topped with trimmed asparagus spears and baked until set and golden. Don’t like asparagus or have another veggie on hand? Use whatever vegetables float your boat here: peppers, broccoli, spinach or potatoes would work perfectly either scattered on top or mixed in with the eggs and ricotta. This is a perfect weekend morning meal served with some fruit or even a busy weeknight meal served with a salad thanks to its ease. Leftovers store perfectly in the fridge for a few days making this an easy make-on-the-weekend-for-weekday-grab-and-go breakfast.

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The ingredients:

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Mix ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese, chives, milk, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Pour mixture into a 10-inch nonstick oven-safe skillet.

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Top with asparagus spears.

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Bake in 375 degrees F  oven for 40 minutes.
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Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Good Housekeeping magazine

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