Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carrot-Apple-Nut Muffins

One of my most favorite things about cooking and baking for a hobby is bringing treats to friends and family.  Everyone appreciates homemade treats, especially my coworkers and M's coworkers.  Whether I bake up simple cookies, decadent cupcakes, or scrumptious muffins and breads, I love the feeling of knowing I'm bringing a smile and some comfort to others.

These muffins were just the right kind of comfort for a day that should've felt like fall but, instead, felt like the middle of summer.  The flavors were decidedly inspired by autumn, but weren't too heavy or filling.

I don't think I have to tell you they were all gone within an hour...

Carrot-Apple-Nut Muffins
from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. oat bran or wheat bran
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2/3 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. plain yogurt or 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I recommend buttermilk for a lighter texture)
4 TBSP (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 c. grated, peeled tart apple (about 1 large)
1 1/4 c. finely grated, peeled carrots  (about 2 medium)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
1/2 c. golden raisins
2 TBSP granulated sugar mixed with 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 

1.  Preheat an oven to 400°F.  Butter 16 standard muffin-pan cups or line with paper liners.  (You may need to add more liners once you've divvied up the batter.  I ended up with 20 muffins.)

2.  In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, bran, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar. Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on low speed until blended, then beat in the yogurt and butter. Add the flour mixture and beat just until half moistened. 

4.  Add the apple, carrots, nuts and raisins and stir just until evenly distributed. Do not over mix.

5.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup about three-fourths full. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15 to 18 minutes. 

6.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for two minutes, then turn the muffins out onto the rack. Serve warm. The muffins may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days, or frozen for up to one month. Makes 16-20 muffins.

one year ago: black forest cheesecake, one of the most decadent desserts I've ever created
two years ago: simple sloppy joes and applesauce spice cookies

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quinoa Pilaf

I wish I had some fancy and intricate recipe to here with you here, readers.  But I don't.  All I've got is this simple, delicious, and highly adaptable side dish recipe.  It also keeps beautifully for another night or lunches the next day.  I'd say we have some version of this a couple of times a month.

What you should take from this post isn't the exact recipe, but the proportions.  As long as you use keep the basic ratio of quinoa to liquid in mind, you can add as little or as much of the add-ins as you like.  You can also adjust the flavors to suit your entree.

It's as simple as it gets.  Enjoy!

Quinoa Pilaf
an "Apple a Day" original

1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 c. chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
3 TBSP parsley, roughly chopped

1.  Bring the quinoa and stock or water to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for 18 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, add one TBSP oil to a saute pan and cook onions until slightly soft and translucent, about five minutes.

3.  When quinoa is cooked, remove from the heat, uncover, and fluff with a fork.  Fold in remaining oil, onions, cranberries, walnuts, and parsley.  Serves six as a side.

two years ago: lemon crostata with fresh figs and goat cheese

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Salmon Florentine

Talk about a fantastic meal!  This salmon was off the charts.  It was healthy, smelled divine, looked beautiful, and came together so quickly.  Served with a colorful and tasty quinoa pilaf, it was a wonderful weeknight meal that could easily be served to company.  Gotta love that!

Salmon Florentine
adapted from Ellie Krieger, So Easy

10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 c. minced shallots
2 tsp. minced garlic
5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
4 (6-oz.) salmon fillets, rinsed and patted dry

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. 

2.  Using your hands, squeeze spinach of all excess liquid.

3.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook for three minutes until they begin to soften. Add garlic and cook for one minute more. Add spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper and cook an additional two minutes. Remove from heat and let cool approximately ten minutes. Add ricotta and stir to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

4.  Using your hands, pack approximately 1/2 cup spinach mixture on top of each salmon fillet, forming mixture to the shape of the fillet. Place fillets on a rimmed baking sheet or glass baking dish and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through.

one year ago: quesadillas with butternut squash, black beans, and feta--one of my most favorite fall recipes
two years ago: warm couscous salad

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola

So it's almost autumn.  It's almost time for changing leaves, crisp mornings, and hearty dinners.  Well...maybe not in Phoenix.  It's pretty much never fall in Phoenix, but I refuse to let that stop me from burning my Macintosh apple candle, putting out fall decorations, and cooking those dinners that warm you from the inside out.

This dinner tastes like an autumn meal without having to run the stove all day.  The early fall evenings aren't quite cool enough yet and this meal gives you a "simmered all day" flavor without heating the house up too much.  Served with roasted zucchini and homemade focaccia bread, it was just perfect for bringing a little early fall into the desert.

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, Giada's Family Dinners

3 TBSP olive oil
4 (1-in. thick) bone-in pork loin center-cut chops (about 12 oz. each)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. button mushrooms, sliced 
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, in juice
2 tsp. herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
2 TBSP chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves


1.  Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add the pork chops to the skillet and cook until they are brown and an instant-read meat thermometer inserted horizontally into the pork registers 160 degrees F, about three minutes per side. Transfer the pork chops to a plate and tent with foil to keep them warm.

2.  Add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic to the same skillet and saute over medium heat until slightly tender, about four minutes.

3.  Add the tomatoes with their juices, herbes de Provence, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend and the juices thicken slightly, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and more red pepper flakes.

4.  Return the pork chops and any accumulated juices from the plate to the skillet and turn the pork chops to coat with the sauce.

5.  To serve, place one pork chop on each plate. Spoon the sauce over the pork chops. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

one year ago: sugar and spice cupcakes made for a baby girl's arrival and cheese straws made with quick puff pastry
two years ago: Korean barbecued beef and honey-peach ice cream

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chicken and Zucchini Pizza

Now this one is a trip down memory lane.  

Back in my college days at American University (Go Eagles!) I ate the usual college diet of dining hall food (ours actually wasn't that bad), Chinese take out, Papa Johns, and midnight runs to Krispy Kreme.  I also loved to run through our students union for quick pick ups lunches in between classes.  The Marketplace, as it was called then, was a popular place.  Not only were they the only place on campus with mango Snapple, they also had delicious Greek and Southwestern chicken wraps.  And this pizza...

Oh how I loved my chicken and zucchini pizza.  I'm sure it was the pesto that first sucked me in.  The zucchini was enough to make me buy it.  Once I had a bite, it was my favorite.  They only sold this particular pizza once in a blue moon, but I checked almost every day and bought it whenever I saw it.

I remembered this pizza the other day and knew I had to make it.  I'm so glad I did.  It made me smile and laugh thinking about my college days back in D.C.  Pizza with a side of nostalgia...can't beat it.

chicken zucchini pizza

Chicken and Zucchini Pizza
an "Apple a Day" original

1/2 recipe basic pizza dough
2 TBSP cornmeal
1-2 tsp. olive oil
3/4 c. pesto, either store bought or homemade
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
1 c. cooked chicken, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1/2 small yellow or summer squash, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

1.  Preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.  

2.  Sprinkle your shaping surface lightly with cornmeal, then shape with lightly floured hands.  Transfer dough to pizza stone or pizza peel, if you have one.  Brush the outer edge with olive oil.

3.  Spread pesto over crust, then top with the pesto, cheeses, chicken, and zucchini.  Finish with salt and peppers, according to taste. 

4.  If using a pizza peel, transfer pizza to stone and bake for 10-13 minutes, or until crust is lightly golden brown.  Let cool three minutes before serving.

one year ago: frittata with zucchini and goat cheese and simple arugula salad with M's favorite lemony vinaigrette
two years ago: aromatic noodles with peanut-lime sauce and raspberry ebelskivers

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ricotta-Lemon Pancakes

I know, I know.  I recently proclaimed myself a waffle lover and you're wondering how and why I've changed my mind so quickly.  I haven't.  I'm still a waffle girl.  Even as a waffle girl, I enjoyed every bite of these delicious, light, and fluffy pancakes.  The lemon flavor wasn't overpowering, which made them the perfect palette for a good helping of fresh berries.  How could I find anything wrong with that?

Ricotta-Lemon Pancakes
from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking

1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 c. 1% milk
3 large eggs, separated
2 TBSP granulated sugar
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 TBSP grated lemon zest
Kosher salt
pinch of cream of tartar
4 c. mixed berries
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
about 1 TBSP canola oil
1-2 TBSP confectioners' sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Farenheit.

2.  Place the ricotta in a large bowl.  Add the milk, egg yolks, and granulates sugar and whisk to combine.  Add the flour, lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Fold until blended.

3.  In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar and, using a whisk or handheld mixer on medium speed, beat until soft peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the whites into the ricotta mixture until just blended.

4.  In medium bowl, combine the berries and lemon juice.  Stir gently to blend and set aside.

5.  Place a large nonstick griddle or frying pan with low sides over medium heat.  (Hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle and immediately evaporate.)  Brush the surface with a thin layer of canola oil.

6.  For each pancake, ladle a scant 1/3 c. batter onto the hot surface.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pancakes and the bottoms are lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes.  Carefully flip and cook until the other side is slightly browned, 2-3 minutes longer.

7.  Transfer to an oven-proof platter and place in the oven to keep warm.  Do not cover the pancakes or they will get soggy.  Repeat with the remaining batter.

8.  Just before serving, dust pancakes with confectioners' sugar.  Serve berries on the side.  Makes 12 pancakes.

two years ago: heirloom caprese salad with pesto vinaigrette

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grilled Portobello "Benedict"

I love cooking breakfast.  It's probably my favorite meal to cook.  The problem is, so many of the breakfast recipes I want to make are so, so unhealthy.  I might as well make dessert!

I knew I could solve this problem by turning to Ellie Krieger, my very favorite health-conscience cook.  Her new cookbook, So Easy, is just incredible.  I bought it without even opening it.  After my 100% success rate with recipes from her first cookbook, The Food You Crave, I knew I'd love everything she put in the new book.  This little gem was no exception.

By cooking the portobello until it releases its juices, you get a great, rich flavor which contrasts beautifully with the pungent and fresh pesto.  This breakfast won't give you that heavy creaminess you'd get from a hollandaise sauce, but that was fine with me; it wasn't what I was after.  Both M and I enjoyed every bite of this filling and healthy breakfast.  We can't wait to have it again!

Grilled Portobello "Benedict"
from Ellie Krieger, So Easy

cooking spray
4 portobello caps (about 4 oz. each)
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
4 slices Canadian bacon
4 tsp. store-bought or homemade pesto (or more)
4 large eggs
4 large egg whites
2 TBSP water
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
4 tsp. freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

1.  Preheat a grill or grill pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium-high heat.

2.  With a spoon, gently scrape out the gills from the inside of the mushroom caps, taking care not to break the caps.  Brush both sides with the oil and sprinkle with salt.  Grill the mushrooms until they are tender and their juices begin to release, about seven minutes per side.  Transfer each mushroom to a plate, top side down.

3.  One the same grill or grill pan, cook the Canadian bacon slices until they are warm and grill marks have formed, about 30 minutes per side.  Place one slice of bacon on each mushroom cap.  Spread pesto over the Canadian bacon.

4.  While the mushrooms are grilling, whisk the eggs, egg whites, and water together in a medium bowl until well combined.  In a medium-sized skillet over medium-low heat, scramble the eggs until cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper.

5.  Divide the scrambled eggs over the pesto and sprinkle with the cheese and basil.  Serve immediately.

two years ago: balsamic-marinated skirt steak and basic oven-roasted potatoes

Thursday, September 2, 2010

31 While 31--Peach and Blackberry Cobbler with Crystallized Ginger

So, I was all prepared to write a post about how I think I'm more of a crumble/crisp girl than I am a cobbler girl.  I was going to say that the whole reason I put peach cobbler on My 30 was to give it one more try before I officially decided I'd rather make a crumble or a crisp.  I was going to talk about how, as a good Oklahoma girl, I should really love cobbler. 

Perhaps it's an Oklahoma thing.  You see, she's also from Oklahoma, where you're supposed to love college football, ribs, and cobbler.  (For the record, I fail on two accounts.  Good thing I love me some college football.  GO POKES!)  Perhaps as Oklahoma girls, we feel some guilt about not swooning over fresh cobblers and instead secretly wishing we had that warm fruit topped with a mix of oats, walnuts, cinnamon, and butter.  Perhaps I should stop making conjectures about Orangette and just feel pretty darn flattered that I even had an idea in common with someone who is such a great writer.

In reality, I should talk about how outstanding this cobbler was and how the crystallized ginger gave it the most amazing lingering warmth.  The cobbler topping was delicious and flaky and was the perfect match for the fruit.

I guess I should finish with mentioning I now understand why other people love cobbler so much.

Peach and Blackberry Cobbler with Crystallized Ginger
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2008

For the biscuits:
1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour 
1/4 c. chopped crystallized ginger 
2 TBSP sugar
1 1/2 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 TBSP (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
2/3 c. plus 1 TBSP half and half

For the fruit filling:
2 1/2 lbs. peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slice 
2 (1/2-pint) container fresh blackberries 
1/4 c. sugar 
1/4 c. chopped crystallized ginger 
2 TBSP cornstarch 
2 TBSP raw sugar

1.  To make the biscuits, place flour, crystallized ginger, sugar, baking powder, and salt in processor; blend to combine. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup half and half and process just until moist clumps begin to form. 

2.  Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead briefly just until dough comes together, about 4 turns. Divide dough into eight equal portions. Shape each into two-inch ball; flatten each to 3/4-inch thickness.  Biscuits can be made two hours ahead.  Just cover and chill until ready to use.

3.  For the fruit filling, combine peaches and blackberries with sugar, crystallized ginger, and cornstarch in large bowl; toss to coat. Let stand until juices begin to form, tossing occasionally, about 30 minutes.

4.  Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Farenheit. 

5.  Butter 2-quart baking dish or 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer fruit mixture to prepared dish. Place biscuits atop fruit mixture, spacing slightly apart. Brush biscuits with remaining tablespoon half and half.  Sprinkle with raw sugar.

6.  Bake cobbler until fruit mixture is bubbling thickly and biscuits are light golden, about 50 minutes. Cool cobbler 20 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

two years ago: mango-pineapple salsa