Monthly Archives: October 2011

Sweet vs. Sour!

Off of the pumpkin trend for just long enough to try something I’ve never tried before! I was home alone and bored Monday night and forgot that I bought a bundle of red grapes a while back and didn’t want them to go to waste…so I decided to put them into a muffin. I’ve never had nor seen a bakery product with grapes but I figured we use every other fruit to bake: blueberries, strawberries, apples, bananas, etc, why not grapes? Grapes have both a sweet and sour component to them, which is such a wonderful combination in the baking world! When coming up with a recipe to use, I took into consideration that grapes have a little more juice and wetness than other fruits used in baking so I adjusted a smidge for that so my muffins didn’t come out super dense or too moist. Here’s what I came up with:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 dark brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups grapes, seeded and chopped
Follow a basic recipe of combining the wet and dry ingredients separately and then sprinkle the grapes with a pinch of flour and fold into the batter. You can use any kind of sugar and milk you prefer. I went with dark brown sugar because I really like its strong flavor and thought it would balance out the sourness of the grapes and buttermilk. If you go with white sugar, I would consider adding an extra tablespoon or even quarter cup just to make sure it is sweet enough! And I went with buttermilk to bring out the sourness of the grapes but regular milk would do as well!
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They came out a little on the dry side for my preferences so next time I would decrease the flour by 1/4 cup and see if that makes any difference, otherwise the flavor was great. The sweet and sour were balanced nicely however it was difficult to pinpoint any real grape flavor. Josh is not a fan of grapes at all so I told Josh to eat one before telling him what was in them, but this obviously swayed him into knowing that it was something he ‘shouldn’t like.’ He assumed it was bran or raisins (another two on his do not eat list)…but still ate a few regardless…so they couldn’t have been that bad! He agreed with me about the dryness though and thought it was because they were ‘bran muffins!’ Just to share a quick, humorous and somewhat related story, Josh is the king of placebo (I probably could have just told him  I made blueberry muffins and he would have loved them, lol)…I gave Josh a handful of vitamins before bed one night and upon waking in the morning he mentioned how well he slept and said it must have been that 5-HTP I have been giving him…to his surprise, I never gave him any 5-HTP! Ok, one more…one morning after drinking a little too much, he asked for two Aleve, I gave them to him and continued on with my business…about 45 minutes later he mentioned how much better he felt and that his headache was completely gone….unbeknownst to him, he left the Aleve sitting on the kitchen table and never even took them! Ok enough fun, he’s a good sport though and laughs every time I bring these up…I still laugh out loud thinking about them!

Stuffed Up!

As mentioned last blog, I bought a few pie pumpkins with the intention of stuffing them for dinner and finally did so last night! I modified one of Josh’s family recipes and they turned out perfectly! I tried to make these once last year and neither Josh nor I liked them very much, so we were skeptical going in…very happy with the way they ended up! Unfortunately I forgot to take a pic of them before diving in….it’s ok though, just an excuse to have to make them again soon!!

Here is the recipe we used:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 package mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed/diced
  • 1 can cream of mushroom
  • 4 T soy sauce
  • 1-2  T Worcestershire
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 t cayenne
  • dash or two of oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I used the Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice that you microwave for 90 seconds)!
  • 1 (8-oz.) can water chestnuts, diced
  • Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 3-4 pie pumpkins
We got home kind of late last night and these usually take 45 minutes – 1 hour to bake so to speed up the process, I threw the cleaned out, cut pumpkins in the microwave for about 12 minutes to soften them up and decrease the baking time (I also sprinkled some salt and pepper on the inside of the pumpkin). While the pumpkins were in the micro, I sautéed the onions and mushrooms in some olive oil until they began to soften, then added in the garlic. Let that saute until fragrant and added the ground meat and cooked through. Depending on how lean the meat you use is, you can either drain the meat or leave the fat for extra flavor…I used 90% lean meat so I didn’t drain off the fat. Once no longer pink, I added in the cream of mushroom soup, soy sauce, Worcestershire, brown sugar, cayenne, oregano, salt and pepper and let that simmer for about 10 minutes. I then added in the rice and cheese and let the cheese melt down before scooping the meat mixture into the pumpkins and topping with more cheese before baking at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. I only had two pie pumpkins so I baked the extra meat casserole in two ramekins topped with cheese.
The result was very flavorful and moist. The meat casserole part was very good on its own however, it was especially delicious when scooped with some of the pumpkin! Here is where I really wish I had a picture to share with you guys…but I promise to make them again soon and post one! Better late than never right?!
I stole the pic from my brother, he made these the other night with a few tweaks of his own! He omitted the mushrooms (he’s ‘allergic’) and used carrots and celery instead and used cream of mushroom and chicken instead of cream of mushroom. He said they were absolutely delicious and he’d definitely make them again!

Pumpkin Tiers!

The obsession with pumpkin continues! Josh coaches a hockey team and they are having a parent party tonight I am tagging along to, so I decided to bring something festive…tis the pumpkin season after all! My grandma makes a delicious pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting so I stole her recipe for this! It is super easy to make and one of the most moist cakes I’ve ever had! I frequently request this for family gatherings, even when it’s not even close to the fall pumpkin season! Gotta love gram though because she’ll do it anyways!

  • 1 box yellow or white cake mix
  • 1 (4-oz.) package vanilla instant pudding
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 T pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t vanilla
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The basic recipe calls for a box of white or yellow cake mix, but you can make your own by combining 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 2 cups             sugar, 1/2 cup dried milk powder, 1 t baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda, however using a box mix works just as well! I used 2 8-inch round cake     pans and baked them at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

To make the cream cheese frosting, whip 1 (8-oz.) package of cream cheese with 2 cups of powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla; add a tablespoon of milk     at a time until reaching desired spreading consistency (so easy and so delicious….everything should be topped with this)!

After Josh and I each had one piece!

Just went to the grocery store yesterday and bought a few pie pumpkins and some ground beef so look for a stuffed pumpkin recipe coming soon!!

Pumpkin Bliss!

So to continue with the pumpkin fun, I went out on a limb and tried a new recipe combining two things I usually don’t like together: pumpkin and chocolate. I think the reasoning behind this is that I am not a big fan of cinnamon with chocolate…I like fudgy rich chocolate all on its own or pumpkin pie with all its cinnamon and nutmegy scrumptiousness! But I figured for the sake of the fall season, I’d give them a whirl! Not gonna lie, they’re not my favorite, but I figure I’ll share just in case some of you love the choco-pumpkin combo! You can start with any standard brownie recipe you have/love/typically use or even go with a boxed version to save some time and energy (don’t worry, no one will scoff at the idea)…and then just swirl or layer in the pumpkin cream cheese mixture. Here’s the recipe I used:

Brownies:

  • 5 oz chocolate (I prefer to use semisweet Ghiradelli)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • Dash of salt
Melt chocolate and butter together in saucepan over medium heat or in a double boiler over boiling water. Remove from heat once almost melted and stir until smooth, and stir in sugar. Add in eggs, vanilla and dash of salt. Fold in flour and pour into buttered pan (I like to use 9X9 because I love super thick, extra rich brownies, but this does increase cooking time and it is standard to use a 9X13 pan)!
Pumpkin Swirl:
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 – 2 t pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon and nutmeg combo, whatever you prefer)
Beat softened cream cheese with pumpkin puree. Add in egg, sugar and spices. If you put the pumpkin cream cheese layer between half the brownie batter, you can either leave it as a separate layer in the middle of the brownies or  swirl in with top layer of brownie batter. Or just spread it atop the brownie batter and leave it as its own layer on the top…however you prefer, it will taste the same regardless and is more a matter of presentation! Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes!
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Not the best pic but it’ll do!!
I would also like to share with you the easiest recipe in the world. Also one that is perfect for cold nights or when you are feeling under the weather! It is Josh’s family’s chicken noodle soup and it is hearty and delicious and most importantly incredibly easy!
3 chicken breasts
1 bag of shredded carrots or you can shred/dice your own (personal preference)
4 ribs celery, diced
14 cups chicken broth or stock
2 packages Reames Homestyle Egg Noodles
Salt and Pepper to taste
I like to sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, then grill it before adding it into the soup instead of letting it cook in the soup, I think it adds a bit more flavor! So while that’s grilling, heat up the chicken stock/broth/bouillon cubes and add the diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper. Once boiling, add in the noodles, cook for about 5 minutes then lower heat and let simmer about a half hour. With so few ingredients, the keys here are to use quality chicken broth or stock since it is a main flavor component, to let it simmer for a bit so the chicken flavor creeps into all of the veggies and chicken itself, and to use these particular noodles (they are pretty much the star in this soup, being so thick and gummy)! You can find the noodles in the freezer section of the grocery store, by frozen breads and pastas! Served with take-and-bake ciabatta bread rolls (our personal favorite), this is a great, easy, quick and filling dinner!
 Most of the broth has already been soaked up…easy fix, just add a cup or so more of broth when re-heating!

Gravy Train!

I realize it has been a while since my last post but luckily I’ve been really busy! And sadly we didn’t have internet at work this week…which forced me to do actual work, blah! No seriously though, I do have a new recipe I’d like to share with everyone! I saw an episode of Giada over a year ago that I’ve been wanting to make but never did, until last Friday! It is for a lamb ragu….I used her recipe, omitting the mint leaves and using a smidge more garlic and lamb meat…and used my mama’s gravy recipe for the ‘marinara sauce’ part! The lamb added such a unique, peppery flavor and the ricotta added an unexpected creaminess. It was well worth the wait, and was easier than anticipated to make which was a definite bonus!! So here it is:

1 lb Pasta (rigatoni, shells, rotini: any that hold on to a hearty meat sauce)!

2 T olive oil

2 lb ground lamb

2 shallots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup red wine

4 cups marinara (Gram’s gravy recipe to follow)!

1/2 cup ricotta

Heat large pot of water to boiling, add salt, and add pasta….cook until al dente. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the shallots and garlic, cook until softened. Add the ground lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and juices have evaporated. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Add the marinara sauce and cook over low heat until flavors meld, at least 15 minutes. Add the ricotta and mix through. Add the pasta (I chose shells, mostly because that’s what I had in my pantry but also because the shells would hold on to the meaty chunks in the sauce). Top with some fresh parsley and of course, serve with parmesan and a big glass of red wine!!

Picture of Lamb Ragu with Mint Recipe

This is the pic of Giada's with the Rigatoni! Unfortunately I do not have a pic of my own to share!

Mama’s gravy recipe (and I apologize in advance for not having exact measurements of any sort, but I had to learn how to make this through watching):

Heat enough olive oil  and vegetable oil (more olive than vegetable) to coat the bottom of a deep, large pot. Add a lot of chopped garlic and little chopped onion and soften for a few minutes. Add pork neck bones and fry until browned. Add a large can of tomato puree. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a lot of oregano, a little basil, a dash of red pepper flakes and a few splashes of red wine. Let that come to a boil, then simmer. Mix a small can of tomato paste with a can of water and add that to the gravy.  Add a bit of parmesan cheese and let simmer for a few hours. Be sure to stir occasionally, making sure to scrap the bottom and sides of the pot. (Sidenote: you can use any combination of pork neck bones, beef shank, Italian sausage, meatballs, etc for the beginning part)!