Monday, September 24, 2007

Its Fall!

Yesterday, I finally got into the spirit of fall baking (and the start of pumpkin season for me) and made a recipe I found on a cooking board for Almost Like Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins. I think this is the best pumpkin muffin I have ever had. This recipe was better than my local Starbucks because I have gotten several stale pastries from them. The recipe makes a huge batch so be prepared to eat them or freeze them. I couldn't find the cheesecake flavored cream cheese mentioned in the recipe so I used a cinnamon swirl.

Almost-Like-Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Pinch of cardamom (optional)

1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
8 oz package cream cheese*
Chopped nuts** (walnuts, pecans) (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients together except cream cheese and nuts. Fill muffin tins (greased or paper cups) half full. Put 1-2 tsp cream cheese in the middle, pressing down. Sprinkle with 1 tsp chopped nuts. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the muffin part (do not touch the cream cheese!). Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely. Do not touch the cream cheese until it cools, as it is very very hot. Makes 24 muffins.

*The best cream cheese to use is the cheesecake flavored kind. Put the entire tub or brick on a piece of tin foil, and shape it into a long log. Put it in the freezer while you mix and fill the pans, up to an hour. Unwrap and cut with a sharp knife. If the disks are too big around, cut thick slices and then cut them in half. This keeps the cream cheese in one big lump, and also lets you push it down into the batter.

**Starbucks uses chopped pumpkin seeds, which are very good if you can find them. I like walnuts, but any kind of nuts work well.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Peach Gratin with Mint Sugar

I found this recipe a while back in the local newspaper. I decided to try it last night and was not disappointed. This was quick to make and delicious. The mint sugar really added a nice touch. The peaches are topped with a custardlike batter that just surrounds the fruit. When baked it forms a delicious crust over the peaches. Below is the recipe with my changes noted.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter for greasing pan

2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup sugar; divided use

4 ripe peaches, peeled, halved, pitted (I used frozen sliced peaches)

1 egg

¼ cup milk

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

(I also added 1 tsp. almond extract to the batter)

¼ cup slivered almonds, chopped ( I omittd)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint; divided use

Ice cream or crème frache (optional)

Sprigs of fresh mint (optional garnish)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heavily grease a 9-inch pie pan with butter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar evenly over bottom of prepared pie pan. Place halved peaches cut-side down in dish.

In bowl, combine egg, milk, flour and salt. Mix well with a fork. Pour batter evenly over peaches. In small bowl, stir ¼ cup sugar, almonds and half of chopped mint; sprinkle over mixture.

Bake until crust forms and peaches are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining mint. Serve warm or hot. If desired, serve with ice cream or crème frache and garnish with fresh mint. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Mixed Green Salad with Goat Cheese and Figs

I was in Whole Foods yesterday and saw the most delicious looking fresh figs. Fig season is very short so I knew I had to make something with figs. This salad is one of my favorites. It was inspired by a meal we had at the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma, California. I substitute dried figs when fresh are not in season.

Salad: Mixed Greens, Sliced Fresh Figs, Goat Cheese and Pecans
Dressing: Whisk together a tablespoon or so of Dalmatia Fig Spread (sold at Whole Foods), lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. I don't have exact measurements I just eyeball it and taste.

BBQ Pork Chops and Smoked Gouda Grits

I was flipping through my Lady and Sons cookbook recently and found this pork chop recipe. It looked so simple I added it to my list of recipes to try. Then a few weeks ago I had dinner at a local restaurant and they served the most delicious smoked Gouda grits. I like grits anyway-its the southerner in me but adding smoked Gouda takes it to a whole different level. Inspired by that meal I searched for the best looking smoked Gouda grits recipe and I think I found it! We really enjoyed both of these dishes. The pork chops had a sweet tangy taste that was a nice complement to the smokiness of the grits. I served this along with Mixed Green Salad with Figs and Goat Cheese and a Peach Gratin which I have posted separately.

Barbecue Style Pork Chops
Source: The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook

6 center-cut pork chops, trimmed of fat
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 14 1/2 oz can whole tomatoes, crushed (I used Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced tomatoes that I crushed)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown pork chops in oil. Drain, then place in 13x9 baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients and spoon over chops. Bake for 45 minutes.

Smoked Gouda Grits

Note: This recipe makes a huge quantity, I would halve it next time.

6 cups of water or low sodium chicken broth (I used chicken broth)
2 cups milk
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 cups uncooked quick cooking grits
1 2/3 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Bring the first four ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, gradually whisk in grits. Cover and reduce heat, allow to simmer, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add cheese and butter stirring until melted.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Macaroni Roma

A few weeks ago, I copied this recipe off a cooking board I read. (For those other nesties out there-this was a recipe posted by Glimmergal.) I've had this recipe on my list of recipes to try for a few weeks now and finally decided it would make the perfect Sunday evening meal. It was absolutely delicious. We even went back for seconds! Here is the recipe:

Macaroni Roma

Source: Gilmmergal

8 oz. Package elbow macaroni

1 medium onion, diced

1 lbs. Lean ground beef or turkey

1 tsp. sugar

½ tsp. basil

dash of black pepper

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

½ lb. Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

½ cup bread crumbs

¼ cup butter

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 ½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. oregano

1 ½ tsp. chili powder

28 ½ oz. can tomatoes

1 pint creamed cottage cheese

2 Tbsp. Butter melted

¼ grated parmesan cheese

  1. Cook macaroni until tender as directed on package. ( I would wait to do this step until after the sauce is done)
  2. Rinse with cold water, drain thoroughly.
  3. Melt ¼ cup butter in a deep skillet, add onion and garlic. Cook until transparent.
  4. Add meat and cook until brown, add seasonings, tomatoes & tomato paste.
  5. Simmer slowly for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Stir occasionally.
  6. Combine cottage cheese and macaroni. Pour a little sauce in a buttered 2 ½ qt. Casserole.
  7. Top with one third of macaroni mixture, one third of shredded cheese.
  8. Repeat.
  9. Use last one third of sauce on top.
  10. Combine melted butter, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over top.
  11. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 325° oven for 1 hour.
  12. Let stand for 10 minutes before servings.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Crock Pot Tortilla Soup

Last night I made one of my absolute favorite crock pot recipes, tortilla soup. I love this recipe not only because it is so delicious, but also because I almost always have these ingredients in my pantry and its very easy to throw together. No surprise, this recipe is also from my Southern Living Slow Cooker cookbook. The soup definitely looks better garnished but tonight, we were hungry and I was in a rush to take the picture!

Chicken-Tortilla Soup

Source: Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook

2 skinned and boneless chicken breasts, cubed

1 10 oz package frozen whole kernel corn, thawed

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, pressed

2 14 oz cans chicken broth

1 10 ½ oz can tomato puree

1 10 oz can diced tomatoes and green chiles

¾ tsp salt

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

Combine first 12 ingredients in 4 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on High 6 hours. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Serve with sour cream, tortilla chips and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Pot Roast

To go along with my fall baking, see the cinnamon rolls post below, I decided it was time for the first pot roast of the season. Pot Roast is one of my favorite things to make in the crockpot. During the year I make lots of variations-Italian Pot Roast or Red Wine Braised Pot Roast but every now and then I come back to the good old fashioned pot roast with onion soup mix and cream of mushroom soup. Probably not gourmet, but its good comfort food.

2 Tbsp oil
3 1/2-4 lb chuck roast
1 can cream of mushroom soup (Whole Foods and Kroger's now sell Organic!)
1 1/4 cup water
1 pouch dry onion soup mix
1/2 package baby carrots
6 medium potatoes, quartered or baby new potatoes

Heat oil in dutch oven. Add beef and brown on all sides. Mix water, soup mix and cream of mushroom soup. Add to crockpot. Place vegetables in crockpot and add meat. Cook on Low 8 hours. I also like to season mine with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

I was in a fall baking mood yesterday, so I decided to make Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls. I used a recipe from the June 2007 issue of Cooking Light. The rolls were good but not a traditional cinnamon roll. I served them with our pot roast dinner since they were more bread like. The whole wheat flour gives them a "healthier taste." The rolls are not a very sweet roll either. If I made them again, I would add more filling and probably do a cream cheese icing.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls
Source: Cooking Light


1 1/2 packages dry yeast (about 3 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°)
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 11 1/4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (about 7 ounces)
Cooking spray

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup raisins

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 teaspoons fat-free milk

To prepare dough, dissolve yeast in warm milk and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add butter and next 5 ingredients (through egg white); stir well. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; roll into a 16 x 12-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Coat surface of dough with cooking spray.

To prepare filling, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; sprinkle over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle raisins over dough, pressing gently into dough. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with a long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam to seal. Cut the dough into 16 rolls. Place the rolls, cut sides up, in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Uncover rolls. Bake at 375° for 22 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare glaze, place powdered sugar and vanilla in a small bowl. Add 5 teaspoons milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring to form a thick glaze. Drizzle glaze evenly over rolls.

Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1 roll)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Orzo Stuffed Peppers

Tonight I decided to make Giada's Orzo Stuffed Peppers. It looked like the perfect summer meal and a fun way to update the usual stuffed pepper recipe. It was also a fairly easy recipe. This dish turned out really well. The only change I made was to dice some chicken sausage from Whole Foods and add it to the mix to make the meal a little more substantial. This recipe is so versatile. Fresh basil could easily be substituted for the mint and different meats such as ground turkey, cooked chicken or other sausages added. It would also be fun to switch up the cheeses to use a smoked cheese or mozzarella or different blend. This recipe would also be a good side dish with salmon.

Orzo Stuffed Peppers
Recipe Courtesy of Giada de Laurentis

1 (28-ounce) can Italian tomatoes
2 zucchini, grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
6 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and break apart using a pair of kitchen shears or your finger tips. Add the zucchini, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes. The orzo should be only partially cooked. Use a fine mesh sieve to transfer the orzo to the large bowl with the other vegetables. Stir the orzo into the vegetable mix to combine. Transfer the warm chicken broth to a 3-quart baking dish.

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all ribs and seeds. Cut a very thin slice from the base to help the peppers stand up.

Place the peppers in the baking dish with the warm chicken broth. Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the top of each pepper with cheese and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully transfer the orzo stuffed pepper to a serving plate.