Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heavenly Pumpkin Bread

This bread is so, so good and easy too. I spotted this recipe on Tricia's blog and knew right away that I wanted to try it. The original recipe is from Cooking Light. The only real change I made was to substitute vanilla yogurt for the vanilla pudding, since that was what I had on hand. I made one loaf with chocolate chips for me and one with pecans for Joe. This bread is so moist and delicious. I ate nearly half of the chocolate chip loaf myself the night I made it. Definitely a keeper. Oh - and I scoff at the "32 servings." More like 16.... ;)

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

2 cups sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil (I used vegetable oil)
1/2 cup fat-free vanilla pudding (I used fat-free vanilla yogurt)
4 large egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
32 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 152(30% from fat); FAT 5g (sat 1.2g,mono 2.5g,poly 1.1g); PROTEIN 2g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 10mg; SODIUM 137mg; FIBER 1.1g; IRON 1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 26.5g


I came across this recipe on someone's blog, but I can't remember which one! I've searched through all the blogs I usually visit but can't seem to find it. If this was yours - please let me know! At any rate, it was delicious and easy! I made a lot of changes to the recipe based on ingredients I had on hand, and it turned out great. Plus it makes a ton so there are plenty of leftovers. The original recipe was titled "Spicy Chicken with Cornbread," but since I didn't use chicken I re-titled it "Fiesta Cornbread Casserole." The original recipe is below with my changes in italics.

Fiesta Cornbread Casserole

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces (I used ground turkey)
2 Tbl EVOO
1 package taco seasoning
2 cans black beans drained & rinsed (I only used 1 can)
1 can ro-tel drained (tomatoes with diced chilies) (I used regular diced tomatoes and added some chopped jalapenos)
2 cans Mexican corn drained (I used one small can of regular corn)
1 package corn bread with ingredients to make it
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup red bell pepper (I omitted)

Heat oven to 350 degrees spray 3 quart dish with cooking spray.Heat EVOO in large skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken until the middle is no longer pink. Make cornbread according to instructions, then stir in cheese and bell pepper. Sprinkle taco seasoning over chicken. Add black beans, Rotel and corn. Mix together then pour into prepared dish. Pour cornbread over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cornbread is golden.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Peanut Butter Perfection

These cupcakes were by far the best-received baked good I've ever made. They made Joe laugh with joy when he took his first bite, and my friend Jamie stopped mid-sentence while eating one and exclaimed "Hang on, I'm really excited about what's in my mouth right now." Not only were these delicious, but they were super easy. I cheated and used a boxed Devil's Food cake mix and pressed a mini peanut butter cup into the center of each cupcake before baking. For the frosting I made the Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting from All Recipes that I originally spotted on Ashleigh's blog. This is a fantastic frosting - great peanut butter flavor and not overly sweet. I topped each cupcake with some chopped peanut butter cups. I will definitely be making these again - soon!

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.

A Kiss of Candy Corn

I love candy corn, so of course I had to try the new Candy Corn Hershey Kisses. Unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan - they taste like combo of white chocolate and candy corn, but since I'm not big on white chocolate I haven't really been eating them. They are incredibly cute though, so I wanted to use them in some baking. I make these cookies from the recipe on the back of the Candy Corn Hershey Kiss bag. Called "Autumn Cookies" these are a peanut butter oatmeal cookie topped with the kiss. If you like crunchy cookies, you'll love these. Joe's co-workers gobbled them up when I sent them to a staff meeting.

Kisses Candy Corn Autumn Cookies
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
66 Hershey's Kisses Brand Candy Corn Flavored Candies
Heat oven to 350. Beat peanut butter and shortening in a large bowl until well blended. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together 1/2 cup oats, flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat int0 peanut butter mixture. Shape dough into 1-inch balls (mine were way bigger). Roll in reamaining oats; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten cookie with tines of fork to form a criss-cross pattern. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Remove wrappers from candies. Place 18 candies in heavy duty resealable plastic bag. Microwave at medium for 30 seconds; knead bag. If necessary microwave again an additional 15 seconds at a time, kneading after each heating until candies are melted. Cool slightly. Cut off corner of bag about 1/8 inch from point. Lightly drizzle cookies. Before drizzle sets, place candy piece in center of each cookie. (I skipped the drizzle part.)
Yields about 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Taste & Create II: Apple (no Raspberry) Pie

My first blogger event! Thanks to Nicole Susanne of For the Love of Food for letting me get my feet wet with her event. I also need to thank her for partnering us together - her blog had so many great recipes to choose from! I couldn't decide what to make, but luckily Joe made the decision for me. Last weekend he told me that he was really in the mood for an apple pie. I had only attempted homemade apple pie once before in my life. A few years ago Joe and I went apple picking and made a pie from an old family recipe of my friend. The pie was fine, but Joe and I, inexperienced as we were, didn't take into account the fact that the apples would shrink when cooked and didn't put enough in. So we ended up with crust, apples, then about 2 inches of air before the top crust. That was my last attempt. But when I found Apple Raspberry Pie recipe in Nicole Susanne's blog I knew I had found my entry.

I left out the raspberries because Joe was set on a regular apple pie. Joe did the apple peeling, coring and slicing for me while I made the crust. The crust came together quickly and easily, but I must have done something wrong because when I rolled it out it would not stay together. Pieces kept breaking off and it was unusable. I chucked the batch of dough and tried again, this time adding more water as I thought perhaps my first crust was too dry. This crust worked better - it was still a little fragile but held up when I put it in the pan. The pie came out delicious - sweet and juicy with a nice flaky crust. The filling was a little liquidy, but it did not make the crust soggy, so no harm! Joe enjoyed a big piece with vanilla ice cream right after it was baked, and then had some more for breakfast the next morning. I will definitely use this recipe again!

Apple Pie
2 Pie crusts (see recipe below)
6 Cups of peeled and sliced Apples (I used half cortland and half granny smith)
¾ Cup of Sugar
3 Tablespoons of Flour
½ teaspoon of Cinnamon
dash of Salt
1 teaspoon of Butter

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Place apples in the bowl and mix until well coated. Place 1 pie crust into a pie dish and fill with apple filling. Cut butter into little pieces and sprinkle on top of the filling. Place the second pie crust over the filling and trim and flute the edges. Cut about 6 slits into the top of the pie to let it breath while baking.Bake for 40-45 minutes or until juices begin to bubble through the slits. Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

Pie Crust

2 Cups Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
2/3 Cup plus 2 Tablespoon Vegetable Shorting for baking
4-6 Tablespoons of cold Water

Unbaked Pie Crust:
Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening, using 2 forks, until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 3 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).
Gather pastry into a ball. Place on plastic wrap and flatten, then completely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 45 minutes or until dough is firm and cold, yet pliable. If refrigerated longer, let pastry soften slightly before rolling.
Roll pastry, using floured rolling pin, into circle 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.
Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1 inch from rim of pie plate. Fold and roll pastry under, even with plate; flute as desired. Continue with directions in pie recipe.

Cincinnati Chili

This weekend was finally fall-like in weather, so I wanted to make an appropriate dinner for the cooler weather. My friend and co-worker shared with me her father's recipe for Cincinnati Chili. Her dad's job is flavor chemist and he developed this recipe to include all his favorite chili flavors. I've never had this type of chili before - it was more like a meat sauce than the chili I'm used to. It has a ton of spices in it so it's very flavorful, but not spicy. Definitely a perfect meal for fall!

Cincinnati Chili

2.5 lbs ground beef
1 tsp olive oil
4 cups water
12 oz tomato paste
1 ¾ tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp mild paprika
½ tsp hot or Hungarian paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1tsp all spice
¾ tsp celery seed
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp oregano
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp ground clove
1 oz unsweetened chocolate

Brown ground beef in olive oil, then add water, spices and tomato paste. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and replacing water as needed. Add chocolate and continue simmering for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and replacing water as needed. Serve over pasta or rice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Spicy Beef and Potatoes

In my never-ending search for crockpot recipes I came across this on Most of my crockpot recipes are for chicken, so I was eager to give this beef one a try. I was a little nervous about the bbq sauce/salsa combination, but the flavors worked. It's not the prettiest dish, but was a decent, hearty fall meal.

Spicy Beef and Potatoes

2 lb. stew beef
1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can of Italian stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 to 2 pounds potatoes, cut in large chunks
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp each of oregano, cumin and chili powder
1/2 c. BBQ sauce
1/4 c. salsa
2 c. frozen corn
l tsp. salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tb. flour or cornstarch mixed with a little cold water, optional

Combine salt, pepper, and flour; toss with beef and brown beef in 1 Tbsp. of oil in skillet. When browned on all sides, remove from pan and set aside. (I didn't bother browning the beef before putting it in the crockpot and it turned out fine.) Place potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker. Combine all ingredients except corn and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or HIGH for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, Add corn during the last hour (I put the corn in for the entire time and it was fine). If it is too thin, thicken with cornstarch and water mixture.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

It's the great pumpkin...

cookie! A ton of pumpkin cookie recipes have been floating around recently, and I really wanted to give one a try. I chose this recipe from All Recipes because I had the ingredients on hand. These smelled amazing while baking and were delicious. A nice subtle pumpkin flavor with a cinnamon kick at the end. They make a very cake-like cookie, and I actually preferred them cold from the refrigerator, just as the recipe suggested. I will definitely make these again!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional) (I didn't use)

Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Family Dinner

A few years ago my great-aunt (Christine, but dubbed "Eenie" by me as a baby) moved about an hour away to an assisted-living facility close to her son. We don't see her now nearly as often as we used to, so when she comes to stay with my Nana (which she does every few months or so) I try to take advantage of the opportunity and get together with her and Nana. Last night I had the both over for dinner and whipped up a Beef Penne Pasta Casserole. I've had this recipe for years - in fact it was one of the first real meals I ever cooked when Joe and I first moved in together. The recipe is from It's easy, makes a ton of food so it's great for company and tastes great. It also happens to be one of Joe's favorite meals. I served it with salad and biscuits and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and Nana and Eenie's company.

Beef Penne Pasta Casserole

1 pound dried penne pasta, prepared according to package directions
8 ounces lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups water
2 cans (6 ounces each) Italian tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine or water
1 tablespoon beef flavored bouillon
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I use mozzarella)

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.
COOK beef and onion in large saucepan, stirring occasionally, until beef is no longer pink. Add water, tomato paste, wine and bouillon; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until flavors are blended.LAYER ingredients as follows in ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking dish: 1/2 pasta, 1/2 sauce and 1/2 cheese. Repeat layers; cover.BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Season with salt.

FOR FREEZE AHEAD:PREPARE as above; do not bake. Cover; freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator. PREHEAT oven to 350° F. BAKE for 45 to 55 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Season with salt.
Serving Size: 6

Easy as Pie

I wanted a light dessert to go with my pasta dinner, and I was also feeling kind of lazy and didn't want to bake. I had a box of Jell-o Oreo pudding mix in the cabinet so I decided to work with that. I mixed up the pudding and poured it into a store-bought Oreo crust. I topped it with fat-free Cool Whip and sprinkled on some crushed 100 calorie pack Oreos. Easy as pie!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Meatloaf Parmesan

I've been making my meatloaf with this recipe for the past few years, and it was one of Joe's favorite meals. The meatloaf is moist and tastes like a giant meatball. I typically serve this with a side of pasta, but last night I did roasted red potatoes with Italian seasoning. I definitely recommend this! The original recipe is from

Meatloaf Parmesan

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup prepared spaghetti sauce, divided
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I use a few good shakes of garlic powder, basil and oregano)

Heat oven to 375°F. Using your hands, mix together beef, half the spaghetti sauce, bread crumbs, half the Parmesan cheese, onion, egg and Italian seasoning in a medium mixing bowl. Shape into loaf and place in an 12x8x2-inch baking dish. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce and cheese. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or to desired doneness. During baking time, if desired, use a baster to remove excess grease from pan.
Serving Size: 4

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Brought to you by Joe

Last night I had planned to make the Speedy Chicken Stir-Fry from the cover of the new Kraft magazine, using shrimp instead of chicken. However at the last minute I would up having to substitute teach a 6:30 class at the gym, so I didn't really have time to make dinner and Joe offered to take care of things. I arrived home from class around 7:45 to a delicious smelling dinner simmering on the stove, and Joe announcing that we would never be having shrimp again, as he did not realize how much work it is to peel and de-vein shrimp and never wanted to make me do it again :) I assured him that I didn't mind it and it wasn't too hard once you got the hang of it, but he was still a little leery. But given that we have several pounds of frozen shrimp from BJ's in our freezer, those little suckers shall ride again. Anyhow, this dish was good. Aside from the pesky shrimp, Joe deemed it easy to prepare and it has a nice flavor with a kick from the red pepper. I would have this again...maybe with chicken next time!

Speedy Stir-Fry

8 oz. angel hair pasta (capellini), uncooked
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips (I used shrimp)
1/2 cup KRAFT Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing (we used Good Seasoning's version)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. each: ground ginger, garlic powder, crushed red pepper
1/3 cup chopped PLANTERS Dry Roasted Peanuts (I used cashews)

COOK pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli to the boiling water for the last 3 min. of the pasta cooking time.
MEANWHILE, spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 6 to 8 min. or until cooked through, stirring occasionally. Stir in dressing, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper; cook 1 min., stirring occasionally.
DRAIN pasta mixture; place in large bowl. Add chicken mixture; mix lightly. Spoon evenly into four serving bowls; sprinkle with the peanuts.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

This was my first attempt at baking with pumpkin, and let me tell you, I will be doing it again! These muffins are incredibly delicious, as was the batter - it tasted just like pumpkin pie and Joe and I were eating it with a spoon! Not to mention how great the house smelled as they baked. I was a little skimpy with the cream cheese, so next time I will definitely use more, but these are awesome! This recipe has been floating around all over, so if anyone knows the origins, just let me know!

Almost-Like-Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves (I omitted)
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of cardamom (optional) (I omitted)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
8 oz package cream cheese*
Chopped nuts** (walnuts, pecans) (optional - I made some with pecans and some plain)

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 (I used plain). 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.

Teriyaki Turkey Burgers

This is by far my favorite thing that has come off our grill this year. I love these burgers - they are easy to make, healthy and the flavor is fantastic. Plus, they are topped with grilled pineapple, which is beyond tasty. I got this recipe from a little pamphlet of grill recipes I purchased in the Newark airport this spring while waiting for a flight for work. I've changed it quite a bit, so the recipe below is my version. Try these quick before the weather turns too cold - they are worth it!

Teriyaki Turkey Burgers

1 cup bread crumbs
1 can pineapple rings, drained, 1/4 cup of juice reserved
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 lb lean ground turkey
Teriyaki sauce for basting
Sesame or whole wheat hamburger rolls

In a bowl combine the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of juice from canned pineapple and the soy sauce. Crumble turkey into bowl and mix well. Shape turkey into four patties. Grill over medium heat 10-15 minutes, brushing occasionally with teriyaki sauce. Towards the end of grilling, add pineapple rings to grill and grill 1-2 minutes per side. Pineapple can also be brushed with the teriyaki sauce - it's good with and without the sauce! Place burgers on buns and top with a slice of grilled pineapple.