Tuesday, November 27, 2007

German Chocolate Pecan Pie

As soon as I saw this recipe in the November issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray I knew I wanted to make it for Thanksgiving. My mom and Nana are huge fans of German chocolate so I knew they would love this. Plus, I was still trying to redeem myself from Thanksgiving two years ago, when I proudly showed up at dinner with a pecan pie only to cut it and find it totally raw inside. My father still teases me about it, but I think everyone forgot about that little incident after eating this pie. It is so, so good - chocolaty and nutty with just the right amount of coconut. I used a frozen pie crust (I've made crust before and find that for all the effort it takes I like the frozen ones just as much) and it couldn't have been easier. The recipe below is how I made it with a frozen crust, but you can find the entire recipe here if you want to make your own crust. I will definitely be making this again!

German Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 frozen pie crust, pre-baked according to package directions
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) pecan halves, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sweetened flake coconut
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Pre-bake pie crust according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. In a heavy, medium saucepan, whisk together the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt with the brown sugar and corn syrup over medium heat until melted and smooth. Whisk the sugar mixture into the beaten eggs. Stir in the nuts and coconut. Spread the chocolate chips in the pie shell. Pour in the filling and bake until set, about 25 minutes. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.

Chicken Parm Pizza

This is one of my standby recipes that I'll turn to every so often. It's actually from a cooking with kids episode of 30 Minute Meals. It's very good and is quick and easy. I've made it with the ground chicken, like the recipe calls for, and also with pre-cooked chicken slices - it's good either way! The red pepper gives it a nice kick and it's perfectly cheesy.

Chicken Parm Pizza

1 store bought pizza dough
Cornmeal or flour, for dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2 turns of the pan plus a drizzle)
1 pound ground chicken
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Couple pinches crushed red pepper flakes
Couple pinches dried oregano
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone
5 to 6 leaves basil, torn or shredded

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Coat hands and work surface with a little cornmeal or flour. Using your hand or a rolling pin, form a 14-inch round pizza. Place pizza on a baking sheet or pizza stone and poke the top with a few holes. Drizzle a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil down over the dough and place in oven. Bake 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add meat and break it up with a wooden spoon. To browned meat, add garlic and onions, then season with salt and pepper. Cook together 5 to 6 minutes then add parsley, red pepper flakes, oregano and the tomatoes to the pan. Heat the sauce through.
Remove pizza from oven after 10 minutes and top with sauce and cheeses. Return to oven and bake until golden and bubbly, another 10 to12 minutes. Top the pizza with basil, cut and serve.

Like Warm Apple Pie

Without having to mess with a crust! I wanted to make a nice fall treat the Wednesday before Thanksgiving for Joe and I to have for dessert. Joe loves apple pie, but I didn't want to mess with a crust, have to peel and slice a dozen apples or have an entire pie sitting around the house. So I hit All Recipes and found this recipe for baked apples. I followed the recipe almost exactly instead I substituted pecans for walnuts. It doesn't look pretty (I'm sure it will end up on Ugly Blog Food) but it smelled wonderful and tasted great - just like a crustless apple pie. I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it was a great start to our holiday weekend.

Simple Baked Apples

6 apples - peeled, cored and sliced (I used 4 Granny Smith)
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup whole milk (I used skim)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 2 quart casserole dish, or coat with non-stick cooking spray.
Place apples in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir spice mixture into apples until evenly distributed. Fold in raisins and walnuts. Spoon into prepared dish. Pour milk evenly over apple mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until soft and bubbly. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oatmeal Cream Pies

My weekend baking was originally going to take the form of the pumpkin sandwich cookies from the November issue of Martha Stewart Living. However I've been baking with pumpkin a lot recently, and Joe had a rough week and I wanted to make something I knew he would love. Back when we first started dating (over 10 years ago!) the first thing I ever baked for him were the Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Quaker Oats - and those still rank as one of his favorite baked goods. So I decided to change my plans and make the oatmeal raisin cookies instead, but also make some in the spirit of the planned sandwich cookies. I made half of the cookies with raisins and the other half without. Then I made the filling from the Martha Stewart recipe and used it to make sandwiches with the plain oatmeal cookies - I left the raisin ones as is. These were pretty good, but I wasn't crazy about the cream cheese taste - I was going more for a Little Debbie Oatmeal Meal Cream Pie taste. I would make these again but with a different filling - and make them smaller. I tend to go a little nuts and make giant cookies! But as for the Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie recipe - you can't go wrong there!

Oatmeal Cream Pies

1/2pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
1cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins

2/3 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

While cookies bake, beat cream cheese, heavy cream and powdered sugar until fluffy and spreadable. Spread on flat side of cooled cookies and press together t0 make sandwiches.

Nacho Ordinary Chicken

I came across this recipe on Stephany's blog and was intrigued. I like Doritos. I like chicken. And I like easy, which is what this recipe was. Unfortunately, Joe and I didn't like the finished product very much. It wasn't bad, it just tasted like chicken covered in Doritos. It was a decent dinner and a unique idea but I probably won't make it again. But if you are a big Dorito fan, give it a try - it still beats plain old breadcrumbs.

Dorito/Nacho Chicken

1 Egg + 1 T water
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup crushed baked Doritos (I chopped them in my food processor)

Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and preheat oven to 350. Dip chicken in egg wash and coat in Doritos. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through. (My chicken breasts were large so I baked them for 35 minutes.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars

It's rare that I bake anything that doesn't contain chocolate, but I had several containers of oats in my cabinet that I wanted to use up. My first thought was oatmeal raisin cookies, but cookies are so time consuming, especially since my tiny oven can really only accommodate one cookie sheet at a time. So I searched All Recipes for for a bar cookie that would use up my oats and found this one. It was incredibly easy and the bars tasted great. I followed the advice of the reviewers and doubled the recipe to bake in a 13" x 9" pan. I was a little worried about cutting them, as may of the reviews said they crumbled when cut or that it was better to let them sit overnight and then cut them, but mine cooled for an hour and sliced perfectly. I wish I had used a little more jam, but I only had the one jar - next time I'll add a little more. I recommend these for an easy and light dessert. These went to school with Joe along with the pumpkin blondies for his coworkers to enjoy.

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 8 inch square pan, and line with greased foil.
Combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats. Rub in the butter using your hands or a pastry blender to form a crumbly mixture. Press 2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Still more pumpkin

Can't. Stop. Baking. With. Pumpkin. With two big cans sitting in my cupboard and Joe's faculty meeting today I knew the treat I would whip up for his fellow teachers would contain pumpkin. This recipe is originally from Libby's, but I discovered it on Erika's blog. I do not have a 15" x 10" jelly roll pan like the recipe calls for, so I poured my batter into a 9" x 13" baking dish instead. The result was blondies that were more like cake, or possibly pumpkin bread. They were very light and moist, not dense like a blondie would be. But they were still very tasty! As a result of my pan substitution I had to bake my blondies for about 35-40 minutes. I also used chocolate chunks instead of chips, because that's what I had on hand. You can never have too much chocolate!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Blondies
2 1/4 C. Flour
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 C. Brown Sugar
3/4 C. (1 1/2 sticks) Butter, softened
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
1 C. Pumpkin Puree
2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1/2 C. Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 15"x10" jelly roll pan/ cookie sheet. Beat sugar, butter and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in pumpkin and maple syrup. Beat in flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt until well combined and moist. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool a little. Cut into bars and remove to a rack to cool.

Soup's On!

It's no secret that I love my crockpot. I use it all year long, but in the cooler months it's perfect for making soups, stews and chilis. This recipe is one I've had for at least a year but have only made once before. Joe and I didn't love it in its original form, which just called for ravioli - it was too boring. When I made it this time around I substituted cheese tortellini for the ravioli and added mini meatballs. It came out hearty and delicious - perfect for a cold nigh - and it was even better the next day. The original recipe can be found here, my modifications are reflected in the below recipe.

Meatball Tortellini Soup

2 cups sliced carrots
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14 oz.) cans vegetable broth
2 (14 oz.) cans Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
18 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/8 tsp. pepper
Half of a large bag of frozen mini meatballs
9 0z. package frozen cheese tortellini
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients except tortellini and Parmesan cheese in 3-4 quart slow cooker. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours until carrots are tender. Increase heat to high and stir in tortellini. Cover crockpot and cook for 15-20 minutes until tortellini are tender. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Claim to Fame

I made these Reese's Peanut Butter Bars last year for Joe's department Christmas party and apparently they've made me famous. Joe's co-workers ask him all the time when I'll be making them again, so when Joe told me he had a department meeting this week I decided to whip them up. These are super simple (they don't even require baking) but taste incredible - just like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I also made brownies (just from a mix - I was short on time) for Joe's co-workers who didn't like peanut butter. I'm campaigning for wife of the year ;)

Reese's Peanut Butter Bars

1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
11 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I usually use more like 2 cups - I like chocolate!)
Combine graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Add melted butter and peanut butter; stir to combine. Press peanut butter mixture into a 9x13" dish. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth. Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter mixture. Refrigerate until firm. Remove from refrigerator and let sit 15 minutes before cutting to avoid cracking.

It's a Rocky Road

On Saturday afternoon I was struck with the urge to bake. I announced to Joe that I was going to whip up some pumpkin chocolate chip blondies, but that suggestion was received by Joe rather unenthusiastically. I asked him what he would prefer and he said "Something really unhealthy." I thought about what Joe liked best (and since he's not a huge sweet person there wasn't much to think about) and decided to make some rocky road brownies. I used the brownie base from the Caramel Cashew Brownies I had made a few months earlier and added chopped pecans to the batter. When the brownies were done I sprinkled the tops with more pecans, mini marshmallows and chocolate chunks, then stuck the whole thing back in the oven for a few minutes to soften the marshmallows a bit. These were delicious and definitely "really unhealthy."

My Favorite Pasta

One Friday afternoon over the summer I was watching an episode of Giada's show and saw her make this pasta. The food on cooking shows always looks amazing, but it's rare that I have the desire to jump right up and make one of the dishes immediately. This pasta, however, inspired me to run to the store the next morning and whip it up for dinner that night. The recipe is so unique and easy - just combine toasted almonds, crushed breadcrumbs and roasted red peppers and toss with olive oil over pasta. Plus, it's delicious! Nice and flavorful and light. It's quickly become my favorite dish, and one of the few things I'll eat as leftovers (I am usually opposed to leftovers for some reason). I usually toss in some cooked chicken sausage too, and this time I used penne since that's what I had available. Definitely try this dish ASAP!

Rigatoni with Red Pepper, Almonds, and Bread Crumbs
1 pound rigatoni pasta
3 cups purchased garlic-flavored croutons, (about 5 ounces)
1/4 cup slivered almonds (about 1 ounce), toasted
1 cup julienned roasted red bell peppers
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta into a large bowl.
Place the croutons and the almonds in a food processor. Pulse until it becomes the texture of bread crumbs. Add the crouton and almond mixture to the hot pasta. Add the peppers and the olive oil. Toss to combine and serve.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween Hash Browns

Okay, this dish really has nothing to do with Halloween, other than the fact that I made it for dinner on Halloween, but the title stands. Honestly, I did not expect to like this casserole. I essentially made it for Joe - his mom makes a hash brown casserole that he loves and I wanted to try a new version for him. But I ended up really enjoying it! It's nice and creamy and has a great flavor. The recipe is from Cooking Light but it came to my attention on an article from All Recipes, 10 Casseroles Under 300 Calories. I prepared it the night before as suggested in the recipe and refrigerated it all day. Then I just popped it in the oven when I got home and I was free to answer the door for trick-or-treaters while it baked. I served it as a side dish to chicken breasts but it would be perfect for a brunch too.

Hash Brown Casserole with Bacon, Onions, and Cheese

6 bacon slices (I used turkey bacon)
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (32-ounce) package frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes
1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded Classic Melts Four Cheese blend, divided (I used shredded sharp cheddar)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed 30% reduced-sodium, 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
Cooking spray

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, and crumble. Discard drippings in pan. Add 1 cup onion and garlic to pan; cook for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the potatoes; cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Combine crumbled bacon, 1/4 cup cheese, green onions, sour cream, salt, pepper, and soup in a large bowl. Add potato mixture; toss gently to combine. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Remove casserole from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Bake casserole, covered, at 350º for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly around edges and cheese begins to brown.
6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 293(31% from fat); FAT 10g (sat 4.8g,mono 3.3g,poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 12.2g; CHOLESTEROL 31mg; CALCIUM 214mg; SODIUM 720mg; FIBER 4.7g; IRON 0.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 41.4g
Happy Halloween!