Sunday, April 27, 2008

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Honey Apple Cake

This weekend I got the urge to bake something, after realizing that it had been weeks since I'd made any kind of sweet treats. I asked Joe what he would like me to make and he replied, "We haven't had good cupcakes in awhile." Naturally, being the wonderful wife I am, I responded "No, I don't want to make cupcakes - they take too long" and made something else instead. Sorry, babe... I did, at least, try to choose a recipe that I thought Joe would enjoy. I had marked this recipe from the April issue of Cooking Light and decided to give it a whirl. It's different from the usual gooey, chocolatey, peanut buttery recipes I usually gravitate to and just seemed like a good choice. And it was! This turned out to be a tender and moist cake with the tang of apples. The icing was sweet and sticky, almost like a hardened caramel. I'm happy to say that Joe really liked it, so I don't feel quite so bad about not making his cupcakes. You could easily make this a breakfast bread by leaving off the frosting - I may do that next time to make it more acceptable to eat the leftovers before noon ;)

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Honey Apple Cake

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup chunky applesauce
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
Cooking spray

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds, toasted

Remaining ingredients:
1 cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
Ground cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare cake, combine oats and 1 cup hot water in a small bowl; set aside.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Combine 1 1/3 cups sugar, applesauce, 1/3 cup honey, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed 1 minute. Add oat mixture; beat at low speed until well blended. Add half of flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat well. Add remaining flour mixture; beat well. Spoon batter into an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 48 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Place dish on a wire rack.
To prepare frosting, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup honey; cook 2 minutes or until bubbly, stirring constantly. Stir in almonds. Quickly pour frosting over cake; spread evenly using a rubber spatula.
Preheat broiler.
Broil cake 1 minute or until frosting is bubbly and golden. Cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with whipped topping; sprinkle with ground cinnamon, if desired.
16 servings (serving size: 1 cake piece and 1 tablespoon topping)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 255(19% from fat); FAT 5.4g (sat 2.1g,mono 1.7g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 3.4g; CHOLESTEROL 34mg; CALCIUM 40mg; SODIUM 193mg; FIBER 1.5g; IRON 1.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 48.9g

Mexican Sour Cream Rice

For dinner tonight I was making a simple pan grilled flounder and wanted a side dish with a little bit of a kick to go along with it. I was leaning towards rice, so I browsed All Recipes and came across this baked rice dish. I used brown rice instead of white and chipotle cheddar instead of Monterey Jack, since I had half a block on hand. I also omitted the cilantro since neither Joe or I care for it. This rice was delicious! Nice and creamy with a little bit of spice - Joe and I both thought it was great. Next time I may add some chicken and make it a meal . The flounder turned out well too - I just seasoned it with black pepper and Old Bay seasoning and grilled it on the stove. It turned out to be a very yummy meal!

Mexican Sour Cream Rice
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chile peppers
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1 (8.75 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring the rice and chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.
In the pot with the cooked rice, mix the sour cream, green chile peppers, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, corn, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and top with remaining cheese.
Bake uncovered 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Fluff and Stuff

I intended to make my beloved Hawaiian rolls to go with tonight's dinner, but being that they contain yeast the rolls need about three hours from start to finish. Time got away from me and it ended up being 3:30 before I would have had the chance to even start them. I didn't want to end up holding dinner while I waited on the rolls, so I decided to save them for another time and make biscuits instead. Always eager to find new recipes to try (and blog about) I hit All Recipes and found this one for whole wheat biscuits. Rather than roll and cut them, which is messy, I dropped them into muffin tins to make things easier. I also added about 1/4 cup of honey to the dough to sweeten it up. Overall though, I was disappointed in these. I found them neither light nor fluffy, instead they were pretty dense. And the flavor was just okay - mostly they tasted like wheat. We still ate them, since I believe that just about any carb is better than no carb, but I'm not sure I'd make them again.

Fluffy Whole Wheat Biscuits

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup milk

In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt; mix well. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk just until moistened. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently 8 to 10 times. Roll to 3/4-in. thickness; cut with a 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Are you ready to party?

When my friend Jamie emailed me last month to tell me that she and her boyfriend had gotten tickets to one of the special New York tapings of Paula Deen's show, Paula's Party, I was extremely jealous. But Jamie kindly sent me the ticket information and I managed to get a pair of tickets for Joe and I to attend today's show. Filming at the Food Network Studios in Chelsea Market, it was exciting to see where all the Food Network magic happens. We arrived at 9:15 am as instructed and were placed in line outside the studio door. As we stood there, I spotted Paula's husband, Michael, walking in. Of course I had to call out and say hello, and he stopped to greet me - for some reason I found this exciting. Anyhow, after waiting a few minutes in line we were brought into the studios and taken on a giant elevator to the 6th floor, where Paula's show would be filming. There, were given our instructions for the taping - clap loudly and show lots of energy, eat anything Paula may give you and act like its the most delicious thing in the world even if you hate it, don't pick your nose or do anything else unsightly, etc.

Armed with our do's and don't's, we were granted access into the studio where the show would be taped. Decorated in greens and blues with beads and chandeliers, it was very inviting. We were told that cameras were prohibited, but I snuck a quick shot of the set while no one was looking:

Joe and I were seated at a great table close to the "stage," but truthfully every seat was good as the studio was small and there were no more than 120 guests. Once the audience was seated, we were entertained with Paula trivia, a dance contest and other fun things until they were ready to begin filming. We also filmed a lot of "reaction" shots - the audience clapping, laughing, cheering, etc. Things moved quickly once taping began. Gordon Elliot, Paula's producer ran the show and before we knew it Paula was on set and we were rolling. Paula is adorable in person and super sweet and friendly.

The theme of the show we attended was "Lay it on Me" and all the recipes featured were layered. Paula's first guest was Cameron Matheson from All My Children and Dancing with the Stars. I wasn't very familiar with him, but he was very charming and funny. He and Paula made a french toast trifle together. It was interesting to see how the show was filmed. They would film some banter, then taping would stop and a staff member would come out and walk Paula through the recipe she would make, showing her where all the ingredients were, etc. Then they would return to filming. After Cameron, Paula welcomed Daisy Fuentes and her sister, who made a Cuban lasagna with eggplant and chorizo. The final guest was a comedienne, whose name, no matter how many times Paula told us to "remember her name, because she's going to be huge" I have forgotten. She and Paula made a layer cake with a cheesecake in the center. Between takes Paula walked through the audience and made it a point to talk to greet every single guest and shake everyone's hand. It was a fun experience and I can't wait to see the finished show!

After the taping, Joe and I grabbed yummy burgers at the Meat Packing District Diner, then went back to Chelsea Markets. I had been eager to check out Eleni's Bakery, since I had heard a lot about their cupcakes, but I found myself underwhelmed with the store and unwilling to shell out $3 for a single cupcake. I decided to spend my money on other sweet treats, so Joe and I headed to one of my favorite NY spots - Dylan's Candy Bar.

This two-story candy land has a staircase made of candy and features a vast candy store downstairs and a cafe and ice cream parlor upstairs. I could spend all day wandering that store!

Decisions, decisions. I finally settled on four chocolate bars - milk chocolate toffee and banana for my mom, a fellow chocoholic, and s'mores and hazelnut for me, and a bag of assorted candy (chocolate-covered cashews, chocolate-covered cookie dough, malt balls, etc.) which I am currently enjoying as I type this. Mmmmmm....
Overall, Joe and I had a great day in the city and I am thrilled I got to get up close and personal with the Food Network. Hopefully you'll spot Joe and I on an upcoming episode of Paula's Party! And babe, thanks for coming with me today - I love you and your willingness to follow me all of NYC in search of candy and Food Network fame!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Not Quite Kraft

My side dish for my Neely-inspired dinner was their recipe for macaroni and cheese. I was immediately intrigued by the addition of crumbled bacon and potato chips, yes, potato chips, on the top. Some of the reviews I read on the recipe said that it was bland, so instead of using all sharp cheddar cheese I used half sharp and half chipotle cheddar cheese. I'm glad I added the chipotle cheddar, as I feel it gave the dish most of its flavor. I also used a bit more salt and hot sauce and some red pepper flakes. This mac and cheese was nice and creamy and had just a little spice from the chipotle cheese. It was good, but as with every mac and cheese recipe I've made, I feel like something is missing. Maybe I just love the blue box too much to find an adequate substitute! I did, however, enjoy the nice parmesan, bacon and chip crust on top - a nice salty crunch to compliment the creamy cheese. When there's no Kraft around, I'll definitely use this recipe again!

Macaroni and Cheese

6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk, warm
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Dash salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash hot sauce
Dash Worcestershire sauce
3 cups shredded Cheddar
1 pound cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente
1 cup crushed potato chips
5 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large saucepot over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the warmed milk and bring to a boil, continue to whisk constantly. The mixture will thicken as the heat increases. Continue to stir while adding the dry mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, salt, pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Stir in the 3 cups of Cheddar until it melts.
Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and add to a 3 quart casserole dish.
Sprinkle the chips, bacon and Parmesan on top and bake for 35 minutes.

Down Home

I watch a lot of shows on the Food Network, yet its rare that I'm inspired to make the meal that I see prepared. However, last weekend I was watching an episode of Down Home with the Neelys and thought "I would make every one of those recipes!" I didn't make every one, but I did make two for our dinner with friends Lauren and Pat and their son Ryan. The first was this barbecue turkey meatloaf, and I was quite pleased with the way it turned out. I did not make the barbecue sauce from scratch, as the recipe suggests, but instead used a bottle of Kansas City Barbecue Sauce. Also, rather than make up an entire batch of the Neely's barbecue seasoning, I simply added a few pinches of the paprika, sugar and onion powder. I thought this meatloaf was great - nice and moist with a tangy kick. And pretty healthy too!

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf

Pinch paprika
Pinch sugar
Pinch onion powder
1 teaspoon crab boil seasoning, (recommended: Old Bay)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce, reserving 1/2 cup for the top
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, mix BBQ seasoning, crab boil seasoning, soy sauce, beaten egg, 1 cup of the BBQ sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
In a saute pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Add onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper and garlic. Saute until tender. Remove from heat and add to wet mix.
Pour mixture into bowl with the ground turkey. Add bread crumbs and mix all together with your hands.
Transfer the meat mixture to a cookie sheet or baking pan. Using your hands, shape the meat into an oblong or rectangular shape. *Cook's Note: Alternately, you can pat the meat into a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and pour 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce on the top of the loaf.
Bake for 35 minutes. Remove and add the reserved 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce to the top and continue to bake for 20 more minutes.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cookies on a whim

I had no intention of baking anything tonight. I planned to hit the gym, eat dinner and lounge on the couch with America's Next Top Model. However, while browsing one of my favorite blogs, Cookie Madness, I came across these cookies and was overcome with the urge to bake them. Immediately. I had all the ingredients at home, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use up one of the chocolate bunnies I had left over from Easter. I still went to the gym and had dinner, but instead of bonding with ANTM (which was a recap show anyway, hmph) I made these cookies. Joe and I enjoyed them - they were a little crunchier that I prefer (I love my cookies nice and soft) but they were a great treat for a Wednesday evening.

One Bowl Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Cookies

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup all purpose or white whole wheat flour (95 grams)
15 miniature peanut butter cups, frozen and chopped or 3-4 oz milk chocolate (I used a medium-sized solid chocolate rabbit)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and both sugars. You can use an electric mixer, but I used a spoon. Beat in the peanut butter, vanilla, baking soda and salt. Beat vigorously and thoroughly to distribute baking soda and salt, scraping sides as you go, then add the egg and beat just until it is mixed in. Add the flour and stir, do not beat, until it is absorbed, then mix in the cups.
Using a small cookie scoop (2 tsp) or a rounded teaspoon, drop dough onto two ungreased cookie sheets, 10-12 cookies to a sheet. Flatten tops slightly. Bake on center rack, one sheet at a time for 12 minutes or until cookies appear set.

Makes 20-24 cookies (Anna clearly shows more restraint than I when sizing her cookies - I only got 11!)

Still baking bread

I can't stop! Ever since I had success with yeast a few months ago, I am dying to try out a new bread recipe every chance I get. This one was for standard Italian bread that I found on All Recipes. I love when a recipe lets you prepare the dough in the breadmaker but then bake it in the oven. To me, its the perfect balance of convenience and homemade. These loaves were easy to make and delicious, and I love the way the center slit makes them look like they came from a bakery! I followed the recommendations on All Recipes and placed the dough directly on the baking sheet to rise rather than transfer it after it had risen. This worked out perfectly and I had nice, puffy loaves to enjoy.

Italian Bread

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

1 egg
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons cornmeal

Place flour, brown sugar, warm water, salt, olive oil and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Form dough into two loaves. Place the loaves seam side down on a cutting board generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise, until doubled in volume about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
In a small bowl, beat together egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the risen loaves with egg mixture. Make a single long, quick cut down the center of the loaves with a sharp knife. Gently shake the cutting board to make sure that the loaves are not sticking. If they stick, use a spatula or pastry knife to loosen. Slide the loaves onto a baking sheet with one quick but careful motion.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Love is...

a man and his steak. Just look how happy this giant, heart-shaped rib eye made Joe! It was a gift from Kara and Audrey, Tucker's doggie daycare "teachers," to thank Joe for helping them master their brand new Wii. I don't eat steak, so Joe shared this with his brother John. It was, as Joe said, "the best steak he's ever had." So thanks Kara and Audrey - you made Joe's week!

Mexican My Way

I'll admit that I'm not a huge lover of Mexican food - too much spice and grease...just not my style. I do, however, like things like salsa, tortilla chips and cheese, so that part of Mexican food is fine with me. This easy meal was inspired by the above! I made a simple salsa-coated baked chicken and some yummy quesadillas that you toast under the broiler. Both the chicken and quesadilla recipes came from All Recipes, but I modified both slightly. I left the cheese off of the chicken, since I felt like we had plenty in the quesadillas, and I left the salsa out of the quesadillas but added some chopped jalapenos. We topped our meal with some extra salsa and sour cream and it was delicious! And so easy! This will definitely go on the menu rotation!

Salsa Chicken

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
1 cup salsa
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I omitted)
2 tablespoons sour cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C)
Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle taco seasoning on both sides of chicken breasts, and pour salsa over all.
Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 25 to 35 minutes, or until chicken is tender and juicy and its juices run clear.
Sprinkle chicken evenly with cheese, and continue baking for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with sour cream if desired, and serve.

Cheese Quesadillas

4 (6 inch) flour tortillas (I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup salsa (I omitted)
2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tbsp diced jalapenos

Place two tortillas on a greased baking sheet. Top each with salsa, cheese and remaining tortillas. Broil 4 in. from the heat for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Cut into wedges.