Monday, October 31, 2005

Pumpkin and White-Chocolate Muffins

Our local newspaper, The Star Ledger , sends out a supplement every Friday. I have no idea what's in it because I never get farther than the front page which features a weekly recipe. I have cut out and saved a few but never felt motivated to actually try them until I saw this one for Pumpkin and White-Chocolate Muffins. It was the white chocolate chips that piqued my interest. Most muffin recipes call for semisweet chocolate or milk chocolate chips.

While I was making these, I had my doubts that this recipe was going to work. It specifically calls for 12 muffins. There was so much batter that it filled the 12 muffin cups to the top. I'm sure we've all had the unpleasant experience of overflowing muffins when we have filled the muffin cups more than the usual 2/3 full. Thankfully the small amount of baking powder meant that these muffins did not rise much at all so aside from a couple of overly large ones, they came out surprisingly well. I have to admit I omitted the nuts. I don't know if an additional 1/2 cup of walnuts would have been too much for only 12 muffins.

The taste was absolutely delicious. They were even better the second day but I just didn't care for the white chocolate chips in them. I honestly think that this recipe would be much better if it were made with semi-sweet chocolate chips. My preference would be for the mini chips rather than full sized ones.

Verdict: Not bad, but I don't think I will be making these again.

Pumpkin and White-Chocolate Muffins

(Source: The Star Ledger )

1 2/3 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

Pinch nutmeg

2 eggs, lightly beaten

8 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Blend together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Make well in middle of dry ingredients. Place eggs, melted butter and pumpkin in well. Blend together well. Stir in chips and nuts. Spoon batter into 12 muffin tins fitted with paper muffin liners. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove to wire rack.

Yields 12 muffins.

Recycle: pumpkin puree can

Compost: eggshells

Friday, October 28, 2005

Crazygramma's Apple Betty

When I moved into my current home ten years ago, I received a slow cooker as a house warming gift. I was thrilled. As the single mother of a young child, I thought it would be a time saving way to prepare nutritious, home cooked meals. Alas, it was not to be. I have found very few slow cooker recipes that I actually like. I have to admit, though, that I have never looked at dessert recipes using the slow cooker. Crazygramma's Apple Betty recipe sounded too good to pass up, especially after her corn bread recipe became an instant favorite.

She says you can use any type of apple. She is partial to Spartans, but usually uses whatever is on sale. I am partial to MacIntoshes and they are in season right now. The only change I made was to use a whisk instead of a spoon to combine the topping ingredients. My whisk is my second favorite kitchen gadget so it gets used a lot. The aroma while it was cooking was wonderful. The perfect autumn smell. My entire house was filled with a delicious apple-cinnamon fragrance. Oops! Just like baking, if you can smell it that much then you have left it in too long. Sure enough, I burned it! Just around the edges, though. Even overcooked, it was delicious. I'm definitely going to be making this again but cooking it closer to three hours rather than four.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

Crazygramma's Apple Betty
(Source: Garden Freak )

6 large apples, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1) In large bowl, toss together apples, sugar and cinnamon. Place in slow cooker.

2) In bowl combine butter and brown sugar. Add flour and mix together with a spoon until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over apples and pat firmly into a crust.

3) Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or until apples are tender and sauce is bubbly.

Recycle: cinnamon bottle

Compost: apple cores and skins

Monday, October 24, 2005

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

After the resounding success of the Swirled Turtle Brownies I looked in the baking aisle to see if Nestle is making other kinds of swirled morsels. Indeed they do. There are white chocolate swirled morsels that have a recipe for something involving raspberry. I'm not a big fan of raspberry so I decided to pass on that one. And there are milk chocolate and peanut butter swirled morsels. I'm a real sucker for Reese's Peanut Butter cups. Even better, the recipe on that package involves cheesecake. Someday I will have to devote an entire post to my love of cheesecake and (so far) futile search for the perfect cheesecake recipe. I scooped up a package and tucked it away in my freezer while waiting for cream cheese to go on special.

In case you've never tried it, morsels freeze really well. It's especially good when there's a sale or you get one of those coupons for cents off some absurd number of packages. I just freeze any that I can't use right away. Sure enough, my local grocery store had a twofer sale on cream cheese recently. That's exactly what I needed: 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese. The morsels came out of the freezer and I got to work. For some reason, the grocery store didn't have graham cracker crumbs that day. I don't know why it is so hit or miss with this item. I just went to the cookie and cracker aisle and picked up a package of graham crackers which I then crushed using my food processor.

The rest went easily. There were no problems until I took the pan out of the oven. The cheesecake portion just wouldn't set. Even after I put it in the fridge, it wouldn't set properly. But that wasn't the biggest problem. The biggest problem was the lack of taste. Even the next day when most homemade baked goods taste better, there was no taste at all. I was left wondering if anyone actually tried eating these before they published the recipe?

Verdict: What were they thinking???

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
(Source: the back of the morsels package)

2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) Nestle Toll House Swirled Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter morsels, divided
2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325F
Combine crumbs, butter and 1/4 cup sugar in medium bowl. Remove 1 cup mixture and reserve for topping. Press remaining mixture onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle 3/4 cup Swirled Morsels over crust.
Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, flour and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Pour over crust and morsels in pan. sprinkle with reserved crumb topping and remaining Swirled Morsels.
Bake for 25 to 30 miutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate intil firm. Cut into bars.

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle

Compost: eggshells

Friday, October 21, 2005

Crazygramma's Corn Bread

I've been on a liquid diet all week thanks to root canal surgery. I suppose I could have used this time to try some new soup recipes but I just wasn't up to a lot of effort. Opening cans has been all I can manage. Fortunately, I did some cooking last week so I do have recipes to post.

I find recipes to try all over. Cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, packaging, the internet and blogs. Believe it or not one of the best places to find recipes is gardening blogs. Gardeners love to share their recipes for the produce they raise in their gardens. Crazygramma , a gardener in British Columbia, Canada shared some of her Thanksgiving recipes. Her recipe for corn bread caught my eye. I have been on the lookout for a good corn bread recipe for a long time. My problems with most of the ones out there is that they are either too dry or not sweet enough or both. Crazygramma's recipe is moist and sweet and melt-in-your-mouth. In fact, it is the only solid food I have been able to eat all week!

Another huge plus for cooks like me who have no dishwasher is that this is a one bowl recipe. Everything goes into one bowl and can be combined using my all-time favorite kitchen gadget, a wooden spoon. No need to get out the mixer. Fast, easy and absolutely delicious.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

Crazygramma's Corn Bread
(Source: Garden Freak )

1 cup corn meal

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2-4 tablespoons of sugar (she uses 4)

1 cup milk

1 egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Heat oven to 425. Grease 8 inch square baking pan. In medium bowl, combine corn meal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add milk, egg and oil mixing just until smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

Variation - To make cheese cornbread, use 2 eggs and add 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese.

Recycle: vegetable oil bottle

Compost: egg shell

Friday, October 14, 2005

French Onion Soup

Some friends took me out to lunch to celebrate my birthday last weekend. Two of them ordered French Onion Soup. I asked T, who is an excellent cook, if she makes French Onion Soup. When she said no, I offered to share my recipe with her. The one I use is nothing special. It's from Betty Crocker's International Cookbook published in 1980, to give you an idea of how long I've been using it. But like all Betty Crocker recipes, it's simple and delicious.

The only change I have made to the recipe is that I use my toaster oven to toast the bread rather than the broiler. Toasting under the broiler seems like overkill to me. The toaster oven is so much easier.

There are two important things to remember when making this recipe. The first is that you must use ovenproof bowls or individual casseroles because the soup is placed under the broiler for a few minutes to cook the cheese. I splurged and bought some cute little crocks. The other thing to remember is if you use Campbell's Condensed Beef Broth, contact your local school before throwing away the labels. Some schools do collect Campbell's soup labels to earn important school supplies like computer equipment.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

French Onion Soup
(Source: Betty Crocker's International Cookbook)

4 medium onions, sliced

2 tablepoons margarine or butter

2 cans (10 1/2 ounces each) condensed beef broth

1 1/2 cups water

1 bay leaf

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

4 slices French bread, 3/4 to 1 inch thick

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (about 4 ounces)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cover and cook onion in margarine in 3-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add beef broth, water, bay leaf, pepper and thyme. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Set oven control to broil and/or 550F. Place bread slices on cookie sheet. Broil with tops about 5 inches from heat until golden brown, about 1 minute. Turn; broil until golden brown. Place bread in 4 ovenproof bowls or individual casseroles. Add broth; top with Swiss cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan chees.

Place bowls on cookie sheet. Broil with cheese about 5 inches from heat just until cheese is melted and golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with additional French bread or rolls if desired.

Donate: Campbell's soup labels to your local schools

Recycle: soup cans

Compost: onion skins

Monday, October 10, 2005

Garlic Clove Chicken

Thanks to Beverly over at Yum Yum Goodies , I have discovered a new recipe site, Taste of Home . So now I have yet another recipe newsletter cluttering up my emailbox. While exploring this site, I came across another garlic chicken recipe. This one intrigued me because I can't quite figure out what, if any role, the garlic plays in flavoring the chicken and also because of the other wonderful seasonings.

Supposedly, this recipe only requires 10 minutes of preparation time. Peeling 40 cloves of garlic takes a heck of a lot longer than 10 minutes in my kitchen. Truthfully, I didn't use 40 cloves. I have neither the time nor the patience to peel that much garlic. I just bought two bulbs of garlic and used that plus what I had on hand. The rest of the prep was fast and easy. The chicken smelled so good while it was cooking that even my cat, who loves chicken, was clamoring for some. The taste was every bit as good as it smelled.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

Garlic Clove Chicken
(Source: Taste of Home )

1 roasting chicken (5 to 6 pounds)
1 small onion, quartered
40 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried celery flakes
1/2 teaspoon each dried tarragon, thyme and rosemary, crushed
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Place onion in chicken; tie drumsticks together. Arrange galic cloves around chicken. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Drizzle over chicken and garlic.

Cover and bake at 350F for 1-3/4 hours. Uncover; bake 30-45 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 180F, basting occasionally. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Yield: 6 servings

Recycle: vegetable oil bottle

Compost: onion and garlic skins

Monday, October 03, 2005

Bread Sticks

Soup put me in the mood for bread sticks. I vaguely remember making bread sticks once. I recall that they were soft and chewy rather than cracker-like. I went on a hunt through my cookbooks to find the recipe. I found it in a cookbook that I had forgotten that I owned: Beard on Bread. Remember when James Beard was popular? It turns out that I own a two book set, Beard on Bread and Beard on Pasta. The recipe looked familiar but these bread sticks are supposed to be crisp.

The dough was very easy to make and came together just as described. The recipe recommends setting aside 1/2 cup of flour for kneading. I ended using more for other reasons. Once I had shaped the dough into the 20" roll, I found that while the exterior of the dough was not sticky, the interior was making it difficult to cut. Putting some flour on the knife solved that problem. Shaping the bread sticks was not nearly as easy as described in the recipe. First, I needed to flour my hands to prevent the dough from sticking to them. Then rolling it between my palms just didn't work for me. I found that squeezing and stretching the dough into long, thin strips was the best I could do. The end result was not the nice round sticks I was aiming for. However, since artisan bread is so popular, I just called them "artisan bread sticks", very rustic and homemade looking.

Actually baking them is where I ran into trouble. The recipe calls for a slow 300F oven. Baking for the recommended 30 minutes resulted in soft, chewy bread sticks. I didn't want to leave them in any longer for fear of burning them. I think a hotter oven would have given me the crispness I was seeking. Regardless of the texture, the taste was delicious. And there is nothing wrong with bread instead of crackers with soup.

Verdict: Not bad, but I don't think I will be making this again.

Bread Sticks

(Source: Beard on Bread)

2 packages active dry yeast

1 tablesppon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups warm water (100F to 115F, approximately)

3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds (optional)

In a large mixing bowl combine the yeast, sugar, and salt. Add the oil and 1/4 cup of the water. Beat this mixture well with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the flour and continue beating with the wooden spoon. Aternately add flour, 1 cup at a time, and water until you have a fairly soft dough, reserving approximately 1/2 cup flour for kneading. Remove the dough to a floured surface, and knead for several minutes until it springs back very briskly when you press your fingers in. It must be smooth and satiny, and all the flour on the board should be absorbed.

Let the dough rest on the board, covered with a towel, for about 5 minutes, then shape it into a roll about 20 to 22 inches long. With a very sharp knife cut it into at least 20 equal pieces. Rest the dough again for 3 or 4 minutes, then, using the palms of your hands, roll out each piece as long as the baking sheet or sheets you will use. (Or roll them any size you like and cut them.) Oil or butter the baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with sesame or poppy seeds, and arrange the bread sticks on it about 1 inch apart. Let them sit about 20 minutes, until they just barely begin to rise. Just before putting them in the oven, brush them lightly with the egg and water mixture and sprinkle with coarse salt, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds. Bake in a slow oven (300F) for about 30 minutes, depending upon the size of the bread sticks. They should be nicely browned and very crisp.

NOTE These will stay crisp for several days, stored in an airtight container.

Recycle: olive oil bottle

Compost: eggshell