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Friday, November 28, 2008

Apple Cranberry Pie

One of my favorite things about the holidays is getting to enjoy my grandmother's apple pie. She makes a double crust pie, filled with mcintosh apples sliced paper thin, and, of course, plenty of sugar and spice. Her recipe is quite simple, and I love making it when I can't be home with family for the holidays. This year, I decided to put a little twist on Grammy's Apple Pie, and give it a little twist, a la cranberry apple crunch.
It turned out much better than I expected, there was definitely enough sweetness to counteract the tart cranberries, especially when served with vanilla ice cream. I originally wanted to do a lattice crust, but after piling the apples so high, I knew that wouldn't happen! Grammy's tradition is to cut the vent holes in the top crust in some holiday/occasion appropriate design. I most definitely did not inherit her artistic abilities!

Cranberry Apple Pie

~6-8 McIntosh apples, peeled and sliced thin
~1.5 cups whole fresh cranberries
~1/4 cup white sugar
~1/4 cup brown sugar
~1 tsp cinnamon
~1-2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces (optional)
~2 crust pie crust (like Grammy, my crust comes in a red box in the refrigerated section at the grocery store) ;-)
~1-2 tsp flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place bottom crust into a 9 inch pie plate. Sprinkle crust with flour (will help absorb juices from the cooking apples and cranberries).

Combine sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl. Begin layering pie, starting with sliced apples. Toss some cranberries into the cinnamon/sugar mixture before adding to the apple layer. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
Repeat with another layer of apple, sugar dipped cranberries, and sugar mixture. Repeat again, piling as high with apples as you can, sprinkling the top with any remaining sugar mixture. Dot with butter (optional).
Cover with top pie crust and pinch the edges together with a fork to seal the pie. Cut vent in the top crust.
Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350, and continue baking for approximately 45 minutes. Remove and let cool before serving. If edges of pie start to brown before baking time is done, cover edges with foil.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

BB: Mexican Chicken Soup

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Today I have another recipe for Barefoot Bloggers, Mexican Chicken Soup. We LOVED this soup! I ended up skipping the tortillas and avocado, but we really enjoyed this soup and I can't wait to make it again (maybe with some leftover turkey?). :-)

Mexican Chicken Soup
Barefoot Contessa at Home, page 34
Chosen by Judy from Judy’s Gross Eats

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (I omitted)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
  • 6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas


For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mediterranean Chicken

This is another recipe rave from Good Things Catered. I had this slated for the weekend, but we ended up going to a (fabulous) fish fry and brewery tour instead. I am so glad I ended up making it tonight! It's a simple, delicious way to do a basic chicken and vegetables. I served it with brown rice. Yum!

Mediterranean Chicken
Source: Good Things Catered

~2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves
~salt and ground pepper
~1 tsp olive oil
~ medium sweet onion, halved and sliced thin (I used 1/2 an onion)
~1 small zucchini sliced
~1/2 small yellow squash, sliced

~2 cloves garlic, peeled sliced paper thin (I grated it)
~1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (small splash, really)
~1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
~2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (oops! I read that as 1/2 cup. I did about 1 cup)
~1/4 cup kalmata olives, halved
~1/8 c. fresh parsley, chopped (I omitted)
~1 Tbsp fresh/green za'atar (or 1 tsp dried) (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken breasts dry and season with salt and pepper. In medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, bring pan up to temperature and place chicken, breast-down, in pan and cook until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Flip breast over and cook until slightly browned, only 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Place oil and then onion (and zucchini/squash) into pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to caramelize, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Deglaze with balsamic vinegar and chicken stock and stir to combine. Let cook down for about 1 minute and then add remaining ingredients. Place skillet into oven and cook until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, about 10 -12 minutes (depending on how much you browned the outside and the size of the breasts). Remove from oven, let cool for at least 5-10 minutes and plate.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint choc chip is my absolute favorite flavor of ice cream. When I got my ice cream maker, that is all I wanted to make! I originally was using the recipe that came with my ice cream maker, but before long I decided I didn't want to be making a recipe that used 2 cups of heavy cream all the time. After stumbling upon the Old Time Vanilla recipe that I love, I tried their mint version but something was... off. We didn't love it. I put mint on the back burner while vanilla and peanut butter became the mainstays in the house. This week, I knew it was time to get back to mint and work out the recipe. I am so glad I did!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from Doc Wilson

~1/4 cup egg beaters
~1/2 can of fat free sweetened condensed milk
~6 Tablespoons white sugar
~4 ounces heavy whipping cream
~16 ounces fat free half and half
~4 ounces skim milk (or 1%, or 2%, whatever you have)
~1/8 tsp salt
~1/2 teaspoon mint extract
~2 tsp vodka OR mint schnapps OR "The Good Doctor" (optional)
~1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I prefer small amounts of chocolate in my ice cream, feel free to load it up if you prefer more!)

In a large mixing bowl whisk together egg beaters, sweetened condensed milk, and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Add heavy whipping cream, half and half, skim milk, salt, vodka or schnapps, and mint extract. For the very best results (who wants anything less?), let the mix chill in the refrigerator for about four hours which allows the mix to "age" before freezing according to the directions with your ice cream freezer. Add the mini chips in the last 5 minutes of freezing. This recipe makes the perfect amount to fit in a 1.5 quart ice cream maker. Makes between 4 and 5 cups of ice cream.

yes, that's wrapping paper

Monday, November 17, 2008

2 RR: Cranberry White Chocolate Cake and Cranberry Apple Crunch!

One of my favorite blogs is written by Katie at Good Things Catered. She has amazing meals, party planning skills, and creativity in decorating. I love browsing all her ideas, and then promptly *stealing* them. (Seriously, if you haven't made Angie's Strawberry Cupcakes yet, you don't know what you are missing!) Anyway, this post is about two recipe raves for some recent jewels that she has posted!

A few months ago I feel in love with her Apple Crunch. I started craving it again as soon as she mentioned her new twist - cranberry apple crunch! I was sure I'd be a purist and stick to the original, but I bought a bag of cranberries for the other recipe I'm highlighting here, and figured I'd give the cranberry version a whirl to use up the extras. WOW, I am so glad I did! The cranberry take is even more amazing than the original, something I didn't think was possible! This stuff is heaven in a bowl - especially when combined with homemade ice cream. I altered it slightly since I'd be just me whoofing it down. :-)
Cranberry Apple Crunch
Source: Mixed and matched two recipes from Good Things Catered (here and here)

~1 to 1.5 cups fresh cranberries
~3 large apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used macintosh)
~1/2 cup oats
~1/2 cup packed brown sugar
~1/4 cup whole wheat flour
~4 Tbsp butter, cold
~1 tsp cinnamon
~1/4 tsp nutmeg
~1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8x8 baking dish with baking spray (I used a 1.5Q oval casserole dish). Spread fruit mixture evenly in baking dish. In medium bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut butter into small pieces (or grate with a grater) and add to dry ingredients along with the vanilla. With pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until all butter is about the size of a small pea. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over fruit. Place baking dish in oven and bake for 45 minutes or until apples have cooked down and begun to caramelize (oops! I left it in for 55). Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

The second recipe I wanted to talk about is Cranberry White Chocolate Bars. Now, I'm making them as written for a work event this week, but I figured I'd like to mess around with the recipe and see what I could do with the nutritional profile. (I mean, I realize I am still talking about a sugar filled dessert, but I can at least try, right?) I've had a bottle of agave nectar hanging around for a few months and I really wanted to experiment with using it in baked goods. I also wanted to revisit using pureed white beans in brownie/bar type recipes. Finally, I just picked up some whole wheat pastry flour, and hear that it can be used to substitute for white flour in these types of recipes (unlike whole wheat flour, which is only recommended for replacing half of the white flour in a recipe). So, I sat down and tweaked a little here, a little there, threw it together and ended up with an almost cake/quick bread like cranberry and (sunken) white chocolate bar. I can't wait to try the real version later this week, but so far, I am loving the results of my tweaking! I just have to remember next time to toss the chips in some flour so they don't sink straight to the bottom of the pan!
Cranberry White Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Good Things Catered

~2 Tbsp butter, softened
~1/2 cup packed brown sugar
~1 individual size container of unsweetened applesauce
~2 Tbsp agave nectar
~1/2 cup white beans (I used navy), pureed
~1/2 cup egg beaters (or 2 eggs)
~1 tsp vanilla
~1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
~2 scoops vanilla protein powder
~1/2 tsp baking powder
~1/4 tsp baking soda
~1/4 tsp salt
~zest of 1/2 orange
~1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
~1 to 1.5 cups dried or fresh cranberries
~1/2 cup white chocolate chips, tossed in flour to prevent sinking
~1/8 cup oats

Preheat to 325 degrees and line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, protein powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, nutmeg and set aside. In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on high, about 3 minutes. (I actually tried doing this with a hand mixer and it was a failure so I can't comment on what it should look like!) Turn mixer to low and beat in applesauce, then agave nectar, then white beans. Slowly add egg beaters, then vanilla until thoroughly combined. Slowly incorporate flour mixture. Remove from stand mixer and stir in cranberries and white chocolate chips. Spread batter in pan, sprinkle over top with oats, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on rack for 1 hour. Remove from pan and cut into squares.

So, the results? It may not seem like much, but I'm pretty happy with the 40 calorie drop, and the loss of over 4 grams of fat per 1/16 portion of the recipe. I also love the gain of some fiber and protein. YAY!

New Original
Calories 142.0 180
Total Fat 3.8 8.1
(Saturated Fat) 2.7 5.4
Cholesterol 5.9 41.9
Total Carbohydrate 22.8 25.1
(Fiber) 2.2 0.0
(Sugar) 13.0 16.0
Protein 4.8 2.4

Thursday, November 13, 2008

BB - Herb-Roasted Onions - spruced up!

Time for another episode of Barefoot Bloggers. I'll take this moment to say that I've loved everything we've made so far and am really glad I joined this group! This week's recipe is Herb-Roasted Onions - yum! I decided that just plain onion was a bit of a stretch for me, so I beefed it up a little by adding some chopped beets, butternut squash, and potatoes. These really added a lot to the dish (although I really should have sliced the beets into thin slices rather than cubes). I should have doubled the dressing with all that I added (even though I did use one less onion) but it was still great! We served with Herbes de Provence roasted chicken.

Herb-Roasted Onions
from Barefoot Contessa at Home on page 156
Chosen by Kelly from Baking with the Boys
  • 2 red onions (I used one)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup cubed butternut squash (frozen, because that's how I store it)
  • 1 whole beet, sliced (would be better than the cubes I did)
  • 3 small white potatoes, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the stem end of each onion and carefully slice off the brown part of the root end, leaving the root intact. Peel the onion. Stand each onion root end up on a cutting board and cut the onion in wedges through the root. Place the wedges in a bowl along with the squash, beets, and potatoes.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the onion mixture and toss well.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the onion mixture to a sheet pan, reserving the vinaigrette that remains in the bowl. Bake the onion mixture for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender and browned. (Took me longer because of the beets/potatoes - consider parboiling them first!) Toss the onions once during cooking. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the reserved dressing. Sprinkle with parsley, season to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake

With all the experimental baking I've done, I've never made cheesecake before. This is probably due, in part, to the fact that I don't like cheesecake. However, my husband DOES love cheesecake and when he came home with 3 giant cans of pumpkin pie mix instead of pure pumpkin puree, I checked out www.verybestbaking.com to see what I could use it for and decided on pumpkin cheesecake. I was really nervous about making the cheesecake because I always hear about how it didn't go well... cracked top, shrinking, etc. I read up on how to bake using a water bath (thanks Allrecipes!), and learned a few other tricks for mixing the batter properly. (Oh no! It says no over-mixing!!! This is by far my baking Achilles Heel.)

I was very pleasantly surprised to see that everything went REALLY well. No cracking (though if it did, I had that lovely topping to conceal it!), or any other funny business. I may be underbaked it a tiny bit. I didn't really let it chill the recommended amount of time before slicing, so that may have something to do with it, too. I modified the baking instructions based on what I read on allrecipes (listed in italics in the instructions). As I said, I'm not a cheesecake fan, so my husband was the only litmus test. I had planned on saving him two pieces, then bringing the rest to work. He refused to let me take it... so I'm thinking that means it was pretty darn good! Time to make room in the freezer!
Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake

For the crust:
1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

For the pralines:
1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons water

For the cheesecake:
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 can (30 oz.) Libby's Pumpkin Pie Mix

Preheat oven to 350° F.
For the crust:
Combine graham cracker crumbs and granulated sugar in large bowl. Stir in butter. Press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of 9-inch springform pan.

For pralines:
Combine nuts, brown sugar and water in same bowl. Reserve 3/4 cup praline mixture for topping. Sprinkle remaining praline mixture over crumbs in pan. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.

For cheesecake:
Beat cream cheese in large bowl. Beat in brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Beat in eggs. Beat in pumpkin pie mix. Spoon over baked crust/nuts. Cover bottom of springform pan with foil to create a leakproof barrier for the water bath. Place springform pan into another, larger pan and place in the oven. Add boiling water to the larger pan to create the water bath. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until edge is set but 2-3 inches of the center still moves slightly. Sprinkle with reserved praline mixture. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the very center moves slighty. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in, with door closed, for one hour. Run knife around edge of cheesecake. Cool in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove side of springform pan, slice and serve.