Thursday, February 2, 2017

Veggie Penne "Alfredo"

Hi friends! I've been trying out loads of new dinner recipes lately and as usual, I either forget to photograph them or when I do remember the photos are so blah I don't even bother to post them. Anybody have tips for DIY lighting or affordable ways to get good quality food photos without natural light?!? Please share! This pasta was so good though, I just couldn't let myself pass it by.  Really simple and quick to prepare for a weeknight too.  I would say this is sort of a take on a pasta primavera but a bit on the lighter side.  The quantities in the recipe are approximate because, as always the recipe should be made to your liking and tastes! Hope everyone is doing well and keeping themselves free of the mid-winter blues.  We sure are trying hard to keep the little ones (and ourselves) busy and make the most of the winter weather.  Little K absolutely loves the snow: sledding, building snowmen, smashing any bits of ice that he can find and baby A is already 5 months old.  She just started scooting her tiny self around all over the place.  What fun!


Veggie Penne "Alfredo"

1 small onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 zucchini, large dice
1 head broccoli, chopped 1" pieces
1 handful fresh spinach
8 oz penne or other short-cut pasta, cooked al dente
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp flour
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
splash of cream, optional
salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese plus more for serving

Combine the butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Once the butter has melted, add the onion and red peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Stir in the garlic, broccoli, and zucchini.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 or so minutes and then stir in the flour.  Cook the flour for about a minute and add the stock.  Bring the mixture to a low bubble and simmer away for 7 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened and your broccoli and zucchini are tender.  Add the spinach and cook for one minute more, until wilted.  Add a splash of cream, if desired for a little extra richness and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the cooked noodles and parmesan cheese and serve immediately.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Brown Butter Apple Spice Layer Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

I made this apple spice cake several months ago, typed up a whole blog post, edited and uploaded pictures, and apparently never hit the publish button? Whoops!  I must have been planning to go back to re-read it the next day and never actually got back to it.  I am really surprised it slipped my mind because this cake was absolutely amazing and not even the slightest bit worthy of being forgotten. The cake itself had beautiful fluffy texture with a very tender crumb and soft apple chunks throughout.  The combination of the nutty, rich brown butter and the apple pie blend spices put the flavor of this cake over the top. Then, when you top a cake like this with maple cream cheese frosting, you get one of the greatest things ever!

I really like this rustic style of frosting a cake between the layers and on top but not doing the sides and not worrying too much about how perfect the frosting looks, especially on a cake with an interesting appearance or with fruit inside.  Don't get me wrong, I love a beautifully and perfectly decorated cake as much as the next foodie but this was simple and lovely in its own way.  Another great thing about this is that you don't end up with a cake that is too heavily frosted.  This cake was so delicious, it really only needed a small amount of frosting to taste just right.  Try making this cake for your next holiday party, for the apple lover in your life, or just because it might make you smile. I am sure you won't be disappointed!

Brown Butter Apple Spice Cake

3 cups diced granny smith apples (1/4" cubes)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup brown butter

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and then line three 8 inch cake pans with parchment circles. Heat a small pan over medium heat and add 1 stick (1/2 a cup) butter.  Stir and cook the butter until it begins to get foamy, turns light brown, and smells fragrant. Set the butter aside to cool while you prep the other ingredients.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt until well combined.  In a separate medium bowl combine the sugars, eggs, vanilla extract, canola oil, brown butter, and applesauce.  Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredient mixture in two additions. When the second addition of flour is almost fully mixed in, add the apples and continue to stir until barely combined.  Bake on the center rack of your oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.  

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup (4oz) softened butter
1 cup (8oz) softened cream cheese
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Use an electric mixer to blend the butter and cream cheese together until well combined and fluffy.  Add the confectioner's sugar in three additions.  Once the sugar is fully incorporated, mix in the vanilla extract, cinnamon, and maple syrup.  If the frosting is too thick, add a little more syrup or if the frosting is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.  This batch of frosting will probably not be enough to completely frost a three layer cake, so if you want to frost the sides too I would suggest doubling this recipe.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Overnight Pumpkin Caramel Monkey Bread

This monkey bread is the perfect, delicious breakfast or brunch item to serve during the holiday season.  The dough takes about 10 minutes to prepare and then you can let all the rising happen overnight in the refrigerator.  A few more minutes of assembly in the morning and you have an  amazing pumpkin bread covered in gooey, sweet caramel that will impress everyone!

Overnight bread recipes are my absolute favorite.  The long, slow rise process gives the bread wonderful, fluffy texture and this dough is extra special with the pumpkin puree and seasonal spices blended in.  Of course, you could make this all in one morning, using a traditional room temperature rise but that process doesn't develop the flavor or texture of the dough as well and it makes your morning prep time longer.  This recipe is super easy for entertaining guests during the holidays or even just for a family weekend brunch.  With my two little ones running around all over the place and/or needing to be held 24/7 I just love a good recipe like this one.  Little K (age 2.5) really loved helping assemble the dough in the morning. He was great at rolling the dough into balls and he had a blast coating them (and my entire kitchen) in cinnamon/sugar. Feel free to add-in an additional ingredients like raisins or pecans to kick the flavors up even more.  Please let me know if you give this recipe a try and how you like it!

Pumpkin Caramel Monkey Bread

Pumpkin Bread
1/4 cup salted butter (if using unsalted, add a pinch of salt)
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) quick rise yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 egg yolk
5 cups all-purpose flour, approximately

Heat the milk and butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat to the temperature recommended on your yeast.  This was 120F to 130F for me. If you don't have a thermometer the mixture should feel very warm to the touch (be careful)! Add the butter, milk, sugars, spices, and yeast to a stand mixer bowl or other large bowl. Give everything a stir and let the yeast activate for about 5 minutes, it should get foamy or bubbly. Add the pumpkin, egg, and egg yolk and mix until well combined. Mix in the flour, one cup at a time, until just combined. The dough will be sticky to the touch.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl covered with plastic wrap to rise. If making the monkey bread right away, let the dough rise at room temperature for one to two hours or until doubled in size.  If making the the monkey bread in the morning, place in the refrigerator overnight to rise.  Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before assembling. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and get ready to assemble.

1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a bundt pan. Combine the white sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, Pinch off one inch size pieces of dough, roll into balls, and then roll into the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Continue this process until you have rolled the entire batch of dough into balls and placed them evenly around the bundt pan.

Heat the brown sugar and butter in a small pot over medium heat until the butter is melted and the sugar crystals are dissolved (about 5 minutes).  Pour the butter mixture evenly over the top of the dough and place in the center of the oven to bake for about 40 minutes.  You may want to put the bundt pan on a baking tray to avoid any potential bubble overs into your oven.

When you remove the bread from the oven, let it rest for about 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate or serving tray.  The bread is VERY hot and sticky so be sure to let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Chicken Orzo Soup

Why, yes I did take a photo of my leftover soup that I ate at work with a plastic spoon, under florescent light and you know what, I'm not even worried about it because this soup is that comforting. I usually fuss and stress about not having the time to photograph food the way I want to for the blog but I have decided today that it's more important to share the recipe than have a great picture. This time of year, whether you have the sniffles, daylight savings blues, or are just in need of comfort after the latest election results, this is the soup for you. There is nothing quite like a big bowl of steaming hot, delicious soup to make you feel better, in body and soul.  I hope you give this recipe a try and that it brightens your day a little or makes you feel warm and comfortable!

Chicken Orzo Soup

1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup leek, diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
2 cups cooked, cubed chicken (recipe below)
6 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup Orzo pasta, cooked separately

Step 1: In a large heavy bottom pot melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and sautee for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the flour, cook for about one minute and then add the chicken broth and soy sauce.
Step 2: Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, add the cooked chicken,  and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Step 3: While the soup simmers, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the Orzo pasta according to your package directions to al dente. Drain the Orzo and add it to the soup immediately before serving. Don't cook the Orzo in the chicken broth because your soup will be very starchy.
Step 4: Check the soup's seasoning, serve in warm bowls and enjoy!

Chicken recipe (optional, can use any leftover or rotisserie chicken):
Place 4 to 5 boneless chicken breast tenders in an oven safe dish and season to your liking (salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, etc). Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400F for 20 minutes or to until an internal temp of 165F.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Caramel Apple Crisp

Yum! I love apple crisp, it is definitely one of my absolute favorite desserts.  Next to strawberry shortcake, and chocolate chip cookies, and carrot cake, and chocolate cream pie, and....sorry you get the picture, I really like dessert. The best part about this crisp is the addition of the caramel sauce.
 It's so rich, over the top, delicious. The tender and sweet apples paired with the crunchy, crisp topping is the perfect balance.  Don't forget the ice cream, of course! 

Caramel Apple Crisp

Caramel Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter (4 tbsp)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add all of the ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly and bring the mixture to a slow bubble, reduce the heat, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool while you prepare the apples.

Apple Crisp
6 to 8 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the apples in a 9x13 pan and toss with the flour, cinnamon, and caramel sauce.

1 stick butter, cold and cubed
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the flour, oats, sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.  Add the cubed butter and use your fingers or a pastry cutter to combine with the dry ingredients. Top the apples evenly with the crisp. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.