A Little Irish

Since I’m all happy that spring looks like it’s going to make an appearance (high 60’s today) I feel like celebrating. So I thought an Irish theme would be fun for Friday.

I was doing some research on Irish Soda Bread, thinking that should be part of an Irish theme. Never made or had this bread, because, well, it looks dry and has raisins. But what I found out, that raisin stuff is not real Irish bread. So I’ve found a somewhat authentic recipe…sounds much better. Stay tuned….

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Spicy Pumpkin Cookies with Crumble Topping

Finally got down to some cooking. I started the week out with Pumpkin Squares (recipe here), a real favorite with everyone, so a big pan goes pretty quickly. Then it was on to a good spicy pumpkin cookie, the featured recipe tonight. The photo shows both a crumble topping and a cream cheese frosting, but since I really preferred the crumble topping, that’s what I included in the recipe. These freeze well, so they can travel to Thanksgiving dinner with family.

I really wanted to make a Pumpkin Bundt Cake this year, so I went searching for recipes and adapted one to use buttermilk, click here, which I thought created a very moist, flavorful cake.

And finally, Pumpkin Cream Pie with a brown sugar whipped cream topping, which I am really enjoying at Thanksgiving instead of the traditional custard pumpkin pie. Pictures and recipe here. I’ll probably make it again this year.

For the pet lovers, Bixby update is here. He’s five months old this week and a wild thing. And as I was writing this, JeffreyW put up some adorable photos of shelter puppies in sweaters, click here. Please keep your squeals to a minimum.

Now it’s your turn. Are you a fan of pumpkin? I know it can be one of those ingredients that inspires a very strong response, either positive or negative. What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe or product this time of year? If not pumpkin, what treat really puts you in a fall mood?

Tonight’s recipe:

Spicy Pumpkin Cookies with Crumble Topping

Cookies

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice

Cream together butter and sugar; add egg, pumpkin, and vanilla, mixing well. Sift together dry ingredients and slowly mix into pumpkin mixture and mix until well combined. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then drop by spoonful on a baking sheet. Top with crumble topping, pressing gently into the dough. Refrigerate remaining dough until ready to bake.

Bake for 12-13 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 2 dozen

Topping

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix together until crumbly

That’s it for this week. Stay warm – TaMara

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Friday Dinner Exchange: Holiday Weekend Grilling

Stuffed Burger Uncut Snap

I have a four day weekend and most of it is supposed to be wild and windy weather, so  grilling will most likely have to wait. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have  grilling recipes. These all seem to be favorites based on comments, views and requests.

First up, the basics of grilling a good steak are here.

Next is one of my most requested recipes in the summer, Steak with Coffee Rub (click here). There is an entire dinner menu and shopping list at the link.

There are nine different hamburger recipes here, including Stuffed Burgers (pictured above) and veggie Black Bean Cheddar Burgers.

And finally, a few grilled chicken recipes, including Sunrise Chicken and Fruit Juice Marinated Chicken are at this link.

What’s on your menu for the weekend? Staying home or hitting the road? What are some of your favorite grilling recipes? Hit the comments and share. Be safe this holiday weekend, and don’t forget to thank a vet.

Tonight’s featured recipe is one of my favorites, because, well, blueberries!

Grilled Sirloin with Spicy Blueberry Sauce

  •  2 cups frozen wild blueberries (unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup sugar + 1 tbsp
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you want it)
  • pinch of chili powder
  • 1 lb Sirloin, cut into 4 pieces
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Saucepan and small bowl

Run still frozen blueberries through a food processor until finely chopped.  Add all ingredients to a small saucepan on low heat until the blueberries melt and give you enough water to bring to a boil without scorching.  Boil for 1 minute or so, stirring constantly until liquid is reduced by half.  Let simmer on low, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the rest of dinner.

Broil or grill sirloin until cooked according to your preference, if you can, sear the outside so it’s really crispy on the outside.  It works well if you coat the steak with lots of ground pepper on the outside as well.  Once the sirloin is done, place two tablespoons of blueberry sauce on the plate, place steak on the sauce then top with more sauce.  Place remaining sauce in a small bowl and serve with meal.  Goes great with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed zucchini.

That’s it for this week. If you missed it, I did post the Blueberry Upside Down Cake photos and recipe here. Later this weekend, I will finally have my gadget review for my robot “butler”.  Have a great holiday weekend – TaMara

 

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata W4DS

I think because winter moved back into the neighborhood (seriously, Tuesday’s forecast was for honest to goodness ‘ice pellets’, can ‘raining frogs’ be far behind?) I am finding myself in a berry and citrus mood. I bought 3 lbs of strawberries over the weekend and they are gone. I stocked up on oranges yesterday and I’ll have to do it again by the weekend.

I was going to do a sirloin roast tonight. I had made a really nice one last week, but didn’t get around to photographing it, so I was going repeat it yesterday. But when it came down to it, I just didn’t feel like roast. Instead I grabbed a bunch of lemons and some chicken breasts and decided on Chicken Piccata, tonight’s featured recipe. I like the tangy sauce with the crispy, moist chicken and the herb noodles are a nice side to accompany it.

If spring ever arrives, what do you look forward to most in the produce aisle? Do you crave certain foods by season?   Hit the comments and complain about the weather and share your favorite spring foods.

Of course, once I found my recipe, I went hunting to see what JeffreyW might have in the way of lemons and chicken and found a Chicken with Lemon Curd, that sounded yummy. You can see it here, along with a nice slideshow of the prep and final dish.

Now, tonight’s recipe:

Chicken Piccata with Herb Noodles:

Chicken Piccata

  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, sliced into very thin slices*
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh snipped parsley
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

bowl, skillet

Combine breadcrumbs, basil, zest, and pepper in bowl. Mix ½ tbsp oil and garlic together. Coat both sides of chicken with oil/garlic and dredge in breadcrumbs. Over medium-high heat 1 tbsp ea. of butter and oil in skillet, add chicken and cook 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken – keep warm – add lemon slices to pan, sauté 30 seconds, add water, parsley and juice, boil for 1 minute, spoon over chicken.

*Scrub well before slicing.

Herb Noodles

  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp basil, crushed
  • ½ tsp oregano, crushed
  • ½ tsp rosemary, finely crushed
  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic
  • Sesame seeds, opt

saucepan, serving dish

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain well. Melt butter in saucepan, add spices, mixing well. Toss with noodles. For an extra touch you can add 1 tbsp of sesame seeds.

boston-strong1

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Gathering Recipes

Slow-Cooker Lasagna 2

Surprisingly Easy Slow-Cooker Lasagna

Happy day before Solstice!  With five days until Christmas, I hope you’re all set to go. Christmas Eve dinner is once again at my place, so I still have some shopping to do. The menu is set and I’m keeping it pretty simple: A classic Spinach Lasagna (recipe here), garlic-cheese bread, salad and an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. Plenty of good coffee, wine and friends will complete the evening.

Since this is a time of holiday potlucks and house guests, I thought it would be fun to highlight some recipes that are easy, but elegant.

The first recipe is a Christmas morning favorite: German Pancakes with walnut sauce (recipe here). Easy, easy recipe that will wow any overnight guests. And there is a bonus Santa Cookie recipe at that link.

And if you’re asked to bring the dessert?

DSC_4356 [1600x1200]

JeffreyW’s Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pie

How about JeffreyW’s Sweet Potato-Pecan Pie (recipe here). Pretty to look at and delicious.

Or my ridiculously easy and festive Cranberry Upside-Down Cake (recipe here).

Expecting a house full or need a potluck dish? Our featured recipe (pictured at top) is a great take on spinach lasagna, using a slow-cooker. This entire dish completely surprised me. I was at work, in our morning meeting – which is actually just an excuse for the guys to wow me with their cooking ideas – when Vern told me about the slow-cooker lasagna he’d made the night before. I was skeptical. Lasagna in a slow-cooker sounded like it would have the consistency of canned ravioli. But he insisted it was really good. So I set out to see for myself. I have to say, he wasn’t wrong. It had a great flavor, the texture was very similar to having cooked it in an oven and the top was nicely browned and the cheese perfectly gooey. The only caveat is that it cooks in about 4 hours, so you can’t put it together in the morning and have it ready when you get home at the end of the work day. It would be burned to a crisp, even on low.

So, here is tonight’s featured recipe, my version of slow-cooker lasagna:

Slow-Cooker Spinach Lasagna

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (opt, you can skip to keep this vegetarian)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 carrot shredded (this cuts the acidity of the sauce, adds a touch of sweetness)
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 28 oz canned tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp of dried basil, crushed
  • 12 ounces ricotta cheese (you can sub in cottage cheese if desired)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
  • 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 12 ounces lasagna noodles, uncooked (I used brown rice pasta to keep it gluten free)

Sauce: Brown ground beef, along with onion, garlic, carrots and green pepper in a saucepan (if you are omitting the beef, sauté vegetables in a tbsp of olive oil). Add tomato sauce, paste and spices. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer on low while preparing remaining ingredients.

Mix together ricotta cheese and egg, until well combined. Fold in spinach.

In the slow-cooker, spoon a layer of sauce onto the bottom, add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (break to fit) and top with a portion of the ricotta mixture and then a portion of the mozzarella. Add sauce, then a single layer of noodles, ricotta and mozzarella and repeat layers until ingredients are all used up. (Because slow-cookers vary in size, I unfortunately can’t give you precise layering, as I can with the traditional lasagna. You’ll have to eye it. The good news is, it will all cook together and be just fine regardless).

Finish with sauce, mozzarella and then shredded Parmesan.

Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

This Ride Brought to You by the Letter Wheeee!

Click on any photo to enlarge for full color!

Great ride today. After a pretty frantic Monday, I needed an outlet. So there was cycling and cooking. I made another batch of a great potato soup with jalapeno sausage. I’ll post the recipe a bit later. Next up was pumpkin bars which will be part of this Thursday’s recipe exchange. I’m planning on a pumpkin week.

My ride started out cloudy, but there was a break in the clouds near the mountains and I knew eventually as the sun started to set, it would be clear. What I didn’t realize is that would coincide with me being on the west side of the ponds. It made for some vivid colors. I’m hoping the camera did them justice.

And there is the buzzer for the pumpkin bars. Not sure I can wait for them to cool and frost, they smell good. I’ll let you know how they turn out. Until then…

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Road Trip!

This will have to be quick today. It’s been crazy here and I’m once again on a deadline. Some day I’ll be able to actually cook  more than stir-fry and salads again. But let’s have some fun tonight. I thought in honor of our friends at Balloon-Juice’s “LOUDMOUTHS ACROSS AMERICA TOUR 2012” it might be fun to put together some road food for their trip.

JeffreyW thinks sandwiches are the perfect trip food:

JeffreyW Sandwich

And he has a treasure trove of  mouth-watering sandwich ideas, right here

I like the idea of a flavorful sandwich, I mean what’s to argue with there? For my car trips, I often pick up a bag of Vic’s popcorn and some mixed nuts. Then I always make a batch of something sweet to take along, too.  Last couple of trips it’s been Orange Cookies (recipe below). What do think our intrepid explorers should take with them to North Carolina? Anyone else going to be there? Who else thinks this trip is going to be epic? Can’t wait for the videos…

Orange Cookies

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp orange zest
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts or almonds

bowl & baking sheet

Add lemon juice to milk and let set for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cream butter & sugar, add egg, orange peel, orange juice, vanilla, & milk. Mix well. Sift together dry ingredients, then add to butter mixture. Add nuts. Refrigerate 15 minutes or more (keep refrigerated between batches, also).

Drop by teaspoons full to baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 3 dozen

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Fruit Desserts

Cross-posted at Balloon-Juice

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m having fun with these Thursday night recipe posts. Thanks for playing.

I love chocolate, so it’s usually my sweet of choice. But a very close second is fruit desserts. Strawberries, apples, oranges, blueberries, citrus anything, I love them all. So I have a wide range of fruit dessert recipes available:

Strawberry Bread, Orange Cookies, Key Lime Pie Bars,  Coconut Lemon Cake (perfect for Easter dinner), pineapple and cranberry upside-down cakes, blueberry oatmeal cookies, the list goes on…and on.

It was hard to narrow down the recipe for tonight, I ended up choosing two, Perfect Apple Crisp and Sour Cream Lemon-Poppy Seed Cake.  One is decadant, one is quick and easy. What fruit desserts make the top of your list? Hit the comments with the recipes. Next week: I’ll be traveling again, but I’m thinking pizza, since JeffreyW has so many varieties and I’m usually hunting perfect pizza places while I travel.

On to tonight’s recipes.

This is one of the most requested birthday cakes at our office:

Sour Cream Lemon-Poppy Seed Pound Cake

You’ll want to prep the lemon juice, lime juice and zests ahead of time. You’ll need 2 lemons and 3 limes to complete the recipe.

  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lime zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) melted butter, cooled slightly
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds

Bundt or Angel Food pan, greased and floured

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix sugar, eggs, zests, lemon, juice, limejuice, sour cream, butter and salt until well blended. Mix together flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture in three sections to egg mixture, mixing until blended, but do not over blend. Fold in poppy seeds. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 75-90 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, or until cool to touch, then remove from pan to cool completely, about 2 hours.

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Dash of vanilla extract

Whisk together until smooth. Pour over the top of cooled cake. Let stand about 10 minutes until set.

Next is a different take on apple crisp.  I had seen video of a recipe that pre-cooked the apples in a cast iron skillet. The idea looked really good and since I’m all about cooking in my cast iron skillets, I thought I’d give it a whirl.  And I have to say, that yes it did make the best apple crisp ever.  It allows the apples to fully cook, then you can bake the “crisp” part at a higher temperature for a shorter time, giving it a really crisp top.

Cast Iron Apple Crisp

  • 2 lbs apples – mix of sweet and tart (about 3 apples)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to taste

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (more as desired)
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup flour

10 inch cast iron skillet and small mixing bowl

Core and cut apples into small pieces (about 1/2 inch). Peeling is optional, but with this method the peels cook nice and soft, so it isn’t necessary.

Melt butter in skillet, add apples and sugar, stir until apples are well coated. Cover and cook on medium heat until apple mixture is soft and caramelized, stirring occasionally. About 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In mixing bowl, stir together butter, sugar, flour and oats, mix until crumbly. Crumble over the apple mixture. Bake for 10-15 minutes, just until top is crispy golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes and serve warm.

What makes this so good is that because the apples are cooked on the stovetop, you can use a much higher heat in the oven and get a good, crisp top without drying the whole mixture out or under cooking the apples. Really, this is one of the best apple crisps I’ve made.

Alternately, if you don’t have an oven-proof skillet, you can transfer the cooked apple mixture to a glass baking dish, add topping and bake that way.