Monday, November 29, 2021

Fall Flavors: Pumpkin and Eggnog Swirl Muffins

I've carried over my love of Fall pumpkin flavor through the winter holidays by making a warm, tender muffin that is not only pumpkin but is also swirled with eggnog cream cheese!




Pumpkin and Eggnog Swirl Muffins



Every Fall I love to indulge in all things pumpkin.  Pork and Pumpkin Stew, Farmstyle Pumpkin French Toast, Essential Pumpkin Bread, and we can't forget my special Pumpkin Pie with Orange Marmalade...yum!  But maybe easiest of all are pumpkin muffins.  

I love having a warm, tender muffin in the morning for breakfast, especially on the go.  These are spiced just right and so moist.  It's the best way to enjoy to seasonal flavors in one.  Possibly the best pairing if I do say so myself!

Enjoy!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • eggs
  • milk
  • canola oil
  • flour
  • pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix!)
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • cream cheese
  • vanilla
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon

What different ways can I serve muffins?
  • breakfast
  • brunch
  • snacks
  • with coffee or tea
  • dessert
  • perfect for grab and go breakfasts or snack
  • bridal showers
  • baby showers
  • garden tea parties
  • Fall tailgating



Substitutions and Variations

  • You can do 1/2 the amount of flour in whole wheat flour if you like
  • Substitute 1/2 cup of sugar for the brown sugar
  • Use rum extract instead of rum for an alcohol free receipe


Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • 1st rule of thumb when making muffins is not to "overmix" the batter.  You want it batter to just come together.  Little spots of flour is okay.
  • To get high muffin tops turn your oven up to 400 degrees.
  • Make sure you are using fresh baking powder.  To test put 1/2 teaspoon into 1/4 cup of boiling water.  If it bubbles, you are good.
  • Purchase a 6 well muffin tin for small batches.
  • Double the recipe for 12 muffins.
  • Muffins can be frozen individually and kept for 3 months.
  • Fill the muffin tin almost to the top for nice big muffins.





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Pumpkin and Eggnog Swirl Muffins


For the filling:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 large egg yolk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 Tablespoon dark rum or rum extract
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon

For the muffins:
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice


To make the filling, whip the softened cream cheese with a whisk or hand mixer until very smooth and creamy. Whip in the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, rum, nutmeg, and cinnamon.


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 6 well muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.

To a large bowl add the egg, milk, canola oil and pumpkin puree. Whisk to combine. Add the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice. Stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
Take out about 1/4 cup batter and set aside. Divide the remaining batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Use a spoon to poke a deep cavity in the center of each muffin, and fill this cavity with the chilled cream cheese mixture. Put a tablespoon of the reserved batter on top of the filling.


Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown and set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve.











Thursday, November 18, 2021

Fall Flavors: Roasted Beet Panzanella Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

With an array of fall flavors such a golden and red beets, gorgonzola, homemade croutons, and pecans this variation on a Tuscan bread salad is dressed up for the winter holidays thanks to a cranberry-juice vinaigrette!




Roasted Beet Panzanella Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette


Thanksgiving is just around the corner and while I make all our traditional foods that everyone loves I also add 1 or 2 new side dishes for that year's menu.  It's a great way to try out new combination of flavors amongst all the standards.  I usually try a new salad and a new vegetable dish.  Today we are focusing on the salad.

Panzanella is a Tuscan bread salad that uses day old bread typically with tomatoes, onion, and cucumber.  Great for summer, but for the fall this variation uses special fall and winter treats!  Imagine a salad with beets (both golden and red), homemade croutons, gorgonzola cheese, and pecans and is topped by the most exciting vinaigrette that is made with cranberry juice

This salad is soooo yummy!  Don't skip the vinaigrette either...it bring bright flavors to the earthiness of the salad ingredients and makes it pop!  This will bring great flavor and that extra special something to all your winter holidays.

Enjoy!





What Ingredients do I need?

  • arugula and spinach mix
  • fresh mint
  • beets
  • shallots
  • French or Italian crusty bread (for croutons)
  • gorgonzola cheese
  • pecans
  • dried cranberries
  • olive oil
  • cranberry juice
  • red wine vinegar
  • honey


Substitutions and Variations

  • Use a mix of herbs such as parsley, mint or dill instead of the arugula spinach mix
  • Use fresh dill along with the spinach/arugula
  • Use another base such as romaine, green or red leaf lettuce
  • Boil the beets instead of roasting them
  • Use dried cherries
  • Use goat cheese or feta, or leave it out
  • Use walnuts or hazelnuts, or leave them out
  • Although homemade croutons are really good and simple to make, you could use a good store bought crouton



Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Make the dressing first since you will use this to marinate the beets, shallots, and croutons when roasting.
  • Be cautious about using unsweetened cranberry juice.  Your vinaigrette will be very tart and may need to be balanced with more honey.
  • Shallots roast quicker than the beets, so add them with the croutons
  • Use a large roasting pan covered with aluminum foil that is sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Red beets tend to stain your pan and this makes for easy clean up.
  • Wear gloves when cutting red beets to avoid stains.  They will also stain wooden boards and plastic, cover with waxed paper before cutting to avoid stains.
  • DON'T SKIP the Vinaigrette!  This really brightens up the earthy flavors in this salad.



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Roasted Beet Panzanella Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette


serves 6


Vinaigrette
⅓ cup cranberry juice
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Salad
2 medium red and 2 medium golden beets, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 shallots, cut into wedges 
4 cups 1-inch artisan bread cubes (french bread or Italian crusty bread will work well)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 cups arugula spinach mix
1/4 fresh mint, chopped 

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a 15x10 sheet pan with aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick spray and set aside.  For dressing: In a small bowl whisk together cranberry juice, vinegar, honey, olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper.

Place red beets and yellow beets side by side on a sheet pan, without touching to avoid bleeding.  Drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of the vinaigrette tossing each section to coat. Roast 20 minutes, stirring once. Place shallot sin the middle of the pan; drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of the dressing, and bread cubes on the far end of the pan.  Toss with 2 Tablespoons of the dressing.  Roast another 15 minutes until beets are tender, bread is toasted, and shallots are roasted.  If shallots are done before the beets, remove them to a bowl and continue roasting. 

Add arugula/spinach mix to a large bowl along with the chopped mint.  Top with beets, shallots, and croutons. Add dried cranberries, pecans, and Gorgonzola cheese.  Serve with remaining dressing. 















Saturday, November 13, 2021

Fall Baking: Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins

Bursting with the fall flavor of apple cider, these delicate muffins taste just like your favorite Apple Cider Doughnuts.  No one can resist these muffins, hot from the oven!



Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins


It's time to do some Fall baking and today we're talking muffins.  Simple and quick you'll have these in the oven and made in under 45 minutes.  I look forward to going to a local farm stand every year during the Fall season, specifically to get fresh apple cider.  There is nothing better, apart from a juicy whole apple, than fresh pressed apple cider.  We always buy a large quantity of it so that apart from drinking it warm, and cold (and spiked) I love to bake with it, and that's what we are doing today.

Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins are all around the internet lately so I thought I would join in the celebration and bring my version.  This uses my basic muffin recipe with the addition of apple cider, apple cider concentrate, and cinnamon.  The topping is cinnamon and sugar which creates that "doughnut" effect that makes this unique and special.  You only need 1 bowl to make these, so let's get baking!

Enjoy!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • egg
  • apple cider
  • canola oil
  • boiled cider (optional)
  • flour
  • brown sugar
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • cinnamon
  • white sugar

Substitutions and Variations

  • Make mini muffins instead of regular size
  • Add apple pie spice in place of the cinnamon in the muffin and/or in the topping




Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • 1st rule of thumb when making muffins is not to "overmix" the batter.  You want it batter to just come together.  Little spots of flour is okay.
  • To get high muffin tops turn your oven up to 400 degrees.
  • Make sure you are using fresh baking powder.  To test put 1/2 teaspoon into 1/4 cup of boiling water.  If it bubbles, you are good.
  • Purchase a 6 well muffin tin for small batches.
  • Double the recipe for 12 muffins.
  • Muffins can be frozen individually and kept for 3 months.

  • Fill the muffin tin almost to the top for nice big muffins.



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Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins


small batch - 6-7 muffins


1 egg
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tablespoon boiled cider (optional)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Topping:
2 Tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl add the egg, apple cider, and oil and boiled apple cider (if using). Mix together using a whisk.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix. 

Using a cookie scoop, add batter to the individual muffin tins.  Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes in the tin. 

In a bowl add sugar and cinnamon, stirring to combine.  Brush the tops of each muffin with the melted butters.  Dip muffin tops in the cinnamon sugar mixture, covering well.   Serve warm or at room temperature.











Friday, October 29, 2021

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

Italian Chicken Cacciatore made easy in the crock pot!  

A variation on the popular "hunter style" prepared meal of chicken braised in a richly flavored tomato sauce with vegetables.  A classic that's been around since the Renaissance and is comfort food at it's best!



Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore


Comfort food is calling my name, so it's time to make an Italian favorite, Chicken Cacciatore.  Let's break out the slow cooker!  This version is quick and easy to prepare using boneless chicken breasts or thighs along with vegetables that are slow cooked in the most amazing tomato based sauce.  This is one hearty, family lovin' meal!

Easy enough to serve this on a weeknight yet sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party.  It's a great dish to bring people together to enjoy the pleasures and flavors of comfort food.





What Ingredients do I need?

  • chicken - boneless, skinless breasts 
  • onion - yellow or brown
  • garlic
  • balsamic vinegar - good quality
  • crushed tomatoes
  • bell pepper - green or red
  • mushrooms - I love baby bellas
  • Italian seasoning
  • red wine - something you would drink


Substitutions and Variations

  • Use boneless, skinless thighs or bone-in pieces.  If leaving the skin on it is best to brown the skin side of the chicken in a skillet before adding to a slow cooker. You will also need to add additional time in the slow cooker.  For a lighter version, remove the skin from one in pieces.
  • Blend up your own crushed tomatoes using whole roma tomatoes and a blender or food processor.
  • Use red, green, yellow, or orange bell peppers or a combination of several.
  • If you don't like mushrooms, leave them out.
  • If you love olives add those to the sauce.
  • Omit the wine if you want this alcoholic free.




Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Serve along side pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, polenta, zucchini noodles, crispy roasted potatoes, and crusty bread!
  • To thicken the sauce, remove the chicken when it is done and has reached 165 degrees, turn the temperature to high. Add 4 tablespoons of flour to a cup and add in 1/4 cup of the sauce from the slow cooker.  Mix until the flour has dissolved, then add to the slow cooker.  Cook on high for 30 minutes, then add the chicken back to warm through.


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Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore


serves 4-6


1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 orange bell pepper, sliced into strips
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 cup red wine
To thicken sauce: 4 Tablespoons flour added to 1/4 cup sauce

In a large skillet over medium high heat add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and allow to get hot.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then add to the skillet and cook 1-2 minutes per side, just long enough to brown them.  The chicken will not be cooked through at this point.  

Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker with any pan drippings.  Top the chicken with the onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, garlic, vinegar, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and wine.  

Cook on LOW 4-5 hours or on HIGH 2 - 2 1/2 hours. Chicken should be cooked through and at a 165 degree temperature.  Remove chicken from the pan and combine the flour and some of the sauce in a small bowl, stirring to combine.  Add flour slurry to the sauce in the crockpot and mix.  Turn the slow cooker temperature to high and allow to cook for 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.  Once thickened return chicken and cook until warmed through, another 15-20 minutes.  Serve.








Monday, October 25, 2021

Fall Flavors: Pumpkin Spice Biscuits

Buttery and flaky these Pumpkin Spice Biscuits are perfect with a cup of coffee or tea on a Fall day!



Pumpkin Spice Biscuits


I wouldn't be fitting to not include some pumpkin and apple flavors into my fall recipe line up.  I love both but today we are jumping on the "pumpkin spice" trend and creating some fabulous biscuits that highlight these warming spices.

Nothing beats homemade biscuits.  This wonderful variation on the original adds pumpkin spice along with a tiny bit of sugar for a warm, slightly sweet biscuit.  They are buttery and flaky and come together easily.  Now these are "comfort food".  Enjoy them for breakfast or as a snack with a cup of coffee or tea.  They're perfect in every way!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • flour
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • salt
  • unsalted butter
  • milk


Substitutions and Variations

  • Use buttermilk with the addition of 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Make drop biscuits but spooning out portions of dough on the baking sheet instead of rolling them out.
  • Sprinkle a little course or sparkling sugar on the tops for added sweetness and texture




Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Another way to cut butter into flour is to grate the butter instead of using a pastry blender.  This method is easy and results in a nice texture.
  • The butter should be the size of peas once it is cut into the flour.
  • Don't overmix the dough.  It may look dry but the dough should hold together when pressed between your fingers.
  • Knead your dough. 
    •  Kneading dough is as simple as pushing the dough away from you with the heel of your palm, folding the top edge back over itself with your fingers, and repeating. 
  • Make your own pumpkin pie spice.  



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Pumpkin Spice Biscuits


makes 9


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (homemade version here)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (1 stick)
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.  Using a pastry blender or 2 forks, cut in the cold butter until the butter is the size of peas.  Stir in the milk just until all the dry ingredients are moistened.  (Dough should hold together when pressed together.)

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board and kneed 2 to 3 times.  Roll to a 1 inch thickness.  Using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter cut dough, rerolling any scraps as necessary.  Place them 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush the tops lightly with a little milk.  

Bake 15-18 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for 5 minutes.  Serve warm with butter or jam.











Thursday, October 21, 2021

Weeknight Supper: Chicken Fajita Pasta

Mexican meets Italian in this fabulous one-pan Chicken Fajita Pasta.  A weeknight meal that's sure to be a winner!




Chicken Fajita Pasta


I love quick and easy weeknight meals, and if they can be made in one-pan, I'm happy as a clam!  This weeknight supper is the perfect comfort food to make on a cozy fall night.  Everybody loves pasta, but let's put a spin on the traditional dishes by changing the flavor profile to feature some Latin flavors.  

Fajitas are a favorite around here so this dish is right up our alley.  The combination of pasta and chicken is a winner, but when you add Latin spices such as chili powder and cumin, and add in some fajita veggies (bell peppers and onion) you get one tasty pasta dish.  This is topped with a sauce made from salsa, chicken broth, and a touch of cream to make this dish crave worthy, yet comforting.  Make this in under 45 minutes any night of the week.

Enjoy!





What Ingredients do I need?

  • chicken breasts
  • spices: chili powder and ground cumin
  • yellow onion
  • bell peppers (red, green, yellow, or orange)
  • chicken broth
  • salsa - choose your spice level
  • heavy cream
  • short pasta
  • fresh lime


Substitutions and Variations

  • Use chicken thighs instead of breasts
  • Mix and match bell pepper





Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Keep a sheet pan or large bowl near the stove so you can place the cooked chicken and vegetables in it while making the sauce.
  • Dice your bell peppers and onion into bite sized pieces so they cook faster and are easier to eat with the pasta.


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Chicken Fajita Pasta 


serves 4


3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon chili powder, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 1/2 cups diced bell peppers (red, orange, green, or yellow)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces short pasta
1 lime

Mix the chili powder and cumin together.  Sprinkle the chicken with the seasoning so that it is well covered, save 1/2 teaspoon for the vegetables.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan.  Cook chicken 5-6 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside on a sheet pan.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the onion and bell peppers. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and cumin. Cook over medium-high heat until soft. Remove from the pan and set aside with the chicken.

Add the chicken broth, salsa, and cream to the pan. Add the pasta and cook covered for 10 minutes until pasta is done, stirring every so often, keeping it covered.

When pasta is done, add the chicken and veggies back to the pan. Heat until warmed through about another 5 minutes. Squeeze the juice of a lime over the dish and serve.










Thursday, October 7, 2021

Honey Nectarine Muffins

Hot from the oven, these muffins are filled with late summer nectarines and warming honey.  The perfect treat to go along with your coffee or tea on a cozy fall day!  




Honey Nectarine Muffins


As fall approaches we find ourselves wanting to snuggle in with the colder weather.  A great breakfast or snack, such as a muffin, will give you all the warm comfort feels that you crave.  

This one highlights late summer stone fruit, specifically nectarines.  Colored like a sunset, nectarines are sweet and succulent.  They are a healthy addition for baked goods.  We are also highlighting honey in this muffin.  I have replaced the refined sugar for honey to give it that warming flavor which results in a slightly less sweet muffin overall.  The addition of a mashed ripe banana keeps the muffins moist.  All combined, this is one great muffin!

Enjoy!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • eggs
  • milk
  • canola oil
  • flour
  • honey
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • ripe banana
  • nectarines

What different ways can I serve muffins?
  • breakfast
  • brunch
  • snacks
  • with coffee or tea
  • dessert
  • perfect for grab and go breakfasts or snack
  • bridal showers
  • baby showers
  • garden tea parties
  • Fall tailgating




Substitutions and Variations
  • You can do 1/2 the amount of flour in whole wheat flour if you like
  • Substitute 1/2 cup of sugar or brown sugar for the honey
  • Switch up the fruit, peaches or plums would be perfect.


Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • 1st rule of thumb when making muffins is not to "overmix" the batter.  You want it batter to just come together.  Little spots of flour is okay.
  • To get high muffin tops turn your oven up to 400 degrees.
  • Make sure you are using fresh baking powder.  To test put 1/2 teaspoon into 1/4 cup of boiling water.  If it bubbles, you are good.
  • Purchase a 6 well muffin tin for small batches.
  • Double the recipe for 12 muffins.
  • Muffins can be frozen individually and kept for 3 months.
  • Fill the muffin tin almost to the top for nice big muffins.



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Honey Nectarine Muffins


yield:  6 muffins


1/2 medium banana, mashed
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
11/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 nectarine, peeled and diced


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 6 well muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.

To a large bowl mash the banana.  Then add the egg, milk, canola oil, and honey.  Whisk to combine.  Add the flour, salt, baking powder.  Stir until just combined.  Do not overmix.  Fold in the chopped nectarines.

Using a large cookie scoop, distribute the batter evenly among the 6 muffin wells.  

Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown and set.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Serve.








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