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Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars


Are you all on Pinterest? It is definitely my new-found addiction! I have had a blast pinning pictures of all kinds of food, desserts, house decorations, and Thanksgiving and Christmas ideas.  If you follow my Pinterest account, you will see that I have a bit of a pumpkin problem! I can't stop pinning pumpkin recipes-- there are so many fantastic ideas using one of my favorite seasonal ingredients and I got a bit carried away. I couldn't wait to try some of them out so I decided to dive in and pick to bake!

This recipe for Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars immediately caught my eye and, wow, is it a keeper! I mean, snickerdoodles and pumpkin pie in one bar??? Yes, please!  These bars come from Lovin' From the Oven by way of Beantown Baker and so I knew they had to be good as both of these blogs consistently crank out delicious recipes.  And, just as I suspected, these bars were incredible! Perfect fall goodness!! The snickerdoodle layer is chewy and soft and the pumpkin pie layer is a perfect blend of custard-y pumpkin and spices.  To top it all off, the cinnamon sugar adds the perfect topping just like on any good snickerdoodle.  And finally, while its optional, the melted white chocolate adds a nice garnish to the top.  You can't really taste the white chocolate that much but I think it definitely makes these look pretty. :)

Finally, I took the advice from Lovin From the Oven to bake the snickerdoodle layer about 7-10 minutes before adding the pumpkin pie layer.  I'm really glad I did as this is such a thick bar and the cookie layer needed a little more time to bake and form a sort of crust to support the pumpkin pie.  Even still, this bar is very "pie-like" than a traditional blondie.  I absolutely loved how this recipe turned out and am excited to have a new pumpkin recipe to make during the fall.  See how great Pinterest is??




Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars


Ingredients:


For the Snickerdoodle Layer:
3 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tbs. vanilla extract

For the Pumpkin Pie Layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. each of cloves, nutmeg, and ginger
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin

Topping:
2 tbs. white sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
white chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9x13 baking


For the Snickerdoodle Layer
1.  Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.  In a large bowl beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
2.  Stir the mixture into the baking pan and smooth with a spatula.
3.  Bake the snickerdoodle layer until slightly, about 7-10 minutes.  (This layer needs more cooking time than the pumpkin pie layer).  Set aside while you prepare the pumpkin pie layer.

For the Pumpkin Pie Layer:
1.In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well-combined.  Pour this mixture over the snickerdoodle layer.
2. Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.  Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon sugar layer on top of the pumpkin pie layer.
3.  Bake at 350 for 33-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean.  Let the bars cool completely.  They will deflate a bit and the pumpkin pie layer will not be totally firm (like regular pumpkin pie).
4.  After the bars have cooled, place white chocolate chips in a microwave proof bowl.  Microwave chips until melted, stirring every 20 seconds to prevent burning.  Poor melted chocolate into a ziplock bag and cut a small corner off one side of the bag and squeeze chocolate over the top in decorative swirls.  You can also use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate and omit using the ziplock bag.

Adapted from Lovin' From the Oven via Beantown Baker



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Edamame Hummus with Toasted Pita Chips


I'm finding it's that "dip" time of year.  Between football, tailgating, the holidays, and an increasing amount of time spent indoors, it seems like we all will enjoy spending time with our friends and loved ones over some good food during the next few months.

I got together with 2 of my favorite bloggers, Amy at Gastronome Tart and Courtney at Cook Like a Champion for dinner the other week-- we always have a great time chatting about blogging and, of course, food!  For an appetizer, we shared an order of Edamame Hummus.  I think we all decided on this because it sounded intriguing and also seemed a relatively healthy option.  Well, I absolutely loved this version of hummus-- it was such a nice change from the standard hummus made from chick peas.  I have been thinking of it (longingly) in the weeks since and finally searched for a recipe to make my own.

As you can tell from the title, this hummus is made using edamame (soy beans) as its base.  After blanching the edamame, you process the beans with some tahini, lemon, garlic, and spices and that's it! I used my 2-cup mini food processor and it worked great. We served this with crisped pita chips which are so easy to make on your own and a healthy option as well.  You just take pita bread (I used whole wheat but you can use whatever kind you'd like) and bake it on a cookie sheet until its nice and crunchy.  This dip is also great with fresh veggies (carrots, red pepper strips, celery, cucumber slices are good options) or if you are short of time, tortilla chips are yummy too.

I love to collect good dip recipes, especially at this time of year, and this one was definitely a keeper for me.  I like that its so easy to make and the ingredients can be kept on hand.  Its just an added bonus that this dip is healthy too-- definitely a delicious option to keep in mind.   Don't you just love it when you genuinely enjoy eating something and its healthy too??

As a note, you may find you need to adjust the measurements to suit your own preference.  It you want your dip to be creamier, you may want to add more tahini. Also, this dip is good and garlicky so if that's not your thing, you may want to use only 1 clove.  I found I had to taste the dip and adjust slightly until I got it where I wanted it.

Ingredients:
6 (6-inch) pitas, split in half horizontally
1 1/2 cups frozen blanched shelled edamame
4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3-4 tbs. tahini (sesame-seed paste)
3 tbs. water
3 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. paprika

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange pita halves in a single layer on oven rack.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until crisp, and cool completely on a wire rack.  Break each pita half into about 6 chips.

Prepare edamame according to package directions, omitting salt.  Place 1 tbs. oil, salt, cumin, and garlic in a food processor, and pulse 2 to 3 times or until coarsely chopped.  Add the edamame, parsley, tahini, water, and lemon juice; process 1 minute or until smooth.  Spoon the hummus into a serving bowl.  Drizzle with 1 tsp. oil, and sprinkle with paprika.  Serve with pita chips.

Adapted from Cooking Light



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Breaded Chicken Breasts with Peppadew Peppers and Fontina Cheese: Contest Closed!


I was so excited when American Express and the Tastemakers Program with Foodbuzz contacted me to tell me my blog was selected for their Dinner @6 promotion and contest. First of all, this will be my first giveaway on my blog and wow, its a really good one-- read on to see the details on how you can win a great prize courtesy of American Express! Second, came the little challenge for me that I've been mulling over for the last week or so.  As part of the contest, I had to create a dinner in six ingredients or less.  When you really start nailing that down, it was more difficult than it seemed at first, but I was up for a challenge!

One of my favorite radio programs is The Splendid Table on NPR with host Lynne Rosetto Kasper. As the show says, its the "show for people who love to eat" and it really is.  If you love food, definitely check it out.  Anyway, one of my favorite segments is when Kasper invites a famous chef or personality to join her in playing "Stump the Cook."  She is given 5 ingredients from the home kitchen of a listener and has to come up with a dish that sounds edible given the strange assortment.  She is amazing at making something that sounds delicious out of a combination such as  maple syrup, beef kielbasa, dark beer, fresh coconut, and alligator pears. Then the celebrity judge passes or fails her.  She usually wins and I am usually thinking, "wow, I would actually eat that" she's made the dish sound so good.

This kind of felt like my own version of "Stump the Cook" except that I could thankfully choose my own ingredients (whew). I finally settled on stuffed chicken breasts-- but hmm, what to stuff them with? Since I only had six ingredients, I wanted each one to really pack a punch.  According to the rules, we could use salt, pepper, water, and oil and not have them count against our six.  That was great news to me! Breaded chicken cutlets are a staple with my Italian relatives and I've grew up eating them.  While you can make them many ways, if you  want to just make them very simply (but yum, so deliciously) pound chicken breasts, dip into olive oil, and cover with bread crumbs seasoned with salt and pepper.  It sounds like it wouldn't be flavorful but its wonderful!

I started with this as my base recipe and then decided to walk around the grocery store and see what caught my eye.  The point of this contest is to encourage easy to prepare dinners so I was trying to keep that in mind.  I thought peppers of some sort would be tasty so I bought both a jar of roasted red peppers and then spotted the Peppadews on the olive bar.  Peppadew peppers are so good-- a little sweet, a little spicy and a ton of flavor.  They are the little red peppers that are about the size of cherry tomatoes.  They can generally be found on olive bars in the deli section of your well-stocked grocery store.  A few months ago, I made pimento mac and cheese with Peppadew peppers and it has quickly become one of my all-time favorite mac and cheese recipes due, in big part, from the flavor of the Peppadews..

Next, I thought my dish needed some cheese, so I picked up some Fontina and Gruyere.  Both are creamy and would melt nicely when rolled up in the chicken.  The Gruyere, often used in fondue, has a slightly nuttier taste than a young Fontina, which is creamy and mild (and one of my favorite cheeses). Both do well in baking and are good "melting" cheeses.

First I took the chicken breasts and pounded them nice and thin with a meat pounder (such a good stress release), then I sprinkled the chicken with salt and pepper.  On one of the chicken breasts, I added sliced Peppadews and slices of Fontina and then on the other I added strips of roasted pepper and slices of Gruyere.  Then I rolled the chicken up and dipped each roll in olive oil and then in bread crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder.  My final ingredient count? 5!! chicken, cheese, peppers, bread crumbs, and garlic (the salt, pepper, and oil don't count, remember).

After the chicken baked, I called in my resident taste-tester, my dear husband.  After smelling the chicken baking while he was watching football, he was more than happy to help.  As you can guess from the title, the chicken with the Peppadews and the Fontina won hands down.  The peppers added a little heat and a little sweetness and a lot of flavor to the dish and the Fontina was creamy and delicious.  This recipe was a snap to put together too, making this a great week night recipe.

One last note, the proportions of this recipe are meant to be a guide and not followed to the letter.  If you want to add ingredients to your bread crumb mixture, such as basil or parsley, or use seasoned bread crumbs, adjust it to your taste.  Also, I tried to guesstimate on how much cheese and strips of pepper I used, so adjust this as well if you like more or less cheese, etc.



Breaded Chicken with Peppadew Peppers and Fontina Cheese
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
4-6 oz. Fontina cheese
8 Peppadew peppers, or more to taste

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place chicken breasts in between sheets of plastic wrap. Pound the chicken with a meat pounder or rolling pin until its about 1/4 of an inch thick.  Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper.

In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, garlic powder.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  In a separate small shallow bowl, pour about 5 tbs. of olive oil.

Slice 2 Peppadew peppers and place them on the flattened chicken.  Add 2 oz. of Fontina on top of the peppers.  Gently roll the chicken while keeping the peppers and cheese tucked inside.  Dip the chicken roll into the olive oil and make sure the entire breast is lightly covered.  Then, dip the chicken roll into the bread crumbs and completely cover.  Place the chicken roll on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Repeat this process with the other 3 breasts.  If you find that your chicken is coming unraveled, secure the seam with a toothpick.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until juices run clear and chicken is thoroughly cooked.

The Contest:
NOW, for the details on the contest. Do you like how I kept the suspense up by making you scroll to the bottom? I'm so mean! :)  As part of the Dinner@6 contest sponsored by Blue Cash PreferredSM, American Express provided me with a $100 gift card to give out to one lucky commenter. All you have to do is leave a comment for this post by answering the question: "What is my favorite 6-ingredient recipe?"


So, ready to win a $100 gift card from American Express?? Here's what you need to know:


How to enter: Leave a comment telling me your favorite 6-ingredient recipe.  The contest ends on Friday, September 30, 2011 at 11:59pm. The winner will then be chosen by a random drawing.  


Some Important Details:
  • Only one entry per person- strictly enforced
  • You must be 18 or older at the time of entry.
  • Only US residents for this contest (sorry about that one, folks)
  • All comments must be under this post to be considered for entry. 
  • Please, please leave me your email address in the comment section so I can contact you when you win!! 
  • For more information, please see the official rules page. 
Good luck!

Disclosure: This post is part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with American Express. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Apple Pecan Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting


Well, it seems like I've been away for a long time and that its been a crazy couple of weeks.  Between  the earthquake, Hurricane Irene, the end of summer, and some traveling it's felt like a whirlwind.  I haven't been able to blog as much as I'd like lately and I've missed it terribly but I'm excited to be back and entering this new season which is my absolute favorite time of the year.  Ask anyone who knows me, but I am an absolute nut about fall-- sweaters, spiced cider, pumpkin bread (my friend Erin has the best recipe), fall leaves, apple picking, cool weather-- I just love it.

Since I met my husband, the first official kick-off of fall is his family reunion in western Pennsylvania which we just returned from this week.  Its always a great time- great family, lots of laughing, and you guessed it-- great food. I have to say, I was very disappointed there were no bear sightings this year but I guess these things aren't controlled by us. :)  I did my best to round up some recipes from his side of the family which I hope will appear in future blog posts as there are some good cooks on that side of the family!

As for these cupcakes-- they are a great way to start your fall baking.  I sent them to my husband's office and they were a huge hit. The addition of the wheat flour to the batter give the cake a little bulk without making it taste too much like a muffin and the cinnamon cream cheese icing is a perfect offset.  I loved how the cupcake was full of bites of apple and toasted pecan, although if you don't like nuts or are worried about allergies, this would taste great without the nuts as well.


Apple Pecan Cake


Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour (I used white whole-wheat flour) *
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups, golden delicious or granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
2 tsp. vanilla extract

* White whole-wheat flour can be found at larger grocery store chains and specialty stores on the baking aisle.  I buy mine at Kroger or Trader Joes. Its milled from white spring wheat instead from red wheat which gives it its lighter color.

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coarsely chop the pecans and spread on a baking sheet.  Toast until golden brown and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes, being careful not to burn.  Remove and allow pecans to cool slightly.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and the salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the oil with the sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until light, about 1 or 2 minutes.  Add the dry ingredients in thirds, beating after each addition until smooth.  The batter will be very thick and doughlike.  Add the apples, pecans, and vanilla and mix until just combined.  Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  This cake is extremely moist so you may need to add additional cooking time. Allow muffin pans to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting


Ingredients:
1 pound (2 eight oz. packages) cream cheese, softened slightly, cut into pieces.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened slightly, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions:
In a medium-size bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and the butter until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and beat.  Gradually add the powdered sugar and cinnamon and beat until well incorporated.

Allow icing to thicken slightly in the refrigerator before frosting cupcakes.  I use an 18-inch pastry bag and a large pastry tip to decorate my cupcakes.  In this case, I used a large closed star tip to get this swirled effect.

Cake and Icing adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook



Friday, September 2, 2011

Guest Post at Bake Your Day: Apple Orchard Crumble


I'm guest posting over at Bake Your Day today for the lovely and sweet Cassie! Please go over and say hello if you don't already follow her marvelous blog! Just don't go hungry or you'll be running for the fridge after seeing all of her delicious recipes! :)

I made Apple Orchard Crumble which is a delicious "fallish" comforting treat. Just what we needed after last week's earthquake and hurricane.  I did learn that there is no easy way (for me anyway) to make a crumble look pretty in pictures so please don't let that dissuade you.  This crumble is SO good and your house will smell of cinnamon! Ahhhhh....


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