Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Blog Makeover and Super Bowl Snacks

My blog makeover is done!!! And I simply love the results. Kaela at Fresh Designs is my hero and an incredibly talented graphic artist.

To celebrate my new look, I’ve decided to hold a contest and giveaway. I’ve already started gathering goodies, so stay tuned. I’ll have the contest up by the next post.

Now on to the food…

I love the Super Bowl for two reasons. First it means that football is finally OVER. Second, even though I’m not a football fan, I love any excuse for a party – or to eat. And the Super Bowl inspires all kinds of wonderful food creations.

This year, Cathy at Noble Pig hosted a Super Bowl recipe contest over at her blog. If you’ve been following my blog, you know how much I love a recipe contest. Even though I’ve never won one, I love the challenge of coming up with a recipe and the camaraderie of joining other fabulous cooks in a group endeavor.

Since Super Bowl food is more the Kitchen Genius’s forte than mine, I let him come up with the idea for this contest. Rather than the usual dips, ribs, wings and meatballs, he opted for mini “Reuben” sliders.

I adore miniature food of any kind, so this idea struck me as perfect. We made up a batch of these to test ideas and create a recipe.

First KG fried up some turkey kielbasa on our electric griddle along with some sauerkraut.

Then I helped him build the little sandwiches. It really didn’t take long and they were beyond yummy!

We didn’t make the finalists, but it was hard to feel bad because 1,026 people entered this contest! That’s got to be a record in food blogging contests. Plus we had a really fun and tasty meal.

The Recipe:

"Reuben" Sliders
Makes 18

1 pound package Hillshire Farm Turkey Polska Kielbasa
1 loaf Pepperidge Farm Party Bread – Dark Pumpernickel (36 slices)
9 sliced mild cheddar or Swiss cheese, folded in half and then in half again to make 4 pieces per slice.
1 cup sauerkraut
36 slices Bread and Butter Pickles
2 tablespoons Thousand Island dressing (bottled or see recipe below)
3 tablespoons butter

Thousand Island Dressing:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish

Heat a large electric griddle. Slice kielbasa into thin (1/4 inch) slices and fry slices on skillet turning once, until lightly brown on both sides. In the meantime, place sauerkraut on end of skillet and heat through. Place kielbasa and sauerkraut in separate bowls and set aside.

Wash griddle and with heat off, set up mini Reubens in the following order: Lightly butter one side of nine slices of party pumpernickel and place butter side down on griddle. Place one of the cheese quarters on each slice of bread. Add a dollop of Thousand Island dressing. Place 1 tablespoon sauerkraut on top, followed by three kielbasa slices. Add two slices of Bread and Butter pickles, another quarter slice of cheese. Top with another slice of lightly buttered party pumpernickel, butter side up.

Grill mini Reubens over medium low heat until lightly toasted, about four minutes. Carefully flip Reubens over and grill the other side until bread is lightly toasted and cheese is melted.

For a printable recipe click here

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Clams and Mussels and Steaks, Oh My!

Last weekend we had 24 hours without kids and what do you think we did? Well yes, that too of course, but first we cooked together, creating a meal one course at a time with little tidbits of exquisite bites every couple of hours, paired with martinis and wine.

It was kind of an accidental thing, but maybe that's what made it so nice. No pressure or expectation because we didn’t have time to think about it. After church we went to Ring Bros. Marketplace and walked around looking at all the interesting food there. The original plan was to make a whole bunch of appetizers instead of dinner.

When we got home I decided to make the Kicked Up Cream of Tomato Soup I posted last Sunday. The Kitchen Genius watched football and I wrote for a while and then settled in to read.

At 5:00, KG made Clams Casino (pictured above) and I made Cheddar Horseradish Spread with garlic crustini.

Two hours later, when KG picked up our son Tommy at his friend's house and dropped him off at my Mom's, my step-father gave him some scallops with lemon caper sauce left over from their dinner.

KG came home and put them into little casseroles and topped them with buttered bread crumbs and baked them. We ate them with beach plum lemoncello martinis.

Later I made mussels in a Dijon wine broth that we paired with Sauvignon Blanc. This was my favorite dish of the day. I started with Anthony Bourdain’s basic recipe for Moules Marinieres in his Les Halles Cookbook
and added garlic, herbs de province and Dijon mustard. The broth was so tasty, I could have poured it in a glass and drank it. Instead, I ate way too much bread, sopping it up.

A couple of hours later, we finished with small well seasoned steaks, roasted yellow beets and a salad with gorgonzola, toasted pecans and apples. And of course a bottle of cabernet.

I can’t imagine what it would cost to order such a feast in a restaurant, but that’s one of the things I love best about cooking at home. You can have yummy and decadent food at a fairly affordable price.

This meal was, in fact, ridiculously cheap. The mussels only cost $1.99 and the steaks were part of the Omaha Steaks meat package my dad gave us for Christmas, so they were free. The clams cost $3 and the scallops were free. The beach plum lemoncello was a gift from one of KG’s friends and the wine was a Christmas gift from our daughter, Jess, and her boyfriend, Scott. They bought us a case of wine that we are still thoroughly enjoying.

I spent about $5 on the beets and salad fixings, so the total cost of the feast was only $9.99. Now that's a bargain!

The Recipes:

Clams Casino
Serves 2

12 littleneck clams
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup onion, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons red pepper very finely chopped
2 tablespoons celery very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 piece of soft oatmeal bread
2 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 slices of bacon, cut in half, fried until 3/4 done, and then cut in thirds.

Open clams, discard top shell. Place butter and olive oil in skillet and sauté onion, pepper, celery and garlic over medium heat stirring occasionally, until tender, about five minutes. Divide sautéed veggies among the clams.

Break bread into pieces and place in mini food processor. Pulse lightly until crumbs. Add parmesan cheese and butter and pulse once or twice to blend. Add a teaspoon of bread crumb topping to each. Top with piece of bacon. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

For a printable recipe click here

Cheddar Horseradish Spread

1 – 8 ounce package Neufchatel cheese
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, finely grated
1/4 cup Romano cheese, finely grated
3 tablespoons horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Mix all ingredient well and serve with crackers or *Crustini.

*Crustini: 1 petite French baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch slices. Rub top of each slice with a fresh garlic clove. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for five minutes.

For a printable recipe click here

Dijon Mussels
Serves 2 as an appetizer or 1 as a meal

1 pound mussels, scrubbed
4 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon county Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Herbs de province
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Melt butter in 5 quart Dutch oven. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add wine, mustard, herbs, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil for two minutes. Add mussels and cover. Cook for 8 – 10 minutes on medium high heat. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

For a printable recipe click here

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Beef Enchiladas for an Artful Potluck

Our son Tommy has been participating in a 12 week art program called “Art on the Edge” at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM). It is one of the most impressive programs I’ve ever seen.

Every Saturday a bus picked him up at a nearby school and brought him up to Provincetown where he spent the entire day with 19 other students working with local professional artists.

They learned about drawing, portraits, monotype and white-line woodblock prints and sculpture. The entire program was free, including lunch, thanks to grants from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, Peter Petas and Ted Jones, The Aeroflex Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts.

Words cannot express how much Tommy enjoyed this program. Here he is next to his art. He was embarrassed by my photo, but so proud to be in a real art exhibit:

At the end of the program, there was a student exhibition at the museum and last Friday PAAM held a pot luck supper reception that we attended.

It took me much longer than it should have to figure out what to bring. The biggest challenge was finding something that would travel well and still be warm enough to serve after a half an hour in a cold car.

I scoured cookbooks and magazines and just couldn’t decide until finally, when time was running out, I decided to make Beef Enchilada’s from Maryana Vollstedt’s cookbook, The Big Book of Potluck: Good Food - and Lots of It - for Parties, Gatherings, and All Occasions

Off to the grocery store I went. I was already behind, so of course the first store didn’t have corn tortillas. Thankfully the second store did, and I raced home with just enough time to make the recipe before we had to leave.

The recipe looks longer than it is. It took me about a half an hour to put these together and then they baked for 35 minutes. The only problem I had with the recipe was the corn tortillas were quite fragile and tended to crack when I rolled them.

Cooking under deadline is my least favorite thing to do, and I freaked out when the first one literally crumbled in my hands. The recipe instructed that I dip the tortillas in the sauce before filling them. Uh, no. That just made a smooshy mess there was no way to salvage, so I decided to skip that step.

The next tortilla stayed mostly intact, but a big crack formed across the top (bottom when filling) of the tortilla when I layed it in the baking pan. It was quick decision time. I could slink into the potluck with no dish in hand and pay $5 each to attend or I could just kept going, hoping the enchilada sauce and cheese would cover up the cracks.

As you can see from the photo, the sauce and cheese did their magic and even better, the recipe was quite tasty. I especially like the flavor of the enchilada sauce.

It was a great potluck with tons of really interesting food - and they even had wine! We ate and then walked around the gallery looking at the art. The student exhibit was one of four exhibits at PAAM, so it was a very nice show and a truly lovely evening.

In other blogging news, I’ve been working on a blog makeover with the lovely Mikaela Fisher at Fresh Designs Studio. Mikaela has created a custom design that I simply LOVE, but now it’s time to implement the changes and there might be a few glitches.

I’m adding a navigation bar at the top of my blog and that information will (hopefully) be invisible to people who just visit my blog. But anyone who subscribes to my blog will most likely be getting a “post” that is really one of the future items on my navigation bar.

You can either ignore them or consider them a preview, but I want to thank you in advance for your patience through this process, especially if you get a few posts from me in quick succession that say such lame things as "under construction."

The Recipe:

Beef Enchiladas
(Adapted from The Big Book of Pot Luck)
Serves 6 - 8

Meat Filling:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
12 corn tortillas (see note)
Homemade enchilada sauce (recipe follows)
4 cups (about 18 ounces) grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

To make the meat filling: In a large skillet over medium heat, cook beef, onion, salt and pepper to taste, breaking up meat with a spoon, until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender, 6 – 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To assemble the enchiladas: Spread a teaspoon of enchilada sauce in center of a corn tortilla. Place 2 large spoonfuls of meat mixture in a strip down the center of the tortilla. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon cheese and 1 teaspoon sour cream on top of meat mixture. Roll up and place, seam side down, in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray or oil. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining sauce over all and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake uncovered, until bubbly, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup diced bell pepper (green or red)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cup beef broth
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 – 3 drops of Tabasco

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil and sauté onion, garlic and bell pepper until tender, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, flour and spices. Add broth and stir until thickened. Add tomato sauce and Tabasco. Reduce temperature to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Optional Toppings:
Slice green onions
Pitted olives
Sour cream
Diced avocado

For a printable recipe click here

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kicked up Cream of Tomato Soup with Spiced Chickpeas

This was a busy work week for me, so my cooking has been more basic than inspired lately.

It didn’t even occur to me until last night that the only soup I made this week was a recipe I had already posted, so I could not participate in Deb at Kahakai Kitchen’s Souper Sunday this week.

But this afternoon I proved that really good soup does always need to be a time consuming affair. After church, I was leafing through some magazines and the February issue of Redbook had the caption “Simple Soup Suppers” on the cover.

Curious, I leafed to the article and found a Tomato-Coconut Soup with Spiced Chickpeas that looked yummy – and best of all, I had most of the ingredients for the recipe right in my cupboard.

Even though this recipe was new and I had no idea how these ingredients would taste together, I changed the recipe to reflect the ingredients I had on hand and just followed my instincts with crossed fingers.

This is a spicy, flavorful take on cream of tomato soup that only takes about a half an hour to make. The flavor was sublime. It has a hint of ginger and curry with the smoky flavor of roasted peppers (my addition) complementing the tomatoes. The coconut milk adds creaminess, but I couldn’t taste the actual flavor of coconut. And the spiced chick peas were tasty enough that the Kitchen Genius ate handfuls of them as snacks as well as sprinkling them on his soup.

Truthfully, I never would have tried to make this soup if it weren’t for Souper Sundays. One of the things I love the most about food blogging is it stretches me out of my comfort zone of ordinary recipes and inspires me to try new things so I have something fun to write about. This one’s a keeper.

*** Tip: For roasted peppers, cut pepper in quarters and cut out stem and seeds. Cut each quarter in half and place skin side up in baking sheet lined with foil. Broil until skin is blackened, about 5 minutes. Place hot peppers in a Ziploc bag and seal tight. In 5 – 7 minutes, the skins will be loose enough to easily slip off.

Kicked up Cream of Tomato Soup with Spiced Chickpeas
(Adapted from Redbook magazine)
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
1/2 cup roasted red or yellow peppers, diced
1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 – 15 ounce can chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 cup light coconut milk

Spiced Chick Peas

3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sour cream, sliced scallions

Heat oil in five quart soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 4 minutes until translucent. Stir in ginger and garlic and cook two minutes until fragrant. Add tomatoes, roasted peppers, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 25 minutes.

While soup simmers, place flour, curry powder, and salt in a Ziploc bag. Close and shake to combine. Add chickpeas to the bag and toss until coated. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Pour chickpea mixture in a sieve and shake off excess coating. Add to skillet and sauté 6 – 8 minutes, stirring frequently until golden brown and crusty. Drain on paper towels.

Puree soup using a hand held immersion blender. Stir in coconut milk and place back on stove until heated through. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with a teaspoon sour cream and sliced scallions. Spoon spiced chickpeas over each serving.

For a printable recipe click here

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cheddar and Scallion Biscuits

Have I mentioned that the Kitchen Genius is competitive?

It doesn’t matter whether it is Scrabble, Poker, golf, baseball, or cooking – that man likes to win. It drove him a bit crazy that I’ve been baking so much because pantry cleaner is his role in our house.

After my pumpkin spree, his fingers were itching to play in the kitchen. Last Sunday, I spent the day writing a story about the fabulous photographers in the Cape Cod Viewfinders Club. I took a break in the afternoon to put a pot of ham and bean soup on the stove.

Before I even had a chance to think about what to serve with it, KG was out in the kitchen whipping up a batch of cheddar and scallion biscuits. They were absolutely awesome. I was too distracted by the story I was writing to take photos that night at dinner, but the next day I made myself some little biscuit sandwiches for lunch.

I split the biscuits and grilled them and then added a scrambled egg topped with a slice of cheddar cheese. Pure yum!

Cheddar and Scallion Biscuits
Makes 8 - 10

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Butter flavored Crisco
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped scallions

In a bowl stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in shortening and butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center; add milk all at once. Stir just until dough clings together. Fold in cheese and scallions.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough gently for 10 to 12 strokes. Pat dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a biscuit cutter and place biscuits on baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until golden.

For a printable recipe click here

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve actually been doing a fair job of keeping that cookie jar my Mom gave me full of cookies just like I vowed.

This isn’t entirely altruistic on my part. As usual I bought way too many ingredients to make Christmas cookies, and now my pantry runneth over with baking ingredients like walnuts, chocolate chips, dates and crystallized ginger.

The Kitchen Genius HATES this. It drives him crazy when I buy ingredients that I don't use in an orderly manner. When his level of irritation reaches the apex of his toleration, he actually starts piling these overflow ingredients on the counter and searches through cookbooks for ways to make them go away.

Ha! I beat him to it last week with my baking frenzy. When I usurped his role as pantry cleaner, he actually hovered, reading the recipe, handing me ingredients and generally getting in the way.

That little sugar pumpkin I cooked up last week yielded 2 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, so even after I made the yummy Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins I still had some left to play with. When I was planning my Christmas cookies, I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies that I wanted to try. Unfortunately I ran out of time and energy (hence that full pantry).

A new pet project of the past few months is to see how many healthy foods I can get my son, Tommy, to eat. He is my fussiest eater and hates ALL vegetables. We used to joke that the only vegetable he ate was ketchup – only it wasn’t a joke.

Now that he’s 13 1/2 and growing like crazy (he’s bigger than me now and his feet are simply enormous), he’s always hungry and that is working in my favor because he’s more willing to try new foods than ever before just out of sheer starvation.

In a recent article in the New York Times, nutritionist and author Jonny Bowden recently listed the 11 best foods that are easy to find that people aren’t eating, and pumpkin made the list because it’s loaded with fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A.

I’m sure muffins and cookies aren’t the healthiest way to deliver pumpkin, but I’m working with what I’ve got, and that boy will eat cookies.

The recipe comes from a little yellow tin recipe box I bought in the craft store my Mom had more than 20 years ago. I was a young wife and mother and the box came filled with hand typed recipes. This one is attributed to a woman named Nancy who is probably from Binghamton, New York, where I bought the recipe box.

If these cookies are any indication, Nancy is a very good cook. The cake-like cookies were moist and delicious and disappeared quickly. After dinner, I put the plate pictured above on the dining room table. An hour later, this is what was left:

When I was done baking the cookies, I still had a half a cup of pumpkin left so KG suggested I use it for a sauce for pizza that night. (Do you see a thread here of how that man just wants me to use up every ingredient?) I topped the pumpkin with a light layer of mozzarella, bacon, caramelized onions and Gorgonzola cheese and it brought pizza to a new level of fun and tasty.

I think I still have a can of pumpkin in the pantry, so this isn’t the end of the pumpkin recipes, but I’m giving it a rest for now. On to dates and crystallized ginger…

The Recipe:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

1 cup pumpkin
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine pumpkin, egg, oil, milk and sugar. Beat well. Sift flour with baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir into pumpkin mixture. Add vanilla, chips and walnuts and stir to combine. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

For a printable recipe click here

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Southwestern Chicken Soup Chases the Winter Chill Away

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get back to some of my favorite cooking.

One thing I’ve missed is contributing to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen's “Souper Sundays,” a roundup of food blogger’s weekly soup recipes that makes me happy because I love soup so much.

The pumpkin muffins I wrote about in my last post were the perfect accompaniment to the pot of Southwestern Chicken Soup I made on a particularly bitter day last week. I’m not a big fan of chicken noodle soup because it just seems a bit bland to me, but this soup has tons of flavor.

The Kitchen Genius and I are in constant disagreement over how to make a good soup. I think there is no such thing as too many ingredients in a soup. I like my soups thick and chock full of every veggie I have on hand. He thinks my soups have too much stuff in them and need more broth.

This is one of my favorite chicken soup recipes, but the ingredients change just a bit every time I make it. Most of the time I use the leftover chicken from a roasted chicken, but I have also bought a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store if I'm just craving this soup.

In keeping with the Southwestern flavors, I usually use black beans, but I didn’t have any, so I substituted red kidney beans. If I have it on hand, I add cubed butternut squash about 20 minutes before the soup is ready to serve.

The chance for creativity is the true beauty of soup. It is the perfect way to use whatever ingredients you have on hand for a unique flavor every time.

The Recipe:

Southwestern Chicken Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper (yellow, red, orange or green), diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 – 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 – 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn

Optional: 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash

Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven. Add onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic and carrots and sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently for five minutes or until just tender, but not brown. Add diced tomatoes and chicken stock, adding more or less chicken stock according to taste. Stir in chili powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add chicken, black beans (and optional butternut squash) and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Add corn and cook for an additional 5 – 10 minutes. Top with baked tortilla chips.

Baked Tortilla Chips

Slice 1 – 12-inch tortilla into thin strips and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder. Bake at 350 degrees for five minutes.

For a printable recipe click here

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins

Ever since Thanksgiving I have had a small sugar pumpkin on my counter. When I bought it, I wasn’t sure what I would make with it.

Pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread – the recipes all filtered through my brain, but somehow I never got around to actually making any of them.

And so the pumpkin sat there - a decoration out of its season, a gourd just begging to be eaten - until this week, when I finally decided enough was enough. I cut the pumpkin in half and scooped out the seeds. I put it cut side up in a baking pan with a little water, covered the pan with foil and baked it for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

I was making soup that night for dinner, so I decided to make Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins from an old Libby’s recipe I cut out of a magazine many years ago. I found the recipe as I was going through my recipe box to make Christmas cookies.

The muffins were moist and spicy with tender bits of apple. The photo I'm posting just doesn't do this recipe justice. I tried to take a photo of a muffin after it was broken open and some better lit ones of the basket, but the battery in my camera died. Since the family was waiting for me to sit down and eat, I gave up on the photos and just enjoyed the muffins.

My family simply glommed these babies down. Best of all, the recipe made 18 muffins. So we had muffins for dinner and then the kids ate them again for breakfast and AGAIN as an afterschool snack. Yep, there were that many and they couldn’t get enough.

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins
Adapted from Libby’s

Makes 18 muffins

2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup solid pack pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups peeled, finely chopped apples

Streusel Topping
In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in 4 tablespoons butter until mixture is crumbly.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (first 7). Set aside. In medium bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, and oil. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir until just moistened. Stir in apples. Spoon batter into greased muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle Streusel Topping over batter. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

For a printable recipe click here

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Looking for Tagine Recipes

We’ve been playing with our Christmas presents, and there were plenty of kitchen toys under our tree. Some have been easier than others to figure out. My Mom, the gadget queen, gave the Kitchen Genius a silicone tagine this year.

A what? you might ask. Or maybe that was just my response when she asked me if he had one. Perhaps you all know what a tagine is, but for those like me who didn’t, it’s a flat dish with a cone-style top that is used in Moroccan cooking. Tagine also refers to the dishes one makes in this little pot.

There are lovely (and pricey) clay and ceramic tagines for true aficionados, but I’m not ready to invest in that kind of fun quite yet because I’m still struggling with the silicone one.

It came with a little booklet with sparse directions and six recipes – in seven languages. Lamb and veal with spices like ginger and coriander figure prominently in the recipes, but there was one for chicken with lemon and ginger that sounded tasty and doable.

Since this was a whole new experience I followed the recipe EXACTLY, instead of my usual creative approach. I sliced the lemon very thin for the first layer and put the browned chicken on top.

I topped it with chopped onion and layered in ground cumin, thyme and ground star anise where indicated and topped it off with chicken stock.

Even though I couldn’t believe this rubbery contraption should actually go in the oven, I gingerly slid it in and set the timer, praying it wouldn’t melt and ruin my stove – or worse burn down the house.

When the timer went off, I took the still intact tagine out of the oven. The chicken was cooked and there was quite a lot of broth. Since I made rice to go along with the dish, I thought it would be nice to thicken the juice a bit. I made a slurry of corn starch and water, but just before I made the sauce I decided to taste the juice to see if it needed any seasoning.

I almost gagged. Even though it was attractive, the juice tasted like vomit. I know that is not a word you want to see on a cooking blog, but there is no other accurate description for the sourness of that flavor.

So, I’m not posting that recipe because I hope NO ONE ever makes it again. I even called my mother right up (because she bought the same tagine for herself) to warn her to NEVER try that recipe.

On the bright side we have had really good luck cooking vegetables in the tagine in the microwave. We sliced some carrots, tossed them with butter, salt and pepper, and voila, four minutes later they were a delicious side dish. Green beans tossed with a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic were also yummy.

I’m not ready to give up on this little tagine, so if anyone has any suggestions for recipes, please let me know.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A New Year's Feast and Moral Dilemma

We’ve been on a pretty strict budget lately, even for our beloved food. So when the Kitchen Genius came home with two racks of lamb last week, I thought the sheepish look he gave me was for blowing the grocery budget.

Uh, no. He was feeling incredibly guilty because he got both racks of lamb for only $9.50. A closer look showed that the lamb was mislabeled as pork and the price was MUCH less per pound than lamb would be. KG fretted that he should have informed the butcher, instead of buying the two wrongly priced packages. (The fact that he searched the whole case to find the second one only added to his mounting guilt.)

Years ago when I was in High School, I worked in a grocery store and the rule was the customer always got the lowest price on an item – even if it was priced wrong or double priced. So I comforted KG that he didn’t need to feel guilty at all. The grocery store would have given him the lower price even if he called their attention to it.

At least the one I worked at would have…back in the early 80’s…But then I got wondering: In today’s world, would he have still gotten the lower price if he pointed out the store’s mistake? Even more troubling, did I justify his behavior because I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into those lamb chops?

So I put the question out to you: Was it wrong to take the lamb and run???

Needless to say, the lamb was the centerpiece for our New Year’s feast. Our usual celebration is to eat homemade pizza and have a family game night for whatever collection of our kids are home.

This year our 15-year-old daughter, Julie, was babysitting, but we had our 4-year-old granddaughter, Skylar, in her place. I made pepperoni pizza for the grandbaby and my 13-year old son, Tommy, and they were happy, happy, happy.

I used some of the pizza dough to make a white pizza with carmelized onions, Kalamata olives and Gorganzola cheese to go along with the lamb.

KG cut the two racks into individual chops and marinated them with a rub olive oil, fresh rosemary and garlic. He would have grilled them, but we got 7 inches of snow on New Year’s Eve and this is what our grill looked like:

So he broiled them instead. They were so tender and tasty that even Tommy, who eats nothing we cook (and can’t be bribed into a haircut even for video games or money), ate five of them.

We tried to entice Skylar into trying a “lamb lollipop” but she resisted our wooing.

“That’s not a lollipop, it’s meat,” she said, turning up her nose and leaving the table. She didn’t know what she was missing…

The Recipes:

Lamb Lollipops

1 rack of lamb, about 6 - 8 individual chops
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Cut lamb between bones into individual chops and place in a Tupperware container. Sprinkle remaining ingredients over the chops and rub well to coat the meat. Cover container and marinate in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Cook chops on grill or under broiler, three minutes per side until medium rare, removing thinner chops early so they don’t overcook.

For a printable recipe click here