Sunday, September 30, 2012

Caramel Apple Milky Way Blondies

Fall is the kickoff to the seasonal flavor season.   Starbucks is the master of this, timing their release of the pumpkin spice latte.   There is even a competition to see if you can bring it to your city in advance of the national release.  
Fun fact - even though Starbucks only keeps pumpkin spice syrup for the fall season, you can get peppermint all year!  Yes friends, you can have a peppermint frappucino at any time.   You might not get the Christmas colored sprinkles, but you'll survive.  
I ran across these Caramel Apple Milky Way minis at Target and wanted to see if their fall flavor was all that.    They're really tasty.    Rather than just shoving them in my mouth three at a time, I decided to bake with them.    I took my basic blondie recipe, added a little cinnamon and then chopped up these minis into the batter.  
A fun fall surprise in every bite.   
What other fun fall flavors are out there that I haven't tried yet?
What You Need
3/4 cup butter/margarine, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
18 Caramel Apple Milky Way minis, coarsely chopped (more if you're going to be snacking on them while you cook....and who would blame you?)
What You Do
Preheat oven to 350 .  Line a 13x9 inch pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl until creamy.   Add eggs and beat well.   Stir together flour, soda, salt and cinnamon in a smaller bowl.   Gradually add to butter mixture, blending well.   Stir in one cup (about 14 of the minis, chopped) of the Caramel Apple Milky Way pieces.  
Press batter into your pan (you will probably need to flour your fingers to make this work).   Sprinkle remaining chopped minis on top and lightly press into the batter.    Bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown.     Cool in the pan.   Pull bars out by using the aluminum foil.     Cut in squares  (and then into triangles if you're going for style).
Get yourself a pumpkin latte and feel all satisfied that you have completely, honestly, and enthusiastically embraced the kickoff of the fall season.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jack Daniel's Pulled Chicken

I don't bake all the time.   Just most of the time.

I also need real food to eat.   Even better if it cooks in the crock pot and doesn't need my constant attention...then I can bake and cook.  
What You Need
1/2 cup Jack Daniel's
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup honey (I used Honeyville Maple Hazelnut whipped honey)
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 medium onion chopped
2 generous spoonfuls of minced (jarred) garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast
What You Do
Spray your crock pot with cooking spray to help with cleanup.   Mix JD, soy, honey, vinegar, ketchup, onion, garlic and ginger.  Add chicken.  
Cover, cook on low for 6-8 hours.    Remove chicken and shred with a fork and then return it to the pot.   Serve on rolls or on rice.   I love the sour cream and herb biscuits from Whole Foods (pictured above).
Happy dining!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Biscoff Banana Bread

This year I've been slightly obsessed with breakfast breads - especially all the variations on banana bread.   It makes for an easy breakfast (since grabbing a granola bar is my normal style) and tastes amazing.   

Other food blogs have been sharing a lot of recipes involving Biscoff cookie spread.  I saw a jar at World Market this weekend and knew I had to buy it.   It also has a cousin,  Speculoos cookie butter, which is only available at Trader Joe's.   My love of TJ is well documented, but we won't get a store here in Colorado until 2013.     In fact the SF Weekly blog has a post about how "Trader Joe's Hatches Evil Plot to Cause Addiction."    I can't wait until that's a problem we have here.

Having enjoyed my Peanut Butter Banana Bread, I decided to modify my go-to basic banana bread recipe (the Cooking Light original), and simply add 1/4 cup of Biscoff spread to the batter.

To make a little Biscoff icing to drizzle on top take 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of skim milk and 1/2 tablespoon of Biscoff spread,  mix until smooth and drizzle on your cooled bread.  

Here's to evil plots involving banana bread!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Zucchini Bread

As a kid I loved growing zucchinis in the garden.   I didn't like to eat them, but I liked the satisfaction of watching them grow.   We would have more zucchinis than my parents knew what to do with.   In my childhood memory, they were huge!  (I'm sure they were the size of baseball bats)

My sister also received a zucchini from the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that her co-workers participate in.    Making zucchini bread was the only thing that occurred to me when I saw a nice little Z in the food bin.     Pop that baby in the food processor and shred it down.   55 minutes later?  A delicious breakfast treat.

What You Need

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 beaten egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

What You Do

Line your 9x5 loaf pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine your dry ingredients (flour, soda, powder, salt, and nutmeg) in a medium/large mixing bowl.  Create a well in the middle.     In your other bowl combine egg, sugar, zucchini, and oil.   Add zucchini mixture to dry mixture and stir only until moistened.    Fold in the nuts. 

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake 55-60 minutes.   Allow bread to cool and then use foil to remove the bread from the pan and slice.     Eat it quickly in one or two days or wrap tightly to store in fridge/freezer.

What do you do with gifts of vegetables?   

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nutella Banana Bread

What's a girl to do when her co-workers are give her bananas?

A few weeks ago I was promoted to a new office and the other two people in my office are hilarious and every day is fun.    Yesterday started with "How about we have some Starbucks and some fruit snacks?" as our manager tossed tiny pouches of fruit snacks at us.  Then she treated us to coffee.

On Monday night she walks into my office with two sad looking bananas and tells me they are only suitable for banana bread.    Of course.  

Banana bread is so easy to make and is not sensitive to the altitude here in Denver. The basic ingredients are always on hand. I just need sad looking bananas and I'm good to go.

What makes every recipe better?   That's right.   Nutella.  
Bring it on.

What You Need

5 tablespoons Nutella
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon oil, divided
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 medium ripe (aka sad looking) bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3  cup skim milk
1/3 cup non-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
What You Do

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine Nutella and 1 teaspoon oil in a microwave-safe dish; microwave on high for 30 seconds or until melted. Stir. Combine 3 tablespoons oil, butter, brown sugar, and banana in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Combine yogurt and skim milk in a liquid measuring cup and stir.   Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and milk/yogurt mixture alternately to banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined. Scrape half of batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan lined with foil and coated with cooking spray, and top with the Nutella/oil mixture. Spread remaining batter over chocolate mixture. Using a knife, swirl batter. Sprinkle batter with hazelnuts.

Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread; cool on wire rack.

The Moral of the Story

When life hands you bananas, make banana bread.
Your co-workers will love you even more than they already do. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Spanakopita (it's not as difficult as you think)

Spanakopita may be hard to spell and hard to say, but it's not as hard to make as I thought.   If you ever folded a paper football or sent a note to your fourth grade crush, you can do this.  

The homemade version has better flavor than any wedding reception banquet appetizer version that I've had.   I've only worked with phyllo dough once before, so I consider myself a novice.  

The nice thing about recipe sharing sites like All Recipies is that you can see comments, suggestions and feedback.   I read through what others said and then made my own adjustments.   I was very happy with the finished product.   Of course, they lasted under 24 hours after taking them to a friend's house for brunch. 

The key thing?  Don't fear the phyllo.   It's just pastry.  It's not out to get you.  
But it is important that you do the following:
  • allow the roll of phyllo to thaw in the fridge so that it's easy to unroll and less likely to break
  • cover the phyllo that you are not actively using with a damp towel
  • lightly brush each sheet of phyllo with melted butter as you layer them
What You Need

2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Stone Creek Farmstead chive chevre cheese (I met them and tried their cheese at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market and bought some to enjoy at home.  I would encourage you to find some kind of local cheese just for fun and to support local business - using chevre is optional)
2 eggs
1 generous spoonful of minced garlic (jarred)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 roll of phyllo dough (you probably won't have that many choices in the freezer section of the grocery store - I bought Athens brand and there were two rolls in the package)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (you will be brushing each and every sheet of phyllo dough with butter as you assemble your triangles of awesome)
What You Do
Preheat your oven to 375.   Use silicone mats on your baking sheets to make it easy to clean up. 
I used a large silicone mat to assemble my spanakopita.   It was an easy clean surface - that's what you'll see in orange in the picture below.
Prepare your filling by combining the spinach, cheeses, eggs, garlic and salt into a large bowl. 
Prepare your phyllo station.   Have your dough out, thawed and covered with a damp towel.    Take the first sheet of phyllo and lay it on your counter / silicone mat.    Brush it lightly / gently with the melted butter.   Layer a second sheet of phyllo on the first and brush that sheet with butter.   Layer a third sheet of phyllo on the second and brush that with butter.
Slice this triple layer of phyllo gently with a dinner knife into three long strips (top middle photo shows the first strip).    Each long strip will make one triangle appetizer.    Put one tablespoon of spinach filling at the bottom of the strip.   Fold the right bottom corner up to the left side to create the first triangle (bottom left photo), then keep folding the triangles up until you use all the dough.   Use your "butter brush" to seal the last edge and then spread a little butter on top once it's on the baking sheet.   
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown (start checking around 17 or 18 minutes).    Let cool for a few minutes before biting into flaky spinach joy.
You can prepare them in advance and put them in the fridge overnight to bake the next day.  
Now that I'm not afraid of phyllo anymore, I'm thinking about what I should do with the other roll in my freezer.   Suggestions?
Update 11/18/12:  So I was looking at my blog statistics and saw that Athens Foods was one of the referring sites.     There is a link to this post on their "Fillo Recipes, Tips & News" page.   Hooray!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fresh Tomato Salsa

When someone asks you if you want tomatoes from their garden, the polite answer is "yes."   This is not the time to say, "well, I really don't like fresh tomatoes, I don't put them in my salad, I don't put them on sandwiches, what will I do with them before they go bad?" 

Earlier this week one of my neighbors saw me reading on my patio and asked if I would like some tomatoes.   I said yes, and brought out a small bowl, figuring that if I didn't get too many, I could do something with them.     My answer to "what to do with gifted tomatoes?"  Make salsa.

As a kid, I didn't like tomatoes, I didn't like onions, I didn't like peppers.   That leads me to believe that I didn't like salsa.   Somewhere my taste buds grew up.   Thankfully.   Otherwise I'd still be living on Lucky Charms and ramen noodles.  

This week I was also gifted with jalapenos.   My sister's co-worker participates in the Grant Farms Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and gets fresh produce each week.   Well, the co-worker is on vacation for two weeks and we are reaping the benefits (literally).    My fridge has more veggies than it's ever  had.   I'm thinking that many of the veggies will go into soup.   But the jalapenos?   They, my friends, are for salsa.

Salsa is one of those things that you can make exactly to your taste.  There is no right or wrong. 

What You Need
3 tomatoes (preferably fresh out of someones garden), seeded and chopped pieces
2 small jalapenos, seeded and chopped into small pieces
1/2 white onion, chopped into small pieces
a spoonful of diced garlic (the kind that's in a jar)
chopped cilantro (I used about a 3rd of a bunch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 fresh lime - squeeze all the possible juice into your salsa

What You Do
Combine all ingredients into a bowl.   Chill in the fridge for a short time (while you go looking for your tortilla chips, perhaps) so that the flavors combine into a burst of fresh summer deliciousness.

My tortilla chip recommendation?  The housemade chips at Whole Foods.   They are multi-colored, thick, and oh-so-crunchy.


Have you ever participated in a CSA program?  Do you use everything you get?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

True confession:  I may buy more bananas that I realistically think I can eat, just so I have an excuse to make banana bread.   Honestly, what was I thinking buying 5 bananas last week?   I ate 2 for breakfast and the other 3 started to look sadder and sadder each day.

What makes a sad banana happy?  Banana bread!

As I've mentioned before, every banana bread recipe from Cooking Light has turned out awesome (as seen by my efforts here, here and here) and this one was no exception.   Will the loaf make it through the holiday weekend?   Unlikely. 

What You Need

3 mashed ripe bananas
1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/3 cup Kroger roasted peanut and honey crunchy peanut butter (my fave!) or your favorite PB
3 tablespoons butter/ margarine, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk (I use skim)
1 tablespoon peanut butter

What You Do

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until blended.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan lined with foil and coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool.

Glaze it up!
To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar, milk, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Drizzle glaze over bread.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Do you have any recommendations for variations on banana bread?
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