Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cook's Illustrated All-Purpose Cornbread

I've tried a handful of cornbread recipes, and this is hands-down my favorite! Cook's Illustrated never disappoints, and this is a true example. This cornbread is moist, delicious, and perfect. The flavor was incredible! I paired this with our chili, and it was a winning combination.

The key to cornbread is to not overmix the dry ingredients with the wet. A few dry lumps is perfect:

Here's the cornbread, removed right after the oven:

Cook's Illustrated All-Purpose Cornbread

1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp table salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed (I used 1 cup of canned corn)
1 cup buttermilk (Used reduced-fat)
2 large eggs
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Spray 8-inch square baking dish (I used a Pyrex dish) with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl until combined.
4. In a food processor or blender, process brown sugar, thawed corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds.
5. Add eggs and process until well combined (corn lumps will remain), about 5 more seconds.
6. Using a rubber spatula, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into the well.
7. Begin folding dry ingredients into wet, giving mixture only a few turns to barely combine; add melted butter and continue folding until dry ingredients are just moistened.
8. Pour batter into prepared baking dish, smooth surace with rubber spatula.
9. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean- 25-35 minutes. Cool and serve.

Source: Cook's Illustrated

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffin Bites

These muffins are addicting! It is so easy to continue popping these muffin bites into your mouth. The flavors mesh really well together, very quick to prepare, and only takes 10-12 minutes since they're mini muffins. At first, I was contemplating adding the entire bag of butterscotch chips, but I am glad I didn't- they are already rich enough!

Here is a mini muffin close-up:

Mini Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffins

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 (6 ounce) package butterscotch chips
2 eggs
1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) melted butter
1 cup canned pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease mini-muffin pan with cooking spray.
2. Sift together the flour, brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and butterscotch chips into a large bowl. (Adding the butterscotch chips to the dry mixture prevents them from sinking to the bottom.)
3. Whisk together the eggs, butter, and pumpkin in a separate bowl.
4. Mix the flour mixture with the egg mixture. (Batter will be very thick.)
5. Pour into each well of the muffin pan to about 3/4 full.
6. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes. (Mine took 12 minutes to bake.)

Yield: 40-42 mini muffins

Source: All Recipes

Friday, October 15, 2010

Caprese Salad Skewers

I wanted an appetizer with these qualifications: Light, filling, sophisticated, and portable (as in, a guest can easily pick it up and put it on her plate). I searched through all my "to make" recipes but none of them fit the bill with all the criteria. I finally settled on a caprese salad, but it bothered me that it wasn't portable. I was looking through a Martha Stewart catalog where she was showcasing easy desserts... on a stick. I quickly thought- how about caprese salad on a stick?. And this is how this appetizer was born. They were terrific, and got rave reviews. I purchased the ciliegine mozzarella at Trader Joe's for only $2.99. I loved how easy it was to put together (5 minutes!) and how elegant and colorflu they looked on the table.

Here is a good close-up of the skewers:

Caprese Salad Skewers

Ciliegine Mozzarella (little cherry tomato-size mozzarella balls)
15-20 basil leaves (if they're large leaves, cut them in half)
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
6-8" skewers (You want to keep these skewers short so guests can easily stick it in their mouth without poking them)
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Skewer the 1st (3) ingredients- I did it in this order: Mozzarella, Basil leaf, and Tomato. (I did this twice per skewer.)
2. Right before guests arrive, dash the appetizer with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
3. Sprinkle some freshly cracked sea salt and black pepper.

Yield: (13) skewers

Source: The Piggly-Wiggly original (inspired by Martha Stewart)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese

This was creamy and cheesy- and so easy. If you think you’re too busy to make homemade mac & cheese (and resort to the boxed mixes), think again- this is about as easy as homemade can get since it’s pretty much dumping all the ingredients into one pot and mixing it together. You essentially boil the pasta, add the remaining ingredients together, and warm it back up to achieve creamy cheesy goodness. The first time I made it, I didn’t allow the pasta to cool enough so my cheese mixture was a bit grainy- I can only assume it was from the egg curdling, so the next time (tonight) I allowed it to cool down for 5 minutes and the texture was spot on. Another excellent Alton Brown dish, and one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever made.

Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese

1/2 pound (8-oz) elbow macaroni
4 Tbsp butter
2 eggs
6-oz evaporated milk (I used 5-oz)
1/2 tsp hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
¼ tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
10-oz sharp cheddar, shredded

1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta to al dente and drain.
2. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat. Allow it to cool down for 5 minutes.
3. Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard.
4. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese.
5. Over low heat, continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

Source: Adapted from Alton Brown

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pastor Ryan's Cajun Meatloaf

I was nervous to try a new meatloaf recipe since my DB is so faithful to my other meatloaf, but this was seriously delicious. And huge. The sautéed vegetables lended a moisture boost to this dish, and although the title says “Cajun”, it is just enough spice to notice, yet not enough to say “spicy”. I don’t normally like meatloaf, but I really enjoyed this dish- flavorful, moist, yet doesn’t stray far from an old classic.

Pastor Ryan’s Cajun Meatloaf

6 Tbsp butter
2 large bell peppers, diced finely
2 medium onion, diced finely
5 ribs of celery, chopped finely
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cup ketchup, divided
Optional: Few shakes of Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup milk (I used skim milk)
1-2 cups breadcrumbs
2 pound ground round
1 pound ground pork
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp honey

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a sheet pan with some non-stick cooking spray. (I took a jelly roll pan, added a layer of foil, and then sprayed that with cooking spray.)
2. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a large pot or 5-qt dutch oven. Once the butter begins to start browning, add the diced bell peppers, onion, and celery. Sauté the vegetables until cooked through, approximately 15 minutes. Add the minced garlic and 1/2 tsp salt, and sauté an additional 3-5 minutes until garlic is fragrant but not brown.
3. Add Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and 1/2 cup ketchup. If you like it hot, add a couple shakes of your favorite hot sauce. Continue cooking and stirring for a few more minutes. Remove from heat.
4. After allowing the mixture to cool for a couple of minutes, add the milk, and stir until combined.
5. Start by adding a 1 cup of breadcrumbs. Continue adding breadcrumbs and stirring until mixture is a nice, thick paste. Allow the mixture to cool down.
6. In a separate large mixing bowl, add the ground round, ground pork, and egg. After allowing the vegetable mixture to cool down a bit, begin incorporating it into the meat. Keep working all of the Cajun-Vegetable mix into the meat until all is blended well.
7. Using your hands, form your meat mixture into a loaf on the sheet pan. Make the loaf around 6-8 inches wide and about 1 ½ inches thick.
8. For the sauce: In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together remaining 3/4 cup ketchup with honey. Slather this sauce over the whole meatloaf.
9. Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Friday, October 8, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Banana Bread… Cookies?

Yes, it is true. These are soft, chewy, not overly sweet… and so addicting. I made these for a co-worker’s birthday and I got rave reviews on them. These tasted just like banana bread, but in cookie form. And what is not to love when you pair this bread cookies with some oatmeal and chocolate chips? These can be snacks, dessert, or even a breakfast on the go.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Cookies

1-1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 bananas, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and cinnamon; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar until it resembles a crumbly texture (about 1 minute).
4. Add in the egg and vanilla and continue beating until mixture becomes smooth and creamy (about 1 minute).
5. Add in half of the flour mixture and blend in at a low speed.
6. Add in the remaining flour mixture and continue blending in on low, just until mixed.
7. Add in the oatmeal and chocolate chips; stir until evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
8. Using a wooden spoon, carefully mix in the banana pieces.
9. Using a tablespoon (I used my large cookie scoop= 3 Tbsp), drop the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until the edges are lightly browned (about 17-18 minutes). (The center may appear a little soft, but the residual heat will continue to bake them.)
10. Carefully remove from the oven and let cool on pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
11. Finish baking the remaining dough, following the same steps.
12. Store in an air-tight container or resealable bag for up to 4 days (or longer if kept refrigerated).

Yield: 18 Servings

Source: With a Cherry on Top

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Salsa Verde Sour Cream Enchiladas

Please excuse this bad picture, but this dish was fantastic!

I was pleasantly surprised with this dish- I normally do not order sour cream enchiladas since I find them to taste bland and dry. However, I am so glad I did, and I ate it for 3 nights in a row! The recipe from The Novice Chef highly recommended using Salsa Verde made by Ortega, but I had the most difficult time finding this. I did find the Herdez brand, and while I can’t compare the two, I was so satisfied with this meal. I definitely feel you need to use a flavorful salsa verde! Also for convenience, I picked up a rotisserie chicken and used this to decrease time in the kitchen. When it comes to tortilla, cooking the tortilla in a little bit of chicken broth adds a lot of flavor to the dish, and makes it easier to roll the tortilla with its filling inside. I know I will be adding this recipe more frequently into our menu rotation. It was so flavorful, warm, comforting, and delicious, and we paired it with my favorite Latin Rice.

Salsa Verde Sour Cream Enchiladas

4 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I used a rotisserie chicken and shredded it)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Serrano chiles, diced (seeds-in if you like the heat; reduce to 1 if you’re not a fan of spicy food. If you can’t find Serrano chiles, substitute with jalapenos)
1 Jalapeno chiles, seeded, minced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3-1/2 (28-oz) cups chicken broth, divided
2 cups light sour cream
16 oz jar of Herdez Medium Salsa Verde
1-1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
12 tortillas, small FAJITA size
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Pepper-Jack (We love using Pepper-Jack)
1/2 medium onion, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray/grease a 9×13 baking dish.
2. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a medium pot or 5-qt dutch oven. Sauté Serranos and Jalapenos until soft and then add the garlic, cooking for 1 minute.
3. Stir in the flour and let cook 1-2 minutes.
4. Whisk in 2 cups of chicken broth until smooth and let cook until bubbly.
5. Stir in the sour cream, salsa, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cilantro until the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat.
6. Add 1 cup of sauce to the bottom of the baking dish.
7. Bring the remaining 1-1/2 cups chicken broth to a simmer in a medium skillet (where the diameter is large enough to fit the tortilla.) Working with 1 tortilla at a time, add tortilla to the skillet. Cook or 10-20 seconds or until moist, turning once. Remove tortilla, and drain on a paper towel.
8. Add chicken, cheese, and chopped onion to the center of each tortilla and roll, placing seam-side down in the dish.
9. Repeat steps #7 and #8 with the remaining tortillas. (Don’t try to “cook” the tortilla all at once. The “cooked” tortillas will start to kind of “glue” onto each other and it will be difficult to separate them.)
10. Pour the sauce over the enchiladas, top with leftover cheese, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until top is brown and bubbling.

To freeze: Cook the sauce and cool completely (I do it quickly using an ice water bath). Assemble the enchiladas in portion-friendly dishes and wrap well with plastic wrap or foil. To cook thawed, bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes (or to an internal temperature of 165). To cook straight from the freezer, increase the baking time to 45-55 minutes.

Yields: 12-15 enchiladas

Source: Originally from Homesick Texan, As seen on Novice Chef who adapted this recipe from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Sweet & Spicy Coleslaw

I don't know what got into me, but I had this large craving for pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw on top. I don't like BBQ sauce. I don't really like pulled pork. I'm not a fan of coleslaw. So, my DB found it really amusing that I wanted this particular recipe to be on our week's menu. Maybe it was because I was hungry. Maybe it was because it reminded me of this dish, which I loved so much. Or, maybe it was because Bridget's blog has beautiful pictures, it can take food I normally don't love and make me want to reach through my computer monitor and grab it, anticipating a large sumptuous bite. I don't know what, but what I do know is this- this was fantastic.

I made the spice rub and massaged it into the meat. I wrapped it tightly with saran wrap and let the meat "marinate" in the rub in the fridge for a few days. Then I chopped up some onions, added the pork, and poured some Coke Zero on top. Let it cook on the slow cooker for 10 hours, and voila... my dinner was made. As you can read, the prep work was very easy. Making it in a slow cooker was definitely the way to go- no mess and someone's doing all the cooking for you. The key here, my friends, is the BBQ sauce. This can make or break this recipe. So, make sure to pick your favorite BBQ sauce for this recipe. We both love Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, and tried the Sweet 'n Spicy variety- definitely our new favorite.

The coleslaw was easy and quick as well. I made it in the morning after I popped the pork into the slow cooker. I allowed the flavors to marinate all day (though you definitely don't need to let it sit for a few hours). I couldn't stop eating the cole slaw. When I first saw the recipe and saw all that mustard, I thought- "Are you serious?". Regardless, I followed the recipe and the flavors were dead on. It is really the mustard and cayenne pepper that set this slaw recipe apart from the rest. I loved the sweet & spice combination, and we loved the extra kick from the cayenne pepper. This slaw recipe made me a believer.

Here is a close-up of the Spice Rub:

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Sweet & Spicy Coleslaw

For the Spice Rub (For 2# pork loin)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp table salt

For the Pork Sandwiches
2# pork loin
1 large onion, diced
1 cup Coke or Rootbeer (I used Coke Zero)
18-oz bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce (We used Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet 'n Spicy BBQ)
Kaiser buns, Bread, or Slimwiches

For the Sweet & Spicy Cole Slaw
1/2 bag of coleslaw mix
1/2 medium onion
1/4 cup Hellmann's mayo (not the reduced-fat kind either)
1/8 cup yellow mustard
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the Spice Rub and Pulled Pork Sandwiches
1. Mix all spice rub ingredients in small bowl.
2. Massage spice rub into meat. Wrap tightly in double layer of plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (For stronger flavor, the roast can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
3. Add the chopped onions to the bottom of the slow cooker liner.
4. Unwrap roast and place it in slow cooker. Add the liquid, and turn slow cooker to low and cook for 8-10 hours, until meat is fork-tender.
5. Transfer roast to cutting board; discard liquid in slow cooker liner. “Pull” by tearing meat into thin shreds with two forks or your fingers. Discard fat.
6. Place shredded meat back in slow cooker liner; toss with 1 cup barbecue sauce, and heat on low for 30-60 minutes, until hot. Serve with additional barbecue sauce.

For the Sweet & Spicy Cole Slaw
1. Fit onion through a food processor with the large-holed grater attachment and push the onions through feed tube to grate.
2. In a large bowl, toss vegetables (coleslaw mix, onions) together.
3. In another medium bowl, prepare the coleslaw dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise, mustard, cider vinegar, sugar, black pepper, and cayenne.
4. Toss dressing with the cabbage mixture, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
5. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

How to assemble the Sandwiches
1. Toast your buns.
2. Top it with your pulled pork.
3. Top your pork with cole slaw.
4. Add your top bun, and take a bite. Mmmmmm.

Source: Spice Rub recipe originally from The Way the Cookie Crumbles (As seen on and Branny Boils Over), Pork recipe from AllRecipes, Coleslaw recipe from The Neely's

Friday, October 1, 2010

Slow Cooker Cranberry Applesauce

I did a homemade Slow Cooker Cran-Applesauce last year using Craisins. This year, I wanted to make something similar but omit the cinnamon and use fresh cranberries. This was superb and healthy! Even though I used Granny Smith apples and fresh cranberries (both naturally tart), you didn't need to add any sugar since the apples have natural sugar in them. I loved every spoonful of this homemade sauce, and I loved the fresh burst of cranberry flavor in every bite.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Applesauce

4 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I used Granny Smith, but any type is fine)
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup apple juice, cider, or water
Juice from 1 lemon

1. Add the chopped apples and cranberries into your slow cooker.
2. Add the liquid and lemon juice.
3. Cook it on LOW for 7 hours.
4. Use a potato masher or immersion blender to blend the apples to desired consistency.

* The applesauce keeps (covered and chilled) for 1 week.

Source: The Piggly-Wiggly original
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