Monday, October 27, 2008

The Great Exchange

The cooking board I frequent does a recipe exchange every few months, I did one last year around Christmas but hadn't done one since. So when the last one's roundup was posted I decided to do it. And I'm glad I did! The recipe I got is for a great veggie chicken rice casserole. It was really easy to put together and tasted great, especially today when I had some of the leftovers for lunch. This was the perfect thing for a cool, windy night like we had last night. And it is great because it makes a lot, which means a lot of leftovers, which I love. This is a simple recipe that doesn't call for any outrageous ingredients, which is a great thing. Try this one out on a cool fall evening, you won't be disappointed.

Veggie Chicken Rice Casserole

2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1 whole cooked chicken, cut into pieces (the person who sent this to me likes to buy the rotisserie chickens from Sam's or Walmart; I used a couple chicken breasts that I had previously baked, shredded and frozen)
1 pkg. frozen mixed veggies, thawed and steamed
2 c cooked rice
2/3 c water
1/2 c crushed Ritz crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the soup, chicken, cooked veggies, cooked rice and water. Mix well and spread mixture in a 9x13" baking dish. Sprinkle crushed cracker crumbs on top and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then serve.

Beer + Cheese = Heaven

Sometimes the things that I like to eat surprise me. Like beer bread. I don't really care for beer, don't like the flavor. But I love beer bread. Maybe it is the fact that it's a bread and I love bread so much that I forget what is in it. At any rate, I was very excited when I saw this cheesy beer bread come up on Katie's Good Things Catered blog. I love cheese and bread and Doug loves cheese, bread, and beer so this was sure to be a hit in our house.

I didn't have any whole wheat flour so I just used all AP flour (but I do plan to buy some WW flour soon and will definitely be trying this again). For the beer I used Miller High Life and we ended up really liking the way this tasted. The bread is really easy to put together and stays fresh for a few days in a Tupperware container. We had this Saturday night with steaks and potatoes and carrots and then again last night with chicken casserole. I just finished the last piece a little while ago and it was just as good as the first. I will be making this again for sure and totally recommend that you give it a shot next time you want some beer bread.

Easy Cheesy Beer Bread

2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour (I used all AP)
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt1 tsp garlic powder
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar
12 oz. bottle of lager or stout (I used Miller High Life)
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare loaf pan for baking.
In large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder.
Whisk to combine well.-Add cheese and whisk to combine.
Slowly add beer to dry ingredients and stir lightly until combined.
Knead dough lightly until it just comes together.
Place into prepared loaf pan and pour melted butter over top.
Place in oven to bake for 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Peanut Butter Goodness

I love muffins. They are a great option for a breakfast on the go, which is really important since that is how I eat my breakfast five days a week. Because of this I am always watching for a great new muffin recipe. So when Annie posted these on Annie's Eats I was really excited. I actually rushed home and made these the same day she posted them, it has just taken me a really long time to blog them.

We liked these muffins and thought they were really good. I thought they were really big and filling, which is great. I think the next time I make these (which will be soon) I am going to add just a little more peanut butter, we both love peanut butter and thought these would be good with a little stonger flavor. But I highly recommend these, they are really great.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
½ cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
¾ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, peanut butter, eggs and milk until smooth. Add in the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Divide batter evenly between prepared muffin tins, filling each to the top.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I'm a Copycat: Chicken Quesadillas like the ones at Applebees

When my friend Sarah and I go shopping you can almost guarantee that we will eat lunch at Applebees. We do not have one in the towns we both live in, so the only time we can eat there is when we go 45 minutes north to shop. So last weekend we took a road trip with her daughter to buy her Halloween costume and stuff for her totally awesome Disney Princess-themed 4th birthday party. So, of course, we had to go to Applebees since we had not been there is forever. We both have our usual meal choices, so usually menus aren't needed, however this time Sarah asked if I wanted an appetizer because she was starving (chasing a 3 year-old will do that to you). So of course, not wanting the driver to starve to death, I said yes and we began the agonizing process of trying to pick something.

We ended up getting the Chicken Quesadillas, and oh my are they good. They come out on this huge platter with giant dollops of salsa, sour cream, and shredded lettuce in the center of the plate. Surrounding that are these cute, triangular shaped tortillas stuffed with chicken, pico de gallo, cheese, and bacon. They were so good that I was wishing I hadn't ordered anything else so that I could just eat these. So after shopping till we dropped that day I ran home to look for a copycat recipe on the Internet and found this one that is perfect on Recipe Czaar. It tastes almost exactly like what Applebees serves and is really great dipped in salsa and sour cream (I can loose the lettuce, it seemed out of place to me). These are a great, quick meal (especially if you precook the chicken like I did).

Let me stop here to say that these are not exactly healthy. These have a fairly high calorie count on Recipe Czaar and it is really easy to eat a lot of these. However, I think that the occasional splurge is alright, but I definitely will not be making these every night. It is possible to make them a little better though, you could use turkey bacon, whole wheat tortillas, and low fat cheese and sour cream. But as a rare meal, these are an excellent treat.

This recipe makes one quesadilla, so multiply everything by the number you want to make. I made 5 total and had some leftover.

Chicken Quesadillas Recipe (Similar to those at Applebees)
From: Recipe Czaar
1 quesadilla
2 slices lean bacon
(sliced into 1/2" pieces)
2 flour tortillas
(8" diameter)
softened butter
(softened for lightly spreading on tortilla shells)
1 tablespoon pico de gallo

1/4 cup shredded colby-monterery jack cheese

salsa and sour cream for dipping
2 cooked chicken breasts
, cut into strips I shredded mine
Slice bacon and fry until bacon starts to turn crisp but not hard and brittle.
Remove from pan, drain bacon and set aside.
Spread butter lightly on one side of the flour tortilla shell.
Place buttered side of shell down, into a non-stick fry pan that has been preheated on medium heat.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of bacon over entire shell, then add 1 tablespoon Pico de gallo, and 1/4 cup shredded Colby/Monterey Jack cheese over the bacon.
Add pieces of the cooked chicken.
Place the second flour shell on top of fixings, buttered side up.
Cook for about one- two minutes just long enough to heat the inside ingredients and then carefully flip the quesadilla on the other side and finish cooking.
The quesadilla should be heated through but not browned.
Remove quesadilla and place on a serving dish and cut into individual triangle serving pieces.
Serve quesadillas with your favorite guacamole sour cream, and picante sauce.

Apples Go Crunchy

Yes, another apple post. I promise though, this will be the last one (at least for a while). This is another recipe from Good Things Catered and another really quick, easy, and tasty item. When I made the apple cobbler Doug and I had a discussion on the difference between crumbles, cobblers, and crisps which lead to Doug requesting something crisp like. So at once I set upon the oh so arduous task of digging through all of the awesome blogs I read (you know how much I hate this task) until I found something that looked good. And let me tell you, this recipe looked good. It also looked quick and easy, two things I love to hear on a work night (I always still want to call them school nights, lol).

So I set about the kitchen whipping this up. I love that this recipe doesn't call for any random ingredients, it merely uses the basics that I always keep in the house. I also love it because it uses oats and I love pretty much anything with oats. I definitely recommend this treat for any night when your sweet tooth is hollering for something starring apple, you won't be disappointed.

Apple Crunch

4 large apples
1/2 c. oats
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
4 Tbsp butter, cold
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp vanilla


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8x8 baking dish with baking spray

Peel, core, and dice apples into 1/2-inch pieces-Spread apples evenly in baking dish.

In medium bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg

Cut butter into small pieces and add to dry ingredients along with the vanilla.

With pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until all butter is about the size of a small pea.

Sprinkle this mixture evenly over apples.

Place baking dish in oven and bake for 55-60 minutes or until apples have cooked down and begun to caramelize.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

The Next Spice Girl: Apple Spice

Continuing in this string of apple recipes (I told you we had a lot of apples, today I present apple spice cookie bars. These are incredibly good. As in, I could eat way too many of these at a time good. I found the recipe on Katie's Good Things Catered blog, which is where I've found a lot of the recipes currently living in my to-make pile. I've actually made these twice now and we've loved them both times. The fact that I've made them more than once should mean that I should have a better picture than this one, but I never have the mind to take a great picture when they are first done but I'm usually too busy thinking "smells good, looks good, want to eat." I hope to make them again so maybe the third time is a charm for picture taking.

These are incredible good and really simple to make. I've whipped them up in the evening after I've gotten home from work both times. They are also a great way to make your house smell good. Who needs candles when you can make apple spice cookie bars?

Apple Spice Cookie Bars

2 c. plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
small pinch ground cloves
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 apples, cored and diced (a little less than 2 c.)
cinnamon sugar for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 9x13 pan with foil and baking spray.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Whisk to combine well and set aside.-In bowl of stand mixer, combine sugars and butter and beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine.

Add vanilla extract and beat to combine.

Turn mixer on slow and fold in flour mixture a little at a time until just combined.

Fold in apples.-Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan and sprinkle top generously with cinnamon sugar.

Place in oven and bake until cooked through, when top slightly bounces back to the touch, about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from pan, cutting and serving. (bars will be very soft)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Apple Pie Goes Mini

So in the quest to finish off all of the million and one apples that have taken up residence in our kitchen, I have decided to spread my wings and test my boundaries. Thus, when Annie and Chelley posted recipes in their blogs for mini hand pies I was intrigued, especially by Chelley's apple pies. I was also slightly frightened, as I have never made a pie dough in my life. I'm not sure why that is, but I've never had the desire to try to best Pillsbury. But I recently decided to try to test myself in the kitchen and this seemed like a great way to do it. So last night while Doug was at work I set about the task of preparing the dough (with Chelley having told me it would be ok over night). I was actually really surprised at how easy this was. It takes a while, but most of that is just chill time for the dough and I never once felt frazzled. I was so excited when it was all ready and it "looked like a dough!" as I told anyone who would listen.

Today I attempted rolling out the dough, which is something I do not have a lot of experience with. And let me tell you, I definitely need some practice! I had a heck of a time rolling my dough out to the same thickness each time, but I finally got it to work. I broke open my 101 cookie cutter box for the first time to use the circular cutter to make the pies, which worked perfectly. I actually had fun filling these with the apple sugar mixture and sealing them up. I felt like Alton Brown making the decorative edges, using the egg wash and adding sanding sugar to the top.

These are absolutely awesome and I totally recommend making these. They take a while but they are totally worth it.

Chelley did a great job of describing the process of making these, so check out her blog.

Apple Hand Pies

I got it from Brown Eyed Baker

She adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the pastry:

2½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

½ cup sour cream4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup ice water
For the Filling:

2 apples, peeled, cored and diced small

1/3 cup sugar
One egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water (for egg wash)

Coarse sanding sugar, for decoration

1. To make the pastry, in a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. If preparing ahead of time, the dough can be stored at this point for up to one month in the freezer.
2. Divide the refrigerated dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4 1/2-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut seven circles out of the rolled dough. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling, cutting, and chilling process with the remaining half of dough. (I used a 4-inch cutter-if you can call a “cutter” the tin edge of the container that holds my smaller round cutters-and managed to get 12 from each dough half, after rerolling the scraps.)
3. Mix the diced apple with the sugar, and cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes, until the apples are tender. Set aside. Prior to preparing the pies, drain any accumulated liquid from the apples.
4. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature until just pliable, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon about 1 to 2 tablespoons filling (use the smaller amount for a 4-inch circle) onto one half of each circle of dough. Quickly brush a little cold water around the circumference of the dough, and fold it in half so the other side comes down over the filling, creating a semicircle. Seal the hand pie, and make a decorative edge by pressing the edges of the dough together with the back of a fork. Repeat process with remaining dough. Place the hand pies back on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.
5. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chilled hand pies from the refrigerator, cut a small slit in each and lightly brush with the egg yolk wash. Sprinkle sanding sugar generously over the pies, and place pies in the oven to bake. Bake until the hand pies are golden brown and just slightly cracked, anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how thick you rolled the dough. Remove the pies from the oven, and let stand to cool slightly before serving.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Very First From Scratch Apple Cobbler

That lovely creation up there is my very first from scratch apple cobbler. Now, I have made a few cobbler before that were very good, but they were all with the help of a mix. We live near an Amish community and have vacationed near some, so my mom and I have found many great Amish cobbler mixes over the years. However, I have been on a mission to make as many things from scratch as I can, I figure if I have the ability then why not? (Plus it has been a while since I've made it to an of the Amish stores.) So today I went hunting for a great looking apple cobbler recipe to use up some of the great apples my parents brought us from the local orchard. I also had a jar of this incredible apple cinnamon spread from a local baker that I wanted to use, and at my last job a girl who is related to the local baker brought in a cobbler made with this spread, so I knew I wanted to try that.

I looked at all the usual sites to try to find a recipe, but nothing jumped out at me. Then I remembered that back when we were in the middle of the peach frenzy I had printed out a peach cobbler recipe. So I found that recipe and started to tweak it to satisfy my apple needs. I've never really messed with a baking recipe before. No matter how often I play around in the kitchen while cooking I've always been afraid to do so while baking. In my mind there is just too big of a chance of me messing everything up, and that would make me very sad. But today I decided to be brave and make an attempt. I basically took the peach cobbler recipe and took all of the seasonings out of the recipe and replaced them with the apple cinnamon spread. Then I added some cinnamon to the topping batter before I put it on the apples. I also left off the cinnamon sugar topping that the original recipe called for. I thought it might be a bit too much, and I was going for a strong cinnamon flavor so I just added it to the topping. I was really nervous to try this but it came out great! The apples have a great cinnamon taste, not too sweet with a nice spice to them. I think I will make more of the topping next time, it did not completely cover the entire apple mixture, so I have a few gaps. But despite that fact I'm really please with my first attempt at making changes to a recipe, and I don't think I will be as worried next time.

I'm entering this into Joelen's Cobblers & Such blog event over at Joelen's Culinary Adventures. This will actually be my second time doing one of her events. Check out her blog to see all the great events she does.

Apple Cinnamon Cobbler Adapted from Kelly Cooks and Other Amazing Feats

6-8 medium sized apples of your choice - peeled, cored and sliced into thin wedges

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons apple cinnamon spread

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 cup boiling water

- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.- In a large bowl, combine apples, cup white sugar, cup brown sugar, spread, and cornstarch.
- Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 9 x 13 pan
- Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
- Blend in butter with your fingertips, or a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. - Stir in water until just combined.- Remove apples from oven, and drop spoonfuls of topping over them.
- Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes. (Mine was only about 20 minutes)