Monday, November 29, 2010

Caramelized Pear Spice Cake

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving! We had a wonderful three (yes, you read that right- three) Thanksgiving dinners this weekend. We had one with my extended family Thursday, one with my grandparents Friday, and one with H's family Sunday. I'm excited to be moving on to the Christmas holiday now, as I have to admit, I'm beginning to feel a bit turkey-ed out!

For the main event, which was hosted by my mom on Thanksgiving Day for 25 people, she asked me to bring a dessert. The pumpkin and apple pies, however, were already taken care of. Ooh, perfect- a challenge! I wanted to keep it fall-y, and kind of wanted to stay away from pumpkin and apple all together. I decided I'd love to do something with pears, and turned to my trusted companion Google to find the perfect recipe. I found this one for a caramelized pear upside-down-cake, which sounded easy, and I loved that it could be served at room temperature. I decided to turn up the spice a bit, as I loved the idea of a spiced pear cake, and here is what I came up with.

The topping is absolutely delicious, but I was actually a bit disappointed with the cake part. It tasted kind of dry to me, so when I make this again (which I definitely will), I am going to look for a different spice cake recipe to use instead of this one. It was still a hit though!

Caramelized Pear Spice Cake
Serves 8-10

For the topping:
3 medium Bartlett pears
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 cup of brown sugar

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit a 9" round pan, grease it with a bit of butter, and place in the bottom of pan. Peel, core, and slice pears into about 1/4" thick slices. Arrange in the bottom of the pan in a circular pattern, slightly overlapping each other.

Melt butter over medium heat in saucepan. Stir in brown sugar, and continue to gently stir until smooth and combined. Pour caramel mixture over the pears in the pan, and give the pan a little spin to even it all out.

Mix the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix milk and vanilla extract. In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter with medium speed until light and fluffy. Slowly add brown sugar, continuing to beat. Turn speed to low, and add in eggs, mixing until combined. Slowly add the flour and milk mixtures, alternating in 5 stages, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.

Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then flip cake onto a plate to allow to cool completely, peeling off parchment paper if necessary. Enjoy!

Adapted from Fine Cooking, original recipe here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maple Dijon Chicken

The MO for dinners this week of Thanksgiving has been easy, fast, and light. One night I had some butternut squash to roast up, and decided to have chicken thighs with it. As far as how I was going to cook them, I couldn't quite decide, but I was drawn to some maple Dijon flavoring. I turned to my good friend Google, searched for "maple Dijon chicken," and came across this recipe. Sounded good to me, so on to the menu it went.

This was so good and so easy! The flavor was amazing, and although it went very well with the butternut squash, it would have been great to have some rice or pasta to soak up all those nice juices. I will definitely be making this one again. I know this picture doesn't make it look all that appetizing, but it's so good, I promise!

Maple Dijon Chicken
Serves 4

4 chicken breast pieces (I used thighs, which worked as well)
2 Tablespoon of olive oil

2 shallots, chopped
2 Tablespoons of minced garlic

1 cup of chicken broth
2 Tablespoons of honey Dijon mustard
1/3 cup of maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper

Directions: Rinse and pat dry chicken. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat and place chicken in pan. Cover, and brown for about 6 minutes on each side.

When chicken is browned on both sides, remove from pan and set aside. Add more olive oil as necessary, and place shallots and garlic in pan. Sauté for a few minutes, until nearly soft.

Meanwhile, mix chicken broth, mustard, maple syrup, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl. When shallots and garlic have sautéed a few minutes, add liquid, scraping up browned bits. Bring to a simmer, add chicken back in, cover, and allow to simmer for about five minutes. Enjoy!

Adapted from Kitchen Daily, original recipe here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cinnamon, Pumpkin, and Squash Pot Pies

When I first saw this recipe, I just knew I had to try it! It absolutely spoke to me, but for a reason I could not put my finger on. It did have pumpkin of course, which I am definitely a fan of, but as far as the ingredient list as a whole, I was skeptical, quite honestly. Maybe I was just feeling curious and adventurous, but I finally bit the bullet and made it. I really had no idea what to expect, but I was blown away! This one is a winner!

It was a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort. It can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until you're ready to bake it, so it would be a great way to wow your guests at a dinner party!

This recipe made enough to fill 8 6-ounce ramekins. I definitely think it would be better in slightly larger ones, maybe 4 10-ounce ones instead. Also, I'll say it served 4 to be safe- I was OK with one of these (in addition to a salad and roasted squash) for dinner, but H needed two to feel full.

Cinnamon, Pumpkin, and Squash Pot Pies
(serves 4)

3 medium sweet potatoes

2 cups of pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon of chopped, fresh rosemary
1/2  teaspoon of salt
black pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 leek, chopped

1/2 cup of heavy cream (I used half and half)
1 Tablespoon of cinnamon

2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled and diced

1/2 cup of heavy cream (I used half and half)
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 scallions, chopped
6 basil leaves, chopped

3 oz. of herbed Brie, sliced thin
3 oz. of mozzarella, shredded
3 oz. of Cheddar, shredded

1 pie crust (I used this recipe), cut out into circles just slightly larger than your ramekins
1 egg white

Directions: Heat oven to 425. Wash and wrap sweet potatoes in foil, and cook for about 45-60 minutes, depending on size.

When potatoes have about 20 minutes left, mix pumpkin puree, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a bowl to combine. Spread mixture on an aluminum-covered baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes (still at 425, so you can do this while the potatoes are still in there).

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saucepan, and add leek and garlic. Saute until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add in heavy cream and cinnamon, and cook over medium for 5 minutes. Add pumpkin mixture, and stir to combine.

Spray the bottoms of your ramekins, and divide pumpkin mixture evenly between them. Set aside. (When sweet potatoes are done in the oven, probably around this stage, remove, unwrap, peel, chop them, and set aside. Turn oven down to 350.)

Heat olive oil in a saucepan, and add onions and butternut squash. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add heavy cream and raisins, and let cook over medium heat until squash is cooked through- about 10 minutes. Add in scallions, basil, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes, and mix lightly to combine.

Remove from heat, and stir in mozzarella, Cheddar, and Brie until fully melted. Divide squash mixture evenly between ramekins, on top of the pumpkin.

Top each ramekin with a pie crust circle. (If you are preparing these ahead of time, now is the time to cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.) Brush each top with an egg wash, and bake for about 25-30 minutes at 350, or until top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Adapted from The Novice Chef, original recipe here, originally from RecipeLink.

Meal Plan... Tuesday

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Ours was too short, as usual. Here is what is on the menu for this week.

And if you think my meal plan last week was somewhat lacking, just wait until you see this week's! And a day late to boot. I really need to get back on track next week.

Monday: Mexican Shredded Pork Burritos with Refried Beans (hey wait, wasn't that on the menu last week, you ask?? Yes, it was. And it never got made. I told you I need to step up my game.)

Tuesday: leftover Cinnamon, Pumpkin, and Cheese Pot-pies (blog post on these to come shortly!)

Wednesday: Lasagna with Ground Turkey and Spinach

Thursday: out to dinner

Friday: out to dinner

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Monday everyone. I hope it was a good weekend! This week is a bit lacking in the cooking department, but what can I say, it's a busy week!

Monday: Chicken Marsala over Pasta and Broccoli

Tuesday: Out to dinner

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Shredded Pork Burritos with Refried Beans

Friday: Dinner with family

Saturday: Squash and Pumpkin Pot Pies

Friday, November 5, 2010

Turkey Stuffing Burgers / Cranberry Relish

I'm not a huge fan of most Thanksgiving food, believe it or not. The turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and even the pumpkin pie are all good, but I could take them or leave them, honestly. The stuffing, however, is a different story. I love stuffing, I could eat boatloads of it. Seriously, I am drooling just thinking about it.

I already had turkey burgers and sweet potato fries on the menu for this week when I came across this recipe for Stuffing Turkey Burgers with Cranberry Relish. The ones I had on the menu were boring, uninspired turkey burgers though. Just your standard lettuce, tomato, cheese, and ketchup on a bun. So it was an absolute no-brainer to nix those plain-Jane-I'll-just-throw these-on-the-menu-because-I-can't-think-of-anything-else in favor of these Stuffing Turkey Burgers. And man, best decision ever.

I was seriously so excited to make these all freaking week! I often switch around the menu around depending on what we're in the mood for that night, or if there's anything that needs to used up first. What kept pushing these back though, was the fact that the recipe calls for day-old corn bread. And what do you know, you have to bake cornbread the day before in order to have that! Apparently planning in advance is not my forte. Finally, I decided eff it, I can't wait any longer. I'll just make the corn bread the same night.

How has this combination of stuffing flavors in a turkey burger (with cranberry relish no less!) never been brought to my attention before? I suppose I'll just have to be "thankful" that I found this recipe at all! 
Do I even need to tell you that I enjoyed these? I think H loved them just as much as I did.

Turkey and Stuffing Burgers with Cranberry Relish
Makes 6-8 burgers

for the relish:
1 cup of whole berry cranberry sauce
2 Tablespoons of apple cider
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves

for the burgers:
1 Tablespoon of butter
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
1 Tablespoon of dried sage
1/2 Tablespoon of dried thyme

1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1 1/2 cups of day old cornbread, crumbled
1 egg

1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
1 teapsoon of salt
pinch of black pepper

Directions: Mix all of the ingredients for the cranberry relish, and refrigerate while you prepare the burgers. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and saute celery and onions with sage and thyme until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Meanwhile, mix turkey, egg, bread, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning together in a bowl. When onions and celery are cool, mix in with the turkey and knead to combine all ingredients. (Feel free to add a bit more of the spices, especially thyme and sage, if you really want that stuffing flavor to kick.) Form into 6-8 burgers. Heat a non-stick grill pan to medium-high. Cook burgers about 6 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Serve with cranberry relish, on toasted buns, and enjoy!

Adapted from Pink Parsley, original recipe here.

The Farm Life

The other weekend H and I went camping with a couple friends. This trip wasn't your standard pitch a tent in the woods and roast marshmallows on the fire type camping though. We were actually camping on a farm. Our friend found it through Time Out New York magazine, and we all thought it sounded like a great idea.

Basically, you rent a cross between a cabin and a tent and stay on a farm. Our "tent" had wood floors and the frame of a cabin, but the walls were canvas. It also had (cold) running water, a flushing toilet, and a wood-burning stove. Here are a few pictures of our home sweet home for the weekend.

 (our cabin during the day)

 (and when it was getting dark. I won't even try to post a picture of how it looked at night. They're all dark, blurry messes!)

The farm we stayed on was Stony Creek Farm, in Walton, NY through the Featherdown Farms program. The farm owners were wonderful hosts- they were so friendly and absolutely full of information. We learned so much from them, and had so much fun.

The food there was incredible! The fresh vegetables were amazing. The meat was delicious. And I can't even express how wonderful milk and eggs taste when they are only a few hours old. Seriously. I wish I could eat like this all the time. We did all of our cooking over a wood stove, which definitely took a bit of practice, but is oh so worth it.

(we were able to gather fresh eggs from the chickens in the morning)

One of the things we all got a kick out of was milking the cows. It's a lot harder than it looks, and it's kind of scary to be so close to such a large, powerful animal! And it is not easy to fill up a whole bucket!

 (this is one of the dairy cows, Sierra, and the bull Zeus. They were so cute and love-y)

(I never thought I would have a picture of myself milking a cow. But here we are!)

We loved the pigs! We ended up visiting them 4 times throughout the weekend. They were so cute and friendly, they fought for attention and loved being petted. Any time we walked up to their pen, they ran towards us squealing. Adorable.

 (with my piggie friends!)

 (aw, so cute!!)

And although it was a lot more "winter-y" than it is here, there were still some amazing views. These are a couple that I took out the window of our cabin.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beef Barley and Vegetable Soup

I have been on a serious soup kick as of late. I think I've made a large pot of some type of soup every week for the past month. There are so many things I love about soup- how easy it is, how perfect it is for this weather, the sheer number of possibilities, and most of all, the amount of leftovers it makes! Because of that last reason, I tend to choose Mondays to make the weekly large pot of soup so we can enjoy for lunches throughout the week.

This week I was craving a beef barley soup, so when I found this recipe, I knew I had to make it. It was definitely easy, and oh so delicious!

Beef Barley and Vegetable Soup

1 lb. of chuck roast, cut into cubes (you could also use stew beef, which would be super easy)

1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes, with juice
1 onion, sliced thin
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 package (6-8 oz) mushroom mix

1 cup of pearl barley

8 cups of beef broth
1 cup of red wine

2 teaspoons of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of thyme
3 bay leaves

Directions: Brown beef cubes in a saute pan with a bit of olive oil. Place in a large stock pot. Add can of diced tomatoes, onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and barley. Add beef broth, red wine, and spices and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Enjoy!

Adapted from, original recipe here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Roasted Balsamic Vegetables

This side dish is one that is very healthy and extremely versatile. I often serve it with light, Italian dishes. You can pretty much use any veggies (or herbs!) that you wish, or whatever you have on hand. I've used parsnips, red onion, other types of peppers and squash, even green beans in it, and it's always turned out well. Just make sure to put any harder, takes-longer-to-cook vegetable in with the first batch and others with the second (you'll see what I mean when you read the recipe!). The sweet potatoes seem like a strange addition, but I really like the flavor they give it. There's always something about that sweet/salty combo...

Roasted Balsamic Vegetables
Serves 4

1 Tablespoon of olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 or 3 handfuls of baby carrots
2 red peppers, chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
1 large zucchini, sliced
2 portobello mushroom heads, sliced

1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dried basil
black pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Grease bottom of 9X13 glass pan with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Put sweet potatoes and carrots in the pan, and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and put peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, and zucchini in the pan and drizzle with olive oil. Return pan to the oven, and roast for 30 minutes more.

When vegetables are done, remove from oven and use a spatula to mix. Let cool slightly. In a large ziploc bag, mix balsamic vinegar, basil, garlic, and pepper. Place vegetables in, and shake to coat. Remove from bag, and place in serving bowl. They can be served warm, or room temperature. Enjoy!

I have been using this recipe for quite a long time, and am not sure where it originally came from. I tried to Google it, to see if I could find the source, but with no avail. Please let me know if it is yours, or you know where it came from!

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Monday everyone! Here is what is on the menu for this week:

Monday: Beef Vegetable and Barley Soup

Tuesday: Baked Breaded Chicken Breasts with Zucchini and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

Wednesday: Thanksgiving Turkey Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries

Thursday: Poached Eggs over Fall Vegetable Quinoa Hash

Friday: dinner at my parents'

Saturday: leftovers from the week