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Monday, September 13, 2010

Apple Crisp Pizza

This Taste of Home recipe reminds me of the perfect fall dessert with its bounty of apples and beautiful fall-brown color. This is a terrific hand-held crisp, or good warmed with vanilla bean ice cream.


2 cups flour

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled

1/4 cup shortening, cut into pieces and chilled

4 to 5 tbsp. cold water


2/3 cup sugar

3 tbsp. flour

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

4 medium baking apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices


1/2 cup flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup rolled oats

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

1. For pastry, mix flour and salt in bowl. With pastry blender or fingertips, combine butter and shortening into flour mixture until texture of coarse meal. Gradually add water, tossing with fork, until mixture begins to mass together. Shape dough into a ball, then flatten slightly to a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 45 minutes.

2. Roll pastry to fit a 12-inch pizza pan, between 1/8 and 1/2-inch thick; trim and flute edges.

3. Combine sugar, 3 tbsp. flour and 1 tsp. cinnamon in a bowl. Add apples and toss. Arrange apples in a single layer in a circular pattern to completely cover pastry.

4. Combine the first 5 topping ingredients with the leftover cinnamon-sugar mixture from the apples. Sprinkle over apples.

5. Bake at 350º for 40 minutes or until apples are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle with caramel topping. Yield: 12 servings.

Crockpot Pot Roast

Good old fashioned pot roast with all of the trimmings really signifies down home cooking. Because this has meat and vegetables all in one, I usually serve this with a hearty salad and some warm crusty bread with butter. Perfect with a glass of red wine or apple cider.

1 3 to 4 pound beef roast

4 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

6 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

1 small onion, sliced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup beef broth

1/4 cup red wine (stout like Merlot)

1 tbsp. dried parsley

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/8 tsp. paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Trim most of fat off roast. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

2. Place potatoes, carrots and onion in crockpot. Stir in garlic. Place roast on top.

3. Stir together broth, wine, parsley, thyme, paprika and salt and pepper. Pour over and around roast. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours until roast and veggies are tender. Remove meat and vegetables and thicken liquid with cornstarch if desired. Yield: 6 servings.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pumpkin Maple Swirl Muffins

I start dreaming of pumpkin this and pumpkin that come September when fall is just around the corner. These muffins are definitely a delicious fall treat.


1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened

2 tbsp. packed brown sugar

2 tbsp. maple syrup


2 cups flour

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

3/4 cup evaporated milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp. maple syrup


1 tbsp. packed brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. For filling: combine cream cheese, sugar and maple syrup in small bowl until blended.

2. For muffins: combine flour, sugar, nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Mix eggs, pumpkin, evaporated milk, oil and maple syrup in medium bowl; add to flour mixture, mixing until just blended. Fold filling in just until batter is swirled.

3. For topping: mix together sugar and nuts in small bowl.

4. Spoon batter into 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups. Sprinkle nut topping over muffins.

5. Bake in preheated 400º oven for 20 to 22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes; serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

Apple Stuffed Pork Chops

Apple stuffed pork chops scream fall to me. This savory pork 'n stuffing main dish is perfect on a crisp fall evening with a side salad and mug of warm apple cider.

4 pork chops, 1 to 1-1/2-inches thick

1 box (6 ounces) cornbread stuffing mix

1-1/2 cups hot chicken broth

1 cup chopped apple

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

1. Heat oven to 350º. Season each pork chop with salt and pepper to taste. Make a pocket in each chop by cutting between rib bones.

2. Combine stuffing mix, chicken broth, apple, onion and parsley; mix well.

3. Stuff each chop with 1/2 cup stuffing. Place in 11x7-inch baking dish. Spoon remaining stuffing around chops.

4. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes, turning once halfway through baking. Yield: 4 servings.

Hazelnut Mushroom Pilaf

I personally don't like mushrooms, but most people do so I pick 'em out. Sometimes I just leave 'em out all together. This is good either way. (This recipe is posted on one of my favorite websites allrecipes as well).

1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice

1/4 cup uncooked orzo

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup diced onion

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

2 tbsp. butter

2 cups fat free chicken broth

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1/4 tsp. dried marjoram

1/4 tsp. pepper

3 tbsp. coarsely chopped hazelnuts, toasted

1. In a large skillet, over medium-low heat, saute the rice, orzo, mushrooms, onion and celery in butter, stirring constantly, until rice is lightly browned. Stir in the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover; simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.

Cooking Conflict!

Work is seriously interfering with my cooking these days! I enjoy my job with the coffee giant, but I am not fond of the shift style work that has me working until 8:30 pm. I haven't been cooking a lot because I am working the later shift a few times a week. Gotta remedy this! So, I'm going to drag out the crockpot and start utilizing its convenience and ease. I really don't have many crockpot staple recipes, though, so if you have any you just love please send them my way!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dreaming of BBQ Sauce

It's been a quiet weekend in the cooking world around here as I have been working long hours and had a bbq to attend last night. Sadly, I didn't even cook for the bbq. I totally cheated and jazzed up Suddenly Salad's Chipotle Ranch pasta salad (but it was quite delicious). I used half sour cream and half mayonnaise for the dressing, and added some corn and cubed avocado. It was a big hit, so the easy route was a success this time. =) We're going to another bbq this afternoon, and we don't need to supply anything which means no cooking again today.

Tomorrow, however I am going to cook! Yay! My brother made an AMAZING bbq sauce yesterday, and my goal is to recreate it for tomorrow's chicken on the grill. I asked him for the recipe, and of course I got the "Oh, a bottle of ketchup, a bottle of barbecue sauce, a small jar of strawberry jelly, some sweet and sour, maple syrup, spices..." yada yada yada. Ok first, the jelly threw me off, wasn't expecting that. And I wouldn't have expected there to be jelly and maple syrup. But, in his words, "You need the syrup for its gooey sticking ability". Makes sense. And whatever he did it was honestly one of the best bbq sauces I've ever had. So, I will call him today and ask him to be a tad more specific with me then I'll go from there. Will definitely post the recipe once I nail it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread

Also delicious without the espresso, and/or with mini chocolate chips added to the dough. Think of these in a pretty box or neatly wrapped in decorative cellophane for a delightful food gift, and not just for Christmas. =)

2 cups flour

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup (2 sticks) chilled salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. Blend flour, sugars, 1 tbsp. espresso powder and salt in food processor. Add butter, vanilla and 2/3 cup hazelnuts. Using pulse button, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Knead just until dough comes together. Divide dough in half.

3. Press each half into 9-inch tart (or cake) pans that have been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Prick dough with fork several times. Bake until deep golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer shortbread to rack; cool 5 minutes. Remove shortbread from pan by inverting shortbread onto plates slightly smaller than pan and re-inverting onto cutting board. Cut into 24 wedges; cool completely.

4. Mix 2 tbsp. hot water and remaining 1 tsp. espresso powder in small saucepan. Add chocolate. Stir over low heat until chocolate is smooth. Remove from heat. Drizzle melted chocolate over shortbread wedges; sprinkle with remaining hazelnuts. Let stand until chocolate sets. Store in airtight container. Freezes well. Yield: 2 dozen.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Grocery Outlet Wine

So guess what? I have what may sound like an odd suggestion to my fellow wine lovers. But I'm totally serious. If you have a Grocery Outlet store in your area, check it out for your next bottle of wine. Grocery Outlet is a discounted grocery and merchandise store, and the selection they carry is wide and unpredictable. But, they have an "upscale" wine and micro brew section with discount price tags attached. The bottle I'm currently drinking is a Washington Hills (hadn't heard of it before) 2007 Chardonnay and it's pretty good. It's a drier Chardonnay, yet ripe and mellow. Very well rounded. And it cost a whopping $3.99. Better than two buck chuck at Trader Joes.

At Grocery Outlet in Boise I ran across this line of wines (Marlargo). I admit I initially bought them because I fell in love with the bottles. But the wine was actually good! And if I remember right each bottle only cost $3.99 as well. The wine is long gone, but I saved the bottles and they are now displayed as decor on top of my kitchen cabinets.

Grocery Outlet gets my thumbs up for wine (and inexpensive grocery items as well)!

Hearty Split Pea Soup

In my quest for a hearty homemade split pea soup, I came up with this delicious recipe. This has excellent flavor and consistency, and is easily adaptable to personal tastes. When I have leftover ham or Canadian bacon I throw some of that in the pot, too. (Tonight I used chopped Canadian bacon and bacon bits).

1 package (16 ounces) dry, green split peas

4 cups water

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup real smoked bacon bits

1 large potato, peeled and diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

1 large celery stalk, sliced (leafy top included)

1 small onion, chopped

2 tsp. chicken bouillon

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. dry thyme leaves

1/4 tsp. dry marjoram

1. Rinse split peas in cold water. Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven or large sauce pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 1-1/2 hours. Reseason to taste if necessary. Yield: 6 servings.