Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Re-Make Recap

Happy Halloween! Our costumes are purchased, our jack o'lanterns are carved, our candy bags are waiting, and our trick-or-treating etiquette has been reviewed time and again. I think we're ready for tonight! Now the rain just needs to hold off until trick-or-treating is over...

I have now officially been doing these re-make recap posts for a whole year, and this has become one of my favorite posts to write every month. As a food blogger, I think there is always a certain pressure to post something new and different, and while that is all well and good, it's also fun to re-make some old favorites. These recap posts have given me the opportunity to do that. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. (And eating all the yummy food, too, of course...)

Remember that phenomenal homemade chicken noodle soup I made earlier this month? I used the remaining poached chicken for a batch of my mom's creamed chicken over biscuits. This is by far my favorite comfort food, and it's perfect for chilly fall nights.

It was definitely a comfort food kind of month around here, and these pork chops with creamy mushroom gravy are a great comfort food. For only containing a handful of ingredients, these pork chops are incredibly flavorful, and the gravy is phenomenal on mashed potatoes. I couldn't find the cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic, so I sauteed a few garlic cloves in some butter and added that to the soup/sour cream mixture. It was a fine substitution.

It had been too long since I'd made rigatoni with chicken, bacon, and mushrooms, so I decided to remedy that. I love this combination of flavors, and, although the addition of the apple juice sounds a little strange, it adds a mild sweetness that really is fantastic. If you make this pasta (and you really, really should), definitely don't skimp on the basil. It makes the whole dish.

This roast beef with creamy mushroom gravy is my favorite pot roast recipe. (Are you sensing a gravy-ish, mushroom-y theme for October?) I bought a huge roast this time, so I had enough leftovers to use the pot roast in two other dishes. In case you hadn't noticed, I've been trying to cook more like that lately. :) I can't wait to share the other recipes I made using this pot roast; they both became instant family favorites.

We love, love, love this recipe for cheesy broccoli and rice. It's so creamy, cheesy, and flavorful. It's also a very quick side dish. If you're like me and you struggle to find interesting side dish recipes, I think you're going to love having this one in your back pocket.

I hadn't made this creamy baked spaghetti since the first time I made it nearly two years ago, and as soon as I took my first bite, I regretted waiting so long to make it again. I also regretted not doubling the recipe. I could have happily eaten the leftovers of this for at least a week. I think it would be just as good, if not better, with Italian sausage (either spicy or sweet).

This is a not-great cell phone picture, but I just had to show you the decorating job the boys did on their neena's (grandma's) birthday cake. They were so proud of themselves, and I think they did a fantastic job. The cake, of course, is perfectly chocolate chocolate cake -- the only chocolate cake recipe I (or you!) will ever need. If you haven't tried that, find an excuse to make it soon. I mean, do you really even need an excuse to make chocolate cake? I don't think so!
Every time I make these chipotle chicken cheesesteaks, I am surprised all over again how one little change (adding chipotle in adobo) can take a sandwich from good to great. And not only do they taste delicious, they're ready in just about 20 minutes. You can't ask for a better weeknight dinner than that!

Here's another meal my family just loves; these bacon and cheddar cornbread cakes with fried eggs grace our dinner table frequently. And with good reason: They're easy to prepare and come out perfectly every single time I make them. Not to mention how delicious they are! Bacon, cheddar, corn, savory stuffing, and velvety over-easy eggs...The flavors just work.

This creamy tomato tortellini with chicken and broccoli was a last-minute addition to our meal plan this week. I made dinner for my mother- and sister-in-law as a thank you for watching the boys while Joe and I went to our first ever parent-teacher conference. It's hard to think of anything that has made me feel more like a parent than that! The conference went great (my A-man is doing awesome in kindergarten), and dinner was great too. I doubled the tortellini but kept the rest of the amounts the same, and I still had plenty of sauce -- and plenty of leftovers, too. But that's okay. They'll definitely get eaten.

And last but not least: It just wouldn't be October in our house without a batch of pumpkin pie-spiced pumpkin seeds. The boys and I are whipping up a batch of these this morning. I'll probably use brown sugar instead of white this time, and we got a ton of seeds from our pumpkins this year, so I'm sure I'll have more than a cup of them. That's great news, because everyone gobbles these up. They're really addictive, and they're a great pre-trick-or-treating snack!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Big Batch Bolognese Sauce

It snowed last week here. Snow! In October! I'm never really ready for winter, but I'm especially not ready for it when it starts this soon. Give me my autumn, Universe!

Since the weather has cooled down, I've been craving slow-cooked comfort food in a major way. In that vein, a few weekends ago I made a delicious bolognese sauce that I'm so excited to share with you. Coming up on Friday, I'll share a fabulous recipe I made using this sauce. It's going to be a delicious week here on the blog!

As I do with so many things I make these days, I just kind of winged it with this recipe. I don't know if this would be considered "traditional" bolognese sauce, because I never really looked up any recipes. I just did my own thing, and I was so pleased with the results. The sauce has a nice bit of heat, a little bit of sweet, and a deep, rich flavor overall. It's thick and meaty and so comforting -- and it makes the house smell amazing while it's simmering on the stove. And plus, there's something so satisfying (at least for me) about preparing something and letting it cook all day long, and then getting to enjoy the results multiple times.

As the recipe title indicates, this is truly a "big batch" sauce. It uses three pounds (plus four ounces) of meat! You'll get at least two uses out of it, and it freezes really well. It fits perfectly into the "make it once, use it a few times" cooking philosophy that I've adopted lately.

One more thing: The sauce calls for the rind from a wedge of fresh parmesan cheese. I love the salty-cheesy flavor it adds to the background of the sauce. If you don't have a rind, you could stir in some grated parmesan at the end and the results would be just as delicious.

Big Batch Bolognese Sauce

Olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 pounds ground sirloin
1 pound  ground Italian sausage
2 large onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 green bell pepper, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
Rind from a wedge of fresh parmesan cheese
Granulated sugar, if needed

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat a layer of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until slightly crisp, then add the sirloin and sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned. Add the onions, carrots, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Stir in the tomato paste until thoroughly coated and fragrant, then add the red wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and cook until wine is reduced. Stir in the beef stock, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and parmesan rind. Heat to bubbling, then reduce heat to medium low.

3. Cover and let simmer for 3 to 5 hours. The longer the sauce simmers, the thicker and richer it'll be. Discard the bay leaves and cheese rind before serving. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt, pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes, if needed. If the sauce is too acidic, add sugar to taste. Serve with spaghetti or anything you want.

4. To freeze, place portions of the sauce in gallon-size plastic freezer bags. Remove all the air from the bags and store flatly in freezer until ready to use.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Creamiest, Fluffiest Scrambled Eggs Ever

I feel a little bit silly sharing this recipe with you. It's not even a recipe, really; it's more of a method. It's my go-to method, as a matter of fact, whenever I make scrambled eggs. And since I started making them this way, my family is asking for scrambled eggs a lot more often. 

The secret to these scrambled eggs is one simple ingredient: cream cheese. It's stirred directly into the eggs while you're whisking them, before they're cooked. The cream cheese gives them a fluffy, creamy texture that's just phenomenal. If you want to elevate your scrambled eggs, this is the way to do it. 

The great thing about this method is that you can change the flavor of your eggs by swapping out the flavor of cream cheese you use -- the savory flavors, of course. I can't condone adding blueberry cream cheese to your scrambled eggs, but hey, to each his own, right? I've used garden vegetable-flavored, chipotle-flavored, chive and onion-flavored, and (our favorite version, pictured above), jalapeno-flavored cream cheese. I've even used the Italian herb cooking creme with delicious results. And when you add the eggs to a breakfast sandwich with a sausage patty? SO GOOD. 

I can't recommend this method enough. Give it a try, I'm dying to hear what you think! 

The Creamiest, Fluffiest Scrambled Eggs Ever 

8 whole eggs 
3 tablespoons cream cheese (regular or any savory flavor) 
Splash of milk 
Salt and pepper to taste 
3 tablespoons butter 

1. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the cream cheese, milk, and salt and pepper, and whisk well. The cream cheese will still be in small clumps, but that's fine. Those clumps will turn into pillowy pockets of creaminess in your eggs. 

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and cook, scrambling gently, to desired doneness.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Individual Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Pot Pies

We caved and turned on our furnace this week. It was 61 degrees in our house when I got home from work one evening, and I just couldn't wait any longer. If it weren't for the little ones, I probably would have held out, but alas. I have tiny fingers and toes to protect.

If you're a furnace hold-out (or even if you, too, have caved and turned it on), these mini pot pies are the perfect thing to warm up your kitchen, and your soul. I firmly believe that anything in mini form just tastes better, I think because the cuteness factor just takes it over the top. These little pot pies are loaded with chicken, broccoli, and cheddar cheese, so they're just as delicious as they are adorable.

There is a bit of assembly involved in these, but they're still very simple to make. The hardest part was keeping myself from eating all of the filling before I put it inside the pie crusts! And if you don't have round cookie cutters, don't stress about it; just use the rims of two different-sized drinking glasses (which is what I did -- this is where having children comes in handy, since their cups are much smaller). My boys went nuts for these, which is another thing that's great about mini food: It's so fun for kids to eat. Next time I make these, I'll double the batch so I can freeze half of them for a later meal. I bet they'll freeze beautifully...much like I was, before I turned on the furnace. ;)

Individual Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Pot Pies
adapted from Food Network

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup cooked, chopped chicken breast
1 cup broccoli florets, steamed
All-purpose flour for dusting
2 10-inch round prepared pie crusts
1 egg, beaten

1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-count mini-muffin pan with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.
2. For the pot pie filling: Melt the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, cheddar, chicken and broccoli.
3. For assembly: On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8-inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 12 pieces of dough. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out another 12 pieces of dough. Press the large rounds of dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spoon the sauce into the pastry.
4. Combine the egg and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl, using a fork. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg mixture and place the remaining pieces of dough on top. Lightly press the edges of the dough together to seal. Press around the edges of the pies using the tines of a fork. Brush the tops of each pie with the beaten egg. Cut a 1/2-inch-long slit into the top of the pies using a paring knife. 
5. Bake until the tops are golden and the filling is bubbling, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Meatball Sliders

The idea for these meatball sliders isn't all that original; I've seen versions of them all over the place. This version, though, is pretty darn delicious, if I do say so myself. After a sear in the skillet, homemade meatballs finish cooking in marinara sauce before being placed on garlic bread-style slider buns and topped with gooey mozzarella cheese. They're simple and delicious and, judging by my family's reaction to them, will be a go-to meal for us going forward. 

I mentioned earlier this week that I've been doing more batch cooking lately, and these meatball sliders are another great example of that. I used two pounds of meat to make the meatballs (a pound of ground beef and a pound of Italian sausage), and I simmered them in two jars of marinara sauce. Since I only needed 12 meatballs for the sliders, I reserved the remaining meatballs and sauce for another perennial family favorite: spaghetti and meatballs. But, going forward, I may freeze the rest in batches of 12 so I can use them for these sliders over and over again. You'll understand why when you try them.

The recipe below calls for freshly-ground Italian-style breadcrumbs. I make these by toasting 2 slices of wheat bread and pulsing them in the food processor with Italian seasoning and garlic powder to taste (I never measure this stuff). I like using freshly-ground breadcrumbs because they're fluffier than store-bought and give the meatballs a better texture, but of course store-bought breadcrumbs are fine.

Meatball Sliders

For the meatballs:

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground Italian sausage
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup freshly-ground Italian-style breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Olive oil
2 jars of your favorite marinara sauce
6 slices sliced mozzarella cheese, quartered

For the garlic bread-style slider buns:

4 tablespoons softened butter
Italian seasoning to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
12 slider buns

1. To make the meatballs, add the ground beef and Italian sausage to a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat; add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until translucent. Stir in the garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Let the onion and garlic mixture cool slightly off the heat, then add it to the bowl with the meat. Season the meat with additional salt and pepper and add the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, eggs, milk, and parmesan cheese. Use your hands to gently combine the ingredients, but don't overmix them.

2. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Roll the meat mixture into balls, slightly smaller than a golf ball. Cook in batches until browned on all sides.

3. Meanwhile, in a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the marinara sauce over medium heat. As the meatballs finish searing on all sides, transfer them to the marinara, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover the pot to allow the meatballs to gently finish cooking through. Reserve all but 12 of the meatballs with their sauce for later use.

4. To make the slider buns, stir together the butter, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and cheese. Place the slider buns cut-side-up on a baking sheet. Spread some of the butter mixture onto the top and bottom of each bun. Broil until browned and crispy.

5. Place one meatball on the bottom of each slider bun. Top each with half a slice of mozzarella cheese (2 quarters). Return the bottom buns only to the oven and broil on low until cheese is melted. Top each with one of the reserved bun tops. If you have some fresh basil, throw it on there, because that would be delicious.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Roasted Potatoes with Parmesan and Oregano

I always used to think side dishes were so hard. That is, until roasted potatoes came into my life. Season them with salt and pepper, bathe them in olive oil, stick them in the oven, and you're only 30 minutes to what is, in my mind, the best side dish on the planet. Oh roasted potatoes, how I love thee. The ways are too numerous to count.

When I was looking for a side for meatball sliders recently (you'll get that crave-worthy recipe on Friday), roasted potatoes were the first thing I thought of. But I wanted to do something a little different than just make my basic roasted potato recipe, which is where this parmesan-oregano version came in. And whoa. Just whoa. These potatoes were incredible. You know how if you arrange shredded parmesan cheese in a circle on a baking sheet and bake it, it gets all golden and crispy and nutty? Well, imagine that golden-crispy-nutty flavor running all through crisp-on-the-outside, pillowy-soft-on-the-inside roasted potatoes. (Sorry for all the hyphens; apparently I over-hyphenate when I'm really excited about food.) Add in a little bit of oregano for an herby flavor, and of course a little bit of garlic, and they're absolutely perfect. I could have (and really, really wanted to) eat that entire bowl. My family's lucky I love them enough to share.

Roasted Potatoes with Parmesan and Oregano

3 pounds baby red potatoes, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese 
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

2. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to spread the seasonings and oil evenly over the potatoes.

3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping occasionally, until browned and crispy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Completely Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Recently I've been doing more batch cooking to make dinners easier for myself during the week. I prepare a big batch of meat all at once, then use it in multiple meals. Not only is it cost-effective, it really does make pulling dinner together much quicker. Last weekend I wanted to make a few pounds of chicken to shred, and I decided to poach the chicken so I could make my own stock. Of course, chicken noodle soup was one of the first meals I thought of, to use both the stock and the shredded chicken.

I've been making chicken noodle soup for a long time -- first with boxed stock and store-bought noodles, and later, with boxed stock and homemade noodles. This was the first time I'd ever made it completely from scratch, and it was a huge success. I can say with certainty that any semi-homemade version I make going forward is just not going to measure up.

This does require quite a bit of time to prepare -- making the noodles and drying them, simmering the stock for a couple of hours -- but it was a great weekend activity for us. The boys loved helping me make the noodles, and I was able to get other things done while the stock was simmering. And the time spent was beyond worth it. The flavor of the stock was so deep and rich, and the noodles were so chewy and flavorful, rich with the flavor of cooking in the stock. Chicken noodle soup is one of the humblest yet most delicious dishes in the world, in my opinion, and this version is just perfect.

I'm giving you the full recipe for the noodles below (you'll only need about 3/4 of the noodles it yields, depending on how noodle-y you like your soup) and the full recipe to make a gallon of stock (you'll only need about half of the stock and a quarter of the chicken for the soup). But having egg noodles, stock, and chicken on hand is never a bad thing, right?

Completely Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

For the noodles:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Make a well in the center of the flour. Add egg yolks, egg and salt; mix thoroughly. Mix in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is stiff, but easy to roll. Knead for about 5 minutes adding additional flour if necessary to make a dough that is not sticky. Divide dough in 3 or 4 equal parts. Roll dough, one part at a time, into thin rectangle on well floured board, to less than 1/8 inch thick. Make sure that your dough is well floured. Roll up each piece of dough into a log, then cut across the log in 1/4-inch strips. Cut the long strips into shorter strips, to the length you desire your noodles. Place cut noodles onto a baking rack to dry, for at least 2 hours.

For the stock:

3 pounds bone-in chicken, light and dark meat (I used chicken legs and breasts)
Salt and pepper
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled, quartered, root attached
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
16 cups water

Rub chicken generously with salt and pepper and place in the bottom of a stock pot. Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay, and thyme. Pour in the water and cover. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour. Remove the chicken from the pot and shred; reserve. Return the chicken bones to the pot and increase heat to high. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to medium. Continue cooking, uncovered, until stock is rich in color and reduced slightly, at least 1 hour. Strain into a plastic container.

For the soup:

4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery from the heart, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded chicken
1/2 cup white wine
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 to 3/4 pound egg noodles
1 cup frozen peas

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Stir in the shredded chicken. Add the wine and cook, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until reduced. Add the chicken stock and heat to boiling. Stir in as many noodles as you want; cook until noodles are chewy, 8 to 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Reduce heat and stir in the peas. Serve.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Smoky Meatloaf

I don't know what the weather is like where you live, but around here, it seemed to go from SUMMER! to FALL! within the span of 24 hours. Last week it was in the '80s, and this week it's in the '60s. It's got me craving comfort food in a major way -- and does it get any more comforting than meatloaf? Not in my book!

I love making meatloaf for lots of reasons, not the least of which is because of the name my boys have for it. They call meatloaf "sauce cake". I think it's pretty much the most fantastic thing in the world; who doesn't want to have sauce cake for dinner? Sauce cake (as it will ever be known in our house) happens to be one of their favorite meals, too.

As much as we love traditional meatloaf, sometimes I get the hankering to make a different version. This one, inspired by a Paleo meatloaf recipe I found, has all of my favorite smoky/roasted ingredients in it: roasted garlic, roasted red pepper, fire-roasted tomatoes, smoked cheddar cheese, and bacon. It's topped with a smoky chipotle ketchup. Honestly, it couldn't have been any more delicious -- and the leftovers made for the most delicious meatloaf sandwiches ever. I highly, highly encourage you to give this sauce cake a try.

Smoky Meatloaf
inspired by Civilized Caveman Cooking

1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 small onion
1 14-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 roasted red pepper*, peeled and chopped
1 head roasted garlic**, pasted
1/2 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons chipotle in adobo puree***
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove to paper towels to drain. 

2. Add the ground beef and the bacon to a large bowl. Using a small grater, grate the onion into the meat mixture. Add the tomatoes, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, cheese, eggs, oats, paprika, salt and pepper and gently mix just until combined. Shape into a loaf and place on a cookie sheet or in a 9x13 casserole dish. Bake for 40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

3. Stir together the ketchup, chipotle in adobo puree, and Worcestershire sauce. Brush onto meatloaf and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

*I don't have a gas stove, so I roast my peppers under the broiler. To roast your own red bell pepper, turn the broiler to high and place the pepper on a cookie sheet. Leave the oven door ajar so you can keep an eye on the pepper, turning it after each side is blackened. Place it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam the skin loose, then peel it and remove the seeds. I like to leave a little bit of the char on it for flavor. The peppers will keep in an airtight container for a week in the fridge, topped with a little bit of olive oil.

**To roast garlic, cut the top off of a head, leaving the bulb intact. Place on a sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roll up the foil. Cook in a 350 degree oven until your house smells amazing (about 1 hour). Squeeze the bulb to release the cloves and mash the garlic.

***When I buy a can of chipotles in adobo, I puree the entire can when I open it. Then I place the puree in a plastic baggie, roll it into a log shape, and freeze it. Then I use a grater to grate the frozen mixture when I need it for a recipe. You can also freeze the puree in ice cube trays, but the plastic baggie works just fine for me.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pumpkin Pancakes with Whipped Maple Topping

Full disclosure: This is an Instagram photo. See, every once in a while, I get so excited to eat a meal that I get all verklempt when I'm taking photos. In this case, I was so excited to devour these pancakes that I took the pictures really quickly and all of the photos turned out blurry. Of course, I didn't realize this until I was editing them. I can only assume the blurriness was because my hands were shaking with anticipation of eating this meal. So this photo will have to suffice until I make these pancakes again (which will be soon, but I still couldn't wait to share these with you).

Breakfast for dinner is a huge treat in our house, especially when it's really dessert masquerading as breakfast -- which, let's be honest, is exactly what these pancakes are. They're loaded with pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and dolloped with a topping made of cream cheese, maple syrup, and whipped topping. They are so good

This recipe makes a ton of pancakes and a ton of topping, which worked out great for us because we ate them for breakfast throughout the week. You can reduce the amounts below if you want to, but really, I don't know why you would want to.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Whipped Maple Topping

For the pancakes:

3 cups pancake mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the topping:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups whipped topping
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Heat a greased griddle over medium high heat. In a large bowl, combine all of the pancake ingredients until thoroughly combined. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour the pancake mix in batches onto the griddle. Cook until the edges bubble, then flip and continue cooking until the opposite side is golden brown. Keep the pancakes warm in the oven.

2. Meanwhile, whisk all of the topping ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. Serve the pancakes with the topping. Serve with additional maple syrup. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Apple BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Caramelized Onion, Bacon, and Apple Topping

I know that's the longest recipe title ever. But I just couldn't leave anything out. All of those ingredients listed up there are such important components to this delicious sandwich that they all deserve to be mentioned. 

Since the title is so long, I'll try to keep this post short and just tell you to MAKE THESE SANDWICHES. If you're anything like me this (and every) fall, you probably have more apples than you know what to do with right now. Use a couple of them in this savory application and I promise, your entire family will love them. The flavor combination is just fantastic, with the salty, sweet, and smoky elements working together so perfectly.

Also, make double the chicken and use the leftovers in these BBQ chicken taquitos, and your family will practically fall at your feet. I know this from experience.

By the way, if you're a fan of The Bachelor, you should know that I found the inspiration for this recipe from the blog Mix and Match Mama, which is written by Bachelor Sean's sister Shay. She is adorable, and she posts some really amazing recipes. Go check her out!

Apple BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Caramelized Onion, Bacon, and Apple Topping
inspired by Mix and Match Mama 

For the chicken:

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper to taste
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups apple juice
1 bottle BBQ sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

For the onion-bacon-apple topping:

6 strips bacon, diced
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced
1 large apple, sliced (I used a Honeycrisp, my fave)
1 thyme sprig
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon maple syrup 

For the sandwiches

Sandwich buns, toasted if desired

1. Place the chicken in a Crock pot and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, thyme sprigs, and apple juice. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. Before serving, remove the thyme sprigs and shred the chicken with two forks. Add the BBQ sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar and stir to combine. Turn off the slow cooker and cover while preparing the topping.

2. To make the topping, cook the bacon in a large, high-sided skillet until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Drain all but one tablespoon of the bacon drippings from the skillet. Reduce heat to low and add the butter to melt. Add the onions, apples, and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and caramelized. Remove the thyme sprig, return the bacon to the skillet, and add the maple syrup. Heat through, then remove from heat.

3. To make the sandwiches, add a pile of chicken to the bottom half of the buns. Top with the onion-bacon-apple topping. Smear some mayonnaise on the bun tops and serve.