Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sweet Cornbread Muffins

There is no better accompaniment for red beans and rice than cornbread. In fact, my mom and my husband prefer to skip the rice altogether and use cornbread as a base instead. Me, I keep the rice and have my cornbread on the side, usually with a smear of butter (and sometimes a drizzle of honey, yum!). I used to be a diligent Jiffy mix user, but since we have recently been trying to get away from so many prepackaged foods, I set out to find the perfect cornbread recipe. After a few misses I finally found a winner over at Cooking on the Side. Her recipe is a sweet cornbread, which is the only way to make it, in my opinion. The recipe makes about 18-20 muffins, so there are plenty of leftovers to freeze, or make cornbread stuffing. Enjoy!

Cornbread Muffins
Adapted from: Cooking on the Side

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons honey

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or paper-line 18 to 20 muffin cups
2. Sift together flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil and butter; mix well. Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Add honey and mix well. Pour into prepared muffin cups filling 2/3 full.
3. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Skillet Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

I don't often have accidents in the kitchen. Ryan would say I have the uncanny ability to "destroy the kitchen", but it's usually a pretty safe environment. However, today, I had a bit of a stupid moment. I'm not exactly sure what I did, all I know is that as my onions were simmering away, I went to add the chicken broth to the pan and next thing I knew my arm spasmed?...or perhaps something made me jump. Regardless what happened, the next moment I was covered head to waist in warm chicken broth. I can only imagine what it must have looked like, luckily though I will never know because I was the only one around to witness this embarrassment.
So, anyway, once I cleaned up from my "incident" I proceeded to finish cooking. Despite the mishap, this was actually a very easy to prepare. The sauce comes together quickly with just a few simple ingredients, and the chicken is pounded thin which also cuts the cooking time in half. You can serve in on top of any thin pasta such as spaghetti or angel hair pasta. The original recipe called for heavy cream, but I chose to use fat free half and half to cut calories, and I also used whole wheat pasta. I will definitely be making this recipe again,  but hopefully without any mishaps next time.

Skillet Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce
Adapted from: 

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup fat free half and half (or heavy cream)
1 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, about 2 ounces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces angel hair pasta or linguine or spaghetti, cooked and drained

1. For sauce, saute the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until softened. Stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth, wine, basil, and parsley. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cream, Parmesan cheese, and tomato paste. Continue cooking until the sauce is hot and cheese has melted.
2. Wash chicken and pat dry. Place between sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound until uniform in thickness. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the chicken in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth, cover, and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add tomato cream sauce, cover, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes longer, until chicken is cooked through. Serve with hot cooked pasta.
Serves 4.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

You may be wondering why in the world I would choose to make potato soup in the middle of July? It's just too hot for soup, for sure. Well, I'll tell you, it's not cold here by any means, but it has been a wonderfully rainy day here in Texas, which is a much needed relief from the fierce drought that we have had this year. Of course, one day of rain has in no way resolved the drought, but it has been nice to watch and hear the rain falling today. So there you have it. There is nothing like a lazy rainy day to put me in the mood for some quick and easy Baked Potato Soup. Luckily enough, I had all of the ingredients in my kitchen, so in just 30 minutes, some rainy day soup was served. If you are lucky enough to be enjoying your own rainy day, you should definitely stay in and make some soup. Or even if it's not raining. It's pretty tasty either way.

Baked Potato Soup 

4 russet potatoes, cubed
4 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
4 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups milk
2 tbs light sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne, to taste
parsley, a sprinkle
shredded cheddar (optional)
cooked bacon, chopped (optional)
chives, chopped

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter with olive oil and cook onions and garlic until softened. Add potatoes, water, and bouillon cubes. Cover and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.
2. With a potato masher, mashed the potatoes while still in the pot. Pour in the milk and mix to combine. You can add more milk if you like a thinner soup. Add 2 large tablespoons of sour cream and mix to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, cayenne, and a sprinkle of parsley. Mix well and simmer on medium heat another 10 minutes until thickened.
3. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Serve plain or with cheddar, bacon and chives.
Serves 4

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Berry-Apple Quick Bread

So I was thinking that a quick bread sounded good for breakfast this morning. I thought about making this Banana Cake, but I really wasn't in the mood for anything banana.. I had some bluberries in the freezer, and we always have applesauce around for my toddler, Jacob, so I made some adjustments to the banana cake recipe and came up with a Berry-Apple Quick Bread. It turned out really well, soft and light and just the right amount of sweetness. By pureeing the berries before adding to the batter, the flavor gets incorporated throughout the bread. You can substitute any berries you like for the blueberries, I'm thinking raspberries next time...

Berry-Apple Quick Bread

1/3 cup  unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup bluberries, pureed (or other berry)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup  plain yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease an 9x5 inch loaf pan, set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
2. Put the butter, suger, brown sugar, and salt in a mixer bowl, and beat with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the berries, applesauce, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until incorporated.
3. Reduce the speed to medium low and beat in the egg until well incorporated. Turn the speed to low, and gradually add in the sifted flour mixture. Mix well, but don't overmix. Add in the yogurt, and mix until the batter has only a few remaining white streaks.
4. Transfer the batter into the greased pan and bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes or until the tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool completely on rack.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Southwestern Tuna Melt

Okay, so, I will be the first to admit that the thought of a tuna fish sandwich for dinner doesn't exactly get me really excited. But that was before this recipe took canned tuna to a whole new level. I never would have thought of doing this to canned tuna. There is so much going on in this sandwich and it just works. It's creamy and spicy and cheesy....just awesome. I served it on top of some fresh-made pita bread, which just made this sandwich that much better. If you are searching for a way to spice up your canned tuna, look no further, you are here.

Southwestern Tuna Melt
Adapted from: Bitcin' Camero

For the mayo:
3 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 roasted poblano pepper*

For the sandwich:
2 whole wheat pitas
1 6 oz. can of white albacore tuna, drained
1/2 a 15 oz. can of black beans
1 tbsp. sliced pickled jalapenos (or fresh if you’ve got them)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tomato, sliced
1 small avocado, mashed

1. Begin by making the mayo. Place the poblano pepper and the mayonnaise in a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Combine the tuna, poblano mayo, black beans, jalapenos and salt in a bowl until evenly combined. Cut along the seem of the pita bread so that you’re left with a top and bottom (instead of a pocket). Place the bottom halves on a cookie sheet, then top them with the tomato slices and tuna. Place the pita tops on the cookie sheet alongside the sandwich bottoms.
3. Sprinkle the cheese over the tuna and place under the broiler for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browned and the pita tops are toasted but not burned. Watch them while theyre under the broiler to make sure nothing burns.
4. Remove from the oven, and spread a generous portion of mashed avocado on the top bun. Place the two halves together and serve with tortilla chips.
Makes 2 dinner-sized sandwiches.

*To roast a poblano, simply place it on the top-most rack in your oven under a pre-heated broiler. Use tongs to rotate the pepper often, about every minute or so. It’s done when the skin is blistered and charred all around, about 8 minutes. Remove with tongs to a paper bag. Seal the paper bag and wait 5 – 10 minutes, then peel the charred skin off and remove the stems and seeds.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lemon Squares

Did you go to a barbecue this weekend? I know I did, what a better way to celebrate our Independence Day! We had some brisket and ribs, links, scalloped potatoes and baked beans. Yum! I was asked to bring a dessert, and I didn't think we needed anything heavy like cake or pie after all the meat and carbs. So I settled on Lemon Squares made with fresh squeezed lemon juice. They were just the right thing for a refreshing dessert after such a heavy meal. This was a simple recipe with a nice flaky crust and a sweet, yet tart filling. I used fresh lemons, but bottled lemon juice would be just fine. If you are looking for a fresh dessert to go with your barbecue this summer, try these Lemon Squares, they are very refreshing.

Lemon Squares
Adapted from: Erika's Kitchen
1 cup + 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 small lemons)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x9-inch pan with baking spray, then line the pan with aluminum foil (this will make it easier to remove the lemon bars in one piece so you can cut them properly on a cutting board). Spray the aluminum foil with baking spray as well.
2. In a bowl, mix together 1 cup of the flour, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, the melted butter, and the salt with a fork until a crumbly dough forms. Press the dough into the prepared pan so it covers the bottom and goes about 1/2 inch up the sides. Bake the crust about 15 minutes or until it just starts to turn golden.
3. While the crust is baking, whisk together the remaining 2 Tbs flour, eggs, granulated sugar, baking powder and lemon juice.
4. Pull the crust out of the oven, pour over the lemon mixture, and return the pan to the oven for another 30 minutes, or until the center no longer jiggles when you shake the pan. Cool the lemon bars in the pan for half an hour, then refrigerate at least two hours before cutting. This will help you get nice, even edges.
5. Lift the foil with the bars out of the pan, this will make cutting them much easier. Cut with a large knife into 16 even squares. Dust the lemon bars with the remaining 2 Tbsp powdered sugar before serving.
Makes 16 squares.