Tuesday, January 15, 2019

One Muffin, Two Muffins, Three Muffins - Oh my.

Apples and Cinnamon are a perfect combo. Add a few extra spices in there - make a good muffin even better. Muffins with a crumb topping with a drizzle of glaze - yes, yes, yes. For my last muffin trick, I mean the last muffin requested for the women's tea - apple. YES, this is one I can get behind. I found an apple spice muffin recipe that was perfect.
When I first was approached to make all the muffins (3 different kinds) I was worried I wouldn't have enough time - so we narrowed it to the 3 kinds. I spend some time a week before measuring out all the dry ingredients, layering them into marked bags, just so that part was done and I wouldn't accidentally mess it up - that happens enough for me to be concerned. I doubled each recipe - so in the rush of baking I wanted to be able to have one piece done and not worry about mixing up my measurements.
I was able to go through one type of muffin at a time, get them baked and move on to the next kind. The apple were my favorite. When I ate one - the apples almost melted into the muffin - you could taste them but somehow they weren't visible. So good. The recipe showed a glaze drizzled on top - but the recipe didn't actually give info on it. So I made up my own. I'll include it here.

Apple Spice Muffins
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar plus a pinch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus a pinch
1/8 teaspoon ground all spice
3 large eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup apples diced
2 tablespoon butter melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper cups.
Toss apples with a pinch of cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ground all spice.
Make a well in the flour mixture and add eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla and mix well. Fold in apples. Batter will be thick.
Pour mix in to muffin pan and fill 2/3 full.
Mix butter, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of muffins.
Bake for 18-20 minutes until tops are golden brown and tester inserted in to center comes out clean.
Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
Mix up drizzle and drizzle on top of cooled muffins.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Bread that needs no kneading

What's the best thing to eat with a bowl full of steamy soup? Fresh bread - like super fresh, crunchy crust, chewy, so good. It' possible I've shared here before that our Aldi has artisan bread, it all tastes like sourdough. All.of.it. Italian Bread, Baguettes, French Bread, and even Chibotta. It all tastes the same. If you like sourdough then yay for you. I'm not the biggest fan, so it annoys me. I've been wanting to try Dutch Oven no-knead bread. This bread was honestly the easiest bread I've made - possibly ever.
Let's review the steps.
1. Stir together four ingredients - flour, yeast, salt, and water in a big bowl.
2. Cover with plastic and let it sit for 12 - 18 hours. Yes... HOURS.
3. Heat oven with Dutch Oven inside it.
4. Plop sticky dough inside HOT pan - cover and bake.
5. Take the lid off for the last 15 minutes.
6. Pop out of pan and cool.
7. Slice and eat.
I guess that's a lot of steps - but they are easy steps. Like super easy. The giant bowl of jiggly dough on our counter made me wonder if this was really going to work - but it did!
My father in law declared it the best bread ever... he also said that Wisconsin (as a whole state) does not make good bread. Um... that seems unlikely... but I'll just smile and say thank you because this bread really was that good. I should have added some cinnamon butter... oooooh... I have leftovers - imagine it toasted with that butter... ok, know what I'm doing tonight!
So... Make this, unless gluten is not your friend, and if gluten isn't your friend... maybe try an alternate flour...because yum.

No Knead Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water room temperature

In a big bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Pour water into the bowl and using a spatula or a wooden spoon mix it until well incorporated.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on your counter for 12 to 18 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 F degrees. Add your cast iron pot to the oven as it's heating and heat it as well until it's at 450 F degrees.
Remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid from it. If you want to make sure your bread doesn't stick to the pot you can sprinkle some flour or cornmeal on the bottom of the pot.
Flour your hands really well and also sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough. With your floured hands gently remove the dough from the bowl and roughly shape it into a ball. Take the ball of dough and drop it into the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and place it back in the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, after which remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
Remove the bread from the pot, it should fall out easily. Let cool completely before slicing into it and serving.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

All the Stew-y Feels

I think I was a weird kid - I asked for beef stew for dinner. It was not something my mom usually made - so often if I asked for it - she'd get the ingredients and I would make the meal. Back then I'd use the packet mix and simmer it away all afternoon.
Adulting sometimes means finding better ways to do things. Who has time to simmer something away all afternoon when you have a crockpot that can do that for you. This beef stew recipe has all the stewy feels. The beef, the carrots, the potatoes, and the onions. It also has bay leaves. We had soup a few days ago and I forgot to take the bay leaves out - horrors of horrors! Same happened with the beef stew but we turned it into a special surprise prize - OH!! I got a bay leave how exciting! Yes we are weird sometimes, you know this, yes?
The kids liked this one - it had all normal food they like and eat and we paired it with homemade bread so that is always a winner.
This recipe has you pre-brown the meat, but that's not too hard. Just toss it in a pan and brown each side. I still put it all in the crock at night into the fridge, then put it in the heating element in the morning and plugged it in. I do love those kinds of meals where I can do all the prep the night before and then just enjoy the next day.
Also... Yes that picture is out of the plastic container we stored it in. I totally forgot to take photos When we ate - I guess I was just WAY too excited for Beef Stew... or just plain forgot. Details.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound baby red potatoes, quartered
4 carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, optional
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Season beef with salt and pepper, to taste. Add beef to the skillet and cook until evenly browned, about 2-3 minutes.
Place beef, potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic into a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir in beef broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire, thyme, rosemary, paprika, caraway seeds and bay leaves until well combined; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup stew broth. Stir in flour mixture into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for an additional 30 minutes, or until thickened.
Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner (that I didn't even have to make!)

Considering I leave work at 2:30 - being a few minutes late you wouldn't think could cause an issue making dinner. Considering we eat early - also kinda throws a wrench in things. Go figure. I got waylaid in a meeting and out the door a bit late. I asked Andy to get dinner started when he got home. I didn't have time to stop in between work and school pick up so I did a few quick errands on my way to get kids - then came home with the kids to a little bit of chaos... just a little.
Andy was doing great - baking chicken, making teriyaki sauce, heating up veggies. He did great. Dinner turned out great!! Certainly something we will eat again and again.
We all ate well - for sure.
I have a few ideas for shortcuts for this recipe.
1. Make the sauce and chicken a day ahead.
2. Use a rotisserie chicken instead of raw chicken - easy.
3. Use a bottle of teriyaki sauce instead of making your own. I like the idea of making it - making sure it doesn't have anything my family can't have - ie. pineapple or lemon.
4. Double up those veggies. We doubled the veg and it was great.
So there you go. With planning this is an easy meal... and with the tips - makes it even easier if you want.

Teriyaki Chicken Casserole
3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 Tablespoons cornstarch + 2 Tablespoons water
2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (12 oz.) bag stir-fry vegetables (Can be found in the produce section)
3 cups cooked brown or white rice
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
Combine soy sauce, ½ cup water, brown sugar, ginger and garlic in a small saucepan and cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove lid and cook for one minute once boiling.
Meanwhile, stir together the corn starch and 2 tablespoons of water in a separate dish until smooth. Once sauce is boiling, add mixture to the saucepan and stir to combine. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken then remove from heat.
Place the chicken breasts in the prepared pan. Pour one cup of the sauce over top of chicken. Place chicken in oven and bake 35 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and shred chicken in the dish using two forks.
*Meanwhile, steam or cook the vegetables according to package directions.
Add the cooked vegetables and rice to the casserole dish with the chicken. Add most of the remaining sauce, reserving a bit to drizzle over the top when serving. Gently toss everything together in the casserole dish until combined. Return to oven and cook 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle each serving with remaining sauce.

* Instead of making the sauce – buy a bottle of teriyaki sauce instead and use it.
* Use a rotisserie chicken that is already cooked and avoid cooking the chicken.
* Double the veggies

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Snowing powdered sugar all over my kitchen

Something called Muddy Buddy Cookies makes very curious. Because Muddy Buddies... aka Puppy Chow is amazing all on its own - but in cookie form? I bet that's delicious.
What we made was not as Muddy Buddy-y as I was hoping but all on its own very good.
Imagine a peanut butter cookie with a thumbprint of chocolate with a dusting of powdered sugar. Sure it sounds like the makings of a Muddy Buddy... but not.
Bronwyn was all about helping with these cookies until the Wii got turned on, then she was out. She did the first two trays. She rolled the balls of peanut butter dough expertly. The 2nd pan she just used the cookie scoop, and then she gave up. I made pretty big scooped cookies for the last pan.
The recipe says to just pour some of the chocolate on the top - that seemed... unlikely to work. Instead, I used a teaspoon and made an indent in the top of the warm cookie before moving it from the pan to the cooling rack. When they were cool I used a piping bag and pipped chocolate into the center of each. When the chocolate had a firm top I dusted them with powdered sugar and then we ate them.
Are they good? Oh my yes. Are they Muddy Buddies or Puppy Chow - nope. But are they a darn good peanut butter cookie with chocolate with the fun of powdered sugar? Oh yes. Also... side note - keep in mind if you put powdered sugar on top of something you will be more likely to drop that cookie on the counter, the floor, your shirt, everywhere... because then you get to clean up more of a mess. Ah yes... everywhere...

Muddy Buddy Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with parchment paper or spraying with cooking spray.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or use a handheld blender, blend together the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy and light in color. Add in egg and blend to combine.
In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir with a wire whisk. Add to the wet ingredients and blend just until combined.
Shape into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet. You can fit 15 to each cookie sheet because they won't spread much at all.
Bake 8 minutes. Immediately after cooking, take a small cup and gently press down on the cookie. This will flatten them as well as give those pretty crinkly edges.
Let cookies cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Once cooled, Melt chocolate chips and canola oil in microwave-safe bowl for 2 minutes. Stirring every 30 seconds.
Immediately use a spoon and place a small amount of chocolate onto each cookie and spread around.
Let chocolate set and cool completely (about 2 hours) before dusting with powdered sugar. To speed up the chocolate cooling and hardening, place cookies in the fridge or the freezer.
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