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Grapefruit Honey Cereal Muffins

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Have you heard of Wheatena? I hadn't either until last year during one of my Weight Watcher meetings when a fellow member was talking about a different option for breakfast. The following week I looked for it and now I'd like to recommend it to you as a different option for breakfast. I love the nutty flavor, and just like oatmeal, you can mix in whatever you'd like; dried fruit, diced fresh fruit, nuts...


Or you could make muffins, these muffins. While I may have erased some of the benefits of eating this cereal, I still feel better eating these for breakfast rather than these Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (this doesn't mean I still won't eat one for breakfast every now and then!).

This recipe originally called for orange flavors, but I have a lot of grapefruit that I'm looking to use up and I thought the tartness of grapefruit would balance the honey and brown sugar. It sure did. While the grapefruit flavor is just barely present, I wasn't disappointed because the nuttiness released from baking won me over!

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 cup Wheatena
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp grated grapefruit peel (from ~1 grapefruit)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 dark honey
  • 1/2 cup grapefruit juice (from ~1/2 grapefruit)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
Preheat oven to 400F. Place cupcake papers in a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.

Evenly divide batter into muffin pan using a 1/4 cup measuring cup (it's actually just a little less than 1/4 cup each muffin).

Bake 15 minutes or until browned on top. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove and serve warm. Makes 12 muffins.

Source: Adapted from Wheatena

Spicy Ranch Chicken Wings

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Another case of not reading the recipe through, seriously, when will I learn! Let me tell you what happened. We were planning to grill wings our usual way, but the weather wasn't great. So, JR asked me to find a different recipe which we could bake in the oven. I've been trying to utilize my cookbooks more, so I began thumbing through and found a recipe for which I was sure we had all the ingredients. Score! 

 

I began reading off the ingredients and JR began putting them into a mixing bowl. Right after he dumped the wings in we realized something wasn't right. I referred back to the recipe and sure enough we were doing it wrong. But no worries, these turned out great! And I will be sure to give you the correct instructions here so you don't end up with the congealed mess that we had

What I liked about these wings was that they had flavor, not just heat, but a nice balance of spices. JR appreciated that as well, because Buffalo Wings are not on his radar. We had these for our meal while we watched the Super Bowl, but these would be great as an appetizer at your next party.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (I used 1 1/2 Tbsp Sriracha)
  • 3 Tbsp vinegar
  • 2 1/2 lbs chicken wings
  • 1 envelope ranch dressing mix (I used Green Onion Dressing mix)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl mix butter, hot sauce and vinegar. Dip each wing in mixture and place on baking sheet.

Sprinkle ranch dressing and paprika over wings. Bake 30-40 minutes or until browned.

Serves ~5 (4 wings each serving).

Source: Weekend Cook

Mahogany Beef Stew

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Inadvertently, this week ended up being a soup/stew week. I'm really excited to end this week with this stew which part of a recipe swap I participated in. I was lucky enough to get this unique Mahogany Beef Stew submitted by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations. After reading the ingredient list I was intrigued by one ingredient, hoisin sauce.  This is a staple in our house, generally used for a grilled steak marinade, but I never thought about using it in beef stew.


As I started cooking I realized the directions said simmer on low 2-3 hours (when will I learn to read all the way through before starting!).  After saying something explicit under my breath, I went back to the original recipe on Epicurious. The instructions didn't appear to take as long to cook, so I opted to follow their method. I didn't end up needing cornstarch for thickening, but you may depending on how thick you want the gravy.

Mary Ellen mentioned serving with mashed potatoes, so I went ahead and served it that way, a first for me. I'm so glad I followed her lead, because the stew gravy was amazing over the potatoes. Even JR said to make sure Mary Ellen knows how much we liked it, so a big shout out goes to Mary Ellen for submitting this recipe!

For more soup and stews from the recipe swap, be sure to check out A Taste of Home Cooking for an upcoming Recipe Swap Round-up of Soups.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb stew meat
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup red wine, divided (I used Malbec)
  • 17 oz chopped tomatoes
  • 3 oz hoisin sauce
  • 3 carrots, cut into rounds
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 1 Tbsp olive oil, onions, mushrooms and bay leaf. Season with pepper, and saute 8-10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Season stew meat with flour, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Heat a medium skillet over high heat, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and meat. Sear meat on all sides until browned.

Add meat to Dutch oven. Pour 1/4 cup red wine to skillet, simmer and stir to remove brown bits from pan. Pour wine into Dutch oven.

Add 1/4 cup wine, tomatoes and hoisin sauce to Dutch oven. Stir well, cover and turn heat to low. Simmer on low heat 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Add carrots, remaining wine and stock to Dutch oven. Turn to medium and bring to boil. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until carrots are tender. Simmer uncovered another 15 minutes to thicken. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

Source: Epicurious as seen on Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Making Stock in the Crockpot

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I mentioned a few weeks ago that I haven't always been so good about keeping waste to a minimum, and the truth is I still sometimes struggle with it, but more recently I've challenged myself to use the ingredients I have on hand.  I'm pretty proud of the fact that I very rarely throw away food these days!

Remember my Chicken Noodle Soup post? This is one example of where it starts. All the vegetable scraps (ends and peels from the onions and carrots, and root of the celery bunch) go into quart size Ziploc bags in the freezer. When I have about 4 full frozen bags, I get to making stock.


I hope you aren't rolling your eyes thinking I'm a weirdo! This can truly be life changing. I can't remember the last time I bought stock, since I make it now and it's basically free. Think about how often you buy stock. If you follow this method you will never have to buy it again, and you will save yourself and your family from a bunch of sodium and additives.


I don't have a precise recipe, but here is the basic method I use for a 7-quart crockpot:

  • Vegetable and Herb Scraps (4 quart size Ziplock bags): carrots, celery, onions, scallions, garlic, leeks, fennel, parsley, thyme
  • Other: 2 dried bay leaves, 1 tsp peppercorns 
  • For Chicken Stock: chicken carcass
  • For Beef Stock: ~2 lbs beef bones (the butcher will give these to you for free)
Place frozen vegetable and herb scraps in crockpot. If making Chicken or Beef Stock, add the bones now too. Add 2 dried bay leaves and 1 tsp black peppercorns. Fill crockpot with water. Cook on low 10 hours.

When crockpot turns off, strain stock through fine mesh colander. Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes.  Divide stock into 1 or 1 1/2 cup portions and freeze.

Makes about ~12-14 cups of stock.

Chicken Noodle Soup

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I'll be honest here and tell you that my go-to soup for years came from a can. That's not the case anymore. If only I had realized that I could have a more flavorful homemade version within 30 minutes I may have cut back eating the canned stuff years ago. If this soup is on my weekly menu, I'll chop the vegetables on the weekend or in the morning before work. This helps keep the prep time to a minimum.


I've played around with the broth ratios and 1/2 stock with 1/2 bullion is my preference, but you could certainly use a ratio of more stock or more bullion based on your preference. I've also tried adding the vegetables to the broth raw vs. sauteing, and sauteing wins hands down. It gives the soup an incredible amount of flavor. I should mention that I like a chunkier soup with less broth, so if you want it soupier just increase the total amount of broth by a few cups.

Why should you believe this soup is a winner? Well, my non-vegetable eating brother-in-law eats it, the whole thing, including the vegetables (although I do omit the celery if I'm making it for this picky-eating family). So if you have a picky eater, maybe you should give this a try.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large outer celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 small inner celery stalks with leaves, chopped
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb chicken breast, chopped
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 3 chicken bullion cubes
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 oz egg noodles (or 4-8 oz pasta of your choice, including tortellini)
In a medium size pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and bay.  Salt and pepper to taste and saute until vegetables start to brown and onions become translucent. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink.

Add potatoes, stock, bullion, and water. Bring to a gentle boil for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through.

Meanwhile, in another medium pot, boil egg noodles in salted water for 8 minutes or longer to your preferred texture.

Add noodles to soup or serve soup over noodles if you want to keep the noodles separate for leftovers. Serves 4.

Source: An Adventures in My Kitchen Original

What's Baking: Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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This month's What's Baking is hosted by Sandra from She Cooks and Bakes!. Sandra choose the theme Bake with Valentines Day Colors. While it may not be an original idea, I felt the deep red color of Red Velvet Cake was the perfectly represented Valentine's Day colors.

We hosted a family dinner a few weeks ago which we haven't done in a long time, we even missed hosting our annual Christmas Eve celebration. Our house was under renovation from August to January, so we were really excited that the chaos is over to host. By the way, the house looks fabulous (thanks Ryan!)!

Since it had been so long since we had anyone over, I went a little overboard with preparations. Actually, scratch that, I always tend to go a little overboard! Does that happen to you? Someone mentions a get-together and immediately my mind starts churning with ideas and I can't wait to get in the kitchen.


Sorry for the diversion! When I saw this recipe on the back of the cake flour box, I knew a cake was in order for our first post-renovation dinner. Plus I was intrigued by the frosting recipe which used a new-to-me method of preparation. It just so happened that this recipe called for shortening, which I had just used for these Chocolate Cappuccino Chip Cookies for the same dinner. I'm still not sure why I had shortening in the pantry, but I went ahead and used it (I normally would have subbed butter for the shortening).

Overall the dinner was great, and this cake was no exception. My stepmom loves Red Velvet Cake, so that fact that she (and everyone else) had no complaints left me feeling relieved. To be honest, I don't really know what a "good" Red Velvet is supposed to taste like, even after making Green Velvet Cupcakes for several of our annual St. Patrick's Day dinners! 

You'll see that my frosting was poured, rather than spread. I had a hard time getting the frosting to a spreadable consistency, even after letting it refrigerate for some time. I have feeling it was due to my inexperience with this method (I may not have let it cool enough?) and the use of low-fat cream cheese. Nonetheless, I think the poured frosting still looked nice and it tasted great. What cream cheese frosting doesn't taste great!

Be sure to check out She Cooks and Bakes! for the monthly round-up. Thanks for hosting Sandra!

Here is what you'll need:

For the Cake:
  • 1/2 cup shortening, or unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup food coloring (I only used a .3 oz bottle and thought it was plenty)
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used 2% milk with a little extra vinegar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 5 Tbsp sifted cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Using an electric mixer, beat together shortening or butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, combining well after each egg.

In a small bowl, whisk together food coloring and cocoa powder. Add cocoa mixture and salt to butter mixture, and beat until well combined.

In another small bowl, combine buttermilk and vanilla.  Alternately add flour and buttermilk to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour.  Beat until well blended.

In another small bowl, combine vinegar and baking soda.  Gently stir into batter with a wooden spoon.

Divide batter evenly and pour into cake pans. Tap pans to release large air bubble. Place pans on middle rack in the oven and bake 35-40 minutes.  Test by gently touching the cake tops, if they spring back the cakes are done. Be careful not to overbake.

Cool cake in the pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Turn pans upside down on cooling racks and gently tap to release cake. Remove parchment from cakes and allow to cool completely before frosting. 

When cakes have cooled completely, prepare frosting recipe below.  Frost cake layers and sprinkle with coconut.

For the Frosting:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, stir together milk and flour.  Cook on low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thick. Allow mixture to cool.  

Using and electric mixer, beat together butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well blended.  Add milk mixture and beat until well combined and spreadable.

Source: Slightly adapted from Swans Down Cake Flour

Pastelon de Carne de Res (Puerto Rican Layered Meat Pie)

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Here's another recipe in my arsenal of Puerto Rican dishes to keep JR satisfied in between trips to his parent's house for Mami's cooking. I bought a copy of Puerto Rican Cuisine in America several years ago and thumbed through it to find easy recipes with identifiable ingredients. Easy because so much of my in-laws cooking seems to require a knack that I don't have, and identifiable because the ingredients I can't often find unless I make a special trip to a grocery store a few towns over.


Easy + Identifiable = Magnifico! (JR's description). I had never heard of Pastelon, never mind eaten it, so I took a huge risk here. I wish this was the result everything new I made, but anyhow I'm happy it's true for this dish.

This dish is a total winner in our house, besides magnifico, JR said it's the same (same!) as the traditional dish he's eaten before. I have even taken the risk to serve this to my in-laws. This is a huge deal people, I normally would not think of serving one of my Puerto Rican dishes to the experts!

Here is what you'll need:
  • 4 ripe (blackened) yellow plantains, sliced lengthwise in 1/2 inch thick strips
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 lb ground sirloin
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sofrito (or Goya Recaito)
  • 1 Tbsp Manzanilla olives mixed with capers (Alcaparrado)
  • 8 oz grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add plantains and fry until brown, about 3 minutes. Turn over plantains and continue frying until second side is browned, approximately 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. (Note: I've also done this step in the oven. Drizzle 1 Tbsp oil on baking sheet, lay plantain strips on baking sheet, drizzle with 1 Tbsp oil and roast until browned).

Add remaining oil to the pan. Saute onion and pepper until onion is translucent. Increase heat to high, add ground meat to pan, break up meat with a wooden spoon and add salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink.

Reduce heat to medium. Add tomato sauce, sofrito and olives. Stir to combine and simmer 5 minutes.

Beginning assembly meat pie by placing 1/2 of the plantains in a layer on the bottom of the greased baking dish. Spread 1/2 meat mixture over plantains. Repeat with a layer of plantains and then a layer of meat. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to set for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 4-5.

Source: Puerto Rican Cuisine in America

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Here is the evidence that I need a new muffin pan!  The good news is I received one as a Christmas gift in addition to a mini muffin pan. It may be time to retire this old muffin pan, and I do mean old! I  dug it out of my grandfather's basement many years ago. My guess it this has to be from the 1950-60's. The cups are very shallow, so your average 12 muffin recipe doesn't quite fit, or it does fit but you end up with connected muffin tops. As excited as I am to have a new pan, I don't think I'll be able to part with this one. I think I'll hang it up in our kitchen, or if you have some fun idea of what I could do with it please leave me a comment.
 

Now onto the recipe. This one is from my cousin's school fundraiser cookbook back from 1999, and it happens to be my favorite recipe in this book. While Banana Oat Bread may be my favorite, this one runs very close behind. It's the chocolate chips and almond extract that send these to the front of the pack.

If you're snowed in today and wondering what to bake, go ahead and make these, you won't be disappointed.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside.

Using a mixer, blend butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Add salt, flour and baking soda and mix until just combined. Be careful not to over-mix.

Add bananas, almond and vanilla extracts, and mix until combined.

Add chocolate chips and stir by hand until combined.

Evenly distribute batter among the 12 muffin cups. Place in oven and bake 25-30 minutes.

Source: Slightly adapted from Cooking with Ivy Drive

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

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I'm trying to get better about wasting less (preferably no) food, and planning meals that will use up ingredients I have on hand. This meal is a perfect example of using up leftover ham and heavy cream from Christmas. And it's easy, which was great after the craze of the holidays.


I've attempted scalloped potatoes at least once in the past that I can recall, but wasn't impressed with the result (and I'm certain I threw away the leftovers). I'm pretty sure the key here is the heavy cream and thyme, they really bring what I remember as scalloped potatoes (made with a 2% milk and flour mixture) to a new level. I think a layer of thinly sliced green onions would be a great addition to this dish.

While this meal is in no way figure friendly, and probably wouldn't be on many people's New Year meal plan, it's a great comfort food for a chilly winter night. I promise it's worth the calories (everything in moderation!).

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices (use a mandolin for ease)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced ham
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the cream, thyme, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Watch the cream carefully so it doesn't boil. 

Spread 1/3 of the potatoes in a layer on the bottom of your casserole dish.  Top with 1/2 of the ham. Pour 1/3 of the cream over the ham and potatoes. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, ham, cream, potatoes and finish with the remaining cream.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake 45 minutes or until potatoes are cooked and the top is golden brown. Allow to rest 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Source: My Baking Addiction

Chunky Sloppy Joes on Garlic Toast

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I've been a terrible blogger the last few months, and it's time I make up for it.  The next few posts are "make-up" posts so to speak.  They've been sitting in my drafts, staring at me to finish them up.

I didn't realize how similar this recipe was to Stuffed Pepper Soup until I was in the middle of cooking.  It's rare that I put such similar recipes on the same week's meal plan.  Now that I think about it, we ate a lot of beef that week which is also rare.  There seemed to be a lot of rarity going on, because JR also suggest we have Sloppy Joes (they were already on the meal plan!) on Garlic Toast. 


Hmm, Garlic Toast.  What a fantastic idea!  JR just brought Sloppy Joes to a whole new level, perfect for enjoying while watching the MLB playoffs (see, I told you the drafts have been sitting a while!).  These would also be perfect for the Super Bowl.

I should note that JR also asked for chunky Sloppy Joes, so my peppers and onions weren't chopped as small as I normally would.  It totally up to you how large or small you chop them.

I hope you'll try these and let me know what you think of serving them on Garlic Toast!

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 1 lbs ground beef sirloin
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp steak seasoning blend, I used McCormick's Montreal Seasoning
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
For the Filling: In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add meat and break it up with a wooden spoon.

Combine brown sugar and steak seasoning in a small bowl.  Add mixture to meat and stir to combine.  Continue cooking the meat until it is no longer pink and beginning to brown.

Add onion and peppers to the skillet and cook for 1 minute.  Reduce heat to medium, add vinegar and Worcestershire and combine well.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tomato sauce and paste and combine well.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes.

For the Garlic Toast: While the filling is simmering for the last 5 minutes, spread a thin layer of butter on the rolls, then spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over the butter.  Sprinkle with garlic powder (I used about 1/2 tsp per roll, but this should be adjusted to your taste).  Toast in the toaster oven until browned to your liking.

Serves 6.

Source: Rachael Ray