Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting

I came up with this recipe a year or so ago when I needed to find a dairy free cupcake. I served them at a family party and not only did no one guess they were dairy free, I got a request for the recipe. I think that means they were a huge success!

When you get to the part of the recipe that tells you how many cupcakes you are going to get it is a large range. There are a few factors in this one being the size of the muffin/cupcake pan you use. Also I have found that the brand of coconut milk I use has some effect too. If the coconut milk is runny (almost watery) in consistency you will get fewer cupcakes, if the coconut milk is thick the batter will end up with more volume (more air) and you will get a few more. If you stick to one brand of coconut milk you will have consistent results. Either way they are fabulous!

Coconut Cupcakes
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Prepare muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
In large bowl of mixer combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add shortening and coconut milk and beat for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs and beat 2 more minutes.
Fill prepared muffin cups with batter, filling about ½ full. (I use an ice cream scoop to do this step)
Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan about 10 minutes and then move to a rack to cool completely.

Coconut Frosting

2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
¼ vegetable shortening
2-3  Tablespoons coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Shredded coconut, as desired

Blend the sugar and shortening together completely and add the coconut milk and vanilla to make a smooth spreadable frosting.  If your coconut milk was really thick you may need to add a Tablespoon of water to the mixture.
Spread cupcakes with frosting and sprinkle with (or dip into) coconut as desired.

12-18 cupcakes

Note this can also be baked in a 9” square cake pan- in that case bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 to 45 minutes

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beef and Veggies over Noodles with Peanut Sauce

This is the perfect dish for a night when you are in a hurry to get dinner on the table fast! I prepped the veggies while the water was coming up to a boil and it took only 15 minutes from the time the pasta was dropped into the boiling water until I had dinner ready to go on the table. The sauce isn’t spicy at all but you can certainly bump up the amount of hot sauce to your taste.

Beef and Veggies over Noodles with Peanut Sauce

8 ounces un-cooked spaghetti
1 pound ground beef
4 green onions chopped
8 ounces of fresh pea pods, cut in half
1 red bell pepper cut into strips
Salt to taste
1 ½ cups chicken broth
A few shakes of Tabasco (or to your taste)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ cup creamy peanut butter
Peanuts to garnish (about ¼ cup)

Cook the spaghetti as directed on the package and drain

Brown ground beef in a large skillet breaking the meat up when it is cooked through. Add the veggies and salt and cook another 3 or 4 minutes until the veggies are crisp tender.

Combine the broth, Tabasco and cornstarch, stir well to combine completely and add immediately to the meat mixture along with the peanut butter. Stir to combine everything together. Cook a minute or two until thickened and bubbly. Add the cooked spaghetti and combine.

Serve with the peanuts as garnish.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cranberry-White Chocolate Scones for Breakfast

One of the favorite breakfasts in our house on busy mornings are scones, I love them because I make them in the afternoon or evening for the next  morning. My kids love them because they can grab them as they run out the door. This Cranberry-White Chocolate version was the choice for today. I know your family will love them too.

I make my scones with my food processor making them even easier to mix up.

Cranberry-White Chocolate Scones

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup cold butter (cut up into small pieces)
1 large egg beaten
4 to 6 Tablespoons half & half
1/2 cup white chocolate baking chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of the food processor combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, fresh ginger and lemon zest and pulse the processor to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until the butter is thoroughly mixed into the flour mixture (I think the best description I have ever  heard for this stage is that it should look like grated Parmesan cheese). Add the egg and half & half and pulse just until combined and the mixture forms a mass.

Remove dough from the food processor onto a floured surface. Add the dry fruit and chips and knead everything together. Try get the additions mixed through evenly but work quickly so the dough doesn't get tough. I try to not knead the dough more than about 10 or 12 times.

Pat dough into a thick disk about 8" across and cut into 6 wedges.

You can brush the tops of the scones with more half & half and sprinkle with sugar if desired. At holiday time it is fun to use the pretty colored sugars that are sold for decorating cookies.

Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 15-16 minutes.

Serve now or in the morning.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Take 5 (Spice that is) Oatmeal Cookies

Never one to believe that rules are really rules, especially in the kitchen I had the thought that if Chinese 5-Spice is good with chicken and other savory dishes, why not put it in oatmeal cookies? Well, I did and it is (really, really good as a matter of fact) The magical taste mixture of spices really comes alive in sweet dishes and I am debating if the product might actually be better suited to that calling. For those of you not familiar with 5-Spice it is a combination of 5 spices, each brand varies a little bit but they are very similar. My jar says it has Fennel, anise, ginger, licorice roots, cinnamon and cloves, other brands may contain pepper or other ingredients. Don't worry about the getting the exact version I have any brand will work in this recipe and in any recipe calling for 5 Spice. Once you open the jar and take in the aroma you will be in love.

Don't worry, I will post some other recipes for the 5 Spice in the future so you won't have to use it just in these cookies (but I think it is worth the purchase price just to make the cookies)

Take 5 (Spice that is) Oatmeal Cookies

2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 vegetable shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese 5 Spice 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Cream the sugars with the butter and shortening until well combined then add the 5 Spice, baking soda, vanilla, baking powder, salt and eggs. Beat to combine on medium speed or with a spoon. 
Stir in oats, flour and walnuts.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an un-greased cookie sheet.
Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until light brown and starting to set in the middle.
Allow to set up on cookie sheet for about 1 minute then remove to cooling rack.
About 4 dozen cookies

Monday, March 21, 2011

Overnight Banana-Walnut French Toast

Since this is the beginning of Spring Break here I thought it would be a good day for a leisurely breakfast so I dug out this recipe. This would also be great for a weekend brunch. I love it for many reasons but the fact that it is put together in the afternoon and then sits in the fridge until time cook it in the morning puts it at the top of my list for a laze morning. All I had to do this morning was to heat the oven and put this in for 45 minutes, then we could enjoy.

Overnight Banana-Walnut French Toast

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ cup chopped walnuts
2 medium bananas
10 (approximately) slices cinnamon raisin bread
3 eggs
¾ cup half and half
½ teaspoon vanilla

Coat an 8”x 8” baking dish with butter or spray with cooking spray. In a medium mixing bowl combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and walnuts until well mixed. Carefully fold in the bananas (trying not to break them up) then pour this mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Using the cinnamon raisin bread make 2 layers of bread, I used 4 full slices and 1 slice that was cut in half on each layer. You want to make a layer that fills the baking dish completely.

Combine the eggs, half and half and vanilla and pour this mixture over the bread. Cover with foil and refrigerate over night (no more than 24 hours) I like to make it in the afternoon for the next morning.

In the morning heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Uncover the baking dish and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve portions upside down, spooning the sauce from the bottom of the dish over each serving.
4 servings

Friday, March 18, 2011

Salsa Brown Rice

This recipe couldn't be easier and I think it really shows how simple the rice cooker makes life. You will have to experiment with your own rice cooker but I found that mine consistently needs and extra 1/2 cup of water above the water level line with this recipe so that is how I wrote it here.

Salsa Rice
2 rice cooker scoops brown rice
1 cup jarred salsa
amount of water for your rice cooker for 2 scoops of rice plus an extra 1/2 cup

Add the ingredients into your rice cooker, cover and turn rice cooker to "cook" when the rice is done stir to combine.

It is that easy with a rice cooker to make a tasty side dish.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bean Burritos with Chipolte Sour Cream

We were in the mood for something spicy for dinner (seems like a common theme at our house) and I had some re-fried beans that I wanted to use up so this dinner was developed. The beans are simply doctored with some jarred salsa, certainly quick and easy but it does add so much to them. The real star of this dish, in my opinion is the Chipotle Sour Cream that goes with it. This sour cream would be fantastic over eggs too. I love chipotles and almost always have them on hand. You can certainly adjust the spiciness level to your own tastes and this is pretty mild by our standards. I usually use whatever bagged salad mix I have on hand for these kind of dinners so use what you have. Have fun.

Bean Burritos with Chipotle Sour Cream

1 (15 ounce) can vegetarian re-fried beans
1/2 cup of your favorite jarred salsa, thick and chunky style is best
4 (burrito size) flour tortillas
a handful of salad mix (whatever you have on hand)
1 large tomato sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Chipolte Sour Cream (recipe follows)

Prepare the Chipotle Sour Cream and set aside.
In a small saucepan combine the re-fried beans and salsa and heat over medium heat to heat through.
Meanwhile heat the flour tortillas as directed on the package.
To serve simply layer the ingredients in the tortillas and roll up burrito style.

Chipotle Sour Cream
1/3 cup sour cream
1 chopped chipotle  chili in adobo sauce
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce
Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and blend well. The amount of chipotles can be adjusted to suit your taste.

Serve with the burritos or over eggs.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lemon Chili Salmon

Since I live a bit out of town and it is not always convenient to get to the grocery store I like to keep a good variety of stuff on hand that is easy and quick for dinner. Since I really love fish and seafood I like to keep a lot of those items on hand.  For connivance sake I like the frozen products that individually vacuum packed and then frozen. The fish is frozen fresh and since it remains frozen until I thaw it out it stays that way. I was looking through  the freezer at one of my local stores and I noticed a package of salmon fillets, I hadn't  tried these before so I threw them into my cart. I removed them from the freezer to thaw out in my fridge today, then started to think about what direction I wanted to take with this meal. I checked out what was on hand and based on those items and our tastes I decided this meal will take a Southwest trend. I started the rice cooker with some brown rice along with some chopped green onion, cumin, chili powder, chicken bouillon powder and a little fresh ground pepper along with the required amount of water. We love brown rice and it is a wonderful blank canvass to add seasonings so it will go with your meal. I will be doing so actual recipes for the rice cooker in the next week or so.  I decided to cook the salmon on my grill pan on the stove top. Then I combined some spices with some fresh lemon juice to brush on the salmon. I also cut some lemon halves to grill alongside the fish. I made sure the bottom side of the salmon was well oiled so it wouldn't stick to the grill. When the grill pan was thoroughly heated I brushed the lemon juice/spice mixture over the top side of the salmon. I carefully placed the salmon on the heated grill oiled side down and tucked the lemon halves next to them and cooked them until the were done to our liking. With a nice vegetable to round out the meal we had a very nice, easy and satisfying meal.

Lemon Chili Salmon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
juice of 1 lemon
2 lemons, cut in half

Prepare your grill to cook the fish.
Oil the bottoms of the fish fillets (skin side) and the cut edges of the cut lemons.
Combine the spices with the lemon juice and brush over the tops of the salmon fillets and allow to stand for about 10 minutes.
Place the salmon and the lemons cut sides down on the gull. Watch the lemons, they cook quickly remove them when they get good grill marks on the cut sides. Cook the salmon for about 15 to 18 minutes depending on how you like your salmon cooked. Turning these over is optional. I did this time because I did these in the house on the stove top grill, if I was outside where I could cover the grill I wouldn't have turned them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

dinner's in the freezer- Meatball Subs

Dinner can be as close as your freezer. Since I live out of town a ways (closest grocery store is about 12 miles away) I try to have some things on hand to make meals from. One of my favorite methods is to make items in large quantities and freeze them in meal size portions. Today’s dinner is the merging of 2 of my favorite freezer items: meatballs and spaghetti sauce. Both of these I made up a month or so ago and froze to for future use. They can be used individually in many dishes or combined like today. They are of course good over pasta but today we were in the mood for nice gooey meatball subs. So I grabbed the meatballs, sauce and some sub-rolls out of the freezer to thaw and with the addition of some grated mozzarella cheese we had a quick dinner. All I needed to add was a salad to complete it. (Sorry for the picture, that is part of this I am having the most trouble with, I can come up with great recipes, taking really good pictures is a lot harder)

Meatball Subs
1 container freezer meatballs, thawed
1 container freezer spaghetti sauce, thawed
4 hoagie buns, heated
Shredded mozzarella cheese to taste
Heat the meatballs and sauce together in a small saucepan until heated through. Spoon onto the heated buns, top with cheese and put under the broiler to melt the cheese.

4 sandwiches

Meatballs for the Freezer

4 pounds ground beef
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combing all the ingredients in a very large bowl being sure to mix very well. Form the meat mixture into balls about 1" balls. Place the meatballs on rimmed baking sheets and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked through. Be sure to not over crowd the baking sheet with the meat balls. Immediately remove the meatballs to a paper towel lined surface to cool. When they are cool enough to handle put about 30 meatballs (divide them evenly) in each of 5 quart size freezer bags. Label and freeze.
Use within 3 months.
Makes 5 containers of meatballs.
Spaghetti Sauce for the Freezer
 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
32 ounces tomato sauce
2 cups water
12 ounces tomato paste
2 Tablespoons dry minced onion
2 Tablespoons dry parsley flakes
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 Tablespoon Italian seasoning

Combine all of the ingredients in a large soup kettle or dutch oven, over medium heat bring to a simmer lower heat to medium low and simmer 20 minutes. Cool and divide between 6   pint (2 cup) containers, label and freeze.
Use within 6 months
makes about 6 pints

On the spaghetti sauce I gave the amounts of the canned goods in ounces because I always check to see what size can is the most cost effective. Be sure to do this each time sometimes it is cheaper to buy multiple small cans sometimes the larger cans are more cost effective. Learn to think in the total number of ounces you need not the individual can size.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Peanut Butter Pasta

This is probably the dinner that my kids love the most of everything I have ever made. Not only is this a super easy and quick meal it is made of ingredients that are almost always on hand and nothing in it is expensive so it is great for those days when the wallet is a little lacking.  It is truly a satisfying meatless dinner too and depending on your pasta choice a vegan one too.I hope you will enjoy this as much as we and it will find its way to your dinner table on a regular basis too.

Peanut Butter Pasta

2/3 cup apple juice
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
dash of Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
chopped peanuts if desired
1 lb of your favorite pasta, cooked 
In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the cilantro, 
chopped peanut and pasta; mix well. ( a wire whisk really works best here)

Cook over medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture is 
melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Stir in cilantro just 
before serving. 
Serve over cooked pasta. 
Top with chopped peanuts
I wanted to mention here also that recipe is very forgiving. If for instance you don't 
have apple juice on hand, I have made this with: chicken broth, water and even white 
wine in place of the apple juice. If need be you can use powdered ginger in place of 
the fresh but in this case you notice a difference. If you like spicy add more hot sauce. 
Use your favorite pasta just about any shape works great. I have also added veggies 
and cooked chicken to this a few times too.

You really can't miss with this recipe.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Old Fashioned Molasses Crinkle Cookies

These are my absolutely favorite cookies in the entire world and the big surprise to everyone is that there is no chocolate in sight! I know, shocking to all those who know me, I am a chocolate lover but these spicy, sweet, crunchy and yet soft cookies are by far my favorite. Because we roll the cookie dough in to balls then coat them in sugar then drip some water onto the top they have this marvelous crisp exterior with a soft, chewy interior. The only real trick with them is to make sure you don’t over bake them. Watch the first pan closely to get the timing for your oven figured out; start checking a little before the time given, you want them to be just barely set in the middle. The worst thing with these cookies is to over bake them and make them hard.

Old Fashioned Molasses Crinkle Cookies

¾ cup all vegetable shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
¼ cup molasses
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
sugar and water

Using a mixer combine the shortening, brown sugar, egg and molasses beating until thoroughly combined.
Stir together the flour, spice and baking soda and add to mixture just until combined.
Form dough into a disc shape, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Form chilled dough into balls the size of a large walnut.
Roll the balls of dough in sugar to coat and place on an un-greased baking sheet.
Moisten the top of the dough balls with a tiny bit of cold water. I dip my finger into cold water and just barely touch the top of each cookie (you want to give each cookie a drop or two of water) this is what creates the wonderful crackles on the surface.
Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 12 minutes until the centers are just set but not hard.

Cool on a rack and enjoy

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Roasted Chicken

I always try to watch the local grocery store ads for those rare occasions when they have a really good price on whole chickens. If I watch closely I can usually score some at between 69 and 79 cents a pound. My local store seems to always put a limit of 3 on them at this price so I make as many trips to the store as possible that week getting 3 each trip and looking for the biggest of the birds. Last time I was able to bring home 9 and put them all in the freezer. I pulled one out of the freezer yesterday to roast for dinner tonight. Granted, a roast chicken does take some planning especially if it is in the freezer but it is so worth it in the end. This morning I took the thawed bird out of his (or her, I didn't ask) and gave it the spa treatment this consists of a long soak in a wonderfully fragrant bath of brine.

Brine for Chicken
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of herbs and spices (this time I used crushed red pepper flakes, dry basil, dry rosemary,and fennel seeds)
I then add a  couple of cups of water to this and zap it in the microwave to dissolve the salt and sugar. After stirring to make sure they are dissolved I  add ice to make about   8 cups and stir to melt the ice and cool the mixture.

I have an old Tupperware pitcher that we never really liked to use for its intended function. I discovered a few  years back that a whole chicken fits perfectly in it. So I put the chicken in this pitcher breast first and pour the brine mixture over. The only real trick to make sure the brine covers the bird. Put this in the refrigerator for about 6 or 8 hours. At the end of this time pull out the chicken, dump the brine and pat the chicken dry with paper towels.

To Roast the Chicken

Rub some oil (vegetable or olive which ever you prefer) all over the outside of the chicken. Fill the cavity with some aromatic veggies and herbs (usually a carrot, celery, some fresh herbs, onion and some garlic) and a cut up lemon if you have one. Use some kitchen string to tie the bird into a compact package and place on a rack in a roasting pan to cook at 375 degrees for between 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on how big your bird is. Use a quick read thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh, it should read between 175 and 180 degrees when you remove it from the  oven.  Cover the chicken with a foil tent and allow to rest for about 15 minutes before you cut into it.

The brine not only helps to flavor the chicken  all the way through but adds a lot of moisture to the meat. Even the breast will be moist and juicy.