Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blueberry Muffins and a Birthday for for my Baby


A friend told me once, "Blueberries are like God's natural candy". I couldn't agree more. I have a hard time thinking of a fruit I enjoy more than fresh blueberries, especially ones we picked.
The kids and I picked 5 gallons of blueberries from local farms this June. Only 3 of those gallons made it to the freezer. In just a few weeks, we managed to eat 2 entire gallons of fresh blueberries. And we could have eaten more.

But I was determined to hide them away in the freezer for use throughout the fall and winter. I'm exceptionally stingy with them and won't let the kids just nibble at them whenever they want.
Sigh. One of these years we're going to have our own blueberry plants and not have to ration them so much. 

So my *baby* Miranda just turned 3 last week. Take a look at her.

Oh, this girl. So expressive, so affectionate, strong-willed, compassionate, clever, talkative, friendly, and full of sass. "Just like her mama," Grant says. (about the sass part)
And ohhhhh, those eyelashes. Just look at the upper right photo. 
Yeah. I'm jealous too. 
She is a blessing to our family and many others and just a precious delight. When she's not screaming, of course. :) 
We can't imagine our lives without her!

"Faces of Miranda"

Miranda is one of my biggest blueberry lovers. She would eat bowls full every day if I let her. So when deliberating what to make for her birthday breakfast, it didn't take me long to decide on blueberry muffins. (I decided against her original suggestion of spaghetti, mean mom that I am.)
Just as predicted, she was delighted, as were the rest of the children.

You just can't go wrong with tender, slightly sweet muffins with those juicy berries.
I decreased the sugar from the original by half, and the muffins are still sweet enough.
Of course, you can half the recipe if you're not wanting 24 muffins. I just always would rather  have too many than too little, and nobody complains about a leftover muffin the next day. I'm sure that extras would freeze nicely, too.

Blueberry Muffins
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

Yield: 24 muffins

4 cups all purpose flour (can substitute white whole wheat)
1 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1 cup oil (I use expeller pressed coconut oil)
1 cup milk, warmed in microwave
4 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:


  • Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and oil. Add the warm milk and vanilla extract.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir just until combined. 
  • If using fresh blueberries, wash and drain them, then stir into batter. If using frozen blueberries, place in a colander and run hot tap water over them for about 20 seconds. Drain berries well, then stir into batter. (This step really helps - if you don't do it, the berries will clump together  when stirred into the batter. Trust me, I know.)
  • Use muffin liners or grease 24 muffin cups. Fill cups 3/4 full and bake for 15- 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If making mini-muffins, start checking at 10 minutes. 
  • Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. 



Source: Adapted slightly from Tammy's Recipes (I reduced sugar and amount of blueberries)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs



October is one of our busiest months of the year, since three of the kiddos have birthdays. And things are just about to get even busier, since the youngest two are starting swim lessons next week and Corban is starting basketball in a couple of weeks.

But hey, with five children, life never seems to slow down.

That's why I rely on slow cooker meals at least once a week, sometimes two or three times.
Three cheers for slow cookers!!
I have three, actually. A 6-qt and a 7.5 or 8-qt (can't remember) are my primary ones, but I also have a little 1-qt. one for dips. It's so cute!

I actually made this recipe for a church fellowship meal a few months ago and barely even got to try it. It was one of the first dishes emptied. So last week, I decided it was high time for this meal to grace our table. It makes HUGE batch, so we had dinner from it twice, as well as lunch for a few people twice.

Grant loved these meatballs so much, he skipped dessert so he could have seconds of them instead.

The sausage gives such a nice flavor, and combining it with lean ground turkey keeps the calories down quite a bit. I used homemade breadcrumbs the first time, but this time I tossed some oats in the food processor and ground them up pretty fine.  Worked just as well.

I used homemade marinara sauce by simmering a couple of 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes with some garlic and herbs for awhile, but store-bought cans or jars of sauce work just fine and simplify the process a little.

We loved these meatballs over penne pasta, and I bet they'd be awesome as a meatball sub also. Annika had some leftover meatballs in a tortilla with some melted mozzarella cheese one day and said that was really good.

Any way you eat them, they're super delicious. And I'm sure they'd freeze really well.

Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
2 lbs ground turkey or beef
12 ounces bulk mild Italian sausage
1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs, Italian-seasoned if you prefer
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
6 cups marinara sauce (Two 24 oz jars) or homemade

Directions:
  • In a large bowl, whisk together milk and eggs until combined. Add ground turkey, sausage, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder; mix with your hands until well combined. 
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with foil and lightly spray with non-stick spray. Using your hands or a medium cookie scoop (my preferred method), shape 1-2 inch meatballs. Place on prepared baking sheets. 
  • Bake for 10 minutes, or until browned. Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker.
  • Top meatballs evenly with sauce. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours in the slow cooker until meatballs are cooked through to an internal temperature of at least 160°F. 

Serve on top of pasta, on split hoagie rolls with melted cheese for meatball sub sandwiches, with mashed potatoes, or as an appetizer.


Source: Girl Versus Dough, originally adapted from Taste of Home

Monday, September 29, 2014

DIY Green Enchilada Sauce



Homemade green enchilada sauce is something I've thought about attempting for a long time.  I just cringe when I read the ingredients on any of the cans at the store......like this one found here:



Ick. 

No soybean oil, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, corn syrup solids, artificial colors, or yeast extract (aka MSG) needed here.

So this recipe I found at Mel's Kitchen Cafe was intriguing because it involves roasting poblano or anaheim peppers before cooking them in the sauce. I don't have a gas stove to roast them on, but I do have an oven, which works just as well.  It really couldn't be easier.

After the peppers are ready, it's just a few more simple ingredients to simmer together on the stove, and then a quick whir in the food processor if you want a smooth sauce (I did), or you can just leave it chunky.
Presto!  You're ready to make enchiladas or Mexican stewed pork or any other thing you make with green enchilada sauce.

It's a little spicy, so full of flavor, and completely free of weird ingredients that I don't want to feed my family. Win/Win.


DIY Green Enchilada Sauce
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

3-4 Anaheim or Poblano chile peppers OR 1 cup canned diced green chiles, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1 medium jalapeno, finely diced (optional)

To roast peppers:

Preheat oven broiler to high. Wash and dry peppers and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil about 6 inches below the top oven element for 3-5 minutes on each side, until charred and blackened.
Remove from oven and immediately fold the foil up over the peppers and fold shut. The steam will help the peppers to peel easily.  After about 15 minutes, open the foil. The peppers should be cool enough to handle and the skin will slide right off. Cut off the stem, scoop out the seeds and discard, and dice the peppers.

To make the sauce: 

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onion and garlic; cook until the onions are softened, but not browned.
Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Don't worry about clumps - just let the flour get golden and toasted.
Gradually add the broth, whisking quickly and constantly to smooth out any lumps.
Add all the remaining ingredients, including 1 cup of the diced peppers, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The sauce should be silky and thickened - able to coat a spoon but still drip off. Add more broth to thin out if needed.
Add additional salt to taste, if needed. Process sauce in a blender or food processor if you prefer a smoother consistency.

Sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or can be frozen for up to a month or two if well sealed.

Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chocolate Pumpkin Delight Cake - SRC



It's time for the explosion of pumpkin recipes again!  I couldn't be left out of the fun, especially since pumpkin baked goods are some of my very favorites. So when I saw this cake on the blog of my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month, it was a no-brainer.

Deb blogs over at Cooking on the Front Burner, and let me tell you, she takes some of the most beautiful food photos!  I just couldn't stop looking at everything and admiring how tempting everything looks.
Raspberry Peach Cobbler,  Strawberry Bruschetta, and Grilled Pork with Chile Lime Sauce were just a few of the options that caught my eye, but I just kept coming back to that cake. I mean, chocolate and pumpkin, with a caramel cream cheese frosting???? How could I resist that??

Now Deb's cake is absolutely fabulous with chopped nuts pressed into the sides and garnished with pecan halves on the top. But seeing as I'm the only person in my family who likes nuts with baked goods (boo), that was really out of the question.  Also, she made hers in 8" pans and had leftover batter - I just used 9" pans and used it all. I ended up modifying her recipe a little to increase the frosting so I would be sure to have enough and used less ganache inside the cake. I didn't want it to overpower the salted caramel frosting.

Oh, and I made my own caramel sauce - using this recipe. It's a fantastic sauce and very simple - and one batch of it makes exactly enough for the frosting.  (And if you happen to make a batch that ended up not cooking quite long enough to get that perfect color, you can always save it in the fridge and add it to your coffee. YUM.)

This cake is really big, so be sure you have a crowd to feed!  But it lasts well in the fridge for several days as well, so don't sweat it if you have leftovers.  They're just as delicious!

Chocolate Pumpkin Delight Cake
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

For the Cake:

2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

For the Frosting

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. caramel sauce (homemade or store-bought)
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

For the Ganache
4 oz dark chocolate bar 
4 oz (1/2 cup) heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter (3) 9" cake pans and line each with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl or mixer, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.  

In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla. In another bowl, sift the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg). Alternating adding the dry ingredients and the pumpkin mixture to the large mixing bowl, blending well after each addition. 

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove and cool on racks.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth, then add the caramel sauce.  Mix well and add the powdered sugar a cup at a time and mix until fluffy.  

To make the ganache, chop the chocolate bar into small bits and place in a bowl.  Heat the cream  in a small saucepan until bubbles form around the edges, then remove from heat and pour over the chocolate.  Let sit for a few minutes, then stir until smooth. 

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a serving dish or cake stand (I prefer to put it on a small board so I can put it in the fridge easier). Place pieces of wax paper tucked around the cake to help with the mess factor.  Put about a cup of frosting on top of the cake and spread within a half inch of the edges.  Drizzle some ganache on top and spread thinly. 


Repeat layers until you get to the last one.  Spread frosting around the top and sides of the cake, smoothing as desired. Drizzle or spread the remaining ganache over the top and allow to drip down the sides.  Use an offset spatula to blend the edges in with the frosting if desired.

Remove wax paper from the bottom of the cake.  Store covered in the refrigerator. 


Source: Adapted slightly from Cooking on the Front Burner

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cream Biscuits


I've tried my hand at all sorts of biscuits over the years.  Ones with just butter, ones with buttermilk, even ones with sour cream.  And don't get me wrong; Carb-a-holic that I am, I like all biscuits pretty darn well.  (Confession: when I was 16-18, I spent my summers working at McDonalds. I would rarely eat the food - mainly because I didn't want to spend the money - but I loved their biscuits. I would crave them. When I was working the breakfast shift and we would have leftover biscuits that were headed for the garbage, I'd sometimes grab a couple and stuff them in my purse for later.)  

When I came across these cream biscuits, I was won over in a heartbeat.  They're ridiculously easy, so fast to throw together, and practically melt in your mouth.  My kids could eat a whole pan of these without a second thought.  We love them with homemade sausage gravy, with jelly or apple butter, or just plain with a little dollop of butter.

I thought I'd mention them today because my sweet Annika is turning seven tomorrow (!!!) and these, with sausage gravy, is what she requested for her birthday breakfast. I'm making it today because tomorrow will be filled with cake decorating and party prep. That being said, I'm off to make my favorite middle child her breakfast.

Happy Birthday, Annika!! 

Notes: I usually make 1 1/2 times this recipe to feed my family.   

Cream Biscuits
adapted from Smitten Kitchen 
Yields 10-12 two inch biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional; I use it)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I have used 1 cup cream, 1/2 cup whole milk successfully)
3 Tbsp. melted butter  (optional; I don't use it)

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
Sift 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar (if using) into a large bowl.  Fold in 1 1/2 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little.
Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball, and use your hands to press it to a thickness of about 3/4". Cut into rounds with biscuit cutters.  I like to use the miniature ones for the kids.
Gather the dough scraps and continue to make rounds. If desired, dip the top of each round in melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet.  I find I prefer them without being dipped in butter, but it's up to you. 
Bake about 12-15 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Sweet Cinnamon Topping


I'm a sucker for banana bread recipes. I couldn't even tell you how many variations I've tried. 
Kind of drives Grant crazy. Pick a recipe and stick with it, he thinks. 

So when he tasted this one several months ago, he said, 
"This is it. If I ever ask you to make banana bread, THIS IS THE ONE I WANT. Not any others."

I think he made that pretty clear. :) 
And I can't say that I blame him.

It's lightly spiced, wonderfully moist and tender, and the crumb topping adds that extra delightful, sweet crunch. I love having the cream cheese in there - I feel like it makes the bread extra rich and flavorful without being over powering. And with two loaves, you can freeze one for later or share with a friend or neighbor. 

And for the record, I haven't make any other banana breads since then.  But I've made this one at least four times. It's a huge hit with the family every time. 

Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Sweet Cinnamon Topping
Yield: 2 loaves
From: Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, light or regular, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 large bananas)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


Topping:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 loaf pans (8 1/4" x 4 1/4") with cooking spray or butter and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese and sugar until very light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and bananas.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined.

In a small bowl, mash together the topping ingredients until combined and crumbly.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle with the topping.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until the bread is nicely domed and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let rest in the pans for 5-10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack to cool completely.




Source: Adapted slightly from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chicken Enchiladas Suiza (SRC)



I already have a couple of chicken enchilada recipes, both very different and both very tasty.  But with a husband that adores spicy and Tex-Mex sort of food, I figured you can never have too many enchilada variations.  So when I saw one featuring green sauce (instead of the typical red) on my Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month, Little Bit of Everything, I knew I had to try it.

Of course, I found several other recipes to try.  Julie blogs from Nebraska and has a beautiful collection of dishes, like Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread, Pot Roast Carbonnade, and Salted Caramel Ice Cream  (which I did make and it was to.die.for delicious - but I did encounter a few difficulties with making it so I didn't feel comfortable posting it until I make it successfully a few more times.  Ahem.)

So most of y'all know that I really don't like buying pre-made stuff, and that includes enchilada sauce.  I already have a homemade red sauce that my family really likes, but I didn't have a green one.  So I searched for one and found an intriguing recipe which involved roasting poblano chiles.  I'll be posting it soon, so stay tuned.

These enchiladas were simple and amazingly delicious.  While a couple of  the girls complained that they were too spicy (that's because of the sauce), Grant couldn't stop raving about them. He would eat them every week if I'd make them.  I loved them too and was bummed that I missed out on the leftovers.  Grant took them for his lunch the next day. Guess that's a sign of true love - you let the hubby take the awesome leftovers.

Chicken Enchiladas Suiza
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (4 oz) can chipped green chiles, drained
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 can Rotel mild diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
1 (14 oz) can mild green enchilada sauce (or use homemade)
2 cups finely shredded cheese - cheddar or colby jack
10-12 Fajita size tortillas 

Cook chicken as desired.  You can boil it, bake it, or cook in a slow cooker. You could even use leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie if you wanted.  I like to sprinkle the chicken breasts with kosher salt and pepper on both sides, place on a baking sheet, and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until done.  Cool chicken slightly and then dice finely or shred it.

Combine chicken, sour cream, green chiles, green onions, Rotel, and 1 cup of cheese in a large bowl. Mix to combine well. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 13 x 9" baking dish.
Divide the chicken mixture between the tortillas and roll up securely.  Place in the baking dish and pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, top with remaining 1 cup of cheese, and return uncovered to the oven until cheese is melted.


Source: Adapted slightly from Little Bit of Everything


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