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Monday, December 28, 2009

Cheddar and Apple Stuffed Chicken

Making stuffed chicken breasts is a good way to "fancy" up an ordinary dinner staple. Its not as boring as baking chicken, can be extravagant or simple, and doesn't add a lot of work or complex prep to your meal.

Cheddar and Apple Stuffed Chicken
Serves 4-6

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup honey mustard dressing
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp rosemary

3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 apple, cored and diced (I used Fuji)
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups bread cubes
1 cup chicken stock
3 T butter
1 tsp sage
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp ground mustard
Salt and pepper

Trim chicken breasts of any fat, separate breasts and tenders and butterfly each piece. Place each piece between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4" - 1/2" thick with a meat tenderizer/mallet or rolling pin. In a gallon size plastic bag, combine dressing, lemon juice, and rosemary. Add chicken to bag and refrigerate about 2 hours to marinate.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, add onions and garlic and saute about 5 minutes until softened. Mix with bread cubes, apple, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, and spices. Add chicken stock and mix until well combined.

Season both sides of chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add about 2 T of stuffing mixture to each piece. Roll up and place seam side down in prepared baking dish. When all the chicken is added, sprinkle the top with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and bake for about 30 -40 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Internal temperature should be 170 degrees. Bake extra stuffing in a separate dish for approximately 30 minutes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours,
Merry Christmas!
One standard on Christmas morning in my family is Monkey Bread. A warm, cinnamon-y, gooey pull-apart bread, monkey bread is an easy, delicious breakfast treat that could also pass for dessert.

Monkey Bread
Family Recipe

4 tubes refrigerated biscuits
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 T cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a tube or bundt pan with baking spray. Cut biscuits into quarters. Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1 T cinnamon in a small bowl and roll quartered biscuits in cinnamon and sugar mixture. Transfer to prepared pan, spreading them evenly around the pan.

In a saucepan, add butter, remaining sugar and cinnamon and brown sugar over medium high heat. Stir frequently until boiling. Boil for approximately 1 minute and then pour over biscuits.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Cool for a couple of minutes, top pan with serving plate and carefully flip over to turn out. Serve hot.

Holiday Treats: Brown Sugar Chocolate Fudge

The brown sugar in this recipe adds an extra depth of flavor and the semi-sweet chocolate keeps it from being over-the-top sweet. I've gotten lots of good reviews on this one so evidently my first attempt at fudge worked out pretty well.

Brown Sugar Chocolate Fudge
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

14 oz semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
7 oz marshmallow creme
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups packed brown sugar
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 T unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 - 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a small jellyroll pan with foil, leaving a couple inches of overlap on all sides so you can lift out the fudge when its set. Combine chocolate, marshmallow creme, and vanilla in a large bowl.

Combine sugar, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream and salt in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved, about 10 minutes. Brush the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush occasionally to keep sugar crystals from forming. Attach candy thermometer and increase heat to high.

Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-high and stir constantly but slowly until temperature reaches 230 degrees.

Pour hot mixture over chocolate mixture and stir quickly until well combined and chocolate is melted. Transfer to prepared pan and spread out smoothly.

Top with chocolate chips. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Cut as desired. Keep refrigerated.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twice-Baked Potatoes

An easy, yet impressive looking side dish. For some reason, most people seem to think a twice-baked potato is a challenge, but in reality they can be prepared quickly and easily. You can also change up the filling to whatever flavors you want. This cheddar and chive filling works well with any classic meat and potato meal. For an extra special finish, I transferred most of the filling into the potatoes and then piped on the top with a large star tip.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

4 baking potatoes
1/2 cup whole milk
2 T butter
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1 clove garlic, minced

Bake potatoes in the oven (about 45 minutes) or microwave for about 10 minutes, stabbing multiple times with a fork. Cool for about 5 minutes and then cut off the top 1/4 of the potato. Using a clean kitchen towel, hollow out the potato with a spoon, leaving a 1/4" thick wall. Transfer potato filling into a mixing bowl.

Add milk, butter, cheddar cheese and garlic to bowl and combine. Snip about 1 T of chives and mix in. Spoon mixture back into potatoes. Reserve approximately 1/2 cup and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe onto top of potatoes. Bake approximately 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

100th Post! Holiday Treats: Caramel Corn

This is my 100th post! I started this blog at the end of August, not sure what I was going to do with it. I didn't know what I would talk about since my daily life would be pretty boring to most people... it pretty much goes, wake up, drive to work, sit in my office, drive home, make dinner, watch TV, go to bed... yeah a whole lot of readers would have stuck around. I didn't really think I would stick with it and I didn't have a clue who would read it. Then I decided to start posting recipes and it became fun for me to experiment more in the kitchen and make new recipes to share. Going back through the archives, I realize that I have already learned a lot although I still feel like I don't know much about food blogging. My pictures aren't very good yet but they have improved drastically from the beginning. I decided to only post 1 recipe per post to make searching easier, etc. Hopefully by next week, I'll also have figured out some of my layout problems and will have a new header.

So for my 100th post, here's another holiday treat -- although I definitely recommend making this more often than just the holidays. This caramel corn is really easy and I'm a bit of a popcorn snob though so I have to tell you, if your idea of popcorn is putting a bag in the microwave, you are absolutely missing out. Give yourself an extra 3 minutes and you can make much better popcorn. I grew up eating stove top popped popcorn made from kernels we used to get from a farmer by the 5 gallon bucket. Or movie-theater like popcorn made in one of those big popcorn poppers at my grandparents house, minus that greasy butter. When I went to college and had to suffer through microwave I went through withdrawals... so instead of a prohibited hotplate or toaster that most college kids had, I got a StirCrazy. Until my crazy roommate stole it. But anyway, the next version of the StirCrazy eventually died and about this time last year, I got a WhirleyPop. Best.Invention.Ever. It is easy, it's cheap, you don't have to plug it in, it makes delicious popcorn without all the chemicals and artificial crap, and you can take it all apart and wash it. If you think microwave popcorn is good, do yourself a favor, buy one. But anyway, I'm way off topic...

Homemade Caramel Corn
Recipe from Annie's Eats

1 cup unpopped popcorn
1 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups light brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Pop popcorn (if you have to, you can make a couple of bags of natural microwave) by preferred method and transfer to 2 large bowls.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Mix in corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Increase heat to medium-high, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils.

Once it boils, stop stirring and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add baking soda and vanilla and stir to combine. Be careful, the mixture will foam up.

Immediately pour the mixture evenly over the popcorn. Toss popcorn gently using 2 wooden spoons until well mixed. Pour the coated mixture onto prepared baking sheets and spread out as much as possible.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes, tossing with wooden spoons every 15 minutes. The caramel corn should be crisp, if its not, continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so. Cool for approximately 1 hour before packaging. Package in airtight containers to save for later use.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Treats: Peanut Brittle

Peanut brittle is an old-fashioned holiday classic. It seems like everyone's grandfather loves the stuff. I made some a couple of years ago in the microwave actually but this time I decided to try a stove top recipe. Be careful not to burn yourself, 300 degree boiling sugar is dangerous! I made a couple substitutions to the recipe, but not necessarily on purpose so I'm going to give you the original and my changes.

Peanut Brittle
Adapted from Dinner & Dessert, originally from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

1 cup light corn syrup (I actually used 3/4 cup light and 1/4 cup dark because I ran out)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1/2 pound shelled roasted peanuts (I used Planter's unsalted, dry-roasted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2" pieces (I used approximately 1/4 cup because I forgot to add it in until I had already spread the brittle out and I would have never been able to work in the whole stick of butter, I dont really think you need the whole stick of butter)

Spray a heavy cookie sheet lightly with cooking spray and set aside. Set out all of your supplies, measuring out your vanilla and combining baking soda and salt. You'll want to have everything ready to go because the final steps happen very quickly once you reach the correct temperature. Also, make sure you use a large enough sauce pan as the mixture will bubble up once you add the baking soda.

Combine sugar and corn syrup in saucepan and cook over medium high heat until boiling. Cover the pan for 3 minutes to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Remove the cover, attach candy thermometer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 320 degrees, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in peanuts and baking soda and salt. The mixture will foam and bubble, continue stirring until it starts to calm and then add vanilla and butter. Stir quickly until butter is melted. You will have to work quickly as the candy will start to harden immediately. Pour the mixture onto prepared pan and spread out as thinly as possible.

Let the brittle cool for about 2 hours to room temperature and then break into pieces.

Overnight French Toast

Delicious comfort food for breakfast that requires no more work in the morning than turning on the oven. Perfect for Christmas house guests or brunch. One of the challenges of French toast or pancakes or waffles, is keeping the first batches warm and crisp while the last batches are on the skillet or waffle iron. This French toast recipe is baked so no skillet required and everything is hot and ready at the same time.

Overnight French Toast
Adapted from Bon Appetit

2 T butter, softened
12 - 3/4" thick slices of bread (I used French bread but it would also be great with cinnamon raisin or brioche)
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 T maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 - 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 - 1 1/2 cups maple syrup
Berries, Nuts, Whipped Cream, etc for topping as desired

Spread softened butter in a thick coating over a large rimmed (about 1" sides)heavy baking sheet. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar, add maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt and whisk together. Add milk and continue whisking until well combined. Lay out bread slices on baking sheet. Pour milk mixture over the bread. Turn each slice, coating both sides. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake French toast for approximately 10 minutes and then flip each slice of bread. Bake another 5-10 minutes, flipping again if necessary until both sides are golden brown and crisped.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with warmed maple syrup and other toppings as desired.

Holiday Treats: Buckeyes

Peanut butter and chocolate are almost always a winning combination so its no surprise that these cute little buckeyes are a holiday favorite. They are pretty easy to put together although it does take a bit of work to mix up the dough for the balls. I found it worked best to use a pastry blender to mix the powdered sugar, peanut butter and butter together. The dough will be quite dry and crumbly, so when you start rolling the balls, first squeeze the dough together so it will hold together. The dipping process is a lot easier if you freeze the peanut butter balls and then poke them with a toothpick to make them easy to dip. I did the dipping in 2 rounds, leaving half the peanut butter balls in the freezer until the first batch was done so they didn't get too soft. The recipe will yield about 6 dozen buckeyes.

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 pounds (6 cups) powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 package chocolate almond bark

Line 2 cookies sheets with wax paper. Mix together all but the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender (or a wooden spoon if you dont have one), mix until well combined and crumbly. Roll into approximately 1" diameter balls and place on prepared cookie sheets. Freeze peanut butter balls for at least 30 minutes.

Cut chocolate into squares and add half to a small, narrow bowl or measuring cup. Melt in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring after each 30 second interval. Poke balls with a toothpick and swirl in chocolate leaving the tops uncovered. Let excess chocolate drip off and return to cookie sheet.
When the whole cookie sheet is done, transfer cookie sheet to refrigerator, melt remaining chocolate and continue dipping. Let buckeyes chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before transferring them to storage containers lined with waxed paper. Put wax paper between any layers of candy when storing and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Treats: Eggnog

Homemade Eggnog
Recipe from Alton Brown, Food Network

4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup + 1 T. sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup bourbon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

In the bowl of stand mixer, beat egg yolks until they lighten slightly in color. Add in sugar slowly with the mixer running until sugar is dissolved and mixture is light and creamy.

In a large saucepan, heat milk, cream and nutmeg over high heat, stirring frequently until just boiling. Remove from heat and add about 1/4 cup of the hot cream mix into the egg mixture and beat, add another 1/4 cup of cream mixture, beating again, to temper the eggs. Add all of the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat and add in bourbon. Transfer to a large bowl and chill mixture in refrigerator for about an hour. (You can also cool this by setting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice and stirring occasionally to cool the mixture faster.)

In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. Slowly add in 1 T sugar with the mixer running on high speed. Continue beating until egg whites form stiff peaks. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled egg nog mixture and transfer to a pitcher or serving bowl and refrigerate.

Holiday Treats: Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe adapted from Epicurious

1 cup Coke
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup molasses
2 cups all purpose flour
2 T ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 8" cake pans with baking spray or butter and flour. In a small sauce pan, heat Coke to a boil. Remove from heat, add baking soda and whisk to combine, add molasses and whisk to combine. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and let cool to room temperature.
Combine flour, baking powder and spices in a separate bowl and set aside. Add eggs to cooled molasses mixture and whisk until well combined, add brown sugar and whisk until well combined, finally add oil and whisk until combined. Add flour mixture in 3 parts, whisking after each addition until batter is well combined. Divide evenly among baking pans and bake for about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pear for garnish, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (optional)

Heat brown sugar and cream in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Beat cream cheese and butter in bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add about 3/4 of the caramel mixture and vanilla extract. Beat until well mixed. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until icing reaches desired consistency.

To assemble the cake, trim any rounded tops off each cake layer and put down first layer of cake, cut side down on a cake plate. Add approximately 1/3 of the icing, using an offset spatula to smooth icing, stopping approximately 1/2" from the edge of the cake all the way around. Add next layer of cake and cover with an additional 1/3 of icing. Add top layer of cake, cut side down and remaining icing. Smooth over the top of the cake. Spoon remaining caramel sauce on top and sides of cake. Fan out thin slices of pear in the center of the top of the cake and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon if desired.

Friday, December 18, 2009

German Chocolate Cupcake Bites

Every year for my grandpa's birthday, my grandma made him German chocolate cake from scratch. I think it was just about the only thing she ever baked, especially from scratch. My Great Grandma Tootie was the baker in the family. But nevermind that, German chocolate cake was his favorite, so that's what she made him every year.
German chocolate cake is something I've never made before, but have wanted to try for a while now. Todd needed a dessert for his office Christmas party so I volunteered to make German chocolate cupcake bites for him. I asked my mom for my grandma's recipe and found out that she always used the recipe on the back of the Baker's chocolate box. In fact, the recipe card was a photocopy of the box.
The cake batter is fairly standard and follows the normal cake mixing of beating butter, eggs and sugar and then alternating wet and dry ingredients and finally folding in egg whites. The frosting is similar to a custard process with the addition of pecans and coconut. As a cake, this recipe makes a 3-layer 9" cake, or about 84 mini cupcakes.

German Chocolate Cake
Recipe from Baker's Chocolate
4 oz. German sweet chocolate
1/2 cup water
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray your pans with baking spray (buy the "baking" formula of cooking spray, it contains flour so it replicates buttering and flouring your pans) or line with cupcake liners.
In a heat proof bowl, combine chocolate and water and melt in the microwave. Heat about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, stirring at 30 second intervals until melted and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, mixing after each addition. Turn off mixer and add in melted chocolate and vanilla. Beat on low speed until well mixed.

Add flour mixture in 4 additions, alternating with buttermilk, beating on low speed after each addition until incorporated. (Unless you have 2 mixers, a stand mixer and a handheld, or 2 bowls, you will need to transfer the batter to a separate bowl and clean you mixing bowl at this point.) Add egg whites to mixing bowl and beat on high speed with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter.

To easily transfer batter to cupcake tins, fold a gallon size ziploc bag over a large glass and add batter just as you would fill a piping bag with icing. Don't overfill the bag, you will have to do this in 2 batches. Twist up the top of the bag, squeezing the icing to one corner and smoothing out the air bubbles. Snip off just the tip of the bag to make a small hole and pipe the cake batter into the muffin cups, filling them about 1/2 way full. Bake for approximately 25 minutes until puffed, the tops should spring back when lightly pressed. Cool for about 5 minutes in pans and then tranfer cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely.

Coconut-Pecan Frosting
4 egg yolks
12 oz evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
7 oz flake coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Combine egg yolks, milk and vanilla in a large saucepan and whisk together until well-blended. Add sugar and softened butter and cook on medium heat for about 12 minutes until nice and thick, stirring constantly. The mix should be golden brown in color. Remove from heat and add coconut and pecans. Mix well. Transfer to a bowl and let cool (you can refrigerate to speed this up.) Once cooled, frost cupcakes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Peppermint Bark

One of the easiest Christmas candies you can make. This takes about 5 minutes of prep time plus a little time in the fridge to set. It is also extremely easy to transport so if you need a last minute snack to take to a holiday party or want something homemade to take to your co-workers, this is quick and easy.

Peppermint Bark
1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate
1 lb. white chocolate
6 candy canes

Line a jellyroll pan with wax paper, leaving about 3" on the sides so you can easily lift out the paper and set aside. (I used a 9x13 pan, make it bigger or smaller depending on how thick you want your candy to be.) Melt semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler until smooth, stirring constantly. Pour melted chocolate into prepared pan and spread with a rubber spatula. Put pan in the refrigerator to chill for about 15 minutes until set. Meanwhile, add candy canes to food processor and pulse several times until they are broken into small chunks. Do not over process or you will just have peppermint dust.

Remove chilled pan from refrigerator. Melt white chocolate in a double boiler and add some of the peppermint dust if desired. Again, stir constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth. Pour over the semi-sweet chocolate and spread with a rubber spatula. Add crushed candy canes on top and return to refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.
Once hardened, lift wax paper sheet and peel off candy. Break candy into pieces as desired.
Note: If you do not have a double boiler, chocolate can be melted in a heat proof bowl set inside a saucepan of simmering water, make sure the bowl you choose fits steadily in the top of the saucepan, or in the microwave, just be careful not to burn the chocolate.

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