Friday, September 28, 2012

Pumpkin Java Chunk Muffins

Isn't it exciting that pumpkin season is finally here? I picked up a can of pumpkin yesterday and I couldn't wait to use it in something. Since my time was somewhat limited, I decided a muffin was in order, but I was a little gun shy since my last two muffin attempts were less than stellar. This time, I didn't think too hard on what I was going to put in it...that must be the key, because these pumpkin muffins turned out to be awesome (if I do say so)!

I feel a little like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory whenever I peel open one of these chocolate bars. That gold wrapping is so pretty! :)

One thing that I like to do is pair up flavors that I haven't seen, or that just sound like they would be tasty together. Pumpkin and chocolate go together very well and it's totally been done before. But, Espresso Chocolate and Pumpkin? I had a bar of this delectable chocolate in my stash....

Pumpkin Java Chunk Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 (3.5 to 4 oz) espresso flavored dark chocolate candy bar, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.; line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the chocolate and set aside. 

In a separate bowl, or mixing cup, blend together the buttermilk, egg, pumpkin, butter, and vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and gently mix together until just blended. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, Stir the cinnamon into the remaining sugar, and sprinkle over the muffin tops. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

The smell while these were baking was incredible. The hubby had to split one with me while they were still very warm....

I used the Green & Black's Espresso Chocolate and it was very tasty. Feel free to sub plain chocolate, if you aren't a coffee fan.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Zucchini Bread Pancakes with Pan Fried Apples

I'm lucky to have a supportive husband, but sometimes he just doesn't understand. Take last Sunday, for instance. I so wanted to participate in this month's Improv Challenge, hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker (go visit her...she's awesome). I missed last month for some reason or another--the time sometimes just gets away from me. At any rate, the ingredients for this month's Improv are Zucchini and Brown Sugar and I thought some nice Zucchini Bread Pancakes would fit the bill. The hubby thought so, too. He certainly had his plate at the ready when the first pancakes came out of the pan. But, by the time the pancakes were done, and I finally got a few on a plate so that I could take a picture, half of the morning was gone and he was chomping at the bit to be on the road to go apple picking. "You take pictures of pancakes every time you make them. Don't they all look the same? Can't you just recycle a few?" Seriously. Didn't he see the little green specks in these?

If I were to be completely honest with myself, I do get a little obsessive with the picture taking. Someday, I'd love to take a photography class and actually get a real camera, but for now I have a great deal of fun playing with my smart phone. After all, I don't gamble or smoke. Taking pictures with my phone is a much better vice, no?

With four different picture apps on my phone, I can get creative with the look of my zucchini.

As for the pancakes, I loved how these turned out--but since I was in a bit of a rush, I neglected to add a fun topping. 

Just a little butter and syrup...not too exciting, but tasty nonetheless.

Zucchini Bread Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the griddle
2 cups shredded zucchini

Heat a griddle on medium-high. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, add eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Mix in zucchini. Add to flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Batter should have small to medium lumps.

Brush a little melted butter on the griddle. Pour the pancake batter by ¼ cups onto the griddle, keeping the pools of batter 2 inches apart. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

We had our fill of the pancakes and I packed the leftovers into a container so that we could feast on them throughout the week. Then, it was off to the apple orchard.....

We went to the same orchard as last year and, once again, we were blessed with beautiful weather and gorgeous apples. We came home with a boatload of Honey Crisps and Honey Golds...yum!

Wednesday, after work, it occurred to me that we still had some pancakes to eat. It also occurred to me that we had loads of apples. Pancakes. Apples. Apples. Pancakes. Now, there's an idea!

Apples fried in butter and brown sugar. Does it get any better?

It does if you put those apples on top of Zucchini Bread Pancakes.....

Pan Fried Apples with Brown Sugar and Cream

2 tablespoons butter
3-4 medium sized tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and saute until the apples are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over the apples, add the cream, and cook until the liquid is reduced and slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. 

Now, go check out what everyone else is making with Zucchini and Brown Sugar......

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tater Tot Hotdish....You Betcha!

How is it that after 22 years in Minnesota, I have never made Tater Tot Hotdish? A serious travesty, to be sure! Truth be told, I had never even eaten Tater Tot Hotdish, but don't tell anyone or I might be sent packing back to Wisconsin. It dawned on me that perhaps I should give this dish, ubiquitous in Minnesota, some consideration. Not sure what "hotdish" is? Check out the definition. There is Minnesota written all over it. :) 

I'm not overly fond of canned I made my own Cream of Mushroom.

Apparently, there are as many different ways of making a Tater Tot Hotdish as there are Minnesotans that make it. With cheese, without cheese, with vegetables, without vegetables, ground beef, ground turkey, or ground soy---it's all acceptable. One thing is certain, though--an authentic Tater Tot Hotdish has got to have cream of something soup and Tater Tots.

I began my Tater Tot Hotdish quest by looking it up on the Internet. At the top of the heap was a recipe from our own Senator Amy Klobuchar. It turns out that in 2010, Senator Al Franken invited members of Minnesota's congressional delegation to a hotdish competition. Amy Klobuchar's Taconite Tater Tot Hot Dish won the honors. I drew some of the inspiration for my recipe from her creation. You've gotta love something with Taconite in the title, no?

Amy Klobuchar's version had Pepper Jack Cheese, so I upped the ante by using not only the cheese, but also by using a little cayenne pepper in the soup. 

Last weekend, we experienced some cool weather for the first time in many weeks. It was a perfect time for experimenting with my very own Tater Tot Hotdish. After some initial concern (the dish seemed to weigh 20 pounds when it went into the oven), we managed to finish and appreciate my efforts. The husband even gave it the thumbs up. 

Tater Tot Hotdish

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 oz frozen French green beans, or enough to cover the bottom of a casserole dish
1 lb. ground chuck, cooked, crumbled, and drained
1 cup shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
1/2 ( 2 lb.) bag Tater Tots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.; spray the bottom and sides of a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onions and saute until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and continue to cook for a minute or two (mixture will be very stiff). Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Add the cayenne pepper and the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the soup is slightly thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.*

Spread the green beans evenly over the bottom of the casserole dish. Top the beans with the cooked ground chuck. Evenly pour the soup over the ground chuck, then sprinkle the cheese over the soup. Top the entire mixture with the Tater Tots. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling and the tots are crisp.

*While it is my opinion that the homemade variety of the Cream of Mushroom Soup is a thousand times better than the canned version, you are free to sub a can of the cream soup of your choice. Simply mix in 1/2 cup of milk before you pour it over the ground beef.

So, there it is. My first Tater Tot Hotdish. Not bad, not bad at all. This is going to happen again, when the weather turns blustery. What comfort food do you make when it gets cold?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Banana Bread

2013 Winner Best Recipe Ever!
Read the story on the Daily Dish
How is it that a gal who isn't all that fond of banana bread keeps posting banana bread recipes? Blame the banana bread obsessed husband of said gal. Luckily, (or not, if you consider my expanding waistline) I've become quite fond of these different varieties.

The idea for this particular flavor hit me as I was buying my coffee at the corner convenience store. I spied the bite-sized peanut butter cups at the check-out. Oh, I know they aren't new. In fact, I've used them in cookies. But how would they be in banana bread? I bought two snack-sized bags.

A quick Google search showed that they've been put into banana bread already....but not my banana bread....

Unfortunately, there really weren't enough of the peanut butter cups in those snack bags for my recipe, but I improvised and chopped up a bar of dark chocolate to add to the batter. It was a good choice. The recipe is written with just the peanut butter cups. Feel free to add the dark chocolate, if you like.

Peanut Butter Cup Banana Bread

3 cups all purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 very ripe large bananas, slightly mashed (about 3 cups)
½ cup peanut butter
1 (6 oz) container plain or vanilla non-fat Greek yogurt, or 1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
¼ cup coconut or canola oil
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups bite-sized peanut butter cups, or chopped peanut butter cups (try Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups)
1 (3 oz) bar premium dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. F.; spray two 9”X5” loaf pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 ¾ cups flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat the bananas, peanut butter, yogurt, eggs, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla until well blended, about 2 minutes. Spoon the flour mixture into the banana mixture and beat on low speed until just blended. Toss the peanut butter cups in the remaining ¼ cup flour and stir into the batter. Stir in the chopped chocolate.
Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Next time I may add some white chocolate to the bread. What would you add?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Peaches and Cream Muffins

A few weeks ago, I went in on a crate of peaches with a couple of co-workers. I had high hopes for those peaches. Yes, I was going to make peach pie, peach bread, peach salsa...everything peach. So, what happened? Well, I attempted a peach pie. I'm not much of a recipe follower, so I tossed some things together and baked the pie at too high of a temperature. The result wasn't awful, but it wasn't blog worthy, either. I had lost my peach Mojo. Luckily, the peaches were very tasty on their own, for I resigned myself to save any peach recipes until next summer.

Fast forward to last Friday. I was in a local grocery store when the smell of fresh peaches lured me over to a huge pile of the Colorado variety. What beauties! I simply couldn't resist buying a few....

Incredibly, a bag of flour, some butter, and an egg, magically appeared next to a couple of my fresh peaches.  I felt my Mojo coming back. Forget pie...I was making muffins.

Peaches and Cream Muffins


2 cups flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 ripe, but firm peaches, peeled and diced, about 2 cups
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.; line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups of the flour, the baking powder, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, the salt, cardamom and cinnamon; set aside.

Toss the diced peaches with the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Mix the cream, egg, butter and vanilla together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add the peaches and the cream mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed...batter will be lumpy...don't over mix.

With a cookie scoop, divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the batter. Bake the muffins for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. 

I didn't dice the peaches too small--I was afraid of a gloppy mess.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to find some apple Mojo.