Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Peanut Butter Muffins

Is this really January weather? We made it to 45 degree's in Southwest Wisconsin today. These temps sure makes keeping the outdoor wood boiler going a lot easier for me. 

This "spring like" weather is also changing our breakfast eating.  We aren't so much wanting the hot breakfast everyday, but getting back into our muffin groove.  We love muffins.  They travel well, which is essential for us and the trucking part of life.  But, I do a lot better at my portion control when I have a muffin.  Whatever works, right?

When I found this recipe for Peanut Butter Muffins I had to try it.  I had never thought of peanut butter as a flavor for a muffin. Guess I have been missing out!  These were super easy, and fast! I could easily whip these together in the morning, and have them ready before I leave for work. That's saying how simple these are, because believe me...  I don't leave a lot of time for extra's in the morning :) 

Peanut Butter Muffins  (adapted from Gooseberry Patch-"Seasons for Sharing")

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 c. peanut butter (recommend using crunchy)
2 T. butter
3/4 c. milk
2 beaten eggs

In large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Cut in peanut butter and butter with a pastry cutter or fork, until coarse crumbs form.  Stir in milk and eggs just until moistened.  Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes.  

Makes one dozen muffins.

***Note ***I used creamy peanut butter, but will use crunchy peanut butter next time to bump up the peanut flavor another notch.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Best (Texas) Chocolate Sheet Cake

Today, I am at home relaxing during my first snow day in years.  The last time I had a snow day was 1991, so I think I am entitled!!  Granted, I could have made it in today, but the office is fully staffed and it will be a quiet day, so why should I deal with horrible roads? The office managers are a wonderful husband/wife team that are making their two and a half hour drive to work today, and I am not going to drive my pathetic 18 miles?  I really can justify staying home, I think..!  If there wasn't so much ice under the snow, I would suck it up and go.  But, my boyfriend is probably being forced into taking the day off due to roads conditions, and someone needs to be home to make him lunch, right??? If only my co-worker that lives down the road another 3 miles hadn't made the drive in at 5 a.m. I think that is the part that is making me feel a little on the guilty!

Over the weekend, I went to Pinterest to look at the recipes I had saved, and decided to make one.  The Best (Texas) Chocolate Sheet Cake was grabbing my attention in my need to have chocolate.  The pin took me to the recipe as posted by NancyCreative who had adapted it from The Pioneer Woman.  It is insanely chocolatey and moist beyond words. Every bit as good as the picture looked!  After it was finished, I had a small piece, and kept cutting "slivers" each time I walked past.  Next thing I know, there was a whole row gone... Did I do that???

Once I had the cake in the oven and was getting ready to make the frosting, I did make one change for us.  In an effort to not use a full pound of better in this recipe, I cut the frosting measurements in half.  It isn't a thick frosting, but it is plenty for us! I did bake the cake in a 10x15, since that is my largest pan.  If you have a 13x18, use that and you will have an easier time getting the frosting to not run over the edges!

The Best (Texas) Chocolate Sheet Cake 

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
4 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
2 sticks butter
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. buttermilk 
2 large eggs, beaten
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla

6 T. butter
2 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
3 T. milk
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Melt butter in a saucepan and add cocoa. Stir together. Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing. If using nuts, chop them finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the nuts, stir together, and pour over warm cake. 

***Note*** If you want the full frosting amount, double the measurements I listed.  I was trying to cut back on the amount of butter used!!

Sharing this at:
Foodie Friends Friday - Chocolate Edition

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mmmmmm... Chili!

Chili is definitely in my "Top 10" of favorite foods.  It's simply yummy, warming, filling, and really one of the meals I eat a lot when I am trying to make up for the Christmas goodies.  It also helps me feel good about things before I start in on the Valentines Treats! Of course, when you have temperatures hanging around zero, it's just awesome for warmin' a girl up!

I never used to have much of a recipe for chili, I would just throw it together, or use a chili mix from the store.  That was the case anyway, until I came across this recipe years ago on allrecipes.  I just love the flavors, it is so perfect. Since the chipotle's go through the blender, you don't have any bites filled with strong heat, just a nice consistent warmth throughout.  I do typically leave the jalapeno out for dear boyfriend, as he isn't a fan of to much heat.  Also, to keep things in more his line of heat, I do remove the seeds from half of the chipotles.  It ends up with a nice heat level that we both agree on.  This freezes really well, too.

Best Chili

2 lb. lean ground beef  (I use 1 lb beef, 1 lb venison)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. chili powder
1/4 c. cumin
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 (15 oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (15 oz) cans chili beans
1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes
1 (7 oz) can chipotles in adobo (optional to remove seeds)
1 quart water, divided
1/4 c. flour
1 T. rice vinegar

Shredded cheese
Sour Cream
Green onion

Over medium-high heat, cook beef/venison til brown.  Drain.  Stir in onion and peppers; cook til tender.  Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Stir in tomato paste and beans.

In blender, puree tomatoes with chipotles til smooth.  Stir into the pot with 3 c. water.

Combine the remaining 1  cup water, with the flour in a jar and shake to combine.  Pour into chili. Add vinegar.  Simmer about 1 hour before serving. Garnish as desired!

Sharing this recipe at:
Manic Monday
Foodie Friends Friday 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Walking on a Cold Winter's Day

After all the nasty weather we have had, I thought today would be a good day for a walk. 
It was still cold enough that I didn't stay out long, but it was nice to get some fresh air.  
If only the sun had been out!
Now it's time to warm up with a nice cocktail!

(Yes, the cat's go on the walks too!!)


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Split Pea Soup

We LOVE soups.  Soup works really well with our lifestyle.  With my boyfriend on the road so much, bowls of soup travel well and reheat awesome in his truck. Anything convenient that helps keep McDonald's and Subway out of his diet is a bonus.  And, it is simple for me to have a bowl when eating alone, rather than making a steak for one?  In wanting to try a new kind of soup, I finally decided to give the, always avoided, Split Pea Soup a chance.  I love pea's, so it has always been the appearance of the Split Pea Soup that scared me away.  

The other exciting part of trying this soup, was finally breaking in my Julia Child, "The Way to Cook", cookbook.  It was a Christmas gift from my mom a year ago, and I have read it and referenced it many times, but never actually followed one of Julia's recipes.  This was it!  I liked her recipe offering the idea of finishing the recipe as a "Rough peasanty texture", and just mashing the veggies and peas, rather than making a puree out of it and ending up with the soup that I have avoided for years.

This was a very tasty soup, I am so glad I took the time to make the ham stock, as I am sure that made a huge difference.  It was definitely a stick to your ribs soup, that was very filling.

Split Pea Soup  (adapted from Julia Child - "The Way to Cook")

For the Stock
2 ham hocks (rinsed) and any ham scraps you have on hand.
3 quarts of water
1 c. chopped carrot
1  c. chopped onion
1 large rib celery, chopped
Herb bouquet ( 3 bay leaves, 1 tsp thyme, and 5 cloves; tied in cheesecloth)

For the Soup
3 T. Butter
2/3 c. diced celery
2/3 c. diced onion
1/2 c. diced carrot
1/2 c. diced potato
3 T. Flour
2 quarts ham stock
1 1/2 c. green split peas (washed and drained)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the stock:
Place ham hocks in pot.  Add enough water to cover by  two inches.  Add any extra ham scraps, the chopped vegetables and herb bouquet.  Simmer 3 to 4 hours with lid to one side, to allow for air circulation; salt lightly after an hour or so and skim occasionally.  Strain and degrease.  Cut away outer skin on ham hocks, remove meat from bones, and reserve for soup.

To make the soup:
Set saucepan over moderately high heat, add butter.  Once melted, add vegetables and saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.  Add in the flour; cook, stirring for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool briefly.  Add in the ham stock, ham and the split peas.  Bring to a simmer, stirring often.  Cover loosely and simmer about one hour, or until peas are tender.  Taste after half hour of simmering and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, you can puree the soup if desired, for a smooth texture.  I used my potato masher, to just mash up the peas and vegetables a bit.   Adjust seasoning again, if needed.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday Morning French Toast

I really do like French Toast, but I will admit it.... I am a bit of a French Toast snob.  I am so fussy about how it is prepared, more fussy than with almost any other food.  When we go out to our local diner for breakfast, and my boyfriend orders the French Toast, I just shake my head in disappointment.  I bite my tongue though, I don't need everyone else to know that I am such a snob.  My boyfriend knows this fact, accepts it, and still loves me despite it.  

I have been making French Toast this way for years now.  I absolutely can not have it made from sliced sandwich bread.  Please don't hate me for this, it's just how I am!  Anytime we have leftover crusty bread, I throw it in the freezer to have waiting for a yummy breakfast destiny. French and Italian bread's are what I have used.  I would love to try it with a Ciabatta bread, but haven't accomplished that yet.

It's not an exact recipe as the milk and eggs needed can vary on they exact bread you use.  Please give it shot, it won't disappoint you!!!

French Toast

4 slices day old crusty bread (about 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick)
3 Eggs
1/2 c. Milk
1 T. Flour
1/4 t. Cinnamon
1/2 T. Oil

Maple Syrup
Powdered Sugar

Preheat skillet over medium high heat. In shallow bowl, combine  eggs and milk.  Add flour and cinnamon. Whisk all together until it is smooth and you have no flour lumps.  Add slices of bread to bowl, let soak for about 1 minute on each side.

Add oil to pan and let heat for one minute.  Add 2-3 slices of bread to pan.  Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. 

(Note: If your bread really soaks up the mixture, just add more egg and milk)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Clementines Muffins

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, And since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.... Hmmm..  If only I had a fireplace?! Funny that is the song going through my head today while From Cupcakes to Caviar was singing earlier "We had joy, we had fun.. we had seasons in the sun"  All in where you live!!

Completely nasty blustery, snowy day here today.  The weather service says we have had three plus inches of snow, but I have drifts well over a foot in places.  Needless to say, I am staying home today and making the soup that I prepared the stock for last night.  Oh wait, no I am not.  Apparently I don't have all the ingredients (imagine that), and I am not driving fourteen miles to the grocery store in this weather.  I so wanted to cook today, and to have some yummy warm food waiting for my boyfriend when he got home from his day out on the road.  But, I don't want to go out in this weather!  Wait, I have an idea.  This awesome blog I was reading the other day, 
Love.Peace.Happiness.Cooking., had a recipe that caught my eye for Clementines Muffins.  Is it possible my memory is right, and I do have all the ingredients?  Yup!  Success! Soup will have to wait!

These are such a healthy muffin, and they smelled amazing when I pulled them out of the oven.  Love the flavor of these, the clementines kinda brightened my day a bit.  Just wondering how long they will last, I may need to make up a second batch!

Clementines Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 large egg
1/3 cup clementine juice
2 teaspoons grated clementine zest
1/4 cup chocolate chips, chopped
2 t. raw sugar (optional)

Preheat oven 350F. In bowl, combine  flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.  In another bowl, whisk together egg, melted butter, clementine juice and zest.  Pour the clementine mixture into the flour mixture. Mix gently. Add chopped chocolate.  

Spoon mixture into muffin pan and bake. Sprinkle each muffin with raw sugar, if desired.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. If toothpick comes out clean, the muffins are ready.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunrise on January 6th

It is so nice to be seeing our days getting longer.  It's only a minute or two  longer, but what a difference that makes.  Waking up to this view out the bedroom window, is an amazing way to start the day.