Monday, October 31

Dried Apricot & Gingerbread Muffins

Happy Halloween! Jagger is feeling festive in his jailbird costume.

Dudes... it fucking snowed. Actually it didn't snow where I live (Illadelphia), but it snowed everywhere else that I was (which was Brooklyn and Newtown, PA and all in between). A tree almost fell on my car (Good news: it didn't. Bad news: it totally fell on someone else's car, which sucks, so much). That totally would have one upped my flat tired from last week, in terms of annoying things that can happen to your automobile (by a lot). So, thank you automobile karma gods.

But like, seriously. It snowed. Before Halloween. I love snow, but not when it takes over my Fall. We haven't even set the clocks back yet and I haven't even slept an extra hour. I wasn't ready for my winter coat. I was wearing loafers, for god's sake. And people deny Global Warming. Reality check people. Hi, hello, it's snowing. IN OCTOBER!

Look how festive!
So anyway, I got home from my quick stint to Brooklyn, slept for like 12 hours, and then made some gingerbread muffins. Because the way in which I decided to deal with this ridiculous turn in the weather was to buy some new teas and make gingerbread muffins. And I was avoiding laundry. And the oven being on helps me to not shiver.

But these muffins really hit the spot. They're fluffy, REALLY ginger-y (in a good way), and not too sweet. The apricot adds a great contrast to the spice of the muffin. I've been really into mini-muffins as of late; perfect portion control. I like to grab a mini muffin or two with a piece of fruit for breakfast. Just sayin'!

Many mini-muffins <3 Alliteration


Dried Apricot & Gingerbread Muffins
Adapted from Bon Appetit, Dec 2000

  • 2 3/4 c ap flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp plus 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 c molasses
  • 1 1/3 c cold water
1/3 c dried apricots, chopped finely

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until blended and mixture begins to look fluffy. Add molasses and beat on low until combined. Continue beating to mix in 1/2 of the dry ingredients, then beat in the rest. Mixture will be thick.

Add water slowly, continuing to beat the mixture on low, just until all water is incorporated into the batter, scraping down the sides with a spatula when necessary. Try not to over-beat. Add apricots and mix in using a spatula, in as few strokes as possible.

Pour batter into greased muffin cups.

For mini-muffins, bake for 12-13 minutes. For full sized muffins, bake about 25 minutes. For larger muffins, cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Monday, October 24

Pumpkin Pie with Walnuts & Dark Chocolate Ganache "Frosting"

So, I love pie. Who doesn't love pie? Show of hands? Great, I don't see any, so I'm going to assume that everyone loves pie. 

But here's the thing about pie that makes it less cool than cake. Frosting. Pie is all delicious and all, but cake will always one-upper it in my book because of the frosting. And honestly, I don't really even like cake itself all that much. No, actually I don't like cake at all. I just really, really like frosting.

But seriously, who says pie can't have frosting? Can't a pie get a little love around here?

We already learned that pumpkin and chocolate are abs-o-lutely amazing together. (Ok, well I learned it. If you haven't yet, start here.) So I think pairing pumpkin pie filling with ganache was the next logical step. It's so obvious. It's so amazing. I love pie. I love ganache. C'mon people, SAY IT WITH ME!

But here's the part about pie where I think you just have to lighten up a bit. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking about making a pie crust and you're shaking you're head no. Mine was pretty sub par this time around. I'll admit it. I can't make a flaky pie crust to save my life. It's about practice I guess. But this pie was still delicious. That's the thing about pumpkin pie. The crust isn't the main event. It's a good "experiment with me" pie. And how will you learn if you never try? (Or maybe you're really good at making pie crust. But if you are, damn man, what are you sitting there listening to me ramble on for? You should be the one blogging, not me!)

Either way I have some advice for you:

Do a little dance. 
Make a little crust. 
Eat pie tonight. Eat pie tonight.

Soundtrack: Neutral Milk Hotel
Neutral Milk Hotel by rags9000

Pumpkin Pie with Walnuts & Dark Chocolate Ganache "Frosting"

For Pumpkin Pie:

1-9" pie crust (use your favorite recipe, I can't even pretend like I know anything)
1 1/4 c solid pack pumpkin puree
3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c evaporated 2% milk
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9" pie pan with your pie crust. Shape the edges and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat pumpkin puree, sugar, salt, ginger, cardamom, & ground cinnamon. (You can skip this step if using fresh pumpkin, but supposedly this eliminates any metal can taste. It also just smells nice.)

Transfer to a medium bowl and mix in flour. Add eggs and mix well. Add evaporated milk, water and vanilla and mix well. 

Pour pie filling into the crust and sprinkle walnuts evenly throughout the batter. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake another 35, until cooked through in center.

Allow pie to cool and top with Dark Chocolate Ganache. Allow to cool 8 hours or overnight, to allow ganache to set.

For Dark Chocolate Ganache:

3/4 c heavy cream
8 oz dark chocolate chips

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave cream for 1 1/2-2 minutes, until just boiling. (Alternately, you can do this over the stove. But at this point, you're feeling lazy, like me!) Pour cream over dark chocolate chips and beat rapidly with a whisk until smooth, creamy and glossy. If your ganache breaks, check here for some tips.

Dis is how we roll!
Better than Yankee Candle
Add eggs...

Naked pie
Drop in walnuts

Drizzle in fun patterns.. FOR FUN!

Sunday, October 23

Balsamic BBQ Chicken Baked with Apples and Carrots

Let's just start this with a picture:

You know what screams Fall? Putting things in the oven, with APPLES!
Could I be any more Autumn right now? Probably not. Actually maybe I could up my leaf crunching ante. Note to self: crunch more leaves.

Speaking of leaves, you know what thing that I really miss I miss about Autumn now that I'm living in a city? Those silly orange pumpkin garbage bags that everyone in the 'burbs rakes their leaves into. You know what I'm talking about. Who's idea was that? Who was this leaf-raking aficionado who sought a way to turn the unsightly fruits of his or her labor into a Halloween decoration? Pure genius. Well, probably the least environmentally friendly practice ever, but totally a nice thought otherwise.

If you follow my blog, at this point you already know I am obsessed with this bbq sauce. AND if you follow my blog I love you so much and you are AWESOME! If you don't follow my blog, well that sucks, you should. (Juuuuust kidding!)

This dish is basically the byproduct of my attempt to make everything in my life a little more Autumn. I border on obsessed, but hey, it makes me happy. Topping the chicken with apples really works with the balsamic tang and baking the dish creates an interesting and flavorful sauce in which to cook some carrots. It smells amazing in the oven and looks just as good. Oh yea, the taste ain't half bad either! Actually, it's pretty f'ing amazing as well.

Soundtrack: Washed Out (Myspace link)

Balsamic BBQ Chicken Baked with Apples and Carrots
Serves 4-5
Inspired by Giada DeLaurentiis, Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce

1 1/2 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/4 c ketchup
  • 1/2 c plus 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 chicken breasts, bone-in
  • 2 chicken thighs, bone-in
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into disks (I believe the term is "Rondelle")
  • ~1/4 chicken broth
  • 1 large apple (or 2 small, enough to cover the tops of the chicken in baking dish, should be a variety that is best to cook with)
First, prepare the bbq sauce by whisking together balsamic vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp of pepper in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes. You will see a huge reduction in the amount of liquid and sauce will begin to thicken. After sauce cooks down, reserve about 1/4 of the sauce and set aside to serve with chicken later.

While sauce cooks down, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In an 13x9 baking dish, place chicken breasts and thighs skin up. Season with salt & pepper. Add carrots, interspersing between pieces of chicken. Pour enough chicken broth into the dish so that all of the bottom surface is covered. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes.

Remove chicken from the oven and cover chicken with about 3/4's of the bbq sauce still in the saucepan (I realize this is confusing, so to be clear, we are not including the 1/4 we already set aside, ignore that). Stir carrots down into the sauce. Core and slice the apple into rings, then top the chicken with the apple rings. Using a basting brush, cover the apple rings in the remain bbq sauce in the sauce pan (still ignoring the portion set aside for serving). Place the dish back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your breasts (har har har). Check for done-ness and serve with reserved bbq sauce on the side.

Oooh action shot!
Wheesk, wheesk!
Similar to peach rings, yum!

Thursday, October 20

Quinoa with Sauteed Asparagus, Walnuts & Apples in a Pumpkin-Goat Cheese Sauce

That's right. I did that. I titled this blog post with a list of pretty much EVERY ingredient in my dinner. Try and say that 5 times fast! I just couldn't pick my favorite parts. I can't play favorites. I love you all equally. (I'm talking to ingredients there, but those of you sitting on the other side of the computer, I love you too.)

Before we get run down to the meat of this (or lack thereof), let's talk quinoa for a moment.

Ok, ok, not the most photogenic thing I've ever made...
Haven't you ever heard the expression "You can't judge a quinoa by it's closeup?"
This is the first time I've ever made quinoa. It's the ultimate in trendy health superfoods. And yes, I claim to be a cook and a consumer that focuses my efforts on being healthy (what healthy means to me). I've eaten the stuff only twice. Ever. (I know you're all so very scandalized, but please, pick up those jaws.) So, what gives?

When quinoa stepped out on the scene a few years ago, I gotta say I wasn't so concerned about healthy cooking. Quinoa just seemed trendy and superfluous. To be honest, I didn't give a sheeeet! And so I just never used it. Couscous, yum! Bulgar wheat, why not?! Brown rice, sure! The more I didn't try quinoa, the less I cared about it to be honest. I get lots of protein from chicken and tofu and beans and red meat! I get my vitamins! I've lived this long without it!

And then there was this. And of course, the less dramatic source article here. And not to be all Debbie-downer, but DAMN MAN. To sum it up, the entrance of quinoa into the global market has made the plant inaccessible to some Bolivians who depend on it for their main source of food. Yet at the same time, sales of quinoa abroad have changed the lives of many Bolivians for the better and drastically improved the Bolivian economy. What a conundrum. Fortunately, the ill effects of quinoa's entrance to the global market are being combated by aid programs, but its just such a glaring example of how we can exploit things without a second thought or realization. I obviously don't think there is anything wrong with eating quinoa, but the butterfly effect here is wild. Sometimes it's just important to reflect on our impact on the world, I guess.

There is no denying the health benefits of quinoa and there's no denying the ease of preparation we get in the US from packaged quinoa. It can be used as a healthier alternative to pasta (as seen here) or rice. But I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here and I should just tell you about my dish! Creamy, tangy and lightly pumpkin-y , this sauce balances nicely with the sauteed asparagus, sweet apples and nutty walnuts. It's not the most attractive to look at, but it's so quick and easy and the flavors are all there!

Soundtrack: Saw these guys open for Little Dragon last night. Good things. Good things.

  Tycho by Tycho

Quinoa with Sauteed Asparagus, Walnuts & Apples in a Pumpkin-Goat Cheese Sauce
Serves 4

1 c quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/4 c 2% milk
1 1/2 tbsp goat cheese
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped
1 Macintosh apple, cored and chopped
1/4 c walnuts
Salt, pepper, EVOO

Prepare quinoa according to package instructions (or if you buy bulk, you can find the basic preparation online. I added a bit of EVOO and salt to mine.)

Meanwhile, melt butter and 1/2 tbsp EVOO together in a medium saucepan. Add garlic and sautee until toasted. Add pumpkin and milk, bring to a simmer and lower heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes and add goat cheese. Stir until melted. Season with salt & pepper. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat a drizzle of EVOO. Add asparagus, apple and walnuts. Salt & pepper. Sautee until vegetable is cooked through.

Toss quinoa with pumpkin sauce and sauteed asparagus, apple and walnuts. Serve!

Saute! Ole!

Tuesday, October 18

Millet Stuffed Red Bell & Poblano Peppers

Millet. Remember that stuff? We tossed it in these breakfast cookies. It added a nice crunch and some healthy stuff... and then we dreamed about all the other quick breads and breads and muffins we could add it to. 

No? That last part was just me? Huh... funny. 

Well, we definitely debated how to pronounce it. Mill-ette or mill-ay... or something else? 

No? Just me again? Huh...


The genius idea to stuff it into peppers came from this recipe, on A Couple Cooks (just an adorable blog that I follow that shares lots of healthy and tasty recipes). It's a fabulous recipe if I do say so myself! Not only delicious, but quick and easy too! I customized according to what I had in my fridge and pantry, and you could do the same.

I actually declared this the most delicious thing I've made in the past couple weeks, if that entices you at all! It should.

Speaking of enticing, roasting peppers in the oven fills the air with such an amazing aroma. By the end of the 30 minutes, I had already been asked twice what the delicious smell was (and I only live with 2 people) and I'm fairly sure we were all drooling in anticipation.

.... No, that definitely wasn't just me.


Website Feed by Little Dragon  

Millet Stuffed Red Bell & Poblano Peppers
Inspired by Quick Stuffed Bell Peppers by A Couple Cooks

3 red bell peppers
3 poblano peppers
1 1/2 c millet
3 c water
4-5 green onions
1 jalapeno pepper
1 can light kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 c freshly grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
dash of Chile powder
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt, Pepper, EVOO

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut bell and poblano peppers in half, trim the edges and remove seeds. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Lay the peppers insides facing up on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. (This smells amazing, btw.)

Meanwhile, prepare the millet. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, toast millet for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 1/2 c of warm water, 1/2 tbs EVOO, and about 1/4 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until grain is soft and the water is absorbed.

While millet and peppers are cooking, dice the green onions and jalapeno peppers. Combine in a large bowl the onions, jalapenos, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, and cheese.

Once millet is finished cooking, fluff with a large spoon. Add to the bowl with the rest of the filling ingredients and stir until combined and cheese is melted.

Stuff each pepper with a heaping spoonful of filling, squeeze lime juice over stuffed peppers, and serve immediately, while hot.

Stuffed. (Ok, ok, I skipped ahead)


Thursday, October 13

Pumpkin Infused Thickest-Ever Brownies

For the main event:

Chocolate + Fall
But first, I have a few questions, comments, concerns that I feel need to be addressed.

1) Chocolate and pumpkin smell amazing baking in the oven together. They taste just as great in batter licked from the end of a spatula. You might not want to actually make the brownies. But I suggest you do. And then share them. Your thighs will thank me. (Can you tell I had that inner dialogue with myself already?)

2) I dropped an entire container of toothpicks into my oven. That's right. Wooden toothpicks and a hot oven vs Meghan. Who will win? A few caught on fire. Thank god for tongs (not thongs... ok, maybe those too.. panty lines, ew). I came out on top.

3) I left my bike outside last night. It rained. This was after I got lost for 30 minutes while trying to ride my bike to Fed Ex to pick up a certified check that I ordered to pay a speeding ticket. Then, when I attempted to drive to work I noticed that my front left tire was flat. I certainly feel that I deserve another brownie. Or two.

4) Does anyone else secretly love gloomy days? Just a tip: it's fun if you refer to the weather as blustery and pretend you live in the 100-acre wood.

5) I don't think I've been drinking enough wine lately. Someone please bring me a glass! Something red.

6) I'm currently obsessed with winter squashes. Did you know that a pumpkin is a squash? Let me apologize now before this goes any further and morphs into something like my goat obsession.

7) I love this website.

8) Do you think these brownies are too big?
Good, because I don't
9) What amount of excitement about the opening of Federal Donuts next week is appropriate? At what point is it too much? I'm so excited, I'm so excited...

10) My recipe to-do list is getting really long. So much food. So little time. In order to get all of this done I might have to quit my job, stop cleaning my room, stop doing any cleaning at all, and stop doing laundry. Don't worry, I will, of course, continue to work out and see friends, because I gotta be healthy. Who wants to volunteer to do all these things for me? Hands?

11) Sure, I'll stop blabbing and just show you the recipe. Sheesh. Wait! One more note, it's about the recipe! These brownies involve making what I like to call, a "master batter." Then dividing that batter into 2 bowls and combining it with different ingredients. So, go on. Get your master batter on!

Soundtrack: Real Estate (Myspace Link)

Pumpkin Infused Brownies
Adapted from Pumpkin Swirl Brownies, by Martha Stewart

8 tbsp unsalted butter
6 oz bittersweet dark chocolate chips
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 c sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 c pumpkin puree
1/4 c canola oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the over to 350 and line a 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Spray the lined pan with cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt together the butter and chocolate chips, stirring constantly. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, and salt with a whisk. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until the mixture is very pale yellow and has a sponge-like consistency, about 3-4 minutes. Beat in the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.

Take about 2 cups of the batter and put it back in the medium sized bowl from the flour mixture. Set aside.

Do these next few steps quickly in order to keep the batter from thickening and setting. 

To the batter in the large bowl, add the pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to combine and set aside. To the batter in the medium bowl, add the chocolate mixture and stir until combined. (You will want to mix the pumpkin first as the chocolate has a tendency to set faster.)

Pour half of chocolate batter into the pan. Then, pour half of the pumpkin batter. Then, the rest of the chocolate. Then, the rest of the pumpkin. Using a knife, gently swirl the batters together to create a marbled effect. This involves some smooth up and down scooping motions. Don't over swirl or you will just mix everything up.

Top with walnuts and bake for 60 minutes. (Yea, I know. LONG. Alternately, you could bake in a 9 in square pan for 40 minutes, but I like the huge layers.)

Ahh, I really love opening a new bag of flour.
Cayenne! Bam!
Recipe calls for 4 eggs, I had 4 eggs. These brownies were fate!
Yea, a whole tablespoon
Battle of the dueling batters!

Brown maze