Thursday, June 25, 2009

Traveler's Chocolate Muffins

I like to eat healthy things. But I also like feeling rebellious and eating cake for breakfast. These muffins straddle that line beautifully. With indulgent chocolate chips melting inside but only 2 tablespoons of oil, I don't feel that guilty having these for breakfast. And doesn't chocolate have antioxidants?

Anyway, blog posting has been a little slow. If you weren't aware, I'm working as a hospice chaplain this summer, which is so amazing but so tiring and leads to Joe and I eating less-than-bloggable dinners. And I've been trying to do a little bit more cooking and baking on the weekends, but this weekend my mother-in-law is in town and next weekend Joe and I are heading up to the Milwaukee-area for the 4th. All of this to say, I'm really glad these muffins are in my freezer.

Traveler's Chocolate Muffins
source: Baking and Books
Yields 6 jumbo muffins or 12 regular

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • About 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your muffin tins with baking spray.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing with a whisk. In a large bowl combine the milk, brown sugar, egg, olive oil and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Add the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, stirring to combine.

Fill your muffin cups 3/4 full then sprinkle sugar on top of the batter. Bake jumbo muffins for 30-35 minutes and regular sized muffins for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then run a butter knife around the edges and move the muffins to a wire rack.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Banana-Blueberry-Oat Muffins

Sometimes, in the summer, I buy too much fruit. And sometimes when I buy too much fruit, that necessitates that fruit being used in other forms rather than eaten muffins. Joe loves muffins because they're sweet and can be eaten easily. I like healthy muffins that are flavorful and light. These muffins made us both happy.

The oats bulk up the muffin to make them heartier, while the mashed banana keeps the whole-wheat flour from seeming too dense. We have a bag of these in our freezer for easy access. About two minutes in the microwave and they heat right up!

Banana-Blueberry-Oat Muffins
source: Vintage Victuals

1 1/2 cups 100% whole wheat flour
1 cup oats, rolled or quick
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup buttermilk or fat free sour cream
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (I used about 3 medium bananas.)
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line or grease the wells of a cupcake pan.

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk until completely combined.

In a small bowl, beat together eggs, applesauce, sour cream, and bananas. Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and stir until almost completely moistened. Add the blueberries and continue stirring JUST until completely moistened. Your batter should be lumpy. Don't over-mix or your muffins will be rubbery.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Turkey, Apple, and Brie Panini

My goal lately has been to make flavorful meals that a) don't heat up the kitchen and b) come together very quickly. I kept running into the turkey-green apple-Brie combination. Initially on a sandwich at Bread & Company I believe, and then on a flatbread at Urban Flats. One morning while I was making pancakes, I discovered I had yet to use the panini plates for my George Foreman and an idea was born.

I've noticed now, that when I eat at restaurants, I am much more attentive to flavor combinations as influences for meals I might make at home. I think it is so frustrating to go to a restaurant and only find things on the menu that you could make yourself! Like a chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and sundried tomato is not exactly a ground-breaking flavor combination.

Because there are so few ingredients, the quality really matters. The tartness of the apple plays against the bite of the Dijon mustard beautifully, and the creaminess of the Brie ties everything together. I served these with sweet potato fries for a quick, satisfying dinner for two!

Turkey, Apple, and Brie Paninis
High-quality bread (I used homemade.)
Sliced turkey breast deli meat
Thinly sliced green apple
Dijon mustard
Thin slices of Brie

Spread a thin coat of Dijon mustard on each slice of bread. Layer turkey, Brie, and then apple. Heat George Foreman with panini plates or panini press. Spray with cooking spray and cook until bread is browned and cheese is melted. Cut diagonally in half and serve.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chicken Piccata

Why hasn't anyone told me how easy and quick chicken piccata is to make? My absolute favorite dish at Damian's in Houston, the Italian restaurant Joe took me to the night we got engaged, is veal piccata. (Yes, I know. Tortured baby cow.) But I don't often have veal in my freezer the way I normally have chicken. So when I kept seeing recipes for chicken piccata, it looked like something I could do on a weekday, even a Wednesday when I have to scoot off to choir rehearsal by 6:40.

This is definitely a dish I will be making again. The flavors are nice and light for a summer evening. If I was making this for a special occasion, I would serve it with a side of freshly homemade pasta to soak up the extra sauce. Since it was just a weekday, I steamed some broccoli with a little seasoning to go with the chicken.

Chicken Piccata
source: Closet Cooking

2 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4" thick
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 splash dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 lemon (juice)
1/2 lemon (sliced)
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon parsley (chopped)


1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
2. Dredge the chicken in the flour.
3. Heat the oil and butter in a pan.
4. Add the chicken and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side and set aside.
5. Place the wine, stock, lemon juice, lemon slices and capers in the pan and deglaze it.
6. Simmer until the liquids reduce by half.
7. Stir in the butter and pour over the chicken and garnish with the parsley

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad

Apparently, this salad is famous, as it should be. Delicious fresh ingredients, Southwestern flavor profile, no mayonnaise; sounds like my kind of pasta salad. This was a big hit at a casual Sunday afternoon gathering of young couples from our church. It was a beautiful warm day, and there were veggie burgers on the grill and toddlers running around the yard. So far, this summer has been SO much better than last summer when we first moved here because we actually know people now. Cook-outs, concerts, church BBQs, etc. It's going to be a great summer!

Back to the pasta salad. All you have to do is look at the ingredients to know that this is going to be a hit. And who doesn't love eating fun pasta shapes? This makes a TON of food, making it perfect for a big cook-out or family reunion or whatever fun summer event you have coming up! I can guarantee you'll get several requests for the recipe.

Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad
source: Cara's Cravings

1lb wagon wheel pasta
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 10oz package frozen corn, thawed (or with time to thaw)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (I omitted because I got lazy.)
8 oz shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 1/2 cups salsa
1/2 cup olive oil
3-4 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp cumin
1-2 tsp chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground salt & pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, diced


Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl, combine the black beans, corn, tomatoes, salsa, and cheese. Add the cooled pasta and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin and chili powder. Pour over the pasta salad, add the cilantro, and mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Just before serving, stir in the diced avocado.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Asian Ground Beef Lettuce Wraps

Everyone who loves P.F. Chang's or Pei Wei sings praises about their lettuce wraps. When I ended up with a lot of ground beef in the freezer, I knew, for my own sake, I was going to need to find something besides chili, spaghetti sauce, and tacos in which to use it. Lo and behold, this recipe arrived from The Cynical Chef just as I was racking my brain for ideas.

Of course, the recipe underwent some changes. Joe had used up the rest of the soy sauce without telling me, and I tend to eyeball ginger and put in much more than the recipe calls for. It still turned out great. Much better and healthier than P.F. Chang's and a lot cheaper too! This would also make a tasty appetizer and could be easily doubled for a larger crowd.

Asian Ground Beef Lettuce Wraps
source: AllRecipes via The Cynical Chef

  • 16 Boston Bibb or butter lettuce leaves
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced pickled ginger (I used fresh minced ginger.)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • Asian chile pepper sauce to taste (like Sriracha)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
  1. Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not tear them. Set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary. Drain, and set aside to cool. Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chile pepper sauce to the onions, and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, and sesame oil, and continue cooking until the onions just begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.
  3. Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile meat mixture in the center. To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf. Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cilantro Pesto Pizza with Red Onion and Feta

I had the brilliant idea to use the cilantro pesto I made as the base for a pizza, but I couldn't decide on appropriate toppings so I tweeted about it. All of the selections sounded delicious: baby bella mushrooms, shredded chicken, etc. But when I asked Joe he promptly said, "Red onion and feta," which sounded so perfect that I wasn't even shocked that he didn't request meat.

I cooked the onions until soft so that they didn't have quite as much bite and so the sweetness could shine through. The tanginess of the feta offset the wonderful taste of all that cilantro. After a whole day of hospital orientation, this pizza was a great way to end the day, and I hope it lived up to Joe's expectations since he said he had been looking forward to it all day!

Cilantro Pesto Pizza with Red Onion and Feta


Pizza dough
Cilantro pesto to cover dough
1 red onion, sliced and cooked down
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out dough into a circle. Coat dough with cilantro pesto to the thickness of your liking. Spread cooked onions evenly around the pizza and sprinkle crumbled feta on top. Bake 12-15 minutes or until dough seems cooked and cheese is slightly browned.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Elly's Black Bean Burgers

The first time I was introduced to black bean burgers was at boarding school in Michigan. Most of our cafeteria dinners bordered on inedible, save for a few nights within the rotation. The black bean burgers had so much more flavor than the normal cardboard-textured veggie burger patties. And now that I can make my own, I like experimenting with different ways of putting them together. Last time, I made this version from Epicurious but had problems with it staying together and wanted to try some other recipes. I knew Elly had a version on her blog, and I definitely trust her recommendation.

The only change I made was to puree the whole drained can of beans with the egg in the food processor. At first, I thought the patties might be too gloppy, but they cooked up great and stayed together very well. I liked the addition of the jalapeno and the cornbread to accentuate the Southwestern flavor. I served these with some provolone cheese and sliced avocado.

Elly's Black Bean Burgers
source: Elly Says Opa


1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 egg
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup grated or finely diced onion
1/4 cup cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste

Place about the can of beans and the egg in a food processor and pulse until combined.

In a bowl, place the remaining beans and mash lightly with a fork. Stir in processed beans, jalapeno, oregano, cumin, garlic, onion, cornmeal and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until just combined.

Form the mixture into 4 patties. Heat a skillet or grill pan over medium heat and spray with cooking oil. Cook the patties approximately 3 minutes per side or until browned and heated through.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce

One of the nice things about living in Nashville is that it's kind of in the middle of everything. So it's easy for the friends from Houston who are driving back to the East Coast to stop, have a meal, or stay the night. This has happened several times this month as friends graduate and go home for the summer. When one of my very good friends was planning on staying the night, I knew that she would arrive at my house before I would, so I prepped this delicious sauce and let it simmer in the slow-cooker all day long while I was at work. I don't know why I never thought of this before since it makes so much sense.

I used Melissa's sauce but simply cooked the ground beef and added it to the sauce instead of making meatballs. I would estimate that the sauce makes about enough sauce for two pounds of pasta. I froze the leftovers which came in handy for Joe's dinner when I was out of town. All of the vegetables cook down and meld into the sauce completely so that you can hardly even tell that they're there. This is a great sauce for sneaking lots of delicious and nutritious vegetables into.

All-Day Tomato Sauce with Beef
source: Mrs. Sac's Purple Kitchen

1 lb ground beef
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, grated
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 cups Baby Bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
28 oz crushed tomatoes
28 oz tomato puree
about 1/2 cup water
14.5 oz diced tomatoes with juices
1.5 tsp kosher salt or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground pepper or to taste
2 tsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1.5 tsp dried oregano
splash of red wine
1 tbsp EVOO (more if necessary)
1-3 cup fresh basil, torn, plus more for garnish
Parmesan cheese


Cook beef in a skillet on medium-high heat until brown. Drain grease from beef and rinse. Put beef in crock pot.

Add all the tomatoes and water to the crock pot and set on high, cover.

In the same skillet as the beef was in, over medium heat add in a little more EVOO if necessary and add the celery, carrot and onions. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. De glaze the pan with a splash of wine and continue to cook veggies till softened.

Remove, add to crock pot, and add all remaining herbs and seasonings. Turn down to low, and cook for 7-8 hours, tasting a couple of times and adjusting seasonings if necessary and stir in basil with about 20 minutes left. Garnish with more fresh basil before serving. Serve with your favorite pasta shape.