Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Smoothie


FALL is here!!  And of course, as my favorite season of all, I make all things pumpkin!!   I came across this recipe on Pinterest (follow me if you are on) and just love it~  Perfect as an after workout smoothie or meal substitute I tweaked it a bit to match my tastes, you can too.. but either way, you’ll love the taste of this YUMMY Pumpkin smoothie!

Here’s what you’ll need:
1/2 banana (peeled, frozen, diced)
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup fat free Greek vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup lite vanilla soy milk (or milk of choice)
2 tablespoons of Whey Vanilla Protein Powder
Few shakes of pumpkin spice (Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice)
Few shakes of cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
4-5 ice cubes

Directions:
Toss all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth… Enjoy!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

It’s FALL and I’m pulling out all my yummy recipes, including this one for Chicken Pot Pie!  This one is a mix of several pot pie recipes that I’ve tried in the past, but wasn’t happy with… finally, I got it to taste like I wanted!!  Hope you enjoy it as well!
Ingredients:
1lb of chicken cut into bite sized pieces
1 ½ cups of Italian salad dressing
1 block of reduced fat cream cheese – cut into small pieces (easier for melting)
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1 bag of mixed vegetables
1 package of Pillsbury Grand’s Biscuits
Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
Cook and stir chicken in large nonstick skillet on medium heat 5 to 6 min. or until chicken is lightly browned.
Add Italian dressing, chicken stock and cream cheese.  
Add vegetables; cook 1 to 2 min. or until heated through. Simmer for 2 minutes, then spoon into 9-inch pie plate.
Cover with Pillsbury Grand’s Biscuits and cut several slits, allowing heat to come through.  
Bake for 20 to 25 min. or until golden brown.

50 Tips for Baking

I came across this list from sweetapolita.com and LOVED it - great tips (I learned alot).. hope you do too!

Recipe Ingredients:         
1. Ingredients for cakes should be room temperature (can take out of refrigerator approximately 60-90 minutes before needed).
2. To check freshness of eggs, put in a bowl of water–if they sink, they’re fresh. If they float and stand on one end, they’re not.
3. ”Eggs” typically means Grade A, large eggs.
4. “Milk” typically means homogenized.
5. You can substitute milk with yogurt or sour cream, to experiment with different textures.
6. To create a replacement for buttermilk, add 1 teaspoon vinegar for every cup of homogenized milk and stir.
7. Weighing ingredients with a digital kitchen scale is the most accurate method of baking.
8. 1 large egg white = 37 grams, 1 large egg yolk = 20 grams. Eggs separate best when cold, but whites whip best when room temperature or warm.
9. Egg whites in carton freeze well–just pull out of freezer night before you need them.
10. For best results, use pure vanilla extract (not from grocery stores)–what a difference! Heck, don’t even be afraid to double the vanilla quantity.
11. To bring cold eggs to room temperature quickly, you can put the whole eggs into a bowl of lukewarm water (not hot) for 30 minutes.
12. To bring butter to room temperature quickly, you can cut into small cubes on a plate for about 15 minutes.
13. Semisweet Chocolate = Dark Chocolate.  Bittersweet Chocolate = Extra Dark Chocolate.
14. Semisweet & Bittersweet Chocolate are interchangeable.
15. Unless otherwise listed, use unsalted butter for cake recipes.

Mixing:
16. Incorporate dry ingredients together with whisk before adding to wet ingredients.
17. When creaming butter and sugar, get the mixture very pale yellow and fluffy–will take several minutes (around 5).
18.  Always start and end with dry ingredients when alternating with wet ingredients (3 dry additions, 2 wet).
19. Don’t overmix once dry ingredients are added. Just mix on low speed until incorporated.
20. Kitchen stand-mixers don’t need to run at full-speed. A small mixer should run no more than speed #4, for most things. A large mixer no more than speed #6. You will add years to your mixer’s life!
21. Be careful with your sugar–too much can cause a dark crust (one of several possible causes), too little can cause too light a crust or tough texture.
22. Watch your flour–too much can cause a cracked top (one of several possible causes).
23. Beat egg yolks with fork before adding to batter.
24. To retrieve stray eggshells in mixture, use the emptied half-shell–eggshell sticks to eggshell. If you don’t get them all, they will sink during baking, so you can turn baked cake over when cool and retrieve them. 
25. A pinch of salt brings out the flavours in sweet baked goods.
26. When folding, you should always add the lighter of the two mixtures on top, using a gentle folding motion, to avoid deflating batter.
27. When mixing egg whites for meringue, wipe all untensils and bowl with vinegar or lemon juice on a paper towel before they come in contact with the egg whites (including the mixer whisk attachment). Any trace of grease, will likely jeopordize your meringue.
28. Keep an extra set of rubber spatulas that you use strictly for meringue.
29. Use the electric mixer’s splashguard for liquidy batters–that’s what it’s for!
30. If incorporating more than one flavour into a batter or icing, always start with the vanilla; vanilla enhances most flavours.

Baking Cakes:
31. For evenly-baked cakes, no domed tops, and no-fuss assembly, bake “layer-by-layer.”  This means if you’re baking a 3-layer cake, use 3 of the same size/shape pan, and bake 3 shorter layers at same time.
32. Use a small offset palette knife to spread batter evenly in pans. Don’t fill more than 1/2 full–2/3 at the most.
33. Get a separate oven thermometer for an accurate temperature reading–most ovens are either “hot” or “cold.”
34. Always wait for oven to reach necessary temperature before putting cakes in oven.
35. Keep cakes away from sides of oven, and if possible a few inches from each other (when more than 1 baking at once).
36. Rotate cakes after 20  minutes in oven (don’t disturb before 20 minutes).
37. Use middle rack, unless otherwise stated in recipe.
38. Typically, when in oven, cakes are nearing done when you can smell cake in the kitchen. Sounds weird, but you’ll see!
39.  Leave cakes in oven when testing for “doneness.” When a skewer comes clean from center of cake, it’s done.
40. Don’t overbake! This is one sure way to end up with a dry cake.

Cooling & Frosting:
41. Let full cakes cool in pans on wire racks for 20 minutes before removing from pans.
42. Remove cupcakes from pan immediately, placing individual cupcakes on wire rack to cool.
43. Once completely cooled, wrap cake layers in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 30 minutes before cutting and/or icing.
44. Always place cake on a thin foil-covered cake board the same size/shape as the cake for ease of icing/serving, etc.
45. Brush away any stray cake crumbs with silicone pastry brush before icing.
46. Apply even layers of filling using an 18″ pastry bag and large round tip.
47. Apply thin layer of icing to seal in crumbs, then place in refrigerator for 30 minutes before second layer of icing.
48. Use an offset palette knife/icing spatula for frosting top of cake, and straight palette knife/icing spatula for sides of cake. Use a bench scraper for super-smooth edges.
49. If you don’t have time for frosting your cake, a good sprinkling of powdered sugar does wonders! Tastes and looks great on most cakes.
50. To give your frosted cake a glossy finish, you can use a hair-dryer on medium heat over the outside of the cake (right before serving).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sour Cream Coffee Cake


As you know, I am an AVID lover of coffee, and when I came across this recipe, I was intrigued to try it – trust me, this is The BEST Coffee Cake EVER, and I’ve tried a lot of recipes!! This cake is super moist and deliciously yummy!!  You’ll definitely love the smell of your house when this is in the oven!!!   Don’t forget to pour yourself a cup of coffee with it and invite me over! J
Here’s what you’ll need:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1 tsp. of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1 (12 oz.) container of sour cream (I use reduced-fat)
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
Topping Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp. of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of  brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Directions:
In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs to the mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream and vanilla.  Mix until combined.
Then pour half of the batter into a greased 9″x13″ baking pan, and sprinkle with half of the topping. 
Add the remainder of the batter on top, and sprinkle with the remaining topping.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
NOTE:  The batter will be pretty sticky, so I recommend adding your second layer in small spoonfuls all over the pan (rather than just adding the remaining batter in one big blob).  This will make it easier to spread out over the cinnamon-sugar layer.
Recipe courtesy of: gimmesomeoven.com

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


So it’s officially FALL (hooray) and I’m digging through some of my favorite pumpkin recipes… this one was requested by a friend today, so I thought I’d post!
This has got to be the easiest recipe EVER – 3 ingredients only and bam, they are done (and delicious).  My kids ask me to make dozens of these every year!  I'm sure you'll love them too!

Here’s what you’ll need:
1 (15 ounce) can solid pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 (18 ounce) box spice cake mix
1 (12 ounce) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together pumpkin and spice cake until well blended. (Do not add the rest of the ingredients on the back of the spice cake box) Once mixed, toss in the chocolate chips to the mix. (You can also add nuts or white chocolate chips if you’d like!)
With a cookie spoon, drop cookies on greased baking sheet.  The consistency is unlike any cookie mix, so don’t freak out – this will be a moist cookie!!
Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Old Fashion Pecan Praline Sauce


So, I LOVE ice-cream… and what’s ice-cream without a YUMMY topping!  Well, here’s one that you’ve gotta try (perfect for gifts on a budget too, now that Christmas is coming)  Even if you don't like pecans, the creamy(ness) of this sauce will make your ice-cream SO much better!!   Great topping for apples, bread pudding, cakes and muffins as well!!
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
7 tablespoons of butter (divided)
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
3 tablespoons of flour
3/4 cup light of corn syrup
2/3 cup of evaporated milk (heaven)
Directions:
Place chopped pecans in a microwave dish with 3 Tablespoons butter. Cook for 8 - 10 minutes, stirring twice. Watch the pecans closely to not burn them.
In another microwave safe bowl (I use a glass batter bowl because it has a lip for pouring) place remaining butter and heat until melted.  Whisk in brown sugar, flour, and light corn syrup until blended.  Cook on high 6-8 minutes, stirring twice, until the sugar is dissolved.
Add in 2/3 cup of evaporated milk and the pecans, stir well.
Pour into jars. Keep sauce refrigerated and to reheat slightly in microwave to pour over ice cream.
Add a tag and you’ve got some sweet little gifts! Consider packaging with a cool ice cream scoop to make it extra special.

Yields: 3 cups of sauce

Recipe Courtesy of: Skip to my Lou

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Curly Top Fabulous Find

So, I came across these fabulous gems today at the store… They are made by KRAFT and are called “Jet-Puffed Stacker Marshmallows”.   I am IN-LOVE with the thought behind these little goodies… what a clever idea in making s’mores a whole lot easier!  These marshmallows are the PERFECT size for stacking with chocolate and a graham cracker, possibly a drizzle of NUTELLA as well… mmmm, these just make me want to pack up the kids and our swimsuits and take a trip to Newport Beach for a bonfire!   Happy s’moring!