Archive for ◊ October, 2011 ◊

17 Oct 2011 Brown Bag Popcorn

I have been meaning to post this for ages.  It’s so simple.  It’s so easy. It’s so GREAT.  Listen, there is no need to buy any more packages of oily microwave popcorn!  REALLY!  Save money. Save calories. Reduce waste. Skip the preservatives.

Those big time popcorn companies really pulled one over on us.  You don’t need thier fancy box,  their fancy bag, their celephane overlay, their oil (or any oil at all), to pop popcorn in the microwave.  You just need one plain brown lunch bag (approx 10.5 inches x 5.5 inches), 1/3 cup of popcorn, and 1 microwave, and 2 minutes on the timer.  DONE! It’s like….a miracle!

Why did I post this recipe now?  Because a Pumpkin Spice Coffee (my previous post) a fresh bowl of popcorn, and reality TV  is just about the perfect way to enjoy a bit of fall R&R. Project Runway hails on Thursday.  Brew the decaf.  Pop the corn.  Slippers.  Snuggle quilt. It’s gonna be a good, good night!

Brown Bag Popcorn

1/3 cup popcorn kernels (no more, no less)

1 brown lunch bag

1 tablespoon melted butter, if desired

pinch of salt (to taste), if desired

Pour the measured 1/3 cup popcorn kernels into the brown bag.  Fold the top of the brown bag down at least twice, just so the bag fits into the microwave and is able to turn.  Set the timer for 2 minutes.  POPCORN!  IF desired, drizzle the freshly popped popcorn with 1 tablespoon butter and a pinch of salt.  Shake in the bag to combine.  Then pour into a bowl and enjoy.  Serves one or two.

Just a few notes…there will be some unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag.  Look for them, and then don’t pour them into the serving bowl!  Measure the popcorn!  If you get too much popcorn in the bag the bag could burst.  If you put in too little, the popcorn could start to burn.  Gray popcorn does not taste good.

My grandson likes popcorn for breakfast. I think it's a lot better for him than highly processed, often highly sugared, always full of preservatives boxed cereal.

It’s so SIMPLE!  Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I hope there are many bowls of freshly popped popcorn in your future.

 

 

15 Oct 2011 Pumpkin Spice Coffee

It took two years, but FINALLY, I have a Pumpkin Spice Coffee recipe that is delicious and…, wait for it…, better (yes, BETTER!) than Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte!  I don’t make this assertion casually.  I had taste tests.  With friends.  Eleven taste testers.  This Pumpkin  Spice Coffee won over Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.  The coffee was made with an easy, homemade Pumpkin Spice Syrup. I found the recipe at Budding Baketress (after been tipped off by Foodgawker)!  Thank you, thank you! I made no ingredient changes, I just refined the method.

Now about the taste tests.  We tested a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, a Latte with Torani Pumpkin Spice syrup, a Latte with this Pumpkin Spice syrup, and coffee with this Pumpkin Spice syrup.  The hands down winner? The COFFEE with this homemade syrup!  The COFFEE!  The Torani syrup Pumpkin Spice Latte was set aside immediately.  Yuck. There is something in that syrup that was just NOT good.  I poured the bottle down the drain.  I wasn’t go to try it in anything else, and I wasn’t going to pass it on to anyone.  I was hoping we would find something close to the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (because I love, love– correction–loved, Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, but after the taste test…the Starbucks version was set aside, TOO!  BTW, have you ever looked at the Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte?  Taken the top off,  eaten the whipped cream and looked? There is some nasty orange slime floating on top of the latte which is not at all appetizing….but even if there were no slime, homemade Pumpkin Spice syrup would win anyway.  YES, it’s true, bye-bye Starbucks!

Next in our taste testing,  we tried this homemade syrup in a latte, and then in coffee.  The coffee won!  We liked the stronger coffee flavor to compliment the complex pumpkiny-spicy deliciousness.  What a HUGE surprise!

Here is the recipe for the Pumpkin Spice Syrup, and the recipe for a batch of Pumpkin Spice Coffee which can be made to serve at parties, meetings or family get-togethers this fall,.  Of course, the syrup can also be used on a one cup of coffee at a time basis.  I have included directions for all three below.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup for Coffee

  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  1. In a small saucepan, combine pumpkin puree with vanilla and spices.  Stir well to combine.  Add in water, stir well.
  2. Bring pumpkin mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally until it becomes syrup-y and begins to coat the spoon (about 10-15 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat. Cool. Then refrigerate until needed.

To make a batch of Pumpkin Spice Coffee

  • 1 cups of syrup
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 4 cups of very strong, hot, coffee
  • whipped cream, optional
  • sprinkles or ground nutmeg, optional
  1. While the coffee is brewing, heat milk with syrup.
  2. Blend with an immersion blender (or in a blender, or with a whisk).  Can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.  Re-heat and re-blend then continue as directed below.
  3. Stir hot coffee into milk-pumpkin syrup mixture.  (I usually blend a bit more at this point, but it’s probably not necessary).
  4. Pour into cups.  Top with whipped cream, and maybe some sprinkles or ground nutmeg, if desired.  MMMMMMm (You can set a small pitcher of extra syrup out in case some people like a stronger/sweeter Pumpkin Spice Coffee).
  5. Makes approx. 6 servings.

To make one cup of Pumpkin Spice Coffee

This is up to you! Start with a cup of strong, hot coffee.  Stir in 1-2 T. pumpkin syrup, to taste.  Add hot milk, or 1/2 and 1/2 or whipping cream…what appeals to you?  Stir well.  If desired, top with some whipped cream and some ground nutmeg or sprinkles. Remaining Pumpkin Spice Syrup can be stored in the refrigerator.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, and not by Starbucks!  You’ll find it cheaper to make your Pumpkin Spiced Coffees at home. And you might be surprised by how much better they taste, too! I was, and I am a loyal,  long time Starbucks aficionado.

10 Oct 2011 Mocha Cheesecake Brownies

I am not a big fan of the food section of my local paper.  In fact, I am not a  fan at all.  I read it every Wednesday just to see which recipe will cause me to roll my eyes the most.  Sometimes I even post LOL comments on my Facebook page.  It’s THAT bad.  Occasionally, there are recipes that don’t cause me to roll my eyes. They cause me to fall asleep. LOL. Just kidding! NOT!  Sometimes there are recipes I think aren’t too bad, but rarely am I inspired to try one.  Then, last Wednesday there was a recipe that hit me over the head and hollered, “Try me, try me”.  The recipe was  “Mocha Cream Cheese Brownies”, and I did roll my eyes before I tried it.   Not because the recipe was bad, it was really very good (as  you have probably guessed based on the picture above).  I rolled my eyes because  the  name of  the brownie was wrong.  I’ve had cream cheese brownies, bars, breads, muffins.  The cream cheese is mixed with a bit of sugar and perhaps an egg, then layered in with the batter. When baked, you get a nice layer of cream cheese. This is  NOT a cream cheese brownie.  It’s a cheesecake brownie.  There’s a world of difference.  A world of yummy difference.

I baked the brownies, as directed, in a 9×9 pan.  I won’t do that again.  The brownies were too tall. They were so tall they were hard to get into my mouth!  And, I had to bake the brownies 15 minutes more than the recipe suggested to get the cheesecake layer to set.  Now I think they the size if the baking pan was wrong in the recipe (or maybe I just know better!). Next time I will bake these Mocha CheeseCAKE Brownies  in a 9×13 pan and then the suggested baking time will probably be spot on.

About one third of my pan of brownies is in the freezer right now.  I think they will freeze very well.  Brownies freeze well.  Cheesecake freezes well.  Why not Cheesecake Brownies?  If they don’t freeze well, I will update this post…but I am pretty sure that won’t be necessary.

This recipe was published in the San Jose Mercury News on Wednesday, October 5 as “Mocha-Cream Cheese Brownies” and attributed to Emly Luchetti, “The Fearless Baker”.

Mocha Cheesecake Brownies

Brownie Layer

  • 9 oz. dark chocolate (58-62% cacao)
  • 10 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • large pinch Kosher salt

Cheesecake Layer

  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules or instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a pan, your choice, a 9 inch square pan (as the original recipe originally specified), or as I suggest, a 9×13 oblong pan.
  3. Place the chopped chocolate and the cubed butter into a microwaveable bowl.  Melt the chocolate and the butter in the microwave.  (I did this on 50% power for three minutes, stirring after every minute.)  Let the chocolate cool to room temperature.  (You can get the rest of the ingredients for the brownie layer ready to go and also make the cheesecake layer while waiting for the chocolate mixture to cool) (Skip step #4  and come back to it when the chocolate has cooled.)
  4. Whisk 1 cup sugar and 3 eggs together until smooth.  Stir in the melted and cooled chocolate. Add in the flour and the salt and mix until well blended.
  5. Mix the cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar together until smooth. Blend in the two eggs, and then the instant coffee and the vanilla.
  6. Pour the brownie batter into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spread the cheesecake layer on top of the brownie layer. Swirl the cheesecake layer and the brownie layer together (use a spoon or a knife–don’t over swirl)
  7. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (I had to bake mine–in a 9×9 pan for an additional 15 minutes)
  8. Cool to room temperature.  Cut into bars. Serve.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Have fun with these brownies.  They are deeelicious!

08 Oct 2011 Quesadilla Pie

Looking for something new for lunch? I have the perfect thing!  This lunch has to be baked, so it’s a great fall-winter recipe.  I found it at Simply Recipes awhile back .  Finding this recipe was a paradigm shift in lunches around here.

For me now it’s not so much a recipe, but a method.  I did make some changes to the recipe though,  mainly around baking time.  I don’t know why they cook their pie so long, the pie would be cracker crispy if baked for as long as they specify. Still, it would be good to go to the site, there are some good layering photos posted.

The only two ingredients needed for this pie are cheese and flour tortillas.  Everything else is up to you, what you like, and what you have on hand! (see the ingredient suggestion list).  Do you see the paradigm shift potential here?  It’s kind of like learning to make an omelet, or a sandwich, and realizing there are no limits to what you can do, every omelet could be different, every sandwich could be different, just every Quesadilla Pie can be different.

Yes. every time I make Quesadilla pie, it’s different, and every time I make it, it’s good. Sometimes it has three layers, other times five layers. Some times it’s all veggie-most of the time actually, and sometimes it’s a carnivore’s delight. The pie I have pictured here has a layer of spinach and cheese, a layer of fresh tomatoes (juiced, seeded, and chopped) and cheese, a layer of fresh spinach (no need to precook) and cheese, a layer of sauteed onions and zucchini and cheese, and a layer of corn and cheese. That’s five layers, and six tortillas.

Quesadilla Pie

  • 4 or 5 or 6 plate sized flour tortillas (9-10 inches diameter), depending on how many layers you want your pie to have!
  • A bit of butter (not optional)
  • Approx. 1/2 pound grated cheese-one kind, or a mixture based on what you have on hand, (Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, and Mozzarella are really good.  I usually blend a variety of cheeses-whatever I have in the refrigerator, and always add some Mozzarella (I like it’s “stringy” qualities!).  A bit of cheddar is OK when mixed in with other cheeses, but I find a lot cheddar results in an oily, soggy dish.  A pre-packaged, pre-shredded “Mexican Blend”  could be used, too.)
  • Choice of filling ingredients: (Each layer should have cheese plus one, maybe two, filling    ingredients. Don’t make each layer the same!)
  • fresh  spinach leaves; tomatoes, juiced, seeded and chopped (otherwise they make the tortilla soggy); sliced olives; sautéed/cooked zucchini; any leftover cooked veggie, diced (I’ve added broccoli, asparagus, sweet potato…); chopped and sautéed/cooked onions (yellow or red onions); chopped green onions; cooked mushrooms (if not sautéed first, they make the tortilla soggy); leftover cooked and cubed or shredded chicken, beef/steak, pork, sausage, bacon; cooked or canned green chiles; canned or cooked beans (black beans, pinto beans, pinquitos); fresh or frozen corn
  • Cumin and/or chili powder for extra heat, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a pie plate or quiche dish, (pie plate or quiche dish should be approximately the same size as your tortillas). Do not skip the butter.
  3. Place one tortilla on the bottom of the pie dish. Sprinkle some shredded cheese over the tortilla. Use a generous portion of cheese. Add your chosen filling ingredient to this layer. If you want, sprinkle some cumin or chili powder on top for a spicier pie (probably  not necessary if you are using Pepper Jack and/or chilies).
  4. Repeat: tortilla, generous sprinkling of cheese, a chosen filling ingredient, and a sprinkle of optional cumin or chili powder. Make three or four layers, all stacked on top of each other.
  5. Butter the top of the final tortilla and place on top of your “pie”, buttered side up.
  6. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
  7. Place in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove foil and increase the heat to 375°F. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until the top tortilla is lightly browned and cheese is bubbly.
  9. Remove from oven. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  10. Cut into slices.  This pie is finger food (once it cools off a bit!).  It’s actually a bit difficult to eat with just a fork.
  11. Serves 2, 3, or 4 persons–depending on appetites and possible side dishes. We just eat, as-is, for lunch.
  12. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or avocado, if desired.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I hope  you and this recipe for Quesadilla Pie enjoy many happy years together!


04 Oct 2011 Chicken Pot Pie

It rained here yesterday!  Happy, happy October, my very favorite month of the whole year.  I was so excited with the cooler weather and the rain that  I put on slippers and a sweatshirt to celebrate.   Then I decided to teach my son how to make Chicken Pot Pie.  He has his own apartment now, and needs to know how to make things like this.  I went shopping for ingredients, started to prep them…and no man-child.  He ended up staying late at work, and I had to make the pie by myself.  He was home when it came out of the oven though (how does he doe that?!).  He walked in, kissed me and said, “I love it when you make stuff like this.” he then proceeded to eat half the pie.  Then he called his friend to say there was Chicken Pot Pie at his house, and to come over and have some!  I’d say the pie was a hit.

This is my son.  He’s a good sport about learning how to cook and wearing an apron his mom made for him!

This is a pretty simple Chicken Pot Pie.  Absolute comfort food!  No spices other than salt and pepper, so the true taste  of sauteed chicken and fresh veggies shine through…and are then snuggled up in a smooth gravy and encased in pastry.  Yummmm!

The hardest part of this pie comes after removing it from the oven.  You have to wait!  You have to wait for the gravy to set up a bit, or it will run all over your pastry.  If you can’t wait, it’s  not really a bad thing!  The loose first slice will still taste delicious and by the time you are ready for your second slice, the filling will have set a bit.

Believe me, after making your own Chicken Pot Pie, you will never buy one from the frozen foods  section again.  You might never order one from a restaurant either…

Chicken Pot Pie

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken (breast or thighs, or a combination)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 can condensed chicken broth (or 1 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup petite frozen peas
  • 2 9″ Pillsbury pie crusts (1 box) OR 1 homemade double crust pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter along with the olive oil (you can use all oil, if you want) in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. When the butter has melted and the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and saute over medium heat for a few minutes.
  4. Stir in the diced carrot and celery and saute for approx. 5 more minutes, still over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  5. While the veggies are sauteing, dice the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir the diced and seasoned chicken into the veggie mixture and saute for three more minutes, still stirring occasionally.
  7. Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and veggie mixture, stir constantly over medium heat for 3 minutes (the flour might try to stick to the bottom of the pan, try to release it by stirring vigorously. If necessary add another tablespoon or so of butter or oil. Do not burn the flour!).
  8. While the chicken/veggie/flour mixture  is sauteing, combine the chicken broth and half-and-half or milk and microwave for three minutes.  When the microwave beeps, remove the pan from the heat and remove the liquid from the microwave.
  9. Now you are going to make the gravy.  Turn the heat off the pan.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the hot broth-milk mixture.  Stir until mixture is smooth.  Add another 1/2 cup of broth-milk mixture. Stir until smooth.  Repeat two more times using 1/2 cup broth-milk mixture each time.
  10. Return chicken-veggie-gravy mixture to heat.  Stir in frozen (of fresh) corn and peas. Simmer for gently over medium heat to defrost the frozen veggies.
  11. Turn off heat and let filling sit while you unroll the pasty and place one sheet in the bottom of a pie pan.
  12. Pour the filling over the pastry in the bottom of the pie pan, and cover with the second roll of pasty.  Cut 3-5 vent holes in top of top pastry (with scissors or a knife).  Crimp the edges of the pastry so the filling is fully encased.
  13. If you want a nice, shiny crust, brush pastry lightly with egg wash (egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water).  This is optional (but nice if you want to show off!) You won’t need all of the egg wash. (Scramble the leftover egg for the baby, or the dog!)
  14. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes.
  15. Remove pie from oven and let sit…for as long as you can.  The longer the pie sits, the thicker the gravy will get.  Letting the pie sit for 30 minutes to an hour, is about right. (Don’t worry, the filling will remain hot.)
  16. Serve, and enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Hope you enjoyed the visit.  See you again, soon, I hope!