Dec 16, 2008

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes before Thanksgiving, and they smelled SO good that we could hardly wait to eat them! Not too pumpkin-y, and I substituted whiskey for rum, because that's what I had on hand. I can't imagine that rum would make them any better, but try it yourself and see!

Hope you enjoy...

Pumpkin Cupcake Recipe

makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 C flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t allspice
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 C sugar
3/4 C pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/4 C whiskey (dark rum)
1/4 C maple syrup

Whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, pumpkin, and eggs. Beat until smooth.
Mix in the oil, rum, and maple syrup.

Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.

Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes.

From The Cupcake Project

Nov 20, 2008

New Mexican Frijole Cheese Soup

Many, many years ago, my Grandfather gave me a cookbook he bought as a fundraiser for his old school, Menaul High School in New Mexico. It's the kind of recipe book where real people contribute their own tried and true recipes.

This recipe was contributed by someone named Connie Bralley, and I halved and slightly altered the recipe for my own use. Other than using the blender, it's really easy, and only requires 1/2 lb of bacon. You can save the other half for breakfast, or for another recipe. Perhaps I'll post another recipe for using the other half (like Puerto Rican Rice or Pasta Carbonarra) one day soon.

This is a family favorite.

New Mexican Frijole Cheese Soup

1/2 lb bacon
1 large onion, chopped
22 oz. can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup water
3-4 ribs celery (I leave this out!)
1/2 lb sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (or less, to taste)
1-2 15-oz can(s) pinto beans with jalapenos
1 22-oz can of pinto beans
1 tsp vinegar
salt and pepper

Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces and fry until crisp. Remove from pan onto paper towel to drain. Saute chopped onion in the bacon drippings and drain on paper towels. Pour grease from the pan.

Combine bacon, onions, tomatoes, water, celery and shredded cheese in a large pan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until blended and cheese is melted. Puree the pinto beans with their liquid. Add two cans beans w/jalapenos if you like it spicier. Stir the beans into the cheese mixture with the vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 + servings.

Nov 13, 2008

A Package of Chicken Two Ways

With the rising price of food and a slumping economy, I've been following several articles about family meals below $10. I'm always looking for ways to cook and eat economically, so last week I took a "Family Style" package of chicken ($6.50 on sale) , and divided it in two. I put a few pieces into a baggie and back into the refrigerator, and the first night I made one of my husband's favorite meals, Hot Braised Chicken.

Day 1: I got this recipe from a Filipino friend of mine, named Liz.

Hot Braised Chicken

Approx. 1 lb boned chicken pieces, cut to desired sizes
flour, salt & pepper
vegetable oil
2-3 Serrano chili peppers, sliced
1/2 - 1 bottle soy sauce
Cooked rice
Add oil to a deep pan, less than 1/4 inch. Heat oil over medium heat. Dredge chicken in flour seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Don't add much salt, as you will get a lot more from the soy sauce. Drop the chicken into the hot oil and fry on each side a few minutes until cooked and browned. Remove from oil and repeat until all the chicken is cooked.

When the chicken is finished, make sure there is still some oil in the pan. Add the peppers and saute, and the oil will take on the flavor from the chilies. After a few minutes, add soy sauce and water it down a bit, to taste. Add chicken back to pan and simmer in the hot sauce until heated through.

Serve over cooked rice.

Day 2 - I made up this recipe. It's easy and delicious (IMHO).

Crock Pot Tortilla Soup
Few chicken pieces (1/2 - 1 lb)
1 15 oz can corn. drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes w/green chile
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic seasoning, red pepper flakes
Condiments for serving*

Put chicken, drained corn, canned tomatoes and spices to crock pot. Don't add salt yet, as canned vegetables often include salt. Cook on high 5 hours +. When almost ready to eat, remove chicken and allow to cool. Shred the chicken and return it to the pot. Salt to taste.

Serve condiments for garnish. Allow each person to create their own bowl according to their taste.

If you don't have a crock pot, you could cook this soup over low heat for 1 hour, then shred chicken pieces.

Suggested condiments:
Corn chips
corn tortilla strips **
cheddar cheese
cilantro, fresh
avocado, diced
sour cream
minced onions

**To make corn tortilla strips, take a short stack of corn tortillas and cut into thin strips. Toss with oil and bake on a baking sheet at 300 degrees, turning over every 10 minutes until crisp and brown. Salt to taste.


Nov 3, 2008

11 Foods You Might Not Be Eating

I thought this article in the New York Times was interesting. It seems that pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium! I looked it up further, and it seems they are also pretty high in potassium, copper, iron and manganese. Surprisingly, they are not high in dietary fiber.

I believe that eating many different colors of foods because that brings an assortment of nutrients to your system. This article seems to illustrate this principle, athough it's not the thrust of the article. The columnist asked Dr. Bowden, author of "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth," to list the healthiest foods that people don't seem to eat much of. The list is:

  1. Beets (red)
  2. Cabbage (green or red)
  3. Swiss chard (green and red)
  4. Cinnamon (brownish red)
  5. Pomegranate juice (bright red!)
  6. Dried plums (prunes) (deep purple or black)
  7. Pumpkin seeds (white or yellow)
  8. Sardines (black?)
  9. Turmeric (bright yellow)
  10. Frozen blueberries (blue)
  11. Canned pumpkin (orange)
The article explains some of the health benefits of each, and with each a suggestion of how to eat it.

Oct 30, 2008

Pepitas -Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

One great thing about October is pumpkin seeds. Another great thing about spaghetti squash is more seeds! Yum.

Usually I separate the seeds from the pumpkin innards, and let them soak in a little water for awhile. Then I come back and put them into a colander to rinse them and let them drain.

Then I put a little butter into a cookie sheet and let it melt in the oven. I pull it out when the butter's melted, and stir in the seeds. Then I sprinkle with spices, which vary. In the past I put garlic and salt. This year I used blackened seasoning (i.e. blackened catfish) and paprika and salt.

I roast at about 250 degrees and stir and re-season every 15 minutes, for about 45 minutes, or until it looks done.

Use whatever spices you like and enjoy! You can try a sweet mix by using cinnamon and sugar, or pumpkin spice. For ideas for using curry and tea to flavor the seeds, check 101 Cookbooks. The comments have some good ideas too!

Meanwhile, I found a recipe using the seeds that looks great. I can't wait to try it

Did you know that pumpkin seeds are also known as pepitas?

From 101 Cookbooks:
Pepita Salad Recipe

You can serve the lettuce mixed in, or under the split peas depending on how you want to serve this.

1 cup pepitas, toasted (divided)
1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, well washed and lightly packed
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
juice of 1 medium lemon
1 serrano chile pepper, minced
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups cooked yellow split peas*
2 handfuls lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

Make the cilantro pesto by blending 1/3 cup of the toasted pepitas, the cilantro, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, and chile pepper with a hand blender (food processor or standard blender) until smooth. Continue blending as you gradually drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto comes together into a vibrant green sauce. Taste and add a pinch or two or salt if needed.

In a large bowl toss the yellow split peas and remaining pepitas with the pesto until everything is coated. Add the salad greens and gently toss again.

Serves 6 or so.

*To cook the dried yellow split peas bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add 2 cups (rinsed) dried split yellow peas and cook for 20 -30 minutes, or until tender. Drain, salt to taste and set aside.

If you buy them raw, they are good too.

Books about the raw food movement.

Three tablespoons have 4g fiber and 7g protein. It also has 25% DV iron & 2% vitamin A. Sadly, it has 100 fat calories, but I bet it's a good kind of fat.

Oct 22, 2008

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Guyere and Parsley

I never tried Spaghetti Squash until I was in my 30's. I had no recipe, and just tried it with spaghetti sauce the first time. I took to it immediately! My number one complaint against most squash is it's mushiness. Once you scoop out the seeds (save them for roasting!) and such, you drag a fork along the inside skin, and spaghetti-like strands emerge. But even better than spaghetti, the squash has a bit of a crunch, which I love.

Then I discovered this recipe, and that was it! No more red sauce on this wonderful vegetable! My 11-year old daughter likes it so much that she specifically requested it for Thanksgiving last year.

This is a simple recipe, and you can roast the squash in advance. Serve it any time you want to impress someone - it's impressive! It must be the cheese...

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Guyere and Parsley

1 spaghetti squash, about 3 lbs, punctured
1 cup Guyere cheese, grated
3 to 4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup parsley, chopped with 1 garlic clove
Salt and freshly milled pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the squash until the flish is yielding and soft, an hour or more. Cool. Slice the squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Now drag a fork through the flesh, pulling the strands apart. Tos them with the parsley, cheese, and butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4

From this cookbook - click it to find out more.

Oct 10, 2008

10 Top Restaurant Trends

I thought this was interesting:

1. Bite-sized desserts (yes, like at PF Chang's)
2. Locally grown produce
3. Organic produce
4. Small plates - tapas/mezze
5. Specialty sandwiches (not sure what this means)
6. Craft/artisan or microbrew beer (I don't think this is new)
7. Sustainable seafood (what?)
8. Grass-fed items (like beef?)
9. Energy drink cocktails (like Red Bull and vodka?)
10. Specialty salts (haven't seen this yet)

Source: National Restaurant Association: What's Hot and What's Not Survey, Oct 2007

There have been several books out lately advocating locally grown and organic foods, so it makes sense that restaurants are incorporating recent trends. Any others that you've noticed?

Sep 17, 2008

Macaroni Salad

I was excited when I came across Emeril's recipe for Macaroni salad, because I'm eager to find alternatives to the pickle/onion/Miracle Whip concoction I usually make. Although it is delicious in it's own way, it doesn't seem very nutritious.

Because I love vegetables, I can't resist giveaways from other people's gardens. I love the variety of colors here. So of course I had to add them to my newest pasta salad. (Except for the short red one, which I determined to be a jalapeno.)

Also, I'm not big on prosciutto, so from the beginning I planned to use bacon, which the hubby always keeps on hand. I took a suggestion to use basil instead of parsley, and I ran out of olive oil, but I thought it turned out great! I agree that the creamy texture of the melted goat cheese is a great substitute for mayonnaise. This is what I ended up using:

New Mac Salad

1 lb elbow macaroni
2 oz bacon, cut into strips
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
3 small assorted peppers, chopped
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
2 Tbsp capers
1/4 chopped fresh basil

Fry bacon in a small pan. Heat water to boil the macaroni.

Mix the garlic, vinegar, and Dijon in a small bowl. Add the oil in a stream while whisking the vinegar mixture. Chop all the vegetables and add to a big bowl with the crumbled cheese, olives, basil and capers. Add the dressing and toss.

Cook the macaroni as instructed on the package. Cook until al dente. Drain and immediately toss in with the vegetables and toss until the goat cheese has coated the noodles. Watch out for lumps of goat cheese with vegetables or garlic, and separate those.

Add the bacon, then salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy! The crunchy and salty elements of the salad are quite enjoyable.
(I'd say that this salad is very good, but could use a few more tomatos and more basil. Or serve it over butter lettuce. The veggie to macaroni ratio was a little off. Also, the shallot would have been milder and better in this case than garlic.)
A funny thing happened after I made the salad. I sat down and ate a bowl with my daughter, and then she asked if she could have some bacon. I forgot to add the bacon! Of course, it was better with bacon, but not too bad without it.


Emeril's Macaroni Salad

1 lb elbow macaroni
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pitted Cerignola olives (or your favoriteolives), chopped
2 Tbsp capers
1/4 chopped fresh parsley

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook macaroni until al dente. In a small skillet, cook prosciutto over medium until crisp; discard fat.

Combine shallot, vinegar, and mustard in a large bowl; whisk in oil in a slow, steady stream. Add tomato, cheese, prosciutto, olives, and capers.

Drain pasta; add to bowl with tomato mixture, and toss. Add parsley; season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature, and serve.


Macaroni Salad (Old recipe)

1 lb package of elbow macaroni
1 cup onion, choppped
1 cup pickles chopped
2 Tbsp Miracle Whip
2 pinches sugar
splash of milk

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and cool.

Add to a bowl with chopped pickles and onions, to taste. Mix the Miracle Whip, sugar, and milk in a small bowl. Add to the macaroni mixture and toss.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Apr 6, 2008

Not THAT kind of Mexican Cheese!

I was thinking of trying a few new recipes (Including Chile Relleno Casserole) this weekend, so I sent my DH to the grocery store, looking for Mexican cheese and unsweetened Cocoa.

Poor guy. I'm pretty sure I told him that the cocoa would be in the baking section, but I guess he didn't hear me. Instead, he searched high and low in the hot chocolate section until he did, indeed, find packets of unsweetened hot cocoa! (Why would anyone make such a thing?)

Then I went to make the casserole, which called for Mexcan, or Cotija, cheese. I see it in the stores all the time in the cheese section. When I went to pull the cheese out of the refrigerator, I couldn't find it! So I asked DH to find it, and he pulled a bag of pre-shredded jack/cheddar mix, labeled "Mexican Style."

"Oh!" I remarked, "I didn't mean THIS kind of Mexican cheese!"

He responded with, "Well, it says right there that it's Mexican cheese."

And he was right. So I used it in the recipe, left out the chorizo (which I don't like), and it turned out great. I know 12 sounds like a lot of eggs, and I was tempted to try it with fewer, but it turned out just right! Just like the picture in the magazine.

I think the key is to pick a large chile pepper (which are not usually very hot), and plan for about one chile pepper per serving. Don't pick too deep of a baking dish, as you'll want to see the peppers to find the servings.


Chile Relleno Casserole


8 green chiles
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves
12 eggs
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded jack cheese or cheddar cheese


1. Roast chiles until blistered and somewhat charred, and put into a closed paper bag to "sweat". After all peppers are roasted and have rested at least 15 minutes, remove from bag and peel. (Don't worry if you can't get all the skin off. It won't hurt you.)

2. Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, mix cheese and spices. Stuff chiles with mixture and lay them in an 8- by 12-in. baking dish.

3. In a large bowl, beat eggs , then whisk in flour, baking powder, and salt. Sprinkle chiles with 1/2 the jack cheese. Pour egg mixture over chiles and sprinkle with remaining jack.

4. Bake until top starts to brown and the eggs are set but still soft, about 30 minutes.

Adapted from Sunset Magazine, March 2008

Jan 14, 2008

Pozole with Ham

I accidentally ended up with two hams for Christmas! So I looked for lots of ways to use leftover ham, recipes that wouldn't make my family scream, "No more ham!!!"

I found this recipe in an old Best of Sunset that I have in my "library", and I have to say it was easy and delicious. My family loves the taste of hominy, and we don't eat it that often. In Southwest USA, hominy is often found in menudo, along with tripe. I always like Pozole growing up, because it was tasty like menudo, but without the (rubber meat) tripe.

The original recipe called for bony chicken pieces in addition to the ham. Also, instead of the spices, I added a little of the menudo spice mix I have.

This makes a clear, broth-heavy soup that tastes healthy and delicious.

12 cups chicken broth, or 2 large cans
3 lbs meaty ham hocks or leftover ham
1 tsp dry oregano leaves*
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper (like the pizza topping)*
2 lg onions, chopped
1 lg can (28 oz) yellow hominy, drained

In a 6- or 8-quart pan, combine broth with meat and spices. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until meat is tender - 1 or 2 hours. Remove meat (use a wire strainer or wrap in cheesecloth before cooking) and let cool. When the meat has cooled to the touch, remove meat and cut into chunks. Return to the pot. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Remove any fat that comes to the top. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Add the hominy, cover, and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Serve hot, and offer condiments to add to each bowl.

Suggested condiments:
Broken tortilla chips
raw onion, chopped fine
chopped cilantro