Saturday, December 22, 2012


These guys just made me smile.  I made them for my daughter's Kindergarten holiday party and watching each little guy come to life was just what I needed after a tough week. They were super simple to make.  I used my favorite white cupcake and buttercream recipes.  Leftover candy from gingerbread houses were used for the noses, the eyes are a gel icing and the hat brim is made of mini marshmallows cut in half.

 I made Mike help with the decorating and while he grumbled about it I know he always enjoys decorating and it was nice having some company for the late night decorating session.

Simple White Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 tsps. Vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
Sift flour and baking powder together, set aside.  In medium bowl cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stir in vanilla.  Add flour, mixing until just combined.  Stir in the milk until smooth.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mississippi Mud

As always happens this time of year December has gotten away from me and there are many things on my to do list that will probably still be there when 2013 rolls in.  One thing I was not going to leave on my list were the Mississippi Mud cupcakes for this months Cake Slice group.  I have made myself a promise to stick with the Cake Slice bakers this year and I am proud to say that I have met the baking deadline two months in a row.  I missed the posting deadline, but the cupcakes were made in time.

I have always been a fan of Mississippi Mud.  I remember a recipe for Mississippi Mud brownies in one of my first cookbooks when I was little.  I don't think I ever actually made the brownies, but I know I read the recipe many many times.

Julie Richardson's recipe for Mississippi Mud Cupcakes, in Vintage Cakes, is a wonderfully moist chocolate cupcake filled with chocolate chips and pecans and topped with a marshmallow frosting.  I didn't follow her recipe for the frosting. Instead I cheated with a Fluff buttercream, a super easy super tasty frosting.  The cupcakes were not overly sweet and the addition of coffee in the batter helped to enhance the chocolate and add a very subtle bitterness.  I didn't do a good job at evenly distributing the chocolate chips and pecans so the one cupcake I had only had a couple of chips and one tiny piece of pecan which made it seem more like something had fallen into the batter than an actual component of it.  If I were to make the recipe again I would probably just sprinkle the add-ins into each cupcake rather than mixing it into the full batter.

These cupcakes left my house very quickly.  I finished them at 8:00am and delivered them to the staff room at my kids' elementary school at 8:30.  I did keep one as a sample, it was great with a mid-morning cup of coffee.  It was so good that I forgot to snap a picture before inhaling the entire thing.

Please go check out the other Cake Slice bakers and all the delicious looking cupcakes!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gift Idea - Turtle Popcorn

We are big fans of popcorn.  It is one of our favorite snacks and is made quite a few times a week.  We enjoy both microwave and stove-top.  The convenience of microwave popcorn is great, but nothing beats Whirley Pop popcorn.  While many make popcorn on the stove top because it is healthier, I make it this way for the flavor options.  Sweet or savory the flavor options for stove-top popcorn are endless

Most of the time I go for the quick and easy popcorn "recipes" - kettle corn, cheesy corn, spicy, etc. - but I also like recipes that really bump up the flavor and provide a little more punch.  When I saw this wonderfully delicious recipe while scouring Cravings of a Lunatic for my Secret Recipe Club assignment back in October I knew it was time to make some pumped up popcorn.  I didn't get a chance to make it, but have been thinking about it since then.

My plan was to make ONE batch and give it to the kids' teachers as a little Thanksgiving treat.  That one batch was quickly devoured and I ended up having to make another batch.  I got smart with the second batch and quickly packaged it up before it could disappear as well.

This crunchy, chewy, nutty, caramely, chocolaty popcorn makes a great treat and will definitely be made again - and again, and again- as gifts and for our own snacking pleasure.  And I recommend that if you decide to make it, plan on making a double batch right from the start.

Turtle Popcorn

3/4 cup popcorn kernels
1 Tbsp. popcorn oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup pecans, rougly chopped
1 cup butter
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven 200.
Over medium high heat, heat 1 tsp oil in whirley popper or large heavy bottom pan.  Add kernels.  Stir continuously until popping has stopped.  Dump popcorn into large roasting pan, add salt and pecans, toss until nuts are evenly distributed.  In large saucepan combine butter, brown sugar and corn syrup.  Over medium high heat bring this mixture to a boil.  Keep at a boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.  Add chocolate chips, stir until melted and smooth.  Pour over popcorn.  Toss gently with wooden spoon until popcorn is coated.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from oven.  Pour popcorn onto parchment paper until cool.

Store in tightly sealed continer

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chicken and Kale Soup

With the cold weather upon us, our consumption of soup has increased greatly.  Lots of squash, vegetable and chicken soups and stews have been making an appearance on our dinner table and then again the next day for lunch.

The most recent soup was a wonderfully simple Chicken and Kale soup.  As I have said before I struggle with greens.  I primarily use them in soups because that is the easiest for me and one way I know my kids will eat them.  They become completely oblivious to the tiny shrived piece of green in their soup and don't stick their noses up at like they do when it appears in a sauteed pile on their dinner plate.

While I like soups that simmer on the stove all day filling my house with a wonderful aroma I like 30 minute soups even better.  Soups that can be made at 9:00 in the morning, thrown in the fridge then reheated at 7:00 pm after practices are over are even better, and this is a soup that falls into both of those last two categories.

Chicken Kale Soup

2 chicken breast, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1 Tbsp taco seasoning (see below)
2 cans dice tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
1 bunch kale, stems removed roughly chopped

In large soup pan, over medium high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add chicken cook until light brown.  Add garlic, onion and taco seasoning, cook for about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and broth, cook for 20 minutes stir in kale, cook for another 10 minutes or until kale is soft.

*Chicken breast can be replaced with sausage of chicken sausage, adjust amount of taco seasoning if using a spicy sausage.

 Taco Seasoning

4 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
6 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
4 teaspoons black pepper


Mix together ingredients in an airtight container. Shake to combine.
Add 2-3 tablespoons for every 1 pound of ground beef, turkey or chicken. Use to replace store-bought taco seasoning in any recipe

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shoo Fly

It has been a long time, but I have started baking with the Cake Slice bakers again.  It was one of the first blog baking (say that 10 times fast) groups I joined and love being a part of  this small, world wide group of bakers.  I have missed them and am glad to be back.

They have started with a new book - Vintage Cakes and so far I am loving it.  While I love elaborately decorated cakes and have pinned,and made, my fair share of these cakes and cupcakes.  I am finding that they are becoming a bit too much for me.  I want a cake that looks like a cake.  I want to be able to tell what kind it is, I want the flavors to stand out just as much as the appearance.  I just want a cake, and that is what Vintage Cakes is, simple old school cakes

Much to my husband's delight the first cake chosen was Shoo Fly Cake.  He grew up in Pennsylvania, near Dutch country and Shoo Fly pie was a staple of his child hood.  The cake didn't have the stickiness of a pie, but it still had a nice crumb and the wonderful rich molasses and spice flavor.  While he probably would have preferred a pie, this cake was a wonderful trip down memory lane, just like a "Vintage Cake" should be.

Be sure to check out the other Cake Slice bakers and come back next month for another great vintage cake.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Prep

Less than a week away and my Thanksgiving preparations are going well. The menu is all set, grocery lists are written up - and the first of many trips to store have been made.  I have started doing some cooking and the refrigerator is filling up.

The Menu - nothing new, just traditional family recipes.
  • Turkey 
  • Cornbread stuffing - OK I lied we don't usually have cornbread stuffing, this is a new recipe
  • Sweet potato souffle
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Corn Casserole
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Green beans
  • Biscuits
  • Gravy
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Pecan pie

Besides the Thanksgiving day menu, I also have a gift giving menu.  I usually make batches, and batches of pumpkin and apple bread but this year I am trying something new and going with a combingation of sweet and savory goodies.
  • Herb Crackers
  • Cranberry Chutney 
  • Turtle Popcorn
And the all important timeline so we can get it all done:

Make croutons for stuffing
Dough for crackers
Pie Dough
White and Whole Grain Croutons

Pie dough - freeze until Wednesday
Turtle Popcorn
Clean  - my least favorite thing to do, if I don't get it done we can always include dust tic-tac-toe as a Thanksgiving day game, I think I have just come up with a new tradition

Chocolaty Turtle Popcorn -

Bake crackers
Package gifts
Girls Day Out - my mom and I are taking the girls to the American Girl store, hopefully they won't think this is a yearly tradition

Cranberry Sauce
Thanksgiving Feast at the preschool with the Pilgrims and Wampanoags
Take turkey out of freezer

Table prep - make sure I have table cloths and napkins are clean.  Probably run to the store to pick up something new
Stuffing - for the elementary school Thanksgiving feast
Our Thankful rocks will be the center of the table decorations

Elementary school feast - an hour of songs and poems with cute little pilgrims
Bake pies
Clean and prep veggies
Bake sweet potatoes
Buttery, Flaky Pie Crust

Turkey, on the grill
Mashed potatoes
Green Beans
Brussel Sprouts
Eat, nap, walk and eat

Start planning for Christmas

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Melissa & Doug Terrific Twenty List and Giveaway

It's November which means Christmas.  I am always a procrastinator when it comes to Christmas shopping. I wait to the last minute then scramble around.  When I am in scramble mode I turn to those tried and true sites where I know I can find good reliable gifts.

One of my favorites is Melissa and Doug.  Not only do my kids love their products, but so do I.  They are quality products that not only withstand lots of use, but also grow with my children.  Their wooden play food is a staple in the kids kitchen and is loved by all - especially the sushi set which my son got when he was about 2 and is still a favorite 5 years later.

Melissa and Doug just released their Terrific Twenty Holiday Gifts for 2012 and it really is a terrific list.  There is something for children of all ages and interests.  I know the Fashion Design Activity Kit, and Metal Grocery basket will be under our tree this year and I am sure a few other M&D goodies will also be there as well.

To celebrate the Terrific Twenty M&D is having a "20 Days of Terrific Twenty" giveaway on their Facebook page.  Starting November 6th they will be giving away one item from the Terrific Twenty list to at least one lucky Facebook fan.  Go visit them now and enter, it's super easy and you only need to enter once to be entered for the entire 20 days.

Not only is Melissa and Doug offering a great giveaway on their Facebook page, but they have also given me the opportunity to offer the Suspend game to one of my readers.  I am going to make it easy, all you need to do is follow my blog and leave a comment.  I will draw a winner on November 20th.

If you haven't done it all ready go visit M&D on Facebook and enter the Terrific Twenty and maybe you will be finding some wonderful Melissa and Doug products under your tree this Christmas.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lasagna Soup

It's the beginning of the month which means it's Secret Recipe Club time.  Before I reveal my recipe I have a confession - I didn't make anything this month, my husband did, but I did not.  The day before the reveal and as always I had marked a bunch of different recipes, but hadn't made anything.  To make things more challenging I had to work, so I brought in some backup.

I was a little worried about bringing in Mike as a replacement.  He is an excellent cook, but he has trouble following a recipe, so even though I gave him a recipe for Lasagna Soup there was a great possibility I could have come home and found something completely different.  In the spirit of SRC he did follow the recipe, but made a few changes and we now have two delicious recipes to turn to when a craving for lasagna soup strikes.

As a thank you to Mike for helping out I have a favor to ask of you.  Mike loves knowing what other people eat and he started a Facebook page called "so what did you eat".  He just started it and would love to build it up so if you could "like" the page and share what you eat Mike, and I, would really appreciate it.  It doesn't matter if you had a gourmet meal or a bag of chips and a soda, just snap a picture and share away.

As I said this month's SRC dish was lasagna soup from Cravings of a Lunatic.  There are so many great recipes to choose from, I was initially going to make the Turtle Popcorn, but with all the Halloween candy around I couldn't add another sweet to the house.  Even though it didn't make an appearance this month I am sure it will around Christmas time.

Here is Kim's recipe.  This is a delicious, quick and easy dish.  Perfect for cold days when you need some warm comfort food.  Enjoy!

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (I didn’t have fresh so I used minced garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 box (32 oz) of beef broth, or mix 4 cups boiling water with 1 to 2 tablespoons of better than bouillon beef base (I used the better than bouillon)
  • 1 (28 fl oz) can of whole peeled tomatoes (san Marzano), pulsed in blender
  • 1 (1 lb 8 oz) jar of pasta sauce ( I used Ragu Sauteed Onion & Garlic)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups broken lasagna noodles
  • 1 (5 oz) package of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella (the new pizza mozzarella is the bomb)

  1. Brown your ground beef, onion, and pepper in a large dutch oven. It should be broken into fine particles and cooked till juices run clear.
  2. In the last minute or two add the garlic.
  3. Now add your brown sugar, tomatoes, sauce, oregano, basil and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add the noodles and simmer until they are tender. Stir in parmesan.
  5. Turn on your broiler.
  6. Transfer soup into ovenproof soup bowls. Place in oven and broil for 3 to 5 minutes.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Apples, Pumpkins and Candy

Just before Halloween I received this wonderful collection of books from Storey Publishing.

 If you aren't familiar with them you need to check them out.  They have a great assortment of books, covering a wide variety of topics - gardening, crafts, food and drink, etc. - and they also have a fun blog that is filled with some excellent information, delicious recipes and some amazing giveaways.

It was hard to decide which book to start as they are all filled with wonderful recipes, ideas and information. My kids wanted to make everything in Ghoulish Goodies and many pages in Candy Construction have also been bookmarked.  But, I was drawn to Pumpkin by DeeDee Stovel.  This book, as the name indicates is a collection of everything pumpkin.

I have roasted and baked pumpkins and made a lot of different pumpkin recipes - pastas, breads, soups - but after looking through this book I realize I haven't fully utilized the pumpkin and there are many recipes left to try.

While I was tempted by many of the recipes, I decided to start off with a simple classic pumpkin bread.  The Half Moon Bay Pumpkin bread is a very straight forward, basic pumpkin bread.  There is nothing extra in this bread, which is what makes it so delicious, it is just a moist flavorful pumpkin bread.  It is great plain or toasted with a little smear of cream cheese.  While I had one or two pieces sitting down with a cup of tea, most of this bread was eaten a tiny sliver at a time - it was too hard to resist as it sat there on the counter just  calling out.

 I am looking forward to working my way through all these great books.  I am sure we will be using some of the trick-or-treating loot for some "Candy Construction" and I am sure there will be a lot of great "Pumpkin" and Apple dishes on my Thanksgiving table thanks to Storey publishing.  Please be sure to go and check out all their great titles and maybe add a few to your library.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cinnamon Apple Scones

I'm on an apple kick, so here is another apple recipe.  I have some pumpkin recipes coming up so there will be some variety soon - I promise!

The idea for this recipe came from this recipe at King Arthur Flour.  The first time I followed their recipe exactly.  I loved the flavor combination, but not the texture - it wasn't as biscuity as I like - so I took the flavor ideas and put them in my regular scone recipe, resulting in a perfect fall scone.

I had the bag of cinnamon chips in my pantry for about 6 months and was never really sure about them.  Everyone I know who has tried the chips loves them, but I wasn't sure if I would have the same feelings.  In my mind chips are chocolate, maybe peanut butter.  When I saw this recipe, and being in an apple state of mind, my opinion of the cinnamon chips changed slightly.  Mixed with the sweet juicy apples and the buttery scones I now understand why so many people love these chips.

These are great any time of day, but I - and the rest of the Yellow Cheetah parents - found them particularly delicious as we sat outside on a chilly fall morning watching an early morning soccer game.  I made them on  Friday afternoon, put them in the refrigerator, then popped them in the oven Saturday morning.  They made watching girls U6 soccer even sweeter.

Cinnamon Apple Scones

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold
2 cups All purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup diced apples
½ cup cinnamon chips
½ cup finely chopped pecans
Cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven 425°.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut butter into ¼” cubes, or smaller, place in freezer while preparing rest of ingredients.

In large bowl combine flour, baking powder and sugar.  Toss to combine.  Using a pastry cutter, or your hands, gently combine the dry ingredients and flour until the mixture resembles a coarse sand.  Add heavy cream and mix until the dough begins to form.  Pour mixture out onto lightly floured work surface and knead until mixture forms a sticky ball.  Pat into a flat circle, sprinkle apple pieces, cinnamon chips and chopped apples on top of dough, fold dough in half and shape back into a circle.  

Cut into 8 wedges and place on baking sheet.  Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  Remove from refrigerator, brush top with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops are a light brown.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Apple Ginger Bread

It is the peak of fall which means there has been a lot of baking with apples going on around here.  Scones, pies and bread have been coming out of the oven in the past few weeks.

 Everything has been very yummy, but this bread has been has been the family favorite.

I used a combination of shredded and diced apples.  This makes a moist bread with soft juicy chunks scattered throughout which is the perfect contrast for the crunchy Streusel topping. The addition of crystallized ginger gives a wonderful sweet heat.  Mixed with the tang of the cranberries and the nutty pecans it is a perfectly sweet, spicy fall bread.

Apple Ginger Bread Adapted from 
Yield: 1 loaf        Prep Time : 30 minutes                 Cook Time: 60 minutes


½  cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup milk
2 tsp.  apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. apple pie spice (see below)
½ tsp. salt
2 cups peeled, shredded apples*
1 apple, peeled and diced
¾ cup chopped pecans
½ cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. chopped candied ginger

Streusel Topping:
¼ cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp.  all-purpose flour
¼ tsp.  apple pie spice (see below)
2 Tbsp.  unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped pecans

1.       Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9x5x3- inch loaf pan with cooking spray, line bottom with parchment paper.    Set aside.
2.       In medium bowl sift flour, apple pie spice and salt together.  Set aside. 
3.       In the bowl of an electric mixer combine butter and sugars.  Mix until light and fluffy.  Add the buttermilk, vinegar and baking powder, mix until combined.  Add eggs and vanilla, mix until incorporated.  Slowly add flour mixture, mix on low until just combined.  Fold in apples, pecans, cranberries and ginger.  Pour in to prepared pan, spread evenly.  Set aside while preparing Streusel topping.
4.       For Streusel topping.  In small bowl combine sugar, flour and apple pie spice, stir to combine.   Cut in butter until mixture resembles small pebbles, stir in pecans. 
5.       Sprinkle Streusel topping over the batter, gently pressing it into the batter.
6.       Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
7.       Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack

Wrap tightly and - if you can wait – store overnight before slicing and serving, this give the flavors a chance to blend and enhances the taste. 

* Two cups is about 4 apples.  Honey Crisp or Granny Smith apples are recommended.   For additional texture dice one apple and shred the remaining 3 apples. 

Apple Pie Spice

5 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. allspice
1 ½ tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground ginger

In small bowl combine all ingredients, stir until thoroughly combined.  Store in an airtight container. 

*this is a great spice mixture for all of your fall baking.  It also makes a wonderful gift when stored in a decorative spice jar or container. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Free Form Mini Apple Tarts

This week Edy and I had two "Bacon" days.  We had our usual baking day on Tuesday and then on Wednesday we got to bake with all of her classmates, as I was the parent helper in her preschool class.

This was the first time cooking with this group of kids so I planned a snack that was primarily assembly.   Cooking with a group of young 3 year old kids always requires a lot of advanced prep and flexibility, but I have learned that the first project of the year requires even more prep, flexibility and patience.  As the kids get more comfortable cooking during class I will let them do more and more, but for this one we kept it pretty simple by making free form apple tarts.

Edy and I prepped the dough the day before.  We made a simple Pate Brisee (pie crust) which is one of those great hands on recipes for kids.  They get lots of opportunities to feel the ingredients come together and even if they play with the dough a lot it is hard for them to over mix it.

After we made the dough and let it chill I broke it into individual balls and flattened them out into small discs and left it to chill again until the next day when we were ready to use it at school.  I had planned on having the kids roll the dough out, but I had forgotten to bring some extra flour and the dough was pretty moist, so I decided to have the kids press the dough between their hands instead.  This worked well.  It provided a thicker base for them to work on and eliminated the frustration that sometimes comes with rolling out dough.

For the topping I had a bowl of diced apples, raisins - that had been soaked in apple juice, chopped pecans and cinnamon sugar.  I thought the kids would load up on the apples, but as often happens I completely misjudged and the raisins turned out to be the popular item.  A few kids even skipped the apples and just had raisin tarts with cinnamon sugar.

As always I had a hard time not adjusting the tarts after the kids were done.  I wanted to add some apples to those raisin tarts and wanted to flatten the dough on the tarts that were just balls with apples stuck in it.  As hard as it is the resist the temptation to help them too much and have them do it my way, the pride on their faces when they sit down to the snack they made, makes it worth it.

Free Form Apple Tarts
makes:  12 mini tarts

1 recipe Pate Brisee
4 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup raisins
1 cup pecans or walnuts roughly chopped
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350
Divide dough into 12 equal size pieces, form into small discs and chill for 30 minutes.  After chilling roll dough in to 1/2" thick rounds, forming a thick lip around the outside edge.  Top each round with apples, raisins and nuts. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until dough is a light golden brown.

Pate Brisee
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, cold cut into 12 pieces
2 egg yolks
3 Tbsp. cold milk

Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand, combine flour sugar and salt.  Scatter butter pieces over top of flour mixture.  Mix mixture resembles a coarse sand.  In a small bowl whisk together yolks and milk.  Ad to the flour mixture, mix until the dough just comes together and has a shaggy appearance.  Pour onto work surface, using the palm of your hand smear the butter chunks into the dough and gather mixture together.  Gather dough into a thick disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Can be kept in refrigerator for at least 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Monday, October 8, 2012

SRC: Sweet Potato Falafel

I have to admit that when I got my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month I didn't spend a lot of time searching Isabelle's site - Crumb - before making a decision.  I saw the recipe for Sweet Potato Falafel Wraps and I knew immediately what I was making.  I have since spent more time checking out her site and have marked many recipes to try.

The Sweet Potato Falafel recipe looks a little intimidating at first read.  The sandwich is made up of 4 different components and while none of them are difficult to make it can be a little overwhelming at first read.

Having four separate recipes actually worked to my benefit. It was one of those days that was broken into weird chunks. I wasn't home at any one time to get everything done, but was home for enough time here and there to get parts of it done.  And, the flavors actually improve with a little bit of rest time, so if you need a make ahead recipe this is the perfect fit.

My entire family loved this dish, my son even asked if I could make it again the following week.  It is a super bright and flavorful dish, that is great anytime of year.  The creamy hummus is a perfect match with the crunch of the falafel and tabooli salad and the yogurt in the tahini sauce provides a nice tang.

With the exception of the Tahini sauce I followed Isabelle's recipe exactly. Isabelle's recipe called for half a cup of Tahini and half a cup of yogurt.  I had a a thicker Greek yogurt and the ratios of the sauce seemed a little thick, so I only used 2 tablespoons of Tahini and half a cup of yogurt.  I liked the tang the Greek yogurt provided and felt there was still plenty of the slight nutty flavor provided by the Tahini.

Homemade Falafel Wraps
Author: Isabelle Boucher (Crumb)

Printer Ready

Tahini Sauce:
½ cup plain yogurt
2 Tbs. tahini
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch salt

Homemade Lemony Hummus:
1 can (19 ounce) chickpeas
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt

Tabbouleh Salad:
1 cup roughly chopped parsley
½ cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
½ cup cooked bulghur wheat
1 cup diced tomato
1 cup diced cucumber
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Falafel Patties:
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (540 ml/19 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and thoroughly drained
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
¼ cup flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp chili flakes
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp canola oil

4 Middle Eastern style pitas
Shredded lettuce
Thinly sliced red onion
Prepare the Tahini Sauce (up to 5 days in advance):

  1. In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients until smooth. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

Prepare the Hummus (up to 5 days in advance):

  1. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the canning liquid. Rinse thoroughly.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, paprika and salt. Process until smooth and creamy, adding as much of the reserved canning liquid as needed to get a spreadable consistency. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

Prepare the Tabbouleh (up to 2 days in advance):

  1. Using a food processor pulse the parsley and mint until finely chopped.
  2. Transfer the chopped parsley and mint to a mixing bowl, and toss with the remaining tabbouleh ingredients until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cover and chill until ready to use.

Make the Falafel Patties:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, process the cilantro, parsley and garlic until very finely minced. Add chickpeas, and pulse until finely chopped, but not completely pureed. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and stir in sweet potato, flour, cumin, chili flakes and salt to make a dense batter that holds its shape when rolled into a ball – if it’s too wet, add more flour, 1 tbsp at a time, until it reaches the appropriate consistency.
  2. Scoop out a dozen golfball-sized portions, and shape into a rounded patties.
  3. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, pan-fry the patties in oil for 3-5 minutes per side, or until golden and crisp (the patties are fairly fragile, so be gentle when flipping!). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towel to drain.

Assemble the Wraps:

  1. To assemble the wraps, carefully pull apart each pita, stopping about halfway around to form a pocket with two flaps.
  2. Spread with a generous amount of tahini sauce and hummus, then fill the pocket with a handful of tabbouleh, toppings of your choice and 3 falafel patties.
  3. To close up the wraps, lay a pita down on a plate with the open end facing away from you. Gently tuck the top flap over the filling and back into the sandwich, and continue the rolling motion to create a tight wrap. (If this sounds overly complicated, you can also cut the pitas in half cross-wise, then gently separate each half to make two individual pockets.) Serve immediately.

Be sure to check out more of Isabelle's great recipes over at Crumb

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Root Beer Chicken

I know grilling season is coming to an end for most, but for me this is my favorite time of year for it.  It is so much more enjoyable to be outside when it is in the 60's and 70's rather than in the 90's with 100% humidity.  And I find I have more of a craving for many of the traditional grilled food, this time time of year.  One of my favorite things to make on the grill is Beer Butt Chicken.

For me this is not only a super tasty food it is also a very funny food.  Starting with the name, it just sounds like a funny thing to serve someone, but it's the look of it, that I find particularly humorous.  It is very entertaining, while at the same time slightly disturbing, to open the grill and see a headless chicken looking as if it is about to run right off the grill.

If you haven't made beer butt chicken it is super easy and a great way to cook chicken on the grill.  You get a moist and flavorful chicken that is beautifully browned and golden on all sides.  Traditionally a can of beer is used, but you can use pretty much any canned beverage, and my favorite is a can of Root Beer.

For the outside I like to go with a pretty traditional seasoning mix - salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika. By keeping it simple the chicken can be used in a variety of ways and the pairing options are endless.

When making beer butt chicken you only need half a can of liquid, which means you can either enjoy the other half while cooking or use it in another dish to tie your meal together.  While I am often tempted to use it for a root beer float, I usually push the temptation aside and make a BBQ sauce instead. This sauce is incredibly flavorful with a wonderful sweet, spicy tang.  You may want to have some extra bread with dinner to sop it up with, otherwise you may find yourself digging in with a spoon and eating it right out of the bowl.

I am sorry I don't have any pictures of the delicious dinner, but it was inhaled so quickly I didn't get a chance to snap any!

Root Beer Butt Chicken with BBQ Sauce
printer ready
1 whole chicken
Chicken Seasoning (see below)
1 can root beer
1 cup ketcup
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup orange juice
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
½ tsp. ginger powder
½  tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder

Prepare grill, for indirect cooking, leave back half of burners off and turn front half of burners to medium high heat.  

Wash and pat dry chicken.  Generously sprinkle entire chicken with chicken seasoning.  Pour out and reserve, 1 cup of root beer.   Place chicken on top of open can, so chicken is standing upright.  Place chicken on back half of grill, use the legs and can as a tripod to help the chicken stand.  Close cover and let chicken cook for at least an hour or until thermometer, placed in thickest part, reads 160°-165°.  Remove from heat, let chicken rest for 10 minutes, slice and serve.  

While the chicken cooks, combine the 1 cup of root beer set aside and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan.  Place over medium high heat, stirring continuously bring to a boil.  Once mixture has reached a boil reduce temperature to medium low and let simmer for about 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly then serve with roasted chicken.    

Chicken Seasoning

2 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Lemon Pepper (can use plain pepper and lemon zest)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in small bowl, stir until combined.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel

It's "Bacon Day" again and this week Edy and I decided to go with another classic favorite, the blueberry muffin.

I can't even begin to count how many batches of blueberry muffins I have made.  I have been making blueberry muffins, using the same recipe since I was about 10 years old.  I make slight modifications to it depending on my mood, but it is always basically the same.

This time Edy and I decided to add a little Streusel topping.  I am a big fan of Streusel.  Not only does it provide a wonderful sugary crunch on muffins, breads or pies, but it is a great "food" for kids to make. The youngest of kids can make it all by themselves and I love being able to give kids a project that they can take complete ownership of.

I also like giving kids tasks that allow them to get get their hands dirty and get to feel and "play" with the food.  It is great for sensory development, gives them a better understanding of what the food is and the buttery sugar snack they get at the end when licking their fingers is a bonus treat.

Blue Ribbon Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping
printer ready

Streusel Topping
3/4 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Flour
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 cup Butter, at room temperature

1 c. Sugar
¼ c. Butter
1 c. Milk
1 Egg
1 ⅓ c. Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
¾ tsp. Cinnamon
¾ tsp. Nutmeg
½ tsp. Vanilla
¼ tsp. Salt
1 c. Blueberries

Preheat oven 375

Streusel Topping: In small bowl toss sugar, flour and cinnamon together. Break butter into small chunks and work into sugar mixture until crumbly. Set aside. 

Muffins: Toss ⅓ cup flour with blueberries, set aside.  In small bowl whisk remaining flour, baking powder, cinnamon nutmeg and salt together.  In mixing bowl cream sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.  Add egg, mix until combined.  Add milk and vanilla, stir until combined then gradually add flour mixture, blending until just combined.  With rubber spatula gently stir in blueberries.  Fill lined muffin tins ¾ full.  Sprinkle Strusel topping over muffins. Bake 20-30 minutes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bacon Day

Tuesdays have recently become "bacon day" in our house. We don't sit around eating bacon all day as tasty at that might be.  What we do do, is bake a special treat.  Tuesdays are our quiet unplanned days, it is also the day that my youngest tells me she never gets to do anything fun and it isn't fair that she doesn't get to go to school everyday like her brother and sister.  To help make her feel better I told her that we would make Tuesdays our special baking day - or "bacon day" if you are 3 and have trouble making "-ing" sounds.

This week we went for a classic, everyone's favorite M&M cookies. 

Like most 3 year old kids scooping and dumping is tons of fun for Edy, so she was in charge of scooping the ingredients into the measuring cups, then pouring into the mixing bowl.  Edy's other main job was the placement of M&Ms.  She alternated between over loading the cookies to only putting one candy on, for fear there wouldn't be enough candies leftover for her to eat when we were done.   

As always, kids learn a ton just being in the kitchen, but if you are looking to get a little extra teaching in while baking, M&Ms are a wonderful teaching tool.  Some fun ways to use them are:
  • Have the kids place the candies in a pattern
  • Ask them to put 3 red, 2 green and 2 yellow then have them tell you how many candies are on the cookie
  • Tell the kids each cookie needs 10 candies and they can only use 3 colors.  How many of each color is used?
 M&M Cookies (Printer Ready)

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup  granulated white sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup M&M's

Preheat oven to 350°
In large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt, set aside. In large mixing bowl combine butter and sugar, mix until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat until just incorporated.  Add flour mixture, again mixing until just incorporated.  

Using a medium sized cookie scoop place balls about 2 inches apart on ungreased parchment lined baking sheet.  Place M&Ms on top of cookie.  Bake for 8-10 or until light golden brown.

*Note M&M’s can be added to the batter after the flour has been mixed in, but I like to put the candies directly on the dough to ensure they stay at the top of the cookie.    

I hope to continue Tuesday Baking Day. It is a nice way to spend some extra special time with my baby Whatever day is your "bacon day" enjoy it with someone special.