Wednesday, October 29, 2014

White Flag, I Surrender Cake

My Mojo cakes this year started out as a joke. The Dallas Cowboys have not been known for consistency, and had an absolutely horrible first game this football season. A dear friend is a fan, so I made a My Cowboys are Big, Fat Losers Carrot Cake for her as a joke. Well, seems the Cowboys don't like to be called big fat losers, and they then proceeded to win the next 6 games straight.

Now my same friend is having issues with her Fantasy Football team. She's got a 1-7 record, despite having one of the top scores every week. Her team seams to have a knack for bringing out the highest score ever from her weekly opponents (even our team, who was 0-7 before we played her.)

I now present the newest mojo cake.. the White Flag, I Surrender Cake. A beautiful mostly white cake, topped with a pure buttercream frosting, and a little added sprinkle of edible glitter to bump up the good mojo.

This dense, buttery cake bakes with a good crumb coat already on it, and was super easy to frost. The frosting is a true buttercream- thick, a little sweet, and a lot rich. The cake was easy to make (very little sifting of cake ingredients and no separating eggs) and I was pleased with how it turned out- it's a keeper.

Okay Betty- you can now start winning again. You're welcome. LOL

Recipe Tip:
- If you follow the frosting recipe listed for the cake, you'll want to 1 and 1/2 the recipe. I found the amount written wasn't enough to frost the whole three-layer cake. Better to have a little more than needed, then to have to make an additional batch.
- Set the eggs, butter, and buttermilk out on your counter while you get everything else together (and sift the dry ingredients) for the cake. It takes about 1/2 hour for the ingredients to get to room temperature.

White Cake with White Buttercream Frosting
makes one 3-layer 9" round cake, or about 24 cupcakes

Cake recipe slightly adapted from Add a Pinch
Frosting recipe appears on the blog as well

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking Powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- Set your oven racks so you can fit the cake pans on both of the racks
- Butter and flour 3 9" cake pans, set aside
- In a mixer, cream together the butter and Earth Balance until light and fluffy- about 3-4 minutes
- Add the sugar in, 1 cup at a time, and make sure each cup of sugar is fully mixed in before you add the next one
- Add the eggs, again 1 at a time, making sure each is fully mixed in before adding the next one
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt
- In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and vanilla
- Starting with the dry ingredients, and ending with the dry ingredients, take turns adding some of the dry and wet mixture in with the cake batter. Mix well before the next addition
- Pour equal parts batter into the three pans, and even the batter out with a spatula
- Bake the cakes for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean
- I let the cakes cool for almost 15 minutes before I removed them from their pans and then continued to let them cool completely on a wire cooling rack
- Frost the cake after it is completely cooled

Dairy free option- Use Earth Balance in place of the butter (for a total of 3 sticks of EB), and use either almond milk or silken tofu mixed with a little vinegar in place of the buttermilk

Frosting Recipe
I prefer my frostings not too sweet, and adjusted the recipe and used about 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spicy Verde Chicken Chili

Who doesn't love chili on a football Sunday? Prepare it in the morning, let it simmer on the stove, and it's there for a whole day of noshing.

I like a chili with a lot of flavor (and a little heat), but not a lot of calories. Then, of course, I top it with a little sour cream, a little shredded cheese, some tortilla chips for dipping- I splurge with the toppings.  It's also incredibly delicious all by itself.

This Spicy Verde Chicken Chili recipe is easy to make, and is full of flavor. It's a quick chili to put together- and only needs to simmer for about an hour to meld the flavors after you have it all in the pot. It's deceiving though, because it tastes like it's been cooking all day long.

Cooking Tip:
- Hatch chilis have amazing flavor, but are a little spicy. Not as hot as Chipotle peppers (smoked jalapeño), but spicier than regular jalapeños. I find the salsa at Trader Joes. If you can't have or don't like the heat, substitute diced mild chilies for the Hatch chilies, and add a diced jalapeño to the veggie mix.
- If you prefer to not cook with alcohol, you can substitute 4 cups total of chicken broth for the bottle of beer + 2 cups chicken broth.

Verde Chicken Chili
Serves 6-8
Inspired by a recipe by The Pioneer Woman

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into chunks
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano (can substitute regular oregano)
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 bell pepper, diced (I used red)
1 bottle Mexican beer (I used regular Corona)- reserve about 1/4 cup
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 15 oz can Rotel tomatoes (I use mild)
1 cup Hatch chili salsa (or 1 cup of diced green chilies + one diced jalapeño)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1-2 tsp ground cumin
2 15 oz cans chili beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can white kidney beans (Canellini beans), drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp Maiz Harina (white corn meal)- the stuff used to make homemade tortillas
The reserved 1/4 cup beer
Toppings: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro, tortilla chips, lime wedges..

- Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium/high heat in a large dutch oven
- Season chicken with kosher salt, pepper, and oregano
- Add chicken to the hot pan and let it sear/brown/cook for about 8 minutes (until the chicken is cooked through)
- Remove chicken to a plate and set aside
- Add another 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pan, and sauté the onion, garlic, bell pepper over medium/high heat for 3-4 minutes
- Add in the beer and let it boil/reduce a bit- about 3-4 minutes
- Add in the chicken broth, add back in the cooked chicken, Rotel tomatoes, Hatch salsa, chili powder, cumin, and beans and stir to combine
- Adjust seasonings
- Let simmer for about 1 hour
- Take the reserved 1/4 cup beer and mix in the Maiz Harina
- Add the mixture to the chili and stir well
- Let the chili thicken while continuing to simmer another 15 minutes or so

* Serve the chili with chopped onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, fresh cilantro, slices of lime, or whatever you like on your chili.

Dairy free option- The chili is dairy free. Substitute dairy free toppings for the cheese and sour cream or omit them altogether.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Baked Penne with Italian Seasoned Turkey, Mushrooms, Spinach and Pesto

Being confined to a recliner for 3 hours can really be dangerous to my waist line. The whole time I was at my infusion today, I scoured the Food Network and Pinterest online for something interesting to make for dinner. I found this Baked Ziti recipe, and immediately thought of ways to make it something Rich would really like.

Sauteed mushrooms, shallots and garlic, ground turkey, and something I'd never think of.. basil pesto mixed with sour cream… all come together for one delicious casserole.

You can make this recipe as complicated (or as I call it challenging,) or as easy as you'd like. Make your own pesto, or use pesto from a jar (I did.) Make your own red sauce (I did), or use a bottled sauce.  It's up to you.

I was a skeptic of the sour cream/pesto combination at first, but can tell you it is really tangy and good. A nice change from the usual ricotta cheese called for in baked pasta recipes.

Cooking Tips:
- Be careful with this recipe regarding salt. I tend to salt/adjust seasonings each step of a recipe, but the jarred pesto was REALLY salty. As a result, I seasoned each of the other steps a little less than I normally would have.
- The trick to getting really nicely browned mushrooms is to heat the pan over medium/high heat, add in the mushrooms, and leave them alone for at least 4-5 minutes. They just won't brown as well if you stir them constantly.
- When making a baked pasta, make sure to undercook the pasta a little. I used Barillo Plus whole grain penne and although the box called for 11 minutes of cooking, I stopped cooking at 9 minutes. The pasta will continue to cook when you bake it, and you don't want it to become mushy.
- I tend to use less shredded cheese than a recipe calls for. If you'd like it really gooey and cheesy, add more shredded mozzarella to the top :)

Baked Penne with Italian Seasoned Turkey, Mushrooms, Spinach and Pesto
Serves 8
Adapted from a recipe by Just a Pinch

1 box Barilla whole grain penne (yellow box)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup diced shallots (about 2 shallots)
1 small box (about 1 1/2 cups) sliced Crimini mushrooms
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey (I used the italian seasoned one)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, pressed
28 oz can crushed tomatoes in puree
1 4 oz jar of basil pesto (1 cup)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 small bag baby spinach (about 3 cups)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 Tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- Start the pasta water so you'll have the pasta cooked by the time you finish the sauce
- In a small bowl, stir together the pesto and sour cream and set aside
- Spray a large baking dish (a 9x13x2 will work), and set it aside
- In a large saute pan or dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp butter over medium/high heat and sauté the mushrooms, shallot, and fresh thyme until browned (about 5 minutes). Season to taste as your cooking the mushrooms
- Set the mushrooms aside on a plate, and add the olive oil to the sauté pan
- Cook the ground turkey, garlic, dried basil and oregano until the turkey is cooked through, about 5-6 minutes
- Add the mushrooms back to the sauté pan
- Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and reduce the heat to low/medium and simmer for about 10 minutes
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and pour it back in the pan you boiled it in
- Add the bag of spinach while the pasta is hot, and stir until the spinach starts to wilt (just a minute or two)
- Add the pasta/spinach to the sauce pan and stir it all together
- Pour half of the pasta/sauce mixture into the bottom of your baking dish, and press it down
- Spoon the sour cream/pesto mixture over the top of the pasta and smooth it out evenly
- Sprinkle the top of the pesto mixture with about 1/2 of the shredded mozzarella cheese, then a sprinkling of the grated parmesan
- Pour the remaining pasta mixture over the top of the cheese and pat it down again
- Top the dish with the remaining shredded mozzarella and another sprinkling of the parmesan
- Bake for about 20 - 30 minutes, until heated through and the cheese is browned and bubbling

Dairy free option- 

1. Omit the sour cream and use about a cup of my fresh dairy-free pesto recipe as the middle layer:

Dairy free "Pesto"
3 cups fresh basil leaves
3 scallions, trimmed
1 bunch (about 1 cup) fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tbsp olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Juice from 1 lime

- Throw it all together in a food processor and pulse away

2. Use dairy free mozzarella cheese (like Daiya)
3. Use a dairy free parmesan, or omit it altogether

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PB&J Bars

Peanut.. peanut butter.. and jelly. Remember that song? I apologize ahead of time if you now have it stuck in your head all day.

Who doesn't love a good PB and J sandwich? Have you ever tried it with regular Lays potato chips stuffed inside? It may sound like a strange combo, but I highly recommend you try it. You've been missing out.

These peanut butter and jelly bars are delicious. Not too sweet, with a little bit of tart from the preserves, and a little crunch from the dry roasted peanuts. I would dare to say I'd eat one for breakfast..

Cooking tip:
- Use a good quality preserve/jam for this recipe. I happen to like Hero and Favorit brands- I believe both are from Switzerland, but can be found at your local market. They aren't as sweet as commercial brands (a little more tart), and do not have high fructose corn syrup in them. For these bars, I used Favorit raspberry preserves.

PB and J Bars
Makes 12 3"x4" square bars
Adapted from a recipe by Williams-Sonoma

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats (not the instant kind)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
1/4 cup good quality preserves (I like Hero or Favorit that have no corn syrup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Butter the bottom and sides of an 8x8x2 square baking pan and cover the bottom with parchment paper (see picture)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, salt, and baking soda
- Cream together butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a mixing bowl for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy
- Add in the egg, vanilla, and peanuts to the creamed mixture and mix another 1-2 minutes
- Pour in the dry ingredients and mix just until combined
- Take half of the dough and press it evenly in the bottom of the prepared baking pan
- Spoon the preserves over the peanut butter mixture and spread out evenly
- Place pan in the freezer for about 10 minutes to give the preserves a chance to set a bit
- Take the other half of the dough and spread evenly over the top of the preserves layer
- Bake for 25- 30 minutes, until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean
- Place pan on wire rack, and cool completely before cutting into squares

Dairy free option- use Earth Balance in place of the butter

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chicken and Rice Soup

There's nothing more comforting when you don't feel well, or on a cold day, then a homemade cup of chicken soup. It's easy to pop open a can of pre-made soup, but probably even easier than you think to make a batch of soup yourself.  The best part of homemade soup is you control the amount of sodium, and leave out the preservatives and other ingredients you can't pronounce on the can. Homemade also tastes so much better!

My husband isn't feeling well today. I got my flu shot a couple of months ago, and I sure hope he didn't catch the flu from someone. While he's sleeping, I wanted to make him something to eat if he's hungry later. Homemade soup, along with some saltine crackers and Gatorade.. he should be set.

I hesitated to post such a basic recipe to the blog, until I found myself Googling how much rice to add to 6 cups of liquid, what seasonings/herbs go well in chicken soup. I realized I didn't have it down pat myself. Now I've researched it for you, and can attest the soup is delicious. Just follow the recipe below, and you'll have homemade chicken soup in no time.

Recipe Tip:
- You can boil a chicken breast for 20 minutes, then shred the meat or just use a grocery store rotisserie chicken and use the breast meat. If you do use the rotisserie chicken, keep in mind you'll be adding less salt to your soup.

Chicken and Rice Soup
Serves 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small leek, cleaned well, and sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried chicken seasoning
4 cups of no-salt added chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast meat
1/3 cup rice, orzo, or small pasta (I used orzo, which is also known as arborio rice)
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper

- In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium/high heat and add in the carrots, leek, celery, garlic, thyme, basil, chicken seasoning, and season with salt and pepper
- Saute the vegetables for about 5 minutes
- Pour in the chicken broth and water and bring the soup up to a boil
- Lower the temperature to a simmer, and add in the orzo/rice/pasta and cooked chicken
- Adjust seasoning with kosher salt and/or pepper
- Cover the pot and let the soup continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender and the rice/orzo/pasta is cooked through

Dairy free recipe!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Slow Cooker Red Sauce with Turkey Meatballs

I'm a huge fan of using and re-purposing leftovers. The more creative a deviation from their original purpose, the better. I don't know that I'd call making double the meatballs for a soup, then using the remaining meatballs for a spaghetti is that creative, but it's darned delicious.

I love that this sauce cooks in the slow cooker for 4 hours so you can go about your day. As always, there is a little prep ahead of time in a sauté pan (take the time to sear your meats, sauté your veggies, etc. before putting your dinner in the slow cooker. It really does make a world of difference in the taste of your dinner.)

This sauce has a completely different taste than my original post for spaghetti and meatballs. This one doesn't use wine, has a little sugar, and uses some left over pesto I had in the fridge. The result is an almost smoky, and a little sweet sauce that goes so well with the full of flavor (and veggies) turkey meatballs.

The 4 hour slow cooker simmer time tames the acidity of the tomatoes, and what's left is a very homemade tasting, and delicious sauce.

Slow Cooker Red Sauce with Turkey Meatballs
Serves 8

12-15 reserved cooked meatballs from when you make the meatball and minestrone soup recipe
1 large yellow onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme
2 bay leaves
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with puree
1 small 6 oz can tomato paste
1 cup water
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1/4 cup prepared pesto (I used what Trader Joe's pesto I had left from making the pistachio pizza)

- Heat/turn on your slow cooker on low setting
- In a medium dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium/high heat
- Add in the onion, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, thyme, bay leaves and salt and pepper and sauté for about 3-4 minutes until onions start to get translucent
- Add in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, granulated sugar, and pesto, and stir together until combined.
- Add in the cooked meatballs, and adjust seasoning to taste
- Transfer the sauce/meatballs to the slow cooker and set the timer for 4 hours
- Serve with whole grain pasta cooked according to the package's directions, and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese

Dairy free option- Use a dairy free parmesan cheese as a topping

Triple "P" Cookies

If you like peanut butter, you're going to love these Triple "P" Cookies. A triple threat of peanut butter, dry roasted peanuts, and peanut butter chips (with a few semi-sweet chocolate chips thrown in for good measure,) these cookies are addicting and delicious. So delicious, in fact, I had to pack them up and find them a home quickly this morning before I ate them all.

This recipe is more of a chocolate chip cookie dough recipe that has peanut butter (galore) added, rather than a peanut butter cookie dough base with chocolate chips mixed in. The result is a more dense cookie that is a little less sweet than a regular peanut butter cookie dough.

Recipe Tip:
- If you have peanut allergies, substitute almond or any other nut butter for the peanut butter, then 1/2 cup of that same nut for the peanuts, and then omit the peanut butter chips. The cookies will taste just as delicious :)
- I made a small batch (recipe below), but if you need more cookies, just double the recipe.

Triple "P" Cookies
Makes 20 cookies

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy
- Add in the egg and vanilla and mix another 1-2 minutes
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl, and mix just until combined
- Stir in the peanuts, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chips with a large spoon
- Using a 2" cookie scoop, place dough balls on parchment lined baking sheets (I put 12 on each sheet)
- Bake for 10- 11 minutes until they start to brown on the edges and are cooked through
- Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool

Dairy free option- Use Earth Balance in place of the butter, and omit the peanut butter chips