Monday, January 25, 2016

Smoky Chipotle Chicken, Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Chili

We've had a semblance of "winter" here in southern California. Thank goodness something other than the hot, crazy weather we've had the past 6 months. We've had more rain in the past few weeks than we've had in a couple of years- the weatherman has been warning us El Nino is coming- and the temps have been in the high 30's and low 40's in the mornings. Nothing compared to the east coast, but it's something for us here! Cooler weather used to mean I get to braise to my heart's content. But, with returning to work part-time, it's difficult to babysit my oven and my slow cooker has been working overtime. 

Chili in many forms has been a favorite in our house- Steak and Stout Chili, Chicken Verde Chili, and now this new recipe- Smoky Chipotle Chicken, Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Chili. What better way to celebrate the end of the NFL season than with a hearty and delicious bowl of chili with all the fixings? 

This Chicken Chili is packed with flavor- smoky, spicy, a little sweet- it's just about the perfect blend of everything. It's also one nutritious meal. Sweet potato, quinoa, black beans- many ingredients that should be on your "eat more of" list. It tastes even better as leftovers, smokier and spicier as the flavors meld.

If you're like me, the best part of a bowl of chili is the toppings. This chili is a little one-note in texture (for me,) so I loaded my cup up with some chopped green onion, sliced avocado, cilantro, and the piece de resistance- a few Fritos. Baked tortilla chips would be delicious as well, something crunchy is the point. I just happen to love Fritos in my chili.

Recipe tip:
- Don't overcook this chili. I found the sweet potatoes were cooked through but not yet mushy at about 3 hours on low in my slow cooker. All slow cookers are a little different, so I'd check it at 3 hours, then let it go a little longer if the sweet potatoes aren't quite done. I seared the chicken thighs beforehand, so I wasn't worried about the chicken not cooking through in 3 hours.
- I've tried a few different type beers in this chili- a wheat pale ale, a stout, and my favorite- a pumpkin ale. The Pumpkin Ale flavors played off the smokey and sweet flavors in the chili nicely.

Smoky Chipotle Chicken, Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Chili
Serves 8-10

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat- trimmed of extra fat, and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
kosher salt
cracked black pepper

1 sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 1/2 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
kosher salt
cracked black pepper

2 cans black beans, drained
1 cup rinsed quinoa
2 15oz cans fire roasted tomatoes (do not drain)
1 small can mild green chilies
2 chipotle in adobo, diced
3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 12 oz beer (I used KBC Pumpkin Ale from Trader Joe's)

Turn your slow cooker on to it's low setting.
- In a medium sized dutch oven, heat the olive oil
- Season the chicken pieces with the smoked paprika, kosher salt, and pepper
- Sear the chicken on one or two sides for a few minutes in the oil
- Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a plate
- Back in the dutch oven, add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, sweet potatoes, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and sauté just until the onion starts to soften (about 2 minutes)
- Stir in the black beans, quinoa, tomatoes, green chilies, chipotle in adobo, chicken broth, and beer
- Check the seasoning, and add more kosher salt and/or black pepper if necessary
- Add back in the chicken with it's juices, and stir
- Pour the mixture into the slow cooker, and set the timer for 3 hours (on low setting.)
- If the sweet potatoes aren't quite done at 3 hours, cook until they are just fork tender. Do not overcook them, however, or they will become mushy.

Top chili with your favorite add-ons. We like sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onion, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, corn chips... Whatever you like!

If you use dairy free sour cream (Better than Sour Cream is delicious), and a dairy-free shredded cheese (like Daiya), this recipe is dairy-free!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Whole Wheat Thyme and Lemon Crackers

This is the first time in MANY years that my New Year's resolution isn't to lose weight and get fit. I happened to have done that last year. Last year it stuck, and I lost a whopping 55 pounds. I say whopping because yesterday I lifted a 30 pound bag of dog food and realized I've almost lost two bags' worth of weight off of my body. How did my knees hold up? It was not an easy year. I'm like anyone else- food is comfort to me, and was also a stress reliever. What worked is I learned to balance what I ate with exercise. Exercise like I've never done in my life. Exercise as a NEW stress reliever- a lot of walking, a lot of rowing, a little jogging, and some Hatha Yoga. Every day was a choice to stick to the plan, and most of the days I did just that. I have to give a shout out to the free My Fitness App, as it helped me keep track of what I ate and also how many calories I burned a day. It made the biggest difference seeing everything written out. This year's goal is to maintain the weight loss, keep exercising, and to learn to relax. I get anxious over the stupidest things. Seriously.

This month for The Leftover's Club I decided to bake something savory. I have a few savory goodies on the blog, like my Rosemary and Sea Salt Pretzels, and it seemed the appropriate time for another one. These Whole Wheat Thyme and Lemon Crackers are absolutely delicious. Crunchy on the outside, a little chewy on the inside, and chock-full of herb and lemon flavor. The flake salt on top puts them over the edge. Perfect on their own, and very tasty dipped in a nut butter or hummus. Good luck just eating a couple of them!

I was matched up with our former fearless TLC leader Elizabeth of Savory Simple. I have to commend and thank her for all of the work she's put into the group. She has a life like the rest of us, and I can't imagine the extra hours she's put in to help keep The Leftover's Club going. Take a peek at her blog- many great recipes on her gem of a blog!

Recipe Tip:
- These crackers are literally a blank slate. I used fresh thyme and lemon zest this time, and can see trying them with olive oil and rosemary next time. Maybe even a little crushed pistachios or toasted almonds on top? A little honey would be wonderful too for a little bit of sweet.
- Roll these crackers as thin as you can. I had them at 1/4 inch or so, and realize they would be even crispier if they were a little thinner.

Whole Wheat Thyme and Lemon Crackers
Adapted from a recipe by Trisha Yearwood
Makes about 2 dozen 4" x 2" crackers

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp Earth Balance (or substitute 3 Tbsp salted butter or olive oil)
1/2 tsp kosher salt (use 2/3 tsp salt if using olive oil)
2 Tbsp grated fresh onion
1 Tbsp (one lemon) fresh lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 egg white, beaten with a fork
Sesame seeds
Flake finishing salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- Mix the flours, butter or olive oil, and salt in a stand mixer with a regular paddle attachment
- Mix until the dough resembles coarse meal- it will not lump together at this point
- Add the grated onion, lemon zest, thyme, oregano, and almond milk just until combined and it forms a ball
- Wrap the dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes
- Roll the dough ball out on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper as thin as possible (1/8 inch is good) into a large rectangle shape
- Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2 inch strips, then again the other way into 4" x 2" crackers
- Place crackers on a parchment lined cookie sheet
- Brush the tops of the crackers with the egg white, then sprinkle them with the sesame seeds and flake salt
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the crackers are baked through and are golden brown on top
- Cool completely on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container for up to a week

Dairy free recipe!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015- Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Snowflake boxes and Joy ornaments- Dollar Tree
Gros-grain ribbon- Fabric Barn
Food safe dotted wax paper- The Container Store
I was honored, along with hundreds and hundreds of other food blogger participants from around the world, to be a part of The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap again this year. This is my second year participating, and last year was so much fun, I've been looking forward to this all year. 

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015
The cookie swap is a fantastic event organized by Lindsay and Taylor at Love and Olive Oil, and Julie at The Little Kitchen. Food bloggers sign up and get matched up with 3 other food bloggers. A dozen homemade cookies are sent to each of their matches, and you also get 3 dozen cookies from those matched up with you.

In addition to the opportunity to discover other food blog bakers (and, let's be serious- eat their cookie creations,) the Swap is also a fundraiser, and partners with Cookies for Kid's Cancer. It's a worthy national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancers.

As if that wasn't enough, there are also brand partners (this year Dixie Crystals, Land O Lakes, and OXO) who not only match donation funds for the event, they send goodies out to the participants! This year participants received product coupons, a sil-pat baking mat, and an adorable beakers measuring set.

Thank you OXO! 
This year I was lucky to be matched up with three great ladies- Kellie from The Suburban Soapbox; Annie from Annie One Can Cook; and Dianna from The Kitchen Prep. These girls can cook- I hope you check their blogs out!

Thank you too, to the three bloggers who I received goodies from- Nicole from Confectionalism sent beautiful chai infused acorn sugar cookies; Val from A Scrumptious Life sent a family-favorite peanut butter and chocolate kiss cookies; and Christine from Chew Nibble Nosh sent me the completely memorable and equally delicious (I didn't share many of these) Double Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies. Think Thin Mints.. they're that good!

The cookie I chose this year was one of those happy accidents in the kitchen. I love those little peanut butter filled pretzels from Trader Joe's. I thought they may be tasty in a cookie, and these Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies were born. Dairy-free as always, and absolutely delicious!

Baking cup, tray, and deer napkins- HomeGoods
Polka dot and checkered gros-grain ribbons and food safe cello bags- Fabric Barn

Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel and Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes 6 dozen cookies

1 16 oz jar of smooth peanut butter (I prefer Jif brand)
2 cups (4 sticks) Earth Balance or unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla paste (pure extract is fine)
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking soda
2 cups Trader Joe's peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets
2 cups dark chocolate (I used 60% cacao) chunks or chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a mixer, cream together the peanut butter and Earth Balance (or butter) until smooth
- Add in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla and mix well to combine
- Add in the flour and baking soda, mix until combined
- By hand, stir in the pretzel nuggets and chocolate chunks
- Scoop dough with a medium sized cookie scoop onto parchment or soil-pat mat lined cookie sheets
- Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies just start to brown
- Cool cookies on wire racks

Dairy free recipe if using Earth Balance

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Great Holiday Treats- Bittersweet Chocolate, Orange, and Cardamom Cookies

I've been looking forward all year to posting a whole new batch of Great Holiday Treats. I LOVE to bake my thank you gifts for neighbors and friends at the holidays. I scour the stores all year long for cute packaging ideas, and have a whole pantry dedicated to adorable baking cups, containers, plates, cello bags, tags, and ribbons. It doesn't have to cost a whole lot to festively wrap your baked goods- a lot of the items I found this year were from the $1 bin at Target!

The first batch of treats for the year are a new recipe. Christine from ChewNibbleNosh likes to bake like I do- with quality chocolate, spices, and citrus. At first read, I was smitten with her Dark Chocolate Orange Crackles. After tasting them, I was in love. Check out her blog- I bet you'll find a new favorite recipe or two yourself.

I made a few minor changes to the original cookie recipe. You know me, I can't leave well-enough alone. I made them dairy free by using Earth Balance instead of butter, added more vanilla, added some cardamom, a bit more chocolate chips, and also some fresh orange juice to the cookie dough. Man, are these cookies are dec-a-dent. These are grown-up cookies! So rich and chocolatey, with more than a hint of fresh orange flavor. I'm telling you, you will make people very, very happy if you gift them some of these cookies.

Recipe Tips:

- I let the dough firm up for about 20 minutes in the fridge before I started rolling it into dough balls
- I tried rolling some of the cookies in powdered sugar for a different look, but the sugar came out a little gummy and sticky as the cookies cooled. They tasted fine, but not the best for presentation points.

Happy Baking and Wrapping!

Fox melanime plate- Target
Snowman magnet-backed list sheet- Target $1 bin
Corrugated polka-dot basket- set of 4 $2.99 HomeGoods
Red grosgrain ribbon- Fabric Barn

Star box candle lantern with handle- Marshall's
Sweater look gift wrap- HomeGoods
Felt "K" tag- Target $1 bin
Polka-dot grosgrain ribbon- Fabric Barn
Joy, Peace, Love & Cookies cards- Etsy
Polka-dot cello bags and grosgrain ribbon- Fabric Barn
Merry, Peace, and Joy (not shown) gift tags- HomeGoods
Bittersweet Chocolate, Orange, and Cardamom Cookies
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies
Adapted from ChewNibbleNosh

2 sticks (1 cup) Earth Balance or unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Trader Joe's)
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (1 orange)
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice (1/2 orange)
1 Tbsp vanilla paste (pure vanilla extract is fine)
3 large eggs
1/2 lb Guittard Bittersweet Baking Chocolate, melted and cooled
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Guittard)
* 1 cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla for about 2-3 minutes
- Add in eggs, one at a time until combined
- Add in cooled, melted bittersweet chocolate until combined
- Add in flour, baking soda, cardamom, and kosher salt until combined
- Stir in chocolate chips with a spoon
- Put the granulated sugar in a shallow glass dish
- Using a medium sized cookie scoop, roll scoop-size cookie dough balls in your palms, then roll them in the granulated sugar to coat
- Place a dozen cookies about 2" apart on parchment lined cookie sheets
- Bake cookies for 11-12 minutes
- Cool completely before packaging

Dairy free recipe!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Haley's Banana Nut Muffins

My daughter Haley has a lot of food intolerances. She can't have gluten, processed sugars, dairy, and a few more. I have a couple of sweets recipes I've created just for her and have posted in the past- Raw Chocolate, Nuts, and Medjool Bars, and Flourless Vegan Mini Chocolate Cakes, but wanted to come up with a new recipe this year for her Birthday Box.

When both of my daughters were young, I started making a homemade Birthday Banner for them depicting what they had been into for that year- dolphins, monkeys, Harry Potter are a few I can remember. I'd work on the banners for days, then sneak into their rooms the night before their birthday and tape it to their wall with some balloons. It became a tradition, and I even sent a banner off to my oldest daughter her first year of college. Birthday Banners evolved into Birthday Boxes after that first college year. They were easier to ship, and I could fill them with goodies and favorite things. I always look forward to planning and putting together the boxes, and I know the girls love receiving them. It's a tradition I intent to continue forever.

Homemade S'mores Kit
Baking Kit Birthday Box
Bling Birthday Box
My tinkering in the kitchen this morning resulted in a delicious flourless and raw honey sweetened banana nut muffin. Surprisingly moist and soft, this muffin packs a lot of banana flavor. These muffins aren't greasy and are just-enough sweet. I would eat these for breakfast!

Recipe Tips:
- Since there is no flour in this recipe, the batter will be runnier than a regular muffin batter
- Fill up your muffin cups 2/3 full as the batter rises a bit- puffs up
- You can use any no-salt nut butter in this recipe

Haley's Banana Nut Muffins
Makes one dozen mini-muffins
Gluten, dairy, and processed sugar free

1 cup no-salt natural almond butter (I used Trader Joe's)
3 medium sized ripe bananas
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp raw local honey
1 tsp vanilla paste (or pure vanilla extract)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup chopped raw pecans (or any nut you'd like to use)
1/4 cup Enjoy Life dark, dairy-free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Add all ingredients except the nuts and chocolate chips in a food processor or blender
- Blend until all ingredients are combined and the mixture resembles a runny batter
- Stir in the pecans
- Line a cookie sheet with small muffin cups, or spray a small muffin tin with coconut oil
- With a regular sized cookie scoop, fill the cups or tins 2/3 full with batter
- Top each of the muffins with a handful of chocolate chips
- Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the muffins puff up and brown on top, and a toothpick pushed into the middle comes out clean
- Cool completely on a wire rack

Dairy and Gluten Free!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Salted Caramel Drizzle

This month's Leftover's Club theme was Halloween, and I didn't need a better excuse to come up with another pumpkin recipe. I adore pumpkin anything, and in the past have made pumpkin cookies, bread, cake, and pie, but never pumpkin cinnamon rolls. Who doesn't like cinnamon rolls?

These easier (one rise of the dough instead of two) cinnamon rolls are most difficult to make the first time around, but you'll find yourself making them again and again. It usually takes a few hours to make homemade rolls, but you'll find yourself eating a warm roll in just about an hour and a half's time with this recipe.

I started out with a basic cinnamon roll dough. The usual suspects went in- salted butter, whole wheat and regular flours, sugar, etc. I added some orange zest (because I just can't help myself) for some zing. The filling is a combo of pumpkin puree, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla paste. Trader Joe's had some interesting looking spiced pumpkin seeds, so I threw them in too. Drizzle them with salted caramel while still warm.. words are not adequate. These are delicious!
Crunchy on the outside, soft in the center, and full of pumpkin flavor. I promise these rolls will impress, and be a hit at your house as well!

I was matched up with two bloggers this month- Elizabeth from Food Ramblings, and Kate from Feed Me Seymour. I've been matched up with both of these talented girls before, and boy can they bake! Check out their blogs for some great recipes!

If you have a food blog, and would like to join The Leftover's Club, please check them out and fill out an application. I've enjoyed my participation in the club, and always look forward to sending and receiving treats. Maybe I'll see you next month!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Salted Caramel Drizzle
Makes 9 cinnamon rolls

3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk (I used non-fat)
Zest from one orange
6 Tbsp (almost 1 stick) salted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4-5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 little package quick rise dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

4 Tbsp salted butter, softened

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup Trader Joe's spiced pumpin seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla paste
Juice from 1/2 an orange

Drizzle Topping:
Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Caramel

Alternative Cinnamon Glaze Topping:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp (add more a little bit at a time if you need to) almond milk or milk

-Combine all in a small bowl until it's a glaze consistency. Pour over warm cinnamon rolls.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

For Dough:
- Make sure the eggs are at room temperature. I take them out of the fridge a good half-hour before I'm going to start. If you don't have time, you can also put them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes until they're room temperature
- In a microwave safe bowl, heat the water, milk, and 6 Tbsp butter for 1 minute. The butter will not melt all the way
- In a separate bowl, stir together granulated sugar, 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, the yeast, the 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, and the baking powder
- In a mixer's bowl fixed with a regular mixing attachment, pour the dry ingredients into the bowl
- Add the eggs and the warmed liquid mixture and mix until combined, about 1 minute
- Switch to a hook mixing attachment, and add in 3 more cups of all-purpose flour at first. If the dough is too sticky, add up to another cup of flour. You want to see it pliable, but not sticky
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (I put parchment on my counter, then put flour on top of the parchment paper)
- Knead dough with hands for a few minutes to activate the yeast

- Roll the dough out to about an 18x13" rectangle
- Spread the softened 4 Tbsp salted butter evenly on the dough
- Spread out the pumpkin filling mixture evenly on top of the butter
- Starting at one end, carefully roll the dough into a long log
- Cut 9 even pieces from the log
- Place the pieces upright (where you can see the swirl) a couple of inches apart (it will rise/expand) in a buttered baking pan (I usually use a 9x13x2" glass pan)
- Place a clean cloth over the top of the pan and let it sit somewhere warm for about an hour, until the rolls about double in size. If you have a proofing feature on your oven, the proofing will take about 1/2 hour
- Bake rolls for 25-28 minutes until they start to brown on the outside, and are cooked through
- Place pan on wire rack to cool
- While the rolls are still warm, drizzle the tops with the salted caramel sauce.

For a dairy-free option:
- Substitute Earth Balance for all butter
- Substitute almond milk for the milk

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pumpkin Spiced Cookie Butter and Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

I spied pumpkin spiced cookie butter, and spiced pumpkin seeds at my local Trader Joe's this week, and picked them up thinking I could bake something tasty with them. There is pumpkin EVERYTHING available these days, but these two products I hadn't seen before.

I started with my Speculoos Cookie Butter Cookie recipe (one of my all-time favorites), and tweaked it a bit. This pumpkin butter is a little sweeter and chunkier than the Speculoos butter, so I reduced the amount of brown sugar in this new recipe. I swapped out the spiced pumpkin seeds for the honeyed almonds, and added some dark mini chocolate chips just for the heck of it. I've never been a big fan of pumpkin and chocolate together (or orange and chocolate for that matter), but the dark chocolate adds a nice richness to this sweet cookie.

These are one of the easiest recipes I have on the blog. Get all of your ingredients ready before you start, and you'll have warm cookies ready to eat in under a half-hour. These gems are crunchy on the outside, and really buttery and soft on the inside. They're the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, and epitomize fall. I dunked my just out of the oven cookie into a big cold glass of almond milk, and was in pure Heaven!

Pumpkin Spiced Cookie Butter and Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 cup Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spiced Cookie Butter
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) Earth Balance (or butter)
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup Trader Joe's Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
1/4 cup Enjoy Life mini chips (or other dark chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a mixer, cream together the pumpkin cookie butter, brown sugar, and Earth Balance (or butter) until smooth, a few minutes
- Add in the Egg and mix to combine
- Add in the flour, rolled oats, and baking soda and mix just until combined
- Stir in the pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips with a big spoon
- Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, scoop a dozen cookies each on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper
- With the palm of your hand or the bottom of a flat glass, gently press down the cookie balls
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies start to brown around the edges and are cooked through
- Cool cookies on a wire rack

This recipe cannot be completely dairy-free as written as the pumpkin cookie butter contains a little bit of dairy.