Saturday, September 27, 2014

Blueberry Biscuits and 100th Post

Here it is- my 100th post! Cue glitter and confetti cannons! I'm so excited to hit this milestone- Stark Raving Delicious has only been in existence for 5 months, and I now have 100 posts. With an average of 20 posts a month, it's been a lot of cooking, a lot of trial and error, and a whole lot of fun!

It's no secret that I like my sweets. One of these days I'm going to sit down and figure out how many of my recipes are sweet versus savory, and I'm already sure it's a very imbalanced ratio. Sometimes though, I crave something not too sweet. I want to feel like I'm eating a dessert, but not feel the sugar rush that inevitably follows. 

These Blueberry Biscuits fit the bill. Definitely not too sweet. They hit the spot with delicious plump, fresh blueberries, and a little mouth-pucker kick of a lemon glaze. You know my fondness for fresh citrus, and my unabashed love for the whole tart and sweet thing. I couldn't help myself.

Blueberry Biscuits
Makes 12 scones

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (not the instant oats)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
3/4 cup half and half (milk or buttermilk is okay too)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Zest from one lemon (save 1 tsp for the glaze)
Juice from 1/2 the lemon
2 Tbsp sour cream (can omit)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 small carton (a little over 1 cup) fresh blueberries

1 cup powdered sugar
Juice from the other half of the lemon
1 tsp lemon zest you saved from above

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt
- Cut in the butter pieces with a pastry cutter or two forks until the butter pieces are pea-sized
- In a small bowl, whisk together the half and half, egg, lemon juice and zest, sour cream and vanilla
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir just to combine
- Gently fold in the blueberries
- Drop by large tablespoons (I made the biscuits about 4" round) onto the prepared baking sheets. They won't spread, but don't crowd them (I put 6 biscuits on each baking sheet)
- Bake for 12-14 minutes until they start to brown on top, and are cooked through. 
- Transfer biscuits to a cooling rack that has a large piece of parchment paper placed underneath
- Let the biscuits cool for about 5 minutes
- Combine the glaze ingredients in a little bowl with a spoon, then drizzle the top of each of the biscuits with the glaze

Dairy free option- Use Earth Balance in place of the butter, almond milk in place of the half and half, and omit the sour cream

Spicy Chicken Sausage, Orzo and Lemon Soup

I woke up today to a 62 degree cloudy sky. This may sound a little depressing to some, but it has been such a wicked summer this year in Southern California, I was downright giddy with the cooler weather. I even put a cardigan on just because I could.

I wanted to take full advantage of the cooler weather, and make a soup. Oh, how I've been craving a hearty bowl of chicken soup with a thick piece of warm, buttered crusty bread. 

A couple of months ago, I found this recipe for a chicken and orzo stew and have been saving it for the perfect day. Changing the recipe up as I always do, I used a spicy chicken sausage, added some thyme, red pepper flakes and herbs de provence, and made a soup rather than a thicker stew.

I wish I could send you smell-o-vision from my house. The wonderful smell of seared chicken sausage, onions and garlic, and lemon is making my dogs crazy. I think someone ought to look into making a candle..

Cooking Tip:
- I love to use healthy pre-cooked items where I can in recipes to help save time. Trader Joe's have at least 10 varieties of their chicken sausage and I have tried and love them all. For this soup, I used their pre-cooked and ready to sear spicy chicken flavor.
- If you won't be eating the soup right away, leave the vegetables a little al dente. As the hot soup sits, the vegetables will continue to cook and won't turn mushy. If the soup is not liquid enough when time to eat it, add more chicken stock before re-heating it.

Spicy Chicken Sausage, Orzo and Lemon Soup
Serves 6

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Pre-cooked spicy chicken sausage links, cut into 1" thick slices (I like to use TJ's sausage)
4- 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1" slices
2 ribs celery, cut into 1" slices
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp herbs de provence
1 tsp red pepper flakes
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1 leek, cleaned and sliced into 1" slices
3 cloves garlic, pressed
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
fresh Italian parsley for garnish

- In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium/high heat
- Add the sausage coins, and sear/brown on each side about 2-3 minutes each
- Remove sausage from the pan and set aside
- Add the carrots, celery, onion, thyme, herbs de provence, red pepper flakes to the pan and sauté for about 3-4 minutes until the onions start to be translucent
- Season the veggies with kosher salt and black pepper
- Add in the leeks and garlic and continue to sauté another 3 minutes
- Pour in the chicken stock and water, and scrape the pan of any sausage bits
- Add the lemon juice and let the soup boil, then reduce the heat to simmer about 3 minutes
- Add back in the sausage and orzo, and continue to simmer covered for another 10 minutes or until the orzo is cooked
- Garnish each serving with chopped fresh Italian parsley

Dairy free recipe!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Chicken Stroganoff with Cremini Mushrooms

A few meals come to mind when my husband asks for some comfort food for dinner. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chicken and noodles, and stroganoff are a few favorites here.

I found Jonathan Melendez' blog The Candid Appetite when I was looking for reference to make my own pop tarts. I appreciate the fact that he includes LOTS of pictures with his recipes. I'm a visual learner. Lots of people like to toss them aside (ahem.. my husband), but I get really happy when a new product comes with a manual with a lot of pictures.

While looking through Jonathan's recipes, I found one for chicken stroganoff. I'd never thought of using chicken in stroganoff- genius! I changed up the seasonings a bit to what I had in my spice cupboard, but other than that left this recipe alone. If you haven't tried making stroganoff without cream of soup in a can, give this a try. This stroganoff has deep and complex flavor, and the cremini mushrooms add a layer of meatiness. This is a whole lot of deliciousness!

Chicken Stroganoff with Cremini Mushrooms
Serves 6
Slightly adapted from The Candid Appetite

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp minced onion
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3-4 stems fresh thyme, stripped
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 package cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 package (16 oz) wide egg noodles, cooked according to package
1/2 cup sour cream (use regular, not light)
Parsley or cilantro for garnish

- Cook egg noodles according to directions. Drain,  but do not rinse and set aside
- In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high het
- Add the chicken to the pot, and sprinkle the garlic salt, smoked paprika, minced onions, red pepper flakes, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper over the chicken
- Leave the chicken alone for 3-4 minutes to get a golden sear on the chicken. Turn, and cook another few minutes (you may not cook completely though- you'll finish the chicken later in the recipe)
- Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside
- Add another Tbsp olive oil to the pan and add the onion, mushroom, and garlic. Saute until caramelized- about 5 minutes
- Add the worcestershire sauce and the chicken broth, and de-glaze the pan (scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan)
- Add the butter and flour, and stir to combine
- Simmer until it becomes bubbly, and starts to thicken
- Add back in the chicken and keep simmering until chicken is cooked through
- Add the cooked noodles to the pot, then the sour cream, and gently stir to combine and heat through- a minute or so
- Top servings with parsley or cilantro

Dairy free option- Use Earth balance in place of butter, and a sour cream substitute like Tofutti brand for the sour cream

Thursday, September 25, 2014

German Chocolate Cookie Bars

German chocolate cake is a favorite in our family. I haven't baked one since my husband's birthday in April, and lately he's been asking for me to bake another one. It is absolutely delicious, but the down-side of the cake is that it's time consuming to make. You've got to sift all the ingredients, account for the baking time, and then the frosting is actually cooked over a stovetop. That's why it's a birthday-worthy cake around here. How can I incorporate all the flavors of a German chocolate cake, but not have to bake an actual cake?

I thought I'd surprise my hubby tonight and make him a German chocolate cookie bar for dessert. It has all of the elements of a German chocolate cake, but it's a cookie bar. With a batter that doesn't require more than a whisk, no sifting of ingredients, no boiling/cooking a frosting, this is a much easier recipe. One you can pull out and make anytime. I used a one batter base, and split it for two flavor layers of  cookie. The results in a beautiful two-toned cookie bar, with a deep chocolate and coconut bottom layer and a buttery and nutty top layer. Warmed up, with a scoop of his favorite ice cream (31 Flavors chocolate chip)- he will be a happy man!

Cooking Tip:
- When baking cookie bars, use buttered parchment paper to line your baking dish. Once the pan is out of the oven, it's incredibly easy to lift the parchment/bars out of the pan so they can cool completely. No messy pan to clean up- just toss the parchment after you've cut the bars.

German Chocolate Cookie Bars
Makes 8  4"x4" squares

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar, packed tight
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes (for batter)
1/2 cup toasted pecans (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes (to top the bars)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

- Line a 8x8x2 baking dish with parchment paper, pressing it down in the corners and creasing the sides
- Liberally butter the parchment paper
- In a large bowl, add the sugars, melted butter, eggs and vanilla extract and whisk until combined
- Add in the flour, baking soda and salt and whisk until combined
- Take 1/3 of the batter and put it in another smaller bowl, set aside
- In the large bowl, add the cocoa powder and the chocolate chips and stir to incorporate
- Pour the large bowl's batter into the bottom of the baking dish and smooth it out with a spatula
- Add the 1/2 cup coconut flakes and toasted nuts to the smaller bowl's batter and then pour it on top of the chocolate layer and smooth it out
- Bake for 40- 50 minutes until a toothpick pressed into the center comes out clean, and the top of the cookies is golden brown
-After you remove the cookies from the oven, sprinkle the top of the bars with the toasted coconut shreds
-Lift the parchment out of the pan, and cool the cookie bars completely on a wire rack (you can leave them in the parchment)
- Once cooled, cut into 4"x4" squares

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Got Leftovers? Make a Pizza!

I'm lucky enough to have a husband who appreciates leftovers. Since the girls left for college, it's been a fun challenge to repurpose yesterday's dinner into an interesting next night's dinner. Good thing Rich is game, because there was a ridiculous amount of BBQ pulled pork left in the fridge after last night's sandwiches.

Here's an example of my crazy thought process.. Pizza Hut commercial on TV (I don't care for Pizza Hut, but do love pizza) - BBQ chicken pizzaaa... yum! What do I have in the fridge? Some pizza dough, chipotle BBQ sauce, leftover pulled pork (ok, it's kind of like shredded chicken,) a red bell pepper, red onion, green onion, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, cilantro. What about grilling an ear of corn? Nah, pork is already sweet.. ok, chop it all up, let's see what happens. On special nights, my dogs get to hear this one-way conversation out loud.

A word of advice- don't be afraid to play with your food. Use a little sweet, a little salty, something acidic, a little spice.. something soft, something crunchy.. that will just about cover it. Some of my absolute favorite recipes have been made on the fly from what I already had in the house.

The pizza was really, really tasty! Four bites in, Rich declared it was one darned-good pizza. "This is pork?" He asked after a few more bites, and having caught one of a hundred or so words I had just said to him.. "Yep, from last night.." I had already explained how I came up with the idea, how I used up stuff in the fridge.. I've discovered that 27 years of marriage has a way of making your spouses' voice sometimes sound like white noise.

He has already asked me to make the pizza again, though, so I'll declare a victory. A couple of secrets to a long and happy marriage.. cook delicious food, and choose your battles. Very wisely.

Cooking Tips:
- I try to make as much of our food from scratch. That being said, I will usually purchase Trader Joe's or Von's already made pizza dough. It comes in a fresh ball of dough, and all you have to do is leave it out on the counter for one-half hour before using it to let the yeast activate a bit. It tastes the same as fresh dough to me, and is a heck of a time and mess saver.
- I'm fairly new to at-home pizza making, but would highly recommend adding a pizza stone to your holiday wish list. It's well worth the money! The difference in the crispness of the baked crust when you use a pizza stone vs. a baking sheet is night and day. The crust cooks evenly too- every time.

BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza
Serves 4

2 cups of leftover BBQ pulled pork
1/4 cup leftover BBQ sauce
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 green onions, sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp olive oil
chopped cilantro for garnish

- Take out the pizza dough from the fridge and let sit on the counter for a half-hour to activate the yeast and let it rise a bit
- Preheat your pizza stone at 425 degrees for at least a half-hour before you make your pizza
- Spread some corn meal on your working surface, and roll out the dough (press from the middle out to the edges) to your desired size of pizza. I have an oblong pizza stone, so I roll mine out into a rectangular shape about 9x11"
- Spread the 1/4 cup BBQ sauce evenly over the pizza, leaving a rim of 1 inch around the edges
- Sprinkle the pork evenly over the sauce
- Top the pizza with the red bell pepper and red onion
- Sprinkle cheese evenly over the toppings
- Add green onion over the top of the cheese
-Using a small brush, brush a little olive oil over the exposed 1 inch of crust
- Transfer your pizza to the pizza stone and bake for 18 minutes or so until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted and bubbly
- Use caution handling the pizza stone after the pizza has baked- it will remain very hot for some time

Dairy free option: Use a dairy free cheese such as Daiya, or leave the cheese off all together- the pizza will still be delicious!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sweet and Tangy Broccoli Salad

I first discovered this broccoli salad while eating at the Claim Jumper restaurant. I had never had anything like it, and liked it so much I asked for seconds. Recreating it was pretty simple- just 7 ingredients including those for the homemade dressing. It's sweet and tangy at the same time, and the crunchy and salty peanuts are a delicious surprise.

This salad is perfect when you know you'll have a few days of leftovers- it keeps it's crispy crunch, and the flavors continue to meld together the longer it sits in the fridge. Try pairing it with pulled pork from the slow-cooker. I made this yummy Root Beer Pulled Pork from Six Sister's Stuff to serve with it tonight.

A night of homemade BBQ dinner with Broccoli Salad-
Happy, happy, happy.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

1 bunch broccoli- rinsed, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 strips bacon- cooked, cooled and crumbled
1/2 cup (about 1/2 a small one) red onion, diced
1 cup roasted peanuts
Cracked black pepper

3/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
3 Tbsp sugar
2-3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I like the tang, but start with 2 Tbsp and adjust to your taste)

- Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients
- Pour dressing over salad, and mix well
- Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving

Dairy-free recipe!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Leaded Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts and Cranberries

My husband is on to me. He's figured out that I regularly play with recipes and will just as soon make a gluten-free and/or dairy-free treat than a "regular" one. He'll pick up the piece of cake, cookie, or  muffin and look at it closely, smell it, then take a tiny taste and ask me suspiciously "is it unleaded?" I've figured out unleaded is his way of asking me if what I made has regular flour, butter, and eggs, etc. in it. I used to try to reason with him, telling him to "just try it- it tastes great" or "you can't tell the difference," but was finding he would set the treat back down and not eat it. Now, I just tell him "nope- not unleaded, it's regular" and he eats what I make and doesn't know the difference. At this point, he's eaten as many "unleaded" treats as "regular" ones. Pretty funny.

Everyone has a pumpkin bread recipe. You've read a million of them online and in cookbooks, and if you're anything like me, every year you look for that one "even more perfect" recipe. I've baked dozens of recipes for pumpkin bread… some with oil, some just butter, some with applesauce, varying amounts and types of flour and sugars.. Some I've liked, some not. Looking up a recipe online and giving it a try is pretty much a crapshoot.

I can tell you emphatically that this recipe may be the last one you need to look up. It's a delicious, dense yet moist bread that has the fantastic holiday flavor of pumpkin and spices. You can play with your add-ins, maybe some chocolate chips and nuts? Do you like raisins rather than cranberries, or maybe not a fruit person at all?

Recipe Tip:
- Get your ingredients and bowls (you'll need one large, two smaller) ready before you start this recipe. It comes together in no time- no mixer needed. Double it up while you've already got everything out.. 1 cup of pumpkin is only 1/2 of a can. Make two loaves, and give one to your family or neighbors :)

1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking Soda
1/2 tsp baking Powder
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, salt, baking soda, and baking powder
- In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, butter, and canola oil until combined
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl. Add the nuts and cranberries and stir until the mix is combined
- Grease a 9x5" bread/loaf pan
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan
- Bake for about *50- 60 minutes, until a toothpick pushed into the center of the loaf comes out clean

** I also made a second loaf gluten-free and dairy-free by using Domata all-purpose gluten-free flour (it's a ready to use cup for cup flour), and a stick of Earth Balance in place of the butter.

*The gluten-free (unleaded) loaf baked in 50 minutes, the leaded loaf in 54 minutes.