Friday, November 30, 2012

Apple Chicken Chili


The timliness of this post has probably past, since it is no longer technically 'Apple Season'. I wanted to share it with you, though, because it definitely deserves it, and since you can find a fairly good selection of apples at the grocery store year round, I think it can still definitely be made. You might not have noticed, but this is actually the only chili recipe I have on the blog. It is not because I don't like chili - in fact, chili is one of our favorite meals. The reason that this is the only chili recipe on my blog is because this is the first time in my entire life that I have used an actual recipe to make chili. My chili constantly changes, based on what I have in my pantry and what I throw into it. I like my chili thick enough to stand a spoon in, with different kinds of beans, lots of tomatoes, and at least three kinds of meat in it. And whatever spices my hand drifts towards that day. And corn. Always corn.

 I normally don't give many chili recipes a second glance. Not that I am against trying anything new, I just like my haphazard way of making chili. But this recipe caught my eye immediately and I knew I wanted to give it a try. And I really liked it! I love adding apples into savory dishes, I think it is so fun and unexpected, and the apples really do pair really nicely with the chicken and the normal chili spices here. And I love that this was quick to make, and easy on the budget, too! I think you will really like this! 

Apple Chicken Chili (recipe taken from Cooking Whims, who adapted it from Rachel Ray) 
yields 6-8 servings

3 TBSP olive oil
2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
3 smal gala apples, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 TBSP butter
1/4 cup flour
1 can (15 oz) chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
15 ounces kidney beans, rinsed and drained
15 ounces pinto beans, rinsed and drained
shredded monterey jack cheese for topping

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder and cumin.
Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
Add half of the chicken and sprinkle half of the seasonings over.
Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked through.
Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.
Cook the other half of the chicken, with the remaining seasonings.
Set aside in the same bowl as the rest of the chicken.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 TBSP oil.
Add the apples and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. 
Place the apples on top of the chicken in the bowl to the side.

Melt the butter in the dutch oven.
Whisk in the flour for 1 minute.
Slowly whisk in the broth and milk.
Whisk for 3 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened.
Add the chicken, onion-apple mixture, and the beans.
Increase the heat to medium and let the chili simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve topped with cheese.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Daring Bakers Bake Cookies!


What perfect timing for this month's Daring Bakers challenge! Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us. I always like to start making my Christmas cookies at the beginning of December and then freeze them. That way I can make a batch a week at my leisure and then when Christmas time is here I can focus my time and energy on other things (like being with my family!).

I always make choosing which Christmas cookies I make into a "thing". When I lived with my parents my mom and I almost always baked the exact same cookies every year, it was tradition. But when I moved away from home I decided instead of feeling sad that I was no longer baking cookies with my mom, I was going to do ALL NEW cookies! I like to do different flavors and textures - some soft, some sandy, some crunchy; a chocolate, a citrus,

I chose to do a twice baked shortbread cookie that I have been looking at for a while, but wanted to add some browned butter to it. They were super simple to make and I love how they turned out! Awesome flavor, with a sprinkling of sea salt on them, and a great sandy texture! I also decided to do the Armenian Nazook cookies that I didn't get done from a new challenges ago.

Twice Baked-Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

12 TBSP unsalted butter
5 TBSP sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
Turbinado or Demerara sugar for topping
Sea Salt for topping

Grease a springform or tart pan with a removable bottom and set aside.
In a small sauté pan, slowly melt the butter and then watch it (without stirring) until the fats start to become brown and nutty smelling (watch it, it burns quickly).
Pour the butter into a medium bowl.
Whisk in the brown and granulated sugar until mostly melted.
Stir in the vanilla and the salt.
Using a rubber spatula carefully fold in the flour until just combined.
Pat and spread the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan, making sure it is evenly spread out.
Let it rest on the counter, loosely covered with a towel, for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300F.
Bake the shortbread for 45 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven (leave the oven on) and remove the bottom from the pan.
Lightly sprinkle the top of the shortbread with some turbinado sugar and a pinch or two of sea salt.
Allow the shortbread to rest for 10 minutes.
Cut the shortbread into 16 wedges and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
Bake for an additional 15 minutes (I pulled mine out a little early because they were looking very golden).
Cool in a wire rack.

Armenian Nazook Cookies ( recipe from Daily Candor, and her Aunt Aida!)

pastry dough:
3 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup sour cream
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla

1 egg yolk, beaten with a fork

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast.
Add the sour cream and butter and mix until it forms a soft dough.
Knead for 10 minutes, until it no longer sticks to the bowl or your hands (it will still feel sticky, though).
Cover the dough and refrigerate 3-5 hours.

In a medium bowl, mix ingredients for the filling (the flour, sugar, butter and vanilla) until it feels like clumpy, wet sand.

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
Form one quarter into a ball and roll out into a large oval or rectangle (should be thin but not transparent).
Spread 1/4 of the filling across the rolled out dough in an even layer, spreading all the way but leaving about 1" at each edge.
From a long side, roll the dough up into a log (like cinnamon rolls).
Flatten the log out a bit with your fingers, to squash it a little.
Apply the egg yolk wash to the whole roll.
Using a crinkle cutter or a sharp knife, cut the log into 10 equally sized pieces.
Place onto an un-greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Cool and Enjoy!

Storage: these cookies should be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or can be frozen for up to 3 months!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cranberry Pancakes


This month for Secret Recipe Club I was assigned the blog "Badger Girl Learns to Cook".  Badger Girl and her hubby "Manatee" are super healthy people, mostly vegetarian, and eat almost no processed foods. This turned out to be a great match for me because I am trying hard to keep processed foods from our menu (there wasn't much there to begin with, but occasional bags of Doritos have been known to fling themselves into our shopping card) and I have been trying to find better meatless meals for us to eat. And I bookmarked a ton of recipes to try, but then I found this recipe for Cranberry Pancakes. And I stopped right there. Pancakes, people! I can never ever turn down pancakes, and was excited to use fresh cranberries in them for a perfectly fall brinner last week. They were very delicious, and I loved the pop of slightly tart cranberries in each bite. I also feel compelled to tell you that Ladybug requested "Mickey Mouse Pancakes", which are in all actuality harder to make than you might think. 

Cranberry Pancakes (Badger Girl Learns to Cook

3 eggs
2 1/4 cup milk
6 TBSP butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 TBSP sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped cranberries 
cooking spray
butter and syrup

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, butter, vanilla and sugar.
Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir in the cranberries.
Heat your griddle or cast iron skillets to medium heat.
Use cooking spray or butter to grease your pan.
Cook your pancakes, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup at a time, waiting until bubbles appear on the surface before flipping, and then cooking until golden on both sides. 
Serve with butter and syrup and Enjoy! :) 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gingered Pear and Cranberry Sourdough Scones with Brown Sugar Glaze


I was really excited to see how my sourdough starter would work with scones for this month's Sourdough Surprises challenge! Scones are either a big hit or an epic miss, and it all depends on the texture of the scone itself. So I was really curious to see how a starter would hold up in it. And to be honest, I had to try this recipe three times before I finally liked it. The initial results were entirely too dense and bready, and I didn't like that the original recipe called for the toppings on the top only. I felt that they were really plain. So I did some adjustments - added a tiny bit more brown sugar, incorporated lots more toppings, and added a brown sugar glaze on top. Now they were really special, and delicious. And while they are still more "bread" than your typical scone, I love the slight sourdough tang that shines through. They are definitely delicious! :) 

See what other delicious scones were made this month, and check our Sourdough Surprises! 

Gingered Pear and Cranberry Sourdough Scones, with Brown Sugar Glaze (loosely adapted from Wild Yeast
Yields: 8 scones

50 grams flour
130 grams whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
5/8 tsp salt
75 grams brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks and very cold
40 grams rolled oats
50 grams half and half or heavy cream
244 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter
1 cup chopped cranberries
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1 bartlett pear, chopped

Line an 8 inch cake pan with plastic wrap.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar.
Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until it resembles course sand (you can use your fingers or a fork).
Toss the oats, cranberries, crystallized ginger and the pears into the flour mixture and toss to combine.
Pour the starter and the cream (or half and half) into the bowl and carefully mix with your hands until just barely incorporated.
Press the dough into the cake pan and cover with plastic wrap.
Place in the freezer overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
In the morning, place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and turn the dough out onto it.
Preheat your oven to 400F.
Let your dough stand for 15 minutes and then using a sturdy knife, cut your dough into 8 wedges.
Let the dough stand for another 15 minutes, and then brush the tops with a bit of cream on top.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the scones are set and lightly browned.
Allow to cool slightly while you mix the glaze - 

Brown Sugar Glaze (The Kitchn
1 TBSP butter 
2 TBSP milk
1/4 cup  packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 - 1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a microwave safe cup, heat the milk and butter for 30 seconds.
Stir, stir, stir, until the butter is completely melted.
Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla and stir until the sugar melts.
Whisk in the powdered sugar, starting with 1/4 cup and gradually increasing the amount until you get the desired consistency.
Drizzle over the scones, and Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Daring Cooks make Sweet Tea Brined & Roasted Chicken


Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!

 I was excited to see that this month's challenge was all about brining and roasting. Brining is a fantastic and simple way to infuse flavor and moisture into your meat, and it is something that every cook should know how to do! A simple roasted chicken makes a great dinner (plus the leftovers are great to use for other meals, too!). I've been in kind of a funk lately, partially because I'm just tired (Ladybug is working on three of her two year molars...), partially because I'm definitely missing the sun. My once bright kitchen, perfect for taking photos, has now turned into a dark cave. Blah. But even when its dark out, nothing lifts you mood quite like taking a perfectly golden roasted chicken out of the oven, and having it be utterly delicious! 

This was probably the best roasted chicken I have ever made! It was very moist, super flavorful, and delicious in every way. Plus I love the golden crispy skin - it not only tastes good but it was gorgeous, too! I will definitely be doing this recipe again! A lot! 

Sweet Tea Brined & Roasted Chicken (adapted from Southern Living Magazine, May 2011)

4 family sized tea bags
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2 lemon, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 TBSP pepper
2 cups ice cubes
1 whole chicken, about 3.5-4 pounds)
Olive Oil

Bring 8 cups of water to boil in a large saucepan.
Remove from heat and add the tea bags - allow to steep for 10 minutes.
Stir in the sugar, salt, onion, lemon, rosemary, garlic and pepper.
Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Cool completely (about 45 minutes).
Stir in the ice cubes.
Pour the mixture into a large zip-lock bag (or a large stock-pot) and place the chicken in.
Seal and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450F.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry.
Pull all the solids out of the marinade (the lemon, onion, rosemary, garlic) and stuff inside the cavity of the chicken.
Place the chicken on a roasting pan.
Rub olive oil all over the chicken and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt (the brine was really salty, so you don't need a lot) and pepper.
Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 450F.
Lower the temperature of the oven to 375 F and roast for another 45 minutes - 1 hour.
You might want to watch the chicken and tent with foil if it starts getting too dark.
When the internal temperature of the chicken reads 165F and the juices are running clear, remove the chicken from the oven and tent with foil (if it wasn't already) and let rest for 20 minutes.
Carve and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fall Leaf Sugar Cookies


Is it too soon to post another cookie? I guess it doesn't really matter to ask, since obviously here I am, posting it anyway. But for an entirely good reason - these are just too fun to not show you right away. That way you have plenty of time to make them. Because, if you haven't gone to the mall, or watched tv, or received 26 different toy catalogs in the mail, you might not have a clue that Thanksgiving is only 9 days away, after which it is officially "Christmas Time"!

Ladybug and I had a blast making these fall themed cookies yesterday. She was really upset because the city came and took away all our leaves! No, really - you rake your leaves to the curb and they come along, suck them up, mulch them, and haul them away. Awesome for parents, utterly devastating for toddlers. Really, how dare they take our leaves?!

We made these cookies to make up for the fact that now our yard has none. These cookies are fantastic - soft and delicious, no frosting necessary. I normally try to stay away from adding food coloring into our food, but these were just too cute to pass up. And Ladybug loved mixing the different colors of dough to get the different patterns.

Fall Leaf Sugar Cookies (Idea came from Country Living, Recipe from
yields: 5 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
gel food coloring - red, orange, yellow, green

Preheat oven to 400F.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt on top and mix until combined.
Divide the dough into 4 balls and use gel food coloring to tint each ball red, yellow, orange and green.
Place a piece of wax or parchment paper on the counter.
Tear off small chunks of each color of dough and plop it down on the parchment paper, alternating which colors touch each other (just use a small portion of each color, otherwise your whole counter will be taken over with dough!).
Roll the dough out so that you get a smooth dough about 1/4" to 1/2" thick to cut cookies from.
Place the parchment paper with the dough on it in the fridge for 15 minutes (during which time you can roll out the other dough).
Cut your cookies with leaf cookie cutters and place them on a parchment paper or silicone lined baking sheet.
** Hint: As you cut the cookies out, be careful with the scraps. I found it worked best to re-tear them into chunks and puzzle-piece them together before rolling them out again. If you just squash them all together the colors will end up blurred and not as vibrant.
Bake each tray for 6-8 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cranberry Orange Thyme Shortbread Cookies


I don't know about you, but I am so relieved that the elections are over. Politics are always a stressful topic to bring up, but election time seems to be getting worse and worse. I just got so heartsick by all the comments I was reading on Facebook- it really saddened me to see people I care about being so hateful and spouting mean, bigatrous comments left and right. The more we argue and blindly regurgitate what we have been told, the less likely we are to actually make any progress. Peace begins with you.

"When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighboring communities and so on. When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us to develop inner happiness and peace." 
~His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I think everyone needs to make some cookies specifically to give to our friends, neighbors, people we hardly take the time to say hello to. Let's remember to be caring and thoughtful. These cookies would be good. Sweet without being overpowering, a perfect sandy texture, and the perfect combination of orange and cranberry harmonically sharing cookie space with thyme and white chocolate. You could call these post-election healing cookies. :)

Cranberry Orange Thyme Shortbread Cookies (Willow Bird Baking)

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP powdered sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1/2 TBSP orange zest (about 1 medium orange)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 medium orange)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

In a large bow, whisk together the flour, salt and thyme.
In a second large bowl, cream together the butter, orange zest, and powered sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
Mix in the orange juice.
Beat in the flour mixture until just combined, and then stir in the cranberries.
Using a sheet of waxed paper, roll the dough into a two logs about 1 1/2" wide.
Wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze for about 20 minutes, just until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Use a serrated knife to cut the logs into even slices (you should get about 16 cookies per log).
Place the cookies on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating halfway though baking.
Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes on the pan, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
Place the white chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat for 1 minute. 
Stir, stir, stir, stir those chips until you have a smooth white chocolate.
Pour the melted white chocolate into a ziplock bag and seal. 
Cut a small tip of one of the corners off the bag and drizzle the white chocolate over the cookies. 
Allow the chocolate to dry, and enjoy!
(Store in a sealed container between pieces of waxed paper). 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sourdough Election Cake


The other day a fan posted a link to a spectacular cake on our Sourdough Surprises Facebook page. The cake happened to be a recipe for a traditional cake served in the early America's during election time. And guess what, it features sourdough starter! I knew immediately that I was going to make this cake. I highly encourage you to take a look at this post by the Nourished Kitchen - it has a gorgeous tale of this cake (and our country's) history.

The cake turned out to be fun to make - two fermentation times, but rather simple. The spices in here are great - cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and allspice - and make for a really nice "warm" cake. I substituted currants for a 50/50 mix of cranberries and cherries. I love how this cake turned out - soft and fluffy, spicy, and chock full of bits of fruit. It doesn't really need a frosting, but I am sure it would take one fabulously.  I love how you can see little bits of where the starter didn't get fully incorporated in. A mistake, sure, but it looks cool. I also feel like if you were to soak this cake in alcohol, it would be an awesome fruit cake!

Please Vote. And always be nice to others (during election time, especially).

Sourdough Election Cake (slightly adapted from the Nourished Kitchen)

4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mature, bubbly sourdough starter (100% hydration)
2 sticks butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 TBSP white wine
2 TBSP brandy
2 eggs, beaten
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1 TBSP ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped prunes
1 cup dried currants, cranberries or cherries

In a large bowl combine the flour, buttermilk, and sourdough starter until you get a thick dough.
Form the dough into a round ball, place it in a bowl and allow it to rest, covered, for 8-12 hours.
In a medium bowl, beat the butter, sugar, molasses, wine, and brandy together until well combined. and fluffy.
Stir in the two beaten eggs and the spices.
Add the dough to this mixture and beat until the mixture resembles that of a thick cake.
Stir in the dried fruit.
Pour the cake into a greased bundt pan (you could also use a springform or dutch oven).
Cover the pan with a clean dish cloth and allow to rise until it is almost doubled in bulk (about 1.5 -2 hours)
Preheat your oven to 375F.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rosemary Potato Soup with Crunchy Carrots


Sometimes you just need a big bowl of warm, starchy, creamy comfort. Like after you spend two and a half hours at Wal-Mart, on a Saturday night, the first weekend of the month. Oh yeah, we so know how to have fun. And its not like we even went there to shop, either. Joel's car has been having issues lately (but when isn't a car, our cars more specifically, having some kind of issue or another), and we thought the battery might be the problem. So we took it up there to get a new one. But when Joel went to pull the latch on the hood to get the battery out, the hood release pops off in his hand. We just stared at each other in the parking lot for a few seconds. Then I started to laugh, and Joel started to scowl. So Ladybug and I went into the store to wander for a while and Daddy managed to mangle his way through the car to release the hood and remove the battery. Thirty minutes later, and they were testing the battery. Which took a whopping two hours! Let me tell you, I will never ever get lost in this Walmart again, because I now know every square inch of it. Ok, so the battery is finally done, and guess what? It is perfectly fine! Hooray! That solved nothing...So, let's talk about this soup. It was warm and comforting, easy and cheap to make. Which feels great after a ridiculous stretch at Wal-Mart. And the crunchy carrots are really fun addition! (Note, these do not stand up well over time, so make them right before you eat, and eat them all). 

Rosemary Potato Soup with Crispy Carrots (slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, December 2011)

2 TBSP butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
4 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/3 cup veggie oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and then cut into ribbons (use the veggie peeler to just keep peeling)
salt and pepper

In a large dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the onion, salt, and pepper and sauté until the onion becomes translucent.
Add the potatoes, rosemary and 2 cups of the stock.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and can be pierced with a fork (but not mushy).
Remove from heat.
With a potato masher, mash the potatoes until you get the consistency you want.
Add the remaining 2 cups of stock and return to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until thicknened to the desired consistency. Stir frequently to reduce sticking.
While the soup is simmering, prepare the crispy carrots.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the carrot ribbons a few at a time (do NOT overcrowd the skillet) and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until crispy.
Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on paper towels. 
Sprinkle a bit of salt on top.
Spoon the soup into bowls, top with carrots, and enjoy!


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