Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cinnamon-y Apple Cobbler


So, after the very cinnamon-y coffee cake earlier in the week, I was craving more cinnamon-y goodness. I was looking to make a dessert for poker night and I knew almost all of us liked apple cobbler. So, knowing I wasn't going to have a lot of time for this dessert, I searched for a simple recipe. This one was not only simple, but really good. It got raves.

French Apple Cobbler


Apple Filling:
5 cups tart apples, peeled, cored, and slicedP8310581
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. water
1 tbsp. butter, softened

1/2 c. flour, sifted
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter softened
1 egg, slightly beatened

1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly butter 9-inch baking dish.

P8310582 2. In a medium bowl, combine apples, 3/4 c. sugar, 2 tbsp. flour, cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. salt, vanilla, and water. Turn into buttered square pan. Dot with 1 tbsp. butter.


P8310583 3. Combine all topping ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until batter is smooth.

4. Drop batter in 9 portions over the apples, spacing evenly. Batter will spread during baking.

5. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.


Sissy's Variations:
I chopped rather than sliced my apples. I just liked that consistency better. And I used at least 2 tbsp butter to dot the filling.

The main thing I did different was adding a butter, sugar, cinnamon mixture to the topping at the end of the baking. I melted about 2 tbsp. of butter and mixed with sugar and cinnamon. I poured the mixture over the crust about 10 minutes before it finished cooking. I think it made a great addition.


Seriously Chocolate Brownies


That's no lie--these were the chocolate-iest  (no, it's not a word, but I'm a copy editor--we get to make them up) ever.

Little did I know that these brownies would be the kick-off to my six-day baking marathon. Seriously, I baked six days in a row. These brownies were to be for poker night. We have a group of friends we play poker with every week or so. There is usually food involved, and I insisted on bringing dessert. I really wanted to make something with lots of cinnamon and butter, so I settled on apple cobbler, but our one very good friend Scott is a bit of a picky eater and I wasn't too sure he'd do cobbler. But I knew he'd go for brownies. To say Scott loves brownies would be an understatement.

So, I went in search of another good recipe. I made some for work a few weeks ago, and they were really good. But I like this whole experimenting thing right now, so I decided to try a new recipe. After searching my Google Reader full of WC girls' blogs, I settled on these from Baking Blonde's Weblog Seriously, the perfect brownie.

Best Brownies
(adapted from Hershey's Best Brownies)

1/2 c (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. Hershey's Chocolate Syrup*
2 eggs
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 c. mini Semi-sweet Chocolate chips*
1/4 c. mini Milk Chocolate chips*

*Baking Blonde's variations.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 8 x 8 inch pan with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.

2. In large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

P83005763. In a large bowl, stir together butter and sugar. Add and stir in vanilla and syrup. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Gently fold in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan.

5. Cool brownies on counter for 5 minutes. Place brownies, still in pan, in refrigerator for 30 minutes (this was a tip from Baking Blonde to bring out the chocolate flavor--it worked) to cool.

P8300580 6. Remove from fridge and finish cooling on counter. Once completely set and cooled, lift foil and brownies from pan. Peel back foil and using a sharp plastic knife, cut brownies. Store covered at room temperature.

Sissy's Variations:
I loved the idea of the chocolate syrup, so I used that.

P8300577 I changed up the addition of the chocolate chips just a little, using 1/4 c. each of milk chocolate and dark chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chunks.


I used my stand mixer instead of mixing my hand, and it worked  great. I did use the refrigerator trick, but then mine sat for another 24 hours before eaten.

They seemed to be a hit--super rich and very chocolate-y.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thrown Together Meatloaf


And by meatloaf, I mean turkey meatloaf. We don't really eat ground beef (or much red meat) around here anymore, so meatloaf is made with turkey. It was Friday night and my little brother was starting in his first varsity football. Even though he was going to be playing at a high school right down the street from my house, we still needed to be able to have a quick meal to get there on time. And I still wanted something kind of healthy--or at least not fast food!

So, I thought about the fact that I still had enough mashed potatoes leftover from Thursday night's dinner, so I wanted to make something to go with that. I had a pound of turkey, so I thought, hey, I can throw together a meatloaf. I have a lot of recipes for meatloafs,  and I have made many using no recipe at all. This is one of those, but I'll give you the basics.

1 lb. ground turkey
egg white
bread crumbs
garlic powder
ground pepper
brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cover baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

P8300569 2. Mix ketchup, mustard, egg white, bread crumbs, and seasonings in bowl.

3. Add turkey to mixture and mix just until combined (do not over mix).


P8300570 4. Transfer to baking sheet and shape into loaf.

5. In small bowl, mix ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar (all to taste).

6. Bake about 30 minutes (or until almost done). Remove from oven and spread ketchup mixture over top of loaf.

7. Continue cooking until done (about 45 minutes to an hour).


Sissy's Variations:
I used dijon mustard this time because we were out of regular mustard and I thought it still turned out great. All of the ingredients are to taste and can be adjusted based on the amount of meat.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stinky Cheese Chicken and Skinny Mashed Potatoes


That's the best way to describe Parmesan Crusted Chicken for me. I absolutely despise the way Parmesan cheese smells, especially when cooking, and I really don't like the way it tastes all that much, but sometimes it's awesome. I've done a lot of different version of Parmesan Crusted Chicken over the years, and this one is by no means original. It's just a compilation of so many different recipes I've seen and used.

The skinny mashed potatoes are all mine. I love mashed potatoes, but the way my grandmother makes them (the best EVER) would have me at least 50 pounds heavier if I made them on a regular basis. For a long time I didn't even realize I was making "skinny" mashed potatoes--I was just using low fat/low cal stuff I always have on hand. But I love them, so does Bill, and my little brothers still say I make the best mashed potatoes.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken (I had three breasts)
1 tbsp. flour
1/4 c. grated parmesan/Romano/asiago blend cheese
1/8 c. Italian style bread crumbs
1/8 c. shredded parm/Romano blend cheese
garlic powder (to taste)
fresh ground pepper (to taste)
2 egg white, slightly beaten
splash of skim milk

1. Pat chicken dry and trim any skin/fat.

2. Heat oven to 375. Cover baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup) and spray with light coat of cooking spray.

P82905613. Mix flour, bread crumbs, cheeses, garlic powder, and pepper in shallow dish (a pie plate works well). In separate dish, beat egg whites with milk.

P8290562 4. Dredge chicken through egg whites, allowing excess drip off. Coat chicken with cheese mixture. Place chicken on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle and press leftover cheese mixture on top of chicken. Spray with light coat of cooking spray.

5. Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked and breading is a golden brown.


Sissy's Variations:
I think next time I will use a bit more bread crumbs. But other than that, it turned out great.

Skinny Mashed Potatoes

potatoes of choice, peeled, and cubed
4 garlic gloves, cracked
skim milk
Smart Balance butter
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray
garlic powder

P82905581. Make sure potatoes are cubed pretty small for faster cooking. Place potatoes and garlic in pot and just cover with water. Cover pot and bring to boil. Cook until fork tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Drain potatoes and put back in hot pot to get rid of excess moisture.

P8290564 3. Add a splash or two of milk, about 1 tbsp. butter, and garlic powder (to taste) to potatoes and mash with potato masher.

4. Add more milk, but not so much that you can see the milk--too much milk with result in a gluey consistency. Spray with spray butter (5-10 sprays). Mix with hand mixer (or in standing mixer) until desired consistency--add milk as needed.


Sissy's Variations:
I change this up depending on the meal and what I have on hand. For this meal, I added parmesan cheese to go with the chicken. Next time I will add more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bundt Cakes, Take 1 (and 2)

P8270550 P8270552

Another week, another foray into baking. So, my baking projects have been going to work with both Bill and me, so I try to think of two similar items that we will be enough for both of us to take. He feeds his whole office, I feed a small group of team and groupmates and friends. And, once again, I wanted at least one item to not have chocolate.

I decided Bundt Cakes would be fun, and I have two Bundt pans, so I thought that would be perfect. I didn't want anything too complicated, so I ended up with basic recipes from my stand-by Betty Crocker cookbook. I think both were successes.

Devil's Food Chocolate Bundt Cake
This is just a basic chocolate cake that I just cooked in a Bundt pan.

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 2/3 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter or stick margarine, softened
2/3 c. baking cocoa
1 1/4 c. water
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 large eggs
Fudge Frosting or White Mountain Frosting, if desired (obviously did not use)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of rectangular pan, 13 x 9 x 2 inches, 2 round pans, 9 x 1 1/2 inches, or 3 round pans, 8 x 1 1/2 inches, with shortening; lightly flour.

P8270542 2. Beat all ingredients except Fudge Frosting with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).

3. Bake rectangular 40 to 45 minutes, rounds 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool rectangular pan on wire rack. Cool rounds 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

4. Frost rectangle or fill round layers and frost with Fudge Frosting.

Sissy's Variations:
Obviously, the big one here was using a Bundt pan. Since the recipe didn't give any specifications for a Bundt pan, I sort of winged it based on other Bundt recipes. It baked about 45 minutes.

P8270545The other major thing I did was add more chocolate. I used about 1/2 cup each of milk, dark, and white chocolate chips. Can you say chocolate overload? But it was sooo good.


Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Brown Sugar Filling (below)
3 c. all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1 1/2 tsps. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter or stick margarine, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
1 1/2 c. sour cream
Vanilla Glaze (below)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of angel food cake pan (tube pan), 10 x 4, 12-cup bundt cake pan or 2 loaf pans, 9 x 5 x 3 inches, with shortening.

2. Make Brown Sugar Filling, set aside. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. Beat sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat about one-fourth of the flour mixture and sour cream at a time alternately into sugar mixture on low speed until blended.

P82705474. For angel food or bundt cake pan, spread one-third of the batter (about 2 c.) in pan, then sprinkle with one-third of the filling; repeat twice. For loaf pans, spread one-fourth of the batter (about 1 1/2 c.) in each pan, then sprinkle each with one-fourth of the filling; repeat once.

5. Bake angel food or bundt cake pan about 1 hour, loaf pans about 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. cool 10 minutes in pan(s) on wire rack. Remove from pan(s) to wire rack. Cool 20 minutes. Drizzle with Vanilla Cake. Serve warm or cool.

P8270546 Brown Sugar Filling

1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. finely chopped nuts
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Mix all ingredients.

Vanilla Glaze

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
2 to 3 tsp. milk

Mix all ingredients until smooth and thin enough to drizzle.

Sissy's Variations:
The only thing I did different was leave out the chopped nuts.


Dinner Divas: Catfish Po Boy Sandwiches


As I mentioned previously, I am involved in a cooking blog group called the Dinner Divas. We have a choice of four recipes a month, and we make two, with or without our own variations, and blog about them.

My next pick was the Catfish Po Boy Sandwich, which came from Cooking Light, which I was really happy about.


2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1 pound catfish fillets, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (such as McCormick) 
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fat-free sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Dash of crushed red pepper
2 cups bagged broccoli coleslaw
4 (2 1/2-ounce) hoagie rolls with sesame seeds, toasted

P8220515 Combine milk and catfish in a large bowl, tossing gently to coat. Remove fish from bowl; shake off excess milk. Sprinkle fish with salt. Combine cornmeal and Cajun seasoning in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag. Seal and shake to coat.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish; cook 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

While fish cooks, combine vinegar and next 4 ingredients (vinegar through pepper) in a medium bowl. Add broccoli coleslaw; toss well to coat. Spoon 1/2 cup slaw mixture onto bottom half of each roll. Arrange fish evenly over each serving, and top with top halves of rolls.


Sissy's Variations:
The first two things I varied, I stole from the version on The Shannon's Kitchen blog. The first was simply to substitute the Cajun seasoning with Mrs. Dash Chipotle Seasoning. I also just used one large piece of fish, cut in half, instead of nuggets.

P8220516 Next was I was I decided to bake "fry" them instead of frying. Even though it only called for a small amount of oil, I still decided I would try to omit that little bit of fat. I thought that worked out really well.


The last change I made was the coleslaw. Neither of us likes coleslaw, but I decided to play with the dressing for the coleslaw. I mixed it up as directed and added dried dill and a little pepper and salt substitute. I used this to dress the sandwiches and they were fabulous.


Served with shredded lettuce and tomato for Bill. And I just used some whole wheat bakery buns I bought earlier in the week.

Peanut Butter Brownies/Bars


P8200511 P8200512

I can't quite decide what to call these. Brownies indicate that perhaps they are chocolate brownies with peanut butter when, in fact, the cake/brownie part has no chocolate at all. But their not really bars in the true sense of a bar. So, I'm still going to call them brownies.

Now that that's settled, on to the important stuff. So, I actually made these last week, but didn't have time to write about them until now. The week before I had made brownies and blondies and they were a big hit, so I wanted to find something similar, but with another twist. So, I did a search and found this recipe. Then I asked on What's Cooking if anybody had a recipe for peanut butter brownies that didn't involve chocolate and somebody directed me to this site. These were perfect. When it came time to make them, though, I of course, did things a little different.

Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup margarine, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C ). Grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.

P8200502 In a medium bowl, cream together peanut butter and margarine. Gradually blend in the brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla; mix until fluffy. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the peanut butter mixture until well blended.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in preheated oven, or until the top springs back when touched. Cool, and cut into 16 squares.

Sissy's Variations:
P8200497 So, like I said, did things a bit different. Even though the Brownie recipe did not call for add-ins, the picture showed some and I wanted to do some any way. So, for the first two batches, I added. One batch at chocolate chunks (about 1/2 c.) and the other had caramel pieces (about 1/2 c.).

P8200503 The second to batches, I decided to use the method from the Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars recipe. The basis is a layer of preserves between two layers of peanut butter bar. I decided against making the bars because they were going to take a little longer than just brownies, but I thought the idea was cool. So, for the third batch, I spread a layer of strawberry preserves. I didn't measure; I just spooned on an spread a thin layer.

P8200505 The last batch, I got a little creative. My team leader, Judy, had made a comment the day before about eating peanut butter with chocolate syrup. That inspired me. I got a jar of fudge ice cream topping and spread it between the layers on the last batch. Yum!

The batches with the layers didn't cook up quite as well. Next time, I will cover with foil to keep the tops from burning and let the middle set up a little better. They were still perfectly edible and very yummy, but a little messy in the middle.

P8200513 P8200514

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mexican Rice


I really like Mexican rice. A lot of time at Mexican restaurants, I'll order double rice instead of beans. No, that's not the healthiest option, but I like, darn it! I've tried for a long time to get a good homemade Mexican rice. I don't really like the boxed stuff because they have too much sodium and other stuff.

So, I wanted to make a side dish to go with the Avocado Enchiladas and decided to try once again to attempt  the rice.

low sodium chicken broth
shallots, chopped
onion, chopped
garlic, chopped
jalapeno, chopped
olive oil and/or cooking spray
canned tomatoes (I had a can of petite diced)
frozen corn
cilantro, chopped

P8170477 Heat olive oil and/or cooking spray in pan over medium high heat. Saute onion, garlic, and shallot until soft. Add rice and saute until light golden brown. This is one of my favorite tricks for adding more flavor to rice.

In same skillet or in a sauce pan, mix chicken broth and rice, and cook according to directions (I used regular rice, so mine cooked for 20 minutes). Once rice is cooked, add tomatoes with juice (I only ended up using about 3/4 of the can. Add corn (I set out to thaw slightly and it thawed the rest of the way once added to the hot rice). Add cilantro right before serving.

Sissy's Variations:

I didn't have much jalapeno, so next time I will add more of that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Avocado Enchiladas

There are no words to describe the greatness of this dish. I knew the minute I saw the recipe that I had to make them as soon as possible. Basically it takes two of my favorite things--guacamole and enchiladas and makes them into one fabulous meal.

I also liked that this was a meatless meal. We had it the night after we had eaten steaks for dinner, so it was a perfect counterpoint to that. This meal is a definite keeper.

Recipe (from Gillian's Goodies blog)
2 ripe avocados
1/8 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Lime juice
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 tomato, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp. cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 flour tortilla
Enchilada sauce
A little grated sharp Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
Additional cilantro leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray. Smush up the avocado in a glass bowl. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, tomatoes, jalapeno, lime/lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Mix together as you would if you were making guacamole (um, this really is a guacamole!)

2. Spoon the avocado mixture into the tortillas and roll them up. Place tortillas in the prepared baking dish and cover with enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with additional cilantro just before serving.

Sissy's Variations:Like it says above, this is just guacamole, so I made my usual. I decided to make my own enchilada sauce so I could control things like sodium (recipe below). I also used corn tortillas because that's how we make them in Texas! I used 2% milk sharp cheddar, so it wasn't as pretty when it melted, but it was still really good.

A trick for easy to roll corn tortillas: make sure you fry them first. Another trick: fake fry them. In my continuing effort to make things "lighter," but still wanting to have the same effect, I discovered that cooking spray is a girl's best friend for this. I used to do them on in a pan, but one night while making tacos, I tried putting them on baking sheets sprayed with cooking oil. A couple of minutes on either side (depending on how crispy you want them; for these, they just need to be pliable).

Red Enchilada Sauce (from Cooking Light)Ingredients
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth, divided

3/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (28-ounce) can tomato purée (I used crushed tomatoes)

Heat 1/4 cup chicken broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 5 minutes or until tender and liquid evaporates. Add the remaining broth, chili powder, and remaining ingredients; stir well. Partially cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.