Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Orange Cranberry Zucchini Muffins

They say necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well, these muffins were invented when I realized that we were out of chocolate chips. And applesauce...two of the ingredients in Chocolate Covered Katie's chocolate chip zucchini muffins.  By the time I was done adapting this recipe to food we actually had in the house, I had added three different types of fruit to replace the chocolate, making these muffins even more legit breakfast food. Of course, then I topped them with an orange-flavored glaze, so I guess these can count for dessert too.

By the way, when I said "the house" in the above paragraph, I meant my parents' house. It's time for the MN part of the MN-NJ cooks blog, as I'm back in Minnesota for four more weeks...until my wedding!! LC, however, is still in NJ, and holding down the cooking for the East Coast part of this blog. Check out the message on his omelette! :)


Alright, onto the recipe! Flour, sugar, oil, one banana, one zucchini (maybe not quite as big as this one!), baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Not pictured: apple cider vinegar, cranberries, and orange zest. Hey, these things happen when you're adapting a recipe on the fly. 

Grate zucchini, mash a banana, add some oil, mix it all together together, and trust that it will taste better than it looks right now. 

Mix the dry ingredients together, fold in the cranberries and orange zest, then immediately scoop into muffin tins. 

I dunked these ones in the glaze and sprinkled some chopped cranberries on top. You can also drizzle the glaze over the top. Perfect for brunch! Enjoy.

Cranberry Orange Zucchini Muffins
Makes 24

3 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1 mashed banana
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest
1 cup dried cranberries.

Glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar 
2 tbsp orange juice

Preheat oven to 375. Grease or line muffin tins. 

Mix together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon), then in a separate bowl stir together zucchini, banana, vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring well, and then fold in the cranberries and orange zest. Immediately portion into muffin tins (because these muffins are vegan and don't contain any eggs, the reaction between the vinegar and baking soda is what makes them rise, so if you wait too long to bake them, the reaction will have faded away).

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Measure 1 cup powdered sugar into a bowl. Add orange juice - try starting with just 1 1/2 tablespoons, stirring well, and then adding more liquid if needed. This method helps you avoid watery glaze!

Top the muffins with the glaze and garnish with chopped dried cranberries, if desired. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Famous chili

This is one of our favorite recipes for game days. It's easy to make, stays warm for a long time, and is great for a crowd. LC came up with some creative serving ideas too! For a World Cup party, he filled some Scoops tortilla chips with the chili! Usually we just serve it with Fritos. However you make it, I can promise that it will disappear fast! I don't think anybody would come over to my house for the Super Bowl if I didn't make my famous chili. :)

Super Bowl Chili

1 lb ground beef or beef subsitute
1 can black beans (not drained)
1 can white beans (not drained)
1 can pinto beans (not drained)
2 cans (or 1 big jumbo can) of diced tomatoes (not drained)
2 cans corn (drained)
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 packet taco seasoning mix (the spiciness of the taco mix has a big impact on the final flavor) 

Brown the beef if necessary. Vegetarian beef substitute works great for this recipe, because you don't have to cook it at all (just heat it up with the other ingredients) and the other flavors are strong enough that you don't notice the lack of beef.
 Anyway, combine the ground beef with all the other ingredients. Stir and heat -- can be done in a slow cooker if you like. Serve with Fritos.
 I usually double this recipe for a crowd of 8-10. Once I messed up and bought 3 taco seasoning packets and only 1 ranch packet for a doubled recipe. I got a lot of people telling me that they loved it that way, but I personally found it too spicy. 

The new kitchen!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chłodnik (Cold Polish beet soup)

Summer is definitely here! I love eating all the fresh fruit and veggies that are finally in season. I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I saw this recipe, but I like gazpacho and figured that this would probably be pretty similar. It doesn't tasted anything like gazpacho, but does sort of serve the same purpose - savory, creamy, vegetable-y, and most importantly, cold!

By the way, this soup is very filling, but the entire recipe is under 400 calories, at least according to my calculations. Winner!

No process photos this time, just the recipe.

Chlodnik (Cold Polish beet soup)
Adopted from Seraphic Singles
Makes three-four servings

4 cooked beets
1 cube beef bullion dissolved in one cup water (or one cup veggie broth)
Juice of half a lemon
Half a cucumber, finely chopped
2 radishes (three if you like the taste of radishes), finely chopped
1 ounce fresh dill (one package)
1 Tbsp chopped chives
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Salt to taste

Shred the cooked beets into a bowl using a cheese grater. Add the broth and lemon juice and stir.
Combine the cucumber, radish, dill, and chives in a separate bowl, mixing well, and then add to the beet mixture. Stir in the Greek yogurt. Cover the mixing bowl with a lid or with plastic wrap, and chill for 4-5 hours to let the flavors mix. Ladle the soup into a blender or Magic Bullet and blend for 30 seconds, or until smooth. (If you like, you can eat the soup without blending it, but I found the texture of the shredded beets to be kind of weird.) Garnish with chives and serve cold. (I sprinkled some feta cheese on top as well for the picture, but found that it actually didn't taste very good with the soup!) I've eaten this for lunch twice this week, once with a toasted English muffin on the side and once with chips. Some carbs are definitely a good match! :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ariquipe-filled Banana World Cup-cakes

One of L's favorite podcasts is called Men in Blazers, which discusses soccer, particularly the World Cup. They had a series of shows previewing the World Cup before it started, and at the end of each show the two hosts ate some World Cup-cakes and pretended that the cupcakes revealed the final score of the matches.

Well, my cupcakes definitely don't have any magical predictive powers, but I think they count as World Cup-cakes because we ate them during the US-Portugal match on Sunday. Also because I attempted to decorate them like soccer balls, but my chocolate ganache pretty much just failed. So...just stick with the banana cupcake recipe and frost them however you like. :)

The ingredients:

Flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, butter, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and bananas. Plus milk (not pictured). Sift the dry ingredients together: 

 Then in a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. I don't have a mixer, so I softened the butter for about 45 seconds in the microwave, to the point that it was extremely soft but not quite melted. Then I used this fork-like spatula to try to get as much air in the butter as possible. I think it worked pretty well!

Add in the eggs, one at a time:

And then the rest of the wet ingredients. I was lazy and didn't mash the banana separately first, but it probably would've been better to do so. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry.

And portion into muffin tins! These were pretty full, but I liked how they rose nice and tall after baking. 

Once they're out of the oven, it's time to fill them! Make sure the cupcakes are cool.
Arequipe is a Colombian sweet that's pretty similar to dulce de leche or caramel. This tiny little jar is designed for schoolkids to bring in their lunchboxes to school! They even come with a tiny little spoon. So cute!

With a knife, carefully cut a circle in the top of the muffin, angling in as you cut so that you make sort of a cone shape. (You can really see how small the arequipe container is here!) Remove the cone from the muffin. 

Spoon about a teaspoon of arequipe into the hole, until it's just below the top of the muffin. Cut off most of the cone from the top, leaving just a fairly flat circle of muffin "crust."

Then, put the top back onto the muffin. Once you frost it, nobody will even notice that little mark! The arequipe helps the lid stay in place, but you do have to be a little careful when frosting it not to budge the cut-out part too much. 

I just used cream cheese frosting from a can for the top (again, I don't own a mixer at the moment, so I can't really make frosting). Then I tried to make a chocolate ganache for decoration, but it was super lumpy and runny and challenging to my not-so-good decorating techniques. So...just decorate them however you'd like. 
Enjoy, and go USA! #Ibelievethatwewillwin

Arequipe-filled Banana World Cup-Cakes
Adopted from The Betty Crocker Big Book of Cupcakes 
Makes approximately 18 cupcakes

2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar (original recipe called for 1 1/4 cups, but I bumped it down a little because my bananas were so sweet and ripe)

3 eggs
3 mashed bananas
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Topping: 1/2 cup arequipe, cream cheese frosting. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Fold in bananas, vanilla, and milk. Combine with dry ingredients and stir well. Divide into greased cupcake tins. Bake for 22 - 27 minutes (mine took exactly 25).

To fill cupcakes, cut out a small cone shape out of the top of each cupcake. Fill the hole with about 1 teaspoon of arequipe. Replace the top of the cupcake with the top part only of the cut-out cone. (Discard the rest of the cone). Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Banana-oatmeal breakfast cookies

More road trip food! These cookies were a delicious way to use up old bananas despite the fact that I didn't have any flour. Gluten and dairy free (depending on your chocolate chips), but still delicious!

Start with bananas.

Mash 'em. Just in case you didn't know what mashed bananas looked like:

Add the oatmeal, peanut butter, vanilla extract, salt, sugar, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

I tried an experiment of baking these in muffin tins. It kept the cookies nice and round but created a weird edge to them so...not really worth it?

Banana-oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
Adopted from Chocolate Covered Katie

1 ripe banana
1 cup quick-cooking plain oatmeal, divided (gluten-free if desired)
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
dash cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mash the banana in a large bowl. Place 1/2 cup of oatmeal in a magic bullet or other blender/food processor and blend for approximately 30 seconds, or until the oatmeal looks like coarse flour. Add the oatmeal flour and the rest of the oatmeal, along with the peanut butter, vanilla extract, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir to combine and then fold in the walnuts and the chocolate chips.

Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies are light golden brown.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Homemade hot pockets!

The fiancé, also known as LC, was born and raised in a South American country where savory foods for breakfast was the norm. He's adapted to granola bars and cereal here in the US, but I know he'd prefer a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast most any day. Since we were preparing for a loooong road trip from NJ to MN (just like the name of the blog! what a coincidence), I figured some homemade ham and cheese hot pockets would be the perfect on-the-go breakfast.

I've made these "hot pockets" for him several times this year, with lots of different fillings: sausage, spinach, mushrooms, bacon...this really isn't a recipe so much as a technique. Be creative and enjoy! :)

Each hot pocket uses a lump of dough just a little smaller than a tennis ball. I usually just stretch and pull them by hand rather than rolling them out...this isn't a beauty contest.

Pile on the toppings: shredded cheddar cheese and deli ham, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Fold and tuck until all the toppings are encased by dough.

The tray ready to go into the oven! I cut some vents into the top of each hot pocket. When I've made a couple of different types of fillings in the same batch, I cut different types of vents for each type of filling -- X for vegetarian, horizontal vents for bacon, vertical vents for sausage, something like that. Or the filling can just be a surprise! 

Of course, I failed to get a picture of the finished product -- next time!

Homemade hot pockets

Bread dough (1/4 of my favorite bread dough recipe made 5 hot pockets)
Fillings (cheese, spinach, mushrooms, bacon, chicken, sausage, ham...the sky is the limit! All meat fillings should be fully cooked, and all fillings should be cut/shredded into small pieces).

Pinch off a ball of dough, a little smaller than a tennis ball. Stretch and shape it into a rectangle. Place fillings on one half of the rectangle., and then fold the other half of the dough over the top. Pinch the ends together to create a tight seam.

Repeat until dough is all used up.

Cut slits in the top of each hot pocket for a vent.

Allow hot pockets to rest for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.