Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Mmm, just looking at this picture makes my mouth water... I made these muffins today for the first time, and they were fabulous!! I'm not surprised, they're from my Cook's Illustrated cook book that I love. The book gives several more variations for this recipe (apricot-almond, cranberry-orange, etc.). Here's my *tiny bit* healthier version of the recipe from the book.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Printable version here

2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour
1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. poppy seeds
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest (from 1 large, or 2 small lemons)
10 tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 oz. sugar (little under 1 cup)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt*

1. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by either spraying it with nonstick spray or putting cupcake liners in it. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, poppy seeds, and lemon zest together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Using an electric (or stand) mixer, beat the butter & sugar together at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and beat in half of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 cup of the yogurt. Beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, another 1/2 cup of yogurt, then repeat one more time. Portion the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin. (The tins will be filled pretty much to the top.)

4. Bake the muffins in a 375º oven for 25 minutes, or until light golden brown. (Rotate pan halfway through to help ensure even baking.) Let the muffins cool for a few minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack. Delicious served warm, or store leftovers in an airtight container.

Make-ahead directions: After filling muffin tin, you may wrap the muffin tin tightly with plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick spray and either refrigerate for 24 hours or freeze for up to 1 month. If made without cupcake liners, you can remove the frozen batter balls from the pan once frozen, and store in a ziploc bag. To bake, unwrap the muffins and bake for 25-30 minutes if refrigerated, or 35-40 minutes if frozen.

Tip: Eggs are best creamed into butter & sugar when they are at room temperature. You can either set them on the counter before starting the recipe, or what I normally do, is put the whole eggs in a bowl of warm water while you're working on the beginning parts of the recipe. By the time you need them, they'll be a good temperature.

Why I love it? They're light, fluffy, and soft, with a slightly crisp top. They smell & taste amazing! :) Plus, the make-ahead directions can come in very handy.

*Yogurt- the book mentions that you can also use low-fat or nonfat yogurt, but I wanted to get exactly what they called for (since it was my first time making it). This is the kind I found at Albertson's:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Taco-Stuffed Pasta Shells

I first got this recipe when my oldest child was a baby. Nestle sent me some baby things in the mail, and part of it was a few recipe cards for freezer meals. Somehow this recipe got out of my rotation, but I tried it again last night, and we loved it! The recipe says it serves 8, which is split into two 4-serving casseroles. If I do 20 shells total, split into two dinners, that will feed my family of 5 (2 adults & 3 little kids) pretty well.

Taco-Stuffed Pasta Shells
Printable version here

20 jumbo pasta shells (20 will fill a 9x13 baking dish)
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 can (16 oz.) refried beans (or 2 cups homemade beans)
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 cups (12 oz. bottle) taco sauce or salsa, divided
1/4 cup sliced green onions
Light sour cream (optional)*

1. Prepare pasta shells according to package directions, then rinse & drain. (I always prepare a few extra in case some break while being filled.) After cooking, either toss with a little oil (to prevent sticking), or set out on a baking sheet, separated, while they wait to be filled.

2. Cook beef in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink. Drain. Add beans, 3/4 cup cheese and chili powder; mix well.

3. Spread 1/4 cup taco sauce over bottom of each of two 8-inch square baking dishes (or 1/2 cup in a 9x13 pan). Fill pasta shells with beef mixture (about 3 tbsp. each, which equals one large cookie scoop). Place 8-10 shells in each baking dish, filled side up. Spoon remaining taco sauce over shells. Cover one baking dish with plastic wrap, then wrap with foil. Label and freeze for up to 2 months.

4. Cover remaining baking dish with foil. Bake at 350º for 40-45 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Serve with green onions and sour cream.

To bake frozen shells: Place baking dish in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 375º. Remove foil & plastic wrap; recover with foil. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until heated through. Top the same way as above.

Tip for cooking the shells: To make it easier to test when the shells are done, I throw in a few of the broken shells (that are inevitably in the box). After cooking for the recommended time, I fish out one of these pieces and test it.

Why I love it? First, it's a great freezer meal. It's very low-fuss, just thaw and bake. I served it with salad & fruit, and it's a great complete meal. It tastes great, too. It's a nice change from regular tacos. I purposely used mild taco sauce to make it more kid-friendly.

*I have to mention, if you haven't tried this sour cream yet, I think this is the best kind ever!! It is so much creamier & yummier than regular sour cream.

(Original recipe from here)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Soft Onion Sandwich Rolls

 Last week I made Sloppy Joes, and wanted to find a good bun recipe to go with it. Thanks to and their valuable rating system, I was able to find a great recipe on the first try! :) My version is a little different than the original- mine are made with a stand mixer (not a bread machine), I skipped the instant potato flakes, and I used a different kind of flour.

Tonight I'm making the buns again to go with homemade hamburgers. (Original recipe here)

Soft Onion Sandwich Rolls

Printable version here

Dry ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour (I use 1 1/2 c. each whole wheat bread flour & white bread flour)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. onion powder
3 tbsp. dried minced onion
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (1 pkg. = 2 1/4 tsp.)

Wet ingredients
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. lukewarm water
3 tbsp. butter, melted

For topping
1 egg white
Sesame seeds (optional)

1. Place all dry ingredients (except sesame seeds) in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Next, slowly add in all wet ingredients. Knead for 8 minutes with dough hook (speed 2 of a KitchenAid mixer).

2. Place rounded ball of dough in a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 60 minutes, or until doubled.

3. Take dough out of bowl; press down lightly on it. Divide into 8 equal pieces, and form into balls. Gently flatten the balls until they are 4 inches in diameter. Place on a greased baking sheet, and cover loosely with plastic wrap (that has been sprayed with nonstick spray). Let rise again until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350º. While preheating, whisk together the egg white and 1 tbsp. water in a cup. Brush over the tops of the risen rolls, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown (mine take about 17 minutes). Cool slightly, then slice horizontally before serving. (Best served the same day. They were still fairly good the next day, if toasted first.)

Dough just after first rise

To shape the rolls, I kind of tuck the edges underneath & pinch them together (on right). Then I flip it over, and press down gently until it's the right size (left)


Why I love this? These rolls are very soft, but are sturdy enough for something like a hamburger. We've also eaten them with sloppy joes and roast beef & au jus. The onion taste is just right- it's subtle, but enough to make them flavorful! They are SO much better than store-bought buns. I think I've converted myself to homemade buns!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Buttermilk Pancakes (2)

I made a new pancake recipe this morning for the kids, and I really liked them. Their pancakes were heart-shaped in honor of Valentine's Day.

Buttermilk Pancakes

3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 1 c. each all-purpose & whole wheat)
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. table salt)
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs

1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk gently until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated; stop before the batter is evenly moistened.

2. Add the melted butter and mix just until the batter is evenly moistened (there will be small lumps still). Let the batter rest while you heat the griddle.

3. Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat (or set electric griddle to 375º) until drops of water briefly dance on the surface before evaporating. Lightly oil the griddle.

4. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Let cook until bubbles rise to the surface & the edges look dry. Check the underside of the pancake to make sure it's nicely browned, then flip. Cook until the 2nd side is nicely browned, too.

*If desired, you can transfer the cooked pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200º oven while you finish making the pancakes. Cooked pancakes will keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator and up to 1 month in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave, or defrost overnight in the fridge, and reheat in a 350º oven for 5 minutes.

Why I love it? Well, my 6 year old just told me this as I was typing... "Thank you, I love these pancakes! They're my favorite type ever!" (as he was helping himself to pancake #3 and 4). They're healthy, delicious, and use ingredients I normally have on-hand.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Perfect Granola Bars

Granola bars are one of the things I hate buying at the store, because I know I can make them so much cheaper & yummier at home. I sometimes buy them still for convenience, but I love it when I can make them at home. This is my favorite granola bar recipe. (Originally found here)

(Update- for another equally delicious, yet different, granola bar- here is another one I love.)

Perfect Granola Bars

1/2 cup and 1/3 cup butter, softened (13 1/3 tbsp.)
1/2 cup honey (6 oz.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar (2.7 oz.)
4 1/2 cups oats (15 oz.)
1 cup whole wheat flour (4 1/2 oz.), or all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup add-ins (i.e. chocolate chips, cranberries, etc.)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl (or stand mixer). Press into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 325º for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack; gently press down on bars after baking to flatten (I use a small, flat cutting board to press down on them). Cut into 24 bars (4 by 6). Store in an airtight container.

*A variation done by a friend: "I made them last night with dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and drizzled the top with white chocolate." I can't wait to try them this way! Thanks for the idea, Sara!

Why I love it? Even though they probably have more calories than the Quaker ones (because of the real butter!), I love that I know exactly what goes in these granola bars. You don't want HFCS, preservatives, stuff like that? No problem. They taste delicious, and are a quick snack we all enjoy.

Tip: You might notice on my blog that I often give weights for the ingredients. That's because weighing is the primary way I measure my ingredients. Not only is it more accurate, but I find it easier! I just set the mixing bowl on my small kitchen scale, and add the ingredients that way. It's really helpful for things like honey. I don't have to worry about scraping honey out of a measuring cup, and it gives me less dishes to wash!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Maple Butterscotch Brownies

I first tried this recipe about 15 years ago. Each time I make them, I wonder why I don't make them more often! They use pretty basic ingredients (once you've bought the bottle of maple flavoring) & are quick to make.

Maple Butterscotch Brownies

Printable version here

1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted (or a combination of both)
1 1/2 tsp. imitation maple flavoring
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts*

1. In a bowl, combine brown sugar, butter and maple flavoring. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to egg mixture. Stir in walnuts. The batter will be thick at this point.

2. Spread into a greased 9-inch square baking pan. Bake at 350º for 30-35 minutes or until brownies test done/look set (mine take about 35 minutes). Cool. Cut into 16 squares. Enjoy!

*Walnuts- for best flavor, toast them first. Here is a page talking about how to do it. I toasted mine in a 350º oven on a baking stone for 10 minutes, stirred them, then baked 5 more minutes. Take them out & cool before chopping.

Ready to be spread out in the parchment-lined pan:

Ready to bake:

Baked, cooled, and ready to be cut into bars (I trimmed off the edges to make them look a little nicer):

Why I love it? Well, what first turned me on to this recipe was that it didn't have chocolate in it (years ago I went through a chocolate-free phase, and found this recipe). If you can't eat chocolate, or for some crazy reason don't want to :) this is a good brownie alternative. The maple smell & taste is amazing! They're soft, chewy, mmm... now mine just need to hurry up and cool so I can eat them! One thing they are not, however, is healthy... so eat sparingly. ;)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Countertops!

I know this isn't a recipe, but it's exciting and it's related to my kitchen! :) Dave and I decided to redo our counters with this year's tax refund. Luckily we only have one 10-foot section of counters, because even that costs plenty! It's a Corian countertop (the color is called Tarragon) with an integrated sink. So the sink is molded as a part of the counter, using the same material.


After taking off the old counter:

DONE!! :)