Friday, September 28, 2012

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread with Brown Sugar Pecan Streusel

Geez, do you think the title is long enough?  I was trying to think of a way to pare it down, but it didn't seem fair to cut out the cream cheese part or the very descriptive streusel part.  That's what makes this pumpkin bread different from your basic, run of the mill (yet still delicious) pumpkin bread.

My mom always made pumpkin bread from, well, as long ago as I can remember.  You knew fall had officially arrived when the first batch was made.  Even when we were too young to help with the baking my sister and I would gather in the kitchen because we knew we would be given one of the beaters to lick.  And I've been obsessed with the stuff ever since.  I'll eat it for breakfast, dessert, dinner, as a snack...

She has made this pumpkin bread so many times that the cookbook she uses is permanently creased and falling apart on the recipe page....splatters of dried batter everywhere.  I love seeing those worn and stained pages almost as much as I love the recipe itself.  It conjures up all kinds of warm and fuzzy childhood memories.

But alas I didn't have that beloved recipe two nights ago when I set out to make some for myself.  So what's a girl to do?   Well, I turned to everyone's good friend Google and sought out every type of pumpkin bread recipe I could find.  I combined aspects of two recipes to come up with my final version below.

I was a little apprehensive about adding all these new things into the bread.  Sure, cream cheese and pecans are great, but did I really want them messing up a classic?

It turns out I did :)  You can definitely omit the cream cheese, pecans or the streusel if you'd like, but you'll be missing out if you do.

I know it's not officially fall yet, but since it's been in the mid-50's here in Georgia a few mornings lately I feel like it's okay to pull out the fall recipes.  Here's to fall.....leaves, football, boots, scarves and PUMPKIN RECIPES!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Not Your Basic Black Beans

Black beans most certainly have never been on my list of favorite foods.  It's not that I don't like them, but I'm pretty sure I've never come home, opened the pantry and thought "mmm, black beans!  Those will hit the spot!".  I've had them in my Joey Junior burrito at Moes but that's about it.

However, the other night when I needed a relevant side dish for my mango salsa topped pork chops it was the black beans that kept coming to mind.  I had been set on rice, but alas there was none in our pantry and quite frankly I was tired of having 5 cans of black beans staring me in face every time I opened the pantry door. 

But I didn't want just any black beans.  I needed something with a little bit of a kick.  Something with a bit of flair. 

After searching out several recipes online I came up with the below combo.  I know lime juice sounds like an odd ingredient to add to beans, but paired with the cilantro it does the trick.  And the cayenne pepper and chili powder really do add a kick that I liked despite the fact that I'm normally not crazy about spicy foods. 

These beans definitely have a Cuban or Mexican taste to them and would be perfect to add to those types of meals. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mango Salsa for Meats

Mango salsa for meats?? As in, mango the fruit?  On top of protein?

I know it may sound a bit odd, but this simple blend of mango, onion, peppers and cilantro is quite the pairing for everything from mahi mahi to pork to shrimp.  You can actually keep your meat on the simple side (i.e. no crazy sauces or marinades) and just let the salsa take front and center stage.

I paired mine with some seared pork chops and then added a side of dressed up black beans (recipe coming tomorrow).  I prepared the salsa first and then let all the flavors meld together while I finished up the rest of the meal.  You could also prep it the night before and just keep it in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

I've never tried it, but I'm sure that you could jazz this stuff up and serve it with chips as well.

Words of wisdom:  Just make sure you don't use an overly-ripe will be super duper slimey and will mush together.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday's Tips, Tricks and Tid-Bits: Baking with Glass, Metal andSilicone

In this day and age one has endless options when it comes to baking dishes. You've got glass pans, metal pans and even silicone ones in every size and shape you can imagine. While this convenience is wonderful in many ways, it can leave you feeling a bit lost at the same time. Or on the other hand you may not even realize that it was the lighter aluminum pan that caused your beloved brownies to bake much slower than usual. This is why you often see various baking instructions on the back of boxed cake mixes that are based on what type of pan you use.

So what's the difference? Below is a quick overview to help you understand how each type of pan will affect your dish.

Glass: Glass pans earn points for being easy to clean, a common complaint with most metal pans. Glass dishes also tend to absorb heat more readily resulting in the ability to brown your food versus burning it.
Good for: meats, casseroles, savory dishes
Not so great for: sugary treats (they tend to burn around the perimeter before they finish cooking in the middle)

Metal: Most metal pans are typically made from aluminum. There are 3 factors that will affect how fast your food cooks: the color of the pan, how shiny the metal is and whether or not it is coated. The rule of thumb is that the darker the metal, the more heat it it will absorb and the faster the food will cook.
Good for: cakes, cookies, muffins, bread

Silicone: The new kid on the block. If sticking is a concern for you, then silicone is a great option. The only thing to consider is that silicone is a poor heat conductor and your baked good will brown very little, if at all.
Good for: anything that tends to stick, anything you don't want a crust on
Not so great for: meats you're wanting to brown

Friday, September 21, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars

I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a huge toffee fan, but when I caught a glimpse of these Chewy Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars over on Pinterest I couldn't resist giving them a go.  Reason being that I linked over to the recipe and realized just what all kinds of goodness went into these little babies....

Layer 1: Graham cracker crumbs, butter, toffee bits
Layer 2: Chocolate melted with sweetened condensed milk
Layer 3: Chocolate chip cookie dough and a few graham cracker crumbs
Layer 4: Toffee Bits sprinkled all a-top

Hhhhmm...considering that I would have eaten just the bottom layer alone I figured that these couldn't turn out too bad.  And I will have to say that they certainly didn't disappoint in the least.  I was worried that each of the layers would be too thin (my graham cracker mixture barely covered the bottom, but because all of the ingredients are pretty rich and flavorful the ratios turned out to be spot on.

I enjoyed the idea of these bars so much that I think I might experiment in the future with sugar cookie dough or mint chocolate chip bits....or maybe peanut butter...or white chocolate.  Well, you get the idea.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lemon Poppyseed Bread with Lemon Glaze

Maybe I'm alone, but I've always wondered just why poppyseeds are so often added to any type of lemon flavored bread.  They don't really have a taste (not one that I can detect anyways) and they don't enhance the texture of the bread.  But I'm not complaining because I love the way they look and I love the little crunch you get from each of those little seeds.

I've always had a soft spot for lemon poppyseed muffins, but I've never had them in loaf form and thought it was time to concoct such a recipe.  The below recipe is quick and easy to throw together because it is based on a boxed cake mix.  The bread is also pretty sweet which means I enjoyed it for both breakfast and dessert :)  Okay, and maybe for a mid afternoon snack too.

I will say that this bread is very dense and moist.  It doesn't have that fluffy texture that you get in a sandwich bread.   But that's what I was going for so it didn't disappoint me in the least. 

*Don't worry if your loaf "collapses" after you pull it out of the oven.  Mine was really high and shrunk back down even though the bread was cooked through.  That's to be expected, so don't think you did anything wrong.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

Holy moly.  I'm a little embarrassed that it's been ten whole days since I've logged a post here on CCK. Yikes!  Things were a little scattered last week and I think I just needed a bit of a breather.  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love blogging and always enjoy both the cooking and writing aspect of it, but it takes so much time.  It takes around an hour to get a post looking the way I want it to (minus the time I spend actually trying out a recipe in the kitchen) and some days I simply don't have those extra 60 minutes to spare.  But I'm back on track and can promise a post every day this week.  Swear.

Anyhoo, I figured I would feature one of my new go-to recipes in this comeback post.  These chicken enchiladas were oh so good and have definitely made their way onto my list of must-have recipes.  Not gonna lie, they took a while to make but they were absolutely worth the extra time.  It's not that the recipe is hard, but rather there are a lot of ingredients and several steps to getting them made.

But the good news is that this recipe makes 12 enchiladas, meaning that you can freeze half the batch for a later meal.  You can also make these ahead of time and store them in the fridge so that they're good to go straight in the oven when you come home each evening.

*If you're going to freeze them you have two options: 1) go ahead and assemble the entire meal, including the sauce and cheese, or 2) freeze the enchiladas, sauce and cheese separately.  If you're taking the meal to someone else you can go ahead with option one to cut down on the steps they'll have to go through the get the meal table ready.  Just make sure to freeze them right after adding the sauce/cheese so that the enchiladas don't get soggy.  If you're just freezing it for yourself you can go with option two so that you can crisp up the enchiladas before adding the sauce/cheese.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Banana Bread Brownies with Brown Butter Frosting

Bananas are unfortunately on my list of least favorite foods.  It's not that I don't like the flavor, but rather it's the texture of the them that bothers me.  They're mushy.  Mushy and gooey.  They kind of remind me of clumpy baby food to think of it.  [insert slight gag reflex]

Oddly enough I love banana flavored foods though, particularly banana flavored desserts.  I've always been a fan of banana bread, so when I came across these banana bread brownies topped with a brown butter frosting I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take them up to a family gathering at Lake Burton.

I wasn't exactly sure what the expect though....would they be super sugary and dense like your typical brownies?  Or would they still have more of a standard bread-y texture?  I was fine with either, especially since the brown butter frosting was involved!  I had never made a brown butter frosting, but was surprised at how easy it was to make.  You just have to be careful to watch it, lest your brown butter frosting become burnt butter frosting.  Yikes!

These turned out to be slightly sweeter than your average loaf of banana bread without being too dense.  I was a little worried there wouldn't be enough frosting, so I did 1 1/2 times the amount listed in the original recipe.  I was so glad I did because it turned out to be just the perfect amount.  No one wants the tease of a too thin layer of frosting after all.

And since you don't have to wait for the brownies to cool to frost them this whole dessert comes together from start to finish in under an hour.  While it's no secret I love spending hours upon hours in the kitchen, you don't always have time to stand over an oven for an entire afternoon.  Another plus is that this frosting can be made all in one bowl, no stand mixer required.....less dishes are always a good thing!

Hopefully you'll go bananas for these banana bread brownies too :)  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Glazed Doughnut Muffins

A few weeks ago a Dunkin Donuts opened up not too far from where the hubs and I live.  Every time I pass it I have to muster up every bit of self control I have not to pull through the drive-thru and order up a mixed dozen.  Red velvet?  Yes please.  Chocolate Frosted?  Yes again.  Plain glazed?  You bet.  I'm pretty sure I've never met a doughnut I didn't immediately make friends with.

But what about doughnut muffins?  I came across the recipe for these on one of my favorite blogs, Sweet Pea's Kitchen.  I've tried several other recipes from Christina and have always been blown away, so I figured I'd give this one a go.  I wasn't exactly sure how it would be possible for a muffin to taste like a doughnut, but I took a leap of faith based on all the rave reviews I read.

I was making these muffins for my Sunday School class, so I made them the night before to be on the safe side.  That way if they were a flop I would still have a few hours to throw something else together the next morning.  What can I say, I'm a bit of a worry wart and would always rather be safe than sorry!

These muffins turned out tasking much more like doughnuts than I had anticipated.  I loved the subtle brown sugar and cinnamon flavor they had and was pleasantly surprised that the glaze that topped them didn't make them so sickeningly sweet that they seemed like a rich dessert.

I was a little perplexed as to why my glaze never set up like the one's in Christina's photos (mine was more clear and never took on that hard/white appearance even after it had dried), but it was delicious nevertheless.

These muffins would be a great unexpected addition to any breakfast or brunch, and they are especially a new favorite of mine since they can be prepared beforehand.   Dare I say these muffins might be able to give Dunkin Donuts a run for their money?  I'll let you be the judge :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Homemade Dog Treats

Confession:  I used to be a cat person.  And partially still am.  We always had them growing up and I was particularly attached to Peepers, the gray calico I got when I was 7.  Peepers was with our family for 19 years (yes, you read that right) before passing away last year.  You certainly get attached to pets and saying goodbye to her was heartbreaking to say the least.

I still love cats, but I finally switched over to the other side when I got Ellie Bear, a shih tzu/bichon frise mix, for my birthday during my last year of grad school.  I was living in Birmingham at the time and wanted a little companion that could travel back and forth with me when I came home.  I initially tried to adopt from a shelter because there are so many homeless pets out there in need of a home, but was turned down from shelter after shelter because I was a student who didn't own my own home.  Seriously?!  As frustrating as that was, I'm so glad that everything worked out and that Ellie was the pup that I ended up finding from a family who lived relatively close to my hometown.

I can honestly say that I love Ellie more than I do some people :-/  I know that sounds terrible, but the love and companionship that she brings is next to none.  She's always right there with you, following you from room to room, like a shadow.  Pets truly do become part of your family and you love them as such.

The day I brought Ellie home back in 2009.

Of course she had to be in a few wedding shots as well.

This past weekend my family celebrated Ellie Bear's 3rd birthday.  Her actual birthday was August 11, but this was the first chance we had to all get together.  I already knew I was going to make some banana bread brownies (coming soon!), but I also wanted to make Ellie something that she could eat.  This little fluff ball means the world to me, so I wanted something that she would enjoy but that would also be relatively healthy.

These treats were incredibly easy to throw together and I must say that they passed the taste test with flying colors!  Ellie, my husband's English bulldog Moe, and his mother's poodle Gin Gin all approved.

I used a doggie bone shaped cookie cutter for these, but you could use any shape you like.

You can cut down the baking time on these for older dogs who need 
a softer texture.

She might have had a little help blowing out the candle :)