Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies

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Fall is officially here, and my lifestyle has completely changed. With the cool nights, I’m leaving the windows open, I’ve put away my pastel pillows in favor of those in the colors of fall, and the fire is set in my fireplace just waiting for me to strike a match. I have also changed my methods of cooking. The crockpot has become a permanent fixture on my counter, and the smell of warm spices can be caught floating on the air in my neighborhood. Soups, stews, breads, and pumpkin everything is the order of the day. In case you are unaware (if you’re a new reader) my favorite dessert is cookies. I was wondering how I could alter one of my favorites to reflect my love of fall, and came up with this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies. One bite, and you’ll find that it’s hard to stop eating them. Seriously, I had to bag mine up and put them in the freezer, the temptation was so strong. The molasses helps to enhance the spices, but if you don’t want that taste to be as strong, cut back to 1 tablespoon.

Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies

¾ c.
butter flavored Crisco
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 T.
2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 T.
pumpkin pie spice*
¼ t. salt
Granulated sugar for dipping

In the work bowl of your stand mixture, cream shortening and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in egg and molasses. Sift together flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture to the shortening mixture, and blend the dough until thoroughly combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for one hour or up to overnight.

Remove dough from fridge, preheat oven to 375°F. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat. Using a
cookie scoop, scoop up the dough, roll into balls, and roll in the granulated sugar to coat. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until they are puffed and cracked on top. Allow to cool a minute or two on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 36.

 *DIY version can be found here.


Friday, September 25, 2020

Slow Cooker Spicy Pinto Beans

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Today I am going to extol the virtues and unparalleled deliciousness of pinto beans. Trust me when I tell you that no one is more surprised that I’m doing this than me. I was looking for a side dish to serve along with a couple of tamales that I had in the freezer, and for whatever reason beans came to mind. Initially, I was thinking of making refried beans in the crockpot, because I love those, but in googling, came up with a recipe for pinto beans, adapted it according to my tastes, and loved it! I am a newly converted pinto bean enthusiast. I soaked mine, because I feel better about that, but you don’t have to. Whether you decide to soak them or not depends upon your level of paranoia, mine is always high. These are so good that I ended up eating them as a main dish, and completely forgot about the tamales.

Slow Cooker Spicy Pinto Beans

Adapted from themagicalslowcooker.com

 16 oz. dried pinto beans*

1 c. diced yellow onion

1 Melissa’s pickled jalapeño, sliced

2 t. chili powder

½ t. onion powder

½ t. garlic powder

¼ t. cumin

¼ t. adobo seasoning

¼ t. pepper

32 oz. container chicken broth

1½ c. water

 Add at the end:

¼ t. salt or more to taste

Rinse and drain the beans, discard any dirt clumps or rocks. Place into a 6-qt. slow cooker.

Add the onion, jalapeno, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, adobo seasoning, pepper, chicken broth and water to the slow cooker with the beans. Wait to add the salt.

 Cover and cook on HIGH 7-8 hours. Do not open the lid while they cook, or they will not get tender.

 When the cooking time is done mash about ¼ of the beans with a potato masher right in the slow cooker. This will make the beans creamy, which the slow cooker can't do since the simmer is so low. Add salt to taste. (Because I used my homemade, well-seasoned chicken broth, I did not need any additional salt, so be sure to taste before you salt.)

 Serve as a side dish or as a main with tortillas or cornbread.


* There is no need to pre-soak, but I did anyway.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Rigatoni

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Happy first day of fall everyone! I don’t know if you are anything like me, but once fall hits, I get out the crockpot, and it becomes a major part of my kitchen countertop decor until spring. I have been experimenting with a lot of new slow cooked recipes, and have been very pleased with all of them. In the past, I haven’t made a lot of pasta dishes in the crockpot, but based upon this one and the success that I had with it, that is certainly going to change.

This is an easy dish to put together, with minimal effort. The pasta does need to be cooked on the stove, but other than that, you can go about your daily business while enjoying the lovely aroma that will waft through your home as this delicious chicken simmers away.

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Rigatoni

 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast

1 c. Panera Greek Salad Dressing (or any Greek dressing you like*)

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ t. garlic powder

¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese

8 oz. cream cheese (NOT low-fat)

2 generous hands full fresh baby spinach

8 oz. rigatoni (or any tube noodle), cooked according to package** directions, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water

 Place chicken breast into the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour the salad dressing over top. Sprinkle with pepper, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese. Place the cream cheese on top. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 5-6 hours. When the cooking time is almost done, add spinach and stir. Cook the pasta. While pasta is cooking, shred the chicken. Drain the pasta, reserving pasta water. Add cooked pasta to the chicken mixture, and stir well. If the pasta is too dry, add the pasta water until desired consistency is achieved. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and serve.

 Makes four main dish courses.

 *Be sure to use a creamy salad dressing for this recipe, and not a vinaigrette.

 *If you prefer not to use pasta, this is super delicious served on top of mashed potatoes.

Friday, September 18, 2020

It's National Chicken Month!

There are few people I know who don’t like chicken. It’s easy to deal with, tremendously versatile, is wonderful when worked into salads or on top of salads, simmering away on top of the stove, in the crockpot, or fried up in a pan. Because September is National Chicken Month, I have decided to gather together my favorite chicken recipes and share them here. All of these recipes are very doable (some more so than others), will suit a variety of tastes, and, in some cases, be on the table in 30 minutes. Click on the name of the dish below the picture to go straight to the recipe.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Butter Pecan Cookies

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I have another cookie recipe for you this week (If you missed last week’s recipe for Maraschino Cherry Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies, you can find it here.) and it’s a winner! The late Mr. O-P used to love butter pecan ice cream. Me, not only am I not a particular fan of butter pecan ice cream, but ice cream, in general, doesn’t wow me...but I digress. I was thinking about him the other day, as I often do. He absolutely loved cookies, and I wondered what it would be like if I were to create a butter pecan cookie in his honor. He would have loved these, and so would have my dad, yet another cookie fanatic. Toasting the pecans makes them wonderfully flavorful, adding butter flavoring, gives these an extra buttery taste. Make up a batch for now, and another to freeze for the holidays.
Butter Pecan Cookies

2 ½ c. flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
½ t.
butter extract
2 c. pecans, roughly chopped

In a 9” skillet over medium heat, toast to pecans, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes or until fragrant.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the work bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter for 2
minutes until light and creamy. Add both sugars and beat for an additional 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in extracts. Gradually mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined. Fold in 1 ½ c. of the pecans.

Wrap cookie dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F; line baking sheets with
parchment paper or a Silpat. Using a cookie scoop, mound scoops of dough onto your cookie sheet and top with reserved pecans, pressing pecans down lightly into the dough. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool five minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Saag Aloo Frittata

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I love Indian food, everything about it. The combination of flavors, the warm spices, the little bit of heat, everything. The other the morning as I was fixing breakfast I wondered what I could do to bring a little bit of the taste of India into the first meal of the day. This was the result. It was so good; I could hardly stop eating it. Increase, or decrease the amount of jalapeño you use to suit your tastes, but do give this a try. If you aren’t a fan of breakfast, this also makes a wonderful lunch, or a tasty side dish at dinner. It can be consumed hot, or at room temperature. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven, and it slices like a dream. 
Saag Aloo Frittata

2 T. olive oil
Melissa’s baby red potatoes, sliced
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Melissa’s pickled jalapeño, seeded and sliced
½ t. brown mustard seeds
½ t. cumin seeds
½ t. turmeric
¼ t. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 large eggs
⅓ c. whole milk
½ c. grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Heat olive oil in a
9-inch skillet over medium heat. Place potatoes in the skillet, cover, and cook about 10 minutes until tender but firm. Stir in spinach, green onions, garlic, and seasonings. Continue cooking 1-2 minutes until spinach is wilted and all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Pour eggs evenly over vegetable mixture and, using a heatproof spatula, carefully disperse ingredients to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over top. Cook until bottom is set, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until eggs are just set, about 9 minutes. Remove from oven, and let set 3-5 minutes before slicing and serving. To do so, run a heatproof spatula around the edge of the pan to release frittata. Slide onto a warm plate and cut into wedges to serve.

Garnish with chopped chives and a sprinkle of smoky paprika.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Styling a Two-Tier Tray

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Call me a sap, but I have succumbed to the purchase of one of those ubiquitous two-tier trays; I didn’t want to be the only person who didn’t have one. It is indeed a cute receptacle for a nice variety of fall decor, and I couldn’t be more pleased. 
Styling one of these can be tricky. You need to combine old with new, soft textures with hard ones, and add a little bit of greenery, real or faux, to finish things off.
As you can see, I’m embracing the neutrals this season. I combined vintage (the squirrel vase) with new (the cloth pumpkins), tossed in a bit of farmhouse (the Rae Dunn "Nibble" plates), and whimsy (the MacKenzie-Childs "Courtly Check" flatware).
The single ceramic pumpkin is what's left of a set of pumpkin salt and pepper shakers. Instead of discarding the remaining shaker, I now use it for a cinnamon-sugar mixture that I put on toast. 
The flowers are silk, and were originally a horrible color of diarrhea green. I got out a couple of cans of spray paint from my impressively large collection, and made them colors that I found appealing. Never be afraid to spray paint silk flowers or greenery, they take to paint quite well as you can see. 
The jar candle from Colonial Candle of Cape Cod is a favorite fragrance of mine in Tibetan Sandalwood. Not only do I like the candle, but I find the empty candle holder to be a wonderful receptacle for my vast collection of colored pencils, markers, and pens. 
The glass pumpkin is from Pottery Barn. I bought it a number of years ago, but it is still available, and I believe currently on sale. I put LED string lights inside and light it up in the evening. Very atmospheric.
How are you decorating for the season? Are you embracing fall, or hanging on desperately to summer?

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Maraschino Cherry Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

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I don’t particularly like following directions, people who know me will tell you that. So when an online friend posted a recipe for these cookies a couple of weeks ago, I took one look at it and thought no, that’s not the way I’m going to make these. There was no almond flavoring, first of all. Cherries and almond flavoring go hand-in-hand. So I cut the amount of vanilla in half, and added double the amount of almond. Second (here’s a little tip for you if you are ever making any type of slice and bake cookie that contains chocolate chips), use mini chocolate chips. It is so much easier to slice.
That said, this is a marvelous recipe! It's like biting into a chocolate and cherry-studded cloud. Why I had maraschino cherries in my fridge is anybody’s guess (and let me tell you, if you spill maraschino cherry juice on the floor, you will be wiping up stickiness for the rest of your life, don’t ask me how I know), but I’m thankful that I did because I found these easy to deal with and tasty to boot. And look how pretty they are; they should be wonderful for the holiday season. Yes, it’s early, but I start thinking about the holidays in September. How about you?
 Maraschino Cherry Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

2 c. flour
½ t. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c. powdered sugar
½ t. vanilla extract
1 t.
almond extract
¾ c. chopped maraschino cherries, well drained*
2/3 c. mini chocolate chips

Whisk together flour and salt; set aside.

Cream together butter and powdered sugar, 1-2 minutes; mix
in extracts.

Add flour and salt mixture and mix until it starts forming a dough. Mix in chocolate chips and maraschino cherries.

Form the dough into a log, about 2” thick, compacting as you go to keep it from crumbling when you slice the cookies. Wrap securely in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line baking sheet with
parchment paper or Silpat. Cut the log into 1/4“ thick slices, and place them onto the baking sheet 1” apart. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until they just start to turn lightly golden brown on top. Allowed to cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 24 cookies

* spread cherries on paper towel to drain well

Monday, September 7, 2020

Fresh Zucchini-Tomato Salsa

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My five cherry tomato plants that were rather lackluster all summer long are beginning to bear, and I have cherry tomatoes like crazy! I’ve been experimenting with a variety of recipes, and, today roasted them along with other vegetables to make salsa. My mother used to make a delicious side dish of zucchini and tomatoes, which is what gave me the idea to include roasted zucchini in with the mix. If you can’t get kids to eat their vegetables, this is an excellent way to do it. Fresh Zucchini-Tomato Salsa is a truly healthy and delicious snack.
Fresh Zucchini-Tomato Salsa

2 c. cherry tomatoes
2 Melissa's shallots, quartered
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut in half
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1-2 medium jalapeno peppers
1 T. olive oil
⅓ - ½ c. firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime, juiced
Pinch dried oregano
¼ - ½ t. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

Set oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven's broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread tomatoes, shallots, zucchini, garlic, and jalapeno peppers onto prepared baking sheet. Toss with olive oil to coat, and spread out on sheet.
Roast under the preheated broiler for 5 minutes. Turn the baking sheet and continue broiling until vegetables are charred, about 5 minutes more. Cool slightly. Remove garlic from skins; discard skins.

Blend tomatoes, shallots, zucchini, peeled garlic, jalapenos, any accumulated juices from the baking sheet, cilantro leaves, lime juice, cumin, cayenne pepper, and oregano in a food processor or blender until salsa is smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until flavors blend, at least 2 hours. Season with salt and black pepper.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Crack Chicken Noodle Soup

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You have no doubt heard of soups that eat like a meal. Well, this is one of them. You can enjoy this in one of two ways, as a soup to eat with a spoon, in which case you will only need 4 ounces of angel hair pasta, or as a soup that you can eat with a fork by using the entire 8 ounces. It’s really up to you. It’s delicious either way, kids will love it, and with fall on the way, what could be more perfect?
Crack Chicken Noodle Soup

3 c. cooked, cubed chicken breast
1 (10.5 oz.) can condensed chicken soup
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. chopped celery
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
1 (1 oz.) packet Ranch dressing mix
6-8 slices of thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. uncooked Angel Hair pasta*

Combine chicken, condensed soup, chicken stock, milk, cream cheese, celery, carrots, scallions, ranch dressing mix, and crumbled bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Turn down heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes. Add noodles and cheddar cheese, and simmer until noodles are fully cooked and cheese is melted.

* I broke my noodles into thirds. The soup is much easier to eat this way.