Good morning readers! We’ve had many, many mornings since our last post, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about the blog. A lot. Like multiple times a week. Do you want to hear some of my excuses? It all started when an egg split, followed by the birth of the two sweetest baby girls in the whole world. Mama and dada continued to work full-time. Mama switched jobs in July 2012. Then we bought a new house in June of this year nearly twice the size of our old house (which, on a side note, was so charming and cute, I really do miss it), to accommodate our growing family. You see, in addition to the twins, we also acquired the amazing Pedress part-time. Two bedrooms simply wasn’t cuttin’ it, especially when we had to drag a mattress down a flight of stairs every time the pedress joined us, and she had to sleep in our living room. Hence, the new house.
Needless to say, mama is fairly tired at the end of the day (yes, exhausted might be closer to the mark, but let’s not discuss the bags under my eyes). Tired enough that sleep takes priority over blogging. But I am still cooking, because we have to eat, and I like nice meals.
Back to the recipe! Yesterday I saw a recipe for pillsbury mini chicken pot pies, bought some grands biscuits at the store, and planned to make them for dinner. However, when I asked John if that sounded ok for dinner, his response was something along the lines of “hell no.” You see, anything that resembles the creamy filling of a casserole is enough to send him running. So there I was, with a can of biscuits, and no plan. Then I remembered I had some of that extra-tasty applewood-smoked bacon from the local whole foods, and I decided that, even though today was my morning to get up with the twins, I’d wake up a few minutes early to make breakfast pot pies… or, quiches.
I honestly don’t know if these fit the true definition of quiche, but beaten egg and other miscellaneous ingredients inside a baked shell appears to be a quiche to me.
1 Large muffin pan
I can pillsbury grands flaky biscuits
6-8 pieces of bacon, fully cooked
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
•Preheat oven to 375
•Beat eggs until combined
•Chop bacon, add to eggs; set aside
•Pat each biscuit into 5-6 inch round circle
•Spray muffin pan with cooking spray
•Place each biscuit inside one muffin cup
•Fill each biscuit cup 2/3 with bacon-egg mixture
•Top with cheese
•Gently bring sides of biscuit together over topping, pinch together, but do not enclose entirely
•Bake for 16-18 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown around the edges
JOHN FACTOR: It’s after 10:00 am and he is still sleeping peacefully upstairs. Or playing on his phone. Either way, he hasn’t made it down yet to try this breakfast creation, but perhaps I’ll update after he has arisen.
Twins, much like corgis and young Jedis, have extremely high midi-chlorian counts. Their strong connection to the Force enables them to influence John’s and my actions- for instance, John and I willingly getting up multiple times a night to change and feed them, or changing the channel to cartoons even though there’s a football game on that we want to watch. So there I was other day when both of my girls looked at me with prolonged, intent stares, and I had the sudden urge to bake pumpkin cupcakes. “Where did this craving come from?” I wondered. I have generally avoided sweets the last couple of weeks so that I might finally lose that post-twin-preggo muffin top around my mid-section, but something just kept telling me it would be a good idea to get in the kitchen and whip up a batch of these tasties. It only later occurred to me that it was definitely the twins that made me do it.
You can’t think of fall without also thinking of pumpkins; jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin smashing are all requisite elements of the season. But I don’t have time these days to carve a pumpkin. I barely have time to cook myself dinner! However, this recipe can be made in stages. Stage 1 = bake cupcakes. Stage 2 = make icing. Stage 3 = decorate cupcakes. The ability to do anything in stages these days is essential, otherwise, I would get interrupted by a poopy diaper and my recipes would be ruined. Luckily, I timed this well and made the cupcakes over the course of two days, part of which occurred with baby in bjorn. Pumpkin craving satiated.
I adapted this recipe from a traditional cake recipe and increased the amount of icing (um, ‘cuz more icing is always better, mmmkay?). You may even have some icing left over, which is good for random finger-dipping if you happen to be in the kitchen. However, I should note that, while the cake recipe is pretty straight forward, the icing can be tricksy (but not false, precious). It’s the caramel part that can cause some minor frustration and kitchen utensil throwing. So my advice is, take care during that first step in the caramel and watch it very closely so that the sugar doesn’t darken excessively. You’ll know you’ve cooked it too long if it smells even slightly burned- then you taste it, and your tongue concurs. You might want to have some more powdered sugar in the cupboard in case you have to try again. The first time I made the recipe I had one very failed attempt at the caramel- then my second attempt was a success.
So if you’re already popular, make these, and your groupies will love you even more- and if you’re unpopular, or about to get fired, you need to make them stat. These cupcakes are guaranteed to win you the respect and admiration of friends and coworkers.
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
(Adapted from Pumpkin Spice Cake recipe on epicurious)
Prep Time: 60-75 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Serves: 2 Dozen
- 3 Cups all purpose Flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- 1 15-oz can pure pumpkin
- 1 ½ C sugar
- ¾ C vegetable oil
- ½ C heavy cream
- 4 large eggs
- 1.5 lbs powdered sugar, divided into two piles: one pile with ¾ C, the other with the rest of the sugar
- Additional ½ to 1 C powdered sugar (optional for firmer icing)
- 1 ½ C plus 1 ½TBSP heavy whipping cream
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- 12 oz packaged cream cheese, at room temperature
- 6 TBSP butter (3/4 stick), at room temperature
- 2 Regular Muffin Pans
- 2 Dozen (at least) Cupcake Liners
- 1 (or 2) Large Mixing Bowl(s)
- 1 (or 2) Small Mixing Bowl(s)
- Large Nonstick Skillet
- Small Strainer
- 2 Cooling Racks
For the Cake:
- Pre-heat oven to 350º
- Line pans with liners; set aside
- Whisk first 9 ingredients in small bowl; set aside
- Using mixer, beat pumpkin, sugar, oil and cream in large bowl; add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate; add flour mixture, beat on low until just blended
- Fill cupcake liners ¾ full
- Bake 10 minutes, then rotate pans in the oven; bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean
- Leaving cupcakes in pans, cool completely on cooling rack before frosting
For the Frosting:
- Sprinkle ¾ C powdered sugar over bottom of a large nonstick skillet; cook over medium heat until sugar melts (do not stir!)
- Once sugar melts, continue cooking until sugar turns deep amber, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes
- Carefully stir in ¾ C cream, vanilla, and salt (mixture will bubble, so be careful); stir until any caramel bits dissolve
- Remove caramel from heat and stir in remaining ¾ TBSP cream; strain into small bowl; cool to room temperature
- Sift remaining powdered sugar into small bowl; set aside
- Using mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl; gradually beat in powdered sugar; then beat in cooled caramel
- Cover and chill frosting until firm enough to spread (or piped on), about 2 hours. If you like a thicker icing, use some of that additional powdered sugar to add to the mix.
JOHN FACTOR: The cupcakes start disappearing before I even have the chance to put on the icing. Once the icing is added, I generally have to put a few under lock and key for myself, or he will raid my stash as well.
Hallooo dear readers! What? You thought I had forgotten you? No way! I’m pulling a Brett Favre and returning to my multitude of fans yet again. However, unlike the subject of wienergate, I have an excellent reason for my absence. Actually, I have two excellent reasons:
That’s right- your’s truly has added the title of ‘mama’ to her resume. As it turns out, we brought back a couple more things from that awesome trip we took around this time last year. Our little angel baby girls (yes, they’re identical) are now more than three months old. So hopefully you see why I’ve been absent for many months. Sadly, when you sleep three hours a night, there’s not much time to post recipes, let alone cook. But as our routine became somewhat regulated, I was able to get back in the kitchen to make something other than formula. It often takes some crafty planning, a baby who happens to be in a good mood, and a bjorn so mama can use both hands. Hopefully, the baby looks like this…
…rather than this:
So there I was last weekend, feeding one of the twins, watching Star Wars, when I got the craving for chili. But I didn’t want my traditional chili, I needed something different, something more interesting. So I started perusing the internet and culled ideas from a couple of places, mainly from ‘chili con carne’ recipes, though. Then on Sunday morning, the whole family went on an outing in the see-ay-are and dropped by the grocery store… where I happened to find these:
How perfect for the chili, I thought. A lovely addition, they were. They add a spicy, smoky quality to the chili, while the other herbs and spices add even more complex aromas and flavors to the mix. And I found them at Wal-fart, of all places. Just look in the Latin-American foods section.
Regarding the meat, sirloin tip is pretty cheap and needs to be cooked for a while to become tender. You could really use any cut of beef, but beware! The tougher cuts need to be cooked for longer so you don’t end up chewing your chili!
So with happy, sleepy baby in the bjorn, I got to work. I was pleased enough with the result that I decided to take a (crappy) picture and post on the blog. By the way, natural light is the best for food photography, but natural light is hard to come by when you have to wait until the cheeruns are asleep before you complete your project.
This chili also makes a mean frito chili pie.
Smoky Chunky Chili
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 ½ -3 ½ hours
- 2-3 TBSP olive oil
- 2 ½ lbs sirloin tip beef, trimmed of fat and sinewy stuff, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 chipotle flavor cube
- 1 beef bouillon cube
- 3-5 TBSP chili powder
- ½ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cloves
- Cayenne Pepper to taste (optional, if you like some heat)
- 1 12-oz bottle beer, preferably dark, but any beer will do (I used Tsing-dao)
- 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes in juice
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 3-4 oz tomato paste (about half of one of those small cans)
- 4 TBSP corn meal
- Chopped onion, tomatoes, cilantro, sour cream, cheese to garnish (optional)
- 5-quart pot (or equivalent, as long as it’s big enough to hold all ingredients… I use my 5-quart Le Creuset dutch oven)
- Sharp Knife for dicing
- Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat
- Add onions and garlic, sauté until soft and translucent, stirring frequently so they don’t burn
- Add cubed beef, oregano, chipotle cube, and remaining spices; cook 5-10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally
- Add beer, scraping browned bits off the bottom of the pan; bring to soft boil
- Add corn meal, diced tomatoes and tomato paste, stir well, bring back to boil
- Place lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low; simmer contents 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring once every half hour
- Check the chili’s thickness and the beef tenderness- if you want thicker chili, add another TBSP corn meal and/or tomato paste, then leave the pot uncovered as it continues to cook (this will allow some moisture to evaporate); if chili is too thick, add water in increments of ¼ C
- If beef is not quite tender enough, cook contents for an additional hour
- Serve hot with sharp cheddar cheese (or other optional ingredients) and some cornbread
JOHN FACTOR: The reaction was very interesting. One of the first flavors he detected was the smokiness (which elicited the remark “how’d you get it to taste all nice and smoky?”), then the rest of the flavors came through and he continued to notice various elements throughout the meal. His overall feel was (verbatim); “it’s sure not tailgating chili,” but serves as a *fancier* chili, not for every day consumption, but for nicer occasions. Then he used leftovers to make a frito-chili pie.
Smoky Chunky Chili Copyright Nicole McPhetridge 2011
You may have had plenty of chicken and dumplings in your lifetime, but have you ever tried Cornish Game Hen and Dumplings?? Sounds different, right? Not only does the game hen provide a slightly different flavor and texture than the standard chicken, but it also comes in a very cute, convenient, 1-pound size. When removed from the packaging, you just want to turn those little birds into marionettes and make then dance on your counter to the Christmas music playing in the background. And the neck and giblets are normally removed prior to packaging, which is nice, because then you don’t have to cut those suckers out.
I have wanted to try out this recipe for a couple weeks, but my efforts have been thwarted by the many forces of nature, thus preventing me from spending much time in my kitchen recently. We’ve been out of town, health issues have cropped up, and the stress on multiple fronts has been ludicrous. Really ludicrous. As in, it makes you want to crawl into bed as soon as you get home from work, if you’re not too busy pulling your hair out. We’ve had to eat out way more than we normally like (with the frequency of that time during which we were getting our new kitchen), and this is a drain on the pocketbook, let me tell you! So I set a goal yesterday: spend a couple hours in the kitchen, even if it meant letting the laundry pile up even more… even if it meant letting the dust-bunnies grow to the size of tumbleweeds… even if it meant a late dinner… which it did, since we didn’t get home from the hospital until after 6, and this recipe takes a good 2 hours from start to finish. But it was worth it. I really needed some home-cooked food.
I adapted this recipe from one of my absolute favorite winter comfort-food recipes. The portions are simply bigger with my chicken and dumplings recipe (a whole chicken, more veggies, more broth for dumplings, etc.) but I had only chicken breasts on-hand yesterday (which simply wouldn’t do), and I’ve been aching to try out a new little Le Creuset Dutch Oven the Pedress bought for me a while back. John likes a good dutch oven (lucky me). Of course, a saucepan would work just fine as well.
Oh, and some people like to add their parsley to the broth, but I prefer adding the diced parsley to the dumplings themselves because then your dumplings have a nice little kick.
Cornish Game Hen & Dumplings with Mini Cheddar Cornbread Muffins
Prep Time: 35-45 minutes
Cook Time: 70-75 minutes
Cornish Game Hen and Dumplings:
- 2 Cornish game hens (approx 1 pound each), thawed and split down the middle
- 6 mini carrot sticks, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 celery stalk, cut into ½-inch pieces
- ⅓ white onion, quartered
- 2 bouillon cubes
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1-2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 ½ TBSP chopped parsley
- 3 to 3 ½ C cold water
- 1 ½ to 2 C flour
- ½ C white cornmeal
- ½ egg, beaten (beat one whole egg, then pour half of the mixture away)
- 1 ½ TBSP flour
- ¾ C milk
- 3 TBSP butter, melted
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ C cheddar cheese (optional)
- 2 ½ quart saucepan or dutch oven
- Sharp knife for dicing
- 2 Small mixing bowls
- Wax paper
- Pour olive oil in saucepan and set over med-high heat to warm oil for 30 seconds
- Add diced carrots, celery, and onions to pan; sauté over med-high 5-8 minutes or until onions begin to soften and brown slightly
- Add hens, bouillon cubes, and bay leaf to pan, then add enough cold water to almost cover the contents; it’s ok if the water comes close to the top of the pan, just leave enough room so that it doesn’t boil over onto the stove
- Bring contents to boil over high heat, then cover pan with lid and turn heat to low, simmering for 1 hour (the liquid in the pot becomes the broth/stock)
- When the hens have about 15 minutes left, prepare your cornbread muffins (recipe to follow)
- When one hour is up, turn off the heat and gently remove the hen pieces from the pot, set on a large plate, and allow to cool in the fridge while you prepare your dumplings
- To prepare dumplings, remove ¾ C of broth from pan and pour into small mixing bowl; add chopped parsley
- Add flour to broth in ¼-Cup increments, mixing thoroughly after each addition, until you have a workable dough (as in, doesn’t stick to your knuckles when you knead it); if dough is still sticky, just add a little more flour
- On a piece of wax paper, sprinkle more flour so that your dough doesn’t stick; place dough on paper and roll out until very thin (about as thin as a piece of fettucine); cut into strips about 1-inch wide by 4-inches long
- Turn the burner back on high heat until boiling
- While you wait for broth to return to boil, remove hens from the fridge and separate the meat from the bones and skin; discard bones and skin
- Once broth is boiling, add dumplings to pan and boil for 5-7 minutes or until no longer raw when you bite into it (yep, I always taste-test these because you never know exactly how long it will take to cook, given the thickness varies)
- When dumplings are about done, add hen meat back to pan and mix in thoroughly
- Serve hot
- Preheat oven to 450
- Spray a mini-muffin pan with nonstick spray
- Add cornmeal, flour, ½ egg, milk, melted butter, and baking soda to small mixing bowl; whisk until combined
- Fill muffin cups ¾ full, then top with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese
- Bake at 450 for 6-9 minutes or until nicely domed and golden
JOHN FACTOR: I’ll just say one thing: if it was my ability to cook (or at least try to cook) that set the hook, then the chicken and dumplings reeled him in. I know, I know, this isn’t the chicken and dumplings recipe, but it is pretty darn close. He really likes this one, especially the fact that I don’t add biscuit dough to the top and call it a “dumpling.” His one criticism was that it needed more salt. So for those of you who are inexorably drawn to the salt licks at the zoo, you might want to add a little more at serving time. For me, the bouillon adds enough sodium.
Cornish Game Hen & Dumplings and Mini Cheddar Cornbread Muffins Copyright Nicole McPhetridge 2010
Want a main dish that wows in taste and presentation? Want a main dish that is also easy to prepare? Want a main dish that appeals to the females and males in your family? Look no further than the mushroom-stuffed chicken breast.
This one was a totally off-the-cuff experiment one night. It happened like this: at the beginning of every month, I buy one of those mammoth packages of frozen chicken breasts at the store (it’s a family trait… buying in bulk… just ask any of the Mogab siblings) and then I thaw them throughout the month for dinner. So I’m sitting there after work, wishing I didn’t have to work so hard to think of a decent preparation for my two plain chicken breasts… and then I remembered I bought some sliced crimini (baby portabella) mushrooms at the store a couple days earlier. I always have onions and garlic on hand… and I still had some of those lovely fresh herbs in my garden. It has come close to freezing a couple of nights, but that basil is stubbornly hanging on… much like my husband does in a spat even when he’s wrong. Anyway, combine all those lovely ingredients, and you have either a stuffing or the makings of a sauce… but in this instance, I preferred to stuff because I didn’t have any rice to sop up sauce juices. The result was pleasing to both John and I. The chicken was both tasty and tender, and plenty moist.
So please both yourself and your erroneous spouse, or some guests as well! God knows each of those hormone-injected chicken breasts would feed about three people alone.
Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Prep Time: 20-25 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
- 1 TBSP butter or olive oil
- 4 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced about ¼ -inch thick
- 1 tsp fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- ¼ onion, chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 TBSP shredded mozzarella cheese
- 4 TBSP grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 2-3 large chicken breasts
- Large skillet
- Sharp chef’s knife
- A grill
- Prepare your chicken breasts: rinse chicken breasts under cold water, then pat dry; lay flat on a cutting board and insert your knife into the thickest end, pushing gently down the very middle of the breast almost the whole length; DO NOT CUT THE BREAST OPEN ON THE SIDE, but try to maneuver the knife so that you are opening up a “pocket” inside the breast; the opening at the end should only be an inch or less wide (but inside, it should be wider); set chicken breasts aside
- Heat butter or olive oil in the large skillet over medium heat for 1 minute (or until butter is melted or olive oil has heated)
- Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, salt and pepper; sauté 3-5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft
- Add chopped herbs, toss briefly with mushrooms, then take skillet off heat
- Add cheeses to the mixture; salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat grill to medium-high heat
- ½ a teaspoon at a time, start stuffing the chicken breasts with your mushroom/herb/cheese combo- you might even have a little stuffing left over. If so, pull out that third chicken breast and stuff the sucker
- Salt and pepper chicken exterior
- Grill for 5-7 minutes per side or until no pink juice seeps out when a knife tip pierces the chicken
- Serve hot
JOHN FACTOR: He was definitely diggin’ the stuffed chicken breasts. Once you stuff them, the chicken breasts can get big (I mean, have you noticed how big the frozen chicken breasts are these days? Some of them are nearly a pound!) but he still ate the whole thing.
Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts Copyright Nicole McPhetridge 2010
Want a tasty snack without having to go to the store, making a huge mess, or exerting great effort? Look no further than that pumpkin sitting peacefully on your evil neighbor’s porch! (Or the pie pumpkins you have in preparation for making a pie.) Wouldn’t you prefer to see that pumpkin put to good use, rather than smashed by some local hooligans? Really, you’re doing your neighbor a favor.
The thought came to me a few years ago: the pumpkin is to me like the buffalo once was to the Native American… no part should go to waste. Except for the pumpkin skin. And the stem. Those really don’t serve any purpose, do they? Anyway, the general idea is that you can really use not just the outside, but the seeds inside as well. And when you carve a pumpkin or cook one, you know that there is a plethora of seeds. So I set out to find tasty treatments.
My first attempt was not successful at all. In fact, they didn’t even make it into the pan. Would you like to know why? Because I laid them on a paper towel. Once they dried, little parts of paper towel still clung desperately to my seeds. With hundreds of seeds, I couldn’t go through them all and pick off the paper. And those of you close to me know how much I hate the idea of wet paper or paper in my food. So that attempt was foiled.
Second attempt was marginally better, yet still not a resounding success as a result of the addition of sugar to the mix. The seeds clumped together and didn’t want to leave my cloth towel. I was very disappointed.
Third try was a charm. This is the recipe I’ve written today. I have since tried other methods, like roasting and even a toasty/roasty combo, but this once dirties fewer dishes and might be quicker.
Disclaimer: Filling up the Corners does not advocate or support pumpkin thievery.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
- 1 TBSP butter
- 1 ½ C pumpkin seeds
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- Small bowl for soaking seeds
- 12-inch skillet
- Lay out a large paper or cloth towel on which to let your seeds dry
- Assuming your pumpkin seeds are still attached to the strings and meat (from the scooping process), fill the small bowl with water and add seeds, allowing to soak for a few minutes
- As seeds soak, mix them around with your hands, gently pulling seeds away from strings
- Once seeds are fairly clean, pour off water then spread seeds onto the towel, allowing to dry for about 1 hour (seeds may still be slightly damp, you just don’t want them soaking wet)
- Melt butter in skillet over medium heat
- Add seeds and stir thoroughly to coat seeds evenly with melted butter
- Stir frequently over the next 15-20 minutes so that the seeds don’t get too dark on any one side; stirring frequently will ensure even golden color
- Once they look golden, test a couple seeds; if light and crunchy, you’re DONE. If they’re still slightly chewy, continue cooking for 3-5 more minutes
- Once desired color is attained, turn off the burner and add salt and garlic powder, tossing well to coat seeds
- Served warm or room temperature
JOHN FACTOR: I think I ate them all before he had a chance to try them.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds Copyright Nicole McPhetridge 2010