RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Streusel Centered Apple Bread

Streusel Centered Apple Bread

I was awakened by a chill that ran over my body.  Cool, crisp air filled in the space around me.  This is glorious I thought as I pulled the covers just a little tighter around my body, and yet made sure to take in the feel of Autumn’s first breath on my face.  True, it was a chill that had run over my body, but it had somehow warmed me from the inside.  After all, this wasn’t just any chill.  It was a chill from the first day of fall.  I rolled over to snuggle up against Craig, and I relished the fact that the air around me was making my nose a little bit cold.  It was refreshing.  I drifted back to sleep as beautiful leaves, cozy sweaters, and hot chocolate all frolicked together through my mind.  Mmmm…the first day of autumn, and, wow, does it feel like it!

Well, I wish I could tell you that my little anecdote above is true, but it is sadly not.  While autumn officially began at 10:59am on September 22 this year, I live in Charleston, SC, so the first “official” day of autumn for me consisted of a high around 88 and a heat index in the 90s.  While I have grown to love Charleston, I do feel that it has a tendency to rob me of my favorite season, and I am not really a fan of this.

I’m not saying that I did not enjoy my first day of fall.  My cousin and uncle were actually visiting that day, so I spent the day showing Sarah around Charleston, and Craig spent the day checking out the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier with my uncle.  We met back up at home to watch the South Carolina Gamecocks game on t.v. and to relax.  So, yes, the first day of fall was definitely an enjoyable day.  It was just a hot, anti-fall-esque enjoyable day.

We thankfully had a “cool front” this past Monday and Tuesday, with the highs only reaching the low-to-mid 80s, and I was inspired to begin my first round of autumn baking.  To kick off this season, I made an apple bread that has a streusel “topping” in the middle.  I found this recipe from a blog called You Made That?, and it’s actually an adapted/slightly altered version of a Pampered Chef recipe.  The smell was tantalizing as my bread baked in the oven, but the satisfying taste of warm streusel centered apple bread proved to be well worth the wait.

Ingredients:

Bread

  • 1 cup melted butter
    • I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled

Streusel

  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Tbsp butter
    • Again, I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Core and chop up the apples, then set them aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredient to the wet ingredients and mix them together.
  3. Add the apple pieces to the batter, and stir it together.
    • This is kind of thick batter, so make sure to take you spatula and really bring the batter from the bottom to the top, so you can make sure the apples get mixed in well and somewhat evenly.
  4. Make the streusel by combining all the streusel ingredients and stirring well.
    • The streusel will be a medium or dark brown and starting to clump together.  Make sure you don’t stop stirring it too early.
  5. Spray two bread pans (I used a 4 1/2 x 8 1/2in pan and a 5 x 9in pan) with nonstick cooking spray, and scoop out some of the bread batter into the pans.  Crumble half of the streusel topping over each bread pan with your fingers.  Scoop the rest of the batter into the two pans, trying to keep the portions somewhat even.
  6. Bake at 325 for 70-80 minutes or until a knife inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Happy Autumn, everyone!

Simply Luscious London Broil

Have you ever been in what I like to call a “food rut?”  I have, many times.  I just want to make the same easy meals over and over…because I know they are easy.  I could almost consider most of Craig’s and my first year of marriage one giant food rut, because I was just learning how to really cook and trying to make everything dairy-free all at once.  When I found a recipe that worked, I kept it close to my heart…and Craig’s and my stomachs.  These days, if Craig ever gives me the “you-spend-too-much-time-looking-up-recipes-and-blogging” look, I gently (sometimes not-so-gently, but I’m working on that) remind him that my newfound interest in making a dairy-free life totally tasty for any normal dairy-consuming person has vastly expanded our menu options.  😉

Cleaning out your fridge, freezer, and pantry is another really a great way to encourage new recipes and menu items.  One weekend over the summer, Craig and I were trying to make room in our freezer for some frozen vegetables I had bought at the store, when we realized that we had a London broil (actually two, because they were BoGo) that had probably been in our freezer for a few months, untouched.  We were definitely in a chicken-on-the-George-Foreman-or-pasta-and-sauce rut at the time, so we decided we needed to try something new before the london broil got freezer burned.

Craig and I had never made a London broil at that point, and we didn’t really know where to start.  I know it’s a simple, but we’re still learning to be grown-ups, so you can cut us some slack.  🙂  I began researching different recipes until I found one in the American Food section of about.com that seemed simple yet had potential to be quite palatable.

Craig and I first gave this recipe a try the night that I was making squash casserole to post for the blog.  Craig was so excited for having London broil for dinner that he jumped at the opportunity to be in charge of cooking it.  That worked out nicely, since it gave me time to work on the squash casserole and salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2-ish lb boneless top round “London broil” steak, probably about 2 inches thick
  • 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • salt as needed

Directions

  1. Place beef on a plate and poke both sides all over with a fork, then transfer beef to a plastic freezer/storage bag.  In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.  Pour vinegar marinade into the storage bag with the meat.  Seal bag and refrigerate at least 5-8 hours. (About.com actually said to refrigerate it overnight, but we have yet to do that.  It’s really just a matter of the longer the steak can sit in the marinade, the better.)
  2. Turn broil on high.  Remove the London broil from the marinade and pat dry.  On both sides, salt generously and rub in the freshly ground black pepper.  Place on a broiler pan or other oven-safe pan.  Broil about 8 inches under the flame for about 6-7 minutes on each side for medium rare (internal temp around 130, but we certainly did not measure).
  3. Transfer to a plate.  To serve, cut against the grain into thin slices.

When you serve this hot right after cooking, you can top it with some juice from the pan in which it was cooking.  We made London broil again this week, this time enjoying it with some mashed potatoes and peas with mushrooms.  We have also been savoring our leftovers throughout the week, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, and sometimes in a steak sandwich (toast the bread and put mayo and/or brown mustard on it – YUM!).

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pound Cake With Peanut Butter Glaze

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pound Cake With Peanut Butter Glaze

It’s study week!  Party time!…except not.

Study week is certainly not party time in the McCondo.  It’s boring slash stressful study-almost-nonstop time.  Nevertheless, I like to “celebrate” as many McKinney occasions as possible.  If it’s a happy occasion, celebrating with delicious food makes it even happier.  If it is a sad occasion, the celebration food makes it not quite as sad.  If it is a stressful occasion, celebrating makes it not quite as stressful…I am basically willing to use any occasion to justify making tasty food.

So Saturday night, to “celebrate” Craig’s first study week of the school year, I made a Study Week Cake, also known as chocolate chip peanut butter pound cake with peanut butter glaze.  If you’ve been reading my blog for any decent amount of time, you know that Craig and I are obsessed with anything that combines peanut butter and chocolate, so this obviously sounded AMAZING to us.  It was.  🙂

I do have to warn you though, this is a heavy, rich cake.  You will need a glass of milk or soy milk or water or a cup of coffee with this for sure.  Also, if you are a peanut butter chocolate person, like me, this is a dangerous cake to have sitting in your kitchen.  I now know from experience that this cake has absolutely no qualms about taunting you with its heavenly glaze and the chocolate chips dancing on top.

You have been warned.

Adapted From: Pixelated Crumb

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
    • Don’t use natural peanut butter unless it is the no-stir kind.
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
    • I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine
  • 3 cups granulated white sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
    • I used vanilla soy milk.
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup mini or regular-sized chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together peanut butter and butter.  Add sugar, and beat for an additional 5 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla, and continue mixing until well combined.  Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, beating just until it is well incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Scrape batter into a well-greased bundt pan, and bake at 325 for 1hr 20 – 1hr 35min, or until knife or skewer comes out clean.*
  4. Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes before flipping onto a platter or rack to let it cool completely.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt.  Drizzle the glaze over the top of a cooled cake.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

*Check the cake at 1hr.  If it is browning too quickly, gently lay foil over the top for the remainder of the cooking time.  Also, when you are trying to see if it is cooked all the way through, don’t just try sticking a toothpick or fork into the cake.  You want to use something that will really be able to reach all the way to the center (I just stuck my knife all the way to the bottom and then pulled it out) to check if the cake is done.  If it’s not done, let it bake longer!

This cake is fabulous!  I really loved the glaze…Yum Yum Yum!  I definitely plan to be making this cake again around the holidays…when I have more friends and family around to help me eat it!  It’s just too dangerous to be here alone with me!

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pound Cake with Peanut Butter Glaze

Happy National Play Doh Day!

Happy National Play Doh Day!

Did you know that today is National Play Doh Day?

I am so relieved that this anxiously awaited holiday fell on a third Sunday this year, because that is the day that Craig and I volunteer with the 2-year-olds at our church.  You better believed that we were definitely playing with play doh this morning!

Lets see, some of the things we made included:

  • Puppies
    • mommy puppies
    • baby puppies
    • Sunday school teacher puppies
  • Lots and lots of snakes
    • That’s what the kids are best at making without our assistance.  😉  They all made “snakes” and then chased the volunteers around the room with them.  So adorable!
  • Ducks
  • Cookies
  • Gingerbread men
  • Hearts with “xoxo” in them
  • “I ♥ U”

We also played with trains, played tag, and danced today during the playtime.  Then we sang songs and learned about how God made everything.  The lesson of course ended with a craft and some rainbow Goldfish.  It was a fabulous morning.

This is Craig’s study week, so I was kind of worried that the amount of time away from studying might be stressful to him since his first test of the year is this Friday.  On the contrary, when we left church this morning, Craig looked at me and said, “Wow, that was the exact break I needed.  I really love volunteering with those kids.”

Well, I hope everyone is having a fabulous Sunday!

Happy National Play Doh Day!

Slow Cooker Chicken Marsala

Slow Cooker Chicken Marsala

After a week of Craig being sick, he finally (mostly) got over it (except for the runny nose) just in time for his study/test week.  His first big M2 (medical school year 2) exam is next Friday, so he has a TON of studying to do.  I mean, he would have a ton of studying to do, anyway, but considering that we had my family in town over Labor Day weekend followed by a week of Craig being sick, he now has a TON of studying to do.  See the difference?

Anyway, just when I thought I was totally home-free from getting sick from Craig, I woke up Thursday morning with a throat that was absolutely on fire.  It was painful to talk, and my whole body was aching.  I slowly dragged myself out of bed and made the painstaking trek to the kitchen so I could make Craig’s lunch while he got ready for his long day of class and studying.  After making his lunch, I settled on our couch with my pillow and a fleece blanket.  I wanted to go back to sleep, but I knew I had to work that day.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been as thankful for a job that allows me to work from home as I was on Thursday.

When Craig returned home that evening and gently asked if I happened to know what we were having for dinner, I gave him a look that said, “Do I look like someone who has thought about what we are having for dinner tonight?”  He was happy with leftovers and snacking, and I was happy with a snack and sleeping more.  I did offer to brown some meat for pasta, but Craig insisted that I just rest, so I was not going to argue with that.  He’s a good sport.  🙂

After some more sleeping and what was probably somewhere around my 237th cup of tea (exaggerate much?), I regained some energy and decided that I should at least see what we had in the kitchen for Friday’s dinner.  After all, this weekend is the start of Craig’s study week, so I wanted to start it off right.  Considering how I was feeling at that point, I was thinking that I would still not be quite a hundred percent by the next day, but that I would be well on my way to a full recovery.  I figured that, if anything, I could at least throw something into the slow cooker.  My, how I love our slow cooker!

I decided on this chicken marsala recipe that I had made once last year.  The first time I made it, I followed it exactly.  This time, however, I made  a few changes (Craig called them improvements) based on other recipes I had read.  Last time, we both enjoyed the slow cooker chicken marsala.  It was easy and pretty tasty.  This time, we LOVED the chicken marsala.  I don’t know the last time I saw Craig eat that much in one serving.

Oh, and for anyone who was worried, you will be happy to know that by the end of the day on Friday, I was actually feeling great!  I can’t believe how quickly I got better.  Thank you, immune system!

Recipe Adapted from: Food.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 clove garlic, fine chopped
  • 1.5-ish lbs chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 cup marsala (cooking) wine
  • 3/4 cup (low sodium) chicken broth
  • 1 tbs butter or margarine, broken into small pieces
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Update: While I didn’t seem to have this problem the first time I made this (or didn’t notice), the sauce had been a little more liquidy than I wanted the last few times, and I ended up adding more flour at the end.  The last time I made this, I went ahead and doubled (or just short of it) the dry ingredients (flour, salt, pepper, and dried basil).  It turned out great!…just a little thicker than before.  It’s really up to your personal preference, but I wanted to offer that as an option, as well.  🙂

Directions:

In the slow cooker, spread the oil and chopped garlic evenly over the bottom.  Lay your chicken breasts in the slow cooker on top of the oil and garlic (try not to have them completely overlapping).  Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and basil together, then sprinkle over the chicken.  Combine the wine and chicken broth together, and then pour into the slow cooker.  Dot the butter over the chicken breasts, and then dump in the mushrooms.  Cook on low for 6 hrs.  When six hours are up, pull the chicken and put on serving dish.  Stir the sauce and mushrooms and little and then spoon it over the chicken.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Serve over pasta, rice, or even mashed potatoes (though pasta is our favorite for this particular meal).

Sweet and Sour Chicken

So, I have a confession.

I am intimidated by chicken.  I mean, have you seen my recipes?  I’m all about throwing chicken in the crock pot, because with crock pot, I can prepare everything else, and it basically does all the work.  If I’m not using the crock pot for chicken, I am usually using our George Foreman grill.  We like to buy chicken breasts on sale and put them in baggies with marinade before freezing them.  That way, when we pull them out to thaw, they already have the marinade on them and we can just put them on a George Foreman grill.  So easy.  If we are having chicken that is not from the crock pot or George Foreman grill, then I didn’t make it.

At least that was the case until this past Monday.

It’s true.  I decided it was time to conquer my fear.  I was determined to make chicken that took preparation and effort.  Not a lot, but some.  I was going to try something new…I was going to use both our stove and our oven to cook chicken.  Until Monday, I used the stove to brown ground beef, and I mainly used the oven to bake.  I don’t know why cooking chicken intimidates me so much.  It just does.

Or at least it did.

You can go ahead and give me a round of applause.  No need to wait until the end of this post.  Not only did I make chicken for dinner on Tuesday (without the use of the crock pot or George Foreman); I made sweet and sour chicken on Tuesday, and it was good.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to come off as a chicken-cooking hero who took on my fear without a second thought.  I was very scatter-brained and basically going crazy for the length of the entire meal preparation.  I even felt overwhelmed by it at times.  But I did it, and now that I am looking back, it was actually not difficult.  So now, not only am I providing you with a great sweet and sour chicken recipe, but this also means that more recipes are to follow, for I have opened the door to a whole new world (cue Aladdin song) in cooking.

Recipe Adapted From: Made It. Ate It. Loved It.

Ingredients:

Chicken Breading:

  • 3-5 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup canola oil

Sauce:

  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 tbs (same thing as 1/4 cup) ketchup
  • 1/3-1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
    • amount really depends on personal preference
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic salt

Directions:

Rinse chicken, trim off fat, and cut into 1(-ish) inch cubes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip chicken into cornstarch, coating completely, and then into the eggs.  Heat oil in skillet.  Cook until browned (most certainly does not need to be cooked through).  Place in baking dish (try to use a dish big enough that you can for the most part fit all the chicken in one layer).  Whisk the sauce until smooth and pour over chicken.  Turn chicken pieces so that the sauce gets both sides.  Put in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes.  Turn the chicken, and then continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

We ate our sweet and sour chicken over rice, and it was great!  The recipe itself doesn’t make a ton of sauce by the time you are done baking, so if you like a lot of sauce (for the rice, vegetables, etc.), I would suggest making a double batch.  However, if you do make a double batch, you only want to pour half of it (being the amount listed in the recipe) on the chicken for cooking, or else the chicken may get soggy while cooking.  Before the chicken is done baking, heat the second batch of sauce up in a saucepan or microwave (make sure to stir it throughout heating).

Besides just having this as a sweet and sour chicken meal, Craig and I both think that this also makes a great finger food.  It would be fabulous for a football game or New Year’s party, with some toothpicks next to it and maybe a small bowl with the second batch of sauce for dipping.  A certain party favorite!

Stuffed Green Peppers in the Crock Pot

Stuffed Green Peppers in the Crock Pot

Since Craig and I got married, I definitely became an intense sale shopper.  Every week, I pull up the Publix and Bi-Lo weekly ads, compare prices, and make a shopping list for each store based on the best sales.  A lot of times, the best deal means buying more of an item, like “value-packs” of meat.  This isn’t a problem for me, except with the ground beef.  I never take the time to separate the ground beef before I freeze it, because I really like dealing with raw meat as few times as possible.  I’d rather just cook all the meat up at once and plan to eat ground beef more frequently that week than having to touch the raw meat in order to separate it and THEN touch it again for each of the meals that I’m making.  It may seem lazy, but it’s really because I’m so paranoid about having the kitchen completely sanitized after touching raw meat.  It’s not just about washing my hands.  I have to wash my hands, wipe down the counters, then go back and use Lysol wipes on the counters and anything on them, and then I scrub and use Lysol wipes on the trashcan, its lid, and the sink.  And I generally like to do this before I move on to preparing any other part of the meal if possible.  It takes a surprising amount of time when were in the middle of trying to prepare dinner.  I’m sure my paranoia has to do with all the research I did and documentaries I watched as a health major, so I guess I can thank my Furman Professors for making me like this.

So since I made taco salads for Craig and myself last Saturday, I had to decide what I was going to do with the rest of the ground beef. At first I thought about making one of our typical week-night dishes, like dirty rice, but then I remembered this recipe!  I had been wanting to try stuffed green peppers in the crock pot for quite some time, so I was excited to finally give it a try.  I browned all the meat on Saturday, and then separated it into to halves.  I seasoned the first half for taco salads that day, and then I saved the second half for this recipe on Sunday.

This recipe was incredibly easy, and I was quite happy with how it turned out.  Craig really loved it, which made me even more ecstatic!

Recipe From: Crockin’ Girls

Ingredients

  • 4-6 Green Peppers, tops removed and seeded
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1/3 cup of raw (uncooked) rice
  • 2/3 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of salt + a little bit for lightly salting
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 carrots, cut into pieces
  • another 1/2 cup water
  • another 1 cup of ketchup

Directions:

Brown or partially brown the meat (mainly so that you can drain it of the grease).  Wash the green peppers and drain well.  Lightly salt the cavity of the green peppers.  In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, rice, 2/3 cups of water, onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and 1/4 cup of ketchup.  Mix well.  Stuff the green peppers about 2/3 of the way full with the ground beef mixture. Arrange the green peppers in the crock pot, using the carrot pieces to help support and secure the pieces.*  You may stack the green peppers if you need to.  Mix together 1 cup of ketchup with 1/2 cup of water, and pour over the green peppers and carrots.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3 hours.

The top left was when I first put the green peppers in the crock pot and covered them with the ketchup/water mixture. The top right was after about 6 hrs of cooking on low. The bottom is obviously one of the delicious stuffed green peppers after I removed them from the crock pot. Yum!

*I actually did not need to use the carrot pieces to support my green peppers, as the green peppers fit in the crock pot just right and stood up without any problem.  However, since I had already peeled and cut the carrots up, anyway, I placed them around the green peppers in the crock pot to have as part of my meal.

This is another fabulously easy and delicious meal!  What we didn’t eat for dinner Sunday night, I had for lunch throughout the week!  Oh, how I love leftovers!

Happy pepper stuffin’!

%d bloggers like this: