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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Apple Pie Muffins

Apple Pie Muffins

With Craig being in medical school, we really don’t get to spend too much time together.  Recently, Craig has been trying to make more of an effort to be extra focused and productive while he does study so that our together time can actually be real “together time”…not Craig, me, and the third wheel of medical school notes and notecards.  We also want to be more intentional about how we spend the time we have together so that it is legitimate quality time and not wasted time vegging out on the couch and messing on our own computers.  We want to actually plan fun activities in advance so we can make the most of the little time we have.

Craig and I both love college football.  We could happily spend a date night at home watching a South Carolina game, and that might just be the perfect evening for us.  Or it might not.  Watching a South Carolina football game as Craig’s and my “together time” does in theory sound like a great idea since we both love football.  However, this date night idea is always a gamble. When a football game is really bad, Craig has a more difficult time than I do with not letting the outcome of the game affect his mood for the next couple hours.  He works to let the game go, but neither one of us is interested in having a football game make or break a date night, so we just never know if it will be a good or bad idea.

Of the last three South Carolina games, our game against UGA was the only “date-night” game, and the next two were games that we tracked online or watched on t.v., but Craig still studied and I did some work around the condo.  God clearly understood how desperately Craig and I needed quality time, because the South Carolina game against UGA was the only one of these past three that we won.  And we didn’t just win.  We obliterated them.  That game was a fabulous amount of fun to watch.  We enjoyed some egg salad sandwiches and a game of cribbage while we watched.

The game against LSU sucked, but we fought hard, and I was still proud.

Then there was the South Carolina game against Florida this past weekend.  That game was incredibly painful from beginning to end.  It was embarrassing…agonizing…horrific.  We will just leave it at that.  The one and only redeeming moment of the otherwise miserable three hours of a football game (if that’s what you want to call it) was tasting the batch of apple pie muffins I made to help distract myself from the massacre on t.v.

These muffins are unbelievably moist, but they also have a delightfully crusty streusel topping.  I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com, making a few changes to my liking loving.  Please try them.  You won’t regret it.  I mean, how can you possibly go wrong when you are making a dessert-for-breakfast type of treat?!

Ingredients

Muffins

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
    • If you don’t have buttermilk, you don’t need to waste you time and money going to the store to get some.  Click here to see how easy it is to make your own dairy or nondairy buttermilk for baking!
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
    • I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3-4 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples
    • The batter in this recipe is very sweet, so I highly recommend sticking to Granny Smith apples, or a least make sure to use something tart that will not get lost in the muffin.

Topping

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
    • Again, I used a combination of Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine and Blue Bonnet Light.  Either would work, but I was just using up the end of one stick and the beginning of another.

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together 2 1/4 cups of flour, baking soda, salt, 3/4 tsp cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, 1/2 cup melted butter, vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved.  Pour egg mixture and diced apples into flour mixture and stir until everything is well blended.
  2. Spoon batter into greased muffin pan(s), filling cups almost to the top.  For me, the batter ended up making 18 “regular-sized” muffins (a pan and a half).
  3. In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and 1 tsp cinnamon.  Add in the 2 Tbsp melted butter, mixing until well blended.  It should be dark brown and clumpy.  Sprinkle over the top of the muffins.
  4. Bake 25 minutes at 375, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly touched.  Remove from muffin pan to a cooling rack, and enjoy!

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Substitute for Buttermilk

When I first came across a delicious looking, otherwise-Craig-friendly, recipe with buttermilk, my initial thought was Great, just another fake item I have to buy from a specialty store that is going to be overpriced.  My next thought was about how I probably wouldn’t even end up using all the fake buttermilk, which was also going to annoy me.  I mean, even people who can eat dairy aren’t typically eager to buy a bunch of items from the grocery store that won’t get used up and will just spoil.  There must be some sort of substitute for buttermilk.  Well, there is.  You can essentially make your own, and it is ridiculously simple!

To make your own buttermilk for baking, you need two ingredients: vinegar and milk or soy milk (or some other type of fake milk).

Pour a tablespoon of the vinegar into a container that measures one cup.  Fill the container the rest of the way up to the “1-cup” mark with your milk.  Let it sit for five minutes.  Then, use whatever amount of your homemade butter milk you need for your recipe.  It’s that easy!

Here is my most recent example of a delightful recipe that works great with this homemade buttermilk: Apple Pie Muffins.  Give this buttermilk a try in that recipe, buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, or something else!  Yay for time-and-money-saving!

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Pumpkin Spice Bread

There is absolutely no way around it.  Fall is just not fall without pumpkin bread.

I have seen so many pumpkin bread recipes recently, and I really wasn’t sure which one to try first.  Should I choose one with chocolate chips?  What about the one with the glaze on top?  I was having a lot of trouble deciding, so I asked Craig what he thought.  He of course liked the idea of pumpkin bread that had chocolate chips and glaze, but then we thought about the fact that there are only two people living in this condo.  It takes us some time to work our way through a loaf or two of bread.  So, we decided that this time I should choose a more classic pumpkin bread recipe so that it could work for breakfast, snack-time, dessert, or really whenever, instead of being strictly a dessert bread.  It’s not that Craig and I are opposed to having desserts for breakfast or snacks, because there have been many mornings of brownies for breakfast in the McKinney Condo. 😉  However, since I was going to be making two loaves, I figured I would make something that left more options open for how we want to eat it.  We can mix it up with butter/margarine or cream cheese (not for Craig, though) or just have it plain or whatever.  It’s just more versatile, so we can eat the bread up faster and not let any of it go to waste.  Plus, by choosing a classic pumpkin bread recipe, I could try to deceive myself into thinking that I was actually being healthier.  Our bathroom scale has unfortunately had absolutely no problem informing me that this bread is not exactly a super-food, although it does taste very super!  Craig described it as having the taste of pumpkin pie, but in bread form, and I think he’s pretty spot-on with that.  It’s like all the happiest thoughts and feelings associated with autumn jumped into a loaf of bread so that I could enjoy a fall-themed party in my mouth, complete with party hats, streamers, and confetti. 🙂

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Source: Hostess (With the Mostess)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable/canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves

Directions:

Heat oven to 350.  In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, water, vegetable oil, and eggs.  Beat until well mixed.  Mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves together in a separate bowl.  Stir until well combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredient mixture to the pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth.  Grease two 9x5in bread pans and dust with flour.  Evenly divide the batter between the pans.  Bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted all the way to the middle comes out clean.  Let the bread loaves sit for 10 or so minutes before moving them to a cooling rack (unless you are like me, because I burnt my fingers in the midst of my determination to taste the heavenly smelling bread right away…it was worth it).  Serve plain, with butter, or with cream cheese.

Overnight Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

Overnight Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

It’s finally cooling off a little bit down in Charleston, with highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s.  I am loving the break from the deathly heat.  And, best of all, it finally feels appropriate to start cooking and baking with pumpkin!  Now don’t get me wrong, because I could eat pumpkin-anything year-round, and I don’t know that I would get tired of it.  However, Craig pumpkins out a lot more easily.  I’m worried that he’s going to get tired of my unending autumn-talk about pumpkin and then not want to eat all of my creations, but I really can’t help it.  Pumpkin is just so amazing!

My first pumpkin baking experience this year was an overnight pumpkin French toast casserole.  I love classic French toast, and there was not a doubt in my mind that I would love any French toast that had a pumpkin twist to it.  With this recipe, I was particularly interested in the “casserole” aspect, especially because that meant I could do the preparation the night before and just stick it in the oven in the morning.  No having to stand at the stove the entire time.  Just pop it in, and you are free to curl up on the couch, enjoy a cup of coffee, and take in the morning stillness while the casserole bakes.

I was definitely happy with how these turned out.  You bake the toast with two layers of bread in the pan, so each pumpkin French toast “sandwich” is basically a serving.  Craig thought these were absolutely fabulous.  The pumpkin aspect obvious makes this the perfect breakfast for an autumn Saturday morning.  The casserole aspect of it definitely adds a different twist from regular French toast.  I wouldn’t say regular or casserole French toast is better.  They are just different, and I really like both.

I will say that casserole French toast is probably a nice option to have if you have company in town, because you can throw it together the night before and then actually enjoy the company of your guests while it bakes in the morning instead of being stuck in the kitchen making breakfast while everyone else is talking in the family room or something.

This is a very rich meal, especially if you add the syrup on top.  I must warn you that if you eat too much, you will definitely want to go back to sleep for a while right after breakfast.  I know this from experience.  😉

Overnight Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

Recipe From: Daily Dish Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
    • I used Fleischmann’s Unsalted Margarine
  • 12 slices white bread
    • The original recipe calls for what you would think of as you typical “bread-shaped” bread, however Craig was 100% adamant that he would not have French toast that did not use French bread…so that’s what we used.  🙂
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
    • I used vanilla soy milk.

Recipe

  1. Melt the butter or margarine and pour it into a 9X13in pan.
  2. Mix the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice together.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla together.
  4. Lay a single layer of six slices of bread into the casserole dish.
  5. Spread a thin layer of pumpkin (as if you were buttering a piece of bread) over all the all the bread slices.
  6. Sprinkle about half of the brown sugar/pumpkin pie spice mixture over the layer of pumpkin.
  7. Now repeat steps 4-6 again with a second layer of bread (each slice should pretty much line up with the one below it).
  8. Pour the egg mixture over the top of it all, and sprinkle any remaining brown sugar/pumpkin pie mixture over the top.
  9. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at lest 4-8 hours…the longer, the better.
  10. In the morning (or after your soaking time), cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Then, remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.  It should be golden and set.
  11. Remove from oven and serve hot.  Sprinkle with some powdered sugar if you would like.  You could also serve this with some butter, whipped cream, or syrup on top…or you could just eat it plain.  It’s fabulous.  Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken

The night of the first presidential debate, Craig and I were flipping through the few channels we have (we recently got rid of cable) to see if there was anything worth watching on t.v. before the debate.  We came upon the new show Guys With Kids.  You probably saw a ton of commercials for it if you spent any amount of time watching the Summer Olympics this year.  It definitely had some funny parts that cracked us up.  After we watched the debate, as we were getting ready for bed, Craig and I found ourselves quoting funny lines over and over.  The episode we had watched that evening was apparently the third episode of the season, so we decided that we had to give the first two episodes a chance.

The next night, we sat at our dinner table as the ultimate judges.  We had to decide whether we thought Guys With Kids had just one funny episode or if it was a show that we may continue to watch some in the future.  At the same time, we had to decide what we thought of the new recipe I was trying: slow cooker cashew chicken.  When I make something new, I like Craig to give me a definite response about exactly what he thinks of it.  That night, I wasn’t interested running the risk of Craig being too distracted by the show to tell me precisely what he thought of dinner, so I made in taste the meal and give me his detailed opinion before I would actually turn on the show.  He told me he loved the meal, but twenty minutes or so into the first episode of the t.v. show, I realized that I actually wouldn’t have had to make Craig give me his reaction in advance.  The fact that I had to keep pausing the computer so Craig could go get more helpings of dinner told me what he thought.

This meal definitely has a solid kick to it, but I enjoyed having a little variety from the sweeter tasting chicken meals I normally make to go with rice (honey sesame chicken and sweet and sour chicken).  The blogger who originally posted this recipe said that she got it from her brother-in-law after he lived in Thailand for a couple of years.  It has kind of a zesty-savory taste with a kick.

Oh, and we also decided that we think the show Guys With Kids is pretty funny in general; it wasn’t just the one episode that made us laugh.  🙂

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken

Recipe From: Six Sisters’ Stuff

Ingredients

  • 2lb boneless, skinless chicken thing tenders or chicken breast tenders
    • I just had chicken breasts, so I cut them into strips to make “tenders.”  Then I decided that I wanted to have more surface area covered by the sauce, so I went on to cut them into about 2-inch pieces.  Cutting them into smaller pieces also meant I would need to lower the cooking time by a little bit, so that was good for me since I got a late start on making this that day.
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar/rice wine vinegar
    • I used seasoned rice vinegar because that was what I had.
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of cashews
    • I actually used about a cup or maybe even a little more than a cup.

Directions

  1. Combine flour and pepper into a zip-lock bag.  Add the chicken, and shake the bag to coat the chicken with the flour-pepper mixture.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken.  Place the chicken in the slow cooker.
  3. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, minced garlic, grated ginger, and red pepper flakes.  Mix together, and pour over the chicken.  Also, I would say that you definitely need to double the sauce recipe, and perhaps triple it depending on your preference.  I tripled it.
  4. Cook on low for 3-4 hours (I only cooked my little chicken pieces for about 2-2 1/2 hours).  Add cashews and stir.  Serve over rice.

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