Applesauce breakfast roll

Applesauce breakfast roll

applesauce swirl roll

Breakfast rolls are one of those wonderful versatile baked goods that can be made virtually any way you can think up. Want to roll up some jam? Totally cool. Want to make cinnamon buns? Yup, that’s been done. Last year, I even used mango iced tea mix, for a tropical twist.

This version is with applesauce on the inside and a sugar syrup on top. I made these one Sunday morning while the coffee was brewing. And anything that’s executed successfully before caffeine consumption is OK in my book.

I started by making the dough. I used a no-rise dough for these rolls, instead of the yeast-driven dough in the mango rolls or the chai tea rolls.

I started by mixing some flour, salt and baking powder with some shortening and milk. [Read more…]

Spicy, Mexican stuffed peppers

Spicy, Mexican stuffed peppers

spicy stuffed peppers

I had never heard of stuffed peppers until I came to Western Pennsylvania. Around here I think they’re largely regarded as a Hungarian dish, stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and rice or breadcrumbs and cooked in a tomato sauce. I’ve heard them in the same sentence as stuffed cabbage, or “holubky” (which are actually Slovak), and haluski (which belongs apparently to all of Eastern Europe).

Stuffed peppers did not come from Eastern Europe, however. They came from Latin America. Because bell peppers are native to Latin America. (Sidebar: pepper seeds were apparently brought over to Spain in the 1490s, which is how they became cultivated in Europe; China now is the largest producers of the mild peppers. Thank you, wikipedia.)

So the peppers and I went back to their Latin American roots and created a healthier version of stuffed peppers with ground turkey, instead of ground beef. But still seasoned with cumin, chili powder, paprika and other spices, some salsa and some cheese.

I started by browning the ground turkey in a pan with a few tablespoons of salsa, cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and oregano, as well as just a couple ounces of cheddar cheese added toward the end.

While this cooked, I sliced open the peppers, removed the seeds and then boiled them for just five minutes or so. [Read more…]

Maple-bourbon glazed salmon

Maple-bourbon glazed salmon

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If there’s one thing I love, it’s bourbon. Sorry I’m not sorry. On the rocks. In cocktails. In desserts. On fish?

Totally on fish. With sticky maple syrup and toasted pecans. This dish is warm. I mean, obviously warm in temperature. But also warm in flavor.

The best part about drinking bourbon is the way your whole mouth and throat warms after the first few sips. You can feel the blush rise up in your throat and burst in your mouth and it’s just lovely after a hard day, or a mediocre day, or a good day. Any kind of day.

Obviously the alcohol mostly cooks out of this dish, so it doesn’t create that same blush as when you drink bourbon. But it creates a flavor that’s warm and rich and lovely. Also, this dish is quick and easy, but doesn’t taste like it. Those are my favorite kinds of dishes.

I started by preparing my sauce: some bourbon, some maple syrup, a little water in a sauce pot over high heat. [Read more…]

Chicken breasts with lemon-butter sauce

Chicken breasts with lemon-butter sauce

letter butter chicken

There’s this specialty espresso shot at Starbucks that I really want to try, but haven’t felt bold enough to order it.

It’s sometimes called an Undertow, but I think the general Internet consensus is to not call “secret” Starbucks drinks by their made-up names and just order the drink the way you want. It’s a layered drink with vanilla syrup, milk and espresso. You take it all at once and taste the hot, bitter espresso first, then the creamy, cool milk, followed by the sweet syrup.

Sometimes you just want flavor to hit you in the face.

This dish has no vanilla syrup or creamy milk or bitter espresso, but it does hit you in the face.

Sometimes you just want to take a bite of chicken and taste every single ingredient you put into it in a perfect harmony of, well, POW.

There’s not so many ingredients here — some lemon, some lemon pepper, some butter and some breaded chicken. But it’s enough.

(Today is the last day to take the readers’ survey so if you haven’t yet, would you please? I have had 39 responses, and wouldn’t it be nice to get to a nice round 50?)

I started by pounding my chicken thin (doing this is really essential, and it really makes pan-frying a breeze). Then I breaded the chicken with a little flour, mixed with some salt and lemon pepper. [Read more…]

Back to basics: hard-boiled eggs (for Easter!) and an avocado and egg salad sandwich

Back to basics: hard-boiled eggs (for Easter!) and an avocado and egg salad sandwich

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Easter is almost here and that means it’s time for egg dying! We probs won’t be dying eggs for Easter (perhaps for Spring Brunch decorations), but I make hard-boiled eggs to eat. There are two methods for making hard-boiled eggs: the stove and the oven.

(But, first, I want to hear from you! Would you please take my readers’ survey!?)

The stove takes less time, but is more hands-on than oven, and I think the shells are easier to peel. But you can make more eggs at a time in the oven.

I made them both ways to show you how.

Both methods involve ice water to dunk the cooked eggs in at the end to stop the cooking process/make them easier to peel. I don’t have ice in our freezer, but I do take a bunch of stuff out and put in a stainless steel bowl to make very cold water. I leave it in the freezer while the eggs are cooking. [Read more…]

Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

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You guys already know that I love pesto. I LOVE pesto. It’s like the best sauce ever. I also love Ranch dressing. Sometimes we order take out from a local restaurant, and when I ask for Ranch, they know it’s me calling, which sounds sort of pathetic now that I type that out. So this recipe inspired by Picky Palate’s combines two things I love, and then I took that and ran with it and thew some pasta and broccoli in there as well, and it was f-ing incredible.

To start, I combined pesto, chicken broth and Ranch dressing powder in a slow cooker with six chicken thighs. I let this cook for seven hours, removed it from the slow cooker and chopped it into bite-sized pieces. Then I boiled the pasta and broccoli (together in the same water for efficiency!), drained that, and threw that in the slow cooker, along with some Parmesan, to get it all mixed up in the sauce. Easy peasy, and so good!

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Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

Total Time: 8 hours

Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

6 boneless chicken thighs
6 ounces pesto
1 package Ranch seasoning mix (3 tablespoons)
1/2 cup chicken broth
16 ounces rotini (or other pasta)
10 ounces frozen broccoli florets
4 ounces Parmesan

Combine chicken, pesto, Ranch and chicken broth in a slow cooker, and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours. In the last hour, remove chicken from slow cooker and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to slow cooker and boil pasta and broccoli until done (about 10 minutes). Drain and add to slow cooker, along with Parmesan, stirring to distribute evenly.

Notes

Adapted from Picky Palate.

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Rose-y apples

Rose-y apples

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My grandmother used to make these baked apples as a special treat. After she died, we received several volumes of recipes she had stuffed with cutouts from newspapers and magazines or collected from friends and family, but this apple recipe was mysteriously missing. I absolutely freaked out. I asked my mom to painstakingly look through her cookbooks while I combed the Internet searching for a duplicate. There are lots of baked apple recipes on the world-wide web, but many of them call for butter (hers does not), an oven (hers are microwaved) or don’t include the SECRET INGREDIENT — red-hot candies. Eventually I resolved to contact some other peripheral family members in an effort to locate and secure the recipe. Good thing I didn’t do that though, because eventually my mom found the recipe tucked in a corner somewhere.

The original recipe was called “rosy apples,” but since my grandma’s name was Rose, I’ve renamed them “Rose-y apples.”

What’s nice about these apples is that they’re quick to make, cheap, relatively healthy and gluten-free. I’ve served them for dessert when we have people over with gluten sensitivities.

The apples get nice and soft and absorb the sugar and the red hots. There’s a nice sweet syrup that surrounds the apples that you can dip the pieces in.

To start I cored my apples with a paring knife and a spoon. (Note to self: buy an apple corer.) [Read more…]

Apple fritters

Apple fritters

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When A.J. and I went apple picking last fall, and I revealed my plans to make 40 different apple dishes, A.J.’s single request was that I make apple fritters.

Nope, I said. I knew apple fritters required deep-frying, and I can’t express to you guys how much I hate deep-frying anything. Not particularly for health reasons. It’s just messy and hot oil is not your friend. But A.J. had a hard week last week, with his car breaking down and then having to rent a mini van for the week to get to and from work.

Perhaps it was six months worth of guilt for telling him no initially, or perhaps it was an urgent need to use up our apples, but I bit the bullet and made the fritters today. He was pleased. And to be honest, so was I. Having never had an apple fritter, they are delightful! Warm, fluffy pockets of apple goodness!

I started by mixing together some flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. [Read more…]

Cheesy chili chicken

Cheesy chili chicken

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Eating clean means avoiding preservatives and chemicals in food and trying to buy most food items as unprocessed as possible. This largely means eating lots of produce and meat, but avoiding mostly everything else unless it’s whole grain or whole wheat. Canned vegetables have to be watched for their preservatives, and flours are mostly out. The general rule is if there’s something on the food’s ingredient list that you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce, it shouldn’t go in your body. Cheese is allowed in a “clean” diet (not diet as in to a restriction of food, but diet as in the food that you eat). But most of the research I’ve read says that cheese (especially organic, full-fat cheese) should be limited.  It’s allowed, but don’t have too much. Ugh.

I have a sneaking suspicious that “too much” cheese is the exact amount I used in this cheesy chili chicken, but, my goodness, it was worth every bite.

It starts with a spice rub on chicken breasts, then a layer of peppers and onions, which all gets smothered with cheese and popped into the oven for some melty goodness.

I combined some olive oil, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. It becomes paste-like.

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I tossed my breast meat in the bowl and really smeared the rub on all the pieces. (I had cut up my breast meat into smaller pieces, about three per half-breast.) Then I laid the chicken out on a foil-lined and then Pam’d  baking sheet. [Read more…]

Healthy apple bran muffins

Healthy apple bran muffins

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So there are two things happening in my life right now (other than the usual chaos I mean): One, I am trying to be healthier; Two, I am hosting a brunch on Sunday for A.J.’s parents.

I think those two things don’t necessarily go together, but I’m determined to make it work.

And even though I haven’t given much thought to the entire menu, I know I’m going to serve these muffins. They are made with whole-wheat flour instead of white flour, which means they are more filling, more hearty, a more healthy. They also have unsweetened applesauce, only egg whites and a mere teaspoon of white sugar.

At 93 calories and 23 carbs each, I wouldn’t say you should eat three of these muffins, but I think you could nibble on one without too much guilt.

To make these, I started by soaking some oats in skim milk for 20 minutes. Then those milk-laden oats went into a big mixing bowl along with apple sauce, egg whites, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar. [Read more…]