English Cottage Pie

I did it.  I actually made it through the last 8 days.  It all started with some cupcakes that I donated for an auction (more on that later…), then the snow storm that shut down schools and made driving almost impossible, Thanksgiving, and then my daughter’s birthday.  Wow, what a week.  Unfortunately, December is almost upon us, and the craziness it about to start all over again…for some of us, this week!

I meant to post this last week as a great way to use up those mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving, but my blog had to take a back seat for a few days.  Nevertheless, this is a great recipe.  I found it in Cooking Light, and it was super easy to make – and tasted wonderful.  I love those one dish meals that taste like you have been cooking all day – yet, I made this after working all day.  You could easily make this with Turkey, but I am sure that everyone is passed that stage.  So – if you are looking for a quick and delicious meal to serve this week, look no further.  At least you can check that off your list.

Ingredients

  • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1  tablespoon  butter, softened
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2  cups  chopped onion
  • 1/2  cup  chopped carrot
  • 1  (8-ounce) package cremini or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1  pound  extra-lean ground beef
  • 2  tablespoons  no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 1  cup  fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 3  cups  leftover mashed potatoes
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
  • Paprika (optional)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine flour and butter; stir well. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and carrot; sauté 5 minutes. Add mushrooms; sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove vegetables from skillet. Add beef to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes. Stir in broth and pepper. Return vegetables to pan, and bring to a simmer. Stir in parsley, thyme, and salt. Add flour mixture, and cook for 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.

Spoon meat mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly. Combine the potatoes and half of cheese; spread the potato mixture evenly over meat mixture. Top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Serves 6

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: English Cottage Pie

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Mint-Glazed Butter Thins

My older daughter has been asking lately to bake all by herself.  She has done it a couple of times, and it has worked out well – but most of the time I want to be in the kitchen with her…when I am home, there is nowhere else I would rather be.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and it look extremely easy.  Easy enough for her to make by herself – so I made a deal with her.  I told her that I would make the dough, then while I was making dinner, she could prepare the cookies on the sheet.  I figured she would like rolling the dough in powdered sugar, then smashing them and sprinkling more powdered sugar on top.  I was right – she loved it – and she was great at it!  I tried one, and hers looked much better!  By the time the cookies were ready to be glazed, she was working on a different project – so I finished them off.  It was definitely a team effort – and it went splendidly.  Now I just have to get my younger one to join in, and we can have a whole assembly line going – think about all the baked goods then…

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 11/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) heavy whipping cream

Preparation

Position racks in top and bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Using electric mixer, beat first 4 ingredients, 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, and salt in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in flour.

Place 1 cup powdered sugar in bowl. Working with 1 level tablespoon at a time, shape dough into balls; roll in powdered sugar to coat. Place on sheet. Press each lightly with flat-bottomed cup. Sprinkle each with more powdered sugar, then press again to thin 3 1/4-inch round. Bake cookies 8 minutes. Reverse sheets; bake until golden at edges, about 9 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, stir 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, and 2 tablespoons cream in small bowl until smooth, adding more cream by 1/2 teaspoonfuls if glaze is too thick to spread.

Transfer cookies to rack; spread glaze over warm cookies. Cool on rack.

Makes 24 cookies.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mint-Glazed Butter Thins

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Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Cookies

There is a place at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle that sells these wonderful pumpkin cookies all year round – and they are huge.  They are bigger than your hand, and at least 1-2 inches high.  They are delicious – you can get them frosted or plain, and both are amazing. 

I have always wanted to make pumpkin cookies, and I decided it was time.  I went to my favorite cookie book – Martha Stewart’s Cookies – and found a recipe that I thought looked interesting.  The only problem was that I didn’t have a lot of time – and the recipe I found had a brown sugar frosting on top.  All of a sudden it hit me – pumpkin and chocolate – so instead of frosting these, I added some chocolate chips.  It was almost as thought they were supposed to be that way.  I used mini-chips instead of big ones since the batter was so delicate, and I think it was a good call.  These cookies were more like cake – in fact, the batter completely resembled cake batter.  It made sense when I saw the consistency of the batter why you need to pipe them in a circle.  You can probably get away with not doing that, but I must say, it definitely make the cookies come out perfectly.  They were moist and delicious, and stayed that way for a couple of days.  With only a few more days until Thanksgiving – here is just one more pumpkin recipe you must try…

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups mini-chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.

Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla; mix until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; mix until combined.  Add the chocolate chips and gently fold into the batter.

Transfer 1 1/2 cups batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip (such as Ateco #806). Pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until tops spring back, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Makes about 6 dozen

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Cookies

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Savory Spinach, Feta, and Roasted Pepper Muffins

 

I have been trying really hard to improve the photos in my blog, but every once in a while, my patience is low, I am feeding guests, and I am starving.  I just can’t get a good picture, and I give up.  This is exactly what happened here – so I apologize.  I know it is always so much more appealing to make something when the picture looks good – but trust me, these were excellent – so much better than the picture portrays.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I just love the idea of a savory muffin.  You don’t see a lot of savory muffin recipes – mostly they are savory biscuit type recipes – which I happen to love.  Therefore, I had to make these – I thought they would go great with an egg dish – for dinner.  The muffins were delicious.  They were slightly sweet – but the cheese really solidified them as a savory muffin.  They were plenty moist, and went perfectly with the quiche I made for dinner.  I couldn’t find parpadew peppers, so I just used roasted red peppers, which are also slightly sweet – so they were a perfect substitution.  These also would be great for brunch – and they are very easy to make.  So – sorry about the picture, but trust me, they are worth making.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup thinly sliced spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped drained mild Peppadew peppers or roasted red peppers from a jar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 12 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups or 6 large (3/4-cup) muffin cups with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, paprika, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk milk, oil, and eggs in large bowl to blend. Add dry ingredients; whisk just until blended. Add spinach, feta, and peppers; fold to incorporate evenly. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups (cups will be filled to top).

Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes for standard muffins and 33 to 35 minutes for large muffins. Cool 5 minutes. Run knife around muffins to release from pan. Invert pan to release muffins, then turn muffins right side up and cool completely.

Makes 12

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Savory Spinach, Feta, and Roasted Pepper Muffins

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Roasted Carrots

My kids love raw carrots (ok, love is a strong word) – they will eat raw carrots, and my younger one requires “dip” – which is ranch dressing.  I have finally gotten them to the point of not removing the cooked carrots from chicken noodle soup – after years of telling them that they are only matter – and that they take on the flavor of the soup – they finally starting believing me and eat them – but only from a can.

Cooked carrots are a whole different story.  I can saute them with butter and dill, serve them with brisket, even boil them in the matzoh ball soup – and they are not fans.  I saw this recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, and I figured I would give it a try.  The carrots sounded delicious – and that they were.  Some were almost crunchy on the outside, and sweet and creamy on the inside – they were magnificent.  When I served them with dinner, my oldest one was intrigued.  My younger one asked if they were french fries.  I might have a winner.  My oldest one tried a carrot, and actually liked it – she ate the whole thing.  My younger one was still skeptical, but I know she will get there.  This is definitely the way to roast carrots – next time I am going to add just a touch of dill, and all will be perfect.   In fact – they might even show up on my Thanksgiving table this year…

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, halved crosswise, and cut lengthwise if necessary to create even pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine carrots with butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper;  toss to coat.  Transfer carrots to foil or parchment lined rimmed baking sheet and spread in a single layer.

Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to cook, stirring twice, until carrots are well browned and tender, 30 to 35 minutes.  Transfer to serving platter, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Roasted Carrots

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Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

This time of year I love to make gingerbread.  I love the way it smells, and love the way the spices all blend together to make something magical.  I was looking for something to make that my daughter could bring to her book club.  The only problem was that it had to be frozen – so gingerbread in my mind was not an ideal option – although for some reason I was stuck on it.  So – I naturally started thinking cookies since they freeze rather well – and combed through my favorite cookie book by Martha Stewart.  I immediately looked up gingerbread, and this is what I found.  They seemed perfect – and with the chocolate chips, it would take gingerbread to a different level.

The cookies were fabulous.  She said they were a big hit at book club – which was good news for me.  I loved how they tasted with the chocolate chips (yes, I happened to sneak one before I froze them), and how the outside of the cookies sparkled with sugar granules.  She also said that you would never have known they were frozen – also a plus.  This holiday season, try some chocolate with your gingerbread – I think you will be happy you did!

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preparation

Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.

In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

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Roasted Pork with Fennel Bread Pudding

It has been a while since I wrote about my fennel fetish as I like to call it.  Mostly because fennel is something I tend to make in the fall/winter months.  I am glad it is finally time to start making fennel again…

Bread pudding is something I have really started to enjoy in the last few years – but mostly for dessert.  Savory bread pudding is a whole different animal in my opinion – it is almost like a stuffing – but a creamy stuffing, that is extremely moist.  My goal is always to get the top crispy, which the inside stays rich and creamy.  For me, that is the secret to a good savory bread pudding.

This is one of my favorite recipes from Cooking Light.  Every time I make it, I am not disappointed.  I actually used this recipe for the pork, and then made the bread pudding to go with it.  What a wonderful combination – the ground fennel seeds on the pork were just perfect combination with the fennel bread pudding.  It is a wonderful cozy meal for a cool fall day.

Ingredients

  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 8  cups  water
  • 1/4  cup  kosher salt
  • 1  (2-pound) pork loin
  • 1  teaspoon  olive oil
  • 3  cups  thinly sliced fennel (about 1 large bulb)
  • 2  cups  thinly sliced onion
  • 4  garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 2  (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 8  ounces  French bread or other firm white bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4  cup  (1 ounce) shredded fontina cheese
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  tablespoon  ground fennel seeds

Preparation

Combine sugar, water, and salt in a large bowl, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add pork; cover and brine 2 hours to overnight in refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sliced fennel, onion, and 2 garlic cloves; cook until golden brown (about 20 minutes), stirring frequently. Add 1/4 cup broth; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining broth; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Combine bread and fennel mixture. Stir in cheese. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown.

While bread pudding bakes, rinse pork and pat dry. Combine fennel seeds, 2 garlic cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; rub evenly over pork.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Place skillet in oven; bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a thermometer registers 140° (slightly pink). Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve bread pudding with pork.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Roasted Pork with Fennel Bread Pudding

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Coconut Pancakes

After the last batch of pancakes were a total bust (Oatmeal pancakes) – my girls were not overly thrilled when I told them I was going to make them pancakes for breakfast.  I assured them these would be better.  There was a lot of pressure on me – waiting for food first thing in the morning is not easy for kids – especially when they get their hopes up that it is something good.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and I knew they had to be better than the Oatmeal pancakes.  Adding coconut milk to anything makes it taste good – at least that’s what I was hoping.

Thank goodness I was right.  These pancakes were incredible.  Even adding just light coconut milk made all the difference – I can’t imagine adding regular coconut milk, they would be decadent.  The pancakes were ridiculously delicious – and so thick and fluffy – look at the picture, I am not joking!  These pancakes were so good, I had them for dessert that night – I just warmed one up in the microwave, served it with a little syrup – and it was such a treat.  The coconut milk was not overpowering, but gave the pancakes just a wonderful essence of coconut flavor.  If you are looking for pancakes that are just a little different – look no further.  And make some extras for the next morning – they are awesome warmed up in the microwave, unless you are like me, and can’t wait for morning to have more…

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 egg

Preparation

Whisk together coconut milk, canola oil and 1 egg.  Combine with dry ingredients.  Cook as usual for pancakes.

Serves 4

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Coconut Pancakes

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

One afternoon after camp, my older daughter sat in the back seat of the car and started telling me about her “dream meal.”  She said proudly, “Spaghetti and Meatballs with parmesan cheese and garlic bread.”  Ok then.  Since I can’t remember the last time I made that for her, I was curious where it came from.  She explained that was the counselor’s favorite meal – and all the kids agreed – that was their “dream meal” as well.  So much for being unique.  Couldn’t she have at least mentioned something I have posted on the blog recently?  It’s not like I don’t cook for her.

Ever since she decided that was her favorite meal, she begged me to make it.  Sure, I could have made it that night – but I wanted to find the right recipe.  I can make spaghetti and meatballs in my sleep – and I never use a recipe – but this time I wanted to try out someone else’s favorite – one that is consistent each time it is made – unlike mine which comes out differently each time I make it, depending on what I have in the house.  And for the most part, my meatballs never come with pasta – I mostly just serve them plain, with rice, or serve them on rolls.

So there it was, staring me in the face in Bon AppetitMolly Wizenberg’s favorite spaghetti and meatballs recipe.  It looked delicious – and then I read the recipe.  With a stick of butter in the sauce, how could it be bad?  Ok, yes, it might kill your arteries, but at least you will go happy.  I decided to cut down the butter (I used ½ stick), and leave everything else as is.  The final product was amazing.  The sauce was incredibly simple – and I didn’t have any complaints about the onions, because as far as the girls knew, there were none…  The meatballs, tender and delicious, in fact they almost melted in your mouth.  My daughter was in heaven, which was exactly what I was hoping for.  I’m so glad I was able to make her dream come true.

Ingredients

Sauce:
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, halved through root end
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt

Meatballs:

  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French or country-style bread
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 8 ounces ground beef (15% fat)
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Preparation

For sauce:
Combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onions, and salt in large wide pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard onions. Using immersion blender, process sauce briefly to break up any large pieces of tomato (texture should be even but not completely smooth). Season sauce with more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat.

For meatballs:
Combine breadcrumbs and milk in small bowl; stir until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Let stand 10 minutes.

Place beef and pork in large bowl and break up into small chunks. Add 1 cup ground Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Whisk eggs to blend in small bowl; whisk in garlic. Add to meat mixture.

Using hands, squeeze milk from breadcrumbs, reserving milk. Add breadcrumbs to meat mixture. Using hands, quickly and gently mix meat mixture just until all ingredients are evenly combined (do not overmix). Chill mixture at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Moisten hands with some of reserved milk from breadcrumbs, then roll meat mixture between palms into golf-ball-size balls, occasionally moistening hands with milk as needed and arranging meatballs in single layer in sauce in pot. Bring to simmer.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Using slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to platter. Add pasta to sauce in pot and toss to coat. Divide pasta among 6 plates. Top each serving with meatballs. Sprinkle meatballs with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Serves 6

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spaghetti and Meatballs

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