Friday, September 30, 2011

Peanut Butter Caramel Corn

Have you ever found yourself walking along at a carnival or a boardwalk and all of a sudden you're overtaken by the sweet smell of caramel corn! Next thing you know, you're irresistibly drawn to it and you succumb to the wonderful caramel intoxicant. Well in my humble opinion, caramel corn is even better when made in your own kitchen. This recipe, though, is more than just caramel—it has the added deliciousness of peanut butter thrown in! Imagine the mouth-watering fragrance coming from your kitchen.

I started this concoction by air-popping some pop corn. No worries if you don't have an air-popper because the recipe has you popping it on the stove-top anyway.

Next comes the sliced almonds—a nice flavor complement.

Combining the sugars and butter and bringing it to a boil.

Here's where it gets fun stirring in the peanut butter and vanilla.

Pouring the caramel/peanut butter mixture over and into the popcorn.

All tossed and mixed and ready for the oven. We're baking at a low temperature, stirring every 15 minutes for 1 hour.

The finished product is a dark caramel, crunchy treat.

This makes a pretty big batch. Of course it was gone by day's end, since the boys had some friends over for the night. They obliterated the whole thing in minutes! I guess it's safe to say they "liked" it. It's a great fall treat! Maybe I'll make it a tradition.

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

Peanut Butter Caramel Corn
From Cooking Light

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250°.
Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper; coat paper with cooking spray.
You can choose to air pop the popcorn or, heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add popcorn; cover and cook 4 minutes, shaking pan frequently. When popping slows, remove pan from heat. Let stand until popping stops. Uncover; add almonds.
Combine sugar, syrup, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and vanilla; stir until smooth. Drizzle over popcorn; toss well. Spread mixture out onto prepared pan. Bake at 250° for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 20 servings; serving size about 3/4 cup

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives, and Cilantro

My life has been crazy but wonderful. I just returned from a whirlwind trip to California for a high school reunion and a visit with my CA family. I am also about mid-way through training for my first ever half marathon! And of course, fall and school is in full swing,… fun times!

Consequently, time in the kitchen seems to be scarce. This chicken dish is perfect for those hectic, hurried weeknights. This dish is much like a stir-fry in that it is helpful, if not imperative to have all the vegetables cut-up and ready to go. This is a flavorful dish that involves few ingredients and is a cinch to throw together.

I started by slicing an onion, green olives and tomatoes. The recipe calls for cherry tomatoes, which I used plus some other tomatoes from my garden.

The chicken gets cooked through while the outsides become golden brown.

The onions get sauteed first, adding the tomatoes and olives until softened.

Such beautiful color and oh, so tasty!

I served this with whole wheat couscous, sautéed zucchini and a green salad! Leftovers? Not a chance. There was one piece of chicken left and it was consumed before night's end.

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives, and Cilantro
From Everyday Foods

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1.5 to 2 pounds)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup pitted green olives, halved
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-low. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, and cook until lightly browned and just cooked through, turning once, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate; cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Raise heat to medium; cook onion, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and olives; cook until tomatoes soften and release their juice, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken topped with tomato mixture.

Yield: 4 servings

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Spoonbread with Honey Butter

"Spoonbread, a heavenly cross between polenta and a cornmeal soufflé, is a sweet, airy puff of smooth corn flavor in your mouth." (Quote from the Augusta Chronicle). This weekend our little town is enjoying the 15th Annual Spoonbread Festival. Spoonbread has been made famous in our town thanks to Historic Boone Tavern Hotel. When you dine in their restaurant, you will have the joy of sampling this delicious, yet unusual bread.

Several years ago, my sister Susie came across a recipe for spoonbread and it was incredible. I have two sisters (and two brothers). My oldest sister Nancy, like me, enjoys cooking. Susie—though she can cook, does not fancy herself one. It's really a good thing that she married a man who loves to cook. Susie found this recipe in an obscure cookbook, made it for us, and I was so impressed it came from her kitchen! Way to go Susie!

What's great about this bread is that it is made with no sugar. The addition of the honey butter adds just the perfect amount of sweetness to it. Spoonbread starts with heating milk, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.

Incorporating the butter and egg yolks.

In case you may be wondering what stiff egg whites look like.

Folding in the stiff, yet fluffy egg whites into the cornmeal mixture.

Into the oven it goes...

The spoonbread is done when it gets golden brown on top.

Spooned into serving bowls with honey butter melted on top! We all enjoyed this bread with our dinner last night. You must try this and get a little taste of what we're enjoying in the Bluegrass State this weekend!

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

Spoonbread with Honey Butter

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 eggs, separated

Over medium heat, cook milk, cornmeal, baking powder and alt until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter and egg yolks. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into cornmeal mixture. Pour into a greased 2-qt. casserole. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Serve immediately with honey butter.

Honey Butter
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons softened butter
Whip or mix until smooth.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

Here is my "I'm in between seasons recipe." I'm still so not wanting to let go of summer, and yet, the cooler temperatures greet me each morning and evening. I am really looking forward to the foods of fall so here is my compromise, a fall ice cream! This is the perfect time of year for this frozen treat.

This ice cream recipe does require some cooking as it has a custard base. So, I started by warming my cream, milk, brown sugar and spices.

Whisking the rich yellow egg yolks, with a little white sugar.

Cream/milk mixture combined with the eggs, adding the pumpkin.

Cooling it all off before it goes in the ice cream maker. The mixture does seem fairly thick, but seems to have a good consistency once it's frozen.

I've topped it with some pecans for a crunchy complement.

After tasting it my husband insisted that I call this "Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream." I guess that gives you a bit of a clue on what it might taste like. This seemed just perfect for the kind of weather we are enjoying now!

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin puree or canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 5 egg yolks

In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate while assembling the rest of the ingredients.
In a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine milk, cream, brown sugar, and spices, cinnamon through nutmeg. Cook until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the egg yolks, and white sugar. Whisk until smooth and the sugar begins to dissolve.
Remove the cream mixture from the heat. Gradually whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture until smooth. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and keeping the custard at a low simmer, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 4 to 6 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil. Remove from heat.
Whisk the pumpkin mixture into the custard.
Place the bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice water, stirring occasionally until cool. You may also choose to refrigerate at least 3 hours until cooled.
Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving. Makes about 1 quart.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pork and Pineapple Kebabs with Pineapple Rice

It looks like fall here today—but the end of last week we were in the high 90's with humidity. I was loving it. To be honest, I'm not ready to let go of summer. And, so it was great having our grill out once again to make these tasty kebabs. Unfortunately, I know my days are numbered with our grill for this season. But, that's okay too, even though I hate to say goodbye to summer, I love the foods of fall!

I have made plenty of kebabs in the past–chicken and beef mostly. This however, was the first time I had tried them with Pork, I used a tenderloin! Wow! It is the perfect meat for kebabs. They came out so tender and delicious!

To the meat I added red and green peppers, red onion and pineapple. It looks so colorful!

All grilled up and ready to eat!

I couldn't decide if they looked better on the bamboo tray or this white serving dish.

This was a great meal! My husband and boys really enjoyed this. So, hurry, get your grill out and enjoy this summery dish before we're fully into fall.

Pork and Pineapple Kebabs with Pineapple Rice

  • 1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks in juice (divided), drain juice and reserve 1/2 cup
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger (divided)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium red onion cut into wedges
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving (optional)
In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 cup pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon ginger, pour over pork and marinade for at least 30 minutes.
Heat grill to medium; lightly oil grates. Cook rice according to package instructions. Set aside.
Alternately thread pork and bell peppers, red onion and pineapples onto skewers; (reserve 1/4 cup of pineapple for rice). season with salt and pepper. Grill, until pork is cooked through and peppers begin to char, 10 to 15 minutes.
To rice, add 1/4 cup chopped pineapple, scallions, 1 teaspoon ginger and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, and fluff with a fork. Serve kebabs over rice and garnish with lime wedges.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Friday, September 2, 2011

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

School is in full-swing now. This year, my kids seem kind of all spread out. I am home-schooling my youngest who is in his sophomore year. I have a son who started his junior year of public high school, one who started his senior year of college and then of course, my newly married son, far removed from the nest now...they seem to grow-up overnight! Ah, so bitter-sweet.

Along with some other home-schoolers, my youngest has started up again with his Lego Robotics group. This year they will be meeting at our house, so I anticipate new opportunities to make snacks and goodies for the group. I was looking for a different cookie to bake and ran across this one that looked new and interesting (and delicious).
Starting out with a combination of dry ingredients, including cocoa.

Mixing it all up.

Next up—the wet ingredients.

Forming them into a ball and rolling in powdered sugar.

All ready to go in the oven.

Crinkly, on the top, warm and gooey in the middle. I actually modified the recipe and put some chocolate chips in the middle while forming the balls.

Here's just part of the team enjoying their afternoon cookies! All the kids seemed to think they were pretty good. After all, I had an empty plate when it was all said and done.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetned cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • chocolate chips (opt)

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease 2 baking sheets with butter.
Put the confectioners' sugar into a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add 1 egg and beat on medium speed until blended. Add the other egg and vanilla and beat until blended.
Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture. Beat on low speed just until blended.
Using a tablespoon, scoop up a rounded spoonful of dough. Scrape the dough off the spoon into the palm of your other hand. If desired, put 4 chocolate chips in the middle before rolling. Roll the dough into a ball. Roll the ball in the confectioners' sugar until covered. Place the balls on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat, spacing the balls about 2 inches apart.
When 1 baking sheet is full, put it in the oven and bake the cookies until they are crackled and puffed, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
Using a metal spatula, move the cookies onto the rack and let cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the cookies.

Yield: 24 cookies