Warmly Spiced Nectarine Muffins

nectarine muffins

I absolutely love fruit so any chance that I have to bake with it gets me super excited. These muffins are no exception. They are fluffy with the perfect crumb and the warm, delicious flavors of autumn. Notes of nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon give balance to the sweetness of the fruit. They are simply perfect!

The original recipe from, “The King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion” cookbook call for juicy, fresh peaches. I had ripe nectarines on hand so I substituted with those since they have a very similar flavor. What I love about this recipe is the versatility in that you can use virtually any fruit you like from stone fruits such as peaches and nectarines to berries or even apples and pears! If you prefer a less spiced flavor, you can decrease the amount of nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon called for in the recipe. I added a splash of pure vanilla extract to my batter because vanilla just makes everything better in my opinion.

This batter will be very thick so I recommend using a cookie scoop to fill the greased or paper muffin cups. Filling the cups to the top will ensure a nicely domed and golden muffin top. I added a generous sprinkle of turbinado sugar to the top of each muffin for that little extra crunch and shimmer. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups (19 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 1/2 tsp (3/4 ounce) baking powder
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) milk
  • 4 large nectarines, diced but NOT peeled (or 3 cups of small, whole berries or other fruit)
  • Turbinado sugar, for tops of muffin (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, brown sugar, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk together until everything is easily distributed and there are no lumps. Set aside.

In another bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Gently fold in the fruit.

Fill greased or paper muffin cups to the very top. Sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, in the pan on a wire rack. Then turn out the muffins onto the wire rack and cool completely.

**NOTE – These muffins freeze beautifully. Simply cool them completely, wrap each muffin individually in plastic wrap and place in a tightly sealed plastic container.**

 

 

Overnight French Toast Casserole

overnight french toast

Need an easy idea for a warm, cozy Sunday brunch? Then look no further than Sally’s Baking Addiction delicious Overnight French Toast recipe! This recipe can be found in Sally’s first cookbook, “Sally’s Baking Addiction” which I highly recommend. The casserole comes together in just a few minutes and in the morning all you have to do is pop it right into the oven. In just 45 minutes you will have a hot, hearty breakfast on the table.

What I absolutely love about this recipe is that you first coat the bottom of the baking dish with a thick, sticky, sweet caramel sauce. When the casserole is ready to be served the caramel sauce serves as a delicious, sweet topping to each serving of french toast, you do not need any syrup or additional butter. I like to plate each serving, drizzle with the caramel sauce and dust with powdered sugar. It makes for a beautiful presentation and is ready to eat with no fuss!

The other nice thing about this recipe is that you can change up the flavor profile by adding in different flavored extracts such as rum or almond. You can also try layering in some fresh fruit, I personally love cinnamon apples but you can use anything from peaches to cranberries to pineapple. Try out different combinations until you find something you love. The casserole is best when served right from the oven however, you can re-warm leftovers just take note that it will not have the same texture. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 tbs light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups (200g) dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) salted butter
  • 1-2 loves Challah bread cut into 12 thick slices, day old or stale is best
  • 5 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (360ml) milk
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Instructions

At night – Heat the corn syrup, brown sugar and butter together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat once the butter is melted. Spread into a 9X13 baking dish.

Layer the thick sliced challah bread on top of the brown sugar mixture. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs, vanilla, milk and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.

In the morning – Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cover the casserole tightly in foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the bread is cooked through.

To serve – Plate and drizzle with the warm caramel sauce and dust with powdered sugar.

Save Yourself a Grocery Trip – Extend Your Meals and Ingredients

eat-321671_1920(1)

With everyone wanting to go out as little as possible these days, especially in potentially crowded places like the supermarket, I thought I would share with you some ideas to extend your ingredients and make your meals work double duty so you can make less frequent food shopping runs. I have been trying to make dishes and treats that we can get a few days out of so that we’re not only covered for dinners but for lunches too! Anything we cannot finish, we simply vacuum seal and save for another time. Also, it’s a good idea to plan meals ahead of time so that you can get as much use as possible out of your opened or perishable ingredients such as stocks, sauces and produce. The more food and ingredients you can conserve the less frequently you’ll have to schlep to the stores and risk possible exposure to COVID-19. Stay well everyone!

Fresh Vegetables – Don’t less fresh veggies go to waste! Wash them, dice them and then freeze to use a later time when cooking! Have leftover bits from other recipes? Toss them together into an egg frittata!

Fresh Fruit – Before your fruit gets too overripe wash them, dice and freeze. They work perfectly in smoothies, thawed into yogurt or even in some baked desserts!

Lemons and Limes – Citrus almost on the way out? Don’t toss them! Instead make a batch of homemade lemonade or limeade. Click here for an easy and delicious recipe! Trust me, you will never drink store-bought juice again. You can also juice them all, place the juice into small freezer bags or ice cube trays and freeze to use at a later time when cooking.

Eggs – Got leftover egg whites from a recipe? Make mini egg white omelets in a muffin pan and store in the fridge for an easy, quick breakfast. Have a lot of egg whites? Make an angel food cake! Leftover egg yolks? Try your hand at custards, homemade French vanilla ice cream, chocolate pudding, lemon curd, etc.

Soups (vegetable, chicken, etc.) – After serving for dinner, portion the remainder out in individual, freezer safe bowls and freeze. When you or the kids need a quick lunch simply defrost them in the microwave and serve hot with crackers!

Tomato Sauce – Make a big batch in one shot and use some for pasta, freeze the rest in smaller portions to pull out for appetizer bites like mozzarella sticks, pasta at a later date or even homemade pizzas. Making your own sauce is not only easy and WAY more delicious than any store-bought sauce but it’s also far more cost effective too. Check out my recipe for Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce .

Homemade Chili – Make a big batch of this cheap, easy and delicious meal. Serve it the first night with Fritos®, the individual bags are great as you can scoop the chili right into them! The second night serve it over hot dogs topped with cheese and onions. Freeze what is left and use it another day to make loaded nachos.

Arancini (Rice Ball) Casserole – This recipe is AMAZING and it’s as good leftover for lunch as it was fresh from the oven. Use any leftover meat mixture, mozzarella or sauce to make homemade meat lovers pizzas! Check out the SkinnyTaste recipe here: Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole

Mashed Potatoes – Leftover mashed potatoes are PERFECT for homemade potato croquettes. Get the recipe here . You can also use leftover mashed potatoes from one meal to make a Shepard’s Pie for another. They also work great to thicken soups and sauces!

Leftover Pizza Dough – Cut into strips, fry in a little butter and toss with cinnamon and sugar. You can even use it to make homemade pretzels, calzones, or even monkey bread!

Breadcrumbs – Run out? Don’t let your stale breads and rolls go to waste. Instead, toss them into your food processor, grind up and store in an airtight container. Another delicious option for breadcrumbs is Doritos®, saltine crackers, pretzels or crackers. They make awesome “breadcrumbs” as they add extra flavor and texture to your food.

Wine – Got leftover wine? Freeze into cubes, throw in a plastic bag and use the next time you’re making a dish that calls for wine.

Cakes and Bakes – Got leftover frosting from your homemade cake? The next day make a tray of brownies, cookies or even cinnamon rolls and use the remaining frosting to make those desserts extra decadent. Also, certain frostings such as buttercream will freeze well so you can even save them for another time.

Cookies – Double your batches of cookie dough to bake cookies now AND later! Got random bags of chocolate chips that aren’t enough to use in one recipe? Combine into one container and use as you would in any cookie recipe. Leftover chocolate candy? Break it up and make “monster cookies” packed with extra yumminess.

Bread/Muffins/Rolls – Don’t throw out any bread, muffins, rolls you haven’t gotten to . Wrap tightly in plastic wrap then foil and freeze. When needed, let thaw at room temperature or warm in the oven. Also, stale bread is perfect for Overnight French Toast. Try this easy and delicious recipe for your next Sunday brunch!

Homemade Waffles and Pancakes – Make big batches and freeze to use later, they are so much better than the processed junk in the stores. Waffles also make an awesome sweet treat, toast one up until crispy and top with creamy ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry. It’s the perfect sundae!

 

 

 

To-Die-For Brown Butter Sugar Cookies

Brown Butter Sugar Cookie

Brown butter. I mean, c’mon. What is better than the nutty, complex, delicious flavor of brown butter? Nothing much and it’s what makes these cookies from the Sally’s Baking Addiction website absolutely out of this world! You can click right here to access her original recipe as well as hundreds of others. I love sugar cookies but I often find that many recipes fall flat in flavor and texture. This variation is everything you want a sugar cookie to be and more. They are chewy, soft, slightly crisp on the edges and have a very complex, vanilla forward flavor. I really love them and I think you will too!

Take note, the cookie dough contains a good amount of butter, 1 cup in fact, so you will find that the dough is a little greasy. That’s totally okay though, it’s what gives the cookies their to-die-for flavor. Because you’re using melted butter in this recipe it’s very important you allow the dough to chill as directed to prevent them from over spreading during baking. The best thing about these cookies is that you can even make them ahead of time! Freeze the shaped, unbaked cookie dough balls for up to three months. They can be baked right from the freezer, no thawing needed. Just be sure to bake them 1-2 minutes longer. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups + 2 tbs (265g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles and/or nonpareils for topping

Instructions

First, brown the butter. Slice the butter into pieces and place in a light-colored skillet. (Light colored helps you determine when the butter begins browning.) Melt the butter over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Keep whisking occasionally. After 5-8 minutes, the butter will begin browning– you’ll notice lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it will have a nutty aroma. Once browned, remove from heat immediately, pour into a heat safe bowl. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar to the brown butter. Using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat together on medium-high speed until relatively combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and begin beating together on low speed, slowly working up to high speed until everything is combined.

Roll the dough into balls, about 1 tbs of dough each, and dip the tops into sprinkles. Place dough balls tightly together on a lined baking sheet. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and  place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Line chilled dough balls onto baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until lightly browned on the sides. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Cozy and Hearty Apple Cider Chicken

 

cider chicken plated

It’s fall and that means it’s time for cozy, warm, hearty meals. It’s also a great time to use up all of those delicious apples you harvested from your local orchard. I love to use apples in my cooking as they add a delicious flavor and sweetness to meals. They are also really amazing in salads because of their unexpected crisp, they go best with salads that have a lighter, sweeter dressing. Pure, fresh pressed apple cider is another wonderful ingredient to use in cooking and it’s what makes this chicken dish out of this world. Since the apple cider is a very forward flavor in this meal I recommend getting the best cider you can, name brand packaged cider will work however, fresh farm cider is really the absolute best.

This recipe comes from Sunny Anderson at Food Network®, for the original recipe click here . Please be aware, I did notice in the comments that people complained of the dish being “sour” and upon further reading, I realized that many people made the HUGE mistake of using apple cider VINEGAR in the dish instead of pure apple cider. These two ingredients are vastly different and cannot be interchanged whatsoever so please ensure you are using pure apple cider in this recipe. If you don’t have cider on hand, you can substitute apple juice however, you might find the end result a little less rich and a touch more sweet. 

One suggestion, because you are cooking so many pieces of chicken at once you’ll want to get as much in the pan at one time (without overcrowding) so you don’t have to cook multiple batches. I suggest using a large electric skillet because it can easily accommodate a large batch of chicken ensuring that your meal cooks quickly and all at one time. Lastly, I served this with homemade mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider

Instructions

Heat oil and 1 tbs butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper then add to pan and sear until golden, about 4 minutes each side. Remove chicken from pan, and set aside.

Add remaining butter and onion, apple, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Sauté until apple begins to get color and onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 to 3 minutes. Nestle chicken back into pan, add cider, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes.

apple cider chicken

Deals and Steals in the Kitchen and Beyond

wallet.jpg

Who out there doesn’t love a bargain? I find that there is nothing more satisfying than getting a really good deal because not only do you end up with that certain something that you have been eyeing but you also walk away with cash to spare in your wallet. Over the years I have become a pretty savvy shopper, there are very few things that I will ever pay full price for simply because there are so many ways to avoid doing so. It goes without saying that some of my favorite deals are generally centered around the kitchen and cooking but I certainly will do my best to find a deal no matter what I am buying from shoes to sheets.

I am often asked how I get such great deals so below I have compiled some of my best tips and tricks for scoring a great deal whether you’re looking for a new appliance, a pair of shoes or even a brand new car! The key is to be willing to put in just a little time and effort before you shop AND to be able to walk away if a deal isn’t good enough. As the consumer, you’re the one in the power position. Companies both big and small want your business and most will do whatever it takes to get the sale. Being a smart shopper can save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars over time. So let’s get saving!

Spend Money, Make Money

If you’re going to be shopping and spending why not make some cash back in the process? I love getting paid to shop whether it’s in the form of rebates, cash back or rewards and it’s so easy to do.

  • Reward Credit Cards – If you use credit cards frequently, get a card that rewards you for shopping. Cards like Discover® and VISA® will give you straight cash back for purchases made with their card. You can cash that out or apply it towards any balance you carry. In my opinion, the best cards to have are the ones for specific stores that you frequent because most of them not only offer amazing coupons and discounts but reward certificates as well. They are literally paying YOU to shop at their store! My favorites store cards are Williams-Sonoma Visa®, The Children’s Place, Macy’s, Kohl’s and the best of the best, Amazon. Because I use Amazon for so much of what I buy, I end up making a good amount back every month that I turn around and apply towards my future purchases. The key with using these credit cards is to ensure that you continually pay off your balance as you use them to avoid any finance charges. You certainly don’t want to negate part of any savings you may have gotten by carrying a balance. I use these cards to get the coupons, deals and cash back but I pay them off as soon as they post online so that I don’t pay any interest at all on my purchase. Get the deal, avoid the debt!
  • Rebate Sites – When shopping online take advantage of the many rebate sites that are available such as Ebates/Rakuten, Ibotta, Swagbucks and Upromise. They are all FREE, easy to use and offer cash back in addition to any coupons or discount codes they provide. I have earned hundreds and hundreds of dollars through Ebates just by doing my normal online shopping, you really cannot beat that deal!

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons

Gone are the days of spending hours cutting and sorting coupons. In this day and age of electronics, finding and using coupons are easier than ever. Once you have your apps downloaded saving money becomes as easy as 1-2-3!

  • Stack Coupons – Coupons are your best friend when shopping as they can earn you both discounts and even FREE product. Stacked coupons are even better. Many stores such as Michael’s, Bath and Body WorksThe Children’s Place, and Kohl’s will let you stack coupons to get even more savings. As an example, at Bath and Body Works you not only get a percentage off of your sale but you can also take advantage of their free product coupons at the same time.
  • Combine Coupons – Combine your coupons with sales, rewards certificates or rebate money that you might have to lower your out of pocket cost even further as you shop. As an example, I recently shopped at Williams- Sonoma and thanks to a 25% off coupon + free shipping, a $25 rewards certificate I earned from using their store credit card and a $25 gift card that I earned by using my AMEX credit card I was able to purchase a new Cuisinart® bread maker for only $37!!!!! Had I just taken advantage of their sale without the coupon, rewards and gift card my out of pocket cost would have been $109 PLUS shipping cost. That is savings of over $70!
  • Coupon Apps – Download rebate, coupon and store apps to increase your savings and to easily keep track of discounts and deals. Plus, you never have to worry about forgetting your coupons at home. Check out money savings apps like Saving Star, Snip Snap, Shop Kick and Card Star.
  • Store Savings Cards – This is perhaps the easiest way to save money and it costs you literally nothing. If a store offers a discount card, sign up! When you shop there you will get the best price and the best coupons every time. I know those little savings cards can be a pain to store and carry so my tip, and one that I use myself, is to get yourself a small hole puncher and key ring. Simply punch a hole in the corner of each card, add them to the key ring and toss in your bag. When you need to use them, they will all be in one convenient place!
  • Online Discount and Promo Codes – Before clicking “buy” online, always run a quick Google® search to see if there are any applicable promo codes for your purchase. Some of the most reliable sites for promo codes are Retail Me Not, Coupon Cabin, and Brad’s Deals.

Everything is Negotiable

If you don’t ask, you don’t get! Do not be afraid to speak up to negotiate a better deal on something you really want. The worst thing that will happen is someone will tell you no but the best thing that can happen is that you save yourself some moola!

  • Do Your Homework – For big ticket items, like a car, do the research before you go shopping. Know what a fair price is for what you’re looking to buy and use that information to negotiate the best price you can. To make the negotiations go more smoothly, bring printouts of your research with you so you can show them in black and white what a fair deal looks like.
  • Damage Discounts – When shopping at discount stores such as Home Goods or Marshall’s often times you will come across a great item but it might have a slight imperfection. When you get to the register, point out the issue and ask for a discount to compensate for the imperfection. At the very least, most stores will offer 10% off without a fight. If you feel that the item’s condition warrants a bigger discount, speak up.
  • Buying in Bulk – If you’re buying multiples of the same item or even if you’re just making a huge purchase, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount or a better deal. Often times stores will throw in a little something extra with your purchase or even give a discount when buying in multiples.

Sales and Clearance

The easiest way to get a great deal is to shop sales and clearance tables.  It takes very little effort and can save you a ton of money! Sometimes you can double down on these deals at stores that allow you to use coupons in conjunction with their sale and clearance items. Michael’s is a store that will occasionally allow coupons to be used with their sale and clearance items, keep an eye out for those!

  • Holiday Sales – Look for great deals throughout the year such as President’s Week, end of summer and Black Friday. Stores usually offer steep discounts at these times of year so it pays to shop their sales. While Black Friday offers some of the best pricing of the year for holiday shoppers there is no need to brave the crowds, there are just as many amazing deals right online so you can cozy up, grab your cup of coffee and shop from the comfort of home. Another wise time to shop online is Cyber Monday because just like Black Friday, there are tons of deal to be had and they all get delivered right to your front door!
  • Future Discount Sales – At certain times throughout the year many stores will offer “store cash” to incentivize you to return at a later date to shop again. These are generally great deals if you know you will have a future need for something. Just be aware that when it’s time to redeem the “store cash” the prices within the store will not be as great since most stores do not run store cash redemption and sales at the same time. That being said, since what you’re buying is essentially “free“, the fact that it’s not on sale matters a little less.
  • End of Season Clearance Tables – Many, many times I’ve had my eye on something but really couldn’t justify paying full price or even the sale price for it so I wait until end of season sales. You can get products for up to 90% off in some cases! I especially love the clearance sections at Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table because you can occasionally get lucky and score amazing deals on very expensive, brand name items such as Staub® and Le Creuset®. Always take a look at the clearance sections in stores and as I mentioned above, if something is slightly imperfect or missing pieces don’t be afraid to ask for a deeper discount. With clearance items, stores are looking to unload all of that stock quickly and if giving you a few extra bucks off helps to move product, many will work with you on pricing.

My last bit of advice is to frequent discount stores to find great deals, particularly on brand name items. I have found Staub® enameled cast iron pots for as little as $45 in stores like Home Goods or Tuesday Morning. The boxes looked beat up or it was “last year’s color” however, the pots themselves were in perfect condition. You can also find excellent deals there on seasonal serving pieces, cookware, bakeware and cooking tools. I generally don’t care for buying food at places like these but the exception for me is extracts. Pure vanilla extract and pure vanilla paste has become so expensive in recent years that I always keep an eye out for it in discount stores when I am shopping. Just recently I was at Home Goods and came across bottles of NielsenMassey pure vanilla extract for only around $11/bottle. It currently retails in WilliamsSonoma for $30/bottle. That is an incredible savings for the same exact product, why pay more if you don’t have to?

Finding a great deal isn’t that hard when you take advantage of the right resources and know how to shop. I am all about saving money because the less you spend for what you want, the better you will feel better about your purchase. Nobody likes to waste money so why give it away if you don’t have to? What are some of your money saving tips? Feel free to share below!

 

 

 

Spiced Pumpkin Coffee Cake

70855555_10217994729493165_5210614260052262912_o

My daughter Emerson happens to be the world’s WORST eater. She is super picky about every single thing that goes into mouth from fruit to meat to pasta. For whatever reason she takes issues with the way most every food tastes and feels in her mouth EXCEPT pumpkin. For some inexplicable reason this child actually loves baked pumpkin goods. So for her birthday, I decided to make her a delicious Spiced Pumpkin Coffee Cake. I am not a huge pumpkin person myself however, this cake was incredible. It was moist, flavorful and the perfect treat for a crisp, cozy fall day.

This recipe comes from none other than Ms. Paula Deen who happened to put out this amazing Fall baking magazine a few years back in 2014. It was a lovely publication filled with recipes featuring pears, apples, pumpkin and squash. If you happen to have this issue in your collection of recipes and cookbooks, it can be found on page 83. I followed the recipe as written except for one minor change which was to replace the 1/4 cup of sour cream with a 1/4 of low-fat vanilla yogurt. I also threw in an extra splash of pure vanilla extract because you can never go wrong with a little extra vanilla. Happy fall, y’all! Enjoy!

Ingredients

Topping

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream OR 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt

Instructions

Topping – In a small saucepan cook the butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes or until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour until smooth. Turn mixture out onto a plate and allow to cool completely.

Cake – Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8″ square pan with parchment or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and sour cream/yogurt until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until just smooth.

Pour the batter into prepared pan. Break up the topping mixture into chunks and sprinkle all over the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm or allow to cool completely.

**Tip – Mashed cooked sweet potato or puréed cooked butternut squash can be substituted for the pumpkin.**

“How-To” Cooking – All About Onions

onions

Onions are one of the most popular and widely used ingredients in cooking and with so many varieties available at the supermarket it can be confusing to know which kind to choose. Yellow onions are generally the most commonly used in cooking but knowing what else is available will certainly elevate many dishes. Take note that garlic is actually considered part of the onion family even though it has a very different and distinct flavor.

When buying onions choose ones that have a dry, papery skin and are nice and firm. Avoid onions that have any soft spots or powdery surface mold. Always store onions and shallots at room temperature away from light, a dark pantry is a good place to keep them. Delicate scallions however, should be stored in the refrigerator. Place them standing up in a tall glass filled with 1″ of water and cover them loosely with a plastic bag. Lastly, store onions away from potatoes as they release gases which can hasten sprout growth in potatoes causing them to spoil more quickly.

  • Yellow Onions – Strong flavored and maintain their potency when cooked. Also labeled as “Spanish Onions“. Most common onion used in cooking.
  • White Onions – Pungent and strong much like a yellow onion however, their flavor is less complex. Most commonly used in Mexican or Latin American dishes.
  • Red Onions – Crisp onion with a sweet, peppery flavor. Perfect for use in dishes where raw onion is needed. Most commonly used in salads.
  • Sweet Onions – Sweet, mild flavor. Texture can become stringy when cooked so these are best to use raw. These don’t keep as well as other onions so use them up quickly. Most common varieties are Vidalia, Maui, Bermuda and Walla Walla. 
  • Pearl Onions – Crunchy and small with a sweet, delicate flavor. Most commonly used in soups and for roasting. Peeling these tiny onions can be arduous so it’s recommended to buy them pre-peeled in the frozen aisle.
  • Cipolline – Sweet, Italian onion with a flat top and squat shape. Similar to a pearl onion. Ideal for creaming and roasting. Can be served whole.
  • Shallots – Complex, subtly sweet flavor. When cooked they become very soft and almost melt away. Most commonly used in sauces.
  • Ramps – Eaten raw it has a strong, almost garlic like flavor. When cooked it has a mildly, sweet flavor. The entire onion from top to bottom is edible and is often presented in dishes intact.
  • Scallions – Earthy flavor with a delicate crunch. Used in dishes that involve little to no cooking. Can be used interchangeably with ramps. Most commonly used in Asian cooking.

Chef Grayden’s S’muffins

smuffin

S’mores are so delicious. Muffins are really delicious too. How do you make those two things even better? You turn them into a S’muffin of course! It’s the perfect marriage of ingredients and flavor! You end up with the moist, yummy texture of a muffin but with the sweet, gooey, graham flavor of a S’mores.

When my sweet little sous chef wanted to bake on a gloomy, rainy day I was all in but first we had to figure out something easy and yummy to bake. He wanted muffins but also wanted S’mores so he asked if we could mix them all together and make, what he smartly named, a S’muffin. It sounded like a great plan to me so we hopped online to do a little research and we came across this great recipe from the Taste of Home® website. We substituted vanilla low-fat yogurt for the sour cream, added a little splash of pure vanilla extract to the mix and very loosely measured the marshmallow creme. A little extra fluff never hurt anyone! If you have it on hand, feel free to use vanilla sugar instead of the granulated sugar that is called for in the recipe. It adds a nice little extra kick of vanilla flavor. Lastly, we used the leftover graham cracker crumbs that we had to top the muffins off. It added a nice texture to the top of the S’muffins and made them look extra cute.

Gray baking smuffins

The recipe as written only makes about 6-7 muffins so I recommend at least doubling the recipe. You can even triple or quadruple it and then freeze the extra muffins so you have delicious homemade muffins on hand whenever a craving hits. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 tsp granulated or vanilla sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or vanilla low-fat yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs*
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 6-7 tablespoons marshmallow creme

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400ºF. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg then add in the sour cream and milk and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda. Gently beat the dry mixture into the wet ingredients until just moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Line six muffin cups with cupcake liners. Fill the cups up about halfway with batter then spoon roughly 1 tbs of marshmallow creme into each muffin cup. Top with remaining batter. Sprinkle the tops with leftover graham cracker crumbs.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.

*Tip – To make your own graham cracker crumbs simply place a few sheets of graham crackers into a food processor or blender and pulse until coarse and crumbly.*

 

 

Quick and Easy Fried Rice

Fried Rice2

Who doesn’t love fried rice? Even my kids are a fan (after they pick out the veggies, lol) so I was interested in finding a quick and easy recipe that I could whip up at home. While Chinese take-out is delicious, it can be very calorie dense and laden with salt and sugar. I really love the idea of being able to control the ingredients myself and make a somewhat “lighter” version that is just as yummy as what I can get from a take-out place.

Enter this awesome recipe from the blog, Gimme Some Oven which is true to its name, “The Best Fried Rice“. It was really easy to make and it came out great! I made mine as the recipe specified leaving out the oyster sauce as I didn’t have any in the house. The resulting dish was still very good even without this ingredient. The most important step in this recipe is to use cold rice. Grab whatever leftover rice you have in the fridge or make the rice in the morning and chill until you’re ready to cook it up for dinner.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can get creative if you so desire. Add in a variety of different veggies or toss in some chicken, pork or beef. It is so delicious no matter how you serve it. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups cooked and chilled rice (preferably short grain)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 tbs low-sodium soy sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce (optional)

Instructions

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the egg and cook until scrambled. Remove egg and transfer to a separate plate.

Add an additional 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and heat until melted. Add the carrots, onion, peas and garlic and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion and carrots are soft. Increase heat to high, add in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and stir until melted. Immediately add the rice, green onions, soy sauce and oyster sauce (if using) and stir until combined. Continue stirring for an additional 3 minutes to fry the rice. Then add in the eggs and stir to combine. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil until combined.

Serve immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.