September 30, 2010

Harvest Pork Stew

Fall is official here and I have been craving the flavors and feelings of autumn! To welcome in October I pulled together a yummy, hot and hearty bowl of a harvest pork stew filled with sweet potato, carrots and apples!

Harvest Pork Stew
(inspired by this recipe.)

1 pound boneless pork tenderloin, cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups chicken broth/stock
salt and pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large Jonagold apple (that's just what I picked up), peeled and cubed
2 medium or small potatoes, peeled and cubed
10-12 baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise

In a large pot, heat a good drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat and add the cubed pork. Brown the pork on all sides and add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook until pork is no longer pink and onion is soft and translucent. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add in the sweet potato, potato and apple. Bring back to a simmer and cook, uncovered until potatoes and apple are cooked and fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add a slurry of flour and water to the broth and let thicken. Serve with a big chunk of hearty bread for sopping up the juices.

Total Autumn Harvest Goodness

This stew was pretty fantastic. I felt it could have used something more...maybe some apple cider to pick of the brown bits from the bottom of the pot after browning, just a splash. I just wanted a little more "oomf" to the overall flavor of the broth, but the veggies and the pork were great! The apple was a surprise, cause it soaked up all the juices and then at the end you got the apple flavor. A nice added sweetness and soft texture. I think the sweet potato was key. It added great color and flavor. I would have liked to use a butternut squash but I thought I would try the sweet potato first, we'll do squash next time.

Another must have....bread! And of course I gotta give props to Blackbird Baking Co. The have the most amazing, hearty, earthy, perfect for dunking bread...the Country Brown Levain. Its like a wheat sourdough...its amazing. They have a Country Blonde Levain as well, which has a nice sourdough flavor but I think I like the brown better. Seems heartier and more earthy. And the last hour of their work day is Happy Hour where everything is half off!! You can't go wrong! Delicious, fresh bread and pastry for 1/2 off! It's a dream.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry....ITS FALL!!!!


September 27, 2010

Chocolate - Chocolate Chip Shortbread

I had one of those days where I was so bored and didn't know what to do with myself, so ya know, I decided to make cookies! I am really into shortbread at the moment and I just bought some cocoa powder, which I never have on hand, so I thought chocolate shortbread would be fun. I had some left over chocolate chips and decided to add those in as well. I got the general recipe from My Baking Addiction's Mocha Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Nutella, which sound amazing, but I didn't have the espresso granules, so I just went with straight chocolate flavor. I only made a half batch, the recipe below makes a full batch.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Shortbread
(adapted from My Baking Addiction)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla.

In a medium bowl whisk or sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture until fully incorporated. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with floured 2 - 3 inch cookie cutters, or cut your own rustic shapes. Place cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 300 for 15-20 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool.

I have to say, these are some great little shortbread cookies. They are not too sweet and have great chocolate flavor. They were really nice and buttery and had great texture. The chocolate chips didn't add much to the overall cookie, so you could really go with or without them.

I didn't refrigerate the dough as long as the recipe says, mostly because I was impatient and it was 8 o'clock at night. But I do feel that if I did it might have been easier to handle and maybe they wouldn't have spread as much in the oven. I wasn't expecting them to spread cause other shortbread's that I have made didn't, but I was wrong.

Chocolatey-Buttery Deliciousness

These are great little cookie with nice chocolate and buttery flavor and a nice crisp texture...I hope you try them out!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!


September 22, 2010

Blueberry Lemon Mini-Muffins

For Glee Night (yes that's right...Glee is back!) I had my best bud Kay over with her sister and we made some fruit stacks of bananas, strawberries and blueberries covered in chocolate, and we had tons of blueberries left over. So I got excited cause I could make some blueberry muffins! I also had a lemon that was getting close to being past its prime, so I thought, "oh man, lemon and blueberry are delicious together!" I Googled recipes for "lemon blueberry muffins" and found a great sounding one from Food Network. But of course I had to make them mini...they are just so darn cute!

Blueberry Lemon Mini-Muffins
(original recipe here.)

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed

2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffins tins.

In a large bowl cream together the sugar and butter. Stir in eggs and milk. Add vanilla and lemon juice. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the dry ingredients a little at a time until combined. Gently stir in the blueberries.

Divide the batter among the muffins tins. In a small bowl mix together brown sugar, butter and lemon zest with your fingers or a fork, and sprinkle over the top of each muffin. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes in the pans then transfer to cooling racks.

Bubbling-Blueberries Batman!

I have to say, you are better off following my typed out recipe because I noticed a ton of typos in the Food Network's recipe. Tablespoon written in the direction instead of teaspoons or lemon zest instead of was annoying.

But these little nuggets of lemon and blueberry freshness are delicious! I ate 3 of them while taking the photos of them...they are quite yummy. I don't see the point of the topping. And of course due to typos from Food Network I put the zest in the batter instead of in the topping, so they were quite lemony and the brown sugar and butter just sort of caramelized and kinda ran off to the side of the muffins. So I don't think the topping is necessary.

These light mini-muffins are refreshing and really should try them!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!!


September 15, 2010

Hubsie's Birthday - Caramel Apple Cupcakes

So I know I have said that I am not a cupcakes baker...but it was the Hubsie's birthday and I wanted to make him something special. In the latest Everyday with Rachael Ray they had a recipe for Caramel Apple Cupcakes. Now the name alone should make your mouth water, but then there was the picture of them...all caramelly and gooey and dripping in caramel. I had to make them for something!! And seeing that my husband's birthday is close to the first day of autumn, these sounded perfect.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes
(original from Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine)

1 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Fuji apples (about 1 pound) peeled and shredded
1 1/2 cups chewy caramel candies
1 T heavy cream

1. Arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with baking liners. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth. Whisk in the oil and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined, stir in the apples. Spoon the batter into prepared pan until almost full. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

3. In a small, microwavable bowl, combine the caramel candies and cream. Microwave for 1 minute at medium power, then stir; repeat in 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Let cool. Spread the frosting generously on the cooled cupcakes.

These cupcakes are quite delicious...and rather messy as you can see in the above photo. They are jam packed with apple flavor though, and the caramel is soft and chewy. I found these were really simple to make even though it felt foreign to me to add the wet ingredients to the dry when I am used to do it the other way around.

Whats also exciting is that in making these past couple apple recipes I figured out how to use the shredder attachment on my food's amazing! My hand grater recently broke and I didn't even want to think about having to sit there and grate an apple over it, so I remembered I had that attachment for my processor and it is a godsend! Made super quick work of it and I can shred the apples right before having to add them to the recipe so I don't have to worry about them going brown on me. Its awesome! Its probably sad that I am just now finding out that, that attachment is awesome but I never used it before, or had a reason to.

One downside is I stored these in a cake pan with a lid...and well it seems the caramel just kinda melted off the I don't know about that. The recipe said nothing about how to store them...maybe I should have refrigerated them? I have no idea. I just know I opened the lid and noticed caramel all over the bottom of the pan around each cupcake...they are still yummy though!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry...and celebrate someone's birthday!


September 10, 2010

Apple-Cream Cheese Muffins

Every autumn I make Pumpkin Muffins with cream cheese piped inside after baking. I was looking through some other food blogs and found a lot of them baking the cream cheese right in the muffins. I thought this was genius and kinda sad I didn't think of that, but I wouldn't have known exactly how to if I did think of it. But its still a little early to be making the pumpkin muffins, those are more of an Oct/Nov. thing so I looked up muffin recipes with another fall flavor, apples. I found a great recipe from Betty Crocker for these muffins and decided to give them a go!

Apple-Cream Cheese Muffins
(for original recipe click here.)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large apple, peeled and shredded, about 1 cup
1/3 cup (3 oz.) cream cheese

Streusel topping:
3 T packed brown sugar
2 T flour
1 T butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350. Line 15 muffin cups with paper liners. Reserve 1 T of brown sugar for muffin filling.

In a large bowl with electric mixer, combine remaining brown sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt on low speed until mixed. Reserve 1 T of beaten egg for muffin filling. Add oil, applesauce, vanilla and remaining egg to flour mixture. Beat on medium speed until mixed. With a spoon, stir in apple.

In small bowl, mix cream cheese, the reserved 1 T egg and reserved 1 T brown sugar until mixed. Fill muffin cups less than half full with muffin batter. Top each with 1 tsp. cream cheese mixture. Top with spoonful of muffin batter to fill cups 2/3 full. In small bowl combine streusel ingredients and sprinkle over batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool slightly for 10 minutes.

I am not gonna lie...I forgot to add the vanilla...just totally overlooked it. These aren't the most flavorful muffins, but it could be because I forgot the vanilla it might have given it a bit more. The streusel topping is nice, I don't think I have ever made one with just flour, brown sugar and butter, so it was interesting. I think it could use more cream cheese filling, like maybe even a whole tablespoon instead of a teaspoon...I like cream cheese. At least the one I taste-tested didn't seem to have enough. Also I like the flavor of lemon juice in cream cheese fillings, so maybe next time I will try adding some.

Fresh out of the oven
Apple-Cream Cheese Muffins

I think overall this recipe is ok. You get a pretty results and a nice fall-time flavor, but I think I was expecting more. I can't wait to make my pumpkin muffins though, those are always a big hit at the Hubsie's work!! Hopefully they will like my new take with the cream cheese baked in...stay tuned for that post!

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!!


September 7, 2010

Lemon and Brown Sugar Shortbreads

I discovered a few more food blogs...this is getting to be a problem. I end up saving up tons and tons of recipes from these fabulous food blogs...who knows when I will make all them!! Or even remember which ones I've saved! Anyway, this new one I found is Pinch My Salt. She had this great simple recipe for lemon shortbread and brown sugar shortbread. I picked up some lemons on my last shopping trip so I was happy to find something simple and delicious to use them in. I made half a batch of each cause I didn't want an over abundance of left over cookies, although I did send some to work with the Hubs, his co-workers love me :) I also didn't want to use up all my butter.

Lemon Shortbread
(find original recipe here.)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 T lemon zest
1 1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the softened butter and sugar, until smooth. Add the lemon zest and beat until incorporated. By hand, stir in flour a little at a time. Dough will be crumbly, so dump it out onto counter top or pastry board and work it together by hand, until smooth. Pat or roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into small squares, rectangles, diamonds or triangles (which ever you prefer) Arrange cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are just brown.

Brown Sugar Shortbread
(find original here.)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the softened butter and sugar, until smooth. By hand, stir in flour a little at a time. Dough will be crumbly, so dump it out onto counter top or pastry board and work it together by hand, until smooth. Pat or roll out dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into small squares, rectangles, diamonds or triangles (which ever you prefer) Arrange cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are just brown.

These recipes are nearly identical except for the type of sugar and the addition of lemon zest. These cookies are light and crisp and the lemon ones have a nice buttery, lemon flavor that is really refreshing. The brown sugar ones are little more earthy and deep in flavor. I enjoyed both kinds, the lemon was nice, but I do love brown sugar. These were really simple to make and didn't make as big a mess as I thought they might have, with having to handle the dough on the counter.

These were fun to make in between the episodes of True Blood I was watching! Haha!! I hope you guys try these out, they were easy and would be a great with a cup of tea...hmmm I know what I am gonna go do....

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!