Friday, September 28, 2012

Chicken Tender Melt

Other than babysitting, my first job ever was working at Perkins as a hostess when I was 15. In case you live in an area of the country or world that does not have Perkins, they're most known for their pancakes, the sassy old ladies working as waitresses, and in the case of the location that I worked at, their mouse infestation behind the hostess stand.

Mice issues notwithstanding, my 15-year old metabolism and I really enjoyed the free food I got during my shift. My lunch of choice was usually a menu item known as the "chicken tender melt," which I probably ate roughly three times a week for an entire summer. I randomly remembered this sandwich recently, and decided to recreate it at home. Needless to say, it was even more delicious than the restaurant version (probably because I fried it in butter.) It's been many years since my Perkins days, but I seem to remember the restaurant serving this sandwich with honey mustard dressing. I served it with ranch instead, but either one would be scrumptious.

This is a somewhat time consuming sandwich to make, since I strongly recommend that you make your own homemade chicken tenders for it. I promise when you take a bite you'll agree it was worth it!

Here's what you'll need:

Salted butter
2 slices sourdough bread
3 slices Pepper-jack cheese
3 slices bacon
3 slices tomato
2 homemade chicken tenders
Ranch dressing or Honey Mustard, for dipping

Butter 1 side of each bread slice. Assemble your sandwich by layering 1 1/2 slice of cheese, tomatoes, bacon, chicken tenders, and the remaining 1 1/2 slice of cheese on the non-buttered side. In a small frying man over medium heat, cook the sandwich on both sides until the bread is brown, and the cheese is melted.

Source: Inspired by the Perkins menu 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Peanut Butter Chicken

peanut butter chicken

Sometimes my brain feels blocked. I have been sitting at my laptop, staring at a blank screen for longer than I care to admit, wracking racking my brain trying to think of an interesting anecdote, or words of wisdom to share. I've got nothing. I did read up on the difference between wracking and racking. So there's that.

I was up in New Jersey all weekend visiting my sister and mom, and had a relaxing few days filled with lots of wine, pumpkin ice cream, good bagels, and great burritos. I intentionally confused a young man at the wine store when I asked him what wine he recommended to accompany hot dogs. I should cut the sarcasm and be nicer to easily flustered wine store clerks. I also bought a deep dish pie plate, and am extremely psyched to make a pie and share it here. Such an exciting life I lead, right?

Let's just move on and talk about this chicken before I bore you to tears. I'm a big fan of peanut butter in savory dishes. I know the ingredients below might seem a little odd (I totally get that combining peanut butter and salsa sounds slightly cray-cray) but they totally work. Best of all, I bet you have at least half of the ingredients on hand already. I am the worst at maintaining a pantry full of staples, and even I only needed to pick up chicken, peanuts, and orange juice to make this amazing dinner happen.

P.S. If this recipe strikes your fancy, you might also like these Thai Peanut Butter Noodles

Here's what you'll need:

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup medium salsa
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 large chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise into 4 or 5 strips each
2 tablespoons olive oil
Peanuts and green onions, for garnish
Cooked rice, for serving

In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, salsa, soy sauce, honey, orange juice, ginger, and curry powder. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. Add the chicken to the oil, and brown on both sides, but don't cook through. Turn the heat to low, and pour in the sauce. Cover the pan, and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and reduced, and the chicken is cooked through. 

Serve over rice, sprinkled with peanuts and green onions.

Source: Adapted from Kristina Kuzmic

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pecan Turtle Black Cocoa Brownies

Pecan Turtle Black Cocoa Brownies

Random thoughts as I attempt to cobble together a blog post at 12:39 AM:

1. I considered titling this recipe Special Brownies, but realized that would have a different implication than what I intended. These are special brownies because they contain awesome and pricey ingredients (not ganja), and should be served only to special people that you really, really like. Pecans, vanilla beans, and black cocoa all make an appearance in these brownies. They are spendy but worthwhile splurges!

2. I actually Googled "slang for marijuana" to make my previous point. I've never smoked the giggly weed/wacky tobaccy/chronic in my life, and clearly do not have the vernacular down. Do people actually call it any of those things? Wait, don't answer that and incriminate yourselves. Drugs are scary guys. Let's stick to wine.

3. I'm headed up to New Jersey tonight to visit with my Mom and seester, and fully intend to force-feed them the whole pan of these. Although, they're super-duper good, so I'm hoping that force won't be necessary. Perhaps I can convince them that these are healthy, since they contain lots of nuts and dark chocolate. Antioxidants!

4. Friends is on Nick & Nite in the background, which makes me feel exceedingly old. When I was a kid, Nick & Nite was all about I Love Lucy and Bewitched. Having 90s shows on there just seems wrong. Also, it's "The One With the Morning After," and I'm still mad at Ross. "We were on a break!" is not a valid excuse dude.

5. I usually hate dressing up for Halloween, but recently decided that I want to go as Honey Boo Boo Child. One problem - I simply don't have the legs to pull off a short pink pageant dress. Someone out there, please take this idea, and report back on November 1st, so that I can live vicariously through you. You'll need a short pink dress, a pig named Glitzy, and a bottle of Go-Go Juice. In the words of Mama, you'll look beautimous. Please don't judge me for watching this amazingly hilarious train wreck of a reality show. For those of you who somehow don't know who Honey Boo Boo is, I feel like this best sums her up:


This recipe makes 15 super dark, super rich brownies. If you're unfamiliar with black cocoa, it's Dutch-processed cocoa that has been super alkalized. You know how Oreo cookies are almost black? That's how this cocoa powder looks. It actually kind of smells like crushed up Oreos. Since black cocoa has less fat than traditional cocoa powder, it's typically paired with natural or Dutched cocoa to ensure that baked goods don't dry out. A little goes a long way with this stuff! I know it seems like there is an insane amount of sugar in the recipe below, but do not reduce the sugar unless you want a dried out brownie. The dark chocolate balances out the large quantity of sugar well, and while these are rich, they are not tooth-achingly sweet.

Here's what you'll need:

For the brownies:

1 cup salted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup black cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

For the pecan topping:

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, contents scraped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and spray a 9x13 metal baking pan with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugars, and vanilla extract with a spoon until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powders, and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet, until just combined.  Mix in chocolate chips.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Let the brownies cool, then make the caramel.

In a liquid measuring cup, combine heavy cream, vanilla bean scrapings, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, water, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring often until the sugar has completely dissolved. Continue to boil, swirling the pan occasionally but NOT stirring, until the mixture turns a deep amber color - anywhere from 7-15 minutes. Caramel goes from perfect to burnt in a split second, so don't walk away!

When the caramel has reached the correct color, remove it from the heat, and immediately pour in the heavy cream and vanilla mixture. Be careful, as it will bubble up quite a bit. Stir until thoroughly combined, and add in the pecans. Immediately pour over the brownies, and spread evenly to cover. Let cool completely before cutting.

Brownies adapted from these, and caramel topping adapted from Chow

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pumpkin Toffee Chip and Rolo Chunk Cookies

I have some serious anxiety about sharing these cookies with you guys.

You see, I don't make a lot of stuff with cake mixes, and these cookies contain one. Personally, I just think that baking things from scratch is way more fun than dumping a mix into a bowl, and usually tastes a heck of a lot better. You certainly won't ever catch me refusing a gooey brownie or slice of chocolate cake that's made from a mix, but my favorite chocolate cake recipe is 10 times better, and not much more difficult.

Usually, nothing makes me lose my baking mojo faster than the phrase "semi-homemade," and I think that a certain television chef who considers a store-bought angel food cake sprinkled with Corn Nuts to be a legitimate recipe has no business teaching anyone how to bake. That being said, I'm not a paid Food Network "chef", and I won't call this a recipe. This is just me telling you how to dump 5 items into a bowl, and produce a very tasty fall treat in 20 minutes.

So tasty in fact, that I ate 3 straight from the oven and burned my mouth. I then decided to get over myself, quit being a snob, and share this delicious non-recipe with all of you.

Fellow food bloggers, please don't shun me.

Here's what you'll need for a large batch of cake-like, candy-studded cookies:

1 box yellow cake mix
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin
1 cup mini-chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate-covered Heath Bar chunks (these are in a bag in the baking aisle)
1 1/2 cups Rolos, quartered (about 35 Rolos)

Stick the Rolo chunks in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix the cake mix and pumpkin. Add in the chocolate chips, Heath bar chunks, and Rolos. Using a cookie scoop, place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15-17 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Keep the bowl of dough in the fridge in between batches for best results.

Source: Adapted from Picky Palate

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Awesome Autumn Recipe Roundup

So, I know I jumped the gun a bit on fall this year by posting a pumpkin bread recipe like, 5 seconds after Labor Day, and the spiced applesauce cake while it was still August. Next to Christmas, fall is my absolute favorite time of the year, and I apparently get a bit over-excited about seasonal cooking.

Before I share any additional fall recipes, I wanted to highlight a few that I've posted over the past couple years that deserve some love, and send you to a few blogs who also have delicious looking fall goodies in their archives. I scoured the recipe indexes of some blogs I love to find their most delicious looking fall recipes, and assembled them below for your baking and cooking pleasure.

Fall favorites from A Bitchin' Kitchen (pictured above):

1. Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
2. Roasted Butternut Squash Orzo
3. Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
4. Pumpkin Walnut Raisin Bread
5. Sweet Potato Ice Cream
6. Pear Spice Cake with Walnut Praline Topping
7. Pumpkin Pie Cake
8. Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes for Two
9. Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

Fall foods from around the web: 

Pumpkin Crumb Cake from Koko Likes

Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Bread from Sweet Dreaming

Chocolate-Coconut and Pumpkin Marble Bundt Cake from Ambitious Kitchen

Pumpkin Ice Cream from The Baker Chick 

Maple Pumpkin Pie from The Hungry Housewife

Bourbon Spiked Sweet Potato Praline Pound Cake from Sugar Plum

Salted Apple Caramel Bourbon Glazed Donuts from Eat The Love

Apple Pecan Crumble Bars from Hungry Girl Por Vida 

Apple Toffee Blondies with Brown Sugar Frosting from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

Apple Cider Cookies with Caramel from We Are Not Martha

Southern Comfort Apple Pie from 20 Something Cupcakes 

Sweet Potato Whoopie Pies with Maple Marshmallow Creme from Sprinkle Bakes

Cumin Sweet Potato Fries with Tahini Yogurt Dipping Sauce from Eat Your Heart Out

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese from Heather Christo Cooks

Pear Cranberry Walnut Bread from Shutterbean

Cardamom Pear Crisps in Jars from Sugarcrafter  

I'm pretty sure there is something for everyone on this list - I've covered maple, apple, pecan, sweet potato, pear, butternut squash, and my personal favorite autumn ingredient, pumpkin. Am I missing anything? Feel free to share your favorite fall recipes in the comments below, and I'll be back soon with some new recipes!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Spicy Sausage Pasta

Spicy Sausage Pasta

When you were a kid, did you ever eat cut up hot dogs mixed with a box of Kraft mac & cheese? 

Me too. Actually, I may have actually eaten that concoction as recently as a few months ago, so I don't know who I'm trying to fool with the whole "when you were a kid" qualifier. 

This reminds me of a grownup version of that! However, instead of hot dogs you have delicious smoked turkey sausage, and instead of Kraft you have penne with Monterey Jack cheese and Ro-Tel. The best part? You only need one pan, and 25 minutes to make this dinner. You don't even cook the pasta in a separate pan!

On a spiciness scale of 1-10, with 1 being mild salsa, and 10 being a ghost pepper dipped in sriracha sauce, this pasta is about a 3. If you want it spicier, use the hot version of Ro-Tel, and maybe Pepper-Jack cheese instead of Monterey-Jack. Some crushed red pepper flakes would be delicious too. This is a very forgiving recipe - you really can't mess up cheesy pasta!

Spicy Sausage Pasta

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Here's what you'll need:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 14-ounce package smoked turkey sausage, sliced into rounds (I used Butterball brand)
1 1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 10-ounce can Ro-Tel Tomatoes and Green Chiles, Original Style
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Thinly sliced scallions
Salt, to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet(or other oven-safe skillet) until smoking. 

Add the sausage and onion, and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add in the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the broth, Ro-Tel, heavy cream, uncooked pasta, and pepper, and give the mixture a good stir. Bring to a boil, cover the skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice while cooking. Preheat the broiler while the pasta is cooking.

Remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Taste, and add salt as needed. Top with the scallions and remaining cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and lightly browned - about 3 minutes.

Adapted from The Best Simple Recipesvia Kevin & Amanda

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake Mini-Loaves

pumpkin bread
It's September.

Labor Day has come and gone.

You all know what that means...'s time for pumpkin.

Those of you who have been reading for awhile are probably aware that I am majorly obsessed with pumpkin.

From Labor Day through Thanksgiving of every year, I try to make as many pumpkin recipes as possible. I just can't get enough of the stuff, and since it's really only acceptable to bake with it for 3 months out of the year, I always try and take full advantage.

I get a huge itch to bake this time of year, and I'm currently very frustrated with my lack of culinary guinea pigs. As much as I'd like to eat a batch of cookies or a pie, I really need more people to give my baked goods away to. I used to bring cookies and cupcakes and stuff into work at my old job, but I haven't yet at my current office. It's a much quieter environment than my previous job, and I only know a few people there - most of whom travel constantly. I've seriously considered wrapping up my baked goods and giving them to homeless people around DC. I'm not sure if that would be weird. My dad once gave a homeless man in Manhattan a cheeseburger, and the guy proceeded to deconstruct the burger and pelt my dad with lettuce, pickles, bun, etc. It's a risky proposition.

I'm fairly certain that even the cheeseburger-throwing homeless man would accept a loaf of this pumpkin bread. It is perfectly moist, full of fall flavor, and the cheesecake topping just brings it to a whole new level.

If you make this, you're not going to need the entire can of pumpkin. Might I suggest my pumpkin spice cupcakes for two to use up the remainder of the can?

pumpkin bread

For the cheesecake batter:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg
1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon maple extract*

For the pumpkin batter:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs 
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place 3 mini-loaf pans** on a baking sheet, and spray with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat together the ingredients for the cheesecake batter until light and fluffy. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and eggs. Whisk in pumpkin, canola oil, and vanilla until well combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to over-mix.

Divide the pumpkin batter evenly between the 3 loaf pans. Divide the cheesecake batter evenly over the top of the pumpkin batter. Using a small rubber spatula, gently spread the cheesecake batter to the edges of the pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pans***, and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

*The maple flavor in the topping is very subtle, so I will probably double this amount when I make this again. Feel free to do the same!
**Note: I used the disposable kind from the grocery store which are 5 23/32 in. x 3 5/16 in. x 1 7/8 in. Those are some super precise measurements, huh?
***Removing these from the pans was tricky. They don't stick to the pan at all - the problem is that the cheesecake topping will get dented and ugly if you simply turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack. After I ugly-fied my first loaf by doing just that, I attempted to turn out loaf #2 onto a plate. The cheesecake topping stuck to the plate. For loaf #3 I gently tipped the loaf into my hand and carefully placed it on the cooling rack. Success! Learn from my mistakes!

Slightly adapted from An Edible Mosaic 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Avocado-Goat Cheese Toast

I know you guys might think I'm crazy right now.

I feel crazy for passing off a couple slices of toast smeared with a concoction that took 2 minutes to whip up as a blog post.

Hear me out.

I have seen avocado toast all over Instagram, Pinterest, and various blogs. As delicious as it looked, and as much as I love avocado, I was never really enticed to try this combination until I saw a version here that contained goat cheese and lime.

Holy. Crap. This must be what it's like to be addicted to crack. I took one bite of avocado toast and became hooked. (Okay, maybe this isn't as bad as crack addiction, because I'm 99% sure that no one has ever prostituted themselves in exchange for avocados.)

I'm going to tell you all something really embarrassing. I ate this for 3 meals in a row. It was lunch and dinner on the first day I made it, and then I had it for breakfast the following day. Finally, I ran out of avocados and goat cheese and stopped the madness.

I know it looks funky, but just trust me. By the way - the blog that I got this recipe from had a great trick for finding good avocados. Apparently, if you pull back the stem end and check the color underneath, that's a good indicator if the avocado is still good inside. If it's green, you're good to go! Am I the last person to know this? I think I almost got kicked out of the grocery store though for flicking the stem off of about 20 different avocados trying to find a few perfect ones. The produce boy was giving me some serious stink-eye...

Here's what you'll need:

1 ripe avocado
1/2 lime, juiced
1-2 ounces goat cheese
Olive Oil
Kosher salt or Fleur de Sel
Black Pepper
2 slices sturdy bread, toasted

In a bowl, mash the avocado and lime together until desired chunkiness is reached. Crumble in the goat cheese, and gently stir to combine. Spread the mixture on the toasted bread, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Adapted from Simple Provisions
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