cartoon by marc johns.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry Orange Muffin!

So, I baked muffins for a birthday party for the bestest little one-year-old I know.  These cranberry orange muffins are not too sweet; in fact, they are not very sweet at all.  They have a nice tartness to them.  They are good with butter on them, or if you want to sweeten them up, put on some whip cream!

Happy birthday Little Face!!!

This recipe makes about 18-20 yummy, tart muffins.

2 cups of flour
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon of orange zest
3/4 cup of orange juice
1 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

Your steps for baking:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Either coat a muffin tin with cooking spray (Pam) or put muffin liners in the pan.
2.  Zest 1 tablespoon of orange rind.  
3.  Put orange juice and dried cranberries in a saucepan and heat over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  This step sweetens and plumps up the cranberries.
Heating the orange juice and cranberries.

The cranberries have plumped!

4. Using a fork, mush the orange zest in with the sugar until it is blended.
5.  Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl: flour, sugar/ orange zest mixture, baking powder, salt, baking soda.  Stir until blended.
The dry ingredients.
6.  In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients: canola oil, egg, and cranberry/ orange juice mixture.  (Make sure the cranberry/ orange juice mixture has cooled some so that you don't cook the egg a little.)
The wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.
7.  Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture and stir until combined.
It's combined.
8. Pour the mixture into the prepared muffin tin.  
Poured into the tin.
9.  Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  


Look at all those muffins!
Recipe adapted from For the Love of Cooking.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guest Blog: Justin's Apricot Chicken


My friend Justin came over tonight and he made a delicious dinner.  It was very juicy, and there was a nice contrast of flavor between all the fruit and the ginger on the chicken.  It also wasn't a super-time consuming recipe, or too labor-intensive.  Anyway, when he came over with the plan to cook, I told him I was going to take pictures and basically force him to guest post on my blog.  So, that's what is happening now.  Thanks Justin!  Here he is!

Hi folks, Justin here! So, we're aiming for apricot chicken, but don't let the name fool you -- there are actually more than 2 ingredients. Many more, in fact:

6 chicken thighs
1.5 c marmalade
salt & pepper
2 oranges
2 small apples
dried apricots
orange juice concentrate
brown sugar

Our story begins with what appears to be an amateur medical experiment gone horribly wrong:

But don't panic -- we've merely rinsed the chicken and dumped them in a shallow baking dish, then sprinkled them with salt, pepper and ginger. The marmalade's gelatinousness foiled my attempts to spread it evenly over the chicken. This turned out to be moot, because of what you'll do next:

Mix the orange juice concentrate with 2 cups water, then slosh it over the chicken, washing away the salt, pepper, and ginger. Futilely mush the marmalade into the chicken, then begrudgingly re-apply more salt, pepper, and ginger. Exasperatedly slide the pan into a preheated 375deg oven while you chop up the apples and oranges:

After 20.000 minutes pass, chop the fruit to 2 cm^3 cubes and apply to the chicken. Following that, augment the chicken with 34 dried apricots and 88 raisins.

This arrangement was again re-inserted into the oven and allowed to sit at 350 degrees until the uppermost apricots burned. In desperation the fruit was pushed into the liquid, exposing the chicken. This washed away the second coating of salt, pepper, and ginger. A coating of brown sugar was applied to replace it.

An eternity was allowed to pass while the chicken browned. Forty-three minutes after that, incisions in the chicken indicated it was non-lethal, and the pan was extracted. Congratulations were awarded for not burning the chicken.

Brown rice accompanied the chicken, rounding out the meal and absorbing the delicious juices like a starchy, nutritious mop.


No one was harmed in the making of this meal. But it is really too early to say for sure.  Makes 6-7 servings.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oma's Beef Goulash!

My grandma (who we call "Oma," which means grandma in German)  grew up in Vienna, Austria before WWII.  She got out and into England through the Kindertransport program, which saved her life.  She is an amazing woman with an incredible life story.  Anyway, my family got together this weekend to learn her recipe for goulash, which is an Austrian/ Hungarian/ Polish/ German Beef Stew.  This is her recipe (hooray!).
My Oma!
I arrived a little late to the cooking session due to LA traffic, so I don't have an ingredients picture or many pictures along the way.  But all you really need is the recipe anyway.  This is a hearty, warming stew.  You can also add more liquid and call it "goulash soup," as Oma said.  Typically you eat it poured over egg noodles.  It is also common to add a dab of sour cream or plain yogurt to the bowl before you eat.  Our family didn't do that, but if you want that tang, feel free to add it to yours!

This recipe makes enough for 8-10 servings, probably.

1 huge green pepper, cut into chunks (or 2 medium green peppers)
1 huge red pepper, cut into chunks (0r 2 medium red peppers)
4 small yellow onion, cut into chunks
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small turnip, peeled and sliced
olive oil
canola oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3 cups of tomato sauce
about 2 1/2 pounds of beef (or buffalo) stewing meat or beef (or buffalo) braising tips, cut into chunks
7-8 small Yukon gold potatoes, cut into chunks
beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of basil
1 teaspoon of paprika
egg noodles
Plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)

To Cook:
1.  Saute the onions in a little olive oil and a little canola oil.
2.  In a separate pan, saute the red pepper in canola oil.
3.  In another separate pan, saute the green pepper in canola oil.  Oma says the reason you saute them all in separate pans is so that each vegetable retains its flavor instead of all sort of tasting like each other.
4.  Add the sliced carrots, turnip, and garlic to the onions.  Saute all the vegetables until soft.
5.  Pour the tomato sauce into a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add in the vegetables when ready.  Stir.
6.  Saute the beef chunks in canola oil until browned.  Add into the tomato sauce mixture with all juices.

Sauteing the meat.
Into the pot!
7.  Add the spices and stir.  Pour in either broth or water until liquid just covers the meat and veggies.
8.  Prepare and slice the potatoes and put to the side. 
9.  Simmer the mixture, with lid on, for about 2 hours or until meat is extremely tender.
10.  Once meat is ready, add in the potatoes and simmer with lid mainly on, but a little off for another 1/2 hour, or until potatoes are finished.
11.  Boil water and prepare egg noodle pasta.  After draining water, put finished noodles into dutch oven and stir.  Simmer for another 2 minutes.  
12.  Take off heat and serve.  We ate it on a plate and used crusty bread to soak up the broth.  You can also eat it in a bowl like stew and add a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.  

Note: For health reasons (for Oma), we added barely any salt.  Please taste and add more salt (or pepper, basil, paprika, garlic) to taste.

A plateful of goulash.
Very filling and hearty!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Lemon Pepper Papardelle Pasta & Spinach

I made this dinner last night, and I thought it was delicious (not to brag or anything).  For those of you that know me, you know I LOVE me some lemon.  I can pretty much never have enough lemon squeezed into or onto my food.  Whenever I cook, I always squirt at least a little lemon in, so when I read this recipe, it immediately appealed to me.
The original recipe comes from Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) cookbook Family Style, but I changed it quite a bit.  Well, maybe I didn't...the chicken recipe is pretty much the same, but Ina serves it with salad greens and a lemon vinaigrette.  I made the lemon pepper pasta and sauteed it with some spinach and garlic.  By the way, pappardelle pasta is just a fatter version of fettucini.  You can use any type of pasta you want, but I used the pappardelle because it comes in a lemon pepper flavor.

This recipe makes around 6 servings.

Here're the Ingredients:

Ingredients, except I forgot to put the flour in the picture.  Oops.
  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • olive oil
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1 1/2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 package of lemon pepper papardelle pasta (Trader Joe's has it)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
For the optional lemon vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 cup of good olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To the cooking:

1.  Pound the chicken breasts until they are about 1/4" thick.  (Pound them between wax paper so you don't make a mess.) 

Flattening the chicken.
2.  Prepare the 3 plates for dredging/ dipping the chicken.  

Plate #1: Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate.

Plate #1
Plate #2: Beat the 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon of water.

Plate #2
Plate #3: Combine the breadcrumbs with 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese.

Plate #3
3.  Heat a skillet on medium-low heat with some olive oil.  
4.  Dredge the chicken breasts.  Go in order: Plate #1, pat the flour mixture on.  Plate #2, dip the egg and let some drain off; you don't want it too eggy.  Plate #3, pat the mixture on until coated (not too thickly though), and place breasts directly into the heated skillet.  

Dredge #1


Dredge #2

The amount of coating you want.

Into the skillet!
5.  While the chicken is cooking, start to boil the water for the pasta and heat up a large pan with olive oil in it for the spinach. (You are going to add the pasta to the spinach pan, so it really should be fairly large.)
6.  The chicken should only need to cook 3-4 minutes per side if you really flattened the breasts enough.  Use you judgement depending on how thin you pounded the chicken.  

Getting nice and brown and crispy.
7.  When the chicken is done, take each piece out and lay on top of paper towels.  This sucks any excess grease out and helps make the chicken crispy.
8.  Add the noodles to the boiling water and put the spinach and garlic into the pan.  The spinach will reduce a lot as it cooks, so don't worry about overloading the pan.

Spinach and garlic.
9.  After the spinach is mostly reduced, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the mixture.

Squeezing in the lemon with my lemon-squeezer!
10.  Continue sauteeing the spinach.  When the pasta is done, drain and put the pasta into the spinach pan and mix everything together.

Pasta into the pan.

Mix it all up.
11.  At this point, you may eat and enjoy, or you can make the optional lemon vinaigrette to pour over everything and give it some extra zest.  I really don't think the meal needs the vinaigrette at all, but I do think it is nice to have if the pasta or chicken has dried out a little.  It is certainly good to have if you are having leftovers and re-heating the pasta/ chicken.  It is easy - all you do is whisk all of the ingredients together.  


The final product.  Sprinkle some more parmesan on it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Mommy! Cinnamon Apple Bundt Cake

The finished bundt.

I made this bundt cake for my Mom's brithday as the dessert with the bouillbaisse from my last post.  This recipe is delicious - very moist and with a nice texture because of the actual chunks of apple in the cake.  My family loves cinnamon, so the main change in the original recipe comes from adding more cinnamon to the batter.  I also replaced some of the ingredients with healthier options.

Your Ingredients:


  • 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour.  (I used white whole wheat flour so that it is a little healthier).
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar  (try using brown Splenda to reduce calorie count).
  • 4 eggs (I put only 2 yolks in the batter to make it healthier, but then I add an extra egg white, so if you make this change, then you need 5 eggs).
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4" thick bite size pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups cinnamon chips (Hershey's makes them, but there are also other healthier cinnamon chip options you can find at baking or health food stores)
  • lemon juice

There is an optional glaze you can put over the cake.  I never use it.  I find the dessert is sweet enough without it, and all the glaze does is add calories and extra sweetness.  But, in case you want it, the ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water
To the bakin':

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 12-cup bundt pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
The dry ingredients.
3.  Prepare the apples.  This is the most laborious part of the cake.  But, not if you get an apple peeler/ corer.  Like this one:
Apple peeler/ corer!
Basically, this thing is awesome.  You cut the top and bottom off of an apple and stick it onto the silver end with those three spikes.  Then, all you do is spin the handle and the machine cuts the apple into a spiral, totally peeled and cored.  Like this:
A spiraled, peeled, and cored apple. 
4.  Anyway, peel, core, and slice the apple into bite-size pieces.  To prevent the apples from browning as you do this, squeeze some lemon juice onto the apples. 
5.  In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs.  
The wet ingredients.
6.  Gradually whisk in dry ingredients.  Do not over-mix.  And do not worry when the batter is super stiff and sticky.  It will look kinda like peanut butter.  

Thick, peanut-butter-looking (but not tasting) batter.

7.  Fold in, with a rubber spatula (it helps to spray the spatula with cooking spray), the chopped apples and the cinnamon chips until well mixed.  The mixture will be lots of apples (and cinnamon chips) and not as much batter.

Lots of apples!
 8.  Scoop mixture into the bundt cake pan.  Smooth the top the best you can with the rubber spatula.

Puttin' it in the bundt pan.
9.  Bake 55-60 minutes, or until a knife you stick in the cake comes out clean.
10.  Cool, still in bundt pan, on a wire rack for 15 minutes.

11.  Flip over onto rack and let cook completely.  At this point, you may enjoy!!  

OR, if you want the glaze:

12.  Whisk together the confectioner's sugar and the water.  (Use just enough water to make the glaze pourable.  If it is too thin, it won't stick to the cake.)
13.  Put wax paper under the wire rack and pour the glaze over the cake.  Then you can enjoy!

I love how chock full of apples this cake is.  Makes 10-12 servings.  Yummm!

Close-up of a slice.
Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction, November 2009.