Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pineapple Chicken Quinoa Pilaf

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned to Chef John and Anne's blog, The Saturday Evening Pot.  Seeing as how Chef John graduated in culinary arts, you can bet that you're going to find some absolutely delicious recipes throughout their blog.  And their two children get to be the taste testers.  Lucky!

In going through their blog, I immediately knew I had found THE recipe to make when I saw their Hawaiian Chicken and Pineapple Rice Pilaf.  I did make a few changes to it.  I used olive oil instead of the bacon, left out the shallot, used quinoa instead of rice, and added some black pepper and red pepper chili flakes to taste.

The result was one yummy dinner indeed!  Mine didn't absorb all the liquid like it was supposed to, but I'm pretty sure that had a lot to do with the fact that I used quinoa instead of rice.  Nevertheless, it was wonderfully flavorful and I found myself going back for seconds.

Thanks Chef John and Anne for your fantastic creation!

Hawaiian Chicken and Pineapple Pilaf (adapted from The Saturday Evening Pot)

15 oz. can of pineapple chunks, juice reserved and chunks cut in half
1 c. smoked almonds, coarsely chopped (I used sliced almonds)
1 1/2 c. uncooked white quinoa
dash of allspice
1 lb. chicken tenders
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. pineapple juice
black pepper and red pepper chili flakes (to taste)

Form a layer of chicken in a 9x13 pan.  

Put 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a non-stick skillet and heat over medium-low heat.  Add the pineapple and almonds and cook till warmed through.  Stir in the quinoa to coat completely.  Sprinkle with allspice and stir again.  Pour the pilaf mixture over the chicken, then add the combined mixture of chicken broth and pineapple juice.  

Cover with foil then bake at 350F for 1- 1 1/2 hours till all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is completely cooked.  Before serving, sprinkle with black pepper and red pepper chili flakes to taste. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins with Toasted Coconut and Almonds

I was recently asked by Rizzi from The New York  Baking Company if I would like to review some silicone baking cups.  Of course, I said yes!!!  Too well I remembered days of having to buy paper muffin cups again and again.  Or, if I didn't use the cups, I'd have to grease my pans and hope that the muffins would leave intact.  But, I'd heard a lot of good things about silicone products, how they make baking and cleanup so easy, how you never have to worry about greasing anything ever again.  I couldn't wait to put them to the test.   

As you can see, the baking cups come in beautiful bright colors.

I decided to make one of my favorite recipes for chocolate chip muffins from King Arthur Flour.  But, this time, I wanted to change things up a little.  So, I used browned butter, subbed in some brown sugar, and topped them off with toasted coconut and almonds.  Into the gorgeous, brightly colored silicone cups went the batter and I sat back to wait for them to bake up.

With eager hands, I took them out of the oven, let them cool, and then set about to remove the muffin from the cup.  1-2-3, out it came!  Not a bit was left on the cups and the muffins were perfectly intact.  Cleanup was a breeze too.  I was super happy.  You can bet that I'll be using these again and again!   

As for the muffins themselves, I loved how the toasted coconut and almonds gave some crunchiness to each bite.  The rest of it was soft, moist, and yummy!  If you'd like to get your hands on these cups yourself, just follow the link above. 

Thanks New York Baking Company for this great opportunity!    
Product Name: Silicone Baking Cups
Brand: The New York Baking Company
RRP: $8.95
Material: BPA free silicone
Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins with Toasted Coconut and Almonds (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

1/2 c. browned butter
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk (I used 1/4 c. Greek yogurt + 1/4 c. water)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. toasted coconut
sliced almonds

Line the muffin with with the silicone baking cups or paper liners.  Combine the browned butter with the sugars.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Mix in the milk.  Stir in the baking powder, salt, and flour until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Divide the batter into the muffin cups.  Top each with 1 Tbsp. toasted coconut and some sliced almonds.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.  

Makes 12-14 muffins

Disclaimer:  I was not paid for this review.  All opinions in it are solely mine.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Almond Biscotti


So, like I mentioned, I had a major cookie craving this past weekend.  As a result, one batch of cookies was just not enough.  No, I had to bake TWO different types.  But, since there must be a balance in all things, I decided that my second batch would be a little lighter, a little healthier, not quite as indulgent, but still every bit as delicious.  Which meant it was time for biscotti! 

I love biscotti.  There's just something about nibbling on those crunchy bites that fills me with delight.  Consequently, I've made many types through the years - cranberry, pumpkin, banana, gingerbread, chocolate, cinnamon . . . you get the point.  But, I've never made the quintessential almond biscotti.  It probably has something to do with the fact that I've never been a big fan of almond flavor until recently.  Hmm, must be growing up. 

Anyway, having formed a taste for it, and owing to the fact that I had a huge bag of sliced almonds I needed to use up, the time had come to try them out.  I decided to alter one of my favorite basic biscotti recipes by using almond flavoring in place of the vanilla and adding sliced almonds instead of the typical cranberries and pistachios.  It definitely worked out!  The biscotti had that lovely almond flavor to them, without it being overpowering, and tasted like those Chinese almond cookies.  My family said it's just as good as the ones from Starbucks.  Now that's a compliment! 

Normally, whenever I bake a batch of cookies, I always take some to work and share them with my co-workers.  But, I think this time, I'm just going to keep the biscotti to myself.  Don't judge me.  :)  You know you'd want to do the same. 

Almond Biscotti (adapted from Martha Stewart)

 3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs 
2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. sliced almonds

Cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the eggs and almond extract.  Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt until well incorporated.  Fold in the sliced almonds.  

Dust a baking sheet with flour.  Divide the dough in half and form each half into a 16x2 inch log on the sheet.  Flatten slightly.  Bake at 350F for 25 minutes.  Slice into 1/2" thick slices with a serrated knife and place cut side down on the sheet.  Bake again for 10 minutes, flip the slices over, and bake 10 minutes more.  Let cool completely.  


Monday, August 11, 2014

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


It was a Sunday afternoon and I was craving cookies.  I'm sure you know the feeling.  I mentioned this to one of my family members and was asked, "Then, why don't you go buy some?"  Egads!  The very thought!  No, no, a thousand times no!  When I say I'm craving cookies, I don't mean that I'm craving some mass-produced, trans-fat loaded, disc with ingredients I can't even pronounce.  I want fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven, buttery, chewy, flavor loaded mouthfuls of delight.  Now that's a cookie! 

So, now that we have that out of the way, I went looking for the perfect recipe to satisfy my desires.  I was in the mood for chocolate chip and just happened to come across a link to these Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, created by Joy the Baker.  Once I saw them, I couldn't resist.  Must . . . make . . . now!!!  I made a few changes to the recipe, such as leaving out the molasses (I didn't have any), omitting the pecans (allergies), and using milk chocolate chips (since I didn't have semisweet).  I also ended up chilling the dough for two hours, instead of only 30 minutes, but that was only because I was too lazy to bake them at the 30-minute mark.   


These cookies were fantastic!  I loved that they held their shape in my oven and didn't flatten out.  The result was crispy on the outside, chewiness in the middle, and that lovely caramelly flavor from the browned butter.  Although they still don't top my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe HERE, I have to admit that they are delicious indeed.  Craving satisfied! 

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (slightly adapted from Joy the Baker)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (I decreased this to 3/4 tsp.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses (I omitted this)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips)

Brown 1/2 cup of the butter and then let cool for 20 minutes.  Cream the brown sugar with the remaining 1/2 cup of butter until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and mix well.  Beat in the browned butter (brown bits and all) and granulated sugar.  Beat in the egg and egg yolk.  Mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt, until well incorporated, then mix in the chocolate chips.  Wrap the dough in waxed paper and chill for at least 30 minutes. 

Form the dough into small balls and bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes (I baked them for 13 minutes, then left them in the turned-off oven for 1 minute more).  Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before cooling completely or eating.   

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pretzel Nutella Swirl Cookies

Believe it or not, due to a change in circumstances, I once again found myself assigned to the lovely Katrina's blog, Baking and Boys, for this month's Secret Recipe Club.  You mean I get another chance to peruse her never-ending list of ultimate, beyond your imagination, mouthwatering sweets?  You don't have to ask me twice!  Since this is the third time I've had her blog, you probably think that there isn't much more I can say about her, but I think I can come up with a few more tidbits. 

First of all, she has an eagle eye when it comes to finding the newest candy/cookie/etc. that's out on the market.  Whether it be those birthday cake M&Ms or the Coconut Fudge Oreos, you can bet she's already found it AND created some amazing way to use them to kick up a recipe.  As a result, I've made a lot of Target/Walmart runs in the past years just so I could see the deliciousness that she was talking about.

Secondly, she is the Rice Krispie Treat queen!  I kid you not.  I counted no less than 20 different recipes for rice krispie treats on her blog.  They are all awesome looking.  After seeing them, you may never go back to the plain ones again.  Hint:  this is where a lot of those new-fangled Oreos and M&Ms went.

After looking through numerous recipes for cakes, cookies, brownies, and other yummy treats, I finally narrowed my selection down to these Pretzel Nutella Chunk Cookies.  Salty and sweet?  I couldn't resist.  the neat thing about this recipe is that you make the "chunks" yourself by freezing the Nutella and then chopping it up to put into the cookies.  I did just that and had some lovely looking chunks, for about 5 minutes.  It was kind of a warm, humid day when I made the cookies, so the moment I added the cold chunks into the dough, they immediately melted and I got half chunks and half swirls.  Although, in my opinion, that wasn't really a bad thing.  The Nutella flavor became more prominent and the cookies themselves had a pretty marbled look.  All in all, these cookies were absolutely delish!  I'm glad the recipe only makes a small batch because otherwise I wouldn't be able to stop myself from eating even more of them.  


Thanks Katrina for your amazing ideas!  

Pretzel Nutella Swirl Cookies (slightly adapted from Baking and Boys)

1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon cake flour + 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons bread flour (I used all-purpose flour)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
5 tablespoons (2  1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1/2 a large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pretzel balls (I used broken pretzels)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Nutella chunks**

** To make the Nutella chunks:  Spread 1/2 c. Nutella on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.  Freeze for at least an hour until set.  Cut into chunks and keep chilled until ready to use. 

Cream the butter and sugars together.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.  Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined.  Stir the pretzels and Nutella chunks carefully into the dough.  Scoop the dough into small balls and bake for 10-12 min. at 350F.  Let sit on baking sheet for a couple minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool.