Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oatmeal Pancakes

It occurred to me the other day that while I have filled these posts (and hopefully your recipe files and stomachs) with all manner of recipes suited for lunch, dinner, snacks, and dessert, I have been seriously remiss in addressing what is commonly referred to as the most important meal of the day. Breakfast. Perhaps this is because I tend to go the simple route when it comes to my AM cuisine. Not being a morning person, I am prone to choosing the simple and easy over the sophisticated and time-intensive when it comes to my breakfast cuisine. At least if I’m making it. If I’m at a restaurant, all bets are off.

Most days, my weekday breakfasts go something like this: get bowl; add Greek yogurt; add fruit; sprinkle with granola; eat on couch while trying to wake up. I get a little more creative on the weekends, especially if Stan and I get to indulge in a lazy morning at home. Ok, to be honest, all of my mornings lately are lazy and spent at home. But I don’t get to spend those mornings with Stan, so I try to make our weekend meals a little bit snazzier. You know, in honor of the together time.

I was going through my online recipe file last night and came across this recipe for oatmeal pancakes. I had book marked the recipe months ago and just never got around to trying it out. I noticed I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I decided to make the pancakes for our Saturday breakfast. Good thing I decided this on Friday evening because these pancakes need to be started the night before. Don’t be turned off by this though. The night-before prep takes 2 ingredients and all of 30 seconds. (All you have to do is soak some oats in some buttermilk.)

Now a little bit about the flavor: these pancakes are a taste departure from your typical flapjack, especially if, like me, you grew up in the land of Bisquick. The oats in the batter make them slightly lumpy and the buttermilk makes them a little bit tangy. I must admit, while I’ve moved on from my beloved childhood Bisquick pancakes, I’m not sure my taste buds were in love with these oatmeal ones. I was a bit bothered by the lumpy texture, though I think that could change if I made them with quick oats rather than regular old-fashioned oats. I decided to post this recipe because Stan quite enjoyed the pancakes. He claimed he didn’t notice the lumpy, oat-y texture, and he was too busy slathering his bites in butter and maple syrup for me to ask about the tang. I have to assume he liked it; he sure ate a lot. If you’re looking for a new riff on an old favorite, I’d say give this recipe a go and see what you think. An added bonus is that the pancakes freeze well and can be popped in the toaster for a taste of the weekend any day.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

When you love to bake, social gatherings serve as a great excuse to try out new recipes. Who doesn’t like a little sweet treat when visiting with friends? And if the goodies you bring are unexpected, so much the better. You should, however, proceed with caution. If you surprise the same group of friends more than once or twice, your confections will likely go from being unexpected to highly anticipated. And you’ll feel inclined to deliver, because really, what baker doesn’t want to be known for his or her culinary prowess?

Assuming you have no problem with being a regular purveyor of baked goods, the only question that remains is what to make. One tip: think portability. I’ve carted chocolate peanut butter truffle cupcakes to a bowling alley, brought cheesecake brownies to a Super Bowl party, and smuggled lemon and almond biscotti into a hockey game. Basically, the thing to keep in mind here is ease of transportation and consumption. Unless you know your destination will have dishes and utensils available, hand-held treats work best.

So last night, Stan and I met up with some of his coworkers for a little ping-pong action. (Ok, really it was more of a trash-talking, ping-pong smack-down, but those details will remain confidential to protect the guilty.) I knew I wanted to bring something to share with our friends, but it needed to not only be hand-held but also relatively free of mess. (Last time we got together for ping-pong, I made the mistake of bringing cupcakes with messy, sticky frosting. I learn from my mistakes. Especially those that require obscene amounts of napkins.)

I had come across this recipe for vanilla sugar cookies earlier in the week and thought they would be a perfect, portable, ping-pong-playing treat. (Bet you didn’t know I rock at alliteration did you?) The cookies are simple to put together, fast-baking, and completely and utterly delicious. Soft and chewy, they aren’t overly sweet, which means you’re likely to want at least one for each hand. They also kind of melt in your mouth, and really, who doesn’t like that? If you are the sweets provider in your circle of friends, I definitely recommend these cookies for your next get-together. Your friends will thank you...and then ask you to make more.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tex-Mex Stuffed Shells

Sometimes I think my kitchen could double as an international foods emporium. On any given day, you are more likely to find Thai fish sauce or Indian curry powder than potato chips or hamburger patties. Despite a childhood spent in a suburb teeming with numerous chain restaurants but few authentic ethnic-food options, I am now something of an international foods magnet. I am drawn to trying new foods, spices, flavors, restaurants, and home recipes. In recent years I have developed a deep and abiding love of Japanese, Thai, Indian, Turkish, Greek, and Moroccan cuisines… just to name a few.

And while Mexican and Italian cuisines may not be the most exotic (since you can typically find them in most areas, suburbs and small towns included), they are two of the favorites in this newlywed household, at least when it comes to home cooking. Between me being a pasta addict (seriously, I need help) and Stan loving south of the border flavors, we prepare a lot of Italian and Mexican dishes, some more authentic than others.

This dish is a fusion of our favorites – traditional Mexican spices and flavors stuffed into warm, al dente pasta. When I came across the recipe at elly says opa! I knew it was one we had to try. While it clearly not an authentic Italian or Mexican recipe, it brings together many of the most delicious aspects of the two cuisines. Stan could not stop raving about the subtly spiced sauce, the rich but not heavy filling, and the overall combination of flavors. I agreed with him wholeheartedly, while also appreciating the recipe’s ease of preparation and the fact that it made more than enough for several meals’ worth of leftovers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pear-Ginger Crumble

When you’re craving something sweet, sometimes chocolate is the only answer. However, there are other times, perhaps after a heavy meal, when chocolate seems just a bit too much, a touch to rich. Times such as those are ripe for fruit-filled desserts. Such was the case for the Valentine’s Day dinner I told you about earlier this week. I had prepared a pretty hearty, carbo-loaded meal. Rosemary foccacia and roasted beet risotto. In my carb-loving defense, we had an Arugula salad too, just to balance things out. But for dessert, I knew I wanted to make something on the lighter side. And in truth, it’s a good thing I did. We were so full from dinner we had to wait a couple of hours before we could dig in to the dessert. But it was worth the wait.

This pear-ginger crumble is a perfect, light dessert…or indulgent breakfast. Not only is it made with fruit, but the crumbly topping is much healthier than most, relatively speaking. It uses canola oil to bind the oat and brown sugar topping together rather than the usual stick (or two) of butter. While this does result in a slightly different texture than your average fruit crumble, it is completely delicious in its own way. Plus you don’t have to feel guilty about going back for seconds. (If you’ve got a few calories to spare, check out one of my other favorite fruit desserts.)

I have made this recipe many times, and it is always well received. The fresh ginger added to the pear filling adds a nice warmth and depth of flavor without overpowering the fresh fruit taste. Once, when I was out of fresh ginger root, I substituted some chopped candied ginger instead. The flavor profile remained the same, so feel free to use whatever kind of ginger you have on hand. In a pinch, you could also try a very small amount of powdered ground ginger.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Roasted Beet Risotto

As I’ve mentioned before, February 14th is a big day in our house. Not so much because it’s Valentine’s Day, though. Stan is firmly of the “it’s a Hallmark holiday designed to make people spend money” camp. I, on the other hand, love Valentine’s Day despite its pervasive commercialism. I like the hearts, and the pink and red, and the candy and flowers, and all other manner of girlish whimsy.

But that’s not the point. February 14th is a big day in our house because it’s the anniversary of our first date. Six years ago, we went out on our first official date, and it just so happened to be on Valentine’s Day. So every Valentine’s Day since then has had special meaning. This year, however, was extra special because it was our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple.

Every year, Stan plans a super secret Valentine’s date for us. It’s the one night a year where I know nothing about the plan. I just know it will involve dinner, and I should look spiffy. In keeping with tradition, Stan surprised me with a fabulous dinner at a restaurant I have wanted to try for months. (And these flowers!) We went out on Saturday, the night before Valentine’s Day, so that left me to figure out something special for us to do on Sunday, our “real” big day.

Since Stan had to spend the whole day at school and the office, I wanted him to come home to a special dinner. I kind of wanted it to look Valentine’s-y too. Enter the humble beet. An often-maligned root vegetable, beets have an undeserved bad rep. They are sweet and earthy and pair well with a number of foods. Even better for my purposes, they are a gorgeous, deep pinkish-red color that could not be more perfect for a Valentine’s Day recipe.

I decided to take my beets and incorporate them into a risotto. Creamy and hearty, the risotto paired very well with the savory-sweet chunks of vibrantly hued beets. I served the risotto with homemade rosemary foccacia, an Arugula salad with shaved Parmesan, and a light pear ginger crisp (recipe to come later this week). All in all, it was a memorable, delicious meal, perfect for our first married Valentine’s Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stuffed Pizza Rolls

I love the Olympics. Seriously, every two years, the games are a highlight of my year. I vividly remember watching the U.S. women’s gymnastics team (aka The Magnificent Seven) power through to victory in Atlanta in 1996. And the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan debacle? Couldn’t stop watching. It should come as no surprise then, that I have been looking forward to these Winter Games with much anticipation. And what better way to relax on a Friday night than with the opening ceremony of the Olympics, a bottle of wine, and some fun finger food?

Stuffed pizza rolls. They just sound delicious don’t they? And they are. They are the perfect finger food to serve as an appetizer at a cocktail party. They also make a filling dinner when paired with something green and healthy. (I made roasted broccoli to go along with ours.) Perhaps the best part of these stuffed pizza rolls is their versatility. You can fill them with pretty much anything. Go the classic pizza route with pepperoni and cheese. Give them a tropical flair with ham and pineapple. Make them vegetarian with any number of cheeses and veggies. You get the idea. For last night’s dinner, I stuffed our pizza rolls with mozzarella cheese, chunks of Italian chicken sausage, mushrooms, and slivers of onions. Next time I want to try filling them with ricotta cheese, spinach, and artichokes… mmm… the possibilities.

You can really make these stuffed pizza rolls as easy or as complicated as you want them to be. To go the quick and easy route, use store-bought pizza dough (the kind in the can or from your local pizzeria), packaged cheese cubes, and pre-cut/sliced fillings that don’t need to be pre-cooked. When I made them last night, I decided to go all out, and I made my own pizza dough using this recipe for fast and easy pizza dough. I also cut my own cheese cubes since it was cheaper to buy a big block of cheese and cut it myself. Finally, I sautéed my sausage, mushrooms, and onions in a little olive oil before I put them in the rolls. I did, however, use store-bought pizza sauce for our dipping sauce. I mean, c’mon, the Games were starting!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Asian-Marinated Chicken with Kumquat Sauce

After days of sugary goodness, The Well-Fed Newlyweds’ first-ever Sweets Week has come to an end. I hope you enjoyed all of the posts and will take the time to make some sweets for your sweet this Valentine’s Day. I promise to keep the dessert recipes coming. I mean, c’mon, there’s always an excuse for some sweet treats. There’s Presidents’ Day, St. Paddy’s Day, snow days…

In the meantime, after all that sweet, I think it’s time for a little heat. But first, a question. Ever had a kumquat? Until recently, I was not even sure what a kumquat was. I was pretty sure it was a fruit, but besides that, I had no clue. Color? Flavor? Size? Kumquats were a mystery to me. If you’ve never had one, a kumquat is a small, oval-shaped citrus fruit. Orange in color, kumquats differ from most other citrus fruits in the fact that you can eat them whole. Unlike their citrus fruit relatives, it is the kumquats’ peels that are sweet while their flesh is tart and tangy.

I came across this recipe for Asian-Marinated Chicken with Kumquat Sauce in an old cooking magazine several months ago. I was intrigued by the idea of using a new (to me) ingredient, and decided to try out the recipe. However, I soon found out that kumquats were not in season, and I would have to wait until winter to give the recipe a try. Not deterred, I stashed away the recipe and waited for kumquat season… not really knowing when that would be. Lucky for me, kumquats began appearing at my local grocery stores about a month ago.

If the idea of trying a new or unusual ingredient appeals to you, I definitely suggest giving this recipe a try. The chicken breasts are marinated in a spicy marinade infused with Asian flavors and then grilled. Topping off the chicken is a sauce made of kumquats and other citrus fruit juices. A word of caution: this dish packs some heat. I actually found it almost too hot to eat. Oddly enough, however, Stan loved it, and he typically has a much lower heat tolerance than I do. Both the chicken marinade and the kumquat sauce contain chili-garlic sauce, a spicy condiment easily found in the Asian foods section of your local supermarket. If you are weary of having your taste buds a little too fired-up, I would reduce the amount of chili-garlic sauce you include in both components of this dish. If, however, you are one for whom there’s no such thing as too spicy, try this recipe as is, and your taste buds will sing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cheesecake Brownies

Life is full of tough choices. Chocolate or vanilla? Surf or turf? Boxers or briefs? Lucky for us, the choice between cheesecake or brownies no longer has to be a hard one. When offered the choice between two of life’s most delicious desserts, stand firm. Don’t choose. Or rather, choose both.

In my opinion, cheesecake brownies are the perfect confectionary pairing. This recipe, unlike others I’ve tried in the past, highlights the best aspects of each component without one overwhelming the other. The brownie part is rich and chocolately without being overly sweet. The cheesecake part is creamy, tangy, and light enough to offset the heaviness of the brownies. Combined, the flavors mingle together on your tongue in a sort of sugary nirvana.

These cheesecake brownies are relatively simple to make. They are certainly less complicated than making a traditional cheesecake, and they are barely more time consuming than making your basic brownie recipe. They are pretty rich so you can cut them in small squares to if you need to feed a crowd. For Valentine’s Day you could cut the brownies into hearts with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, or cut them into squares and place each one in a Valentine’s-themed muffin-liner.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Soft Oatmeal Cookies

I’m not really a cookie girl. Given the option, I’ll always reach for a brownie or some ice cream over a cookie. It’s actually kind of surprising considering being a cookie monster runs on my mom’s side of the family. Not surprisingly, despite many happy childhood cookie-baking memories, I seldom bake cookies at home. When I visit my Grammy, however, it’s a whole different story.

It was during my last visit that I came across this recipe. Pasted into a priceless collection of recipes written and accrued over many decades, was a recipe for soft oatmeal cookies. The name of the recipe captured my attention because, when I do eat cookies, I like them soft and chewy rather than hard and crispy. I decided to write down the recipe when I noticed one hugely significant detail: you only need one bowl to make these cookies. You can literally put all of the ingredients in the bowl, stir them together, and plop the cookie dough on a baking sheet. Because I can never do things the easy way, I, of course, had to use more than one bowl when I tried the recipe. It was absolutely unnecessary.

These cookies live up to their name. They are indeed soft and chewy. They are also hugely flavorful with notes of orange, cinnamon, and vanilla. For cookies in a hurry, you couldn’t ask for a better recipe. The dough comes together in a flash, and the cookies bake up in no time at all. If your Valentines include little ones, these would make great lunchtime or after-school treats. And if your Valentine is a kid at heart, take a trip down memory lane with some fresh baked cookies and a glass of milk.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sour Cream Loaf Cake

I’ll readily admit, Monday’s chocolate peanut butter truffle cupcakes were a little decadent. Even their name sounds kind of sinful. But when you are kicking off Sweets Week, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I figure, go big or go home. Or something like that. Today, however, I offer you a different sort of sweet to share with the ones you love. This sour cream loaf cake is lighter in flavor and has far fewer steps than the aforementioned cupcakes.

I first tried this cake when I was in the mood for something sweet after dinner one night. I didn’t want to make a big mess in the kitchen so the recipe needed to be simple. I also wanted to be able to eat it the same evening, so it had to be quick to prepare. Finally, while I wanted dessert, I wasn’t in the mood for something super sweet. Basically I wanted something quick and easy that would go well with a cup of tea.

This recipe fit the bill perfectly. The cake is light in both flavor and sweetness. It was as fast and simple to put together as your typical quick bread, making it perfect for a spontaneous post-dinner treat. For Valentine’s Day (or really any other day), you could dress up slices of the cake with some strawberry sauce, fresh berries, or a drizzle of melted chocolate.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Cupcakes

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and whether you love it or hate it, the holiday can’t help but make you think of sugary goodness. With that in mind, I welcome you to Sweets Week at The Well-Fed Newlyweds. For the next week (or maybe a little longer), we will be featuring all manner of the sweet and delicious.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m convinced Stan fell in love with me, in part, because of all the apple pies I baked for him at the beginning of our relationship. Take heed single sisters, if the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then homemade baked goods must surely be the fast track to love. And while we may be newlyweds, this Valentine’s Day marks the sixth anniversary of our first date. Yes, our first date was on Valentine’s Day – a horrible day for a first date, full of unnecessary wondering over the wisdom of showing up with a card or candy. It does, however, make for a nearly impossible to forget anniversary, so that’s a bonus. (In case you were wondering, Stan showed up at my door with a couple of treats so uniquely thoughtful he still gets “awwwws” when people hear the story. Maybe I’ll tell you one day.)

No matter your plans for this Valentine’s Day, you will be happy celebrating with today’s cupcakes. Rich chocolate cupcakes with a peanut butter truffle hidden inside. Cupcakes topped with chocolate peanut butter ganache. Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Cupcakes. Are you drooling yet? You should be. Because these are mouthwateringly good. Fancy enough to share with your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. Numerous enough to share with your single friends. Dangerously good enough to want to keep the whole pan for yourself.

** P.S. These cupcakes make the best tasting cake batter I have ever tasted. If you are into licking beaters and bowls, do not pass up this opportunity. Seriously, I wanted to put my face in the bowl and lick it clean. I resisted. Barely.


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