Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chicken, Broccoli, and Artichoke Divan

(Sorry folks, I know I promised you a new post every day ‘til Thanksgiving, but we got to my parents house last night much later than planned. Please excuse the delay and have a very happy Thanksgiving!)

Stan and I are in Ohio for Thanksgiving this year. We’re looking forward to spending time with family and friends, eating traditional favorites, and watching the Ohio State-Michigan game. (Go Bucks!) What we’re not looking forward to are the freezing cold temperatures. I mean c’mon, we live in the South for a reason!

There is, however, one good thing about colder temps, and that is the seeming necessity of rich, hearty, comfort foods. These are the foods with cheese sauces and all other kinds of decadent goodness that would make you feel guilty at any other time of year. Yet somehow when the weather gets frigid, there’s nothing better than a bubbling casserole.

Today I offer you an updated take on the classic chicken (or turkey) divan. In this casserole-like version, bite-sized chunks of chicken are mixed with fresh broccoli, tangy artichokes, and a creamy cheese sauce. The whole mixture is then baked in the oven until bubbling and golden brown. Served over egg noodles or rice, this chicken, broccoli, and artichoke divan is winter dinner perfection.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that we like oatmeal a lot at our house. We’ve put it in muffins (here and here), banana breads (here and here), and desserts. We’ve served it up breakfast-style and made it taste like cookies. One thing we’ve never done before now though, is bake it. And what a mistake that was.

Baked oatmeal is a perfect breakfast food. It’s warm, hearty, nutritious, and incredibly filling. You can jazz it up with whatever fruits and nuts you like. Same goes with the spices. No matter what you add to it, you’ll end up with a breakfast treat that tastes and looks like cross between a traditional bowl of oatmeal and an oatmeal cake. Even better is the fact that you can make a big pan and enjoy a warm bowl of baked oatmeal all week long.

Basically, if you’ve never baked your oatmeal before, now is the time to try!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese

Me thinks it’s time for something a little bit healthier. Not that there’s anything wrong with cakes and cookies, but I figure we all need a few deliciously healthy recipes to balance out our seasonal indulgences. You know, so we can fit into something besides our seasonal sweatpants.

Today’s salad is the perfect way to lighten up your fall cooking. It’s an addictive combination of smoky, spiced butternut squash, hearty French green lentils, creamy goat cheese, peppery arugula, and crunchy pumpkin seeds. The flavors, colors, and textures balance each other beautifully and will leave you marveling over how just a few ingredients can come together to make something so incredibly tasty. Filling enough to be served as a vegetarian entrée, this salad would also be a fantastic first course at a dinner party – and maybe Thanksgiving, too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I am feeling thankful. Thankful for family and friends. Thankful for a nice place to live and plenty of food to eat. I’m feeling thankful for all of you, too. You come here and read my ramblings, check out my pictures, and read my recipes. Knowing you’re out there keeps me cooking, trying new things, and figuring out entertaining (I hope) ways to tell you about it. And so I thank you. Stan thanks you too, since he gets to eat everything I share with you.

Because I’m feeling thankful, I’m going to post a new recipe every day until Thanksgiving. Some of them will be things you might want to put on your Thanksgiving table. Others will be lighter, healthier options you might want to check out after your Thanksgiving feast. Either way, you’ll want to check back often because there is going to be some serious culinary goodness coming your way over the next five days.

To kick things off, I’d like to tell you about some cookies that might just rock your world. I made these for a party recently and to say they were a hit would be an understatement. To illustrate my point, picture a grown man walking around with a cookie in each hand, alternating bites between the two. That actually happened, and it wasn’t my husband – though he couldn’t stop eating them either.

The star and show-stopping ingredient in these cookies is dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is basically a caramelized milk product. It is thick and rich and sweet. You can buy it already prepared in cans or jars or you can make your own by caramelizing sweetened condensed milk. Look for prepared dulce de leche in the baking aisle of your supermarket next to the sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk (that’s where I get mine) or in the international foods aisle in the Latin American section.

For these cookies, dulce de leche is added to the cookie batter and is used as a filling for the sandwiches. The cookies themselves are soft, chewy, and richly flavored. They are also a breeze to make if you have an electric mixer. Sandwiched together with a smear of dulce de leche in the middle, the cookies are a decadent, easily portable treat. They aren’t as fancy looking as many other desserts, but they are special enough that they will leave those lucky enough to try them begging for more.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cranberry Applesauce

I know I’ve been inundating you with fall flavors lately. I hope you don’t mind. I just can’t seem to resist the allure of crisp apples, bright pumpkin, and cozy spices. They call to me. They beg me to take them and make them into something delicious. And really, who am I to resist the siren song of my favorite season?

So bear with me, if you will, and indulge my fall flavor fanaticism just a wee bit longer. I promise you won’t be disappointed with what I have on deck. We’re talking all manner of warm (and cold) and cozy here. Cranberries are in season now, so they’ll be making some appearances. I still have more to tell you about all the wonderful things you can do with apples and pumpkin. Plus, to balance things out, I’ll make sure to throw in a few dinners and some sinful desserts. Do we have a deal?

Now about those cranberries I just mentioned. Last fall was the first time I’d ever cooked with fresh cranberries. I put them in bread, baked them with apples and pears under a buttery crisp topping, and got them drunk on brandy. Last fall was also the first (and last) time I tried a raw cranberry. Please learn from my mistake and never try them raw. If you don’t believe me, give one a try. I dare you. But I digress. Cranberry season is fleeting, so now is the perfect time to try out some new recipes.

Today’s recipe for cranberry applesauce is simple to make and is simply fantastic in taste – that alone makes it a winner in my book. All you do is take chunks of peeled apples (any kind you like), and throw them in a pot with fresh cranberries, some white and brown sugar, and a little cinnamon, salt, and lemon juice. Cook it all down until it is nice and mash-able, and then go to town with your potato masher. Easy enough, right? As for the taste, it’s a little sweet and a little tart. It can be as chunky or smooth as you like, and the pink color will do wonders to brighten up the dreariest fall day. This applesauce would also be lovely on any Thanksgiving table. Cook some up sometime soon, and I promise you’ll fall in love with fresh cranberries… just as long as you don’t try them raw.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nutty Pumpkin Granola

Granola is one of those things we pretty much always have in our kitchen. We love it over our morning yogurt. Stan stirs it into cottage cheese. More than once we’ve been known to eat it by the handful. I’m kind of embarassed to say that until now, pretty much all of our granola has been store-bought. I’ve made other granola-related snacks, but for just plain old granola, I’ve always defaulted to the kind that comes in a box. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but now that I know how easy it is to make homemade granola, I don’t see myself going back to store-bought anytime soon.

Today’s recipe helped me see the error of my ways. It combines oats with two kinds of nuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), dried cranberries, and every spice that makes you think of fall. Pumpkin purée and maple syrup coat the granola and make everything stick together in delectable clumps. The end result is crunchy, a little (but not too) sweet, and a whole lot delicious. It’s also much healthier than pretty much any granola you can buy at the store because there are no added fats (besides those naturally occurring in the nuts), no artificial sweeteners, and no preservatives. With a few changes for seasonal variety, I think this just might be our new go-to granola.

** Also, on an administrative note, I wanted to let you know that I will be adding a new feature to my posts. At the end of each “story”, right above the new recipe, I will list the recipe(s) (and their corresponding links) that I posted approximately one year earlier. I think it’ll be a great way to remember some old favorites and introduce you to some recipes you might have missed. Just please do me a favor and try not to judge me on the less than lovely photographs from the early days! (I have gone back and added these links to my last three posts as well. Check them out to see what was cooking this time last year!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spiced Applesauce Cake

Sometimes I make desserts because I’m in the mood for something sweet. Other times, I bake because we have company coming over. Sometimes I pull out the sweet stuff because I want to try a new technique. And sometimes, sometimes, I make dessert for love.

Not to get all mushy on you, but today’s recipe was a love cake. Stan started back in school this week (he’s getting his MBA at night), and I wanted him to have some fresh baked, sugary goodness when he got home from class. Hence this cake. It’s simple. It’s pretty. It’s moist and lightly spiced. And it’s topped with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. This cake is pretty much perfect for impromptu weeknight baking. It also is a lovely and delicious way to show someone you love him or her.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

So I have to tell you, I have not been inspired in the kitchen this week. Not at all. Nothing sounded great, nothing tasted exceptional, and there were no fall-inspired baked goods to be seen. What could cause such a case of the culinary blahs? I’ll give you one guess… and it has something to do with expanding waistlines. (More mine than Stan’s.)

If you guessed I’m on a diet, you’d be mostly right. I like to call it an exercise in portion control – it’s less depressing. But don’t worry, I have plenty of delicious recipes coming your way, healthy and sinfully not. Some of them are recipes I’ve been itching to tell you about for a while now. Others are ones I’ve been lining up for test runs in the kitchen. Either way, you don’t need to worry. My waistline issues need not have any effect on your culinary adventures. And let’s be honest, I don’t see this being a long-term self-improvement project. There’s a whole lot of holiday baking on the horizon, after all. (Please do not make judgments about my willpower. Or lack thereof. Thank you.)

Personal sharing aside, I do, in fact, have a new recipe to share with you today. And it is wond-der-ful. When I took my first bite, I’m pretty sure I said something like, “holy crap, this is good”. (Embarrassing, but true.) Let me tell you friends, you must try this version of chicken and dumplings. Imagine a rich chicken broth, full of poached chicken and veggies, and topped with light, biscuit-like dumplings. It is warm, hearty, and pretty much perfect for chilly fall evenings. I am certain you will enjoy it as much as we did.


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