WB Challenge #2 – Bacon and Cheddar Apple Pie.

This month’s theme for the What’s Baking Challenge was a fitting one for November:  Thanksgiving.  I hope everyone was able to spend time with family and friends and sufficiently stuffed your faces with turkey.  I know I certainly have been.  It’s leftover city around here…. Not that I’m complaining though.

While Thanksgiving has always been my Dad’s holiday, for the past couple of years, I’ve slowly been given more responsibility for our grand feast.  Last year, we hosted at our house (30 people!!) so we decided to make the turkey and take care of the appetizers while Dad made all of the sides and pies.  This year, we did the same thing but on a much smaller, more manageable scale of only 10 people.

I’ve been making this pie for the past 3 or 4 years and it’s always a hit on our Thanksgiving dessert table.  It takes a simple apple pie and elevates it to another level.  The addition of the cheddar and bacon to the crumble topping gives the pie just a little bit of that savory kick.  It’s not overwhelming, it just gives your palate a slight wake up call.

Bacon and Cheddar Apple Pie – slightly adapted from Rachael Ray

– 1/2 Package Center Cut Bacon

– 1/2 Cup Flour

– 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar

– 3 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

– 1 cup Shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar

– 4 Golden Delicious Apples – peeled, cored and sliced

– 1/4 Cup Sugar

– Zest of One Lemon

– 1 Frozen Pie Crust, prebaked according to package directions

Preheat oven to 400.  Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy.  When bacon is cool to the touch, crumble and set aside.

Combine flour, brown sugar and butter cubes in a medium bowl.  Using your fingers, pinch the butter into the flour and sugar until crumbly.  Stir in the bacon and cheese and refrigerate.  This part can be made up to 2 days before use.

Toss apples with sugar and lemon.  Transfer to the pie crust and sprinkle bacon mixture on top.  Put the pie crust on a foil lined baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.  Cover with foil and bake another 45 minutes.  Cool before serving.

Oh Hi, I’m Over Here Now!

Welcome to my new food blog!  Isn’t it pretty?  I made the move after noticing that my other blog, A Jey in the Life, had completely been taken over by food while ignoring all of the other topics it was originally meant to include.  A Jey in the Life still will still continue to exist and will be updated in it’s new form in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled to the screen for the newly redesigned blog over there!

Let’s get cooking!!

Baked Rigatoni with Spinach and Meatballs.

Happy Friday, everyone!  This blog update is actually a two-fer.

A few weeks ago, we had some spaghetti and meatballs that a friend had made.  Turns out, the Fruitaholic really went crazy for the meatballs.  When I asked my friend for the recipe the other day, she kind of laughed and said that they were from Trader Joes!

So, I was all set to run over to TJ’s to stock my freezer when I came across a recipe for a pasta bake with mini meatballs.  BINGO.  I had found tonight’s dinner, and already had most of the ingredients at home.

I tweaked the recipe a bit for both the meatballs and the pasta bake and they came out great. I added an entire bag of baby spinach, which allowed me to “sneak” another vegetable into the Fruitaholic’s diet.  I’m really glad that we decided to split the dish into two small casserole dishes and freeze one so that we have another one waiting for a day when I’m too lazy to cook!  We used all of the meatballs in the pasta bake (except for the 6 or so that the Fruitaholic gobbled down) so I’m going to make another batch for the freezer this weekend.

This recipe can be made even healthier by using whole wheat pasta, adding additional vegetables, and subbing ground turkey or chicken for the ground beef.  It’s super adaptable, which I love!

Baked Meatballs – inspired by The Parsley Thief

– 1 Lb Ground Beef
– 1/2 Cup Panko
– 1/4 Cup Parmesan
– 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
– 1 Egg, Lightly Beaten
– Generous Splash of Milk
– Generous Splash of Worchestershire
– Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine all ingredients and mix gently by hand.  Form into balls (size of your choice) and place on a lightly oiled, foil lined baking sheet.  Bake for 12-25 minutes, until browned and cooked through.

Baked Rigatoni with Spinach and Meatballs – inspired by and adapted from The Parsley Thief

– 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
– 1 Onion, Chopped
– 4 Cloves Garlic, Smashed and Sliced
– 1 Can Diced Tomatoes, Drained
– 1 Jar Pasta Sauce
– 1 Box Rigatoni, Cooked Al Dente
– 1 16 oz Bag Baby Spinach, Chopped
– 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
– 1 Container Ricotta
– 1/4 Cup Parmesan
– 1 Container Baby Mozzarella Balls, Halved
– Baked Meatballs (see above recipe)
– 1 Pinch Nutmeg
– Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Warm olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, add sauce and cook an additional 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine spinach, parsley, ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg.  Add pasta, meatballs and sauce and mix to combine.  Reserve some sauce for serving.

Transfer to baking dish and top with mozzarella.  Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake until browned, about 5 minutes.

Crockpot Applesauce.

You might recall that back in October, we went apple “picking.” We returned home with a half peck of assorted apples.  I had grand plans for these apples, but they all (with the exception of the few that were eaten raw) ended up as applesauce.  The Fruitaholic really gobbled it up!  I made this recipe twice, quadrupling the quantity each time.

I really like that this recipe is very low in sugar.  The apples are sweet enough on their own, but the addition of just a little bit of brown sugar really enhanced their flavor.  In my second batch, I also added 2 teaspoons of cardamom.  YUM!

Crockpot Applesauce – adapted from Prevention RD.  The recipe below is for 16 servings.  Please click the link for the original recipe (4 servings) if you’re not looking to make that much.

– 16 Apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges

– Juice of 2 Lemons, plus Zest from 1 Lemon

– 2 tsp. Cinnamon

– 4 tsp. Vanilla

– 4 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

– 2 tsp. Cardamom (optional)

– 1 cup Water

Combine ingredients and put into crockpot.  Cover and cook for 6 hours on low.  Mash with a potato masher or fork to your desired consistency.  We like ours a bit chunky.

Secret Ingredient Chili and Cheddar Herb Beer Bread.

After enjoying what was probably our last few days of Indian Summer, it’s been a dreary weekend here in Chicago  It’s dark and rainy just all around blah.  Days like this just kill my motivation to do anything other than sit on the couch and tend to my frontier on Facebook (I know, it’s an unhealthy addiction).  But there I was, standing in front of an empty refrigerator with a hungry family waiting to be fed.  While the Fruitaholic napped (and the Husby played his video game), I dragged myself to the grocery store to pick up a few things to get us through the night.  On these chilly Autumn evenings, nothing hits the spot better than a big bowl of warm chili.

Helping me feed my obsession to any and all flavors of Fall, I added a “secret” ingredient to this batch of chili: Pumpkin.  I say it’s a “secret” because the Husby is starting to put his foot down whenever I mention the word pumpkin in relation to food.  We’ve had Pumpkin Lasagna, Pumpkin Meatloaf Muffins, Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes, Pumpkin bread (from a box mix) and Pumpkin Seeds, and there’s at least one pumpkin dish on my menu for next week.

The Husby’s reaction to the first bite?  “Mmmm, this is really good, what’s in it?”

I’ll never tell…

“Secret Ingredient” Chili

– 1 Lb. Ground Beef or Ground Turkey
– 1 Package Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, casings removed
– 1 Onion, diced
– 2 Cans Rotel Tomatoes
– 1 Can Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 Can Dark Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 Can Canellini Beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 Can Pumpkin Puree
– 16 oz Stout Beer (I used Guinness)
– 1 Tbsp. Chili Powder (or more, to your preferred level of hotness)
– 1 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
– 1 Tsp. Cinnamon
– 1 Tsp. Sugar
– Salt and Pepper, to taste

Brown ground beef over medium high heat until browned, then drain.  Repeat with sweet italian turkey sausage.

Add diced onions to a skillet with 1 tbsp oil, and brown until slightly soft, about 5 minutes.

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and mix well.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 90 minutes.

Serve over elbow macaroni and top with sour cream, cilantro and a generous amount of cheddar cheese.

I served this chili with a loaf of Cheddar and Herb Beer Bread.  It was quick, easy and really flavorful.  It was really good for sopping up the chili left at the bottom of the bowl.  The great thing about beer breads is that you can customize them however you want, using whatever herbs, spices and other additions to suit your liking.  I followed this recipe exactly because I still have some rosemary and thyme growing in my backyard.

Cheddar and Herb Beer Bread – from Joelen’s Culinary Adventures

– 3 Cups Flour

– 2 tsp. Baking Powder

– 1 tsp. Salt

– 1/4 Cup Sugar

– 12 oz Beer

– 1 tsp. Chili Powder

– 1 tsp. Chopped Fresh Thyme

– 1 tsp. Chopped Fresh Rosemary

– 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper

– 1 1/2 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Preheat oven to 375.  Combine all ingredients and pour into a greased loaf pan.  Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Bombay Sloppy Joes and Massaged Kale Salad.

It probably comes as no surprise to most of you that I watch a lot of television.  I tend to fall victim to teen dramas, NBC sitcoms and reality show competitions.  And while I’ll admit that I do watch a lot of crap (as I’m often lovingly reminded so by the Husby), I’m proud to say that I’ve never seen an episode of Jersey Shore.

When the Fruitaholic was first born, we watched a lot of the Food Network.  I’d listen to Rachael Ray rasp at me during feedings, wonder during diaper changes how Paula Deen was still alive as she used pounds of butter in her dishes and get lost in Giada’s teeth when the Fruitaholic woke during the night.  We joked that with the amount of Food Network shows seen throughout his first few months of life, the Little Dude had no choice but to become a chef.  It was then that I started watching the Next Food Network Star.

This past season, Aarti Sequiera was my favorite from the beginning.  She had a great on-camera presence, a likeable personality, and an idea for a show that really hadn’t been done before.  I’ve always been enamored by Indian flavors, but never really thought that a home cook such as myself would be able to recreate those dishes in my kitchen.  Aarti has a great blog that she still keeps up with even though she’s a big star now.

This meal comes from Aarti’s first episode.  I really loved that she took a familiar dish and added her own spin to it.  We served this when we had friends over for dinner and everyone agreed that it was great.  Even the babies gobbled it up!

Bombay Sloppy Joes – created by Aarti Sequiera, as seen on Food Network.

For the Sauce:

– 2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil

– 1 Tbsp. Fresh Ginger, minced  **TIP: keep extra ginger root in the freezer.  It will keep for months**

– 2 cloves Garlic, minced

– 1/2 Serrano Chile Pepper, seeded and finely minced (save the other half for the turkey)

– 1 tsp. Garam Masala

– 1/2 tsp Paprika

– 1 15 oz Can Tomato Sauce

– 1 Cup Water

For the Turkey:

– 3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil

– 1/4 Cup Shelled Pistachios

– 1/4 Cup Raisins

– 1 tsp. Cumin Seeds

– 1/2 Large White Onion, Finely Diced

– 1 Red Bell Pepper, Seeds and Membrane Removed, Finely Diced

– 1/2 Serrano Chile Pepper, Seeds Intact (do not chop)

– 1 Lb. Ground Turkey

– 1/2 tsp. Honey

– 1/4 Cup Half and Half

– Salt, to taste

– Small handful Chopped Fresh Cilantro (soft stems included)

– Buns (I used Arnolds 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins)

Begin making the sauce.  Over medium heat, warm the oil in a saucepan until it shimmers.  Add ginger, garlic and serrano pepper.  Saute until the ginger and garlic brown a little.  Add garam masala and paprika and saute for 30 seconds.  Stir in tomato sauce and water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet.  Add pistachios and raisins, and cook until the raisins plump and the pistachios toast slightly.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and warm.  Add the cumin seeds and sizzle for 10 seconds.  Stir in the onions and bell pepper, saute until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add serrano pepper and saute for another few minutes, seasoning with salt.  Stir in the turkey, break up any big lumps and cook until opaque, about 5 minutes.

Once the sauce is ready, pour into the skillet with the turkey.  Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Remove the serrano pepper, add the honey, half and half, pistachios and raisins.  Stir through until well combined.  Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.  Toast the buns, fill with the turkey mixture and serve.

Massaged Kale Salad – created by Aarti Sequiera, as seen on Food Network.

– 1 Bunch Kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves torn or thinly sliced

– 1 lemon, Juiced

– 1/4 Cup Olive Oil, plus extra for drizzling

– 2 tsp. Honey

– 1 Mango, Diced

– Salt and Pepper, to taste

– Small Handful Toasted Pepitas

In a serving bowl, add the kale, half of the lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and salt.  Massage with your hands until the kale starts to soften and wilt, about 2 to 3 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil and whisk until a dressing forms.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango and pepitas.  Toss and serve.

WB Challenge #1 – Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes With Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the cooking board that I frequent.  Some of the girls have banded together and created a monthly baking challenge called What’s Baking? (it’s a play off the name of the board, What’s Cooking?).  This is the first month of the challenge and the theme was Fall Cupcakes.

Immediately, the ideas started flowing through my brain. There were so many different ways I could go with this: Maple Pecan with Candied Bacon, Sweet Potato with Cranberry and Brown Sugar, Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, Apple Cider with Rosemary Frosting….

Lucky for me, the due date for this challenge coincided with the Husby’s birthday weekend, so I went straight to the source and asked him what kind of fall themed cupcakes he’d like for his birthday.  His answer was simple: Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.

I searched the internet for the perfect recipe.  There are so many different Pumpkin Spice Cupcake recipes out there.  I finally chose one that had an ingredient that jumped out at me:  Freshly ground Black Pepper.  I was very excited to see what it would add to the otherwise simple flavor profile (it was super yummy).

So what did the Husby think of his birthday cupcakes?

DELICIOUS!!

Make sure to stop back on the 30th for a link to the round up of all the What’s Baking? Fall Cupcakes!!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting – slightly adapted from Sassy Radish

 

– 1 Stick Butter, Unsalted, Softened

– 1 Cup Brown Sugar

– 1/3 Cup Sugar

– 2 Cups Flour

– 2 tsp. Baking Powder

– 1 tsp. Baking Soda

– 1 tsp. Cinnamon

– 1 tsp. Ginger (I used fresh because I had extra on hand, but the original recipe calls for ground)

– 1/2 tsp Nutmeg

– 1/8 tsp. Cloves

– 1/2 tsp. Salt

– 1/4 tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper

– 2 Eggs

– 1/2 Cup Buttermilk mixed with 1 tsp. Vanilla

– 1 1/4 Cups Canned Pumpkin

 

– 2 8oz Packages Cream Cheese, Softened

– 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, Softened

– 2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar (Powdered Sugar)

– 1/4 Cup Grade B Maple Syrup

 

CUPCAKES:

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat together 1 stick butter, brown sugar and sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper into a medium bowl.

Add eggs to the butter and sugar mixture.  Add 1/3 flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of the buttermilk/vanilla.  Repeat, then add remaining 1/3 flour mixture.  Beat in pumpkin until smooth.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners until 3/4 full.  Tap the tin once on the countertop to release air bubbles.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool.  After 10 minutes, remove cupcakes from muffin tin and cool completely before frosting.

 

FROSTING:

Beat together cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and maple syrup.  Fill a piping bag with frosting and swirl over cupcakes.  Add a candy corn pumpkin for decoration and refrigerate for 30 minutes to set frosting.  Dig in!