November 23, 2014

Pumpkin Spice French Toast

Good morning!!

This morning I was in the mood to make something special for breakfast. I've been in the midst of planning Thanksgiving- with pumpkin on my mind- and I decided to try making some pumpkin french toast. I'm glad I did!!

This french toast would make an excellent breakfast for Thanksgiving morning, or any other fall morning you're in the mood for some pumpkin spice. The recipe is simple, and since I always seem to have canned pumpkin in my pantry from August-November, all of the ingredients were already stocked.

Since we're having a lazy Sunday morning, I got to involve my son in the cooking. I love having him help in the kitchen, and he loves to whisk and mix things, so we had a great time! He is always so interested in the measuring, mixing and cooking; and is so proud of the finished product... especially when it's as yummy as this french toast!!

Pumpkin Spice French Toast
Makes 10 slices

10 slices of bread (I used regular light wheat bread)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup 2% milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar

unsalted butter or coconut oil for cooking
pure maple syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup for serving

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In shallow dish, combine pumpkin, milk, eggs, spices and sugar. Melt butter or coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat. Dip slices of bread in pumpkin mixture, and place into heated skillet. Cook until browned, then flip to cook on other side. When cooked, remove from skillet and place in oven proof dish and into oven to keep warm. Continue until all slices are done. Drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy!!!

This morning, instead of maple syrup, I served our Pumpkin Spice French Toast with golden syrup...
A couple of weeks ago, I was on the hunt for golden syrup for use in a cookie recipe (I'll be sharing that next month). Lyle's Golden Syrup is imported from the UK and is used for baking and as a topping for waffles, pancakes, etc... everything that I had read said that there was really no substitute due to its unique flavor. This morning, I decided to crack open the jar that I had hunted down, (I found it at my local Wegmans!), to see what the fuss was about. YUM! I'll definitely be keeping it stocked in my pantry from now on. It tastes slightly sweet, (less sweet than maple syrup), with a buttery, cooked sugar flavor. I'm glad I decided to try something new!!

November 21, 2014

My Mom's Pumpkin Quick Bread

Pumpkin bread loaf... what's left
Pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors of the fall... it makes a great flavor for pancakes, muffins, soups, pastas, pies, coffees, and breads. Soon, it will be time to pack away the pumpkin recipes and make way for all of the goodies that come with the Christmas season.

The other night, while planning our Thanksgiving meal and working on ten other projects, I got a craving for pumpkin bread. I have not made it yet this fall, and was craving a slice of the moist, lightly spiced, childhood favorite. My first fall in college away from home, my mom sent me a care package with a loaf of this bread inside... it was the most wonderful surprise. The smell of the spices immediately reminded my roommate and I of home, and provided a taste of home cooking that we missed dearly. To me, this pumpkin bread = fall.

This bread is fantastic as breakfast- sometimes I like to smear a little cream cheese on top- great as a snack, and could even work as dessert. I brought one of the loaves to work today for a morning meeting, and can say that its a crowd pleaser!

Pumpkin Bread
Makes 2 loaves

3 cups sugar (I use about 2.5 cups)
2 cups salad oil
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups pumpkin
2/3 cups water
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and oil together in large bowl. Add eggs and pumpkin; mix well. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and stir with whisk. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, alternating with water. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans and bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes in pans, then remove from pans and cool completely.

I hope that you enjoy this bread as much as I do! If you're traveling for Thanksgiving, bring a loaf along with you- your host/hostess and friends/family will thank you!!

November 14, 2014

Farfalle with Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach

I really enjoy seasonal pasta dishes: In the springtime, I thoroughly enjoy making pasta primavera to showcase the fresh produce that has started to pop up in the grocery store and at the farmer's market. Summer isn't complete without at least one serving of pasta salad served at a cookout... Fall is a great time for pumpkin gnocchi, and butternut squash stuffed shells... and winter is prime time for lasagna and other comforting, warming pastas that help us stave off the winter blues, and maybe even some frostbite. (I get really, really cold during the winter- I thank my Florida native blood for that...)

I remember one fall, I made the most delicious baked butternut squash stuffed shells with sage cream sauce. They were incredible... they were also one of the most labor intensive and time consuming meals, (and maybe the most calorie laden- thanks to the cream sauce) that I had made that year. All that aside, pasta and butternut squash make a surprisingly good pair. One that deserves more attention, and certainly more time at my dinner table!

Tonight's recipe was inspired by a Cooking Light recipe that I found in this November's issue, and is definitely a keeper. Far less labor intensive than those shells, much more healthy, and still full of flavor, I highly recommend this dish. Thanks to the quick and easy prep, it makes a great weeknight meal!

Farfalle with Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach
Serves 6-8

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
12 oz. uncooked farfalle
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place peeled squash on baking sheet in single layer; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until tender- turning halfway through- set aside when done. While squash is roasting, bring water to boil for pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions- drain and set aside. In a separate large pan, combine 1 tbsp olive oil, chicken broth, vinegar, and garlic; simmer about 8 minutes over medium-high heat and allow to reduce. Toss pasta, butternut squash, and spinach in pan with sauce; add parmesan cheese and mix to combine.


November 12, 2014

Quick, Delicious and Healthy: Baked Peanutty Chicken Cutlets

Quick and easy dinner recipes can be few and far between... add the requirement of being healthy, and it can become even more daunting to find a delicious, family-pleasing dinner. Thankfully, my favorite go-to for recipes, Cooking Light, delivers such recipes- recipes that have become part of our weekly and monthly rotations... and recipes that have become some of my favorites.

Tonight's dinner: Baked Peanutty Chicken Cutlets, are definitely one of our favorites. Quick and easy- using staple ingredients, these chicken cutlets are some of the best "chicken fingers" I've ever had- and definitely the best I've made. 

To make this recipe a little more kid-friendly and fun, I start with chicken breasts and slice my chicken into tenders. Doing so also helps with making the perfect portion sizes for kids and adults. I also omit the chutney- we think that this chicken is perfect on its own. Tonight, I paired the tenders with mashed sweet potatoes and steamed green beans for a well-rounded meal. 

Baked Peanutty Chicken Cutlets
Cooking Light: Serves 4

2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup peanuts
1 cup panko
4 (1/2 in thick) chicken breast cutlets (about 1 lb)
cooking spray
1/4 cup peach chutney (optional)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Combine honey and mustard in a small bowl, stir well. Place peanuts in food processor, pulse until finely chopped. Combine peanuts and panko in a separate, shallow bowl. Brush each cutlet with honey mixture; dredge cutlets in panko mixture. Place cutlets on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; lightly coat cutlets with cooking spray. Bake at 500 degrees for 8 minutes, or until done. Serve with chutney- if desired.


November 05, 2014

Crockpot Dinner: Balsamic Pork Roast {and Honey Glazed Carrots}

I love making dinners in the crockpot; there is something magical and relaxing about coming home to a house that smells yummy, and a dinner that is (at least mostly) ready to serve.

Today we got to enjoy a family day off together, and a hands-off crockpot meal really helped keep the relaxed pace of the day going, and made dinner time simple and easy.

I don't make a lot of pork. I am pretty finicky about pork in general, but pork tenderloin and crockpots go together like peanut butter and jelly... so I have to give it a go every once in a while- particularly in the fall and winter months.

Tonight's recipe strayed from my fall back flavor combination of pork and apples, and I have to admit that I'm very glad that we tried something new! I found this recipe on another great blog which features healthy and tasty meals. (Thanks to her, I can also provide the nutritional info!) I served the pork with mashed potatoes and honey glazed carrots (see my recipe below) and it was an easy, delicious, and warming meal- one that I will be making again and again!

Crock Pot Balsamic Pork Roast

From Serves 8

2 lb boneless pork shoulder roast
Kosher salt, to taste (I used 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp honey

Season the pork with salt, garlic powder and red pepper flakes and place it into the slow cooker. Mix together the broth, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar and pour it over the pork. The pour the honey over and set timer for 4 hours on High, or 6-8 hours on Low. (I cooked mine for 7hrs on Low)
Once the pork is cooked and tender, remove from slow cooker with tongs into a serving dish. Break apart lightly with two forks and put back into the slow cooker; ladle 1/2 cup sauce over the pork and keep warm until ready to eat. (I didn't seem to have much sauce left after 7 hours of cooking, so I shredded mine in the crockpot and mixed it with all of the remaining sauce, which ended up perfect.)

Serving size 3oz; Calories: 214; Fat: 12g; Carbs: 4g; Fiber: 0g; Protein: 21g; Sugar: 3g; Sodium: 196mg; Cholesterol: 72mg

Notes: Using 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes did result in slightly spicy pork- if you and your family like things more mild, I'd recommend cutting down to 1/4 tsp to be safe. Also, for those concerned about the vinegar- the sharpness of the vinegar cooks out and is well balanced against the honey and the natural flavor of the pork, and the end result is delicious. This was great as the main attraction for dinner, and will make incredible sandwiches with leftovers! I would definitely make this as an alternative to the typical BBQ pulled pork for some delicious sandwiches and an easy party meal!

Honey Glazed Carrots
Makes 4 servings

2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp honey (or more to taste)
1/8 tsp kosher salt
black pepper, to taste

Melt butter in pan over medium heat; add carrots. Drizzle 1tsp honey overtop and season with salt and pepper. Mix together, and cook partly covered, stirring occasionally until carrots are tender.

I hope that everyone is having a great week! Happy Humpday!

November 02, 2014

Best Ever Banana Pancakes!

I know that I have shared my love for pancakes in the past... and today I'm sharing one of my favorite pancake recipes! It is a go-to weekend recipe in our house, and one that my son requests by name.

I wish that I could lay claim to this perfect-fluffy-pancake-producing recipe, but I have to admit that I found it online! I often hunt for recipes online, and tend to choose recipes that I find on other blogs. This one comes from Kitchen Treaty. I haven't made a lot of her recipes, but I have made these Fluffy Banana Pancakes many times... they really are incredibly perfect. (I can't wait to try out her recipe for Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes, too!)

This is an easy to follow recipe, using standard ingredients that comes together quickly, and yields some of the most perfect pancakes I've ever eaten. Every time. Allowing the batter to sit while you heat up your pan is part of the magic that makes these pancakes fluffy- don't rush it!

I hope that you try this recipe out, and enjoy!!

Fluffy Banana Pancakes
Kitchen Treaty: Makes about 12 pancakes

2 cups buttermilk (or substitute)
2 small or 1 large ripe banana, (about 1 cup mashed)
2 eggs
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Sliced bananas to top, if desired

In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, mashed banana, eggs, butter, and vanilla. In separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the dry ingredients over the wet, and mix until incorporated. (Do not overmix.) Let the batter rest for about 5 minutes.
Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Melt butter or coconut oil in pan, and spread evenly. Using a 1/3 cup measure or other scoop, pour the batter into pan. The pancakes are ready to flip when the edges appear dry and bubbles start to appear. Flip, and cook on the other side until golden brown, and cooked through. Serve with additional sliced bananas, butter, and maple syrup.

...Fall in love with pancakes all over again...