Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pumpkin Magic Muffins, with Chocolate Chips

 In our family, a common breakfast is "Magic Muffins." Why they are called "magic" I have no idea, but they sure are tasty! The original recipe can be found on any box of Malt-O Meal quick cooking hot cereal. We found the original recipe lacking, so we have sinced changed it up into quite a few versions. This one is our current favorite. -And since I have plenty of homemade pumpkin puree in the freezer, we make these muffins often.
  This muffin is slightly sweet with a hint of spices and a texture that you can't find in any ordinary muffin. The dry cereal lends a texture similar to cornmeal, but without the corn flavor. I should mention that if you don't have pumpkin on hand you can use any other puree you have. Thicker purees (like pumpkin, butternut squash or applesauce) work best. If you use a thinner puree (like strawberries for example) you might have to cook the muffins a little longer so they are not wet inside. Also, I would replace the pumpkin pie spice with plain cinnamon. Feel free to mix it up and make what you have on hand, and what you and your family love.
  They are really simple and a cinch to put together. I hope they'll find a welcomed spot at your breakfast table too. :)

In a mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup pumpkin puree and 1/2 cup sugar.
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp veg. oil

1 egg (Sorry the lighting is so weird in this shot. As you well know, I'm no where near to a professional photographer, so I haven't figured out how to keep this "orange" lighting from happening. I know you understand and forgive me. We just understand each other that way.)

1 Tbsp baking powder

3/4 cups Malt-O Meal

3/4 cups milk

1 1/4 cups flour

and 3/4 cups chocolate chips. (There are some people in this world that would consider chocolate and "optional" ingredient. I'm not one of them. But . . . if you are one of those unfortunate people, feel free to substitute with nuts, dried fruit, or just skip this step all together. The muffins will still be yummy -)

I use my smallest scoop, and scoop the batter into my mini muffin tins. (Make sure to properly spray the tins with no-stick spray, or use cupcake liners, to prevent them from sticking. My wonderful husband abhors washing these tins, and I try to make his life as easy as possible. After all, the third best thing he has ever done for me (aside from marrying me and fathering my amazing children) is that he washes my pots, pans and tins. Yeah . . . he's a keeper. ;)

This is what they will look like when they come out of the oven.

I always turn them out onto a towel. This is what my dad always did, and so I do it too. I'm pretty sure it's so that they don't get soggy bottoms.

This is how they look on the inside. Nice and fluffy - with a slightly crisp interior.  And the taste? Let's just say that we make many versions of this muffin around our house, and this is by far our hands down favorite!

They are truly scrumptious.

Now excuse me while I devour this whole plate.
Here's the recipe:
(If you find yourself wanting to make this recipe, but don't have any pureed pumpkin, have no fear. You can use applesauce instead. Or any other pureed squash (butternut works very well). It won't be identical, but it will be close.)

Pumpkin Magic Muffins, with Chocolate Chips

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup dry original Malt-O Meal quick cooking hot cereal 
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla oil and egg. Mix in the baking powder, Malt-O Meal and milk. Add flour until just combined (DO NOT over-mix), and gently fold in chocolate chips. Scoop into greased or paper-lined mini muffin tins. Bake @ 400F for 12 minutes or until golden brown and spring back when pressed lightly. (If using regular sized muffin tins, they will cook for 18 minutes.) Turn out onto a towel to cool. Serve warm or room temperature.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Dutson Dinner (Camping food at home)

Need a quick weeknight dinner? This couldn't be easier and always satisfies. It's actually a common camping dish, that you can put in a dutch oven near the fire and let it cook while you're away fishing, hiking, what have you. We actually don't get to go camping very often, but we enjoy this meal at least once a month.
   I was introduced to this dish when we were camping with some dear friends of ours, the Dutsons. We took our families and went camping for a few days at a beautiful place by a lake (water reservoir actually). It was beautiful and fun; and my family and I think of that time often. It was one of the best times I've had outdoors and this dish helps me re-live a small part of it whenever I want.
   How this particular version came about is that my dear friend Lindsey was suffering from a case of early pregnancy brain and she forgot to pack the ground beef for the dinner. She ended up using breakfast sausage instead and it turned out great. It's actually our preferred way of making it now. :) Don't you love happy accidents?
   So, any time that I need a meal that is quick to prepare, cheap and really satisfies (and also brings up wonderful memories) I make this. It doesn't really have a name, but it's called The Dutson Dinner around our house. :)

Here's how it starts at home:

1 lb of ground breakfast sausage goes into a pot. I break it up and cook it until it's brown.

Then I chunk up some potatoes. You can make the pieces as big as you like. The bigger the pieces are, the longer it takes to cook, so if you need it done quickly you'll want to chop your potatoes finer. I usually have Russet potatoes on hand, so that is what I used. A waxier potato (like a gold or red) will take longer to cook as well. Just some things to keep in mind.

Next come the other veggies. Celery, carrots (and onions if you'd like). I do equal amounts of each.

Just wash and dry them, then chop them up as big as you'd like.

Add them to the pot with sausage and potatoes.

Salt and pepper. (to taste)

Then I add in some granulated garlic. (about 1 1/2 tsp)

And the same amount of onion powder (You can skip this if you added onion earlier.)

Then comes the magic sauce that brings it all together. Cream of Mushroom Soup. Sure, you could: cook some finely chopped mushrooms, onions and garlic, make a roux, add some milk-or cream-, stock (chicken or veggie) salt and pepper and wait for it to thicken and then add that to the pot, but then this wouldn't be a quick one pot meal anymore. If you have qualms about using condensed soup out of a can then by all means cook the "cream of soup" from scratch and use that. Me . . . I'll take the short cut. :)

Mix everything together,

and put the lid on. Cook it over medium low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the veggies are tender.

When it is done it will look like this:

I agree, it's not going to win any awards in the beauty department, but this meal isn't about looks.

It's about being able to eat well for little money, time and ingredients. It really is delicious!
Here's the recipe:
(This is all to taste. If you like more or less of an ingredient please feel free to change it up. This recipe also lends well to substitutions. Have fun and create a meal that you would enjoy!)

The Dutson Dinner

1 lb ground meat (we prefer pork breakfast sausage)
3 small to medium Russet potatoes, washed and cut into bite sized pieces 
3 medium carrots, washed and cut into bite sized pieces
3 ribs of celery, washed and cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1 1/2 tsp granulated onion
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
1 10 3/4 oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup

In a large pot, brown the meat over medium heat until cooked through. (If using a lean meat like turkey you will need to add 1-2 Tbsp of oil to the pan first to prevent the meat from sticking.) Add the remaining ingredients: veggies, garlic, onion, salt and pepper and the soup. Stir to combine. Put the lid on and cook over medium low for 20 minutes, or until the veggies are tender. Serve hot.

Update 6/22/13: Made this for dinner tonight, but in the crock-pot. I put all the meat and veggies into the crock-pot (lined, for easy clean up) - I made it a little different by adding the kernels off of one ear of corn, salt, pepper, one small onion, diced and 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic to the 4 small russet potatoes, 3 medium carrots and 3 ribs of celery. I cut the veggies a little bigger, so they didn't turn to mush in the crock-pot.
 I added the cream of mushroom soup on top (any creamed soup would work)
 and gave it a really good stir (making sure to break up the sausage well)
 I set the crock-pot to low and let it cook for 2 hours. After the twp hours most everything was cooked but the potatoes. So, I set it to high and cooked it for another 1 1/2 hours. (I started the crockpot in the afternoon and needed everything done by dinner time, so that is why I rushed things along. It would have been fine to leave on low for another 3 hours or so.)
When the potatoes were done I scooped it up and served it hot. Another tasty version!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Take on Heuvos Rancheros

 So, this post is not like my usual posts - with step by step pictures and instructions. This is just a snap shot of my lunch that I just finished eating (and it was also the dinner that I prepared for my amazing husband last night). It was so good I couldn't help but share. :)
  I call this Huevos Rancheros - but it's not really. It's not authentic, and it's not how your abuela (grandma) would make it, but it rings all the same bells and blows all the same whistles. The basics are a fried egg served on top of a fried tortilla with beans and salsa (rice and avocado are sometimes used as well). My version has a corn quesadilla, cooked until golden and crispy, topped with "Cuban Style" black beans, a fried egg (over easy for me please) and topped with "picante" sauce. All of these things I had on hand in my fridge or pantry so this was a quick, and cheap, meal that I whipped up with hardly any effort. It was REALLY tasty to boot!
   There's no real recipe here, just giving you an idea for a quick, easy, cheap meal that is completely delicious and satisfying. :) Everything is "to taste."  I hope you try your own version out and let me know how it goes!

Here's my "recipe":

2 corn tortillas
shredded mozzarella
"Cuban Style" canned black beans (You could substitute regular black beans, with a little cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and hot sauce.)
1 fried egg
salsa or picante sauce

In a small sauce pan, heat up the beans over medium heat until bubbly. Heat a skillet up on medium high heat. Place a tortilla down and top with some cheese. Put the other tortilla on top. Cook over medium high heat until the bottom tortilla is slightly golden brown and crispy. Flip and do the same to the second side. (You've just made a quesadilla!) When the quesadilla is toasted on both sides, and the cheese is melted, put it on a plate. Use the hot skillet to fry your egg. (I just spray the skillet with non-stick cooking spray and cook the egg over medium heat. When the outside of the egg is white, I flip it and cook for another minute or two. Cooking the egg white but leaving the middle of the yolk runny. That's called "over easy." My husband likes his cooked to death, or "over hard." You make yours the way you would like.) Top the quesadilla with the hot beans and the fried egg. Finish with some salsa or picante sauce to your liking. Enjoy!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Kim's Coconut Syrup

So, I just shared my recipe for unbelievably fluffy pancakes with a hint of cinnamon, and now I'm going to show you how to make those pancakes (or your waffles, or crepes, or even a cardboard box) taste over the top. My friend Kim's Coconut Pancake Syrup. It really is amazing.
   The recipe makes 4 cups, and I was thinking that we would use it for our pancake breakfast (pictured above) and then I would give the rest to my mom because she loves coconut. Well, we ended up using 1 cup of it at breakfast and then loving it so much that we ate more the next day. And then again this morning. Needless to say, my mother only got about 1 cup of the stuff. ;)
   I was tempted to tweak the recipe, like I do with almost everything, but I didn't. What you see here is her recipe to the "T"  The only thing I would suggest is that if you want your syrup to be extra coconut-y you could add some coconut extract. Try it without and see what you think.
  I promise, you won't be disappointed.

It starts with 1 can of coconut milk. Any brand will do. I buy whatever is on sale that week. Just pour it all into a medium sauce pot.

Then 2 Tbsp of cornstarch are added.

They are whisked together until smooth. When they are combined, turn the heat on to medium high.

Add 2 cups of light corn syrup.

1/2 cup each of white sugar,

and shredded coconut.

When it comes up to a rolling boil, take it off the heat and cool to room temperature before serving. (I couldn't wait that long, so mine is warm and a little thin but it thickens more as it cools.

Just pour this coconut syrup over your fluffy pancakes and devour. It makes every morning like a mini Hawaiian vacation. (Maybe not your whole morning, but at least while you are enjoying your pancakes.)

Here's the recipe:
Coconut Pancake Syrup

Kim's Coconut Syrup

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
Whisk together the coconut milk and cornstarch in a saucepan until the cornstarch is dissolved. Pour in the corn syrup, sugar, and coconut; bring to a boil, stirring continually. As soon as the mixture comes to a rolling boil, remove from heat. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Fluffy Cinnamon Scented Pancakes

I found a recipe for Fluffy Pancakes via a friend on Pinterest, but I thought the batter was too thick. The hubby prefers very thin pancakes, and I like mine more fluffy. So, I tweaked it a bit (added more milk, reduced the salt, and used cinnamon sugar instead of white sugar). And now I think it's a home-run!
  So, of course, I'm sharing with all of you. No reason to keep such a yummy pancake recipe to myself. :)

I started with the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar (I used cinnamon sugar), and salt. I prefer to just whisk them all together, instead of dirtying my sifter. But do as you wish. - You may be asking yourself: Why I'm using cinnamon sugar? Well, it just so happens that I always keep a container full of the stuff. My parents always had one of those old, white, Tupperware salt and pepper shakers filled with cinnamon sugar when I was a little girl. I loved to sprinkle it over my buttered toast and enjoy cinnamon toast in the mornings. So, now I follow suit. I keep a syrup dispenser filled with cinnamon sugar. (My parents would keep their white sugar in a syrup dispenser, so I feel a little nostalgia keeping my cinnamon sugar in one.)  This way I already have them premixed for many uses (cinnamon toast, Snickerdoodles, Monkey Bread, Zeppole, Snickerdoodle Blondies, my Rustic Pear Torte any many many other things). So, I used cinnamon sugar in this recipe.

In a separate container (I used a Pyrex measuring cup) combine milk, and vinegar and set aside to "sour." - The milk will start to curdle. You could also use buttermilk in place of the milk + vinegar mixture.

To the soured milk, I added a little melted butter

and one large egg. (I've used an extra large egg before, and the batter was too thin so I had to add more flour. Use what you have on hand, but a large egg is best.)

Mix all the wet ingredients together with a fork. - At this point you could also add 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract, but I kind of like the pure, buttery, pancake flavor.

Mix the wet and dry together,

and whisk until mostly smooth. You don't want to over mix the batter, or you will have tough pancakes. Just mix until everything is incorporated and then leave it alone. Don't worry about the lumps, they will cook out later.

Heat up your skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. (I usually slather the skillet with butter and almost fry my pancakes, but I thought I would be good today and cut a few calories.)
Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour out a few pancakes.

Give them enough room so that they cook separately.  When you start to see the bubbles break and set, it's time to flip.

They should be a lovely golden brown on the one side now. Continue to cook another minute or two, until the second side is browned also.

Nothing left to do but stack 'em and eat 'em.

They are delicious plain, if you like that sort of thing. (On a busy morning I will just smear mine with peanut butter, fold it in half and run out the door.)

But if you really want to set these over the top, you really need to try my friend Kim's recipe for her Coconut Pancake Syrup. This will be my next post, so keep your eyes open. This one is a keeper!
Here's the recipe:
adapted from Fluffy Pancakes

Fluffy Cinnamon Scented Pancakes

2 Tbsp salted butter, melted
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 Tbsp cinnamon sugar (or 2 Tbsp white sugar and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup all purpose flour
cooking spray

Combine the milk and vinegar and set aside to "sour." Sift or whisk the dry ingredients together (cinnamon sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flour). To the soured milk, add the melted butter, and egg. Whisk to combine. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. DO NOT over mix! A few lumps are o.k. Heat a skillet up ever medium to medium high heat. When the skillet is hot, spray with some non-stick cooking spray and measure out 1/4 cup of the batter for each pancake. Cook until you see bubbles form, break and set on the top of the pancakes and the bottoms are golden brown. Flip each pancake and continue to cook until the second side is brown. Serve hot. Makes about 10 pancakes (depending on how full you make the 1/4 cup).