Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pumpkin Spiced Creamer - Perfected!

I am the child of a scientist and never realized the impact that it has on my every day activities. Cooking is my favorite scientific outlet, because there is always a way to change it up and sometimes it is wonderful, and sometimes it is just a learning experience.  In the words of my sweet husband, there is no failure, only feedback.
Last year, in the true fall spirit of Pumpkin Spice-A-Palooza, I posted the recipe for Pumpkin Spiced Creamer.  It is one of the most wonderful uses for the Pumpkin Spice and saved a bunch of money on pumpkin spiced lattes!
I hope that you don't find this crazy, but PUMPKIN SPICE IS NOT REALLY ABOUT THE PUMPKIN.  There, I said it, and it is true.  Pumpkin spice is the essence of all of the beautiful autumnal pumpkin baked goods that celebrate the richness of fall.
Now, that I've explained why, I will simply say this - I made this recipe and left the pumpkin out completely.
How was it?
SPLENDID! Didn't miss the pumpkin at all.
So - I'm reposting the recipe, and challenge you to be your own kind of kitchen scientist.  Use this recipe as a guideline and experiment to your heart's content!

Click the link below for the recipe

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Going Bananas for Banana Chocolate Chip Blondies

It has been a tough day for football in the south.
Baking can be very zen for me. 
So I opted to creatively deal with the brown bananas in the kitchen rather than being exasperated at a television.  
I know that banana bread is what you are "supposed" to make, but it was time for a  change. 
These are rich and chocolatey and by the time they were done, games were played and lost and we were happily enjoying these decadent treats and almost forgot about football for a while...almost.

          Banana Chocolate Chip Blondies
1 cup Butter (2 sticks) Melted
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
2 Eggs
1/4 tsp Salt
2 cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 cup Banana, mashed (4 small bananas)
1/2 bag of mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350
Melt the butter (you can brown it if you are fancy). I used a medium ceramic mixing bowl and just melted it in the microwave. 
In a mixing bowl, combine the melted butter and sugar. Stirring until well incorporated. 
Add the eggs and vanilla to the sugar mixture, stir until combined. 

Add in the flour, salt, & baking powder incrementally and continue to stir.
Lastly, add in the mashed banana and chocolate chips and stir until all ingredients are combined.  
Spray a 13 x 9 pan with non stick spray and pour in the batter, spreading evenly throughout the pan. 

Bake 35-38 minutes until center is set.  

Notes: This recipe could easily be halved and prepared in an 8 x 8 pan. 
These are thick and rich and unbelievably moist.  If you want to lighten them up a bit, use a 1:1 ratio of white sugar to brown sugar.  
The amount of baking powder is intentionally small and can actually be omitted for a denser brownie.  
I used half a bag of mini semi sweet chocolate chips which was delicious and the minis seem to disperse evenly in the batter. Often when I don't have chips in the house I substitute a chopped chocolate bar.  

I hope that you enjoy this delicious alternative to banana bread, and your family and friends are amazed at your baking skills! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Celebrating Every Day - Chicken Piccata in Lemon Butter Caper Sauce

It's the anniversary of the day my husband and I met, and I never expected to find the most perfect love that I never knew existed. Turns out, it is also the anniversary of 9/11/01. This day represents the best and the worst of times, but oddly it is also the reminder that you never know what tomorrow may hold. Live well and celebrate each precious moment.
So in celebration of this day, we are making a beautiful chicken piccata with lemon-butter-caper sauce. Even if it weren't a special day, this recipe is one worth celebrating. 
Now, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I have read so much about how hard it is to feed a family on a budget or to eat well and not spend a fortune. So, I've made a concerted attempt to keep track of just how "expensive" my recipes are and bring you a way to have amazing dinners without breaking the bank. 
Ready for the gourmet price tag? $2.50 per serving, for 4 servings.  That is the chicken, the potatoes, and the broccoli. 
Don't get me wrong, I didn't go to the most expensive grocer in town, but even at the highest prices, it doesn't add much more. Shopping is a completely new topic that I will cover on another post, because this is all about the chicken.  

Chicken Piccata with Lemon Butter Caper Sauce

2 T Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Flour
1 T corn Starch
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 T butter (divided)
1 large plastic bag (I used a zipper seal freezer bag)

In a flat dish, mix together the flour and cornstarch (Cornstarch helps to lighten up the flour coating). Season with salt and pepper. 

Put one chicken breast in the plastic bag and place on a solid surface. Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a pan (I use a small iron skillet), pound the chicken until it is uniformly about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with remaining chicken breast. (This is awesome if you have some stress you need to work out. If you are not stress free by the time you have finished preparing the chicken, there's bound to be a bit of leftover wine!)

Put the olive oil in a skillet and heat to medium. 

Dredge the chicken through the flour mixture so that it is completely but lightly covered.  (If this were truly "fried" chicken there would be a beaten egg bath alternated with the flour mixture). 

Cook the chicken in the pan with the hot oil about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown and juices run clear.  
(If you want to keep the chicken warm while you make the sauce, let it sit in a warm oven)

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and return to the stove, reducing the heat to medium low.  

Add 1 T of butter, the lemon juice, and white wine to the pan.  If you are using fresh lemon juice, put the lemon peel in the pan for extra lemon flavor.  Season with salt and pepper (I also like to add a little garlic here). 

Stir until the lemon butter mixture is combined and allow it to "reduce" or "cook down." The sauce will thicken and take on a pale yellow color. 

Here's the coolest trick ever, turn the heat off or to the lowest it will go and add the last 2 T of butter (sliced into pats) and just swirl it around until combined.  This incorporates the butter into the sauce and gives it a creamy, glossy, gorgeous texture. 

Plate the chicken, drizzle the sauce over it, and sprinkle with capers. 

Mashed potatoes have never had a better pairing than this lemony chicken. It could also be paired with steamed pasta tossed with a bit of butter, olive oil, and garlic.  We also added fresh broccoli that we simply steamed in the microwave. 

The only regret at the end of dinner was that we had not doubled the recipe for sauce, because it was delicious on the broccoli and mashed potatoes. Two large chicken breasts made enough for 4 servings, which means that leftover lunch tomorrow is something to celebrate as well!