Monday, January 31, 2011

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

The best blueberry muffins. 

However, take note:  if an abundance of unnecessary crumbs on your table and floor make you want to stab your eyes out with pencils, please skip the streusel topping. 

I left several muffins streusel-less and served those to my children. 

Crumbs and I do not get along.

(This recipe is also fantastic without the berries.)

"Berry Best" Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup flour
Zest from 1/2 a lemon, grated (about 2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
Zest from 1/2 a lemon, grated (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
1 cup berries (I used thawed frozen blueberries.  Raspberries, blackberries or a mixture of all three work well, too.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For Streusel Topping:  mix brown sugar, flour and lemon zest together in a bowl.  Stir in nuts and butter.  Mix together until butter is evenly distributed and mixture is crumbly.  Set aside.

For Muffins:  combine flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.  Make an indention in the center.  Add milk, butter and egg to the indention and mix until smooth.  Fold in the berries.

Spoon into 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling each only 2/3 full.  Top with 1 tablespoon of struesel topping.  Do not overfill the muffin cups or topping will run over into pan.  Bake on middle rack in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Place on a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from tin and serve warm. 

From:  Simply Classic (Junior League of Seattle)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chunky Chocolate Cookies


Don't tell.

These cookies are make with CAKE MIX!

They are so good.

Just go ahead and try not to eat the whole batch before you share them with your family.

(You can use any chocolate cake mix to make this.  I happened to use a box of Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix.)

Chunky Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies
Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies

1 package Dark Chocolate cake mix
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place cake mix, eggs, melted butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large bowl.  Stir with spoon until thoroughly blended.  Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.  Drop by level measuring tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets (or use parchment paper). 

Bake for 12 minutes for chewy cookies or 14 minutes for crisp cookies.

Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then move to cooling rack.  Store in airtight container.

Recipe from Duncan Hines

Roasted Squash and Swiss Chard Salad

Swiss chard is a gorgeous "winter" green.

Loaded with folates, flavenoids, and betalains, swiss chard is second only to spinach in an analysis of nutrient-richness of the world's healthiest veggies.

Plus it tastes good.

Especially in this recipe.

Almost any type of squash will do. 

Cut the leaf away from the colored stem.

And the roughly chop the chard.

Slice the squash in half,

then cut into one-inch thick pieces.

Place squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper,
and roast at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Mix together orange zest and chopped parsley.

Mix with the roasted squash.
Toss squash with the chopped greens.

I also tossed with some of this dressing. 
It's optional.

Roasted Squash and Swiss Chard Salad
Serves 4-6

1 bunch Swiss Chard, rinsed, cut away from stem, and roughly chopped
1 pound squash (Delicata, butternut, even zucchini will do), seeded, sliced, and roasted
2-3 teaspoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Zest of half an orange
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
1 tablespoon shaved radish (optional)
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped (optional)
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400. 

If the squash you are using has a thick skin (like butternut), peel the skin, hollow out the seeds, and chop into one-inch slices. 

If you are using a squash such as zucchini, simply slice it in half lengthwise, and then chop it into one-inch thick slices.

Place the squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake for 25 minutes, until very tender.

Remove squash from oven and toss with the chopped parsley and orange zest. 

In a mixing bowl, toss the parsley-coated squash with the raw chopped chard, cheese, radish (if using), pecans, and lemon juice.

(At this point you can drizzle on a little additional dressing if you'd like...)

And serve. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sour Cream Chicken

A quick and easy "comfort food" recipe.

It has five ingredients.  How's that for simplicity?

 A package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs...

 A can of cream of celery soup mixed with sour cream,
 spread on top of the chicken.

Topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese,
and baked for 45 minutes.

Sour Cream Chicken
serves 4

1-2 pounds of chicken (either breasts or boneless, skinless thighs)
1-10.5 ounce can cream of celery soup
8 ounces sour cream
1/4 breadcrumbs
1/4 Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat a baking dish with non-stick spray.  Arrange chicken in dish. 

In a medium bowl, mix together soup (straight from the can; do not add milk or water) and sour cream.  Spread over chicken.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and then cheese.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until hot and bubbly and the chicken is cooked through.

Rocket Excitement!

I married a man who has hobbies.

Lots of hobbies.

Chris enjoys backpacking, landscaping, building and playing with radio-controlled cars, building and flying model airplanes, riding BMX bikes, racing slot cars...  I could go on!

But the wonderful thing about each of these hobbies is that kids love this stuff, too.

So naturally, when kids are at our house, which they always are, they flock to my husband.

Like the pied-piper.

(It blesses my heart!)

Several years ago, I gave Chris a model rocket for his birthday.

This isn't a pip-squeak little rocket.

If we were to use the largest "engines" that can fit the rocket, we'd have to get FAA clearance prior to launching it.


Chris built a "launch pad" and a "launching center" complete with buttons and beeps and blinking lights. The two are connected by about 20 feet of wire.

Several Saturdays ago, we had an impromptu rocket launching party.  We met at a local soccer field and let the kids take turn launching the rockets.

When we first arrived, we were greeted by a very noble guest:

A bald eagle.

The pied-piper with the kids.

Racing to the launching center.

First up:  the little one.
These rockets deploy parachutes as they
descend so they don't become "lawn darts".

Our friend, Corey (shielding his face from the sun in the picture below),
was the first launcher.

After a failed launch, Chris had to make a few small adjustments.

The kids decided to just read the directions...
You know, when all else fails...

Joseph passes the time with the oldest toy of all:  rocks.

We have lift-off!

Corey makes a successful recovery.

The Decaffinator! 
(Yes, it's made of styrofoam cups.)

Our next launcher:  Jack!

Jack good-naturedly receiving launching instructions from the girls.
We girls know it all, you know.


Blast Off!

Great launch, Jack!

Next up:  Joshua!

Joshua's expression is my favorite.
This is exactly how I look when I open a can of biscuits.
He had a successful launch!

My boy Timothy was up next. 
This "pose" is the result of having a mother
who wants to take your picture all the time.

The Big Dawg rocket.
The one that needs FAA clearance if you use the big engines.


We'll try again next time!

Since there are approximately only two male species who read this blog, I just have to post this next picture.

This is my precious friend, Anjie.  One of the male readers happens to be her husband, Kevin.

Anjie had been holding her wiggly one-year-old boy, Judah, for approximately an hour and a half.

Anjie has three other boys.

That's a total of four kids.

Please raise your hand if you wished your rear view looked this good after having four kids.

(Love you, Anjie!!!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Curried Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Sometimes melding the adjectives "healthy" and "delicious" can create an oxymoron.

There's no doubt this recipe is healthy, but it's also very delicious.

First, lightly "toast" the quinoa in a dry, heated skillet.

Just until the grain becomes fragrant.

You'll need a heaping half-cup of diced onions
(this is half an onion).

Saute the onion in a little butter
(switch to olive oil to make it vegan).

Add two cups of low-sodium chicken broth (or stock),

a teaspoon of curry powder,

and a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin.

Bring it to a boil.

Add the toasted quinoa.
Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the broth is
absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy.

While the quinoa is cooking,
 prepare the peppers.

 Lop off the "lid" of a pepper,

and remove the seeds and the white "ribs".

If you want it to sit level,
carefully nip off a little of the bottom.

We're going to bake the peppers a little to soften them.

Spray the insides with olive oil.

And sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes.

Add 2/3 cup of cooked lentils to the quinoa.

(Also mix in about a tablespoon of minced cilantro.)

Stuff the softened peppers, and serve hot.

Healthy and delicious!

Curried Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
(serves 4)

1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (substitute olive oil to make it vegan)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about half of a small onion)
2 cups hot low-sodium chicken stock (or broth)
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
2/3 cup hot cooked lentils
salt to taste
pepper to taste

4 bell peppers

To prepare the Curried Quinoa filling:
Rinse the quinoa under running water. Shake to expel water. Place the quinoa in a dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Toast, shaking the pan back and forth constantly, until the quinoa gives off a fragrant aroma. Do not allow it to burn. Turn out into a small bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter in a heavy 3-quart pot over medium heat. Saute the onion until wilted and transparent, about 10 minutes. Pour in the hot chicken stock, curry powder, cumin, and quinoa. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pan, and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro and lentils.

Slice off top of peppers.  Scoop out seeds and remove white "ribs" with sharp knife.  Spray with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until soft.  Remove from oven and "stuff" with quinoa filling.  Serve hot.

Quinoa Filling recipe from Texas on the Plate