Friday, October 31

Moroccan Pumpkin Stew

Pumpkin stew is an all time festive autumn dish and it is perfect for evening meals. Full of great seasonal flavors, exotic spices, and made to warm the heart, this is a one dish wonder served right in the pumpkin!

Full time 2 1/2 hours
Serves 4-6

The needs-

3-4 lb sugar pumpkin, needs to be at least 8" deep and 8" across
3 medium red potatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn (you may substitute a can of diced tomatoes for a bolder flavor)
1 1/4-1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 cinnamon stick

The know-

Preheat you oven to 350' and lower the inside racks as far down as they can go.

In a deep saute pan (I actually use a chicken pot) heat butter, 1/2 tbsp olive oil, minced garlic, and onions over medium high heat.

Allowing butter to fully melt and the onions to turn soft, with slightly golden edges.

Add in all spices and allow to cook for a minute to roast the spices, they will darken a bit.

Add in potatoes and carrots along with 1/2 cup vegetable stock and allow stock to come to a boil.

Once it does, lower heat to medium low and cover pan. Let cook for 12 minutes.

While this cooks we can prepare the pumpkin.

Wash and dry the outside skin of the pumpkin really well.

Start by cutting the top off the pumpkin roughly 2" away from the stem.

Remove the insides of the pumpkin, trying to get as much of the stingy bits out without piercing the skin too much.

Once cleaned out, rub the remaining olive oil on the inside surface of the pumpkin.

Place pumpkin into a baking dish.

Right about now you should be ready to go back to the pan. Remove cover from pan and give it a good stir.

Add in frozen corn and 1/2 cup vegetable stock. Allow to cook 1-2 minutes just to thaw the corn slightly.

Stir really well and then pour mixture into the hollowed pumpkin.

Press down lightly just to tuck it all inside and add in 1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable stock you should not see the stock at all.

Cut any stringy bits off of the removed top to the pumpkin and place back on the pumpkin.

Bake in oven for 2 hours, checking after 1 1/2 to make sure it has not begun to shrivel, if it has it is done.

Remove carefully from oven and let rest 5 minutes before removing the top.

Carefully remove top, steam will come out and serve.

To serve, scoop the pumpkin meat out from inside along with stew to enjoy this amazing dish!


Wednesday, October 29

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Onion Sauce

This dish needs no introduction. Both full of flavors and perfect for family dinners, this dish has all the makings of a comfort classic.

Full time 1 1/2 hours
Serves 4

The needs-

Whole chicken separated
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

The know-

Preheat oven to 350'.

In a dutch oven melt butter with olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add in onions and lower heat to medium.

Cook 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, to evenly brown and soften the onions.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Push onions to sides and add chicken one piece at a time to brown. As chicken is fully browned move it to a holding dish for a moment.

Remove onions to holding plate when all chicken is done.

Add chicken stock and vinegar, deglaze pot with this mixture by boiling this mixture until mixture has thickened stirring occasionally.

Add onions and chicken back into the pot.

Cover and move to oven.

Bake for 60-80 minutes or until chicken reaches 180' on cooking thermometer.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pot uncovered for 10 minutes.


Monday, October 27

HOW TO: Learn to make Breakfast Muffins

Some days you just want a good muffin for breakfast, snacking, or even the early lunch. One of the easiest ways to learn how to make great muffins is to start with a cake mix. Making muffins is all about texture and flavor. The larger the muffin the easier it is to become dry, hard, crumbly, or tasteless.

I have found the best way to start a novice muffin baker is to start with a cake mix and work from there. Cake mix allows for the addition of fruits and chips while automatically keeping the base well balanced. Once you learn how muffins should rise and appear, moving on to homemade muffins is a piece of cake!

Here are a few things to remember when making muffins...
  1. Less is more. You do not need to add a variety of flavors and textures into your muffin. Simple flavors equal bold, full flavors.
  2. Toppings are not toppings. If you are choosing to add a strudel, crumb, or confection topping, make it part of the muffin not an add on. Adding too much to the top can overwork the flavors of the muffin. Plan your muffin to work with the topping not against it.
  3. Bigger is not always better. Just because a muffin is extremely large in size does not mean it is better tasting. Most muffins are perfect when the muffin cup is filled 2/3 of the way full before baking. Filling larger can create a dry or over baked flavor.
  4. Too much is not enough. Baking your muffins to the right temperature is key. Half baked muffins can not be re-baked to finish them. Even worse over baking muffins can turn them hard and the will lack in flavor.
  5. Cooling is key. Most recipes need to be cooled properly to allow muffins to set the the right texture. Allow muffins to cool for a short time in pan and then on a cooling rack. Do not cool muffins in closed containers or bags, it creates excess moisture and muffins become soggy or will go bad faster. Do not cool in refrigerator, muffins will become hard and will not regain a fully soft texture when at room texture.
Now that we have talked about the keys to making a great muffin lets get started on a batch. You are going to need a few things to get started:

The needs for base-

3 eggs
1 box cake mix, any variety as long as it is 17-19 oz
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder

For Mix-ins (choose 1 or 2 maximum)-

1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup berries (blueberry, raspberry, ect)
1 cup chopped nuts
2 tsp poppy seeds

The know-

Preheat you oven to 325' and line a 6 cup muffin tin with paper liners or lightly spray them with cooking spray. I highly recommend the liners, better for the portability of muffins later.

Mix all base ingredients in a large bowl until well blended.

Fold in your mix-ins.

Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling 2/3 of the way.

Bake in oven for 25 minutes and then rotate tray 180'.

Bake for an additional 10-20 minutes, checking to see if they are done at the 10 minute mark.

To do so, insert a toothpick into the center of the largest and smallest muffin. If it comes out clean of both. If it does not bake in for an additional 5 minutes and retest.

Once baked, allow pan to sit for 2-3 minutes.

Flip muffins out carefully and let rest until fully cooled on a wire rack or cutting board.

Muffins will be good for 5-7 days is kept in a sealed airtight container.


Friday, October 24

HOW TO: Make English Proper Gravy

I often refer to serving proper gravy with a dish. Proper gravy is actually just a slang or common name for a pan gravy. But it isn't just any pan gravy, it is a rich, sticky, hearty onion gravy which can be found alongside almost all classic English or Irish dishes. From Bangers and Mashed to Yorkshire Pudding, not meal is complete without a jug of gravy.

Full time 25-30 minutes
Makes 3 1/2 cups gravy

The needs-

2 red onion, sliced thin
3 1/4 cup beef stock (you can use chicken, but it will change the flavor drastically)
2 tbsp butter
1 1/3 tbsp corn starch
1 1/3 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

The know-

In a large sauce pot melt butter with oil over medium high heat.

Once melted add in onions, vinegar, sugar, and pepper. Stirring well to fully coat the onions.

Lower heat to medium and let onions cook down for 10-15 minutes. The goal is to soften and partially caramelize them, but not really brown the edges.

Add in stock and allow it to come to a low boil, stirring often to release the onion juices.

Once it has reached a low boil, lower heat to a simmer.

In a small bowl combine water and corn starch, mixing to fully dissolve starch.

Whisk starch mixture into pot gently to avoid clumping.

Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour into serving jug and you are ready.


Monday, October 20

MAKE IT: Lipton Onion Soup Mix

Onion soup mix is used to make so much more than onion soup. From dips to dough, the mix can be found in several of my favorite recipes. I do not buy the packets I simple make my own. Doing this allows me to edit the onion content and even the base for my cooking needs.

Full time 5-8 minutes
Makes 1 packet soup mix

The needs-

1/4 cup dried minced onion
2 tbsp beef bullion powder (or chicken)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp celery seed

The know-

In a small bowl combine all ingredients and mix well.

Place in air tight seal-able container or bag.

Store up to 1 month. Cheers!

Saturday, October 18

The Easiest Chocolate Cake (you will ever make)

In need of a dessert for tonight? Have an hour, including cooling time? Then I have a cake for you. Simple, moist, rich in flavor, soft in texture-not to mention you just need to mix it, bake it, cool it, and eat it!

Full time 1 hour (includes cooling time)
Serves 8 (easily multiples)

The needs-

1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup boiling water
1/3 cup coco baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

The know-

Preheat oven to 350' and spray a 9" round or square cake pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine all ingredients except for boiling water, mixing until well combined.

Add in boiling water and mix to fully incorporate.

Pour batter (which will be slightly thinner than standard cake batter) into pan.

Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center of cake.

Allow to cool in pan 5 minutes.

Flip onto wire rack to cool in refrigerator for 15 minutes before serving.

Dust lightly with powdered sugar or frost if desired, cheers!

Thursday, October 16

Japanese Steamed Banana Buns

Steamed buns are a Japanese sweet bread. Found in a variety of flavors steamed buns are one of my favorite foods. These Japanese treats make the perfect accompaniment to lunches, boxed meals, or as a snack on the go.

Full time 30 minutes
Makes 10 buns

The needs-

1 egg
2 cup pancake mix
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp banana extract

The know-

Place a wok or shallow pan on the stove top and fill with roughly 1" of water (it will depend on your steamer basket). Get water boiling.

In a mixing bowl combine egg with sugar until light and fluffy.

Add in milk.

Add in vegetable oil and extract.

Add in pancake mix and mix to create a even texture batter.

Fill 10 cupcake liner (yes you can use paper, just make sure to use thicker ones) filling 2/3 of the way full.

Place filled liners into steamer basket and carefully to avoid steam burns, place steamer over/into pan, make sure there is still water in pan, but basket should not be submerged into it too deep of buns will get wet.

Steam 10 minutes. Make sure you do not run out of water during this time.

Carefully remove steamer from heat and let bun cool in basket for 5-8 minutes.

Carefully remove buns from steamer and serve, cheers!

Tuesday, October 14

English Toad in a Hole

Much like Bubbles & Squeak, Bangers & Mashed, Toad in a Hole is a traditional English dish with a seemingly nonsensical name. But on the contrary all of these name do actually have a reference to the dish itself. In this case Toad in a Hole refers to the dishes appearance when cooked. Consisting of two elements sausage and pudding (English style bread similar to a popover), Toad in a hole was originally created to use leftover meat or stew to create a full morning meal.

Full time 1 hour 
Makes 9

The needs-

The Toad (choose one):
18 mini cocktail sausages
9 sausage links, cut in half
4 polish sausage, sliced in 4 pieces each
9 chunks leftover stew meat or large meat piece

The Hole:
6 eggs, measure to ensure 1/2 cup and beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water, not cold
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper (or black)
1/4 tsp onion powder

For cooking-
Vegetable oil

The know-

In an easily pourable container, large measuring cups a perfect for this, combine flour, mustard, salt, pepper, and onion powder.

In a seperate container combine water and milk.

Whisk eggs into flour mixture.

Whisk water/milk into flour mixture.

Let batter rest 30 minutes.

In a large 9 cup muffin/cupcake pan pour 1 tsp vegetable oil into each well.

Evenly divide meat into each well.

Place pan in oven. Preheat oven to 400', with pan inside.

Carefully remove pan, which will be extremely hot and set on stove top.

Carefully pour batter, avoiding covering meat, evenly into each well.

Return to oven and bake 25 minutes, without opening the oven!!!

Remove from oven and let sit 1-2 minutes in pan.

Move to serving plate, for tradition add a side container of gravy, serve immediately.


Sunday, October 12

Chocolate Malt Soda Shoppe Cupcakes

Chocolate Malts a classic era gone by beverage gets a new spin in these mouth watering cupcakes. Blending blending traditional malted milk with modern day cake mix, helps these hand held family favorites really come to life!

Full time 1 1/2 hours (includes cooling time)
Make 15-18 cup cakes

The needs-

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 box chocolate cake mix (as a home baker I can tell you, it sadly taste better using mix)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup coffee
2 tsp vanilla

For topping-
2 cup milk chocolate frosting (If buying from store get whipped frosting)
Whoppers Candies (one per cupcake)

For decoration-
Straws or Stirrers in 2" pieces

The know-

Preheat oven to 350' and line 18 cupcake wells with paper liners.

In a large bowl combine all ingredients and mix until well blended.

Fill liners 2/3 of the way full and place in oven.

Bake in oven 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 5-8 minutes.

Flip cupcakes out from pan and allow to cool completely on a cutting board.

Once cool frost lovingly, top each cupcake with a Whopper, and insert a straw piece into the cupcake.

Move to serving platter and cheers!