Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cranberry Orange Muffins

These muffins are my husband's favorite muffin. The funny thing is, he doesn't even like cranberries. I usually make cranberry relish at Thanksgiving and he does not touch it. I had half a bag of leftover cranberries after Thanksgiving so I decided to use up the cranberries by adding them to a muffin. When I started putting the ingredients together, I decided to also add orange, partly because the orange would tone down the tartness of the cranberries. I didn't think my husband would like them, so imagine my surprise when he devoured several. I like to make these on Sunday mornings. They are not a dense muffin, instead they are tender and light, almost cakelike.
The muffins freeze well. I usually freeze half of the batch, then all they need is a zap in the microwave to defrost and they are almost as tender and fresh as the day they were baked.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vanilla flavored yogurt (or regular yogurt)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 whole orange
cinnamon/sugar mixture (about 3 T)

Preheat oven to 400. Prepare a muffin pan with paper lined muffin cups. Lightly spray the top of the muffin pan with non-stick spray. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.
Grate the rind of the orange over the flour mixture and stir well to combine. Juice one-half of the orange and set aside.

In the bottom of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. Add in the sour cream, yogurt and the fresh orange juice. Gradually mix in the flour mixture. Stir in the cranberries.

Dollop the dough into the prepared muffin pan. I use an ice cream scoop to equally portion out the dough, filling the muffin liners about 3/4 full. Sprinkle each muffin with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Bake at 400 for approximately 25 minutes (test for doneness with a toothpick). Cool about 10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Super Fudgy Brownies

I had tried many different brownie recipes over the years when I stumbled upon a Martha Stewart recipe in 2003 which I modified into an incredibly rich, fudgy brownie. These brownies are like crack and a surefire cure for PMS. I can't tell you how many times I've made them. I don't even bother with other recipes. Be sure to use a good quality chocolate and have lots of milk on hand cause you're gonna need it.

Super Fudgy Brownies

4 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
1 stick unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1.5 cups sugar
2 t. vanilla
1 t. instant espresso powder (optional)
1/2 t. salt
1 C. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375. Place aluminum foil inside of an 8" square pan and mist liberally with non-stick cooking spray.

Cut butter into several chunks and put in a small saucepan. Break the chocolate into chunks and add to the butter. Melt the chocolate over low head, set aside when melted.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and espresso powder (if using) until well combined. Stir in the chocolate mixture until fully incorporated. Gently stir in the flour.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. The middle of the brownies will still look soft and a bit jiggly when you remove it from the oven. Wait at least 30 - 6o minutes to cut the brownies. It is best to wait as long as possible to cut the brownies since the brownies are very fudgy and the warm brownies will be quite soft.

Makes 12 nice sized servings. Not sure how long they will keep, a few days max. They last about 24 hours in my house.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) is a classic Spanish dish popular in Latin American countries. I started making arroz con pollo about 10 years ago while living in the Cincinnati area. It is great when it is cold out. I made arroz con pollo again last week and I forgot how good and easy it is to make. The perfect dish for a winter's night. Plus my hubby loves this recipe, no leftovers go to waste.

This recipe makes a generous 6 servings.

Arroz con Pollo

1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green, yellow or red pepper, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. ground cumin
1 t salt
1 cup long grain rice (I used brown rice)
2 C. chicken stock
1 C. salsa
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
1 C. frozen peas
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 C. shredded cheddar
2 T cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Mist an oval casserole dish with cooking spray or oil.

Place the vegetable oil in a large sauce pan and saute the the onion and green pepper for about 5 minutes over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and rice. Stir for about 1 minute.

Add the salt, cumin, oregano, salsa and chicken stock. Blend the ingredients well and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Cover and bake for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, stir in the chicken, black beans and peas. Top the casserole with cheddar, sprinkle with cilantro. Cover the casserole and place it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Remove and serve immediately.

This is good with a spoonful of sour cream and an additional sprinkle of cilantro per serving.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Texas Sheet Cake

Here is an easy cake to make for a crowd. I make this cake to take to work for birthdays. I started baking this when I was around 12 years old. Ingredients, preparation and cooking times are not difficult or time consuming.

Texas Sheet Cake


2 C. Flour
2 C. Sugar
1/4 t. Salt
2 Sticks Unsalted Butter
1 C. Water
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 C. Buttermilk
3 T. Cocoa Powder
1 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray (I use an 11 x 16 size pan).

Sift flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add the water and cocoa and bring just to a boil. Pour the chocolate mixture over the flour mixture. In another bowl, mix eggs, baking soda, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat into the flour/chocolate mixture (by hand, no mixer required) until well incorporated.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before frosting.


1 stick butter
3 T cocoa powder
6 T milk
1 pound box of confectioner's sugar
1 t vanilla
1.5 C walnuts, chopped

In a medium saucepan, melt butter with the cocoa powder and milk over low heat (do not boil). When the butter has completely melted and the ingredients are combined, remove from heat. Immediately add the sugar, vanilla and nuts. Mix well and pour over the cake. Smooth out carefully with a knife. Let the frosting harden up (about 30 minutes) before serving. Cake can be stored, covered until ready to serve.

Since there are no preservatives, this cake is best if consumed within 24 hours of making. You can also cover it and store in the refrigerator where it should last several days. Yields approximately 24 servings.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tomato, Pepper & Mushroom Lasagna

I like to make big dinners on the weekends when I have a little extra time to spend in the kitchen. I bastardized a Weight Watchers recipe this past Sunday and ended up with a really good and healthy lasagna. The original recipe only called for roasted pepper strips tucked into layers of cheese and sauce. I added a layer of sauteed mushrooms and another layer of fresh wilted spinach tossed with lots of garlic. You need to have at least a couple of hours available to make this. You have to dirty up a few pans but when you smell it cooking, its totally worth it.
Jennifer's Bastardized Veggie Lasagna

24 oz store bought marina sauce
1 cup canned, diced fire roasted tomatoes, well drained
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1 1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup egg substitute (Egg Beaters or use real eggs to measure 1/4 cup)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. dried oregano
6 lasagna noodles (I used whole wheat noodles)
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, cut into narrow strips
8 0z container mushrooms, sliced
6 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 t. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and eggs. Stir in salt, pepper and oregano. Set aside.

In a medium pot, combine the marinara sauce and fire roasted tomatoes. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and add the sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until mushrooms begin to soften. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. To the pan add the fresh spinach and garlic, cover with a lid and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes or until the spinach wilts. Drain the spinach well and set aside.
Once the noodles have cooked, spray an 11 x 7 inch glass pan with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle about one cup of marinara sauce into the bottom of the pan. Add two lasagna noodles. Top the noodles with half of the cheese mixture. Next layer on all of the red pepper strips and the cooked mushrooms (avoid adding the mushroom cooking liquid, if possible). Ladle on another cup of sauce and top with two more lasagna noodles. Top with all of the remaining cheese mixture. Sprinkle spinach over the cheese and top with the final layer of noodles. Ladle on remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese over the top and a little more Parmesan cheese. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 20 more minutes. Remove lasagna from oven and let rest at least 15 minutes before cutting. Makes 8 servings.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grilled Shrimp with Black Bean Salad

I made this for dinner tonight after Mike & I walked almost 5 miles around Lady Bird Lake. This is a super easy and quick meal to put together. I marinate the shrimp while I am chopping the salad ingredients, throw the shrimp on the grill and by the time you have half a glass of wine, the shrimp is ready. I buy the large frozen peeled, deveined shrimp from Costco to save time.

This recipe makes a generous amount of black bean salad for two.


1 lb large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 t olive oil
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t lemon pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt (to taste)

Place the shrimp in a medium sized bowl. Add all other ingredients, stir well to coat the shrimp and set aside for 15 minutes. When ready to grill, place on skewers and grill until done (about 3 -5 minutes per side).

Black Bean Salad

15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup red or yellow pepper, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
small cucumber, peeled and cut into large dice
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 T cilantro, chopped fine
1 T olive oil
3/4 t cumin
juice of one lime
salt & pepper to taste

Into a medium bowl, whisk olive, cumin, lime juice and salt and pepper. Add other ingredients, stir gently to combine. Serve immediately .

**Note - I sometimes add diced mango or a handful of corn to the recipe. It would also be nice with minced jalapeno mixed into it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Skyline Chili Lentils

A while back, I bookmarked this recipe to try. I finally got around to it when the Bengals season started. You may think chopping and preparing a long list of ingredients is insane, but when you live 1200 miles away from the nearest Skyline chili parlor, well lets just say desperate times call for desperate measures. I'm calling this recipe Skyline Chili Lentils because as any good Cincinnatian knows, if you have "Cincinnati style" chili - it is Skyline. Preferrably followed by a trip to Graeters... but I digress.

This is wonderful served over whole wheat spaghetti, topped with cheese and onions ("three way" style as they say in the 'nati). My husband says it is the best Cincinnati style recipe I've tried. The bonus is the lentils are high in fiber, low in fat, inexpensive and good for you.

Cincinnati Chili Lentils

1 C. dry lentils (any variety, I used French green lentils)
2.5 C. chicken broth
1 can of mild Rotel tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 t. cocoa
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
1 t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. cayenne (or to taste)
1 t. sugar
1 t. vinegar
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Add lentils and chicken broth to medium sauce pan, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Add all other ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes. Serve over whole wheat pasta, with chopped onions and sharp cheddar cheese.

Makes 6 servings.