Friday, November 22, 2013

Apple Cider Sangria

Though I'm not much of a wine drinker, I'm a huge fan of sangria. Red, white, it doesn't matter. I like it all. So it makes perfect sense that I'm in love with this Apple Cider Sangria too. It would make for a perfect beverage on Thanksgiving, or, you know, on a quiet fall Saturday when you might want a nice cocktail to sip on while taking a bubble bath. I've made it for both of those occasions and can attest that it's a perfect drink for any situation, particularly at this time of year.

The original recipe is from my food blogging idol, who I kind of want to be best friends with, Jessica at How Sweet It Is. I followed her recipe pretty closely, but cut down the number of apples and pears from three each to just two each. The first time I made it, I used three of each kind of fruit and it was way more than I needed. You can see in the photos that there's already a substantial amount of fruit, so I wrote the recipe below with the quantities I now use.

Apple Cider Sangria
Recipe from How Sweet It Is

1 bottle (750 mL) of pinot grigio (I tried a new kind, Fancy Pants, because I just loved the label so much!)
2 1/2 cups apple cider
1 cup club soda
1/2 cup brandy (use ginger brandy if you can find it; I often can't)
2 apples, chopped (I used Braeburn because they were on sale)
2 pears, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir to mix well. Refrigerate for at least an hour (longer is better) before serving.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bolognese Sauce

What's better than the smell of a big pot of sauce slowly simmering in your kitchen? Especially this sauce, which gets extra love from some bacon! It's thick, it's hearty, it's easy to make, and it tastes so darn good. I haven't bought jarred sauce in years because I always like to make my own and freeze it in small portions to have on hand for a quick dinner. I've switched up my sauce recipes over the years and I think this may be my new go-to when I want a good bolognese. On top of being delicious, it's fairly healthy, at just 3 points plus per half cup serving. Can't beat that!

Bolognese Sauce
Recipe adapted very slightly from Skinnytaste

4 oz pancetta, chopped (or center cut bacon - that's what I used because it was cheaper)
1 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, minced
1/2 cup carrots, minced
1 lb lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1/4 cup red wine
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup half & half

In a large pot (I used my Dutch oven), cook the pancetta or bacon over low heat until the fat renders/melts. You're not looking to completely cook the bacon or get it crispy; you just want a lot of the grease to cook out so that there's more red/pink parts of the bacon left than the white fatty parts. This took about 8 - 10 minutes to get to the stage I was looking for. Increase the heat to medium-low and add butter, onions, celery and carrots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high, add ground beef and season it with salt and pepper. Once meat is browned, add the wine and cook until it reduces down, about 3-4 minutes.

Add tomatoes and the bay leaf. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, stir in the half & half and parsley and cook just a few minutes longer.

Makes about 8 cups.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Yesterday morning I was lying in bed checking out Pinterest on my phone. My friend Colleen had pinned some Cinnamon Roll Pancakes and I knew I needed to make them immediately. A quick glance at the ingredient list told me I had everything I needed to make them, even cream cheese, which I rarely have in the house. It was fate.

Now, I'm pretty lazy, especially on a Sunday when I didn't need to get dressed or leave the house, so rather than making the pancakes from scratch, I made them from a mix. I was a Bisquick girl for many many years, because that's what my mom always made, but I recently discovered Whole Foods' 365 Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix, and it results in delicious, fluffy waffles every time. So that's what I used as my base.

To do the cinnamon swirl, the recipe recommended putting the mixture in a plastic bag and cutting off the corner, using it as a makeshift pastry bag. However, I decided to use a squeeze bottle because I figured it would give me more control. It was actually a good thing I went that route, because I had a good bit of mixture leftover and am now storing it in the bottle in my fridge. You might want to consider halving the recipe for the cinnamon filling unless you plan to make a ton of pancakes. I got 7 pancakes out of my batter (these are big half cup pancakes) and only used maybe half of the cinnamon mixture. This could possibly be because using the squeeze bottle resulted in thinner cinnamon ribbons than a plastic bag would have given me, but I think I'd still go the bottle route in the future. Here's how the pancakes looked before I flipped them and cooked the cinnamon roll side:

I also took a photo of what the pancakes looked like after cooking them but before adding the frosting. Just like a cinnamon roll! I should be clear that I did not eat this whole stack of pancakes - it was purely for photography purposes! I had two and they were so filling I couldn't possibly have eaten more. I put the rest into freezer bags to reheat for future breakfasts. Well, the rest minus two that I had to tearfully throw away because a glass fell out of my cabinet and shattered all over, leaving glass shards on two of my beautiful pancakes. So sad.

These would be great to make for a special breakfast on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Or just on a regular weekend when you want to indulge a little!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
Recipe from Life in the Lofthouse


For Pancakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

(OR use a pancake mix, prepared as directed on the package)

Cinnamon Filling:
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 Tbsp butter
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk or half & half (add gradually while stirring the mixture- you may need to use more or less depending on whether you want more of a spreadable frosting or a glaze to drizzle)

You'll want to prepare the cinnamon filling first to give it a few minutes to thicken up a bit. In a medium bowl, mix butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Spoon the filling into a small plastic bag or squeeze bottle and set aside.

Prepare your pancake batter by mixing the ingredients above or following the directions on your pancake mix of choice. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. You might want to use a non-stick spray if your skillet is not non-stick. I didn't need to and my pancakes released just fine. Scoop about 1/2 cup of pancake batter onto the skillet. Snip the corner of the bag containing the cinnamon filling and squeeze a spiral of the filling onto the top of the pancake. When bubbles begin to appear on the surface, flip carefully with a spatula and cook until lightly browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more.Remove pancake to a plate to keep warm and repeat with the rest of the batter.

As the pancakes are cooking, prepare the frosting. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter and cream cheese until melted. Whisk together until smooth, then whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla. Add milk, a little bit at a time, under you reach the desired consistency.

When ready to serve, spread or spoon cream cheese frosting on top of each pancake. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or glass of milk!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chicken Jalapeno Soup with Copycat Red Lobster Biscuits

This is a recipe I made a few years ago and I think it's about time I make it again soon! It's warm and comforting, and paired with the cheddar garlic biscuits, it's a perfect winter lunch or dinner. If you like your food on the spicy side, I'd suggest adding some extra jalapenos, whether fresh or pickled. I think I would have liked a little more of a kick, so I'd spice it up myself next time, or at least add in the fresh jalapeno seeds as the original recipe I worked from suggests. I didn't want it to be too spicy, so I left them out, but I think it would have been just fine. Regardless of the spice factor though, this is a great spin on a classic favorite.

I found the original recipe for this soup on We Are Not Martha. I made a few small adaptations to it based on personal preference and what I had on hand. Here's what I changed up:
  • The original recipe called for 1 lb. of dried beans. I never have my act together enough in advance to soak dried beans, so canned it is. 3 cans seemed like a good amount to use.
  • While I love a nice thick soup, I do like to have a bit more broth than this seemed to have, especially when I'm going to freeze some of it. I didn't want to open a whole second container of chicken stock, but didn't want to add flavorless water, so a Corona seemed like a nice complement to the flavors of the soup. 
  • The original recipe said to garnish with parsley, but I had scallions and cilantro on hand and thought those flavors went really well with the jalapeno and cumin. I was right. :-) 
  • We Are Not Martha called for garlic croutons with the soup, but because I cook only for myself and stretch recipes across a number of meals, croutons aren't all that conducive to reheating/staying fresh. So I skipped those, but if I ever make this soup for a crowd of people, I'd definitely give the croutons a try. However, soup just isn't a complete meal to me without bread, so in lieu of the croutons, I ate it with some biscuits that are a copycat of Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits. They're easily frozen and reheated as needed. 
Chicken Jalapeno Soup
Adapted from We Are Not Martha 

3 large chicken breasts
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced

2 large carrots, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeno peppers, diced 

1/3 c. pickled jalapenos, diced (plus some juice)
2 tsp dried cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
3 (15 oz.) cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
32 oz. low-sodium chicken stock 
12 oz. bottle of Corona
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Scallions, chopped (for garnish)
Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)


Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a large pot and cook onion, carrots, and celery until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and jalapenos (both kinds), along with the cumin, oregano, and bay leaves. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Add beans, chicken stock, Corona, jalapeno juice (I used a few spoonfuls) and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and simmer for about a hour, until vegetables are completely cooked.

While the soup is simmering, poach the chicken breasts. Put the chicken in a medium saucepan with some salt and cover with about an inch of water. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for about 2 - 3 minutes. Cover and turn off heat, allowing chicken to cook for about 20 minutes more. When the chicken is done, remove from the water and shred with a fork. Add to the soup for the last 10 minutes of simmering, along with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with scallions and cilantro.

Copycat Recipe of Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits
from chef Todd Wilbur

2.5 c. Bisquick baking mix
3/4 c. cold milk
6 Tbsp cold butter, divided
3/4 tsp garlic powder, divided
1 heaping cup grated Cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp dried parsley flakes
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine Bisquick with 4 Tbsp butter, leaving pea-sized chunks of butter in the mix. Add cheddar, milk, and 1/4 tsp garlic powder. Drop 1/4 c. portions onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 14 - 17 min.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter, stir in 1/2 tsp garlic powder, parsley flakes, and salt. Brush on top of the biscuits as soon as they come out of the oven, using up all the butter sauce.

Makes about 10 biscuits.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Singles

This is a very different kind of oatmeal than the Pumpkin Slow Cooker Oatmeal I posted a few weeks ago.  As the recipe name indicates, this oatmeal is baked, and portioned out into individual servings. It came together really quickly and easily, and made my house smell fantastic. After sampling one right out of the oven, I put the rest into a freezer bag and have been popping one or two into the microwave to enjoy for breakfast over the past few days. I think next time I might double the recipe to have even more on hand for a great on-the-go meal or snack.

Even better, if you happen to be on Weight Watchers, these will fit right into your plan! It's just 3 P+ for one of these, or 5 P+ for two. Not bad!

Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Singles
Recipe from Emily Bites

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 egg
¾ cup skim milk (I actually ran out of milk, and used 1/4 c. 1% milk and 1/2 c. water)
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup peeled chopped apples (I used a gala apple)

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly mist all 12 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray, or use cupcake wrappers.

Combine the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg white, egg, applesauce, milk and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until blended together. Fold in the apples.

Scoop the oatmeal mixture into the prepared muffin cups. Each cup will be nearly full, but because these are not muffins and don't really rise, you don't have to worry about overflow. Bake uncovered for 18-22 minutes or until oatmeal is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. I took mine out after 18 minutes, but probably could/should have left them in another minute or two to get a little more browned. Allow to partially cool in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack. You may need to loosen the edges a little with a butter knife unless you use cupcake wrappers.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Make it Like Mom: Chicken Piccata

This is my last featured recipe for Make it Like Mom Week. It's a really fast and easy dish, but so delicious too. I always buy Perdue thin-sliced chicken breasts when I make this because it's so much easier and less messy than buying regular chicken breasts and either slicing them in half horizontally or pounding them until thin enough. Just because I like cooking and have a food blog, that doesn't mean I can't take some shortcuts in the kitchen!

I'm not a big wine drinker, so in the past when I've bought a bottle of wine to cook with, I've ended up with too much left over that often goes to waste. I finally got smart and bought a 4-pack of small wine bottles. I was able to use what was needed in the recipe and than had just half a glass left to enjoy with my dinner. No waste, and I still get to use real wine instead of cooking wine, which I don't really recommend. And now I have a few small bottles all ready to go for the next time I want to cook with wine.

This chicken goes really well with rice pilaf and, if you're more of an adult than I am and remember to cook vegetables with your meals, some green beans would be a good pairing. Some day I'll grow up and eat my veggies.

Chicken Piccata

1 ½ lbs. chicken breast (either thin-sliced kind or pounded to 1/4 in. thickness)
½ c. flour
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp lemon juice
½ c. white wine
½ c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley


Coat chicken with flour, shake off excess. In large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the butter and the olive oil. Add chicken to skillet, as many pieces as will fit comfortably. Cook to brown one side, about 2 minutes, then turn and brown the other side. Transfer to plate. Repeat with any remaining pieces of chicken. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Leave pan drippings in skillet and add lemon juice, white wine, and broth. Heat to boiling and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to loosen all the browned particles. Add the remaining butter, bit by bit until all the butter is melted. Add in chopped parsley.

Return chicken to the skillet and heat, turning each piece in the sauce to coat. Serve with sauce poured over the chicken.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Make it Like Mom: Beef Stroganoff

I'm not sure there's another food less photogenic than Beef Stroganoff! I was wishing I had some parsley on hand to brighten up the plate a little. Appearances aside, this is another one of my favorite meals that my mom used to make. Like Chicken Cacciatore, it's such a warm and hearty dish, perfect for the cold weather that has finally made its way to Connecticut. I've been inviting my brother over for dinner when I've been making these throwback meals, and he went for seconds of this one. So I guess I made it right!

Beef Stroganoff


1/4 c. flour, divided
½ t. salt
1 lb. steak, cut into 1/4 inch wide strips (I usually use steak tips)
1/4 c. butter
½ c. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 c. beef broth
1 c. sour cream
2 T. dry sherry
12 oz. egg noodles (I like extra broad)

Cook the egg noodles according to the directions on the package. In the meantime, combine one heaping tablespoon of flour with salt and dredge the meat in the mixture. Heat a skillet and add half the butter. When melted, add the meat strips and cook until brown on all sides. Add the onion and garlic. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until the onions are just barely tender.

Remove the meat from the skillet and keep warm. Add the remaining butter to the pan drippings. When the butter has melted, scrape the bottom of the pan with a whisk to pull up all of the drippings, then blend in the remaining flour. Slowly pour in the beef broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.

Return the meat to the skillet. Stir in sour cream and sherry and heat briefly. Serve over egg noodles.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Make it Like Mom: Chicken Cacciatore

Anyone who knows me is well aware that I love a good theme. Themed parties, meals, mix tapes. Love it. So for this week, I thought it would be fun to have a theme for my blog: Make it Like Mom Week. I'll be posting some of my favorite recipes that my mom made when I was growing up and that are still some of my go-to meals, made the same way she made them, today.

First up is Chicken Cacciatore. Don't let the terrible photo deter you - this is a delicious dish! I think I need to quit my job so I can start doing all of my cooking and photography during the day. I can't for the life of me get a good photo in my kitchen at night!

In addition to being a really good, hearty, comforting food, it's really very healthy too. Of course, the mashed potatoes that I serve with it (because that's how my mom did it!) take the health factor down a notch, but the cacciatore itself, with lean chicken breast and lots of veggies, is quite good for you.

Chicken Cacciatore


1 – 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups thinly sliced onion rings
½ cup chopped green pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (16 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained (I often use 2 cans if my chicken weight is closer to 2 lbs than 1 lb.)
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon oregano


Rinse chicken and pat dry. Heat oil in large skillet or Dutch oven. Coat chicken pieces with flour. Cook chicken over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes or until light brown. Remove chicken; set aside.
Add onion rings, green pepper and garlic to skillet; cook and stir over medium heat until onions and peppers are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Add chicken to sauce. Cover tightly; simmer 30 to 40 minutes.

As I said, I serve this over mashed potatoes, because that's how my mom did it. I love how the sauce seeps into the potatoes and adds such flavor. However, my best friend's mom used this same chicken cacciatore recipe and she served it over pasta, so that's an option too.