Sunday, February 13, 2011

St. Valentine's Day Baking: Cinnamon Love Knots

Yep, I cheated. I tried one already. WOW, are they good. Especially considering the points value. I know that my husband and son are going to gobble these up tomorrow morning!

What's Needed:
2 packages (1/4 oz. EACH) active dry yeast
1/2 C. warm water (110-115 degrees)
1/2 C. warm milk (110-115 degrees)
1/2 C. butter, softened
1/2 C. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt

2 C. sugar
2 T. ground cinnamon
3/4 C. butter, melted

1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, butter, sugar, eggs, and salt. Stir in enough flour to form a stiff dough.

2. Turn onto a floured surface; kneed until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Punch dough down; divide into three portions. Cover two with plastic wrap.

4. Shape one portion into 12 balls. Roll each ball into an 8-in. rope.

5. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Dip rope into melted butter, then coat with cinnamon-sugar.

6. Tie into a knot. Tuck and pinch ends under and place on ungreased baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.

7. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

8. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks. Let cool completely.

Husband's Grade: A
PointsPlus Value: 3 per knot

Inspired by: The Taste of Home Baking Book

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

RR Chili Converted for Crockpot

Since I converted one soup recipe of Rachael Ray's for the crockpot, I figured I would try more. Some (like the Papa al Pomodoro I'm trying next week) just won't work in the crockpot. This recipe, Italian Chicken Chili with Pancetta Crouton Toppers worked splendidly. All I had to do when I got home was make the croutons, and that took no time at all.

What's Needed:
3 T. extra-virgin oilive oil
1 to 1.5 lb. ground chicken, cooked and drained
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 medium onions, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and grated (I shaved mine using my peeler)
1 dried bay leaf
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1 T. thyme
2 tsp. paprika
1 T. chili powder (add another T. if you like it spicey)
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
4 C. chicken stock
1/3 pound pancetta, chopped
3 T. butter
1 medium-size loaf crusty bread, cut into 1-inch squares
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 C. Parmesan cheese
2 T. rosemary

1. Add to the crockpot the chopped onions, carrots, and bay leaf.

2. Next, add the cooked ground chicken and all seasonings (thyme, paprika, chili powder, allspice, salt, and pepper)

3. Finally, add the balsamic vinegar and the chicken stock.

4. Set the crockpot for 8-8.5 hours.

5. When you get home, set the oven for 350.

6. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and brown it about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined plate.

7. Add the butter to the cooking oil, turn off the heat, and let the butter melt into the olive oil.

8. Place the bread and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Pour the butter mixture evenly over bread. Sprinkle the pancetta, cheese, rosemary, and pepper over the bread cubes and toss to coat/combine.

9. Spread the croutons out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until evenly golden, tossing it 1-2x while cooking (about 15-18 minutes).

Serve the chili with the pancetta croutons on top.
Serves 6-8 people.

Husband's grade: A+
PointsPlus: 8

Taken from and inspired by: Rachael Ray Just in Time!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Baking Extravaganza 2: Lemon Blueberry Bread

Blueberry Bread--because I love blueberries and it sounded good. That sounded like a good enough reason to get baking for me. Plus, it kept the kitchen nice and warm.

What's Needed:
1/3 C. butter, softened
1 C. sugar
2 eggs
3 T. lemon juice
1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C. milk
1 C. fresh or frozen blueberries
NOTE: If using frozen blueberries, do NOT thaw before adding to batter.

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Beat in eggs and lemon juice.

3. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.

4. Fold in the blueberries.

5. Pour into a greased 8-in. x 4-in. x 2-in. loaf pan.

6. Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Cool completely.

Optional Glaze: (Drizzle over warm bread)
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 C. sugar

My Rating: A
PointsPlus: 3 per slice (You should be able to get about 20 slices out of this loaf)

Inspired by: Taste of Home Baking Book

Baking Extravaganza: Apple Crisp

A great dessert for a cold, snowy day in Illinois.

Apple Crisp with a Twist(It's with a twist because I didn't have any oats in the house. My solution--3 packets of instant, microwaveable oatmeal. It worked out well enough for me) :)

What's Needed:
4 medium sliced, peeled apples (tart apples work best)
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
1/2 C. all-purpose flour
3 packets of UNFLAVORED instant oatmeal
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/3 C. cold butter
(Vanilla ice cream, optional--but it's SUCH a good option!)

1. Place the apples in a greased 8-in. square baking pan.

2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnmon, and allspice. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over the apples.

3. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.

Serves 6 people

Husband's Grade: A
PointsPlus: 8

Inspired by: Taste of Home Baking Book

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tomato Soup--ALA Rachel Ray

The thing I love about Rachael Ray's recipes, is that they're so easy to adapt.

If you don't have something, switch it out for something else. Same thing goes if you want something less/more spicey. I tried her '15-Minute Tomato and Bean Stoup' tonight, since I have a house full of sickies (myself included). This is a GREAT soup to have when you have a cold. I substituted peas for the celery and left out the zucchini, since I didn't have any. Serve this with fresh bread, and you have yourself a meal!

What's Needed:
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, choppped
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (use more if you like it spicey)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 C. chicken broth
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 5.5-oz. can tomato juice
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 C. frozen cut green beans
1 C. frozen peas
1 T. basil
1/2 T. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese to pass at table

1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine tomato juice and tomato paste. Stir until well-combined.

2. Add olive oil to big soup pot and place over medium-high heat.

3. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook 1 minute.

4. Add onions and carrots. Cook for 10-15 minutes (or until onions are translucent and carrots are soft).

5. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato paste mix, green beans, and peas.

6. Bring soup to a bubble. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Turn off heat. Add basil and oregano to soup.

Serve with fresh bread. Serves 4.

Husband's Grade: A-
PointsPlus: 5

Taken from and inspired by: Rachael Ray--365: No Repeats

Friday, February 4, 2011

7 point breakfast--Homemade Creation of a McDonald's Classic

I recently discovered that I like McDonald's Egg McMuffins. I decided it would be easier to make them at home. After experimenting, I was able to slash a whole PointsPlus point off of the original. Hope you enjoy!

What's Needed:
1 egg
1 slice Canadian bacon (pre-cooked)
dash of salt and pepper
shredded cheddar cheese (just enough to sprinkle over the top)
1 whole wheat English Muffin

1. Toast English Muffin--I usually do mine for 4-5 minutes so it's nice and crispy.

2. Put egg, salt, and pepper into a bowl. Whisk together.

3. Add egg to skillet pre-heated. Leave it alone until it looks like this. Takes about 2 minutes.

4. Flip egg. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Take off of the skillet.

5. Add Canadian bacon to skillet. Brown on both sides (about 1-2 minutes--just to heat/brown it).

6. Cut egg in half. Then fold in half.

7. To assemble:
*Place 1/2 the egg on the bottom of the muffin. Sprinkle a bit of cheese.
*Add Canadian bacon then the other half of the egg. Sprinkle a bit of cheese
*Top with other half of the muffin. Enjoy!

MY Grade: A+ (This, plus some coffee, keeps me full until lunch, and I normally eat early in the morning.)

PointsPlus: 7

Inspired by: McDonald's Original Egg McMuffin (8 PointsPlus)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shrimp Fried Rice

This was great! My husband, who is not a fan of Chinese, really liked this dish. I'm making it with less soy next time, but it went over great!

What's Needed:
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil or vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 C. cooked brown rice
1 C. frozen carrots, chopped small
1 C. frozen peas, thawed
1 C. onion, chopped small
12 oz. bag of frozen, pre-cooked, pre-deveined shrimp--thawed
2 T. soy sauce

1. In a small bowl, combine eggs and 1 tsp. soy sauce.

2. Pour sesame oil into large skillet. Preheat over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and garlic; stir gently to scramble. When set, remove egg mixture from skillet and cut up any large pieces.

3. Pour cooking oil into the skillet. Return to medium-high heat. STir-fry onion in hot oil for 1 minute, or until onions are crisp-tender.

4. Add cooked rice, carrot, peas, and shrimp. Sprinkle with 2 T. soy sauce. Cook and stir for 4-6 minutes or until heated through. Add cooked egg mixture. Cook and stir for about 1 minute more or until heated through.

Makes 4 servings (about 1 1/4 C.)

Husband's Grade: B+
PointsPlus: 7

Inspired by: Better Homes and Gardens NEW Cook Book