Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lightened Kung Pao Chicken

I got this recipe from my coworker.  She gave it to me photocopied out of a Weight Watchers cookbook, I'm just not sure which.

I really enjoy my Chinese food spicy so I tried to step up the spice by adding more red pepper flakes and the habanero pepper.  The original recipe also called for water chesnuts but I can't stand water chestnuts so I replaced them with the string beans.

The assembly, like with most slow cooker recipes, was super easy - which I love!  There wasn't even much clean up!

The verdict?  The chicken was really dry and overall it just wasn't that great.  I wouldn't make it again, but it was definitely easy.

Kung Pao Chicken
Adapted from a weight watchers cookbook...not sure which one

3 tablespoons hoison sauce
3 tablespoons chicken broth (or you could use dry sherry)
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons thin strips peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 small habenero chili, minced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
8 oz string beans
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 cups chopped green bell pepper and onion mixture

1. Combine hoisin sauce, sherry, ketchup, soy sauce, ginger, red pepper flakes, and habenero chili in slow cooker.  Stir in chicken and string beans.  Cover and cook until chicken is fork-tender, 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
2. About 20 minutes before cooking time is up, mix water and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth.  Stir cornstarch mixture, bell peppers, and onion into slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high until mixture simmers and thickens and bell peppers and onions are crisp-tender, about 15 minutes.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday morning pancakes!

The roommie and I woke up this morning and decided it was a pancake morning.  We didn't have a whole lot of ingredients in the house but I found a recipe that utilized exactly what we had (including only 1 egg, which is exactly what was left in the fridge after last week's quiche).

We added some chocolate chips and when we ran out of chocolate chips we added sprinkles (a la How Sweet's Cake Batter pancakes).  Turns out the pan didn't have to be sprayed with Pam because of the butter in the batter.

My roomie taught me her Dad's trick - you know they're ready to flip when the bubbles don't close.







Good Old Fashioned Pancakes
from all recipes


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted


  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Easy Caramel Cake

It's a blizzard in DC!  It isn't very often that we get to say that and it is a HUGE deal that it's happened more than 1 year in a row.  People are totally freaking out!  But that doesn't mean we can't have cake!

I have become the official birthday cake baker in my office.  And also when people have big anniversaries with the company.  I've been going through lots of sugar lately.

I never make the same cake twice.  I've made a big variety since I started baking for everyone in September.  I never made the same cake twice!

First, I made the best chocolate sheet cake ever with the best frosting I've ever had courtesy of tasty kitchen.  Not too sweet and really good - but the frosting was hard to make.  Then the white chocolate cake that was supposed to have the best frosting I've ever had on it, but due to a major disaster (the frosting broke) all of the frosting had to be thrown out and it was instead covered with store bought lemon curd and toasted coconut.  Still, it came out really good and was enjoyed by all (even my coworker who hates coconut).  Then, for said coconut-hater's birthday, there was a chocolate meringue cake that despite being unable to open the hazelnuts and therefore omitting them AND accidentally using unsweetened chocolate, was the biggest hit to date.  Lots of emails in the following days asking for the recipe.  And, although it looks very impressive with the meringue on top, it really wasn't that difficult!  Most recently, for a 5th anniversary with the company of my coworker who makes the best korean pork I've ever had, there was a lemon loaf cake.  I halved the recipe and only made one.  It was very yummy but I was too lazy to force all of the syrup into it so it was a little dry.

And now, for another coconut hater, I decided to try an Easy Caramel Cake that Perry's Plate just posted last week.  And it really was easy!

The frosting made a lot more than I needed to cover the cake.  My roommate and I ended up taking spoons to the extra and now I have a bit of a tummy ache.  But that frosting was goooood!

Everyone in the office seemed to like it.  People did think it was a little sweet (gee, it only had like 3 BOXES of sugar in it) but still enjoyed it.  Even the big boss happened to be in town and popped into my office to say he enjoyed it.  I think it would be the perfect cake for a kid's birthday party! (especially a kid who wasn't a huge chocolate fan)

Easy Caramel Cake

For the cake:
1/2 cup buttermilk
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces and softened

For the frosting:
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces and softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered (confectioners') sugar, sifted

To make the cake: Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

Whisk the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in a large measuring cup (or small bowl). In a large bowl (or the work bowl of a stand mixer) mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat in the butter, one piece at a time, until only pea-sized pieces remain. Pour in half of the buttermilk mixture and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Slowly add the remaining buttermilk mixture to the bowl and beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds.

Divide batter between prepared pans and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Cool the cakes for about 10 minutes, the turn out onto wire cooling racks. Allow them to cool off completely, about 1 hour.

To make the frosting: Heat 8 tablespoons of butter, brown sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, 4-8 minutes. Whisk in the cream and cook until a ring of bubbles reappears, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla.

Allow frosting mixture to cool slightly (about 5 minutes), then transfer to a mixing bowl (or work bowl of a stand mixer). With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium, and beat until the frosting is pale brown and just ward, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 4 T of butter, one piece at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

To assemble the cake, Place one cake round on a cake stand or platter. Spread 3/4 cup of frosting over the cake, top with the second layer, then spread the remaining frosting all over the cake. Serve.

Makes about 12 servings.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blackberry and Orange Zest Muffins

I have been thinking about these muffins ever since Jenna posted them.  When the blackberries went on sale this week I couldn't help but make them.  I decided to adjust the recipe to incorporate some whole wheat flour since I'm always trying to use more whole wheat flour... I would have added flax seed too if I had any.

They were good!  The whole wheat flour made them a little bit dense but they were still very good.  I think next time I'd substitute the blackberries for blueberries because blackberries were a little too sour, and I'd sub orange for lemon because they would make it a little fresher.

Blackberry Orange Muffins

adapted from eat, live, run
makes 8 muffins (I halved the original recipe)

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flower
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 cup fresh blackberries (or berry of your choice..use frozen if you can’t find fresh!)
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 375.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, orange zest, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together. Gently add the blackberries and stir so that the berries are covered with flour. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one by one, until thoroughly combined. Add the milk and blend.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and toss gently, being careful not to crush the berries. Scoop batter into 12 greased muffin tins granulated sugar over the tops.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden. Let cool for five minutes in the tins then pop out and cool completely.

Greek Style Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Quiche with Oatmeal Crust

I am a huge fan of using up leftovers.  I reduce reuse recycle and I reduce, coupon clip, buy on sale (not quite the same ring to it)...  So when (never home)maker posted a recipe for Pesto Quiche with Oatmeal Crust the day after I made Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Pasta (which for some reason I kept calling Sundried Tomato Pesto in my head despite a lack of sun, drying, or tomatoes...), and had some pesto leftover - I knew the quiche was meant to be.

I adjusted the Quiche recipe to fit the ingredients I had on hand.  It was entirely yummy!  I loved the olives in it!!

(Adapted from (never home)maker)

For the crust:

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
For the filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons greek-style roasted red pepper pesto
  • Ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 heaping tablespoon dijon
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 2/3 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/3 cup chopped kalamata olives (no pits!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch pie dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the oats, flour, and salt. Three pulses should do it.
  3. Then cut in the butter (just cut it into smaller pieces) and pulse until it gets crumbly (maybe 10 times).
  4. Add in the milk. Pulse until it is well combined and forms a ball. About 10 pulses.
  5. Then take this dough ball and place between two sheets of wax paper. Roll with a rolling pin until it is about 10 inches in diameter. Then place it in your prepared pie dish. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, heat a pan over medium-high heat and put a little olive oil in it. Cook your onions and peppers until they are soft and lightly browned. About 8-10 minutes.
  7. By now your pie shell should be done. Set it aside and lower the oven temp to 350 degrees F.
  8. Whisk together your eggs, egg whites, milk, pesto, pepper, and mustard.
  9. Then sprinkle your cheese over the pie crust. Distribute the onions/green peppers (I only needed about 1/2 of the mixture) and olives over that layer. And pour your egg mixture over that.
  10. Bake for 35 minutes -- until set and lightly browned.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Roasted red pepper pesto pasta with olives and feta

I saw this recipe this afternoon and knew I had to make it for dinner!  I keep trying to quit eating carbs, but it just doesn't tend to work out.  A good recipe makes it totally worth needing to run a little more often!

This recipe is actually a series of 3 recipes from Closet Cooking.
 The first is recipe is really just a set of instructions of how to roast peppers when you don't have a grill or gas stove.  Instead, you roast them in the oven. Super easy!

The next recipe is a greek-style sundried tomato pesto.  Check out the adorable measuring spoons I got for Christmas!
 The peso is simple.  You just throw everything in the food processor and blend away!

The final result is a lovely smooth sauce for the pasta!

You can use any pasta you like.  I'm a big coupon user and I got a great deal on mini versions of classic pasta shapes from Barilla.  They're an awesome shape.

Finally, I mixed the pesto into the pasta with feta and kalamata olives.  The olive bar at Giant only had pitted kalamata olives - it was a pain to depit them all.  I recommend searching for the pitted kind.

The final result was pretty tasty.  I probably wouldn't make it again, but a recipe has to be SUPER good for me to want to make it again.  I'd give this about a 3 out of 5.

Here are the recipes from Closet Cooking:

How to Roast Red Peppers

(makes 1 roasted red pepper)
Printable Recipe

red peppers

1. Cut the red peppers in half, remove the stem and seeds.
2. Place the red peppers on a baking sheet with the cut side facing down.
3. Preheat the oven to 450F and then change it to broil.
4. Place the baking sheet on the top shelf in the oven and broil until the outer layer of the skin has blackened, about 10-20 minutes.
5. Place the peppers in a zip-lock bag or other sealable container, seal and let them cool until you can handle them, about 20 minutes.
6. Remove the skins from the peppers. The skins should easily "pinch" off.

Greek Style Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

(makes 1/2 cup)
Printable Recipe

2 large roasted red peppers
1 tablespoons fresh oregano (optional)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 tablespoons pine nuts (toasted)
2 tablespoons feta (crumbled)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place everything into a food processor and puree.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Pasta with Feta and Kalamata Olives

(makes 4 servings)
Printable Recipe

1 pound pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
1/2 cup greek style roasted red pepper pesto
1/4 cup kalamata olives (pitted and coarsely chopped)
1 handful parsley (chopped)
1/2 cup feta (crumbled)

1. Cook the pasta as directed on the package.
2. Drain the pasta reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
3. Toss the pasta with the pesto, pasta water, olives and parsley.
4. Serve garnished with crumbled feta.