Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

I've been doing this thing lately where I crave some kind of burger weekly, if not multiple times a week.  Maybe it's because it's summer, maybe because I finally started eating them with toppings in the bun, or maybe it's just because they're delicious, but my burger cravings have increased exponentially over the last few months.

This is weird for me.
Not a bad weird, but weird, since I used to be able to go for months without a burger.

Thanks to these increased cravings, I've had to figure out some good hamburger alternatives.  I try to alternate animal-based meals with plant-based meals - it's cheaper and healthier - and having multiple burger cravings a week tends to mess with that.  There are times when there's absolutely no substitute for a gigantic beef-based bacon cheeseburger, but most of the time, I do really well with turkey, bison, or a veggie burger.
And let me tell you, I've become a total veggie burger convert.  And these black bean burgers kick-started my conversion.

Black beans are chopped up with brown rice, sweet onion, jalapeño peppers, garlic, and chili powder, blended with some lime juice, then mixed with whole wheat breadcrumbs and formed into patties.  They're cooked up for less than 10 minutes in a skillet and layered on a toasted whole wheat bun with some lettuce and salsa, making me a happy happy camper.  They are spicy, tender, wholesome, and filling - always a plus for a vegetarian meal!  And it's vegan if you don't use cheese!

...but why wouldn't you use cheese?  That would be delicious...

Anyway.  If you're veggie, if you're a health nut, or if you just like spicy things, make these and be happy :)

Spicy Black Bean Burgers
Source: adapted from Cookin' Canuck's recipe on CuisineNie

2 tbsp olive or canola oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped (seeds & membranes removed if you don't want heat)
1 tsp chili powder
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-1/4 cups cooked brown rice
2 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, more if needed

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until it softens.  Add the garlic, jalapeño, and chili powder and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
Scrape the mixture into a food processor.  Add the black beans, brown rice, lime juice, salt and pepper and pulse until the beans are chopped - not pureed.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and mix in the breadcrumbs with a wooden spoon.  Form into 4-5 equal-sized patties with your hands, adding more breadcrumbs if necessary.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes on a baking sheet or plate lined with plastic wrap.
To cook the burgers, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook the patties for approximately 4 minutes on each side.  Serve on toasted whole wheat buns with your toppings of choice.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pecan Crusted Chicken

So, remember how I told you that I was a scatterbrain and left my camera-to-computer cable in VA?
And remember how I was waiting for the package with said cable inside to arrive at my apartment?
And remember how I posted two recipes sans pretty pretty pictures?  And how that made me sad?  And led to profuse apologies?

Turns out my package could've been in the mailroom at my apartment complex for days.  I finally nabbed someone who works in the office and they had to scour the back room for it...only to find that it was there, but had never been recorded.  No sign-out slot.  No package slip.  Nuthin'.

Long story short: rawwrrrrrrr.  But we have photos again!

...but I apologize for the less-than-great photo for this.  It makes me sad, cause this was delicious.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

I created a recipe!  With amounts and everything!

Pardon me while I take this moment to do a proud-of-myself happy dance.

Okay done.  Anyway, I'm always trying to find new ways of making chicken.  I eat it so often that I really can't afford to get bored with it!  A few days earlier, my parents and I ate dinner at Carabba's, where I had the best piece of fish I've ever had.  One of the things that made this tilapia so spectacular was the hazelnut breading, so I was inspired to try some nut-based breading solutions of my own.  This particular day, I also reeeally did not want to go grocery shopping.  For anything.  A grocery store run sounded like the exact opposite of fun to me.  Thus, the obvious choice was a pantry meal.

This was the result, and it was the best pantry meal I've ever made.  Finely chopped pecans are mixed with whole-wheat breadcrumbs to form the breading for the tender breast pieces, which are then baked quickly in a searing hot oven to seal in all the moisture.  This chicken is perfect to serve with virtually anything: with sauteed vegetables and quinoa, with pasta alfredo, or sliced over a salad - or figure out your own accompaniments!  Regardless, I hope you make this and enjoy it as much as I did!

Pecan Crusted Chicken
Source: a Dancer Bakes original!

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half
2 cups pecans, finely chopped or coarsely ground
1-1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 475˚F.  Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat the foil with cooking spray.
Place the flour in a shallow dish.  Mix in salt, pepper, cinnamon, and ginger.  Set aside.
Combine egg and egg whites in a wide bowl and beat together with about 1 tbsp of water.  Set aside.
Mix together breadcrumbs and pecans in a shallow dish or on a sheet of wax paper.  Set aside.
With each piece of chicken, dredge first in the flour mixture, then dip to cover in the egg, then finally coat with the pecan breading.  Lay flat on the baking sheet and repeat till each piece of chicken has been breaded.
Bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes, or until no pink remains and each piece is firm to the touch.  Serve as desired.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sweet Potato Pecan Pancakes

My favorite season of all time is autumn.  Something about the crisp clean air, the cooler temperatures, the often mild weather, the changing colors...all of it is just calming and happy for me!  Even though summer is still upon us - it is, after all, still August for a little while longer - the warm flavors of fall called to me when I saw a pair of sweet potatoes on the counter awaiting use.

I was in a major breakfast-for-dinner mood at the time, so I instantly looked up recipes for sweet potato pancakes.  They were fantastic - hearty, filling, and filled with comforting fall flavors.  Plus, they're chock full of nutrients and low on fat and sugar!

Totally justifies having breakfast treats for dinner.  Or even just having pancakes for breakfast!

After all, sweet potatoes = vegetables.  Case closed :)
Just...ignore the toppings...they don't count.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pancakes
Source: adapted from Food Network

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups buttermilk
4 tsp butter, melted
2 eggs
1 sweet potato, cooked until tender, peeled and pureed
1 cup pecan halves, chopped

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.  Warm the oven to 200˚ or lower and place a serving platter on a rack in the middle of the oven.
In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs.  Add the buttermilk, followed by the dry ingredients, melted butter, and sweet potato puree.  Mix until smooth and uniform.  Fold in chopped pecans.
Lightly grease the skillet or griddle with butter or cooking spray.  Drop batter by 1/4-cupfulls onto the heated surface.  Cook until bubbles form on the surface but no longer pop, then flip over and continue to cook until golden brown.  Transfer each round of cooked pancakes to the serving platter and keep warm in the oven until the entire batch has been cooked.  Serve immediately with softened butter, cinnamon sugar, and pure maple syrup.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shirley Temple Cupcakes

So first of all, I officially miss all the excitement in Northern VA - there was an earthquake along the East Coast today that hit a 5.8 on the Richter scale.  Its epicenter was very close to Culpeper, VA, which is where my aunt and uncle live.  Any and all prayers will be greatly appreciated - this is definitely a new experience for my whole family, and everyone in the area.

Now, to lighten the mood, tasty treats:
I'm not a soda kind of girl.  I grew up on water, lowfat milk, and the occasional lemonade or orange juice.  But, when I reached my teenage years and went out to dinner with the girls from my dance studio, I was introduced to Shirley Temples.
And I fell in love.

Now, this is especially odd, because A) I'm not a fan of carbonation and B) I've never been a lover of cherry.  But for some reason, the combination of lemon-lime soda and grenadine over ice is just...magical!  Jon thinks so too, so we happily enable each others' addictions ;)

And if the drink is magical, these cupcakes are straight-up miraculous.
Thanks to Shanon over at The Curvy Carrot, this lovely little creation showed up on my radar a couple months back, and I instantly bookmarked the page.  I figured Jon and I would both enjoy them.

I was right!  They're lightly cherry-flavored, with a nice balance of sweet from the maraschino cherry juice and tart from the soda used in the batter.  The buttercream frosting is light, fluffy, and it's not overly sweet with just a hint of cherry peeking out.  Plus, it's pink!  Instant attraction right there.  And, thanks to the layer of color and extra flavor at the bottom of each cupcake, they truly look and taste like the beloved beverage!  These are easily the cutest cupcakes I've ever made, and some of the tastiest.  If you need more incentive, my wonderful fiancé is not a cupcake guy...and he could not stop eating these!

If you love Shirley Temples, you will adore these cupcakes.  Make them, admire their adorableness, and then enjoy them immensely :)

Shirley Temple Cupcakes
Source: adapted from The Curvy Carrot, originally from Simply Gluten Free
Yield: 24 cupcakes
For the cupcakes - 
3 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
scant 1 tsp sea or kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup lemon-lime soda
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used Tahitian - it works well with fruity flavors)
2 tbsp maraschino cherry juice, divided
2-1/2 tsp grenadine
Red food coloring

For the Buttercream - 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp maraschino cherry juice
24 maraschino cherries with stems, patted dry with paper towels


To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚F and prepare two 12-cup cupcake tins with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the 3 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 2-3 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, then the egg whites, beating well after each addition.
Reduce the mixer speed to low.  Combine the soda with one tablespoon of the maraschino cherry juice.  Then, alternately add half the flour mixture and half the soda mixture, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Repeat until all of the flour mixture and soda have been added completely to the batter.  Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.  As a warning, this batter will splash, so if you have bowl guards I would advise using them.
Pour about half of the batter into a large bowl.  Add the remaining flour and maraschino cherry juice, the grenadine, and red food coloring to your desired hue.  Spoon the red batter evenly into the bottom of each cupcake liner, then top with the remaining white batter.
Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle of each cupcake comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely in the pans before frosting.

To make the buttercream, cream the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or paddle scraper!) until it's pale, light, and fluffy - about 2-3 minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, then gradually add the powdered sugar until it is all combined.  Thoroughly mix in the vanilla, lemon juice, and cherry juice.  Dollop or pipe onto cooled cupcakes as desired and garnish with the stemmed maraschino cherries.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chili Lime Chicken Thighs [Guest Post]

Hello friends!  I'm so pleased to have my first guest post on The Dancer Bakes - my friend Jim!  He cooked the Throwdown dinner that went along with the Derby Pie I posted, and today he'll be sharing his recipe.  This one's for those times when you just need big flavor, and it's one that should be a hit with any guy in your family!  Enjoy - I certainly did!  Thanks, Jim!

Chili Lime Chicken Thighs (Modified with less thunder)

As a guest blogger, I first want to thank Angela for even allowing me a spot on her baking blog, when first, I am not a dancer, and second, my recipe has nothing to do with baking. But, for those that have been following “The Dancer Bakes,” you knew that a guest blog was coming shortly.

So…a quick about me? I am a 25 year old college graduate that met Angela back in high school, but it wasn’t until I left for college that we became close friends. My family is Pennsylvania Dutch, so I love vinegar and molasses (I’m trying to get Angela to bake me a Shoofly Pie someday), and I went to school in North Carolina. It was during my 5 year double-major tenure at East Carolina University that I learned to cook my specialty, anything in the meat section.

I have cooked meals from pulled pork to chicken curry, from beef brisket to pork ribs, from Cornish Game Hens to bison burgers. Needless to say, I love my protein! I’m not exactly a “one trick pony” as I can cook other things (and I can complete a meal with fruit/veggie/starchy sides), but I prefer anything meaty. It’s how I roll, it’s what I cook, and Angela can (hopefully) attest that I’m far from a slouch, even though I am still learning and expanding my repertoire.

I will make one note before I start listing the ingredients for my Chili Lime Chicken Thighs. I don’t measure things out when I cook. To me, the essence in cooking a meal is based on artistry and feel. Today, I may want my chicken packed with heat. Tomorrow, I may want it mild. I can use the exact same recipe, but I will balance ingredients differently for different tastes, while still having that Chili Lime flavor.

During our throw down, I packed everything into a 3 hour window, so I mixed the dry rub into the marinade. If I were truly preparing these Chili Lime Chicken Thighs, I would dry rub the chicken 24 hours in advance, marinade 6 hours prior to cooking, and then cook-n-serve.

So here’s the basis of my recipe

Dry Rub:
-Chili Powder
-Cayenne Pepper
-        Depending on the desired heat, focus on one of these spices. The desired heat level should outweigh the other two spices 3/2
-Garlic Salt (1 moderate sized pinch for each thigh)
-Oregano (Optional)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Rub on each thigh thoroughly and let sit overnight in the refrigerator in a sealed bag.

-Hot Sauce (I use Cholula or Texas Pete and sometimes a dabble of “Ass Kickin’ Original Hot Sauce” if I want super kick, or “Dave’s Insanity Sauce” if you want to burn your taste buds)
-Jack Daniels Original Number 7 BBQ Sauce
-White Wine Vinegar or White Wine (I prefer Yellowtail Pinot Grigio)
-Lime Juice (Fresh squeezed limes quarters are preferred, but concentrated juice works too)

Use no more than ½ cup of vinegar or white wine per 6 thighs. Also, every 6 thighs needs minimum of 1 lime worth of lime juice. I use a medium sized bottle of Jack-BBQ sauce every 6 thighs and ¼ bottle of hot sauce per 6 thighs. These values all vary, depending on how I feel that day, but this is probably an “average” Chili Lime chicken thigh recipe for me.

About 3-6 hours before cooking, use heavy duty and extra-wide aluminum foil and wrap the thighs in them. If done properly, you can fit 4-6 thighs per package. Fill each package with marinade until the chicken is mostly covered. Take your leftover lime quarters and place them in the foil to cook with the chicken.

You can grill or stick these in the oven. The temperature, depending on your stove/grill should be between 375 (convection oven) and 450 (conventional oven) degrees. The minimum the chicken should be in there is 45 minutes. Please cook until they are cooked through. Times and temperatures are meaningless if the chicken is not fully cooked. Do not take risks with chicken!

After 45 minutes to an hour (occasionally more) the chicken should be cooked through. A knife will slide right through them if they are done (unless you hit bone…), and since they are almost drowned in marinade, they should be super moist.

At this point, if done properly, no sauce should be needed; however, leftover marinade can definitely amplify the chili-lime taste.

Changes: If you’re feeling creative, here are a few tasty suggestions to try, that may spice things up.
-        Remove the lime flavor and go 100% heat
-        Instead of White wine, use ½ the normal amount of vinegar, and try adding some straight Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey to it.
-        Cholula makes a Chili Lime sauce, and if you’re in a crunch for time, it’s a perfect replacement for hot sauce. It helps bring out more lime flavor, when you don’t have time for the marinade to sit. Also, if you don’t use Pinot Grigio, I prefer using this flavor hot sauce.
-        Instead of Lime, replace it with more garlic and go for the Garlic flavor. If you don’t add too much, the garlic comes out and just gives this recipe a whole new flavor.
-        Add some soy to the recipe. It sounds crazy, but adding ¼ to 1/3 cup of soy sauce per every 6 thighs can really give it a different kind of flavor.
-        Don’t be afraid to pile on the dry rub! Just don’t super overload the garlic! =)

Well, that’s my recipe for my Chili Lime Chicken Thighs. It’s not thing super special, but I have had nothing but excellent reaction from these, every time I cook it. I get people who hate eating meat to eat it, and to tell me that if they had that every day, they’d eat meat more often. =)

I hope that this inspires someone to go out and try this. I also hope people get inspired to try some of the “spin-offs” I suggest. Feel free to be creative with this recipe, and let me know what changes you made, and how it turns out!

Enjoy Life, Enjoy Grilling and God Bless
-        The Brousinator

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Moving, two ways.

Soon, you'll notice that the background of my photos has changed.
I've moved back to Buffalo, back into the on-campus student apartment that I share with three other girls.
And I'm having some majorly mixed feelings about that.

I moved in today, and the second I walked in everything felt different.  And not in a good way. 
Don't get me wrong, now.  Aspects of a new setup in the living room and kitchen are great - there's more storage space and more light.  There are new equipment additions to the kitchen, which is always a plus.  And the new shower curtain in the bathroom I share with our newest roommate is pretty.  I appreciate pretty things.
But at the same time, so many things had changed while I was gone, and it just didn't feel like home anymore.

Now, I guarantee part of this emotional rollercoaster can be attributed to the fact that today was my first Sunday away from my VA church home.  And I visited my fiancé at his new townhouse, where we'll be spending our first month and a half or so of our married life, as soon as I got back to the Buffalo area, and that truly felt like home.  But, I don't live there.  And I couldn't bring my church up to Western New York with me.  So there's two homes that I can't have right now.

I think, ultimately, I'm longing for a sense of permanence.  The college lifestyle of living between two places, taking enough classes to fill up two more semesters, and the nine remaining months before my wedding - it's all just temporary, and it's wearing on me.  A permanent home and church community is what I want most in the world right now.

I really want my apartment to feel like home, however temporary a solution it is.  Once all my roommates get back, I hope it will.  Till then, I just need to lean on God and trust that He knows better than I do about waiting.

So...any tips for patience?

On a side note, my heart was majorly touched to see the incredible response to Jennifer Perillo's call this past Friday.  I can't even imagine how hard it would be to lose someone you loved so much so suddenly, and the flood of support that went her way in the form of peanut butter pies everywhere was absolutely heartwarming.  It was wonderful to witness the comradery in the blogging community - just proves you don't have to meet someone in person to love them!  Sadly, because I was packing to move, I was unable to participate.  The Derby Pie was the best I could do, but I've been lifting Jennie and her family up in prayer ever since I read her post, and I hope you'll do the same.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Derby" Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

While I wish I was posting a Peanut Butter Pie for Jennie today in honor of her husband, this will have to do.  Please join me in sending prayers for her and her family her way, and take a look around the blogosphere to see everyone who's honoring Mikey's memory today.
This, ladies and gents, is my first pie.  My very first pie that I made all by myself.
You can picture my proud-and-accomplished face here.

This pie was my contribution to a "Throwdown" between me and my friend Jim - who hopefully will be guest-posting his chicken thigh recipe soon!  This basically just meant that he cooked dinner, I made dessert, and our friends and family consumed and greatly enjoyed them!  This Throwdown was also followed by the most epic game of Apples to Apples I've ever played.  I think everyone won :)

One of our favorite desserts at a restaurant near our place in WV is called a Kentucky Derby - it's a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and a pecan pie, served warm with whipped cream and hot fudge.  It's insanely delicious.
When I found a version of the Derby on She's Becoming Doughmesstic (one of my favorite blogs, and another VA girl!), naturally, it was the first pie I wanted to try to make.  I mean, warm chocolate pecan cookie pie?  What's not to love?

Of course, we had to kick up the decadence too - we topped the gooey pie with vanilla bean ice cream, homemade hot fudge (recipe coming soon!), caramel syrup, and freshly whipped cream.  It was positively dreamy.  I can see this recipe being made and enjoyed over and over again in the future.

Those slices disappeared SO quickly.
And now I want more pie.
"Derby" Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Source: crust from How to Cook Everything, filling adapted from She's Becoming Doughmesstic

For the deep-dish pie crust:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp sugar
10 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if necessary

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and sugar until combined.  With a pastry blender, cut in the butter in two stages - 6 tbsp until some pieces the size of peas remain, then the remaining 4 tbsp - until the mixture looks like cornmeal.  Add the ice water and mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball, adding another tablespoon or two of water if necessary.  If you overdo it and the dough becomes sodden, just add a bit more flour.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 before rolling it out.
To roll out, place the dough on a floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.  Use a rolling pin to roll with light pressure out from the center into a circle, using ragged edges to repair any tears.  Once the diameter of the dough is about 2 inches greater than that of your pie plate, fold the dough in half, gently transfer halfway onto the pie plate, and unfold to settle into the plate.  Trim the edges of the dough to 1 inch over the edge, fold it underneath itself around the edge of the plate, and flute the crust with your preferred method.  Freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for 30 before filling.

For the filling:
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup pecans, chopped (I used 1/2 cup coarsely chopped and 1/2 cup finely chopped)
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1 tbsp vanilla (I use Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla)
2 tbsp Kentucky bourbon

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F
Combine sugar and flour in a large bowl, then add the beaten eggs - the mixture will be thick and pale yellow.  Pour over melted butter and stir to combine.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate fully.  Pour into the refrigerated or frozen pie shell and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a nice crust forms on top and it appears set.  A table knife should come out clean when inserted into the filling.  Allow to set up until cool enough to slice and serve with any desired toppings - vanilla bean ice cream, whipped cream, and hot fudge encouraged!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sweet Cream Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy

Most decadent breakfast ever.
As in allowing it to be a breakfast should be illegal.
Deliciously illegal...
 I wasn't born south enough of the Mason-Dixon line to have grown up with this tradition.
Now that I've discovered it, it makes me kind of sad.  Although I'm probably thinner for it.  Hm.
But I kept reading about it and decided I just had to experience it for myself.

Best and worst decision ever.
Best: it's incredible.  Rich, fluffy layers of sweet biscuit - traditionally a southern buttermilk biscuit, which I made and loved, but I then tried Dorie Greenspan's easy-to-make Sweet Cream Biscuits and got my socks knocked off - which just get better when slathered with salted butter and drenched in a chocolate concoction that nearly reaches the decadence of hot fudge.

Worst: I couldn't stop eating them!!!
Which kept me full till dinner, but still - not the sort of thing one in my profession should fill up on regularly.

Which, of course, explains why we made another batch of biscuits and paired them with the leftover gravy the next weekend.
I succumbed to the deliciousness.  Someone please stop me from making more till February?
 This may or may not have been my third one.  In one sitting.
 Sweet Cream Biscuits
Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: about 8 2-1/2-inch biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 to 1-1/4 cups cold heavy cream

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425˚F.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl with a fork.  Pour about 1 cup of the cream over the dry ingredients and begin to toss them together with the fork.  If necessary, add more cream a spoonful at a time until you have a nice soft dough.  Reach into the bowl with your hands and knead the dough gently just enough to bring everything together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface - I always use a pastry cloth.  Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and then pat it out to about 1/2-inch thickness.  (Don't turn into me and be a total perfectionist - totally even dough is not that serious ;)  Using a floured biscuit cutter (or clean old can or the relatively sharp edge of a glass) cut out as many biscuits as you can and gently transfer them to an unlined non-stick baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Try to cut them very close together to maximize output from the first go-round.  Gather together the scraps, working them as little as possible to get them to 1/2-inch thickness, and cut out as many additional biscuits as you can. 
Once all possible biscuits have been cut out and transferred to the baking sheet, bake them for 14-18 minutes, or until they're tall, puffed, and golden brown.  Transfer them to a serving biscuit and enjoy as soon as possible!

Chocolate Gravy
Source:  Sprinkle Bakes
Yield: about 2 cups

4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups whole milk
4 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium saucepan.  Pour in the milk and whisk vigorously to combine.  (There's your justification for eating this - whisking workout!  Just repeat it like a mantra until you believe it.  Or get on the treadmill or something.)  Heat the mixture over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble.  Turn the heat down to medium and stir constantly until the mixture thickens to gravy-like consistency - don't obsess too much about this part since it will thicken up a bit more as it cools slightly.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and vanilla.
Allow the gravy to cool slightly, then transfer to a gravy boat.  Serve warm with biscuits and/or any other breakfast foods you want to dip in it :)  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fajita Burgers

As soon as I saw these things on goodLife {eats} I was hit by an instant craving.

I had to have them.  Like, five minutes ago.
Of course, the night we were planning to make them, we got out of church late, so we couldn't.

(...just for clarification's sake, we go to an evening church service...it didn't start in the morning and go on till all hours of the afternoon.)

So I had to stave off my crazy craving for another few days.

Burger craving satiated.  Yes.

Now, quick disclaimer: I'm not the world's biggest fan of bell peppers.  I make myself eat them because I know they're good for me, and I can tolerate the taste.
So, for a burger topped with tons of peppers, it was really good!  The spiced meat mix had phenomenal flavor.  Next time I make them (because I will make them again) I'll add lettuce and salsa to the top of the burger.  Because I forgot this time.
Rough days at work make me forget to add tasty things.  They make me forget a lot of things, actually.
Sour cream and guacamole would be pretty fab on these too.

PS: Does anyone have tips for staving off child-related headaches and exhaustion?  Teaching five-year-olds this week has given me wicked cases of both...

UPDATE: These are officially guy approved!  Jon and his roommate loved them!

Fajita Burgers
Source: adapted from goodLife {eats}

1 lb lean ground beef
1/4 cup salsa
1 tsp Worcestershire
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 slices pepper jack cheese
1 medium sweet onion, sliced into thin strips
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1-1/2 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, or green), sliced into thin strips
Optional: guacamole, sour cream, additional salsa, lettuce for topping

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the beef, salsa, Worcestershire, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Using your hands or a wooden spoon (if you're like me and would really rather not get ground beef and hot chili powder under your fingernails), mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated.  Divide the mixture into four equal portions and make them into patties about 1/4 inch thick.  Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the onions, peppers, and mushrooms.  Heat a medium saute or cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2-1 tbsp canola oil.  Add the vegetables and allow to cook until they start to brown, then stir every minute or so for 5-7 minutes total, or until your desired level of tenderness is reached.
Heat the grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.  Cook the burgers 2-3 minutes per side, or until your desired done-ness is reached.  Melt the sliced pepper jack cheese over the burgers.  Serve on toasted buns with the onions, peppers, and mushrooms, and any other desired toppings.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

UPDATE: Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Scharffen Berger!  I entered this recipe in the chocolate recipe swap - there's potentially winnings!  And this would be a great dish to pull out of the oven at a family gathering :)

Get-togethers with friends are really the best occasions to bake.
I gather with people I love, laugh, and enjoy our time together.  I see the looks on their faces as they sample my latest creation.  The dessert is shared and loved by all.  And I walk away with very few leftovers to tempt me in the days to come!
It's a total win-win situation.

Friday night, I gathered with the same group of folks who helped me consume those chocolate peanut butter cupcakes I made a few weeks back.  The friend hosting the gathering offered the use of his kitchen, ingredients, and convection oven - who was I to say no?  So I looked for a recipe that would be delicious, boy food, and relatively quick and easy to throw together.  And I came up with this!

I had bookmarked this recipe from Tracy over at Sugarcrafter probably close to a year ago and for some reason never made it.  But when I found it among my bookmarks I knew it would be perfect.  Rich, chocolatey, meant to be gooey, and only required to cool for 15 minutes before serving?

And I wasn't the only one sold on it.
It started like this:

 Progressed to this:

And then to this:

So it's safe to say the dessert was well received.

This has officially entered my repetoire of easy last-minute desserts.  It's a fabulous, simple, crowd-pleasing pantry recipe.
Unless you don't like chocolate.  In which case, I pity you.  And...sorry.  Just eat the ice cream?

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
Source: adapted from Sugarcrafter , originally adapted from Hershey's 

1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1-1/4 cups hot water

Preheat the oven to 350˚F (convect at 325˚F).
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, half the sugar, and half the cocoa powder.  Stir in the milk, butter, and vanilla, whisking until totally smooth.  Pour into an ungreased 9-inch square baking pan.  Mix the remaining sugar and cocoa powder together with the brown sugar and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the mixture in the pan.  Pour the hot water over all.  Do not stir.  (That last bit was stated emphatically.  Stirring = bad.)
Bake for 35-40 minutes (or convect for 25-30 minutes) or until almost set.  Remove from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving directly from the pan - with a spoon - and topping with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!