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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

There’s nothing like pumpkin anything to kick off the fall season…  Pumpkin scones, pumpkin spice drinks, and of course pumpkin cream cheese muffins.  Starbucks really knows their pumpkin baked goods….

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(This photo is from a more successful pumpkin season…)  Unfortunately this year’s pumpkin crop in the backyard is pretty much non-existent because I was far too late getting the plants in the ground.  While there is no shortage of foliage to my plants, the actual pumpkins are maybe 2″ diameter and probably wont amount to anything.  Thankfully I still have perfectly good puree preserved from years’ past still in my freezer.  I was aiming for ‘as good as Starbucks’ with this muffin recipe, however I have to say I think these Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins are actually better!

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 45 min    YIELD: 12
Ingredients:

Cream Cheese Centre:

  • 4 oz cream cheese (1/2 a package)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pumpkin Seed Topping:

  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • 2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Pumpkin Muffin Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tbsp buttermilk
 Directions:
  1. For Cream Cheese Centres: combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Place in the fridge and chill until you’re ready to use; this makes it a bit easier to handle later.
  2. For Pumpkin Seed Topping (optional, but well worth it): Line a plate or baking tray with parchment paper and set to the side.  Heat large frying pan on medium-high heat, and add pepitas, stirring frequently.  When pepitas begin to pop after 3 to 5 minutes, add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt to the pan.  Stir continuously until the sugar begins to caramelize.  Carefully remove the seeds from the pan and place onto the parchment lined plate to cool.  Once cooled, break apart for sprinkling on top of muffins.
  3. For Pumpkin Muffins:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin tray with paper cups.  Combine dry ingredients: flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, salt, and sugars.  I had substituted coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar.   Whisk together and set aside.
  4. In large mixing bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, pumpkin puree, canola oil, and buttermilk and mix with an electric mixer just to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl gradually and mix just until combined, 30-60 seconds.
  5. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full with batter.  Add a dollop (about a level teaspoon) of the chilled cream cheese mixture to the centre of each muffin, then cover with remaining batter to fill the muffin cup.  Sprinkle candied pumpkin seed topping on top, then place in oven.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted (not through the cream cheese!) comes out clean.

 

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Perogy Nachos

When you think about it, a heaping plate of perogy nachos is really just a natural evolution of the humble perogy.

And while we’re here, has anyone concluded what is the proper spelling of this potato-filled dumpling? Pierogi? Pirogi? Piroghi? Perogie? Pyrogy? Perogi? I digress…

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The key to a successful perogy nacho is crispiness.  For this experiment, I’ve opted for a healthier version and I’ve baked the perogies (because “healthy” is first and foremost on the mind of anyone contemplating a plateful of perogy nachos, for sure).  Baking this way produced a successfully crispy perogy that was slightly chewy as well.  Warning: the chewiness may be a bit too unorthodox for true perogy traditionalists.

For (blow your mind) more crispiness, try deep-frying day old leftover perogies and I guess, put whatever new year’s resolution diet you may be on, on-hold for the day.  If this intrigues you, see the alternate directions below.
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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 30 min    YIELD: 
Ingredients:
  • 1 package of your favourite frozen perogies (cheddar variety recommended)
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced
  • 200-250 g bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • jalapeño or favourite chilli pepper to taste, sliced
 Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F, and line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread frozen perogies on baking sheet and spray with canola oil, or brush lightly to coat.
  2. Bake perogies 20 min, or until lightly browned, and maybe even a little bursting at the seams.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare toppings.  Slice green onions, tomatoes, and chilli peppers; crumble cooked bacon; grate cheese.
  4. Remove perogies from oven, pile and layer with remaining ingredients in oven-proof baking dish, and broil at 400 F just until cheese is melty, about 2 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately, and why not have some Guac on the side for dippin’ (because it’s “healthy” *wink* *wink*, *nudge* *nudge*)
 Alternate Directions:
  1. Instead of frozen perogies, use perogies that have been previously boiled and drained.  This is a great way to use up leftovers if you happen to have any.  Preheat canola oil in deep-frying device of your choice (I use the George Foreman Lean Mean Fryer) to 375 F.
  2. In batches, submerge perogies for approximately 10 min or until lightly browned, and turning halfway through.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, and pick up from step #3 above.
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Leftover Chicken Wrap

These wraps are lovely!  It’s a great use for leftover chicken (or turkey) Even without the wrap (or even the chicken really), the star of this post is the salad and dressing, which would make a great side-dish just own it’s own.

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This recipe is just one of a handful of reasons why I recently ventured out into the cold last week and picked myself up a copy of Jamie Oliver’s “Save with Jamie” cookbook.  I’m skipping a bit ahead in the story, let me go back…It was a typical Saturday late morning and I was perusing the TV channels, looking for something interesting to keep me from doing anything productive.  I stopped when I came across an episode of Jamie’s Money Saving Meals (considering anything with Jamie Oliver is pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining… with phrases like “just wazz it up” and “bang it in my gob”, how can you go wrong?).  Anyway, this episode included a version of this wrap spotlighting leftover chicken as a budget-friendly option (and also a couple other recipes that looked very intriguing).  End result is this book made a nice addition to the collection and I’ve acquired some new/easy dinner ideas that I’m quite excited about.

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 30 min YIELD: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:
  • leftover chicken (about 1/2 c or however much you have), pulled apart so it fits reasonably in a wrap
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2-3 10″ soft tortilla shells

Salad:

  • 1 cup fine rice noodles (cover with boiling water, drain after 5-10 min after noodles have softened)
  • half of a yellow pepper, finely sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
  • 2 tbsp green onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, julienned
  • 1 tbsp fresh chilli pepper or jalapeño pepper
  • 4 large leaves romaine or other green lettuce of choice, sliced
  • grated zest from half a lime

Dressing:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from half a lime (about 3 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sweet chilli sauce
 Directions:
  1. In medium frying pan, over medium heat, combine chicken and hoisin sauce and re-heat until chicken starts to go crispy/sticky (~10 minutes)
  2. Meanwhile, mix together dressing ingredients.
  3. Combine salad ingredients and toss together with dressing.
  4. Now, the fun part, stuff the wrap with a little chicken and a whole bunch of salad– a little more than what you think you can reasonably fit into a 10″ tortilla shell
  5. Garnish with a little cilantro and/or sesame seeds if you’re feeling fancy, wrap it up then do your best and try to eat it without making a mess.  It’s best if served immediately (otherwise the tortilla can go a little soggy).
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Old-Fashioned Waffles

My waffle iron was the first appliance I ever owned and while it may be a bit beat up today, it managed to survive many moves and it still produces delightful waffles.

The first time I ever made waffles I used this recipe from a (now very tattered) cook book of my mom’s.  I’ve since tried a number of waffle recipes, but none have ever really compared to these.  This recipe comes from the Women of Unifarm Cook Book, Alberta Section circa 1978-79 (the index page is actually missing, so I’m not sure the year).

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I believe what makes these waffles perfect is their crispy outside, and soft/light insides, courtesy of the beaten egg whites.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 25 min    YIELD: 6 servings
Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil (such as canola)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
 Directions:
  1. Pre-heat waffle iron.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients.
  3. Combine egg yolks milk and cooking oil, and stir into dry ingredients.
  4. Gently fold in egg whites, leaving a few little fluffs and don’t overmix!
  5. Bake in a pre-heated waffle iron

(Though be careful not to overfill the iron, or you may end up with a mess all over the iron and counter top to clean up like this:)

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Guac!

Guacamole that is.  More specifically, easy guacamole for one (or make more to share by multiplying this recipe… your choice).  I, however, have been making single servings these days because my better half is struggling a bit with guac-overload.

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I’m a bit ashamed to admit that awesomeness of the avocado is only a recent discovery for me. This post is my homage to Chili’s Tableside Guacamole, which is really what kicked off my current obsession with this fruit.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 10 min    YIELD: 1 serving
Ingredients:
  • 1  avocado, mashed
  • 3 tbsp diced tomatoes (equivalent to 1/2 a Roma tomato)
  • 1 tbsp grated or very finely diced red onion
  • 1 tsp minced jalapeño
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro (or 1 tsp of fresh cilantro finely chopped, if you happen to have)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
 Directions:
  1. Remove skin and pit from avocado, and mash the flesh.  A potato masher works well for this, or alternatively a hand blender or just a fork and a little elbow grease.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients with avocado and serve. This is best if eaten immediately!
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Simple Coleslaw

Good doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming, or precious.  Proof in point:

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Feeling a little shut in from the winter, and reminiscent of warmer days with BBQ meals, we enjoyed some of this classic coleslaw last night atop of shredded pork sandwiches.  This very classic ‘slaw is a dependable favourite and is so because of the ideal balance of tangy and sweet.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 10 min    YIELD: 5 servings
Ingredients:
  • 3 1/2 cups (loosely packed) head green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup (loosely packed) purple cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup carrot, finely shredded

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 1/2 tbsp white sugar
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
 Directions:
  1. Mix shredded cabbages and carrots in large bowl.
  2. Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss with cabbage mixture.
  3. Serve immediately after mixing for delightfully crisp coleslaw
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Oven Pancakes

I can’t quite remember how we had gotten on the subject of pancakes, but I’m glad it happened none the less– a co-worker passed this recipe along to me as being a favourite in their house.  Other recipes might call these “Dutch Babies” or “German Pancakes”.

I was pretty skeptical to start with.  Pancakes in the oven?  That seems too easy, I quite liked that idea.  But that they expand rapidly while baking, then sink back down?  I really wasn’t sure what to think about that.  It is fun though!  I enjoy the crispy outside and soft custardy texture.

These really are a different kind of pancake, oh and delicious!  If you’re looking for Christmas morning breakfast or brunch ideas (or really any other day of the year)– this would do the trick.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 25 min    YIELD: 
Ingredients:
  • 6 tbsp margarine or butter, melted
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
 Directions:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Measure and combine dry ingredients.
  3. In separate bowl, beat eggs well and add to dry ingredients.
  4. Combine melted (cooled) margarine with milk and vanilla, and add to the egg/flour mixture.  Beat mixture well.
  5. Grease 9 x 12 rimmed pan, and pour mixture into pan.  (I used a smaller pan for the pancakes in the photo, because that’s all that was clean)
  6. Bake 15 minutes at 450 F, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake for another 5 minutes.
  7. (It may be tempting) but don’t open the door while it’s baking.
  8. Remove from oven, cut into individual portions and serve with good ol’ maple syrup or your favourite pancake toppings (we really enjoy our blueberry syrup around this house!)
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Garlic Toast

A super simple and quick side to serve with steak, BBQ, pasta, salad, etc… This is one of the first things I figured out how to make for myself in my adult life– that I enjoy so much that I can honestly confess that I don’t think it can be done any better.

I prefer using focaccia bread, but this is also nice on slices of french bread.

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Please do yourself a favour and don’t consider substituting the fresh cloves of garlic for anything else.  It might be tempting to use that jar of pre-minced garlic, or maybe use powdered garlic from the pantry– but just don’t. do. it.  Call me a garlic-snob if you want, but there is really no comparison to fresh!

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 10 min    YIELD: 8 servings
Ingredients:
  • 3 tbsp margarine or butter
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • pinch salt
  • focaccia bread (or other favourite bread)
 Directions:
  1. Turn oven on to broil at 425 F
  2. Mince fresh garlic and combine well with butter, parsley, and pinch of salt.
  3. Liberally spread garlic butter on sliced focaccia bread and place in a single layer on a baking pan.
  4. Broil until bread is lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Keep a close watch because it can go from brown to black before you realize!
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Pizza Sauce

Why buy pre-made pizza sauce when it’s so easy to make yourself with pantry-friendly ingredients?  Who knows.  Well, ok, I do know: because it’s very convenient to go to a store and buy a bottle and of course I’m guilty of his too on the occasion.  HOWEVER, with a little planning ahead, I prefer to make my own.  Simply put, I believe it just tastes nicer, and (like everything that a person makes for themselves) I know what’s in it.

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Make this sauce while you’re waiting for pizza dough to proof.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 15 min    YIELD: 2 pizzas
Ingredients:
  • 1 can of plain tomato paste (156 mL)
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 3 tsp finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (or substitute 1 tsp of dried garlic powder)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
 Directions:
  1. In small bowl, combine all ingredients and allow to sit for at least ~15 minutes before using.  Use right away on pizza or as desired, keep refrigerated for 2-3 days, or (what I like to do) make a bigger batch of it then portion it out and freeze it for future use.
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Quick and Easy Pizza Dough

As far as bread recipes go, I consider this one relatively quick and easy.  Though (*disclaimer*) the dough still requires some time to rise, so it’s not going to be a magical solution a serious time crunch for a quick dinner, unfortunately.  That is, unless you make this ahead and have it ready in advance.  This makes recipe makes too much for a dinner with just me and my husband, so more often than not I’ll freeze half the dough for another time.  Just defrost in advance, and pick up from Step 4 below.

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 1 hour    YIELD: 2 crusts
Ingredients:
  • 2 and 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast (or 1 package)
  • 1 warm water (~110F)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 and 1/4 cups white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp white sugar
 Directions:
  1. Dissolve yeast in 1 cup of warm water (Note: if the water is too hot, it can kill the yeast and the dough will end up flat and hard as a rock… trust me I learned this sadly from experience).  Let stand around 10 minutes, until the yeast is creamy-looking.  Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to the cup of yeast and water.  (Also make sure your yeast hasn’t expired, as it won’t rise properly… yes I learned that lesson as well)
  2. In medium-large bowl combine flour, salt and sugar.  Stir in the yeast mixture and mix until a ball of dough forms.  (Just an aside, this is both quicker and easier if you use a stand mixer with a dough hook… it requires much less elbow grease).
  3. Splash the dough-ball in a bit more olive oil just to coat and make it a bit less sticky and help the ball from drying out, then set aside in a covered bowl in a warm place to proof until about doubled in size, or 30 minutes.  I like to turn the oven on such that it’s just slightly warm, then put my bowl in there while the dough rises.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Turn out the dough on a well-floured surface.  Split dough into halves for making 2- 12″ diameter crusts; quarters for 4- 8″ diameter crusts; or leave as whole for one rectangular 16″ x 10″ pizza pie on a cookie sheet.  Roll dough to about 1/4″ thick.  Prep pans by coating with olive oil and adding a light sprinkling of cornmeal– this provides a fantastic crisp crust and helps the dough from baking to the pan as well.
  5. Once in the pan(s), add sauce and favourite toppings then bake in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  OR if making ahead, portion out dough after it has proofed and freeze for future use.

Is it hot outside and/or looking for pizza that’s a little different?  Consider trying it on the BBQ.  Instead of Step 4 above, roll the dough quite thin ~1/8″, and (this is absolutely important) make sure to have all your toppings prepared and ready to go.  This all happens really fast, so preparation is key.  Make sure the grill is quite hot (550F), brush one side of the dough lightly with olive oil and place the dough carefully directly on the grill for 4 to 5 min just until the it firms up and has some light grill marks.  Brush the other side of the crust with a little olive oil and turn over.  Now, put sauce and desired toppings on the crust and grill for another 5-6 minutes until bottom is browned.  The crust is amazingly crispy when cooked this way.  Enjoy!