Sorta Light Pumpkin Muffins

Inevitably, as the weather changes and the air cools, so do my cravings and my habits in the kitchen. Not only do I yearn for soups and stews, roasts and gravies; I also want to bake things! Now I’ve said this before, I am much better at cooking than I am at baking, primarily because I hate to measure. Baking is a science and if you don’t measure properly your muffins/pastries/cakes/cookies simply don’t turn out right! With cooking (you need to measure of course) I feel like there’s a little more wiggle room and the opportunity to go off script. Bottom line; not staying the course when baking can be disastrous if you’re not mindful to the changes/chances you’re taking!

I originally found this recipe for Pumpkin Maple Loaf in Cooking Light magazine and it intrigued me because the author found a way to take a classic fall favorite and lighten it up a bit! But by sheer stubbornness I needed to find a way to make it my own and go off script! First, I decided to make muffins with the batter versus a loaf. Second, I didn’t have access to dark maple syrup or dark brown sugar so I used grade A syrup as well as a brown sugar/stevia blend as substitutes. Lastly, the original recipe called for roasted pepitas to top the loaf; I know it defeats some of the purpose of “cooking light” but, I decided to mix in chopped pecans and white chocolate chips instead! Regardless, these somewhat lightened-up, twist on pumpkin loaf-style muffins are the bomb!! Enjoy:)

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Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins

  • cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar/stevia blend
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with papers and lightly spray with cooking spray.
  2. Combine buttermilk and oats, let sit 15 minutes.
  3. Whisk together pumpkin, syrup, oil, sugar, extract and eggs and set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl mix together flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. Add the oats and buttermilk to the pumpkin mixture and stir. Then add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and combine.
  6. Gently fold the pecans and chips into the batter.
  7. Divide batter among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes.

*Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, Lighten Up Pumpkin Bread

 

Meatball Marinara with Gnocchi and Burrata

This is a semi-homemade, one skillet, made in under 30 minutes masterpiece that will wow everyone at your dinner table! Simple shortcuts make is quick and easy while still maintaining authentic flavors and textures. This will make you feel like it’s Sunday at Grandma’s (when it’s only Wednesday night)!

Ingredients: Feeds 6 – 8

  • 18 – 24 prepared meatballs (I used Shady Brook Farms All Natural Turkey meatballs)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1, 15 oz can diced tomatoes, do not drain!
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1, 25 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 16 oz mini gnocchi potato pasta
  • 8 oz burrata, chunked

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Directions:

  1. In a large, shallow, enamel coated saucepan with lid, heat the oil over low – medium heat. Add the meatballs and brown them for about 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.IMG_5442
  2. In the same pan, sauté the onion and garlic until soft and then add the tomato paste. Mix in the diced tomatoes and spices and let simmer for a few minutes allowing flavors to develop. Add the marinara, mix well and allow it to heat up.
  3. Next, add the uncooked gnocchi to the sauce and stir to distribute them evenly. Add the meatballs back in, nestling them evenly as well. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring gently half way through.
  4. Turn heat off and right before serving, drop the chunks of burrata into the mixture, in and around the meatballs and gnocchi. Close the lid one more time and allow them to melt, taking approximately 2 – 3 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately in bowls with crusty bread and a green salad.IMG_5446

Sweet Corn Risotto

As the days grow shorter and the nights get a little colder, I start craving comfort foods like risotto! I came across this recipe in Cooking Light magazine (of all places) and made it for supper just last night, paired with grilled pork loin and sautéed asparagus. Now I took a few liberties with the original recipe and added my own twist (pancetta – because why not?!) but what initially intrigued me was the use of corn broth instead of stock. It truly adds sweetness and a velvety texture to this dish! And the best part is it simply screams, fall is here!!! Enjoy.

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Ingredients: Feeds 4 – 6

  • 4  1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups frozen corn (I used frozen grilled corn already off the cob), divided
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, cubed
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped (I used a blend including white, bella and porcini)
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp fresh thyme, chopped and divided
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine 1 cup of corn with the water in your blender and pureé. Strain liquid through a fine mesh colander and into a medium sized pot. Bring corn broth to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, in an enamel coated cast iron pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the pancetta, onions and mushrooms until the fat renders, the onions become translucent and the mushrooms soften. Add the corn and let the mixture cook another minute or two, allowing corn to defrost.
  3. Add the rice, garlic, and half the thyme. Stir continuously as the grains toast and begin lose their opaque coloring.
  4. Add the wine and allow the alcohol to cook off and the mixture to thicken. Continue to stir frequently.
  5. Slowly add the heated corn broth a few ladles at a time to the mixture. Stir often and as the liquid is absorbed and the rice cooks, add more broth. You may need to reduce the heat a bit so the rice doesn’t stick.
  6. Once all the broth has been used, add the cheese and butter and stir. Add the remaining thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.

*Original recipe courtesy of Cooking Light magazine.

Monday Minestrone

Sometimes I find it difficult to cook on Monday nights… just because it’s Monday, after all!? But this easy Minestrone soup comes together quickly, feeds a small crowd and will leave you not only full but proud of how you started off your week of suppers!

Ingredients: Feeds 6 – 8

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1, 15 oz can diced tomatoes with juice (I like Muir Woods, Fire Roasted)
  • 1, 15 oz can dark kidney beans, drained
  • 1 bunch of celery, chopped
  • 3 – 4 carrots chopped
  • 1 cup chopped kale (I use Lacinto)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 cups uncooked pasta (something small in size like Pipette)

Directions:

  1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, combine the other ingredients and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 – 30 minutes or until veggies are fork tender. Remove rosemary stem.
  3. Drain pasta and add to the soup. Taste and add additional salt and/or pepper if desired.

Suggestions:

  • This soup can be made ahead and reheated. If planning on doing so, leave out the pasta until you’re ready to reheat and serve or it will soak up all the liquid!
  • Try adding additional protein like meatballs! Leftover meatballs work great but if not, I always have Trader Joe’s mini party meatballs in my freezer and they work like a charm!

 

Homemade Cole Slaw

This is a quick and easy 5 minute cole slaw marinade! It’s got just the right balance of sweet and sour and won’t make your veggies super soggy (assuming you like your cole slaw crisp and not soupy like me) Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes approx 3/4 cup of marinade

  • 1/2 cup canola mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 oz of shredded cabbage blend

Directions:

Whisk ingredients together. Toss with your favorite cole slaw veggie blend. I like to use a prepared bag called “Power Blend” by Mann’s containing shredded brussel sprouts, Napa cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, carrots and kale. Cool 30 minutes prior to serving.

*Adapted from allrecipes.com

 

Homemade BBQ Sauce

I was skeptical when I first tasted this sauce as is, but was pleasantly surprised after smothering a pork roast with it to make pulled pork in my slow cooker! It’s both sweet and tangy and despite concerns that it might burn in the crockpot due to it’s sugar content, it did not… even after 6 hours on low! Definitely worth a try although I prefer it as a cooking sauce versus a condiment; I think it needs to cook down for the true flavor to develop.

Ingredients: Makes approximately 2 1/3 cups

  • 2 tbsp dry onion soup mix (I used “Beefy Onion” mix by Lipton)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used a Stevia based blend)
  • 2 cups Ketchup (low sodium and/or sugar free is an option)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

Combine ingredients and blend using a whisk. Let sit at least three hours if serving as a condiment. Best used as a marinade/cooking sauce!

*Adapted from allrecipes.com

 

Lobster Luvah Mac-n-Cheese

I make home made mac-n-cheese all the time so adding lobster meat didn’t seem like a stretch when my daughter asked me to jazz things up for her special birthday meal! Although I used Monterey Jack cheese, you could try a mix of cheddar and jack or even something creamy and decadent like mascarpone. I added truffle oil to my sauce just because it seemed like the right thing to do as well as Old Bay seasoning to the breadcrumb topping! Overall, this dish was an utter hit and everyone at the table, including the birthday girl, was blown away! 

Ingredients: Feeds 8 – 10

  • 1 1/4 lbs of steamed lobster tail meat*, chopped
  • 1 lb. Cellentani macaroni (or any medium spiral shaped pasta)
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2  small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 pint light cream (at room temp)
  • 1 1/2 cups of low fat milk (also at room temp)
  • 1 tsp truffle oil
  • 12 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (plus additional for topping)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to box directions. Drain and set aside when done cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt 3 tbsp of butter over low to medium heat and sauté the onions until they begin to soften. Add the mustard and the garlic. Then add the flour to the mixture and whisk to combine. The mixture will appear lumpy.
  3. Slowly add the cream and the milk and then the truffle oil. Whisk until well incorporated and mixture has little to no lumps. Leave sauce to simmer over low heat. Stir frequently while allowing sauce to thicken. Do not let sauce boil over!
  4. While sauce cooks, combine 2 tbsp butter, the Panko and Old Bay seasoning in a small lidded pot. Cook over low heat until butter melts and bread crumbs are saturated and lightly toasted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Preheat oven to 325.
  6. Once the sauce has begun to thicken and has reduced some, start adding small amounts of shredded cheese as you continue to stir. Once all the cheese has been blended in, add the fresh pepper and salt to taste.
  7. In a large prep bowl, combine drained pasta, cheese sauce and steamed lobster meat. Mix well and transfer to a lightly greased glass 9×13 casserole dish. Top with additional shredded cheese if desired. Sprinkle with toasted/seasoned breadcrumbs. Cover with aluminum foil.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, covered. Remove foil and broil 3 – 5 minutes to crisp up the bread crumb topping.
  9. Serve immediately and prepare yourself for the onslaught of compliments sure to follow!! Enjoy 🙂

Suggestion:

* I bought three, 7 oz,  frozen lobster tails from my local seafood market. I unwrapped them and defrosted them in a colander in my kitchen sink. Once thawed, I steamed them in a large pot for 10 minutes, then rinsed them under cold water directly to prevent them from continuing to cook. Once they could be handled, I used my kitchen shears to remove the shells and then chopped the meat using a large chef’s knife.