Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ground Chicken and Pasta Soup

It's soup season! I had some ground chicken that I pulled out of the freezer the other day, and I didn't know what to do with it. I think you can make soup out of pretty much anything, don't you think?

This wagon wheel pasta is fun too. It expands a lot though, so don't be tempted to add more.

Preheat the oven to 375F.
Roll out a tube of Pillsbury crescent roll dough.
Use a pizza cutter to make strips.
Put some sauce, garlic powder and cheese on top.

Twist the strips and put them on a parchment lined baking sheet.
The cheese sticks to the sauce so twisting these isn't as hard as you might think.
DO NOT use foil. My mistake. They didn't come off easily.
Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Ground Chicken and Pasta Soup
Makes 6 servings

1 large onion
1 sweet red pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 lb lean ground chicken (or beef)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
650 ml (22oz?) jar pasta sauce (I used basil) 
4 cups chicken broth
Parmesan cheese rind (optional) 
1 1/2 cups dried Rotelle pasta (or whatever shape you like)
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella & Parmesan for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Fry the onion, red pepper, garlic and ground meat for several minutes, until the meat is cooked through.

Add the Italian seasoning, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and stir.

Stir in the sauce and broth, then add a Parmesan cheese rind if you have one. You can keep them in the freezer once you've finished the cheese, and use them for soup. I picked up that tip from The Food Network.

Let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes, then stir in the pasta. Cook until it becomes tender (but not mushy). The cooking time will depend on your pasta.

Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan.

Serve hot with some extra Parmesan and mozzarella grated on top.

I also made bread sticks using Pillsbury crescent roll dough, pasta sauce, garlic powder and mozzarella. But I don't recommend baking them directly on foil. Use parchment or they WILL stick. We had a hard time getting them off the foil.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie - Secret Recipe Club


And, welcome to another Secret Recipe Club post. This month I got a fabulous blog called Mostly Food and Crafts written by one very crafty lady. Danielle is a mom of 2 beautiful kids, and I like that she gets them involved in her cooking and crafting.

In addition to all the great recipes Danielle has posted, there are also a ton of wonderful crafts to try out. A Thankful Garland and Tablecloth would be great projects for Thanksgiving. And her Thanksgiving Platter is super cute! It’s the perfect project to do with your kids and keep around for years to come.

I was looking for something seasonal this time around, because here in Canada, today is Thanksgiving! I might be tempted to add a little more pumpkin next time to get a bit more pumpkin flavour. Or maybe use only half a banana. But this was one of the best flavours of smoothie I think I've ever had.  

My 6 year old made that beautiful turkey at school. Thought I'd share.

Secret Recipe Club

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
1 Serving

1/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 banana
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon  honey
4 ice cubes

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. That is all.

Gooseberry Patch Recipe Round Up

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Apple Recipe Round-up

Here in Ontario, apple picking season is coming to an end. Now what will we do with all those apples we harvested? Here are some wonderful ways to use apples besides making apple sauce.


And here are some other pretty cool apple ideas.
For more Autumn Ideas, please visit my
Autumn/Halloween/Thanksgiving board on Pinterest.

decadently dark candy apples
Decadently Dark Candy Apples by Country Living

triple dipped smores apples
Tripple Dipped S'mores Apples by Country Living

ghostly coconut covered apples
Ghostly Coconut-Covered Apples by Country Living

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies
Salted Caramel Apple Handpies by Just A Taste

Mini Caramel Apples by from glitter to gumdrops

Chocoalte Dipped Apple Slices by 
The Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife
(The original recipe from Rosa Rot is no longer posted)

Shrunken Heads in Cider
Shrunken Heads in Cider by Martha Stewart

Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream

Last week, I entered my first cupcake competition, which was put together by the fun committee in the building I work in. I decided to do something seasonal and use apples. While I wasn’t in the top 3 (and I’m pretty sure the winner’s cupcake mix was from a box), I did get an honorable mention and won myself an IPod speaker that lights up. It’s pretty cool!

You can make your own apple chips to go with these cupcakes, or you can buy them in bags from the store if you don’t want to spend 3 hours making them. I only baked one apple so I didn’t have enough slices to place a whole one on each cupcake (I guess we sampled too many), so I broke them up.

If you’re not planning on serving these right away, you can refrigerate the cupcakes after they’re frosted. Just be sure to let them thaw out a bit before trying to put the apple slices on top, the frosting will be very firm straight from the fridge. I’m not sure if the apples will stay crisp if you put them in the fridge.

Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream
Adapted from Chow & Brown Eyed Baker
Makes 24 cupcakes

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, room temperature
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
3 medium apples, peeled and grated (about 3 cups grated)
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Apple chips for decoration.

Preheat the oven to 350F and line 2 muffin tins with paper liners (for 24 cupcakes).

Wisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter on medium high speed for about 2 minutes until it fluffs up a bit. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat for another 2 minutes. It was supposed to become light and fluffy, but that never happened for me, it looked crumbly.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each egg. This is where mine got light and fluffy!

On low speed, beat in the buttermilk until well combined. Does it look curdled to you? It will, but that’s okay, everything will work out in the end.

Now, use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour just until combined, then stir in the apples.

Divide the batter among the 24 prepared muffin cups (I used an ice cream scoop), and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat the butter on medium high speed for 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes. Don’t give up. It will become fluffier.

Add the sugar and cinnamon slowly (I did about 5 additions) on low speed.

Now, add the vanilla on low speed, and once incorporated, increase the speed to high and beat for another minute or two. The frosting should be nice and thick. Place it in your piping bag or spread it onto the cooled cupcakes with a spatula. I sprinkled the frosted cupcakes with a bit of cinnamon sugar too. 

Top each cupcake with an apple chip (or a piece of one).

I made my own apple chips (you can do this in advance and store in an airtight container). Just preheat your oven to 200F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or some parchment, and use a mandolin to get even slices from an apple. Place the slices in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Mix together a little cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on both sides of the apples.

Bake them for 2 or 3 hours, turning once or twice in the process, until they are crispy.

Apple Pancakes

Here's still one more way to use up those fabulous apples of the season. Use a cooking apple for this (I used McIntosh) because they won't have long to cook.

I took my favourite pancake recipe, added a bit of maple extract and dipped the apple slices in it. You can dip about 3 apples. I didn't count how many pancakes I got out of it, but the 4 of us ate and we could easily feed another 3 or 4 people. Serve them with some fresh fruit if you like.

Whenever my mom used to make apple pancakes, we'd always just sprinkle them with sugar and eat them like that, but my kids like syrup of course. Also, I leave the skin on the apples, and use a mandolin to slice them because it's faster. Watch your fingers.

Apple Pancakes
Adapted from
Serves 6-8 people

1 3/4 cups 2% milk
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon maple extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3 cooking apples, sliced to about 1/8" (use a mandolin)

In a measuring cup, measure out the milk and add the vinegar. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Don't be alarmed by the vinegar (you won't taste it) or the curdled look. You could replace this mixture with 2 cups of buttermilk if you want to.

Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk. Make a well in the centre and add the milk mixture. Add the eggs and butter then whisk until well combined.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Brush on some butter. Dip the apple slices one at a time into the batter until they're well coated.

Drop a few pancakes into the pan (don't overcrowd it or you won't be able to flip them easily). Cook for a few minutes until bubbles appear on the surface and it starts to look like it's getting dry, flip and continue to cook for another minute or two until the second side is golden. Repeat with the remaining apple slices.

Place the cooked pancakes onto an oven proof plate and keep them in the oven on very low heat until they're all cooked and ready to serve.

Cranberry Orange Bubble Bread

The scent of fresh bread lingered for hours after I made this delicious recipe! 'Tis the season to eat cranberries right?! Serve it warm with butter, jam or honey. Yum!

This was originally a bread machine recipe, but I don't have one so I made it the old fashioned way. For bread machine instructions, please visit That's My Home.

Cranberry Orange Bubble Bread
Adapted from That's My Home
Makes 16 pieces

3 cups flour

2 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk room temperature
1 egg
1 tbsp margarine
3/4 cup dried cranberries

In a measuring cup, measure the milk and microwave for about 40 seconds. You want it warm but not hot. Add to it the yeast and sugar. Stir then let sit for about 10 minutes until frothy. 

In the meantime, combine flour, grated orange zest, salt, egg, margarine and cranberries with your hands until crumbly.

Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir with your fingers until a ball is formed. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 2 minutes. Add flour as needed. 

Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise about 1 hour. It should be doubled in size.

Roll into a log then cut in half. Cut the halves in half and so on until you get 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then place them into a 9" lightly oiled spring-form cake pan. Cover and rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the spring-form immediately, then let cool slightly before eating.

Imagine what you can do with this fluffy dough? How about cinnamon and raisins? Or maybe just add some grated cheddar and herbs? yum!

Pickled Vegetables

My mother-in-law served these up with dinner tonight. She made them about a week ago and they are so good! If you love pickled things, you'll love these. They have a little bite to them because of the jalapenos.

She doesn't know the measurements, but she did tell me what went into this beautiful jar. I guess it's just one of those recipes that you have to eyeball and hope for the best. I would guess it's probably 1:1 for the vinegar and water.

cauliflower, cut into bitesize chunks
cellery, sliced
carrots, cubed
Persian cucumbers, sliced
garlic cloves
jalapenos, seeded (or not, it's up to you) and sliced
cider vinegar
boiling water

Place all the vegetables into the jar. Mix the vinegar, water and salt and pour over the vegetables to about 1/2" from the top of the jar. Seal it and let it sit in the cupboard for at least a week. My MIL says you don't have to refrigerate these ever. I probably will though. I tend to refrigerate most things after I open them, unless the label specifically tells me not to.

I suppose if you wanted to make many jars, you should go through a canning process of some sort. But I'm not an expert on that. These would make a pretty awesome Christmas gift! Hmm. Maybe I need to do some research on this canning business.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Apple Kuchen

I really like Apple Kuchen. The bottom is a thin cake and the apples bake right into it. It’s also another great way to use up those apples you’re going to pick this season.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I found this recipe for Apple Kuchen (if it’s yours, let me know). I really liked it, but I liked my mom’s better of course.  

Apple Kuchen
Makes 18 servings (I think – it depends how you cut it)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9x13 baking sheet (I also line with parchment).

Wisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon peel, nutmeg and salt and set aside.

Add the milk, butter, egg and vanilla, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Arrange apple slices over the batter.

Place all the topping ingredients into a bowl, and use a fork to mix until it’s crumbly. I use my fingers sometimes. Sprinkle the topping over apple, and bake for about 40 minutes or until lightly golden.

I prefer to eat it completely cooled.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Nutella Glaze

Tired of using your brown bananas to make banana bread? Me too! Give these banana cookies a try instead next time. They're easy to make and who doesn't love Nutella?

These cookies are of the cakey variety. If you're looking for something chewy, try The Best Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Or how about these no flour, egg-free, no added sugar or fat, Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.

The glaze recipe I used was originally from a doughnut recipe, so it sets up nicely. They're not stack-able though, so you'll need to store them in a single layer.

I used margarine because my mom didn't have butter, but if I were at home, I would have used butter instead. Butter is always better. These also would have been a little prettier with some chopped nuts on top. My mom doesn't keep stuff like this since she's not really into baking. I'm lucky to even find baking powder and soda at her place. And the chocolate I used was something that one of her international students brought from Kazakhstan. But you could chop any chocolate you like, or use chocolate chips. I used less than 2 cups, but that's what the original recipe called for.

The kids couldn't get enough of these cookies!

Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Nutella Glaze
Makes about 32 cookies

2  1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cups softened butter (or margarine)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 4 medium)
2 cups chocolate chunks/chips (semi sweet, milk or whatever you want)
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons Nutella
2 tablespoons 2% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400F and line your baking sheet with parchment.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together. I used a wooden spoon just until it started to come together and become creamy. It wasn't overly fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the mashed bananas.

Add the dry mixture and stir just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks.

Drop heaping teaspoons of the batter onto the prepared cookie sheet. At home, I'd have used my small cookie scoop (my mom doesn't have one of those either). I would have gotten more cookies that way I think, and they would have been more round.

Bake for about 8 minutes or until firm. Touch them with your finger to see if they spring back at you. The tops won't be that golden, but it doesn't matter, the inside will be cooked.

Let them cool on wire racks before glazing. 

To make the glaze, stir all the glaze ingredients together (I just used a spoon) until smooth. Dip the cookie tops into the glaze, or spread it on with a spatula. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mashed Potatoes with Cheddar and Gravy

Tonight I had a request for gravy from my 6 year old. I guess she REALLY likes the Club House gravy mixes!

So, I made some pork chops, which you can see in my post from Saturday for Club House Gluten-Free ‘Stuffin Muffin & Gravy / Pork Chops with Brown , and mashed potatoes. I used the Club House chicken gravy this time, because that's what she picked. But go ahead and use the gluten-free turkey mix instead.

Mashed Potatoes with Cheddar and Gravy
6 servings

6 medium yellow potatoes, scrubbed (I like the skin on)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup 2% milk
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar (or 1 cup if your middle name is Cheese Monster)
1 packet Club House Gravy Mix (chicken or gluten-free turkey)
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Cut the potatoes in chunks and boil them in a large pot of salted water until they're very tender. It'll depend on how big your chunks are, but somewhere around 15 minutes should do it. I tried one while it was still hot. That was a mistake. 

Turn off the stove and drain the potatoes. Now, place the pot back on the same burner (mine was still hot) and add the butter. Mash it up until the butter is all melted, then add the milk, dill, salt and pepper. Do this over the warm burner so the milk heats up a little. Mash away until it's as smooth as you like it.

Stir in the cheese with a wooden spoon. Put the lid on to keep them warm while you make your gravy.

Now, in a small pot, make your gravy according to package directions, and add the dried parsley. I like the little green flecks on top of my potatoes. It looks pretty. It's possible I added too much water to the mix (and that's why you shouldn't be lazy and guess), but nobody seemed to notice. Serve over your mashed potatoes. If you've got a gravy loving family like mine, you might need to make 2 packets.