Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkin Cornbread

After posting my newest favorite soup recipe last week, I promised to share the pumpkin cornbread recipe. This cornbread was super moist, which makes or breaks a cornbread recipe, in my opinion. You could taste the pumpkin, but not overly so, which I also liked. This recipes comes together in no time, and stayed tasty for three days, well covered (might have stayed fresh longer, but that's how long it took us to finish it all). This is the perfect cornbread to pair with your soups, chilis, and stews this fall!

Pumpkin Cornbread
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp honey

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 8x8" baking dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, and cornmeal.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then stir in the pumpkin, oil, and honey.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined, and then pour the batter into the pan, smoothing out the top as much as possible.

Bake 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

source: recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen

P.S. Buttermilk Cornbread with Monterey Jack Cheese.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pasta Fagioli Soup

I posted yesterday about how I plan my meals, and I realized that I had not yet shared this recipe. This soup is really easy to throw together (we're talking 18-20 minutes, tops), and it so, so delicious. After taking a few bites, Caleb declared this was the best meal we had eaten in a while. I'd say that's a win! This has found its place in my fall/winter meal rotation. I served it with pumpkin cornbread, a recipe I'll be sharing soon!

Pasta Fagioli Soup
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups water
1 can (15-1/2 ounces) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, cut into strips
Parmesan cheese, for topping

In a large saucepan, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the onion in the oil until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute longer.

Add the water, beans, tomatoes, broth, macaroni, and pepper; bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until macaroni is tender.

Reduce heat to low; stir in sausage and spinach. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 5-6.

source: Light & Tasty, August/September 2007

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Do you plan your meals?

My method of planning meals has changed several times over the past few years. When we first got married, I made a new main dish and a couple of sides every night of the week. It took a couple weeks of more leftovers than two people could ever consume (and a ridiculous grocery bill!) for me to realize that cooking for two people is nothing like how I remember my mom cooking for six people growing up.

For the majority of our marriage, I have been cooking a full meal three to four times a week, with the other nights slated as going out to eat, entertaining (and thus requiring a new meal) or getting together with friends, or eating leftovers. The leftovers were definitely more manageable, but I still felt like we were wasting food. Even if it was looking like there were a lot of leftovers for a certain week, when Thursday rolled around I would make Thursday's dinner for fear the ingredients I had purchased would spoil. We were throwing away too many leftovers and too much produce, and I didn't like it.

So! this fall I've tried a more relaxed way of meal planning, with the goal to waste less food. Planning for several weeks in advance, I make a list of all of the meals I could potentially make for dinners for those weeks. I then look at the weekly ad for Publix, noting which meats and produce are on sale that week. Then I go back to my list of meals and pick out which ones might be suitable for this week, depending on the sales and how I can use the same produce for several meals (the goal being not to waste anything). I also compare my list of meals to the rest of the sales, noting which items are BOGO that I might need for any of the meals in the coming weeks (pasta, canned tomatoes, cheeses, etc.).

Once I come home with my groceries, I prep my meat. If I need cooked ground beef or sausage, I go ahead and cook it, divide it into containers, label it for the meals I need it, and throw it in the freezer. For chicken, I either cook it and shred/chop it, or trim any fat and package it by how much I need for a specific recipe, again labeling and putting it in the freezer.

When it comes time to prepare a meal from my rough plan for the week, I thaw my meat (usually putting it in the fridge the night before) and cook dinner. If I'm finding that we have more leftovers than I anticipated, I won't prepare one of the meals that I had planned for the end of the week and will let it roll over to the next week (meat still in the freezer). I move any extra the produce to an additional tossed salad or as snacks with hummus to make sure it doesn't go bad. If I'm making a soup or chili, I usually freeze half to pull out for another week in the future.

Here's some of the main dishes that have been on my list this fall (all recipes linked):
Texas Two Step Chicken
Slow Cooker Sweet & Tangy Meatballs
Chicken Enchilada Soup
Stuffed Peppers
Poppyseed Chicken
Black Bean Taco Soup
Slow Cooker Cream Cheese Chicken Taquitos
Sausage & Tortellini Soup
Chicken Squares
Pasta Fagioli
Chicken Salad
Black Bean Chili
Braised French Onion Chicken with Gruyère

This is what I have found works best for me. It does take a little time on the front end to think a few weeks out and prep the meat, but I've found that it is so worth it. It takes me less time to make dinner after work, we're wasting less food, and our grocery bill has been less since I've started doing this, too! One of the things that makes this work so well is being able to count on good sales at Publix. There are always great BOGOs to take advantage of, and it's easy to plan meals based on what produce and meat is on sale each week. There's even more great sales this month at Publix as part of the October Fresh Savings event. You can find coupons to use here.

Do you already do this? It's been wonderful for me, but maybe I'm the last to catch on. How do you plan your meals?

(meal planning & grocery notepad from Brim Papery)

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Now that fall has arrived, I am all about baking with pumpkin. I am not a fan of the pumpkin spice latte, but pumpkin muffins and breads are welcome in my kitchen any time. I'm pretty sure I've made these pumpkin cream cheese muffins before, but I couldn't find them on the blog anywhere. While these take a bit of time to assemble, they are well worth it for a perfect fall treat.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
for the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar

for the muffins:
3 cups flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

for the topping:
1/2 cup sugar
5 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around hte log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl. combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree, and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan or liner (1-2 Tbsp). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (Note: the cream cheese filling gets very hot). Makes 24 muffins

source: slightly adapted from annie's eats, originally from bakespace