Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chicken & Tomato Soup


Sunday night after we were finished trick-or-treating, we decided to head over to Chili’s for a quick dinner. There was a new soup on the menu that sort of jumped out to me and I ordered a cup with my meal. That was my first mistake. When the soup arrived I was immediately taken by the aroma, and as soon as I took the first sip Brent could tell I was in love! We fought over the remainder of the soup and our waiter was kind enough to bring us a second cup on the house. I wrote down the ingredients from the menu and knew I had to recreate it.

Brent says this is better than the original, but I think it’s pretty dang close – if not slightly different. For my version there is more avocado and a slight sprinkle of cheddar cheese which I think brings the whole thing together. I urge you to try this soon, you won’t be disappointed!!

Chicken & Tomato Soup
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, small dice
¼ cup minced fresh garlic
4oz can chopped green chilies
10oz can Mexican Rotel with Lime & Cilantro
14.5oz can fire roasted tomatoes
49.5oz + 32oz chicken broth
2 cups cooked rice (we used brown)
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Fresh avocado, cubed
Lime wedges
Shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
Using a mandolin slicer, slice your chicken breasts very thin (or use a knife). Heat a large stockpot over medium, medium-high heat and drizzle generously with EVOO. Once heated, toss in your onion and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in your chicken, salt and pepper and continue to cook for another 3 minutes then add your garlic and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring often. To the pan add your green chilies, tomatoes, Rotel, cooked rice and chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat.

Just before serving, add in your chopped cilantro. To serve, place approximately half of an avocado, cubed, in the bottom of your soup bowl and top with ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese. Ladle soup over that and top with a generous squeeze of lime juice.

Enjoy! KC

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vegetable Lasagna


As I’ve mentioned many times, lasagna is my absolute favorite food. All of its cheesy, meaty, tomato-y goodness – mmm! Growing up my standard birthday dinner consisted of my Mama’s homemade lasagna, Caesar salad and cheesecake.

Since I began cooking on my own I’ve never made lasagna the same way more than once. I throw together whatever I have on hand and make it work. Brent had asked for vegetable lasagna last weekend and the very first thing we saw as we entered Central Market was these one-balled squash. I hadn’t seen anything like them before and I was completely giddy to make this lasagna with them. They are 3-4 inches in diameter and look like a small pumpkin. Maybe next time I find them I’ll try squash chips with them.

Like most things I make, this recipe is completely versatile. You could use whatever veggies you had on hand and I think especially eggplant would be great.

Vegetable Lasagna
Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients:
1lb whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 one-balled squash (or 4 regular squash)
1 Vidalia onion
10oz baby spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cup tomato sauce (I used leftovers from the meatball recipe)
16oz ricotta cheese
Zest and juice from ½ a lemon
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 cups grated Italian cheese blend
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9”x13” lasagna pan with cooking spray and set to the side.

Using a mandolin slicer with a thin setting, slice your squash (conversely use a knife and slice 1/16thick). Then switch to the ultra thin blade and slice your onion (or, using a knife, slice paper thin).

In a large skillet heated to medium-high heat and drizzled with EVOO, sauté your onion and garlic for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add in your spinach, cover and let steam for 2 minutes. Remove lid, stir, recover and remove from heat. Let sit about 5 minutes or until spinach has wilted.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your ricotta cheese, lemon zest & juice, salt & pepper and Italian seasoning. Stir to incorporate. Add in 2 cups grated Italian cheese blend and stir to combine.

To begin layering your lasagna, ladle ¼ of your tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan, and top with noodles to cover – approximately 3. Drop 1/3 of your ricotta cheese mixture on top of noodles and spread as best you can. Top with 1/3 of your squash slices, and then 1/3 of your spinach and onion mixture. Drizzle another ¼ of your tomato sauce over the spinach and onion. Repeat the layers two more times, ending with tomato sauce. Top with 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese.

Bake in preheated oven on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes, or until lasagna is bubbly and cheeses have browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes before serving.

Enjoy! KC

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Remember how I mentioned that I LOVE Italian food? Well, next to lasagna, meatballs are my favorite. You could forgo the pasta as long as you have the meatballs swimming in a perfect red sauce.

Brent has never been a big fan of meatballs but since eating these he has requested them again for next week already, so that’s really saying something. These were born from my watching “Food Feuds” on Food Network and having a massive craving for meatballs while heading to eat sushi. All through dinner I was bouncing ideas off of Brent and writing ingredients in my iPhone. Needless to say we made an early trip to Central Market the next day.

This recipe can be quick, or it can take an entire day, depending on how much time you’re willing to spend. I tasted it both ways – eating as soon as they were finished, and eating them the next day, and we both preferred them on day two as they’d absorbed the flavor of the sauce.

Meatballs
Yield: 15-16 meatballs

Ingredients:
1lb ground lamb
1lb ground veal
½ cup fresh seasoned breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. granulated garlic
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
Pinch black pepper
½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Simmering tomato sauce (recipe below)

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and work with your hands until incorporated.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Fry your meatballs on each side just until browned, then transfer to your simmering tomato sauce. Cover, and cook over medium-low heat for one hour.

You may eat the meatballs after they’ve cooked for the hour, however by letting them cool and then refrigerating them overnight they will absorb the flavors of the sauce. Reheat the next day and serve over spaghetti.

Tomato Sauce
1-28oz can pureed crushed tomatoes
1-28oz can tomato sauce
5 small carrots, diced
5 cloves garlic
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauté your carrots and onions in EVOO over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add in your garlic and basil and cook 1 minute. Pour in your tomatoes, salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 1 hour over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and puree, then return to the pan.

Enjoy! KC

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pot Roast

Pot roast falls into the category of “Traditional Sunday Dinners.” At least that was the case before the invention of the Crock Pot. Now you can have a pot roast any day of the week, one that practically cooks itself while you’re away at work (or shopping, depending on the day!)

This recipe lends itself well to variations – you can use beef or pork and any root vegetables you like. We’ve always used the classic potato/carrot/onion combination and go a little heavy on the carrots – that’s my favorite part.

Depending on where you buy groceries, it’s always a good idea to buy a couple roasts when they go on sale during the cool months and keep them frozen. That way, when you get a hankering for a Sunday dinner on Tuesday, it’s only a day away in the Crock Pot.

Pot Roast
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:
2-3lb boneless roast
½ T. granulated garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 T. Kosher salt
½ T. black pepper
5 large carrots, 1” chop
2 large russet baker potatoes, 1” cube
1 sweet yellow onion, 1” chop
½ cup beef stock
1 bay leaf

Directions:
Turn your Crock Pot to high heat and put the lid on it to heat while you chop your veggies.

Stir together your dry ingredients in a small bowl and then rub generously over the roast, reserving any unused seasonings. In a skillet over high heat, drizzle a bit of EVOO and sear your pot roast on all sides to seal in the juices. Remove from pan and put immediately into heated Crock Pot. Cover with your chopped veggies, sprinkle leftover seasonings and pour over your beef broth. Top with a bay leaf and cover.

Turn heat to low and cook for 6-8 hours, or until potatoes are tender.

If you like your pot roast to have a gravy, simply remove your veggies and roast from the Crock Pot and stir into the juices 1 T. flour dissolve in 2 T. cold water. Stir until thickened, and pour over the finished dish.

Enjoy! KC

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Over the summer I was out of the office on medical leave for about 13 weeks and I’m pretty sure that I spent most of my days watching cooking shows and gaining 10lbs with each show. I wanted so badly to be able to be on my feet in the kitchen and baking up a million different delicious treats. By the time I went back to work at the end of July I had a dozen or so recipes to try on my coworkers. I’ve spent the last several weeks trying different ones out and I’ve discovered I really love making cupcakes.

Yesterday on Mama’s Kitchen’s Facebook fan page I asked the fans what sort of cupcake they would enjoy. Among the entries, my cousin Rachael requested a strawberry cupcake with a cheesecake filling and I immediately set to work building it out in my head. I’ve seen various concoctions of strawberry with a cream cheese frosting but I wanted to go beyond that.

Inspiration for this recipe came from Annie’s pumpkin cream cheese muffins. I really liked the way she did the cream cheese center, and I was hopeful that this concept could carry over. What I came up with was a strawberry cupcake base, with a cheesecake disc in the center, topped with a strawberry cream cheese frosting. There is just the right balance of sweetness – because there is nothing worse than your teeth aching when you bite into something sweet.

Thanks Rach for the suggestion – I have truly enjoyed creating this one!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
Yield: 30 cupcakes

For the Filling:
12oz cream cheese
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
½ cup graham cracker crumbs

For the Cake:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup fresh strawberry puree (about 10 strawberries)

For the Frosting:
8oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
5 strawberries, pureed

Directions:
For the filling, cream everything except the graham cracker crumbs in your stand mixer until smooth, approximately five minutes. Lay a piece of saran about 24” in length wrap long ways on the work surface and spray lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle you graham cracker crumbs evenly over the saran wrap and drop your cream cheese mixture in the beginning shape of a log over them. Using the saran wrap to help, gently roll your cream cheese mixture into a log about one inch in diameter and about 18” in length. Wrap in foil and freeze until firm, about two hours.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line three cupcake pans with liners and set to the side. (Alternately, if you’re like me and only have two pans, you can bake in two sessions.)

For the cake, cream together your butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in your eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one, and then add in your vanilla. Slowly add your dry ingredients, alternating with your wet ingredients and always ending with flour. This will ensure you have a smooth batter. Stir in your strawberry puree.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill your cupcake bays half full. Remove your cheesecake log from the freezer and slice into 30 equal pieces, and place a piece of the cheesecake directly on top of your cupcake batter. Top cheesecake with enough batter to make bays ¾ full.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-22 minutes, rotating pans half way through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, and cool for five minutes in the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, cream together your cream cheese and butter until smooth. Stir in your strawberry puree until incorporated. Slowly add in your powdered sugar until combined, and then whip for five minutes until light and fluffy. Frost to your liking, and sprinkle with extra graham cracker crumbs.

Enjoy! KC

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bison Tenderloin Tower

Brent and I rarely have “date nights”. Sure, we go out to eat almost every week but never really a date. Finally this past weekend we decided to do just that and went to have dinner at our favorite little sushi restaurant up the street from our house. One of our favorite rolls there is called the CowTown Roll – waygu beef, spring mix, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno and ponzu sauce. As soon as we’d eaten it, I knew I had to try it at home.

My intention was never to make a hand roll. All along I knew I wanted to take a tower approach instead, and I think it turned out quite well. We couldn’t find a good piece of waygu beef we liked at Central Market so we chose to use a bison tenderloin instead – and boy am I glad we did! Rich, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, mmmmmmmm! Brent actually let me grill this and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.

Bison Tenderloin Tower
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:
1lb bison tenderloin
½ cup soy sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
¼ cup minced garlic
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup minced red onion
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, minced
1 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Ponzu sauce, for drizzling

Directions:
In a small bowl, combine your soy sauce, mustard, vinegar and garlic and mix well. Put your tenderloin in a baggie and pour marinade over the top. Seal the air out and let rest in the fridge for one hour, then take out of the fridge and let come to room temperature while you heat up your grill.

Bring your grill to 650°F. Sear your bison tenderloin for two minutes per side, flipping twice, for a total of six minutes. On your last flip, shut your grill down completely and let rest in the hot grill for five minutes, then remove from the heat and let rest for five more minutes. Slice thinly.

To assemble your tower, use any wide cylindrical object – I used an old plastic cup and cut the narrow end off. Place one cup of cooked rice in the bottom of your tower, followed by half of your red onion and half of your jalapeno. Gently remove your shaper and lay half of your grilled bison around the tower. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and drizzle with ponzu.

Enjoy! KC

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Smoked Turkey Breast

If you think you can only have turkey at Thanksgiving, you are missing out. (Turkey lunchmeat not included LOL) Seeing as how my husband runs a barbeque store we tend to grill a lot. Thankfully it’s the one place he can cook really well without the possibility of burning down my house.

Brent can make a killer brisket, pulled pork, you name it – and I’m sure all of his recipes will end up here. This is his as well. Very, very simple and oh-so-flavorful. Brining the meat is important as it imparts flavor and juices before the cooking process begins. The rub featured here is from the Big Green Egg cookbook but you can use any rub you please.

Now, I realize there are a million different kinds of smokers. We happen to own a Big Green Egg ourselves so it is slightly different than most – but by far one of the best grills you can buy. Brent suggests tailoring the smoking to what works best for your equipment, and if you don’t know, leave a comment and he’ll be happy to help.

Smoked Turkey Breast

3-4lb bone-in turkey breast
3-4 Hickory wood chunks

For the Rub:
2 T. freshly ground tri-color peppercorns
2 T. sweet paprika
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. onion powder
2 T. Kosher salt
2 T. dried oregano
1 T. chili powder
1 T. celery seed
2 T. light brown sugar

For the Brine:
½ cup Kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
2 quarts water

Directions:
Mix all of your rub ingredients in a small bowl until combined; set aside.

To brine the turkey breast, stir together your ingredients until salt and sugar are dissolved. Place the turkey breast in a gallon baggie, pour in the brine, seal all of the air pockets out and let rest at room temperature for one hour.

In the meantime, preheat your smoker to 200°F. Once the smoker is to temperature, put your wood chunks directly in the center of your charcoal. Place your seasoned meat in a roasting rack fitted into a drip pan and then into the smoker. Smoke for approximately one hour per pound of meat, until internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Let rest for twenty minutes before slicing.

Enjoy! KC

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Protein

There is nothing whatsoever fancy about this meal. As a matter of fact it is not really worth a post, except to show you how I eat when I'm not dreaming up gourmet, calorie-laden foods. Usually I don't get home from the office until around 4:30pm when LB isn't here, and in order to eat by 5:00pm so that I am ready to work out at 7:45pm I have to cook FAST. Quick, simple, protein-packed and D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.

This is a perfect example. Eggs, bacon, cottage cheese (and a side of quinoa added later) come together in under five minutes and are really satisfying. I tend to cook my bacon in the microwave when I'm short on time, and in the few minutes that is cooking I can scramble up some eggs. Cottage cheese is a new thing for me and I'm learning to like it in small doses, preferably with salt & pepper. I've seen it served all sorts of ways but simple works best for me.

Another great option is chicken breasts. Place a frozen chicken breast in a saute pan with some Mojave Garlic Pepper, cover and let it steam while you cook up some green veggies (or my favorite spinach and egg combo). Quinoa is always a great addition as it is a perfect protein and a seed as opposed to a grain.

Eating so "lightly" can be difficult. My natural inclination is to spend a couple of hours making dinner and really enjoying it. When LB returns Sunday we'll start back to that, but I'll try to keep all recipes under an hour. :-)

Enjoy! KC

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Simple Scallops

Growing up I was never a fan of seafood, but the older I've gotten the more I've come to like some things. Nights like tonight my husband doesn't get home until 7:30pm and we leave straight for the gym so I like to eat a quick protein-packed dinner before 5pm. This meal is perfect, easy to prepare and just the right amount of flavor.

For this variation I've paired my scallops with a mixture of cooked orzo with spinach and cream. Total time to complete this meal was 15 minutes.

Scallops
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:
1lb bay scallops, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup bacon fat
1/4 cup herb butter
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:
Melt together your butter and bacon fat in a 10" skillet over medium-high heat. Gently drop in your scallops and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to "baste" the fish with the liquid.

After 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let sit for five minutes. Serve immediately.

*For the orzo side, I simply cooked orzo until al dente and added in some fresh spinach during the last 3 minutes of cook time. Strain completely and return to pan. Add in 1/4 cup heavy cream, salt and pepper and stir. Yum!

Enjoy! KC

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Favorite Potato Soup


Whenever I was sick as a kid, my Mama would always fix me homemade potato soup. It seemed like she would slave over the stove forever for that creamy goodness. Turns out it was nothing more than potatoes and milk but it was still one of my favorites.

A few years ago just as Fall was making its appearance I threw together this soup out of basically nothing. It was late, chilly, and I was sick and did NOT feel like going to the store. Using a few staples I had around this soup was born and has quickly become my favorite grown-up potato soup. It's slightly sweet with just a hint of spice - but if you're like me, you'll add a little extra.

Potato Soup
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:
2 large baker potatoes, peeled and large diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and large diced
1/2 lb. honey or brown sugar ham, diced
1 medium sweet yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt (or Real Salt)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
Generous pinch of ground cinnamon

Directions:
Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat and drizzle well with extra-virgin olive oil. Once hot, toss in your diced onions and ham and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to sweat.

Add in your diced apples, garlic and dry spices and cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in your potatoes, broth and water and stir. (The liquid should be above the potatoes; if not, add just enough extra water or broth to cover.)

Reduce heat to medium and simmer soup for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then use an immersion blender to puree about half of the soup (you can also use a food processor.) Serve with a drizzle of heavy cream.

Enjoy! KC

Pumpkin Sandwich

 Okay, I'll admit: this sandwich alone is not really worth an entire post. However, the bread itself is - and with the addition of a couple of ingredients becomes one of my favorite Fall snacks.

This past weekend I made some homemade pumpkin puree and let me tell you - I will never buy canned again. Most of it was frozen but I had about a cup left over and was really craving some pumpkin bread. Once the bread was baked and cooled, I cut two thin slices and slathered whipped cream cheese on one then topped it with honey roasted turkey. This, my friends, is phenomenal. It's a perfect little bite when you just need something to hold you over for a bit. Sweet, savory and delicious!

Now for the bread, this is my favorite pumpkin bread recipe yet and even my husband loved it. It's very simple to put together and the taste can't be beat. It'll definitely be making appearances at holiday functions this year.

Pumpkin Bread
Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. fresh pumpkin puree
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. water

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan. Combine your dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine your sugar and oil and mix on medium speed until sugar begins to dissolve. Add in your eggs and pumpkin and stir until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Blend in your dry ingredients, alternating with the water, just until moist. Pour into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

Enjoy! KC

*Recipe adapted from The Food Network.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lemon Chicken Primavera

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I LOVE Italian food! Chicken primavera is pretty much a staple of an Italian meal, and I think the lemon just brightens up this dish so much. Of course, I love lemon on just about anything so maybe I’m partial.

This dish is quick to prepare and chock full of veggies. If you don’t have all of the veggies listed, feel free to substitute as needed.

Lemon Chicken Primavera
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini squash
1 red bell pepper
2 carrots
½ cup green olives, sliced
1 small red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pint mushrooms, wiped clean
1 head broccoli crowns
1lb whole wheat penne pasta
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil

Directions:
Grill or sauté chicken breasts sprinkled with salt and pepper until just cooked through, remove from heat. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing into ¼” strips. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Slice all vegetables (unless otherwise noted) to a ¼” slice. In a large skillet over medium-high heat and generously drizzled with olive oil combine all veggies, sprinkle with salt and pepper and quickly, about 2 minutes. Add in the lemon zest and juice and and chicken, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, veggies and pasta and toss to coat. Serve warm, with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Enjoy! KC

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chili


It’s Fall now, right? At least that’s what the dramatically cooler temps outside are telling me! At the first sign of a chill I run to my cold weather recipes and anxiously await all of the evenings I can make soups and stews. My Mama is a chili master in my opinion and I was surprised to realize last night that I’ve never attempted to make it.

Now, my husband is from Kansas City and his “Yankee-ness” has a much different view of what a chili should look and taste like. As for me I’m not just a big fan of chili powder or beans in my chili for that matter – just gimme the meat! But, he made chili several times for me last year and I’ve started to like the addition of beans for texture. Still not a big fan of chili powder but I consent you do need it for flavor.

This recipe is totally winged. I eyeballed all of the seasonings and only knew my meat and veggie amounts because they were packaged. And GASP! I used garlic powder instead of fresh garlic because I was out, but I actually think I liked the taste a smidge better. It is so very versatile that you can change it how you please, but we found this to be spectacular. Even LB, who proclaimed to this bio-mom that he “Loved Chili!!” to which she responded, “But you don’t like it when I make it . . .” so obviously I did something right. ;-)

Chili
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
2.5lbs ground beef (I used the 80/20 for flavor)
1 large yellow sweet onion, diced
3 cans of beans, drained & rinsed (I used black, pinto and red)
4 cans of fire roasted tomatoes, with juice
2 tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
3 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. chipotle chili powder
Chili powder (I estimate I used 5-6 tbsp. but you can change to your taste)
Handful of salt
Handful of pepper

Directions:
In a small bowl combine and mix all of your dry ingredients. In a large stock pot over medium high heat, combine your ground beef, diced onion and dry seasonings and cook stirring frequently until meat is well-browned, about 10-15 minutes. The more you brown, the more flavor you incorporate! Cooking the beef with the seasonings really helps them adhere to the meat as opposed to them just floating around the broth.

Once your meat is browned, stir in your tomatoes and beans and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

We serve over Frito’s with shredded cheese on top. Tonight, leftovers are being served over a baked potato.

Enjoy! KC

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beef Stroganoff

Everyone has that ONE food that just takes you back to the comforts of home growing up. My mom was such an amazing cook that I happen to have a lot of those ONE foods, but beef stroganoff may be my favorite. Surprisingly enough my very favorite came out of a packet, McCormick brand mix for stroganoff. Up until a few months ago it was still my go-to simply because of how easy and quick it is to throw together when you’re running short on time.

As tends to happen with me, I got a craving for stroganoff several months ago and had no sauce packets – GASP! Odd because I usually by about 5 at a time . . . (no lie) At any rate, I decided it couldn’t be that difficult to recreate so off I went. It took no more time to do this from scratch than it did a packet and my husband said he actually preferred it.

This makes a LOT of food, enough that all three of us had dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day and plenty for dinner the next night after t-ball practice. I really like the cold leftovers the next day!

Beef Stroganoff
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

1lb top sirloin, cut into thin strips (you can buy these pre-packaged at Kroger, I learned yesterday)
1 heaping tbsp. flour
1 heaping tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt (plus extra)
½ tsp. pepper (plus extra)
Sprinkle of paprika
1 cup cold water
4 oz. plain Greek yogurt
4 oz. sour cream
1 large package egg noodles

Directions:
Heat a large stockpot to boil with salted water and cook your egg noodles. These generally cook 7-9 minutes, so get the water going first in order for everything to finish on time.

Heat a deep skillet to med-high heat and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle your steak with salt and pepper and rub generously into the meat. Once your skillet is hot, drop in the steak and stir-fry until there is very little pink left, approximately 3-5 minutes. While the steak is cooking, combine all of your dry ingredients in a measuring cup, stir and add in the water, whisking well. When your steak is finished pour in your sauce mixture, stir, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once your sauce has thickened, add in the yogurt and sour cream and stir gently until mixed. Strain your cooked egg noodles and pour sauce over the top, stirring well.

Enjoy! KC

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken is just one of those comfort foods I can’t imagine living without. When I was younger my Mama would make this every so often and it was always a treat. Warm and creamy, tons of cheese and the slight crunch of tortilla chips just made this a perfect all-around dish.
Funny enough I have never made this for my husband, although he asks me frequently to do so because I speak so highly of it. The prep takes less than 20 minutes so really there is no excuse! I figured since the weather has finally cooled off I'd give it a go for the first time in a few years.

King Ranch Chicken
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 Roasted Rotisserie Chicken (like you can buy at Wal-Mart or Albertson’s), deboned/skin removed and meat shredded
Tortilla chips (not very salty ones if you can find them – like Mission brand)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth
1 small can diced green chilies
1 can Rotel, with juice
1 medium onion, diced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups shredded cheese
8 oz sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place an even layer of tortilla chips on the bottom of a 13”x9” baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent and fragrant, 5-6 minutes.

In large bowl, combine shredded chicken, both cans of soup, onions & garlic, green chilies and Rotel. Add just enough chicken broth to make mixture slightly soupy. Pour mixture over tortilla chips.

In small bowl, heat remaining chicken broth in the microwave. Whisk in sour cream, and pour mixture over the top of chicken mixture, covering evenly. Top with shredded cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for half an hour. Remove foil and bake for an additional fifteen minutes.

Enjoy! KC

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Panzanella

Panzanella is a bread salad, basically, where you can incorporate a ton of fresh vegetables in one simple meal. The first time I saw this recipe was on Barefoot Contessa while I was out of work after surgery. It looked fantastic but complicated. Boy, was I wrong! Later I saw a recipe for Greek panzanella on my favorite cooking blog and it turns out to be adapted from Ina Garten’s.

This is my adapted version from Annie’s Eats, which is adapted from Barefoot Contessa. In order to make it less time consuming I do the bread differently than their recipes call for and we like it a little better – it keeps the bread crunchy even on the second day and adds to the overall crunchiness of the salad. I have decided that I will try to incorporate this into my meal routine every week, mostly likely for my daily lunches.

Panzanella
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:
1 loaf whole-wheat French bread, cut into 1” cubes
     For the bread: olive oil, garlic powder, kosher salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried basil
4 bell peppers, in different colors, large dice
1 red onion, large dice
3 stalks celery, large dice
1lb button mushrooms, wiped clean, large dice
1 cucumber, large dice
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can small pitted olives, drained well
½ cup banana pepper rings
6oz. crumbled feta cheese

Vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced (or use a Microplane, my preferred method)
1 ¼ tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup good olive oil
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a large mixing bowl combine all of your chopped vegetables and cheese and set to the side. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for your vinaigrette, and then drizzle over your chopped vegetables. Toss well to coat and set in the fridge to marinate.

On a large baking sheet, lay out your bread cubes in a single layer and drizzle well with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano and dried basil and toss cubes to coat. If any of the seasoning falls to the bottom of the pan, scoop it up and sprinkle it back over the top. Bake in a 400°F oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until nice and brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

When you’re ready to serve your salad, combine the marinated veggies with the baked bread cubes and toss to coat so that some of the marinade seeps into the bread. Serve immediately. Leftovers will keep for the next day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spiced Tea

When I was growing up there was a little restaurant on the square in Denton that my mom loved, particularly their tea! Someone there was kind enough to give her the recipe and she would make it on occasion and I could never get enough. Since Brent and I are now on this low-no carb diet with no sugar I had to made a tea that he would drink unsweetened. Of course for those of you that aren’t as regimented as us this is excellent sweet – equally delicious warm with honey.
Spiced Tea
Yield: 8 quarts (2 – 4 quart pitchers)

1 quart water
Peel from one small orange (I use a potato peeler and leave the white behind – too bitter)
1 stick of cinnamon
6 whole cloves
8 black tea bags

In a medium saucepan, bring the water, orange peel, cinnamon and cloves to a boil and then immediately remove from heat. Drop in the tea bags and cover, let steep for 30 minutes to an hour or until cool. Strain and divide equally between two 4 quart pitchers and then add water to 4 quarts.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blackberry Basil Marinade

Strawberries are normally the only berry I really enjoy. Raspberries burned me about 10 years ago (long story, involving vodka and boxing) and blueberries didn’t particularly blow me away. When I was really little my mom and I lived near Houston and I remember picking blackberries with her, and her making pies/cobblers. As an adult, the bitterness and huge seeds sort of through me off. Then, one day last summer, the grocery store had blackberries on sale and so I thought I would give them another go.

As with before, I just couldn’t get past the seeds. Then an idea began to form that just snowballed. My mom had mounds of fresh basil growing in the backyard so I grabbed up a bunch and thought that blackberries, basil and balsamic vinegar would probably taste well together. I’ve spent the last year perfecting this recipe and although my favorite place to use it is on flank steak it’s equally delicious on pork tenderloin.

Below is the recipe for the glaze, as well as how to use it on both flank steak and pork tenderloin. This stuff is very versatile and just packed with flavor. Whenever I make the flank steak, I serve it over a bed of fresh spinach and arugula with sliced strawberries and cheddar cheese crumbles (or Feta!) – no dressing required.


Blackberry Basil Marinade

Ingredients:
1 pint blackberries, rinsed and dried
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 bunch fresh basil, rinsed and leaves removed from stems
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the blackberries until pureed, then pour through a sieve into a medium-sized bowl. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon push all of the puree through the sieve until only seeds remain, and then discard them. Finely chop the basil and add to the puree as well as the remaining ingredients. Whisk until incorporated and sugar is dissolved.

For flank steak: this marinade will work for 1-2lbs of steak. Place the steak in a one gallon Ziploc baggie and cover with marinade. Massage into the meat and then seal the bag, pushing all the air out as you go – you want the marinade pushed into the meat. Let rest on the counter for approximately 20-30 minutes. While the steak is resting get your grill going to 650°F. Sear the steak for 4 minutes per side for medium-rare, and then let rest for another 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

For pork tenderloin: same as steak, except for cooking method. Get your grill to about 500°F and sear all sides of the meat, then reduce temperature to 350°F and cook until internal temperature reaches 160°F, turning every 10 minutes or so. Cook time will depend on the thickness of the meat.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Southwestern Salad

Salads are truly one of my favorite things in the world. If you do it right and don’t pile on a ton of fatty additives, they can be so healthy for you. For me, I enjoy a salad with crispy lettuce and veggies, light on the tomatoes – and I’m always searching for the perfect ranch dressing. Recently I found a ranch on Annie’s Eats that I’ve been able to tailor to our preferences and it’s phenomenal.

This is a salad I concocted after having something similar at Corner Bakery. I loved the combination of flavors and although I don’t know quite what’s in the original, I think my version comes pretty close.

Southwestern Salad
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:
3 romaine hearts, cut into bite sized pieces
3 Roma tomatoes, diced and drained in a sieve
½ cup finely chopped red onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 Anaheim pepper, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup corn kernels
Ranch dressing

Directions:
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the corn in a splash of olive oil just until they begin to brown and caramelize and then pour into a large salad bowl. Add in the tomatoes, onion, garlic, pepper and cilantro and toss until combined. Pour over just enough dressing to coat, about 1/3 cup, and mix until coated. You may add more if you prefer, but remember – it adds calories!

Chill corn mixture for 10-15 minutes in the fridge while you cut up your lettuce. Just before serving, toss everything together. If you do this too early your lettuce will become soggy and there is nothing worse than a soggy salad. Drizzle with additional ranch if you prefer, and if you’re not on a low-to-no-carb diet like us, you can also add a few tortilla strips. Also great with grilled chicken breasts.


Ranch Dressing:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup buttermilk, plus more
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch chives

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. You can add more or less buttermilk based on how thick you like your dressing. For the recipe above, the dressing needs to be on the thinner side; coat a spoon, but don’t have it globbed on there. The thinner it is, the farther it will go with less calories and just as much flavor.

Love, KC

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pea Chowder

I’m not sure how I’ve never had split pea soup in my lifetime. Peas are probably one of my favorite vegetables (despite the high carbohydrates) so it should have been a natural transition, but I suppose my mom must not have liked it and that’s why she never fixed it. Wednesday we saw the end of Tropical Storm Hermine roll through DFW, and when all was said and done we’d had over 9” of rain at our house which left everything soggy and well, blah. At some point I’d picked up a bag of dried split peas so I decided soup was my goal and set off to find a recipe. None of the half dozen I scoured did I have all of the ingredients for and since I’d never actually eaten split pea soup I had no idea how it was supposed to taste. This is my version, and we all loved it. Maybe one day I’ll taste the real thing and adjust the recipe but for now this is pretty tasty.
Pea Chowder
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
3 strips thick peppered bacon, diced*
½ cup diced sweet onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
4 small red potatoes, diced
1 lb (16oz bag) dried split peas, picked through and rinsed
1 tsp. dried basil
3 quarts water or chicken stock
Kosher salt**

Directions:
In a large stock pot, sauté the bacon and onion in a generous drizzle of EVOO over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and the bacon is cooked through. Add in the carrots and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. *If you don’t have peppered bacon on hand, add 1 tsp. black pepper.

Put potatoes, peas and basil in the stock pot and cover with water/stock. (Depending on your pot you may need slightly more liquid; you want it to be a good 2-3” over the potatoes). Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Taste for salt and adjust to your liking. **If you’re using stock, use less salt. The potatoes will naturally absorb the salt so start small and add to taste.

Simmer for one hour over medium low heat, stirring often to keep potatoes from scorching. You may serve as it, or I prefer to run my immersion blender though a couple of times to puree some of the chunks.

Serve with biscuits, like these from Annie's Eats.

Love, KC

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ravioli

In my opinion, ravioli is probably one of the most versatile pastas you can make. With endless filling options you really can’t go wrong.

Over the weekend Brent had smoked several chicken quarters that I really needed to use so that is how I came up with the first filling, smoked chicken and sundried tomato. The second was a basic three-cheese filling that is classic and universally loved. The particular sauce I whipped up was light and full of flavor, a perfect complement for the bold taste of the smoked chicken and the light taste of the cheese.

Smoked Chicken and Sundried Tomato Filling
½ cup sundried tomatoes
½ cup marinated artichoke hearts
1 ½ cups smoked chicken, shredded off the bone (approximately 3 chicken quarters)
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined and there are no large pieces.

Three-Cheese Filling
½ cup cottage cheese
½ cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, finely minced
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil to taste, finely chopped (I used about 4 large leaves)

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to incorporate.

Tomato Sauce
1 28oz can tomato puree
1 zucchini, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 cup finely diced red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup chicken stock

In a stockpot coated with olive oil, sauté the onion over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Toss in the carrot and zucchini and continue cooking another 2 minutes, then add salt and pepper. Add in the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the tomato puree and basil, cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Let sit off of the heat for 5 minutes and transfer to a food processor. With the speed on low, slowly pour in the chicken stock until sauce is pureed.


To make Ravioli:
1 batch pasta dough
Fillings of your choice
Ravioli press

If you used the pasta dough recipe above, each dough ball will make one dozen ravioli. Roll the dough until it is thin and translucent, and approximately 12” by 8” in size. You can either cut it in half lengthwise or do like I do and lay the left side of the dough over the ravioli press, saving the right side for the end.


When I made this batch, I did chicken on the left side and cheese on the right – that way I always had equal amounts. It is very important not to overfill your mold; otherwise your ravioli will burst (learned the hard way!) When all 12 holes are filled, fold the right side of your dough over the mold and press down gently with your hands to seal. Then, use your rolling pin to seal the dough securely and “cut” the shapes, pulling any excess dough away. Flip the mold over and gently tap on the counter to release the ravioli.


Place completed ravioli on a well-floured cookie sheet or cutting board to dry for one hour, then flip and dry for another hour. When I made this I ended up with 5 dozen ravioli - not including the 2 dozen I made last night. At this point you may freeze it for later use, or toss it into salted, boiling water to cook for 6-8 minutes. Strain well, toss with tomato sauce and sprinkle with extra parmesan cheese.

Love, KC

Trials of Homemade Pasta

Italian food has always been one of my very favorite things in the world. As I’ve gotten older my tastes have matured and I try not to look down on certain chain restaurants, but to me they are never as great as the stand alone ventures. I have been making my own sauces and such from scratch since I moved out on my own about eight years ago, never looking back at anything canned or jarred again, but I have never been brave enough to try to make my own pasta.

My former in-laws back then were from an Italian family, and so I enjoyed watching them cook. Ravioli was my favorite thing to see done, because there was this cool little press that took all of the work out of it. When I came across that same press at Williams Sonoma a few weeks ago, I begged Brent to get it for me for my birthday – so he did. :-) The box said I needed seminola flour so off to Central Market I went (and also picked up some carob chips and powder, but that’s for another post).

My first attempt at the pasta dough was yesterday. I used the exact recipe on the back of the ravioli press box and it was a disaster. So horribly dry that I couldn’t even roll it out, my arms and shoulders ached with the strain. Once I finally got it as thin as it would go it was so dense it could barely get it filled in the press, it wouldn’t dry, and then it was way too chewy when cooked. Brent and LB both thoroughly enjoyed it, but I think the fillings and sauce just masked the dough.

So this morning I decided to do pasta dough, take two, and get rid of all of the excess filling I’d made. After scouring several different sites I just decided to wing it, and hope for the best. My biggest issue yesterday was that the dough was too tough, my guess being because the seminola flour was not very fine, but since I wanted to try and stay as authentic as possible I decided to do a combination of flours. The recipes below are what I came up with, and worked so far today. The dough was much more pliable and I was able to knead it using my stand mixer instead of my hands.

Fresh Pasta Dough
Yield: about 8 tennis-ball sized dough balls

Ingredients:
1 cup seminola flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
6 whole eggs
4 tbsp. good quality olive oil
4 tbsp. warm water

Directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine all of your ingredients. Start on low speed, allowing all of your wet ingredients to become incorporated, and then turn to speed 4 and let it go for about 10 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl while turning. It needs to be sticky but only to itself. It it’s too sticky, sprinkle some more flour into the bowl. If it’s too dry, add a more drops of warm water. Something as simple as the weather can greatly affect the outcome of your dough, so I’ve learned.

Once your dough has become a ball, place it on a well-floured cutting board and shape into a log. Cut the log into roughly 8 pieces and wrap each tightly with plastic wrap. Rest the covered dough for a half hour on the counter (do not refrigerate).

After 30 minutes, roll out each dough ball individually until thin and translucent. You will want to keep a well-floured surface so that your pasta does not stick to the counter, and flour often. Once your pasta is rolled out, you can do with it as you chose. I made some skinny noodles, some thicker noodles, and some sheets for lasagna. And then I made ravioli (five dozen to be exact).

Your pasta needs to dry before you cook or freeze it. I simply put a yardstick sprinkled with flour between two of my dining room chairs and it worked great. Once the pasta has dried for about 2 hours you can put it in baggies to freeze or cook right away. Depending on the thickness you will only need to cook it for 1-5 minutes, making sure you drop it into salted boiling water. Salt water flavors your pasta!

So that’s it. Today was much more successful than yesterday. The process can be very time consuming but is entirely worth it, and now I really want a pasta roller to save my arms. Maybe Christmas. :-)

Love, KC

PS Here's a cute shot of Oliver when I accidentally bumped the chair and knocked some pieces down. She was in Heaven. :-)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Scones

Lately, I've been really into scones. They are super simple to make and always delicious, like a fruity biscuit. All of the recipes I've used have come from Annie's Eats so far - bacon cheddar (our favorite), strawberry, chocolate chip, you name it.

During my last trip to Kroger I bought blueberries for the boys, as I've never really liked them. They were on the verge of going bad so I decided to create a new scone. You see lemon and blueberry combinations just about everywhere nowadays and since I had both, I decided to try it out! These came out incredibly light with just the right amount of lemon flavor, and even I enjoyed them.

Lemon Blueberry Scones
Yield: 9-10 scones

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup sugar
Pinch salt
6 tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces
1 ½ cup fresh blueberries
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the blueberries and lemon zest. In a food processor, combine the first five ingredients and pulse to incorporate. Add in the butter and pulse until butter is no larger than a pea. Pour flour mixture over the berries and toss lightly to coat the berries, making sure you don’t burst them. Make a well in the center and add in the milk and lemon extract, then gently fold with a spatula, making sure you do not crush the blueberries. Once all of the flour is absorbed, drop rounded ice-cream scoops of dough onto the parchment paper 2” apart. Depending on the size of your scoop you will get 9-10 rounds.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Cool in pan and then transfer to a wire rack. Best served warm.

Love, KC

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Peach Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Frosting

Summer means peaches in Texas, and lots of them. For as long as I can remember my grandparents, Mom & PawPaw, have had a small orchard at their house where they grow peaches and apples every year. My grandmother makes some of the best pies and cobblers I've ever tasted! When I was younger and got to spend a lot of time there during the summer I always looked forward to picking the peaches before the birds got to them.

Last week I saw a post from Annie's Eats for a peach crumb bar and I just had to make it. It went over great at the office but I had a ton of peaches left over so I decided to make a peaches and cream cupcake. It by far exceeded my expectations and was the perfect balance of sweet and spice. These are very rich so I'd advise inviting friends over to help you finish them off!

Peach Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Frosting:
Yield: 2 dozen

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
2 cups chopped, fresh peaches  (I puree about half and mix it all together)

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, with the racks in the center position. Put liners in two cupcake pans.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set to the side. In a stand mixer, cream your butter and sugars for about three minutes on medium-high speed. Turn the speed to low and add in your eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated, and then add in your vanilla extract. Mix in half of the dry ingredients on low speed until moist, and then mix in your milk. Slowly mix in the remainder of your dry ingredients until combined. Stir in the peach mixture.

Divide the batter evenly among the 24 cupcake liners. (I used a medium ice cream scoop and it distributes the perfect amount) Bake in the preheated oven for 23-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for five minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Spiced Cream Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. almond extract

Cream butter and cream cheese, add in almond extract and slowly mix in powdered sugar. When completely combined, stir in cinnamon and brown sugar just until mixed (the brown sugar will add a slight crunch).
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