Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad

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This salad. I have been obsessed with this summery salad since it first debued at Panera. Berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, feta cheese, and grilled chicken. I’ve tried for years to re-create it at home. Even posting a similar one here, although I never have been able to get the dressing quite right at home.

So, you can guess how excited I was a year or so ago when I found the Panera poppyseed dressing in the refrigerator section at Target (note: I can also buy it at Kroger, although it is usually slightly less expensive at Target).

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I now have the hubbs hooked on it too. I’m not kidding when I say we ate this weekly until we had to retire the grill for the winter. Now that the warmer weather is creaping back and berries are creaping back into the stores, we’ve picked that habit back up. It is now at the point where I prefer our homemade version — we add WAY more fruit!

The recipe is pretty quick and easy. Washing berries, draining the pineapple and mandarin oranges, and grilling the chicken. We use a variety of berries depending on store sales/which ones look better, but the traditional is strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. You’ll notice blackberries replacing the blueberries in this photo. Use whichever berries you like! As for the salad, you can cut up an entire head of Romaine lettuce or you can buy the pre-mixed salad mixes. We honestly do both depending on the time we have available. You could even use pre-grilled chicken to make this a layer and go type of dinner.

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Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad
Adapted from Panera/The Cookin’ Chemist Original

Ingredients:
1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1-2 heads of Romaine lettuce (or other pre-mixed greens), washed and chopped
1 (16 oz) pkg. strawberries, rinsed and sliced
2 (6 oz) pkg. rasberries, rinsed
2 (6 oz) pkg. blueberries, rinsed
1 (15 oz) can pineapple tidbits (or pieces), drained
2 (8 oz) cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 pkg. feta cheese
Panera Poppyseed Dressing

Preheat the grill. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts. Grill until cooked through. Let set for 5 minutes. Slice.

Divide the salad greens between 4 plates (we usually do 2 plates and 2 bowls for lunches). Top with the berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, pecans, and feta cheese. Top with the sliced chicken. Add dressing in desired amounts.

Spicy Orange Chicken with Apricot Orange Dipping Sauce

spicy orange chicken with apricot orange dipping sauce on rice

There are 2 things that a recipe title that long can tell you – 1) The “I can’t think of a good name for this so I’m going to just tell you everything that is in it” syndrome or 2) It’s an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. Not that I can blame them. I also find it a little hard to be creative with my recipe names and often end up in the first camp 🙂

I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy the cookbook The Best Light Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. At this point, I am not sure how many times I’ve checked it out from our library, saving a few more recipes each time. In reality, I am not sure I ever would have made this recipe save for the jar of apricot preserves my husband randomly brought home from the store. It actually wasn’t bad on toast alone, but peanut butter and apricot preserve sandwiches just didn’t work quite as well.
Needless to say, I was looking to use up the rest of the jar.

spicy orange chicken with apricot orange dipping sauce

We enjoyed these chicken skewers with the dipping sauce over rice for our meal, but I am confident that they’d work equally as well on an appetizer tray for New Year’s Eve or any remaining holiday parties. In fact, the recipe is actually in the “appetizer” section of the cookbook. The book indicates that the recipe (as an appetizer) will serve 10. As written, we ate it for a main dish with a couple meals as leftovers. The sauce here is a little sweet but just in the right way and really compliments the chicken. In the past, I’ve been a little wary of the fruit and meat combination, but after these fajitas and this skewer recipe, I’ve found I really should keep an open mind. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Spicy Orange Chicken with Apricot Orange Dipping Sauce
From The Best Light Recipe

Ingredients:
Chicken:
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup apricot preserves
nonstick cooking spray

Apricot Orange Dipping Sauce:
1 cup apricot preserves
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Slice the chicken across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick strips (about 30 strips). In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the parsley, salt, orange zest, red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic powder, and pepper. Add the apricot preserves and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (can be left for up to 24 hours).

For the dipping sauce, puree the apricot preserves and vinegar together in a blender or food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Stir in the parsley, orange zest, salt, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The dipping sauce can be made up to 48 hours before and stored in the refrigerator.

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers. If desired, the chicken can be cooked on an outdoor grill over medium heat until cooked through, flipping skewers partway through the cooking process. Alternatively, adjust an oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler. Line a broiler pan with foil and top with a slotted broiler pan top; spray the broiler pan top with nonstick spray. Lay the skewers on the broiler pan and cover the skewer ends with foil. Do not cover the chicken. Broil until the meat is lightly browned and cooked through, 5-8 minutes, flipping skewers over halfway through. Repeat the process if necessary to cook all the meat. Serve with the prepared apricot dipping sauce.

Triple Berry Crisp

triple berry crisp close with ice cream

With this blog and simply just feeding the two of us, I have spent my fair share of time in the kitchen. Cooking is something I enjoy. It’s fun, it is stress relief, and the best part is you (*usually) get to enjoy the results of your experiment. While I’ve cooked/baked for several years, I almost always follow a recipe. I blame the pharmacist in me. Too Type A. Too precise.

I say that to tell you this. I made this crisp recipe on a whim, mostly on my own, with only a little recipe inspiration. Certainly, it is hard to screw up a fruit crisp, but I am still excited to report that I am getting to the stage of spontaneity in the kitchen. In fact, this crisp came about because the grocery store was out of zucchini (yes, I had to buy zucchini), and the berries there were so good that you could smell them as you walked by the stand. Recently, I have made a couple more dishes where I’ve found myself inspired by an ingredient, and I hope to share them soon.

triple berry crisp

Back to the crisp. Who doesn’t love fruit crisp/crumbles? Ripe, juicy fruit at its peak combine with a topping that is really nothing more than an oat-filled streusel. I made ours in ramekins for individual-sized servings. As much as I like crisp, leftover crisp just isn’t quite the same, and a whole pan is just too much for 2 people. The fruit in question here is strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, but you can really use any fruit that speaks to you (or needs to be used up in the fridge). I’m sure peaches or other stone fruit would be wonderful here as well. So grab some ice cream (or whipped cream if you prefer) and make this before berries are gone for the summer. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe) 

Triple Berry Crisp
Loosely inspired by Pioneer Woman

Ingredients: 
2 cups total of raspberries, blueberries, and chopped strawberries
1 tsp. cornstarch
2-3 Tbsp. sugar (more or less depending on how sweet the fruit is)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
heaping 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
2 Tbsp. cold butter
vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease ramekins.

In a medium bowl, combine the washed berries, cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla. Stir and divide evenly between 2 ramekins. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and oats. Cut the butter into the mixture and combine until crumbs form. You can add more butter and/or more oats/flour until it is the desired consistency. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit in the ramekins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is light brown and crisp. Serve while still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

SMS: Cherry (or Blueberry) Clafoutis Tart

So I think I may have failed hosting a baking group 101 this week. It is 2:00pm local time, and I am just now getting my post up having just finished baking MY assignment a little bit ago. I certainly have my excuses as I’ve been out of town more than home in the past couple of weeks. But those aside, I should have planned a little better and for that I apologize!

Excuses completed, Happy Mothers’ Day to any mom’s out there (including my own!). Hopefully, you all were able to have a wonderful day with your families! This is my second time hosting SMS, and I always find it a little bit nerve racking to choose the recipe. No doubt, it is a little bit fun, but both times I found myself worrying about which recipe would fit in with what people are doing in their lives right now. May is often a busy month, so I wanted a recipe that wasn’t too complicated but was also pretty enough that it could be served at any of the gathering opportunities that this month provides. In addition, my other requirement is that I wanted to pick something that is different from the types of desserts I usually make on my own. Since I have never had nor heard of a clafoutis and it seemed like a dessert that would have a great presentation, this was the recipe I chose.

As is typical, whenever you are in a hurry to make a recipe, nothing seems to go right. You might notice that my “cherries” are less than red in the pictures. Oddly enough, the store we stopped by to pick up my last minute ingredients did not carry frozen cherries. After a quick google search for clafoutis on my phone, I settled on using frozen blueberries, but I would really like to try this again using cherries. Cherry-almond is such a classic combination, and it sounds like they would pair well together here. My other problem came in the shape of a large crack in my cookie crust while it was baking. My tart pan has a removable bottom to make it easier to take the tart out of the pan after baking. As you can imagine, the crack combined with the non-sealed bottom of the pan lead to a dripping tart after I poured in the custard mixture. Thank goodness for an old cookie sheet under my pan! 

Despite my lack of planning, the tart looks like it turned out quite well. We haven’t cut into it yet because it is still cooling, but I am excited to try it after dinner. My husband and I both really enjoy custard-type pies, so I’m hoping it will be as good as it looks! Even though I was a less than stellar host, thanks for baking along with me this week ladies! Be sure to stop by the blogroll to check out tarts from the other members!

(Printable Recipe)

Cherry (or Blueberry) Clafoutis Tart
From The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

Ingredients:
Cookie Crust (enough dough for two 9- or 10-inch tarts):
14 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:
1 pre-baked tart shell
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
pinch kosher salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 cup frozen cherries, thawed and drained, or 1-1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted
3 Tbsp. sliced blanched almonds, toasted for sprinkling
powdered sugar, for sprinkling

For the crust, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, zest, and slat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the flour and mix until combined. Be sure to scrape down the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat it together into one piece. Divide the dough into two equal parts, flatten into 6-inch round disks, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Put what you will use today in the fridge and place the other in the freezer for another time. Chill the half in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes before rolling.

When the dough is chilled through, remove it from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes, until it is malleable. Lightly flour a work surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough, and using a rolling pin, press gently on the dough from the middle upward, and the the middle downward. Turn the dough disk a quarter turn and repeat the light pressing process. Add more flour if needed to prevent sticking. The dough should now be a round, flatter version of the original dough disk. Sprinkle lightly with more flour if necessary, and gently roll the dough so that it is in an inch wider all around than it was. Make a quarter turn, lifting the dough if it is sticking and lightly flouring the work surface below. Repeat until the dough is roughly 12-inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick. Place the dough in a pie plate or tart pan and press lightly to fit. Do not stretch the dough.  Instead, push the dough with your fingers until it is in place. Trim the edge of the dough so that there is 1/2-inch of dough hanging over the edges. Turn the excess dough under itself, creating a nice uniform edge to crimp. If you have any cracks or holes, patch them by pressing the dough together with your fingers. Refrigerate until firm, 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the crust with parchment paper or lightly greased aluminum foil, and then fill it to the top with pie weights  (dry rice or beans also work). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until lifting the liner, the crust appears “dry” and no longer has the appearance of raw dough. Remove the weights and liner. If the edges are getting brown, lightly tent with aluminum foil. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool before filling.

For the custard filling, in a heavy saucepan, stir together the heavy cream and the milk. Using a small paring knife, split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to the cream mixture. Place over medium heat and bring to scalding (180 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Scalding liquid will be steaming, and tiny bubbles will form on the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to seep for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. After the seep time, in a slow steady stream, whisk the still warm cream mixture into the egg mixture. Stir in the almond extract. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed strainer into a clean bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tart shell on a rimmed cookie sheet. Scatter the cherries evenly over the bottom of the prebaked shell. Pour the custard over the cherries. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the custard is set. Remove to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Sprinkle the almonds around the edge of the tart and dust the almonds with powdered sugar. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. This clafoutis is best eaten the day it is made.

Creamy Strawberry Ice Cream

Last but not least, my final strawberry recipe for a little while around here! While this is the last strawberry recipe that I’m posting, I have to admit that strawberry ice cream is one of the first things I thought of when deciding how to use my strawberries. In looking for a recipe, I knew that I wanted to find one that included pureed strawberries rather than chopped strawberries added as a mix-in. We’ve tried the chopped strawberry version before, and neither of us like how the fruit turns into hard ice-nuggets once frozen.

This recipe is another from David Lebovitz’s, The Perfect Scoop, but I had saved it since last summer from Annie’s Eats. It is different from many other ice cream recipes in that it includes sour cream in place of some of the milk and heavy cream. While Annie noted that she couldn’t taste the sour cream in the final ice cream, I noticed a little bit of tang in mine but loved the flavor that it added. A definite benefit of the sour cream was the texture of the ice cream. This is one of the creamiest versions I’ve made yet. 

As for our overall opinions, we are a little split. I really enjoyed it. My husband thought it was good but noted that he liked many of my other ice cream versions better. I think his exact phrase was, “The berry flavor is just too much.” At least around here, I’ve noticed that strawberry ice cream is one of those foods that you either love or hate, and while he ate it, I think my husband may fall into the later group. If you’re a strawberry ice cream fan, too much berry flavor shouldn’t be a problem 🙂 Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Creamy Strawberry Ice Cream
From David Lebovitz’s, The Perfect Scoop

Ingredients:
1 lb. fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vodka (optional)
1 cup full-fat sour cream  
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the sliced strawberries in a medium bowl with the sugar and vodka. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. 

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and add the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice. Pulse briefly until almost smooth but still slightly chunky. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (I always chill overnight). Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

One of the “foodie-goals” that I set for myself this year was to venture more into the world of cakes and cupcakes. While cupcakes are definitely something that I enjoy eating (come on, the frosting to cake ratio is much higher than many cakes), they aren’t something that I commonly make. There probably are a couple reasons for this. One being that there are only 2 people in our house to eat them, but the second and probably larger reason is that I have no experience in decorating cakes or cupcakes.

With my aforementioned abundance of strawberries, I decided that now was as good of time as any to give cupcakes a shot. After looking through several recipes, there seemed to be a fair amount of praise for a Martha Stewart recipe seen on blogs both here and here, among others, so I decided to give it a shot. The process of making the cupcakes went really smooth. As Tracey mentioned in her blog post, the cupcakes bake up with a flat top. Mine were also really fragile when I first removed them from the muffin pan due to the chunks of cooked strawberries in the cupcakes. At least we got to sample the one below that fell apart 🙂

Both Tracey and Annie mentioned that Swiss Meringue Buttercream can be a little temperamental to make. Basically, my impression from them is that you put everything together and beat the heck out of it with your stand mixer until it looks like a frosting. I have actually made a Swiss Meringue Buttercream once before for a SMS cake, and the frosting has always came together okay for me. Maybe I’m liberal with the mixing times? My only problem with the frosting process is that I didn’t have enough. I halved both the cupcake and frosting recipes, and after piping it on a few cupcakes, I realized that I was only going to have enough for about 2/3’s of my cupcakes (I told you I really liked frosting). Rather than go through the process of making more, I mixed up a different strawberry cream cheese frosting from Annie’s site to see which we liked better.

 Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Strawberry Cream Cheese

The process aside, the cupcakes were really good but if I were to make them again, I would change a couple of things. The cake stayed really moist and had a nice crumb, but the chunks of strawberries made the cupcakes fall apart really easily. In the future, I think I would to try a recipe that includes pureed strawberries to fix this problem. As for which frosting we preferred, it is a toss up. We liked the cream cheese version for the taste, but the Swiss Meringue Buttercream definitely made prettier cupcakes! I even let the cream cheese version sit in the refrigerator overnight, and I still couldn’t pipe anything with it. I am going to go against the mainstream here because I don’t think Swiss Meringue Buttercreams are really my thing. Whenever I’ve tried them, I feel like I’m eating straight butter (which is prominent in the ingredient list). I just think it is too “greasy” seeming and not sweet enough for my tastes. I am still looking for a great tasting frosting that will pipe well enough to make pretty cupcakes, so if anyone has a great recipe, please let me know. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Strawberry Cupcakes with Two Frosting Choices
From Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes and Annie’s Eats (also seen on Tracey’s Culinary Adventures and Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:
Cupcakes:
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white (to halve this use 1 whole egg, 1 egg white, 1/2 egg yolk)
1 cup milk
2-1/2 cups finely chopped strawberries

Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1-1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8 oz.) rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1-1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup strawberries
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and egg white one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions alternating with the milk, mixing each addition just until incorporated. Gently fold in the chopped strawberries with a spatula. 

Divide the batter between the paper liners, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake until light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 28 minutes, rotating the pans half way through baking. Allow to cool in the pans a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, place the strawberries in a food processor or blender. Puree until completely smooth. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until stiff peaks for and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. (The bowl should be cool to the touch). Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes or more until it comes together. Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and frost cooled cupcakes as desired. Garnish with fresh berry slices if desired.

To make the strawberry cream cheese frosting, puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor. Strain through a mesh sieve to remove seeds if desired and set aside. Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add lemon juice, vanilla, and strawberry puree. Adjust the amount of puree to achieve your desired consistency. Frost cupcakes when completely cool. 

Note: Half the Swiss Meringue Butter cream recipe frosted about 12 cupcakes for me. Half the cream cheese recipe would have been plenty.

Yield: full recipe makes 34 cupcakes

SMS: Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves

This week’s SMS was hosted by Tracey at Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. The group has made the master preserves recipe from the book a couple times, but this was my first time cooking along. With the surplus of strawberries that have been around our place lately, it certainly was a timely recipe for me! What can I say? I ended up with two of these after stopping by the market after a hard gym session. They just spoke to me =)

While I had no problem finding strawberries, the rhubarb was a tougher search. Having lived most of my life in the Midwest, rhubarb is something that I have never had to buy from the store. You can usually find someone with a plant in their yard who is begging people to take some, and while I never had a plant of my own, I usually had a bag of it hanging in my freezer. I ended up calling around to most of the stores in the area, but no one here has any fresh rhubarb yet. Thankfully, a couple of people suggested looking for it in the frozen fruit section. Success. Now, I know where to look if I can’t find any fresh! 

As for the recipe, I never knew that making preserves could be this easy! Melissa’s recipe uses apples as a source of natural pectin, so the recipe consists entirely of fruit and sugar. The texture ends up a little less “jello-ey” than store purchased jellies, but it still thickens up nicely. In fact, I enjoyed the change in texture as it made the preserves much easier to change. While the recipe called for a little more sugar than the master recipe, the resultant preserves did not end up too sweet. I halved the recipe and also froze half the resultant preserves. If it says anything about how much we’ve enjoyed it, the portion that I kept in our refrigerator is almost gone. Check out the SMS page to see how the other bakers did, and a big thanks Tracey for a great, seasonal pick!

Waffles (of Insane Greatness)

waffles of insane greatness with berry sauce

I’m awake much earlier than need-be today (by my own mis-calculations), so I thought I’d share a great breakfast recipe in honor of having extra time this morning. Usually, waffles, pancakes, eggs, etc. actually aren’t typical items on our breakfast menu. It is certainly not that we don’t enjoy them. It is more of a time issue than anything else. I am not a morning person, and I can promise you that I typically don’t get up any earlier than need-be =)

These waffles came about this past weekend when my husband woke-up craving waffles. I originally bookmarked this recipe from Finding Joy in My Kitchen, however I think it originated here from the foodnetwork.com. There are a few differences between the 2 recipes listed, and we ended up using the version from Finding Joy in My Kitchen with the exception of using all-purpose flour as that is what I had in the kitchen. I found it interesting that there was cornstarch in the batter as I have never seen this before?

waffles of insane greatness batter
waffles of insane greatness on waffle iron

It was a little difficult to wait 30 minutes for the batter to set-up, but these waffles are definitely the best homemade version that we’ve made thus far. We both like our waffles to be crispy on the outside and many of my homemade attempts have ended up with soggy waffles. These were nice and crisp with a great “crust” on the outside. I’m not sure if it was the downtime factored into the recipe, the cornstarch, or something else in the recipe, but these waffles just worked. If you are looking for something to fill-up your 30 minutes of down-time, try out the berry sauce that SnoWhite suggests in her post. I mixed-up some with the strawberries and blueberries that we had in the fridge and am absolutely doing this again next time we make waffles. Yum!

waffles of insane greatness

Are they of insane greatness? I’m not sure, but they are absolutely going into my make again file at our house. Enjoy!  

(Printable Recipe)

Waffles (of Insane Greatness) with Berry Sauce
Adapted from foodnetwork.com and Finding Joy in My Kitchen

Ingredients:
Waffles:
3/4 c. all-purpose flour (white whole wheat)
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk (I used skim)
1/2 c. buttermilk
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 egg
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Berry Sauce:
1 c. berries (any types; can also use peaches, etc.)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (or more depending on the sweetness of your berries; can also use honey)
2 Tbsp. water
1-2 tsp. cornstarch (I used 1-1/2 tsp.)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just slightly lumpy. Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Meanwhile, place the berries in a medium saucepan. Add the brown sugar, water, and cornstarch, and stir until combined. Heat over medium heat until bubbling slightly and sauce begins to thicken. Turn heat down to keep sauce warm.

Preheat your waffle iron. Ladle the batter into the waffle iron and cook according to the manufacturer’s directions. Serve warm with the warm berry sauce or with butter and syrup.

Final Countdown to Christmas #5: Pomegranate White Chocoalte Chip Cookies

 An early Merry Christmas to all of you! I can’t believe it’s already Christmas Eve. This is the second cookie recipe this year that I made off of Maria’s blog, Two Peas and Their Pod. This recipe caught my eye because of the pomegranate arils. My husband loves pomegranates, however I never would have thought to add them to cookies on my own.  The contrast of the red arils with the white chocolate chips certainly make them look festive!

The baking process for these cookies is a little bit more complicated. Like Maria, I waited until after rolling the dough into balls to add the pomegranate arils. If you’ve never had a pomegranate before, the arils are filled with juice and break really easily, so I found it easier to add them individually rather than mixing them into the dough really really carefully. My only complaint with these is that after a day or so the pomegranate arils begin to shrivel, so they may be best eaten rather quickly after baking. 

Happy holidays to all! I’ll be back again tomorrow with my last Christmas recipe!

(Printable Recipe)

Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Two Peas and Their Pod

Ingredients:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. old-fashioned oats
1 c. white chocolate chips
1 c. pomegranate arils

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. 

Stir in the oats and white chocolate chips. Make dough balls with about 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie. Tuck about 6-8 pomegranate arils into each ball of dough. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until they just begin to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. 

Yield: About 2-1/2 dozen cookies

Pumpkin Granola

It’s already the middle of October, and pumpkin recipes seem to be everywhere right now. I, too, have already joined in the pumpkin madness, making these delicious cookies a couple weeks ago. My issue with these recipes is that many of them call for 1 c. of pumpkin puree, thus leaving me wondering what I should do with the half can of pumpkin sitting in the fridge? The answer absolutely is to make this granola from Maria at Two Peas and Their Pod

I seem to be on a granola kick lately (I’ve made 3 different recipes in the last month), but this is absolutely the best granola recipe I’ve ran across thus far. The spices, pumpkin, and maple syrup combine to give it a great “fall” flavor, but my favorite part has to be the chunks.The pumpkin puree and applesauce work as binders to make the oats hold together giving you larger chunks of granola pieces. Perfect.

 I stayed pretty true to Maria’s recipe, only adding about 1/2 c. of almonds to the oat mixture before coating it with the wet ingredients. If you’ve got that random partial can of pumpkin sitting in your fridge, please make this granola. You can always bring some to me if you end up with too much =) Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Pumpkin Granola
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Ingredients:
5 c. rolled oats
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (can make your own)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. whole almonds
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. applesauce
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. pepitas (or pumpkin seeds)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

In a small bowl, combine the oats, spices, salt, and almonds. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin puree, applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth. Pour wet ingredients into the oat mixture and stir until the oats are evenly coated. They will be moist. Evenly spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and stir. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the granola is golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and stir in dried cranberries and pepitas. Let it cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Serve with yogurt or milk or just enjoy it plain as a snack =)