Thursday, April 25, 2013

Broccoli & Pepper Jack Potatoes...Twice Baked

Broccoli & Pepper-Jack Twice Baked Potatoes

I know, it's a mouthful to say. But trust me, it's even more delicious to eat!

A few weeks ago, I was making my Chicken in Apple Cream Sauce (which will be my next post most likely) and I was trying to think of what I wanted to go with it. Usually I'll do rice and a veggie of some sort. However, this time I didn't feel like rice. I wanted potatoes. Then I started thinking, what if I did my twice baked potatoes...but changed it up a bit? I had a head of broccoli in my fridge along with some cheese and green onions...why the hell not? So I started on my merry way and they turned out great! Then last week I made them again...except I made them with a couple differences, which I will explain as we go along. It's always nice to have options right?

Oh and by the way, in case you're interested. I got that job I was hoping for. No more preschool for Kendra! Ahh happy day! Now let's get started on these potatoes!

Here's what you need...

4 Large Russet Potatoes
2 Large heads of Broccoli
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Large cloves of garlic OR about 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
3 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup half-and-half cream
3/4 cup sour cream
About 1 or 1-1/2 cups Pepper-Jack Cheese

I'm going to be honest, those measurements are a total guess. I realize I never wrote down the amounts I used on this one. It's ok though, just start with small amounts and work up to what tastes good to you! Alrighty first things first.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take the potatoes and clean them off. Stab them with a fork a bunch of times and then place them on a baking sheet. Pop them in the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Yes, it's a long time. But you want the pulp of the potatoes to be really soft. While the potatoes are baking, and no rush at all, you can get the broccoli going.

First chop up the broccoli into bite-sized pieces, like the picture above. Grab a large skillet and get it warmed up on a medium heat. Drizzle the oil into the pan once it's hot, then add in the broccoli. Now here's where I did things differently. The first time, I seasoned the broccoli with black pepper, garlic powder, and minced white onion. Which works, it totally works.
Then second time I used fresh garlic. I love fresh garlic. So I would recommend the use of fresh garlic over powder. I also added a bit of ground mustard to the broccoli and probably a bit extra black pepper. I love pepper about as much as I love garlic.

Once the broccoli is done, which takes about 7-10 minutes to get it nice and tender. Tender, but still crunchy to the bite. Not mushy, mushy broccoli is just...yuck. So set that aside and play the waiting game for the potatoes to be done...

Yep...still're probably not just making the potatoes so you might be busy doing other things during this time. So you are most likely not just standing around watching the potatoes bake. Or if you are...a watched potato never bakes. Or it does, just takes forever.

Once the potatoes are done let them cool off. Don't be like me and burn the tips of your fingers. Who needs nerves in their fingertips anyways? Oh wait, I do! Are the potatoes cooled off now? Great! Slice off the top third of the potato, if the insides are still really hot or warm let them cool with the tops off for another 5 minutes or so.

Next you're going to scoop out the pulp, from the top third and the other two thirds. Place all the pulp in a large mixing bowl. You want to leave a thin layer of the insides of the potatoes because you need them to have some form when you go to re-stuff them in a little bit.

There you go! Hollowed out potato shells! OK now let's get back to all the pulp and get the next part of this process going!

Mash the pulp, you know like mashed potatoes! I don't add anything else to them yet. Just mash them as they are. They pulp should be soft enough that you can do it by hand and not worry about dirtying you hand mixer. Unless you want to. You're more than welcome to.

Once that's all mashed up I take my half-and-half and my sour cream and add it in. Start with adding about 1/4 cup of each into the potatoes. I start with 1/4 cup of each so I don't accidentally over do it and then have soupy potatoes. Here is also where I begin to add in the white pepper, ground mustard, green onion, parsley flakes, salt, and a bit more black pepper. Add in enough cream and sour cream until the potatoes are a nice smooth, creamy consistency.

Now take the sautéd broccoli and fold it into the potatoes.
Preheat your oven again, but this time to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now it's time for the cheese. The first time I did this, I stirred the cheese right into the potato mixture. The second time...I started to stuff the potatoes and forgot all about the cheese, I was too excited about how good the broccoli tasted. So I layered the cheese into it. Filled the potatoes about half way, sprinkled a layer of cheese, filled it up to the top of the potato, more cheese, then mounded more filling on top and (yes) topped it with more cheese! It was good. I think I'm torn between which way was better.

They look good enough to eat right now don't they? See how there's not a lot of cheese on top though? Yeah I did too...

So I added more! Now pop these back into the oven for another 30 minutes. The cheese will melt, the top with brown and you'll be staring into your oven with a steady stream of drool going down your chin in no time. I mean that in the best possible way.

OK so these are a bit time-consuming and there is sort of a lot of work that goes into them. But trust me, it's easier than you think and it's completely worth it once you take a bite of the rich, creamy, twice-baked wonderfulness that are these potatoes.

Just to leave you with a couple more pictures in case you needed any more convincing to give these a try.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy these!
Stay tuned for my Chicken in Apple Cream Sauce, and many more things to come!
'Til Next Time!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Light and Tasty Snickerdoodle Muffins


A cookie in muffin form created especially for my sister.

My sister loves Snickerdoodles, and I'm always surprised by how many people don't even know about the cookie. I love them too and I thought they were pretty common, I guess they're not? So this past Christmas in the midst of preparing for all my baking my sister tells me that this year she would like some Snickerdoodle muffins instead of cookies. So I go, OK...never heard of the cookie in muffin form but I'll give it a shot. I began my research immediately. Pinterest, Taste of Home, Google. I looked everywhere and found a few different recipes for these muffins. Of course, one of the big things in the recipes was a lot of butter, cream, sour cream, stuff like that. Basically everything that would make a deliciously dense muffin. I know my sister and when stuff is really heavy she won't like it as much. So I started to tweak the recipes.

I looked at what they all had in common, the usual stuff: butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon, cream of tartar, etc. Where they differed was in the amounts and what type of liquid was used. Milk, sour cream, heavy cream, half-and-half...So I figured hey, why not cut the butter in half (according to 2 of the recipes I found) and use buttermilk instead of sour cream or heavy cream? From there I just took off running. Fiddled around with ingredients and which order to add them in, baking temperature and time. At the end of the day, I'd figured it out and was ready for my first test batch. They actually worked! I was really excited that I would be able to get my sister her Christmas muffins.

Curious to try these out? Well here's what you'll need!

2-1/4 cups all purpose flour (and another couple of tablespoons to add after)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup buttermilk
Cinnamon Sugar

First things first, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now grab a medium bowl and combine all the dry ingredients: the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar, and nutmeg. Done? Good now set that aside for the time being.

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until it's like and fluffy.

Next, add in the 2 eggs, vanilla and almond extracts. Beat until everything is well blended.

Now its time to add everything together. Grab the buttermilk and the dry ingredients. Alternate adding them to the creamed mixture starting with the flour mix. Add some dry ingredients, mix it well. Add some buttermilk, mix it well. Continue this process until everything is mixed in. I like to mix in the last of the dry ingredients by hand, so I don't over mix. Because over mixing the batter is bad and messes up how the muffins rise.

Once everything is all together it's time to line your muffin tray with paper liners, if you're using them, which I highly recommend. I love them, as I've stated numerous times. Here's what your batter should look like: 

Looks nice and light, right? Now scoop the batter into the prepared muffins tins, filling them about two-thirds to three-fourths full. Feel free to add in another couple tablespoons of flour here just to ensure that they muffins will rise at least a bit more.

These muffins don't rise a ton, so it's completely fine to fill them up a little more.

I topped mine with some cinnamon-sugar and did my best to swirl it through the muffin, I need to perfect this still, but at least with the topping it worked out nicely.

Now toss them in the oven, well don't toss them, place them...for about 20 minutes. I like to switch my pan around at the 15 minute mark just because my oven has one tiny hot spot.

Muffins mid-baking, see how they rise but they don't get overly puffy? Yeah I don't know why exactly I'm still working it out. But it doesn't affect the taste, they're still light and fluffy, and of course delicious.

Once they're done let them cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Well there you have it! These are delicious warm so go ahead and eat some once they've cooled down from being straight out of the oven.

These got the taste-test approval from several of my friends and my sister so I hope you'll enjoy these too! Like all muffins, they're fairly easy to make and should be store in an airtight container for up to about 5 days. I individually wrapped these and sent them to Ohio. So they'll hold up in travel too if that's what you plan on doing with them.

Thanks for stopping by!
'Til Next Time!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Slow-Cooker Mac n Cheese!

Slow-Cooker Mac n Cheese
Just another way to make the classic

I feel like these past few weeks there is so much going on. I've been interviewing for a new job, I'll know in a few days whether I got it or not, there have been dance shows, cleaning, cooking, and I've been running around like a madwoman trying to get stuff done. But the job thing is the most important right now. I don't think I've ever wanted anything so bad in my life before...well except maybe my dog.

Like my dad has said, the preschool was a nice transition from going to school full-time to working full-time, but it's not something that has a lot of potential to grow. Unless I want to get my Montessori certification and be a teacher for the rest of my life. And....I don't. I love it, but not all of it. Teachers need to have 100% passion about teaching and I have probably 75-80% not enough, not good enough. So after a second and third interview with one company I am counting down the seconds until I may possibly hear from them. I need a new chapter in my life, I need a change, I want room to grow and to be challenged in other ways than my patience please.

My dog really wants me to get this new job too. Why? So I can afford to buy her the good food, treats, and new toys. She's got my best interests at heart. I think being on a new career path is what excites me most...well and buying new clothes for this job will be fun and wearing all my shoes. Aurora doesn't see it that way, she sees food possibilities. And on that do I.

Mac n Cheese, irony of this is when I was little I didn't like it. Crazy right? What little kid doesn't like Mac n Cheese?! Me. I don't get it, I love it now. Just as long as I don't make Easy Mac...I accidentally almost set fire to the microwave at work about a month ago. I forgot to put water in the cup with the noodles. Yeah, Kendra can make shit from scratch, but can't handle the Easy Mac. Genius.

So I can make regular Mac n Cheese from a box, and I've made my Creamy Baked Mac n Cheese. I've got another idea for that one too I need to try soon as I get a couple of new kitchen toys. So today I thought I'd take my spin at Mac n Cheese in the crock-pot! I've looked at several recipes and decided to take a stab at it. So here we go, here's what you'll need!

8 oz elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
8-10 oz evaporated milk
1 can (10-3/4 oz) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted (I used Campbell's)
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Black Pepper to taste
1-2 Jalapenos, chopped (optional)

This recipe can easily be doubled, I initially cut one of the recipes I found in half to get these amounts. First thing you're going to do is cook the Macaroni according the the package directions. Once it's cooked drain it and place the noodles in a 3 quart slow-cooker. Pour the melted butter over the noodles. Now grab a large bowl and move on to the next step.

Combine the egg, 1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese, evaporated milk, cheddar cheese soup, and the milk into a large bowl and mix it up so the ingredients are well blended together.

The egg is hiding underneath the cheddar cheese, I was slightly slow at taking a picture of that. Oops!

One option I can give, it to possibly substitute some of the cheddar cheese for Velveeta if you want a more creamy texture. With the egg and shredded cheese this recipe gives more of a fluffy Mac n Cheese rather than truly creamy like my baked one. But I like the fluffy texture of this one, it still tastes delicious.

Take that cheese mixture and pour it over the buttered noodles. Stir to coat them really well.

Now it's simple, put the lid on your crock-pot, slow-cooker, whatever you decide to call it. I switch back and forth if you haven't noticed. Cook it on low for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

Around the 2-1/2 hour mark, check on the Mac n Cheese, if you can, if it looks done to you, fabulous! If you want it to go a bit longer, then do that! 

See how it looks more fluffy than creamy? Yes, that's because of the egg. Slightly different texture, but still delicious with all the comforts of regular mac n cheese!

Whenever you decide the Mac n Cheese is done you can add in the chopped jalapenos if you are adding them. I love adding a little extra kick to my mac n cheese, you could also add in green onions if you want, I really like green onions. Oh you could top it with Parmesan cheese or Monterey Jack...I chose this time to top mine with that remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

Let the Mac n Cheese cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the extra cheese is melted. Then serve and enjoy! This can be a great side dish to a meal or it can be a meal in itself! Like I said before, this has a really nice light, fluffy texture. But if that's not what you like omit the egg, add Velveeta, play around with the recipe and see what works best for you!

Hope you enjoy this version of Mac N Cheese!
Any comments? Suggestions? Leave me a comment!
Thanks for stopping by!
'Til Next Time!!