Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pumpkin Waffles


I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving... a day to give thanks for family, friends, and spandex pants!

In case you have any leftover pumpkin puree from your holiday baking (or perhaps you just need a hearty pre-shopping breakfast to gear up for Black Friday?) here is a delicious recipe for pumpkin waffles.

Enjoy!

"The Ultimate" Pumpkin Waffles

• 1/4 cup light brown sugar
• 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
• 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
• 2 tsp. ginger
• 1/4 tsp. cloves
• 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
• 4 Tbsp. butter, melted and warm

Lightly oil the waffle iron with vegetable oil, and set it to the desired temperature.

Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk together to break apart the cornstarch. Add the remaining dry ingredients, and whisk to blend.

Separate eggs - yolks go in a medium sized bowl and whites get set aside in a smaller bowl.  Add pumpkin and milk to the egg yolks. Whisk to blend and set aside.

Whip egg whites with a hand mixer on high until stiff peaks form – about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes. Set aside.

Pour melted butter into the yolk/milk/pumpkin mixture. As you pour, whisk to combine.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix them together until just combined. A little lumpiness is fine. That will smooth out when the egg whites are added.

Slide the whipped egg whites out of the bowl and onto the mixture you just prepared. Gently fold them in until no white bits are obvious.

Once the waffle iron is heated, you’re ready to pour the batter and follow manufacturers instructions (or your taste preference) for cooking.

Recipe from Pumpkin Waffles blog

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes


On this night before Thanksgiving, I am taking a break from making some dishes for tomorrow's feast at my in-laws to wish you all a lovely holiday!

At times, this past year has been trying ... in general, it seems the things that I want to stay the same won't, and things that I want to change stay the same.  As I'm sure you all know - sometimes it's just difficult to deal with loss and life's disappointments.

But that being said - I have sooo many things to be thankful for that it's almost unbelievable!

I have a wonderful, loving husband who makes me smile single every day. 

I have amazing friends and family members that I couldn't live without.

I have a good job and a roof over my head and enough money to pay the bills - plus some extra for fun things as well.

I have found a special hobby in blogging that has allowed me to share one of my passions with incredible people, some of whom I probably wouldn't have 'met' otherwise.

(That's right - I'm thankful for YOU!)

And ... I have discovered this side dish that makes a vegetable insanely delicious!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 lbs. red-skinned sweet potatoes
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • (optional: 1/4 t. cinnamon + 1/2 t. chili powder OR 1/4 t. garlic powder + 1/8 t. cayenne pepper)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel & cut potatoes into 1" cubes and put in a 9x13 baking dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, honey, lemon juice, salt (and optional seasoning, if desired).  Pour mixture over potatoes and toss to coat.

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Recipe slightly adapted from Food Network's Ellie Krieger

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake: A Choco-Loving Dieter's Dream


Back in April, I told you that there was only one chocolate cake recipe you would ever need to know and you'd be set.

But apparently... I told you all a little white lie.

You see, sometimes The Only Chocolate Cake Recipe You'll Ever Need looks in the mirror and says, "Yikes. I could stand to lose a few pounds."

And by "cake" I actually mean... my dad.  He's on a diet.

Technically, it's one he started a while back but kind of fell off the wagon for a bit.  Now he's back on Nutrisystem, and he's looking better than ever.  More importantly, he says he feels great too.

He has lost a total of 60 pounds since January 2009!

Pretty awesome.

Now yesterday was his birthday, but my stepmom doesn't really get down with the baking so I'm usually in charge of birthday treats.  And my dad loves chocolate as much as I do, so it's typically a no-brainer.

However, I knew that with the current diet restrictions, Pammy Vittles' delicious chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is strictly off limits.

What's a girl to do?  

So I took to Eating Well in the hopes that I would find something yummy... without tasting like rubber.

I was a little nervous bringing something I had never tried to dinner, especially for a birthday occasion.  But then again I figured even bad chocolate cake beats no chocolate cake, so what the heck?


Well let me tell you - I did not need to worry.  I'm not dieting (although after eating all that chocolate peanut butter pie last week maybe I should be) but I can honestly say that I enjoyed this cake.

I mean, it looks a bit diminutive compared to your typical multi-layered, frosted masterpiece (I was slightly embarrassed to bring it to the restaurant) but it tastes as moist and fudgy as one loaded with fat.  My hubby and stepmom agreed, and they are both vanilla lovers so that says a lot.

Pappy Vittles, on the other hand, was entranced by the mere sight of chocolate cake - I think that it could have been sawdust mixed into melted chocolate and he still would have devoured it.


Or maybe it was just general giddiness over being the Birthday Boy?


Let's face it - you're never too old for cake & presents!

Either way, a good time was had by all.  And I now have a lower-fat & calorie* version to add to my chocolate cake repertoire... of one :)

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-wheat pastry flour (**see Ingredient Notes)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk (**see Ingredient Notes)
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot strong black coffee
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.  Line the pan with a circle of parchment or waxed paper & grease that as well.

Whisk flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add buttermilk, brown sugar, egg, oil and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add hot coffee and beat to blend. (The batter will be quite thin.) Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from the pan, peel off the parchment/waxed paper and let cool completely. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar before slicing.

12 Servings

*Nutrition facts per serving: 139 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 18 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber; 212 mg sodium; 60 mg potassium.

**Ingredient Notes: 
1.  If you don't have nonfat buttermilk, but you do have milk, you can make your own 'sour' milk to substitute.  For this recipe that calls for 1/2 C. buttermilk, you would put 1 1/2 t. white vinegar in the bottom of a measuring cup.  Then fill up to the 1/2 C. mark with nonfat or lowfat milk.  Voila! 
2.  Don't be tempted to use regular whole wheat flour instead of the whole wheat pastry flour.  The cake will be much more dense.

Recipe from EatingWell.com

Friday, November 19, 2010

Double-Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie


There is nothing about this pie that is healthy or good for you in any way.

Let's just evaluate some of the ingredients, shall we?

Semi-sweet chocolate.  Chocolate cookies.  Peanut butter.  Cream cheese.  Heavy cream.

More chocolate and heavy cream.

Yikes.

The (only) good news is - it's totally worth it.  When I took a bite of this pie, I thought I had died and gone to Chocolate Peanut Butter Heaven.

(As if there is any other kind of heaven?)

Now especially with the holidays coming up, this is a great pie for a special occasion.

Really I'm just giving you an excuse in case you need one.  I definitely did not require a special occasion to check this recipe out.  You guys know I have no shame when it comes to chocolate.

Throw some peanut butter in the mix and all bets are off.

Even Mr. V got giddy when he saw that I threw some Mini-Reese's Pieces into the pie instead of using peanuts.  I believe his exact words were "Are those Reese's Pieces?? YES!"


But if you're more scrupulous then us, then the holidays are the perfect justification to make it and eat the whole thing treat yourself to a slice!

Double-Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

 Chocolate Crust
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 8 ounces chocolate wafer cookies (from a 9-ounce package), finely ground (2 cups)
Peanut Butter Filling:
  • 8 ounces (1 cup_ cream cheese, softened (I used neufchatel cheese)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used creamy, they suggest chunky)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup well-chilled heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped (I used mini Reese's Pieces instead)
  • Kosher salt
Chocolate Topping:
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Make the chocolate crust: Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is melted. Stir well, then stir in the cookie crumbs. Press the cookie crumbs over the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and 1 1/2 inches up the side. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, or until set; the crust will continue to firm up as it cools.

Meanwhile, make peanut butter filling: In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the peanut butter, sugar and vanilla extract until blended. In another large bowl, using the same beaters, whip the chilled cream until firm. Fold one-third of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to loosen it, then fold in the remaining whipped cream and 1/2 cup of the chopped peanuts (or mini Reese's Pieces). Spoon the filling into the crust, smoothing the surface. Sprinkle lightly with salt and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.


Make the chocolate topping: in a medium glass bowl, combine the chocolate with the heavy cream and microwave at high power in 20-second intervals until the chocolate is melted and the cream is hot. Stir the chocolate topping until blended, then let cool to barely warm, stirring occasionally.

Spread the chocolate topping over the peanut butter filling and refrigerate until just firm, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chopped peanuts (or mini Reese's Pieces) around the edge of the pie. Carefully run a thin knife around the pie crust to loosen it, then remove the springform ring. Using a sharp knife, cut the pie into wedges. Run the knife under hot water and dry it between each cut.

Recipe from Food and Wine, by Vitaly Paley

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pumpkin Pancake Muffins with Maple Cream Cheese Swirl


I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but I feel like Autumn and its holidays have been getting edged out more and more by Christmas with each passing year - and I don't like it one bit.

Don't get me wrong - I enjoy "the holiday season" as much as anyone else.  Christmas is fun times.  But can we agree to get through Thanksgiving first before we're subjected to Christmas carols in stores that have their halls decked with boughs of holly?

Worst of all, I walked into Dunkin' Donuts this week and noticed that their seasonal flavor Pumpkin has already been replaced by GINGERBREAD!

Well let me tell you something. Vittles and Bits is not done with pumpkin yet, so if you're looking for Christmas cookies in mid-November, I suggest you look elsewhere! 

...

Alright, good, you're still here.  Well now that we've gotten that out of the way, I must say I keep on hearing about Pancake Muffins and have been very intrigued.  I wasn't able to find any recipes that looked overly inspiring, though, so I decided to come up with my own.

Much like my guest-blogger Natalie Vittles (and her Homemade Granola), I don't like breakfast items that are overly sweet.  Treats like Coffeecake Muffins are nice for a special occasion, but as much as I enjoy my desserts, I don't need to eat them at 7AM.

So I'll warn you that these are pretty low-key when it comes to the sugar (much like real pancakes are - usually it's only when you drown them in gallons of maple syrup that they become so sweet).

If you do like sweets, though, you can feel free to treat this like a real pancake.  Pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds and pour some maple syrup over the top!  Instant pancake before work without all the effort :)


Pumpkin Pancake Muffins with Maple Cream Cheese Swirl
  • 1 3/4 C. flour (can use a combo of whole wheat & all purpose if you'd like)
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. cloves
  • 1/8 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 2 T. pure maple syrup (sorry Aunt Jemima, you're not welcome in this recipe!)
  • 1/4 C. plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1/4 C. canola oil
  • 1 egg + 1 yolk
  • 3/4 C. pumpkin
  • 1/2 C. buttermilk
Filling:
  • 2 oz. cream cheese (I used neufchatel), softened
  • 2 T. pure maple syrup
  • 2 T. powdered sugar
Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Prepare muffin tin with 12 liners or nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, combine 3 filling ingredients until well blended. Set aside.

Make muffin batter: mix dry ingredients, flour through nutmeg, in large bowl.  In separate bowl, whisk sugar with remaining wet ingredients (maple syrup through buttermilk) until combined.  Make a well in flour mixture and pour in wet ingredients.  Mix only until dry ingredients become moistened - do not overmix.

Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup, then using 2 hands on either side of the tin, bang bottom of pan on counter to spread batter evenly.  Place about 1/2 t. of cream cheese filling in each cup, and top with remaining muffin batter (about 1 heaping tablespoon more into each cup).

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool on rack.

Original Recipe

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taco Mac & Cheese Bake


Ok so I'm a little bit conflicted about sharing this recipe with you.

It's one largely of my own creation (very loosely based on the same Cooks' Illustrated recipe I used to craft Mr. Vittles favorite Pepperjack Bacon Mac & Cheese) and while the general idea was a good one, I'm not so sure the execution was top notch.

Not that it's inedible or anything.  It's just a little weird.

As I was stirring the meat into the pasta & cheese (one of the final steps of the recipe) a lightbulb went off in my head - this is like a made-from-scratch Hamburger Helper.

Not that I really know what Hamburger Helper even is.  Momma Vittles strictly forbade the helping of any hamburgers in her household, so I've only seen it in commercials. But this is what I imagine it to be like.

So like any self-respecting cook, when I had this epiphany, I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at my creation in horror.

What had I done?  

Surely this was a culinary abomination.  I was perhaps the Dr. Frankenstein of cooking. 

But I had come this far, and it was too late to turn back.  So I slapped the mixture in a dish, sprinkled some tortilla chip crumbs over the top, and sent it into the oven with my fingers crossed.

All in all, it was not so bad.  FYI- I think it would be a little more substantial if you used an entire pound of macaroni instead of 8 ounces.

But the only reason I even considered posting the recipe is because Mr. V gave it a solid thumbs up.

I asked him again, before I typed this post, just to make sure. "What did you really think about that taco thing the other night?"

"It was good," he said.

"You really liked it?" I asked, just for good measure.  "I'm a little conflicted about posting it."

"I LIKED IT."

Well then.  I guess he liked it. 

You'll have to decide for yourself.

Taco Mac & Cheese Bake 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 T. canola or olive oil
  • 1 t. garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. lean (93%) ground beef or turkey
  • 1 10-oz. can Rotel diced tomato & chiles, undrained
  • 1 packet (or 1/4 C.) taco seasoning
  • 8 oz. elbow or other small macaroni (I used radiatore, what I had in the house)
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 3 T. flour
  • 1/4 t. chili powder
  • 2 1/2 C. milk
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 8 oz. grated Mexican cheese (I used Pepperjack for you-know-who!)
  • 1 C. crushed tortilla chips
Cook macaroni in boiling salted water until tender (just past al dente stage).  While macaroni is cooking, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion & cook 2-3 minutes until softened.  Then add garlic and saute 30 seconds more.

Add ground beef to the pan and cook until no longer pink.  Drain fat (being careful not to drain out the garlic & onion in the pan.)  Add can of Rotel and taco seasoning, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Set aside.

Preheat broiler and adjust rack to mid-low position.  

When macaroni is cooked to tender, drain and reserve in colander.  Return now-empty pot to stove over medium heat & melt butter until foaming.

Add flour, garlic & chili powders and whisk mixture constantly for 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in milk, then bring mixture to a boil while whisking constantly, to thicken.  Reduce heat to med-low and simmer, whisking occasionally, until consistency becomes that of heavy cream (3-5 minutes).

Remove pot from heat, and whisk in cheese and salt.  Add drained pasta and beef mixture, and return pot to med-low burner.  Stir occasionally until heated through, another 3-5 minutes. 

Transfer to greased 13x9 baking dish, and sprinkle crushed chips over top.  Place in broiler for 3-5 minutes until tortilla chips are browned.  Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe very loosely based on Cooks' Illustrated Classic Mac & Cheese

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jalapeno Honey Chicken Tenders


I think I mentioned a while ago that we went to a wedding on Mr. Vittles' 30th birthday.  The wedding was in Cape May NJ (an adorable shore town) and had a beach theme, and they gave out the cutest favors - small jars of Old Bay seasoning accompanied by a recipe for crab cakes.

However, as most of you know, I do not enjoy seafood in the least - so I was not about to be making any crab cakes.  I knew that you could put it on a number of other things (I've seen Old Bay seasoned potato chips) but I don't know exactly what foods the flavors go best with.

So to the Old Bay website I went, where I was able to find some good non-seafood recipe suggestions.

This one reminded me of my childhood when one of my favorite foods was chicken tenders dipped in honey.  The jalapeno and Old Bay give it a nice twist.  Mr. V and I both thought it was pretty tasty!

Jalapeno Honey Chicken Tenders
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. finely minced jalapeno
  • 1/4 C. flour
  • 3/4 C. unseasoned dry breadcrumbs (I used panko)
  • 3 t. old bay seasoning
  • 1 T. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 lb. chicken tenders (or breasts, cut into strips)
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 t. salt
Preheat oven 425.

Mix jalapeno, honey, and egg in shallow dish.  In separate shallow bowl, mix bread crumbs, flour, old bay, salt, and parsley.

Dip each chicken tender in honey mixture, then coat evenly with bread crumb mixture and place on a dish.

Heat the canola oil on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes.  Turn sheet to coat surface evenly with oil.

Immediately place chicken tenders on sheet and bake 7 minutes.  Flip and bake another 7-8 minutes until cooked through & no longer pink.  Let sit a few minutes before serving.

Recipe slightly adapted from Old Bay.com

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Peanut Butter Fudge S'mores Bars


So I was thinking - now that Mr. Vittles and I have been married over a year, are we still considered newlyweds?

I may have to change the whole concept of my blog!

Vittles and Bits: An Old Married Lady's Adventures in Culinary Bliss.

Hmmm... Doesn't really have the same ring to it.

Well I know a year certainly doesn't constitute being an 'old married lady,' but I do have moments where I feel that way.  Marriage part aside, we've been a couple for a good while now, and anyone that's out of the puppy love phase knows how that can be.

One thing that I've noticed is, as time goes on is you stop being embarrassed around your significant other.  I can remember getting sick on our first vacation together 4 months into our relationship, but I refused to let Mr. V see that I wasn't feeling well - even when he was speed-walking through the airport because he thought we were going to miss our connecting flight, while I hobbled along in the far distance, fearing I'd toss my cookies at any moment.

That would never happen today. 

No, today things like this happen - I am in the shower and realize there is a cricket in between the shower curtain & the clear liner, so I yell for Mr. V to come get it.  He happens to grab the curtain right where the cricket is, causing it to drop down into the shower and hop onto my leg.  I freak out, and in my panic I push past him (all suds-up in my birthday suit) and take off down the hall.  When I try to make a hard left into our bedroom, my wet feet slip on the tile floor and I wipe out in the doorway - which startles our parrot into flying circles around the room.

Aside from some bruises from my fall, I was completely unhurt - and miraculously, that includes my ego.

I was not embarrassed in the least.

In fact, I had The Giggles for the next 15 minutes, imagining how chaotic that scene would have looked to any bystanders, and every time I looked at Mr. Vittles we would both crack up.

At moments like that, I wonder if Mr Vittles secretly thinks "How long is forever, again?"

But then I make things like homemade apple pies and peanut butter fudge s'mores and he probably thinks he's the luckiest husband in the world.

At least I like to believe that he thinks that.

Peanut Butter Fudge S'mores Bars
  • 2 C. graham cracker crumbs (from about 11 whole graham crackers)
  • 6 T. butter, cut in tablespoons
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 C. peanut butter
  • 12 oz. semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 C. mini marshmallows
  • 2 whole graham crackers, broken into small pieces
Line 9x13 pan with waxed paper or foil, letting edges overhang.  Grease with nonstick spray or butter.

Place butter in a medium heatproof bowl, and microwave in 15 second intervals until melted.  Add graham cracker crumbs and stir with a fork until moistened.  Empty bowl into prepared pan and spread crumbs out, pressing evenly into pan.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sweetened condensed milk with peanut butter and chocolate, stirring constantly until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla until combined. 

Pour over crumb base and quickly spread into an even layer.  Smooth out with a greased spatula, then sprinkle marshmallows evenly over crust.  Press gently into chocolate mixture.  Then stick graham cracker bits in gaps between marshmallows as desired, pressing gently to set.

Cover pan and refrigerate until fudge is firm, about 2 hours.  Lift edges of foil/waxed paper to remove and cut into bars.

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats; original source Williams Sonoma

Peanut Butter Fudge S'mores Bars on Foodista
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