Years ago, I found a recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins in a Taste of Home magazine. It quickly became one of our favorite quick breads. They are excellent for breakfast, as a snack or even dessert. I’ve tweaked the ingredients and amounts over the years to make them healthier and tastier. Below, is the version we prefer.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
1/2 cup canola oil or light-tasting EVOO
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 (16 ounce) can solid packed pumpkin
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces semisweet mini chocolate chips
In a large bowl, mix first 6 ingredients together with a wooden spoon. (You can use any combination of oil and unsweetened applesauce, as long as it totals 1 1/2 cups. I’ve found that you need to use at least 1/4 cup oil, or the muffins end up gummy.)
Separately, mix dry ingredients in another bowl. Blend the dry ingredients into the wet mixture by hand, fold in chocolate chips. (Regular sized chocolate chips work fine too. We just prefer mini.)
Generously fill 24-30 greased muffin cups.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 16-20 minutes.
If you double bag them in Freezer Zip-loc storage bags, they freeze beautifully. Just let them thaw on the counter for a couple hours.
If you’d like to make mini muffins, bake them for about 10 minutes.
My husband asked me to serve a spinach salad with hot bacon dressing for a dinner party we were giving for friends. I found this one online. It easy to prepare and delicious. I served it over a simple salad of spinach topped with shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese and served it with a Viognier blend wine from Australia. Everything paired beautifully! It also pairs well with a Riesling.
Hot Bacon Dressing
8 slices meaty bacon
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
- Fry bacon until very crisp. Drain, crumble and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, cornstarch and salt, and slowly pour in water and vinegar, whisking constantly.
- In a medium pan, add the crumbled bacon and pour the vinegar mixture over it. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 15-20 minutes. It will continue to thicken.
Serves approximately 10-12. I cut the recipe in half without any problems.
Freshly baked bread is my absolute favorite comfort food. A lot of times, homemade baked goods go stale quickly since they lack all the preservatives their cousins, store-bought bread, contain. That’s the beauty of this recipe. You can prepare the dough up to 3 days ahead of time and just store it in the refrigerator until you bake it. Or, you can bake a little bit each day and have 2-3 days of warm, fresh rolls on hand. Win, win, win!
I did just that this week. I prepared the dough on Wednesday and baked 12 of these golden orbs of delight to go with my homemade Vegetable Beef Soup. Then on Thursday, I prepared the rest of them up to take to a friend who had recently lamented not being able to eat her Grandmother’s dinner rolls anymore. She deemed them “perfect!”
Easy Refrigerator Rolls
1 cup warm water
2 Tbls. yeast*
1⁄2 cup real butter, melted
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 1⁄4 cups bread flour
Combine water and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.
With wooden spoon, stir in the melted butter, sugar, eggs and salt.
Add flour, 1 cup at a time and mix to combine thoroughly. I use the dough hooks on my handheld mixer. Do not overwork.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.
Grease a 13×9 baking pan or two 9-inch cake pans. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, rolling into smooth round balls.
Place in prepared pan. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about 1 hour; or until doubled.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Best served warm. ♥
*do not use rapid rise yeast
You can easily eat them without anything on them, thanks to all the butter already in them, but I love them with a good, homemade jam.
There’s not much more appealing in the category of comfort food then a plate full of Mac and Cheese. This version is an easy stove-top variety with the added plus of having been tweaked to make it more waist friendly without losing any taste. The secret is the hot sauce and dry mustard.
Dress it up a bit for adults by serving it with a buttery, oaked Chardonnay. It makes an excellent side dish for grilled ham steaks or enjoy it as your main course.
Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese
8 oz. elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons light butter
6 ounces milk
1⁄2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh black pepper, to taste
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
8 ounces 2% extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to desired tenderness and drain.
Melt the butter in the pan on low. Return the pasta to the pot and toss to coat.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and dry mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese has melted and creamy.
Fresh, flavorful, uncomplicated and healthy. What’s not to love??
It’s always nice to find a new recipe that is different than anything else I make. To find one that we love which is also so easy to prepare is a huge bonus. The combination of fresh tomatoes, flavorful herbs and tangy balsamic vinegar over juicy chicken topped with a combination of Italian cheese is superb. Pair it with freshly baked ciabatta bread and an oaked Ox-Eye Vineyards Pinot Noir and it defies description.
1 lb. thin-cut boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tbls. balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tbls. Italian herb seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 pint diced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
Place chicken breasts in a large resealable plastic freezer bag. Combine the EVOO, balsamic vinegar, garlic, Italian herb seasoning, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Pour HALF of the marinade over the chicken, reseal bag, and in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours. (Overnight is fine.)
Preheat your grill to medium high or about 350 degrees F. Combine remaining marinade with diced tomatoes; set aside. Transfer chicken from marinade onto grill surface and discard marinade. Grill chicken for 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked through. (It is also okay to fry them in a pan over medium heat.) Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Spoon bruschetta mixture over chicken and top with basil; serve immediately.
The Ciabatta Bread is mixed in a bread machine on the Dough Cycle and then baked in the oven. I honestly could make a meal out of just it dipped in a high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil seasoned with real grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh ground pepper. The dough is very sticky. Don’t give into the temptation to add more flour. Treat it gingerly to keep from bursting all the lovely air bubbles that form. It makes two loaves. If you don’t need both immediately, double bag one and stick it in the freezer. Thaw it at room temperature for several hours. It was pretty darn close to fresh baked.
True comfort food!! So easy to make and the taste is sublime! Plus, if you are careful with the amount of olive oil and use the turkey sweet Italian sausage instead of pork, it is a comfort-food dish you can indulge in without any guilt!
Using red potatoes versions white or yellow versions cuts down on the roasting time. Make sure to cut your peppers and onions into big chunks or they overcook.
The foil-lined pan makes for super easy clean up as well. I prefer non-stick foil to make sure the potatoes are easy to stir while baking. Leftovers can be made into an easy soup or used as pizza toppings.
Roasted Italian Sausage and Potatoes with peppers and onions
red potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
red bell pepper(s), cleaned, and cut into 1 inch pieces
sweet onion(s), peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage
Preheat oven to 425.
Spread the vegetables in a single layer on a large foil-lined cookie sheet. (There should be space between the pieces or they won’t brown.)
Spray lightly with the olive oil and stir to coat. Place sausages on top of vegetables.
Roast for 45-60 minutes, stirring once or twice. Bake until potatoes pierce easily with a fork and the sausages are browned. Serve hot.
Have you ever realized a half hour before dinner time that supper would be so much better with fresh baked bread? This recipe can be a lifesaver! Okay, so really only a meal saver, but you get the idea. I believe the original recipe came from a Taste of Home magazine about 15 years ago. It called for self-rising flour, which I never use. If you do, just omit the baking powder and salt. (By the by, if you haven’t tried the new, at least to me, baking powder without aluminum, you should. It tastes so much better than traditional baking powder. No metallic aftertaste!)
Even though the texture of these rolls aren’t as chewy as a traditional yeast roll, they are lighter and fluffier than a muffin. They are excellent with soups, stews or just with jam on them. I bet they’d be tasty with some herbs added to them as well.
Last evening, I made them buttermilk. It made the batter thicker than usual, so I thinned it down with water. Next time, I’d probably use 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/4 cup water. They sure were delicious!
Last Minute Dinner Rolls
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Combine all ingredients.
Fill 6 greased muffin tins half full.
Bake at 375°F for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.