Snickerdoodle Muffins

Snickerdoodle Muffins

Now that school is back in session, I’m back to all the muffins, all the time mode. By which I mean, making all sorts of different muffins to have on hand for breakfasts, lunches, and snacking.

The main issue with muffins in my house is that they’re hard to keep in stock. Whenever I make a batch, I (and whoever else is home at the time) can’t resist eating one or two right out of the oven. I made blueberry muffins with fresh berries from the market when we were in Minnesota a few weeks ago, and I ate three in a flash. I  just can’t help myself.

It’s hard for me to get tired of muffins because there’s so many things you can do with them. Now, I know some people think muffins are just glorified cake, and I suppose that’s true, but I don’t care for cake the way I do muffins. It’s so much easier to snack on muffins, especially when it comes to these snickerdoodle muffins.

Are you a fan of snickerdoodle cookies? They’re a step above sugar cookies, with a nice crunchy exterior but a soft interior. These muffins are just like that! With a layer of cinnamon-sugar sprinkled onto the batter just before baking, these muffins rise with a crinkly top, making them more than a vanilla muffin.

I highly recommend eating these while they are still warm from the oven. You can store them in an airtight container once cooled, just pop them into the microwave for a few seconds to warm them up and get them ready for a pat of butter. Because all muffins are better with butter, right?

And if you want to be a person after my heart, toss some fresh blueberries into these muffins. You’ll be glad you did.

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Join Me – Fit Foodie 5k

Running

Whatcha doin’ in two weeks? Wanna go for a run?

Wait, come back!

Just hear me out on this one. If you know me well, you know that while I always have grand designs about being super active, I spend most of my time sitting on my bum. Part of this is because I do so much work on the computer, but part of this is that I really am just lazy.

I’ve never considered myself athletic. When I was in high school I thought about joining the soccer team, and then in college the crew team, but the running requirements made me stay in my cozy realm of choir and theater. I’m one of those people who always dreaded mile day in gym class and I’m pretty sure I got passed by the kids with asthma.

The past few years, though, I’ve been wanting to try running again. Call it the fault of living in Austin, where there are beautiful people running everywhere. With rescue dogs. It’s a lot of pressure for a lazy cat owner like me. (In reality, I just want to make sure I can keep up with my kids, because whoa, I am the worst tag player there is.)

Enter the Fit Foodie 5k, the way I’m going to bring myself right into the thick of the racing world. Or at least have a really fun weekend.

Fit Foodie Race Weekend

I’m happy to be an official ambassador for the Fit Foodie Race Weekend here in Austin, along with a bunch of my friends from the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. I decided to get involved not only to help kickstart myself into getting in shape, but also because some of the money raised at the event goes toward City of Hope, a treatment and research center that helps those with cancer, diabetes, and more.

This morning I tried out the race route and it is a great path around Mueller Park, with plenty of lovely scenery to look at. (Watch out for the geese.) Even though I was running alone, I was getting excited thinking ahead to September 13 and how the park is going to be packed with demonstrations and food booths. A great part about the Fit Foodie 5k is that Love TX Chefs Experience is right after the race — what better time for a sip and stroll than after a workout?

If you’re interested in joining me, head over to Fit Foodie 5k and use the code STETTED to get 10% off your registration fee. Hope to see you there!

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Classic Zucchini Bread

Classic Zucchini Bread

I know it’s already back to school time. There’s only a few more days left in August. But let’s make the most of it, and bake up some extra loaves of zucchini bread, OK?

Zucchini bread has been one of my favorite things for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, the idea of eating zucchini on its own was one that filled me with dread. But zucchini bread? Load me up! I don’t quite agree with sneaking veggies into foods for picky eaters, but dang it, zucchini bread is just good stuff.

Now, there’s a lot of recipes for zucchini bread out there — probably one for every person with a squash plant in their garden — but it has been hard for me to find one that works just how I’d like. For the past few years I’ve been making different recipes, trying to find my “best-ever” recipe. Along the way I’ve learned that while I sometimes like to add nuts or chocolate, my “best-ever” is simple, not too sweet, and completely addictive. And my sons agree, as the first grader and the toddler both gobbled up their portions and requested more each snack time until we ran out. When you can get kids to eat anything like that, it’s a win.

This zucchini bread features whole wheat flour and applesauce. I love using both of those ingredients in baking, especially for quick breads. Because I don’t like to use too much sugar in the batter or add glazes, applesauce adds a light sweetness and provides for a really great texture.

I always smear my zucchini bread with butter before eating. It doesn’t need it, but I grew up eating it that way, so it just feels right to me. Can’t go wrong with butter in my book!

Still have some zucchini lurking?

Go check out my post for Zucchini Bread over at Recipe.com!

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Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Poppers

Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Popper image

One of our friends always makes jalapeño poppers whenever we get together. It’s not that they’re a showy dish — in fact, I think their simplicity is part of their addictive charm. I admit that at first I was wondering why they were always on the table, but now I seek them out eagerly. After all, there’s a reason why they’re called poppers.

I might have to switch it up a little on the popper front, though, because these pimiento cheese jalapeño poppers are basically the best way to kick off your end-of-summer party. Why use cream cheese when you can use pimiento cheese, right? (And no, my pimiento cheese does not have cream cheese in it. I can’t do that to my Texan friends.)

Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Popper ingredients

Honestly, for these poppers the hardest part is getting the bacon to stay wrapped around the peppers. Or maybe waiting for the peppers to cool down enough to eat without searing the top of your mouth. Whichever. The point is, even when making pimiento cheese from scratch, the whole dish comes together quickly, and you can even be a party ninja and do everything in advance, then toss ‘em on the grill or in the oven when the first guests arrive. Twenty minutes later, boom! Mouthful of happiness right there, folks.

I used aged cheddar in these, but you can really use whichever kind of cheddar you prefer. Sharp cheddar is classic, but smoked gouda is also darn good. The great thing is that this makes far more pimiento cheese than you need for the jalapeños, which means you can either set the rest out with a bowl of crackers or make the best darn grilled cheese in history.

Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Popper photo

I made these pimiento cheese jalapeño poppers as part of the August Progressive Eats! Jump below the recipe for more information on our fun monthly progressive dinners, and get the rest of this month’s recipes.

Pimiento Cheese Jalapeño Poppers

Ingredients

  • 7 to 8 ounces cheddar (or use a mix of cheeses)
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 ounces diced pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated shallot
  • Pinch cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 jalapeños
  • 8 strips bacon

Instructions

  1. Shred cheese and set aside.
  2. Stir together mayonnaise, pimientos, shallot, cayenne, and salt. Fold in cheese. This can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F or prep grill.
  4. Halve jalapeños lengthwise and remove seeds. Fill each cavity with pimiento cheese.
  5. Slice bacon into halves or thirds (depending on size of slices) and wrap around each jalapeño, securing with a toothpick if necessary.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or grill 10-15 minutes.
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Welcome to another edition of Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a progressive dinner party. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.

This month’s theme is Summer Barbecue hosted by Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake. You’ll love all the summertime recipes that will be perfect for your next cookout or Labor Day gathering.

Main Course

Appetizers

Bread

Salad

Soup

Sides

Beverage

Desserts

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Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies Photo

First grade starts tomorrow. Last week, my son was conflicted, torn between being excited to be back in school and being nervous about meeting a classroom full of people again. His nerves were calmed when we went to “Meet the Teacher” night and he found out many of his classmates from last year are in his class. He grinned like a fool when one of the school workers remembered him and gave him a big hug.

For kids that are a little quieter, a little more anxious, these small things are a big deal. He’ll need every small win to help him get through the days, weeks, months. My own first grade experience was terrible, but I’m hopeful I can help him navigate the tricky waters of kids learning their way, though that way is peppered with floating mines of exclusion and sometimes fists.

Obviously I can’t be there in the classroom (my tolerance for children doesn’t extend to volunteering as a room parent) but there are small things I’m doing to let him know I’m there for him if he needs a shoulder after a long day. First up, homemade cookies in the lunch box.

Even though I love baking, we generally don’t have cookies on hand in the house. Mostly this is because we LOVE cookies. As soon as they get made, it seems like half the batch is gone. Disappeared, I tell you. Poof.

The exception I make to having cookies is during the school year, when I’ll rotate cookies into the daily lunch treat. Sometimes it’s mini muffins or a piece of Halloween candy, but I always try to put something in his box that is enticing.

Monster Cookies Image

Monster cookies are a sure bet, with their bright candies peeking out. They’re sorta healthy too, because they’re full of oats. My recipe uses Dark Chocolate Dreams, a favorite from Peanut Butter & Co, to amp up the chocolate. However, you can use whatever kind of nut butter you prefer. If your school has a no-nuts rule, sunbutter also works well in these cookies. You could also try my Blueberry White Chocolate Cookies, which are a perennial favorite.

To me, homemade cookies are like edible hugs. After all, that’s what we all need, right? A hug and a cookie.

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Pressed Italian Sandwiches

Italian Pressed Sandwich Image

When I was a kid, I never got very excited about the prospect of sandwiches, with one exception. Every year for the Superbowl we’d order subs from our favorite place near my dad’s work, big bready things that put national sandwich chains to shame.

Maybe it was the idea of being able to choose whatever I wanted on the sandwich or just the ritual of the event, but even now I think about those sandwiches 1,500 miles away. My go-to? An Italian sandwich, with plenty of creamy Italian dressing.

When I started thinking about sandwiches for fall, the season of the sandwich, I inevitably fell back on the flavors of Italian sandwiches. Pepperoni, ham, plenty of onions, an oil-and vinegar dressing. These ingredients are great for any sandwich, but they’re particularly ideal for pressed sandwiches.

Pressed sandwiches are a wonderful option when feeding a family, packing a picnic, or getting lunches ready for the day. I know that the last thing I want to do at 6:30 in the morning is pack lunches — keeping in mind my son’s current tastes, any activities he might have that day, whether he’ll eat last night’s leftovers, if we have any fresh fruit left in the house — so I’ll take as many shortcuts as possible while still being able to provide a home-packed lunch. Pressed sandwiches are made ahead of time and stored in the fridge overnight, making lunch as easy as grab and stuff.

My version uses a homemade vinaigrette, though you can use any other dressing or spread you like. Don’t skimp on the dressing, because it will meld into the sandwich as it rests, distributing the flavor all through the thick bread. Do make sure to use a bread like focaccia or ciabatta, which will stand up to the ingredients and not be too mushy or too hard after pressing.

It might not be the Italian sandwich of my childhood, but it’s a pretty darn good substitute.

See my post for Pressed Italian Sandwiches over on Recipe.com!

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