Mexican Lasagna

I'm a list maker.

Like a REALLY big list maker.  I have lists for everything:  things I need from the grocery store, things I need to do today, things I need to do this week, meals/treats I plan to make/bake this week, meals/treats I plan to make/bake this season, meals/treats I plan to make/bake next season etc., things I need to look up on the internet, things I need to return, things I need to buy, things I plan to buy others for birthday/Christmas, things I need to bring/do/get next time I visit my family, I think you get the picture. 

It's sad, I know- it's the nerd in me.  Lists are coming out of my ears.  What can I say...I'm an organizer.  And I lovelovelove crossing stuff off my list.  Sometimes (don't judge me here, you know you've done it too!), but sometimes I will even write something on my list after I've already done it for the mere satisfaction of crossing it off.  Ahhhhh best feeling in the world.  Well, actually, the best feeling in the world was probably the moment Nathan proposed to me- completely out of the blue in the middle of a ski slope- let me tell you girls...if you've not yet been proposed to it's the most incredible situation in the world.  The movies don't do it justice.  They just don't captivate what goes on inside a girls body and mind when her boyfriend finally gets down on one knee.  Never have I shook my head yes and no at the same time (no this can't be happening, yes I will marry you!) while simultaneously laughing and crying.  Ok, I'm officially rambling,
So, yeah.  Lists.  Lasagna was on one of my lists- my kitchen bucket list- and now I can cross that sucker off.  Well, kinda.  You see, while this one was fun to make and had that kicked up mexican flare, I do still intend to make a traditional italian version soon.  But in the meantime, this will definitely suffice.

Pumpkin Cranberry Apple Bread

aka fall wrapped up in a little tiny loaf

We had some company over the weekend.  And I thought I'd make a little somethin' somethin' for breakfast.  That's where this bread came in. 

You see, I contemplated picking up a loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread at work for our special guests; however, my parents should I say this...classy.  Meaning they don't do chocolate for breakfast.  Maybe traditional would be a better word...(But don't get me wrong.  They know a good thing when they hear it.  Afterall, it was my mom who ordered us all a warm piece of cinnamon bread pudding with whisky sauce on Friday night.  Comfort food at its finest.) 

Anywho, that classiness/traditionalness (new word?) actually worked in everyone's favor.  As a result, I came up with this bread: a moist pumpkin loaf studded with red cranberries and cinnamon-sugar tossed apples.  Autumn in your mouth, really. 

Pumpkin Cranberry Apple Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 cup pumpkin puree (about half of a 15-ounce can)

1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt; set aside.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, 1 cup sugar, vegetable oil, water, and pumpkin puree until smooth. Gradually add in dry ingredients, whisking until just combined.

In small bowl combine cinnamon and sugar.  Toss with chopped apples.  Fold apples and cranberries into pumpkin mixture.  Spread evenly into prepared 9x5-inch loaf pan. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in fridge for 3-4 days.

Adapted from Erin Cooks.

Cinnamon Apple Cake

I'm setting a record.

I verrrrrrrrry rarely make the same recipe more than once.  There are just too many goodies flooding the web and recipes sitting in the cookbooks in my kitchen and ideas floating through my head with potential to become an edible creation.  But I have been on a kick lately to share all of my tried and true favorites with you.  First my favorite banana bread, then the pumpkin cookies, followed by my go-to cornbread.  This here cake makes number four.  (btw this means it's delicious).

Now despite the fact that I have made this cake on a couple of other occasions, I had issues this time around.  So let me warn you: read the recipe ALL the way through.  Seriously.  Maybe it was just me but I had some major problems with the sugar.  (It gets divided and used in three different parts of the process- first in the batter, then tossed with the apples, then sprinkled on top).  I could not wrap my head around it for some reason and added too much cinnamon here/not enough sugar there...ugh!  Whatever.  It still turned out great and was as moist as I remember, so in the end...I win.

Oh, and as a favor to you I'm rewriting the recipe and directions so it's easier to follow.  You're welcome.

Cinnamon Apple Cake

Makes one 8x8-inch cake

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup margarine, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
large egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large chopped and peeled apple (I used granny smith)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat sugar, brown sugar, margarine, and cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs and vanilla, beating until mixed. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Combine 1/8 cup sugar and cinnamon. Combine 1 tablespoon cinnamon mixture and apple in a bowl, and stir apple mixture into batter. Pour batter into an 8-inch square pan coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

Adapted from Cooking Light.

Pink Cranberry Muffins...For A Cause

I heart pink.

And creating something pink that's for a good cause?...Well, that's even better.

The Beantown Baker is hosting the 5th Annual Power of Pink Challenge in which she is encouraging readers, bakers and bloggers everywhere to make something pink during the month of October to raise Breast Cancer Awareness.  Props to her! 

Breast Cancer has shown its ugly face in a few close family members of mine and, sadly, even taken a life.  So when I heard about this challenge I was on board.  

I knew immediately I had to use cranberries- they're starting to make their appearance this season and I was itching to break into a bag.  Instead of a traditional cranberry orange muffin, however, I chose to do a cranberry cranberry muffin (I subbed in cranberry juice for the orange) and added just a touch of pink food coloring to amp up the...pinkness.  The result: a tender, sugar-dusted sweet muffin with a dose of tart cranberries that pop in your mouth.  Yum.

If you are interested in participating in the Power of Pink Challenge, check out the Beantown Baker's Rules and get creative in the kitchen for a good cause!

Cranberry Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup cranberry juice
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup hot water
Pink food coloring (optional)
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In another small bowl, beat egg.  Add cranberry juice, butter, and hot water.  Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened.  Add a touch of pink food coloring, if you choose, and mix until blended.  Fold in cranberries.

Divide batter among 12 greased or lined muffin cups.  Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon sugar over each muffin.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Adapted from AllRecipes*.

*I found and printed this recipe a couple of years ago and can no longer find the link on AllRecipes.

Jalapeno Cornbread

We kinda sorta had a cold front last weekend.

Yea...and now it's back in the 80's but'll get cold again and I'm going to prepare you.  Not with soup this time (not yet anyway) but with a little somethin' somethin' to serve with that inevitable chili you're going to make come winter.  Yup, today I'm sharing my go-to cornbread recipe.  You're welcome :)

So I was never really a big fan of cornbread when I was a youngin'.  I always found it dry and bland and just...blah.  But a couple of years ago I had a vision of the perfect cornbread.  I wanted the recipe I found to contain three things:  cheese, jalapenos, and sauteed corn.  I firmly believed these three elements would create my ideal cornbread chunk and thus my search began.  Eventually I found a recipe close enough (minus the sauteing), tweaked it to my liking, and alas a star was born.

I love love love the textures going on with the kernels and bits of jalapenos dotted throughout and little pockets of cheese tucked in- this recipe meets all my reqs.  All that's missing now is the chili.    

Jalapeno Cornbread

Makes one 8x8-inch pan

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 2 ears)
2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
1 1/4 cups stone-ground cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place an 8x8-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray in oven 5 minutes or until heated.

Heat olive oil in small skillet over medium heat.  Add corn and jalapenos, sauteing until corn is golden brown, about 7 minutes. 

Combine cornmeal, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, cheese, butter, honey, oil, and eggs in a small bowl; add to cornmeal mixture. Stir just until combined. Fold in corn and jalapenos.  Spoon mixture into preheated pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (don't overcook or it will become dry!). Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Adapted from Cooking Light.

Pumpkin Kiss Cookies

Toldjya it wouldn't be long...

Now I'm definitely a pecan pie over pumpkin pie girl, but when it comes to incorporating pumpkin into other sweet treats I am on board

Over the past week or two, I have been making batch after batch of pumpkin chocolate chip bread at work and it got my brain churning...what fun treat can I make involving this same delicious combo?? Then, after a girl I work with mentioned a pumpkin thumbprint cookie she had eaten I knew the answer: I just HAD to create a twist on the tried and true peanut butter kiss cookie (p.s. my brother has one heck of a recipe for the pb version he bakes every Christmas...maybe I can get him to do a little guest post come December.  p.s.s. it only involves four ingredients and they taste pretty much INSANE.  I made him make a double batch last year). 

Anywho, these cookies.  Best described as cake in cookie form. They are seriously the softest cookie I've ever bit into and I make sure to work my way around the center kiss in a perfect circle, sliding a little piece of chocolate off with my teeth with each bite.  Perfection. 

Pumpkin Kiss Cookies

Makes 26 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
26 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and beat until mixed thoroughly; add pumpkin puree and vanilla then mix again.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and ginger together in a bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a silpat mat on a baking sheet. Scoop out dough into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown*.  Remove from oven and press a Hershey's Kiss into the center of each cookie.  Let cool before removing to wire rack. 

*The shape of the cookie ball will remain the same during baking.  The Kiss will cause it to flatten out a little making the end result look more like a cookie, don't worry!

Adapted from For the Love of Cooking.

Spicy Spanish Turkey Meatball Stew

I just couldn't help myself...

Yes, I realize every food blog out there is kicking off October with something involving pumpkin puree (oh and don't you worry, I've got a few up my sleeve as well), but I figured I would start things off a little different.  With soup.  Well, stew actually, but that's just a technicality. 

Let me be honest:  we're obsessed with soup in this house.  Nathan and I spent a good chunk of our college days feasting on grilled cheese sandwiches dredged in tomato soup (remember the mean grilled cheese that Nathan makes?).  And it was a pretty rainy weekend down here in Texas putting me in the mood to flip open that new food network magazine lying on the coffee table that just so happens to feature a bowl of tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons on the cover (this issue was made for us!).  So straight to the soups I searched...leading me to this little gem of a stew.  I already had everything on hand (even had some ground turkey thawing for potential barbecue burgers Sunday night, but plans changed for that turkey). 

This is the perfect meal for the upcoming cold nights- hot and spicy warming you all the way through.  (I may have said "whew! spicy!" a few times during this meal).  Delicious served with fresh bread to sop up the juices left in the bowl and to help mellow out the heat :)

Spicy Spanish Turkey Meatball Stew

Serves 2 (heartily) or 3 (reasonably)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch kosher salt and ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup sliced small carrots
1 14-ounce can low-sodium diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup frozen kernel corn
1/2 pound lean ground turkey
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for topping

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer half of the mixture to a large bowl.

Add the paprika and carrots to the remaining onion mixture in the skillet and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth and corn; bring to a rapid simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the ground turkey, cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to the bowl with the reserved onion mixture and mix with your hands. Form the turkey mixture into 8 meatballs. Place the meatballs in the skillet with the sauce and simmer, turning once, until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Serve with cilantro.

Adapted from Food Network.