Nutella Craisin Muffins!

“Treat yo self!” If you watch Parks and Recreation, you know what episode I’m referring to when Tommy and Donna take a whole day to treat themselves by going to the mall and spa. I don’t usually bake too often, but I absolutely love baking muffins and cupcakes when I have the time because I have an insatiable sweet tooth. And now I have all the time in the world! But it’s funny because as I go from day-to-day of my “vacation”, I realize that my Christmas break to-do list seems to keep getting longer. Soon enough time will have flown by and next thing ya know, it will be the start of spring semester..but let’s dwell on the positive.

The reason I came up with this muffin idea is because I ran out of bread and apples but still had some Nutella left in the jar (and I only use Nutella on toast and green apples). So I googled around to find a Nutella dessert and I decided to mix these two recipes:

Coffee Cake Muffins and Nutella Muffins

Here are the ingredients used for these scrumptious treats:

Nutella Craisin Muffins

2/3 c butter

3/4 c brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

1-3/4 c flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

3 eggs

3/4 c milk

1/3 c olive oil

and Craisins (dried cranberries) and Nutella, of course

The list is a little long since I combined the recipes and I actually had most of this stuff in my pantry already, but you can pick and choose what to add like I did. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, milk, and oil together in a bowl and in a separate bowl mix the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and baking powder together.

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Then, mix the dry ingredients with the egg mixture, beating it all together until smooth. Next, add the Craisins!

20121211_135846<-Mix it all together

Scoop into paper cupcake liners

20121211_141134<< For some reason my muffins don’t rise that high so I fill the liners almost to the top. Maybe I should add more baking powder..oh well, it all works out in the end. Now, scoop a spoonful of Nutella on top of each muffin batter.

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Take a knife and stir/push the Nutella into each muffin. I tried to get the swirl effect like in the original recipe but I didn’t have any toothpicks.

Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

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It’s pretty ridiculous how happy I was when I took a bite and got to the warm gooey Nutella center! The Craisins added a tart/chewy-ness to it. Seriously, these were gone in like 2 1/2 days. I had them with every meal until they were gone…so sad. But I will definitely make them again.

There’s something about baking with cinnamon and nutmeg that just screams “Its the HOLIDAYS!” The smells just make me wanna listen to both of Mariah Carey’s Christmas albums and dance around the kitchen. This will probably be my last post until after New Years since my husband and I will be traveling. So I hope everyone has an awesome time with family and friends, and most importantly, eats some great food! 🙂

(I actually wrote the above post before I knew about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementry School in CT. My prayers and heart goes out to the parents and families of those victims, may God give them some sort of peace and comfort during this terrible time of grief.)

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Appe-teasers!

I love the holidays for several reasons. First and foremost being that I am officially on break from school! I took my last final of the semester this morning and half of me is elated that it’s all over and the other half is frustrated with my performance this semester and anxious about the grades that will soon be posted. All of those are pretty normal post-final emotions for me..I can never fully relax right away. The good thing about being married during this time is that we can lean on each other. The bad thing is that I still have to cook for two lol. I do enjoy cooking but during finals week, eating becomes less of a priority.

Anyway, I’ve learned how to make some simple appetizers (or teasers as I so cleverly entitled this post) that you can serve at a holiday party or any dinner. For me, they are more like light meals since we won’t be entertaining.

Quick story: My husband’s department had a holiday party at this swanky country club. It was a really nice space with gorgeous decorations, and the professors brought their families. But I didn’t really know a lot of people there and it was not that entertaining. We started talking to a German student who is graduating this semester, and he happened to be eating a slice of German chocolate cake. Of course I had to say something about it, and he went on to tell me that German chocolate cake is NOT from Germany. He said that once he got here, he was surprised at the name and looked it up..turns out the dessert is named after a man whose last name is “German”. He was like, “it’s kind of weird tasting.” I was like “yeah, I’m not a fan of coconut on cake.” And he was like, “We don’t even have coconuts in Germany! Oh yea, Germany is known for its lush beaches and coconut trees!”

Yall, I don’t know why I laughed so hard when he said this. I think his accent made it funnier..I probably laughed a little too hard like it was the funniest thing I had heard all night (and it was). Moral of the story: If you’re not having great time at a holiday party, find someone interesting with a good sense of humor to talk to and your night will be saved.

Now for the recipes, first up is hummus! In one of my past posts, I’ve complained about no one buying us anything on our registry. My mother heard this and for my birthday she got me a blender and a food processor from our  list. So for my first use of the processor, I decided to try something simple.

1.Hummus: 2 cans of garbonzo beans, cumin, lemon, curry powder, paprika, olive oil, minced garlic

First time I made this, I completely drained and used 2 cans of beans.

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20121125_152434<<My new food processor

I squeezed the whole lemon in there because I like the taste. Overall, the taste was really good and flavorful but the texture was a bit too dry and pasty. You can see the papers in the background..I was in the middle of a 8 hr study session.

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I eat it with pita chips or regular tortilla chips..The second time I made it, I used only one drained can of garbonzo beans and poured in a little water. It came out better texture but I lost some of the flavor. I’ll get it right one of these days. To make it pretty for a party, you should garnish it with a parsley leaf or something.

2. Deviled eggs: 4 eggs, mayonnaise or miracle whip, sweet relish, mustard, season salt (It depends on how many you want, 4 eggs makes 8 and 6 eggs makes 12 and so on.)

I’ve always loved deviled eggs and once I found out how easy it was to make, I started making them all the time or whenever I have leftover eggs (usually right before the expiration date which probably isn’t the best policy).

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After I boil the eggs, I’m too impatient to wait for them to cool completely so I put them in a bowl of ice and peel them. Cut them long ways and put the yolk in a bowl. Mix in the other ingredients including a little salt. I like a lot of sweet relish in mine.

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Put the mixture back into empty eggs.

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3. Spinach cheese quesadilla: tortillas, frozen spinach, shredded cheese, chopped onion (optional), season salt and other seasonings

Earlier I gave a recipe for Mushroom Cheese quesadillas and this is fairly similar.

20121125_220357<<Heat frozen spinach in pan and season

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Put spinach and cheese on tortilla and top with another tortilla (I forgot but make sure to put cheese as first layer, then spinach, then cheese again so the bottom tortilla can stick). I used our panini grill again! You can use a regular frying pan and it’ll turn out the same. Of course, you can cut them smaller to feed more.

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That’s it! Since I’m not a professional, I gravitate to simple recipes that can satisfy anyone and these appe-teasers will definitely make your guests think that you know your way around a kitchen.

Now that I have some time, I will be doing more experiments from some of my cookbooks so stay tuned for possible disasters! lol

Vegetarian Lasagna

Every banquet or event I go to that is held in a hotel including wedding receptions, I am very limited in my options. Lasagna or a plate of steamed vegetables and rice are usually  the only vegetarian plate options. I’ve never been a fan of hotel catering because of this and I usually love all kinds of pasta especially lasagna. Their rendition is always tasteless..I have to make sure the salt shaker is within reach. Anyways, I have come up with my own recipe for a vegetarian lasagna that tastes great..and get this, it includes a little tofu 🙂

Vegetarian Lasagna: frozen spinach, Morningstar griller crumbles, Ragu tomato sauce, onion, minced garlic, oven-ready lasagna noodles, tofu, and shredded cheese.

Side note: I also occasionally use griller crumbles with tomato sauce on regular angel hair pasta with some seasoning

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OK now back to the lasagna: First, I cook the frozen spinach, griller crumbles, garlic, and onion in a frying pan with some olive oil.

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Then, I add the tomato sauce and seasonings like oregano, season salt, etc and mix it together in the pan. In a separate bowl, I crumble the tofu and add some salt and pepper. The reason I decided to add tofu is because it kinda looks like the ricotta cheese that is usually in lasagna and since I’m slightly lactose intolerant, I decided not to have too much cheese..also, tofu makes it healthy right? I use a casserole dish (wipe it with some oil so it doesn’t stick) and start layering. First layer is the sauce/meat mixture and then add the crumbled tofu, then add the cheese. Next layer the pasta..I used the no-name brand lasagna noodles and broke them in half to fit the baking dish. Then repeat the layering until the dish is full (oh yea and preheat oven to 350 degrees)

 

 

 

20121102_19413320121102_19500120121102_195408 <—Cover with foil and put in oven for an hour and then you get the following:

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It would probably look a little better without layering the last tofu so the white stuff isn’t on top. My husband isn’t a fan of tofu but he really likes this dish because you barely get that “tofu taste”, it kinda just blends in with the rest of the ingredients. And let me tell you, this is delish! Better than any hotel catering, that’s for sure. Enjoy!