The cold days of winter call for warm and hearty soups (or stews) to help keep you feeling warm and toasty to beat the winter chill. In a recent issue of Rachael Ray Magazine I came across one such soup that had the added bonus of being made in a slow cooker. A kitchen item I do enjoy using but don’t use often enough.
This stew – a Sausage, Bean & Spinach Stew – was a cinch to make and was ready in about four hours. I began by adding white beans, chopped onions, carrots & celery, garlic, bay leaves and chicken broth to my slow cooker and cooking it on high heat for three and a half hours. I then added sausage meatballs and let them cook in the soup for about twenty-five minutes. Finally, I added in the spinach for the final ten minutes.
Final verdict… The stew was delicious. I’ll definitely be it making again. But, I think next time I’ll cook the meatballs a little before adding them to the soup.
Since I had my slow cooker out from obscurity I figured I would finally try making a dessert in it – a Triple Chocolate Brownie recipe I came across from Martha Stewart.
To begin I whisked together my dry ingredients: flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
To get started on my wet ingredients I melted butter and bittersweet chocolate together.
After giving it a few good stirs I added in sugar and eggs.
I then folded it into the dry mixture along with walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips.
I then poured it into my slow cooker, which I sprayed with cooking spray and lined the bottom of with parchment paper.
I cooked it on low for four hours, the final half hour uncovered.
After letting it cool in the insert for two hours I flipped out the brownies to sadly discover that the edges were quite burnt and definitely not edible.
All was not lost though… After some clever cutting I was left with six, albeit irregularly shaped, brownies that were quite tasty and definitely not lacking in chocolate flavor.
Baking in a slow cooker… definitely not my first choice for delicious desserts, but, I wouldn’t rule out trying it again, just not brownies though!
Sausage, Bean & Spinach Stew
1 pound dried large white beans, such as great northern, rinsed and picked through
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 sprigs fresh thyme*
1 bay leaf**
Parmesan rind (optional)*
1 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, shaped into 1/2-inch meatballs
1 bunch spinach, trimmed
Juice of 1/2 lemon*
Crusty bread, for serving
In a large slow cooker, stir together the beans, chicken broth, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and Parmesan rind, if using. Cover and cook on high heat until the beans are nearly tender, about 3 1/2 hours.
Place the sausage meatballs on top of the beans. Cover; cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in the center, about 25 minutes.
Discard the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and Parmesan rind. Stir in the spinach, then cover and let stand until the spinach wilts, 10 minutes.
Stir in the lemon juice; season. Serve with crusty bread.
*I omitted these ingredients when I made my soup
**I added in two bay leaves as opposed to just one
Slow-Cooker Triple Chocolate Brownies
Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)
Lightly coat a 5-quart slow-cooker insert with cooking spray. Line bottom with parchment paper and lightly coat with spray. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
Place butter and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until chocolate is melted. Add sugar; stir to combine. Stir in eggs. Add flour mixture, walnuts, and chocolate chips and stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Transfer to slow cooker and smooth top.
Cover and cook on low, 3 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook 30 minutes. Remove insert from slow cooker and run a knife around edge to loosen brownies. Let cool completely in insert on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Turn out onto a work surface and cut into 14 brownies.
So once again I had a few bananas that were a tad over-ripe and while I had a few ideas as to what I wanted to make I settled on some muffins. I figured I had to have a recipe somewhere for something so basic and then I came across a 50 Muffin booklet I ripped out of an issue of Food Network magazine last year. The recipe was simple and I had all of the ingredients on hand so I got to baking.
Up first I mixed together my dry ingredients: flour, walnuts, baking powder, salt and baking soda. I also added some chocolate chips which weren’t part of the original recipe.
Secondly I mixed together brown sugar, melted butter, mashed banana, sour cream and eggs.
I then folded the wet mixture into the flour mixture.
Since it was fall I decided to use up the last of my pumpkin decorated cupcake liners. I was concerned since they seemed as though they had lost their shape….
But once I filled them with the muffing batter they were just fine. While the recipe said it only yielded twelve muffins I had some extra batter to squeeze out two extra muffins. I filled the empty compartments of the muffin tin with water so the two muffins would bake evenly but recently read that it’s not necessary.
I baked them for about twenty minutes in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. After letting them sit in the pan for a few minutes I then transferred them to a wire rack so they could cool completely.
While these muffins did taste good I wasn’t too thrilled about them so I doubt I will be baking up another batch of them anytime soon. I am thinking the next time I have some bananas past their prime I might make a Banana Cream Pie.
Banana Chocolate Chip & Nut Muffins
2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips*
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup sour cream
*The original recipe didn’t include chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the flour, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl whisk together the brown sugar, butter, banana, sour cream and 2 eggs and then fold it into the flour mixture. Divide among 12 prepared muffin cups and bake 20 to 25 minutes.
A good friend recently celebrated a birthday and a few days prior to it I asked her what kind of cake she would like me to bake for her and she responded with an apple cake. The only apple cake I could recall making was an Apple Walnut Cake that really wasn’t what I would consider to be a birthday cake. So, after a few texts back and forth we settled on an apple cake with walnuts with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting. While her birthday technically falls in the summer according to the calendar it’s unofficially in the fall since it is after Labor Day, hence this cake being the quintessential fall birthday cake. Since I haven’t mastered creating my own recipes I did a few internet searches to find a recipe for the cake and frosting. After coming up empty handed I decided to follow the recipe for my favorite carrot cake and substitute grated apples in lieu of the carrots and for the frosting, I made my favorite cream cheese frosting and added in ground cinnamon in small increments until I reached my desired flavor.
To begin I prepped my Granny Smith Apples…
First I peeled them…
Then cored and sliced them using an apple divider…
And finally grated them using a food processor.
I started the batter by combining the dry ingredients and setting it aside.
I then creamed butter and sugar together.
Once the butter and sugar were mixed together well I added in the eggs and dry ingredients by alternating between the two.
And them some vanilla extract.
It was then time to add in the grated apples.
And finally I folded in some chopped walnuts.
Once the walnuts were incorporated well into the batter it was time to divvy it up among my prepared pans.
Once divided I popped them into a 350 degrees oven.
After baking for 25 minutes the cakes were done.
I let them cool for a bit in the pans and then inverted them onto cooling racks to let them cool completely.
After the cakes cooled completely I made the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting by combing cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and of course cinnamon.
I spread frosting between each of the layers…
And then crumb coated the cake and refrigerated it for a bit while I made another batch of frosting to finish covering the cake and for decorating.
After about twenty minutes in the fridge I finished frosting it…
And then I added some decorations and scattered some walnuts along the sides of the cake prior to writing a birthday message on it.
Final verdict: It was a hit… Definitely something I’ll make again!
So this past weekend I was held-up indoors after Nemo dropped 20 plus inches of snow in my area. While I was able to shovel the walkway & driveway and clean off my car – which was a painstaking task as I drive an SUV and cleaning the snow off the top of it is no fun (it’s one of the few times I wish I was an inch or two taller) – I couldn’t leave my block as the plows did clean the main roads in my area but didn’t get to the side streets. One of which I live on. So, what is a girl to do, well, this one decided to bake some brownies. I figured I deserved something sweet after all the hard work I did.
I remembered that I had a mini-recipe pullout from a Food Network Magazine with fifty different brownie recipes. I decided to keep it simple since I was sure I would have the ingredients for traditional brownies but not for anything too “wild.” There is a recipe for Cherry Almond Brownies that I am sure would be delicious, but, those will have to wait for another day. Hence, my Snowed-In Fudgy Walnut Brownies.
The ingredients were quite basic: Semi-sweet chocolate chips, butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour and salt. And since I like some texture to my brownies I added in walnuts. The last time I made brownies I actually used cocoa powder so I was taken aback by using chocolate chips instead. Luckily I buy them whenever they’re on sale and store them in my refrigerator because you never know what may come up… like a snowstorm!
I started off by melting the chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan over low heat.
Once the chocolate chips and butter were melted I removed it from the heat and whisked in both of the sugars. As you can see the mixture got quite thick.
After letting it cool for a few minutes I whisked in four eggs one at a time and then the vanilla extract. I was actually going to do this by hand but immediately changed my mind and whipped out my hand mixer instead. My arm already had a good workout from clearing the snow.
I did swap out the mixer for a rubber spatula though when I added in the flour and salt. I didn’t want to make too much of a mess since I wasn’t working with a deep bowl.
And finally I folded in the walnuts.
In prepping my baking dish I decided to go with the easy removal method and sprayed my dish with baking spray, lined it with aluminum foil ensuring that it was a large enough piece to overhang at the ends and then sprayed the aluminum foil with the baking spray. Once the batter was ready I spread into the prepared dish.
After baking for 45 minutes in a 325 degree oven my brownies were done.
I let them cool for about two hours before I sliced them into twelve almost perfect squares.
They were quite yummy and surprisingly not as sweet as I thought they would be considering they were made with chocolate chips and a cup and a half of sugar. They were also the perfect complement to my chai tea as I watched the Grammy’s on Sunday night!
Fudgy Walnut Brownies
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup light-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Coat a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. For easy removal, line the pan with foil leaving an overhang, then coat with more cooking spray.
Melt the chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring. Off the heat, whisk in each of the sugars; cool slightly. Whisk in the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract. Stir in the flour and the salt. Fold in the walnuts. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes.
Cool on a rack, then cut into squares.