Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicken Empanadas

I'm going to start out by saying that my recipe for chicken empanadas is not authentic, but it's healthier than the traditional method, easy to make, and it tastes really good.

I love empanadas. They are often savory (filled with beef, pork, or chicken), but sometimes sweet (filled with fruit and/or cheese).  They are like little savory pies that can be eaten by hand.  They're similar to Jamaican beef patties or even mini chicken pot pies.  I love them as an appetizer or I even eat a few of them as a quick lunch.  Traditionally, empanadas are stuffed and then fried.  I love fried food as much as the next person, but in the interest of cutting a few calories, keeping my kitchen cleaner, and saving myself from... myself, I baked my empanadas.

When I joined the ShopRite blogger panel I recieved a welcome package full of ShopRite goodies, including a Three Bean and Roasted Corn Salsa.  I enjoyed a bit of this salsa with some blue corn chips, but then decided to try it as a cooking sauce.  I decided to make chicken empanadas.

I didn't have ground chicken, so I ground up 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts in my food processor.  You could absolutely use pre-ground chicken instead.  You could also use ground turkey or ground beef... whatever floats your boat.

In addition to the Three Bean and Roasted Corn Salsa, I also used my husband's favorite condiment, Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce.  E loves this stuff.  I love it because it's not as pungent as traditional hot sauce.  It has a smooth, smoky heat. 

The filling consists of ground chicken, salsa, a little salt and pepper, and a few dashes of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce.  I made the filling the day before I made the empanadas.

Assembling the empanadas is very easy. I used premade empanada pastry.  You can absolutely make your own and I'm sure they would taste delicious.  I admit that I'm not a fan of rolling and cutting anything (from pie crust to cut out cookies), so I took a little help from Goya.

I put a few tablespoons of filling on each pastry and sealed them with a fork...

I baked the empanadas (although you could fry them) for 20 minutes and then let them cool a bit...

The pastry was flaky on the outside and chewy on the inside and the filling was hearty and just spicy enough.  We ate these all within two days, but you could absoultely make these in advance and freeze them.  Sometimes I freeze them and then use them for lunches on random days when I don't have any leftovers.  Chicken empanadas are much more fun thana boring old sandwich!

Chicken Empanadas
a Keeley original
yield 10 large empanadas

1 pound of ground chicken
salt, to taste
Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce, to taste
1 cup of salsa (I used ShopRite Roasted Corn and Three Bean Salsa)
10 frozen empanada pastry rounds (I used Goya), you can also make your own

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Spray a pan with non-stick spray.  Over medium high heat, cook the chicken, breaking it up into small pieces until all pieces are cooked. Season the chicken with a bit of salt and pepper.  Stir in the salsa.  Stir in a few splashes of Chipotle Pepper Sauce.  Taste for seasonings.  Adjust to your taste.

Lay empanada pastry on the countertop to thaw.  Allow chicken filling to cool for at least 15 minutes before filling pastry.  Fill each pastry with 2-3 tablespoons of chicken filling.  Dip your finger in water and trace the edge of the pastry with water and fold the pastry over to seal (like a semi-circle).  Seal the edges with the tines of a fork.  Repeat for all 10 pastries.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool on a cooling rack.  Enjoy, or refrigerate (or freeze) and reheat for a snack on another day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Two years ago I "discovered" pumpkin cream cheese muffins at a Starbucks in Chicago.  I enjoy a lot of the treats sold at Starbucks, but this muffin is one of my favorites.  It has the texture and taste of pumpkin bread with the extra surprise of a sweetened cream cheese filling.  Pair that muffin up with a cup of coffee and you're good to go.

Unfortunately, Starbucks doesn't always have this muffin.  Plus, I don't really need to eat a jumbo-sized, full-fat, full-price pumpkin cream cheese muffin on a regular basis.  I had given up on this muffin until I found this muffin on Annie's Eats.  I suddenly remembered my love of this Starbucks muffin and I bookmarked the recipe.  When I finally went to make the muffin, I decided to reduce the fat and sugar a bit and the results were great.  If I didn't tell you this was a lighter version of the original, I don't think you'd ever know.

Just be sure to use reduced fat (not fat free) cream cheese and let these cool for at least 30 minutes before indulging... you don't want to burn your mouth on hot cream cheese filling!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
adapted from Annie's Eats
yield 24 muffins

For the filling:
8 oz. reduced fat (not fat free) cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar

For the muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (or one 15-ounce can)
3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil

For the topping:
½ cup sugar
5 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth.  Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree, applesauce and oil.  Mix on medium-low speed until blended.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.  

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend.  Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons).  Place a teaspoon of the chilled cream cheese mixture into each muffin well.  Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely.  Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Roasted Pork Loin with Herbs and Garlic

This is, hands down, my favorite fall dinner. I know everyone in the food blogisphere is writing about pumpkin, apples, and butternut squash (which are all delicious), but I love pork loin and tenderloin. Pork loin is great roasted in the oven in the fall or winter or smoked on the grill in the summer. It's affordable (as low as $.99/lb. on sale), it's lean, and it cooks relatively quickly. It's just as versatile as chicken, but it's jucier. So juicy, in fact, that it doesn't need any gravy or sauce.

Now E may tell you that he's sick of pork loin. He jokes with me because I love it so much that I stock up on it.  I make it at least three times a month once the weather gets cold. He's right. But I'm the cook, so I get to choose the menu.

I love this recipe because it has the perfect balance of salt, fresh herbs, garlic, and spice. The pork develops a crunchy, highly seasoned exterior, but remains juicy on the inside. It's perfect with a fall vegetable and mashed potatoes or cornbread stuffing. The leftovers are great on a soft potato roll as a sandwich. Trust me, this is a crowd pleaser.

I start with 3 pounds of pork loin or pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is typically sold in 3 pound packages that include two loins. Pork tenderloin is leaner (and a bit more expensive) than pork loin. Pork loin is often sold like this:

I picked up this 10 pound pork loin on sale at ShopRite for about $12. I cut it into 3 smaller loins, wrapped and froze two of them and cooked a 3 pound piece for dinner. This was super easy to do (I'm sure you could ask the butcher at the grocery store to do it for you) and it was a great deal.

Next, I combined herbs, salt, pepper, fennel seed and garlic in my food processor to create a thick paste.   Make sure you use fresh herbs.  They cost a bit more (although I still have some growing in my garden), but this recipe won't be the same with dried herbs.  Also, I use kosher salt for all of my cooking because it doesn't tase as salty as table salt.  I spread this paste all over the pork loin, placed the pork in a zip-top bag, and let it marinate in the fridge overnight.

When it was time to roast, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, placed the roast in a pan and cooked it about 45 minutes.
I served it with cornbread stuffing (a recipe in progress for a future post) and brussels sprouts. 

Roasted Pork Loin with Herbs and Garlic
a Keeley original
serves 6

3 pound pork loin
3 teaspoons kosher salt (or one teaspoon per pound of pork)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seed
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (rosemeary and/or sage)

One or two days before roasting:

Rinse and dry the pork loin.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a food processor (or mince by hand) to form a paste.  Rub the herbed oil paste on to the pork, place the pork in a zip-top bag, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

Roasting instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  (I have a convection oven and I use the "roast" setting.)  Remove pork from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.  Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with foil, place the pork fat side up on the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 145 degrees (160 is the recommended temperature for pork, but I like mine at this temperature.)  Let the pork rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing thinly and serving.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

2010 New York City Wine & Food Festival

Last weekend I had the most fantastic foodie experience of my life (so far).  My husband and I enjoyed a trip to the New York City Wine & Food Festival, compliments of ShopRite.  No, I didn't win a contest.  I'm honored that I was asked to participate in a new ShopRite food blogger panel and this event was our kickoff for the year.

This entire experience reminded me of how blessed I am to be able to share my love of cooking and baking with other food-minded people through this blog.  Plus, I realized how convenient it is to live just two hours from several major cities, including New York.  Although NYC is a mere two hours away, I doubt I would have attended this festival without the ShopRite opportunity.

On Friday, October 8th we packed my car and headed up to New York City.  When we arrived at the Tribeca Grand Hotel we relaxed for an hour and admired the contemporary decor and our goodies from ShopRite.  This was our first taste of foodie swag at the NYC Food & Wine Festival.  We love free stuff, especially food, so we were psyched.

In true NY style, the room was small and stylish.
Around 1:00 p.m. I left E relaxing in the hotel room and joined the other bloggers and ShopRite people to head over to the Beverage and Media Tasting for the festival (sort of like a preview day).

ShopRite was one of the event sponsors.

I met so many bloggers, ShopRite execs, ShopRite chefs, chefs from everywhere else, and bloggers that I was almost overwhelmed.  So much food... so many people... so many questions.  I relaxed and enjoyed the experience.

Cooking demo with Chef Faith from ShopRite
A mini mojito... the first of many complimentary drinks.
Wearing your wine glass around your neck leaves your hands free for tasting other goodies.  Our glasses were compliments of Waterford crystal.
The entire ShopRite group had a dinner date at Abe and Arthur's at 5:00 (starting with a happy hour and book signing with Tyler Florence).  Some bloggers decided to go back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner, but Emily and I decided to stay at the festival a bit longer and head back to scoop up our husbands right before we met for dinner.  Emily and I proceeded to leave the festival at 4:00, found out that it was impossible to get a cab in the direction of our hotel, completely forgot about the option of the subway, and walked for at least two miles in uncomfortable shoes to meet our husbands before heading back to dinner.  Of course, as soon as we reached our husbands they suggested that we take the subway to the restaurant and we arrived just in time to enjoy happy hour and meet Tyler Florence.

Tyler Florence was really nice!

I'm so happy E was able to come support me and enjoy this event.
We all received copies of Tyler's new book, Family Meal.  We also enjoyed wine and assorted hors d oeuvres before an impressive dinner at Abe and Arthur's.  Good company and good food... we were both in heaven.  It was so great to talk to other people who are not only passionate about food, but who also love to cook.

Everything from the atmosphere to the food was great at Abe and Arthur's
E had the filet
I had the fish... I believe it was cod with some crispy shrimp.
Strawberry cheesecake parfait was one of the dessert options.
We all loved these delicious, hot mini donut holes with sweet syrups.
On Saturday we were free to explore the festival on our own and this time E was able to accompany me.  We took full advantage of the opportunity to taste as many foods and drinks as possible.

We were on a mission!
Delicious pumpkin soup
Adorable Jelly Belly cupcakes
Fried jumbo shrimp over and Indian-spiced slaw
Ellie Krieger from Healthy Appetite was kind enough to speak to me about the wonders of Barilla Wheat Pasta
 I even attended another book signing!

We (briefly) met Giada deLaurentiis!  Photo courtesy of the Food Network
Of course, I look all sweaty in this professional high-def photo taken by a real photographer with a real camera, LOL!  We were fortunate enough to be among the last few people to get our book signed by Giada.

I have so much more to share, but instead I'll be compiling a series of video clips into a short video documentary of our experiences in NYC.  Stay tuned... it may be a week or more before I get around to it, but it's coming!

In the meantime I'm looking forward to getting back to actual recipe posts!  I spent this entire weekend cooking up tons of autumn deliciousness and I'm looking forward to sharing the recipes this week!

Friday, October 15, 2010


Did anyone out there having a crazy week like me?  October is a notoriously busy month at work for E and I.  Other than our weekend trip to Disney and a brief excursion last weekend, we haven't had any quality time in nearly a month!

That's my excuse for not cooking or posting new recipes for the past week or so.

Part of the reason I've been so busy is work, the rest is that I've been selected to be a member of a blogger panel for ShopRite!  ShopRite?  Blogger panel?  What?

First, for those of you who don't live on the East Coast between Connecticut and Baltimore, what is ShopRite?  It's my favorite grocery store.  ShopRite and Keeley go way back.  My mom used to buy my baby food there.  The chain is based in New Jersey and being that I'm actually a Jersey girl (kinda, I moved to Delaware in high school) I grew up shopping there with my family. They have the best prices on pretty much every grocery item and E and I go there nearly every Friday and/or Saturday night to get groceries for our culinary adventures. 

A PR firm contacted me in August and asked me to be part of a blogger panel for ShopRite.  I honestly thought it was a crock and E was concerned about me getting ripped off.  Long story short, the whole thing was real and I met many of the ShopRite executives and chefs as well as several other food bloggers at the New York City Wine and Food Festival last weekend.

Yes, that's right.  ShopRite sent me to the NYC Wine and Food Festival!  They also sent me a Flip video cam to docment the experience, so I'll be posting pictures and video soon. 

For the first time since starting My Life on a Plate I got to meet other food bloggers in person:

Jessica at Cinnamon En Spice
Emily at Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
Brandy at Nutmeg Nanny

Of course there were several other wonderful and enthusiastic food bloggers, but these were the three who were on my end of the table at dinner, so we spent a lot of time chatting!

Jessica, Emily, and Brandy already posted about their experience at the NYC Wine and Food Festival.  I had a very busy week, so I'm going to share my experience in a blog post this weekend, then it's back to cooking!

Over the next year I'll be working with ShopRite to review house-brand products, create recipes, and contribute to their blog.  Of course, I'll still be writing on my own blog, too!  I'm really looking forward to this experience and I'm looking forward to meeting more fun food people!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

More Magic!

I promised more details about our recent trip to Disney World, so here we go!  (I'm not even caught up on my sleep because we had a very exciting weekend after we returned to the north, but that's another blog post for later this week!  Stay tuned!)

Since this was a work trip, we only had two free days for fun.  We were so anxious to make the most of it that we went straight from our hotel to Epcot without even looking at our room!  We had no time to waste!

As I mentioned before, Walt Disney World holds a special place in our hearts because we honeymooned there back in 2005.  At the time, we chose to have our names added to a memory wall at Epcot, but we knew that we wouldn't be able to see our names posted until a future visit.  We always wondered if they ever put our names on that tiny plaque and if so, would our names still be there when we returned?

We searched and searched (with the directions of a very friendly Disney cast member)...

Our names were on the wall!  We were so happy! 

The next important item of business was to go see Captain EO.  For those who didn't visit Epcot during the mid-to-late '80s, it's a 3-D Michael Jackson movie.  Yes, there was a Michael Jackson movie at Disney World.  George Lucas directed the film, so it's like a cheesy combination of Star Wars and Thriller with Muppet-like aliens.  Yes, it's old and outdated, but it's Michael and I love me some MJ!  I believe it's posted on YouTube, go check it out!

The movie was removed from the park in 2004, but it returned as a tribute in July 2010.  Stepping into that theatre took me back to the good old days.  These young'uns today just don't know about Michael Jackson at his peak!

Stylin' in our 3-D glasses!

Yes, we saw the movie more than once.  And, yes, we purchased a poster and t-shirts!
We also visited the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly known as MGM Studios for you old Disney folk, like me) and Animal Kingdom.  We checked out the new attractions that opened since our last visit, including Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom (a fun and not-too-scary roller coaster) and Soarin' at Epcot (a virtual hang glide ride over California).  Epcot remains my favorite theme park ever. 
We spent hours chasing characters for pictures and posing with princesses (okay, I'm the one who loves the Disney princesses).

Genie promised to fly his magic carpet to Delaware for a visit.

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen 
Needless to say, we were very tired after visiting four theme parks, attending a conference for three days, and walking around nonstop in the heat while going way off our diets.  It was quite a trip!  Disney is so much fun, but after visiting you feel like you need a real vacation!

Of course, we didn't get much rest because as soon as we returned home we were on the road again.  Dare I say that our adventure this past weekend was just as much fun, if not more exciting than Disney.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Magical Adventure!

E and I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.  I was in Florida for a conference and we chose to arrive early so we could enjoy the parks together.  Disney is extra special to us because we honeymooned there in 2005.

The weather was great and as an added bonus, Epcot was hosting it's 15th annual Food and Wine Festival!

Epcot has been my favorite Disney park since I first visited it back in 1985.  I love Figment, Captain EO, The World Showcase... it's just a great place.  It's both educational and fun.  The park opened in 1982 and it still retains some of it's 80's-ness, which makes it ultra cool.  If you didn't know, I'm a nerd, so I was in heaven.  Between the science and technology, the history, and the food and wine thing, I spent most of my free time at this park.

Each country in The World Showcase always has food, drinks, and exhibits, but for the Food and Wine Festival additional countries were added and we spent more than one day tasting food from Mexico, China, Brazil, Poland, England, Germany, and a bunch of other places.  Plus, Kool and the Gang performed at Epcot during our stay.  I was in food, wine, and old-school 80's heaven.

E's favorite part was the beer...

E in "Germany".  Check out the shirt.
Please note:   his shirt was such a HUGE hit at Epcot.  No, we didn't buy it there, it actually came from a brewery in upstate New York.  Nevertheless, everyone loved his shirt and we got stopped at least 20 times.
We ate tons of junk, including this huge, smoked turkey leg (it's a Disney tradition)...

It was hot, if you couldn't tell from my skin glistening to match that turkey leg!

Overall, it was such a great weekend.  We only had limited free time to explore the parks, but I felt like we were kids again, even for just a few days.  If you are considering going to Disney World, I'd suggest going in October for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  We were pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of the food and drinks.  It was a very grown-up event in a location that's normally considered a kids and family vacation spot.

I'll follow up with another post about the rest of our Disney adventures.  Has anyone been to any of the other Disney resorts (California?  Paris?).  Any other Disney fans out there?

Want to hear more about our trip?  Read more!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Easy Sticky Buns

I love sticky buns.  Cinnamon buns are okay, but sticky buns are something extra special.  That smooth, buttery, sticky glaze... the nuts... the raisins... the soft, buttery dough.  There's no better way to start a lazy Sunday morning.

Typically, I don't go for processed foods and short cuts.  My favorite sticky buns are from a particular little bakery in South Jersey and I'll bet they are made from scratch.  These sticky buns are for cheaters, but if you won't tell, I won't.  You may recognize this recipe as monkey bread, but my family adapted into sticky buns.

I take five minutes to set these buns up before I go to sleep and then I wake up to perfectly risen, sugary dough that I bake and in less than an hour we're pulling apart these heavenly, buttery, nutty sticky buns.  It's so much easier than rolling and cutting dough.  Make these the next time you have overnight guests.  Heck, make these and eat them yourself.  They even reheat well... if they last.

Easy Sticky Buns
a family recipe, by Keeley

1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds)
1 package of frozen dough balls (I use Rhode's)
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons dry butterscotch pudding mix
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter

The night before:

Spray a Bundt pan with nonstick sptray.  Sprinkle raisins and nuts in the bottom onf the pan. 

Scatter the package of frozen dough balls evenly over the nuts and raisins.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and butterscotch pudding mix.  Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top.

Spray a piece of foil with nonstick spray.  Cover Bundt pan with foil and leave out at room temperature overnight. 

The next morning:

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, uncovered.  Rolls are done when they spring back when touched.  Cool for 5 minutes, then carefully invert onto a serving dish. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Artisan Bread

I'm on a no-knead bread kick.  It started with the Rosemary and Garlic Bread, continued with the Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread and now I'm back to basics with this Artisan Bread.  I can't get over how it's so easy to make such a great loaf of bread.  Ask my husband, we've had round loaves of bread every weekend for nearly a month!

For the past two weekends I've baked loaves of this plain white bread, which I've named Artisan Bread because it's free-formed with a rustic coating of flour and a nice cracked top.  I take five minutes to mix up the dough on Friday night, five minutes to fold and shape it on Saturday afternoon, and 35 minutes to bake it on Saturday night before dinner.  We've enjoyed it with soup, with cheese, or toasted and slathered with cinnamon honey butter on Sunday morning.  It's just a good basic bread.  All you need is patience.

Artisan Bread
based no the No-Knead Method

3 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups of room temperature water

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Lighty coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour; put dough seam side down on towel. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, it may not look perfect, but it's fine.  Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 25 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

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