Noreen's Kitchen: 01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Help Molly Help Beagle Freedom Project!


Today I come to you to share a project that my daughter Molly is taking part in.  As a part of her required curriculum, at Early College, she must complete a graduation project where she chooses a topic to research and then does a research paper as well as a service project to help raise money and awareness for her chosen topic. 

I hope you will forgive my intrusion and this little stray from my normal recipe posts.  This is important to us as a family as well as to Molly so I hope you will indulge me this time.  The cause is a great one and so many of you have reached out to us regarding our pets and your love for your pets that we thought we would share this with you.  If you are able to contribute it would be greatly appreciated.  If you are not, then we completely understand.  Her goal is $1000.00.  However whatever she raises will be donated in full to the Beagle Freedom Project.

Here is a little more information from Molly:

My name is Molly and I am 16 years old.  I am a Sophomore attending Early College East.  As a part of my required curriculum I must complete a graduation project.  The project involves selecting and researching a topic and engaging in 10 hour service project directly related to my topic.
My chosen topic is animal testing.  My service project is aimed at raising awareness and money for The Beagle Freedom Project, a non profit organization that is dedicated to freeing animal test subjects, at this time mostly beagles, although they have saved and re-homed, pigs, horses, cat and other dogs as as beagles.  
Did you know that beagles are the most widely used dogs in test labs today?  Did you know it is because their docile, loving and trusting demeanor?  As a result of this these animals are bred for the purpose of undergoing horrifying testing for products and medications that have already been approved for sale in some cases.  When the labs get done testing on the animals their fate is almost always to be put to sleep and the cycle will begin again with new pack of animals over and over again.
Beagle Freedom Project has made it their mission to reach out to the labs and take the animals off their hands, allowing the animals to be fostered and adopted by loving families who will give them a second chance at life and help them to know what a loving home is.
This organization is special to me because I have a beagle. She is the cute one in the pictures
on this page!  Although she did not come from a lab and has never known a cold, hungry, hurtful day in her life, I cannot imagine how these animals feel every day they are subjected to  horrible tests just so we can know that having shampoo sprayed in your eyes will hurt!  
Beagle Freedom Project needs our help to introduce legislation in all fifty states that will make it mandatory for these types of labs to allow these animals to be fostered and/or adopted an not euthenized once they are finished with their testing.
In perfect world we would never test on animals like this, but we don't live in a perfect world and for now what we can do is help these animals get the life they deserve after what they have been through.
You can give what you are able.  I appreciate any help you can give me in my effort to complete my graduation project.  All money raised will go directly to the Beagle Freedom Project.
Thank you in advance for helping me to complete my project by raising money for this worthwhile organization.  Thank you for helping me help them to give these special creatures another chance at the life they deserve!

Please follow this link to make a donation!


Sweet & Spicy Cola Riblets! Delicious Game Day Food For a Crowd on the Cheap!

Here is a recipe for a simple and delicious offering for your next party, potluck, picnic, tailgate party, or Super Bowl gathering!  Sweet and spicy cola riblets are cost effective and extremely tasty.  You can cook up a big batch of these tasty morsels for a little bit of cash and have these cooking while you visit with your guests or watch the big game!

Riblets are a cut of meat that was once simply thrown out by the butcher.  They are what is considered an "off cut" in butchering terms.   Wikipedia explains riblets this way:
            A riblet is an alternative to ribs. The actual riblet is the portion of a loin back rib (or baby back rib) that is cut off at the top (nearest the back bone) to give the rib a more uniform look. Loin back ribs don't always have this removed. When not removed they have a rounded look to them and are often referred to as baby back ribs. Riblets used to be thrown out by butchers, but have become popular due to their excellent flavor and lower cost.
Button ribs (or feather bones) are often confused with riblets mostly because Applebee's sells these as "riblets". In fact, what Applebee's sells is found just past the ribs near the back bone, just underneath the tenderloin. This cut of meat actually has no bones, but instead has "buttons" of cartilaginous material with meat attached. The riblet cut was invented in Brisbane, Australia in 1986 by an English man named Robert Wilson, who was born in Liverpool.

Rib tips (or brisket) are found at the bottom of the spare ribs by the sternum. The rib tips have a high proportion of cartilage. The rib tips give the spare ribs a rounded appearance. In an attempt to give the meat a more uniform appearance and make it easier to eat, this piece is sometimes removed, and the remaining spare ribs are referred to as Saint Louis style ribs.

This batch of ribs will be the easiest you have ever made, because they are baked off and then slow cooked the rest of the way.  I love this method because I am actually not the best at making ribs.  So these fit the bill when my husband wants ribs and I don't want to pay for an expensive restaurant dinner.  This is also the best way to feed a crowd some delicious ribs!

I did a basic dry rub, or really a sprinkle of some of my favorite rib rub on these tiny racks of riblets.  I just shingled the meat on a rack that was placed on a baking sheet that I lined with both foil and parchment paper to make clean up easy.  I just sprinkled the rub on one side of the meat.  I sprinkled my favorite Szeged Rib Rub as well as some garlic powder, cracked pepper and good, old fashioned seasoned salt on the riblets.  




I placed them into a 350 degree oven for about a half hour.  I was able to get all 10 pounds of ribs on to two sheet pans and I roasted them on separate racks in the oven, offset from each other and made sure to switch them half way through cooking to ensure even roasting.

When they were done roasting, they were delicious on their own, but we moved on and put the riblet racks into the vessle of the slow cooker then built the sauce!  



Brown sugar, Chipoltle peppers with a bit of their adobo as well as some grainy mustard, molasses and about three cups of a good quality, all natural, cane sugar cola were stirred together to make a wonderful elixir in which the ribs could slow cook. We cooked these for 2 hours on high and another 2 hours on low.  We cooked ours until they were falling off the bone tender.

We at a wonderful supper that night and I allowed the rest of the riblets to cool completely, and put my clean hands in there to remove all the little "button bones" from the pot.  This took a bit longer than I thought because every time I thought I was done, I found more bones.  Be warned, when you do this, you will want to warn your family that they need to be careful of any remaining bones when you serve the leftovers as pulled pork on sandwiches with delicious buns and coleslaw!

Less than eight dollars will give you enough riblet racks for a crowd or enough to feed your family at least three meals.  In my book that is one really awesome way to stretch your dollar! 

I hope you will give these delicious sweet and spicy cola riblets a try.  Remember, you don't have to limit yourself to riblets, you can use this sauce on anything you like from regular spare ribs, baby back ribs, pork tenderloin, pork shoulder, even chicken breasts, short ribs or pot roast or brisket would be amazing with this sauce!

I hope you give this recipe a try and I hope you love it!

Happy Eating!

If you would like to see how I made these, have a look here! 


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Soft Pretzels! An Amazing and Easy Homemade Treat!

Soft pretzels may seem like they are reserved for a trip to the mall or a street fair but did you know how easy they are to make yourself at home?  I thought I would give these a try today since I hadn't ever made them by myself.  I only remember watching my grandmother make them.  She knew the secret and I am here to share that with you so you can make these amazing, soft, chewy, delicious treats at home.  Just in time for Super Bowl!

The secret to these pretzels like any other pretzel, is the baking soda water bath!  I have done a bit of research on this recipe and the fact of the matter is that pretzels originally got their deep brown finish from a dip in another alkali bath, and that was in lye!  Can you imagine?  Now that is not really anything new.  Lye is used in several food applications like curing, hominy and of course pretzels.  But this can be dangerous because lye is extremely caustic, it’s poisonous and it can knock you on your feet if you don't know what you are doing.  Now, that is not to say that you cannot use it, but I am not going to use it and I don't think you should either.  Food grade lye can bee difficult to find and it is just better to use the baking soda.  You get a darn similar result and I think you will be happier, safer and healthier for it.

This really is a study in chemistry. Walter White would be proud!  Simple chemistry of taking something and exposing it to an alkali in order to get a specified result.  In this case a deep brown, crispy outer crust that is the pride of any pretzel maker.    Many recipes call for just a little bit of baking soda mostly 2 tablespoons in a cup of water.  However my Nanny always did it different and this, in my opinion is the way to go. She used much more water, I have estimated around 8 cups and always used 2/3 cups of baking soda.    Dissolve the soda in the water and then bring to a simmer in preparation for giving your dough a lovely warm alkali bath prior to baking.

I mixed up my dough in my stand mixer and then allowed it to sit for 30 minutes.  You can find the recipe here:  http://bit.ly/1miMQq0   Then I preheated my oven to 400 degrees.

This step is crucial because I don't want your pretzels to stick to the parchment like mine did!  Make sure you line a baking sheet with parchment and that you also spray, butter or oil the parchment well.  Trust me, when this step is skipped, your pretzels will stick to the paper and although they will still be delicious, you will have to sacrifice their undersides because of the sticky problem.

Now you can divide your dough into six equal pieces.  Form each piece into a snake between 12 and 15 inches long and then twist into a pretzel shape or cut into nuggets.  Either way they are delicious. 

Dip your pretzels or nuggets into the simmering baking soda bath for 30 seconds each and make sure to get all sides wet with the mixture. 

Place the simmered pretzels onto the oiled baking sheet.  At this point you can sprinkle with some coarse salt or you can leave them naked for another application after they are baked.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and beautiful.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before diving in.

You can also leave off the salt and wait for them to be baked then dip into melted butter and roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for a perfectly sweet treat!

I hope that this encourages you to give pretzel making at home a try.  I think these would be delicious along side a bowl of beef barley soup or even made into some sandwich rolls for a tall Ruben sandwich.  Eaten on their own they are perfect for dipping into delicious mustard or homemade beer cheese!

I hope you give these delicious soft pretzels a try and I hope you love them!

Happy Eating!

You can see how I made my pretzels here:


Thursday, January 16, 2014

When Life Gives You Milk, Make Cheese!

I was recently fortunate enough to receive some free milk from my dairy man because it was past the sell by date and he could no longer offer it for sale.  We have a good relationship and he knows that I will make something with it and it won't have to go down the drain.  I love him for that!  It makes us all happy!  So I went home with two, half gallon bottles of delicious whole milk, in addition to my weekly needs so it was time to make some homemade ricotta cheese in preparation for a baked spaghetti casserole I was planning later in the week.  Oh happy day! 

Ricotta cheese is in so many of our favorite recipes, from casseroles and vegetable dishes and pastas and desserts, that it can be easy to reach for the commercially produced version without giving a thought to making it ourselves.  The price comparison isn't that different, and you aren't going to save much money by making your own.  What you will save, is unnecessary ingredients and you will gain the confidence of knowing how to make this simple cheese right in your own kitchen.  This is the most basic of cheese making, requiring only three ingredients,  good quality whole milk, white vinegar and salt.  A little patience won't hurt either.  You will be on your way to the most simplistic form of heaven on earth when you give this process a try, even if it's just for fun, but I promise you, this is addicting!

Sometimes I want to know how to do things, just to know how to do them.  This comes from a deep seeded sense of curiosity that I have had since birth.  I am sure that my mother could tell you stories of how I took the telephone apart or any number of gadgets, just to see what was inside, only to fail at re-assembling them into a working device once again.  Those things are just experience.  The main experience I gained was that mom isn't as impressed as I was with how things work.  All kidding aside, making cheese goes right along with canning, baking and cooking.  In that they are all a part of a process, sort of an alchemy or chemistry, if you will.  Cheese making is fascinating in its simplicity, but it is vast and the types of cheese you can create from just milk, salt and some sort of acid and in many cases a type of culture are endless. 

Every part of the world has a type of cheese it is known for.  Cheese was most likely first discovered by accident, with nomadic people using a mammal stomach as a vessel to carry milk.  When they went back to the vessel after a long day of trudging through the desert, they found that their milk had turned to cheese.  Maybe that sounds off putting to some, but it really makes a lot of sense.  One of those "Eureka" moments that took off like a shot. 

Ricotta is one of the most basic forms of cheese that you can create easily at home with no cultures and no bacteria, it does not need to be "innoculated" and only needs to have the milk solids separated from the whey.  This is where the vinegar comes in.  You can also choose to use fresh, never bottled lemon juice to create this process as well.  I have also been working with a buttermilk ricotta that is wonderful and only uses whole milk and buttermilk as the acid for breaking a curd.


The process is as simple as the ingredients.  The first, and most important thing to know is that you need to start with impeccably clean, stainless steel, pots, utensils and an instant read thermometer or a cheese making thermometer.  This is where you simply cannot skimp or get lazy.  Thoroughly wash and dry your pot and your utensils in a bleach solution, and allow them to air dry to make sure there is no residual bleach for at least 15 minutes after they have been washed.  Then you can move on with your ricotta.



Pour 1 gallon of whole, high quality milk into your pot.  Allow it to heat over a low flame until it reaches 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer. At no time do you want this milk to boil or simmer.  






When it reaches the right temperature, you are going to drizzle in 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon juice, never bottled lemon juice and never apple cider vinegar, which can give your cheese an off flavor. 





Using a large slotted spoon, you will want to slowly stir the milk and you will be able to see the curd separating from the whey.  At this point pop the thermometer back in and allow this mixture to reach 185 degrees, at which point you will turn off the heat, gives things another stir and put the lid on the pot.  Allow this to rest for 20 minutes before draining.




Once the cheese has rested, drain into a colander that has been lined with either several layers of cheesecloth or a flour sack towel and if you like, catch the whey and use it for bread baking and smoothie making, you can also simply let it go if you don't think you will use it.







Bundle the cheesecloth together and wrap with some string.  Hang this bundle from a hook, over a bowl and colander and allow it to drain for at least a hour.  








At which time you can remove the string and pop the cheese into a container.  You can salt it at this time to taste and use it as you like!






I hope that this gives you the confidence to try making this simple cheese for yourself and I hope that when you do you will love it!

Happy Eating!

If you would like to see how I made my ricotta cheese, you can watch here:



Friday, January 10, 2014

Amazing, Alfredo, Chicken & Bacon Pizza!

Thursday night means pizza night in our house.  In an effort to make at least three more meals from the roasted chicken dinner that we made on Sunday, I am using some of that chicken in a fabulous pizza for our pizza night!  Pizza is a wonderful use for leftover meats and veggies because you can really stretch a little to go a long way.  Add a bit of dough, either store bought or homemade and you have pizza.  You could even sub out the dough and use some sliced French bread to make this pizza.  Whatever you choose, you are going to love this deeply flavorful and decadent pizza that you make using leftovers!

This is no ordinary pizza, and required only a few ingredients that I had on hand.  I made my dough earlier in the day in a double batch and divided it into four balls, each of which I wrapped in a plastic bag and then placed them all in the fridge to "rise" before dinner.  Then I pressed the dough into an oiled pizza pan.

In advance of putting the pizza together, I cooked cut bacon in my skillet low and slow to assure a crispy product.  Removed that from the pan and removed all but a tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat which I sautéed 8 ounces of Crimini mushrooms, 1 medium sliced onion and four cloves of chopped garlic.  I removed those from the skillet and then tossed in about two cups of cubed dark meat chicken which I pulled from the remaining leg and thigh quarters from Sunday's dinner.  I tossed those around in the warm pan just to take the chill off the chicken.

I used some prepared Alfredo sauce on the bottom, topped with some shredded Mozzarella cheese and then topped that with the warm chicken, some of the sauteed onions, mushrooms and garlic and topped that with a bit more cheese.  Then for the piece' de' resistance, the crispy crumbled bacon, strewn across the top of the beautiful pie.  I sprinkled a bit of grated Parmesan as well as a bit of pizza seasoning to top everything off just right.  If you like, you could apply a light drizzle of a high quality olive oil if you like, Who would complain about that?

Baked at 425 degrees for just under 20 minutes until the cheese was lightly browned and bubbly, the crust was browned and crunchy and the house was permeated with the amazing aroma of this luscious pizza.  I allowed this to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into it and enjoying a taste.  I was not disappointed!  This pizza was amazing!

The flavors in this pie are incredible.  Bacon, onion, garlic, herb roasted chicken, cheese and crunchy crust.  My mouth is watering just writing this and I'm wondering if there is a slice left this morning to enjoy with my coffee. 

So with a little effort, I can tick another meal off of my list in which I used the chicken from Sunday evening.  So far that makes two meals, including the Mexican Style Chicken Lasagna, which really will end up feeding us for two dinners for four people, so you could easily say that I have made three extra meals from that chicken.  I plan on at least one more project with the chicken that I have leftover now, which really consists of the carcasses and the wings.  I suppose a soup of some sort is in order and I know you are going to love what I have planned. 

Creating meals from leftovers can be a challenge, especially if you are like me and cannot really stand to eat some types of leftovers. So the challenge is even bigger for me.  I love to "makeover" the original meal so that it is not evident that we are actually eating leftovers.  It takes some doing, and it takes some creativity, heck, it even takes some "outside the box" thinking.  Give it a try.  Cook one large protein a week and see what you can get out of it.  I think you'll have a blast creating dishes your family will love and in the end you will increase your recipe repertoire. 

Remember that if you don't have any leftover chicken and just can't wait to give this a try, then get yourself a rotisserie chicken and use some of that meat for your pizza.  See how many meals you can make for yourself out of one chicken.  You'll have fun and your family will love you!


I hope that you are going to give this recipe a try and I hope you love it! 


Happy Eating!

If you would like to see how I made the pizza, you can watch here:


Monday, January 6, 2014

Easy, French Style Herb Roasted Chicken!


When I think of a classic Sunday dinner, it has to be a perfectly roasted chicken.  Tender, moist meat, seasoned beyond compare with a crispy, golden brown skin.  That is what I am going to share with you today, a roast chicken with a European flair.  French style, herb roasted chicken is just a delicious as it sounds but not nearly as difficult as you may think.

Cooking in the French style can sometimes sound a bit intimidating, but I can assure you that most basic French cuisine has simple roots of the peasant variety.  Yes, there was Marie Antoinette, and her cake, but in reality, the poor folks outnumbered the aristocracy and it is their food that we should take our cue from.  Simple, wholesome ingredients like a perfectly sourced chicken along with fresh aromatics like onions and Meyer lemons are the basic building blocks for a delicious bird.  Top that off with some good quality olive oil and a generous sprinkling of homemade Herbes De Provence and you have a bird that would have been fit to feed Marie herself with nary a complaint to be heard. 

Getting this underway is easy!  Go get yourself the best chicken you can afford.  I love to get mine from a local shop that sources locally grown birds, however sometimes my wallet screams at me and I just go for the grocery store variety when I can get them on sale.  Sometimes I can get whole birds for .69 a pound and that is when I fill a portion of my freezer with them because you can't beat a whole chicken for around $3! 

Today I have two chickens that are both between 5 and 6 pounds each.  I love to roast off more than one bird at a time and if I had had the room in my oven, I would have roasted three of them as I intended, but for now one of them went into the freezer for another time.  It takes just as much time and energy to roast off two or three chickens as it does to roast one.  Make use of your time, energy, and electricity and get more for all your effort.  You can do so much with leftover roasted meats that the payoff really is enormous.

I washed and dried each chicken and then place them on a wire rack inside of a rimmed baking sheet.  This will help the air circulate all around the entire bird and allow any juices and fat to drain into the pan without having the bird boil in it's own juices.  This is what roasting is all about!  Then I sprinkled the cavities of the chicken with some of my homemade Herbes De Provence and stuffed them with some halved, peeled onions and lemons, which I squeezed over the top of the birds before stuffing them inside.  This will help to perfume the meat and give it amazing flavor. 

Next I drizzled about a tablespoon of olive oil over each chicken and gave it a quick massage to spread out the oil.  Then I sprinkled a copious amount of the herb mixture over each one, completely covering them with a luxurious crust of herbaceous goodness.  If you like, at this point, you can give the chickens a little spray of olive or vegetable oil.  This will help the dried herbs not to burn so fast and give them a little more oomph!  I use my Misto, oil sprayer for this, but any commercial cooking oil spray will work just fine.

Then I roasted the chickens for 45 minutes at 400 degrees and then for an additional 45 minutes at 350 degrees, making sure to keep them in the oven until their internal temperature, when taken with an instant read meat thermometer registered at least 160 degrees.  Make sure you take the temperature in the breast as well as the thigh area.  Also make sure that the juices are running clear with no signs of red or pink.  Then you can be sure your bird is perfectly done. 

You're not quite ready to cut into that bird just yet though!  Go ahead and cover them with some foil and let them rest for at least 20 minutes to allow all those delicious juices to settle and redistribute into the meat before you are ready to sit down to a delicious meal of herb roasted chicken.

I served mine with some roasted potatoes and onions along with a big green salad and we were very happy campers!  The best part is that there are plenty of leftovers to have fun with in the coming week.  I plan on making several dishes to feed my family just from these two chickens.    They include a chicken burrito lasagna, Chinese chicken soup, chicken pot pie, shredded chicken salad and maybe even a Greek inspired chicken pizza.  There might even be some meat left over for egg rolls, you just never know.  Chicken is not going to waste in this house and it shouldn't in yours either.



I do hope that you will give this classic French style, herb roasted chicken a try and I hope you love it!  I hope that you are inspired to step outside your comfort zone and make delicious, simple and nutritious meals for your family and do it all within your budget.  Look for more easy recipes, coming soon where I will be using up some of those leftovers from our Sunday chicken dinner, I know you are going to love them too!

Happy Eating!





If you would like to see how I roasted my chicken, you can have a look, here:



Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Magic of Herbes De Provence!

When you hear the phrase "Herbes De Provence"  do you get a little confused or intimidated?  No worries!  Today I'm here to help explain what they are, how easy you can mix them together yourself and how delicious you are going to find them on chicken, fish, beef, pork and even scrambled eggs!

This French spice blend which hails from the Provence region of France has it's roots in convenience.   History records that ladies in the region would pick herbs from the countryside as well as their own well maintained gardens and dry and blend them together to make this wonderful verdant blend.  Over time, this has evolved into a very prized addition to many a chef's spice shelf.

The basics in this are simple.  All Herbes De Provence blends have fennel seed, oregano, marjoram, savory, thyme, rosemary and basil.  Some people add lemon zest, lavender, garlic, chervil, parsley, and more.  I like to add salt and pepper to mine to make it an easy to reach for all purpose seasoning that can take you from breakfast all the way through dinner!

Sprinkle this in your scrambled or over easy eggs for a real treat in the morning.  Toss a pinch into your vineagrette or into your mixed greens for a powerful herbaceous punch to your green salad!  Crust your chicken, steak or pork tenderloin with a generous portion of this blend and roast for an amazingly flavored main dish that will have you asking for more!

Hands down, this spice blend in one of my favorites to go to in the kitchen.  It has everything for a simple roasted meat. Mix it in with some olive oil and a little more salt and roast some potatoes with it and you will just love them.  This has all the wonderful notes of every herb you put in there.  Everything from the garlic to the rosemary to the savory is easily recognized.  You are going to love this basic kitchen wonder as well!

If you want some great resources for getting herbs and spices to build this blend, you can go to these places that I frequent because of their quality, service and price:

Rose Mountain Herbs:
http://bit.ly/1alNKeA

San Francisco Herb and Tea Company
http://bit.ly/1hpRvZF 

The Spice Barn
http://bit.ly/1doibTE

I hope that you will give this a try sometime soon and I hope you love it!

Happy Eating!

If you would like to see how I made my own blend of Herbes De. Provence, have a look here:




Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fat Free, Guilt Free Pumpkin Brownies! A Treat That's Good Enough To Eat!


The new year is here and the time to get back into a normal schedule and better eating habits is back.  We all try to do better with the dawn of a new year.  We often make resolutions, the most popular of which, according to statistics and surveys is losing weight, getting healthy, eating better, and mostly overall health in general.  Many people make resolutions but in our home we try to abstain from making lofty goals that we may or may not make every effort to achieve.  In the heat of the moment it is always nice to hear that we are going to lose a certain amount of weight, but in the end we may hurt ourselves because we don't lose it fast enough, or we fall off the wagon so to speak.  In the end, making a goal to live a better life, strive for excellence and in the vein of Bill and Ted, "Be excellent to each other" will work for us.  Do you make resolutions?  It works for some.  Good luck in yours if you do.


With better choices at the forefront of today's recipe, I recently saw a piece on the news highlighting several people who has made the choice to become fit and healthy.  One of them said that being able to have a treat from time to time helped them to reach their goals and that their treat of choice was a brownie.  However their brownies were made using a boxed mix and a can of pumpkin.  So I thought it might be fun to give this a whirl and see what we could come up with.  The goal here is to have a sometimes treat and not to eat the whole pan.  That would defeat the purpose.

I started with a boxed brownie mix.  I used Duncan Hines, but you could use any mix that makes a 9 x 13 pan of brownies.  I also used a 15 ounce can of solid pack pumpkin.  Not pumpkin pie mix, just pure canned pumpkin.  This is the easiest it will ever get!  Put the brownie mix in a bowl, put the pumpkin in a bowl and stir until fully combined.  The mixture will be thick and fudgy looking.  Spread this into a 9 x 13 inch pan that you have sprayed lightly with cooking spray or in my case, vegetable oil from my Misto sprayer.  I love that thing!  Then you can bake this as instructed on your box of brownie mix.  I baked mine for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  

When I removed them from the oven, they were noticeably dull in appearance, but they were firm to the touch and bounced back a bit when I pressed them gently with my finger.  I allowed the pan to cool on a wire rack and then cut them into squares.  During the cooling process, the brownies lost some of their initial loft, because these don't have eggs, they are going to be flat, but don't let that discourage you.  Remember, we are trying to make better choices and even if you sub out this recipe for your favorite fudgy wonder just a couple of times, you are making better choices.  Save those thick, beautiful, chocolate delights for a few times a year, like your birthday or Valentines day or some other celebration.

I called Rick and the girls into the kitchen so we could all give these a try on camera to see if they were as delicious as they smelled.  We all enjoyed them very much.  Micah really liked them and this surprised me because she tends to be a bit more finicky especially with the outward appearance of a dish, and she tends to make a snap judgement on the spot.  In this case, they were a hit.  We really could not taste pumpkin at all.  Rick really like them as well as Molly and myself.  In all I think this experiment was a big hit.  

I think this quick and easy brownie fix is a nice way to eat your cake and have it too.  If you have started the year off with a goal to watch what you eat, then this occasional treat is just the ticket to keep you going.  As with any special treat, these are intended to enjoy by the each, not by the pan.  If you feel your will power is weak and fragile this soon after the holidays, then freeze them in baggies and enjoy them piecemeal.  Or you could take them to work or even to a neighbor to share to help you avoid the temptation of eating them all at once.

This was very simple and went together in a snap.  It really is similar to other ways of reducing fat and calories in a basic mix, I have made brownies in the past with prune puree and egg whites as well as apple sauce or even mashed pinto beans in place of the oil.  All of these are great ways to increase fiber and decrease fat.  These are not a low sugar or sugar free option, however, in moderation you can enjoy them no matter what special program you may be on.  

Someday I will have to share the other ways of making guilt free brownies with you.  You might be surprised at how delicious they are!  I hope this inspires you to be good to yourself, and try a new way of having a delicious treat for the new year.  I hope you try these guilt free brownies and I hope you love them!

Happy Eating!

If you would like to see how I made these little lovely's  Take a look here!