Hey everybody!  Check out the Matters and Musings page for an awesome recipe for homemade hand cream!

Welcome to the Circle B Kitchen!  We love that you're here and hope you'll browse the site and grab some recipes.  The Circle B Kitchen has been blogging since September, 2009.  We have loads of recipes and thoughts on food to share in the coming weeks and months, so come back and check in often!  We love hearing from you and hope you'll leave a comment or shoot an email our way.  Whether you have questions about a recipe or the site in general, please let us know...
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Find a Circle B Kitchen Recipe 

Our Favorite Things For Fall...

       Homemade Apple Butter!

         Apple Butter Spice Cake
                   with Rum Icing

      Caramel Pumpkin Custards

       Oven Roasted Applesauce

Turkey (or Chicken) Enchilada Soup

              My Fall Apple Crisp

   New England Clam Chowder

Spiced Molasses Pumpkin Bread

                 Apple Tart Tatin

   Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce (Yum!)

       Apple Ginger Pudding Cake

      Bean and Barley Veggie Soup

Foil-Wrapped Pears with Caramel                               Sauce

         Creamy Artichoke Soup

             Brown Sugar Pie

       Pumpkin Apple Stresel Muffins

Apple Molasses Gingerbread Cake

... and just in case you were wondering...



Our oldest daughter, Erin, has been riding, training and showing horses since she was a teenager.  She graduated from Colorado St. University with a degree in Equine Science and is now Financial and Administrative Manager for HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Association), which provides therapy through horseback riding for children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, brain tumors, head injuries, blindness, autism, and strokes.  For more information or to donate to this amazing cause, please visit http://www.hetra.org/ .




Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Blue Cheese

With all of the talk about Thanksgiving this and turkey that and every new which way to approach the big meal, it’s funny how much we all pretty much agree that the side dishes are the most exciting part of the conversation.   While the turkey might be the centerpiece of the meal, the side dishes are where we get to express ourselves, be creative and have a little fun. 

And this is where I’ll admit to not being all that much fun.  But only when it comes to the Thanksgiving menu, mind you.  In all other respects, fun and I are pretty tight.  But I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving and don’t really like to mess with what, for me, is and has been the quintessentially traditional Circle B Thanksgiving feast.  So to even entertain the idea of adding or switching out one of my beloved Thanksgiving side dishes for something new is kinda huge.  And that’s how excited I am about this orzo. 

First of all, the colors!  It’s a beautiful dish to add to any festive meal, but mostly it’s just the combination of these flavors that are so astonishingly awesome.  At first I thought it was a little fussy to be cutting up the butternut squash into tiny little cubes like that, but one bite and I totally understood… the sweet little bites of roasted squash play perfectly against the spinach and cheese. 

I was sad and frustrated to not have any blue cheese in the fridge, but what I did have was a creamy Israeli feta cheese (goat cheese would work as well) and I have to say that it totally rocked and I would use it again in a heartbeat.  But I can’t wait to try this with blue cheese.  This is an easy dish to put together and I think it would work really well with brown rice instead of the orzo if you were so inclined.  

I found this recipe on The Kitchn website (where else?) a few weeks ago and was instantly excited as I’d been looking for some new ways to use butternut squash.  We had a pretty good crop from the garden this year and I’d experimented with steaming and freezing it.  I’m happy to report that it worked really, really well, although I’m not sure it’s something you have to do since winter squashes keep so well.  But being able to pull a package of already cut up squash from the freezer made this an even easier dish to throw together.  And if you wanted to make this a one-dish meal, you could easily add some roasted chicken. 

So if you’re one of those wacky, fun people who like to mess with their Thanksgiving menu and mix it up a bit, you might want to consider this delectable candidate for side dish honors.  Otherwise, I can attest to its deliciousness next to a piece of perfectly roasted salmon.  Here’s the recipe…

Orzo With Butternut Squash, Spinach and Blue Cheese

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy of TheKitchn

This is an amazing side dish that really packs some big flavors.  We loved the orzo, but you could certainly substitute brown rice.  Feta cheese works in a pinch if you don't have blue cheese on hand, but be sure you use a creamy feta in a block, not the dry crumbles.  I really like the Pastures of Eden feta from Trader Joes, but any French feta would work as well.  Goat cheese would be another worthy substitute.

Serves 4 to 6

2 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/4-inch cubes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup regular or whole wheat orzo
2 cups shredded spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Toss butternut squash with the olive oil. Spread into a single layer on a sheet tray. Bake until squash is tender and starting to brown, 35 to 40 minutes. (Squash can be roasted up to 5 days ahead and kept refrigerated. Rewarm before serving.)

Place the spinach in a large bowl and set aside. In a small skillet, heat olive oil until just warm. Stir in garlic, remove from heat and allow to sit until ready to use.

Place the orzo in a pot and cover with at least 2" of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender but not mushy, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain and immediately pour the hot orzo on top of the spinach. Let sit for a few minutes to slightly wilt spinach.

Add butternut squash to the pasta along with the blue cheese and garlic olive oil. Toss until well combined and serve.

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Corn Tortilla Crepes

I couldn’t decide whether to call these corn tortilla crepes or crepe-y corn tortillas.  In the end, I decided on corn tortilla crepes for brevity’s sake, but really, either way, these little babies have turned out to be an enchilada game changer for me. 

It all started a week or two ago when The Husband mentioned he was hungry for some enchiladas, and being totally down with that idea, I got to it.  But as usually happens when I get ready to make enchiladas, I start to dread that inevitable moment when I look over at the assembled enchiladas only to see the corn tortillas beginning to tear or crack.  And if that isn't frustration enough, they love to further fall apart upon serving. It’s been an on-going battle in our enchilada-loving home, but it certainly hasn’t kept me from making them. 

I watched Grandma B dip her corn tortillas in hot oil to keep them from splitting and falling apart, but I’ve resisted that enterprise because of the added fat and calories.  I’ve tried warming my tortillas so they’re soft and pliable before using them and this works pretty well, but certainly isn't foolproof.  I’ve tried dipping my tortillas in hot enchilada sauce, which only makes them soggy, and I’ve tried spooning enchilada sauce onto my enchiladas as soon as they’re assembled to prevent the splitting.  

I’m pretty sure this is why some people use flour tortillas to make their enchiladas, but that’s not gonna happen here.  I’d rather eat broken down corn tortilla enchiladas, but I’m certainly not willing to settle for that!

This is a problem that I only have when I use store-bought corn tortillas.  I’ve tried several different kinds with varying results.  But the only sure way I’ve found to produce a perfect enchilada is to make homemade tortillas, which is what I usually do.  Guaranteed perfect every time.

So why not just make your dang tortillas and be done with it??  Well, I don’t really know the answer to that question, other than this is what I do.  I struggle with an issue and just see what comes up.  This time what came up was the possibility of a crepe-like tortilla that would hold together beautifully, with all the flavors and textures of a corn tortilla.  A tall order, indeed, but thus was born the corn tortilla crepe. 


A little research turned up a couple of recipes for crepes made with a corn meal addition, but what I wanted was a corn tortilla made like a crepe, with as much corn tortilla flavor as possible.  So I chose to use masa harina (the corn flour I use to make corn tortillas), only adding as much all purpose flour as I had to in order to keep them pliable, and that ratio turned out to be just a little more than 50/50 in favor of the masa. 

In order to make a crepe that resembles a corn tortilla, I found that I had to use a bit more batter for each crepe than you normally would.  It wound up requiring almost 1/3 cup for each crepe, which created a thicker, more tortilla-like texture and really enhanced the corn flavor.  

In the end, they were just what I was hoping for and enchilada assembly was a breeze.  They also held together perfectly for serving, and most importantly, they tasted amazing.  The trifecta of enchilada perfection.

And not only did these crepe-y tortillas make a beautiful enchilada, we scored a huge bonus when I used them to make quesadillas.  Oh yeah. 

I just threw a crepe on the griddle and sprinkled one side with my quesadilla filling (cheese and green chiles in this instance), and then folded them into quarters for the most perfectly delicious little hand-held quesadilla.  


So off you go, find yourself some masa harina and make some tortilla crepes.  I’ve included a link to my chicken enchilada recipe and my homemade enchilada sauce.  If you like making your enchiladas from scratch, it doesn’t get more scratch than this.  Here’s the recipe…

Corn Tortilla Crepes

Click here for a printable recipe

Makes 10-11 tortilla crepes 

3 eggs
1 ½ cups milk
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons masa harina 
¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
nonstick cooking spray

Place all of the crepe ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice as needed.  Pour this into a liquid measuring cup or bowl and set aside for at least 30 minutes before using.  Makes about 2  2/3 cup batter. 

Heat an 8-inch skillet (nonstick works well here) over medium high heat.   I spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray before making each crepe.  Stir the batter well, and then using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop out enough batter to almost fill the measuring cup, but not quite.  When your pan is quite hot, slowly pour the crepe batter into the pan, swirling it around to completely cover the bottom of the pan.  With this amount of batter, it will take a few more swirls than a traditional crepe, but once the batter is no longer swirling and the top looks almost dry, set the pan back on the burner for about 30 seconds to cook the bottom.  Use a spatula to loosen the edges and release the crepe.  Flip it over and continue cooking for another 20 to 30 seconds.  

Flip it out onto a plate and cover with a clean towel.  Continue making the rest of the crepes, stacking them on top of each other, keeping them covered. 

My recipe for homemade enchilada sauce

My recipe for chicken enchiladas

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment


Peanut Butter Protein Bites

 A few weeks ago, my eldest daughter, Erin, emailed me asking if I knew of any healthy protein-type snacks or foods that she could fix up for her daughter (my amazing and incredibly gifted and brilliant grand-daughter, Leah) who is, shall we say, a rather picky eater, and would rather go hungry than eat something un-perfect, which has led to energy meltdowns before and during her volleyball matches.  Whew!  Long sentence there, but you get the drift.  Picky eater 13-year old who works out quite strenuously and isn’t eating enough to fuel the energy demands of her busy day. 

So I quickly ran through the list of obvious things that of course had already been rejected (string cheese –disgusting at room temperature; peanut butter sandwich – not on your life; fruit – no way; cheese and crackers – see above regarding no room temperature cheese, etc.).  This had to be a snack that travels well and keeps at room temperature, is healthy, packed with protein and most of all, something Miss Leah would actually eat. 

We decided to do a little internet research and before I could get to it, Erin emailed saying she had found several recipes for these protein snack balls and was going to work on one that Leah might like.  We were fairly optimistic because there were chocolate chips involved. 

As a quick interlude to this story, you might remember Leah from our Pasta 101 homemade ravioli post. 

That was a little over 4 years ago when she was 9.  She was a bit of a picky eater back then too, but she did love those raviolis.  Well, my little Leah bean is now 13, a budding volleyball star and about 2 inches taller than her grandmother. 

She’s still the sweetest thing going, and I’m ever so happy to report that these little peanut butter balls were a hit with her.  And because they travel well, she can pop one or two in her mouth whenever she feels her blood sugar flagging.  Success!! 

Erin thought I should make some up and get them on the blog as she felt this was an issue that many parents are dealing with when they have kids in sports.  It’s just so easy to throw chips or cookies at the problem, but to have a healthy, delicious alternative to that seems like a win/win situation.  

So that’s the long-winded backstory to these delicious little protein bites.  I’ve made them a few times and we love them!  I also found that my 90-year old parents like them. These are amazingly nutritious little bites for them to have on hand to snack on during the day or evening. 

And they couldn’t be easier to make.  Just dump everything in a bowl, mix it all up really well with your hands and then form it into little balls and toss them in the fridge.  Done. 

You don’t have to be 13 or 90 to benefit from a healthy, protein-packed energy snack.  These would be so great stashed in your desk drawer at work to munch on when lunch is still hours away; or for students to keep in their backpacks to get them through a long day of classes.  We all need a little something to keep us going now and then; all the better if that something is also good for us.  Amen.  Here’s the recipe…

Peanut Butter Protein Snack Bites

Click here for a printable recipe

Makes about 36 protein balls

1 cup peanut butter (I used a natural, organic chunky peanut butter)
1 cup oats
½ to ¾ cup flax seed meal
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup protein granola (like Cascadian Farms)
Enough  pure maple syrup to bind the mixture (1/3 to ½ cup)
½ cup (or more if you like) mini chocolate chips
3/4  cup shredded coconut, optional 

Line a large baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. 

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well (I use my hands).  Then form it into little balls and place on the prepared cookie sheet.  Refrigerate for an hour or two and then place in a Ziploc bag.  These will keep for a week or two in the fridge.

 Click here to ask a question or leave a comment


Panade from Leftovers

I feel as though history has been made here this week and I gotta admit I’m pretty stoked about it.  This is nothing short of ground-breaking and I think you’re going to be excited about it too. Wanna know why?  Of course you do.  It’s because I think I’ve solved the question of what to do with all of those leftovers cluttering up the fridge!  I realize that on the face of things that doesn’t sound all that earth-shattering, but bear with me, people.  This is HUGE! 

I don’t know about you, but we seem to have LOTS of leftovers, and it just isn’t my favorite thing to open the fridge and see 16 different little containers of this and that and rice and pasta and veggies and meatballs and sauce or whatever.  I don’t like to waste food and throwing away perfectly good eats seems wrong on many levels.  And yet.  I rarely get excited about eating these leftovers and so I will admit that our chickens are often well fed.   

Sometimes I will just declare that “tonight is leftover night!” and we will each grab a container or two, heat it up and call it dinner.  As I said, not my favorite meal.  But that shall be no more!  No more leftover nights!  No more keeping leftovers in the back of the fridge until they’re inedible or just tossing them out to the chickens!  No sir! 

Now we have panade!!  Oh man, leftovers never ever tasted this good.  I found this recipe on the Kitchn website (do all of my recipes come from there?), and was of course instantly intrigued, but equally skeptical. 

Oh, before I go any further, I better explain what a panade is.  It’s just anything baked with bread.  Or thickened with bread.  It’s very European and as it turns out, a very classy and delicious way to serve leftovers. 

I was particularly excited because I honestly and truly had like 7 containers of leftovers in the fridge and to test the viability of this idea, I wanted to use them all.  Nothing short of a complete clean-out would make this worth the effort. 

So a quick inventory showed that I had a container of leftover Mexican meatballs in a chipotle-type sauce, a container of tortellini in marinara sauce, some gnocchi with tomatoes and chicken sausage, some creamy spinach with goat cheese, and a couple containers of leftover Indian food (saag and chana dal).  The recipe calls for 2-4 cups of leftovers and with everything except the Indian food, I had 4 cups.  I decided to save the Indian food for lunch the next day. 

I also had a nice loaf of Tuscan bread that would be perfect, so I cut that up into chunks and toasted it according to the recipe.  Now, the rest of the recipe sounded very French with all of the layering this and that and pouring the chicken broth over it all, but this is still leftover night in my house, and it’s gotta be quick and dirty, so this is what I did.  I got out a giant bowl, dumped everything in (bread chunks, leftovers, cheese and broth), stirred it up real good and dumped it into two baking dishes.  With just the two of us, I knew that if I put it into one baking dish as the recipe suggested, I would be faced with leftovers of our leftovers.  Sigh.  So one was for dinner that night and one was going into the freezer for one night next week.

Then I just popped those two pans into the oven, wondering all the while what chipotle tortellini gnocchi meatball Mexican spinach was going to taste like, but I needn’t have worried.  

First of all, what emerged from the oven after baking looked so not like leftovers that I was immediately thrilled.  Secondly, it smelled divine, and thirdly, we absolutely could not believe how delicious it was.  The tops of the bread chunks got a little brown and crisp and the under parts were soft and so delicious and much to my amazement, all those oddly different flavors baked into a lovely cohesive dish and it was all so good, that I’m very happy to report… there were no leftovers!  Here’s the recipe…

Panade from Leftovers

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn 

As I explained in the blog post, you can use ANY combination of leftovers in this.  Don’t be afraid – clean out the fridge! (I do think that leftover meat and veggies might work best in here, but it's fun to experiment).  If you’d like to make this a little more complicated and fancy, click on the link above for The Kitchn version.  If you only have 2 cups of leftovers, use the smaller amount of bread and cut back on the chicken broth to about 3 ½ cups.  And if you feel your leftovers might benefit from it, you can sauté some onions to mix in with them and add some wilted spinach or other greens if you like. 

What you’ll need… 

About 12 to 16 ounces of bread (an unsliced rustic loaf works best)
2-4 cups of leftovers
1 cup of grated cheese (any cheese will do - I used dill Havarti and parmesan)
4 cups of chicken broth 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees 

Cut the bread into one-inch chunks and place on a large cookie sheet.  Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt.  Use your hands to mix it up a bit and then place it in the oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the bread is nicely toasted.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  (This can be done a day ahead of time). 

To assemble… 

Spray a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  

In a large bowl mix together the leftovers, toasted bread cubes, grated cheese and chicken broth.  Stir well and pat down into the baking dish. 

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes (see note below).  Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes. 

Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Note:  if you are making a smaller amount of panade or have split this into 2 smaller baking dishes, you only need to bake it for about 30-35 minutes before removing the foil.

 Click here to ask a question or leave a comment


Apple Cinnamon Dutch Baby

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you already know that I am not one to spend overly much time in the kitchen first thing in the morning.  Just not my thing.  It takes at least 1 cup of coffee to start these engines and even into the second cup, I’m not sure I totally trust myself with knives.  But just the idea of caramelized apples, cinnamon and brown sugar encased in a puffy, eggy Dutch baby had me re-thinking all of that.  I even got up a little earlier and made the coffee a little closer to espresso strength, thinking it best to be semi alert and focused. 

And wasn’t I pleasantly surprised to find that peeling apples and mixing cinnamon sugar first thing in the morning was actually rather nice.  It could have been the coffee, but if you have to be cooking in the early morning, these are the aromas you want wafting about your kitchen.  Transcendent.  And it really didn’t take much time at all to make.  It was ready in the amount of time it took to heat the oven.  You may have noticed that I didn't say "preheat" your oven.  Evidently that word bugs some people.  Oh, and there are now SO many words that we're not supposed to use when writing about food (read all about it here).  I think I can say "good", and possibly "delicious" is still allowed.  But not "preheat". Someone out there thinks it's redundant.  Whatever.  :-)

Anyway, in case you've never made one (you're in for a treat!), Dutch babies are sort of a hybrid of a popover and a pancake and part of our regular weekend breakfast rotation.  We love them for their ease of assembly and their extreme deliciousness.  So when I saw a recipe on the Kitchn website for an apple version, I was immediately entranced and had to have it, even if it meant a little more work before breakfast. 

I adapted their version to my Dutch baby recipe and what emerged from the oven was nothing less than ethereal, as the brown sugar and apples had indeed caramelized and created a crispy edge and the eggy custard puffed up dramatically and the whole thing smelled like an apple pie coming from the oven, but this was breakfast.  Oh lordy, what a breakfast.  

And here’s the thing if you’ve never made a Dutch baby before, like popovers, the minute you remove them from the oven, they collapse.  They begin immediately to shrink down and lose that beautiful golden puff that develops from the high oven heat, so it was all but impossible for me to capture that moment on film.  By the time I got the sucker to the table and took the photo, it was already sinking down, so you’ll have to take my word for how gorgeous this was as it emerged from the oven.  

(This not very great photo was taken of a version I made with extra apples.  Amazing.)

Or don’t take my word for it.  You really must make one for yourself.  Really.  If you’re like me and not so much into serious cooking in the morning, The Husband thinks this would also make an amazing dessert.  I think he’s right.  When he said that, I immediately thought of a clafouti, and how this would be a beautiful dessert to serve warm with a little whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  Oh my. 

OK then.  This should keep you busy and out of trouble for a while.  Find some apples, make some coffee and get your Dutch Baby on.  This is the kind of breakfast we dream of (I know, I know... of which we dream - no dangling participles :-)  Here’s the recipe…

Apple Cinnamon Dutch Baby

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

This makes such an amazingly delicious breakfast.  As usual, it's best to use a good baking apple here - I've used Braeburn, Jonagold and Fujis, all with great success.  After peeling the apples, I cut them into quarters, cored them and then sliced them cross-wise.  Also, I didn't use all of the cinnamon sugar mixture on the apples before baking, saving the leftovers to sprinkle over the top after baking.  I suggest you do the same - it was so good!

Serves 4

2-3 baking apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (about 3 1/2 to 4 cups)
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
4 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Mix the 3 tablespoons of white sugar with the cinnamon and ginger and set aside. 

Cut up the butter into small pieces, and place in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or other heavy skillet).  Melt the butter over medium high heat and then sprinkle the brown sugar over the top.  Place the apples on top of the brown sugar and then sprinkle with the sugar/cinnamon mixture (I saved save some of this for the top).  Place in the oven to caramelize for about 5- 10 minutes till bubbly. 

Meanwhile, prepare the batter by placing the eggs in a blender and blending until foamy.  Add milk, flour, salt, nutmeg and vanilla and blend until combined. 

Remove the pan from the oven and quickly pour the batter evenly over the apple mixture and place back in hot oven. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and nicely browned. 

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Cut into wedges to serve, or mix the extra cinnamon sugar mixture with a little Greek yogurt to serve alongside for topping.

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