Sep 30, 2011

Favorite Chicken Salad

This Chicken Salad is my all time favorite lunch food! It's so delicious, so versatile, and so easy! You can serve it with crackers, in tortillas, as a sandwich, or with a fork! We've made it while camping, served for luncheons, brought to parties, or just eaten it with our family as a meal. The combination of sweet and savory can't be beat!

Do I sound like an infomercial yet? I hope not, because this is much better than any blender or steam mop.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb chicken - grilled and shredded, or 3 cans Costco canned chicken
2 cups red grapes, washed and sliced in thirds
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted walnuts, or pecans
1 tsp Lawry's seasoning salt

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Serve with crackers, tortillas, sandwich bread, or anything else you come up with!

Sep 29, 2011

Ginger-Lime Fish Tacos


We usually make this recipe with Mahi-Mahi (Costco!) - which is the BEST - but we had some salmon and my 9 year old daughter kept asking for salmon tacos... So we substituted and it was yummy!

INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste
6 (3 ounce) fillets mahi mahi fillets (or salmon!)

1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 dash cayenne pepper

1 large mango - peeled, seeded and diced (Can also use a peach!)
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
6 (6 inch) flour tortillas, warmed
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

1.Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the mahi-mahi with salt and pepper. Cook the fillets in the hot oil until the fish is golden brown on each side, and no longer translucent in the center, about 3 minutes per side.

2.Meanwhile, whisk together the sour cream, lime juice, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste; set aside. Gently combine the mango, pineapple, avocado, and jalapeno in a bowl.

3.To assemble, place a cooked mahi-mahi fillet into the center of a warmed tortilla. Place a scoop of the mango salsa onto the fish, then drizzle with the sour cream sauce, and finish with a generous pinch of chopped cilantro.

Sep 28, 2011

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup


Last week we got our first cold of the new school year. It slowly hit every one of us. David's nose was a gushing faucet for the whole week - which means he was a sad little thing all week too. We watched lots of movies and had lots of down time. I felt so bad because it was only his secod week of preschool and he had to miss the whole week. But then, when we went yesterday, it was frustrating to see most of the kids with green snot-ness all over their faces too. PEOPLE: When there is dragon snot gushing out of your child's nose... and he/she is too young to understand hand washing/mouth covering/nose-blowing-in-tissues-and-not-on-your-sleeve... keep them home!

*steps off soapbox*

Now, there is one good part about being sick: Chicken Noodle Soup. There are few things on this earth that are cozier than cool nights and homemade soup. As the weather continues to cool off everywhere, I'm sure you'll all have need of this familiar favorite.

Ingredients

1 whole cut up fryer chicken (plus one sweet husband to do the cutting up)
6 quarts water
3 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery including leaves, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
16 ounces frozen egg noodles (Although I wasn't feeling like going to the store, so this time we just used regular spiral-y noodles.)

DIRECTIONS:
Cover chicken in water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for 30 minutes.
While cooking chicken, dice celery, and onions and slice carrots. Be sure to use the celery leaves, too!



Remove chicken from pot. With two forks, remove as much meat from the bones as you can, slightly shredding meat in the process. Return bones and skin to broth and simmer on low, covered, for 45 minutes.

Pour broth through a fine sieve to separate from bones and skin. Return broth to pot with carrots, celery, and onions, followed by the herbs and spices. Stir to combine and simmer for ten minutes to meld flavors.

Increase heat and add frozen egg noodles and chicken. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve hot!

Sep 27, 2011

Mesir Wat - Ethiopian Lentils

(Shown here with my delicious Stuffed Bell Peppers)
My favorite Ethiopian food is their spicy lentils - called Mesir Wat. They eat them with a round, sponge-y sour bread called Ingera. I think my husband is going to attempt to make some ingera this week, but these lentils are still yummy just eaten with a spoon. They were best served the next day, so I'd suggest making them the day before you plan on having them. You can then just re-heat and serve.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup red lentils
4 tbsp. nit'r qibe (Ethiopian Spiced Butter) or unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. berbere (Ethiopian Spice Mix)*
1 small tomato, cored and chopped
Kosher salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS:
1. Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water and set aside.

2. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved lentils, 1 tbsp. of the berbere, tomato, and 4 cups water to the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and the lentils are tender, 45–50 minutes. Stir in the remaining berbere and season generously with salt. Serve immediately.

*Berbere is an amazing mix of roasted spices. We bought our berbere in bulk at a market in Ethiopia when we traveled there two years ago, but you can usually find it in bigger cities or online. It is used to season many Ethiopian foods, but in our home my husband puts it on his eggs, chicken noodle soup, and anything else that he thinks needs an extra kick.



Sep 26, 2011

Stuffed Bell Peppers


We bought a huge box of bell peppers last week and after cutting up and freezing most of them, I left some out to eat during the week. When telling my friend, Andrea about all of the bell peppers she asked if I was going to make stuffed peppers. I had never had stuffed peppers, or even heard about them. I asked what she puts in them, then combined her ideas with another recipe I found. Stellar! ALL FOUR of my kids ate without a single complaint(after the initial, "Eww! What IS that??"), and 2 even asked for seconds. I was worried while making it that they would be too bland, but the flavor of the peppers really came through and made a great meal. We had them with some Mesir Wat (Ethiopian lentils).

Ingredients
6 green bell peppers
2 tsp salt (divided)
1 pound ground turkey
1/3 cup dehydrated onions (or 1/2 cup chopped onion)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1/2 cup water
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup water
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water and 1 tsp salt to a boil. Cut the tops off the peppers, and remove the seeds. Cook peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes; drain. Sprinkle 1 tsp salt inside each pepper, and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, saute turkey and onions for 5 minutes, or until meat is browned. Drain off excess fat, and stir in the tomatoes, garlic, rice, 1/2 cup water, soy sauce, and cayenne pepper. Cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from heat.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill each pepper with the turkey and rice mixture, and place peppers open side up in a baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine tomato soup with water to make the soup a gravy consistency. Pour inside the peppers. Sprinkle with cheese.

4. Bake covered for 25 to 35 minutes, until heated through and cheese is melted and bubbly.

 Soooooo fabulous.

Sep 24, 2011

Apple Pork Chops and Garlic Smashed Potatoes


Everyone knows apples and pork chops are a match made in heaven... like peas and carrots, chips and salsa, Oreos and milk... Oh Oreos and milk. Ahhh...

Oh, you're still here? Sorry...

Anyway... It's even fun to say it. Pork Chops and Applesauce. Poke Cheeooooopssss and AppleShawwse.

Ummm.

OK Here'se recipe:

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes - peeled and cut into quarters
2 cloves garlic - minced
Salt
6 1/2-inch-thick boneless pork loin chops (5 ounces each)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
3 Granny Smith apples, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup buttermilk

Directions

Put the potatoes and garlic in a saucepan, cover with cold water and season with salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and continue cooking until tender, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, rub both sides of the pork chops with the sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat, then add 1 teaspoon olive oil and sear the chops until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add the onion and apples and cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cider.

Return the chops to the skillet. Cover and cook, turning once, until just cooked through (160-170 on a meat thermometer), 4 to 5 minutes.

Drain the potatoes. Return the potatoes to the pan; add the sour cream, butter and buttermilk; mash, adding cooking liquid as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the pork chops, onion and apples. Drizzle with the pan juices.


Yummmm

Sep 23, 2011

Carne Asada Salad

 This is just a really easy twist on taco salad that my kids loved. We just grilled up some Carne Asada from Costco (in the refrigerated meat section... usually middle back of the store) and put everything in little bowls so the kids could assemble their own salads. My hubs added some milk to the ranch to make it thin enough for the kids to pour without getting big globs all over the place. Feel free to add or subtract any ingredients to your preferences. This was just a quick dinner with what we had on hand, but we usually make Taco Salad with lots of other ingredients.*

INGREDIENTS"
1 package Costco Carne Asada
3 Roma tomatoes
1 head roma lettuce (we just used some lettuce from our garden, so I'm not sure on amounts here!)
Tortilla chips
Ranch dressing
Yummy Salsa (you can make my recipe here!)

Grill Carne Asada on med-high heat. Slice into bite-size pieces. Chop lettuce, tomatoes, and any other ingredients you wish to add. Serve each ingredient in its own dish and pass around the table!


*Some other ingredient ideas:
Corn
Black Beans
Kidney Beans
Olives
Onions
Bell Peppers
Shredded Cheese
Avocado
Cucumbers
Cilantro

Sep 22, 2011

Chipotle Salsa and Cilantro Lime Salsa





This is going to be a long post so I'll try not to be too chatty today. All you need to know is that I got two huge boxes of tomatoes so I decided to make two different kinds of salsa. One's hot and spicy, and one's mild and flavorful.

Before making salsa, you must blanch and peel your tomatoes. So before those recipes, I'll show you how...

 First, get a huge pot of water boiling on high heat. I mean REALLY boiling. You want this water hot! Set a big bowl of ice water on the counter next to your stove. Place one layer of tomatoes in the boiling water quickly and carefully. You're not going to be cooking them through, you just want to heat the outside enough to make the skin start to crack and peel away from the meat of the tomato. Depending on what type of tomato you have, it can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. But don't go any longer than that.

 Once the skin begins to crack, quickly pull each tomato out with a slotted spoon and slide into your bowl of ice water.
 The purpose of the ice water is to stop the cooking of the tomatoes. We're going to be cooking them anyway for the salsa, so it's not super vital that they cool completely. I usually just get them cool enough to work with and then pull them out.

 Once the tomatoes are cool enough, remove one and hold over a medium bowl. With a sharp knife, cut the stem base out. If you're using roma tomatoes, you can skip the next step. The tomatoes I was working with were more juicy than romas. You don't want watery salsa, so just point the end you just cut down toward the bowl and give it a gentle squeeze. Careful though, if you squeeze too hard you're going to end up with tomato juice in your eye! You're just trying to remove some of the liquid. This will also loosen the skin and you can now peel it off very easily.

 Now that you have lots of pretty, skinless tomatoes, you need to chop them up. I don't like the texture of cooked tomatoes very much, so my salsa ingredients are all pretty small. If you like your salsa chunky, you can just chop everything by hand and skip the food processor step.

First, grab a slimey tomato, slice it in half, then into 4 slices one way and 4 slices the other way. Then place into a quart measuring cup. Continue until you have filled the cup. Then pour the contents into a food processor and pulse until desired consistency is achieved. Pour into a big huge pot. Continue until you've got six quarts of pureed or chopped tomatoes in your pot. Phew, now you're done with the hardest part! Now, we can move on to the salsas!

Chipotle Salsa

INGREDIENTS:
6 quarts of peeled, chopped, processed tomatoes
2-3 large onions
4 jalapenos
6 cloves garlic
1-12 oz can of Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1 cup lemon juice


DIRECTIONS:
(This is assuming you've already peeled, chopped, processed the tomatoes and put them in a pot.)
Peel, chop and process onions.
With latex gloves on your hands, slice jalapenos in half, lengthwise. Remove seeds, finely chop or process jalapenos.
Mince garlic.
Process Chipotle peppers and Adobo sauce in food processor with cilantro.
Add all ingredients to pot and bring to boil on high heat.
Canning instructions below Cilantro Lime Salsa recipe.

Cilantro Lime Salsa

INGREDIENTS:

6 quarts of peeled, chopped, pureed tomatoes
2-3 large onions
8 jalapenos
6 cloves garlic
1 1/2 bunch cilantro
1 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. lime juice

DIRECTIONS:
(This is assuming you've already peeled, chopped, processed the tomatoes and put them in a pot.)
Peel, chop and process onions.
With latex gloves on your hands, slice jalapenos in half, lengthwise. Remove seeds, finely chop or process jalapenos.
Mince garlic.
Process cilantro with lemon and lime juices. 
Add all ingredients to pot and bring to boil on high heat.


Canning Instructions:
*This is how I can my salsa... this is not the only way and I'm sure there are better ways. This is just how I learned and it works for me.*

While salsa is cooking, wash mason jars in hot, soapy water. Rinse and place in your oven. I like to lie them on their side, facing out, so it's easier to remove them later. Turn the oven on to 170 degrees (very warm). Wash and rinse lids and rims. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup hot water to boiling, remove from heat and place lids inside. Set rims aside.

Once jars have heated and your salsa is at a rolling boil, turn stove off. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars (use an oven mitt and a jar funnel!) one jar at a time, leaving 1/2 inch in the top of the jar. Wipe rim of jar, remove a lid from the saucepan (it helps if you can use a magnet on a stick), place lid on jar, screw rim on top and set aside. Fill remaining jars in the same way.

Fill a large (huge) pot with hot water. Set pot on stove and heat to just simmering. Place hot jars of salsa in pot, with water level 1-2 inches above jars. If it's not high enough, add more hot water. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove jars from pot and set on a heat-proof surface to cool.


Yummm

Sep 20, 2011

Blackberry Pie




8 years ago, we spent a summer living in Sacramento. Most of my memories from that summer involve either swimming at the pool with my 1 year old baby girl, or sitting in the air conditioned apartment. It was hot hot hot! And that's saying something, considering we just moved from our three year pit-stop in Arizona.

But there was something else that happened that summer that I will never forget. I learned how to make jam! Yummy ooey gooey blackberry deliciousness. We found a river lined by blackberry bushes and we picked a HUGE bucketful. I made blackberry jam, blackberry syrup, and blackberry cobbler. And my love for blackberries began.

So, I'm sure you can imagine my excitement when we decided to move to Washington... which is FULL of blackberry bushes. Most of the residents don't appreciate the bushes as they tend to take over any area in which they begin to grow. Needless to say, there are more berries than I actually have time to pick, and all for free! Well, unless you consider stained clothes, scratched hands, and tangled hair payment. Then I guess the berries aren't free. But worth it to me! I've been 3 times and each time I came back with over 10 pounds of berries!

Here is the first of my berry recipes, but really this pie can be made with any fruit filling. My husband said it was the best blackberry pie he's ever eaten. And he grew up in Washington!


INGREDIENTS:
1 double crust pie recipe
6 cups fresh blackberries (or any other berries, peaches, cherries, etc)
2 T cornstarch or flour (I prefer cornstarch)
1/2-3/4 cups sugar (depending on how sweet your fruit is)
4 T butter - cut into 4-5 thin slices
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 egg
1 T heavy cream or milk

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 425 degree.

Place 1 unbaked pie crust in the bottom of a pie pan. In a large bowl, combine 6 cups of fruit with sugar and cornstarch or flour. Gently combine with a rubber spatula. Pour into prepared pie pan. Lay butter slices on top and squeeze lemon half over fruit. Cover with top crust, sealing and rolling the edges under.

In a small bowl, mix egg and heavy cream or milk and brush mixture gently over the top of the pie. Slice 3 large and 3 small slits in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape. Place pie on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until it starts to brown - about 30 minutes. Cover pie with foil and turn oven temperature down to 375 degrees and cook 20-40 minutes more - until filling begins to bubble. Remove and allow to cool. This is the hardest part! But unless you want pie soup, you must allow the pie to cool for at least 1 hour, but preferably 2-3 hours.



Enjoy!

Sep 19, 2011

Easy as Pie (Crust)





I have finally found the perfect recipe + technique for making pie crust!!! I've scoured the internet, watched videos, read tutorials and I now understand why pie crust is one of the more technical recipes. I'll try not to jabber on too much, but I think it's important to understand why you need to do certain things, so you aren't tempted to take shortcuts.

A perfect pie crust involves flour, salt, sometimes sugar, some form of fat, and just enough water to bring everything together. On paper, it sounds pretty easy. The amounts of each ingredient can very, and most recipes can turn out wonderfully, but you must know the technique. 

I won't go into detail regarding which fats taste better/flake better/look better. Just use butter. It's the best overall choice for many reasons. And it's easy to come by.

Now that you know what goes into a crust, you need to know what makes it flaky. If you can incorporate the butter into the flour correctly(more on that below), you will end up with pockets of butter enveloped by flour, which when baked in the oven will melt and create air pockets... and give you a nice, light, flaky crust that melts in your mouth. If you just throw everything into your mixer and mix it thoroughly you'll end up with a dry, leathery crust that will hold your filling in just fine, but will not melt in your mouth. It will crumble and turn into a dry paste in your mouth. Yuck.

Now that you know the why, I'll go on with the recipe. My recipe uses a food processor. If you do not own one, you can make this by hand, using a pastry cutter, a fork, or two knives - it'll just take a little longer and possibly cause carpal tunnel. Can't say I didn't warn ya! Good luck!

INGREDIENTS (for a nine inch, two crust pie):
2 ½ cups flour - separated
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (for a fruit pie. Omit sugar for a savory pie.)
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into chunks
¼ cup cold water (approx)

Combine 1 1/2 c of the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse twice to incorporate. Spread butter chunks evenly over surface. Pulse until no dry flour remains and dough just begins to collect in clumps, about 25 short pulses. *DO NOT over mix!* Use a rubber spatula to spread the dough evenly around the bowl of the food processor. Sprinkle with remaining flour and pulse until dough is just barely broken up, about 5 short pulses. Again, do not over mix. The flour should just coat the clumps. Transfer dough to a large bowl.

Sprinkle the water over the dough and with hands, rubber spatula, or a wooden spoon fold and press dough until it comes together into a ball. Separate into two discs.

At this point you can wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for later use. If you are going to roll it out immediately, be aware that the dough will be a bit more sticky and you run the risk of adding too much flour as you roll it out. It's an okay method to use - and I usually don't refrigerate it because I'm too impatient - you just have to be careful.

To roll the dough out, place a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) on your countertop or table. Sprinkle very lightly with flour. Lay one dough ball on paper, flatten slightly with your hand and again sprinkle very lightly with flour. Place a second piece of parchment paper over the top. Starting in the center of the dough, roll out to the edges on each side, lifting the paper off the dough, flipping it over and repeating until you have a large round circle about 2 inches wider than the top of your pie pan. Remove the top sheet and flip the bottom sheet upside-down over your pie pan. Carefully fit the dough into your pan with the ends of the dough hanging over the edge.

Place pie filling inside and copy the above technique with your second crust. Place over pie, pinch to seal both top and bottom crusts together, and roll both crust edges under and inside pie pan, pinching and sealing into your desired design.

Cut 3 large slits and 3 small in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape. Brush an egg wash over the pie (one egg mixed with 1 tablespoon heavy cream) and sprinkle with coarse sugar (or cinnamon sugar if baking a spicier pie). Place on a baking sheet and bake in a hot oven, 425 degrees, until the pie starts to brown, about 30 minutes. Cover the pie with foil to prevent over-browning, turn the oven down to 375 and continue baking until the juices in the pie begin bubbling. Depending on the fruit used this could take twenty to forty minutes more. Be patient. As long as the pie crust is covered to prevent over-browning, the pie can continue to bake.

Remove and allow to cool. This is the hardest part! But unless you want pie soup, you must allow the pie to cool for at least 1 hour, but preferably 2-3 hours.

I hope this has made some sense! I looked at a lot of websites, but these were the most helpful:

Pam's Pie Tutorial

One more tip:

Today I have a whole bucketful of berries in my fridge. I made a blackberry cobbler last night, we purchased a lemon cake roll at a dessert auction on Friday night (along with oreo truffles that are taunting me from the freezer), my dear friend brought me orange rolls this morning, and my husband made pumpkin cookies and muffins yesterday morning. Needless to say, desserts are not in short supply in this house right now. So I'll be making and freezing as many pies as I have filling for. I'll line my pie pans with plastic wrap before laying the bottom pie crust dough inside. After the pie is assembled, I'll cover the top with plastic wrap and freeze. Once the pie is frozen, I'll remove it from the pan, stick it in a Food Saver bag, suck out the air and freeze for the wintertime, when blackberries are not so abundant! To bake, I take the frozen pie from the bag, lay it back in my pie pan, and bake it as is - no defrosting. It usually takes 20-40 minutes longer but has the added bonus of cooking the crust before the filling, so you are less likely to have filling permeate your crust and make for a soggy bottom pie.



Sep 13, 2011

Ladybug Snacks

 My Emma was in charge of snacks for our weekly Family Home Evening night (click the link if you don't know what that is). She'd read in The Friend magazine about a cute crafty snack and waited weeks for it to be her to make them. This turned out to be a super easy and delicious treat that our whole family loved! I altered a few things for ease and preference. If you'd like to see the original recipe, you can click here --> The Friend.


INGREDIENTS:

1/3 c. cream cheese
12 butter-flavored crackers (I used Ritz Whole Grain)
12 Roma tomatoes (orig. recipe calls for cherry tomatoes but the ones at my grocery were too small... maybe you'll have better luck.)
6 pitted, ripe olives
12 toothpicks

DIRECTIONS:
1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
2. Spread the cream cheese on crackers.
3. Have an adult help cut each tomato in half. Set aside stem end(save for another recipe!) and cut the other end in half again.
4. Place two tomato quarters on each cracker for the ladybug wings.
5. Have an adult help you cut each olive in half crosswise. Place one half olive on each cracker for the ladybug heads.
6. Carefully break each toothpick in half and stab broken ends into each olive for ladybug antennae.



 My little Chef!

Sep 12, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Granola

You know the Quaker Granola you can buy at Costco in the cereal aisle? The one that comes in a bag? The one I want to rip into the moment I see it and pour a half gallon of milk inside and then dump in my face? Yeah, this isn't that stuff. I mean, it's good and all, but I kind of like that I don't gain 20 pounds just by looking at it. It's super easy to make and just delicious with milk, yogurt and fruit(my fav!), or just plain by the handful. It travels really well (I even took it on a girls trip to Colorado), and stores for 2-3 weeks. I also like that it uses regular ingredients that I always have on hand. I've quadrupled it and it's still stellar.

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. raisins

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, combine oats and coconut, set aside.
In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, oil, honey, and cinnamon; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over oat mixture; stir to coat. Spread in a large shallow baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees, 15-20 min, stirring occassionally. Cool. Add raisins. Store in an airtight container.

Sep 11, 2011

Jennie's Chewy Granola Bars


My sweet friend and fellow food blogger, Jennie, made us these granola bars when we drove from Arizona to Washington in May. I'm not gonna lie... I ended up eating 75% of them all by myself. I don't think I even let kids know I had them. They were so flavorful and the texture was just right! The best part is, these aren't packaged, have no preservatives, and you can be a little flexible with your ingredients (in other words - Jennie and I have both screwed up this recipe and it's still amazing). I made a double batch when we stayed in a beach house with my husband's family. I again made a double batch when we went camping with some extended family and friends and everyone raved about them and asked for the recipe. I will probably make these many many more times before I die from granolabaritis. Thanks, Jennie!


INGREDIENTS:
3-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 Cup chopped nuts (mixed, roasted are the best!)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sunflower kernels
1/2 cup shaved sweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped dried apples
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Spray a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with cooking non-stick cooking spray. Add oats and nuts to the pan. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until toasted, stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, mix the egg, butter, honey and vanilla together. Then add the sunflower kernels, coconut, apples, cranberries, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to coat.

Then stir in oat mixture and press into a cookie sheet that has been coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 13-18 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Sep 10, 2011

Homemade Twix Bars





Twix Bars are by far my favorite candy bar. Okay I guess not by that much... Snickers with almonds are a close second. Well, Snickers in general are pretty good. Oh and Milky way. And I can't forget Three Musketeers. What the heck - they're all amazing! But Twix are at the top for me. Especially frozen.

I first saw these bars on Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen collaborative blog. I followed the trail to find the source, but they're pretty easy and could be made with any combination of shortbread, caramel, and chocolate recipes.

I only have two problems with these masterpieces: They're so rich that it's hard to eat a whole one and it's pretty hard to cut them. I tried dipping them in chocolate but this happened:
Plus that made them even more rich. Too much chocolate! (I can't believe I just said that. I'm an embarrassment to my kind.)

I think I'll keep working with them to find another way to make them smaller but manageable. Ideas?

On to the good stuff...

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 c. unsalted butter - divided
1 1/4 c. flour
3/4 c Castor (fine) sugar, divided (I just put some sugar in my food processor and then measured it out)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c dark corn syrup (I did half light corn syrup, half molasses)
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
10 oz weight bitter/semi sweet chocolate

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line with parchment paper an 8" square pan:



 2. Combine 1/2 c. butter, flour, 1/4 c. fine sugar, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat for 1 min on medium speed, until it just comes together. Transfer to pan and press evenly:
 Bake 20-25 minutes until golden. Cool.

3. Place remaining 3/4 c. butter, 1/2 c. sugar, corn syrup, and milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.

 Stir frequently. Once sugar dissolves, increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce back to medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes until mixture becomes thick and begins to pull away from sides of pan. Pour over cooked shortbread base and place in refrigerator to cool and firm. Approximately 15-30 minutes.

4. Once firm, melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of water (double-boiler). Heat chocolate, stirring frequently until melted. Cool slightly. Carefully pour over caramel. Chill, in fridge until set. Cut into bars. Store in an airtight container up to a week.

Sep 9, 2011

Homemade Eggo Waffles

Along with my PB&J for the Masses - which I just made 80 sandwiches last week - another food I like to make in bulk and freeze for the school year is Homemade Eggo Waffles. I feel a lot better feeding my kids these in the mornings when we're running late than the store-bought cardboard versions. I don't think mine are particularly healthy, but at least I know what's going into them, and I know they taste much better! Just freeze them in between sheets of wax paper and you're sure to yell at least a little bit less on those hectic mornings.


 However, since we made these before school started, I had time to make blueberry sauce and sprinkle on some powdered sugar. Heaven!


INGREDIENTS:
2 c. flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 T sugar
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1 1/4 c milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil

(When I make to freeze, I usually at least quadruple the recipe.)

DIRECTIONS:
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into large bowl. Make a well in the center of the bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks, milk and oil. Pour into well of flour mixture and stir well. Stir just until ingredients are moistened. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter. Cook in waffle iron. Serve hot, or cool completely and freeze between sheets of wax paper.



Sep 8, 2011

Pumpkin Bread/Muffins


Not much to say about this one except that it tastes like home to me. My mom made this recipe every fall and as the weather gets colder and I start to reminisce, this bread always makes me happy. It's best fresh out of the oven with a big slab of butter on top.


INGREDIENTS:
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp bkg pwdr
1/2 tsp bkg soda
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter - room temp
2 eggs
1 (1lb) can pumpkin

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of 2 loaf pans or 2 muffin tins.
Mix wet and dry ingredients separately. Add dry to wet slowly. Pour into pans or muffin tins. Bake 1 hour 15 min for loaves or 35 min for muffins. Done when tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean.

I like to buy the disposable aluminum pans and give them as gifts around the holidays.





Sep 7, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes


My husband's buddy, Danny, came to visit us over Labor Day weekend. He specifically requested pumpkin pancakes and even though it's still warm enough here to enjoy the beach, I'll never say no to welcoming Fall. It is my favorite time of year. I love everything Fall has to offer: warm spicy smells, colorful leaves, kids back at school, boots and scarves, fireplaces, apple cider, Thanksgiving, Halloween, jeans and sweaters, pumpkin patches, pumpkin pies, pumpkin decorations, pumpkin bread, pumpkin candles, pumpkin frappuccinos, pumpkin everything. And with my obvious love for everything pumpkin, it was only fitting to usher in the season with these soft, fluffy pumpkin pancakes. In fact... I might just have another pumpkin recipe for you tomorrow since I love pumpkin so very much!

2 c. flour
3 T. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
 2 T oil
2 T vinegar

Mix pumpkin, milk, egg, oil, and vinegar. In separate bowl combine all other ingredients. Add to pumpkin mixture and stir just to combine. Heat lightly oiled griddle over med/high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto griddle, using 1/4 c. for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.




These pancakes are...
good to the last...
bite!
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