Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Amazing Breadsticks

These are my new favorite breadsticks to make with our favorite Italian dinners.  These are made from ingredients you probably already have on hand and are simple and easy.  These restaurant-style breadsticks remind us of Olive Garden's breadsticks.  Delicious!

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast 
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar 
  • 1/4 cup warm water 
  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water 
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened 
  • 1 tablespoon salt 
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter 
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl. Let stand until the yeast softens and begins to form a creamy foam, about 15 minutes.
2. Add flour, 1 1/4 cup warm water, 2 tablespoons softened butter, and 1 tablespoon salt; knead until dough is well mixed and soft, about 3 minutes.
3. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Knead each piece and shape into a 6-inch breadstick. Arrange breadsticks on a baking sheet; let rise for about 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
5. Mix 3 tablespoons melted butter and garlic powder together in a bowl; brush onto breadsticks.
6. Bake breadsticks in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Immediately brush with remaining melted butter mixture; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

Monday, November 26, 2012

BEST Rice Krispie Treats Ever

My friend has discovered the formula for perfect, soft rice krispie treats.  Enjoy!!
  • 1 stick butter
  • 16 oz. mini marshmallows
  • 10.5 cups krispy rice cereal
Melt the butter and marshmallows over medium heat in a giant pot.  Remove from heat and stir in the rice krispies.   It will all just barely fit in a 9x13 pan (don't smash too hard - we're not making bricks!). Be sure to butter both the pan and your hands before transferring it. I didn't even use name brand cereal or marshmallows, but with the different marshmallow to cereal ratio, the vanilla flavor in the marshmallows really takes over and is awesome.  Super thick, super gooey treats.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie FROSTING

I am planning a Cookie Monster cake for Blake's upcoming birthday.  I wanted to do something a little different with the frosting, something cookie-related.  So, I made up this frosting recipe.  We tried it today on cupcakes, and oh my it was delicious!  I will make this again; it's definitely a fun twist on plain ol' frosting.
  • 1/2 c. butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 3 - 4 T. milk, or until the right texture
  • 1/2 tsp. butter vanilla gel (this is super yummy flavoring I buy at my local cake supply store.  However, an acceptable substitute would be 1 tsp. vanilla extract, or 1/2 tsp. vanilla + 1/2 tsp. butter extract.)
  • 2 - 3 chocolate chip cookies (mine were soft and warm from the oven and so crumbled into the frosting really easily.)
Cream the butter and shortening together.  Stir in the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.  When it looks like frosting, dump in the chocolate chip cookies and mix well until no large pieces are left.  Frost on your cake or cupcake (or just eat by the spoonful if you're like Katelee :) and enjoy!

P.S. How adorable are these teeny tiny chocolate chip cookies?  I made them mostly for Blake's cookie monster cake - it's gonna be so cute!  :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Baked Steak Fries

So, as promised, I am here to report that I tried the steak fries last night with our sloppy joes, and they were really yummy!  This recipe is quick and easy and a real crowd pleaser.  Blake gobbled these up, Katelee liked them, too, and even the adorable little two-year-old we were babysitting asked for more.  And Gerald and I thought they were super tasty as well!
  • 4 medium Russet potatoes, washed
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder (I was worried this would make them too spicy, but they really weren't.)
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Wash potatoes well.  Cut potatoes into 8 wedges each. Mix the seasonings in a bowl.  Add the oil and mix well.  Add potato wedges to seasonings and toss to coat. Lightly crumple some aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. (This crumpling tip is a GREAT one - your fries won't stick and will be more evenly baked - genius!) Spray with cooking spray and then arrange potato wedges on foil. This makes cleanup easy because your potatoes won’t stick and it will also ensures they’re cooked evenly.  Bake at 400 for about 40 minutes. Serve with ketchup, fry sauce, Ranch dressing, honey mustard…the sky’s the limit here!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dressed Up Sloppy Joes

This is another great recipe from the amazing gals at Our Best Bites.  The whole family loved these.  Even Katelee ate it despite the fact that it contains green peppers - something she usually avoids like the plague!  :)  I thought these were better than the other sloppy joes I've tried in the past.  It was nice for something a little different on a busy night!  I tried the crockpot version, but I love that you can prepare this in a variety of ways depending on your schedule and what works for you.  Enjoy!

One thing I love about this recipe is that it’s versatile–you can make it in about 30 minutes, it can be semi-prepared and frozen and then cooked in the crockpot, or it can simmer in the crockpot for a few hours, whatever works best for you.
Dressed-Up Sloppy Joes
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • Seasoning salt to taste
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 green pepper, minced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 3/4 c. ketchup
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/3-1/2 c. water to reach desired consistency
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 hamburger buns 

Stovetop Instructions:
Brown ground beef with onion, green pepper, and garlic. Season to taste with seasoning salt. Add in mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Combine tomato paste and water and add to hamburger mixture. Add more water if desired. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve on hamburger buns.
Crockpot Instructions:
Brown ground beef with onion, green pepper, and garlic. Season to taste with seasoning salt. Transfer to slow cooker. Add in remaining ingredients and combine well. Cook on low for 3-4 hours and serve on hamburger buns.
Freezer Instructions:
Brown ground beef with onion, green pepper, and garlic. Season to taste with seasoning salt. Transfer to a freezer-safe container. Add in remaining ingredients and combine well. Freeze. When ready to cook, transfer to a slow cooker and cook on low to 3-5 hours. Serve on hamburger buns.

We ate these with Our Best Bites sweet potato fries.  I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan of the fries.  Something about the texture of the sweet potatoes was gross.  For me, they were a flop and I won't try them again, but we are going to have the leftover sloppy joes tonight and I'm going to try the steak fries.  I'll let you know if they turn out yummy!

Update: We loved the steak fries!  These sloppy joes go great with them.  For the recipe, click here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

In the past year or so, baked potato soup has become my new personal favorite soup.  
In Denver, we lived across the street from a Panera, and anytime I was sick Gerald would pick up a tub of their loaded baked potato soup for me.  I've also had Kneaders version, and they are both delicious!  So, when I knew it was going to snow this weekend, I decided it was high time that I learned to make this delicious soup myself.  I was thrilled to find that Our Best Bites had a recipe; I knew it was bound to be great, and it was!  I tweaked their recipe a little bit, but mostly used their recipe as is.  I love that this recipe isn't horribly fattening, as some others I've seen are, but that it is still rich and flavorful.  (Click on the above link to see the full instructions/pictures on Our Best Bites.)

I hope you give this a try.  My family LOVED it, and it is definitely one we'll make again soon!
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 4 1/2 C milk (low fat works great)
  • 1 14oz can chicken broth
  • 4 medium baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds) baked*
  • 2 C grated cheddar (or sharp cheddar) cheese, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 C  sour cream (low fat is fine), divided
  • 1/2 C chopped green onions, divided
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, divided
*don’t have time to bake potatoes in the oven?  Just pierce them with a fork a few times and then pop them in the microwave.  Cook in 5 minute intervals until a knife easily pierces through them.  It usually takes 5-10 minutes.  To bake in the oven, pierce each potato with a fork and place directly on oven rack.  Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes.
Melt butter in a stock pot over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute for 30-60 seconds until fragrant.  Add flour to pan.  Slowly add milk a little at a time while whisking constantly to eliminate lumps.   Whisk until smooth and then add chicken broth. (Now, if you get to this point and don’t have a smooth liquid.  Stop!  Save your soup by popping the mixture in the blender, then continue.)  Bring soup just to a simmer and heat until thickened, stirring often, about 5 minutes. (Jennifer's note: my didn't thicken as much as I thought it would at this point.  I cooked it for about 15 minutes and it wasn't getting any thicker, so I added a bit more flour and then went ahead and added the potatoes.  In the end, it turned out perfectly.)

Once soup is thickened, turn heat down to medium-low.  Cut potatoes in half length-wise and use a spoon to scoop out potato flesh into the pot.  Use a wooden spoon to smash potatoes, breaking up large clumps.  (Note: there will be some lumps.  As long as they are bite sized, I think that's great, even preferable!  But don't expect pureed potatoes, think lumpy mashed potatoes.)  Add 1 1/2 C grated cheese (I added more like 1 3/4 c.) and salt and pepper and stir until cheese is melted.  Remove pan from heat and stir in 3/4 C sour cream, 1/4 C green onions, and 4 strips of the crumbled bacon (I added all 8 strips of crumbled bacon now, and crumbled an extra piece or two on top later.)  Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with each serving with the remaining sour cream, onions, cheese, and bacon.

Leftovers?  I'm freezing mine in single portions for a quick and yummy lunch!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Homemade Hot Chocolate - 1 serving

It is a yucky, stormy morning at my house today.  On a morning like this, it's nice to give my family a warm cup of hot cocoa with their breakfast before going out in the cold.  I don't generally have cocoa mix on hand, unless it's been a gift, so this is my 'quick and easy' hot cocoa that I make for my family on a cold and busy morning.

  • 1 cup of milk 
I do this in a mug in the microwave.  I stir it about every 45 - 60 seconds and check the temperature until it's as hot as I want it.

Meanwhile, while it's heating up, mix the following ingredients together in a small bowl:
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 T. baking cocoa (I always buy the Hershey's brand.  Don't know how much difference this makes; other baking cocoas may have slightly different strengths or flavors?)
  • dash salt
After the milk is heated to the right temperature, stir in the sugar/cocoa mixture.  Add:
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract and stir well.  
Top with marshmallows or whipped cream if desired and enjoy!

I've also been experimenting with adding less (or no) vanilla and substituting other extracts.  Peppermint, mint or almond extracts are yummy!  My personal favorite combination is 1/8 tsp. vanilla and 1/8 tsp. orange extract.  Gerald likes raspberry extract; Katelee likes strawberry extract.

So if it's cold and stormy at your house today (or even if it's not!), go make a cup of hot chocolate and cozy up. 

This recipe is found on the can of Hershey's baking cocoa.  Also, I borrowed this image from