Sunday, March 31, 2013

Perfect Lemonade

This was the perfect drink for our Easter meal today!












Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup) 
  • 1 cup water (for the simple syrup) 
  • 1 cup lemon juice (either squeezed from fresh lemons or straight from the bottle in your fridge!)
  • 3 to 4 cups cold water (to dilute) 
Make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved completely. While the sugar is dissolving, use a juicer to extract the juice from 4 to 6 lemons, enough for one cup of juice. (Or, if you are like me, and crave lemonade last minute and have no lemons on hand, just use a cup of bottled lemon juice - that works too!)  Add the juice and the sugar water to a pitcher. Add 3 to 4 cups of cold water, more or less to the desired strength. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or if you simply can't wait that long, pour over cups of ice.  Enjoy!

P.S. We liked this just as is, but if it's too sweet for your taste, try adding a bit more straight lemon juice.

Awesome Dinner Rolls


Tonight we had a delicious Easter dinner, with these rolls being one of the major hits of the meal!  I wanted to make some to-die-for dinner rolls that didn't require rolling up into crescents (because those are the kind I usually make) and so tried this recipe from my Our Best Bites cookbook.  They were AWESOME and will definitely be made again.

World’s Best Dinner Rolls Recipe by Our Best Bites Ingredients
  • 2 c. whole milk (if you’re in a pinch, you can use 2%, but whole is best. Don’t use 1% or skim) 
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided 
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter 
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt 
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp.)
  • 2/3 cup warm (105-115-degree) water 
  • 8-9 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 3 beaten eggs 
Instructions: Combine milk, 1/2 c. sugar, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from heat. Allow to cool until lukewarm. I usually rub some ice cubes along the sides of the pan or pop the entire pan in a sink full of ice cubes to cool the mixture down because this step can take forever. This step is really important because if the mixture is too hot, it will kill the yeast.

 While the milk mixture is cooling, dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes. If the yeast hasn’t bubbled, you’ll need to repeat this step–moving on with yeast that hasn’t been activated properly will only end in heartache for you.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 c. flour and milk mixture. Beat on low for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Add yeast mixture and beat on high for 3 minutes. Add beaten eggs.  Stir in as much remaining flour as needed to make a soft dough. This dough should be very soft–it will be coming away from the sides of the bowl, but it will still stick to your finger when you touch it. Don’t worry, it will firm up during the rising process. Part of what makes these rolls so good is that they’re so soft and light; if you add too much flour, they will be heavy and dense.

Place the bowl in a warm place and cover with a clean towel; allow to rise 1 hour. Punch down dough.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn dough out onto surface. Divide in half. Spray 2 9×13 glass pans with cooking spray. Roll first portion of dough into a rectangle and then cut it into 12 equal-sized pieces. I like to use a pizza cutter because it has a blade on each side, so it cuts right through dough without sticking to the blade. This dough should be very easy to work with, almost like playdough. Shape each piece into a ball and place in prepared pan. Repeat with remaining dough in the second pan.  

(Jennifer's note: personally I think flouring your countertop, rolling out the dough, cutting it, and then shaping it into rolls is a bit ridiculous.  I simply divided the dough in half.  You should get 12 rolls from each half.  So, working with half of the dough, I divided it into four equal parts, and took each of those parts and made 3 equal rolls out of each, resulting in 12 rolls.  Then repeat with the other half to get the second dozen.  I followed their instructions for the first pan of rolls and mine for the second pan of rolls, and there was no difference at all in the results, but my way seems a lot easier and less messy to me.  Though the dough was still sticky, so having flour nearby to use on my hands as I shaped the rolls was helpful.  :)

Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes. When dough has about 15-20 minutes to go (depending on your oven), preheat oven to 375. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden-brown. When done, remove from oven. Rub a stick of cold butter over the tops of the rolls. And enjoy the world's best dinner rolls!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dressed-up Tuna Casserole

I really like tuna casserole.

Is that weird to you?  Like the way I think Gerald's love of meatloaf is weird?

Anyway, I found a more dressed-up version of this creamy comfort food over at Our Best Bites, and I LOVE it.  My family ate it too!  Well, except Blake.  Who doesn't eat anything but mandarin oranges and Ritz crackers these days, it seems.  Boo.

Anyway, here is the fabulous recipe for anyone else who also enjoys a dinner of tuna noodle cheesiness for dinner now and then.  And if tuna is what turns you off here, you can substitute chicken.  



Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe by Our Best Bites

Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces medium shell pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions 
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided 
  • 1 medium stalk celery, thinly sliced or diced 
  • ¼ cup diced onion 
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced or diced 
  • olive oil, as needed 
  • 4 tbs flour 
  • 1 14.5 ounce can chicken broth (just under 2 cups), warmed 
  • 1 cup milk, warmed 
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
  • ⅛ teaspoon dill 
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, more if desired (I desired - I squeezed the whole lemon in) 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley 
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided 
  • 5 oz can tuna, packed in water, more if desired 
Topping:
  • 1/4 cup Ritz cracker crumbs mixed with about 
  • 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
 or
  • 1/4-1/2 cup broken up potato chips (I recommend kettle style) 
Instructions:

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add celery and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes longer, stirring often. Add mushrooms and cook 3-5 more minutes, until mushrooms are golden and tender. If needed for moisture, add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan after the mushrooms are added; more if needed during remaining cooking time. Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in pan and add flour. Stir constantly for 30 seconds. Slowly add broth and milk, a little at a time while constantly whisking until mixture is smooth. Bring to a low simmer. Add salt, pepper, and dill. Stir constantly until thickened and bubbly, 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add lemon juice, parsley, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Whisk until smooth and taste. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, and extra lemon juice if desired.

Remove from heat and add pasta, vegetables, and tuna. Stir to combine and place in a 3 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese (feel free to add more if you want) and sprinkle cracker crumbs or chips on top. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until top is golden and pasta is hot and bubbly. Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving to allow sauce to thicken. Serves about 6

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stuffed Pizza Rolls

Katelee and I made these for dinner tonight.  When we first started making them, we thought it was super fun!  We were having a great time.  By the time we finished pinching the last roll, however, we were whining about how much time this was taking and wishing we had just made pizza instead.  We threw them in the oven and 15 minutes later these golden brown rolls of deliciousness came out.  We really enjoyed dinner, and it was so fun to dip our pizza rolls.  The kids loved them.

My conclusion:  Will I make these again for just a busy night family dinner?  Probably not.  Yes, they are fun, but just making a pizza is so much easier.  HOWEVER, these make a fabulous appetizer.  Or finger food.  I picture using them for New Years Eve party or Super Bowl gathering.  They would be perfect for that!  And no, they really don't take that much time.  So if your kids really love dipping and you are a nicer mom than me, maybe family dinner is the perfect time to make these!  :)

I got the idea and photos from Our Best Bites, though I used all my own recipes instead of theirs. 



Start with a batch of pizza dough.  I made Melissa's pizza dough recipe.  OR, you could buy a tube of refrigerated pizza dough from the market.  Thin crust or regular crust works fine. 

Here is the recipe for the dough I used tonight:
  • 1 Tbl. honey (heaping)
  • 1 Tbl. oil (heaping)
  • 1 C. warm water
  • 1 Tbl. yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 3 C. flour
Mix everything except flour then slowly add flour until all combined. Knead for a min.

Then, roll the dough out on a lightly floured countertop into a rectangular shape.  Mine was probably roughly 10 inches by 16 inches or so.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into equal shaped squares, maybe a couple inches on each side.  Our Best Bites gets 24 rolls out of store bought dough.  Using the recipe above, I got about 35 pizza bites.

Now, you will need
  • mozzarella cheese
  • pizza toppings of your choice.  We tried pepperoni, ham and pineapple tonight - yum to them all!



Top each dough square with the toppings.  Just eyeball how much. You just need to be able to enclose the toppings in the dough so keep that in mind. When all of your dough squares have cheese and toppings on them, carefully lift up each square and wrap the dough around the toppings. Pinch to make sure each ball is sealed shut and then place them seam side down in a lightly sprayed pie pan (or similar sized dish). Brush the tops of the dough balls with olive oil or melted butter, and then sprinkle with
  • garlic powder 
  • Italian seasoning 
  • Parmesan cheese.
to taste.  Now they are ready to bake!

Cook them in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Keep an eye on them! Doughs vary, so I’d check them after even 10 minutes.

Dip the hot, cheese rolls in your favorite pizza sauce.  I use this recipe here, and it was delicious!

  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
Mix together and warm up in the microwave.


Serve these with a nice green salad and it makes a nice meal!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

I am lucky enough to have an electric wheat grinder.  This means I can buy wheat (which is cheaper and stores forever!) and then grind it quickly and conveniently when I need wheat flour.  Freshly ground wheat tastes better and is more nutritious.  So, I grind my wheat fresh when I bake bread, rolls, whatever.  I highly recommend a wheat grinder.  :)  That is my little lecture for the day. Ahem.

Even if you don't have a wheat grinder, however, you should make these pancakes!

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_gLGOsirSkHc/S4mjWVMdNAI/AAAAAAAALXQ/9Ukexp-IuQg/s400/pancake+close+up.jpg

I am trying to add even more whole wheat into our diets, and have started to make these Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes from Our Best Bites.  We really really love them!  They are healthy and keep us full until lunch.  And the best part for me is that one batch of these serves us for two meals, so I can freeze the leftovers and pull them out for a great breakfast on a hectic morning.
  • 3/4 C whole wheat flour 
  • 3/4 C all-purpose flour 
  • 3 Tbs sugar 
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 1/2 C low-fat buttermilk * 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 Tbs canola oil 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 large egg white 
  • Cooking Spray or butter for pan 
*As a substitute for 1 C buttermilk, place 1 Tbs lemon juice (or vinegar but I prefer lemon juice) in a 1 C measuring cup and then fill the remainder with milk. This recipe calls for 1 1/2 C buttermilk, so do the same thing with 1/2 Tbs lemon juice and remaining 1/2 C milk.  I do this with any recipe that calls for buttermilk, as it is not something I ever have in my fridge.

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk together. In a separate bowl combine buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla and whisk well. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix just until moistened and combined. Heat a nonstick griddle or skillet to medium heat. Make sure it's heated up before pouring the batter on.  Coat pan with non-stick spray or a little butter and then pour on pancake batter. Use about 1/4 C batter for large pancakes (5-6″) and 2 T for kid-sized ones (2 /2-3″).

Wait until bubbles form and edges are set and then flip. Makes 12 large or 24 small pancakes.



Freezer Instructions: These pancakes freeze wonderfully. Just lay out pancakes in a single layer on a baking sheet or other pan. Freeze until solid and then place in a zip-lock bag. To serve, just warm up in the microwave or toaster.

Oatmeal Crispies

I am always on the lookout for delicious, easy, interesting, different cookies.  I make cookies pretty often and get tired of the same old recipes all the time.  Today I tried Pioneer Woman's Oatmeal Crispies, and I. AM. IN. LOVE.  These are going right up there in the regular rotation of favorites!  Seriously, the Pioneer Woman has never failed me yet . . .



Ingredients
  • 1 cup Shortening (Crisco) 
  • 1 cup Packed Brown Sugar 
  • 1 cup Sugar 
  • 2 whole Eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla 
  • 1-½ cup All-purpose Flour 
  • 1 teaspoon Salt 
  •  1 teaspoon Baking Soda 
  • 3 cups Quick Oats 
  •  ½ cups Finely Chopped Pecans 
Preparation Instructions

In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening with both sugars until well combined. In a separate bowl, beat eggs together. Add vanilla and stir to combine. Add to the shortening/sugar mixture and mix well. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Mix carefully into the egg/shortening mixture until well combined. Now add the quick oats and mix well again. Finally add the finely chopped pecans and mix well to combine.

Now the original instructions say this: Divide the dough in half and place each half of the dough onto a sheet of waxed paper. Roll the dough into a log and then wrap it tightly in the waxed paper. Now you can either chill or freeze the dough until later or you can go ahead and slice the dough evenly into cookie rounds. When you are ready to bake them place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until they are golden brown.

Jennifer's changes: I divided the dough evenly into four parts, and rolled up each section into a log.  I got 12 cookies out of each roll.  I froze three of the logs so that I can pull them out, cut, and bake at a later time.  The fourth one I cut immediately into 12 equal parts, placed on a cookie sheet and baked for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  I suggest you eat one warm, with milk.  Or two...  ;)

AWESOME!    

Friday, March 8, 2013

Homemade microwave popcorn

This is more an idea then a recipe but I wanted to share. This has become my new favorite way to make popcorn. It is super easy and makes the perfect size bowl of homemade popcorn.
What you need:
Brown paper lunch sack
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
Butter
Salt

Pour kernels into brown lunch sack fold the sack edges over twice lay fold side down in the microwave and cook for 2 minutes. Then pour into a bowl and butter and salt. There you have great popcorn that's much better then store bought and cheaper.