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Posts tagged ‘Cooking’

Homemade Pretzel Bites

I was just telling some friends how busy my schedule has been lately. I am sad I haven’t been able to post much of the things on my mind but I have to stop and post about this.

While folding an endless pile of towels the other day I was also watching Undercover Boss which featured the Philly Pretzel Factory. Lets just say it was a mouth watering episode! So it got me thinking that although I am not the best cook and certainly not the best at making bread products they made it look very easy to make pretzels. I got online and found a recipe that looked simple enough for me to try making pretzel bites last night.

The dough was very easy to make using my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. I let it rise like it suggested and then got my son involved (after much hand washing) with helping me roll out the dough into the long strips. After cutting them into small bite size pieces they simply are dunked into boiling water for about 30 seconds, placed on a greased cookie sheet, brushed with an egg wash mixture and heavy salt and then they are ready to bake. Of course it smelled amazing but I was pleasantly suprised at how they tasted! Mine didn’t come out looking as amazing as the photo but maybe with time I can master that too. The recipe also said you can do cinnamon and sugar instead of salt but I also think it is worth trying with butter and parmesean cheese!  The recipe also has suggestions for dipping sauces. I had honey mustard on hand but my husband made an olive oil and Italian herb sauce too.

Click here for the recipe:  http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/homemade-soft-pretzel-bites/

What other spices, variations or sauces would be good on these pretzel bites?

Tips for Perfect Cookie Dough

Raw cookie dough in cookie clumps.

Image via Wikipedia

After seeing this article on Yahoo today I certainly am putting “cookie making with the kids” on my spring break list! I think everyone has their favorite cookie and certainly we all want to sneak a taste of the dough even though we have been advised against consuming products with raw eggs. Who can resist? And who doesn’t like the smell of fresh-baked cookies? I mean they make candles with that scent because we love it so much!

Although the perfect cookie for me is the pre-packaged cookie dough in the store that you just pull out of the package and bake, I do sometimes venture to make cookies from scratch. Most people will have the ingredients for baking cookies on hand and these are easy ingredients to stock up when on sale or you have a coupon.

This article gives some really simple tips in the way ingredients are mixed as well as other suggestions of how to get your cookies to come out consistent and how to adjust the recipe to your personal preference for the perfect cookie. This is instructions for a basic a chocolate chip cookie dough but it also has suggestions of variations for the same basic dough so we can get creative!

Check out the article HERE and let me know what cookies you are going to be baking soon!

Crockpot Ham & White Bean Soup

This is so easy it almost isn’t fair! It really takes less the 5 minutes to throw everything into your crock pot and walk away! This is one of my favorite recipes to fix on Sunday because I can start it quickly before leaving for church.

      Ham & White Bean Soup

Pour the cans of beans with the juice and chicken broth into the crock pot. Mix in the amount of ham you desire and place bay leaves in last. Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 4 or more hours. Serve with hot bread or rolls.

** For the ham you can use a ham hock, leftover ham pieces, or I buy the Hormel diced ham which I find in the meat section near the whole hams. I have started only using 1/2 of the package of ham pieces and freeze the other half for the next time! Stock up on the canned products and ham when you have coupons or find them on sale.This makes a really easy meal to always have on hand.

What quick fixing crock pot recipes are your favorites?

Making Cake Fondant: Easier than you Think!

My son is in Cub Scouts and needed to make a theme cake to bring to the Blue and Gold Banquet for his pack. This is a father and son project to come up with an idea and decorate their cake for this competition. They went over many options to go with the theme of “resourcefulness” like a pocket knife, camp fire, recycling, and a compass. My son chose a compass. Instead of trying to frost and then decorate a cake with frosting tips they decided to try fondant instead. We have a close friend that decorates cakes that advised us to go online and find a recipe for marshmallow fondant because it was really easy.

Although I can follow recipes I always worry about trying something that in my mind is hard, even if someone tells me it is easy. In the spirit of adventure I decided to jump in feet first and make this fondant. It is simply melted marshmallows, a bit of water and a ton of powdered sugar. Using my KitchenAide Mixer with the dough hook made it even more simple! I just added the melted marshmallow and water and began slowly adding the powdered sugar until it reached the consistency I wanted. I then pulled it out and continued kneading it with some additional powdered sugar until it was no longer sticky. Since we decided to do more than one color I did not add the coloring with the initial mixing. I had to separate out the dough into the amounts I needed and then put it back into the mixer one at a time adding the color. I did some additional kneading to make sure all the color was consistent with no streaks. I then wrapped each color in plastic wrap and placed them in the refrigerator as the recipe had stated (I found out later from our friend that refrigeration isn’t necessary if it is wrapped properly and will be used within a few days).

We had already made a cake which we had frozen. This makes it easier when trying to press the fondant on and around the cake. Before starting with the fondant they spread a thin layer of cake frosting on the cake to help the fondant adhere properly. For the fondant they placed it in between two pieces of plastic wrap and used a rolling-pin to roll it out thin. They cut out the pieces they needed for each part and placed them on the cake. Where corners met they were able to mold and pinch them together to make it more seamless. They also made templates for the letters and markings on the top, cut them out and placed them on the top of the cake. It was done in no time!

They had so much fun making this cake and seeing how quickly everything came together we want to do more. I think over spring break and the summer I will make some cupcakes, fondant of different colors, and get small cookie cutters and stencil templates to let my children decorate some cupcakes! We may even become adventurous and do a layered cake together.  LET THEM EAT CAKE!

To see the website for recipe and instructions on this easy marshmallow fondant click HERE.

Have you ever used fondant for your cake decorating?

Fresh Bread Every Day: Easiest Recipe!

Photo Credit:artisanbreadinfive.com

I am a pro at making bricks instead of bread! My family loves homemade bread but even using a bread machine it was not always coming out the best or consistent. I also could not find a recipe that was simple enough to want to do every day. We have been trying to build a food supply and find things that we can , stock up on, store and easily make meals with. This was my dilemma because bread is one food that we felt was important to have as part of our food storage and learn to make it ourselves for times when it was necessary and not just for fun.

We had a friend at church show us an simple to make bread recipe and I couldn’t believe just how easy it is. This Artisan Bread recipe only requires 4 ingredients so anyone wanting to stock up on supplies this would be perfect to add to your food storage. You make it in a large batch and can refrigerate the remainder of the bread to use later in the week. Of course you can always do a 1/2 batch if you prefer. What is fun is you can also experiment with this bread and incorporate just about any flavor combination by adding mix in’s. I have tried Garlic Parmesan, Jalapeno Cheese, Italian Herb, Garlic & Green Onion, and 3 Cheese before but there are so many others you can try if you are creative. It can be fun to let your children help knead in the mix in’s. Although I have never tried it this recipe can be used for pizza dough, rolls and more.

Making the actual mix is also very easy so even first time bread makers can do it. The original prep is just adding and mixing. Then it will sit for about 2 hours to rise. You can then bake some of the bread at that time if you want or put the dough in the refrigerator. This does not require a bread pan but actually bakes on a flat baking sheet. If you have a stone pizza pan those work great too!  For future use during that week you simply pinch off the amount of dough you want and let it sit on the baking sheet for about 1/2 hr until it reaches room temp and it is ready to bake. You don’t even have to take the time to shape it pretty because you can literally just plop it down on the pan and bake it. Let’s be honest too, it can be pretty but it is getting cut and eaten in no time so does it really matter for most occasions? This smells amazing and I promise you will want to make more than one loaf each time.

I am posting a website here for this Artisan Bread that has the recipe, instructions and great step by step photo’s. You do not have to use the brands they list and certainly any large container with a lid will work too so just keep it simple with what you may already have!

Try this recipe and let me know what you think!

Homemade Can Rotators

I like to stock up on food items we use often especially when I can use coupons and find them on sale. There are many commercial can rotators available but frankly I would rather spend money on more food storage then a piece of plastic. I found several patterns online to make cardboard can rotators and after some trial and error and a little tinkering I came up with this cardboard can rotator that is literally made with just cardboard, popsicle sticks and glue! The ones I have made have held up perfect for the last 8 months. I have done 3 at the same time assembly line style and it takes about 1 ½ hours. This would be a fun project to involve your kids with for some of the easy steps. Most of that time spent is actually waiting for glue to dry! You can take a label or just write with a sharpie marker the “Name” of the product can in each rotator. Each rotator will hold approx. 15 cans like vegetables or fruit, and about 20 or more smaller cans like Campbell’s soup.

Cardboard Can Rotator:

Supplies: You can use any cardboard boxes you have but I have found those that are used and bent are harder to use. You can easily purchase a 14x14x14 box in the office section of Wal-Mart for approx. 67 cents. They are perfect to use for this project!

  • Need cut and have:                                             Also will need:
  • 2- 14×14 cardboard pieces                                   Utility (Exacto) Knife
  • 2- 7×14 cardboard pieces                                     Elmers Glue
  • 2- 5×11 cardboard pieces                                     Popsicle Sticks
  • 1- 2×7 cardboard piece                                         Ruler
  • 1- 5×7 cardboard pieces                                       Pencil
  • 1- 2×5 cardboard piece

Step 1: Take your two 14×14 pieces and lay next to each other. Using a ruler mark your “shelf” lines as follows:

Cardboard on Right:

  • #1: Starting from the top right corner measure 10 inches across the top and then draw a line 4 inches down from there. From the bottom of that 4 inch line draw a straight line up to the top right hand corner (making a triangle).
  • #2: Then on the same piece of cardboard start at the bottom left hand corner and measure across the bottom 10 inches and draw a line up 4 inches. Go back to the left hand bottom corner and measure straight up 6 inches and mark a small line. Take that small line and draw a line down to where it meets the 4 inch line you just did at the bottom.
  • #3: Then from the bottom right hand corner measure straight up 2 inches and mark a small line. Then go back to the bottom right hand corner and measure 3 inches along the bottom and mark a small line there. Draw a line between the two small marks.

Repeat this same step on the left side cardboard piece but you will change the directions you start with so you basically are making a mirror image of the right cardboard piece.

Step 2: You then will glue 2 popsicle sticks directly under each of the top two lines and then on the bottom line glue just one stick (See picture) and then set aside to dry.

Step 3: Take the 2- 7×14 inch pieces. These will be the pieces for the back panel and bottom. Take your ruler across where it measures 7 inches and mark a small line at 1 inches and another at 6 inches. Draw a straight line up from both of these lines. Score slightly with your utility knife to make it easier to fold, and then fold up the sides.You will take “one” of these 7×14 pieces and at the very top about ¼ inch down glue a popsicle stick across it (see picture below):

Step 4: Take one of the 7×14 panels and put glue on both of the turned up sides and glue the 2 14×14 panels to it and set it aside to dry (you can set a book on it to help it hold together and dry).

Step 5: Once the back panel and two side panels are dried stand them up and fold it in. Taking the other 7×14 panel put glue again on the folded up sides and place the side/back panel pieces inside of it pushing the bottom of the side panels against the folded up sides of the bottom panel. You can use chip clips to hold them together or keep pressing them together until they dry.

Step 6: Once the bottom panel is dried take the 2×7 piece and the 5×7 piece.  Repeat the steps (like you did with the 7×14 pieces) in Step 3 where you measure across 7 inches, marking the 1 inch and 6 inch with a small line, draw a line up, slightly score and then turn up the edges. Take the 2×7 piece and glue the folded up sides.  Glue across the bottom front pressing the folded sides around the edges of the side panels. Repeat this with the 5×7 piece which you will place the bottom of that piece about half way up (the bottom of that piece lines up with the line of popsicle sticks). See picture:

Step 7:  Put glue on all the tops of the popsicle sticks and just above them along the sides of the cardboard box. Taking your 2×5 piece lay it on the very bottom row of popsicle sticks where it rests on the sticks. Press down so it will glue onto the popsicle sticks. Glue all around the edges almost like your caulking the corners with the glue. Repeat this step with the next row of popsicle sticks with one of the 5×11 pieces, and then finish with the top row of popsicle sticks with the last 5×11 piece (this will also rest on the popsicle stick on the top of the back panel). Make sure you put glue around all the edges. Lay the can rotator on its side and place a heavy book on it to help press everything together.

Guess what?  Your done!

What ideas do you have for storing cans and other non perishable food items?

2 Pot Roast Recipes. Fast,Easy Delicious!!!

Any meal cooked in a crock pot is my kind of meal. Even better is a recipe where the prep time is just minutes and you literally just throw it all in, close the lid and let it cook. Here are two of my favorite go-to pot roast recipes that really do only take minutes to prepare. The aroma when cooking is to die for and you will love the variety in flavor between the two recipes but both are amazingly sumptuous! You can also toss in some peeled potatoes, carrots or onions if you want or serve with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. Of course some hot fresh bread or rolls is a must too!

Campbell’s Soup Pot Roast

Brown the roast on all sides and put in the crock pot. In mixing bowl mix cans of soup with the dry soup mix until well blended. Pour over the roast and close the lid to the crock pot. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours. The sauce  will be thick enough to use as gravy over the roast and potatoes.

Ranch Dressing Pot Roast:

Brown the roast on all sides and put in the crock pot. In large cup or bowl add all dry mixes with one cup of water and whisk until well blended. Pour over roast and close the lid to the crock pot. Set on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours. The sauce will be thin so if you desire a thicker gravy pour the sauce into a sauce pan and then take either 2 tbsp of flour or corn starch mixed in 1/2 cup of water and slowly add to the sauce until it thickens.

Do you have a good pot roast recipe to share?

Valentines Day Red Velvet Cake!!!!

Photo Credit: grouprecipes.com

My husband’s family grew up loving Red Velvet Cake which quickly became a favorite of theirs for birthdays or special occasions. I had never tried one until I had married my husband. The recipe is said to be the actual Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake served at their hotel and after trying it you could certainly see why. Although if you search it online as Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake you will find a few variations of the recipe.

I have tried to make cakes from scratch before and they have never turned out as tasty or easy as this one. I have to admit that if I am short on time I have cheated and made a store-bought red velvet cake however I will not cheat on the icing. This icing is to die for! It is not like a traditional cream cheese frosting you will find on many Red Velvet Cakes. This one is almost like whipped cream but is very rich. It also is fairly simple to make as long as you follow the instructions and make sure the flour mixture is completely cooled before preparing the remainder of the icing.

This still is the cake my husband loves for his birthday and of course being red it is perfect for Valentines too. I am never so fancy as to do multiple layers as shown but I have cut the cake in half and put a layer of icing in the center. Although I have never done it before these would make really fun cupcakes for Valentines parties too. If you have never had red velvet cake, or never had this recipe you HAVE to try it! Click HERE for the recipe:

What is your favorite cake or frosting?

Alternate Cooking Methods

Are you prepared to cook food when your power is out? If you do not have a gas stove or an outdoor grill with plenty of propane you could be really in trouble. We were without power during Hurricane Ike for 17 days. Thankfully we did have a gas stove and were able to still cook.  This did however make the  rest of the house which was already hot from no air conditioning even hotter. Having alternate methods for cooking can ensure you are still able to prepare meals when there is no power or usual method of cooking. Listed below are several devices you can make at home with little or no expense. Although there are commercial products that are available these can work just as well and save you the cost of an expensive investment. I would prefer to invest in other emergency supplies and even a generator before buying a solar oven. These are simple enough to make and can make a great activity for a church group or scouting event.

Picture Credit: robnoxious.wordpress.com

1.  Rocket Stove:  This video demonstration shows step by step the cutting and assembly of a cans rocket stove. This is mostly consists of just different sized cans cut to make this stove. You can then use it to cook anything in a pot or pan like you would a regular stove top. The fuel is simple twigs and sticks you could easily find lying around however if it is wet it may be more difficult to get them lit. A suggestion given is to have twigs and small sticks already gathered and store them in a sealed bucket. You could also just purchase a packages of shims at a lumber or home repair store that will work just as well.

Photo Credit: odcooking.pragerfamily.net

2. Box Oven: You basically only need a heavy-duty box that can either has folding side flaps or a lid to close it (you can get a heavy-duty box at any liquor store for free). You will line the inside of the box with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  To secure the foil in all the corners and around the edges you can use a aluminum foil tape found at most hardware stores. This type tape is usually near the insulation section of the stores. Once assembled you can put either rocks or even a piece of tile on the bottom to prevent the coals burning through the bottom. You certainly can put skewers or wire hanger cut into strips to make a rack or another option is what you see with using full size or even half-size soda cans to elevate a metal rack. You can find metal racks like this in the kitchen section of  Wal-Mart, Target or other kitchen supply stores. The main thing is to make sure the rack is raised above the coals. You use regular charcoal briquettes and get them started outside the box. Once they are hot but no longer burning you place them in a pie tin below the rack. Use 1 charcoal briquettes for every 40-50 degrees you need to cook. So for 350 degrees you would need 7-8. Close lid and let it cook. You can even take a cooking thermometer and stick it into an opening to monitor the temperature in the oven.

Photo Credit: thermalcooker.wordpress.com

3.  Wonder Oven or Wonder Box: There are many places to go learn how to make one and they are pretty easy to assemble  Many people will assemble the wonder oven and place it into a rubber tub for ease of storage and transporting. Basically food can be started on the stove-top, oven or even a propane grill or camping stove and then once they reach the temperature they need to cook at you can transfer them to the wonder oven. When sealed off it will then contain the heat and continue to cook it.  It is also good for transporting hot items and keeping them hot.

Photo Credit: williamgbecker.com

4. Home Made Solar Oven: If you cannot afford a manufactured solar oven then this is something to consider if you or your spouse are a little handy. If you do a search on the internet for home-made solar ovens there are a variety you can make from card board boxes all the way to one built with wood.

Photo Credit: energywhiz.com

5.  Pringle’s Can Solar Oven:  Oh Yes. I had to see it for myself and it is really cool. This would be fun to do with the kids but also could come in handy in emergencies. This would mostly be for skewer cooking like hot dogs, or shish-kabob but it would be better than nothing!

What alternate methods for cooking do you have?

Love My New George Foreman Grill!

I am all about convenience. Fixing a meal certainly is not the highlight of my day so anything that will make that process faster, easier and healthier is right up my alley. We have used a propane gas grill or a traditional charcoal grill for much of our cooking. I do like that meats cooked on a grill are not sitting in fat like when cooked in a griddle or frying pan. Frankly though I hate starting up the grill to heat or waiting for the charcoal briquettes to be ready. I certainly don’t like cleaning up the gunky messy grill plates later. Also the last thing I want to do in the high temperature and humidity of Houston is be outside cooking in front of a hot grill. So where is the happy medium that balances that out?

For my birthday my sweet husband and kids bought me an indoor grill. This is the George Foreman Grand Champ Family Value Grill. Each time I use it I am more excited about the benefits this indoor grill offers and excited to actually cook a meal. The one thing this does not offer that you get with a traditional grill would be the smokey flavor but other than that it does the job very well. This particular grill is just one of many products offered by the George Foreman Line and is their larger family size grill.

There are so many things to love! First of all it does not require any cooking spray. You simply start it heating and the indicator light lets you know when it is ready, which isn’t very long. Being family sized I easily was able to cook 6 hamburger patties on it. What is fabulous is the lid closes down to allow cooking on both sides at the same time offering evenly cooked food, no need to turn anything over, and the food actually cooks faster. This grill is slanted to allow juices and fat to run off into a drip tray. Clean up is extremely easy too because once it has cooled off you simply wipe it clean with a towel and warm water. Any juice or food debris can be easily scraped off with the special spatula scraper they provide. The grill does not need to be washed other than that and the drip pan and spatula scraper are both dishwasher safe. It is by far the easiest clean up of any cooking methods I have done.

So far I  have enjoyed cooking chicken, hamburgers and shrimp and look forward to many other adventures with my new indoor grill. So a special shout out thank you to my family for the fabulous gift!

What products are your favorites or make cooking more convenient?

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