Monday, May 30, 2011

Golden Raisin Almond Cinnamon Buns

I hope everyone had a fabulous Memorial Day weekend.  We did!  We spent the weekend with friends and play dates.  Today was spent with my sweet boys and an afternoon of shopping. 

A little while ago, I baked a bunch of various treats for a bake sale.  One of the tasty items was a variation on a previous post of cinnamon rolls.  I added golden raisins and almonds to the mix and it was yummy. I also changed the frosting up a bit to a plain powder sugar glaze, instead of cream cheese. I didn't want the icing to compete with the delicious raisins and almonds.

Follow the instructions for cinnamon rolls and filling in this post.  When making the filling add 1/2 c. of golden raisins and 1/3 c. toasted slivered almonds.  Bake as instructed.

Recipe for Glaze

2 c. powder sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 to 4 tbsp. water

In a medium bowl add powder sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Slowly add water one tablespoon at a time until you reach a smooth and slightly runny consistency.  You want to be able to drizzle the frosting.  Top with almonds.

Roll into a rectangle and trim if necessary

Evenly spread filling and start to roll from long end

Pre-score the slices to get even rolls

Drizzle with frosting and almonds

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Patriotic Cookies

It's not too late to make a sweet treat for this weekend.  Are you invited to a picnic or having guests over?  This is a perfect end to a day of festivities.  I have shared this recipe before, but wanted to give a few extra tips for making them even easier.

Recipe for cake like cookies.

Here are a few tips:

  • If you are in a rush and can't make your own frosting, go ahead and cheat with store bought frosting.  I feel if part of the dessert is homemade (like the cookie) you can get by with a canned frosting.
  • Make sure to use a generous amount of frosting. The one thing that is so delicious about these cookies is the thick layer of frosting.
  • If you are freezing the cookies, go ahead and flash freeze them on the cookie sheet before stacking them in a container.  Use parchment paper in between layers to prevent sticking upon thawing.
  • If making them for a crowd use a small circle cutter (about 2 inches).  The smaller size is easier to eat at a picnic and allows people to try several flavors.
  • Want to change up the  flavor combination?  Try adding 1 tsp of lemon extract or almond extract to the dough instead of vanilla.
Another great benefit of making these cookies yourself is you can control the quality of ingredients.  Also, the store bought version has a disclaimer for nut allergies, make them yourself and you can be nut free!

I didn't really need to show how to cream sugar and butter. This picture is just a ploy to show my new hot pink mixer ;o)

I used a biscuit cutter to make perfect circles.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cute Tins

I was surfing Etsy and came across these adorable decorative tins.  They are small tins, perfect for cute little gifts.  I purchased two adorned with a guitar pick label (one for Adam and one for his guitar teacher).  They are the perfect size to hold picks.   I also purchased a golf themed one to hold golf tees for another gift, and that one is personalized with the recipients name. 

The vendor also has them themed to hold ear buds for mp3 players, and many many other things.  I just thought I would share my find for great affordable gifts.

Tiny Tins

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade

Some people do their canning in the fall, I do mine all year.  Different times of the year, I do different things.  I am trying to figure out my end of the year school gifts, and decided to make some marmalade.  I will pair it with a home made Challah bread, but any bread or pound cake would be delicious with it. 

For Christmas, I received the Ball Canning Book that has over 400 recipes in it.  After thumbing through it, strawberry lemon marmalade jumped out at me.  This recipe is very similar to strawberry jam, but adding the lemon peel makes it a marmalade.  Also this is a "quick" marmalade and does use pectin to guarantee the setting stage.  I canned this for gifts, but you could make a big batch and store it the fridge too for several weeks.  Make sure to include an ingredient tag for the recipient, for any possible food allergies.

Of course I had to test out the batch. I enjoyed it on Challah bread, but it would also be delicious on toast or scones.  Happy marmalading!!!

recipe (yields about 6 half pints)

1/4 c. thinly sliced lemon peel (about 2 large lemons, just the peel not the pith)
4 c. crushed hulled strawberries (about 8 cups whole)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 package powder fruit pectin (1.75 oz)
6 c. granulated sugar

Prepare canner, jar, lids by sterilizing.  In a sauce pot, boil lemon peels with several cups of water for 5 minutes, drain liquid and set peels aside.  In a large bowl, hull and crush the strawberries (I used a potato masher).  Measure crushed strawberries in a liquid measuring cup to reach 4 cups.  Then combine lemon peel, strawberries, and pectin in a large pot. Stir until pectin is dissolved.  Bring to a boil, and add sugar all at once.  Return to a hard boil (boil that won't stir down) and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and skim foam.  Ladle hot marmalade into prepared canning jars leaving 1/4" head space, remove air bubbles with non-metal utensil.  Wipe rims, add lid and ring.  Process for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool for 24 hours.

Stir constantly over high heat

Skim Foam

Finished Product

Monday, May 16, 2011

Investment That Pays For Itself

As most of my loyal followers know, I am very frugal.  I watch our pennies and try to spend them wisely.  That's not to say I don't make the occasional splurge.  In all honesty, saving on a daily basis allows us to make a few really nice splurges.

So what investment am I speaking of today?  A kitchen scale (mine cost under $20.00).  It is valuable for many reasons.  One of the reasons I bought a kitchen scale was to help monitor my portions.  I have been on a weight loss journey since I was a teenager.  I am very strict with what I eat, but still wasn't losing enough weight.  Once I bought my scale and started measuring the food, I had an epiphany!  I was preparing low fat food, but eating too much of it.  I measured my food, until I understood a correct portion.  Now with the knowledge of correct portions, the weight loss journey became a bit easier.

The picture below shows a perfect example.  The bowl on the left is the correct 30g of low fat cereal.  The bowl on the right is probably what most people pour for breakfast, almost 3 times the correct amount.

The other really terrific use of the scale is for pre-measuring snacks.  The scale I bought has programmed nutritional information in it.  I just scroll through to the correct food item, and the weight of it, gives the correct output of data.  Now I use it portion out crackers, dried fruit, snack mixes, etc. 

Making your own 100 calorie packs is so wise and economical.  Unless you have some really great coupons and the snack packs are on sale, doing yourself will be cheaper.  I also like to have the snack bags handy for lunch boxes.  When I make lunches in the morning it is so easy to go to the snack bowl, and just pick a bag.  This also makes it convenient to keep a bag or two in my purse for unexpected hungry kids.

So, invest in a scale and make a investment in your health!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Browned Butter Veggies

I have to admit, I really do love most vegetables.  However, cauliflower is one I'm not really a fan of.  When preparing tonight's dinner, I was out of fresh veggies, so I went to consult my supply in the freezer.  The only thing I had was a mix of broccoli and cauliflower.  So in order to make it a little more appetizing, I stole a page from my mother-in-law's book, and made them with browned butter.

I had never had browned butter on vegetables until I started dating Jay and eating at his parents house.  I liked the taste of them.  That was actually the first place I had brussel sprouts too.  You can apply this method to any cooked vegetable.  It is especially delicious on carrots and green beans as well.


1 12 oz. bag of steamers vegetables
1/4 tsp. season salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. butter

Simply steam the vegetables according to package instructions.  In a small pot, slowly melt the butter, and allow to cook until golden brown.  Toss the browned butter, salt, and pepper over vegetables. Serve as a side dish to any meal.

I paired it tonight with sloppy joes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chicken Pesto Pizza

I recently posted a recipe for chicken pesto pasta.  Today I am using any left over ingredients and making it into pizza. 

We eat pizza a lot in our house.  While it is a treat to order it out, most of the time it's home made.  I make the dough in the late afternoon and by dinner time it's ready to go.  The kids enjoy a plain cheese pizza, but Jay and I like to experiment with different flavor combinations. 

Today's recipe is a take off on a white pizza.  It shares many of the same ingredients as the chicken pesto pasta, but unfortunately this is not gluten free.  Here's how it goes together.


prepared pizza dough or make it from scratch with this recipe
1 can artichoke hearts in water
2 c. cooked shredded chicken breast
1/3 c. prepared pesto
1 c. mozarella cheese, shredded
1/4 c. parmesean cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Press out pizza dough onto a large round pan or a sheet pan.  With a spatula spread pesto on to dough, this will be your "sauce".  Slice artichoke hearts into quarters.  Top pizza with artichokes, chicken, and cheese.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the toppings are golden brown, and the crust is crispy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wholesome Wednesday (Gluten-free Chicken Pesto Pasta)

Do you know someone who has a gluten allergy?  I know I do.  I actually know three different people who have major diet restrictions.  In talking to one girl, I asked what she misses the most from her new lifestyle, and she responded pasta.  Continuing our conversation, I asked if she knew that they were gluten free pastas?  She said yes, but said the flavor wasn't that good.  So I made it a quest to come up with a gluten free pasta dish, that she could enjoy.

The recipe is very simple.  The main component of the sauce is pesto.  I used store bought pesto that did not have any gluten preservatives added.  However, you can always make home made pesto.  Then I purchased quinoa pasta in the gluten free section of the supermarket.  My friend was right, upon cooking the pasta, the pasta has a "unique" flavor and a mild after taste.  I did notice though, once it was prepared in the sauce it did not have that strange taste. 

I served it to the hubby last night for dinner, and he commented on how good it was!  Yeah success!!!!

recipe (serves 4)

1 8oz box of quinoa or brown rice pasta
1/2 c. prepared pesto
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1 can of artichoke hearts in water
1 tbsp. olive oil
wedge of fresh Parmesan cheese, grated for topping

Cut chicken breast into strips or small chunks.  Saute in a large skillet with olive oil.  In another pot, prepare pasta according to pasta directions and drain.  Quarter the artichoke hearts and warm through with the cooked chicken.  Add the pesto and pasta and stir.  If the sauce is too thick add about 1/4 c. water to thin out.  Top with Parmesan cheese.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake

I received the Martha Stewart Cupcake cookbook for my birthday.  I started thumbing through and saw about a dozen recipes I wanted to try.  One recipe in particular caught my eye, vegan chocolate cupcake. 

I have to admit I have some preconceived notions regarding a vegan diet.  It is very strict as far as not consuming any animal products at all.  As for baking, not to have eggs, milk, yogurt, sour cream, seemed a little strange.  However, I put my reservations aside and gave it a try.  The recipe only makes a dozen cupcakes and I figured if they were awful, it wasn't much of an investment.

I was so pleasantly surprised.  The cupcakes are moist and chocolaty.  In fact, it will be my go to recipe for chocolate cake.  The ultimate test was my husbands reaction.  He loved them and couldn't believe it when I told him they were vegan.  Go ahead and give it a try, they really are yummy.

recipe (Divvies Bakery found in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)

1 1/2 c. cake flour
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. plus 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. white distilled vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. water
confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.  In a large bowl ift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside.  In another bowl (preferably one with a pour spout) mix water, oil, vinegar, vanilla until well combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until smooth.  Divide batter evenly among the cups about 3/4 full.  (Batter will be very thin, pouring from a bowl with a spout makes this easier.)  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.  Dust with powder sugar and cocoa before serving.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.

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