A willing helper

I’m currently baking cookies and my sous chef is busy as a bee helping me. She is making sure the quality is up to par, taste testing when allowed and guarding the final product.

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Don’t you wish you had a sous chef like mine? 

By the way, please excuse the mess. We are reshelving my kitchen storage closet so things are a bit out of place.

anyone can cook

I have always believed anyone can cook.  Of course the movie Ratatouille definitely sealed the deal for me, but I digress.

For each person “cooking” (or baking) looks different.  Some are recipe followers, some follow the ingredient lists on recipes, and others just have a vision they are able to execute apart from a recipe.  Some people love to bake and are great at it; others have mastered the art of cooking; some dabble between the two.  Some people are gourmet chefs and love the challenge of a long recipe; others favor the short simple tasty treats they can whip up.

I fall into the following categories: work smart, not hard, follow the recipe’s ingredient list (the amounts of each are negotiable), healthier cooking preferred but no food, no matter how healthy it is, will NOT be eaten if it doesn’t taste good, so, it MUST taste good.  I prefer to cook over bake as well.

Here are a few recipes I tried recently.  We really liked both of them.

Slow Cooker Bacon-Wrapped Apple BBQ Chicken

For the original recipe you can Print This Recipe Print it here; the revised recipe is below.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts each cut into 3 large pieces
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce – we like Sweet Baby Rays
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice fresh or from a bottle
  • 4 small apples peeled and chopped, I used granny smith and gala
  • 8 slices bacon – I ended up using a whole packet of bacon
  • crushed red pepper
  • chili powder
  • sraracha sauce
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a small bowl, combine BBQ sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice and peeled/chopped apples. I also added a little crushed red pepper, chili powder and sriracha sauce to add a small kick.
  2. Put a small amount of the sauce mixture in the bottom of greased aluminum foil lined 9×13 glass baking dish.
  3. Wrap each chicken breast with two slices of bacon and place in the glass dish.
  4. Pour BBQ-apple mixture over chicken and bake on 350 for 50-60 minutes or until chicken is done.  My oven bakes a little cool, so I set my oven to 375 and the meal baked for about 50 minutes, then I turned on the low broiler to slight toast the bacon.

The chicken turned out very soft and the bacon melted in your mouth.  Even the bbq/sweet apples were yummy to eat!

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Here is the second recipe I baked recently.  It was a perfect appetizer to bring on short-ish notice because I didn’t need to buy anything and it was easy to make.  It actually turned out to be a nice supper for some small kids at the party we were attending.

Easy Pizza Bites – original recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 large ball of pizza dough (I buy mine in bulk from the Sam’s pizza counter!)
  • 56 pepperoni slices (56? I mean really? just use 2 slices per roll)
  • Block of cheese (I use Colby & Monterey Jack)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Parmesan
  • Italian seasoning
  • Garlic powder
  • 1 jar pizza sauce
  1. Cut the block of cheese into at least 28 squares.
  2. Pinch off a slightly bigger than golf ball amount of pizza dough and roll flat.  Stack pepperoni and cheese and another pepperoni on top.
  3. Gather up the edges of the dough making a little bundle.  Make sure to close the seams well.
  4. Line the rolls up (seam side down) in a greased 9×13 in. pan.  Brush with beaten egg.  Sprinkle with Parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.  Bake at 425°F for 18-20 minutes.
  5. Serve the rolls with warm pizza sauce for dipping.

Happy cooking/baking!

sushi chef

I apologize for the blogging hiatus… it’s been a busy week at work. 

This past weekend, Mike and I (thanks to groupon!) were able to take a sushi making class =)  We took the class with some friends of ours and learned how to make a california roll and a shrimp roll.  It was so much fun! 

Here are a few pictures from our adventure.  And for you people out there who are unsure about the whole sushi thing… sushi can be made with cooked fish (which is how our rolls were made in the class).  It is always worth trying something again if you haven’t recently.  Go with someone who knows a good place and knows what to order, that always helps!

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Soo yummy and tasty!  We can’t wait to buy our own sushi mat and try our hand at doing it ourselves =)  There MIGHT JUST be a sushi party coming up very soon.

healthy snacking

Over the last few months, I have attempted to pair down the processed foods in our home and make smarter wiser choices when it comes to snacks.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we still totally enjoy a bag of Cheetos every now and again!! 

My general rule of thumb is attempt to purchase foods with less than 5 ingredients, and preferable those with ingredients that I actually can read and know what they are.  The list of ingredients on things as simple as pancake mix would absolutely appall you!  This is one reason I started making my own peanut butter.

For example: Triscuits actually make the cut.  The cracked black pepper are my favorite.  And so do Baked Tortilla Chips.

My attempt to cut down processed foods for granola bars is a bit more difficult, especially because there are way less coupons for the healthier foods, so the costs can be significantly higher.  Plus, with a tree nut allergy in our family, a lot of the bars with less ingredients in them contain tree nuts.  Clif bars for instance can be around $1 per bar!  And most Luna bars contain tree nuts.

So in my attempt to help us live a healthier and safer life, I found a recipe (while pinteresting of course!) for homemade clif bars.  They turned out great and were super easy to make!  Below is the recipe from the site.  I chose to make ours with PB, honey (instead of rice syrup), dark chocolate chunks and craisens.  Even the hubs thought they were pretty good!!  I’m looking forward to trying other varieties.

Homemade Cliff Bars (no bake!)
There is plenty of room for variation here, so let your mind and tastebuds run wild. I have a few variation ideas to get you started. And yes, you can definitely double this recipe and press into a 13×9-inch pan insteads of an 8-inch pan.

1 and 1/4 cups crisp rice cereal (e.g., I like Erwhon Crisp Brown, but Rice Krispies are fine)
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal)
1/4 cup finely chopped dried fruit (e.g., raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.)
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts or seeds (pepitas are great)
1/3 cup brown rice syrup or honey
1/2 cup nut butter (preferably natural, well-stirred, but creamy is fine, too)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine the rice cereal, oats, flaxseed meal, dried fruit, and nuts in a large bowl.
Combine the syrup and nut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until melted and well-blended (alternatively microwave in small microwave-safe bowl 30-60 seconds until melted). Stir in vanilla until blended.
Pour nut butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until coated (use a wooden spoon at first, then get your hands in it. It will be sticky, but this way you can really coat everything. Just scrape off your hands when you’re done). Press mixture firmly into an 8-inch square pan (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) using a large square of wax paper (really tamp it down). Cool in pan on a wire rack and chill at least 30 minutes to help it set. Cut into 12 bars. (Wrap bars tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator).
Variations:
Chocolate Chip Cookie
Replace the dried fruit with an equal amount of semisweet miniature chocolate chips (or carob chips). Combine the cereal mixture with the syrup mixture, then let the combined mixture stand 10 minutes before adding the chips.
Pepita-Cranberry
Use chopped cranberries for the dried fruit and raw pepitas for the nuts/seeds. Use either honey or brown rice syrup.
Peanut Butter Cookie
Use chopped dates for the dried fruit and dry roasted peanuts for the nuts. Use honey, or half honey-half molasses for the syrup and peanut butter for the nut butter.
Will You Cherry Me?
Use chopped dried tart cherries for the fruit and lightly salted roasted almonds for the nuts. Use any nut butter(almond butter is great, but I know, a bit pricey–but worth it!), and add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.