Moving through life one recipe at a time

Moving through life one recipe at a time

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Homemade Fudge Popsicles

Summer is coming and here is an popsicle recipe! This is a homemade fudgesicle made with normal, real, relatively healthy ingredients you'd have in your house!

These are chocolate-y and very easy to make. The kids enjoy making these as they can read the directions, measure the ingredients, and mix it.

I used 1% milk but according to reviews these can also be made with almond milk. Whole milk would make these extra fudgy and creamy.

I use the Tupperware popsicle molds (here). The recipe makes 8 popsicles so I also make 2 small bowls.

Homemade Fudge Popsicles
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Makes 8 popsicles

¼ c semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 c granulated sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2½ c milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp unsalted butter

Combine the chocolate chips, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Set a timer for 10 minutes and stir, it really will thicken.

Remove from heat, add the vanilla and butter, and stir until well combined.

Let the mixture cool slightly, and then pour into popsicle molds or small bowls. Freeze completely (overnight) before serving.

To remove popsicle from the mold, run popsicle under warm water for 10 seconds then squeeze gently and pull the popsicle out of the case. If it doesn't, try again.

Monday, February 24, 2014

North Carolina Influenced Pulled Pork

In case you haven't been counting, this is pulled pork recipe #5. Why so many pulled pork recipes? Well, it is easy to assemble and make. The recipes make a lot of pork for fairly cheap and the pork freezes well. 

Types of Pulled Pork
There are many different types of pulled pork due to the regional differences (North Carolina, Memphis, Texas, and Kansas City). Differences include tomato based, vinegar based, dry rub, etc.The slow cooker pulled pork is also different than actual pulled pork which can change based on the wood used while smoking/barbecuing. The type of meat is also influenced such as using pork butt, pork shoulder, or the whole pig!

Cut of Pork
Now that I am getting more familiar with pulled pork recipes, I go for the cuts of meat with the names: Pork Shoulder, Pork Butt, or Boston Butt. 
Bone in cuts are good and will give more flavor but you do have to make sure you wait for the pork to be cooked enough. The pork is done when the bone slips right out and no need to cut it or hack away. If you have hack at it, put the pork back into the cooker and let it go for another couple hours. 
You can cheat and use pork tenderloin that has no bone and is often leaner. This is a more expensive cut but will cook faster.

Size of Cut of Pork
I generally pick between 6-8 pounds of meat since I know that will fit in our 6 quart slow cooker. This will make about 6-10 lunch/dinner servings.

Cooking of Pork
6 pounds will take about 10 hours on low. 2 options of preparation: 
1) I prepare the pork the day before and let it marinate in the fridge over night then turn it on the in the morning before work. The pork is ready to go once I'm home!
2) I also have assembled it and let it cook over night then when I wake up I can pull it and toss it into the fridge. 

I actually prefer to let it chill before using. This way the fat will solidify at the top and I can scrape it off and toss it. 

Serving Pork
Now that you have made this grand amount of pork, how do you serve it? Some options include: over rice, with slaw, with corn bread, in quesadillas, in burritos, on pizza, in eggs, on sandwiches, etc

Reheating Pork
Store in an air tight container in the fridge. If I can't finish it in 3 days, I package it into 1-2 serving containers and freeze. Pork will contain a lot of water when defrosting. You may want to add bbq sauce or ketchup once its heated up.

To thaw the pork, I let it thaw in the fridge overnight, heat over low on the stove, or microwave using defrost setting. 

Check out my other pulled pork recipes:

This is a North Carolina influenced recipe as it has a vinegar base. The recipe comes from 100 Days of Real Food, the blog has easy recipes and tries to cut out and cut down on processed foods. 

Recipe Idea: Pulled Pork Pizza using the No Rise Pizza Crust. Roll out dough. Cover dough with a thin layer of olive oil and minced garlic. Add a layer of sliced red onion, pulled pork, cheese, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of bbq sauce.

North Carolina Influenced Pulled Pork
Adapted from 100 Days of Real Food

6 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
3 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
¼-½ cup honey
½ cup apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
7 ½ lbs pork butt

In a bowl, mix together all of the spices with a fork. Pour in the honey, vinegar, and olive oil and stir until combined.
Place the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker. Put pork on top (fat cap on top) and then pour the spice mix over the pork. A lot of the spice mix will drip to the bottom of the cooker.
Turn the slow cooker on to high and cook for 10 hours or until the meat is tender enough to be easily shredded with a fork.

Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spicy Chipotle Chicken Chili

I had some left over chicken and wanted to move some of the canned items I have in the pantry. I had a chicken breast in the freezer that I added to the left over rotisserie chicken. To give the chili a more uniform consistency I ground up the chicken in the food processor. A large dice would also work.

I have never used a can of the chipotle peppers before and there were big peppers in the can! So I blitzed them in the food processor and added them to the chili. Apparently, you should put them in whole and then take them out so you can monitor the spice levels. Or only use 1 until you know how spicy you want your chili.

Now, how does one get the chili to be less spicy??? I added an extra can of beans, you can add in a couple tbsp of dairy (yogurt, sour cream, cheese, milk), a few tbsp of cocoa powder, a couple cups of cooked rice, also works. Whatever you choose, add in a little at a time until you reach the desired spiciness.

The recipe below is for cooked chicken and the chicken is added at the end. If you have uncooked chicken, add the chicken in after the garlic and before the seasonings. Cook the chicken and once it is mostly cooked add in the rest of the ingredients.

Chipotle Chicken Chili
makes 6-8 servings

1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp each chili powder and ground cumin
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
2-3 cups of ground (or diced) chicken, cooked
1 can adobo chipotle peppers --> SPICY!
1 can each corn, kidney beans, chick peas, cannelini beans (it was what I had in the pantry, any mix of beans would be fine).
1 can chicken broth

Saute the onion and garlic, until onion is softened and turning translucent.
Add in the chili powder and cumin. Stir.
Add in tomato sauce, chicken, corn, beans, broth, and peppers. Stir. Let simmer 10-20 minutes.
Serve hot!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Steamed Chicken

Steamed chicken with salad
This is a really easy, hands off, moist chicken. I make this fairly mild/bland for kids and for when I'm not feeling well. Considering how often I make this, I need to remember to take pictures! I'll update with pictures one of these days.

I use about 2 tsp of ground ginger and 1/2 tsp of pepper to flavor the whole 5-7lb chicken.

1) Remove chicken from packaging. Check to make sure the chicken is empty of any guts.

2) Rinse the chicken in cold water, inside and out. Scrub the chicken with salt (inside and out).

3) Put chicken into the large pot. Sprinkle chicken ground ginger and some cracked black pepper to both sides of the chicken, leave it feet sides towards the bottom of the pot. Fill pot with enough water to go about 1/4 - 1/3 of the way up the side of the chicken.

4) Simmer for 20 minutes. Flip chicken. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes. The chicken is done when you poke it and the juices are clear, use a meat thermometer, and when it is not pink anymore. Cue everyone in the kitchen hovering around the stove with a fork and start to eat pieces of the chicken dipped in the broth it cooked in.

5) Let it sit until cool enough to handle then pull all the meat off the bones. Keep the broth, it is great for soups!

Serve with white rice and veggies, you can dip the chicken in some soy sauce for extra flavor too! I have used the chicken in soups, made sandwiches on fresh crusty Italian bread, made chicken salad from it, etc.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chicken Fajitas

I adapted this from Paula Dean's Gold Medal Sizzling Fajita recipe. Check out my easy homemade tortilla recipe!

I didn't butterfly the chicken breast so it took about 5 minutes each side and flipped twice, a total of 20 minutes, 10 minutes each side.

The cool thing about this meal was that I was able to cook everything on my new Lodge Cast Iron Griddle!

The chicken was not spicy but was flavorful. Because I cooked the peppers and onions on the skillet after the chicken the flavors carried over. We topped with salsa and some fresh cilantro.

Chicken Fajitas 
Adapted from Paula Dean, serves 4

Olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 lbs meat (boneless, skinless chicken breast, skirt steak or peeled and deveined shrimp)
1 medium onion, halved and sliced lengthwise
1 each red, orange, and yellow bell pepper, sliced
Flour tortillas

 In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper and your choice of meat. Seal and toss the meat in the bowl to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator. Note: 15 minutes for shrimp, 20 minutes for chicken and 1 hour for skirt steak.

Heat cast iron skillet or large frying pan to medium-high heat. Remove the meat from the marinade and place it on the hot grill, discard the marinade. Cook chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, skirt steak about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare and about 2 minutes for shrimp. Slice the chicken and steak into strips if you are using.

In a large skillet heat up the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and fry the onions and bell peppers until crisp-tender with some salt and pepper.

Serve sizzling immediately with the warm tortillas. 

Option toppings include Option toppings: lime juice, fresh cilantro, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Soft Pretzel Recipe

Whenever I am in the mall and I walk past the pretzel kiosk I can't help but buy one! But now I can make them cheaper at home without all the freaky ingredients! 

Making fresh pretzels has always been on my list of items to try and make. But they seem very intimidating! Yeast recipes seem to be very hit or miss. But I have a giant container of yeast and no plans for the why not!?

I did a taste test between Allrecipes Buttery Soft Pretzels and Brown Eyed Baker's Soft Pretzel recipe. Hands down the Brown Eyed Baker recipe was the winner if you want that pretzel texture. The Allrecipe recipe was bready and tasted yeasty.

All Recipe
Brown Eyed Baker Pretzel...Struggle
Brown Eyed Baker Pretzel Nuggets
Clearly, I had difficulty with making the pretzel shape for the Brown Eyed Baker pretzels... but I was impatient and didn't want take much time. Hence the nuggets. Nuggets are great. Nuggets also cook the same length of time as the pretzel shapes.

I didn't use the egg wash or sprinkle with salt. I will try that next time and provide an update.

Tip: When using yeast be sure that the water is between 110F and 115F. Use a thermometer. Too cold and the yeast won't activate, too hot and the yeast will die.

Was this a lot of work? Not really. The dough is assembled quickly and then you wait for it to rise. After it rises it takes about a half hour to roll out and shape the pretzels. Next time I'll do nuggets and save additional time. Then the 30 second boil and 10 minutes of baking! Less than an hour creates tasty soft pretzels! And yes, I'll be making these again.

The reviews on the site say the recipe freezes well.

Soft Pretzel Recipe
slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker 
makes 8 pretzels

1½ cups warm water (between 110F - 115F)

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)

4½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

6 cups water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, whisked together (for egg wash) (optional)
Coarse salt, for sprinkling (optional)

1. Combine the water, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.

2. Add the flour and butter. Use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until all of the ingredients are combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4 to 5 minutes. If dough is too dry, add in water 1 tbsp at a time.
3. Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel (or plastic wrap) and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with a silpat mat (or parchment paper brushed with the vegetable oil); set aside.
5. Combine the water and baking soda in a large, wide pot. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
6. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the lined baking sheet.
7. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 2 or 3 at a time (or however many will fit comfortably given the size of your pot – don’t crowd them), for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large, flat spatula. Place the boiled pretzels back on the baking sheet, brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt.
8. Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Apple Cider Honey Vinaigrette

I make salad dressings from scratch. Super easy and not full of chemicals!

I make the dressing right in an old glass salad dressing bottle. I do a rough double or triple of the recipe to fill the salad dressing bottle to get a couple weeks worth of salad dressing. 

Apple Cider Honey Vinaigrette
makes 4 1/2 ounces (approx 3, 1.5 oz servings)

1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon style mustard
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp oregano, dried
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the following ingredients and serve! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lemongrass Slow Cooked Pork and Spicy Pickled Napa Cabbage Slaw

This recipe was adapted from the Skillet Cookbook by Josh Henderson. I was skimming through the book and this recipe jumped out at me. I like pulled pork. I like Asian food. Seems obvious to combine the two, no?

The pork was more salty/sweet and not spicy at all. The cabbage had some kick to it. We served the pork and cabbage over rice.

Since I don't make food in small quantities, the 1lb recipe was escalated to 7lbs. The list on the left is original recipe, the part to the right is what I put into it. As you can see this was some very rough math. :)

Lemongrass Slow Cooked Pork
1 stalk lemongrass,trim edges and slice into 2 inch pieces --> 4 stalks
1 3 inch piece fresh ginger root, cut into chunks --> 4 3 inch pieces of ginger root
1 lb pork butt --> 7 lb pork shoulder (bone in)
3 tbsp red curry paste --> 8 tbsp (the whole 4oz container)
5 tsp loosely packed brown sugar --> 4 tbsp brown sugar
5 tsp salt --> 5 tsp salt
3 tbsp lime juice --> juice from 4 limes, about 1/4 cup?
1/2 cup water or chicken stock --> 2 cups (1 can) chicken broth
salt and pepper --> omitted

Trim the lemongrass and ginger root. Put some into the bottom of the cooker. Rinse pork and put into the slow cooker. Combine the curry paste, brown sugar, and salt into a bowl and rub over the pork. Pour in the lime juice and chicken broth. Put in the rest of the lemongrass and ginger root. Put the slow cooker on low and let it cook for 10-13 hours.

Spicy Pickled Cabbage Slaw
1 head of napa cabbage cut into strips
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp sriracha
2 inches of ginger root, chunks
1/2 tsp sesame oil

In a small saucepan bring all ingredients (except cilantro and cabbage) to a boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and take out the ginger pieces.

Combine cabbage and cilantro into a bowl. Pour the warm dressing over the cabbage and cilantro.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Slow Cooked Pork #3

Yet another yummy pulled pork recipe! This one combines the previous two recipes I have posted. This has some kick to it!

If you use pork shoulder put in the slow cooker fat side up. This will help keep it moist and tender.

Slow Cooked Pork
½ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp paprika 
1 tbsp black pepper
12 oz coca-cola 
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 cup ketchup
4 ½ lbs roast pork, pork shoulder/pork butt, boneless pork tenderloin

Combine all ingredients, marinate over night, slow cooker for 8-10 hours, or until meat pulls apart when you poke it with a fork.

After you the pork is tender, remove meat from the slow cooker and shred it. Put back into the pot with all the juices liquid. Serve warm. 

Note: If there was a lot of fat and the pork seems greasy, put the fridge and let it chill. The fat will turn into a thick layer on the top and you can scrape it off. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fresh Dinner Rolls

These are fresh and soft rolls with a slightly crunchy outside. This comes from All Recipes.

I used 2 1/2 cups wheat flour and 2 cups white flour. These split perfectly for burgers,pulled pork, or as dinner rolls. To reheat I microwaved the roll for 30 seconds.

Makes 12

1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg

In a small saucepan, heat milk, water, and sugar until 115 degrees. Add yeast and let sit for 10 minutes. Chop butter into small pieces and add to the mixture.

In a large bowl, mix together flour and salt. Mix milk mixture into flour mixture, and then mix in egg. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape into smooth balls, and place on a greased baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Cover, and let rise for 30 to 35 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

For Hot Dog Buns: Shape each piece into a 6x4 inch rectangle. Starting with the longer side, roll up tightly, and pinch edges and ends to seal. Let rise about 20 to 25 minutes. Bake as above.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thai Sweet Potato Veggie Burger

I like veggie burgers. I know most people won't agree with me, but I just like the texture and taste so much better. This is a Thai Sweet Potato Veggie  Burger adapted from Oh She Glows. I also made these Sweet Potato Bean Burgers!

The burgers can be frozen (after baking and cooling). To reheat bake for 20 minutes at 400F. Just keep an eye on the burger so they don't get too dried out. To reheat an unfrozen patty I microwaved for 30 seconds. 

I served on these fresh rolls

I topped with sriracha and some soy sauce. 

Thai Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers
8 patties 4-5 inches in diameter.

1 large sweet potato
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1/2 cup roasted and salted peanuts, chopped
3/4 cup rolled oats, processed into a coarse flour
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon sesame seed oil
½ fresh lime juice
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt/pepper to taste

Cook sweet potato: Slice off ends of potatoes, stab with a fork a few times. Bake at 350F for 1 hour. Once soft take the peel off and slice into chunks. Puree it up in the food processor. 

To the sweet potato in the food processor...add in chick peas, garlic, ginger, peanuts. For a few pulses. Pour into a bowl. Stir in cilantro and basil.

Back in a food processor, add the oats and process until it looks like coarse flour. Add to the bowl. Add in egg. Stir in the sesame oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper all to taste. I found it easier to stir this mix in the kitchen aid with the paddle attachment, but a spoon also works.

Shape the mixture into 8 patties, packing each patty tightly between your hands so it holds together well. Place each patty onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then gently flip the patties and bake for another 15-17 minutes until golden on both sides.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sweet Potato Bean Burger

Burger with red onion, cheese, and
salsa on a homemade bun!
Sweet potato bean burger, this was so yummy and very filling! This recipe was adapted from Peas and Crayons. Also check out these Thai Sweet Potato Burgers!

The burgers can be frozen (after baking and cooling). To reheat bake for 20 minutes at 400F. Just keep an eye on the burger so they don't get too dried out. 

I served on these fresh rolls

Sweet Potato Bean Burger
makes 8 patties

1 large sweet potato, cooked
1 [15oz] can of chickpeas or equivalent
1  [15oz] can of cannellini beans or kidney beans
1/2-1 cup of diced bell pepper
1 medium-large jalapeno, diced
1 cup red onion, diced
1 cup white onion, finely diced
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 ½ -2 cups of rolled oats
2 tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp each oregano and basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt and pepper

Cook sweet potato: Slice off ends of potatoes, stab with a fork a few times. Bake at 350F for 1 hour. Once soft take the peel off and slice into chunks. Puree it up in the food processor. Add in kidney beans and chickpeas and pulse a few times (I like it a little chunky). Put into a big bowl.

While the sweet potato is baking, saute the onions, bell pepper, and jalapenos in approx 2-4 tablespoons of oil with black pepper and a sprinkle or two of red pepper. After about 7 minutes or so, add garlic and continue to saute until the veggies are translucent and tender. 

Once your veggies are ready, transfer to a large bowl with the beans, sweet potato, and raw oats, and then add your herbs/spices to season.  Adjust spices as needed. I found it easier to stir this mix in the kitchen aid with the paddle attachment, but a spoon also works.

Shape the mixture into 8 patties, packing each patty tightly between your hands so it holds together well. Place each patty onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then gently flip the patties and bake for another 15-17 minutes until golden on both sides.

Monday, January 13, 2014

No Bake Nutty Date Bars

I made these after trying a Larabar. These don't take like Larabars but are a sweet nutty snack. Also check out the No Bake Granola Bites!

No Bake Nutty Date Bars
8 oz  pitted dates
2 cups of mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, etc)

Put 1 3/4 cups of nuts in the food processor and pulse until crumbly and small. Pour into another bowl.
Put dates into the food processor and pulse until lumpy and chopped up. Add in a tbsp or 2 of water to thin the mix out.
Add chopped nuts back in and pulse until combined.
Once mix is done add in the remaining nuts and pulse to add some texture.

Scoop the mix into the muffin tins until you have your desired serving size. The muffin tins need to be lined with saran wrap or muffin papers because this is very sticky. Because I make these often I purchased the silicone muffin liners which also work as the "packaging."

This makes 6 - 9 muffin sized portions.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries

Chicken on the left, Zucchini on the right
Here was some tender and savory baked zucchini fries. The recipe comes from The Lean Green Bean and Chocolate Covered Katie.

I used the same process and dredge for chicken strips too. I did the chicken after the zucchini to prevent any contamination of the ingredients too.

Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries
2-3 small zucchini, sliced into fry shapes
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp paprika
1 egg
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450F.
In one bowl combine flour, salt, garlic powder, and paprika. In another bowl scramble an egg in a separate bowl. In a third bowl pour breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Dip each zucchini stick in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs.
Place on a cooling rack or silpat mat on a cookie sheet. Bake 18-19 minutes. Check at 10 minutes to see if you need to flip them.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Homemade Nilla Wafers

Homemade Nilla wafers?? These don't have the dry crumbly texture of the Nilla wafers, but these are great buttery bite sized cookies that I used in banana pudding! These were eaten too fast to take a picture.

The outside is a crispy cookie/carmel/buttery cookie and the inside is sweet and soft.

The recipe is from Serious Eats.

Vanilla Wafers
makes about 100 1 inch cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 large egg white
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/3 cups AP flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter, salt, sugar and vanilla. Beat in egg and milk until well incorporated.
Whisk together flour and baking powder and add to butter mixture. Mix until just combined.
Use a cookie scoop to create the same sized cookies. This made 3 cookie sheets of cookies, they spread a little but not too much so you can put many cookies (I did 5 x 6 cookies per sheet).

Bake at 350°F for about 15-20 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned. Cool completely before storing. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Homemade Peanut Butter

Make your own peanut butter! It is easy and as simple as a push of a button! While this is good in sandwiches, it is also very good in ice cream!

The process is pretty straight forward, and 1 cup of nuts yields just under 1 cup of nut butter. You can use walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts.. or any combination of them! You can also toss in chocolate chips if you want too.

Pour in the desired amount of nuts into the food processor. Turn the food processor on and let it go until the nuts are pureed! At first it will look a bit gritty, but if you let it go for a little while longer, the peanut oils will start to come out and the texture will get a lot creamier.

Store in a tightly sealed jar (I use the old pb jars!) in the fridge. 


Friday, November 29, 2013

2013 In Review: New York, NY

I was able to visit NYC 2 times in 2013 to visit my brother, here are some notes from the places I visited! This was a trip with grown ups. 

Places of Interest
Bethesda Fountain in Central Park
9/11 Memorial Open Daily, 10:00 am - 8:00 pm Cost: Free, visitor passes are required. Reservations made online or by phone carry a $2 nonrefundable service fee per pass. Passes for same-day visits are also available on a first-come, first-served basis. These passes must be obtained in person at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey St. You will have to wait in many lines and go through security similar to the airport to get into the memorial. Don't bring any weapons (knives/guns). Going once was enough for me. I think we only saw the memorial for a half hour but waited in line for about an hour.

American Girl Store: My dream come true, I have wanted to go here for years but Santa never brought me. Total chaos, lots of small children running around. But very cool to go and see the dolls and the new displays. Spent about an hour wandering around. 

American Museum of Natural History 10am - 5:45pm / Cost: Free for Military (Blue Star Families > Programs: Military and dependents free/big discounts for certain museums, shows, or events during the summer), $19-$25 for people / Central Park West at 79th St. New York, NY 10024. So many things to see, I think we spent 4-5 hours visiting and looking at the exhibits. I would like to go back a second time to see some of the exhibits again. This would be a fun place to go with kids.

Central Park: Specifically the Bow Bridge and the Bethesda Fountain. The Bethesda Fountain has been in lots of movies including Elf! Lots of places to walk around, listen to people playing music, and people watch. There is a zoo hidden in the park as well. Many hours can be spent here. Bring a ball to play with or a book to read and enjoy the outdoors!

Alice's Tea Cup - Cookies, Scones, and
Fresh Brewed Tea
The Guggenheim Fridays 10:00am - 5:45pm, cost: $22, free with some employee discounts. This is a modern art museum. I simply do not understand modern art. I wouldn't pay to go here. But I also don't care much for art... So take my opinion with a grain of salt. I think we spent an hour here.

The Metropolitan Museum (MET) Friday and Saturday: 9:30am–9:00pm Cost: Suggested $25 Admission includes entrance to The Cloisters museum and gardens 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street), New York, NY 10028 212-535-7710 We didn't make it to the Cloisters as it was not near any of the places we were. This place was huge! So many cool exhibits. We could easily spend several more hours looking at the exhibits. 

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Daily, 10:30am-5:30pm, Fridays 10:00am-8:00pm; Cost: Free for Military and 4:00pm-8:00pm on Fridays (Free Friday Night) 11 West 53 Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, New York, NY 10019. This was a modern art museum. I have no need to go back and I was glad to be able to get in for free. I don't understand the art that they have, but if you enjoy modern art this is a great place for you. I think we spent an hour there.

Smorgasbord - I wasn't sure if this should go under food or place of interest. Don't eat before going! It is an outdoor food court styled flea market in Brooklyn of all sorts of different food trucks that go around the NYC area. This wasn't a place offering samples but you can order a full meal from the vendors that are around the area. 

Peter and the Starcatchers: I love theater! This was an off Broadway production of the show at the New Worlds theater that is now on tour. Show was based off the book series Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The books are the prequel to the traditional Peter Pan stories.

Keste Pizzeria
Alice's Tea Cup - Yummy specialty teas and fresh baked scones. They also serve sandwiches. You can order tea by the Very popular tea house that now has three locations. Fun atmosphere!
Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company - Fresh bagels and lots of cream cheese to pick from, would go back!
Cafe 82 - Delish classy/fresh diner food, has a Gluten Free menu. Small place so it is likely there will be a wait.
Candle 79 - Vegan/Gluten Free restaurant, on the pricier side but ok. 
Five Napkin Burger - Amazing beet based veggie burgers! They also have Gluten Free menu. And they have "regular" meat items and gluten foods.
Keste Pizzeria - Fresh home-style pizza. Gluten Free menu. I'd go back!
Palm Restaurant - Absurdly expensive! You pick a cut of meat and then the table picks a few sides to share. I don't think we will be going back unless we hit the lottery.
The Smith - Went for brunch, mid range prices, fresh food, decent size portions, fun atmosphere and located in a cute historic area.
Smorgaschef - Had brunch here, it is a fancy restaurant with a small seasonal/local menu.
Zabar's - Went for breakfast food, it was good. I would try another place before going back.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti

We just bought a basil plant, so we have to make some fresh Italian food! Manicotti was on the list, it is a bit of a pain but makes for a special meal. I'm OK with making lasagne instead for a faster meal.

Spinach Ricotta Manicotti
Makes 10

15 oz ricotta cheese
1 bag baby spinach
1 bag Italian mix cheese
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Egg
Salt and Pepper
Jar of sauce
1 box of Manicotti pasta shells

Combine everything except for the sauce and the shells. I put the filling into a zip top bag and then sliced off a corner to pipe the shells.
Layer sauce in the bottom of pan. Fill each shell and place into the pan. Cover with remaining sauce and some cheese.
Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes. Serve hot!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Presidential Traverse: Mt Madison and Madison Spring Hut

A place where adventures begin!
Yet another wilderness adventure in the beautiful NH White Mountain with Sarah! We decided to target Mt. Madison in the same Presidential Range as Mt Washington. This trip was no less exciting (or spontaneous) than the previous Mt. Washington hike.

As we are both very Type A, there was a lot of coordination to be done before this trip. We had to book the shuttle and reserve our nights in the hut, I had to book plane tickets and get time off from work. Closer to the trip we had to check for all our gear and its condition, test gear if we haven't used it before, plan our routes, get maps, and plan a menu. In case you didn't know, menu is code for peanut butter bagels, trail mix, and protein bars. Luckily, Sarah took care of most of this since I would be flying in and had limited space for gear. She brought her tent, packed all the food, snacks, maps, and other gear.

For our long weekend adventure I flew in late Friday night to Manchester Airport. Then we drove to just outside the White Mountain area where Sarah had already set up our tent. We slept for several hours and left early to the trail head by 7:30am to catch the shuttle by 8am.

On Gulfside Trail.
Yes we matched. What of it?! :)
Once we arrived at the visitor center we checked trail conditions, put on the rest of our gear, and found the shuttle. The shuttle (for a fee) drops you off at several trail heads. We started our hike at the Appalachia trail head.

While it is less than 5 miles to the summit, there is a substantial elevation gain taking you into the Alpine Zone, above the treeline. Madison Spring Hut is at an  elevation of 4,805 feet and the summit is 5,367 feet. So what does this mean? You should be able to run a couple miles to be comfortable on a hike like this at a pace that Sarah hikes :) Joking aside, I should have trained more and I would have been more comfortable on the trail.  It took us under 4 hours to get to the hut.

Madison Spring Hut is one of the lesser used huts due to the location and a more difficult trail. This means there were less crowds, an additional perk of the hut was that it was rebuilt a couple years ago and still new.

One of the few pictures below the treeline

Alpine Warning: The area ahead has the worst
weather in America. Many have died there from
exposure even in the summer. Turn back now
 if the weather is bad.

In the Alpine zone!
After some rock scrambles... we made it to the hut!

Madison Hut!

At the front door
We dropped off our packs at the hut then continued up the rocks to the Mt. Madison summit. By the time we got back to the hut it was time for dinner, sitting outside enjoying the view, and making friends with our fellow hikers!

The croo makes a hot dinner for the hikers this particular night a vegan was making us a turkey dinner! This was her first time alone at the hut and she set off the fire alarm....and no one knew how to turn it off! It was very loud if you were curious. But the turkey was great! After dinner Sarah and I hung out with the croo (all of them had these great mason jar coozies that I know Sarah is planning on making), and chatted. They had made these awesome musical instruments from items that were laying around the hut. This included a banjo/guitar made with strings and a large metal can that previously was used for tomato sauce.

View from the Hut

Our Cozy Beds with this clever tray
thing between the beds

After a solid nights sleep we had a hot breakfast and then wandered around Gulfside trail to see what we could see. We were able to check out the summit for Mt Adams and went part of the way to Mt Jefferson. There are no pictures from the top of Mt Adams either, but this excuse is that there were so many small black flying bugs that were landing on you and flying into your face that we didn't stay long. Overall, the weather was cloudy with patches of sun and bright blue sky. During one of the occasional blue patches we had a great view of Mt. Washington!

Heading to some new summits, hut is behind me

Living in the Clouds

We could see Mt. Washington!

We also found a nice perch for snacks and pondering the meaning of life while watching the clouds pass us by. When we were fidgety we left that spot and headed back towards Mt. Madison. On the way we found a pile of rocks we had to climb and so glad we did. It was just a tad off the trail so you couldn't hear the other hikers but the view was a fantastic unobstructed panoramic mountain view.

Could sit here all day and enjoy the view
After a full day of seeing the sights, we went back to the hut for a hot dinner, more friends, and then sleep.

Monday morning we woke up to pouring rain and had an epic scramble to get off the mountain, pick up the tent, and deposit me back at Logan Airport to fly back to Virginia. I felt bad for the people on the plane next to me. Although I certainly wasn't as bad as the man who took off his shoes in the hut...

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and the Huts 
The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is one of the oldest outdoor groups that organizes volunteers to maintain trails, perform training, and publish books/maps/guides. The AMC owns and maintains the 8 huts (or this link) along the Presidential Traverse which coincides with the Appalachia Trail.

For a fee you have a roof, hot meals, running water (no showers or hot water), and a bed (with bedding!). Was it worth it? Yes. Because it also means that we didn't have to hike in bedding, additional meals, tent, extra water, etc. While at first the cost seems very high we saw very quickly how our money was used.

At the beginning of the season bedding and some of the gear is dropped at the huts by helicopter. But for the rest of the year all the food they serve and trash that is left behind is hiked in or out by the people who are working the huts. This means they hike up and down the mountain at least once a week. If they want to visit friends that are also working the huts? They hike to the other huts which are all several miles apart. Crazy right??
Happy hiking!