Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chocolate Frosting

Today I have for you a super simple chocolate frosting recipe. It is great for cake, cupcakes, and of course my personal favorite, a bowl and spoon. The great thing about this recipe besides being super easy is that you can make it light, medium, or heavy on the chocolate!
You will need:
1/2 C butter, softened (you can use margarine but it will not taste the same)
2 1/2 C powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 C milk, half-and-half, or unwhipped whipping cream.
1 1/s tsp vanilla
Then choose one of the following amounts of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder:
1/3C for light chocolate flavor
1/2 C for medium chocolate flavor
3/4 C for heavy chocolate flavor

 Go ahead and measure out the powdered sugar and the unsweetened cocoa powder and then place into your sifter. This helps get out any lumps that may be in either ingredient so you can mix it better when you add the liquids. Now it is also helpful to take the bottom cover off the sifter when you go to sift or you sit there wondering why nothing is coming out....yeah I did that.
 Next in a large mixing bowl beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Mix in the cocoa sugar mixture, vanilla and cream alternating between the sugar/cocoa and vanilla mix and the cream until it is all combined. If you added extra cocoa powder you might need to add another few tsp of cream to make it the right consistency  Just add one teaspoon at a time.
 Once it is all in the bowl just beat the bajeebers out of it until it is the consistency you want. You can even throw on the whisk attachment if you have one to add in more air and make it lighter. Now at this point you can frost your cake or cupcakes or grab the spoon. Either way enjoy!
As you can see I made cupcakes this time...though I will say there was extra frosting. There was no spoon involved as I already had frosting in the pastry bag so I just used that! Yeah be jealous!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Easy pancake syrup

So my kids have an obsession with pancakes and waffles. Because of this we go through a lot of syrup. One morning I was getting ready to serve up pancakes when I realized I was out of syrup. I needed a quick and easy recipe and I found this one.
You will need:
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
1 C water
1 tsp maple flavoring
1-2 tsp butter optional

Take a small saucepan and put in the sugars and water. Slowly heat it up and stir till all the sugar is dissolved. Bring up to a boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes stirring to prevent burning. Turn the heat down so it is no longer boiling and add the maple flavoring and butter if you want. Go ahead and turn it off at this point. It is not ready to pour over your breakfast! If you want it a little thicker you can boil it longer but it will thicken a bit when it cools.

Go ahead and put it in a container to store in the fridge. I have been making this for months now and it super easy. I no longer buy syrup in the store. I have made it without the maple flavoring if I am out and it does taste different but the kids do not seem to mind.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Waffles with refrigerated batter

We have a busy day today starting with the Pinewood Derby at 10. The kids have been asking for waffles but I wanted to make ones where I could make the batter the night before. The great thing about this recipe is that it can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week! So go ahead and make a double, triple, or even quadruple batch and have yourself some waffles. You can make extra and freeze them or stick then in the fridge and then just reheat them in the oven for a few minutes for a super fast, easy, homemade breakfast. Just as fast as store bought but cheaper and better for you!
You will need:
2 eggs
2 C flour
1 3/4 C milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
4 tsp baking powder
1 T sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla together. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt and whisk just till combined. At this point you can either stick it in the fridge or make you some waffles, or both. :) If you have stuck the batter in the fridge all you need to do when you pull it out to make waffles is give it a good whisk to make sure it is all combined again.

Here are my first two waffles. The vultures were already circling but they know no one gets a waffle until there are 3 done. As you can see I scored a double waffle maker on QVC one night. I LOVE this thing! It allows me to keep up with the kids. If this thing ever dies I will not rest until I buy another one. It is an essential part of my house. Now I would of taken a picture of the pile of them, or even one cut up with yummy syrup on it, but in my house once you call breakfast you get trampled and are very busy refilling plates until there are no crumbs left so there was no time for more pictures. Enjoy!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Let me start off by saying my kids LOVE this soup! Which is great because it is good for you and really simple to make. My oldest doesn't even ask if the beans are fart beans which he seems to have an unnatural fear of eating, especially for a boy. Anyway here are the ingredients you will need.
6 C chicken stock (or broth)
2-3 C of diced or shredded cooked chicken
1 1/2-2 C frozen corn
4 oz diced green chilies
15 oz black beans rinsed and drained
1-2 onions
3-5 cloves of garlic
1 Tbs of olive oil
Salt and pepper
monterey jack cheese
tortilla chips

Yes I realize there is a range of amounts listed. Go off of the preference of you family. Here we love onions, garlic and corn so we go for the higher amounts. In the soup pot place the olive oil and turn on the heat so that you can saute the vegetables. You always want to start with a hot pan when sauteing veggies otherwise your veggies are just going to be sitting there in the oil soaking it up while you wait for your pan to heat up. You should hear a nice sizzle when you drop your veggies in. Now while your pot is heating up chop up your onions and garlic and throw them into the pot. We do not want to brown them we just want to soften them up. After they have been in the pot a minute or two I toss in the jar of diced green chilies, chicken and corn and let them heat up for a couple minutes. While this is happening I drain and rinse the black beans then throw them in the pot and finally the chicken stock. Then you can season it. I usually use salt and pepper to taste (probably 1-2 tsp salt depending on how salty my stock is and maybe a tsp of pepper). Then I generally add about 2 tsp of paprika, smoked paprika if I have it but regular works fine too. Make sure to taste your soup before adding seasoning. You can always add more seasoning, but you can not take it out once it is in there.

I let my soup simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Just enough time for everything to get nice and hot and all the flavors to combine. Once you can not stand smelling it without going to get yourself a bowl, it is done. Now go pour yourself a big ole bowl and grab some toppings. Sprinkle some monterey jack cheese on top and throw some tortilla chips in there and eat up! I have also made some cornbread with it before and my husband broke a bunch up and mixed it in with his soup and liked that. I just ate mine on the side. There you have it. Homemade chicken tortilla soup in less then an hour.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chicken stock

So yesterday I mentioned that I was saving the bones from my roasted chicken to make chicken stock. After dinner last night I took all the meat off the chicken bones and started the stock. I took the chicken I pulled off and put it into two foodsaver bags to use later for other recipes. Now the smart thing would of been to label the bags BEFORE filling them with chicken and foodsaving them, but that would of made to much sense so that is why the writing looks like my 3 yo did it. Now all the juice in the bottom of the pan I poured into a container and saved in my fridge too. Not sure what I will use it on but it was to yummy to toss.

To start the stock I chopped up some onions, celery, and carrots. This is a GREAT way to use up ends of veggies you cut off, things that were getting old, ect. Just take them and stick them in a bag in the freezer and then when you get ready to make stock pull them out. Nice money saving tip. Notice how I did not peel the onions or carrots and you can use the leaves on the celery too. You are going to toss this all when you are done so don't worry about it. Now the general rule is to do a 2,1,1 ratio. So 2x as many onions as carrots and celery. For this batch I used 3 C onions, and 1 1/2 of carrots and celery each. The bones are in the bottom of the pot. After I cut the veggies I put the bones on my cutting board and got out my aggressions by chopping up the bones. This exposes the marrow and helps make a better stock, especially when you are using bones that have already been cooked. Once the bones(including the neck bone I saved in the fridge from the roasted chicken) and veggies were in the pot I covered everything with water and put it on medium heat until it started to boil, then I turned it down and allowed it to simmer for about 3-4 hours. Do not let it boil, just simmer. Boiling will give you a cloudy stock. Now you can also add seasoning but since I was making soup out of the majority of the stock I wanted to wait to season it when I use it but you can throw in some whole peppercorns as well as a bayleaf, and a little salt (be careful with the salt amount because the more it cooks down the more concentrated the salt will get).

Here is what it looked like when I was done simmering it. Now as it simmers there will be a frothy foam you will see forming on the top. I forgot to take a picture of it but you will know it when you see it. You want to skim that off the top whenever you see it and discard it. Now get a slotted spoon and gently scoop out as much of the bones, chicken, veggies, basically anything solid that you can. We are going to strain it through cheesecloth next but getting all the big bits out will help you not splash yourself with hot stock.
This is what was left in the pot after getting all the big things out. Mind you I had a very small amount of floor space to work in because my dog was sitting there looking at me with his sad eyes begging me to let him eat it all up. I picked a few veggies out for him but was careful not to give him to much because the bones have splintered and he can choke, so as much as your dog will beg, don't share.

At this point I had to call in the husband to help me. I cut a piece of cheesecloth bigger then my bowl and doubled it so there was 2 layers of cheesecloth. As I held the cheesecloth around the edge of the bowl (allowing the middle to dip down a bit so it does not spill over the counter) he slowly poured the stock into the middle of the cheesecloth. Make sure your bowl is big enough to fit the stock because you will not be able to see when the bowl is full and we don't want it spilling over onto your hands. Now the point of the cheesecloth is to get all the little bits and pieces out of the stock so you will have a nice clear stock so do NOT skip this step.

Ahhhhh there it is. The yummy yummy goodness you just made out of a bunch of stuff you normally throw in the trash. You are not done yet though. This next step will take HOURS. Thankfully you can sleep while it happens. Now let the stock cool enough for you to put the top on and then into the fridge. Then go to bed. What is going to happen is all the fat is going to rise to the top and your stock is going to turn into a gel. Yep a gel. Remember when I chopped up all my bones to expose the marrow? Well the marrow release collagen which is what makes it gel up and turn yummy!
This is what mine looked like in the morning.
There is not a lot but there is some and you need to remove it. This is really easy to do. Just take a spoon and skim it off the top. Do not go digging down into it because then you will get into the gel and that is the good stuff. Just ever so lightly run the spoon along the VERY top of the bowl. Do this until you have removed as much as the fat as you possibly can. The picture below shows how my spoon is barely touching anything and the picture to the right of the spoon picture shows the stock after I got off the fat. And there you have it. Chicken stock that is TONS better then store bought, super easy, and basically free! Now you can either put the stock back in the fridge to use soon or section it into cup servings and freeze it to pull out whenever you need chicken stock for a recipe.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Roasted Chicken

Tonight I did a simple roast chicken. Actually I did 2. I have a couple recipes coming up that I need already cooked chicken for so this saves me some time. Plus I am going to make chicken stock from the carcass so this way I can make more with the same amount of work! A win win.
The first thing I did was take my chicken out of the bags and remove everything from the cavities. I saved the necks though to put into the pot for the stock. Then I rinsed my chickens and dried them completely with some paper towels. Now normally I would truss the chicken with some kitchen string. This helps everything cook nice and even but I was out of string. So I just tucked the wings under and called it a day. Now since I am using this chicken for other things also I just did a really simple seasoning. I just salted and peppered the cavities and sprinked about a Tbs or so of salt on the top of each chicken. I then placed it in a 450 degree oven. Yes this is higher then a lot of recipes say but I like to cook it faster and get the skin nice and crispy. For one chicken it should take about 45 mins to cook but my 2 took just under an hour. You want to cook it until the internal temperature is 165 degrees, the juices run clear, or the leg just basically falls off then you pull at it.
When the chicken is done I take it out and put a piece of foil over it and let it rest for about 15 mins. Then I proceed to get a Toy Story Band-Aid out to fix my boo-boo from slicing my finger on the blade to cut the foil. Yeah happens a lot. Now the point of letting the chicken rest is to allow all the juices a few minutes to seep into the meat. If you cut it right away you are just going to let all those yummy juices run right out of the chicken and that is no good. Now while the chicken was resting I went and played on Facebook. Why you ask? Because if not I would of sat there eating all the yummy crispy skin and had to think of a good story to tell my husband on just WHY these chickens came whole with no skin on them and I just don't think he would of fallen for it. So I had to go for the distraction method after of course eating just a little. :)

Now once the chicken is done resting, or you can no longer ignore the calls of the skin, go ahead and cut the bad boy up and enjoy. Now if you are going to make stoke be sure to save ALL the bones. I usually just throw the whole wing in there too, unless of course there is a chunk of crispy skin then I eat that part. Yeah I have a thing for chicken's good! Right now I am cooking the chicken stock so I will post all that tomorrow. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chocolate Chip Muffins

You will need:
1/2 C unsalted butter melted
3/4 C buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 C chocolate chips

Now I was out of buttermilk so what I did was put 1 T vinegar in a measuring cup and fill it to 1 C and mix and let sit for 5 mins. Then poured out the extra to make it 3/4 C. Works like a charm.

Now pre-heat the oven to 350 and either grease 12 muffin cups or use the liners. Then in one bowl whisk all the wet ingredients and in another bowl mix together all the dry ingredients minus the chocolate chips.
In the bowl with the dry ingredients make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix JUST until all combined. There will be lumps and this is ok. You do NOT want to over-mix muffins or they will get tough. Then gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Fill the muffin cups all the way to the top.
Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes until they are golden brown and delicious! No these are not good for you but they taste of so yummy that you will not care! When they are done let them col for a few minutes and then ENJOY!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicken Tenders and French Fries

Tonight's dinner is a kid staple. Of course, it was the hubby who requested it but in this house the favorite food list is similar for the 4 of them.

I started with the french fries. Once upon a time I had cut up a butt load of potatoes (we are talking 10 lbs here), and partially cooked them, then froze them on a cookie sheet after cookie sheet with none touching to flash freeze and stored them in the freezer thinking it would be nice to have frozen homemade fries stocked in my freezer. It took me HOURS but I told myself it would be worth it. It was nice to have them in there until I discovered it was so much faster and easier to just make them fresh when we wanted them. It takes me less time to get the fries from potato to oven the the oven takes to heat up! Here's what I do.

Take some baking potatoes and scrub them clean. Then cut them into slices however thick you want the fries. Some days I do thin, some days thick. It all depends on my mood and how long I feel like cooking them for. No I do not peel them, this takes extra time and no one notices, and quite frankly I am to lazy to peel them.
Once they are all cut up and on the cookie sheet I add a few Tbs of olive oil and then open my spice cabinet and grab some spices. Tonight I did seasoned salt and garlic pepper. What I grab from the cabinet usually chances, sometimes I add some cayenne pepper, or paprika, or grilling spice, depends all on what I am making with it and what kind of mood I am in, you can really use anything. Then I toss it all together with my hand, no use dirtying up other dishes by mixing everything in a bowl.
Then I popped them in the oven. Tonight I had the oven set on 425 since I was making the chicken tenders too. I don't usually cook chicken that high but it was getting late and I didn't want to wait on the fries forever. Usually I cook them on about 450 or 475 if I am baking the fries alone. At that temp they cook in about 15-20 mins. Just keep and eye on them and stir them at about the halfway point to help them from sticking to much. Since I was cooking them lower I gave them about 25 mins tonight.

After I popped the fries in I got to work on the chicken. Once again I was lazy and bought chicken tenders already but up at the grocery store so I didn't have to cut the breasts up. In one bowl I put 2 eggs and beat them. In the other bowl was panko bread crumbs, some seasoning (tonight was dried garlic, dried onions, salt, pepper, and then hubby wanted to add some macadamia nuts so I chopped them up in my food processor and mixed them in). Once again you can pretty much use whatever seasoning you want. I dipped the chicken into the eggs, then the bread crumb mixture and put them on a cookie sheet.

I popped them into the oven with the fries and cooked them for about 15 mins. They take about 20 mins or so when I cook them at 350. When the chicken was done I not happy with how brown the fries were yet so I cranked up the oven and cooked them a few more minutes. They did not get as crispy as usual but the troops were getting restless.

So there you go. Nothing fancy but done in less then 30 mins and from scratch.