Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pinterest Picks

Pinterest is a great place to go to look for some culinary inspiration. It's time again for me to share some of my latest recipe attempts.

image from

These potatoes were pretty good.  I can say that it was pretty difficult to not cut all the way through the potato though and to keep the slices a pretty uniform size.  It was a fun, different way to serve potatoes, and I will definitely be fixing them again...when I get a sharper knife.

image from Food Network

I love this recipe, or really I call it a method.  I saw Giada make these on the Food Network a while back and have made them numerous times since.  They are quick and easy.  Honestly, I have made so many of varieties of these because you can put any combination of meat/veggie/cheese that you like. 

image from

Yes, this really works, and is GREAT!  If you love popcorn and want a fun way to serve it, please give this a try.  It's a wonderful way to control the amount of oil and salt you use. 

image from

Finally, this is just a really neat website that can help you make dinner out of the ingredients you have on hand.  Any meal is just a few clicks away. 

Have you all tried any recipes worth making again?  Any worth avoiding?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Marshmallow Fondant

Once I became a mom, I vowed to make all of my children's birthday cakes each year.  I enjoy baking and creating things in the kitchen.  My husband, to my surprise, used to help his mother decorate cakes and actually enjoyed it.  We found it was a fun way for us to spend some time together.

When our kids began celebrating birthdays, we baked cakes and decorated them with butter cream icing.  My husband was the patient one and would do the majority of the piping.  We did several cakes that way, a Diego, a dinosaur, a car, even a United States map cake (our oldest has always been the studious type).

Somewhere in that time my husband and I became fans of Ace of Cakes.  They do all these fantastic cakes using fondant.  We decided that we would like to try it out when the next birthday came around. 

When our oldest turned five last year, we took the fondant plunge.  Much to our dismay, fondant was quite costly.  A small box from Wal-Mart was about $12!  But, we already had a plan in mind for his Angry Bird themed birthday, so we just purchased the box and went with it.  The cake turned out fabulous and we had a ton of fun using the fondant to make the figures. 

We had two months until our middle son's birthday and wanted to use fondant again, but we did not want to have to shell out the cash for the pre-made fondant.  That's when I began the search for a homemade recipe to cut costs. 

I was very excited to come across a recipe for fondant that seemed relatively simple (and cheap).  We have used this recipe (and tweaked it a little) now for four birthdays. 

This recipe (if you can call it that) is so simple.  Honestly, there is two ingredients.  Powdered Sugar and mini marshmallows.  Well, three, if you count 2 TBSP water. 

The recipe mentioned above calls for 8 oz of mini marshmallows.  I go ahead and use an entire 10 oz bag.  Add 2 TBSP water to a large bowl and fill with the marshmallows.  Microwave on high for one minute.  Take out the bowl and stir.  Continue to heat the marshmallow in 30 second increments until all the lumps are gone.  (Our wimpy microwave takes an additional couple minutes.)

Once marshmallows are smooth, add one pound of powdered sugar.  (I know, it's a lot.  But, hey, it IS a birthday!).  I buy the two pound bag and just estimate half and pour it in.  Mix fairly well with a rubber spatula. 

It is very important to heavily dust your counter top with more powdered sugar.  Think of this like the flour you would use to roll out pie dough with, except use more or the fondant will stick.  Dump the mixture onto your surface and begin to knead as you would a bread dough.  Knead until the fondant becomes smooth and not sticky to the touch.  And, when in doubt, add more powdered sugar.  This stuff can get VERY sticky!

When the fondant is finished, you add any food safe coloring of your choice.  We purchased a box of Wilton's dye especially for cake decorating.  Use the coloring very sparingly.  A little goes a LONG way.  We use a tooth pick to put the coloring on the fondant.  Then just knead the dough to incorporate all the color. 

My husband and I are by no means professional cake decorators, but we make cakes our little ones love and have a good time spending time making them together.

Our finished product for our little birthday boy!
(if by chance you have questions about using fondant, just ask! we have a few tricks .)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Restaurant Review: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

The other day my husband had a day off from work, so we hit the town with the two littles to run a few errands. I knew if I timed it just right, we would be able to eat lunch out.  :)

Several monts ago, Five Guys Burgers and Fries came to the metro area, and more recently one opened up in Norman at 24th and Robinson across from the Super Target.  I figured this was a good time to go try it out.  My husband was not one to object.  He's what I like to call a "burger conessiour".  His family owned and operated a couple of burger joints when he was young.  Maybe you know of Cecil's Burger Palace.  He learned the art of burger making (and enjoying) from his late father. 

The inside was nicely decorated with red and white.  The kitchen is open.  We enjoyed seeing the food being prepared. You could definitely tell it was a new establishment. You have to stand in line to place your order.  The line was sectioned off by giant bags of potatoes.  Dual purpose. Ha! 

The menu is simple.  Burger.  Hot Dog.  Grilled Cheese.  Fries.  Toppings.  And drinks.  The burgers come in two sizes, regular and little.  The choices of toppings are unlimited, so you can choose as many (or as few) as you want. 

My husband ordered a regular burger with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions and mustard.  I had the little bacon cheeseburger with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms.  We ordered a grilled cheese for the boys to split.  We also shared a large order of fries.  The boys had waters.  My husband and I had pops.  (I know, I'm "off" Dr. Pepper.  But you can't have a burger and fries without soda.) ;)

We were able to find a table and sit down right at noon on a weekday.  And then the rush hit.  Had we arrived 10 minutes later, we would have had trouble finding a table for the four of us.  The food came out quickly, and we began to dig in. 

The food was good.  It definitely ranked higher than a fast food burger and burgers you would find at a national chain.  My husband enjoyed the food as much as the environment.  He said it felt and tasted like his childhood memories.  Which says a lot. 

One down side of our visit was that it was a little more costly than we expected.  For the food mentioned above, our bill was just under $25.  That may not sound like a lot to most, but for our frugal little family it was. 

Will we return?  Possibly.  The only hinderance for us would be the price tag.  The atmosphere was lively.  The staff was very friendly.  If you love burgers and fries, Five Guys is definitely worth your time to check out.

(My choice for a good, cheap burger is still McNellie's $3 burger night.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Spent time this morning making two dozen peanut butter and jelly hearts to take to a kindergarten Valentine party.  The birds are enjoying the crusts.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pinterest Picks

When I joined Pinterest a few months back, I became a pinning queen.  I love finding inspiration about clothes, crafts, big projects, photography and of course recipes.  On my food board alone I have 274 pins! 

Is it realistic that I am going to try 274 different recipes? (Actually it's more since some of the pins have multiples, ex: 15 Portable and Delicious Breakfast Baked Goods.)  Probably not, but I have committed to trying several of them. 

Here's some of the ones that I have already tried.

1.  Nutella Hot Chocolate- I am in love with all things Nutella.  When I saw this pin, it was something I immediately made.  Just warm up milk on the stove top.  Add Nutella.  Stir until melted.  It was so simple and delicious.  Sounds like my Nutella Coconut Coffee from the other day.  :)

2.  The Two Ingredient Cake- Seriously?!? Yes!!! It was incredible and delicious.  I changed it up a bit and bought a "butter" cake mix.  I did not use the recipe for the apple cider glaze.  I made a half batch of chocolate frosting using The Pioneer Woman's recipe.  You must try this recipe. 

3. String Cheese Baked in Egg Roll Wrappers- If you open the link, it is a recipe for fried cheese sticks, but if you read through all the comments you will notice there are tips for baking them.  Please, don't waste your time.  I tried cutting the cheese into smaller bits, so it wouldn't explode and seep out of the wrappers.  I tried changing the oven temperature to help with the odd texture of the wrappers.  Nothing seemed to work for me.  Sorry, this recipe was a fail.

4.  Roasted Cabbage- I don't know why I never thought of this before.  Roasting is my preferred way to cook veggies.  This was delicious.  The recipe states to cut the cabbage into rounds, but I have started cutting mine into wedges.  I also do not use caraway or fennel seeds.  I season mine with salt, pepper, and dashes of garlic powder and paprika. 

I've tried several more recipes and will keep you informed.  I hope to make this Pinterest rating thing a regular post.  Hope you all find it helpful. :)

(Also, I have no idea who took the original pictures for the recipes to give credit.  none of these photos are mine, only what I've pinned on Pinterest.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings with Chef Seth

It's not everyday that you get to have a chef assist you in the kitchen.  I am fortunate enough to have one who lives in my very own house. Seth (my adorable almost four year old) is obsessed with all things "costume".  When he's not in the kitchen helping me whip up some delicious food, he can be found disguised as various animals, super heroes or scary monsters.

When the weather turned cold last week, I craved some comfort food.  Nothing screams cold weather food like homemade chicken and dumplings.  I've made chicken and dumplings almost every way imaginable.  With veggies. No veggies. Pre-made biscuits. Bisquick dumplings.  You name it.  However, much to my surprise, I had never made dumplings from a dough. 

My history with dough is not a pretty one. I love making dough. I love eating dough.  (Confession, I sometimes make a bit of raw dough just to snack on. Is that weird??) But the look and consistency of my dough are not always perfect. Not even close to perfect. So, imagine my hesitation.
But with my eager little chef by my side, I was ready to attempt it. 

I found a basic dumpling recipe on Pinterest and went from there.

Chef Seth mixed the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) in a large bowl.  To that add the melted butter, milk and chicken broth and combine.  This is where the "perfect" consistency is important.  If the dough seems crumbly and dry, add more liquid.  If it seems too wet and sticky, add more flour.

Once the dough is at its perfect "not-too-sticky/not-too-dry" state, it is ready to be rolled.  Make sure the surface and rolling pin are dusted with enough flour as the dough might stick.  (Plus, the extra flour helps thicken the dish.) Place the dough on the floured surface and begin to roll out like you would if you were making a pie crust. 

When the dough is rolled, it is time to cut.  Chef Seth found it easiest to use a pizza cutter to cut the dumplings, until his arm tired out and I had to take over.  Cut the dumplings into similarly sized shapes to ensure an even cooking time. (To protect our countertops, I slid a cutting board under the dough.)

One day prior to this, I had poached five pounds of delicious, local chicken breast tenders.  When I was ready to cook the chicken and dumplings, I cubed about one pound of the cooked meat. It was placed in a pot of broth and allowed to come to a gentle boil while my little chef and I made the dumplings. (Sorry, I didn't write down the exact amount of broth.  If I were guessing it was about 6-8 cups. It was actually my poaching liquid from the day before.)

The dumplings were then put into the boiling broth carefully, one at a time.  Once they were all in, a lid was placed on top and they simmered for about 15 minutes.  And, viola!  It's done!

Normally, I would put some fresh parsley on the top to break up the bland color scheme going on, but there was none to be found.

I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did!

Chicken and Dumplings

2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for flouring surface and rolling pin)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 TBSP melted butter
½ cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth

1 pound pre-cooked chicken
6-8 cups chicken broth

Combine dry ingredients.  Add butter, milk and broth and mix until consistency of pie dough.  Generously flour surface and rolling pin.  Roll dough as you would a pie crust.  Cut into dumpling shapes. 

Add the dumplings one by one to gently boiling broth and chicken chunks. Cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Three Ingredient Cup of Yum

I used to be a Dr. Pepper-aholic. As a mom of three little boys, it was difficult to get through a day without that sweet, carbonated beverage (or two, or three). I decided it would probably be better for my health to stop indulging daily or end up in a sugar-induced coma. I knew there would be no way to completely cut caffeine out of my day, so I took up drinking coffee and unsweetened tea.

Drinking black coffee is not for me. Too strong and bitter. I wanted something more Starbucks-ish. (Is that a word?) Maybe I should say I love coffee flavored cream. Ha!

My friend recently told me she uses canned coconut milk (found in the Asian aisle at the grocery store) in her coffee. I decided to give it a whirl. It was pretty good, but was a little bland even with a bit of sugar added. Enter Nutella.

I mean, anything's better with Nutella, right? I figured coffee and chocolate are perfect companions. Mix in a little bit of the creamy coconut milk, and it's like drinking a Mounds candy bar. OH MY!

Seriously, it couldn't be simpler.
The three ingredients
1. Hot cup of coffee
2. Canned coconut milk
3. Nutella
Plop in as much (or as little) Nutella as you like.
The Nutella melts better if the coffee is super hot.
Stir until mixed well.
Next, pour in desired amount of coconut milk.
Make sure to shake the milk thoroughly, as coconut milk separates.
I actually open the can and pour it into a small container to keep in the fridge.
Mix well.
Finally, enjoy!

Obviously, you can make this to suit your own taste. Personally, I don't think it needs any sugar. Because, who am I kidding, Nutella has enough. :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Way back in November.....

As a mother of three young sons, I love reading about fun, family-friendly activities. One of my go to magazines is Metro Family Magazine. Reading through the October 2011 edition, I noticed a recipe contest. The contest asked readers to submit a favorite, traditional holiday recipe with a twist. I had the perfect recipe! I quickly submitted my recipe for Sweet Potato and Banana Puree and crossed my fingers for a win! The prize was a good one. Not only would my recipe be published in the upcoming edition, but a Latin inspired cookbook and a $100 gift certificate from the Cooking Girl to spend on premade meals or (what I really wanted, cooking classes)!

About a week later I was contacted by the magazine. I HAD WON!!! I was beyond excited! I made plans to pick up my cookbook and began to research what cooking classes I wanted to attend. When the edition came out, I hurried to the library to snag a copy or two. I won't lie, it was pretty cool to see my name in print.

A couple months later, and I am finally planning on going to the cooking classes. It's been a little difficult trying to find a time that my husband would be home to watch the boys.

Below is the "prize winning" recipe. :) I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does. Thanks again, MetroFamily and Cooking Girl!

Sweet Potato and Banana Puree

3 pounds sweet potatoes
1 ripe banana (skin on)
2 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup maple syrup
1 TBSP ground cinnamon .
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp salt
½ pound pecan, chopped
3 TBSP butte
r 1 tsp salt
1 TBSP brown sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Poke sweet potatoes several times with fork. Bake on cookie sheet for 45 minutes. Remove cookie sheet from oven, and place the entire banana on the cookie sheet. Return sweet potatoes and banana to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes. When done, remove from oven and allow to cool. At that time, peel the sweet potatoes and banana and place in food processor or mixing bowl. Mix until the potatoes are chunky. Add the softened butter and syrup, and puree until smooth. Add cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt, and mix to combine. Pour mixture to a baking dish and smooth out. While the potatoes and banana are baking, melt the remaining butter in a skillet over low heat. Add pecans and salt, and sauté for approximately five minutes, stirring frequently. Drain pecans on paper towels. Layer the nuts on top of the sweet potato mixture and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees.

*This recipe can also be made ahead and refrigerated. After putting the potato mixture in the casserole dish, it can be covered and refrigerated one day ahead of serving. On the day of serving, remove from refrigerator and sauté pecans. Increase baking time to 30 minutes to insure it is warmed through. I have actually used a couple bananas too.