Here’s an Easy One-Pot Pasta the Whole Family Will Enjoy

One Pot Pasta

Hooray for comfort food. What’s not to like about thick noodles, rich broths, and flavorful, tender chicken? Oh, right, the prep time. Groan. While comfort food may be the ultimate in delicious dinners, the time and effort it generally takes to execute amazing comfort food is anything but comforting. But with this one-pot chicken and noodles dish, you get all the plus sides of home cooked comfort food (and there are many) in a simple recipe that leaves you very little clean-up. Talk about the best of both worlds.

And did we mention…there’s bacon in this recipe? Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better! Only one pot to clean and bacon to eat?! It’s almost too good to be true.

ONE-POT CHICKEN, MUSHROOM, AND NOODLES

INGREDIENTS
– 3 half-inch pieces of bacon
– 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken-breast halves (3 pounds), halved
– Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
– 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 8 ounces button mushrooms (halved, if large), trimmed
– 8 ounces shallots, halved (quartered, if large) and peeled
– 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
– 1/2 cup heavy cream
– 8 ounces egg noodles (5 cups)
– 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving

DIRECTIONS

1. Cook bacon in a braiser pan or large skillet over medium heat until browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Discard fat from pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in pan over medium-high. Add chicken, skin-side down; cook, turning a few times, until browned all over, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
3. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter over medium. Add mushrooms and shallots; season with salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits, until golden brown in places, 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Add broth and cream; bring to a boil. Stir in noodles.
5. Add chicken, skin-side up, and accumulated juices to pan.
6. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring once halfway through, until chicken is just cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Uncover; simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in dill and top with bacon. Serve, with more dill.

Heathified Burgerdogs

You don’t want to veer too far from traditional burgers and dogs! But because buying both hot dog and hamburger buns for your party is so last year, grill this tasty take on any cookout’s main course and impress all your guests. This burgerdog is even stuffed with cheese!

Tis the season for birthdays and barbeques.  Things can be pretty crazy. Not like that’s anything out of the ordinary. One thing that is out of the ordinary though are these perfectly amazing burgerdogs! It’s a cross between a burger and a hotdog. All of the burger flavor in the form of a hotdog.

What makes this little diddy even more appealing is the fact that it is filled with ooey gooey melted cheese. Mhm, yes… I will admittedly eat almost anything that is stuffed with cheese. Cheese is my weakness.

To make these bad boys healthier, I used one of my most favorite BBQ sauces; Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Que sauce, a tangy mix of tomato, vinegar, molasses and black pepper. It’s a great low-sugar BBQ sauce option. Stubbs authentic sauces, rubs and marinates get their bold flavors from real ingredients, with no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners, and they also cantina no high fructose corn syrup, the number one ingredient in most national BBQ sauce brands.

I also used Stubb’s Chicken Spice Rub; a perfect blend of sea salt, paprika and black pepper. Yum! Of course, I had to use lean ground beef, and let me just tell you… I went with an organic grass-fed beef for these and the difference between it and what I’m used to in ground beef was pretty astounding!

I had to load my burgerdog up with all the traditional toppings, dill relish, yellow mustard and sugar-free ketchup. To keep it original and better-for-you still, I used a whole wheat bun and served the burgerdog with sweet potato and red beet chips.

This is a perfectly easy and fun meal for any backyard party, especially with Memorial Day coming up soon and the warmer weather encouraging everyone to get out their grills and get cookin’!

Healthified Burgerdog

The Skinny:
Calculations below do not include the bun.
Servings: 4 • Size: 1 Burger Dog • Calories: 373.1 • Fat: 22.6 g • Carb: 4.5 g • Fiber: 0 g • Protein: 36.7 g • Sugar: 3 g • Sodium: 416.8 mg

Ingredients:
1 Lb. Extra Lean Ground Beef
1/4 C. Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Que Sauce
1 Tsp. Stubb’s Chicken Spice Rub
4 Oz. Reduced Fat Mild Cheddar Cheese, Cut into 1 Oz. Sticks

Directions:
Preheat the grill (indoor or out.)

       

While the grill is heating up, mix the ground beef, 1/4 c. BBQ sauce and 1 tsp. seasoning until well blended.

         

Divide the meat mixture into 4 equal pieces and lay each out into a dry flat surface.

Shape the meat into a rectangle and place one cheese stick into the middle of each.

‘Roll’ the meat up around the cheese and seal it off on all sides and edges to form your burger dogs.

Place the burger dogs onto the hot grill and cook for about 12 minutes (cooking for about 3 minutes on each side and rotating 4 times) or until done.

Once done, remove from the grill and enjoy right away!

I served mine on whole wheat buns with traditional burger and/or hotdog toppings with a side of sweet potato and beet chips.

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Summer is fast approaching us and we will be looking for something to keep us cool.  How about cool refreshing homemade frozen yogurt?

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Frozen Yogurt on twopeasandtheirpod.com A super simple recipe!

Frozen yogurt is one of my favorite treats. I’ve always preferred soft serve fro yo over ice cream. Even before it became trendy and frozen yogurt shops were on every block. I guess I started the trend:)

When we go to a frozen yogurt shop, I am always overwhelmed by all of the flavors and toppings. There are too many choices and since I am the worst at making decisions, it kind of stresses me out. I decided to make my own frozen yogurt at home. I went with Raspberry Dark Chocolate Frozen Yogurt because you can’t go wrong with raspberry and chocolate. One of my all-time favorite flavor combos!

This recipe couldn’t be any simpler. It only has 5 ingredients-raspberries, Greek yogurt, vanilla, sugar, and dark chocolate. This is definitely a stress-free frozen yogurt! You do need an ice cream maker to make this recipe.

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I am loving Nestle Dark Chocolate Morsels! Have you tried them? I use them all of the time in my cookies and other baking adventures. They are also fantastic swirled into this raspberry frozen yogurt. I chopped up the dark chocolate morsels and added them when the frozen yogurt was almost done churning.

The frozen yogurt is slightly tart with a refreshing raspberry flavor. The dark chocolate pieces add the perfect amount of sweetness. I love the kick of dark chocolate in every bite!

Want a scoop? I know I do! I am going to keep a container of this Raspberry Dark Chocolate Frozen Yogurt in our freezer at all times. It is the perfect cool down treat for summer! And I love that I don’t have to leave my house to enjoy frozen yogurt. Don’t tell the yogurt shops, but I think my Raspberry Dark Chocolate Frozen Yogurt is way better! :)

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Frozen Yogurt on twopeasandtheirpod.com Come get a scoop!

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Refreshing raspberry frozen yogurt with dark chocolate chunks! You will want to have this in your freezer at all times!

Yield: 1 quart

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes-includes churning time

Ingredients:

2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I use Chobani 0%)
2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup chopped Nestle Dark Chocolate Morsels

Directions:

1. Place the Greek yogurt, raspberries, vanilla, and sugar in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Press the mixture through a strainer to remove the raspberry seeds.

2. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacture’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add in the dark chocolate. You can serve immediately for a soft serve texture or you can place the frozen yogurt in a container and freeze for a firmer texture.

 

Jalapeño Cornbread Poppers

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Jalapeños and cornbread go together like peanut butter and jelly— and taste even better. We’ve already converted to adding the spicy little peppers to our cornbread, but what about trying the opposite? Yes, we’re talking about stuffing some cornbread into our jalapeños, popper style! You’ll want to try it, too, as soon as you see these guys come together. They’re easy, delicious, and guaranteed to be the hit of your next party.

ALAPEÑO CORNBREAD POPPERS
Serves 12
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

You’ll Need
– 12 large fresh jalapeños
– 1 – 15-ounce box Honey Cornbread mix
– Water, according to package instructions
– 1-½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
– 1 cup fresh corn

How To

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 degrees Celsius). Spray a sheet pan lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Cut each jalapeño in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and the pith. Place the cleaned peppers on the prepared baking pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the cornbread mix with the recommended amount of water per the box instructions, 1 cup of the cheddar and the corn.
  4. Fill each half pepper with the cornbread mix. Top with the remaining ½ cup of cheddar cheese.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cornbread is firm and cooked-through, and the cheese has started to brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Tip

  • The amount of jalapeños needed may vary depending on the size of the peppers you are able to find. This recipe calls for large jalapeños, so more will be needed if smaller peppers are all you can find!

Living Litehouse Guide to Tomato Picking – Tomato Wedge Salad

 

As much as I’m grumbling over the change of seasons (grumble grumble) I have to say that I’m pretty excited that tomato season is finally upon us. I’ve been picking up some tasty heirloom tomatoes at my local farmers market for the past couple of weeks but I get so excited watching the tomatoes in my garden as they start to ripen! I’m not a patient person so gardening is not really my forte, but I am always excited when the fruits are ready to harvest! If you’re a non-gardener like myself or even if you’re a pro, I thought I would share some tips and tricks today that can help you get through your tomato harvest without wasting a single one!

  1. You don’t have to wait until your tomatoes are fully ripened to pick them from the vine. If they are partially colored you can pick the tomato and place it in a bowl on your counter and allow it to finish ripening. Just don’t leave it in direct sunlight!
  2. Always store your tomatoes are room temperature and NEVER in the refrigerator! They will lose their flavor and turn grainy, which nobody enjoys. It’s best to use your tomatoes within 4-5 days of picking them.
  3. If it’s the end of the season and you have tomatoes left on the vine that are barely colored (mostly green) you can bring them inside the house to ripen. Place them in a paper grocery bag in a single layer, top-side down. Roll the top of the bag over 2-3 times to close and clip with a safety pin. Place in a dry place and check the tomatoes every couple of days to see if they have ripened or to check for any that are starting to rot. You’ll want to remove any rotten tomatoes instantly so it does not spread to the other tomatoes.

The tomatoes in my recipe for today did not come from my garden but a local farmers market. You’ll want to go with a larger, beefsteak-type tomato for this as they will slice and hold the other ingredients well. Choose tomatoes that feature a firm flesh but that will yield slightly to gentle pressure. I love that this Tomato Wedge Salad takes a slight twist on a traditional favorite! If you’re a tomato lover likely myself, you’ll appreciate that this salad is heavy on the tomato and light on the lettuce. Enjoy!

 

Tomato Wedge Salad

This salad takes a slightly twist on a traditional classic recipe and is perfect to use up your tomato harvest!

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 large beefsteak tomatoes

1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

½ cup bacon bits

Litehouse Original Bleu Cheese

Directions

Wash and dry the tomatoes. Slice each tomato into 6 wedges, leaving the bottoms of the tomato intact. Carefully spread open the wedges of the tomatoes and evenly divide the lettuce and bacon bits between each of the tomatoes. Drizzle each tomato with the dressing and finish with fresh cracked pepper and salt if desired.


11 Brilliant Egg Hacks That Will Change Your Mornings Forever

When eggs are a part of every morning, the whole crack-and-scramble routine starts to feel, um, eggceptionally boring. Meanwhile, the perfect poach starts to seem too elusive, too confusing and altogether too much work.

It’s time to get your egg hack on. These brilliant tricks make perfect poached eggs, delicious one-minute egg bakes, and omelets with waffle-iron cracks so deep, they could absorb just about any amount of Sriracha.

1. Use a poaching bag for the easiest poach of your life.
The bags are cheap, disposable and the best thing since poached eggs themselves. Just simmer your egg in a bag, and it’s good to go.
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2. Fry your eggs in onion rings.
Chances are you already have an onion on hand, and these perfectly circular fried eggs come out sandwich-ready.
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3. Don’t peel hard-boiled eggs … just slice them.
Cut right through the egg with a knife, then whisk the shell off. It’s infinitely faster.
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4. Make hard-boiled eggs in the oven.
Not only does a muffin tin allow you to “hard boil” more eggs at once,but Alton Brown says cooking them in the oven makes for a creamier egg inside.
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5.  Whip up a Magical “Golden Egg”
It’s like a hard-boiled egg, except everything’s yellow inside. The secret turns out to be an old T-shirt and some arm muscles.
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6. And don’t forget you can make omelets in a waffle iron.
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7. Separate yolks with a water bottle for easy egg whites.
This magical method eliminates the whole goop-between-the-shell process.
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8. Microwave an egg in a ramekin for a one-minute breakfast.
It literally takes 60 seconds — and one dish — to make this baked egg lookalike.
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9Or bake dozens of eggs in muffin tins for a big breakfast crew.
Consider it an in-home McDonald’s.
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10. Make multiple omelets at once, in plastic bags.
This trick allows everyone in your group to DIY their own toppings, but it eliminates the need for a zillion different pans.
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11. And when all else fails, use Julia Child’s poached egg trick that works every time.
Boil the egg for 10 seconds before cracking it into water, and you’ll achieve a perfectly oval poached shape. Because who’s an egg master? YOU ARE!
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Prepare yourself for an eggcellent morning.

 

Roasted Leg of Lamb

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Only until recently I have started eating lamb a bit more often, and I must say I think it is easily one of my favorite meats now. Although, sadly lamb is kind of the underdog of meat, it turns out not many people eat lamb very much. Or at all for that matter. In fact the yearly consumption of lamb for the average American is less than a pound a year. Come on, that is a little bit sad. I think we need to work together and fix that because lamb is seriously something that should be re-integrated in to most peoples diets and not just for taste but for it’s vast health benefits as well.

Lamb is high in omega 3 fatty acids which is a surprise for this kind of meat and it is a really good source of CLA and beta carotene, but  you only get  the beta carotene benefit if you get a good piece of grass-fed lamb.

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It’s really important when choosing lamb to do your best to get the nicest quality and preferably grass-fed lamb because its way more nutritious and tastes much better. Moving on to taste for lamb I think a lot of people might be kind of hesitant on trying lamb. Simply because its not as popular type of meat, and from things that people claim about it but I am telling you that it is so something you should seriously consider adding to your food repertoire.

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It definitely has its own taste that is very unique to most meats, but in a good way. It has a very rich and deep flavor that is incredibly good for these really cold winter days but is versatile enough to work for just about any season. For example, a nice leg of lamb makes an excellent centerpiece for the most amazing Easter meal. And if you cook it correctly you will be able to pull all of those wonderful flavors out and create an incredibly filling and satisfying meal that just about anyone will like regardless of the fact that it’s lamb.

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And with this recipe the lamb is very slowly cooked to absolute perfection. It starts at a very high temperature but due to the fact that you turn the oven down immediately when you put it, the oven’s temperature slowly lowers to a temperature more suitable for slow cooking. That way while it stays hot for the amount of time that its lowering to that temperature it’s vigorously cooking the meat for a short amount of time.

Thus yielding nice crispy fat at the top that melts slowly and bastes the meat making it literally so tender the boner falls right from the meat. It’s beyond words how tender, succulent and moist this becomes after slowly roasting in the oven.

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Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Lay your leg of lamb fat side up on a cutting board and score the fat all the way across the top. Do this by taking your knife and applying slight pressure with the front end of the knife run it all the way across the top of the fat and continue until the entire top fat is scored and then do it the opposite direction to create a crosshatch.
  3. Lay 4 sprigs rosemary and 3 garlic cloves in bottom of a roasting pan and place meat scored fat side up on top of the rosemary and garlic. (remember to leave the garlic cloves whole and unpeeled)
  4. Lightly drizzle avocado oil over the scored fat part of the meat just enough to lightly coat most of it (about a tablespoon)
  5. Salt and pepper to taste and then place remaining whole unpeeled garlic and rosemary on top of the meat.
  6. Tent the entire roasting pan with foil and place in the oven, the second you place it in the oven quickly close the door and immediately turn the oven down to 325 degrees.
  7. Let it roast in the oven covered the entire time for 4 hours and its done once the bone comes off easily.
  8. Serve on a tray and garnish with rosemary. (This meat is so tender it isn’t really possible to slice it so its easier just to pull it off with a fork and put it on your plate)
Notes
When scoring the meat don’t put too much pressure or cut to deep. If you see red you’ve gone too far. It’s okay if it happens slightly but just be careful. You can also make a pan sauce gravy with the juices that ooze into the pan by adding some chicken stock and red wine vinegar to deglaze it. Simple and wonderful for drizzling. As for what to serve with this I like to have this with mashed cauliflower and the pan sauces drizzled over that with some sauteed asparagus.
If you are ever wanting to try lamb this is definitely where you want to start.

 

What are some dishes that have…….

….identical ingredients but become dissatisfying if prepared differently?

So as I was thinking about what kind of sandwich to make for dinner, I decided on bacon and egg. Now I’m stuck choosing between a bacon sandwich with fried egg, or an egg salad sandwich with bacon. Literally the exact same ingredients, but (at least in my mind) completely different results.

What other dishes do you know that are comprised of the same ingredients, but result in very different products? How does preparation effect the flavor profiles, if at all? Are both equally good, or is one inherently disappointing if you desire the other?

 

The WORST Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

I know what you’re probably thinking: It’s just a cookie, right?  I mean, they look innocent enough, golden with melty chocolate chips, crinkled edges and melt-in-your-mouth interiors… but one bite and you’re ruined for life.

These cookies will consume your life, shrink your jeans, and steal your boyfriend (I wouldn’t put it past them, anyway).

They even contain a secret ingredient.

How obnoxiously cliché, and, even more obnoxiously, intriguing.

 

The WORST Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever... Oh boy, I wish I'd never discovered this recipe!

I won’t drag it out; the secret ingredient is maple syrup.  Sure, pure maple syrup (priced per ounce nearly the same as gold) would be just wonderful, but if you have a sticky bottle of Aunt Jemima in your cabinet (as I did), that will work just fine, too.

The WORST Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever... Oh boy, I wish I'd never discovered this recipe!

What kind of self-respecting cookie doesn’t demand purity and quality?  Only the worst kind.

I credit this “secret ingredient” for being the greatest offender in this recipe.  It gives the cookies a subtle, caramelized flavor, as well as long-lasting chewiness and softness (these cookies stay soft for days, the cornstarch also helps with that significantly), and the flavor is to die for.  

And while anyone who takes a bite will be able to detect the extra richness of flavor, no one who I shared these cookies with was able to identify any sort of secret ingredient.  Just “really, really, good cookies”.

OK, so what’s so bad about really really good cookies?

How about the fact that they will consume you as you consume them.  I’m not kidding about them wrecking your relationships.

Mom’s favorite chocolate chip cookie?  Ditch it.  You will snub your nose at every “favorite” cookie of the past and struggle to hold back scornful laughs at anyone who comments on a “delicious cookie”.  Nobody likes a cookie snob, but you will become one.

Here comes that girl again, the one who’s too good for Chips Ahoy.

Be prepared for weight gain.  It creeps up slowly, the cookies gently embracing you at first, then clinging to your thighs, your stomach, tighter and tighter until yoga pants are your only way out of the house.  If you’re worried about your significant other noticing, don’t bother, they don’t notice anything anymore, only whether or not there are cookies readily available for consumption.

Perhaps worst of all is that these cookies can be made so easily.  There’s no KitchenAid or any sort of electric hand mixer required to make these cookies.  They can be stirred by hand, dirtying only two bowls.

The WORST Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever... Oh boy, I wish I'd never discovered this recipe!

They do need to chill for 30 minutes, which would only serve as a deterrent if 25 of those minutes weren’t spent sneaking copious chunks of dough from the refrigerator.

If you’ve made it this far, I fear it might already be too late for you.

It’s too late for me, unfortunately, and I’ve made these cookies nearly a dozen times in the past two weeks.  I’m swapping gym time for cookie time to keep my fridge well-stocked with dough, and the photo shoot for this post took three times as long as it should have because I kept eating the subjects.

If you can, stick to the “best ever” cookies, stick to Grandma’s cookies and the family favorites.  Those cookies are safe, they are your friends, made to be consumed by you.

These cookies will consume you, instead.

Good luck.

 

The WORST EVER Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, melted and then cooled for at least 5 minutes*
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature preferred)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 3¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used half regular semisweet chips and half mini semisweet chips)
Instructions

In large bowl, stir together melted butter and sugars.

  1. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring combined.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract and maple syrup.
  3. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring until completely combined.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Cover bowl with clear wrap and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes (chilling!? I told you, this recipe is the worst.)
  7. While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 350F and prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper.
  8. Scoop about 2-3 Tbsp of cookie dough and roll into balls, making them slightly taller than they are wide. Place them at least 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.
  9. Bake about 13 minutes (cookies will appear to be a bit underdone, but edges should be just beginning to turn golden brown).
  10. Allow cookies to cool completely on cookie sheet. If desired, gently press a few chocolate chips on top of the hot cookies.
  11. Keep unbaked cookie dough in fridge while waiting to put the next batch in the oven, and do not place cookie dough on a hot cookie sheet.
Notes
*You do not want your butter to be too hot or it may melt the sugar and you’ll have a very runny dough. Best practice would be to cut the butter into about Tbsp-sized pieces, microwave in 10-second increments (stirring after each) until it is just completely melted, and then allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

Freezer Cooking!

What is your overall approach to freezer cooking: You can do a mix of one-dish meals—things like casseroles, soups, stews, and chilis—but I also like to prepare ingredients up to a certain stage and freeze them so I can grab them and start cooking some of my favorite meals. One of the things that some folks don’t love about freezer cooking is that there are sooooo many casseroles, which can get to be a little old after awhile…but if I have a bunch of individual ingredients prepped and ready to go, not everything has to wind up being in casserole form. (I’ll give you some examples in a minute.)

Also note: When you have a freezer full of food, you can then fill your fridge with salad greens, spinach, and other veggies so you can make a big, healthy salad on the side. Perfect!

When I do freezer cooking, I almost never freeze things in nice baking dishes or Pyrex pans—primarily because I don’t want to tie them up for such a long time.

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I’m an ardent fan of foil baking pans of various sizes: You can buy them in bulk at warehouse clubs, and in most cases you can wash and reuse them a time or two…or, if you’re not in the mood to wash anything, you can just toss them once the food is gone.

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Plastic freezer bags of various sizes are another favorite freezer vessel of mine, and my general approach is filling the bag, then totally flattening it as I seal it. So whether it’s taco meat or soup, they freeze flat and allows me to stack them as high as they’ll go. This is much better than filling them in an upright position, which makes ’em more bulky.

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I also love these food storage containers for stews, soups, sauces, etc. They are totally handy and can easily be reused.

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Labeling is very important from two angles: First, it’s always a good idea to know how many centuries ago something was cooked. Second, in the case of foil-covered pans or storage containers, you generally can’t see clearly what’s inside. Labeling keeps you from having to “break the seal” and peel the foil back or open a container. A Sharpie is my favorite tool, as it writes as clearly on foil as it does on plastic.

One helpful thing you can do is to write, along with what the dish is and the date, baking/warming instructions on each package, i.e. “375/40 minutes.” Of course, you’ll need to add the thawing time to that (or adjust the baking time accordingly.)

While you may have many one-dish recipes (casseroles, etc.) that you love to cook and freeze, one of my favorite freezer cooking tricks is making ready-to-go ingredients in bulk. Here are some things I do…and why:

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Grilled chicken breasts. I love grilling up a whole bunch of marinated chicken breasts, then freezing them whole in packages of 2 or 4. (I don’t want to put a whole bunch in one large bag because then I’d have to open and close it, which would affect the quality over time.) If you have frozen grilled chicken breasts, you can thaw them out and:

* Slice them and put them on top of a Caesar Salad
* Dice them and put them on top of a Cobb Salad or Chef’s Salad
* Chop them, quickly saute in a little oil and taco seasoning, and put them on tacos or inside quesadillas.
* Dice them and stir them into Tortilla soup
* Leave them whole and put them inside panini.
* Shred them and put them in chilis, soups, or pastas

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Or cut ’em in half, melt cheese on top, throw on some bacon, and make sliders!

That’s a whole lot of dinner options right there, and you don’t have to worry about stocking your fridge with raw chicken all the time; it’s cooked up, all ready to go! You just have to remember to remove it from the freeze and thaw it out.

Salad Tacos

Browned Hamburger. Oh, the possibilities. I freeze it in smaller bags and larger bags so I’ll have the right quantity for what I need. Here are the worlds that are opened up:

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Tacos. Throw it into a skillet with tomato sauce and taco seasoning and heat it up real quick, and you can have regular tacos, taco salads, nachos, even…

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Taco pizza with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes on top! (The recipe I linked to doesn’t have meat on it, but you’d just put it on top of the cheese layer.)

  • Make a quick Spaghetti Sauce
  • Make chili and sloppy Joes

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Uncooked hamburger patties. Flash freeze them on a sheet pan for 30 minute so, then freeze in zipper bags 2, 4, or 6 at a time. I love just forming a slew of patties all at once, then not having to worry about it.

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All the better to make Patty Melts with, my dear!

Pie Crust. Formed into disks and stored in ziplocs. To use, just remove, let thaw for 30 minutes or so, then roll out.
Pizza Dough. Unrisen, stored in ziplocs.

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Muffins of all varieties!

rolls

Sweet rolls of all shapes and sizes.  You can freeze them, unrisen and unabaked…then thaw and bake them later. Or you can freeze them all ready to go and warm them when you’re ready.

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Baked French Toast.  Make full batches, and freeze them in smaller foil containers (either round or square) before the baking stage. Then just pop ’em in the oven straight from the freezer. Yummy breakfast!

* You can also do a savory version using crumbled sausage, onion, cheese, etc.

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Cooked, crumbled breakfast sausage for things like these breakfast burritos.

You get the picture?  The list is endless.  Soups, Stews, Chili and Sauces.  Pot Pies.  Pulled Pork.

 

How to Make Hot Sauce

Homemade Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is a hot condiment. Not just spicy hot but “hot” as in popular. There are stores and websites devoted to hot sauce, complete with fun, catchy names and colorful labels. Every restaurant in America seems to have hot sauce on the table, and if not, all you have to do is ask for it.

This is a very basic, simple version. You can enjoy this recipe as it is or you can combine different types of chiles and aromatics to make your own. Just remember the basic ingredients for making any hot sauce: peppers, salt and vinegar.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Start with all red jalapeño chiles if you want a red sauce.  You can certainly use a different chile or any combination of chiles. You can even fire-roast the chiles! Regardless of what chile you choose, you’ll need about one pound of peppers.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Remove the stems of the chiles and roughly chop them. Add onion, garlic, salt and chiles with seeds into a food processor. Pulse until it becomes a rough puree. Spoon chile mixture into a clean 1-quart glass jar. Loosely cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Add vinegar to jar, stir, and loosely cover. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 day and up to 7 days. The longer it sits the more flavor develops. Don’t worry about letting it sit at room temperature! Because of the high acid content, it’s safe.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Pour the mixture into a food processor and process until smooth!

Then all you have to do is cover the jar tightly and store the hot sauce in the refrigerator. It’ll keep for up to four months.

Homemade Hot Sauce

Tada! Now you have some awesome hot sauce for your eggs in the morning. You can put this hot sauce on everything! That was easy, right? It takes some time, but that time allows the flavors to become more complex and almost sweeter.

Homemade Hot Sauce

There was a time when I stayed far away from hot sauce. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed an appreciation for quality hot sauce. And I’ve learned that there are so many different variations available! So you are almost guaranteed to find one that you like. Even better, with this recipe, you have the starting point for making the sauce that’s perfect for you. So feel free to experiment. Make it hotter, milder, chunkier, more garlicky, kinda smoky—go ahead and make it your own!

Now that you know how to make hot sauce, what are you going to put it on first? Is your family a hot-sauce-loving family?

Homemade Hot Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Fresh Chiles, Such As Jalapeno, Serrano, Fresno, Poblano, Habanero, Or A Mix
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 cup Diced Onion
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 1-1/2 cup Distilled White Vinegar

Instructions

Pulse chiles, garlic, onions and kosher salt in a food processor until you have a rough puree. Transfer to a 1-quart glass gar, loosely cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.

Add vinegar, stir and loosely cover. Let stand at room temperature for 1 to 7 days. The longer you let it stand, the more the flavor develops.

Pour mixture into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Store in the refrigerator up to 4 months.

Note: Hot sauce may separate. This is normal; shake before use.

 

How to Soften Butter

Softening Butter 101

We’ve all seen the term “softened butter” in recipes, but what exactly are we looking for and WHY are we doing it?

You’ll find softened butter in recipes using the creaming method, typically for cookies, cakes, and muffins. Pie crusts, biscuits, and scones usually call for cold butter. Creaming is mixing the butter and sugar to create air pockets. These pockets are what help leavenings to work and make baked goods light and airy.

Softening Butter 101

Here’s what softened butter looks like. It should still be cool to the touch, but when pressed using a little pressure, your finger will leave an indentation.

Softening Butter 101

This butter is overly softened. A finger pressed in with no pressure at all will leave an indentation, almost sinking into the butter. Not only that, but the butter will be squishy all over. Air bubbles in butter that is too soft or melted will collapse—and we want those air bubbles.

Softening Butter 101

This, you might have guessed, is melted butter. Is it just me, or is this plate of butter smiling at us? Again, this will leave us with collapsed air bubbles.

Note: You can cream cold butter. You’ll need a stand mixer and a few extra minutes. You’ll also need to stand over your mixer with your hands over the bowl as chunks of butter may go flying across your kitchen. Don’t ask how I know this.

How to soften butter

Ideally, butter should be left on the counter for 30 minutes or so at room temperature. I like to take my butter out of the refrigerator first, then gather all of my other ingredients, line my baking pans, throw in a load of laundry, check Instagram, etc.

A microwave can be used, but watch carefully. For a half stick of butter, start at 20 seconds on 10% power. Check from there, and rotate the butter, if more time is required.

To hasten along butter softening on the counter, cut the butter into chunks. Another way to speed the process along is to place the butter between two sheets of waxed paper and roll with a rolling pin.

Softening Butter 101

Once your butter is softened, you’re ready to cream with the sugar. Start on low speed, then increase to medium-low (about a 3 or 4 on a stand mixer). Cream the butter for 2-3 minutes using the paddle attachment.

Softening Butter 101

This is the mixture after one minute. I can still see some chunks of butter and the mixture is heavy and gloppy. (Gloppy is a technical term.)

Softening Butter 101

After 3 minutes, the mixture is fluffy and lightened in color. The butter is completely incorporated with the sugar.

 

Show Mom How Much You Love Her With Something Personal

Are you looking for something special for Mother’s Day?  Have you run out of ideas?  Look no further, we have the solution for you.  Instead of a card this year, why not write your message on something she’ll use in her kitchen everyday? Every time she does, she will think of you.  All of these are available from $24 to $39.

 

 

Personalized Rectangular Cutting Board

Chopping Board with Engraved Name

 

Not what you are looking for?  No problem.  Maybe she’d like a new Recipe Binder, or something else we personally engrave for you.

Visit CookbookPeople.com for more great gifts for cooks!

April 26 is National Pretzel Day

Pretzels

Have a passion for pretzels?

soft pretzelJoin millions of Americans coast to coast who will be celebrating National Pretzel Day on Tuesday, April 26, 2016.

It’s the day to check out entertaining facts about how the pretzel was invented, and more on how to celebrate the twisted treat that’s been a favorite of knoshers since the 15th century!

Also, take advantage of local pretzel vendors who will be offering warm-from-the-oven goodness with free giveaways of fresh, chewy pretzels on April 26 in honor of the day.

Pretzel fun facts

german baking guild with pretzel
The pretzel is at the center of the arms
of the Backerhandwerks (bakers guild)
in Germany.

Pretzels have been enjoyed since medieval times when monks created the treats from bits of dough that were twisted together to represent a child’s arms in prayer. The frugal monks called it a pretiola, or Latin for “little reward.”

From there, the pretiola slowly morphed into the Italian word, brachiola, or “little arms.” The brachiola soon journeyed beyond France and Italy to find favor in Austria and Germany where it became known as the “bretzel.”

And the rest, as they say, is pretzel history…

• The phrase “tying the knot” came from the Swiss, who still incorporate the lucky pretzel in wedding ceremonies.

• The world’s first hard pretzel was said to have first appeared in the 17th century when a colonial Pennsylvania baker over-baked a batch, and deemed them delicious.

• Pretzels were made by hand until 1935 when the first automated pretzel machine was introduced, enabling factory bakers to mass produce them to the tune of 245 pretzels per minute.

• More than $550 million worth of pretzels are sold in the United States every year…. and that’s a lot of pretzels!


How to celebrate National Pretzel Day

hard pretzelsThat’s easy! Head to your favorite corner push cart to buy a soft pretzel from a street vendor. Smell the aroma, and savor the doughy taste as you dig in for some chewy just-baked goodness.

Or, make your way to the grocery store. In the snack aisle, you’ll find bags of hard pretzels of every variety including salted, non-salted, sourdough, onion, honey mustard, and more. Pretzels also come in sticks, squares and other shapes that give it just the right mouth feel for addictive snacking.

You can also head to the kitchen to make your own homemade creations. Some pretzel lovers use frozen bread or pizza dough for a quick way for making homemade pretzels, but if you want to create them from scratch, here’s the basic recipe:


Homemade pretzel recipe

How to make a pretzel twist
how to twist a pretzel
Roll 12″ pieces into long snakes.
Twist-tie the ends at top and fold
them over to meet at the bottom.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt


Directions

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture with the sugar, salt and flour and mix until a stiff dough is formed.
3. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in volume.
4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 pieces. Roll pieces out into long “snakes” and form into pretzel shapes (see illustration).
6. Place pretzels on lightly greased baking sheet. Brush tops with the beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt.
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

You can also get creative with a whole variety of pretzel recipes including instructions for making small, big, and oversized pretzels. Different toppings such as sesame seeds or poppy seeds – are limited only to your imagination. Have fun!

April 25 – National Zucchini Bread Day

image

Five Food Finds about Zucchini

  • A zucchini has more potassium than a banana.
  • The word zucchini comes from ‘zucca’ the Italian word for squash.
  • Biggest is NOT best. The most flavorful zucchinis are small- to medium-sized.
  • According to World’s Healthiest Foods Nutrition info, nutrients and vitamins found in zucchini can help prevent cancer and heart disease.
  • The flower of the zucchini plant is also edible.

Zucchini Bread Overview

Zucchini bread first became popular in the 1960s. The hippie movement was in full swing, and hippies sought healthier foods. As an alternative to the sugary frosted layer cakes and sheet cakes of the time, sweet quick breads like zucchini bread and carrot cake became popular, modeled after banana bread. As with bananas, the high water content of the zucchini adds moisture to the cake.

This lovely tea bread contains grated zucchini, chopped pecans or walnuts, and optional ingredients such as coconut, grated apple, raisins, sultanas and even chocolate chips.

  • We enjoy it instead of a breakfast muffin.
  • It’s perfect as a tea bread, plain or with cream cheese frosting.
  • The loaves freeze well. You can cut slices from the frozen loaf and microwave for 10 seconds.
  • Grated zucchini and its accompaniments (nuts, grated apple, etc.) can also be added to a yellow or chocolate cake mix.

Don’t think that, because it contains vegetables, zucchini bread is health food. Yet, zucchini contains lutein, a phytochemical believed to protect vision. Baking with the optional whole wheat flour helps.

FOOD TRIVIA: Zucchini is not a vegetable but a fruit. It carries its seeds on the inside, like all other true fruits. Strawberries are an “accessory fruit” (previously known as a false fruit), a category where the fruit’s flesh is derived not from the ovary of the plant, but from some adjacent tissue. Other examples include figs, apples and pears. The strawberry is the only “fruit” with seeds on the outside. The “seeds” are actually incorporations of the pistils of the flower of the plant.

 

Zucchini Bread Recipe

Makes two 5×9-inch loaves.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans, plus a few tablespoons for
    optional garnish (optional)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium zucchini), skins on*
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • For chocolate zucchini bread: 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips†
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

*If you have extra grated zucchini, use it as a soup garnish or toss it into a salad.

For chocolate zucchini bread, omit the optional add-ins below except for the crystallized ginger option, either mixed in or used as a garnish.

 

Optional Add-Ins

  • 1 large grated Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dark, milk, white or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (we enjoy using the ginger as
    a crunchy topping instead of incorporating it into the batter—see Step 9 below)
  • 1/3 cup poppy seeds
  • Zest of two lemons
  • Chopped nuts for garnish

 

Preparation

 

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle of the oven.
  • Butter and the two loaf pans (or use a baking spray) and set aside. Or, line the pans with a parchment, leaving 2-3 inches hanging over the long side as to lift the zucchini bread out of the pan with ease.
  • Combine the walnuts and add-ins (apple,  chocolate chips,  coconut, etc.) in a bowl. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter until fluffy with a mixer. Add the brown and white sugars and beat until mixture is smooth, not crumbly.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with each addition. Add the vanilla.
  • Squeeze excess water from the zucchini. Turning the mixer to Low, incorporate into the mix.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add half of the dry mix to the wet ingredients; incorporate, and add the other half.
  • Fold in the add-ins with a spatula.
  • Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans and level with a spatula. Sprinkle crystallized ginger or chopped nuts on top.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes; then turn out onto a wire racks to finish cooling.

 

April 24 – National Pigs in a Blanket Day

pigs-in-blankets-hillshirefarmFB-230

Five Food Finds about Pigs-in-a-Blanket

  • The first written record of pigs in a blanket occurs in Betty Crocker’s Cooking for Kids in 1957.
  • Pigs in a blanket are also known as devils on horsebacks, kilted sausages, and wiener winks.
  • In the United Kingdom, pigs in blankets are small sausages, or chipolatas wrapped up in bacon.
  • In America, pigs in a blanket often refers to hot dogs, Vienna sausages, or breakfast sausages wrapped in biscuit dough, croissant dough or a pancake and then baked.
  • You can combine these dishes by wrapping your sausage in bacon, then cooking them into a biscuit or croissant.
It’s time to celebrate National Pigs In Blankets Day.

Ask for some pigs in blankets in the U.K., and you’ll get a cocktail sausage wrapped in bacon (more like a pig in a pig, we think).

At IHOP, the International House Of Pancakes, you can chow down on pork sausage links rolled in a pancake “blankets.”

But across the U.S., what caterers declare to be the most popular hors d’oeuvre is a cocktail frankfurter in a pastry blanket. And don’t forget the mustard.

Culinary historians have tracked the first recipes for modern pigs in blankets—small cocktail franks baked in flaky crust—to 1950. According to FoodTimeline.org, these pastry-wrapped piggies are likely direct descendants of Victorian-era canapés.

The earliest recipe found in American cookbooks that was called “pigs in blankets” was published in the 1930. But there was no frankfurter or other sausage: it comprised oysters wrapped with bacon.

 

 

You know which little piggie recipe won out. So head to the market, grab some cocktail franks and a roll of croissant dough.
We highly recommend Dijon mustard.

While pigs in blankets are classic cocktail fare, we find them even more delicious with beer. The following recipe was adapted from Pillsbury.

RECIPE: PIGS IN BLANKETS

Ingredients For 48 Pieces

  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
  • 48 cocktail franks (2 14-ounce packages)
  • Mustard for dipping

Preparation

1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Unroll both cans of dough and separate into 16 triangles. Cut each triangle lengthwise into 3 narrow triangles.

2. PLACE 1 frank on the thin point of each triangle. Roll up, starting at the point. Place it seam side down on an ungreased cookie sheet (you’ll need two sheets for this amount). Repeat with the remaining franks.

3. BAKE for 11 to 14 minutes or until golden brown, switching the position of cookie sheets halfway through baking. When done baking, immediately remove the from the cookie sheets to a serving tray(s) and serve.