Monday, February 9, 2015

Valentine's Puppy Chow

This week we will all celebrate that most romantic of holidays...Valentine's Day!  Actually, come to think of it my husband and I have been married for over a decade so we usually don't do a whole lot for Valentine's Day...actually we do nothing...we are boring and old I guess.  The only one that really celebrates Valentine's Day on any level in our house is my daughter - who is 8.  Anyone out there who has a school aged child knows that it where the true Valentine's pressure the hearts and stomachs of 5-10 year olds!  Of course this week the kiddo came home with her traditional Valentine's note containing details about the party and the all important list of students for whom we are now obligated to provide a suitable character card.  Goodness knows the world will end if she can't find a box of puppy cards for the girls and Minecraft for the boys (I feel I should specify my kid has not played Minecraft...doesn't even know anything about it but it is cool so we must buy).

Every year I swear I will be good - I will buy the cool stuff right away before it is gone and every year we are swinging by Walmart on Monday night the week of Valentine's Day after Girl Scouts because if we don't - I will forget and the world will END!  No worries this year though!  It doesn't even matter if we end up with a box of last year's reject cards because I made this stuff!  What's not to love?! Chex cereal? Check. (See what I did there?)  Chocolate chips melted with peanut butter drizzled over said cereal?  Double check!  Top that off will powdered sugar?!  Super sugary check! And THEN I added M&M's...yup, I know, I rock!   There you go folks - screwed up the "must have" Valentine's again?  No worries!  Send this to school and all is forgiven - after all who really needs the 15 step home made from all natural doilies card that Beth's mom saw on pinterest when you have puppy chow with Valentine's M&M's?!

Measure out 9 cups of Chex cereal.

Put the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in a microwave safe bowl.

Microwave 1 minute and then stir until everything is all melted together.

Add in the vanilla and stir up, then pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal.

Stir until all the cereal is well coated.

Place into a ziploc bag large enough to hold everything comfortably.

Add in the powdered sugar.  

Seal the bag and shake until everything is evenly coated with sugar.

Toss in some seasonal M&M"s and give it another good shake!

Enjoy!  Yum!

Valentine's Puppy Chow
Original recipe found here

9 cups Chex cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups seasonal M&M's
1-2 gallon ziploc bags.

Measure out the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.  Place the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  Remove and stir until completely melted.  Stir in the vanilla and then pour over the cereal.  Stir gently but thoroughly until all the cereal is evenly coated with chocolate.  Pour the cereal into a ziploc bag - either use a 2 gallon one or two one gallon ones as you need to leave enough room to be able to shake up the mixture with the sugar.  Add in the powdered sugar and shake until everything is evenly coated.  Pour in the M&M's and give the mixture another quick shake to mix them in.  Eat right away or store in the refrigerator until you are ready for them.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Samoas Toffee and a Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest!

Good morning!  Today, we are going to learn to make toffee...real toffee...with a candy thermometer and everything!  Now wait, before you all run and hide - I swear, this will be easy and delicious!  It is even more worth it because we are going to be using the best ingredient EVER - Girl Scout cookies...Samoas to be more precise!

It is that time of know the one.  The one where girls begin to knock on your doors asking you in that adorable voice if you'd like to buy some Girl Scout cookies.  I was one of those girls once and I remember just how great it felt to set goals and meet them; to gain confidence that I could get over my shyness and gather my courage to ask someone I didn't know to support Girl Scouts.  It is still one of my favorite times of year but now I am the one behind the girl on the door step watching her grow in confidence and salesmanship.  Plus I'm the cookie mom...I get to play with all the cookies!  Good thing I love inventorying...

Anyway, back to the Samoas...and the celebration of Girl Scout cookie season Girl Scouts of Western Washington is once again holding a Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest.  You may remember my entry last year, Trefoil Raspberry Streusel Bars.  Last year I was selected as a finalist but sadly did not place.  Let's hope I can go further this year!  Details about the contest can be found here and don't forget to support Girl Scouts by buying cookies once booth sales kick off in our area February 27th through March 15th!  You can find locations near you by using the cookie locator, which is also available as an app in case you need to find cookies on the go!

Start by setting up your pan, candy thermometer

and parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Add your butter, sugar and water to your saucepan

Cook at medium heat,

stirring constantly,

until the mixture looks like this and 

it reaches 300F.

Remove from heat and pour onto the parchment paper.  Spread until 1/4" thick or so.

Immediately sprinkle on Samoas crumbs.

Allow to cool at room temperature for about an hour.

Once the toffee is completely cool, insert a knife to break it into bite size pieces.

Ummm....yum...enough said!

Samoas Toffee

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 box Samoas, broken into small pieces 

Start by placing a 3 qt. saucepan over medium heat and lining a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan, careful not to let it touch the bottom but placed low enough that the end will be fully submerged in the toffee.  There are ways to make candy without a thermometer but honestly they make it much easier and for just a few dollars at any grocery or discount department store it is worth taking the guessing out!  Add your butter, sugar and water to the saucepan and heat until 300 F, stirring constantly so that it does not burn.  Be careful not to stir too aggressively because you don't want it to splatter on you.  Once the mixture reaches 300 F, remove it from heat and pour the toffee on to our prepared parchment paper.  Spread if necessary with an offset spatula or by carefully tilting the pan until it is 1/4" thick or so.  Top immediately with the crushed up Samoas and allow to cool at room temperature until completely cool - about an hour.  Using the tip of a knife, break up the toffee into bite size pieces.  Now, try not to eat the whole thing - or at least make sure you have extra Girl Scout cookies on hand to serve more to your friends! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pesto Bread

Back before Thanksgiving many versions of this recipe were making their rounds on Facebook and Pinterest and I just couldn't wait to try it.  I just keep forgetting to buy or save up enough basil to make the pesto.  As luck would have it, my basil plants were getting a little tall and needing a trim right about the time that I stumbled across yet another re-pin of this idea.  I did some recipe shopping and was having a hard time finding good reviews on some of the recipes I could find so I decided to just use the idea and make my own version.  I dug out one of my sandwich bread recipes and looked up the ratios of a basic pesto recipe and got to work!  I have to say, while my bread here is not perfect as I had some company over and I accidentally let it rise to long which made a fairly large hole in the loaf, it is by far the yummiest idea ever.  Seriously, thanks to whoever got that whole pesto bread trend started!

Start by placing 1-2 cups of basil in the food processor.

Then peel your garlic - I like to use this handy garlic peeler - pretty inexpensive and a huge time saver!

You just put the cloves of garlic inside and roll it around to remove all of the peel!

Add your garlic and pine nuts to the food processor as well and then blend to a paste.  Add in parmesan cheese and drizzle in olive oil until a smooth pesto is formed.

Now we will start on our dough!

Add a little bit of the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, butter and water in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes and then add 1 Tbsp. of pesto and the rest of the flour.

Mix on medium speed using the dough hook for 6-8 minutes until a smooth ball of dough forms.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 10"x15".  Spread the pesto evenly over the dough and then starting on one of the short ends tightly roll up the dough.

Be sure to pinch the seam closed to ensure the dough forms into a nice loaf.

Place in a lightly greased bread loaf pan.  Cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

I lost track of time and let mine rise a little long...

Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Allow to cool completely and then slice and serve with or without butter.

Makes 3/4-1 cup of pesto

1-2 cups basil
1 Tbsp. pine nuts
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic

Place basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and run until a paste forms.  Add in Parmesan and drizzle in olive oil.  Run until everything is incorporated.  Set aside until later.

Pesto Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. pesto

In a stand mixer, combine 1 cup flour, yeast, sugar, salt and warm water and butter.  Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.  Add in 1 Tbsp. of pesto and then mix in the remaining flour.  Using the dough hook, mix for 6-8 minutes on medium speed until a smooth ball of dough is formed.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.  Next, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until it is 10"x15".  Spread 1/2 cup of pesto evenly over dough and roll from the short side tightly across and pinch seams to seal dough.  Place in a greased 9"x5" bread pan and let rise until double in size; about an hour.  Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes and allow to cool 5 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely on a wire rack.  Serve warm with or without butter or use for sandwiches.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 12, 2015

White Whole Wheat English Muffins

I don't know about your families but I know mine is a huge fan of english muffins, so much so that I swear I cannot keep them in the house.  Sometimes I just cannot buy enough to meet our demands and the very last thing I am going to do is run to the store first thing in the morning just for english muffins - hence my idea to make my own!

As far as breakfast ideas and pre-school and work morning meals go, these are a good choice! The recipe is fairly simple and not one that has to rise for a long time plus it is easy to customize exactly what kind of muffins you'd like.  I chose to try to sneak some whole wheat past my family by using white whole wheat flour but feel free to use all-purpose if you'd like.  Just be aware you might need to add a little bit more flour to get the right consistency.

In a small bowl add in the milk and heat carefully in the microwave or over the stove.  Add in the butter and stir to melt then add in the yeast.  Set it aside and allow the yeast to "bloom" a bit.

 In another bowl, add together all the dry ingredients and whisk until they are well combined.

After about 5 minutes, your wet ingredients should look something like this - the stuff on top shows us that the yeast is active and ready to bake with.

Pour the milk mixture into a stand mixer bowl and add in the egg.  Be sure to break up the egg yolk and mix it in a little bit before you add in the dry ingredients.

Carefully add in the flour mixture a third at a time.

Once all the flour is added, beat on medium using the dough hook for 6-8 minutes or until a smooth ball of dough is formed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll until it is 3/4" to 1" thick.

Using an english muffin cutter or a the ring to a large wide mouth canning jar, cut out as many muffins as you can, re-rolling when needed.

Place the muffins on a cookie sheet lightly dusted with a layer or cornmeal and sprinkle some corn meal on top.  Cover and allow the dough to rise for about 20 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 325F.

After the dough has risen, heat a cast iron skillet over low heat and lightly brown each side of all of the english muffins and then place them back on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Serve immediately with butter or jam by piercing the sides with a fork to separate them or store in a bread bag on the counter for up to a week.

English Muffins
Makes a dozen muffins

3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. yeast
1 3/4 cups milk
3 Tbsp. butter
1 egg

Heat up the milk just until warm enough to melt the butter over the stove or in the microwave.  Add the butter and yeast and set aside for a moment.  Sift or whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar and baking soda) in a small bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to a stand mixer bowl and beat in the egg.  Add in the dry ingredients in thirds until completely incorporated and then mix using the dough hook for 6-8 minutes until a smooth dough forms.  Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 3/4"-1" thick and cut using the lid of a large mouth canning jar and dust lightly with cornmeal.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes.  Warm a cast iron pan over low heat and brown each side of the muffins just until crispy and then set on a baking sheet.  Once all the muffins are browned, bake for 12 minutes at 325 degrees F.  After baked, use a fork to separate the sides and serve with butter and/or jam.  Enjoy!