February 20, 2011

Homemade Pudding

Oh my goodness. Carrie and I both made this in the past week, and we both loved it. We found the recipe at Mel's Kitchen Cafe as usual! Carrie says I have to put that it was a bit too chocolate-y for her. And for me, it was divine. I literally could have licked the bowl clean. So here's the verdict: if you don't mind things rich, go for the full 1 cup of chocolate chips. If you don't like things uber-sweet, maybe reduce to 3/4 c.

*Makes about 4 cups of pudding

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process or regular)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups whole milk (I used 1% milk and it was just fine)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk chocolate chips (or 6 ounces bar milk chocolate chopped)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt, whisking lightly. Whisk in the milk and cream to the sugar mixture until it is smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking or stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is at a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened and large bubbles pop at the surface, 2 to 3 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Transfer the pudding to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding to avoid a skin starting to form. Refrigerate the pudding until it is completely cool, at least 4 hours but up to 3 days, if it is stored in an airtight container. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream…or not.

February 18, 2011

Soft Pretzel Bites

I got this recipe off Mel's Kitchen Cafe, and it turned out pretty good! I have made pretzels a few times and they never turn out super good. These were good, and I would make them again! My only thing I would change would be the course salt. I added this, sprinkled over them. It was pretty strong, so I scraped it all off. Then they were perfect. Slight salt flavor, no salty chunks. Enjoy!

*Note: if using active dry yeast, increase the yeast to 1 tablespoon. Proof the yeast in the warm water and sugar (let it bubble and foam – maybe about 5 minutes) before adding it to the flour and salt.

*Makes about 2 dozen pretzel bites

2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) very warm water

1/2 cup (4 ounces) warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse salt (optional)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix to just combine. Add the water and mix well, adding more flour, as needed, a bit at a time to form a soft, smooth dough that clears the sides and bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it is soft, smooth and quite slack. The goal is to get a really soft dough that isn’t overly sticky. Lightly flour the dough and place it in a plastic bag; close the bag, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest for 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Don’t be afraid of the high heat! This is what will help those pretzels to brown up perfectly and stay soft on the inside. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or lightly greasing them.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into about four strips of equal length. Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda in a liquid measuring cup (deep enough to dip the pretzel bites into). Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved. Sometimes I have a hard time getting the baking soda completely dissolved, so I just lightly stir up the mixture right before adding each pretzel.

Cut each strip of dough into about 6-8 pieces, about 1 to 1 ½ inches in width. You don’t have to be completely exact, just eyeball it. Dip each pretzel bite in the baking soda solution (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 7-8 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Bake one sheet at a time – it won’t hurt the other pretzels to chill out for a little longer.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that’s what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave on low heat.

February 13, 2011


This is a butter cream frosting that can be used for cookies, cupcakes, cakes, etc. I combined a couple different recipes/techniques for frosting to make this one for a valentine's party this weekend. I think it turned out really good. There is an extra step or two, and this frosting doesn't end up overly "powdered sugar only" tasting. I really liked it!

In a saucepan, wisk together 7 TB flour and 1 cup of milk. Wisk continually over medium heat until it starts to thicken. Cook for 45-60 sec or so, stirring the entire time. Don't let it get too thick, just make a roux out of it. Remove from heat and let it cool.

In a bowl, beat together with hand beaters 1 cup of softened butter (2 cubes) and 1 cup of granulated (regular white) sugar. Beat until light and well combined. Beat in cooled roux 2 tablespoons at a time, and continue until all the roux is added. As you beat this together, the frosting will turn smooth and creamy instead of grainy. (I don't know how this happens, it just does, like a small wonderful miracle!) Add 2 tsp vanilla. Now add to this mixture, approx. 6 cups of powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Beat until completely mix in and smooth. You can add small amounts of milk/powdered sugar until you get the consistency you like. Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy and wonderful!

That is it! It isn't nearly as complicated is it might seem, and doesn't take much longer than traditional butter cream frosting, but tastes better, in my opinion!

February 12, 2011

Vegetarian Southwestern Taco Salad

I totally forgot to take a picture, but I will make this again and then add one later! But in the meantime, here is just a generic taco salad picture, cause everything looks better with a picture!
I had everything for taco salad, and decided to add a few extras as well. It turned out so yummy!

2 cups rice + normal amount of water (can adjust amounts for your family)
1-2 T taco seasoning
1-2 tsp onion powder (or use real minced onions)
1/2 can Rotel diced tomatoes
Put all together in rice cooker or pot on stove and cook as normal. Stir when complete.

While rice is cooking, get a pot ready on the stove to cook together until heated through:
2 cans rinsed pinto or black beans, or 1 of each!
1-2 cups frozen corn

Additional ingredients:
Tortilla chips or regular tortillas
Shredded lettuce
Shredded cheese
Diced tomatoes
Diced green onions
Diced avocados/guacamole
Sliced olives
Sour cream

Prepare salad with crushed tortilla chips, rice, beans & corn, and top with all additional toppings. So yummy!!!!!!!!

One more note: We eat very little meat around here. If you like meat, you can add ground hamburger to this, seasoned with some taco seasoning.

February 10, 2011

Bloomin' Onion Bread

I came across this recipe a few days ago and HAD to try it. I made spaghetti for dinner and set this in the middle of the table, where we ate and ate and ate it:

It was so good! I did it a little different than the recipe, so I will note my changes in bold. The original recipe is here, and I would take a look at it, because it shows the process step by step. Also, she helps you get the right bread (a good crusty artisan bread).

This was a HUGE hit here.

1 unsliced loaf of round bread
1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, thinly sliced (I used mozzarella because I had it, and also because I don't love monterey jack by itself)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup finely diced green onion, including white part (I knew my kids wouldn't eat this if there was anything green, so I added some dried minced onions instead)
2-3 tsp poppy seeds

Directions: Using a sharp bread knife cut the bread going both directions. Do not cut through the bottom crust. Places slices of cheese between cuts. Mix together butter, onion, and poppy seeds. Pour over bread. Wrap in foil the entire thing in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Unwrap. Bake 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted.

February 9, 2011

Frank's Hot Sauce Dip

We got this recipe from here http://www.franksredhot.com/recipes/FRANK'S%C2%AE-REDHOT%C2%AE-BUFFALO-CHICKEN-DIP-RE1242 and the picture as well (because I forgot to take one).

This was such a yummy and very easy superbowl snack!

Garan wanted to load the whole thing up and put it on a bun.


8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch salad dressing (we used ranch, because we're not blue cheese fans)

1/2 cup any flavor FRANK'S REDHOT Sauce

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese (we used mozzarella, because we're still not blue cheese fans)

2 cans (12.5 oz. each) White Premium Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained


HEAT oven to 350°F. Place cream cheese into deep baking dish. Stir until smooth.

MIX in salad dressing, Frank's RedHot Sauce and cheese. Stir in chicken.

BAKE 20 min. or until mixture is heated through; stir. Garnish as desired. Serve with crackers or vegetables.

February 8, 2011

Giant Cookie

I made this for the Super Bowl, and it was a hit! I think it would be so fun to take to neighbors or anyone needing a fun treat. I found it at Mel's Kitchen Cafe of course! I followed the recipe as is, except I did 1 c. of chocolate chips instead of 1/2 c. And next time, I think I would do even more... :)

*Makes 1 giant cookie

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, cream together the sugars and butter. Add the egg and vanilla and mix. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Line a pizza pan with foil and press the cookie into a circle. I press my cookie into a 9-inch circle, about 1/4 to 3/8-inch thick. When it bakes, it spreads to about 11 inches, which fits perfectly onto a 12-inch round cardboard circle you can find at most craft stores.

If desired, top the cookie with M&M’s or any other garnishes. Bake for 13-16 minutes until the cookie is lightly golden brown. Let the cookie cool completely on the baking pan – this helps the cookie stabilize and set so it can be easily lifted off the pan. Once cool, gently use the foil to lift the cookie off the pan.

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