Saturday, December 31, 2011

HEALTHY CREAMY GUACAMOLE DIP




My family LOOOVES dips. A lot of the time we don't have a formal lunch, and instead just devour a yummy dip with crackers and veggies.
We really enjoy avocado, which is a great source of healthy fat, as long as it is in moderation, which is hard for us. This dip was inspired by one I saw in the Hungry Girl 200 under 200 recipe book. I threw this together just on a whim, and it is delicious! Perfect for New Years!


HEALTHY CREAMY GUACAMOLE DIP

1/2 block (4 oz) reduced-fat or fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 large ripe avocado, diced
Juice of 1/2 a lime 
1/2 Roma tomato, diced
1 whole green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 C. frozen green peas
2 Tbsp. (or to taste) Cilantro, finely chopped
garlic powder, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
* can add diced jalapeno if desired for a little heat, but I opted not to
*update* I made this again, adding in some lowfat cottage cheese and fat free sour cream with the cream cheese and pulsed it in a food processor to "pump up the volume" and it was excellent!

In small bowl, cook frozen green peas in microwave for 2 minutes, or until really soft. Mash with fork and set aside. In another bowl, combine rest of ingredients, then add mashed peas. Mix well and serve with crackers, baked tortilla chips or veggies.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BLANCHED ALMONDS


Until a few months ago, I had no idea you could create your own blanched almonds at home. I figured their skin was there to stay unless you had some high-temperature, fancy blancher gadget. At the time, I was purchasing almond milk at the store frequently, and since it's so expensive, I looked up making it at home. That's where I discovered how simple it is to blanch your own almonds. Sure, you can buy them pre-blanched, but I had a huge bulk supply of raw ones in their skin.
There's no "recipe", you just boil the raw almonds at a low boil for 2 or 3 minutes. Drain the water and let them cool until easily handled. With the slightest pressure, they practically jump out of their skin! It's a little time-consuming, but kind of fun; kids love it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

USEFUL HOLIDAY GIFT IDEA


Here is a last minute, but very useful holiday gift idea. I bought a recipe magazine at Sam's Club that was specific to using ground beef. I get all my beef from my brother in law who raises cows, so I have a large stash in my deep freeze. I just attached a couple pounds to the magazine with a tag saying: "What's for Dinner?" During the holiday's we hear this a lot; so here's the beef to use in your pot!  I adapted the idea from one I got here, where there's also the suggestion to attach the tag to a frozen lasagna or other dish. The saying would then change from, so here's the beef to use in your pot!, to, so heat this [lasagna] until it is hot! 
I love that it's something different than sweets this time of year, and who wouldn't love free meat? Other than a vegetarian : )

Thursday, December 15, 2011

ANOTHER USE FOR YOUR TOASTER

(Looks like I should have cleaned my toaster before taking the pic!)

I just wanted to quickly post an idea I saw a few weeks ago. I think it was on Pinterest, but I could be wrong. Turn your toaster into a mini toaster oven by placing it on its side. How easy was that to think of doing, yet it would have never occurred to me to try it. 
This allows you to toast something other than dry bread. Just make sure it's not too thick or that the cheese or other topping doesn't melt over the edges. Voila!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

HEALTHY WHEAT PUMPKIN BREAD WITH BLUEBERRIES & WHITE CHOCOLATE


My family LOVES pumpkin chocolate chip bread, but the amount of oil and sugar in the traditional recipe just scares me! I like to consider my bread just what it is...bread, not my dessert! With that in mind, I finally tried a recipe that has been hanging out in my "to try" file for a few years now. It's a healthier version, but I made it even better and reduced the refined sugar content even more by using date sugar! Instead of the chocolate chips, I threw in some fresh blueberries (cause I love them in my Blueberry Banana Bread) and some white chocolate chips. It turned out SO good! I took some to my neighbor friend and she called it "the best pumpkin bread she's ever eaten". Maybe she said that just to be nice, but I agree!

Healthy Wheat Pumpkin Bread with Blueberries & White Chocolate          Makes 1 Loaf
Recipe adapted from Nov. 2009 Good Housekeeping Magazine
1/2 C. light brown sugar, UNpacked
1/2 C. date sugar (can be found in health food stores, but can also just use more brown sugar)
1/2 C. scant, Egg Beaters or 2 egg whites
1 C. canned pumpkin puree
1/4 C. unsweetened applesauce 
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1/3 C. low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. ground flax, optional
1 C. soft white wheat flour (can also use regular white wheat flour)
3/4 C. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg (pre-ground is fine, but fresh is better!)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt 
1 C. fresh blueberries
1 C. white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray loaf pan* with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In large bowl with wire whisk, combine sugars and egg substitute. Add pumpkin, applesauce, oil and vanilla; stir to combine.
3. In medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients except blueberries & white chocolate chips. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries and white chocolate chips. Do not overmix.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 45 - 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert bread onto wire rack to cool completely. 

* I made mine into mini loaves and baked for 33 minutes.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

HONEY OAT WHEAT BREAD


A while back, I was on a mission to make the absolute best wheat bread possible. You know, as good, if not better than what you buy from Great Harvest and such. I tried all kinds of recipes, combinations of flour, techniques, etc. I ended up with a recipe that was more than satisfactory for my family, as posted here. Not too much later, wouldn't you know, my hubby decided to start eating a low-carb diet. BOOO! Sure I could continue making my bread, but the wind got knocked out of my sail pretty fast and my bread making decreased substantially.
Fast forward to today. I got in the bread making mode again, but decided to try a new recipe just for fun. I came across this "5 mitt-rated" recipe on Tasty Kitchen and whipped up a few loaves. YUM! It's a winner, and so easy to make. The method is slightly different than I typically do, but it worked!

Honey Oat Wheat Bread                makes 2 loaves

1 C. boiling water
1 C. old fashioned oats
1 C. milk
1/2 C. canola oil
1/2 C. honey
1 C. wheat flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 C. warm water
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
1 C. all purpose flour
3-4 C. wheat flour
Mix boiling water and oats. Set aside for 15- 20 minutes to cool. Keep the milk next to it for later.
In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, honey, wheat flour, egg, and salt.
Start your proof by mixing the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Use a 2-cup container or bowl, as it will rise a lot!
Combine the milk with the oat mixture ; pour that into the mixer. Pour the proof into the mixer. Add the white flour, then rest of wheat flour, 1 cup at a time.
Knead in the bowl or by hand until smooth but still slightly tacky.  Grease bowl and top of dough, then cover and let rise till doubled.
Grease 2  large loaf pans. Beat down risen dough. divide into pans, let rise till dough is a couple of inches or so above the pan. (It will rise even more in the oven!)
Bake at 350ºF for 35 minutes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP BUNDT CAKE {NOTHING BUNDT CAKES COPYCAT}


I had never heard of "Nothing Bundt Cakes" prior to seeing this recipe on Favorite Family Recipes, but now that I've made this copycat recipe, I can't wait to make the 1 1/2 hour drive to pay them a visit and experience their other flavors such as Pecan Praline, Lemon, and White White Chocolate! But in the meantime, I'll happily keep making this.
This cake turned out just as promised. It is a "must try"!
I love the density of this cake. And the cream cheese frosting puts it over the top! Don't skip adding the mini chocolate chips to the cake, they really DO get noticed.
This will for sure be my go-to chocolate bundt cake recipe from now on!

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP BUNDT CAKE {NOTHING BUNDT CAKES' COPYCAT}

1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
1 small box chocolate fudge instant pudding
1 C. sour cream (full fat)
4 eggs
1/2 C. water
1/2 C. canola oil
1 1/2 C. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Mix all ingredients together until well incorporated. Add chocolate chips and stir to distribute. Pour into a bundt cake pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool for 20 minutes. Remove from pan. (It was recommended at this point to cover the cake well with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight before frosting. I did this and it was wonderful, so I can't say how it would have been otherwise)

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 pkgs. 8 oz. each cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. butter, softened
3-5 C. powdered sugar (depending on desired consistency)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and mix well. Slowly add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until desired consistency has been reached. You want it to stay pretty thick.

Pipe the frosting onto cooled cake. Slice and serve. Cover well and refrigerate any leftovers.

Monday, November 7, 2011

HEALTHY BROWNIE BATTER DIP {A.K.A. DESSERT HUMMUS)


Within 5 minutes of seeing this recipe on Nourishing Flourishing, I had this dip whipped up! (I swear, I actually had about 1/2 C. of baked sweet potato hanging out in my fridge. It was meant to be!)
 I love, love brownie batter! And, for it to actually be healthy AND taste good?
 Wow. It really does taste like brownie batter! My kids and I couldn't get enough of it.
Some might be a little turned off when they read "white beans" as an ingredient, but I promise, you would never know they were in there!*
 I thought pretzels as the dipper were super good with that little saltiness they lend, but I imagine apples and graham crackers would be delicious too! Now I can't wait to try the other varieties of dessert hummus such as cinnamon raisin cookie, chocolate chip cookie dough...maybe tomorrow. Enough beans for one day :)

HEALTHY BROWNIE BATTER DIP
1 C. cooked or canned white beans, drained & rinsed
2 Tbsp. cashew butter (I used peanut butter)
2 tsp. vanilla
5 Tbsp. agave or honey (I used a combo of both)
1/4 C. cooked sweet potato or pumpkin puree
1/4 C. cocoa powder
sprinkle of salt

Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Dish it up and serve with your favorite dippers such as pretzel sticks, apples or graham crackers.
* Tastes best at room temperature! You can detect the beans a bit when it's cold.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

REFRIGERATOR BRAN MUFFINS {HEART-SMART & HEALTHY!}


When you hear "bran muffin", a few thoughts come to mind...bland, dry,and old people ;)
These are SO much the opposite...flavorful, moist, and my KIDS ate so many, I was nervous what might come from it! 
The nice thing about this recipe is that the batter can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, making fresh-from-the-oven muffins realistic for a weekday school morning. Especially when you make mini muffins, such as I did, which cuts the bake time in half.
Other recipes for this kind of muffin typically have a lot of oil and sugar, which to me, negates the benefit of the whole bran concept somewhat. 
You can also customize the muffins each time you make them by adding golden raisins, shredded carrot, mini chocolate chips, pineapple, etc.

REFRIGERATOR BRAN MUFFINS              makes 2 dozen regular muffins
Recipe adapted from relishmag.com
2 C. All Bran or Fiber One Bran Cereal
2/3 C. wheat bran
1 1/3 C. boiling water
1 2/3 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. wheat flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 C. low-fat buttermilk (I make my own by using skim milk and lemon juice to curdle)
1/2 C. pasteurized egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. white sugar (I used a low-glycemic sugar called Whey Low which I LOVE)
1/2 C. date sugar (found in health food stores) or another 1/2 C. white or brown sugar
1/2 C. unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Mix cereal and and wheat bran in a large bowl. Add boiling water, stir well and set aside for 1 hour.
2.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
3.  If baking right away, preheat oven to 375 F. and coat muffin tins with cooking spray or liners.
4.  Add 1 C. of the buttermilk to the bran mixture; stir well. Add remaining buttermilk, egg substitute, sugars, oil and vanilla, stirring until smooth.
5.  Add flour mixture, stir until a thick batter forms.
6.  Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full of batter. For regular size muffins, bake 20-25 minutes for mini muffins, bake 10-12 minutes, until puffed and lightly browned.

Per regular muffin:  approx. 130 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 2 grams fiber


Thursday, October 20, 2011

HOMEMADE CHUNKY APPLESAUCE


A girl at church last Sunday mentioned that she was given a ton of apples and didn't know what to do with them all, so she'd been drying apples like crazy. I told her she should make homemade applesauce because it's SOOO good! 
I hadn't been able to get the thought out of my head, so I finally made some of my own. I had to go buy my apples to make this, but it's worth it. You can make it just the way you like it...sweetened, or natural, cinnamon or plain, chunky or smooth. I typically like unsweetend, plain & chunky. This time I gave in and added some cinnamon & sugar. 
On a really good day, if I added some whipped topping and a graham cracker, you could almost convince me it's dessert!

HOMEMADE CHUNKY APPLESAUCE
Recipe from Annie's Eats

6 lbs. apples, peeled, cored & diced (such as Jonathan, Cortland, Pink Lady) 
1 1/2 C. water
6 Tbsp. sugar (more or less, depending on taste)
pinch of salt
3 cinnamon sticks (I just added ground cinnamon to taste)

Place all ingredients in a large dutch oven over medium heat until it reaches a boil. Cover with lid and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 25-30 minutes, stirring a few times, until apples are soft and broken down. Remove from heat. At this point, you can mash with a potato masher for a chunky consistency, or puree in a food processor until smooth. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SWEET PEANUT CHICKEN MEATBALLS


I've had chicken with peanut butter sauce before, but this I have to say, is my favorite so far! I am a little embarrassed to admit that I don't think I've ever cooked with ground chicken before. I've meant to, but haven't found it in the fresh meat department, so I always use ground turkey. Then, I found some in the frozen food section. I might be hooked on ground chicken after tasting these. They tuned out so tender and flavorful without too much peanut butter taste. They can easily be used as a unique appetizer too. If you've never had peanut butter with meat, this is the recipe to try!

SWEET PEANUT CHICKEN MEATBALLS
Recipe from Rachael Ray Magazine

1 lb. ground chicken
1/2 C. chopped fresh cilantro (I used slightly less)
1/4 C. dried breadcrumbs
1/4 C. grated onion
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp. salt 
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1/4 C. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. sesame oil
chopped peanuts for garnish

Mix chicken, cilantro, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, salt and pepper; roll into 1- Tablespoon balls.  In medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add meatballs and cook though, about 6-8 minutes, flipping half way through cooking time. Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients (except peanuts) and warm in microwave for about 30-60 seconds. Pour sauce over meatballs in skillet and sprinkle peanuts on top. Serve.




Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP


As much as I love soup, it's hard for me to admit it's that time of year! To "kick-off" soup season, I made this easy soup for my daughter's school teacher appreciation luncheon that's held during SEP conferences. You'd never believe this soup is made with so few ingredients and is so easy. Besides the chicken, you basically dump a bunch of canned goods into the pot and you're done! The best part is that it doesn't taste canned at all. 
You can add whatever toppings you like, but I served it with grated cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, and of course, crushed tortilla chips. This is one of those soups that tastes even better the next day, so it makes a great leftover meal.

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP                   serves 6

2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (I used ones with roasted garlic and olive oil)
2 cans (14.5 oz) reduced sodium chicken broth
1 can no-fat refried beans*
1 can corn, drained*
2 C. cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
for extra flavor, add a few dashes of cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper 
* I doubled the recipe and used 1 can refried beans and 1 can black beans and pureed 1 can of corn in addition to can of whole kernel corn

Toppings:
shredded cheese
sour cream
tortilla chips
diced avocado

Dump all ingredients (not toppings) into a large pot. Stir to break up refried beans. Heat over medium high heat until bubbling. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Serve with desired toppings.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

FAST AND EASY SPAGHETTI SQUASH


Maybe it's the fact that my pantry is overflowing with this stuff from my garden, but I am loving spaghetti squash right now! I've been eating it for lunch or a snack several times a week. I even like it just plain, straight from the fridge. It's a great gluten-free, low calorie, low-carb option. Use it in any recipe that calls for a spaghetti-type noodle. I've used it for a cold "spaghetti" salad, with tomatoes, olives and Italian dressing with parmesan cheese. It's also tasty tossed with pesto and diced chicken, or just a little butter and salt and pepper. 
Here is a super fast and easy way to cook the squash to use any way you wish.

COOKED SPAGHETTI SQUASH
1. Rinse exterior of spaghetti squash
2. With a sharp knife, carefully pierce the squash a few times around the squash (about 9 times)
3. Place the squash in the microwave
4. Cook for about 15 minutes at 70% power -- it's VERY important to reduce the power. Otherwise, you risk your squash exploding! Cooking time will vary depending on the size of squash and wattage of your microwave.
5. The squash should give when pushed, but still a little firm on the exterior.
6. Let set in microwave, with door open for  about 5 minutes to cool slightly.
7. Remove squash from microwave and slice in half lengthwise. Careful, as steam will escape.
8. Scrape out seeds with a large spoon and discard.
9. Using a fork, pull strands of squash out by scraping sides WITH the "grain" of the squash strands.
10. Now you've got your "noodles". You want them to have the texture of a real noodle, cooked al dente. If you cook it too long, your "noodles" will become mushy and not give you nice strands.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

FRITO SALAD


This is one of those good stand-by potluck recipes that almost everyone likes and it makes a lot. It's also a great way to use up fresh produce from your garden. Adding the Fritos chips on top at the last minute gives the salad a nice salty crunch. I am not a fan of celery, but I actually don't mind it in this recipe. It's not a dominant flavor, with everything else going on. It uses bottled Catalina dressing, which I didn't have, but I made my own and it turned out even better than store-bought!

FRITO SALAD
(Printable Recipe)

4 green onions, sliced thin
2-3 small green bell peppers, chopped 
4 tomatoes, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped

Place above ingredients in large bowl. 
Add:

3 cans red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
1 1/2 C. shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
1 bottle Catalina Light salad dressing
1 small package Fritos chips

Mix all ingredients; chill. Add 1 package Fritos corn chips just before serving.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

LIGHTER CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CUPCAKES


I'm back in the saddle...well, at least I've got one leg up : )

With summer over and the first week of school under my belt, I think I'm ready to tackle blogging again! Posts might be sporadic, and I might not do a Frugal Friday as frequently as before, but I'm excited!

Of course the end of summer means - ZUCCHINI ABUNDANCE for many people! There are zucchini recipes galore this time of year, but this is one I hope you'll give a shot. It's from Cooking Light, so it's a little lighter than a typical chocolate cake, but you could easily fool me into thinking it's not!

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE / CUPCAKES
Recipe from Cooking Light, 2007                                                                 makes 1 bundt cake or 16 cupcakes
(Printable Recipe)

Cake:
3/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar, packed (I left it unpacked to decrease sugar content a bit)
1/2 C. (4 oz.) block-style fat-free cream cheese (This time around, I used plain, non-fat Greek yogurt)
1/3 C. vegetable or canola oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla 
2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour (I used 2 C. a/p flour & 1/2 C. soft white wheat flour)
1/2 C. unsweetened cocoa 
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 C. fat-free buttermilk (make your own by using skim milk with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar & let set for a few minutes to curdle)
2 C. finely shredded zucchini
2/3 C. chocolate chips
1/4 C. walnuts, optional (I left these out)

Glaze:
3/4 C. powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
8 tsp. skim milk
2 Tbsp. chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a bundt cake pan or cupcake pan with cooking spray.

Place sugars and cream cheese, and oil in large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs and egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1 tsp. vanilla.

Lightly spoon 2 1/2 C. flour into dry measuring cups & level with a knife. Combine the flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in zucchini, 2/3 C. chocolate chips, and nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. For bundt cake, bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. For cupcakes, bake 18-21 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and cocoa in small bowl and whisk until combined. In 1 C. glass measure, combine milk, chocolate chips and vanilla. Microwave for 45 seconds, or until chocolate melts, stirring after 20 seconds. Combine powdered sugar mixture and chocolate mixture, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over cooled cake.

16 servings: 1 slice = 281 calories, 9.5 g. fat

          



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TAKING TIME OFF

For some time now, I've been teetering back and forth with whether or not to continue contributing to my blog. I still LOVE all things related to cooking and food, but have kinda lost my drive to blog about it. It has become more of a chore than the passion it once was for me. So, instead of declaring the end of my blogging adventure, I'm declaring time off. That's a lot safer to say, right? That way, I can continue blogging in a week, a month, or just "fade away". 
I have appreciated all the support my blog has received through comments here, as well as by mouth. There are SO many wonderful blogs out there! Blogging has broadened my view of cooking and baking, and has encouraged me to pursue a fun, new hobby; photography! So, I'll send you out on these. They turned out pretty cute for a beginner, if I do say so myself!

My girls, middle and right, with their cousin

"kissing cousins"

My niece

My 3 kids

My niece and nephew

until next time...

Friday, June 17, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - PLAYDOUGH

Photo by Instructables.com

School's out and the kids are always looking for something to do, and parents are always trying to come up with something for them to do!  Good old playdough can keep kids hands busy for a while, but if you're like me, any you might have had on hand is now rock-solid. I'm sure many of you have made your own before, but for those of you who haven't, this is SOOO easy and SOOO cheap, and can be made from stuff you likely always have on hand!


PLAYDOUGH


Basic ingredient ratios:
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)

food coloring (liquid, powder, or unsweetened drink mix)
scented oils

Mix all of the ingredients together, and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken until it resembles mashed potatoes.

When the dough pulls away from the sides and clumps in the center, as shown below, remove the pan from heat and allow the dough to cool enough to handle.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if your playdough is still sticky, you simply need to cook it longer!
Keep stirring and cooking until the dough is dry and feels like playdough.
Just keep cooking a bit longer and it will work!

Turn the dough out onto a clean counter or silicone mat, and knead vigorously until it becomes silky-smooth. Divide the dough into balls for coloring.

Make a divot in the center of the ball, and drop some food coloring1 
in. Fold the dough over, working the food color through the body of the playdough, trying to keep the raw dye away from your hands and the counter. You could use gloves or plastic wrap at this stage to keep your hands clean- only the concentrated dye will color your skin, so as soon as it's worked in bare hands are fine.

Work the dye through, adding more as necessary to achieve your chosen color.

1 If you use unsweetened drink mix for color, test on a small ball first- it won't go as far as the "real" food coloring.

(To prevent my hands from becoming stained, I put my dough in a plastic resealable bag, then drop in the coloring. Let all the air out, seal, then massage the coloring through the dough.)

Play with your playdough- I really don't need to help you there. It's entirely edible, if a bit salty, so it's kid-safe.

When you're done, store your playdough in an air-tight container.
- If it begins to dry out, you can knead a bit of water in again to soften the dough back to useability. Once it's dried past a certain point, however, you'll just have to start over; thankfully it's not terribly difficult.
- If it gets soggy, you can re-heat it to drive off the extra water the dough absorbed overnight.  This is usually the result of high humidity, but is fixable!

You can also bake it in the oven to make hard dough figures and ornaments, then paint or otherwise decorate the surface.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"SPICY" MARINATED BURGERS


While searching for a turkey burger recipe, I came across this one, but almost dismissed it because it's title said "spicy", and just saying the word spicy makes my kids tongue burn! But, once I got looking through it, I realized I could adjust the spice level to my family's liking. And I'm glad I did. These turned out so moist and flavorful! 

SPICY MARINATED BURGERS         makes 5 burgers


1 1/4 lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey (I used turkey)
1/4 C. water
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. EACH, BBQ sauce, Chili powder, Cumin (I suggest 1/2 tsp.), Cajun seasoning (I omitted this to cut down on spiciness)
1/2 tsp. EACH black pepper, red pepper flakes 
1/4 tsp. EACH tabasco sauce, liquid smoke
Buns & toppings of choice. I used Sandwich Thins, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and red onion*

* A tip for using raw onion - soak sliced onion in cold water, then pat dry to decrease its "bite".

Combine all ingredients but the ground meat and mix together in a medium sized bowl. Crumble beef over the top of the mixture and then use your hands to thoroughly combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to "marinate" the meat. Shape into 5 patties, then grill to your liking. Serve on bun with desired toppings.

Friday, June 10, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - PUDDING POPS


These pudding pops are an easy, tasty treat for the summer days ahead! You can make them any flavor you like, and can use sugar free pudding if you like. It's been MANY years since I've even looked at the price of pudding pops, but I know the average range for frozen treats (other than twin pops) is $3-$5. One box of pudding makes about 9 pops, so for a little over a dollar per batch, the savings will add up fast!

PUDDING POPS                            makes 9
recipe from Kraftfoods.com


1 large package instant pudding mix (vanilla is shown above)
3 C. cold milk
9 Oreos, crushed (optional)
3/4 C. thawed whipped topping (such as Cool Whip)

1. Make pudding according to package directions.
2. Fold in crushed Oreos and whipped topping.
3. Spoon into 9 small paper or plastic cups or popsicle molds
4. Insert wooden pop stick or plastic spoon into each for a handle.
5. Freeze until firm, about 5 hours.

**To easily remove from cup, Place bottom of cup in warm water for a few seconds, then press up on bottom of cup.