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Monday, January 26, 2015

Menu Monday {# 3}


It's Monday again, which means I'm sharing round 3 of my menu for the year.  This week is my husband's birthday and we have his parents visiting us from out of town.  So we're eating lots of favorites this week.  We have gluten and soy allergies to avoid with our company this week, so you should find some good ideas for meals if you are trying to avoid the same things. 

I have pictured all the recipes that I have on the blog and linked up the recipes below. Enjoy!

Here's the menu plan: 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ranger Cookies

Pretty much every day is a cookie day at my house.  My freezer is (almost) always stocked with oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  It's kinda my sanity treat and I need one everyday after lunch.  If I don't have them around, I end up snacking more until I can find that perfect something to get my sweet fix.  So, I pretty much just plan on a cookie every day.  It's much safer that way.  Of course, I have my fair share of 2 and 3+ cookie days too, but we won't go there.  For some reason, I never tire of cookies.  They are pretty much my all-time favorite dessert.  

Every once in a while, I go out on a limb and make a different kind of cookie besides oatmeal chocolate chip.  It's hard to mess with something that seems so perfect to me though.  This cookie was calling my name recently.  It's one that my mom made for us as kids that I probably haven't had since I was 12 years old.  My 4-year-old has been asking daily for me to make them again.  This is not your standard chocolate chip cookie.  It is unique, delectable, and in it's own class.  And the best part? It's pretty adaptable to your tastes.  In writing this post I did a little quick research on Ranger cookies.  They've been around for quite a while and there are lots of variations.  Some have raisins, some have chocolate chips, and some versions have neither.  They also have cereal in them.  You can use crisp rice, or cornflakes or a combination of the 2.  When my mom made them for us, she used crisp rice and raisins.  I decided to make them with half of each kind of cereal and no raisins or chocolate chips. As pictured here, Lu made them with rice krispies and chocolate chips.  Anyway, the point here is to use what you have or what suits your tastes.  I loved the crunchiness that the cereal adds to these cookies.  Coupled with the chewiness from the coconut and oatmeal, the combination is a hard one to beat...and resist!

Ranger cookies, oatmeal, coconut, cereal cookies, cookies, chocolate chips, raisins


Ranger Cookies

Ingredients:



1 cup (6 1/4 ounces) vegetable shortening or butter (8 ounces)
1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) brown sugar, firmly packed, light or dark
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (2 1/2 ounces) shredded coconut
3 cups (2 3/8 ounces) crispy rice cereal or corn flakes*
1 cup chocolate chips or raisins (optional)


Directions:



Preheat oven to 325.  Beat together the shortening and sugars, vanilla and salt until fluffy; add the eggs and beat until smooth.


In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; add the flour mixture to the shortening mixture and beat until well blended. Stir in the oats, coconut, and cereal, mixing just until blended.


Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake the cookies for 8 to 12 minutes, or until they're golden brown--keep a close eye on them.


Notes:

I have found several variations of this kind of cookie.  Some have chocolate chips, some have raisins, and some don’t have either.  My mom used to make them with rice krispies and raisins.

You can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut here. The sweetened coconut will lend a much sweeter end cookie, but both are still plenty sweet in my opinion.
*I used 2 cups of rice krispies and 1 cup of corn flakes.

Cooking time will vary greatly between ovens, so keep a close eye on them.


Recipe Source:

King Arthur Flour


Ranger cookies, oatmeal, coconut, cereal cookies, cookies, chocolate chips, raisins




Monday, January 19, 2015

Menu Monday {#2}

Hello, friends! 

It's time for round 2 of Menu Monday.  Last week I told you about why I like to plan menu's etc.  I've been in a slump about planning a 2 week menu lately.  But I'll be back at that soon - and then I'll share two weeks in each post.  So you'll get menu ideas twice a month.  Next week we have company coming and they have some allergies, so we might be mixing up our menu a bit to avoid gluten and soy. So stay tuned for some allergen-free recipes. 

What are you having for dinner this week?

Monday
Out with friends

Tuesday
Chicken Alfredo over pasta with Salad and breadsticks. I use the alfredo sauce that I linked in and grill some chicken and put it all over linguine pasta. 

Wednesday 
Chicken Burritos (Whitney's recipe - she's our sister in law). I'll share her recipe soon, after I get her permission. :) My husband claims he could eat a burrito every day and never get sick of them.  So he gets really excited when burritos are on the menu.  

Thursday
Fried Rice - I have a recipe I'll share soon. 

Friday
Breakfast (aka Brinner)

Saturday
Brazilian Night - we've been planning this with some friends since November - so we're really looking forward to it.  One of my friends is from Brazil and the other lived there for 2 years serving a mission for the LDS church.  We looove the Brazilian food we've had.  I have a recipe for Feijoada on the blog - we loooove it.

Sunday
Leftovers/Whatever is in the fridge that needs to be used up.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Some of Our Favorite Pizza Toppings {Pizza Series #4 of 4}


We've talked pizza tools, our favorite and perfect pizza crust, a delicious classic red sauce, and now we are going to talk toppings.

Cheese is an important topping for us.  I'm really prefer not to buy the pre-shredded cheese becasue of the powdered coating they have (it doesn't taste as good and it' doesn't melt as nice), but I have used it in a pinch and it works.  For a classic cheese mixture I prefer about half to three-quarts of the cheese to be shredded mozzarella and the other half or quarter to be shredded colby jack.  I just buy big 2 lb blocks of each and shred and freeze it. Then it's easy for a quick pizza night. Especially if you have frozen dough on hand, like Leesh mentioned in our crust post.

When we do a fancier topping combo we've used blue cheese and feta or fresh mozzarella. But for a basic cheese I like the half mozzarella/half colby jack mixture.  Do you have a cheese preference?


We will continue to share some of our favorite pizza creations over time, but today we'll be talking about a few favorite flavor combos. Also, we'd love to hear your favorites - please leave us a comment so we can try yours too! :)

-Leesh & Lu


Chicken Cordon Bleu- Top crust with Alfredo sauce, mozzarella and swiss cheeses, sliced ham, grilled chicken, sauteed mushrooms.


Chicken Alfredo - Top the crust with Alfredo sauce, mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, green onions, parmesan cheese.


Chicken Bacon Ranch - Top the crust with ranch dressing, mozzarella and colby jack cheese, grilled chicken, bacon bits, diced tomatoes, green onion,topped with a bit more cheese.

BBQ pineapple Chicken - Top the crust with BBQ sauce (sweet baby ray's and Stubb's are some of our favorites), mozzarella and colby jack cheeses, grilled chicken (lightly tossed in BBQ sauce), fresh pineapple, cliantro.

Pesto Feta - Top crust with classic pesto, mozzarella (optional here), thinly sliced tomatoes (I usually salt them and let them sit on a paper towel to draw out some moisture so they don't make the pizza soggy), crumbled feta cheese

Cowboy (like papa murphy's) - Top the crust with classic red pizza sauce, mozzarella and colby jack cheese, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, black olives, topped with a bit more cheese, parmesan and oregano.


Hawaiian - Top the crust with classic red pizza sauce, colby/mozzarella cheese blend, Canadian bacon and fresh pineapple chunks, topped with a bit more cheese, parmesan and oregano.


New Mexico Supreme- Top the crust with a classic red pizza sauce, colby/mozzarella cheese blend, green chile (yeah, baby!) , sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, finely diced onion, topped with a bit more cheese, parmesan and oregano. This is my husband's fav!

We hope you've enjoyed our pizza series! And if you have a favorite pizza topping to share, please leave a comment. We'd love to try!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Classic Homemade Pizza Sauce {Pizza Series #3 of 4}



Leesh and I have been trying to perfect our pizza making over the last 3 or 4 years.  Over the last few days we've shared tips on our favorite pizza tools and our favorite crust, and how to make it perfect.  And I think we've got some good things going on. We had pizza last Tuesday night - and as my husband was eating he said, "You have pizza making perfected!" Thanks to Leesh, I think we have - she's a pizza ninja! Our combined tips and recipes make one darn good pizza if you ask me.

We've tweaked all sorts of things about our pizza making; such as the dough recipe, what temperature and how long to bake it, whether to pre-bake the crust and then add the toppings or put the toppings right on the raw dough, thin or thick crust, and different sauces/toppings.  This classic red sauce along with the yummy crust is the essential foundation of the pizza.  These two things add so much flavor and texture - you can't mess it up after that....unless you add anchovies (no offense, I'm just not a fan). ;)


Today I'm sharing our favorite homemade sauce recipe.  I love this recipe so much. It's simple and provides a perfect flavor.  It's a bit thicker than the canned pizza or pasta sauce you would buy and use on a pizza, and I like it that way. But it's adaptable to your preference of thick or thin (see recipe below). What I love about this sauce is the combination of tomato sauce and paste. The flavor is enhanced with fresh Parmesan (or powdered if you prefer) and yummy seasonings. The rich flavor from the tomato paste mixed with the spices just does it for me. Soooo good!
  
I like to make this sauce in a big batch and then freeze it in individual baggies (enough sauce for 1-2 pizzas, since that's how many we usually bake at a time). And it works out great!  I put it in sandwich bags and then into a freezer bag.  This way I can thaw them in just a few minutes if I leave the bag in some hot water in the sink.  By the time I roll out the dough - the sauce is ready to spread.  When I don't have this on hand or don't have time to make a this sauce - I use Hunt's Garlic & Herb spaghetti sauce as a back up. They are both good - but I prefer this homemade sauce for it's superb richness and flavor!  Mmm, I just can't tell you how much I like it. I hope you'll love it! 


This sauce is loaded, just had to say that one more time, the rich tomato sauce, flavorful herbs and Parmesan cheese - it's just great!   It makes any pizza tastier - even a simple cheese pizza.  Enjoy some homemade pizza today!

Pizza Sauce {Our Favorite}


1 small can tomato paste
1 small can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon honey/sugar
2 tablespoons water (you can add more if you want it thinner)
¼ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon black pepper, fresh ground.
⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
sea salt to taste
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of Italian seasoning
3 tablespoons fresh Parmesan cheese, grated


Directions:



Mix tomato sauce and paste in a small mixing bowl until smooth, add seasonings and mix. Add cheese and mix until smooth. Spread over your favorite pizza crust and top with desired toppings and bake.
NOTE:
I like to mix a double or triple batch of this and freeze about ⅓ to ½ cup in ziplock sandwich bags (I put all the sandwich bags in a quart or gallon freezer bag) for quick use when we make pizza. It thaws in just a few minutes if you put it in a sink full of hot/warm water.

Recipe Source:
By Lindsay Lu and her husband, Steven from www.leeshandlusrecipebox.com




Thursday, January 15, 2015

Our Favorite Pizza Dough & The Perfect Pizza Crust {Pizza Series #2 of 4}


Tuesday we shared our favorite pizza tools and a few tips.  Today we are talking about pizza dough and making the perfect crust. 


For the pizza crust, we started with our Breadstick recipe and tweaked it just a little bit.  My favorite thing about this recipe is how forgiving it is. Didn't plan ahead and mix up the dough?  No problem.  All you need is a minimum 10 minute rest for the dough but it can hang out for 4 hours or so if you need/want to mix up the dough in advance.  


I used to think of homemade pizza as a fairly involved, time-consuming meal to make. However, it's now one of my go-to 30 minute meals that everyone in the house will eat. Traditionally we eat pizza every Friday.  No one really complains or gets sick of eating it as long as we change up the toppings.  Plus, the leftovers are kinda my favorite Saturday morning breakfast.  (Any other cold pizza lovers??)   


In my experimenting I used to pre-bake the crust, then top it and stick in back in the oven.  No one likes doughy pizza and it was the only way I could avoid it.  Eventually, I found that by baking it at a super high temperature, you really don't need the extra step.  Plus high-temperature-baking= only 7 minutes or so in the oven (depending on how thick you roll your crust).  Even my almost-2-year-old can be patient enough to wait 7 minutes for dinner to cook.

Another thing I love about this dough is that you can make it in advance and freeze it for up to a month.  With 2 adults and 2 littles at our house we usually only eat 1 pizza, but the recipe makes enough dough for 2 pizzas.  Sometimes I want leftovers and bake both, but most of the time I make the dough, and stick half of it in a quart-sized freezer bag to use for our next pizza night.  I move it from the fridge to freezer on Friday morning, and pull it out of the fridge about an hour before I'm ready to roll it out.  It works beautifully and makes pizza night a cinch.  

Here are a few other tips and tricks that we've discovered over the years to making the perfect pizza:

  • For an extra delicious crust, brush all the way to the edges with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with garlic salt before topping.  
  • Roll it thinner than you think you need to.  My hubby will always choose standard crust over a thin and crispy, but the dough will rise, so I have to roll it quite a bit thinner than I actually want it to be after it is baked.  The recipe that follows will yield two 12-16" standard crusts--even bigger if you like them extra thin and cracker-like. 
  • Since we eat it every week, pizza isn't really a splurge meal for us, so if you're looking to lighten it up, here are a few suggestions.  I usually use 1 cup whole white wheat flour in each recipe for a little extra fiber and nutrition.  If you substitute whole wheat flour for more than half, you will need to allow extra rise time or you'll sacrifice your light, airy crust for a pretty dense one.  Also, the olive oil in the dough can be reduced  or eliminated completely and still have a darn delicious pizza.  It will change the texture of the dough slightly.  I omit the oil about half of the time.  I'm sure you will find that the easiest way to reduce calories won't be in the crust though--it will be reducing the cheese and loading up your pizza with veggies instead of pepperoni and sausage. 
  • Don't be scared of the high-baking temperature.  If your oven cooks hotter than most, you can lower the temperature by 15-25 degrees.  Also, if your oven is like mine and doesn't heat super evenly--spin your pizza pan around 180 degrees half-way through the baking for perfectly browned edges.  
  • See our favorite pizza-making tools for more awesome pizza-making tips and suggestions.



Perfect Pizza Crust
Ingredients:


1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 - 3 1/2 cups flour (bread flour or all purpose both work great here)

Directions:


In mixing bowl add warm water, sugar and instant yeast. Let sit for 3 minutes or so until sugar and yeast are softened. Since it's instant yeast there is really no need to let it proof like regular yeast (if all you have is regular yeast - let it sit for 5 minutes or so until it's slightly bubbly).

Add salt, oil, and flour and knead in mixer for 3 minutes or by hand for 5-8 minutes. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl or counter (just don't over flour the dough or it will turn out a little dry and chewy). You'll know the dough is floured well when it pulls from the sides and still has a slight tacky touch to it.

Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough in two. Makes two 12-14 inch (medium-sized) pizza crusts.  Roll into a circle and bake on pizza pan or stone at 500 degrees F for 6-12 minutes with desired sauce, cheese,  and toppings. It’s done when lightly browned and cheese is bubbly.  (The cooking time varies greatly with the thickness of the rolled dough and your oven, so keep a close eye on it the first time and adjust from there if necessary.)

Notes:


This dough freezes great. I freeze it in quart freezer bags with enough dough for one crust.  Move from fridge to freezer the morning of or night before you plan to use it.  Remove from fridge 30 minutes to an hour before rolling out to allow dough to come to room temperature.  .

Recipe Source:


Adapted from Diana King’s Breadstick recipe


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our Favorite Pizza Tools {Pizza Series #1 of 4}



Pizza tools, favorites

Leesh and I have been working to perfect our pizza making over the last 3 or 4 years. We have tried lots of different things to make our pizza perfect. In our eyes it's pretty darn perfect! Now that we've found the secrets that make a good pizza we want to share them with you.