Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Pasta salad is one of my favorite dishes to make when the weather turns warmer,  thanks to it’s simplicity and ease in preparation. My favorite pasta salad is my Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad because it incorporates all of my favorite salad flavors into one dish. This Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad is a crowd-pleaser, a fun picnic dish to share, and an easy weeknight meal.

I have been making this salad for years and recently made some new additions to it to incorporate more flavors. I roasted my chicken, but coated it in Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning (along with the olive oil, salt, and pepper that I traditionally do) that I found at our grocery store to add spice to it, added more of this fun seasoning to the dressing mixture itself, and thinned the dressing with red wine vinegar so it coated the noodles better.

The fresh additions of romaine and tomatoes add brightness and freshness to this dish. You can, of course layer on the Caesar salad flavorings by adding parmesan cheese and croutons, but it is delicious with or without these additions.

I have yet to meet a person that didn’t love this pasta salad as much as I did. If you intend to eat this one all week long, I recommend storing the romaine separately and adding it when dishing it up so you don’t have soggy lettuce in your dish.

I hope you can give this dish a try!

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
To make this dish quicker, use a rotisserie chicken instead of roasting your own!
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dry penne pasta
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, roasted & seasoned with Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning (see link above for preparation technique)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic seasoning
  • 1 (8 ounce) bottle Caesar salad dressing
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 head romaine lettuce – rinsed, dried and
  • shredded
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Prepare chicken as directed above. Allow the meat to rest ten minutes and then dice or shred for your pasta salad.
  2. Prepare your lettuce and tomatoes and toss them into a large bowl with the cooled chicken.
  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  4. In a bowl, mix together salad dressing, vinegar, and seasonings. Toss together pasta, chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, and dressing mixture.
  5. Garnish with croutons and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

 

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Homemade Whole Wheat Toasted Tarts

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

I love, love, love breakfast tarts and today I wanted to share with you a cute homemade whole wheat toasted tart version of this delicious treat that you can make right in your own kitchen. This recipe for whole wheat toasted tarts is so delicious that you won’t believe how much yum can be packed into one little treat.

These whole wheat toasted tarts incorporate a little whole wheat flour and in lieu of a frosting topping, I have mixed raw sugar & wheat germ for a sweet and toasty combination of deliciousness that is a little bit healthier than sprinkles and frosting (although we do love sprinkles and frosting around here too!).

I had never eaten a homemade toasted tart before and can I say…holy yum?! These are flaky, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and just the right balance of filling and crust.

I hit my local Walmart store to grab supplies for this yummy treat. They offer absolutely delicious gourmet Bonne Maman fruit preserves that have become a special treat in our house for everything from waffle topping to my kid’s peanut butter & jellies. They retail for $3.95 each and come in delicious berry combinations, strawberry, cherry, and wild blueberry. One of these days I will get the hang of canning, but for now, these are my go-to preserves and make a delicious filling for homemade toasted tarts.

Just like my all butter pie crust (you can check out a picture tutorial over there),  I employ the use of my food processor to create an easy crust without the kneading. To make sure I don’t overwork the dough, I only use the Pulse on my food processor so I can make sure that I have a very tender dough. This is really essential for a flaky crust especially since we are creating this dough with whole wheat flour incorporated in it.

You can roll your dough out on a well-floured surface or roll it between two pieces of parchment paper. I highly recommend the parchment paper since this dough is a sticky one!

Did I mention sticky? This dough is a tricky little beast for a novice chef. Refrigeration of your crust is really essential for nice crisp edges and workable dough. The experts advise chilling your dough before using it and then chilling your tarts before you bake them to retain their shape. I do the same tactic with my sugar cookies and it yields crisp results. This will be doubly important if you live somewhere with a humid climate or are working in a hot kitchen.

My advice, chill out!

Seriously, just chill out for as long as you can!

My crunchy & sweet topping is raw sugar mixed with wheat germ. A generous sprinkle of this adds another layer of deliciousness. Although the dough is chock-full of butter (as all good crusts are!), there is very little sugar in the dough itself and the raw sugar adds a crunchy texture as well as a little sweetness to this homemade delight.

These little toasty tarts were meant to be cut in perfect measurements with crisp corners.

I am no baker though, so these are imperfect…

Just like me!

The kids never noticed the difference and busy moms don’t have time for perfection when it comes to snacks.

Can I get an, “Amen?”

Toasted Tart Filling Ideas

Fruit Preserve Filling: 3/4 cup (8 ounces) jam, 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water. Mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Use to fill the pastry tarts.

Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Filling: 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, & 4 teaspoons flour. Whisk together.

Chocolate Filling: 9 tablespoons mini chocolate chips or 9 tablespoons Nutella. Spread or sprinkle chocolate filling.

Homemade Whole Wheat Toasted Tarts
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9
 
Surprise the kids with a homemade version of this favorite breakfast treat. Be sure to visit the post for filling ideas for your homemade whole wheat toasted tarts.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 quarter-pound sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
  • 1 additional large egg (for brushing on the pastry)
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ
Instructions
  1. Process flour, sugar, and salt together until combined.
  2. Add butter and pulse until the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pecan-sized lumps of butter still visible.
  3. Mix the egg and milk, and add it to the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive.
  4. Divide the dough in half. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days or for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes.
  6. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about ⅛” thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. Laying a 9″ x 13″ pan atop the dough will give you an idea if you’ve rolled it large enough. Trim off the edges; place the scraps on a baking sheet, and set them aside, along with the 9″ x 12″ rectangle of dough.
  7. Roll the second piece of dough just as you did the first. Press the edge of a ruler into the dough you’ve just rolled, to gently score it in thirds lengthwise and widthwise; you’ll see nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.
  8. Beat the egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the dough. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each marked rectangle.
  9. Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around each pocket of jam, sealing the dough well on all sides.
  10. Brush the tops of the pastry with the remainder of the egg and then sprinkle the wheat germ and raw sugar topping on top of your tart.
  11. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Cut the dough evenly in between the filling mounds to make nine tarts. Press the cut edges with your fingers to seal, then press with a fork, to seal again.
  12. Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.
  13. Remove the tarts form the fridge, and bake them for 25-28 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.

Recipe Adapted from King Author Flour.

 

Afraid to tackle a homemade crust? I get it! You can find an easy DIY Pop Tart made from store-bought crust over here!

 


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Getting To Know Your Bread Machine (Easy Recipes & Tips for Busy Families)

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

One of the most invaluable appliances in our home is our bread machine and today I wanted to share with you why I think a bread machine is a wise kitchen investment. This tutorial will offer advice on what to look for in a bread machine, how to use your bread machine, and the best bread machine recipes that our family enjoys on a weekly basis.

Perhaps you already have a bread machine that has been gathering dust in your kitchen or basement. Many people buy these appliances and then end up donating them to their local thrift store because they never use them. I think of the bread machine as a modern day convenience, but in a culture where we want everything NOW, waiting for a loaf of bread can seem like an eternity.

Why wait for a hot loaf of fresh bread when you can grab a loaf at your supermarket?

And what exactly is the purpose of that appliance that is taking up space on your shelves? Let’s get to know our bread machines and find a new way to use them.

What is A Bread Machine or Bread Maker?

A bread making machine or bread maker is a home appliance for baking bread.The bread machine is simple in its construction and consists of a bread pan (or “tin”), at the bottom of which are one or more built-in paddles, mounted in the center of a small special-purpose oven. This little oven is  controlled by a simple built-in computer, the settings for which are inputted on the control panel. Most bread machines have different cycles for different kinds of dough—including white bread, whole grain, European-style (sometimes labeled “French”), and dough-only (for pizza dough and shaped loaves baked in a conventional oven). Many also have a timer to allow the bread machine to activate without operator attendance, and some high-end models allow the user to program a custom cycle.

Some of the older machines have just a handful of simple settings while newer machines offer more advanced cycles including a cycle to make jam or to bake cakes. To be honest, I don’t use the fancy cycles on my bread machine and rely mostly on the Basic and the Dough cycle, which can be found on every machine. The basic cycle is just the basic setting for making a loaf of bread. The Dough cycle just completes the kneading and rising of the dough. Once the dough cycle is complete, you can take the dough out and shape it into your loaf pan or do fancy braids or rolls out of the dough.

The purpose of a bread machine is simple;  you are able to make fresh bread when you want it. The reasons vary from person to person on why they choose to make their own bread. Many people have concerns about the additives and preservatives that are found in store-bought breads. Another reason that many people choose to make their own bread is because they just enjoy the taste of homemade bread. My reasoning for making our own bread is because I like to save our family money. Making your own bread costs so much less than purchasing a loaf of bread, and the rising grocery costs have only fueled my desire more to make it at home.

How Do You Add Ingredients to a Bread Machine?

Inserting your ingredients into a bread machine is also very straightforward. If you are making the loaf right away, you can insert the ingredients in any way that you want. All of these ingredients will immediately be stirred together and so it will not matter what the order is. If you use a timer delay on your bread machine, delaying the start time of making your loaf, it is imperative that you put the ingredients in the right order or your loaf will not turn out right. The order of ingredients is liquid (liquids include water, oil, milk, eggs, or honey), flour, other dry ingredients (salt, sugar, baking powder, seasonings), and ending the ingredients with your yeast. The most important part of putting the yeast in is to make sure that you make a small indentation into the center of the flour so that the yeast does not react with the other ingredients.

Upon inserting your ingredients, your bread machine will take over the process from there. The machine will knead the ingredients together, give the bread its rising time, and then it will bake the bread. The bread machine will signal when the bread is ready and you can allow the bread to cool inside of the bread bucket.

Do I Need to Buy Bread Machine Mixes For My Bread Machine?

There is no need to spend the money on convenience bread machine mixes; in fact, you can make your own convenient mixes handy for the week. I take plastic storage bags and make an assembly line of the dry ingredients and do my bags once a month. On the outside, just write what liquids you will need to add and you will only have a dirty kitchen once instead of weekly.

What is the difference between Instant Yeast, Bread Machine Yeast and RapidRise Yeast?

Just their names because these are all the same yeast. Nothing like making it EXTRA confusing for a novice bread-maker.

Is There Savings in Making Bread at Home?

A quick glance at grocery store prices and you will wonder how there could be any possible savings with making your bread at home. The key to making this the least expensive on your family is to purchase all of your ingredients at your local wholesale club. With proper storage, you can buy the ingredients in bulk and save your family loads of money.

I don’t use my wholesale club membership very often except for our family’s eye care needs and for the occasional party. I won’t ever let my membership lapse though because with one trip to buy my baking supplies, my wholesale club membership has earned its space in my wallet. I make a trip twice a year to buy all of the necessary supplies for my baking and pizza-making needs.

Don’t believe me? Here is the current prices from my local Sam’s Club:

25 Pounds Bread Flour- $6.59 (needed depending upon the recipe)

25 Pounds All-Purpose Flour- $6.68 (needed depending upon the recipe)

2 Pounds of Yeast- $4.16

Cheese (5 pounds for $10.43) , pepperoni (5 pounds for $11.88), and crushed tomatoes (102 ounces for $2.68) can also be bought at a fraction of the price, but in the past I have lacked the capacity and ambition of storage for all of the ingredients.

As a side note, if you do own a membership to Sam’s Club, they have a wonderful Click ‘N Pull service that you can utilize for your shopping day and they can pull the ingredients right to the front and email you when your order is ready to pick up. This is a fantastic free service for moms with small children or who are short on time!

How Do I Store My Bread Machine Ingredients?

For storage, flour can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container. With bulk storage, a large plastic bin that has been clearly labeled is ideal to keep your flour fresh. Yeast is the easiest ingredient to store and has a very long shelf life. I store my yeast in a mason jar in our refrigerator door. With both of these ingredients, writing an expiration date on the label will also remind you of when the item is going to expire. I have also provided a handy Yeast Freshness Test that you can use to see if your yeast is still working. This will come in handy when buying yeast in bulk.

What Kind of Bread Machine Should I Buy?

If you do not have a bread machine and are looking for one, garage sales and thrift sales are a great place to hunt. I see these machines for $10 or less, and you will definitely get your money back from the savings of making your own bread. When you find one, ask if you can plug it in and make sure it is working. Just check that it actually powers up, that there is a bread bucket inside, and that there is a paddle in the bottom of the bread machine to stir the ingredients. Having a manual with it is handy, but usually can be found by searching online.

Over the past five years, I have been using my Sunbeam Bread Machine with great success. All of my past models have been found at the thrift shops and garage sales, but when our bread machine quit on us, I ran out to our local superstore so we wouldn’t have to miss our weekly pizza night. You know an appliance has become invaluable to you if you can’t imagine a day without it. Our bread machine is that invaluable to us.

What Are Some Foolproof Bread Machine Recipes I Can Try With My Family?

On any given day in our house, you will find our bread machine happily humming along and whipping up fresh dough and bread for us. Not only that, but our bread machine has a regular performance in our house on Friday night for our infamous weekly family pizza night.

Here are a few of our family favorites, but you can learn more in my first book, “The Good Life For Less,” that is available on bookstore shelves now: 

The Perfect Pizza Dough (so easy that your kids can roll this one out on their own!)

Bread Machine Pita Pockets

Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Whole Wheat Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Bread Machine Calzones

Bread Machine Portuguese White Bread

 

Bread Machine Monkey Bread/Bunny Bread

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls 

 

 

Yeast Freshness Test
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Not sure if your yeast is still fresh and active? This simple test will help determine if your yeast is still performing!
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup warm tap water (110°F-115°F)
  • 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast (make sure it is at room temperature)
Instructions
  1. Using a one-cup liquid measuring cup, dissolve 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar in ½ cup warm tap water at 110°F-115°F. Using a thermometer is the most accurate way to determine the correct liquid temperature. Any thermometer will work as long as it measures temperatures between 75°F and 130°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, the tap water should be warm but NOT hot to the touch.
  2. Stir in one ¼ oz. packet (7g) or 2-1/4 tsp of dry yeast until there are no more dry yeast granules on top.
  3. In three to four minutes, the yeast will have absorbed enough liquid to activate and start to rise.
  4. After ten minutes, the foamy yeast mixture should have risen to the 1-cup mark and have a rounded top.
  5. If this is true, your yeast is very active and should be used in your recipe immediately.
  6. If the yeast did not rise to the 1-cup mark, your yeast has little or no activity. Discard this yeast.

Do you have a bread machine? What is your favorite thing to do with this appliance?

 

I love helping you cook in the kitchen! If you like this cooking tutorial,  be sure to visit my tutorial on How to Cook A Butternut Squash With the Skin On, How to Roast a Spaghetti Squash, and  How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker.

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Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Cinnamon rolls are one of those treats that I always found intimidating to make in the kitchen. Luckily, with my bread machine, these are a cinch to pull together and enjoy on a lazy Saturday morning. Today I want to share with you my bread machine cinnamon roll recipe to create this yummy treat at home in your kitchen.

Growing up, one of my favorite Saturday treats was a Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll. My mom would make these for us on Saturdays and we always fought over the ones that had the most frosting. Sadly, it was such a thrill when my dad worked in the mornings because that meant that there would be two extra rolls for us to fight over. Who could resist those rolls and the simple pleasure of having a sweet treat once a week?

I still love those cinnamon rolls, but at $1.69 a roll, they are an unnecessary addition to the grocery budget. What I do have though is flour and sugar, purchased in bulk, and a bread machine that can turn out cinnamon roll dough like nobody’s business.

The best part about making these cinnamon rolls is that you can vary the sizes and I can make mini-versions of the rolls for the little kids and tuck these in the center of the batch so that they don’t get overdone. The kids love these mini versions and I control the amount of sugar they are getting. Just give them a teeny drizzle of frosting and they will be set!

Of course, I have been know to reheat these in the microwave for a nice snack in the evening or for breakfast the next day. Place one on a microwave-safe plate and zap for about twenty seconds. It make a great snack paired with a hot cup of coffee.

Tomorrow I will be sharing more about our beloved bread machine and what you can do with it! For now, I hope you can enjoy this easy and delicious treat with your family!

 

 

5.0 from 1 reviews

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
Homemade cinnamon rolls are a breeze when created in your bread machine. This bread machine cinnamon roll recipe is foolproof and a perfect Saturday morning treat.
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups skim milk
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil or canola oil
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • Cinnamon Roll Filling: ⅓ cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • Cinnamon Roll Glaze: ½ cup powdered sugar to 1-2 tablespoons milk
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer.
  2. Select DOUGH CYCLE and start machine.
  3. Preheat your oven to 100°F and then turn off.
  4. When dough cycle is complete remove from machine.
  5. Roll out to about 12 x 15″ and spread with butter or margarine. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over all and roll up tightly .Roll it tightly and slowly, being careful to keep all the filling inside. At this point you should have a long log that you can cut your rolls from. You can wrap the dough with plastic and store in the fridge overnight or you can slice your rolls and put them on your cookie sheet or pizza stone.
  6. If preparing now, cut into as many rolls as you want. (I usually make ten large rolls).
  7. For the next day or right away: Cover with cloth and put in the warm oven for 45-60 minutes to rise.
  8. When doubled remove from oven.
  9. Turn oven to 400°F and when you put the buns in the oven, reduce temperature immediately to 375° and bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.
  10. When the rolls are done, drizzle your frosting over the rolls and serve them warm or room temperature (although they are best served warm).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Roast a Spaghetti Squash

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Thanks to some of my own dietary hurdles this year, I have been trying to make modifications to my diet that include limiting my carb intake. Spaghetti squash is my new favorite food to eat that offers a healthy and nutritious lunch option that makes me feel like I am indulging in a big bowl of pasta without the heavy carbs that I am trying to avoid.

Today I wanted to share a little background on this vegetable, some ideas for preparation, how to store this veggie, and even how to freeze it.

What Is Spaghetti Squash?

Spaghetti squash is a favorite vegetable for people seeking a low carb, vegetarian, or vegan diet. The spaghetti squash is an oblong seed-bearing variety of winter squash. The fruit can range either from ivory to yellow or orange in color.  Its center contains many large seeds. When raw, the flesh is solid and similar to other raw squash; when cooked, the flesh falls away from the fruit in ribbons or in strands that resemble spaghetti.

What Does Spaghetti Squash Taste Like?

Spaghetti squash, sadly, does not taste anything like spaghetti. Although its appearance resembles the pasta, it has a crunchy bite that reminds me of the crunchy exterior of a pile of hash brown potatoes. The flavor is mild and pleasing, making it a great pairing for bold and robust flavors like bright sauces, lemons, capers, and pestos. Despite, it just being a vegetable, I find it to be as filling as spaghetti. A quarter of a squash provides plenty of food food for one person and when paired with a big dinner salad, it will leave you feeling full until dinnertime.

What Are My Options for Preparation?

Spaghetti squash can be prepared in your microwave, roasted on a cookie sheet, or even prepared in your slow cooker. It can be cooked whole, eliminating the need to heave your body into a cutting board to cut through this thick vegetable, or it can be sliced in half, drizzled with olive oil, and spiced according to your dishes. I have only roasted this vegetable, so far, and the recipe for that can be found below. If you would like other options for preparation, here are a couple of other ideas for preparing the vegetable.

Microwave Method: Carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Season each half with salt and pepper. In a microwave safe dish add about 1/2 inch water to the bottom of the container. Add the spaghetti squash halves with flesh facing down. Microwave for 4-5 minutes until the flesh comes out easily with a fork.

Slow Cooker Method: Select a spaghetti squash that will fit in your slow cooker. Poke the squash several times using a fork. Place two cups of water in the slow cooker, then place the spaghetti squash in the cooker.  Cook the spaghetti squash on low heat for eight to 10 hours, or until the squash is tender. Allow the squash to cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove the squash from the slow cooker. Cut the cooked squash in half. Remove the seeds and serve.

Roasting Method: This is my preferred method for seasoning and flavor. You can grab the recipe below.

Boiling Method:  Cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Bring salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Place the spaghetti squash in the saucepan with its skin side up. Bring to a boil once again. Bring down the heat to medium heat. Boil 10-15 minutes. You can check the spaghetti squash with a fork to see if the strands are pulling away. If not, keep boiling until you reach your desired results.

How Long Can I Store a Spaghetti Squash?

There is no need to take up any refrigerator space with this squash! I think one of the best parts about the spaghetti squash is that they are relatively inexpensive and can keep for one to two months in a cool dark place, making it a great frugal ingredient to rely upon when times are more lean or the pantry is bare. Stock up on this ingredient when it goes on sale and roast it for an easy main dish for yourself or your whole family The possibilities with this ingredient are truly endless since it can be transformed into a pasta-inspired dish to a simple dessert with a little butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

Refrigerate cooked spaghetti squash or other types of winter squash in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap for up to 3 to 5 days. The squash should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking to prevent bacteria growth and spoilage.

Can I Freeze Spaghetti Squash?

The best part about this vegetable is that you can prepare it in large batches, if desired, and freeze it for your future meals. Freeze batches of spaghetti squash in airtight freezer containers or in freezer bags, making sure all of the air is out of them. Once your spaghetti squash is frozen it will last for several months. When you are ready to use it pull it out of the freezer and take it out of the container. You can heat it up in a microwave or in a pan of water, then simply use it for your recipes.

How to Roast a Spaghetti Squash
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Spaghetti squash is a delicious substitution for pasta in many dishes. This recipe offers advice on how to roast a spaghetti squash to be used as an ingredient with your favorite toppings.
Ingredients
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Be sure to exercise caution and use a sharpened chef’s knife for the task since this vegetable is a tough one to slice.
  3. Scoop out and discard the seeds from the squash.
  4. Brush the flesh with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Invert your squash on the cooking sheet, flesh side down.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Pull the squash out and carefully flip your squash so that the flesh is now upright. Bake again for ten more minutes.
  8. Pull the squash out and let it rest for 10-20 minutes. The resting is very important so that the strings of flesh pull out and look like noodles.
  9. Taking a fork gently glide it inside the flesh of the squash and pull the fork down lengthwise, separating the flesh from the skin.
  10. Top the spaghetti squash strands with your favorite pasta toppings or incorporate it in your recipes. See notes above for freezer storage.

If you like this cooking tutorial,  be sure to visit my tutorial on How to Cook A Butternut Squash With the Skin On, How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker, & grab my recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Toasted Pecans for a delicious weeknight meal!

 

What are your favorite ways to serve up Spaghetti Squash? I would love to hear your recipes and topping ideas!

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Easy Microwave Peanut Brittle

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Continuing our theme with easy no-bake treats that cost under $5 or less, I wanted to share with you my easy microwave peanut brittle for holiday gift giving. Making peanut brittle in the microwave is so easy and is the perfect gift to give for the holiday season. If you haven’t tried making microwave peanut brittle, you are in for a real treat.

This brittle makes a perfect guy gift to give paired with an inexpensive hammer tied with festive ribbon. I found my hammers at our local hardware store for $2.99 and found cookie sheets for giving at our dollar store for a buck. With a few simple ingredients in your pantry, you have the makings for an easy gift to give and to share around the holiday season.

The only trick with making peanut brittle in the microwave is keeping a CLOSE eye on it so you don’t burn your nuts. I used my Pampered Chef large batter bowl to prepare the brittle in and found that six minutes seemed to be just the right amount to cook it in the first stage. Microwaves and bowl sizes vary so check it after five minutes and see how the brittle is looking. 

Easy Microwave Peanut Brittle
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
An easy peanut brittle that you can prepare right in the microwave. Package it with a hammer for a fun guy gift for the holiday season.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup lite corn syrup
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
Instructions
  1. Grease a baking sheet & set aside.
  2. In a glass bowl, combine peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, and salt.
  3. Cook in microwave for six minutes on high (keep one eye on it to make sure it isn’t bubbling over or burning the nuts). The mixture should be bubbly and the peanuts should be brown.
  4. Stir in butter & vanilla; cook for two to three more minutes.
  5. Quickly stir in baking soda, just until the mixture is foamy.
  6. Pour immediately onto greased cookie sheet.
  7. Let cool for fifteen minutes or until set. Break into pieces.
  8. If packaging for gifts, leave the brittle in tact and package with a hammer for gift-giving.

Looking for other easy & inexpensive gifts to give? Check out my tutorial for Sugar & Spice Nut Mix, Knitted Coffee Cozies, DIY Monogrammed Wine Glasses, Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows, Gingerbread Biscotti, Easy No Bake Cheesecakes in a Jar,  and DIY Mustache Mugs!

Not enough for you?? Here are 36 more holiday gift ideas!

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Sugar & Spice Nut Mix

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Not everyone is a baker and that is why I wanted to share with you an easy sugar & spice nut mix that you can pull together for your holiday giving that is as impressive as any holiday cookie. Making your own flavored nut mixes might not be something you have considered for the holidays, but once you try this delicious nut mix, you will have a hard time giving these sugared and spiced nut mixes away.

My variety of nuts include pecans, almonds, and walnuts. You can choose any combination of nuts that you might love or just keep things simple and roast only your absolute favorite. These nuts are then tossed with an egg white, water, sugar and some of my favorite holiday spices- cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice.

Once you pull them hot out of the oven, I sprinkle liberally with kosher salt to add that sweet and salty combination I love so much in everything from my salted caramel mochas to my dark chocolate & sea salt brownies. The salt really adds to the flavors and helps make these even more addictive.

Package these nut mixes up in a pretty box tied with ribbon. I found these little Wilton boxes at our local grocery store, but I am sure they have something similar at your favorite craft store. I lined the interior of them with a little tissue paper and finished them with satin ribbon.

Sugar & Spice Nut Mix
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
An easy nut mixture to create from spices in your pantry and perfect for your holiday snacking or giving.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling
  • 2 cups pecans, halves
  • 2 cups whole almonds
  • 2 cups walnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the beaten egg white, sugar, and all of your spices (except the salt).
  3. Add the nuts and stir until coated well.
  4. Spread evenly onto a greased cookie sheet or baking pan.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
  6. Spread out on parchment paper and sprinkle, while still hot, liberally with coarse salt.
  7. Package for your gift-giving needs.


 

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Gingerbread Biscotti

Monday, December 10th, 2012

One of my favorite gifts to give is homemade biscotti. This gingerbread biscotti is the perfect gift to give and this easy gingerbread biscotti recipe is a great recipe to try for your holiday giving and cookie trays this year.

Cut-out sugar cookies can be a time-consuming project so I often rely upon big batch items like biscotti (Snickerdoodle or Oreo biscotti, anyone?) or easy food items to prepare in large quantities like Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows or Hot Cocoa or Vanilla Chai mixes that can be made in one batch and assembled easily into smaller gifts.

If you can make cookies, you can make biscotti! Biscotti is basically a twice baked cookie that is perfect for coffee dunking. This Gingerbread Biscotti is filled with all of the flavors you love in gingerbread- molasses, brown sugar, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon and then drizzled with an easy glaze to dress them up a bit.

These can be packaged in festive treat bags with a little ribbon and would make a cute accompaniment to a favorite homemade drink mix, coffee, or the makings of a coffee gift basket with my homemade peppermint syrup or gingerbread syrup for easy homemade lattes.

The most important thing with this biscotti, I have found, it to keep any eye on it because it will go from done to burnt rather quickly! Start checking these after twenty minutes and don’t leave them neglected after that point or you may have some burnt biscotti on your hands! 

However you package it, solo or in a basket, I guarantee that this recipe will be a hit for your holiday giving and baking!

(click on the image to expand)
Gingerbread Biscotti
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 dozen
 
A sweet and simple gingerbread biscotti recipe that is perfect for your holiday gift-giving!
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1½ tablespoons ground ginger
  • ¾ tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ tablespoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • For Glaze: ½ cup confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons milk or light cream
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, eggs, and molasses. In another bowl, combine flours, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; mix into egg mixture to form a stiff dough (depending on your humidity, the dough may be sticky).
  3. Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a roll the length of the cookie.
  4. Place rolls on lined cookie sheet, and pat down to flatten the dough to ½ inch thickness.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. KEEP A VERY CLOSE EYE ON IT as it will go from done to burnt quickly.
  6. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.
  7. When cool enough to touch, move over to a cutting board and cut into ½ inch thick diagonal slices.
  8. Place sliced biscotti on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until toasted and crispy. If the biscotti already looks a little “too” crispy, you can decrease your oven temperature to 275 degrees and bake for 7-10 minutes instead.
  9. Let cool.
  10. In a small bowl mix together the confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and milk until it is incorporated. Using a small spoon, drizzle back and forth your glaze over the biscotti. Allow the icing to harden before packaging.

What fun treats are you baking this holiday season? Any great big batch recipes you might like to share?

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Dressing Up Store-Bought Pies: Spiced Whipped Cream Recipe

Monday, November 19th, 2012

I remember when I thought that making whipped cream was a labor-intensive process. Ah, I have had so much to learn in the kitchen. Whipped cream is simply one of these easiest pie toppings to make and spicing up your whipped cream is an easy way to add a personal touch to a store-bought pie.

This spiced whipped cream recipe will bring an extra layer of spice to your pies that your guests will absolutely love. The best part is that this easy spiced whipped cream topping can be created in under 5 minutes and with a couple of items you probably already have lurking in your pantry.

In a perfect world we would all be making handmade pumpkin pies made with homemade crusts. I thoroughly love baking, but I also know that it isn’t for everyone. For those of my friends who prefer to put their love in other elements of the holiday, I am going to show some easy ways to spice up those store-bought pies that will take those pies to another level.

Before I became acquainted with the kitchen, I really thought whipped cream was just Cool Whip and homemade whipped cream was a powder that you added water to that made whipped cream.

I really did.

Yes.

I.

Did.

Of course, I know a few more things than I did 10 years ago, but it still makes me giggle to know how detached I was from the culinary world. Whipped cream is actually just heavy whipping cream, whipped until it forms peaks and you can add your own spin on sweeteners, spices, and extracts to create your own unique combination of sweet and spicy. It’s perhaps the simplest and most satisfying of pie toppings.

This Spiced Whipped Cream gets its hint of spices from ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and a little sugar. It is the perfect accompaniment to your pumpkin or pecan pies for the holidays.

Tomorrow I will share with you one other fun topping to try on your pies along with some fun ideas for entertaining the kids! 

5.0 from 1 reviews

Spiced Whipped Cream
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Spice up your store-bought pies with this easy Spiced Whipped Cream topping!
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup chilled whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
Instructions
  1. Beat whipping cream, sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon ginger in bowl until peaks form. Spoon on top of slices of pie.


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How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

I have discovered a new favorite food and it happens to be healthy for me too! Quinoa is a delicious protein-filled side or main dish that is as just as easy as rice to prepare. Today I want to show you how to make quinoa in your rice cooker. You won’t believe how easy it is to make rice cooker quinoa and the best part is that you can make a weekly batch and enjoy it all week long to add or create other dishes with.

What is Quinoa?

Thanks to a little site called Pinterest, quinoa is quickly becoming one of the hottest foods this year to try to create new recipes with.

Quinoa, pronounced (KEEN-wah) is a very nutritious gluten-free seed that originates from the Andean region of South America. Quinoa is a fantastic source of protein, contains all eight amino acids, is a good source of dietary fiber, contains B Vitamins, and iron.

Though it is smaller than rice, barley, farro and bulgur, quinoa looks like a grain, thanks to its neutral coloring and hard exterior. In reality, it is actually a seed that originates from the cousin of the spinach plant. When cooked, these seeds expand rapidly and significantly, become tender but chewy and expel spirals that boast the slightest crunch.

What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

After cooking quinoa in a  liquid of your choice (water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth),  it becomes light, fluffy,  and nutty. I find the flavor of quinoa to taste a little like couscous and a little like brown rice. It is one of those grains that is difficult to describe, but worth trying simply for the nutritional benefits it offers.

I Don’t Have a Rice Cooker. How Do I Cook Quinoa on the Stovetop?

To cook quinoa on the stove, measure two cups of liquid per cup of quinoa and combine them in a sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a vigorous boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered until the quinoa is tender, but still chewy and white spiral-like threads appear around each grain. This should take approximately fifteen minutes.

What Rice Cooker Do You Recommend?

A year ago I bought this Oster Six Cup Rice Cooker for about $20 and I have been using it two to three times a week ever since.  It provides consistently great brown rice, white rice, steamed vegetables, and quinoa for our family with very little work on my part. It does take up valuable space in my kitchen, but it has earned its rights to the space by saving me a lot of time hovering over pots!

Is Quinoa Good Plain?

I don’t really love quinoa plain, but I think it is a great building block for creating healthy dishes. For example, my favorite dish right now is to simply add the zest from one lemon to the cooking liquid (in the recipe I have shown you below). Then I chop a few handfuls of baby spinach and a pint of cherry tomatoes (halved) and place them in a large serving bowl. Cook the quinoa as directed and then put the hot quinoa on top of the spinach and tomatoes and allow it to wilt the spinach and cook the tomatoes with its heat for about five minutes. Then toss it all with the juice from one lemon and a little drizzle of olive oil. You can serve the salad warm or cold and I have found it to be a hit at every party I have ever taken it.

Other ingredients you can add are sauteed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, or white beans for a double whammy of protein power. Be creative with what you have leftover in your fridge, and put together your own flavorful combination.

5.0 from 1 reviews

How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker
Author: 
Recipe type: Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Quinoa in the rice cooker is easy as 1,2,3. This is a simple and fool-proof way to make delicious quinoa that you can enjoy all week long in your recipes or as a protein-packed side dish.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups liquid (low-sodium chicken broth, low-sodium vegetable broth, or water)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Using a fine mesh sieve rinse 1 cup of organic quinoa in cold water (Note: the brand pictured here does not require a rinse, but I wanted to show you how to do it if it does. Read the back of the box/bag to find out if rinsing is necessary).
  2. Pour rinsed quinoa into your rice cooker.
  3. Add your liquid and salt.
  4. Turn on your rice cooker. When the rice cooker beeps, you will have perfectly cooked quinoa (approximately fifteen minutes)
  5. Unplug the cooker. Allow quinoa to set for three to five minutes and then fluff with a fork.


Have you cooked with quinoa before? What is your favorite way to serve this food? Any tips or tricks for cooking it? I’m all ears!

Disclosure: The link to the rice cooker is an affiliate link and is provided so you can locate what you need quickly and easily.

 

 

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