Saturday, April 9, 2016

Weekend Reading

Hey Y'all!

I know I haven't posted ANY recipes this week, but I thought I'd at least fit in one post this weekend - even though it's not a recipe, I wanted to share a few of my favorite posts from other bloggers that I read this week. Enjoy your weekend and check out the blogs below while you have your Saturday pancakes! ;)



The first post I want to share is from Come Home For Comfort. I discovered this blog a little over a year ago and loved it immediately. As a homebody, just the name of the blog drew me in. :) She has great posts every week. My favorites are her marriage Monday posts & her grocery haul/meal plan posts. This past week,she had a post about why she serves meals at the table. The post was perfect! I was raised in a family that ate together at the table every night (except for an occasional pizza movie night) & I really value/appreciate being raised to do that. I know so many people who can't remember the last time they sat at the table with their siblings and parents for a meal and I think that's so sad! My husband loves eating on the sofa because of the 'comfiness', so we eat about 2 meals a week there. But we try to have most of our meals at the table. Our conversations are so much better at the table and we linger and take out time enjoying the food instead of inhaling it mindlessly like we do on the sofa. Honestly, I think it's good for our marriage, and one day our family, to have that time together at the meal table. Anyway, go check out Whitney's post!
https://comehomeforcomfort.com/2016/04/06/why-i-serve-meals-at-the-kitchen-table/

The second post I want to share is from the Brown Eyed Baker. She had a baking basics post that I found helpful. I was not aware of the difference in #3 & I had never taken the time to check my oven's temp accuracy as mentioned in #4. Go read it for some quick tips!
http://www.browneyedbaker.com/mistakes-to-avoid-when-reading-recipe/

Finally, I have this post about young marriage to share. As someone who was engaged at 19 and married at 20, I have felt the judgement and just pure hate (from some very bitter people) in regards to marrying 'so young'. Articles like this one from other young wives always encourage me. She has some good posts and while you're at it, also check out the blog she writes with her mom - http://www.nittygrittylove.com/
They have a lot of good posts for both the new wife and the seasoned wife.


Have a good weekend everyone! It's going to be cold here, so I'll be spending most of it inside wishing for spring. At least I can enjoy this "spring-themed" vase! My older sister gave me an antique strawberry vase when I got married, and I think it's so pretty! I've only used it as decoration the past couple of spring/summers, but I think some strawberry lemonade and/or strawberry wine will be filling it this year. :)




Monday, March 28, 2016

Baked Oatmeal Muffins

Hey Y'all!

I have a really quick, easy recipe to share today - baked oatmeal muffins. These are perfect for a quick breakfast, mid-afternoon snack, or a pre-workout snack.





I had seen recipes like this floating around Pinterest and so about a month ago, I decided to try one of my own. :) They only take 5 minutes to put together and 20 minutes to cook!




I am using mixed berries here, but you can always switch that out with a fruit of your choice. Chocolate chips and walnuts are also good add-ins. The banana adds a bit of sweetness to the 'muffins', but if you like them sweeter you can always add honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar. As always, I have the recipe typed out below the video and you can Pin it for later too. Enjoy! :)






Baked Oatmeal Muffins
Makes 6 muffins

1 1/2 mashed bananas (about a cup)
1 c. oats
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. fruit

Preheat oven to 425. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Scoop equal amounts of the mixture into prepared muffin tin. Bake at 425 for 5 minutes; then bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Let baked oatmeal cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Eat once cool or refrigerate up to a week.




Friday, March 25, 2016

Freestyle Friday: Bed, Bath, & Beyond Haul + Sink Makeover

Hey Y'all!

It's finally Friday! :) Today I wanted to share a kitchen haul with you all. I went to BB&B a couple of weeks ago and picked up a few items I had been wanting/needing for a while. The best part was that it was all free! I had a gift card from my birthday last year and a gift card I found leftover from our wedding almost 2 years ago that still had $20 on it! I made my list and headed to the store for my items. I was determined to not use any spending money on this trip (I can get a little carried away in BB&B ;) ) and had actually put several more items in my cart but had to remove them and wait for a later time. It's crazy how fast everything adds up! If I had not had any gift cards, the items below would have come to about $65. Is it just me or is that crazy?? Obviously, I was very grateful to have the gift cards and also very pleased with the items I purchased. Read on to see what I bought . . .




The first item on my list was a soap dispenser for my kitchen. We had a sad little Softsoap brand soap bottle that we had used for the past two years and needless to say, it was pretty gross and just generally unattractive with all of the writing on the front of it. We chose a cute little mason jar soap dispenser to replace it and I love it! So much better.



The 'before' . . .

I also purchased some trivets. We have never had any trivets. We had pot holders and they worked fine, but I wanted actual trivets. They look better than messy pot holders anyway! I bought a set of 3 cork trivets and I also decided to try a silicone trivet. So far I'm happy. :)





Kitchen twine. My goodness, kitchen twine! With as much cooking as I do, can you believe I had never purchased kitchen twine in the almost two years I've been married?? Ridonculous. I know. My roast chicken and stuffed pork loin will greatly appreciate this. ;)




For those of you who don't know this, I'm a somewhat picky person. Particularly when it comes to kitchen dishes. When I got married, I did not put any serving plates or bowls on my registry because those are the sort of things I like to see and feel in person before deciding if I like them enough. I don't know why I'm so picky with serving dishes, but I am. So, I don't have very many serving dishes but I want to start purchasing some so that when I have company over, there are pretty dishes to serve food in, not just pots and pans. :) This platter is perfect for so many things - a pork loin, cookies, bruschetta, bread, appetizers, etc. 




For my sink area, I bought a sponge holder and a dish rack. I previously had a sponge holder with suction cups to stick to the side of the sink, but they became unstick-able after a ridiculously short amount of time, so I opted for this style now. I'm very pleased with it. It's small so the sink area doesn't look too cluttered, but it still holds all the sponges/scrapers that I use regularly.




As for the dish rack, we were gifted with a dish drying mat when we got married, but it isn't always the best option for sitting dishes out to dry and it takes up a lot of counter space. (Cluttered kitchen counters stress me out. Actually, cluttered anything stresses me out. ;) ) Instead, I bought this dish drying rack to sit in one side of my sink - it fits like a glove! I like this set up much better. :)




Finally, here is the picture of my 'made-over' kitchen sink area. I'm quite pleased with it. Even my husband noticed the difference that just switching out a few items made and said it looked like a whole new sink. :)




Sorry, there's no 'before' photo of the sink area - probably a good thing!

That's it for my kitchen haul! Hope you enjoyed the read/photos. :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Chocolate Crack Pie

Hey Y'all!

I have a super chocolatey, fudgy, sweet, and scrumptious pie recipe to share today. (Was that descriptive enough? ;) ) You might have already seen this pie on my Facebook page; I made it for pi(e) day last week! This crust turned out infinitely better than the one last week . . . the difference in a store bought crust versus a homemade crust is quite obvious! 



I am adding something in this post that I have not done before - I've added a video! Eeek! <---- Slightly terrified. ;) For about the past year probably, I have been playing around with the idea of sharing some of my recipes in video form. I just think it's more fun sometimes to actually see a recipe be made, not just read instructions. :) My two best friends, A & A, have also been encouraging me to make some recipe videos whenever we talk about the blog or food in general. However, I'm really awkward and uncomfortable in front of a camera . . . so this could be interesting. And I hate the sound of my own voice (who doesn't? And is that really what I sound like all the time?!). That's actually the main reason I have held off on doing a video for so long. But I will not let fear, or more accurately, awkwardness, hold me back. :)

Now, this is my first recipe video so don't expect anything professional or spectacular. Shoot, half of my head is cut off throughout the video because I didn't have it quite high enough! ;) But I had worked really hard to get everything ready for it and so I decided to go ahead and post it as is. You can see the pie and that's the main point. :) I want to experiment a little with the recipe videos - in some of them you will see me and I will be talking and in others, you will only see the food and I will probably not be talking. We'll see which type works best. ;)




But enough of that, back to the pie! I have a few photos here to share with you all and the video is below. If you scroll down past the video, I have the recipe typed out as usual. I hope you enjoy and will give this recipe a try! It is so easy to make - if you are a new pie baker, I highly recommend this recipe as a place to start. :) To save this recipe for later, there is a Pinterest button at the bottom of the post near the comments section.








Chocolate Crack Pie

Ingredients:

1 (4oz.) bar semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 pie crust (bottom crust only)*
whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

1. Lightly spray an 8-inch pie plate with non-stick cooking spray. Fit pie crust into plate & set aside.

2. Melt butter and chocolate together in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and immediately add the sugar; stir until well combined. Allow to stand 3 minutes to cool slightly.

3. Place eggs in a mixing bowl & beat lightly with a fork or whisk. Add chocolate mixture and whisk until well combined.

4. Bake at 350 degrees on the bottom oven rack for 30 minutes. Move to top oven rack and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool to room temperature.

5. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream, if desired.

Eat! :)





*This is not a deep-dish pie; plan accordingly

**Recipe from: The Kitchen Is My Playground**

Monday, February 29, 2016

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Hey Y'all!  

I hope February has been a good month for my readers. :) It went by in a blink for me! But I'm okay with that because I really want warm weather to get here . . . so long as the rest of the year doesn't go by so fast! :)

Back in January I made a delicious BBQ Chicken Pizza that I posted a photo of on my Facebook page. My plan had been to post the recipe the next week, but, well you know, the best laid plans . . .   Anyway! Over a month later, I have the recipe ready to share with you all. This pizza is so, so easy y'all. You can definitely make this on a weeknight without much hassle at all. And I love that about it. So many times in the past when I've wanted pizza on a weeknight, I have settled for frozen or takeout pizza (not that those are bad! ;) ) simply because I did not have time to make a crust and wait for it to rise and so on and so forth. But now, at last, there is a recipe that can be whipped together in about 30 minutes (not including oven time). Not bad, eh? :) 




The amazing, quick crust recipe I used for this pizza comes from Divas Can Cook. I discovered her YouTube channel a few months ago and y'all, she has so many mouthwatering recipes. I also love her personality - her videos are so fun to watch. I will have the crust recipe typed out below, but will also leave a link to the printable recipe she used. 





As for the toppings, well, I've wanted to try a BBQ chicken pizza for a long time now and on the particular night that I made this, I didn't have any "traditional" pizza toppings on hand. But I did have chicken, bbq sauce, mozzarella cheese, & red onions - it was perfect! I loved these toppings; it was a nice break from the typical marinara sauce/cheese/pepperoni deal. The flavors were perfect and so easy to throw together. Since I had some parsley on hand, I went ahead and added that to the toppings as well to add some color. Of course, there are many other toppings you could add to this bbq pizza such as bacon, green onions, banana peppers, etc. Just have fun with it! :)







Quick Homemade Pizza Crust


1 cup very warm water
2 tsp. sugar, divided
1 packet active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 heaping tsp. Italian seasoning
1 heaping tsp. Parmesan cheese


1. In a small bowl, add 1 tsp. sugar to very warm water. Stir in yeast and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes to allow yeast to proof. When yeast is ready, add the mixture to a large bowl.

2. Stir in flour, salt, remaining sugar, oil, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. When dough forms, place on a lightly floured surface and knead gently with oiled hands. 

3. Press the dough into a lightly greased 12-inch pizza pan. Keep your hands oiled to soften the dough and make it easier to press out. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm location for 10 - 30 minutes (30 minutes for a fluffier crust).

4. Preheat oven to 425. Top with sauce and toppings. Bake for 12 minutes or until the crust in the center of the pizza is fluffy and fully cooked.

5. Slice and serve! :)


BBQ Chicken Pizza  *original recipe*


1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded*
1 1/2 cups bbq sauce**
2 tbsp. red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning***
2 cups mozzarella cheese, freshly shredded
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. chopped parsley for garnish

1. Place the cooked, shredded chicken breast in a bowl & add 3/4 a cup of bbq sauce. Stir to combine.

2. Finely chop red onions & parsley and set aside. Shred mozzarella cheese; set aside.

3. Spread remaining 3/4 cups of bbq sauce over prepared pizza crust. Sprinkle with cheese (the more, the better ;) ). Top with bbq chicken, red onions, & Italian seasoning.

4. In a small bowl, combine butter, oil, Parmesan cheese, and garlic powder. Brush on edges of crust. Be generous.

5. Bake for 12 minutes or until crust is fully cooked and fluffy - bottom will be slightly browned & crisp.

6. Garnish with parsley and enjoy! :)






*You can totally substitute canned chicken here and make it even quicker!
**Rough estimate - use more or less as desired
***I also like to use Penzey's Frozen Pizza Seasoning sometimes in place of the Italian seasoning.

Link for printable crust recipe: http://divascancook.com/quick-homemade-pizza-crust-sauce-recipe/



Monday, January 25, 2016

Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake Part 2

Hi Y'all!

I am back today with part 2 of the cake recipe I shared last week. The icing on the cake. :) 

This icing is luscious. That's the only word I have for it. I'm not even a huge icing fan, but this stuff is luscious. Of course, considering that it includes Nutella, sour cream, and melted dark chocolate, it's no wonder this is sooo good.




It's really easy to make too! If you have a food processor, you just throw everything in and pulse until smooth. Easy-peasy. If you don't have a food processor, a mixer will work just as well. Or if you want to get a good arm workout, grab a spatula and mix by hand! ;)

The entire process of frosting this cake does take about 1 and 1/2 hours, so make sure you have enough time set aside for this. Enjoy the photos below and see the recipe at the bottom of this post. :)



Start by taking a dollop of the icing and spreading it on the center of a cake board. This will 'glue' the cake to the board so that it doesn't shift.


First cake layer gets iced.


Second cake layer loaded up!


Once you place the third cake layer on, ice the top and sides of the cake. wrap in plastic wrap, & refrigerate for 15 minutes. This is the crumb coat & refrigerating it seals the crumbs in so that the rest of the icing goes on flawless.


Two more layers of icing and the cake is ready to be touched up and decorated. :)


 

Decorate the cake however you'd like. I used a star tip to decorate the edge of the top layer. I almost left if just like this because to me it already looked pretty enough :), but . . .


. . .then I decided to use some cake crumbs that were stuck to the parchment paper (the cake bottom I lost mentioned in last post, hehe) to sprinkle on the top. 


This cake is super moist, so the crumbs were clumpier than I envisioned them on top, but I still liked the contrast it added.


Now, it's time to cut yourself a slice after all of that hard work! ;)


Ahhh, look at that. Is there anything more beautiful? 


Dig in! ;)



Chocolate & Nutella Frosting

Ingredients

4 & 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 & 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup Nutella (or other hazelnut spread)
3/4 cup full-fat sour cream
11 oz. best quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly*
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt



    1. Put all of the ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until smooth & glossy, about 1 minute. The frosting will be very soft. Refrigerate until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
    2. Put a dollop of frosting on a cake board. Place your first layer on the plate & spread 1 cup of frosting evenly across layer. Repeat with second layer. Put the final cake layer top-down. Cover the layers with plastic wrap and wiggle into place. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
    3. Frost entire outside of cake with a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Chill until the frosting begins to firm, about 15 minutes. Repeat with another thin layer of frosting, this time working to achieve smoothness. Chill for an additional 15 minutes. 
    4. Apply a third coat of frosting to the cake. You can use a frosting spatula dipped in hot water (will have to wipe clean and dip in water again several times) to smooth the icing or use a pastry comb for a pretty design on the sides. Decorate the cake as you wish with a star tip or sprinkles or whatever you fancy! :)
    5. Chill until the frosting firms up again, about 30 minutes.
    6. The cake will keep refrigerated up to 3 days.

* I use Ghiradelli's baker's chocolate


**Recipe from Sweetapolita.com**














Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake Part 1


Hey Y'all! 

I am sharing a cake recipe on here for the first time (I think)! :) Cakes are so pretty and there's an endless amount of things you can do to them. However, I don't make cakes very often because despite how pretty they are, I don't like to eat them that much. Yes, you read that right - I don't particularly like cake. It's just too sweet for me, particularly the frosting. Nevertheless, I love making different types of frostings and enjoying how they look while someone else enjoys how they taste. :) 

This cake came about because my husband had been asking almost every night if there was any good dessert in the house. I spoiled him over Christmastime with cookies & fudge but, for the sake of my waistline, I hadn't made anything sweet for a few weeks. And I hadn't made a dessert other than cookies for who knows how long! A big dessert was way overdue. So, I gathered my cookbooks, pulled up Pinterest, and perused both for a cake recipe I wanted to bake that I thought my husband might also love. I ended up finding this one on Pinterest. I chose to make it because it's chocolate on chocolate + Nutella & my hubby is quite fond of both of those! ;) Plus, I already had two of the ingredients - Nutella & sour cream - sitting in my pantry/fridge where they had been for quite some time and I wanted to use them up, particularly the sour cream, before they went bad & would be wasted. (I hate wasting food!) This cake was exactly what I was looking for. It is a bit involved, as many cakes tend to be. Since I work during the day, I split it up over two evenings. You could also make the cakes a few days or even a few weeks ahead of time and just freeze them until you are able to make the frosting as well. Anyway, LOTS of photos in this one! :) Enjoy & I'll have part two with the frosting recipe on Monday.


*Quick tip I learned from my mother-in-law once. Whenever a recipe calls for superfine sugar, don't feel like you have to go out and buy some. Instead, if you have a food processor, just put the necessary amounts of regular granulated sugar in there and pulse it a few times until the sugar is superfine. :)

This had been sitting in my pantry for . . . an embarrassingly long time, but it was still good & did the job! All-purpose flour is perfectly fine in place of cake flour.

Mmm, now here comes some chocolate goodness.



If you have never heard of espresso powder, but frequently make chocolate desserts, go buy some now. That's not a suggestion. ;) This stuff will take your chocolate desserts to the next level. It's seriously one of my favorite 'extra' ingredients to keep in my kitchen.


Also, homemade vanilla. I always use this in baked goods. Store-bought vanilla just does not compare (not to mention the jar is way cuter & that's important). And the smell, ahhh, let me just go inhale this for a moment. hehe ;)



About halfway through, your kitchen might look like this.



Or, even worse, this. Yikes!


This is what the batter looks like once it's all come together. This is also the point where you pause your preparations, grab a spoon (we'll be sanitary and not use our fingers ;) ), and have a taste . . . or two or three or four of the batter to make sure it's safe for everyone else to eat. ;)


Now, this recipe makes a 3 layer cake. However, I only have two cake pans because I don't like a lot of kitchen clutter & don't need more than two that often, so I just baked the first two layers & once they were done, baked the third layer separately. You'll want to grease each pan and place some parchment in the bottom as well. Please be smarter than me though & remember to grease the parchment paper as well or you will run the risk of taking part of your cake's bottom with the paper when taking it out of the pan. Oops!


Isn't it a beaut?





Chocolate Layer Cake

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/3 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup dark Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk*
3/4 cup brewed coffee or espresso
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract 

1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare three 7-in. round cake pans with nonstick spray and parchment.

2. Sift all dry ingredients together. Combine buttermilk, coffee, oil, eggs, & vanilla in a large measuring cup & beat lightly with a fork.

3. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture for 1 minute on medium speed. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.

4. Bake the first 2 layers for 20 minutes and rotate pans in the oven. Continue to bake until toothpick comes out almost clean (a few crumbs), about 5 minutes. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining layer, then invert cakes onto racks until completely cool. 

*If you don't have buttermilk on hand, add 1 tbsp. of white vinegar to 1 1/4 cups of milk and let it set for 10 minutes.*

Now, wrap your cakes securely in plastic wrap, freeze, & stay tuned for the chocolate-Nutella frosting recipe on Monday! :)



*Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita*