Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Crockpot Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

This is the best creamy chicken noodle soup!! So yummy and perfect for a cool fall or winter evening. I love it! The original recipe is from the Lion House Cookbook, but I tweaked it and made it into a crockpot soup (love crockpot meals). It is a simple classic that is sure to please your family and the leftovers are fantastic! I served it with homemade French bread, but just saltine crackers along side would be great.

Crockpot Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
5 cups chicken broth/stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 can corn, drained
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup evaporated milk
8 oz homestyle dry egg noodles
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a skillet. Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute for about 4-5 minutes or until veggies are just soft. In a slow cooker combine chicken stock, cream of chicken soups, and evaporated milk. Whisk. Add cooked chicken, sauteed vegetables, and corn. Cook on low for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Add noodles, cover, and turn slower cooker to high. Cook on high for 1 more hour. Serve with bread or crackers.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cheap-O Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo

This is the cheap and cheerful version of fettuccine alfredo with the biggest expense being the grated parmesan cheese. You can serve 6+ people with this for around 6 dollars and that is awesome! It also uses ingredients I tend to have on hand so it can be made as a last minute meal too. Make sure you season liberally with salt and pepper and you can switch out the broccoli with cooked chicken breasts strips if you'd like (but then it wouldn't be quite so cheap-o).

Cheap-O Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo

1 lb dry fettuccine (or other pasta you have on hand)
16 oz frozen broccoli florets
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 cup grated parmesan
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Boil pasta according to package directions. During last 5 minutes of boiling add frozen broccoli. Set aside 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain. Add drained pasta and broccoli bake to the cooking pot, put the lid on and set aside while you make the sauce.

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add flour and whisk for about 2 minutes (just to give a little color to the roux). Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring, until it comes to a simmer and thickens. Remove from heat and add grated parmesan and nutmeg. Add this sauce to the pasta and broccoli in the pot and stir. Taste and season liberally with salt and pepper. Add reserved pasta water as need to give the sauce your desired consistency. Check seasoning before serving and serve with additional parmesan on top.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Crockpot Cheesy Chicken and Rice

This is a great, easy, comfort food, crockpot meal. I got the recipe from Southern Plate and modified it just slightly. I'm always amazed at how many variations there are on chicken & rice! But the combination is definitely a family favorite. My kids gobbled this up.

Crockpot Cheesy Chicken and Rice

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (frozen is fine)
1 large onion, chopped
1, 8oz box Zataran's Yellow Rice Mix, cooked according to package directions
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1, 15 oz can corn, drained

Place chicken (fresh or frozen) in the bottom of slow cooker. Scatter chopped onions over the top. Spoon soups over that. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Break up chicken with a fork, add cooked rice, cheese, and corn. Stir, heat through, and serve.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Symphony Brownies

Okay, so that is not the best picture, but my oh my these brownies are SO yummy. They are fudgey and so rich with the added chocolate bar in the center. DELICIOUS! And so easy to make. I have a feeling these brownies will be requested a lot for FHE treats.

Symphony Brownies

1 box Betty Crocker 9x13 Fudge Brownie Mix
Ingredients to make brownies
2 large Symphony bars (the King size ones)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix the brownie batter according to package directions. Grease only the bottom of a 9x9 or 8x8 square baking pan. Spread half of the brownie batter into the pan. Break up the chocolate bars into 4-piece sections and distribute evenly over the batter. Cover with remaining brownie batter and smooth out evenly.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until top is set. Remove from oven and place brownie pan on a wire rack to cool completely. To serve top with whipped cream if desired.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cheddar Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta

This is a great pasta dish that your family will be sure to love - I know mine did. The sauce is creamy, cheesy, and ranch dressing-y. Yum. I got the recipe from Half Hour Meals and changed it just slightly to suit my family's tastes (a splash of heavy cream makes everything better:)). For a faster meal you can use shredded rotisserie chicken. I served it with a spinach salad with dried cherries, almonds, and crumbled blue cheese.

Cheddar Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
1 lb mostaccioli or penne pasta
6 strips bacon
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
2 cups milk
heavy cream (a couple tablespoons)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels.  Rub a little olive oil on both sides of the chicken breasts and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (it should still be nice and moist - don't over cook). Shred chicken with 2 forks, place in a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

While chicken and pasta are cooking, start making sauce. In a large skillet fry 6 slices of bacon until crispy, turning half way through. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Chop up the bacon into small pieces and set aside.

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter to the bacon fat in the skillet. Whisk in flour and ranch dressing powder. Whisk in milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Add a splash of heavy cream and season with salt a pepper. Add shredded cheddar, stirring until all cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta, bacon pieces, and shredded chicken to the sauce. Add sliced green onions and stir until mixed in. Check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Walking Tacos

Walking Tacos are super fun, especially for kids, and they are a great main dish for a picnic or family get together. I've seen Walking Tacos on Picky Palate and Pioneer Woman, but this is my take on it. You can serve this meal inside the Fritos bag (so you can walk around with it :)) or you can serve it like a taco salad. The meat mixture would also be great on scones/fry bread for Navajo tacos or served over a square of corn bread. So delicious and fun to eat.

Walking Tacos

1 lb ground beef
1, 15 oz can chili beans
1, 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 packet taco seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
small bags of Fritos

shredded cheese
shredded lettuce
sour cream
diced tomatoes
diced avocado or guacamole
sliced green onions

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Drain off fat. Add beans, petite diced tomatoes, taco seasoning, and chili powder. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To serve, open Fritos bags and add a scoop of the meat mixture, top with desired toppings, and enjoy. Or you can place Fritos in a pile on your plate, top with meat mixture and desired toppings. Either way is great!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baked Chocolate Donuts

I got a couple Wilton donut pans for Mother's day - which is a perfect mother's day gift for me. I love cooking/baking gadgets and these pans make donut making so easy! My children especially loved having these perfectly chocolaty donuts for our Family Home Evening treat earlier this week. Oh and the icing is to die for on these. SO yummy! I am excited to try lots of different baked donut recipes. There are so many on Pinterest, which is where I got this one.

Baked Chocolate Donuts

2 cups flour (plus 2 tablespoons for high altitude)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used dutch processes cocoa powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (plus 2 tablespoons for high altitude, which equals 1 cup total)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon heavy cream (maybe more)
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons corn syrup
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

For Donuts:
Preheat oven to 325 degree and spray donut pans with cooking spray (so important!).

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk until ingredients are evenly distributed. Add milk, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter. Mix for a minute or two, scrapping down sides, until a smooth batter forms. Fill each donut cup about 3/4 full. (I put the batter into a gallon size ziplock bag and snipped the corner to fill the pans evenly. The batter should fill at least 12 donut cups. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans for a few minutes, then turn donuts out onto a wire rack to cool.

For Icing:
While donuts cool you can make the icing. In a small saucepan combine cream, milk, butter, vanilla, and corn syrup. Heat over medium low heat until butter is completely melted. Turn heat to low and add chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is glossy. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar. If icing is too stiff add a little heavy cream (a tablespoon or so). Dip each donut into the icing, top with sprinkles if desired, and allow chocolate to set for about 10 minutes - if you can wait that long! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hibachi Restaurant Ham Fried Rice

I absolutely love the food at Japanese Steakhouse/Hibachi restaurants. It's my favorite food ever!! And how I love the fried rice at these places. I've been trying for a long time to come up with a recipe that is as close as possible to authentic Japanese fried rice, and so far this is my best version. I think the day old rice, garlic butter, and sesame seeds are key. I'm sure I'll keep tweeking this recipe, but "as is" I'm so happy with it and my family loved it. I served it with a green salad dressed with Asian sesame dressing. You can also leave out the ham and serve it as a side dish.

Hibachi Restaurant Ham Fried Rice

2 1/2 - 3 cups uncooked Calrose rice (cooked the day before)
3 tablespoons (or more) spreadable butter with canola oil (Land O' Lakes)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas and carrots (cooked)
1 onion, chopped (you can use green onions instead)
2 eggs, beaten
soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
diced ham (about 1 1/2 cups)
onion salt
onion powder

The Day Before:
Cook rice according to package directions. I cook rice in a rice cooker and it always comes out perfect - rice cookers are awesome. Place rice in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.

The Day of:
Combine spreadable butter and garlic. Set aside.

Cook frozen peas and carrots and set aside.

In a large skillet or electric skillet (I like to use my electric skillet for this) melt the garlic butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft. Push onion to the side and scramble the egg in the skillet. Add the rice, peas and carrot, and stir until combined and heated through. Add sesame seeds, ham, and season with soy sauce to taste. Add onion salt and onion powder to taste. If the mixture is too dry add another couple tablespoons of spreadable butter. Taste before serving adding more soy sauce as needed. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Patriotic Jello Parfaits

My kiddos love Jello. So for our 4th of July treat we had red, white, and blue Jello parfaits. All you have to do is make blue and red Jello jigglers, cut the jigglers into cubes, and layer them with marshmallows in a clear cup. Super easy and totally fun.

Patriotic Jello Parfaits

2 small boxes cherry jello (or strawberry)
2 small boxes berry blue jello
4 cups boiling water, divided

Combine 2 boxes of cherry jello with 2 cups of boiling water. Stir for 2 minutes or until jello is completely dissolved. Pour into a baking dish and refrigerate until set. Repeat with blue jello and 2 cups of boiling water. Once jello is set, cut into cubes with a knife and scoop out with a spatula. Layer red jello, marshmallows, and blue jello in a clear cup. Top with whipped cream or Cool Whip if desired.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beefy Macaroni

This is a very beefy pasta casserole, which made it a kid and husband pleasing meal. I think the kids loved the smothered in cheese aspect and my husband loved the beefiness. The sauce is slow simmered before you make the casserole, so you need to start this casserole about 2 hours before you want to have dinner. I think this would be a great freezer meal as well (instructions below). The recipe is from What's Cooking Chicago. I served it with broccoli and super cheesy garlic bread (another family favorite).

Beefy Macaroni

1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 oz tomato sauce
28 oz can whole tomatoes (next time I might try diced)
1/2 - 1 cup fresh grape tomatoes, halved (optional, but I like this for texture)
1 lb box elbow macaroni or rotini (any short pasta will work)
1 cup grated cheddar
1 cup grated mozzarella

In a large stockpot saute onion in oil until onion softens. Add a big pinch of salt as onions cook. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up as it cooks. Add pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder, and sugar. Add in tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, and halved grape tomatoes. Bring to a  boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Set aside.

Stir pasta into simmered sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Spread pasta mixture into a non-stick sprayed 9.5x13.5 baking dish (the size just larger than 9x13). Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with cheddar and mozzarella. Bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

*Freezer Meal Instructions: After combining pasta with simmered sauce, pour into a non-stick sprayed foil pan. Cover, label with heating instructions, and freeze. When ready to reheat, thaw completely in fridge for about 2 days. Bake covered with foil for 1 hour or until hot and bubbly. Top with cheeses and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Soft 100% Whole Wheat Rolls

So what's the secret to soft 100% whole wheat rolls?? Fat! That's right, a stick of softened butter, plus more brushed on top is the key. And probably the buttermilk and 3 eggs as well. But wow, these are yummy whole wheat rolls. And the fact that they are 100% whole wheat cancels out the stick of butter, right? I say yes. My family loved these rolls, warm from the oven, spread with butter and jam. It doesn't get much better than that!

Soft 100% Whole Wheat Rolls

4 1/2 - 5 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons instant yeast (SAF)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup hot tap water

In the bowl of a mixer combine 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons yeast, and salt. Mix to combine. Add butter, honey, eggs, and buttermilk and give it a quick mix. Add hot tap water and knead with dough hook for 1 minute. Add enough additional flour to make a firm dough that pulls away from sides of the bowl (for me it was just under 1 cup, for almost 5 cups total). Knead with dough hook on high speed for 5 minutes. Remove dough, knead into a ball, and place in a large greased bowl. Cover with non-stick sprayed plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, 45 minutes - 1 hour.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead a couple of times. Let rest for 3 minutes. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces and shape each of these pieces into a ball. Place dough balls in a greased 9x13 pan or a greased jelly roll pan if you don't want them quite so squished together. Cover with non-stick sprayed plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 30-45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top and bottom. Take out of oven and brush with melted butter if desired.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cajun Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

I think this might be my husband's new favorite pasta dish. I think he had fourths of this stuff, which though not very healthy, is a sure sign of it's deliciousness. And what a fun take on fettuccine alfredo! This again is another recipe I found on Pinterest, but I did change it to suite my family's tastes. I think I'll continue to mess with this recipe and perfect it over time, so stay tuned for updates on this one. But as is, it's still SO good.

Cajun Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

1 lb fettuccine
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Cajun blackening spice blend (I used Zatarans)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chicken broth or stock
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend (mozzarella, asiago, parmesan)
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan (plus more for topping)
salt and pepper, to taste
chopped parsley, optional

Cook fettuccine according to package directions. **Important - scoop out 1 cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta and set it aside.** Drain and rinse with hot tap water to keep pasta from sticking. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pound each chicken breast until flat ( I like to pound my chicken in a ziplock bag for easy clean up). Sprinkle each breast on both sides with ample blackening spice, rubbing the spice in to adhere. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, get skillet very hot. Working batches place 2 seasoned chicken breasts in skillet (so as not to crowd the pan) and sear on one side until very browned, about 3 minutes. Flip chicken over and sear on other side for 1 minute. Place chicken on sprayed baking sheet. Add another tablespoon of butter to the hot pan and repeat searing with the remaining 2 chicken breasts. Place chicken on baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, just until cooked through. Remove chicken and slice on the diagonal into strips. Cover with foil and set aside.

After chicken breasts go in the oven, start on the sauce in the same skillet. If needed add another tablespoon of olive oil and get the skillet nice and hot again. Pour chicken broth into skillet and whisk up all the lovely browned bits (flavor!). Add tomatoes and garlic and saute until softened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and pour in the heavy cream, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste and remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Continue to stir for 3 minutes, until cream has reduced and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses, stirring constantly until cheeses melt. Add pasta and toss. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce so it will coat the pasta. Add chicken and toss. Serve topped with parsley and Parmesan cheese if desired.

Friday, June 29, 2012

No-Bake Butterfinger Pie

Oh wow, this pie is delicious!! Especially if you are a Butterfinger fan, which I am. And it is uber easy to make, which makes it a perfect summer dessert. I love the cheesecakey filling. Thanks to Pinterest for this great recipe!

No-Bake Butterfinger Pie

7 Butterfinger bars
16 oz Cool Whip, thawed
8 oz block cream cheese, softened
graham cracker crust

In a food processor, process 6 of the Butterfinger bars until you have just crumbs. In the bowl of a mixer beat together about 12 oz of the Cool Whip (3/4 of a large Cool Whip tub) and the cream cheese until well combined. Add the Butterfinger crumbs and mix until incorporated. Spread this mixture into the graham cracker crust. Top with remaining Cool Whip. Chop up the last Butterfinger bar and sprinkle it over the Cool Whip. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Noodle Kugel

Here's another recipe I made for my Ladies Auxiliary book club. It's noodle kugel with dried cherries, which is a traditional Jewish pudding/dessert. It tastes kind of like a bread pudding with noodles instead of bread. I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, again, and I was really happy with it. When I was reading The Ladies Auxiliary I wondered what in the world the kugels they were always mentioning tasted like and I'm happy I made this, because now I know.:) You can make this ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge until you are ready to bake it, just let it sit on your counter for 30 minutes to let it come to room temp.

Noodle Kugel

1 lb wide egg noodles
2, 8 oz blocks cream cheese, softened
1 lb 4% small curd cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick butter, melted
8 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup dried cherries (I used a 6 oz package which was a little over 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a baking dish that is bigger than 9x13 (I used the next size up).

Boil the noodles for just 5-7 minutes, not all the way cooked. Drain in a colander.

In a very large bowl beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add cottage cheese and beat for another minute. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add sugar, melted butter, and beat, scraping down sides again. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each egg. Add cinnamon, vanilla, and mix. Stir in dried cherries. Finally, mix in the drained egg noodles, carefully mixing until incorporated. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake for 1 hour. Check to see if the center is set. You may need up to 30 minutes more until the center is set and sides are browned. Serve hot or warm.
Here's all The Ladies Auxiliary book club eats laid out before my guests arrived. There's challah with butter and freezer jams, noodle kugel, hamantaschen cookies and Oreo truffles, pita chips and carrots with hummus, kosher dills, and my big ol' water dispenser down there at the end. I loved cooking all these new foods. It makes me want to go through my local library's ethnic cookbook section and try some new recipes!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hamantaschen Cookies

These little cookies are Hamantaschen, a traditional Jewish cookie made for the celebration of Purim. I made them for a book club I hosted for the book, The Ladies Auxiliary. They are yummy little cookies, and remind me of the Finnish Ribbon Cookies I make every year for Christmas (I'm half Finnish, so that's a tradition that helps me remember my roots in Finland). The dough is much like a shortbread dough with a little cream cheese added for tenderness, and then the cookies are filled with jam. I had a hard time keeping the corners sealed - they want to become little cookie disks in the oven. Maybe chilling the formed cookies again and really pinching the corners would help. I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which is an excellent food blog with amazing photography.

Hamantaschen Cookies
-makes about 20-24, 2 inch cookies

8 tablespoons butter, softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 + 2 tablespoons flour (plus 2 tablespoons for high altitude)
 jam - I used raspberry and apricot

Cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add sugar and mix for 1 minute. Add egg, vanilla, orange zest, and salt and beat until combined. Add the flour and beat. Mixture should come together and be a little sticky. If it feels too wet, add an additional tablespoon of flour.

Form dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (can hang out in your fridge for a couple days till you are ready to bake).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out chilled dough on a well floured surface to a 1/4 inch thickness. Using a round biscuit cutter (mine was just under 2 1/2 inches), cut the dough into circles. Spoon a little jam (about 1/2 teaspoon) into the middle of the circle and fold up 3 sides to create a triangle. Pinch the corners together really well and give them a little twist. Leave the filling mostly open in the center. Bake on parchment or silpat lined cookie sheets until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cook on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Last night I hosted a book club for the book The Ladies Auxiliary. It's all about an orthodox Jewish community in Memphis and one of the things I liked most about the book is how much it talked about food. Every chapter made me hungry! So for the book club I tried my hand at a few traditional Jewish foods: challah, noodle kugel, and hamantaschen cookies. This is the recipe for the challah, which is an eggy braided bread with a glazed crust. It's a great bread, but I'm not gonna lie, it takes more time and effort than other yeast breads. The 3 risings (actually 4 if you count the rise after its braided) take some time and rolling out the strands of dough for the braid gives your arms a nice work out. But don't let me scare you, the dough, though firm, is easy to work with and the resulting awesome bread makes it a labor of love.:)  I got this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and this youtube video really helps to review the process and braiding.

-makes 2 loaves

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cups warm water
1/2 cup oil (canola, vegetable, or olive oil)
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
7 1/2 - 8 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 egg, for egg wash
poppy seeds or sesame seeds for topping, optional

In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer (I have a Bosch) combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and the warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes or until foamy.

Add oil to the yeast mixture, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time. Add sugar and salt and mix. Add 4 cups of flour and mix with dough hook for 1 minute. Gradually add more flour a cup at a time until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and is pretty firm, for me I used just under 8 cups total. Knead with dough hook at medium high speed for 5 minutes.

Turn out dough and form into a smooth ball. Place in a large oiled bowl and cover with non-stick sprayed plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough, form into a ball again and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough one more time and allow to rise again until doubled, 1 hour.  (That's 3 risings in the bowl.)

Punch down dough and turn onto a floured surface. Separate dough into 12 equal pieces. Take 6 of these pieces to form 1, 6-strand braided loaf (cover the remaining 6 pieces of dough with plastic wrap so they don't dry out). Take each piece and roll into a snake/strand that is about 12 inches long and tapered at both ends. When you have 6 strands it's time to braid. You can look at my pictures below for the visual on the braiding or watch the youtube video, but here goes: take the 6 strands and pinch them together at the top. Now you have a 6 legged octopus. Take the outside right strand and take it up and over to the left, take the outside left strand and take it over and up to the right. Now you have a 2 armed, 4 legged creature. Take the left arm and bring it down in the middle. Take the outside right strand and take it over and up to create a new left arm. Take the right arm and bring it down in the middle. Take the outside left strand and take it over and up to create a new right arm. Take the left arm and bring it down in the middle. You do this, replacing arms, down in the middle, braiding until you get to the end of the strands, then you take the ends and pinch them together and under to form a nice braided loaf. Did you get that? Good. Now, do it all over again with the other 6 pieces of dough to form another loaf. Place loaves on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheets (or you can place them side by side on one baking sheet if you only have 1 oven - they might stick together in the middle when you bake them, but that's okay, they'll still bake through and be easy to pull apart). Beat the remaining egg and brush over the loaves. Set remaining beaten egg aside. Allow loaves to rise until doubled, 40 min. to 1 hour. Brush loaves again with egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired (I went for poppy seeds).

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven, on the middle rack, for 30 - 40 minutes. Traditional challah is deeply browned and glossy, but of course you can cover the loaves with foil if they are getting too browned for your tastes. Cool loaves on a wire rack.

**Leftover challah makes great French toast!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup (Copy Cat Recipe)

I love Panera. It is one of my favorite spots to eat. The soups, the salads, the chocolate croissants... All so yummy. I am especially fond of their broccoli cheese soup, so when I saw this recipe on Pinterest I knew I had to try it. And guess what, this just might be my new favorite broccoli cheese soup recipe!! I was pleasantly surprised by how much this soup really did taste like Panera's. It made just the right amount for my family, but I think in a few years when my kids are a little older I might need to double or at least 1 1/2 this recipe. I served it with my favorite Italian bread.

Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup (Copy Cat Recipe)

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half & half
2 cups chicken stock (plus more to add at the end)
1/2 lb fresh broccoli florets
1 cup grated carrots
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper
8 oz sharp cheddar, grated

Saute onion in a little butter until translucent and set aside.

In a stockpot melt butter. Add flour and whisk for 3 minutes, you want the mixture to be golden brown. Slowly add half & half, whisking. Slowly add chicken stock, whisking. Bring to a boil stirring the entire time. Add broccoli, carrots, and sauteed onions, boil, then turn to low and let simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. With a whisk or immersion blender break up the broccoli. Add cheese and stir until melted. Serve with extra grated cheese on top if desired.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Crock Pot Lasagna

This is my version of crockpot lasagna. Lasagna is great made in the crockpot - it turns out so moist. You can switch up this recipe by using Italian sausage instead of ground beef or ricotta in the place of the cottage cheese, but I like it this way because it's "cheap and cheerful", though I think I might add a little parsley to the cottage cheese next time. I'll probably be making this again soon because I have the other half of the lasagna noodles from the package to use up and my family really liked it. I served it with a Caesar salad and strawberries.

Crock Pot Lasagna

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 plum/roma tomatoes, chopped (optional - I like it for texture)
29 oz tomato sauce
2-3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
8 oz regular lasagna noodles (about 10 dry noodles from a 16 oz pkg)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
24 oz container 4% small curd cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated/shredded parmesan

Spray the inside of your crockpot with non-stick cooking spray.

Brown ground beef with onion and cook until browned. Drain off fat. Add garlic and chopped tomatoes and cook until tomatoes begin to break up. Add tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat to a boil and remove from heat.

Spread 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce into the bottom of  your crockpot. Arrange 1/3 of the noodles over the sauce, breaking up noodles to fit them in. Spread 1/3 of the cottage cheese over the noodles and sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella over the cottage cheese. Top the cheeses with another 1 1/2 cups of sauce. Repeat this layering 2 more times ending with remaining sauce. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella over sauce and then sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Set crockpot to low and cook for 3 1/2 - 4 hours. Turn off crockpot, remove lid, and allow lasagna to stand for 10-20 minutes before serving.
This is what it looks like all ready to go in the crockpot.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Slightly Sweet Crockpot Roast

This recipe is from Six Sisters' and it's really good and interesting. When I looked at the list of ingredients I must admit I was concerned - I don't normally like to dose all my food with Coke and ketchup - but every once in a while what the heck (yes, I grew up in Utah and still say heck occasionally). The roast was tender, moist, and slightly sweet and the carrots and onion were seriously yummy stewed all day in the crazy Coke sauce. My favorite roast is still Pioneer Woman's pot roast recipe, but this was a fun change and my family liked it.

Slightly Sweet Crock Pot Roast

3-4 lb sirloin roast (look for some good marbling in the roast or it will be dry)
12 oz Coca Cola
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup Heinz chili sauce
3/4 cup ketchup
1 packet dry onion soup mix
4 onions, peeled and quartered
5 or more large carrots, peeled and chunked

Place onions and carrots in the bottom of the crockpot. Nestle the roast into the vegetables, making sure there are vegetables under the roast. In a bowl combine Coke, brown sugar, chili sauce, ketchup, and onion soup mix. Pour over roast and vegetables. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

This soup is a copy-cat of the Olive Garden chicken gnocchi soup and it is so darn yummy. Kind of like an Italian chicken and dumpling soup. It's just the right amount of creamy, but not too thick. I really loved it! The recipe is from Jamie Cooks It Up, which is one of my favorite food blogs. My kids loved it too - even my pickiest ate it happily. I served it with homemade Italian Bread, though if you want to give it the whole Olive Garden treatment, you could serve it with these Bread Sticks, which are awesome.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
4 stalks celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 cups cooked and cubed chicken (rotisserie chicken works great here)
8 cups chicken stock
1, 16 oz package Potato Gnocchi (I used the Da Vinci brand)
4 cups (or 1 quart) half & half
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (2 good handfuls)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
salt and pepper

Combine olive oil and butter in a large pot, melt butter. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, season with salt, and cook over medium high heat for 5-8 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add chicken ad chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Add gnocchi and bring to a boil again. Boil for about 4 minutes, until the gnocchi start to float. Pour in half & half. Add chopped spinach, thyme, nutmeg, sugar, stir and bring to a boil. In a small bowl combine cornstarch and cold water, stirring until smooth. Stir this cornstarch mixture into the soup. Boil the soup until it thickens a little. Taste and season with salt and pepper (needs to be seasoned liberally with the salt and pepper).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

These are great lemon poppy seed muffins. The lemon flavor is mild and the texture of the muffins is great - not at all like a cupcake. I hate it when muffins taste like cupcakes. I like them to be a little denser with a good muffiny crumb and these fit the bill. I got the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, a site with so many great baked goods recipes.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

2/3 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon (you will use the juice too)
2 cups all purpose flour (plus 2 tablespoons for high altitude)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
juice of 1 lemon (plus 2 tablespoons water for high altitude)
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in the center spot in your oven. Place 16 paper muffin cups into muffin tins (you may get 14-16 muffins depending on how you scoop them).

In a large bowl rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until sugar is moist and smells like lemon. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine. In another bowl combine sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Stir. Add this wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir a bit. Add the lemon juice (and water if you're at a high altitude) and melted butter and stir quickly until just mixed. Add poppy seeds and stir until evenly distributed, making sure you don't over-mix the batter. Using a large cookie scoop fill the muffin cups (about 2/3 full).

Bake for 18-20 minutes at 400 until tops are golden. Cool muffins on a rack. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temp.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sally's Italian Pasta Salad

This is now one of my favorite pasta salads. It has a great combination of ingredients that go so well together. I love the avocado and artichoke hearts! I got the recipe from my friend Sally and I'm so glad she shared it with me. Thanks! You can use a different kind of dressing if you can't find the Ken's, just look for Romano cheese in the ingredients. I served this salad as a side to parmesan chicken tenders and cantaloupe, but you could throw some grilled chicken strips into it and serve it as an entree salad.

Sally's Italian Pasta Salad

1 lb bowtie pasta
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1 small can sliced olives, drained
1 avocado, diced
10 oz grape tomatoes, halved (or cherry tomatoes)
1 regular size bag baby spinach
4 oz crumbled Feta cheese
Ken's Light Northern Italian Salad Dressing

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water until cooled. Allow to sit and drain in colander while you prepare other ingredients.

In a large bowl combine artichoke hearts, olives, avocado, grape tomatoes, spinach, Feta, and drained pasta. Pour in about 3/4 of the bottle of salad dressing and toss to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich (aka The Sandwich That Will Change Your Life)

Have you ever had a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich?? Oh wow. It is an amazingly wonderful thing. The first time I had one was at Potbelly's (fab sandwich shop) and it was so good that even though I don't live by a Potbelly anymore, I still crave them every now and then (actually I crave them all the time, but I resist until resistance is futile, like last night). The peanut butter gets all melty and combines with the jelly and then with the crispy buttery bread... Again, oh wow. It's the perfect mix of salty, sweet, crispy and gooey.

Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich: Take a nice sliced white bread and slather the inside with peanut butter and jelly (raspberry is my favorite). Then slather the outside with butter and grill like you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Serve with a cold glass of milk. Heavenly.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Easy French Bread

This is a really great way to make French bread. It's faster than any other recipe I've made (except for baguettes - those are super fast to make). The method is a little different than what I've done in the past, but it really worked and resulted in a great bread with a nice crust and soft chewy inside. So good. I got the recipe from Your Home Based Mom. You can either make one large loaf or 2 smaller loaves. I opted for the 2 smaller loaves so I could make sub sandwiches for my kids lunch with one of the loaves the next day.

Easy French Bread

1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 - 4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
1 egg white + 1 tablespoon water

In the bowl of a mixer combine 1/4 cup warm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Allow to stand until bubbly. Add in 1 tablespoon sugar, salt, 1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water, and 2 1/2 cups of flour. Mix for 1 minute. Add additional flour until you form a dough that pulls away from sides of bowl, but it should still be a little sticky - for me I used 3 1/4 cups total. Knead with dough hook on medium high speed for 5 minutes.

Form dough into a smooth ball and place in a greased bowl with non-stick plastic wrap over the top. Let rise for 15 - 20 minutes in a warm place.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface. If desired, cut dough in half for 2 loaves. Roll out dough with a rolling pin, then roll up jelly-roll style and turn ends under, pinching to seal seams, and place seam side down onto a greased cookie sheet (or use a silpat or parchment). Cut 3 diagonal cuts into the loaf/loaves, about 1/4 inch deep. Combine egg white and water and brush onto the loaf/loaves.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and TURN OFF OVEN. Boil a pan of water and pour water into a shallow baking dish placed on lowest rack in oven. Place sheet with bread dough on the rack above the water and let rise until doubled, about 10-15 minutes. Remove baking dish with water. Turn oven to 425 and bake for 10 minutes. Turn down heat to 375 and bake for an additional 8 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chicken Poppy Seed Pasta Salad

Last night I got to go to a Relief Society recipe swap. Oh, how I love recipe swaps! What is better than getting together with a bunch of ladies, chatting, exchanging recipes, and eating yummy food?! It was awesome in every way. Anywho, the theme was summer recipes so I took this easy to make dinner salad and it was also what my family had for dinner with some homemade French bread and corn on the cob. I love the combination of flavors in this salad. It is much like the spinach salad that I make with chicken and pasta added to make it more hearty. Hope you'll like it too.

Chicken Poppy Seed Pasta Salad

12 oz bowtie pasta
2-3 cup cooked and cubed chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup cooked and crumbled bacon
1/2 cup chopped cashews
5 oz package Craisins dried cranberries
3-4 oz baby spinach (about half a bag)
12 oz bottle Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing

Cook pasta, in boiling salted water, according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Allow pasta to sit the colander while you prepare the other ingredients so it drys a little.

In a large bowl combine: chicken, green onion, bacon, cashews, Craisins, and spinach. Add drained pasta and toss. Add poppy seed dressing to taste, I usually add about 3/4 of the bottle, and toss. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Homemade Hamburger Buns

I found the perfect homemade hamburger bun recipe! Yay! The buns turned out just the right texture - they have a nice chewy crust, which makes them easy to cut in half, and are soft and moist on the inside. These buns were perfect tonight with pulled pork for sandwiches. SO much better than store-bought hamburger buns, which can be kind of tasteless and spongy. The recipe is from Home Cooking with Sonya (though I did modify it slightly). Thanks Sonya!

Homemade Hamburger Buns

3 - 3 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast (I use SAF)
1 cup hot tap water
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg

In the bowl of a mixer combine 3 cups of bread flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Mix with a dough hook briefly just to distribute evenly. Add hot water, butter, and egg. Knead for a minute with dough hook. Add more flour as need to form a firm dough that pulls away from sides of bowl - for me I added another 1/4 cup of flour equaling 3 1/4 cups total. Knead with dough hook on high speed for 6 minutes. Turn out dough and form into a smooth ball. Place in a large greased bowl and cover with non-stick sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until doubled.

Punch down dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball and flatten the ball out with the palm of your hand - till it's about 3 inches across. Place on greased or parchment lined baking sheets (I use silpat liners). Cover with non-stick sprayed plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until noticeably puffy.

Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 10-15 minutes (12 minutes for me) or until buns are golden on top and bottom. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter if desired. Cool buns on a wire rack.