Friday, March 28, 2014

Laurel's Cinnamon Roll Granola

Oh wow, this is the best granola recipe!! It's from my friend Laurel over at Ducks in a Row and it is fantastic. It's sweet, crunchy, cinnamony, and delicious. It is fantastic with milk or almond milk (unsweetened vanilla almond milk is my favorite) for breakfast or a snack. My 7 year old has been having this with milk for breakfast and a little in a bowl for an afternoon snack every day since I made it. It's just so good. The most wonderful bonus is that it makes your house smell heavenly as it bakes and for hours after. Laurel adds dried cranberries to her cinnamon roll granola, but I add white chocolate chips and raisins because it reminds me the most of cinnamon rolls like that and my family loves it that way. I think butterscotch chips would also be so yummy. You can play around with any add-ins you'd like and I bet it would taste great. Thanks for a great recipe Laurel!

Laurel's Cinnamon Roll Granola

4 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup flaked coconut (I used sweetened)
1 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons agave syrup
3 tablespoons vanilla
3/4 cup raisins*
3/4 cup white chocolate chips*

*In place of raisins and white chocolate chips you can use 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300.

In a large bowl mix together: rolled oats, brown sugar, coconut, sliced almonds, ground flax seeds, cinnamon, and kosher salt.

In a bowl combine coconut oil and agave syrup. Microwave for 1 minute. Add vanilla. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Spread in an even layer on a greased or silpat lined rimmed cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 1 hour. Break up any clumps and pour cooled granola into a large bowl. Mix in raisins and white chocolate chips (or add-ins of choice). Store in an air-tight container (I use a Snap Ware container).

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pioneer Woman Crash Hot Potatoes

So that is a pretty awful picture, but this is a wonderfully delicious side dish! It's a recipe from Pioneer Woman so of course it's fab. I did change it just a little, in a naughty sort of way. I drizzled melted butter over the crash potatoes instead of olive oil before baking. Naughty, but oh so good. You can switch the herbs to what ever variety you'd like. I used dried dill, because I served this side dish with Swedish meatballs and lingonberries and I thought the dill gave it a nice Scandinavian touch. I think Italian seasoning or just dried rosemary would be yummy.

Pioneer Woman Crash Hot Potatoes

12 small red potatoes or new white potatoes
olive oil
1/4 cup butter, melted
kosher salt
ground black pepper
dried herbs of choice (dill, rosemary, etc.)

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until they are very tender.

Generously drizzle a sheet pan with olive oil. Place tender whole potatoes on the sheet pan, leaving plenty of room between each potato. Gently press down on each potato with a potato masher, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mash again. Drizzle tops of crushed potatoes with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dried herbs of choice. Bake at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are browned and skins are crisped.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Best M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is from Picky Palate and it is the best! These are soft and chewy little cookies with just the right amount of chocolate chips and M&M's. I think this is my kids' favorite all time cookie (at least right now it is). I really have loved every recipe I've tried from Picky Palate, especially her cookie recipes. The one thing you have to remember is not to over bake these cookies - they cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheets which kind of finishes off the baking without browning them and they stay nice and soft after.

The Best M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup mini M&M's

Preheat oven to 350.

In the bowl of a mixer combine butter and sugars and beat until well combined - you want the mixture to be light colored, smooth, and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, vanilla pudding mix, baking soda, and kosher salt. Add this flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until well incorporated. Add chocolate chips and M&M's, stirring in well to evenly distribute.

Scoop out dough with a cookie scoop or two spoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until very lightly browned on the bottom, you will want them to be very soft and not browned on edges at all. Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on baking sheets then transfer to cooling racks.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Croissant French Toast

Oh man this recipe is so good! We had it for dinner the other night and I was wowed. It's Pioneer Woman's Croissant French Toast and it is the Frenchest toast you can make. SO good! I doubled PW's recipe because I always like to have enough for seconds and breakfast the next morning (my kids loved these heated up again in the morning). The French toast ends up so buttery and wonderful and served butter, maple syrup and sweetened sliced strawberries it is amazing. I'm sure it would also be wonderful with blueberry syrup - I might have to try that next time. YUM.

Croissant French Toast

12 croissants (I used Costco's croissants)
10 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla

If desired, a few hours before making the French toast make the sweetened strawberries following the recipe below.

In a blender combine the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Blend until smooth and pour into a large bowl. Split croissants in half and dunk halves in the batter. Let excess batter drip off before placing on a hot non-stick or greased griddle. Cook until browned on bottom, flip and brown other side. Serve immediately with butter, maple syrup, and sweetened strawberries.

Sweetened Sliced Strawberries:
2 lbs strawberries, sliced
2-3 tablespoons sugar

Place sliced strawberries in a bowl and stir in the sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours - this makes lovely syrupy strawberries.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Coleen's Big Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am always trying new chocolate chip cookie recipes. I guess I'm always in the hunt for the best one ever, which is an elusive goal. I think that's because there are so many different kinds of chocolate chip cookies: cakey, chewy, crispy edged, and soft. This particular recipe is from Coleen's Recipes and what sets these lovely chocolate chip cookies apart are that they are chewy and soft at the same time and this recipe makes between five and 6 dozen cookies. That is a lot of cookies. So if you are looking to make a bunch of cookies to give away this is a great recipe! My kids ranked them up there with their favorites and I agreed that they were pretty darn good too.

Coleen's Big Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 bag chocolate chips, about 2 cups

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine butter and sugars and beat well. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well mixed and smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add one cup at a time to the butter mixture in the mixer. Beat until well mixed and then beat in the chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 375. Take walnut size pieces of dough (I used a small cookie scoop) and roll into a ball, place on ungreased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes or until very lightly colored on bottom, they will still be very soft when they come out of the oven, but that's what you want for a soft, chewy cookie. Cook them on baking sheets for about 5 minutes then move to cooling racks. 

Makes 5-6 dozen

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Homemade Pancake Syrup for Pancake Day

It's Pancake Day, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday! If you are having pancakes tonight, give this recipe a try. Homemade pancake syrup is awesome! We like it much better than store bought syrup and it is so much cheaper! It is perfect served over my favorite buttermilk pancakes. Yummy!!

Homemade Pancake Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon maple flavoring (I use McCormick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add the sugars and bring to a boil again, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Add maple flavoring, vanilla, and butter. Stir, boiling, until butter has melted and combined with the syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 hour, this will help it thicken up a little. Serve over hot pancakes.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Slow Cooker Olive Garden Meat Sauce

Wow, I make a lot of Olive Garden copy-cat recipes. I guess it's cause we just love Olive Garden! I was so happy when I found this recipe on Pinterest (I modified it slightly) because it tastes so much like the meat sauce you get at Olive Garden. I get spaghetti and meat sauce all the time there (it's either that or ravioli di portobello - yum!). This recipe is also super easy because the slow cooker does all the slow simmering work to make it amazing. I served it with Caesar salad and homemade Italian bread and it was such a yummy, family pleasing meal. Oh, and another great part of this recipe is that it made enough to freeze half for another dinner.

Slow Cooker Olive Garden Meat Sauce

1 lb ground beef
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
dash red pepper flakes
1 onion, chopped (or 1 cup frozen chopped onions)
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I like to use Hunts brand)
28 oz can tomato sauce (I like to use Hunts brand)
6 oz can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet brown ground beef and Italian sausage, breaking up with a spatula as it cooks. Add a dash or two of red pepper flakes to taste. Add onions and cook until onions are tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour this meat mixture into your slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients: crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano, salt, thyme, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Serve over spaghetti or other pasta with grated Parmesan on individual servings.