Summer Snacks For The Whole Family

Easy Summer Snacks

Disclosure: I received several products from Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc. and The Motherhood as part of my participation in the LISTERINE® “Totally Take Care Of” campaign. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own. 

When summer rolls around, the last place I want to be is in the kitchen heating up the house or playing short-order cook to a house full of kids. I love that the grocery stores and farmer’s markets are stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables so I can have easy snacks available. Plus, CycleGuy is the master juicer in our home so delicious treats made with fresh juice are always on the menu.

With a busy schedule filled with camp, sleepovers, travel, and exploring the fun things around town, it’s nice to have easy, delicious, and healthy go-to snacks in the house. To help you get ready for summer and make sure your family is taken care when a “snack attack” sets in, I’ve put together some of my family’s favorite summer snacks. These are great for moms and dads, too, and when the kids have friends over too!

1. Frozen Grapes – one of my snack staples, frozen grapes are a great way to get liquid into the kids when they don’t want water and you don’t want them to have sugary drinks. Frozen grapes make for a fun alternative to ice cubes, too. You can also make frozen bananas by cutting bananas into rounds and freezing them in a single layer until firm. Blueberries work too, but I think they get mushy too quickly.

2. Rainbow Fruit Cups – instead of putting each fruit in a different bowl, use clear plastic cups and layer a bit of each fruit to make a rainbow. This is a great way to get the kids involved in making their own snacks. You can quickly and easily layer watermelon, mango, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, grapes (I usually cut them in half or quarters), and orange or tangerine segments. You can make them an extra-special treat with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

3. Frozen Juice Cubes – even if you rely on your ice maker, head to the dollar store and pick up a few ice cube trays to make your own ice cubes with fresh juice and fruit. Not only are they pretty, they’re a great way to add flavor to water and keep everyone hydrated as the mercury rises. Place a few pieces of fruit in each compartment of the ice cube tray, fill each with fresh juice, pop in the freezer, and now you have a tasty way to take care of that sweet tooth in a healthy and fresh way.

4. Quick and Easy Frozen Pudding Pops – I loved these when I was a kid. My mom would stick a spoon through the top of a pudding cup and stick it in the freezer for a few hours. These were so delicious! You can make your own pudding and pour them in to individual popsicle molds, but there’s something about those store-bought pudding cups that make these seem like such a special treat. Since they come in several flavors you can get whichever ones your family enjoys most. You can also do this with yogurt cups and have frozen yogurt pops, too!

5. Grilled Stone Fruit – while not exactly a quick snack, these are a wonderful dessert. I love grilled peaches, nectarines, and plums. Cut the fruit in half and remove the stone. Place them cut-side down on the grill until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Since every grill is different you’ll need to watch them the first few times you make them. Serve with ice cream, yogurt, or a drizzle of honey and you’ve got a quick and easy dessert everyone is sure to enjoy.

6. Graham Cracker Eclair Cake – this is not an everyday snack, but it’s a no-bake dessert that can be whipped up pretty quickly and is a great alternative to s’mores for a summer evening backyard cookout. When you know the kids are having healthy snacks throughout the day, you don’t feel guilty with this kid-friendly dessert.

And while you’re enjoying a summer evening outdoors, why not make sure you’ve got these 3 stargazing apps on your smartphone or tablet. I have fond memories of staying up late during the summer and looking at the stars. Today, technology makes it easier.

Don’t forget that good oral hygiene is especially important in the summer when the kids are snacking and maybe heading off to bed with a different routine. Walgreens has you totally taken care of on this with a range of wellness products, which includes Listerine Total Care products for the whole family.

With great snack options, fun desserts, and stargazing you’ll have this summer totally taken care of! And everyone will be smiling for the photos.

What summer memories do you remember most from your childhood?

Image Credit: Love From The Oven (edited with permission)

Sara

Nine Cookbooks To Make Your Life More Delicious

Best Cookbooks

I could probably do an entire post about the benefits of being friends with a baking blogger. There are lots of opportunities to “try this” and not really know what it is yet. The extras that make their way to my house via BabyGirl. Well, you get the picture.

My friend Christi, who brings us Love From the Oven, has introduced me to many different food bloggers just with the posts she shares. My Facebook feed is one giant drool-fest some days. You should follow Christi so you can get all the goodies sent right to your screen!

Anyway, this year, Christi’s book – Smart Cookie – came out and she did a few book signings and TV appearances. It was so happy and proud – as if she were my own family! I got to see the book come together and get a sneak-peak of some of the amazing treats she was making.

So I got to thinking. While I take for granted that I know about Christi’s book, you may not know about Smart Cookie and how awesome it is and how it could change your life forever. Seriously, it’s that fantastic! And I thought some more that you may not know some of her friends that also came out with their own cookbooks, too. So I’m sharing them with you today. It’s kind of like a personal shopper post for great cookbooks. And while most of them are dessert focused, let’s be real and just say that it’s really dessert we all want.

Smart Cookie Cookbook

1. Smart Cookie Cookbook by Christi Farr Johnstone – I’ll start with Christi’s book because, well, she inspired this post and one of the cookies in the book was made because Christi’s daughter and my daughter are best friends and kind of obsessed with narwhals. This is really the book most of us want because Christi will show you how to make cool treats using store-bought baked goods. No baking, just the fun of decorating.

Cake Mix Recipes

2. Make It With A Cake Mix by Lizzy Early – While not the first book of its kind, this book puts all others to shame really. Lizzy takes cake mix to a new level of deliciousness! It’s great if you can make all your baked goods from scratch, but who are we kidding. That’s not going to happen. So instead of not making something, find out how to take a basic cake mix to new levels.

Girl Who Ate Everything

3. The Girl Who Ate Everything by Christy Denney – Family-friendly and kid-approved recipes that would make dinnertime less stressful. Because, well, we can’t always eat dessert first. One of my challenges is coming up with new ways to combine the basic food groups into something new, tasty, and quick.

Dessert Mashups

4. Dessert Mashups by Dorothy Kern – Anyone can make brownies for the bake sale or potluck. So why not kick it up a notch and make things like Cinnamon Roll Cookies or Sconuts? No need to stick with the basics when you can really wow everyone without a lot of extra work.

Cooking With Biscoff

5. Biscoff Cookie & Spread Cookbook by Katrina Bahl – If you’ve never had Biscoff you’re missing out! It’s cookie butter and it’s so delicious. Imagine a jar of peanut butter, except instead of peanuts it’s made with cookies. And then you add it to recipes to create even more amazing treats.

Red Velvet Desserts

6. Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook by Deborah Harron – There’s more to the red velvet dessert world than just cake and Deborah takes us on this mouth-watering journey to taste over 50 different options. Red Velvet Bread? Oh my!

Cakes with Cakes inside

7. Surprise Inside Cakes by Amanda Rettke – You’ve seen her pictures all over the internet because the cakes and desserts Amanda makes are amazing works of art (and because people steal them!). I’m pretty sure you’ve seen her “heart inside a cake” and thought you could never make anything like that. Well, have no fear! Amanda’s book walks you through creating a masterpiece of your own. There are so many beautiful cake options, you’ll be able to create something special for all the people you love (or want to impress).

Recipe Girl

8. Recipe Girl Cookbook by Lori Lange – With almost 200 recipes, this book will help you with everything from breakfast to dessert, cocktail parties, birthday parties, and everyday. Lori’s recipes are easy to follow and have adaptable options if you need something to be gluten-free or vegetarian. These are recipes for people like you and me – capable in the kitchen but need a little bit of encouragement and direction.

Popcorn Recipes

9. Popcorn Party Cookbook by Ashton Epps Swank – There’s more to popcorn than salt and butter, or cheese. Ashton shows you how to turn this everyday snack into something special and worth of taking center stage at any gathering.

So there you have it — nine cookbooks that will get you back in the kitchen having fun, making delicious food, and sharing your love (and food) with your friends and family. These make great gifts and have so much encouragement written in to the book that they’re like having a dear friend teaching you along the way. I hope you get some (or all) and enjoy trying out new ways to make  your life more rich.

Sara

90 Minute Cinnamon Rolls

 Easy Cinnamon Rolls

I love cinnamon rolls. My family loves them too. Maybe you can relate? The sweet dough and the gooey, cinnamon-y filling and the creamy icing…. My mouth is watering!

But here’s the problem with traditional cinnamon rolls – they take FOR. EV. ER. to make. They take so much planning and time calculations that, frankly, I know no busy mom has time for. So we don’t make them, except on special occasions. Well, I’m here to tell you, no more!

Over the past 6 or so months I’ve experimented with various recipes, all based off my previous go-to overnight cinnamon roll recipe. While I loved the texture of those rolls, it’s a pain to make these in the hour before heading off to bed. By then I’ve already cleaned up the kitchen and it was such a chore to prep and clean so late at night. Sure, the fresh, hot cinnamon rolls in the morning were great. But, I would tend to think about making these at like 11pm, and that’s no time to be mixing and measuring.

So, after several trials (and a few icky fails), I’ve come up with what I think is a recipe you’ll love. If you’ve got 90-minutes, you’ve got hot, fresh cinnamon rolls! It’s the same basic ingredients, so you likely have all this on hand. And I have the recipe down to a manageable size because I know not everyone wants to make 24 large cinnamon rolls.

90 Minute Cinnamon Rolls

Difficulty: Moderate
Prep Time: About 35 minutes (plus rising time)
Cook Time:  13-17 minutes

 

DoughCinnamon Roll ingredients

1 3/4 cups Warm Water (aprox. 110° F)

1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar

1/4 cup Canola Oil (any neutral oil will work)

3 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast (if you’re using the packets it’s aprox 4)

______

1 1/2 teaspoons Salt

2 Eggs

5 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour

Cinnamon Filling

1 1/4 cup Brown Sugar (packed)

1 1/2 Tablespoons Cinnamon

pinch of salt

3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted

Frosting/Icing

4oz Cream Cheese, softened

1 teaspoon Vanilla (or more to taste)

2-3 Tablespoons Milk

3-3.5 cups Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar

 

I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for these. I’ve never made them any other way. I use the dough hook only, instead of switching out from the paddle to the hook.

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Step 1: Bloom the yeast

Add the warm water to your mixing bowl. Temperature is important because you don’t want it too hot or you’ll kill the yeast or too cold because the yeast won’t bloom. If you don’t have a thermometer, the water should be warm to the touch but not hot.

Pour in your Canola Oil (or other neutral oil) and add the sugar, then stir gently to help the sugar start to dissolve. Once it’s mixed, sprinkle in your Active Dry Yeast. I know it’s a lot of yeast, but we’re on the clock and need these bad boys to work fast. I do a quick stir at this point to get the yeast into the sugar/oil/water mixture. Now, let it sit for 15 minutes! It will “bloom”, which means it will get all foamy and bubbly.

Step 2: Add the Eggs

Once the yeast is all, well, yeasty, add the eggs one at a time. If you’re using a stand mixer, turn it to “Stir” or “2” and incorporate your eggs.

Step 3: Add the flour mixture

It’s really important NOT to add the salt first. Salt will kill your yeast and that won’t make for tasty cinnamon rolls. I usually dump in about 1/2 the flour and get that mixing for a minute or two. Then I’ll add the salt to the last 1/2 of the flour, give it a quick mix and dump the rest of the flour in and let the mixer run for about 10 minutes.

Step 3: Rest the dough

Allow the dough to rest in the mixer for about 10 minutes. This is a critical step to allow the dough to let the gluten relax so you don’t end up with a gummy mess.

Step 4: Prepare the Filling (if you haven’t already done so)

While the dough is resting, get the ingredients ready for the filling. Melt the butter, and let it cool. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. It doesn’t matter if you use dark or light brown sugar it will still taste great!

Step 5: Roll out the dough

Oil your countertop first! I just pour a little oil (about a teaspoon or two) onto the countertop and wipe it like I’m wiping up a spill. Only my goal is to leave it there for now. Once your countertop is oiled (don’t use flour and don’t skip that step or you’ll end up with dough stuck to the countertop), dump the dough onto the counter and shape into a rectangle. You’re looking for about an 18 x 12 rectangle, or thereabouts. I use my hands to flatten out the dough but you can use a rolling pin.

Step 6: Add the filling and roll

Now that you’ve got your dough rectangle, brush the entire thing with the melted butter but leave about 1/2-inch at the top (the long side away from you) so the dough will close up when you roll it. Once the dough is glistening with the melted butter, dump the cinnamon-sugar mixture  and spread it from edge to edge, again avoiding that top 1/2-inch where you didn’t put any butter. I use my hands to spread the mixture (clean hands are one of the best kitchen tools!) but you can use a spatula if you prefer.

Once your dough is nice and cinnamon-y it’s time to roll it up into a log. Start at the long side closest to you and begin rolling toward the opposite side. This takes a bit of patience because you don’t want to get askew if you can help it. Once you have it all rolled up, pinch the seam to seal that edge. This will help to keep it from opening up when it’s baking.

Step 7:  Cutting into rolls

You want to cut these into 12 uniform cinnamon rolls. Often I will cut a little off each end to make them prettier, but I usually just put the non-cut side down for the two end pieces. These will be 12 large rolls. I think it’s best to cut the roll in half and then cut each into 6 pieces rather than trying to figure out the spacing to get 12 rolls. You can also use a knife and make small indentations on the roll to help you keep them even. I actually use dental floss to cut cinnamon rolls. I learned to that about 20 years ago because back then I had laminate countertops that would get damaged if I used a knife and so it’s just how I do it. Of course, you can use a knife to cut your cinnamon rolls, but be careful with your countertop. It’s best to use a sharp bread (serrated) knife and not put a lot of pressure as you cut because you don’t want to squish the rolls.

Step 8: Short Rise then Bake

Place your cinnamon rolls in a sheet pan lined with parchment (or a silicone mat). I don’t use a high sided pan because I don’t think the edges get cooked very well. You have to use a pan with sides or you’ll end up with sticky cinnamon-sugar in your oven. Space the rolls evenly with an inch or so between them and place them so the seam-end is facing inward. I do this so as they rise and bake the ends, if they come undone, don’t get all crispy and dried out. Allow the rolls to rest and rise about 15 minutes.

Place the pan of cinnamon rolls in the pre-heated oven for 13 – 17 minutes. The time to bake them will vary based on your oven. I watch them at about 10 minutes to make sure one area isn’t browning more than others. If that happens, turn the pan. To goal is for them to be a nice golden brown without being too well done.

Step 9: Prepare Icing while they bake

Some call it icing, others frosting. I call it delicious! The measurements aren’t as exact for this because it will depend on how soft your cream cheese is or if you sift or don’t sift your powdered sugar. I don’t add salt because the cream cheese has enough to bring out the sweetness of the icing.

With your hand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until it’s smooth. Add about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and mix until combined. I do this step to keep the sugar from getting on everything. Then add about 2 Tablespoons of milk and the vanilla and mix to combine. Add more sugar, a little at a time until it’s all combined. Add the last Tablespoon of milk a little at a time to thin the frosting until you’re happy with the consistency. Some people like to pour it, while others like to spread it over the cinnamon rolls right when they come out of the oven. If you spread the icing on when the rolls are hot you’ll want the icing to be stiffer because the heat from the rolls will melt the icing (which is a good thing!). If your icing is too thin it will melt into a mess.

If you’re using a stand mixer add the cream cheese, 2 T of milk and vanilla and mix to combine. Add in about 3 cups of powdered sugar and combine. If you need to thin it out add the last Tablespoon of milk a little at a time to thin the frosting until you’re happy with the consistency. Some people like to pour it, while others like to spread it over the cinnamon rolls right when they come out of the oven. If you spread the icing on when the rolls are hot you’ll want the icing to be stiffer because the heat from the rolls will melt the icing (which is a good thing!). If your icing is too thin it will melt into a mess.

Step 10: Frost the Cinnamon Rolls and Enjoy!

It’s up to you at this point whether you’re going to frost the entire pan then serve or serve then frost. I’ve done it both ways and it’s good either way. If I know we’re not going to eat them all before refrigerating them, I won’t frost them. I’ve found that reheating them with the frosting melts the frosting too much to my liking.

Reheating Directions: If you do need to reheat them, use the “defrost” setting or set your microwave to 50% power. I start with 1-minute then check to see if it’s OK for me. The temperature on the reheat is different for everyone but you don’t want to nuke it too hot or it’ll dry out and be a non-tasty ball of ick. Don’t reheat on full power or you risk the cinnamon roll getting gummy.

 Cinnamon Rolls in just 90 minutes

Go forth and bake! I hope you enjoy these. Feel free to share this with your friends, add it to your Pinterest or just make a whole bunch and love that you can make fresh homemade cinnamon rolls in 90 minutes or less! And when you’ve made these 86 times and decide your family might like some variety in the cinnamon rolls you make, check out my friend Christi at Love From The Oven who can pretty much cinnamon rolls suitable for any meal.

Sara

Perfect Hardcooked Eggs

Perfect Hard Cooked Eggs

I have a love relationship when it comes to eggs. For years I thought I’d just have to suffer because my beloved ovoid friend was “unhealthy”. But now that has been settled and the incredible edible egg is back!

One of my favorite ways to eat eggs as a kid was when my mom would make deviled eggs. Just for me. Because I don’t like pickles in mine. I just like the creamy, yolky, savory filling balanced with the blandness of the white. Without chunky stuff. So my mom would make me 6 halves of my own.

After moving away to college I attempted to make my own but for almost 20 years I’ve ended up just making egg salad because my boiled eggs would turn out ugly. I could never figure out how to peel the eggs without mangling the white. And if you love deviled eggs you know they’re just not as good if the whites look like the surface of the moon.

Like you, I grew up with boiling as the way to hardcooked goodness. Notice I say hardcooked not hardboiled. That’s because I’ve discovered a new way that seems to not only make perfectly yellow (I hate that grayish-green circle, yuck!) yokes but also does some magicalness to the shells to get them to release much more easily. Steam!

Now I’m not talking about steam like some of these online video that have you attempting to jet-puff the oval awesomeness, or hard cook it outside the shell. This is plain ol’ steam from using either a steamer basket or if you’re lucky enough to have the steamer insert for your fancy cookware kind of steam. And, seriously, it will revolutionize your hardcooked egg ability. So much so that this may very well be the summer of the deviled egg!

Why steam? What’s wrong with the age-old tradition of boiling? Nothing’s wrong with boiling, but if you’re like me and have never figured out how to peel hard cooked eggs without mangling them you know there has to be an alternative. And with the scientific discussions of fresh vs. “old”, membrane thickness, organic and free-range or plain ol’ store brand when all you want are pretty deviled eggs or not wasting half your eggs when you peel them it’s worth a try. But it does actually become a bit scientific because the molecules of water that are formed from the steam are smaller than the ones formed in boiled water. With smaller molecules, the water penetrates the thin shell and gets under the membrane lifting it slightly so it slides off more easily.

While the science is fascinating, I know you just want pretty eggs. So, without further adieu, I bring you:

Perfect Hard Cooked Eggs (every time)

What you need:

  • Steamer basket and heavy-bottom pan with tight fitting lid (or double boiler with steamer insert and lid)
  • Water
  • Eggs (how many will depend on your needs and the size of your pan/steamer basket)

Hard Cooked Eggs

If you have a steamer insert for your double boiler, set that up just like you would the double boiler. If you don’t, you’ll need a steamer basket. I have one of those foldy type steamer baskets that’s at least 18 years old (wedding gift!). Place about an inch of water in the bottom of a heavy-bottom pan and then unfold the steamer basket inside the pot. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the basket so you may need less water in the bottom. If you have the steamer insert for your double boiler you likely know how to use it and probably don’t need to worry about the water level.

If using the steamer basket, unfold it into the bottom of your pan. Place the eggs in the steamer basket or double boiler. They can actually touch, because unlike boiling they won’t rattle around and crunch each other. But you don’t want them stacked or in layers.

Once the eggs are in the pan and ready, put a lid on tightly and turn the heat to medium-high and bring the water to a boil. The amount of time it takes will depend on how big your pan is, how much water and how much power you’re pulling on your stove.

So once the water is boiling,  let the eggs steam for about 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner and let sit for 3-5 minutes.

Depending on what level of asbestos hands you have will depend on at what point you can handle the eggs. If you’re like me, anything short of flaming hot is usually ok to handle. I’ve found that cold eggs don’t peel as easily so you’ll definitely want to peel these when they’re warm enough for you to handle. And I think at this point you don’t really need me to explain to you how to peel an egg. Right?

Once they’re peeled, marvel at (1) how easy it was and (2) how pretty they look. I used two different brands of eggs when I made mine, which explains why the yolks are different colors. Either way, they’re still pretty!

So try this and tell me what you think. OK?

Sara

Deliciously Easy (Vegan) Chocolate Sauce

Vegan Chocolate Sauce

I’m a chocolate lover, the only one in my house. CycleGuy and BabyGirl will sometimes indulge me if I make chocolate sauce. But, chocolate sauce can be temperamental. So I needed to find an alternative. And while I’m not a vegan, I do love coconut milk and knew it could be my answer.

If you’ve been missing out on chocolate sauce because of dairy concerns, this is your lucky day too! I’m crazy excited to share this with you because it is easy and delicious and while not actually good for you, it is better for you if you really need chocolate sauce. And while I think it’s terrific, I got the smile of approval from my friend Max (star of Love That Max) when he and his family came to visit.

Deliciously Easy (Vegan) Chocolate Sauce

(Also known as Clean Chocolate Sauce)

It only has 3 ingredientsIngredients for Vegan Chocolate Sauce

14 oz Light (or regular) Coconut Milk [do not confuse with coconut water]

4 oz Unsweetened (baking) Chocolate (buy the best you can since it figures prominently)

1/4 cup Agave Nectar (possibly a bit more, depending on the intensity of the chocolate)

 

Shake the can of coconut milk to make sure it’s well blended. But do that before opening the can. In a medium bowl, break up chocolate into small pieces. Set chocolate aside. In a saucepan, combine coconut milk and agave nectar. Over low heat, bring the milk and agave mixture to a gentle boil. Once it starts to boil, remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Do not mix at this point! The heat from the milk will melt the chocolate. Let stand about 5-minutes. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir the chocolate mixture until smooth. Taste with a separate spoon to see if it is sweet enough for your taste. If you need to sweeten it up, add small amounts (say, 1 tablespoon at a time) of warm agave and mix thoroughly. Keep tasting until it’s perfect for you!

Transfer to decorative glass jar and allow to cool to room temperature. Seal and store in refrigerator. If you don’t have a glass jar you can use a plastic container, just make sure it doesn’t smell like tuna or anything. Store sealed in refrigerator for a few day. I don’t know how long it would really last because it’s never lasted more than a few days for me.

 Chocolate in a bowl

Melting Chocolate with Coconut Milk

Honestly, it’s that easy! So go out now, get the few ingredients and make some chocolate sauce. I know you’ll love it!

Sara

Homemade Bagels

Easy Home made bagels

I was probably 6 or 7 the first time I made bagels with my mom. We attended a Jewish military chapel (my grandpa was retired military) and one of the events regularly held was a breakfast. It was a great way for soldiers to relax and meet local people who had ‘been there, done that’. My mom decided to make bagels rather than buy them. Not sure what possessed her into thinking that making 200 bagels was a great idea, but that’s just the kind of mom she was – going the extra mile because it was what she thought was a good idea.

My mom had been making bagels for years so I had watched her make them many times. It wasn’t until I actually got to mix and measure and shape the bagels that I realized how really easy they were to make. And the taste? So much better than store bought! Maybe they’re not as perfect (well, mine aren’t) but that crunchy outside and soft inside is what bread-baking dreams are made of.

I’ve made bagels before but never shared the recipe, just thinking that everyone knows how to make bagels. Except, I’ve recently learned  that’s not the case. Don’t be afraid to work with yeast or dough. These are simple ingredients and even if yours don’t come out all that bagel-ish looking the first time, keep making them. They may not look perfect but they will taste better than any store-bought bagel you’ve ever had.

Delicious Homemade Bagels

2 tsp Dry Yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1 1/4 cups Warm Water (divided, so check instructions)
3 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, plus extra for kneading
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Sprinkle sugar then yeast into 1/2 cup of the warm water (you should be able to stir the water with your finger without it being too hot) in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Let stand for 5 minutes then stir to dissolve. You want your yeast to bloom and get foamy and frothy so make sure your bowl or measuring cup is about double the size you really need. If you let it go for more than 5 minutes it will continue to grow, so don’t let it go beyond 10 minutes or it won’t be able to do its job later.

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt together. You want to make sure you mix these two ingredients together because salt will kill your yeast if it’s alone. Mixing the salt and flour protects the chemical effects of the salt on the yeast. Yay, chemistry! Form a well in the center of your flour/salt mixture and pour in the dissolved yeast. It doesn’t have to be perfect so if the yeast goodness spills over the flour it’s OK. You’ll be mixing it up. The purpose of the well is to give you better control over the mixing process.

Next, pour HALF of the remaining water into the well. Remember, only HALF of the water! If you pour it all it’s a glue-y mess and that’s not delicious. You’ll end up adding the rest of the water little by little as you need it. Now, mix the dry ingredients (flour/salt mixture) with the yeast and water. It will become dry and you’ll think there’s no way this will ever form a nice dough with all this flour still in the bowl. So now, add in the reserved water a tablespoon or two at a time to make the dough begin to come together, forming a firm and moist dough. It’s OK if you don’t use all the water. The amount of water you need will depend on the conditions in your home. Here in Arizona in the summer I use all the water, and sometimes a little more. In the winter, I don’t use all the water.

Once your dough has come together, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Gradually work in as much additional flour as possible while comfortably kneading to form a stiff and firm dough. This isn’t exact so you’ll need to sprinkle your counter top with enough flour so the dough ball won’t stick. If you need help figuring out how to knead dough this video should help.

Once the dough has been kneaded for 10 minutes, it needs to rest and rise. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. You’ll want to make sure it’s in a warm area with no draft or the dough won’t rise. This is when you’ll see the yeast at work for the second time. Punch down (which is just fancy baker talk for deflate) the now airy dough puff, and let the dough rest 10 minutes.

While the dough is resting, you’ll want to get your water ready. You’ll need an 8-10 quart pot filled with water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down so the water is at a simmer.

Next, Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. This is how I learned how to make bagels. Some people will roll out the dough into long strands and then connect them. My mom said that doing it this way make it easier to keep the bagels round and not handle them too much which makes them tough and hard to chew.

I cut off a piece of dough and roll it lightly on the countertop or in my hands. You just don’t want to handle it too long. Before rolling, press down on the dough lightly to get rid of air bubbles and roll the dough between your palm and the work surface to form a smooth ball. Coat a finger in flour and press it through each ball to form a ring.

How To Make Bagels

Work the rest of your fingers into the hole, stretching the ring lightly and widening the hole to about 1/3 of the bagel’s diameter. The hole needs to be large enough because these will puff up again and if there isn’t enough space then the dough will close up.

Once the bagels are formed, place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Yes, this is a bit of a time consuming process, but you will be rewarded!

While you’re checking your water to make sure it’s still at a boil, let the bagels rest for 10 minutes.

Boiling Bagels

Now that your water is at a simmer, it’s time to boil the bagels. This is what will cause the bagels to rise again and give it that nice crust when they are baked.

Depending on the size of your pot, place the bagels into the water in batches of 2 or three. You don’t want them crowded or they will get all glue-y. Boil the bagels, uncovered, until they rise to the surface, about 1 -2 minutes. Turn the bagels over once. I use chopstick to flip them so they don’t get squished or deflated. Allow the bagels to boil for another minute.

Remove the bagels from the pot using a slotted spoon, letting the water drain. Place on a wire rack to make sure water drips off. Let the bagels sit for a few minutes then transfer them to a lightly oiled or parchment-covered baking sheet.

In a 425-degree oven, bake the bagels approximately 20 minutes, until golden. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm with butter and jam or allow to fully cool and serve with cream cheese. If they are too hot, the cream cheese gets too melty. Not that it’s a bad thing, but some people don’t like that.

These bagels will be more rustic looking than the ones you buy. They are so delicious and tender and chewy, that their shape doesn’t matter. If you let them fully cool, they are great for sandwiches.

Fresh Bagels

What do you like on your bagels?

Sara

Basil Pesto

How To Make Pesto

One of the easiest things to make, Pesto can add tons of flavor to many dishes. It’s also great to have on hand if you need a quick dinner (toss pasta with some pesto) or fancy appetizer (mix pesto with softened cream cheese and spread on crackers). I like to make up a batch and freeze them in small portions so I can use it when I need it. With so few ingredients, buy the best you can.

Basic Basil Pesto

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 20 min

Pesto Ingredients

 

Ingredients

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted3 cups Fresh Basil leaves (washed and dried)

3/4 – 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

2-3 garlic cloves (depending on size)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions

Toast pine nuts in a dry pan. On medium heat, place pine nuts in heated skillet and set over heat. Shake continuously, about 2-3 min, to give the pine nuts a toasty flavor. Remove pan from heat and allow pine nuts to cool.

In food processor fitted with flat blade (can also be done in a blender) add garlic and pulse 3-4 times. Add pine nuts and pulse 8-10 times. Add the basil leaves, salt and pepper. With the food processor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube until the basil is pureed. If you are using a blender, add the oil through the opening in the lid. This takes about 3-4 minutes.

Add the parmesan cheese and pulse 8-10 times to fully incorporate into the pesto. Taste and add more salt/pepper to suit your needs.

Use pesto right away or store in sealed container. I pour mine into flexible ice cube trays I bought at IKEA years ago. I fill up the cavities then use a rubber spatula to clean up the excess. Wrap the entire tray in plastic wrap making sure the top is covered without any air pockets. Air is the enemy of Pesto. Sometimes I will store it in a small container which I have lined with plastic wrap and then fold over to seal out the air. This also helps from not turning my plastic green.

Pesto

 

Honestly, it’s that simple! You’ll never want to eat the jarred stuff again.

How will you use your fresh Pesto?

Sara

Preserving Memories: Handing Down Family Recipes

Recipe File Box

Disclosure: I am a compensated Horizon Healthy Families Community Leader at The Blog Frog. This post is provided as part of my role as a Community Leader. This post has not been reviewed by a third party and all opinions are my own. This conversation was written by me on behalf of Horizon. The opinions expressed by me do not necessarily reflect the view of the Horizon Organic brand. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sara

12-Minute Cinnamon Rolls or The Cutest Cinnamon Rolls Ever

Mini Cinnamon Rolls

I know, how is that possible? Homemade cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven in about 12 minutes? You bet! And they’re delicious and just too adorable not to share. You’ll love ’em, your family will love ’em and your friends will join you in adoring their absolute cuteness!

So how are these possible? With Refrigerated Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough. And imagine how excited I was to see this new product – Crescent Roll Sheets! An uncut rectangle of crescent flakiness just waiting for me to make these little gems. And, not they’re not paying me to write this. I just saw this product and had an a-ha! moment. And now we make!

12-minute Cinnamon RollsPillsbury Crescent Roll Dough Sheet

Difficulty: Easy
Makes: 24 of the most adorable mini cinnamon rolls

Ingredients:

1 can Pillsbury Crescent Roll Sheets (or 1 can of regular crescent rolls but you’ll have to pinch all the seams together)

1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 pinch kosher salt

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Glaze:

3/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 Tablespoon milk

 

Preheat oven to 375 F. Using non-stick spray, spray a mini muffin pan. You’ll need 2 or you’ll have to bake these in 2 batches.

In a small bowl, melt 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter in the microwave. Don’t let it boil or it gets funky. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and mix it together so it’s all incorporated together. Set aside the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture.

Remove the Crescent Roll sheet from the canister and unroll it flat on a cutting board or counter top. If you’re using regular crescent roll dough you’ll need to pinch all the seams together on both sides and pat it flat. Try not to work with it too much or roll it out with a rolling pin because it makes it tough and flattens the crescent layers and then it’s not very flaky.

Once you have the dough flat, brush the melted butter over the dough making sure you get all the way to the edges. Liberally sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar mixture over the entire dough rectangle. Once all the cinnamon and brown sugar in on the dough, lightly pat it down. You want to make sure none of it escapes, because it tastes so good you’ll want it all!

Now, cut the rectangle in half so you have 2 squares. Since it’s a square (or closely resembling one, this isn’t geometry class!) you can start rolling at any edge. Roll, Roll, Roll! And when you’ve got it into the log shape pinch to seal it.

Mini Cinnamon Roll How To

To create the mini marvels, cut the cinnamon-brown sugar log into 12 pieces. Yes, they are going to be small. You have 2 rolls so you’ll end up with 24 mini cinnamon rolls so you can share (at least 12 of them). My approach to cutting these is to cut the roll in half. Then cut each half in half again so you have 4 pieces. Now cut each section into 3 piece. Math time: 3 x 4 = 12! Place the weensy cinnamon rolls in the greased mini muffin tins and bake in 375F oven for about 8 minutes. Depending on your oven it may take a few more minutes. You’re looking for lightly brown cinnamon rolls. The same color as the standard ones, really. And don’t try and tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about. Everyone’s had a cinnamon roll before. But, if you haven’t, they’re a light brown color a bit lighter than a latte.

While the cinnamon rolls are baking, mix up the glaze. I don’t sift the confectioners sugar. Dump the confectioners sugar in a medium bowl and mix with 1 Tablespoon of milk. Again, depending on humidity and elevation you may need a bit more milk. You want it to be think enough to drizzle but still think enough not to soupy.

Remove from oven when done. Allow to cool for 2 or 3 minutes and remove cinnamon rolls from the pan to a serving plate and drizzle glaze over each cinnamon roll. I use about 1 teaspoon each, but it varies. This is not an exact science. If you don’t want the glaze to melt then cool your rolls a bit longer. If you’re using 2 separate mini muffin tins you don’t have to remove them right away, just be aware that if they fully cool the caramely-cinnaminy goodness will harden and make it difficult to remove from the pan.

Hope you enjoy making these! They’re easy, fun and certainly better for your figure than those giant ones from the mall.

And I think because they’re so small there aren’t but a few calories in it. But I’m not a nutritionist, so don’t take my word for it.

Disclosure: Although I probably don’t need one, I’ll put it here. This is NOT a sponsored post. I saw these cool Crescent Roll dough sheets in the store, bought them with my own money and came home to make these. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sara

Caramel Challah Recipe

Caramel Challah

I’ve been making Challah for years. I learned how to make it when I was a kid. I didn’t make it all that much until a few years ago when I decided BabyGirl should learn how to make it and enjoy creating part of Shabbat. And while it takes awhile to make, it’s actually very easy and doesn’t require many ingredients.

One day I wanted to make a sweet challah and was out of raisins so I threw in some chocolate chips. Oh my! Not only great for Shabbat but even better for french toast the next morning. But BabyGirl and CycleGuy aren’t much for the chocolate, they’re caramel people. So when I found these caramel bites at the King Arthur Flour site I added a bag (or 2) to my cart and started wondering what I would make. And then it hit me, Caramel Challah!

So without further adieu, I bring you:

Caramel Challah Recipe

Makes 2 loaves
Time: aprox. 1 hour plus about 2 1/2 hours for rising

Challah Ingredients
1 and 1/2 packages (1 and 1/2 tablespoons) Active Dry Yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil, and more for greasing bowl
5 Large Eggs at room temperature
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Caramel Bits (if you’re making regular challah, just leave these out)

1.  In a small bowl or 2 cup measuring cup (or in bowl of stand mixer), dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon Sugar in 1 and 3/4 cups of lukewarm water (about 110°F). You should be able to hold your fingers in the water for 30+ seconds.

2.  Pour yeast mixture into mixing bowl and whisk in 1/2 cup vegetable oil into yeast. (I don’t like using olive oil because I think it’s too strong of a taste for this sweetened version). Beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining 1/2 cup sugar and tablespoon of salt.

3.  Gradually add 8 Cups of flour. When dough holds together and pulls away from sides, it is ready for kneading. If kneading by hand, turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. If it feels sticky add a little more flour. If kneading in a stand mixer, switch to a dough hook and knead about 8 minutes watching so the dough doesn’t climb up the hook, adding flour if it’s still too sticky. This is a large quantity of dough and not all mixers can handle this step so keep an eye on your mixer.

4. Place dough in large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough can also rise in an oven which has been warmed to 150°F then turned off.

5. After first rise, punch down dough and add the Caramel Bits. Fold over the dough to cover the Caramel Bits. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again in a warm place for 45-minutes.

6. Cut the dough in half and put one half back in the bowl and cover it while you make the first challah. To make a 6-strand challah cut the dough into 6 equal(ish) pieces and roll them into strands about 12-inches long. If you’re making a 3-strand challah, cut the dough into 3 equal(ish) pieces and roll them into strands about 12-inches long. Because they have the caramel bits in them, you have to be careful that the strands don’t break. If they do, just pinch them back together.

7. If making a 3-strand challah, place all 3 strands next to each other and pinch together at the top to connect them. Proceed to braid the strands just like you’d braid hair. If you want to braid a 6-strand challah, rather than me try to explain it, just watch this video (probably a few times).

8. These are straight loaves. Round loaves are used for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

9. Make the second challah the same way. You can make mini challah too by parsing the dough out into smaller portions. If you’re making the challah with a child it may be good to give them their own strands to make their own.

10. Place braided dough on a parchment covered cookie sheet. If you don’t have parchment, make sure you grease the cookie sheet. Depending on the size of your dough braids you might be able to fit both on the same sheet pan. Otherwise, use 2 pans.

11. Beat remaining egg with about a teaspoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush the loaves with the egg wash (do not discard because you’ll need it again), cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise approximately 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375°F.

12. After rising, remove plastic wrap and brush again with egg wash. If some of the caramel bites have peeked out gently push them in and cover with dough so they don’t burn. Bake at 375°F for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. If it starts to brown too rapidly, tent it with a little foil. If using a thermometer, the internal temperature will be about 190°F when done.

13. Remove from oven and cool loaves on rack.

We don’t eat ours right out of the oven because we wait for Shabbat. But they are delicious when they’re warm.

I know it takes quite a bit of time from start to finish, but it’s so worth it! To store, wrap tightly in foil and place in refrigerator. Use a serrated knife to cut so you don’t squish it or tear it. If you don’t want to use a knife, just pull off a hunk and enjoy!

Images: Saving For Someday
Disclosure: I bought all ingredients myself and am not posting this on behalf of anyone. King Arthur Flour only knows who I am because they ship me stuff that I buy. This is NOT sponsored by anyone other than CycleGuy who ensures a plentiful supply of Caramel Bits.
Recipe Resources: Joan Nathan, Treasure For My Daughter, Handwritten Notes  

Sara