Sunday, December 24, 2017

Baked Caramel Apple French Toast Casserole

This recipe doesn't need a lot of explaining. Its really easy, and always comes out great. It's a crowd favorite and comes together quickly. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

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Baked Caramel Apple French Toast
We grew up eating a variation of this. It's sticky, sweet, and delicious!
  • 6 Apples, Cored Peeled and Sliced (Gala, Fuji, Macintosh, or Fuji)
  • 1 stick, 8 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup White Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • pinch of Salt
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Corn Starch
  • 2 Tablespoons Cold water
  • 12 Eggs
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 loaf French bread, cubed
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9x13 pan. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium low, add apples and stir cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add both sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Continue stirring and cooking for another 4 minutes. In a separate small bowl, mix corn starch and cold water. Add to skillet and raise heat slightly. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens and looks like caramel. Pour into the prepared pan. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and vanilla. add bread cubes and stir gently until all are moistened. Gently spoon bread over the apples, pouring any remaining custard over the bread. Bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes until center is set. Remove from oven and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes. Cut and serve. Enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 7 servings

Friday, September 8, 2017

60-minute Hamburger Buns

Homemade hamburger buns in under an hour flat. No need for a long post full of fluff. These are just plain good.  Pile them with a hamburger or pulled pork, or shredded BBQ beef, or even use them for sandwiches. 

Here's a short clip to show how to form them. You want to stretch the top and tuck it into the bottom. 

 The slits on top aren't necessary but we like them and the crunchy points that come with them.

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60-Minute Hamburger Buns
Homemade hamburger buns in an hour flat. They're light and fluffy inside but hearty enough to hold a large, loaded burger.
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (no hotter than 115F)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (vegetable, canola, or coconut oil also work)
  • 3 Tablespoons honey (or brown sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add the oil and honey. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy. Add the egg, salt, and 4 cups of flour. With the mixer on low and fitted with the dough hook, knead until a soft dough forms. Turn the mixer to medium and knead for 3-5 minutes more adding additional flour as necessary until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixer making a single cohesive ball. Immediately portion into 12 rolls. My hamburger buns weigh 90 grams each. You may just eyeball it if you don't have a kitchen scale. Stretch the top, tucking it under the bottom to shape each roll. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment or silicone baking mat lined cookie sheet. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 425F. Remove towel and lightly score tops with a sharp knife. Let rest for 5 more minutes. Bake 8-12 minutes at 425F. Cool completely before eating. *To make larger buns, divide the dough into 8 pieces. To make sliders, divide it into 24 pieces. These will keep for 1-2 days if stored in an airtight container.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 buns

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Perfect Menu Board

I've seen dozens of menu planning boards pop up all over Pinterest lately.  There are simple dry erase versions in glass picture frames and ones with a dozen categories so you don't accidentally eat fish 2 nights in a row.  I wanted one- but one that fit my exact needs.  I needed a way to organize my meals and the thoughts that go into them.  I cook 3-4 meals a day. My kids go to school and each need a breakfast in the morning, and a packed snack and lunch every weekday. My husband goes to work and prefers that I pack him breakfast, snack, and lunch every morning. That's a lot of food to organize before 7:30am- when I leave to take the kids to school. Husband's has to be done by 4:30am.  It was time for a solution that simplified my meals.  I used to do the basic dry erase board but it seemed that no matter how much variation I started with, within 6 months we were back to the same 15 or so meals.  Boring.  I'd forget about things I'd made or forget how I made them, and they were lost to the abyss that is my mind sometimes. For years I didn't do anything more than a notepad on the fridge.  But the exact same thing happened.  So I made a goal.  Spend the first half of 2017 working on my recipes and writing them down.  That latter part was very hard for me. Cooking took twice as long because I had to stop to measure and take notes with every move I made.  You see, in 2008 I read the Joy of Cooking pretty much cover to cover.  I found myself with a LOT of free time as the stay at home mom to a baby who slept 21 hours a day.  Husband, who was a boyfriend at the time, worked a ton and had a lot of friends.  He wasn't home much.  We were very young and lived in an apartment near no one that I knew in a time before Facebook had local events to meet other new moms. Saying I was a tad isolated is an understatement.  To stave off the boredom, I decided to learn to cook from scratch.  Fast-forward 8 years and I rarely use recipes now.  It's become second nature and cooking is my favorite time of the day. In the 8 months since I started writing down my recipes, I've amassed a few hundred that we love.  Some old classics and some modern recipes with a twist.  It's a solid collection that I'm very proud of. They all got typed up and put into sleeve protectors in binders.

Now I just needed a way to organize them for use- and we're back to the need for a menu board.  I looked on Pinterest and found a couple that were close to what I needed but nothing exact. So, I scoured around in the garage and found a piece of sheet metal that came from who knows where.  No one seemed to remember where it came from so it wouldn't be missed if I screwed this up royally. I wanted this board as big as I could get it to hold at least 2 weeks of 5 meals per day. The metal was 20" wide and nearly 8' long.  I found a frame at Walmart that was meant to hold posters that were 20" x 30". The perfect size for the wall where the board would go. It would require me to cut the metal only twice to make it fit. While at Walmart I also found glittered tape, glass gems, adhesive labels, magnets, and a desk organizer that I planned to re-purpose into storage for my menu cards. I had cardstock and scissors at home to make the cards.

The first thing I did was measure and cut the metal. The bottom edge wasn't straight so I used my trusty square to get it right.  I used the paper from inside the frame to measure the metal piece. I popped it into the frame with the plexiglass behind the metal to provide a bit more stability.


The next thing I did was measure out my lines for the boxes.  While the metal was still in the frame, I marked the corners so I knew how much space I lost behind the frame. I wanted the boxes to be as even as I could get them.  The pencil in the photo is pointing to a very light mark showing that lost space.  now before we go any further, ignore my rusty square. I love that thing and can't bring myself to replace it yet.  After we lost everything to a house fire in early 2010, that square was the first tool I bought and used it to get my creativity back.  She measured fabric for Halloween costumes, paper for making homemade cards, sizes of rolled pie dough, and even helped me redo a piece of furniture I got for free. She still works perfectly and I can still read the measurements. She gets to keep her job for a bit longer. I needed 6 boxes across: day of the week, breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert; by 15 boxes tall: meal, and 14 days worth of space. My measurements aren't important as its unlikely you'll need the same ones for yours. I marked the lines with Sharpie.

I used the glitter tape to separate the categories and just to make it look a bit prettier. It was totally unnecessary but I love it.  The address labels were used to mark the categories.  It took me 3 tries to get them formatted properly.  The company isn't joking when they say to print a test sheet on plain paper.  I had to trim the ones for the meals to make them fit. That night I laid out wax paper and newspaper to glue my magnets onto my glass gems.  Did you know E6000, my favorite glue ever, comes in black?! I didn't and accidentally grabbed that tube.  Figures.  In the end it didn't matter- the gems glued and you couldn't see the black.

The frame is hung by the tab on the back, but because it is quite a bit heavier with the metal and magnets, I found a corner hinge laying around and bent it to support the bulk of the weight of the frame from the bottom. I took a second hinge and flattened it. It sits above the frame and my desk organizer, with the help of 2 glued-on magnets, attaches there.

I used Excel to print out the menu cards.  My first go round looked like this.

I cut them with scissors so they were uneven and once on the board you couldn't see them with the magnets in the way.  I bought a paper trimmer and more cardstock, since I exhausted my supply the first time around.

The second time was exponentially more successful.  It looked uniform and organized.  The dinner category has 2 sets of cards- dark blue is for main courses and light blue are the sides.

So now, every 2 weeks, we'll lay out the cards for each category and see what we want to eat.  I'll fill in the gaps with the recipes that will use up excess ingredients and leftovers which should save us money and time in the end.  For example- on nights we have pizza, I'll double my dough recipe and bake calzones or pinwheels for the following days' lunches. This saves dishes, energy to preheat the oven, and time.  If we have mashed potatoes for dinner, I'll make a bit extra and turn those into bacon, cheddar, potato cakes for breakfast.  Hopefully this cuts back on my overall time in the kitchen a bit and allows me to take up new hobbies. Just kidding, I have PLENTY already... Meet my favorite hobby.  The roughly 150,000 honeybees I hang out with regularly. :)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Corn and Chicken Chowder with Bacon

It's summer- which means grills are firing up all over the country.  One of my favorite summer dinners is grilled corn on the cob and chicken quarters.  I always cook way too much food which means I always have leftovers laying around.  This is a good meal to use up extra corn and chicken. If you don't have leftovers, fresh works equally well.  I've even used can corn in a pinch when I couldn't find fresh corn.

My corn chowder is full of sweet corn flavor, chunks of juicy chicken, and bacon.  How can you possibly go wrong? I top it with fresh parsley to give it that extra bit of brightness.

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Corn and Chicken Chowder with Bacon
This is a great summer recipe that's filling and easy to freeze.
  • 7 ears of fresh corn, husked and siks removed (or 2-30oz cans of corn)
  • 1/2 pound thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2.5 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (Rotisserie chicken works great here)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cheddar cheese, for garnish
In a large pot, cook the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove from the pan, leaving the drippings, and set the bacon pieces aside. Place the potatoes and onions into the pot and cook over medium heat until the onions have softened, 2 or 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Pour in the milk, chicken stock, Old Bay, thyme, 1 tablespoon parsley, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add corn (If using fresh corn, cut from the cob with a sharp knife. Use the back of your knife to release the pulp from the cob.), and chicken. Cook over low heat until heated through, about 5 minutes. Garnish with remaining parsley, bacon pieces, and cheddar cheese.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings