Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I realized this afternoon, as I'm getting dinner ready, that I have never posted about pizza. Silly me! I've made that more often than any of the other things I've written about. I make the dough from scratch in my KitchenAid, which doesn't take more than a few minutes. Recently I had to alter the recipe a little, as my family's appetites have grown. This amount makes 1 pizza that fills the 5 of us pretty well.

The version I make most often is BBQ Chicken Pizza. Sometimes I do pepperoni or Hawaiian, but my favorite is the chicken one. It uses ingredients I normally have on hand, and my whole family loves it.

The dough, just before baking

Printable version here

Mix in a stand mixer:

1 tbsp. instant yeast
2 cups flour (I use 1 cup each of white & wheat bread flour)
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
4 tsp. oil (1 tbsp. + 1 tsp.)
3/4 cup water (120-130º)

Knead with dough hook for 8 minutes, or until soft & pliable. Rest in bowl, covered, for 10 minutes.

Roll into desired shape on cornmeal-covered baking stone. Cover with plastic wrap (that has been sprayed with nonstick spray); rise in a slightly warm place for 30 minutes, or until doubled. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 400º. Poke the dough all over with a fork.

Bake crust for 10 minutes, then remove from oven. Top with desired toppings, then bake 10 more minutes, or until done. Slice & enjoy!

BBQ Chicken Variation:
After crust has baked for 10 minutes, top with barbecue sauce, grated cheese (cheddar and/or Monterrey jack), diced chicken, and garlic powder. Garnish with sliced green onions after baking. Sometimes I add a little well-drained canned pineapple. Be sure to cover the chicken with some of the cheese, and don't cut the chicken too small, otherwise it'll dry out easily in the oven (tip from a reader- mix the chicken with some BBQ sauce to keep it moist!).

Make-ahead tip: I haven't tried freezing this dough yet (it's so quick to make that I haven't needed to), but one thing that saves time is making up batches of the dry ingredients. One batch will fit in a ziploc sandwich bag. After making the dough today, I made 3 of these bags for later.

Why I love it? It's easy, yummy, inexpensive, customizable (as opposed to frozen or take-out pizza), and healthier than "regular" pizza. The wheat flour adds fiber, and I limit the amount of cheese to save on calories. Oh, and not to mention- it's fresh!! You could probably make this on a metal pan, with a little modification, but I just LOVE how it turns out on a pizza stone. The crust is soft inside, but perfectly crisp on the bottom.

Blueberry Bran Muffins

I got this recipe from an Albertson's coupon/recipe booklet. I made just a few changes, and really like it! It's healthy & yummy. I made these last week, but am just now getting to posting it, since one of my kids stuck the recipe under the oven! I saw a little paper peeking out, and sure enough it was the recipe. :)

Blueberry Bran Muffins
Printable recipe here

Yield: 12 muffins

Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour (I used half all-purpose & half whole wheat)
1 cup bran flakes cereal*, crunched up a little
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, optional

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil

1 cup blueberries (fresh, or frozen ones that have been thawed, rinsed, and patted dry)

1. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients; set aside.

2. in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined, do not over mix. Fold in blueberries.

3. Divide batter into 12 lined or greased muffin cups. (Cups will be about 3/4 full) Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 23 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Store in an airtight container. Refrigerate or freeze any that won't be eaten within about 3 days.

* I bought plain bran flakes from the bulk section at WinCo, but you could also use Raisin Bran, and pick the raisins out.

Why I love it? It uses ingredients that are easy to keep on hand, it's easy to make, healthy, and makes a good breakfast or snack for me & the kids.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Buttermilk Waffles

I don't often make waffles, because it's so much faster to toast one from the freezer. Lately though, I've started making them a little more. Like most homemade foods, they're cheaper, yummier, and healthier than packaged foods- the only downside is the time they take. The kids like to watch TV when they first wake up, so that gives me some time to get breakfast ready.

I've been using this recipe for a few years. I found it on a blog, and they had adapted it from Cook's Illustrated (no wonder why it's so yummy!). The only ingredient I need to make sure I have is buttermilk, and the rest are things I always have.

The kids and I love these waffles. The outsides are so nicely browned & crisp, and the insides are so soft! The buttermilk gives them great flavor. If you're willing to make a little mess of your kitchen, I know you'll appreciate these waffles. :)

Buttermilk Waffles
Printable version here

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. cornmeal
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, separated
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Start preheating your waffle iron. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. In another mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolk with buttermilk and melted butter until combined.

2. Clean your whisk and beat the egg white to soft peaks. (I use my handheld mixer with whisk attachment for this part)

3. Slowly add the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, folding together (the batter will be quite thick). Then add the egg whites and gently fold them into the batter.

4. Spray your waffle iron with some nonstick spray and spread the batter onto the iron. Cook until the waffles are golden brown, about 2 - 5 minutes depending on your machine instructions. (Mine take 3 1/2 minutes) Yield: 4-6 waffles (I double the recipe and get 10)

Freezer: For freezer toaster waffles, leave the waffles golden and slightly underdone,
cool them on a wire rack, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze. They can be frozen then popped into the toaster for a quick breakfast.

Why I love them? As I wrote above, I love the texture of these- both soft & crispy. Eggo waffles just can't do that!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Easy Brown Rice

For the most part, I try to feed my family healthy foods, including whole grains. Our bread is always 100% whole wheat, and I try to use wheat flour in many of our recipes- but brown rice is a grain I've never gotten used to using. It is harder to cook than white rice, and never seems to turn out as well.

Until now!

I got a new light cookbook for my birthday, and one of the recipes in it is for brown rice. The authors acknowledge that following the normal directions, brown rice does not turn out well. So they came up with a new way of cooking it that is delicious & fool-proof! :) I used this last night in my Taco Rice Casserole. It made exactly twice what I needed for the recipe, so I used half, and froze half in a ziploc bag to use later. No one but me could even tell I used brown rice instead of white!

Easy Brown Rice
Printable version here

1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) brown rice
2 1/3 cups water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375º.

2. Spread rice in an ungreased 8x8 inch baking dish. In a medium covered saucepan, heat the water & oil until boiling. Once it boils, uncover, stir in salt, then pour over rice. (I heat it in the microwave, instead.) Immediately cover baking dish with a double layer of foil. (Pressing firmly on the edges of the foil helps the water to not escape while cooking.)

3. Bake until the rice is tender, about 55 minutes. Carefully uncover dish, and fluff rice with a fork. Serves 6.

*The recipe can also be doubled and cooked in a 9x13 pan. Baking time remains the same.

*To use frozen rice: Thaw, place in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then microwave until warm.

Why I love it? It's super easy, yummy, and healthy! I found it a lot easier cooking it this way than on the stove- where it seems like you're constantly tinkering with the knob to get it simmering at the right temperature. It's versatile, too. You can use it in a casserole like I did, or really just anywhere you'd use white rice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chewy Oatmeal Bars

Sorry I'm getting a little behind on posting recipes... we've had a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, 3 busy kids, stuff like that... Plus, I've been making a lot of Cook's Illustrated recipes lately- they're delicious, but copyrighted. I've been plenty busy in the kitchen lately!

So, here's a simple oatmeal bar recipe. They're kind of like granola bars, but softer & fluffier.

Chewy Oatmeal Bars
Printable version here

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar
4 ounces vanilla (or plain) yogurt
1 large egg white, beaten lightly
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup oats (I use old fashioned)
1/2 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

1. Mix together sugars, yogurt, egg white, oil, milk and vanilla.

2. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture.

3. Stir in oats and raisins.

4. Spread dough onto an ungreased 8x8 inch pan.

5. Bake at 350º for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Yield: 16 bars.

(I normally skip the cinnamon, and make these with dried cranberries & chocolate chips- our family's favorite combination!)

Why I love these? They're an easy, healthy snack. One batch of these lasts us for a few days. I also like that I usually have these ingredients in the kitchen. Although, one thing you can learn from me- these really are best using vanilla or plain yogurt. All I had on hand last week was flavored yogurt, so I made it with peach- and they tasted a little funny. :) Chocolate & cranberry with a hint of peach... next time I'll stick to vanilla!

(Based on this recipe)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Printable Recipes

Just an FYI... Now that I've figured out how to use Google Docs, I'm going to be adding a printable version of the recipes I post.  Hopefully that makes things easier!  When you click Print after clicking on the link, it'll open up a PDF file that you can either save or print.  I've tried it and it seems to work well. 

Also, I'm going back and adding printable versions to my previous posts (as I get the time!).  Enjoy, and thanks for reading! :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes

This recipe is from "The Best Make-Ahead Recipe" cookbook by Cook's Illustrated. Not only is this a DELICIOUS, gooey chocolate cake recipe, but it can be made ahead! Even better! After preparing the batter, you can either bake it immediately, refrigerate it, or freeze it.

I can't post the recipe here (because of copyright reasons), but if you go HERE, you will find it. :)

Recipe notes:
  • The version in my cookbook calls for semisweet chocolate (I used chips), not bittersweet as the blog states.
  • The whipping time in step 3 (mixing the eggs & sugar) will depend on the type of mixer you use; a standing mixer will take about 5 minutes, while a handheld mixer will take about 10 minutes.
  • To butter the ramekins- mix together the softened butter & cocoa powder, and brush that into the ramekins (I used my finger to rub it around; I had a hard time doing it with a brush).
  • The whole recipe serves 8, but I've only ever made a half batch. A half batch takes about 4 minutes to whip in my KitchenAid.
  • To store: cover each ramekin with plastic wrap, then foil, and refrigerate up to 8 hours or freeze up to 1 month.
  • Baking times- to bake right away, bake for 10-13 minutes, or until crust is set but the middle is still jiggly. From refrigerated: bake 11-14 minutes, from frozen: 12-15 minutes.
To finish it up, you can either serve it in the bowl or invert it & put on a plate. I've done both, and don't have a preference. Top with whipped cream and/or powdered sugar.

Why I love it? It's pretty simple to make. I had no idea something so delicious & "fancy" could be made so simply. Whipping the eggs & sugar like that give you such a light, awesome texture, plus you get all the gooey chocolate in the middle! The make-ahead directions are great, too. I have served these for company before, and it's fun to have such a great dessert with so little fuss.

Last thing- I don't have actual "ramekin" dishes to make these in, so I use my small (6 oz.) Pyrex bowls, like this:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ham & Cheese Stromboli

This recipe is based on one in my "The Best Make-Ahead Recipe" cookbook. I made it for the first time last week, and I love it! It's basically a yummy, fancier ham & cheese sandwich. The stromboli fed my family of 2 adults & 3 little kids. I've also made an Italian version, using pepperoni & salami, and about 1 cup of mozzarella. We dipped it in pizza sauce.

Ham & Cheese Stromboli
(Printable version here)

1 pound pizza dough*
8 oz. thinly sliced deli ham
4 oz. thinly sliced cheddar cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. sesame seeds
Mustard sauce for dipping, optional

1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Also, pull out a piece of foil that's slightly smaller than the baking sheet, and lightly grease one side of it with shortening. (I put my hand in a small plastic bag, and rub the shortening on the foil with this.)

2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 12 by 10-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Place the ham and cheddar over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the edges. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, if desired. Brush the edges of the dough with water. Starting from a long side, roll the dough tightly into a long cylinder, pressing the edges to seal.

3. Transfer the stromboli to the baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the egg over the top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Next, make 5-6 diagonal slashes across the top with a sharp knife, about 1/4 inch deep.

4. Cover lightly with greased foil. Bake in a 400º oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the crust is golden, about 25 more minutes. Transfer to a wire rack & let cool 5 minutes. Slice & serve, with mustard on the side if desired.

(This is our favorite- Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce)

Note- after placing the uncooked stromboli on the baking sheet, but before slashing & brushing with egg wash, you can cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap & refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Then remove the plastic wrap & resume the recipe as written, just adding 5 minutes to the first baking time. This is very helpful, so you can make it when you have the time!

*Many stores sell 1 pound of dough (like WinCo, or I think Trader Joe's), or you could make your own. I'll try to post that recipe soon. For now, this is the closest I've found to what I used. Or, the cookbook says you can also use a 13.8 ounce package of Pillsbury pizza dough.

Why I love it? Well for one, I enjoy making it. :) It's not hard, and it turns out delicious & "fancy". I also love how it can be made ahead. That works great with my schedule!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Freezer Cooking Tips

Next week I'm going to be talking about freezer cooking at my MOPS meeting. I made a handout with tips, and formatted it in a Google Document so you can easily read it online (and save or print it if you'd like). I believe it'll work by clicking on this link:

Michelle's Freezer Cooking Tips

Let me know if you have any questions about the things I wrote about, I'd love to help if I can!

*Here's a quick testimonial for one of the reasons why I do freezer cooking- about 2 weeks ago, a coworker of Dave lost her father. He was 49 and died unexpectedly. Dave's work decided to do a collection of frozen meals for their family. Since I had meals already made, I was able to offer one to them immediately. Here's a note from his coworker:

"Thank you both for thinking of my family! It is amazing how hard it is to get to the grocery store or think about making a home cooked meal. Your kind gesture is so much appreciated!"

As it says in my notes, I feel that service to others is a very good benefit to freezer cooking. Just one of many benefits. =)