Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Low Fat Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I've been trying out homemade salad dressing lately, and found a new one that I love! This is the closest to bottled ranch dressing that I have found. It is so easy, and so good!! I found it here: allrecipes.com. (Update- I still don't know exactly how long this stays good for, but I know that mine was still good when we finished it 2 weeks after making it.)

If you like ranch (who doesn't??), here's a tortellini salad you might like as well- Summer Tortellini Salad.

Low Fat Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Printable version here

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. chopped fresh chives
1 tsp. chopped fresh dill
1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, and sour cream in a bowl. Stir in the garlic powder, onion powder, chives, dill, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

(Adjust the consistency with more or less buttermilk, as desired)

*If you don't have fresh herbs, and don't want to buy a package from the store (when you only need a tiny bit), I have found this to be a good alternative. I use the dill and chive ones in this recipe, and I have used the basil one in other recipes. They really do work as well as fresh herbs! They're kept in the refrigerated section at the grocery store, near the packaged herbs.  I use the same amount of these as I would fresh herbs.

Why I love it? For one, it's a nice way to use some of the herbs in my backyard. It also tastes delicious, is easy to make, and is better for you than bottled dressing.

(Kraft's Light Ranch ingredient list, in case you were curious, is this):

I would much rather eat the homemade kind, if given the choice! :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Samoas Bars

I found this recipe at Baking Bites several months ago, and was waiting for a special occasion to make it. It's too complicated for an everyday recipe, but when I was asked to bring dessert for Father's Day, I knew this was the one. My husband loves the Samoas Girl Scout cookies (and so do I!). This is basically a big, huge cookie!

It has many steps, and kind of takes a while- but it's worth it to me, as long as you have enough time. I don't have time to write out the recipe now, but you can get it from the link above. *The only change I made was to omit the egg from the crust, as suggested by many of the commenters. I made the crust in a foil-lined pan, which made it much easier to get out. Here are the basic steps to this recipe:

1. Bake a shortbread crust, cool, remove from pan. Mix together toasted coconut & melted caramel, and spread on top of crust (below). Cool.

2. Cut into bars (I did 24 bars), melt chocolate, dip bars into chocolate (works best to use a small flat dish, like the Pyrex one in this picture) & place on waxed paper to cool.

3. Place remaining melted chocolate in a ziploc bag, snip off the corner, and drizzle over each bar.

4. Cool completely, then remove from pan & store in an airtight container. I actually just left mine on the cookie sheets, and covered them with plastic wrap until the next day when I put them on a serving platter. I stored extras in a container. *Note- these work great made the day before serving, and mine were still just as good 2 days later. By 3 days, the chocolate started to look a little hazy.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cookbook Suggestions

This post was inspired by a book I just checked out from the library. I told my husband a couple months ago that I have enough cookbooks- and then I discovered Cook's Illustrated... :) I'd be willing to get rid of all my other cookbooks, and just stock my kitchen with ones made by them. They're that good!

The one I checked out was this baking book. It is fabulous!! It has all the wonderful recipes CI makes (700 of them!), in a more user-friendly format than their other books. It's in a binder, so the book stays open flat, it has more pictures than normal, and the book is in full color (their normal books are black & white). It has a TON of tips in it (the page I have flipped open has a part that says "Knowing when to add more flour", along with pictures & a description). I may just need to add this one to my collection... that's probably better than continually renewing it from the library. ;) I haven't read the red one yet (family cookbook), but I'm sure it's equally wonderful.

Blue one Here for $22; Red one Here for $22

While I'm talking about books, here's another one I love:

This one's just $13.57 at Amazon! I got it several years ago as a Christmas gift. I read it cover to cover when I first got it, and now I'm working on reading it again. The chapters are:

  • Cookware, Appliance, and Utensil Tips

  • Ingredient Tips

  • Cooking Tips

  • Serving, Storage, Cleaning, and Kitchen Safety Tips

  • Handy Kitchen Techniques

  • When Things Go Wrong, Substitutions, and Equivalents

It's just shy of 400 pages. So, there you have it, some new summer reading for you. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So-Easy Sugar Cookies

This recipe is from the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest (in 1982!). If you have a jelly-roll shaped pan, you have to try it. (I'm not sure what the proportions would be for a different sized pan) It's an easy way to make cookies for a crowd, or a bunch of hungry kids!

The batter spread onto the parchment-lined pan, and topped with green sprinkles

Baked & cut into squares with a pizza cutter (yes, I had to taste test one! LOL)

So-Easy Sugar Cookies
Printable version here

3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter (or margarine), softened
1/3 cup oil
1 tbsp. milk
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar (or sugar sprinkles)

1. Heat oven to 375. In large bowl, beat 3/4 cup sugar, margarine, oil, milk, almond extract and egg until light & fluffy. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt; blend well.

2. Spread evenly in ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan; sprinkle with sugar. (I line with parchment for easier removal) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. (My baking stone pan takes 16 minutes)

3. Cool 5 minutes, then cut into bars with a knife or pizza cutter. Store in an airtight container.

Why I love it? I always have these ingredients on hand, they're really quick to make, and they taste good. I love anything with almond extract, and these have just a hint of that in them. They're just a good, simple cookie!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cranberry Poppyseed Salad

This one isn't really a recipe, just a combination for what is (to me) a delicious salad!! I don't have any pictures, because usually by the time I get our salad in bowls, we're dying to eat. Sometime I'll try to get one though!  I use this recipe for the poppy seed dressing.

Lettuce, poppy seed dressing, dried cranberries, & sunflower seeds

Why I love it? It's delicious and fresh tasting! It's light, salty & sweet, and quick to make. Plus, these are ingredients I always have in the pantry. It can be made any time of the year.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blueberry-Almond Oat Muffins

I found this recipe online recently; it's originally from Pampered Chef. I made it for breakfast this morning with just a few changes. They turned out great!

(These muffins are on my "new" china. My mom just passed down the set that she & my dad got for their wedding. I love it!!)

Blueberry-Almond Oat Muffins
Printable version here

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1. Spray 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray (or use paper liners). Preheat oven to 425ยบ.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl; mix well. Stir in blueberries. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, egg, and extract. Pour into the dry ingredients & mix just until dry ingredients are moistened.

3. Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups (about 1 rounded large scoop). Put sliced almonds in a small plastic bag, and crush with your hand to break up the pieces a little. Sprinkle over batter, then press down gently. Bake 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack; when cool enough to handle, remove from pan & place on rack. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 muffins.

Why I love it? The almonds on top, and the browned exterior, give the muffin a nice crunch, while the inside is soft & fluffy. The oats & blueberries make them a little heartier, but they're still light. They're not too unhealthy for a muffin, either!

Tip- a new product I've been using, and like, is called Baker's Joy. It's a nonstick spray with flour in it. I use it now any time I'm making a cake-type thing. That's what I used for these muffins. It releases the food so easily! I've seen it at most grocery stores, near the Pam.