Monday, July 30, 2012

Spinach and Berry Salad

First of all, let me apologize for my absence recently.  We just got home from a 10 day vacation with my husband's family.  We had so much fun that there was just no time for blogging!  And I don't have a picture of today's recipe, but I am hoping to get one up later today.  So instead of a picture of today's salad, here's a picture of just some of the food we had on vacation.  There were 24 of us, and this doesn't even include any of the refrigerated or frozen stuff!!!


I enjoy eating salads for lunch, and I eat one almost every day.  The type of salad I eat varies, but lately I've been hooked on salads made with spinach and berries.  I was inspired when we had dinner with friends and they made a similar salad that was just so delicious.  I will say, though, that the berries often cost more than what I would normally pay for fruit, but Sam's Club has pretty good prices on them during the summer.

Spinach and Berry Salad
Spinach
Strawberries, sliced
Blueberries
Sliced almonds
Crumbled feta
Balsamic Vinaigrette

Place spinach in a bowl.  Top with desired amount of strawberries, blueberries, almonds, and feta; drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and toss.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Summer Apology and Homemade Tortilla Chips

homemade corn tortilla chips

We'd first like to start out today's post with an apology.  We've been very flaky on posting lately.  Our usual Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule has been interrupted by summer.  Both of us have been busy enjoying our families with vacations, day trips, outside fun, VBS, and house projects.  We know our loyal readers look forward to new posts regularly.  Please know that we still have lots of yummy things to share with you and we will hopefully soon get back to our normal posting schedule.

I do have a new recipe today--homemade tortilla chips!!  No store-bought tortilla chip can come close to the flavor of warm, homemade chips, especially when served with homemade guacamole or pico de gallo!




The key to golden crisp chips is the oil temperature.  I never actually check the temperature; I just adjust according to how the chips are coming out of the oil.  If they are getting too dark, turn the oil down.  If they aren't crispy, turn the oil up.  Super oily chips are the result of the cooking oil not being hot enough.  Considering this, you want to avoid adding too many tortillas to the oil at once.

I like to drain the cooked chips on my cooling.  I usually turn it upside down and place it on a brown paper bag to wick away the oil (an Alton Brown trick).  If I don't have a paper bag on hand, I place the rack upright over a cookie sheet.

In order to get the salt to stick to the chips, they must be salted immediately after they are removed from the oil.

Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips
Vegetable oil for frying
Corn tortillas (I prefer white)
Salt

Heat 1-2 inches of oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, cut tortillas into wedges.


When oil is hot, add wedges in single layer.  If they don't start sizzling right away, the oil isn't hot enough.  Fry until golden brown, turning once during cooking.


Remove from oil onto cooling rack.  Immediately add salt.


How else can you serve your homemade tortilla chips?  Here are a few ideas (click on the captions to find the recipes):

Bapa's New Year's bean dip

Chicken chili

Corn and black bean salad as a salsa

Southwest refried bean soup

Sweet tortilla soup

Taco salad

Taco soup

Tangy chicken tortilla soup

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bargain Shopping/Budget Tips


Over the last two years, we've shared various recipes, tips for cooking inexpensively, and grocery budgeting.  We realize that we may have some new readers who may not have seen our posts on budgeting/bargain shopping, or some who have seen them who may want a reminder.  So here are links to some of our budget and money-saving tips!

Budgeting
Buying in Bulk
Unit Prices
Clearance
Price Matching
Spending Parameters


Monday, July 16, 2012

Adding Some Crunch to an Old Favorite: Pretzel PB&J

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with pretzels

We love PB&J in our house!  During the school year, I try to keep my freezer stocked with homemade Uncrustables for grab 'n go lunches.  But during the summer, I make them fresh.

Lately, I've been using squeezable grape jelly that is leftover from our vacation.  I am completely not impressed.  It seems like a good idea, but in the end, I'd rather have a jar and a spoon.  It's hard to squeeze and you end up having to spread it anyway for evenness and complete coverage.

Not worth it, in my opinion.

In the last week, I've been using homemade jam!!  Soooo delicious!  Shelly, one of the ladies from our church, taught the rest of the ladies how to make and can jam.  She sent us each home with a jar that she had made.  I chose apricot, while Keanna grabbed a strawberry.  The apricot is almost gone.  Once you've had great homemade jam, you will never want to go back to store-bought.



Shelly's jammin' lessons encouraged me to try canning again.  I haven't actually done it yet, but it's on my soon-to-do list.  I did, however, make up a batch of strawberry jam in my bread maker.  It is completely gone already.  Once our peaches are ripe, I will definitely write a post about making jam!


One other way I've been adding some pizzazz to our summer PB&J's, is by adding pretzels.  Pretzels taste great with both the peanut butter and the jelly, and they add a great crunch.  So delicious!

Grape jelly with pretzels for Koda, grape jelly with half
pretzels for Lukas, and strawberry preserves with no
pretzels for Keanna.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Glazed Cream Scones


I had previously posted a recipe for scones that I had gotten from my husband's family.  However, at the risk of being disowned by them, I am now posting my new go-to scone recipe.  It's so delicious, and I am very popular with my husband's coworkers because of these scones.  If I had just randomly come across this recipe, I probably would have been skeptical, because it's made in a food processor, which could easily lead to tough, chewy scones.  However, if you make them correctly, they are so tender and moist, and they melt in your mouth!  Just make sure not to over-process them!  If you don't have a food processor, I imagine you can make these by hand and just cut the butter in with a pastry blender or two knives.  I can't vouch for this method, since I've never tried it, but it should work.

Glazed Cream Scones
2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (if it's hot, I often put my butter in the freezer for a while)
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries
Glaze (recipe below)

Preheat to 425.  Place flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in food processor.  Pulse 6 times.
  


Add butter; pulse 12 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  





Add cream and process on low until it forms ball, about 15 seconds.  Add dried fruit or chocolate chips and pulse one more time.  Transfer dough and dry bits to coutertop and form ball.  Flatten into disk approximately 1 1/2 inches thick.  Cut into 8 wedges.  




Place onto ungreased sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until light brown.  Cool on a rack at least 10 minutes.  







Glaze
3 Tbsp butter, melted
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp milk

For glaze, place melted butter, powdered sugar, vanill, and 1 Tbsp milk in bowl and whisk.  Gradually add milk until glaze reaches a drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over cooled scones.  You can flavor the glaze as desired (orange, maple, etc.).





Monday, July 9, 2012

Peanut Butter S'mores


We just got back from vacation this week.  We spent some time on the beach in Crescent City, a day in the redwoods at Jedediah Smith State Park, and an afternoon at Lake Siskiyou.  Of course, we had to have s'mores everywhere we went!  But we make s'mores a little different than most people.  I like to kick it up about 10 notches by adding peanut butter!!  Soooooo goooood!  You can also use different chocolate.  I suggest dark chocolate!


Kicked Up S'mores
Graham crackers
Peanut butter
Chocolate
Marshmallows, store-bought or homemade

Spread one graham cracker with peanut butter.  Place chocolate on top.  Set aside.


Toast a marshmallow over a fire or BBQ.


I prefer mine more toasted, but this one was for Keanna.

Place hot marshmallow on chocolate and place second cracker on top.



Perfection!
Enjoy!



Friday, July 6, 2012

BBQ Chicken Salad Update



Last month I posted one of my family's new favorite summer recipes - BBQ Chicken Salad.  In it, the dressing calls for buttermilk, which isn't an ingredient I typically keep on hand.  However, I bought some specifically for that recipe.  Don't worry, though.  I found plenty of other uses for the leftover buttermilk!  Anyway, since we like this salad so much, we're eating it pretty regularly and I don't want to have to keep buying buttermilk.  Of course, I could always make my own buttermilk, but I really don't use it often enough that it wouldn't be worth it for us.  So I made the salad again and substituted soured milk for the buttermilk and the results were great!  We didn't notice any difference between the dressing made with buttermilk and the dressing made with soured milk.  Here's the updated recipe.

Creamy Barbecue Dressing
1 cup mayonaise
2/3 cup milk
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp distilled vinegar, divided
1 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup barbecue sauce

Combine milk and 1 tsp vinegar; let sit for about 5 minutes.

Mix all ingredients, including soured milk, until well combined.  Serve with BBQ chicken salad.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Independence Day BBQ!


Wednesday is Independence Day, and that means barbecue!  Over the past two years, we've posted a lot of recipes that would make any Fourth of July celebration a hit.

Main Dishes


Treat your friends and family to these delicious burgers or some finger-licking ribs.




Side Dishes


Every BBQ can use some potatoes.  Slice and grill them or wrap them in foil for clean cooking.





Want a green salad?  Try a green salad with strawberries and strawberry vinaigrette or a Caesar salad with homemade dressing.

So summery!!


This corn and black bean salad looks and tastes yummy!


And of course, it's corn season!!


So good!!



Beverages


Cool off with some homemade lemonade!  Add some strawberry puree for strawberry lemonade.



No lemons?  Brew up some homemade iced tea.




Desserts


And you can't have a BBQ without a few sweet endings!  How about cherry pie or cherry crumbles?  Do half cherry and half blueberry for a festive red, white, and blue dessert.

You could use star cut-outs for the top crust!!


For the kiddos, bake up some sugar cookies in the shape of stars.  Finish them off with some royal icing or homemade colored sugar.



Dip some strawberries in white chocolate and add some blue accents!


We hope you all have a great Independence Day!  We'd like to say a special thank you to those of you who fight to keep us free!

Since it is a holiday, we'll be taking Wednesday off, but we'll see you on Friday!
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