November 30, 2010

Sausage Balls - Perfect Party Food

Every year for Super Bear's birthday party, we have to make sausage balls. It's a required item on the menu (which he plans). This recipe came from a friend I met while in MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) which is a great organization that saved my sanity when I first became a mom. It's yummy, portable, contains protein and makes a perfect hand's free snack or meal. I've served it for breakfast, in lunch boxes, or as an afterschool snack.

Sausage Balls

3 c baking mix (Bisquick)
1 lb sausage
4 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp crushed dried rosemary (do not skip this one, it's what sets this recipe apart from others and makes it delicious)
1/2 tsp parsley flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingrediants in a large bowl. You'll probably need to do this with your hands to get it really mixed. Roll about 2 tbsp worth into small balls. Place the balls on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Best served warm or room temperature.


November 24, 2010

Secret Agent Birthday Party

My oldest, my Super Bear just turned 7 years old! He is into Secret Agent and Spy stuff. When he settled on that for his birthday party theme, I was not surprised at all. We determined that we would need some serious spy games to play and a cool secret mission. When the kids arrived at the door, they were greeted with a sign that said, "International Spy School. Knock twice to enter".

We gave each child a secret agent notebooks to record all of their findings while they were in Spy School. Then our first training mission began with testing our taste senses. Each agent-in-training got a film canister (left over from the space party a couple of years ago) filled with different flavors of round candy. They had to taste each one and record what flavor they thought each was.

Then we fingerprinted each of them with this cool fingerprint kit and taught them how to look through a magnifying glass to see their whorls and arches. We talked about how each fingerprint is different and how they don't change as you get older and bigger.

We tested their powers of observation with a tray full of little items and then covered it up while they wrote down as many as they could remember. I was amazed at how well they did at this test. I have no memory at all.

After all this training we knew they would be hungry, so we served lunch with a little geography lesson included. We figured they would be working throughout the world, so we wanted to expose them to foods from different countries during their training. The menu was recorded on a world map posted on the wall, so they could actually see where the countries were located.

Sausage balls from Germany (recipe here), red bean buns from Taiwan, Nachos from Mexico, oranges from South Africa, edamame from Japan, mango lassi and chai tea from India.

After they were fueled up and awarded their official spy binoculars (toiler paper rolls taped with duct tape, painted black with string attached - we're on a budget here), we started them on their first official mission. They received their dossier (had to explain that SAT word) in a manila folder with their first clue. Each clue led to another which they had to read and decipher. I couldn't believe how fast they blew through the clues! I thought they were difficult, but not for these smart kids.
The clues finally led to the sunporch where the cake awaited. Of course singing "Happy Birthday" diffused the bomb and all were awarded cake and ice cream.
The cake was made with the Wilton ball cake pan. I have learned when using this two part pan, it's best to make a pound cake. I love the recipe in the Fanny Farmer cookbook. This cookbook is great for any and all basic recipes, a definite must for any cook, beginner or advanced.
After I baked and cooled the cake I cut off a little from the bottom to keep it from rolling. Then I frosted it with buttercream icing to hold the halves together and provide "glue" for the fondant. I bought black fondant from Wilton again and put it over the ball. I'm not proficient on the fondant yet, so it looks a little rough, but a cannonball is supposed to be rustic. I added half a marshmallow covered in fondant on the top for the fuse base and used a Christmas spray for the fuse. I wanted to use a sparkler, but you can't find those in November here in Georgia. The "kaboom" was added for fun as well as some manufacturing information on the back. (Notice the smear on the letter "O" caused by the Sausage Boy. You think I would have learned my lesson back with this cake.)

My precious first born declared it a great birthday...Mission Accomplished!

November 21, 2010

Crock Pot Apple Butter with Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Appley, cinnamony goodness on homemade bread, this is fall food. Have you noticed how all carbs are my weakness?? There are those people who think bread is only to hold a sandwich together (my husband) and then there are people like myself. I can barely wait for the bread to cool from the oven before I slice off a hunk - no accoutrements needed - just plain bread. I love the smell of it baking and the way it fills the whole house with its homemade scent. Ahhhh!

The next day when the bread is cooled and "day old" I love slathering on homemade toppings like butter, jelly (made only with juice), jam (made with juice and a bit of fruit chunks), preserves (chunky fruity goodness), or apple butter. I've made all kinds of jams and jellies, but there is something about apple butter that can't be beat.

Apple butter is very easy to make when you put it in the crockpot, which is about the only thing I ever use mine for. {This is completely off-topic plea, but will someone send me some good crockpot recipes or cookbook? I would really like to use my crock more often, but I've never been tempted by the recipes I've seen as they all look brown and mushy - not fresh and appealing.} This recipe will fill your house with such a delicious aroma, you'll have trouble waiting to eat it - I promise! It's also a great gift to give. Your friends and family will love you for taking the time. You can make it with apples or pears and they both turn out abou the same taste, so choose what's on sale or what you've been given. My wonderful Aunt Sharon just shared a huge box of cooking pears (they stay hard and don't get soft, so they are only good for cooking with) so I decided on pear butter. Aunt Sharon, there is a jar with your name on it!

Crock Pot Apple (or Pear) Butter
Makes 9-10 pints
9 qts of applesauce or pearsauce, homemade or store bought
2 tbsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp of allspice
1/2 tsp anise seeds (optional)
4 c sugar or sugar substitute

If you have just been to the orchard and returned with mountains of fresh apples or pears, you need to make applesauce first. Peel, core and quarter your fruit, unless you have one of these handy food mills for the counter or your Kitchenaid. If you have one of these, you don't need to peel the fruit, since you will be running it through the mill. In any case, you are starting with as many fruit as you can fit into your crock pot and add a little bit of water, just a splash on the bottom. I use a massive 8 1/2 quart crock pot (if your our crockpot is smaller, just reduce the ingredients proportionately). Cook the fruit on high until you have soft mushy apples or pears. You can use a hand masher to aid them in breaking down. After about 12-24 hours (depending on the types of fruit and how hard it was to start) you'll have unsweetened applesauce. This is delicious on it's own and perfect for canning or freezing.

If you want fruit butter, you need to continue in the slow cooker. Add the spices and sugar to your applesauce.  Stir well and set the pot to low with the lid somewhat vented (use a spatula or chopsticks under the lid to keep it up.)  Cook for 10-12 hours. Everything will get dark brown and smell incredible! After cooking you can use an immersion blender to puree it all so it's extra smooth or do it in the blender. Then you can freeze the apple butter or can it in glass jars making it just as shelf-life stable as store bought.

To can, put warm butter in jars and wipe the tops clean. Seal with canning lids and screw tops. Put the jars in a large pot filled with a couple of inches of water. Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars with tongs and set on a kitchen towel until cool. You will hear a popping sound when the lid cools enough to seal. This means you have a good seal and the product will be shelf stable. You can remove the screw lids to store.

To make my tasty cinnamon raisin bread you start with a sweet yeast dough....

Basic Sweet Dough (Sourdough Version)
see bottom of post for commercial yeast recipe
6 c flour
1 tbsp salt
1/2 c sugar
1 c starter
1/2 c oil
1 c warm milk
1/2 c warm water

Whisk only 4 cups of the flour, salt and the sugar in a large electric mixer bowl. Add your starter, oil, and water and mix with a bread dough hook. Slowly you add the other two cups of flour. You may not need all 2 cups, so add slowly. The way you know the dough is ready is when it forms into a "ball". In the mixer, the dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and forms a literal ball, like it the photo below.

I love my 6qt KitchenAid mixer. It was a splurge from the outlet store, but it's been worth every penny. If you are using a hand mixer, you'll need to take the bread out of the mixer bowl and knead it on a floury surface for about 10 minutes until the dough sticks well to itself and not the counter and does not spread out immediately when you let go, but instead holds it's shape.

After the dough is well formed, it needs to rise to double in size. Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm draft free place (like your oven with only the light on) overnight or around 12 hours.

The next day make the cinnamon goodness for the middle. You could make just about any kind of filling to flavor the bread at this time like: orange, lemon, strawberry, cheese, strawberry and cheese, gingered apple, chocolate, or maybe a candied pecan. Really let your imagination and your family's favorites flavors determine what to make. Your only limitation is don't make anything too wet or it will interfere with the bread's composition.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread Filling
2 c raisin
3/4 c sugar
7 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp melted butted

Combine raisin, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.

Once the dough is doubled in size, deflate it gently and divide it in half to form two loaves. Roll out one half of dough on a floured surface into a 10"x12" rectangle with a rolling pin or a glass. Sprinkle with half the cinnamon mixture and drizzle with half the melted butter.

Carefully roll the dough up starting at a short side to make a long rolled log.

This is a messy job, so be warned. If it sticks to the counter, gently lift with a bench scraper or spatula.

When done you'll have this unattached end, be sure to give it a good pinch to seal it back onto itself.

Carefully place the dough seam side down in a greased loaf pan. I usually have to create an "S" shape with the dough to fit it in the pan. Repeat the whole process with the other half of dough to form two loaves. Let loaves rise in a warm place for about 2 hours (or 45 minutes if you are using yeast) until the dough is doubled and doesn't spring back when you touch it gently with a finger.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 mins. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then cool completely on wire racks. Always use a serrated knife to cut bread so you don't tear or compress the loaf.

Sweet Dough Recipe
using Commercial Yeast (from Martha Stewart)
2 cups plus 1 1/2 teaspoons warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons nonfat powdered milk
4 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/4 cup warm water and yeast. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes (this ensures your yeast is healthy and active). Add flour, powdered milk, sugar, salt, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 3/4 cups warm water. Mix, using the paddle attachment, on low speed for 1 minute. Change to dough hook, and mix on medium-low speed for 7 minutes. Or knead by hand, 15 or 20 minutes. Let rise in a greased bowl for about 1 1/2 hours. Follow directions above, but your second rise time will only be about 45 minutes.

November 16, 2010

Gumdrop Apple Turkeys - Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Almost Thanksgiving! What a fantastic holiday, food and family all together!

I love this craft to keep kids entertained when the grown ups are all talking...boring. This is fun for all ages, it's edible, it's halfway healthy and you can get creative. All you need are some apples, toothpicks, gumdrops, marshmallows. You could use raisins for the eyes if you like or use these edible markers that are great on all kinds of food projects. Or any other creative turkey parts you can think of (you could even use construction paper and just apples).

We do this craft on Thanksgiving and everyone enjoys putting their "spin" on the turkey, see some of these...

You can see the edible markers used in the center turkey on the marshmallows. I've also seen people use healthier options to create their turkeys. You could use cherry tomatoes or grapes, but I think the gumdrops are colorful and a red one can be smushed into the waddle to hang down from their heads. They are so sticky, you just need to press it on to the marshmallow.

Let the kids run wild with their imaginations and creations. All the while you can have a history lesson when sharing how the ugly humble turkey could have been our National Bird if Benjamin Franklin had his way. Move over Bald Eagle, the turkey is in town!

November 13, 2010

Russian Tea

I have no idea why my family calls this recipe "Russian Tea", but I love this hot drink. During the wintertime I drink tons of hot tea with some coffee and hot chocolate thrown in for variety. This drink is another one of my varieties that gets in the mix. It's based on instant tea and Tang (I use a generic version). This also makes a great gift for someone when stored in a pretty container much like the hot chocolate cones I posted here. And who doesn't love getting a gift in a jar? I think giving consumable gifts is a great thing to do and food is always welcome. Check out my other gift posts for more ideas.

Russian Tea

2 1/2 c instant orange drink
1 c sugar or splenda
1/2 c instant tea
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice (optional)

Mix all the powders and spices in a large bowl and store in an airtight container. Put two tablespoons in a mug and add 8-10 oz hot water.


November 6, 2010

Homemade Instant Oatmeal - No More Packets


We love oatmeal for breakfast. I've shown you how we serve oatmeal when it's a leisurely morning, but here is what we do on those fast get-out-of-the-house mornings.

I buy those huge round containers of quick cooking oatmeal and mix it up with this recipe. Then I store it back in the original container and another smaller tub with a scoop (because it's twice the volume it won't all fit back in the same container). When breakfast time comes, I heat water in our tea kettle (warm not hot) and set it on the table (on a trivet of course). Then the kids can scoop out some instant oatmeal and pour in some water. Voila! Instant oatmeal without the cost of those expensive packets!

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

5 c quick cooking oatmeal
1/3 c brown sugar
1 c raisins
1/4 c powdered instant milk
Any additional add in's your family loves


Chickenville In the News!

I'm so flattered to have some of my posting ideas used on a Kentucky news program! Janine Wentz is a dietitian for the grocery store chain Meijer. She used the pretzel bugs and funky apple teeth ideas on a feature about healthy Halloween options.

How cool is that???  Thanks Janine! Check out the link below.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...