At our house, we have a saying..."Don't yuk my yum!". We are trying to raise kids that aren't picky eaters by exposing them to many different kinds of food. It wasn't that long ago that one of my kids asked "Why can't you cook food like everyone else? Like tater tot hotdish?" The reason? It's not very healthy or creative and I think it's kind of gross. I don't cook like that. I like to use fresh, healthy ingredients to make great tasting good for you dishes. I've created this blog to share my favorite recipes with you.

Follow my kitchen adventures from using up vegetables from our weekly CSA box to baking and creative cooking.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Whenever we go to the mall, my kids beg me to buy them a hot pretzel.  Every time we walk down the freezer aisle at the grocery store, they ask for the frozen soft pretzels.  Sometimes I give in...they are pretty delicious, but they're kind of expensive.  The other day, I tried out a recipe I found for homemade soft pretzels and I may never buy soft pretzels again.  These are amazing.  Yes, they take a little time and there are a few steps involved, but I bet you could make a double batch and freeze the leftovers, reheating them in the microwave or oven.  This batch I made didn't last long enough for a visit to the freezer, so someday soon I'll have to make them again. 

Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 packet yeast
4 - 4 1/4 c. flour
1 T. sugar
2 t. salt
1 T. olive oil
8 c. water
1/2 c. baking soda
1 egg
Topping for pretzels:  sea salt, parmesan cheese, poppy seeds, italian seasoning

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  In large bowl, combine 2 c. flour with sugar and salt, adding yeast mixture.  Stir until smooth.  Add remaining flour and stir until a firm dough forms.  Knead on floured surface for about 5 minutes.  Coat dough ball with olive oil and cover.  Let rise in a warm place for one hour.  Punch down dough and divide into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into 18 inch ropes and shape into pretzels.  Meanwhile, boil water with baking soda.  Boil pretzels for 30 seconds each and remove to greased cookie sheet.  Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt, poppy seeds, parmesan cheese, etc.  Bake at 425 for 12 minutes.  Serve warm. 

The girls and I had these pretzels for an afternoon snack and ate the leftovers with chicken wild rice soup for supper.  I topped them with italian seasoning and salt this time and would definitely do that again.

I had to look up why the pretzels were boiled in the baking soda before baking and basically the answer is that they turn out better that way.  The cooking process starts in the boiling water, the pretzels get chewy, and the baking soda makes them brown and crackly on the outside.  If you don't boil them, they will be bready tasting pretzel shapes, but they won't be pretzels.  Trust me, it's worth the extra step.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cinnamon roll waffles...genius!

I have recently discovered pinterest, a social media site where people post cool things they did or like. I have found several recipes on pinterest that I plan on making in the future, but I started with this super easy one. 

The kids and I are off for almost two weeks for Christmas break and I like to make special breakfasts for them when I can.  This morning, I fired up the waffle iron and made these quick cinnamon roll waffles.  These took about 10 minutes total, including time to warm up the waffle iron. 

I'm not writing out a real recipe for these because they are so easy you don't need a recipe. 
Step 1:  Buy a can of refrigerated cinnamon rolls.
Step 2:  Heat up your waffle iron.
Step 3:  Spray your waffle iron with non stick spray.
Step 4:  Open cinnamon rolls and put one in each quadrant of your waffle maker.
Step 5:  Shut waffle iron and cook until done (my light shuts off when they're done)
Step 6:  Repeat with remaining rolls.  My package had 8. 
Step 7:  Drizzle with icing included in the package.
Step 8:  Eat. 

These were so simple and super yummy.  They would make a great breakfast for a time when the oven is full of other things, like Christmas Morning. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011


My mom makes the best caramels.  I have found that no matter what the recipe, if it came from my mom, I can never make it as good as she can.  The same holds true for this recipe for "Light Caramels" (light what?  color?)  Years ago, this is one of the recipes that mom put in the church cookbook and I dig it out every year with varied success.  Sometimes they end up hard as rocks, sometimes they are perfectly melt in your mouth chewy.  This year my first attempt turned out more like caramel sauce than caramels.  It was taking so long to get to the right temperature that I just gave up and decided to try again later.  Don't get me wrong, eating this over ice cream or just with a spoon is delicious, but I prefer it as a candy.

These do take a while, with lots of stirring involved, so make sure you have the time to spend on these.  It's worth it in the end to have fresh, delicious caramels to enjoy and share with friends!

Light Caramels (I always double this recipe)
1 c. white sugar
1 c. heavy cream
3 T. light corn syrup
2 T. butter
1 t. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a deep soup pan over medium heat.  Stir frequently (I use a wisk).  When sugar is dissolved and mixture is boiling, carefully set candy thermometer in place and continue cooking until temperature reaches 245 degrees of firm ball stage.  (I don't have a candy thermometer, so I keep a cup of cold water handy and when a drop of syrup forms a firm ball when  poured in to the water it is ready.)  This takes about 30-45 minutes.  It is very important to stir frequently and towards the end constantly to prevent burning the caramel.  Be careful not to over heat or the caramels will be very hard.  Pour into a well greased pan.  Cool, then cut into pieces.  Wrap in wax paper if desired.  Store in a covered container or freeze. 

On my second attempt, I put the ingredients in a large soup pot and was able to maintain a higher temperature without the mixture boiling over, so they didn't take as long, maybe 30 minutes.  Sometimes, I like to sprinkle the hot caramels with pecans before they cool for a little extra flavor and texture.  These caramels definitely aren't diet food, but for special occasions they are a nice treat!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Every Christmas season I like to make fudge and caramels with my girls. We got a start by making a double batch of fudge and I think this is going to last us awhile.  It made a huge biggest sheet pan, must be 11 x 17 at least.  Cutting the fudge into about 1 inch square pieces makes 187 pieces.  I better give some away before we eat it all! 

Just seven ingredients!
 Fudge (I doubled this recipe)
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk (I used 2%)
1 12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 7-oz. jar marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
chopped nuts and heath bits (or whatever topping/mix in you like)

Combine sugar, butter and milk in saucepan, bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate until melted. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla, beat till blended. Either stir in nuts/heath bits or sprinkle them on top after you pour into greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Let cool and cut into 1-inch squares.
That's a big pan of fudge!
Last year I used mint chocolate chips for one batch I made and it turned out delicious.  Next time I may add some mint extract instead of the vanilla...something different. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Peppermint Bark

The time has come for some holiday baking.  On Sunday, the girls asked me if they could help me in the kitchen for awhile and they each picked out a recipe.  Anna picked out Peppermint Bark, which hardly counts as baking.  The hardest part was probably opening and crushing the candy canes and I made her do that part. 

Only three ingredients, how simple is that?
Peppermint Bark (you could cut this in half easily for a smaller batch)
1 box candy canes (12 in the box I used)
2 bags of dark chocolate or white chocolate chips (I used dark)
1 t. peppermint extract

Open and break up candy canes.  Melt the chocolate in the microwave.  I stirred it every 30 seconds, it took about 2 1/2 minutes.  Stir in extract.  You could also stir in the tiny smaller pieces of candy cane, too.  Pour onto wax paper, foil or greased cookie sheet.  Press in bigger pieces of candy cane.  Cool (not refrigerate), then break into pieces. 

In the past, I have made this with white chocolate chips, but they are not my favorite, so I tried dark chocolate chips.  Definitely better, in my opinion.  I will probably have to make these again before Christmas next week...these definitely aren't going to last that long.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Amazing Black Bean Soup

As I stared into my cupboards this morning planning my weekly menu, I found a bag of dried black beans that had been there for awhile.  With those beans in mind, I started searching the apps on my phone for a recipe that I could use them in.  Normally, I would just soak them overnight, simmer them until they were done, then freeze them in baggies for use with tacos and in soups.  Today, I was looking for something different.  I found exactly what I was looking for on my Epicurious app. 

This soup is not a weeknight soup unless you have done some work ahead of time.  The beans need to be soaked either overnight or quick boiled and soaked for a couple hours.  This worked out perfectly for a Sunday afternoon at home.  While the whole process took several hours, a lot of that time the beans were just sitting on the stove soaking.  Total hands on time was probably about 45 minutes, divided between beginning, middle and end.

Black Bean Soup (makes 6 servings)
1 lb. dried black beans
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 red or green pepper, diced
1 T. minced garlic
1 minced jalapeno or serrano, depending on how hot you want it (I had roasted serranos so I used one of those)
1 1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried thyme or 1 t. fresh
1 bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz),  do not drain
6 c. or more chicken broth (I used boxed this time)
 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juice squeezed out

Pick over and rinse beans.  For quick cook method, put beans in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then shut off heat and let sit for an hour or two.  For slow cook method, cover beans with 2 inches of water and refrigerate overnight.  Either way, when beans are done soaking, drain and rinse them. 

Cook bacon in big soup pot over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until crispy.  Drain all but 1 T. of fat off the bacon, then add the onions, garlic and peppers along with the thyme, oregano and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until onion is softened, about five minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes and chicken broth, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until beans are very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.  Discard bay leaf and stir in cilantro and lime juice. 

Even though it is the middle of December, our CSA membership to Red Goose Gardens came in handy once again.  I was able to raid the freezer for thyme, peppers and serranos and could have used some tomatoes if I had thought of it. 

I served this delicious soup with warmed flour tortillas, using the tortillas to scoop some of the stew out of the bowl.  It would also go well with some kind of quesadillas or just plain tortilla chips.

Next time I will cook this in a crock pot after the sauteing step, which will make this soup even easier.  If you like brothy soup, use more chicken broth.  We tend to like stews at our house, so I don't use a lot of broth or water in soup recipes.  The six cups I called for is half of what the original recipe said and it's about perfect for a really thick bean soup.  You could probably skip the cilantro with little effect, but the lime is my own addition and really adds something to the flavor.  I also added the can of tomatoes because I thought it would go well in this recipe and I was right.  If you don't have the tomatoes, you could go without.

My family absolutely loved this soup.  The kids inhaled their bowls and asked for more, wondering when I was going to make it again.  I agree that this is probably one of the best dinners I've made in a long time. 
I can't want to make this again soon and will make sure to double the recipe next time so there are some leftovers.  Yes, we ate a whole bag of dried beans for supper. Don't worry, as part-time vegetarians, we keep a supply of beano in the closet.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grandma Huck's Vegetable Soup

As I was looking through my recipe box for something to make for supper tonight, I found an old recipe card that Phil's Grandma Huck gave us quite a few years ago.  One side has her recipe for Pumpkin Blachinda, the other has the recipe for Vegetable Soup.  It  happened that I had everything I needed to make the soup, so I thought I'd give it a try.  The results were delicious, although my husband and children made jokes about the color all though the meal.  Because the recipe calls for beets and the cabbage I used was purple, the soup was a pinkish purple and did look kind of gross.

I followed the recipe as written pretty closely, though I used less liquid than called for and proportionally more chicken broth and less water, and added an onion for some extra flavor.  The recipe also called for a lot of canned vegetables and I had fresh or frozen versions so that's what I used. 

Grandma's Vegetable Soup
1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 c. chicken broth
6 c. water
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 can diced beets, drained (I steamed about 5 medium yellow beets and added them instead)
1 can diced carrots, drained (I steamed a bunch of carrots with the beets and added them instead)
1/2 c. rice, uncooked
1 can tomatoes (I had some frozen tomatoes that I used)
1/2 small cabbage, shredded
1/2 c. cream (I used lowfat evaporated milk)

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a big soup pot.  Sautee onion in oil until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add water, broth, vegetables and rice, cooking for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are soft.  Stir in cream and add salt and pepper to taste. 

This made a large pot, probably 8 big bowls of soup, so it will feed a small crowd.  I know I will be happily enjoying it for lunch at least one day this week.  For added flavor and heartiness, you could add some cubed beef with the onions.  I'll probably do that next time.