Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Intant Pot - Chicken for Tacos

Will the wonders of the Instant Pot never cease? So here's a scenario: You've been busy all day, and suddenly it's 5 o'clock! Did you plan something for dinner? Well of course you didn't, it's been a crazy day! Is there going to be other humans depending on you to whip something up regardless?  Why yes, yes there is.  Enter the Instant Pot. It will take FROZEN Costco chicken breasts and turn them into a meal in 15+minutes. That's right, you heard me.  Once again defying the laws of cooking physics, the Instant Pot will save the day.

The Instant pot: Cooking frozen chicken and saving one dinner at a time.

This is what you will need:

4-5 frozen Costco chicken breasts
1 cup of your favorite salsa
1 cup of water
1/2 cup taco seasoning (also from Costco)
Salt and pepper to taste.

It's super easy. Plunk down the frozen breasts into the bottom of the pot.

The "clang" the frozen chicken hits the pot is somewhat unsettling, but oh the payoff in a few short minutes!

Dump over the salsa, water, taco seasoning, and salt and pepper.

Chicken Taco meat, it's almost too easy

Seal the lid and plug in the machine. Hit the "Poultry" setting which will give you a default time of 15 min on high pressure.  Let the pot do it's thang.

While the chicken is coming up to temperature, you can run around and chop some lettuce (for taco salads), grab some sides like chips, shredded cheese, olives, chips, and salsa, or taco shells for the kids.

After the 15 minute timer goes off, let it sit for about 5 more minutes (wait time optional, if you're in a rush) then release the steam valve and pop that baby open as soon as you are ready.

What you will see when you open the pot.  The little globs of fat is what I remove before shredding
Take the chicken out of the pot and shred on a plate with two forks or a knife and a fork, depending on how you like your chicken chunks. I make sure at this time to also remove any fat or veins, or anything unappetizing so it's just chicken.  I also take a peek a the liquid back in the pot and skim off any unmentionables.  

Shredded chicken from frozen - We're living in the future people

Place the shredded chicken back in the sauce and stir. See if it needs anymore seasoning and then you are good to go!  

Mmm good for tacos, taco salads, burritos, nachos....

I use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat out of the liquid and serve.

You can also drain off most of the liquid while you are shredding if you want less moisture

After that, just scoop some into a taco shell, plop on some shredded lettuce for a taco salad, and stack your favorite toppings on top.

An easy meal and a tasty one too.
My kids used to only eat ground beef tacos, now we've expanded their horizons.

It's great the next day with left overs too, or bring some to work for lunch with a "taco salad kit" and make your co-workers jealous. My hubby loves doing that.

He'll send me pics profusely thanking me for "Taco Salad 2.0"
My daughter made chicken and cheese nachos for lunch the next day on her own, so that worked out well.  It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Chicken and cheese nachos by my 14- year-old
This quick journey from completely unplanned, sad, and frozen, to fast, tasty, and fabulous makes the whole family happy! While at the same time making YOU feel like a hero because you literally pulled this dinner out of thin air (making you seem far more reliable than you actually are and pretty much all around awesome). Thanks Instant Pot!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Turkey Bread Rolls

Last year we were in charge of bringing rolls to Thanksgiving. After a bit of searching, we came across these cute little turkey rolls that the girls wanted to make. Feast your eyes (pun intended) on: TURKEY BREAD ROLLS

Turkey bread rolls are beautiful... fun to make... AND delicious!

Are these adorable or what?  The best part is the the kids can help make them!

The nice thing about these rolls, is that you can make them from frozen pre-made bread dough, which is great if you are busy with other Thanksgiving day prep. We bought the 5 pack of Rhodes frozen bread loaves and used them to make our turkeys.

One thawed Rhodes bread dough loaf.
The original recipe from the Rhodes kids baking blog (not there now) wanted you to defrost the dough over night in the fridge in a greased covered container or some sprayed wax paper and then roll them out into a circle...

then cut the circle into 6 wedges.  

However, I found it very difficult to get the dough to WANT to be rolled from an oblong shape into a round shape.

New solution!  It's easier AND it makes more sense:
Roll the dough out, elongating out the original "loaf" shape.

Expanding the already there "loaf" shape was much easier!  And makes more turkey rolls per loaf.

Now take your pizza cutter and cut zig-zag triangles until you have 9 wedges.  Each dough loaf will make 9 turkeys!

One loaf = 9 turkey rolls.  Those odd shapes at the end you can form into a wedge shape later, because it's dough.

Once you have your wedges, take some kitchen scissors and snip some 1 inch cuts in the wide end of the triangle to make the tail feathers.

Snip one inch down and about one inch wide strips.  Four cuts makes 5 "feathers".

Next, in a greased muffin tin, place the triangle wedge down in the center of the muffin creator.  The "tail feathers", or the wide part of the triangle you snipped cuts into should go up the side of the muffin tin and a little over the side.  The "beak" or pointy end of the dough should go up the other side of the muffin cup and poke out of the top.

You kind of cram the dough down to the bottom of the muffin tin, then spread out the feathers and turkey head

Since these overflow out of the cup, we ended up placing them in every other cup, so they'd have a chance to rise and bake. 

I love my larger 24 muffin cup pan, it's great for a million birthday cupcakes, or these!
 Place covered in a warm place and let them rise for an hour.

Shhh - rising bread taking place

Once they are a little puffier, it's time to bake. Place in an oven at 350º for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. 

Cute lil' turkey rolls
FYI - Since the original link isn't there (I called Rhodes today to let them know, so maybe they will re post it) but check them at 20 min see if they need more time.

Close up from our first batch
Brush with a bit of butter while they are still warm.

You've heard of ducks in a row... these are turkeys in a row
They turned out really cute and the girls had a blast making them!

Oh this is funny. The first loaf we did, where there was only six wedges from a circle, the turkeys were HUGE and blew up like fat little monsters. Ha.

These turkeys are here to PUMP... YOU UP!
(We put those guys at the very bottom of the bowl and left the prettiest ones on top).

Such a great little baking project.  You can make these ahead of time and heat them up on the big day wrapped in some foil while the other sides are heating up and the turkey is resting. 

The kids will love to contribute to the holiday festivities. Not only do they get to help with the food prep BUT also impress their cousins on their baking prowess.

A big bowl O' turkey rolls for you and yours.
Let me know if you make this with your kids, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Wine Cork Pumpkins

I had a friend recently invite me over for lunch. Not only was there yummy food when I arrived, but a surprise craft she had been dying to try. I walked in and in front of me was a table full of autumn leaves, wine corks, hot glue guns, stamps, ink pads, and crafts supplies as far as the eye could see! I was in heaven! There could have easily been a heavenly autumn light shining down from above onto the table with crafty angel voices singing... does this lady know my love language or what?  She wanted to make wine cork pumpkins!

Wine cork pumpkins are a perfect little addition to your autumn/harvest decor
My friend let me know she had been dutifully drinking wine (for several years I hope, as she had THREE gallon sized bags of corks) and tucking the corks away for just such an occasion.

Leaves, and corks, and glue guns, oh my!
There were many to choose from.  The red wine corks had nice shades of purple, some pink, some brown on the tips of the cork.  The white wine corks had stayed their original light tan color.  We separated the corks into two piles, the red wine and the white.  

If you love wine and crafts, this wine cork pumpkin is right up your alley!
We were using some pictures off Pinterest for our inspiration, as some looked a bit pentagonal (angular instead of round edges) and we picked out one that had a more rounded look using the following pattern:

5 corks in a row
6 corks
7 corks
7 corks
6 corks
5 corks

I picked out an array of corks with different colors.  She had some stamp pads in plum and orange colors to help "enhance" any of the corks that needed an extra splash of a harvest color tint of our choosing.  I lined up my first row of five and simply started using a line of hot glue to connect the corks to each other.
I tried to pick a good mix of reds, purples, natural, and then one "enhanced orange" using the stamp pad
The glue gun makes fast work of the stacking.  Now onto row two which has six corks.  

Mixing up the colors a bit so it makes a random pattern of different fall shades
Rows 3 & 4 are seven corks long.  I sort of laid them out in front of the project to continue that "random" pattern where the same color isn't next to itself, but to mix and match all the shades throughout the same row, and not lined up with the color in the row below it.  It's like wine cork Sudoku.

When gluing between two corks I ran two lines of hot glue, one on each cork below for better adhesion
The interesting thing here is, the first three rows interlock with each other each time you add a new row, however the second row of seven is actually stacked directly on top of the row below it.  This will give you a more rounded pumpkin in the end, but be sure to use corks around the same size so they don't throw off your row height.

I love how the different shades are working out here, some light, some dark, some purple, some orange
The next row is back to six corks. I am not only gluing the new cork to the two corks below it, but a third line of glue to stick to the cork next to it.

Almost done with our cork pumpkin!
The final row is the same as the first with five corks.

It's turned out very cute!
Now, you get to gussy it up with some finishing touches. I chose an exceptionally cute cork without any blemishes to be the "stem" of my pumpkin. We also glued some realistic plastic fall leaves she had (branches from the dollar store).  A few of the branches had little acorns on them, so I thought that made a nice little touch.

Wine cork pumpkins could become all the rage
For a last little topper she surprised me by pulling out some raffia ribbon (looks like straw ribbon) that helped give it a rustic, yet finished the look.

The finished wine cork pumpkin!
Here was her finished design:

So adorable!  I love the yellow leaf here it looks very real, plus her stem has a top that looks great
We decided to try them out on a shelf she already had.  They went really well with her existing decor. 
Wine cork pumpkins in their natural habitat....
This was such a fun little project to do over a lunch visit! They would make a great little display for your entry table or fire place.  Make a set in different sizes, and display together. It could also be a cute little gift for a friend or a thank you give for a hostess.

I put mine right on the entry table as soon as I got home, and it fit right it.

Wine cork pumpkins rock.
So get some friends together, drink copious amounts of wine (or start saving up your corks from now on) and do a little craft project together. Bringing the world closer one craft at a time!


Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Stakehouse Molasses Bread

I've finally found it!  You know that tasty, craveable, slightly sweet, dark, molasses bread that comes with your meal at steakhouses around the country?  Well, I've been trying to make it at home.  I've tried multiple recipes online and haven't been satisfied with the results, until last night. I have finally found one that works great! The bread is beautiful, soft, and flavorful!  It has a great texture and is best served warm from the oven and slathered with butter!

Steakhouse Molasses bread!  Soft, sweet, and hot from the oven.
Let's get started.  This recipe by the way was found at "It's always Autumn"
You will need

1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon of sugar
1 3/4 cup of wheat flour
1 egg
2 Tablespoons of butter, room temp
2 Tablespoons of molasses
1/4 cup of honey 
2 cups of bread flour (can also use AP flour)
1 Tablespoon natural baking cocoa
1 teaspoon of salt 

Optional:  1 egg for an egg wash, and quick oats for a pretty topping 
Printable recipe found here: Click me!

First put 1 cup of warm water, 1 Tablespoon of dry active yeast, and 1 Tablespoon of sugar into your stand mixer. 

I'll admit, this looks a tad gross.  Like I need a lab coat and a beaker to proceed.
Let it "proof" for 10 minutes, (or sit around until bubbly and foamy).

Ah that's better... I think
Add in 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 egg, 2 Tablespoons of room temperature butter, 2 Tablespoons of molasses and 1/4 cup of honey.

I finally found a "molasses bread" that actually uses real molasses!
Once combined a little bit, add in 1 cup of the bread flour (we just used regular AP unbleached flour), 1 Tablespoon of baking cocoa power, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Turn the mixer on low (with the bread paddle).

It's the unsweetened cocoa power that gives this bread it's darker hue, but luckily not a chocolate flavor at all.
Mix the dough together a bit, then add in the last 1/2 cup to 1 cup of flour.  I ended up using the whole remaining 1 cup.  Kneed the dough for 10 min on low, until the dough ball pulls away from the sides. The dough should be soft and elastic. Pull the dough out and roll it into a ball, place in a bowl where it can rise for 60-90 min, covered and in a warm place.

Pretty lil' dough ball
After 90 minutes (we did the full time recommended) we peeked under the tea towel and found it had doubled in size.

Hello big ol' bread lump!
We decided to split the dough in half, to make two long loaves, because my hubby gave me this handy dandy french bread loaf pan, that makes two loaves at the same time (and helps the loaves keep their shape instead of flattening out like they would on a regular cookie sheet).

Just sort of stretched and gently pulled the dough into a long tubular shape

Then your bread needs to rise a 2nd time for an hour. In a non-drafty place.

You really have to be patient to make yummy bread.
After an hour the bread has started to fill out the loaf pan.  Since I wanted this to look and taste like the bread you get at the Blank Angus Restaurant around these parts, I brushed the top of the loaves with an egg wash

action shot

Then sprinkle on some of those quick oats and they will stick to the egg wash.

Look how pretty!  Now it looks like a longer version of the round rolls you share at the restaurant
Bake the bread at 350º for 27-30 min. By the time these are ready to come out of the oven, your house will smell amazing!

Activate smell-o-vision here
You can let the bread cool all the way, or if you're like me and can't resist, cool it just a little and try to cut a slice while it's still warm so it will melt the butter.

Our hopes were high at this point.  It looked great... it smelled great... but would it taste great?

My hubby surprised us with some fancy Kerry Gold Irish butter, he had been saving for just such an occasion. The bread was still warm enough to start slowly melting the butter... YUM.

Steakhouse Molasses Bread, warm from the oven
We served this with some slow cooker loaded baked potato soup and green salad with garlic butter croutons.

Feast your eyes on all that delectable goodness!

I have to thank Autumn for this recipe that turned out fantastic!  It's soft, it's got a great texture, it smells fabulous... AND it tastes amazing.  It's the closest I've ever come to that yummy restaurant bread at home. 

You're gonna want to make this!

This would go great with a number of warm soups you make this fall and winter, but I will admit, it also tasted delicious toasted up in the morning for a hearty little breakfast treat.  So look no further, I've done all the searching for you.  Make this molassess bread and you won't regret it!


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