Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mr. D's Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I think this blogging thing is catchy... wanna know why? I caught my hubby trying a new recipe all on his own.  Not only was he just trying a new recipe, but he was taking pictures of the step by step process, you know, in case I wanted to blog about it.  It was a beautiful sight.  I was so proud.  He picked out something he had been wanting to do for a year or two, but I had never been that keen on it because of the "gross" factor.  Namely pumpkin guts.  Each year he suggests we roast the seeds, and then I tend to gaze at the big ol' pile of slimy stringy pumpkin innards and think they don't look all that appetizing. But guess what people?  I was WRONG. So very wrong. That's right.  I apologize Honey for ever doubting you because once we roasted these little babies, I actually ended up liking them, nay snacking on them.  AND -  they are suppose to be pretty healthy, high in fiber, and all that extra bonus stuff.

Roasted pumpkin seeds - a crispy, crunchy, tasty snack
We happened to carve five pumpkins this year and once we cleaned them all out, we had about two cups of pumpkin seeds.  He found an online recipe here, and altered it only slightly.  Okay so how do you make them?  You have dug  out your seeds. They recommend not cleaning them off all the way. Take out the major chunks of pumpkin strings and goop, but it is alright to leave some of it on, it adds "flavor".  Preheat your oven to 300º.

I'm resisting the gross out slimy factor here... I'm still doubting the recipe at this time
Add one tablespoon of melted butter and coat the pumpkin seeds

Next you want to toss the seeds in the flavoring of your choice.  Mr. D got all creative here and wanted to try two, that's right TWO different flavors on our first time out. He separated the seeds evenly into 1 cup portions. First we went with a classic seasoning salt

Johnny's Seasoning Salt is awesome!
Then, and I think this is where I am my most proud.  He went way back into the spice rack, and came out with: Grill Mates Mojito Lime seasoning.  Never in my life would I have picked that flavor.  I thought for sure that at the very least, it would be a completely "out there" flavor and he could have these as his own personal snack.  That no one else would touch them....

Who has ever heard of lime mojito pumpkin seeds... before now, I mean.
Once your seasonings are mixed well, pour them onto a baking tray in a single layer.

After that place the tray(s) in the oven and let the low heat do it's magic for 45 mintues.  And by magic, I mean take these suspiciously sticky seeds and turn them into a hearty gourmet treat even I could not resist.  Be sure to turn the seeds a few times during the roasting process to make sure they cook evenly.  Under an hour later you will have this:

Lime Mojito roasted pumpkin seeds.  Who KNEW they would turn out this good?
Here are the seasoned salt ones:

I thought oh, I'll just try these simple seasoned salted ones and then walk away.  So I tried one and... hey it wasn't that bad.  Sort of like a big sunflower seed.  Okay okay, I'll give in and try the lime mojito ones... hey wait a second.  These were good.  Better than good.  These were tasty.  So tasty I might eat a second one.  The girls came over and I thought for sure they would only eat the plain salted ones, but we all ended up liking them both!  Who knew?  So now we have a whole new fun family tradition we can add to our harvest fun, and it is all thanks to my industrious hubby for sticking to his guns and making us love a brand new snack.  I realize now it only tastes a little like crow...

So don't throw out your pumpkin seeds this year!  Roast them with your favorite seasonings.  Other options would be garlic salt, cayenne, Cajun, it's up to you.  My youngest wants us to try cinnamon next.  Let me know what your favorite seasoning is!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pink Giraffe Earflap Hat

Baby girl things are cute.  Baby girl things inspire me.  Sometimes I am sad I only learned to crochet two years ago, because I could of decked out all three of my girls in the cutest handmade stuff!  Something like this:

My latest crochet creation - the snuggly, warm, baby pink giraffe earflap hat

Isn't that the sweetest thing?  I just made this last week.

Come to think of it, the little girls born in the last few years are so lucky too, with the influx of feminine baby things.  I know it was only 8 short years ago, but I was hard pressed to find any pink baby gear back in 2004.  No pink pack-n-plays, no pink car seats, no pink exersausers nada. We ended up getting dark blue and green plaid everything.  Now I look around and there are pink zebra potty chairs and lavender strollers. What?  Why did manufacturers only realize in 2010 that 50% of the population might want butterflies and flowers on their baby things?  Boo.  Hey, speaking of zebras, have you noticed animal prints are a super hot baby trend? Zebra, Giraffes, Monkeys, and Elephants are everywhere!  I went to the store to find a gift for a friend of mine having a baby girl and I fell in love with the cute Giraffe themed baby clothes... 

I was especially inspired by this adorable wrap blanket...

How cute are those little pink giraffes?  So sweet!!
I only had a day before the baby shower but I thought to myself, I want to make one of my earflap hats, but I want to try and make it a baby pink giraffe!

close up of the tiny giraffe face

I used extra soft pink yarn.  The ear flap pattern I got for free online (the website I used is no longer there, I was going to link to it - I may have to revamp my changes and print up my own version of an ear flap hat, if you are interested).  I did not have a pattern for the giraffe features, so I went searching online for images to inspire me.  I had to hunt around for some rounded ears and I made up the horns.  For the braids I used the two main yarn colors (white and pink) plus added a rose colored darker strand for a braid contrast.  I'm not sure how size translates in these pictures, but this is so small, about a 3-6 month baby head.

This turned out so cute, I almost didn't want to give it away

Once finished it matched the other gift items pretty well.

Baby pink giraffes - stinkin' adorable.

The gift went over well at the baby shower!  There were many "ooo's and ahhh's" as she opened her gift.  I can not wait until her little girl gets here (this December) and I can update you with a picture with a cute baby wearing my sweet lil' giraffe hat.  I also can't wait to try some other colors.  A little baby blue one, or a light yellow one with some brown spots for a "real" giraffe look.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

There is nothing more comforting than snuggling up with a warm bowl of soup on a cold rainy fall day.  Oh sure, anyone can pop the top off a can of soup, nuke it for a few minutes and you are good to go.  But... what if I told you, a big, yummy pot of homemade soup was not only extra delicious, but not really that hard to make?  After I got my Big Blue Mama a few years back I decided it was time to try making my own chicken noodle soup from scratch.  I know, I know, it sounds like a slippery slope.  Make your own soup and soon after you might be doing other pioneery things like fishing in the creek, threshing wheat by hand, and hanging the wash out on the line... But seriously, take a few simple ingredients and some left over rotisserie chicken, and an hour or so later you will have a hearty home cooked meal.

We have tried a couple of recipes over the last year, and most of them claim you can have them ready in thirty minutes.  The veggies (in my opinion) are still a little tough this way.  I give them a little extra time to simmer, soak up some flavor, and get kid friendly and tender. 

Homemade chicken soup is the bomb diggity!

Okay, now onto the ingredients.  You will need (full printable recipe at the end):

1/2 to 1 full stick of butter
2-3 carrots chopped up small
2-3 celery stalks chopped up small
1 onion chopped fine
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 cups of chopped left over rotisserie chicken
8-12 cups of chicken stock
8-12 oz of dried pasta
2 bay leaves
1-2 teaspoons parsley
1/2 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Take the stick of butter and throw it into your pot.  Turn heat on to slightly above medium.

If you freak out about butter then just use half a stick.  If you believe in Paula Dean chuck the whole thing in
Next, chop up your carrots, celery and onions on the small side.  You want to make these small so they can get tender faster.  Toss them into your melting butter.

The French call these three veggies Mirepoix (pronounced "mira-qua") Throw it in to everyday conversation to sound smarter!
Simmer these veggies lightly in the butter for five minutes, until they cook down a bit.

After 5 minutes, add the 4 cloves of minced garlic and stir.  You can also add the parsley, thyme, 2 bay leaves, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

You can not eat bay leaves, we will fish them out at the end.  But they do add great flavor!
After about 10-15 minutes you can now add the chicken stock.  You can make your own or you can use a box of stock.  I used Rachel Ray's chicken soup stock.  There are 4 cups in each box.  I used two boxes for 8 cups total.

I always keep a third box on hand, just in case the noodles expand too much. A little extra stock can help bring the soup back to a balanced broth/noodle consistency.  If you do not have enough homemade stock, you can do half yours and half Rachel's, like I did here.  You want to bring the temperature back up to a boil (my big blue mama took about 20 minutes at least to heat all the way back up).  We are going to cook the noodles in the boiling soup.

By this time, your veggies are getting a little softer, so you can add in your chopped up rotisserie chicken.  I usually take the meat off the bird while it is still warm after dinner the night before, and store in a container until I want to use the extra meat.  I make a little assembly line from storage container, to plate. I chop the meat up into bite sized pieces, and a second plate for skin or other undesirables.

I usually do this the same time I chop up the veggies, before I start cooking
While the soup is coming up to a boil, you can add in your chicken pieces

Stir gently and wait for the soup to come back up to a boil.  You do not want a super hard boil here, more like a strong simmer to cook the noodles in.  Pour in your dry noodles

We use bow tie pasta because we have girls.  We call this princes bow soup.  They love it!
Next, let the soup cook the noodles.  The amount of noodles really depends on you. Currently we are more of a 70% noodle to 30% broth kind of family right now.  If you like more broth, add less noodles.  I tend to get over zealous anyway and pour too many in.  After they expand, most of my stock will seem to disappear.  If (when) this happens, that's when I pull out my reserve 4 cups of chicken stock to add to the pot.  There is no such thing as too much chicken soup.  It freezes well and makes great left overs for the week.

Isn't the princess bow tie pasta adorable?
Oh yes one important step you don't want to miss.  Please fish out the bay leaves at this time.

They have done their duty adding mountains of flavor.  Discard at will.
We have made this soup a few times, and found the smaller sized pasta (as shown above) seems to work a little better.  Here is the same soup with full sized bow ties:

If you love glorious pasta then try it with the larger bow ties!
You actually have to "cut" the noodles with your spoon while you are eating your soup.  This action reminds me of wonton soup.  After your pasta is soft, add more chicken stock if you need it, then check your spice levels.  Add a bit more dried or fresh parsley, salt and pepper if it needs it.  This whole process should take around an hour.  You can put the soup on low if need be and it can sit for an extra 1/2 hour and it won't be much worse for wear.  The larger noodles will get a bit more floppy, but those small mini bow ties hold up pretty good.

This was our big noodle soup, with less broth

Here is our small princess bow tie soup

The absolute best thing to serve with homemade soup is some toasted artisan bread or a buttery, crusty loaf of french bread.  This recipe is a pretty simple version of the soup.  You can add your own herbs and spices and make it to your family's tastes.  Also, like I said before, if you have leftovers they make great lunches the next day, or save in the fridge all week and have some when you get the craving.  Soup will indeed freeze (I thought the noodles would be destroyed), but it thawed and reheated just fine.  So go out there, impressed yourself and  your loved ones with a big bowl of homemade soup... and stay warm and cozy this month.

Full Printable recipe found here

Monday, October 22, 2012

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

Our newest favorite little food find lately is the seasoned rotisserie chicken at Costco.  They are so inexpensive (at times $4.99) and always moist and flavorful.  I don't think I could even buy a full frozen chicken and roast it at home for under that price.  They are so handy to pick up on the way home and make not only a nice dinner that first night, but great for chicken salad sandwiches or soups later in the week.  Tonight I was going to make homemade chicken noodle soup, but first I wanted to show you how to extend the use of your roasted chicken by making your own simple stock.  

Such a lovely color and texture they get on these roasted chickens!

My own stock? You say??  That's to hard!  Isn't that what the pioneers did?  I don't have that kind of time!  Well, this recipe is so easy you will really be tempted to make your own rich and flavorful stock.  I promise.  Okay, so after you eat your original chicken dinner, pick off all the extra meat from the legs, breast, and whatever is left over. Cut off any fat, skin, or undesirables so you just have nice chunks of meat left.  Save this in a container in the fridge and tomorrow I will post about adding it to your own homemade chicken noodle  soup.  Now that you have all the meat plucked off, you want to put the empty chicken carcass (why does that word gross me out a bit?) in the bottom of the pot and cover it with water.

Making the most of your Costco Rotisserie Chicken by making your own stock!

Next you want to add some veggies to the pot. A couple of roughly chopped carrots, some stalks of celery, and chop up a whole onion or two.  Make sure there is enough water to cover them all up.

The next thing you can add are some spices:  Some sprigs of rosemary, thyme, parsley, and bay leafs.  Also salt and pepper to taste.  We also used Johnny's seasoning salt (which has paprika, onion powder, and pepper in it)

Bring everything up to a boil for a few minutes, then reduce it back down to a low simmer.  Simmer this way uncovered for about four hours.  Occasionally skim off the foam that comes to the surface.  This, by the way, will make your house smell a bit like Thanksgiving dinner.  Make sure to check the liquid level along the way and add a little more water every now and then (only if needed).  Make sure there still is enough to cover everything in the pot.  After about four hours things will be very reduced and you should see a golden brown liquid. Let it cool down a bit before you start pouring it in the next step.

Take a bit of cheese cloth and place it over a mesh strainer.  Carefully pour the still warm liquid and left over veggies and chicken pieces through the strainer into a clean bowl underneath (this is easier with two people).  You are now the proud owner of some prized homemade chicken stock!  Caroline Ingalls would be so PROUD of you! Let it cool down and place it in a sealed container and place in the fridge or freezer. Stock should last about a week in the refrigerator or a few months in the freezer. Note, one chicken does not make a ton of stock. You can always double or triple the recipe if you want to make more.  This is such a great way to extend the use of the chicken! This stock can add great flavor to other dishes, including soups! Tomorrow I will post an easy homemade chicken soup recipe that my kids absolutely love!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pannukakku (Finnish Pancake)

I was so proud of my hubby a few months back when he came downstairs with a printed recipe he wanted to try.  The name alone was crazy enough for me to love it immediately. Pannukakku.  Go ahead, try and say it now.  Just rolls off the tongue I tell you.  This amazing Finnish pancake is a wonder to behold. In what other dish can you feed a room full of people with only four eggs?. Not to mention it impressively puffs up like a 3rd grade science experiment gone awry, only to collapse into a creamy tasty treat the whole family will love. No longer do you have to stand and flip endless pancakes and be the last one to eat!  Just pour this extremely simple batter in a hot buttered pan and 30 minutes later you can all sit down to breakfast together.  Genius.

Pannukakku - Try making a Finnish pancake today!!
The texture of Pannukakku is very interesting.  It's like a custard, a crepe, french toast, and a pancake had a baby.  Creamy, dense, and yet light and fluffy at the same time.  The thing with Pannukakku is that it is made with the most basic of ingredients.  Eggs, milk, flour and sugar.  Everybody and their grandma seems to have a slightly different variation.  We've done you a favor by making a few different recipes over that last few months, and have narrowed it down to our most favorite. You will need: (Full printable recipe at the end of the post)

4 Eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons butter

Heat oven to 400º

Crack the four eggs into a mixing bowl

What did we all do before Kitchen-aid mixers??

Blend until the eggs are combined

Egg action shot my hubby was very proud of

By the way, while you are mixing these ingredients together, place the 4 Tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a 9x13 (or a 10x15 for a thinner version) pan and place in the 400º oven.  The butter will melt while you mix the rest of the ingredients.  Be extremely careful at this step.  Do not leave the kitchen or leave the melting butter unattended.  My sister in law caught her entire kitchen on fire this exact way while making cornbread.  (It's a really good cornbread recipe by the way, I will share it with you soon)

Melting butter... delicious but please KEEP an eye on it
After the eggs are blended, mix the 3/4 tsp of salt, the 2 1/2 cups of milk, 1 cup of flour, and 1/4 cup of sugar.

Blend until you have a smooth thin batter

Pannukakku batter is very thin and not like a regular pancake batter
Keep checking on your butter.  By now it should be melted and bubbling slightly.

No need to grease the pan with delicious bubbling butter around
Gently pour your batter into the hot pan.  Pour very slowly, it's 400º and butter splashes would hurt.

Pannukakku batter pouring into the buttery pan
Now it is ready to be placed in the oven. Set the timer for 30 minutes.  At first it will look like absolutely nothing is happening...

But suddenly stuff happens.... It starts growing.  Like it's trying to get out of the pan.  Bring the kids over and turn on the oven light.  It's like breakfast and a SHOW I tell you...

It's fun to watch your breakfast try and get away
After 30 minutes (check it at 25 minutes as oven times vary) it should be very puffy, and golden brown.

Warning, taking this out of the oven in front of guests will garner "oooo's and ahhh's" from all those assembled.
Once you gently pull this out of the oven and place on the stove top, some people (okay, people like us) were told to sprinkle a bit more sugar over the top, to get that tasty brule' effect. The sugar will melt into the hot pancake.  The funny thing is, once this thing hits room temperature air, it will start to collapse.  I have a hard time not thinking of the Wicked Witch of the West's dramatic line "I'm melting" as it sinks down in the pan.  The edges will still stay poofy and golden though (my favorite part).  Now you have some pretty hard decisions to make in the next few minutes.  How to you serve and EAT your pannukakku? It's a tough job, but someone has to do it!  Well there is the easy and traditional method very close to it's American pancake cousin, with butter and syrup!

You can serve it with fruit compote, jelly and whipped cream:

This was apricot pineapple jelly, a recent discovery that I fell in love with
One time we rolled them up more like a crepe and put our garden strawberries and homemade strawberry jelly and whipped cream on them.  That gave it a nice ultra fancy touch.

Pannukakku the baked custard pancake.
So needless to say, this easy little recipe has become a quick family favorite on the weekends.  Comes together in just a few minutes and my favorite part is that you can sit down at the same time and enjoy it with your whole family.  I'm sure you are thinking to yourself, hey I have FOUR eggs in my fridge right now... I could surprise my family tomorrow and dazzle them with something new!  Let me know how it turns out and what you guys like to put on your Pannukakku! 

Full printable recipe found here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chicken Caeser Sliders

Have a crowd of people coming over and don't want to spend time slaving over a hot stove?  Here's a great little twist on an old recipe that everyone will love. The best part is, it stays warm in the crock pot and people can serve themselves as needed.  Think, chicken Caesar salad... on a cute little bun.  Behold I give you Chicken Caesar sliders:

Picture and recipe originally found on Pinterest via Christy on her blog The girl who ate everything
We have tested this recipe out a couple of times now, and it has turned out great each time.  Matter of fact each time we make it, they are so good I completely forget to take a good picture of them, hence Christy's gorgeous picture above.  In the original recipe she cooks the chicken in a slow cooker (crock pot) which takes a few hours.  I can speed up the process a little bit in case you need to make this tonight... or let's say right now!

Take 4-5 frozen Costco chicken breasts.  Put in a large pot of water and boil them for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Place warm chicken out on a cutting board and remove fat, veins, and any "undesirables" you might find.  Shred the meat with two forks OR if you want to get tricky try my newest find which is to shred the chicken in the kitchenaid mixer.

This works best if the chicken is still warm.  After that, dump meat into a crockpot and add the rest of the ingredients:

1 Cup (or more) of your favorite Caesar dressing
1/2 cup - 1 cup of Parmesan cheese 
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (or 2 teaspoons dry parsley)
Salt and Pepper to taste (I used Johhny's season salt and some shakes of pepper

The key here is texture.  Depending on how much meat you use, you want the dressing and other ingredients to be on the moist side.  If it looks dry, add a bit more dressing.  I have been known to add a few spoonfuls of sour cream near the end to give extra moisture and sometimes help cut the "spicy" aspects of Caesar dressing.  After that warm it in your crock pot until it is heated through and time to serve.

For Serving:

2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
slider buns

You can just have a big bag of slider buns laying next to your crock pot for big gatherings, or I have found on nights when it's just us, that toasting and then buttering the slider rolls take the flavor up a notch.

Spoon some warm chicken Caesar mixture onto a toasted slider bun and top with cool crisp shreds of romaine lettuce.  The only trouble you will have with these tasty little babies is only eating one.  Sliders, by law, means you can have as many as these adorable sammies as you want with no added calories whatsoever.  Also the fact that this was formally a salad makes it "healthy" in my book.

slider picture found over at gamedayr recipe blog
This recipe probably makes enough for a family of 4-6 hearty eaters.  If you are having a party add more frozen chicken at the beginning and add extra sauce ingredients at the end as well.  These would work great for a game day, family get together, graduation party, baby shower... they seem to be very versatile! This makes great left overs the next day too by the way.  You can even make this as an appetizer/dip and spread the chicken mixture on sturdy crackers.
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