Carrots from Scratch

Confession: I am not that great at vegetables.

I’m currently following The Grocery Shrink Plus menu plan. I’ve just started, and I love it so far. She suggested homemade crescent rolls alongside a pot roast dinner, and friends – baking with yeast is something that intimidates me. It just is. I don’t know why, but I’ve never really done it. I thought, in the spirit of following the meal plan, that I should give it a try.

Okay anyway, I made them. I was impressed with myself. I served up our pot roast dinner and the Mr. got ready to dig in, but I had to make sure that he too, was impressed.

FullSizeRenderMe: “I made everything here from scratch! Are you impressed, or what?”
Mr: “Well… I mean, I knew you were cooking things.”
Me: “But everything! Does something here surprise you?”
Mr: “ummm…”
Me: “Take a look! There’s something here I’ve never made from scratch before.”
Mr: “…carrots?!”

Okay, okay. I don’t cook carrots that often. ;o) I’m just flattered that he thinks I’ve been making the dinner rolls all along.

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Basic Baked Oatmeal

As a new mom, getting breakfast in me seems to be challenging. I can grab easy things like granola bars, but my days of being able to get a hot bowl of oatmeal before dinnertime seem to be over – and this is the season I want a hot breakfast! I discovered baked oatmeal recently, and have been playing around with some variations. I nabbed this recipe from somebody’s blog and can’t find my way back… if it sounds like your recipe, please let me know so I can give you credit!

Baked oatmeal in it’s most basic, for you purists:

Ingredients:

2c. old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cook)

1tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1.5c. milk (low fat if counting WW points)

1Tbl. melted coconut oil or butter. If using butter, omit salt above.

1/4c. maple syrup

1 egg

Method:

Stir together dry ingredients. Whisk together milk, oil/butter, egg, and maple syrup. Combine and stir. Pour & spread into lightly greased square baking dish at bake at 350F for approximately 25 minutes or until set. Slice and serve.

This can be sliced and stored in the fridge and microwaved for 30 seconds per portion – one prep, 6 breakfasts/snacks for me! You can also freeze portions and microwave from frozen (1min 30sec in my microwave). I’m playing around with all sorts of variations, so you’ll see them here – make a few over the course of a couple days and freeze so that you have a variety to choose from.

Serves: 6

Weight Watchers: 5PPV

Lemon-Coconut Squares with Raspberries & White Chocolate

Oh yeah, you read that right.

I had my mom and my grandma over for lunch today, and wanted to pull out my fancy tea things. So I needed some fancy food.

I am not exactly a Woman of Leisure on this maternity leave – more like She of Many Appointments – so fancy food needed to be fast and easy. I picked up a box of Lemon-Coconut Squares at the local grocery store. You could make your own, of course, or you could be lazy (and perhaps a bit deceptive) like me. I stopped at the local berry farm for fresh in-season raspberries, grabbed a bag of white chocolate chips… and these beauties were ready to go in less than 5 minutes.

If you make your own you’ll need to slice your bars or squares. If you bought them, you’ll want to put them on a fancy plate – it makes it look like more effort. 😉

Pick the best & firmest raspberries you can find in the basket. I did 3 per bar. I could have cut the bars in half and just done one each.

Melt your white chocolate chips in a Ziploc bag or piping bag of some sort. I use a Ziploc sandwich bag held closed with a Pampered Chef Twixit Clip. The trick is to melt the chocolate at VERY low temperature, for very little time. In my microwave, three short 30-second bursts at half power, with lots of squeezing the bag in between, does the trick. I have also done this sort of thing in hot water.

Trim the tiniest corner off your piping bag. I mean it, make it very small. I had to do this twice, because the first was just way too big and was getting messy.

Now, just fill a raspberry with your melted white chocolate. This is going to solidify into something delicious. You want to overfill it slightly because the excess becomes the “glue” – now flip it over and set it on top of the coconut. Work quickly, and do one at a time. When all the raspberries are in place, drizzle with your extra chocolate for the pretty factor. They’ll look something like this:

photo

That’s it. Admire. Impress yourself, I won’t tell. Be nice, and share with others. Serve with tea, of course:

photo 2

Still have some extra melted chocolate? Fill the rest of those raspberries and freeze them (just set them on a bit of wax paper). Eat when your guests go home.

You can thank me later.

Green Onion Supply

I hate buying green onions. They’re just one of those things I always seem to end up tossing – I buy a bunch for a recipe that really only needs one or two, and the rest end up in the compost pile after trying and failing to look lively in the vegetable drawer for a while.

Well, a post on Pinterest told me I could regrow those little bulbs, with hardly any effort. It seemed both unbelievable and obvious at once, and just before I tossed my last 4, I decided to give it a whirl. The premise is simple: cut the green down to 1-2 inches above the bulb (use the cut part in your meal), stand the bulbs in a little bit of cool water, and place in a sunny window. There you go… green onions forever! I do change the water once in a while, every 2-3 days, when I think about it.

Here’s a blurry picture after only 2 days. I had forgotten about them. See the new growth over where I had cut? The outside layer doesn’t regrow.

IMG_2261

And here, after a total of a week. If you staggered these (when you started them), you’d really have a good supply. I may at some point try planting them in a little pot and just trimming as needed. I’m so impressed by how lovely and fresh they look!

photo

Like Eggs? This Will Change Your Life.

You think I’m being dramatic? I’m not. You see, ever since getting the chickens, I’ve suffered a terrible problem – I can’t boil them in a way that allows me to peel them neatly. I had visions of taking deviled eggs to potluck, but alas, I’ve had to make egg salad to serve on melba toasts. I had tried all the things – letting them sit for a couple weeks (not long enough), boiling with salt, boiling with vinegar, cracking before plunging them in cold water. A dear friend finally turned me on to THIS method, and I can tell it is going to save me from endless frustration.

This will allow you to cook your fresh eggs to your desired doneness (I like soft-medium for toast, hard boiled for any other number of things) and peel them in a tidy fashion. Deviled eggs, here I come.

Here are your instructions. Feel free to memorize them:

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add some salt.

2. Gentle place your eggs in the pot. Return to a boil, and then start your timer. For our large eggs, 7 minutes gave me the perfect medium boil for toast, and I do 10-12 for a hard boil. Our backyard chicken eggs are a little larger than the ones I used to get at the grocery store, so you may need to adjust. My FlyLady timer has to get used somewhere:

FlyLady Timer

3. While your eggs are boiling, get a bowl ready with ice (I used a full tray for 6 eggs), cold water, and a good splash of white vinegar. I got too excited and forgot to take a photo of this step, but you know what a bowl of ice water looks like.

4. When your timer goes off, scoop the eggs from the pot and plunge (gently!) into the ice water. Allow them to sit there until they’re cool enough to handle.

Egg Scoop

5. Rinse, dry with a towel, crack, and peel. See these clean shells? That half that just slipped right off, taking the membrane with it but leaving the egg intact? I’m impressed.

Egg Shells

6. Rejoice in your perfect, whole, tidy eggs.

Hard Boiled Egg

Will you try this technique? Do you like your eggs boiled, or do you prefer them prepared some other way?

Pepper Steak

I was sitting here feeling sort of smug in the fact that I cooked ahead this week so I wouldn’t have to scramble on Friday. And then I realized it’s Saturday.

I made pepper steak, which is a recipe I haven’t had in years but used to love. The Mr. thinks he’s never tried pepper steak of any kind before! It was easy – I like easy – so it may make more frequent appearances in our dinner rotation.

You’ll need: steak strips, garlic powder, butter, green onion, green pepper (cut into strips), tomato, beef broth, water, cornstarch, soy sauce.

An aside: I read this wrong and didn’t buy green onion, so I did it with white. It was fine. Mom says she’d done it that way too.

A second aside: A tomato? What? I don’t buy fresh tomatoes (except for salsa, now) because I just don’t like them! Reading that really made me hesitate – but I went ahead with the recipe as-written because I already knew I liked it! Recipe says to dice it, but I used my manual food processor and chopped the hell out of it. Smaller is better. A tomato. Sneaky mom.

Sprinkle steak with garlic powder and sauté in butter until browned. Add onions and peppers and cook until wilted. Add tomatoes and broth. Cover, and simmer 15min.

Mix water, cornstarch, and soy sauce. Stir into steak mixture and cook until thickened. Serve over rice. I like it sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Mr.H: Loved it.

The Full Recipe:

  • 1/2lb steak strips
  • 1tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 1/3c. green onion
  • 1/2 green pepper (cut into strips)
  • 1 sm. tomato (diced)
  • 1/3c. beef broth
  • 2tsp. water
  • 2tsp. cornstarch
  • 2tsp. soy sauce
  1. Sprinkle steak with garlic powder and sauté in butter until browned.
  2. Add onions &  peppers and cook until wilted.
  3. Add tomatoes & broth. Cover & simmer 15min.
  4. Mix water, cornstarch & soy sauce. Stir into steak mix. and cook until thickened.
  5. Serve over rice.

Crisp Chocolate Chippers

It’s time for something sweet. I randomly chose this recipe for Crisp Chocolate Chippers, inspired by my mom’s note declaring them a family favourite for over 30 years! I was pleased to discover that:

  1. These are THE cookies I think of when I’m hankering for mom’s chocolate chip.
  2. I managed to make a gluten free version that honestly doesn’t taste any different.

Gluten free notes: Use my all-purpose GF flour blend, and dedicated GF oats.

You’ll need: 1c. butter, 1.5c brown sugar, 2 eggs, 2tsp. vanilla, 1tsp. salt, 1tsp. baking soda, 2c. flour, 2c. oats, 12oz. package of chocolate chips.

Cream butter & sugar. Add in eggs & vanilla and beat until creamy. Set aside. Whisk together dry ingredients (except oats and chocolate). Gradually add to the creamed mixture and beat well. Add oat and chocolate chips. Stir.

Drop by spoon onto greased cookie sheet. I use a medium-sized scoop for this – if you don’t have one, get one. I like uniformly-sized cookies, ya know? Bake at 375F for approximately 10 minutes. You’ll get somewhere between 2.5-3doz cookies.

An aside: I didn’t need 3 doz. cookies. We just did a church fundraiser where we bought little frozen balls of dough. I love these things, but they’re a no-go for me now. I love being able to bake just a couple cookies at a time on a little bar pan. So I made my own. Freeze scoops of dough on a wax-paper lined baking sheet, and then toss into a container and store in the freezer. Bake later, like when somebody shows up for tea unexpectedly and all you have in the fridge is a container of yogurt and some dodgy-looking sauces. 😉

You know what I like about these cookies? They stay fat. They don’t spread themselves out into a thin flimsy thing. Be on whichever side of the crisp/chewy side you like… I want mine to look like this:

The Recipe in Full:

  • 1 c. butter
  • 1.5 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. flour of your choice (regular or gluten-free blend)
  • 2 c. oats
  • 12oz package of chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet)
  1. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
  2. Separately, whisk together baking soda, flour, and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
  3. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by spoonful, or medium-scoop, onto a greased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 375F for approximately 10min.