Thursday, January 31, 2013

Salt Dough

Salt Dough Shapes
So this isn't necessarily an edible recipe (although you could eat it, but it wouldn't taste good), but it's something fun from my childhood and definitely a fun activity to do with children. It's definitely domestic!

My mom use to make salt dough for us growing up. We would roll it out and cut it into shapes or form it into things. We would bake it and then paint to our heart's desire. It was one of my favorite things. I loved to make homemade ornaments, paint them and give the out as Christmas gifts.

I wanted to carry on this tradition for my children. My daughter loves when we make Salt Dough. This dough is so versatile. You can make a batch and use different colors of food coloring or you can leave it white. This last time we made it, we wanted to leave it white so that my daughter could paint it. If you don't want to bake and paint them, you can make different colors and play with it like Play Dough. Just make sure you leave it in an airtight container or plastic bag in between uses. I've noticed that when I leave dough in a plastic bag that it gets a little soggy. Just remove and add a little bit of flour and knead until dough goes back to regular consistency. This recipe also makes A LOT of dough. Depending on what we want to do with it, I usually make a half batch. If you want to make several different colors of dough, do a whole batch.

Last month, as a surprise for our anniversary, my parents helped my oldest make some ornaments. They rolled the dough out, cut them out into shapes and baked them. After baking and cooling, they let her color on them with markers and put a picture of each of my children on them and then sealed them with some Mod Podge with glitter. They gave them to us as an anniversary gift from our kids. They were such treasures. It will most definitely be a yearly tradition we do so that we have annual pictures of our family on our Christmas tree.

Here's what you need:

-1 C fine salt (I just use regular table salt)
-3 C white flour
-1 1/2 C water

1. Preheat oven to lowest temperature (170 degrees on my oven). Combine salt and flour into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.


2. Stir until mixture forms a ball. If you want colored dough add a few drops of food coloring at this point. Remove ball from bowl and knead for a couple minutes until ingredients (and coloring) are thoroughly incorporated.

Salt Dough

3. Roll out dough to about 1/8 in. thick. Use cookie cutters, pizza or pastry cutter to make shapes. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you want to make ornaments, take a straw and poke a whole in the dough so that you can hang it. Once all your shapes are on the baking sheet, bake on the lowest temperature overnight or for 4-6 hrs. After 4 hrs, feel and see of the dough feels soft. If so, continue baking. Once they look more white and hard to the touch, remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

She loved rolling out the dough!
Kids love this stuff!

4. Once cooled, you can paint them, use markers, glitter, etc. to decorate them. If you want to put a picture on them, do that now. Seal the ornament with a thin coat of Mod Podge. Allow to dry completely. Use baking twine, yarn, hemp cord or whatever you have on-hand to use for hanging. You can also string several shapes together to make a cute banner to hang for the holidays. We also like making bugs, snakes, etc. to decorate. Just use your creativity and imagination.

Here's the printable recipe.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cinnamon Apple Raisin Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Cinnamon Apple Raisin Steel-Cut Oatmeal
One of my favorite memories when I was younger was sitting on the heat vents before getting ready for school. My mom would throw a blanket in the dryer and we'd all huddle around the heat vents and bury ourselves underneath the warm blanket. My mom would cook us oatmeal or Cream of  Wheat on those really cold winter mornings. To this day, I love hot cereal on cold mornings.

Many people have no idea what steel cut oats are, so I'm going to give you a quick lesson. The whole oat grains are typically referred to as "oat groats." These oat groats are cut up into smaller pieces and then called "steel-cut oats." Oat groats that have been rolled out are "old-fashioned oats." Old-fashioned oats that have been cut up into smaller pieces are "quick oats."

Left: Oat Groats, Right: Steel-Cut Oats
Left: Old-fashioned Rolled Oats, Right: Quick Oats
Oat Groats, Steel-cut Oats, Rolled Oats, Quick Oats

The main difference between steel-cut oats and old-fashioned & quick oats is that the latter have been steamed to aid in quicker cooking. Steel-cut oats also have a chewier texture. They typically have a little more fat, fiber and protein because they are less processed than rolled oats. They also take longer to cook since they are the whole grain. Steel-cut oats also seem to make you feel fuller longer. Now you are an oat expert. :) I prefer to buy my steel-cut oats at a health food store or in the bulk section at your local grocery store. You can get them for less than $.89/lb. If you try buying the name brand in the oatmeal section, you'll pay $2-$3 or more per lb. I always buy these oats in bulk and I always have them on-hand.

This recipe takes about 35-45 minutes to cook, but it's well worth it. You also don't have to be tending to it constantly, so you can multi-task during the process. This makes a perfect breakfast on a cold, snowy morning and it definitely sticks with you. It's thick, creamy and slightly sweet. The buttermilk is awesome in this recipe. It gives it a mild tang and creates an awesome, creamy texture without all of the fat of cream. I also loved toasting the oats. It gave them a really wonderful, nutty taste. My daughter loves oatmeal and I was curious to see how she would like the new texture. She asked for seconds, so I know this recipe is a keeper. It's also relatively healthful, so you won't have to feel guilty eating it.

Here's what you need:
-1 TBS coconut oil (or butter), separated
-1 C steel-cut oats
-3 C boiling water
-1/4-1/2 tsp. coarse salt
-1/2 C raisins
-(2) apples, cored and thinly sliced
-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, separated
-2 TBS brown sugar, 1 tsp reserved
-1/2 C 1% milk
-1/2 C low-fat buttermilk, separated
-1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract
-1/4 C. coarsely chopped almonds (optional)

1. In a medium sauce pan heat 1/2 TBS of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once oil is heated add oats and toast until golden, about 2-3 minutes. Stir often to avoid burning.

2. Add boiling water and salt. Turn heat to med-low and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. While oats are simmering, get a medium skillet and heat remaining 1/2 TBS of oil over medium-high heat. Add apples and saute until golden and tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 tsp. brown sugar and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon. Set aside. (I LOVE using my apple peeler/corer/slicer from Pampered Chef for this step. It makes it so fast and easy.)

Sauteed Apples

4. After oats have simmered for 25 minutes, add milk, 1/4 C of buttermilk, raisins and remaining 1/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon. The oatmeal will look thick and saucy. Stir to combine. Continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Stir to combine.

5. Take 1/2 C of cooked oatmeal and place in serving bowl. Top with a dollop of remaining buttermilk, some cooked apples and sprinkle with cinnamon and almonds to garnish. Serve hot.

Hearty Chewy Goodness

Enjoy and Happy Cooking! Doesn't that look awesome?

So Delicious

Here's the printable recipe.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Easy Taco Soup with Quinoa

Happy 2013! I'm excited for a new year. Hope all of you are enjoying your January. One of my favorite things about Winter is making soup. This is one of my favorite soups. It's fast, easy, filling, flavorful and perfect for a Winter supper. It also comes together really quickly and freezes well. I like making a double-batch of this soup and freezing leftovers in freezer storage bags. You can just pop one of those into boiling water for 5-10 mintues and you have a hot, homemade soup for a quick meal when you are in a rush.

I'm like most people trying to fulfill my New Year's Resolution of eating more healthful and this soup is great for this.You can omit the ground beef or ground turkey if you want a vegetarian soup. I love the addition of quinoa to this soup. It makes it hearty and even more healthful. If you have never cooked with quinoa, try it! It's awesome! Quinoa is a grain that is packed with protein. You cook it just like rice and I use it place of rice in many dishes. You can buy quinoa at health food stores or at Costco. I just can't tell you how much I love quinoa--it's awesome in this soup. I also love the fresh lime juice. It really brightens this dish. Also, feel free to use any fresh veggies you like to this soup. I usually have canned goods on-hand in the winter, so I use those when I need to throw this together quickly.

Here's what you need:
-1 TBS oil (coconut, canola, or olive oil)
-1 large onion, diced
-6 cloves of fresh garlic, sliced or minced
-1 lb. lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
-2.5 TBS taco seasoning
-3 C beef broth
-(2) 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes (no salt added kind)
-(1) 15 oz. can of corn (or 1 C frozen corn)
-(1) 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
-(1) 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1/4 C cilantro leaves

-1 C quinoa
-2 C water or vegetable broth

-1/2 C cooked quinoa
-1 TBS cilantro leaves
-dollop of sour cream
-juice of 1/4 fresh lime segment
-5 rice chips

1. In a medium pot combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside. You can do this step while assembling the soup.

2. In a separate large soup pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and saute just until fragrant. Add lean ground beef or turkey and cook until brown. Add taco seasoning and stir to combine.

3. Add beef broth, tomatoes, corn (including liquid), beans and cilantro. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes.

4. Fluff cooked quinoa with a fork. Dish up a serving of soup, top with 1/2 C cooked quinoa, sour cream, cilantro leaves and rice chips. My FAV rice chips are Rice Works Sweet Chili. They go great with this soup. A few slices of fresh avocado would be delicious on top of this, too.

Enjoy this yummy, easy and healthful soup!

Taco Soup with Quinoa

Here's the printable recipe.