A (Late) Summer Treat

We’re having a bit of a relapse of gorgeous, warm weather here, and it’s reminded me of a recipe I want to share:  homemade popsicles.  For most people, this will be strictly a warm-weather treat, so hopefully you still have a few of those days left before the chill of fall sets in, or maybe you live somewhere that’s sunny and warm all the time.  In that case, you can make these in February and think cheery thoughts for us northerners enduring the winter’s blizzards.

These popsicles are super easy to make.  All you need are a few basic ingredients and some kind of popsicle mold.  I bought one about two years ago for a few dollars, but you could also use small paper or plastic cups and wooden popsicle sticks.

Homemade Fruit & Yogurt Popsicles

Makes:  4 popsicles

  • 8 oz. vanilla yogurt (any flavor will work)
  • 1/3 cup diced kiwifruit (or other fruit)
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice, or enough to reach desired consistency/quantity (I used a combination of orange and freshly-squeezed mango)
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Pour mixture into popsicle molds, add extra juice to fill line, if necessary.
  3. Freeze until solid.
  4. Enjoy!
This recipe is quick, easy, inexpensive, healthy, and really delicious – how much better can it get?  Of course, you can make popsicles without the yogurt (or the fruit, for that matter), but it makes them so much smoother and creamier, so I definitely recommend adding it.  You could even add more yogurt and decrease the amount of juice, if you want an even smoother texture. 

There are about a million other variations you could do of this popsicle by simply changing the fruit or the flavor of juice or yogurt. I’m thinking strawberry-kiwi for next time, although it will probably have to wait until next summer.  If the cold has already set in where you live, but you don’t want to wait to make these, I say go for it.  Who says you can’t eat a popsicle with mittens on?

By the way, we enjoyed these refreshing popsicles after eating this scrumptious, summery meal:

Yep, that’s a BLT…with an egg.  You have to try it; it’s amazing!  Oh, and that sandwich just happens to be on homemade bread.  I did it!  And I found out it’s not as scary as I thought.  I’ll be back soon to share the details.  Until then, let’s all go eat something summery, just for kicks.

Pizza, Take Two

Lookie what I picked up at the grocery store recently:

Bread flour, for making bread!  And yeast, for making bread…that has yeast in it!

“But wait,” you’re thinking, “isn’t this post supposed to be about pizza?”

Why, yes, you are absolutely right.  Being the chicken that I am, I decided, after picking up 5 pounds of bread flour, that pizza, rather than bread, might be the better/easier way to go for my first venture into making all things yeasted (yeasty things?).  So, I picked out a pizza crust recipe, and, what do you know:  it called for bread flour, which happened to be sitting lonely in my cupboard, waiting for me to find some courage and bake a loaf of bread already.  Baby steps, baby steps.

This recipe comes from the cookbook that my grandmother compiled from the recipes of her friends and family when she left her amazing store, called Apple Core, after 21 years of selling home decor, delicious homemade goodies, and other treasures.  My grandma makes beautiful rosettes (like these) and the most incredible pancakes in the world, so I figured if this recipe made her book, it was worth a try.  Plus, it was dubbed by its creator:

Perfect Pizza Crust

Makes:  1 large pizza

  • 1 T. active dry yeast
  • 1½ cups warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 2 T. sugar
  • ½ t. salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • cornmeal
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  If you don’t have a thermometer, ask your mom what to do use water that feels warm to the touch, but not hot.
  2. Add sugar, salt, 1 cup of bread flour, and whole wheat flour.  Beat until smooth.
  3. Stir in enough of the remaining bread flour to form a soft, sticky dough.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Optional: take a walk around town, happen across a rummage sale, and come home with two pillows, a shirt, and a glass jar, all for $1, to find your dough perfectly risen.
  5. Punch dough down and roll/spread onto a greased pizza pan or a pizza stone dusted with cornmeal.  Add toppings.
  6. Bake at 425° for 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and toppings are lightly browned and heated through.

I told you when I made the no-yeast pizza crust that I would one day attempt a yeast crust and bring you my comparison of the two, so here it is:

Yeast.  Do it.

Most of you probably already know this, but it never hurts to have one more on the yeast team, right?  Now, I’m not saying I’ll never make the other variety again, because sometimes you just need to be able to throw something together quickly, but if you have the time and ability to plan ahead, this crust is the way to go.

This crust has that perfectly golden, toasted outside with the soft and chewy inside that you’d get at a restaurant, except that it’s better, like pretty much everything else you make yourself.  It’s not much more difficult than the no-yeast variety, either; it simply requires more time.  Is it worth it? 

Just try to look that pizza in the eye at that soft, golden (and delicious-smelling) crust and say it’s not.

A No-Buttermilk Solution

While I love the taste, low cost, and satisfaction that come with cooking and baking from scratch, it often involves a lengthy list of ingredients, some of which I don’t keep on hand.  Sure, I’ve got the basics:  flour, eggs, pasta, chicken broth, and more than a handful of spices…but buttermilk?  Not so much.  While buttermilk can be easily frozen (in 1 cup amounts, or whatever amount you usually use at one time) and thawed to use later, sometimes we’re still left without that important ingredient and no one to blame but ourselves – or the person who was supposed to buy more buttermilk.

Don’t sweat it.  As I promised last week, there’s a simple solution for the lack of buttermilk.  Here it is:

Lemon juice or vinegar + milk.

Technically, this makes sour milk, which is a replacement for buttermilk, but it’s much simpler than making real buttermilk.  I found that making your own buttermilk is possible, but it requires either cultured buttermilk as a starter or another ingredient that I rarely have in my fridge:  heavy cream.  Therefore, I’m sticking with the sour milk method.

Sour Milk/Buttermilk Replacement

Makes:  1 cup

  1. Place 1 T. lemon juice or vinegar in a measuring cup
  2. Add enough milk to fill to 1 cup total liquid; stir
  3. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes before using
Easy peasy.  Now you don’t have to be angry at your designated buttermilk-buyer when you run out in the middle of making a cake.  You can make this in any amount, as long as you keep the same ratio of lemon juice/vinegar to milk.  Happy baking!

Breakfast, Twice

Breakfast is my absolute favorite meal.  This is perhaps because the experts say it should be your biggest meal of the day, so I feel no guilt loading up on eggs, fruit, and my favorite food group:  carbs.  Yum.  It could also be because I always wake up starving, my stomach immediately growling for a bowl of cereal.  Anyone else here go to bed already thinking about breakfast?  It can’t just be me.

In honor of my favorite meal, I’m here to share two simple forms of homemade fruit + carb deliciousness, neither of which are required to be consumed in the morning.  At my house we affectionately call that “brinner.”  Yep, breakfast for dinner.  And as much as I love breakfast in the morning, brinner really is a beautiful thing.  Don’t you think?

Whole Wheat Waffles

Makes:  about 8 belgian waffles

  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients
  2. Add egg yolks to dry ingredients, place egg whites in a small mixing bowl
  3. Beat whites until moderately stiff, set aside
  4. Stir butter, milk, and vanilla into dry ingredients
  5. Fold in egg whites
  6. Pour batter into hot waffle iron
While your waffles are cooking, you can make this:

Strawberry-Peach Syrup

Makes:  about 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of sliced fruit (mine was about 1/2 strawberries and 1/2 peaches, but you can use any combination of these or other fruits)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar (depending on the fruit you use and how sweet you want the syrup to be)
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • dash cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 t. cornstarch (optional)
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine fruit, water, sugars, and cinnamon (if desired)
  2. Stir occasionally until fruit softens and mixture is heated through
  3. For a thicker syrup, mix cornstarch with a small amount of water and stir into fruit mixture
Note:  This recipe is very easy to adjust to your taste by modifying the type of fruit and the amounts of water, sugar, and cornstarch you use – it nearly always turns out well (I have to say “nearly”, just in case).
Alex loved this homemade syrup and said it was better than maple syrup or fresh (uncooked) fruit.  He even chose it over peanut butter on his waffles, which, if you know him at all, is a pretty big deal.  So, I decided to try it again the next time I was craving a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast, which is where the following recipe came into play.Whole Wheat-Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes:  8 pancakes

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 T. oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and make a well in the center of the mixture
  2. Combine egg, buttermilk, and oil; pour into flour mixture and stir just until moistened (batter will be lumpy)
  3. Adjust to desired consistency with additional buttermilk or flour
  4. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto a lightly greased griddle or skillet over medium heat; cook until golden brown
And to top the pancakes…Cinnamon-Apple Syrup
  • 1 medium apple, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. cornstarch (optional)
  1. In a small saucepan, combine fruit, water, sugars, and cinnamon
  2. Stir occasionally until fruit softens and mixture is heated through
  3. For a thicker syrup, mix cornstarch with a small amount of water and stir into fruit mixture
Did that recipe sound familiar?  I told you it’s easy to modify!
If you’re feeling fancy, top your waffles or pancakes and syrup with a little powdered sugar or whipped cream to make them pretty.  As for me, I wasn’t feeling very fancy, just hungry.  Speaking of which, I could go for a little second breakfast right now…
P.S.  If you don’t have any buttermilk for the pancakes, don’t worry – I’ll be back soon with a quick fix for that!
P.P.S.  Been dying to know what’s going to happen with our headboard? It looks like the “tufts” have it!  I’ll share the details as soon as I finish breakfast the project.

A Take-Out Take-Down

It’s been a few days since you’ve heard from me, but don’t worry, it’s only because I’ve been so busy cooking and crafting, which means there will be plenty of new posts to come!  But before I can get to some of the (not quite finished) bigger projects, I wanted to give you a few simple ideas for how to cut costs and eat better at the same time.

First:  Homemade Pizza!

If you couldn’t tell from the unnecessary exclamation point, I love homemade pizza.  It tastes fresher than the frozen variety (um, duh) and less greasy than what you get at most restaurants.  Beyond that, it’s easy, inexpensive, fully customizable, and can be made in about the time it takes to preheat the oven. So what’s stopping you from making your own pizza?

Pizza Crust

Makes:  1 medium pizza

  • 2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  1. Add liquids to dry ingredients
  2. Knead 6-8 times by hand
  3. Roll dough (I just used my hands) onto baking sheet or stone
  4. Add sauce and other toppings
  5. Bake 18-20 minutes at 400°
How easy is that?  To top the crust I used an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce, green peppers, onions, and a blend of mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan cheeses. I forgot to season the sauce, so I sprinkled a good amount of italian seasoning over the cheese, which actually made the pizza look even better, so I might do it on purpose next time!
I will warn you, this isn’t going to be a [insert your favorite pizza chain here] type of crust, because it’s made without yeast.  That means it’s more dense than fluffy.  I thought both the taste and consistency of this crust were great, but I’d love to hear your thoughts if you get a chance to make this.  Also, I’ll be back soon with a pizza crust recipe made with yeast and my comparison of the two.  Until then, I hope you enjoy this one!
Second:  Homemade French Fries
Here’s another amazingly simple recipe.  It’s so easy, in fact, that it makes me wonder how companies can charge so much for a bag of frozen, sliced potatoes when we can do the same thing at home for so much less.
Baked French Fries
  • potatoes, about 1 medium per person/serving (russet are best, but I used what I had: red)
  • seasoning (I used sage, basil, parsley, and a little parmesan cheese, but use whatever you like. Maybe garlic salt or cajun seasoning?)
  1. Wash potatoes, peel if desired
  2. Slice potatoes evenly, about 1/4 inch thickness
  3. Soak in cold water at least 10 minutes, then dry fully on a towel
  4. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray
  5. Spread potatoes out on cookie sheet and add seasoning
  6. Bake 25 minutes at 400° or until golden brown and crispy, turning over halfway through

I loved that these fries were well-seasoned without being too salty, which I often find to be a problem at restaurants.  And they were great the next day, too.  I just popped them back into a 400° oven for a few minutes and they were just as good as before – maybe better.  Also, in case you were wondering, we did not eat pizza and french fries at the same meal.  Even if they are healthier, homemade alternatives, what kind of wife would I be if I let my husband have all of his favorite foods at one meal?

As easy as we all find it to run to the drive-thru for a burger and fries or to order a pizza from the couch, next time you’re tempted, I hope you’ll reach for one of these recipes instead of the keys or phone.  Your wallet and your heart will thank you later!

We all Scream…for Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Ice Cream

What is it that makes homemade ice cream so delicious?  Is it the fresh ingredients?  The creamy, smooth texture?  Or the sense of accomplishment you get from knowing you really can make something that good from scratch?  I’d say it’s all of the above, and I bet you’ll agree after you try this ice cream. Which you should make as soon as possible, in spite of this poor quality photo that doesn’t do it justice:

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Ice Cream

Makes:  about 1.5 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups strawberries, quartered
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 4-6 oz. dark and/or milk chocolate

Directions:

  1. Place strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse (mixing between pulses if necessary) until strawberry pieces are of desired size. Transfer to a container and refrigerate.
  2. In a medium saucepan, warm the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 cup half and half, milk, and salt over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warmed through.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Pour the warmed mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly, then pour mixture + yolks (this is your custard base) back into the saucepan.
  4. Stir constantly over medium heat, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (takes about 5-10 minutes).
  5. Pour the remaining 3/4 cup half and half into a large bowl. Add the custard base and stir in the vanilla and the strawberry puree.  Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, then cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
  6. Chop the chocolate into small, thin flakes (about 1/2 inch in length) and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Stir into the ice cream mixture just before churning.
  7. Churn ice cream mixture in your ice cream maker.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try this method (using a handheld mixer): How to Make Homemade Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Maker

Or this one (using just your freezer and a spatula):  How to Make Ice Cream without a Machine

And now, a few comments and suggestions from me:

  • This recipe was originally for 2 quarts of strawberry ice cream, but I adjusted it for the size of my ice cream maker (and added the chocolate). You can easily convert it back to 2 quarts by dividing all the measurements by 3 and adding that on to the amount (use 6 egg yolks).
  • The recipe called for heavy cream and whole milk, but I like to keep my ice cream recipes light by using half and half and skim milk.  I find the result is still creamy and delicious, and I can have a bit more without feeling guilty!
  • If you like larger strawberry pieces in your ice cream but have trouble getting them that size in your food processor, chop up a handful of strawberries by hand and add them to your puree just before refrigerating it.
  • I used a mixture of milk chocolate and dark chocolate Hershey’s bars, but you can substitute packaged chocolate chunks or chocolate chips (miniatures would work well) if you prefer.
  • If your ice cream is a little too soft for your liking when it comes out of your ice cream maker (mine usually is), just stick it in the freezer for 15-30 minutes to firm it up.
  • Lastly, just be sure to make this ice cream!  Garnish it with something cutesy like a leftover sugar cookie or a chocolate-covered strawberry, if you’re feeling fancy.  And share it with friends, because it’s so easy, you can always make more tomorrow.