Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

It’s almost Christmas!  That means it’s time for family, fun, and FOOD!  I wanted to share our family recipes for Homemade Cinnamon Rolls.  They are the best.  THE BEST.  My sister-in-law shared this recipe with me one Christmas and my kids have asked for them ever since!  I’m so happy she shared it with me.  There are a couple of disclaimers with this recipe:  1) There is nothing healthy about this recipe.  🙂  If you are looking for a healthy Christmas recipe, just skip past this one.  These are rich and gooey.  I believe in everything in moderation, and that is why I only make these a couple of times a year.  My kids always request them for the first day of school and we have them for Christmas or company or both.  2)  This recipe makes a TON of rolls.  You will fill up two 9×13 pans with this recipe.  This is perfect for a large family gathering.  If you are a small family, you have some options with this recipe.

1) Go ahead and make two pans of rolls and share the extras with                friends and neighbors (my personal favorite option).

2) Make one batch in a 9×13 pan for yourself and then put the rest of the cinnamon rolls in disposable aluminum pans.  Set the rolls, unrisen, in aluminum pans and cover tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil.  Freeze.  When you are ready to make them, allow them to thaw and rise and continue with directions.

3) You can use a disposable pan again and follow the directions and bake them.  Once they have cooled, cover them with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze them.  When you want to eat them, allow them to thaw and warm them for a few minutes in the oven.  Once they are warm, ice them as normal.

*Another tip is to set out a stick of butter when you start making these.  You will want soft, room temperature butter when it is time to spread it on the rolls.

Let’s Cook!

Here are the kitchen items that you will need for this recipe:  A good stand mixer, a rolling pin, Two 9×13 pans (glass or disposable), a knife to cut the rolls.

IMG_0184

It really doesn’t take a lot of ingredients to make the rolls.  You probably have most of the items in your pantry!

IMG_0185

Start with two cups of warm water in your mixer.  I don’t use a certain temperature of water.  I usually make it as hot as possible out of the tap.  That’s pretty scientific. 🙂  Add 1 package of active dry yeast to the warm water.  Stir until dissolved.

IMG_0187

Now, add in one cup of sugar and stir until dissolved.  Add 1 egg.  Mix well. Add in 3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, and 3 TBSP of melted butter or shortening.  Once it is all mixed, it should look like the picture above.

IMG_0190

Add another 3 1/2 – 4 cups of flour (give or take a little bit).  Yes, you need that much more flour.  People always ask me if that is right.  It is.  Add enough flour that a dough forms and pulls away from the side.  You will want it to look like this picture.

IMG_0191

Put the dough onto a well-floured surface.  Knead the dough for a couple of minutes.  If you need to know how to knead the dough, watch this video:  https://youtu.be/ySOj0fFWo1U

Put the dough back into the mixing bowl and allow to rise for about 2-4 hours or until it is doubled in size.  In these pictures, I allowed the dough to rise for about 3 hours.  It also helps if your kitchen is warm.  Your dough will rise better.  When the dough is ready, punch it down and place it on a well-floured surface again.

IMG_0195

You are going to need a large work area to make these rolls.  I rolled these out and measured them so I could tell you how big to roll it.  This dough is about 27 inches by 22 inches.  This will give you the perfect amount for 2 pans of rolls.

IMG_0196

Don’t be light-handed with the next few steps.  You need to take a knife or spreader and cover the surface of the dough with butter.  This was about 6 TBSP of butter.

Next, cover the surface of the dough with light brown sugar.  I used about a half of a bag.  I sprinkle the sugar on the dough and then i rub it in with my hand so that the surface is covered.  Then you want to take your ground cinnamon and liberally cover the surface with cinnamon.  These are cinnamon rolls.  Make them taste like it. 🙂

Now, start at the bottom edge of your dough and start to roll up like a jelly roll.  Go slowly.  The dough might be a little sticky in places and you won’t want it to stick.  Continue to roll upwards until the entire piece is like a jelly roll.

At this point, I cut the uneven ends off.  This allows the rolls to be even in the pan.  I use the ends to fill up the pan if I need more.  Divide the dough up equal sections.  I cut the dough at about 1 inch intervals.

IMG_0204

After you cut the rolls, place them cut side up in your 9×13 Well-greased pan.  Now, spray some parchment paper with cooking spray and cover the pans.  Allow the rolls to sit out on the counter overnight.  That might seem strange, but just trust me.  It works.

When you wake up in the morning, remove the parchment paper and you should have big cinnamon rolls that are ready to bake!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the cinnamon rolls for about 15-20 minutes or until they are a very light golden brown.

IMG_0213

Ta-da!  Perfect!  So yummy.  Your family is going to be so happy.  Allow the rolls to sit and cool for a little bit.  While they are cooling, it’s time to make the icing.

IMG_0209

You only need 4 ingredients to make the icing.  It’s so easy.  Begin by melting half a stick of butter in a microwaveable bowl.  Then add 1 cup of powdered sugar.  Stir until mixed.   Add one tsp of vanilla and a little splash of milk.  Stir again.  Now it’s time to play with the icing until it is how you want.  Add a little more powdered sugar at a time until it is as thick as you would like.  If you add too much powdered sugar, add some more milk to thin it out.

The second picture shows the consistency that I like.  It is thick, but it slowly drips off the spoon.

Once the rolls have cooled somewhat, add your icing.  I like to add a spoonful of icing to each roll and then spread it out.  You could also pour this all over the pan and spread it.  Whatever floats your boat.  There is no right or wrong answer!

Here is the finished product!  It’s beautiful!  This is way better than anything that you are getting out of the can.  I love to see all of the layers inside!  Enjoy this recipe and share it with family and friends!  Please let me know if you try it!  I love to know that people are making my recipes! Merry Christmas to you and your family from our family!  Frohe Weihnachten!

Here is the recipe for you to print:  Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

Today is a gray, dreary, and rainy day.  It reminded me that I wanted to share one of our family’s favorite comfort foods with you all!  My kids DEVOUR chicken and dumplings.  I think it is one of their favorite foods!  I’ve used different recipes and different ingredients for the dumplings.  I’ve tried frozen sheets of dumplings and used canned biscuits for dumplings.  I must say that this recipe is my favorite.  You don’t need all of the added ingredients from packaged foods in your dumplings.  With a few ingredients that you probably have in your pantry, you can make your own!  Let’s start cooking!

IMG_0031

You are going to need:

3 boxes of chicken broth (12 cups)

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups of flour

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

1 cup of milk (may not use quite this much)

powdered chicken soup base (optional)

Kitchen equipment:

There are only two items that I recommend for this meal.  You need a large stock pot to cook your chicken and dumplings in.  You also need a rolling pin so you can roll out your dough.  I also use a pizza cutter in this recipe, but a knife will work too.

Let’s cook!  

IMG_0032

To begin with, you are going to need to cook your chicken breasts.  This can be done the day of or the day before.  You can use any method to cook them.  I usually bring a pot of water to a boil and add the chicken breast.  I think cook for 20 -30 minutes or until the chicken breasts are cooked through.  Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the chicken from the water and allow it to cool.  Once it has cooled, shred the chicken with two forks until it looks like this:

IMG_0041

Now it’s time to make the dumplings!

In a large bowl, combine your flour, baking soda, and salt.  Cube your butter and add it to the dry ingredients.  You could use a fork or a pastry cutter to incorporate your butter.  I always just use my hands!  You just want to mix all of the ingredients together with your hands until the butter is crumbled throuhout the mixture.  Stir in your milk and stir with a fork until a dough forms.

IMG_0036

Once your dough is ready, place a lot of flour on a clean work area.  Form the dough into a ball and place on the flour.  Make sure to flour your rolling pin so it doesn’t stick to the dough.  Roll your dough out until it is thin.  The dumplings will thicken as you cook them.

Now it’s time to cut the dumplings.  You want to cut the dumplings into roughly 2×2 squares.  I use a pizza cutter to easily slice through the dough. It should look like this when you are finished:

IMG_0039

They don’t have to be perfect.  Just eyeball it and go for it!  Once they are cut, place the dumplings on a floured plate.  Make sure that you put flour between the layers of dough so they don’t stick.  You can’t use too much flour in this recipe!  The flour helps to thicken the broth when you are cooking.  It’s a good thing!  I put them on a plate if I am going to use them right away.  I have never frozen them, but I’m sure you could.

IMG_0040

Yum!  Now it’s time to cook them.  Take out your large stock pot again. Fill it with the three boxes of chicken broth.  Bring the broth to a boil.  At this point, I like to add in some powdered chicken soup base or powdered bouillon. I add  one TBSP.  I use the German version because Germans don’t use many artificial ingredients in their food.  This is totally optional.  I just like a stronger chicken flavor in my dumplings.

IMG_0044

Once the water has come to a boil, add the dumplings in one at a time.  Stir the pot every so often so that the dumplings don’t stick.  Remember, extra flour is ok.  It helps the broth to thicken.  Cook the dumplings for about 20 minutes stirring every so often.  Test one and make sure that it isn’t doughy.  When the dumplings are cooked through, add in your shredded chicken.  That’s it!  Easy Peasy! 🙂

IMG_0046

IMG_0052

I like to serve my chicken and dumplings with a side of green beans.  Let’s be real though.  There’s nothing wrong with just a bowl of dumplings by itself!  🙂  I hope you all enjoy this recipe.  Please let me know if you try it.  They are a family favorite around here and I hope your family loves them as well!

This is the original recipe that served as my inspiration:  http://eatathomecooks.com/2009/07/homemade-chicken-and-dumplings-its-easy-really.html

I’m going to edit this later to include a recipe card.  Promise.  🙂  Happy Cooking!

 

Coconut Chicken

Figuring out what to make for dinner can often become a boring, unimaginative event.  We all get stuck in ruts and find ourselves making the same thing over and over again.  Every once in a while, I like to use an ingredient that I don’t normally cook with and add it to our main dish. Sometimes it doesn’t work (ask any member of my family about the orange chicken event) and sometimes you make Coconut Chicken.   I stumbled upon this recipe for coconut chicken and realized that I never use coconut when I make dinner.  I usually don’t have coconut in the house.  I’m not a fan of its texture when it is used raw on baked goods.  However, this chicken had great reviews and given the other ingredients, it sounded like something my family would enjoy.  It is now one of our family favorites!  Whenever the kids ask “What’s for dinner” and the reply is “Coconut Chicken” I get a big “Yes!” out of everyone.  🙂  This recipe is also easy to adapt.  Sometimes my youngest doesn’t want the coconut on her chicken.  It’s too easy to just bread her chicken without the coconut and continue on with dinner.  The original recipe called for the chicken to be fried in oil.  We don’t fry anything at our house, so I decided to bake it.  Either way would be yummy.

Just a couple of kitchen items to mention in this post.  You will have to flip your chicken strips halfway through cooking.  You can do this with a fork.  However, that is not always the most graceful method when you are making this dish.  I love to have a great set of kitchen tongs to use for recipes like this.  I cannot find the brand of tongs that I currently own.  These tongs are top rated on Amazon.  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KDV5RZY?keywords=kitchen%20tongs&qid=1444308671&ref_=sr_1_4&sr=8-4  You will use your tongs for bacon, for grilling, for tossing salad, and many other uses.

I also recommend that you use parchment paper to line your baking sheets.  Parchment paper is the greatest thing.  This is different from wax paper.  Please don’t get them confused.  Parchment paper makes a surface non-stick and it can go in the oven.  I use parchment paper when I am baking and roasting vegetables.  I use it at least a couple of times a week.  It’s a great pantry item to have on hand.

31b8bOYpNkL

  You will also use a couple of ingredients that you might not be familiar with and I will highlight those for you.

IMG_9860

Panko bread crumbs are found in a couple of different places in grocery stores.  Sometimes they are in the aisle with the other bread crumbs  In the commissary, they are found in the Asian aisle. Panko bread crumbs are lighter and crispier and bigger than a traditional bread crumb.  They give the chicken a nice texture in this dish.

IMG_9872

The dipping sauce for this recipe is a sweet chili pepper sauce.  It is spicy, but not burn your mouth spicy.  We just use the sauce straight out of the bottle.  We don’t add anything to it.  This is the bottle that I purchased from the commissary in the Asian aisle.  In Mt. Carmel, I found this item over by the marinades and BBQ sauces.  It was made by Frank’s.

01150CF

Coconut milk is another ingredient you probably do not use very often.  I buy it in a can and I find it in the Asian aisle.  It doesn’t have a strong coconut flavor.  It is very thick.  You need to make sure to shake your can before you open it and stir it very well once it is open.  Coconut milk tends to separate in the can and the solid will be at the bottom and the liquid will be at the top. Just stir it well before you pour it or you chance using coconut milk in your egg mixture. 🙂

IMG_9857

Let’s cook!  This recipe does require a little extra prep time.  You will also get your hands dirty.  This is a fun recipe to let the kids help with.  My kids love to dip the chicken for me.

IMG_9858

FIrst up, prepare your stations.  You will need 3 bowls for this meal.  The first bowl contains flour and salt and pepper.  The second bowl contains eggs and coconut milk.  The coconut milk is completely optional in this dish.  I find that it gives the wet mixture a thicker texture.  It does not make your dish have a stronger coconut flavor.  Feel free to only use eggs if that is what you have.   The third bowl contains the panko bread crumbs and shredded coconut.  I like to place these bowls in order and then put the pan right next to them so that I can have an easy assembly line.

IMG_9861

The next step is to prepare your chicken.  You can use chicken tenderloins for this recipe and save yourself the cutting step.  However, chicken breasts were so much cheaper at the commissary and it was too easy to slice these into pieces.  If you use chicken breasts, cut them into about 1/2 inch thick slices.

IMG_9862IMG_9863IMG_9865

Now, it’s time to work with the chicken.  The first step is to coat the chicken in the flour.  Then place your floured chicken in the egg and coconut milk.  Then place your chicken in the breadcrumb/coconut mixture.  Once you have coated the chicken completely, place your chicken on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Parchment paper is very important for this recipe.  You do not want your coconut to burn or you chicken to stick to the pan.  You could probably try aluminum foil, but I never have.  I wouldn’t be able to tell you how it turn out.  You’ll want parchment paper for your holiday baking.  Go ahead and buy some. 😉

IMG_9867

This is what your baking sheet should look like before you place it in the oven.  Bake the tenders at 400 degrees for 16 minutes on one side and then flip them over and bake for another 16 minutes.

IMG_9869

You want them to be browned and toasty when you flip them for the first time.

IMG_9870

Here is the finished product!  Yum!!!  My mouth is watering just looking at this picture!  I usually serve these tenders with baked brown rice and a veggie (green beans or broccoli would work well).  As I stated before, put some sweet chili pepper sauce in a bowl as a dipping sauce.  Delish!  I’ll put a link for the recipe below.  Happy Cooking!  Please let me know if you try these and let me know what you think.  I always love feedback!  Have a great weekend!

My recipe for Coconut Chicken:  Coconut Chicken

Recipe Adapted from:  http://www.budgetbytes.com/2010/01/coconut-chicken-w-sweet-chili-dipping-sauce/

Homemade Applesauce

Apples are one of my favorite things about fall.  I love apple anything!  One of our family favorites is homemade applesauce.  I love to have some stockpiled in our freezer for the winter.  I searched and searched for apple orchards over here in Germany, but I couldn’t find any that were reasonably close.  Germans just plant their own apple trees in their yards.  I see apple and pear trees in many yards over here.  We really lucked out this week when a German neighbor was willing to share apples from her yard.  She said that she had picked all that she wanted and had already done all of her baking.  We were welcome to come and get the apples that were left whenever we wanted.  AWESOME!!!  I’m not going to turn down free apples!  I have made applesauce before, but this time I decided to use a new kitchen gadget to see which preparation method I prefer.

Kitchen Tools:

The first kitchen tool I used for the recipe is not a need.  It was a want.  lol  I decided to purchase a food mill at our local home store. It was pretty inexpensive and I think I will get good use out of it.   A food mill allows you too just cut up your apples and cook them with peels on.  The food mill separates apple peel and seeds and stems when you are done cooking.

IMG_9845

In the past, I have always peeled all of my apples and then cut them up to make applesauce.  You can totally make your applesauce this way.  However, the apples that were given to me were smaller in size and I didn’t feel like peeling a lot of apples.  Here is a similar food mill that I found on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/RSVP-Endurance-Classic-Rotary-Stainless/dp/B000F7JXM4/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1443433438&sr=8-5&keywords=food+mill

The next kitchen tool is one that I highly recommend if you do a lot of freezer cooking. It’s called the Baggie Rack.   It seems like such a silly gadget, but it really does help you keep everything nice and neat while you are preparing your food.  It also frees up your hands.  I use it when I fill my baggies with the finished applesauce product.  http://www.amazon.com/Jokari-Hands-Free-Baggy-Storage-Holder/dp/B0040LU3Y8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443433480&sr=8-1&keywords=baggie+holder

IMG_9854

Let’s cook!  Your house will smell so awesome while you are making homemade applesauce.  Mmmm!!!

IMG_9846IMG_9847

First up, rinse your apples well.   If you don’t have a food mill, you would want to peel and core your apples now.  When you are finished, cut your apples up into quarters or eighths.  This is so easy.

IMG_9849

Add your apples to a big stock pot.  I didn’t count, but I think 16-18 apples would be perfect for a 6 quart stockpot. I had to play around with my sweetener amount to get the right balance.  Some people like their applesauce really sweet and others use no sweetener at all.  Feel free to adjust to your family’s taste or dietary needs.  For my family, the ratio that I use is:

16-18 small to medium apples

1 cup of sugar

3 cups of water

Add all of the ingredients to your stock pot.  Cover the pot and turn the stove to medium to medium high.  Bring to a rapid boil and allow the apples to cook for 15-20 minutes.  You know the apples are ready when they easily smash with a spoon.  If you already peel and cored your apples, you would now mash them with a spoon or a potato masher.

IMG_9850IMG_9852

Now it’s time for my food mill.  I put a couple of scoops in at a time and turned the handle.  The first picture is at the beginning and the second picture shows how the peels and everything else separates.  At the end of this post, I’ll show you what I did with my leftover apple peels.  My friend had a genius suggestion!

IMG_9853

You are left with a big bowl of yummy applesauce!  This picture was my first batch and I used less water in it.  I upped the water to 3 cups to get the consistency that I wanted.  Adjust the water to the way you like your applesauce.

 IMG_9854

Write the date and contents on your ziplock bag.  You don’t want to have to figure out how long something has been sitting in your freezer.  Fill up your baggies with your applesauce and then stick them in the freezer.  I prefer to use quart size freezer bags for applesauce.  It’s the perfect size for our family.  I did use a gallon size in this picture because I ran out of quart.  🙂  We have 10 quart size bags so far and I still have more apples to use.  I need to get busy!!!

IMG_4105IMG_4106

Ok.  I collected all the peels from my food mill after I was done separating the applesauce.  I put the peels in a pan and filled it with water.  I added some sugar ( probably 1/4 cup) and I sprinkled cinnamon and allspice over the top.  I stirred everything together and simmered the mixture (bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low) on the stove for about 3 hours.   After 3 hours, I poured everything into a fine mesh strainer.  The leftover result was apple cider!  It was so delicious!  I think it made 4 – 5 cups worth.  I was thankful for the tip.

I don’t think I will be able to make my husband’s favorite version of applesauce this year.  He likes me to add red hot candies to my applesauce while it is boiling on the stove.  It gives it a fabulous cinnamon flavor and you don’t have to add as much sugar.  However, I can’t find red hot candies in Germany.  Have you ever tried applesauce with red hots?  My Mom made applesauce that way many times.

redhots

Do you do anything different when you make applesauce?  Share your recipes with us!  Time to make some more applesauce and maybe even an apple crisp!  Happy cooking!  Enjoy 🙂

Peanut Butter Oatmeal

IMG_9830

Peanut Butter Oatmeal doesn’t sound like a very exciting post!  it might even seem like a strange combination.  However, this is one of my very favorite breakfasts.  It is so filling and if you use certain ingredients, it makes a great low-calorie breakfast (under 300 calories).  With only 5 ingredients, it’s definitely simple.  These pictures aren’t going to be that pretty (it’s brown oatmeal), but I hope you try it at least once and let me know what you think!

Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day in my book.  Here is a great article that details why breakfast is so important:  http://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/Healthy-Living/Weight-Management/Article-Viewer/Article/569/5-Reasons-to-Eat-a-Protein-Packed-Breakfast.aspx   The type of breakfast that I have certainly sets the tone for my day.  A bowl of sugary cereal makes me feel hungry soon after I eat it.  It definitely doesn’t fill me up for very long.  I’m learning more about fueling my body.  I want to eat ingredients that are good for me and keep hunger away.  Oatmeal is a great addition to your breakfast if you aren’t already eating it.  Oatmeal is a source of whole grain ( the ingredient on your oatmeal should only say whole grain oats), it can help lower cholesterol, and it is a good source of fiber which helps keep you full.

There are no special kitchen gadgets that are needed for this breakfast.  However, I do want to introduce an ingredient that you may not be familiar with.  I use PB2 for this oatmeal instead of regular peanut butter.  PB2 is powdered peanut butter.  You add water to make the actual peanut butter.   I use PB2 in order to keep the calorie count down.  There are 45 calories per serving of PB2 compared to 190 calories in Jif peanut butter.  You can totally use regular peanut butter or any other type of nut butter that you enjoy.  If you can’t find this in your local grocery store, you can find it at Walmart or Target.

IMG_9834

Time to cook!  Gather up your ingredients, a small saucepan with a lid, and some measuring cups and spoons!

IMG_9829

The first step is to add your almond milk to you pan.  For this recipe, I use almond milk instead of regular milk.  I prefer the taste, in this recipe, and I find that almond milk doesn’t scorch when it heats.  Scorch milk is milk that has been heated to high and it burns and sticks to the pan.  Yuck.  Set your burner to medium/medium high and wait for it to come to a boil.  *WARNING*  When the almond milk reaches a boiling point, it bubbles up quickly.  Watch your pan closely or it will boil over and you will have a giant mess.  At least that’s what I have heard. 😉 😉

IMG_9831

Once your milk comes to a boil, add your oats and stir constantly.  I like to have my oats measured and ready next to my pan.    Cook the oats for about 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and the mixture is thickened.

IMG_9832IMG_9839

Now put a lid on that pot and remove the oatmeal from the heat.  Let it sit for 3-4 minutes so the rest of the liquid can absorb.  When you take the lid off, you want to see lots of cooked oats, not liquid.

IMG_9834IMG_9835

While your oats are cooking, mix up your PB2.  I find that 2 TBSP of PB2 mixed with 2 TBSP of water is a great ratio.  If you want it thinner, add more water.

IMG_9840

Once the oats are ready, add your PB2, honey, and cinnamon.  I’ve included an amount for the honey and cinnamon, but they are truly to taste.  Increase or decrease according to what you like.

IMG_9842

Mix everything together and enjoy!  This is so perfect on a chilly day.  It really hits the spot.  I probably have this for breakfast 3 times a week.  Please let me know if you try it!  I always love to hear that people are trying the things they see on the blog!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal (This is the link to my typed recipe).  We just got a new computer and I think this will work well.  Please let me know if you can’t open it!

Mexican Chicken Stew

This is a great dinner recipe to add to your rotation.  I stumbled upon a recipe for Salsa Chicken as I was browsing Pinterest.  I saved it for a later date.  I needed something quick to make for dinner tonight and I thought it would be a perfect time for the salsa chicken.  However, I realized that I didn’t have all of the ingredients.  It happens.  I searched through my pantry and found some items that I thought I would be able to swap and still achieve the same flavor.  Don’t be afraid to try out different ingredients that are in the same family.  If you don’t have black beans, try kidney beans.  If you don’t have salsa, use tomatoes and some spices.  I experimented tonight and came up with a brand new recipe that everyone enjoyed.  We ate this as a soup/stew, but you could also serve it over rice.  Homemade cornbread is a great side dish if you eat this as a stew.  They compliment each other perfectly!

Kitchen Tools:  

Crock Pot:  This item is a kitchen must in my opinion.  My crock pot has been a life saver at times!  There are many different brands and sizes.  I actually have two different sizes of crock pots.  I have one large one for soups and big meals.  I have a small crock pot that warms taco meat, makes applesauce, or heats up baking potatoes.  I often find myself using them both for a meal.  This is my current crock pot.  It’s nothing special, but it is large (I make big portions for my family) and it cooks quickly and evenly.  http://www.walmart.com/ip/Hamilton-Beach-8-Quart-Extra-Large-Capacity-Slow-Cooker-Black/35241817

Cast Iron Skillet:  This kitchen item is for the side of corn bread.  This is not a must-have to make the corn bread.  Any 8×8 glass dish (or something similar in size) will work.  I just absolutely love to make corn bread in cast iron.  I love the texture that the crust develops in a hot skillet.  I actually purchased some cast iron items at an auction.  I will post a couple that I found while searching around:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Lodge-Logic-12-Cast-Iron-Skillet/5969633

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Pioneer-Woman-Timeless-Cast-Iron-12-Iron-Enamel-Cast-Skillet-Red/46039884

Let’s Cook!  

IMG_9794

I realized that I forgot to put the chicken in this picture.  Whoops!  lol  This is such an easy recipe to prepare.  The small cans are Herdez Salsa Verde.  This might be a new ingredient to some of you.  You can find salsa verde in the Hispanic aisle at the grocery store.  Salsa verde is a salsa made with tomatillos.  It’s so great.

IMG_9795

The first step is to place your chicken in the crock pot.  To make this recipe even easier, use frozen chicken breasts.  I used frozen and they cooked in 4-5 hours on high.  No problem.

IMG_9798

Next up, put in all of the rest of the ingredients.  It’s that easy.  Please note that there are some things that I drained before I put them in.  It’s listed on the recipe card.  *I would like to add that there is a little bit of heat to this dish.  If your family doesn’t do spicy or you would like less heat, just decrease the spices or leave them out all together.* Now, all you have to do is set your crock pot to high and allow the meat to cook for 4-5 hours.

IMG_9823

When your meat is fully cooked, take the chicken breasts out and shred them. If your meat is done, it should easily shred with two forks.   Place the shredded chicken back in the crock pot.

IMG_9824

This is what your finished product should look like.  Yummy!  My husband and I ate this as a stew.  We dipped cornbread in it. Two of my kiddos put some of this on a tortilla and ate it as a taco.  The flavor is great.

IMG_9827

I shredded some Monterrey Jack cheese and served it on top of the stew.

This is the recipe that I used for the homemade cornbread.  It’s a sweet compliment to the spicy stew.  We loved it!

http://chocolatechocolateandmore.com/sweet-cornbread/

IMG_9826IMG_9828

Here is a recipe card for your convenience.  I hope this helps!  Please let me know if you try this stew!  I would love to hear about extra toppings that you used or any other ways that you tried it.  Happy cooking!  Enjoy! 🙂

Slide1

Homemade Pizza Sauce and Pizza Crust

It’s time for some recipes!

 I married into a family that LOVES pizza.  LOVES.  I don’t think that I could be fully accepted into the family until I liked pizza just as much as they do.   When we lived in Italy and near Chicago, we ate some of the world’s best pizza.  All pizza is now judged by those standards.  When I first met my husband’s family, we would go to his parents’ house and have homemade pizza.  They have their pizza making down to a science.  Everyone has jobs and they work as a team and the pizza is amazing all the time.  About 8 years ago, my husband asked me to learn how to make the family pizza crust.  I felt very intimated to try to live up to the standards of his Mom and Dad!  They were experts!  How would I learn to make pizza as well as them?  Flash forward 8 years, and I could make this pizza crust in my sleep!  It really is very simple.  As my husband and I were starting to cut packaged and processed foods out of our diet, he asked me to start making our own pizza sauce.  I found a recipe that is easy and very flavorful.  We haven’t bought pre-made pizza sauce since!

Here’s how my recipe posts will work:  I will first list some of the kitchen tools that I think you will find helpful in making the recipes.  Then, I will give step by step instructions along with pictures (very amateur pictures).  At the bottom of the post, you will find the ingredient list for convenience.

Kitchen Tools:

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.   Jason gave me this gift for Valentine’s Day when we lived in Italy and I absolutely love it!  You can use any stand mixer for this recipe, but this mixer is my personal favorite!

IMG_9708

Rolling Pin:  I have used wooden rolling pins and marble rolling pins to make pizza crust.  Right now I have this ceramic Kitchen Aid rolling pin.  Any of them will work.  Just use what you already have.  If you need to purchase one, you don’t have to get an expensive one.

IMG_9717

Garlic Press:  I just recently purchased a garlic press from Ikea.  Amazing!  I think I will only keep jarred garlic in my fridge in case I run out of fresh.  We LOVE garlic in this family.  Fresh, minced garlic is awesome!  This is a kitchen tool that you can find for under $10 on Amazon.  It’s worth it in my opinion.  http://www.amazon.com/000-891-63-Koncis-Garlic-Press-Stainless/dp/B00PNKYZQC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442228359&sr=8-1&keywords=ikea+garlic+press

Pizza Pans:  This is another personal preference area.  Some people use pizza stones and some use pizza pans.  We have used both.  Right now, we use these two pizza pans.  They have been shown a lot of love.  We have also used our Pampered Chef baking stone in the past.  These are all good options.  I haven’t burnt a pizza crust yet. 🙂

IMG_9775

Immersion Blender:  This is not a must have item for this recipe.  I use the immersion blender to blend the sauce ingredients.  You could also use a food processor or  possibly a blender (I have not tried this method).  I just absolutely love my immersion blender.  I can place it right in the sauce pan and blend my ingredients.  I also use it to make soups and I have tried homemade mayo.  This is the immersion blender I purchased: http://www.amazon.com/Conair-Cuisinart-CSB-75BC-Blender-Brushed/dp/B00ARQVM5O/ref=sr_1_1?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1442231501&sr=1-1&keywords=immersion+blender

Pizza Cutter:  Any old pizza cutter will work.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this item.

You need about 3-4 hours in order to make pizza crust and 2 hours to make the sauce.  I make the pizza crust first and then the sauce.  This recipe makes 3 pizzas. You only need 6 ingredients to make the crust!  Let’s cook!

IMG_9709

Add one package of Active Dry yeast to your mixing bowl along with 1 3/4 cups hot water.  I like to use very hot tap water (so scientific).  I have never used a thermometer to test the water.  I just use the hottest tap water that I can get.  Mix the yeast and water together for one minute.

IMG_9711

Next, add 1 1/2 cups of flour to your yeast mixture and mix for one minute.  I used all-purpose flour this time.  I have used half whole wheat and half all-purpose before.  I have also used bread flour.   Just use what you have in your pantry.  Stay away from self-rising flour for this recipe.  I am not familiar with gluten-free flours so I won’t be able to help in that area.  I’d love to know if you try it and something works for you!

IMG_9712

Now, add 1 egg, 1 TBSP oil (olive or canola), 1 tsp salt, and 1 TBSP sugar to the mixing bowl.  Mix until everything is incorporated.  The next step is to add enough flour to your mixture to complete your dough.  I haven’t measured this before, but I think it is somewhere around 3 cups.  You want to add enough flour to the mixture so that the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Add a little bit at a time.  It should look like this:

IMG_9714

IMG_9718

Now you will need a well-floured surface to work with.  Form your dough into a ball and placed on the floured surface.   It’s time to knead your dough.  Kneading the dough makes bread and rolls (or pizza crust) light, airy, and chewy.  It’s a pretty simple, yet very important step.  Here is a short video to show you how to knead (She says to knead for 5 minutes. I probably knead for 3):

https://youtu.be/GHQCH6fM_ps

IMG_9719

When you have finished kneading your dough, shape it into a ball and place it back in your mixing bowl to rise.  My doughs always rise better if the kitchen is warm, but it’s not a must.  Your dough will be ready when it has doubled or more than doubled in size.  this process takes 2-3 hours.  Sometimes my dough doubles in size and sometimes it rises all the way to the top of the bowl!  Working with dough is always an adventure!

IMG_9721

While your dough is rising, prepare your sauce ingredients.  You only need a few ingredients for a flavorful sauce!  My recipe was inspired by:  http://www.kitchentreaty.com/our-very-favorite-homemade-pizza-sauce/

IMG_9722

In a medium sauce pan, on medium heat, add 2 TBSP of olive oil and warm it.  Use your garlic press (or finely chop fresh garlic or use minced garlic in a jar).  I used 4 cloves.  We love garlic. Adjust according to your family’s likes. Add the garlic to the warm oil.  You don’t want to oil too hot or your garlic will burn.  Burned garlic is bad.  All you want to do is flavor the oil.  Stir the garlic for a couple of minutes in the oil.  When it starts to turn golden brown (like this picture), it is ready.

IMG_9727

Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes (regular diced or petite diced) along with 1 TBSP oregano, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp kosher salt (use regular if you don’t have kosher).

IMG_9728

Stir all ingredients together and bring to a simmer.  Simmer means to bring something to a boil and then lower the heat.  For this sauce, I would lower to medium low.  Let the sauce simmer for 90 minutes.  After 90 minutes, take the sauce off the stove and allow to cool.  Once it has cooled, blend with the immersion blender for a few minutes until it is smooth like this picture.

IMG_9733

Now that your sauce is ready, it’s time to roll out the crust.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Once again, make sure your countertop is well floured.  If the dough sticks to your hands or the countertops, just add more flour.  I divide my dough into 3 balls.  Place one of the doughs on your floured surface.  Starting from the middle of your dough, move the rolling pin towards the outside edge of your dough.  Continue rolling in all directions until you have a circle the size of your pizza pan.  It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle.  it just needs to fit your pizza pan!

IMG_9736

Now it’s time to add your toppings.  In our family, we add the sauce, the toppings, and then the cheese.  Some people do cheese and then some toppings.  Whatever floats your boat!  It’s pizza!  Have fun!  Pizza is a great recipe to have the kids help with.  You could make more than 3 crusts with this recipe if you make small, personal size pizzas.  My kids love to put on their own toppings.  Sausage is a favorite ingredient in this house!

IMG_9737

Bake your pizza at 375 degrees until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.  Here is the finished product:

IMG_9740

I hope you try out the pizza recipe.  It’s a great family activity.  Please let me know if you have any trouble or something isn’t clear in my directions.  I’m here to help!  Here are the ingredients and amounts that you need for your grocery list:

Pizza Crust:

1 package active dry yeast

4 1/2 cups of flour divided

1 egg

1 TBSP oil (olive or canola)

1 tsp salt

1 TBSP sugar

Pizza Sauce:

2 cans diced tomatoes (regular diced or petite diced)

2 TBSP olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 TBSP oregano

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

Happy Cooking!  I hope you enjoy! 🙂