Friday, April 25, 2014

No Soda and Other Stuff...

So this past Monday, I gave up all least while I'm withdrawing. I make no promises that when my monthly aunt visit comes around, that I will not break down and have a real coca cola, but I need to get off of as much sugar as I can... and all the artificial stuff if possible. I feel like the little engine that could: " I think I can, I think I can..." Let me say after 5 days, I know I can!   Here's how the week progressed for me soda free.

Day 1:   No soda (no coca cola or diet soda of any kind)...I have drunk more water today than I've had in a long time. It’s evening now and I was pretty busy today so I didn't miss it too much during the daytime hours. Now, however, its wind down from the day time, and while I’m not “jonesing” for a diet soda, I am missing it a little bit. I also have a slight headache. Today I have only had water and unsweetened iced tea with lemon and lime. I almost got some sugar free hard candies, but then realized those were sweetened with artificial sweeteners as well so I decided against it.
I’m mostly concerned about artificial sweeteners because they are not real food, and I hear they play heck with your insulin levels. As someone who worries about diabetes, getting off the stuff just makes sense. I also am concerned about tummy bloating which is also said to be a byproduct of artificial sweeteners. I don’t know that they make me crave more sweet stuff, but they do make me crave more soda. I read an article about the sodium in soda causing you to retain water as well. I have never thought of that before, but I can totally see that. This is hard.
Day 2 and 3:  Oh my lord, my head hurts! still staying strong though. really missing the soda flavor.
Day 4:   Went through  Mickey D's to get husband a coffee,  and I did not get a coke or diet coke. I thought about it briefly, but did not do it. Not having the sugary sweetening taste in my mouth feels good. Still have a slight headache although it's better.
Day 5:  Keeping a Vitamin Water 0 in the fridge to take sips of periodically as a “helper” (Thanks for the tip Jennie Mulhall). One of them lasts me several days. I don’t drink them all at once because they still taste sweet to me, and even if Stevia is the sweetener, I want to avoid all if possible.Only a slight headache today...wanting a soda less. I am feeling cleaner. Not sure how to explain that.
Stay tuned for more about kicking the soda habit.

On Maple Syrup:  The big Costco Maple Syrup is by far the best syrup value I have found. Between the kids using it for breakfast and me cooking with it, maple syrup doesn't seem to last too long in our house. One thing you have noticed if you use maple syrup is that the openings are large. In our house this causes waste when the kids use too much because they forget how fast it comes out. To solve this, I have started using a Wilton cake decorating bottle (really cheap at Michael's) to control the flow. So far, this is working perfectly. I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner.

On homemade, no bake granola bars:  I made some very delicious granola bars this week. The flavor was great, and they looked yummy too. The only problem is that they didn't hold together very well. I'm not sure if I need to press them down more or if I need to adjust my ingredients. I'm going to try them again next week and once they are perfected, I'll post the stay tuned. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Almost Emeril's Split Pea Soup

I found a basic recipe for Emeril's Split Pea Soup that I wanted to try Here is the original recipe.  I,  of course, decided to change it up just a bit by omitting the salt,adding diced carrots and ham, and using a lot less oil. I also kept some texture to my soup and did not puree it all the way like Emeril did. I don't care for pureed soups. Instead, I need more texture. I also used less onion and garlic.

Almost Emeril's Split Pea Soup

1 cup diced onion 
Spritz of olive oil (I use a misto)
A few generous pepper shakes of black pepper
3/4 c diced carrot
1 good shake crushed red pepper
3/4 Tbsp minced garlic
1 bay leaf 
1 1/4 pounds dried spit peas*
8 c low sodium chicken broth 
A leftover hunk of ham
1 c skim milk

Rinse and drain peas. Pick through them to weed out any bad ones.
 In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add the onion carrot, and hunk of ham if using. (I normally wouldn't have thought to use this ingredient, but I still had a little ham frozen from leftovers at Christmas.) Then add a little bit of water to your pot for sweat sauteing. Next, spritz the top of the veggies with an olive oil misto if you have one. (Using the misto is great because it allows me to use only a fine olive oil mist making it easier for me to actually control my oil better. If you don't have one, that's okay, but a misto makes adding the oil so easy.) Season the veggie mixture with black pepper and a little crushed red pepper. Saute for a few minutes. Next add garlic, bay leaf, and split peas. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour. The peas should be tender and breaking apart.  Let the soup cool slightly, and then add the milk and stir to combine.  Remove bay leaf and ham hunk if using. Put about half of the pea and carrot mixture and some juice in a blender and blend till smooth.  Add the pureed pea mixture back into the pot and stir to combine. Serve hot or cool a little while longer before storing in the fridge.  Serve with crusty bread and a little garnish of salt and hot sauce if desired.

This recipe gets 5 spoons. Both DH and I LOVED it and he said it was the best split peas soup he's ever had.(That's high praise)  Thanks, Emeril, for a basic recipe I could work with to make it more of my own. Check out all of Emeril's recipes because he really does rock!

*I used 1 # of split peas, however, because I didn't plan to puree the entire pot of soup, it didn't seem like I had enough peas to make it thick enough for me. Because I thought it was too thin,  I ended up using about 2 Tbsp of whole wheat pastry flour blended with some of the juice to thicken the soup base, and it worked really well. Next time, I will use 1 1/4 # of split peas for a little more bulk.

I think this soup could be made vegan by using vegetable broth instead of chicken, omitting the ham altogether, and using a nondairy milk substitute. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Black Bean Patties

Even though I am vegetarian, sometimes I just get the hankering for a good "burger." I haven't eaten a real burger in several years, but I have tried many black bean burger recipes. Some have been better than others, but none have been terrible. I decided to give it another go last week, and while my creation was not a "burger," it was a bean patty to be proud of. I may tweak this recipe when I make it again (more on that later), but its pretty good just the way it is. Here's how I did it:

Black Bean Patties


  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 c bread crumbs and a heaping 1/2 c Panko
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder (more or less according to taste-I used 1/2  tsp)
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 3 Tbsp sweet chili sauce (I use Trader Joe's brand)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Tony Chachere's 
  • Extra Tony Chachere's for sprinkling 

How To

In a bowl, mash your beans. There is really no magical way to do this. You can pulse them in a food processor to the desired consistency, or you can mash 1 can and leave 1 can whole, or you can fork or hand mash both cans like I did. Next time, I may try the food processor (less mess :)

Once your beans are the consistency you want, mix all other ingredients together (except the extra Tony Chachere's). Your mixture will be wet, but still manageable. If it's too wet for you, simply add some more bread crumbs. See review below for other ideas.

Patties before cooking

After cooking...nice and brown

Separate into 6 balls and flatten into patties. Then sit them in the fridge separated by wax paper or parchment. This lets the flavors meld and helps patties to form and firm up. I made my bean mixture in the morning and cooked them at dinner time. I sprayed my griddle with nonstick spray, sprinkled the patties with extra Tony Chachere's, and cooked the patties over md heat till browned on one side. Then I flipped them over and cooked them till brown on the other side. They browned beautifully and stuck together well. Serve and eat. Yum.


On a bun as a burger
While these were great patties, they were not "burgers." They were crisp on the outside, but softer on the inside...tasty, but not the burger consistency I was hoping for. DH was skeptical because he doesn't like the general consistency of black bean patties, but he said they were good. He didn't love them, but they were better than he expected them to be. For him it is a total consistency issue. 

On a tortilla with  melted cheese
and light  sour cream
I thought they were really tasty and versatile. I ate them 3 ways over the course of a week: on a bun, as a "burger," crumbled on a salad with corn, salsa, and ranch, aka taco salad (no photo), and crumbled on a whole wheat tortilla with sour cream and melted cheese and rolled up like a burrito.

Rolled up to eat like a burrito
I am wondering if mixing some Boca crumbles in it will help to make the consistency more burger like. I don't know. Or perhaps a grain like rice or quinoa. I will definitely keep working on this.  I think this will also help keep the mixture from being just a tad too wet.

These froze and reheated well.

Enjoy! This recipe get 3 1/2 spoons. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vegetable Soup Yum Yum

Last week I made a big pot of vegetarian vegetable soup. I say vegetarian because it had no meat in it. I don't have a problem with chicken and beef flavored broths, but if you do just use the vegetable broth and it will still be delicious.

I eat soups all year round, even in the summer. As long as I'm cool, soup is good for me. I don't always like cooking it in the summer though. Turning the stove on just makes the house hot and in the desert you really want no part of that. 

I always make good vegetable soup, but this time around it was extra specially delicious... Not sure why.  I rarely follow my own recipe exactly, but I do have a basic recipe that I go by and it is petty good. I am a "put some spice in and taste it" kind of girl so my spice measurements are a guideline. Below is my recipe. It is delish and doesn't take all day to make. It's great to make on the weekend so you can enjoy it all week long.You can use whatever veggies you and your family like, but the ones I use ( roasted corn, baby limas, peas, and greenbeans) are my go to vegetable soup veggies.

DH also noticed that this batch of soup was particularly good. The only thing I did differently was subbed Pinot Noir (Little Black Dress brand, but any will do) instead of red cooking wine since I had run out. I'm not sure if that little switch alone was enough to elevate this soup, but it must have because that was the only difference. 


Vegetable Soup 

In a soup pot, put a little water. Add the following ingredients:
  • 3/4 c diced onion
  • 1 1/2 stalks chopped celery
  • 2 sliced carrots
  • 1 1/2 tsp bottled minced garlic (or 3 cloves, minced)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a good sprinkling of Spike Seasoning over all

Water saute till veggies are soft. 

Next add
  • 8 c low sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 c water
  • 1/2 -1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 c low sodium V8 or a 12 oz bottle
  • 1/8 c red wine
  • 1 Tbsp each oregano and basil
  • 1/2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • A pinch or two of sage
  • 2 1/2 tsp beef bouillon
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed*

 *sometimes I use beans and sometimes I used barely...I like the beans better because as they break down they add a starchy texture and flavor to the soup that makes it taste heartier since it has no meat in it.

Bring it to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Taste the broth and re season to taste. This is where I add extra oregano usually and sometimes more sage and bouillon if needed. Another spice that I used to put in was thyme, but I didn't use it this time and I didn't miss it. I suggest you use whatever vegetable soup spices you and your family enjoy.

Next add 

  • 1 large chopped potato (this also gives good starch breakdown.)
  • 2 c of frozen veggies (usually baby limas, peas, Trader Joe's frozen  fire roasted corn, and green beans)

Bring the soup back to a boil, then simmer 15-20 minutes more. Taste broth again and re season if needed. Turn off heat, lid it, and let soup sit in post till it cools slightly before you put it away. This extra "wait time" really helps the flavors to meld. I do my soup like this because I generally make it in the morning, then store it in the fridge, and DH and I warm up bowls of it in the microwave whenever we want it. If I were going to make it later in the day and serve it for dinner, I would still want some "wait time," 30 minutes at least. And don't forget to remove the bay leaf!

I have also used fresh sliced zucchini in the past. If you use zucchini or yellow squash just make sure to add those with about 5 minutes left of cooking or they will get too mushy.

This is a 5 spooner soup. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bubble Up Cheeseburger Casserole

I had been looking for a recipe that all the kids would eat, that was a casserole, and that was relatively inexpensive. Bubble up pizza recipes kept coming up when I was searching the web, and I was intrigued. What do all my kids love, I thought? Cheeseburgers. So, I searched cheeseburger casserole recipes, but most used a tomato base as a sauce with ketchup and mustard involved, and quite frankly, they didn't look that good. My boys all eat their cheeseburgers plain so I knew that the casseroles I was seeing would not work. I never saw a Bubble Up Cheeseburger recipe, but I figured it couldn't be too difficult, so I figured out how I wanted to do it and voila! Here is my recipe complete with notes and reviews from my boys. Since this was the first time I ever made this dish, I expected that it would be a first draft that I would revise before making a final copy. I was very happy with how this casserole turned out.

Bubble Up Cheeseburger Casserole by Shannon

Bubble Up Cheeseburger Casserole


2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp dry mustard
2 c milk
4 oz + more cheese (I used 4 oz Velveeta + 1/4 c of low fat shredded cheddar cheese-Taste the sauce and use the type of cheese and amount that makes it taste good to your family, but starting with 4 oz cheese is a good starting point.)
1 # ground beef
1 container refrigerated biscuits
Some cooked bacon if your kids like bacon cheeseburgers


Cook ground beef till done. Then, drain and rinse.

Heat butter in a saucepan. When melted, add flour and mustard and stir till smooth and bubbly. 

Whisk in milk and heat to boiling stirring regularly.  Boil 1 minute stirring constantly.

Spray a casserole dish with nonstick spray while sauce is working. Cut refrigerator biscuits into fourths and place in the bottom of your casserole dish. 

Remove white sauce from heat and stir in cheese, stirring till melted and smooth. Add more than 4 oz cheese according to your tastes.

Add ground beef to cheese sauce and mix.

Pour meat and sauce evenly over the biscuits and then gently stir to make sure biscuits are well coated. Sprinkle with or mix in cooked bacon if using.
Layered biscuits

Ready to go into the oven

Preheat oven to 350. Cook for 20-30 minutes till biscuits are brown and cooked all the way through. About 10 minutes before it is done, sprinkle a handful or two of shredded cheese on top. (My casserole took 30 minutes to cook, but every one's ovens cook differently so adjust as needed. I also covered it up the last 5 minutes of cooking with foil because I didn't want the biscuits to burn.)


The twins both liked it and said the flavor was great. One thought it needed more meat, and one thought it needed less biscuits. Both said they would eat it again. My oldest ate it warmed in the microwave the next day and like it as well. He said "tastes like a cheeseburger." That's exactly what I was going for. He didn't think anything needed to change.

(We collectively agreed that  I should not use as many biscuits or maybe cut them smaller. I used regular Grands Home Style biscuits. I think I'll try  either making my own or  will use Jr. Grands next time. I also think I should use a 9 X 13  casserole dish. Mine was a little smaller than that so my biscuits were closer together than if I had used  the 9 X 13 pan. I made my casserole half cheeseburger/half bacon cheeseburger. I  will be adding a little more bacon next time  as was requested.)

All in all, this was a real hit! Easy on the pocketbook, tasty, and easy to make. I'm giving it 3 1/2 spoons awaiting the final draft. then I think it will go up to four.

McDonald's Egg White Delite Copycat Recipe

What McDonald's wants their
Egg White Delite sandwiches to look like.
 It is actually half this size.

 I rarely eat fast food, but sometimes when I have to, I like to get the McDonald's Egg White Delite sandwich minus the Canadian Bacon.  So I decided to try to make one at home this morning. It worked really well.  It was also super easy.

It fit on the bun perfectly.

My Egg White Delite

McDonald's Egg White Delite Copycat Sandwich

For 1: 


1-2 eggs
1 thin slice cheese
1/8 tsp butter
Non stick spray
Seasonings of your choice
1 whole wheat English Muffin

Directions and Tips

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a ramekin like this with nonstick spray.

Mix 1-2 eggs in the ramekin and add any seasonings you want and 1/8 tsp butter. I scrambled/stirred mine for just a second with a fork.
I used 2 eggs this first time, though I think 1 egg would have been fine for me. I used a little seasoning salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes till set. Time will depend on your oven.  I put the ramekin on a small cookie sheet to make getting it in and out of the oven easy. You can also use a sprayed cupcake tin instead of ramekins.

Remove ramekin from oven and let sit one minute before turning it upside down on top of your English muffin (or HB bun). I used a whole wheat hamburger bun because I didn't have any English muffins, though English muffins would be better, I think.

Top with 1 thin slice cheese. I like to use Boar's head Vermont White Cheddar. It tastes the closest to the cheese on the McDonald's sandwich, I think. Add any other topping you like such as Canadian bacon, bacon, sausage, etc.

Other copycat Egg McMuffin recipes on the web say you can freeze these and thaw them for a quick breakfast treat. I will try one next time I make them just to see if that's true. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Recipe Reviews and Links from Last Week

Last week, I tried 4 new recipes. 

My own stir fry with HHLL Pad Thai Sauce 
My favorite was the Pad Thai Sauce from Happy Herbivore Light and Lean.  I followed the sauce recipe exactly adding my own Udon Noodles (found at my local Fry's) and stir fry vegetables, some frozen and some fresh. I will use more fresh veggies when I make it  again this week, especially more broccoli, but I used what I had the first time. I also added some peanuts for crunch and texture. The sauce is delicious and contains pantry staple ingredients. DH loved it too. Fabulous!

Basic Lentil Soup
The  2nd recipe that I tried which was fabuloso was this Basic Lentil Soup recipe from It was quick and easy to make and packed with flavor. It also was not an expensive meal to make. We ate it by itself, with Alexia  Whole Grain Rolls, and with a salad.  I did tweak the recipe a little. First, I sweat sauteed my veggies to avoid using any oil, and I left out the spinach since I had used all mine the previous day. I also did not add any salt since most of what I cook is lo salt or salt free for dietary purposes, and I used fire roasted tomatoes instead of regular for a deeper flavor. I also blended 1 1/2 c- 2 c of the soup then added it back to the post for texture. And, like other reviewers, I did have to add some more broth or water as it was very thick due to the lentils. I suggest either lowering the amount of lentils you use or just add more liquid like I did. I was dubious using the vinegar but it worked. DH tasted the soup and asked if it had meat in it (it did not) because it was so hearty. A little Cholula on top is also good before eating it, but absolutely not necessary. This recipe is going into our regular meal rotation.
Perfect Chicken
The other two recipes I tried this week were chicken recipes. The first one was a hit with all and just like the name suggests, it really is Perfect Chicken.  All my kids liked it and DH too. He ate his on top of a salad while my boys ate theirs with veggies and a fruit. I didn't eat it since I've not been eating meat, but I did taste it (and spit it out) and it was flavorful and juicy. It is great too because like the two previous recipes, it only used staple ingredients that most kitchens , I would imagine, have on hand.
The other chicken recipe I tried was Betty Crocker's Parmesan-Dijon Chicken.  It also was easy and flavorful, though not as good as the Perfect Chicken. I was a little dubious that the kids would taste the Dijon and say "ick," but it was subtle and I think added moisture to the dish.

Did any of you try any new recipes this week?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Favorites

The past 2 weeks I returned to to log all my food choices. With the exception of a time or two (Internet problems), I have been posting regularly. I had not been on myfitnesspal for awhile but now, I am loving it more than I ever did for two reasons:  the bar code scanner (quick and easy) and the nutrition circle graph. The bar code scanner is great when adding foods to your diary because it scans the bar code, finds the food, and automatically brings up the nutritional information for you. Your only job then is to accept or change the serving size based on how much of a food you have eaten. It's great. Easy peasy. I also like the added nutrition circle graph (see right) As you log your food it adjusts your ratios of carbs, fat, and proteins. You can see how much of each type of food you consumed and what your consumption goal should be....very helpful I think.  I also love the mobile ap which allows me to use my iphone to do everything. I have tried a lot of food tracking systems and nutrition sites where I can log my eating, but by far, is my favorite. 

My favorite banana:  I have discovered that for some reason Trader Joe's organic bananas last longer than any other type of banana I have tried and they taste great. At 29 cents each, I think they're a bargain.

My favorite sweet treat from Trader Joe's is the dark chocolate caramel wedges. They taste similar to rolos. I don't get them every trip and I don't eat them often, but they are great to have around for a quick sweet fix....

My favorite quick protein  (other than nuts) is Kroger fat free cottage cheese.  I don't drink milk, but I really enjoy my cottage cheese. At 15 g of protein per half cup, no fat, and low low sugar, I can't beat it. Plus it isn't very expensive. It's not for everybody, but it is for me.

Do you have a food favorite from this week or a new food related find that you're excited about?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Yummy Tropical Green Smoothie

I had this delicious green smoothie today. Since I didn't have any protein powder to put in it, I paired it with some peanut butter crackers. Yum.

Yummy Tropical Green Smoothie

1 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 c spinach
1 c frozen tropical fruit (I freeze fresh fruit salad leftovers all the time and pop them into smoothies. This homemade blend was tropical)
A drizzle of honey

Blend almond and spinach together  till no spinach chunks remain. Add frozen fruit and a drizzle of honey and blend till smooth. 

(Chia seeds are a great smoothie add in. I had planned to have some in this smoothie but a kitchen mishap prevented that.) 

Check out this post from 100 Days of Real Food all about making the perfect green smoothie. The graphic, in particular, is great. I suggest pinning or printing it. This site has a wealth of information for healthy eating. I do suggest you hop on over and check it out.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Baked Power Oatmeal Squares

Fresh out of the oven

I tried something new this morning.  After searching the web and looking at many many baked oatmeal recipes, I decided to try to make my Power Oatmeal into baked bars. Through myfitnesspal each serving has 203 calories in it.  I have decided it is best served warm (10 seconds in the microwave should do it).  

When I first tasted it, I thought it tasted a lot like banana bread, which is good because I like banana bread. I might still play around with the recipe a bit to try different flavor profiles, but these baked squares were pretty good just the way I made them.  I used applesauce for an oil substitute and a mashed banana for  consistency and sweetness. I might try applesauce and grated apple next time. My goal was to use no oil and I did accomplish that. If you want to make it completely vegan, you could probably use an egg replacer or add more baking powder and simply skip the eggs. I don't do a lot of vegan baking, but I read a lot of vegan blogs, and I know there are ways to "veganize" just about everything it that's how you roll.  Just play around with the basic recipe to get it the way you want it. 

These squares were good plain, or the way the twins ate them as an after school snack today:  warmed in the wave and sprinkled with powdered sugar.. DH said it was okay, yet he still ate two. Only my oldest child didn't care for them.  I think the kids would like them even better sans the dried fruit and walnuts, but with chocolate chips. So, I may need to try that soon too. I also think grated carrots and raisins would be good for a Faux Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal Square. And I think a little maple syrup might be a good addition as well.  Variety is the great thing about these squares.  You can vary the add-ins based on your personal tastes and those of your family. 

I loved that the twins ate these squares because it was a good way for me to sneak in "weird" foods (aka healthy ones that they might normally turn there nose up at) like chia seeds, almond milk, and ground flax...CHA CHING!  Mom for the win!

Somebody liked these squares because here's what's left... and the nights not over yet.
Almost gone...

Baked Power Oatmeal Squares

1 applesauce cup (I used Kroger unsweetened cups, 4 oz)
1 small mashed banana
2 eggs
1/4 c brown sugar
1 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 c rolled oats
 1/4 c Trader Joe's Golden Berry Blend (dried fruit blend)
2 tsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp ground flax
1/4 c walnut pieces

Mix together applesauce through brown sugar and blend till mixed well.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Pour all into a greased 9 X 13 baking dish, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Let cool about 5-10 minutes then cut into squares. I cut mine into 12 squares.  Yum!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cooking Now...Angela Liddon's Roasted Spiced Chickpeas.

Today as I wait for the workers to come and put in my new heating and air-conditioning system I'm feeling like I want to try something new in the kitchen. So today, I am reviewing Angela Liddon's Roasted Spiced Chickpeas. I am starting off by draining my chickpeas and rinsing them in a colander. I did this to get rid of any excess sodium that was on them because these were low-sodium chickpeas not "no salt added " chickpeas.

While they are draining I put the half teaspoon of olive oil in the bottom of my mixing bowl. Now I am draining the chickpeas with paper towels just as, Angela has suggested.  Per instructions, I just put my chickpeas in my bowl and tossed them so that they are covered with the olive oil. Now I am supposed to put the spices on. I use this handy dandy little sauce cup for many things in my kitchen, but one thing I like to do with it is to put all my spices for a recipe in it and mix them up together in the sauce cup first before I put them on whatever the dishes that I make it. I do this rather than just sprinkling on the him spices separately because I think it blends the flavors more and make sure that all the flavors are more evenly spread out. I don't know if this is scientifically the best thing to do but it's what I do and I feel it works well with almost every recipe.
Awesome Sauce Cup
Mixed chickpeas with spices
Ready to go into the oven
Now the chickpeas are in the oven cooking. I am dubious about these chickpeas because I have never try tried a chickpea recipe that I like as far as a "snacking chickpeas." I love hummus. And I love chickpeas in salads. And I even love chick peas mashed in a wrap. But roasted chickpeas have never been my thing. I have never had a recipe that turned out. One of the problems, I think, is always cooking them the appropriate amount of time. I never know how long is long enough or too long. Right now, my chickpeas are roasting and they should be 20 minutes into it very soon.  Angela suggests in her recipe at least 20 minutes. She said because she likes them crispy so she cooks hers a full 40 minutes. I think I'm going to go in between both those times and maybe do 30 minutes.

 I am hearing a slight popping. Could the chickpeas be exploding? I better check.... No exploding chickpeas, bu they are getting a nice color of brown though. Angela suggests using these spiced chickpeas on her Thai Cucumber Salad (which I didn't think of making ahead of time so I'm not going to because I don't have all the ingredients). However, she also said you can use these chickpeas as a snack, so that is what I'm doing.  If I like them and they turn out, I may save them for dinner since we're having a big salad for dinner.  More popping... turns out they are exploding. My timer says three minutes left, so I'm going to let them go for three more minutes. Or maybe I should take them out now...hmmm,  don't know.

Finished product
Okay, so I let the timer expire and did cook them a full 30 minutes. Let me just say that these little balls taste like seasoned french fries,  somewhere between the frozen  lightly seasoned fries from O-reida and the more seasoned fries you would get at a restaurant of fast food place. I put 1/8 tsp of ketchup in one of my handy dandy little sauce cups and mixed in 2 Tbsp of chickpeas and they were good that way too. Now, I don't need the extra sugar or calorie,s but it might be a way for me to get the kids to like them. We'll see.  

I am pleasantly surprised.. I will make them again for sure. I wish they were saltier, but I never cook with salt for health reasons (I just love the stuff) so I will never add anymore. Love them! Angela is right though, that they do lose their crispiness as they sit. I wonder why. It doesn't matter, they're still delicious.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Soft Pretzels

Before winter break from school, my oldest son's German class had an assignment to make and share food from Germany ( or German related food).  My son made these hot pretzels below. He found a recipe from the web and we cut it in half to make 8 soft pretzels . Cut in half, the recipe was very similar to a recipe I got from a friend years ago. I don't have a stand mixer so the dough was mixed in my food processor using the dough blade and the dough setting. The hardest part of the recipe was just twisting the pretzels into a pleasing pretzel shape... And even that was pretty easy.  So the recipe is below. I do not know where my friend got the original recipe, but it is not mine. Still, it's so good, I wanted to share it with you. 

Easy Peasy Fool Proof Homemade Soft Pretzels

3/4 c warm water (110-115 degrees)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast ( I think it is equivalent to half a packet)
2 1/2 c all purpose flour plus a little more for kneading
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp melted butter
10 c water
2/3 c baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbsp water
Pretzel salt
Nonstick oil spray or olive oil

Combine water and sugar in a stand mixer or food processor bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes till foamy and frothy.

Next add flour, salt, and melted butter and using dough hook or dough blade mix ingredients and knead for 5 minutes till smooth and not sticky. You might need to add a little more flour as necessary. At the end of 5 minutes the dough should be smooth and  it should pull away from the side of your bowl.  

Remove dough from food processor or mixing bowl and roll into a ball shape. Put it in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Set in a warm place and let rise for 1 hour. (Hint: if you live in a place where it is not warm or if your house is cold, set the bowl on top of the stove and turn the oven on warm or low @ 200. The heat below the bowl will help the dough to rise. I use this method successfully all the time with breads and rolls.) The dough should be doubled in size by the hour's end.

Bring 10 c of water and baking soda to a rolling boil in a soup pot and preheat the oven to 450.

Separate the dough into eight pieces and using your hands roll each piece into  a 12-24 inch rope. Mine were somewhere in between.  Make a U shape with each rope and then criss-cross each end over the other making a "close to classic" pretzel twist, and press each crossed end into the bottom of the U  to form each pretzel. Put pretzels onto an oiled parchment paper covered cookie sheet. 

Gently drop pretzels into boiling water, one at a time for 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon or  spatula. Drain for a second or two and put back onto parchment covered cookie sheet. When all pretzels are out of the boiling water, mix egg yolk and 1 Tbsp of water and beat together.

Brush each pretzel with egg yolk- water mixture and  sprinkle with pretzel salt.  Bake in 450 degree oven till dark golden brown in color,  about 12-14 minutes. Once out of the oven, remove pretzels and transfer them to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I would suggest eating the pretzels right away as they are best that way. My son took them to school the next day in a Tupperware container, and while they still tasted good, the tops had softened and wrinkled up somewhat. Before I make them again, I need to investigate the best way to store them, though they are so good they won't last overnight in my house with 3 teenage boys. I think I will try a batch with white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour or a mix of whole wheat and all purpose just to see how that works.

They are perfection , however, just the way they are. Enjoy!