Pita-palooza

My family loves bread.
Whether it’s for a sandwich or grabbing a bun out for a quick snack, we go thru a lot. I have always steered away from plain old white bread, buying only whole grain wheat for sandwich bread. This was something that took my husband years to be okay with. He was born and raised on white bread, it was hard to convert him. Not only is wheat/whole grain bread better for you, I think it adds to the flavor of basically anything you put on it.
I do attempt many bread recipes but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a baker, and when you add yeast and kneading into the plan…. well, lets just say I’m usually not going to try it.
I do have a couple yeast recipes that I like to make, soft pretzels especially. When I found a pita recipe a few years ago, I had to try it. I was (and still am) looking for new things to add to the girls lunchboxes and pitas are always a hit. Kids love to make their own food and stuffing meat and cheese into a pita pocket is so much fun!

I was so surprised at how easy and delicious they were. So here goes… I did two variations one baked and one skillet ‘fried’ with a little olive oil. Both are amazing and freeze well. It’s been a monthly routine of making a couple batches to have on hand.
Good luck, trust me if I can do it, anyone can!

 Pita Bread
1 cup hot water (not boiling)
2 tsp honey
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp extra virgin oil

Mix the water, honey and yeast together in a large bowl or a stand mixer and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Slowly add 2 1/2 cups of the flour (mixing as you add), salt, and olive oil. If using your hands sprinkle a little flour onto your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, but use sparingly at this point. It’s better to use too little flour than too much

Clean the bowl and run it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it’s coated with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. My girls like to check on it every 10 minutes or so to see how big it’s gotten. This is the one thing I love about baking with yeast. It’s so fun to watch the progress.

After an hour, gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (to get exact sizes, cut in ½ then in ½ again and so on).  Using a floured rolling pin, roll each disc into a circle roughly 8 inches wide. Lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your counter. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if it starting to stick. If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.

Skillet Method:
Warm a skillet over medium-high heat (you want a hot pan). Drizzle a little olive oil in the pan. Lay a rolled-out pita on the skillet and bake for 30 seconds, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes to toast the other side. The pita should start to puff up during this time. Watch closely as you don’t want scorched pitas. Remove from skillet and place on a dish towel to cool. I like to sprinkle with a little garlic salt while they are still warm.

Baked Method:
To bake them for perfect pita pockets: preheat oven to 350. Place 4 discs on cookie sheet and bake for roughly 20 minutes. The pitas will rise 2-3” creating a hollow opening that you can fill with anything your heart desires. The girlies like bringing them for school lunch stuffed with spinach, meat and cheese.

 

Pita Pizzas

One thing we love to make for quick weeknight meals are pita pizzas. Being that I keep them in the freezer I can pull them out in the morning and they are ready to go after work. The girls love to create their own masterpieces and I love that they are willing to add just about anything I lay out for them. I do make my own sauce for these as it tastes so much better than store-bought (plus I know what is in it ++++). Pretty self explanatory, so here goes:

Sauce:
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. crushed garlic (or 3 cloves finely chopped)
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix. That’s it!

For the pizzas, set things out that may be new to your kids pizza pallet. I’m very lucky that both of my girls love “Junk” (supreme) pizza so this is very easy for us.

Here are the standards that I set out:
- mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced   -  thinly sliced tomatoes
- chopped red & green peppers
- chopped onions  - black olives
- arugula   - spinach   -  kale
-  left over meat  (chicken, steak, anything)  or  pepperoni and canadian bacon

ENJOY!!!!

Tricking your children…

I’m all for sneaking vegetables into my meals. I do it often. It’s easy to do with homemade spaghetti sauce or sloppy joes. Usually my secret ingredient is spinach and/or carrots. The girls and my husband never have a clue.
With all the buzz lately about how versatile cauliflower is, I thought I would give it a try. Since my family loves mashed potatoes, I decided that mashed cauliflower would be my first attempt. I found a couple recipes on Pinterest, but they included items that I didn’t have on hand. So, I whipped up my own recipe and to my surprise it went over so well that our youngest had 3 scoops saying how good they were.
So here is the recipe. Be warned if you are being sneaky about this, don’t let the kids in the kitchen while you are preparing or cooking the cauliflower, it does still smell like cauliflower until you add in the other ingredients.  Good luck and Enjoy!

Cauliflower disguised as mashed potatoes:
1 large head of cauliflower
1/4 cup milk
1 cup of sour cream
1 cup shredded colby jack cheese
2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Green onions, sliced (optional)

Rinse and dry cauliflower head. Cut into florets. In a microwavable bowl, put florets and 1/4 cup water. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Remove when tender.
In a food processor or blender, add 1/2 of the sour cream and some of the flowerets. Blend/puree slowly. Mixing as needed. Repeat until all of the cauliflower has been used.
In another bowl, combine all ingredients. The hot mixture will melt the cheese.
Top with sliced green onions.

Enjoy! Next attempt is the cauliflower pizza crust. Wish me luck!

 

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

So this is my new obsession. Seriously, I think I may need to find a support group for people addicted to roasted chickpeas.

If you know me or have read any of my previous posts, you know that 1) I am not a baker (although I try) and 2) I don’t care for sweets. Sure I’ll have a piece of birthday cake or a Christmas cookie at Grandma’s house, but other than that I’d rather pass. My weakness is salty snacks. I love chips and salsa and a handful of pretzels is a great between meal snack. Well, when I heard of how roasted chick-peas are like a healthy version of corn-nuts, I had to try them.
I love anything salty and spicy so that was going to be my mission. Little did I know my first attempt would turn out great… and that I would LOVE them! They were too spicy for my daughter’s to eat, but my husband even commented that they would be a good snack with some beer.

So here they are, why not try them for yourself. They are a great, tasty snack that doubles as a great dose of fiber and protein.  Enjoy!

Spicy Roasted Chick-peas
4 Cans of Garbanzo Beans (aka – chickpeas) drained and rinsed.
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion or garlic salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you want them HOT)
In a big bowl, add drained and rinsed chickpeas. Toss with remaining ingredients until well coated. Next line a large baking sheet (with edges) with parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 45 – 55 min. At 25 minutes, pull them out and move around on the pan. At 45 minutes check the texture. They will go from firm to crisp very quickly. I like to pull them out at about 50 minutes so that I get a mix of some extra crispy and some almost crispy.

Enjoy!

*** as I was making my first batch I did notice a couple recipes on Pinterest for sweet and salty chickpeas. Might be good to try for the kids! I’ll keep you posted!

My Favorite Pie

Fall is finally here! It is my absolute favorite time of year.
Windows can finally be opened, cozy sweatshirts come out of hiding and the best part…. Tomatoes are absolutely perfect! Out of any kind of food, I honestly could (or at least could try to) live off of tomatoes. I love making fresh salsa, spaghetti sauce, bruschetta, Great-Grandma’s tomato jam or just one sliced with a little salt. But my new favorite thing is a tomato pie. Yes, you heard me right, Tomato Pie. I came up with this recipe when I was making my annual batch of roasted tomatoes with garlic. I usually just seal it in a container and add to sandwiches or salads, but I wanted to turn it into a meal of it’s own. Even my husband (the seafood obsessed) who isn’t crazy about this beautiful, red fruit, can’t get enough of this savory treat. It takes some time and patience for the roasting, but I promise, it’s worth the wait.
So enjoy! Hopefully we’ll get lucky and get another couple weeks out of these seasonal favorites.

What you will need:
2 large, ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
5 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 store bought pie crust (or homemade is always better)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 9×13 baking sheet, covered in foil

Roasting
Preheat oven to 350. Line tomatoes up on baking sheet, try not to overlap, but it might be necessary, unless you want to have two sheets. (When I roast, I usually do 6 pans, like I said, my favorite!) Next up is the garlic. Sprinkle the diced garlic over the tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and garlic. Now sprinkle with salt and Italian seasoning. Place in oven, uncovered. Check after 40 minutes. The liquid from the tomatoes should be bubbling around on the sheet. Using a wooden spoon to move everything around a little. Wait another 20  minutes and repeat. I generally roast for at least 1 1/2 hours. I like most of the moisture to be gone. You also want to make sure the garlic is nice and tender as well.

Pie Time!
This is the fun part, let the kids get involved.
Bake pie crust accordingly to package for a filled pie (usually 10 minutes). In a bowl, mix the Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses together, set aside. Fill the cooked pie crust with the tomato/garlic mixture until just below the pie plate rim. Now, using a spoon, dollop the cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes, until almost covered. Place in the oven for an additional 15 minutes, at 350. The cheese will bubble and set up a little bit. Remove and set aside for at least 10 minutes, as it will be very hot. I like to serve with some fresh basil on top.

Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy this beautiful season!

Tomato Pie

Seafood Enchiladas

My husband loves seafood. Really, really loves seafood. Crab dip, bacon-wrapped shrimp, anything boiled and dipped in butter, he’s there! He would eat it for every meal if I made it. I enjoy it as well, just in more moderation. Plus it doesn’t help that our oldest daughter doesn’t care for it. She’ll eat fish that she catches at the lake, but anything that has (or had) claws are off limits. So usually when my husband and I get a craving for a seafood meal, we load up and go out to eat. That way the kids are happy, my husband is happy and I don’t have to make two meals (always a plus).
When I do make seafood at home, it’s usally this tried and true recipe. I worked up this recipe 12+ years ago. My seafood-loving boyfriend (hubby-to-be back then) revealed his love of seafood enchiladas. So, I went to work creating the perfect recipe. It didn’t take long and word got out. I started making it for friends and family. It’s been a great one to throw together and drop off for new parents, especially if the mom’s a seafood lover that’s been banned from eating seafood or fish for the last nine months! 
So, sorry for the long back story… Here goes, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

What you will need:
1 lb. immitation crab meat, shredded
16oz. package of salad shrimp (thawed in cool water, pat dry on a paper towel)
8 burrito size flour tortillas
4oz. fat free cream cheese, cubed (divided in two)
1 cup fat free sour cream (divided in two)
4oz Colby Jack shredded cheese (1/2 bag)
1/4 cup diced jalapenos
2 Tbsp. jalapeno juice (left from can or taken from jar)
1/4 cup thinly sliced white onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
2Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
9×13 casserole dish

Preheat the oven to 300. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sautee until translucent (about 4 min). Add in jalapenos, crab meat and shimp. Toss well to coat the seafood. Turn to low heat. Add half of the cream cheese and sour cream. Stir until melted. While this is heating, make your sauce. In a small skillet on low heat, put remaining cream cheese, sour cream and jalapeno juice. Whisking as the cheese melts. It will be thick.
Lay tortillas out. Place 1/2 cup-3/4 cup scoops of the seafood mixture on each tortilla.  Sprinkle with some of the shredded. Tuck in two ends, fold bottom over and roll into a burrito. Place in casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortialls. When all have been placed (they will be tight), pour white sauce over the top. You can add more jalapenos or hot sauce at this point to your liking. Bake for 25 minutes, or until nice and bubbly.
I serve over lettuce or spinich, usually with a side of spanish rice. Enjoy!

 

Hidden Ham and Cheese Buns

So I’m all for easy meals. I’m constantly thinking of new ways to make a quick lunch. I do my weekly prep-day to prepare for nightly meals, but when it comes to lunches, I’m stuck staring into the fridge. With the craziness of summer schedules coming, I was determined to come up with a quick lunch my girls would both enjoy. Since they both like sandwiches, this idea seemed to be perfect. I’ve made something similar with croissants and the girls loved them, but needed to eat several to be filled up. I decided to try something new and it worked like a charm. I call them Hidden Ham and Cheese ‘buns’, you’ll see why!

What you need:
1 tube of ready-to-cook biscuits
1/4 lb. deli meat (or any leftover meat) finely chopped
3 slices of baby swiss (or your fav. cheese) cut into thirds, you’ll want 1 small strip for each biscuit)
*Garlic salt and parmesean cheese optional

Preheat oven to 350. Remove biscuits from tube and place individually on baking sheet. Using a paring knife, cut a slit into each biscuit (think pita pocket here). Gently pull open a biscuit and fill with the meat and cheese mixture. Press down around edge to close the opening. If it doesn’t close all the way, no worries! Sprinkle the tops with some garlic salt and parmesean cheese. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest.*

*You’ll want to eat these as soon as they come out of the oven, but I should warn you (as I have two little girls that burned their mouths) you need to let them rest for a couple minutes. The cheese and meat will be extremely hot when you take that first bite.  They are delicious warm, but the best thing… they are just as good cold! I can’t wait to make these to put in a cooler for on the boat or at the park this summer. Enjoy!

Easy asparagus your kids will love!

I am so lucky when it comes to my daughters trying new foods. Since they were little, I’ve installed the “try it you might like it” and “you will try one bite” methods. Most of the time it’s worked like a charm. One thing that completely took me by surprise last Summer was their absolute love of asparagus. I make pickled asparagus every Spring, but I don’t count that as all kids love basically anything that’s been pickled. But when I cooked some up for supper one night, the girls went crazy. On average, I will make a 1lb. bunch with supper twice a week (while it’s in season) and it will be the first thing gone from the table.
Try this easy method with your kids. It will make the heads so soft and tender, yet leave the stalks a little crisp, like a green bean. Enjoy, and Happy Spring!

What you will need:
a 4quart pot
a grill pan or skillet
tongs
1 bunch of asparagus, trim ends up about an inch or two. (The general rule is cut it where it won’t bend.)
2 Tbsp. salt (I use sea salt)
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1tsp garlic salt or 2 garlic cloves finely chopped

In pot,bring water to a boil and add in 2Tbsp salt. Toss in the asparagus spears for 3 minutes. Using tongs, pull from water. In a grill pan or skillet, add in 2Tbsp. Olive oil over medium heat. Sautee for 5-8  minutes; using your tongs to rotate often. Sprinkle with a little garlic salt (or finely chopped garlic) and freshly ground black pepper. Pull from pan and plate up. 

*I prefer to use fresh garlic. Some kids refuse to eat garlic, which is when I substitute the garlic salt for flavoring. Remember, you blanched the asparagus in salt water, so they have been slightly salted already.

Knoephla Soup

Soup is the ultimate comfort food. Especially when it’s made with potatoes and dumplings. Being a German/Norwegian from MN myself and marrying a full-blooded German from ND, I was born to love knoephla soup. My mother-in-law makes a mean knoephla. This recipe is some-what based on her recipe, but as always, I tweek things after years of cooking it. This is the basic recipe. At the bottom you’ll find an easy way to adjust it to a crockpot meal (I do this often).

Soup
3 cups water
3 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth (2 cans)
2 large celery ribs , diced
1 medium carrot , diced
1 small onion , diced
2 medium potatoes , skinned and diced
3 tbsp butter
Garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste

Dough
2 cups flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 cup water

Directions
In a large pot or Dutch oven, add butter, celery, onions and carrots. Sautee’ for 10 minutes or until onions are cooked through.
Add water, milk and broth to pot. Simmer about an hour. Add garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.
Make Dough: Mix together flour, egg, salt, and water or milk. Roll into a rope and cut into thumb-sized pieces. Place directly into soup. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until dough is cooked through. (*once cut into pieces, you can freeze the dough cubes on a cookie sheet, then place into a freezer bag for up to a month)
Add 1 cup heavy cream and serve. **You can simmer to desired thickness.

Crockpot Version
Mix the soup ingredients into the crockpot. Vegetables do not need to be cooked thru. Add in a 1/2 bag of frozen dumpling dough cubes from the grocery store. (I use Prairie Pantry Dumpling Dough – 32oz bag) You’ll need to break them apart. Mix good as you want to make sure the dumplings are coated so they won’t stick together. That’s it!

Mexican Lasagna

What is it with kids loving anything with cheese or ‘gravy’? This is a family favorite that the kids can help out with. You can make it as spicy as you want. It’s very quick and easy, and I promise it will be a hit.
Enjoy!

Ingredients
1lb ground meat (hamburger, turkey or chicken)
1 packet of enchilada seasoning
1 can tomato soup
1/4 cup water
1 cup shredded cheese, or 4 slices of american cheese
4 10″ flour tortillas – use lid of dish to cut the tortillas to size of the casserole dish
small Casserole dish (I use an 8×10 deep dish)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350. In a skillet, brown meat until done. 
In a bowl mix enchilada seasoning with can of tomato soup, add in 1/4 cup water. Using a spoon or ladel, put a little sauce on the bottom of the dish. Now the fun starts… this is the part the kids can help with!  Lay a tortilla on the bottom of the dish. Then the meat. Top with a little cheese. Repeat again twice. Top with a tortilla and remaining sauce. Bake in over for about 20 minutes or until the top sauce starts to bubble.
I garnish with diced onions, jalapenos, sour cream and shredded lettuce. A great side is an instant bag of spanish rice.

 

Beer cheese soup with breadsticks

Well, it was bound to happen being that it is the middle of January and all… Winter has arrived and brought the bitter cold wind with it. With the cold, it seems there is nothing better than a bowl of hot soup to warm you to the core. One favorite of my family is beer cheese. This is an updated version of a recipe I’ve made for years. It’s quick, easy and so good. So enjoy, and stay warm!
(serves 6)

Beer Cheese Soup
5 cups milk
1lb (1/2 block) of Velveta, cubed
1/4 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or 1 tsp. minced from a jar)
2 tsp. beef bouillon granules (this will be the salt)
1/2 can of beer (feel free to drink the other 1/2 while this is simmering)
2 Tbsp olive oil
In a large pot, add olive oil, onions and garlic. Simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until onions start to cook thru. Add milk, beer and beef bouillon. Toss in cubed cheese. Bring to a low simmer and cover. Stir often so it doesn’t burn. Will take about 30 minutes to cook thru and melt the cheese. Top with a quick grind of fresh black pepper.

Easy Breadsticks
I’m usually not one to use name brands, but for these breadsticks and homemade pizza, I’ve found that Pillsbury has the best ready made pizza dough.
1 tube Pillsbury Thin Crust Pizza Dough
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic salt
Unroll dough on a large nonstick cookie sheet. Brush on oil oil and sprinkle garlic salt. Brush again to spread over all of the dough. Use a pizza cutter to cut into strips. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut 6 strips widthwise. This will give you 12 breadsticks. Gently pull up the strips and twist. Leave some space in between as they will rise while cooking.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. I like to put under the broiler for the last 2 minutes to get the tops nice and golden brown.

That’s it. Pour yourself a big bowl of soup, and dip in a warm fresh breadstick.