Monday, February 27, 2017

Easy Fifteen-Minute Caramel Popcorn

I'm not sure this recipe is from heaven or hell. It allows you to make delicious caramel popcorn without that whole put-it-in-the-oven-for-an-hour thing. Sounds great. Could be bad.

Because that hour thing always discouraged me from making it at all. Now, there are no holds. And, considering the amount of butter and sugar involved in this whole deal, that could be a bad thing.

But let's pretend it's not. It sure made my kids happy the weekend I was able to whip it out without a who lot of hoo-ha. Just fifteen minutes and gorgeous, delicious, homemade caramel popcorn.

Easy Fast Caramel Popcorn
from Two Sisters Crafting
makes a buuunch
Prep time: 15 minutes total
Cost: $2.00
popcorn: .25, butter: 1.30, brown sugar: .30, other stuff: .15

10 C popped popcorn (about 1/3 C unpopped popcorn)
1 C butter
1 C brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
a few handfuls of chocolate chips for good measure--you know, for antioxidants and stuff

Pop the popcorn. Put it in a bowl.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Bring to boiling and boil for five minutes, stirring the whole time.

After boiling, add the vanilla. Then add the 1/2 tsp of baking soda. It will bubble and foam and lighten. It's this chemical reaction that is important to the "fast" aspect of this recipe. The chemical reaction aerate the caramel and make it lighter and smoother and easier to coat the popcorn.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Honey-Lemon Turmeric Energy Bites

For the last couple weeks, I've been a little sick and a lot busy. That's not the greatest combination. It means my lovely sweet food blog sometimes gets shoved to the back burner. The good news is that it also means I have this fantastically healthy, get-back-on-your-feet-or-prevent-you-from-falling-off-your-feet-in-the-first-place recipe for you. (Yes, I do enjoy hyphens; why do you ask?)

Anyway, when I was lying around revising my second novel and taking care of my kids and feeling pooped, I stumbled upon a recipe that used turmeric in these energy balls. In case you don't know, turmeric is, apparently, the golden elixir of health. It's an anti-inflammatory, good for your joints, good for your gut, lowers your risk for lots of dreadful diseases, slows aging. You know, magic elixir stuff.

Unfortunately, we here in America don't eat it with a whole lot of stuff. We might put it into a delicious Indian dish here or there. But this takes time and isn't what we want to do when we're already feeling a bit under the weather.

On the mighty Pinterest, I've found (and pinned of course) several recipes for using it in teas or milks. But I've yet to make any of those teas or milks because they seem a little unfamiliar and weird, and I just haven't taken the plunge. But granola-bar-esque energy bites. We Americans can totally get behind this. They're easy to make and eat and people won't see a yellow turmeric milk and freak out. They don't even taste turmeric-y. The honey lemon is a beautiful foil for the otherwise spicy pungent turmeric. 

And peeps (does anyone still say peeps wait--did anyone really ever say it in the first place except me and my sister-in-law?), they have more than just the mighty turmeric. They've got almonds and dates and chia seeds, raw honey and lemon zest. It's like a deluge of health trends all in one ball. You're welcome.

Also I got to use my new Valentine's gift to make them:

Romance--right there. 

And I may have tried rolling some of them in powdered sugar like tiny little anti-oxidant encouraging tea cakes:

Don't judge.

Though the truth is that I liked them without the powdered sugar even better (that was not a truth for my daughter, who wolfed those powdered sugar ones down).

Honey-Lemon Turmeric Energy Bites

adapted from Natalie's Food and Health
Makes about 18-24
prep time: 15 minutes

12 dried dates, pits removed
1 C oats
1/2 C almonds
1/2 C coconut (I used sweetened, but unsweetened would work too and you would feel more superior)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
juice from one lemon (4 Tbsp)
zest from lemon
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 Tbsp honey

First soak your dates in some water and make sure there are no bits of pits in them. (Reserve a bit of the water if you think about it.)

While they're soaking zest and squeeze your lemon.

Put the dates in a food processor and whiz it. Mine didn't all pulp up, and that was okay.

Now add the oats and almonds, and whiz them in the food processor. Add coconut, chia seeds, and turmeric. Whiz. Whiz until everything is pretty ground up.

Now add the lemon zest and juice, the vanilla and the honey. Whiz. I needed a bit more liquid, so I added some of the water I'd soaked my dates in. (Normal water will likely work too.). I just needed a couple tablespoons of it.

Whiz whiz whiz until everything starts to come together in a ball.

Then roll into balls. Coat with more coconut or lemon zest. (Or powdered sugar or lemon zest mixed with sugar if you are a less upstanding human being.)

Eat 'em up (but not, like, all of them unless you are a teenage boy. But if you are a middle aged woman, remember that turmeric is great and all, but eating all of these is, like seven million calories--of goodness, yes, but still...)


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Heart Peanut Butter Cookies

I saw these little heart cookies on Pinterest. They were cute. And easy. And I realized that I haven't shared my very favorite peanut butter cookies with you.

So I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and give you a cute Valentine's idea and my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe.

Of course you don't have to make hearts if you're Valentine's Day averse. You can just make neutral little circles. And then you can roll them in sugar. And they are pure deliciousness.

Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 36 cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes/batch
Cost: $3.55
flour: .20, butter: .60, peanut butter: .50, sugar: .20, brown sugar: .15, egg: .10, chocolate chips: 1.80

1 1/4 C flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1 C peanut butter
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 C chocolate chip cookies, optional
sugar for rolling or dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter and peanut butter. Beat. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat.

Add dry ingredients. Mix.

Add chocolate chips if using. Mix.

To shape into hearts, take two small balls and form them into a...wait for it...heart shape (you can do it). Then mash with a fork like you normally would with peanut butter cookies.

Alternatively, you can always just roll these into a traditional ball. Then you can roll these in sugar, which gives these a delicious crunchy outer shell.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. (You can also bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.)


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Asian Pork

Ah, winter. You are beloved to me in so many ways. I honestly love the cold weather (as long as I have my warm fireplace). I love the holidays, the comfort food, sweaters, boots, jeans, fuzzy socks. I love it all. Except for one tiny thing. I cannot for the life of me get a decent picture of any food I make any time surrounding the dinner hour. It's just too dark and my photography skills end when the light does. Thus. You will have to make due with this picture I snagged of this Asian Pork in its pot for now. By the time it was plated and pretty, the light was fading and everyone was ready to start eating off their own fingers, so dinner had to be served quickly. One day I will replace this picture with something staged and lovely. But for now it's all I have.

You may comfort yourself with this comfort food I made you and then took an un-staged picture of. You're welcome.

Not only is this fantastic, but it's also the perfect thing for feeding a crowd. This is how I was first introduced to it. We were at my sister's house for Christmas. All 700 gatrillion of us. And we all needed food (preferably food that wasn't just cookies). My sister made this Asian Pork (she actually made Asian beef, which you can do too; it's delicious with both types of meat). She said it is her go to big crowd pleaser. And it was. And it is.

It is also dead simple, so you can please your crowd and also spend most of your time hanging out with them instead of with your dishes in the kitchen.

The one caveat is that it takes forever to cook. It just simmers and simmers and simmers its little heart out. And every little simmer is worth it. But it takes four hours of simmering, so this needs to be made on a lazy afternoon, or a time when you're home with your family for the holidays or, in my case, on a day when you'll be sitting by your computer screen all afternoon anyway, so why not cook something amazing while you're at it.

Note: I suppose it could be made in the crock pot, but the sauce will suffer a lot--it just won't be right. Stove top simmering allows the sauce to reduce into an epic creation that you'll lick off your plate. Crockpotting will leave tender, but blander meat in a puddle of watered down sauce. So... my advice is to leave it stove top. But you don't have to take my advice now, do you?

Asian Pork
Serves 10-16
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours
Cost: $10.00
pork: 7.00, soy sauce: .30, mustard: .10sweet and sour sauce: 1.50, onion: .10, carrots: .50, peas: .50

2-3 pound pork (or beef) roast
2 C water
1/2 C soy sauce
bottle sweet and sour sauce (I used a 16 oz bottle, but it is a bit forgiving, so you could use smaller)
2-3 Tbsp spicy mustard
1 onion, diced small (or grated)
3-5 carrots, peeled and diced small (or grated)
1/2 lb peas (half a bag)

Sprinkle pork with salt and sear in heat resistant oil (I used a Dutch oven).

Add water, soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and spicy mustard.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered with a lid. Simmer for 3-4 hours. Check it every once in a while. If the liquid is getting low, add more water. If the pork looks a little dry on top, flip it over.

About 30-45 minutes before serving add the diced onions and carrots. Cover and simmer another 30-45 minutes.

At end, take out the pork and shred. Then return it to the pot, add the frozen peas, and heat through. (Add a bit of water if you need a little more sauce.)

Serve over rice



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