Pretzels in the Pan Crop R

Until recently I would have advised you NOT to invite me to your potluck.  I stink at bringing food other people like.  Let’s review my past potluck contributions:

cold quinoa salad with raisins and toasted coconut

brushetta with goat cheese

greek yogurt cucumber salad

marinated feta cheese, olive and cucumber skewers

I thought they were all perfectly yummy, and best of all healthy . . . but no one else ate them.  Any of them.  It’s not that they weren’t tasty or that I’m a bad cook, they were just out of the norm.

I was chatting with my friend Amber a few months ago and she noted she has this same problem.  She’s 100% Paleo and super excited for the food she brings to get-togethers.  Her contributions are super healthy, super within her diet and . . . super unpopular.  Or so she tells me – I go NUTS for her food because she’s an awesome cook.  We commiserated and I explained how I was done sharing food I like and was set on sharing food everybody likes.  Let’s face it, more people share the culinary tastes of my Father-in-Law than me.  It’d be a frigid day in H-E-double-hockey-sticks before I could get my Father-in-Law to eat a cold quinoa salad with raisins and toasted coconut and let’s not even discuss the goat cheese.  I shudder to think what he’d say if I served that to him.

After much debate I’ve recently come up with a solution to my potluck woes.

I’d like to introduce you to the perfect potluck food . . . dun dun duuuuuuun . . .

CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS!

Pretzels Crop R

I have reasons people, oh do I have reasons!

Pretzel Title RW

One.  Who doesn’t like pretzels?  Nobody, that’s who.  Pretzels even come in gluten-free versions if that’s an issue.

Two.  Who doesn’t like chocolate?  Nobody, that’s who.  Chocolate even comes in vegan versions if that’s an issue.

Three.  They are fast and easy to make.  Melt chocolate.  Dip pretzel.  Top if desired.  Done.

Four.  They can be made last minute.  Keep a bag of pretzels around the house and some chocolate and you are always ready to go, no special trip to the grocery required.

Five.  They are completely customizable to any and every occasion.  That’s right.  Every occasion.  Wilton candy melts come in a ridiculous amount of colors to account for every holiday, graduating seniors class colors, birthday theme, season and more!  For formal occasions or to appear fancy, use more expensive chocolate.  Dip your pretzels in a mix of white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate and you’ve got every type of chocolate lover covered.  And toppings!  Yes, let’s discuss toppings.  Crushed peppermint for Christmas.  Toasted pecans for Thanksgiving.  Green sprinkles for St. Patty’s Day.  Yellow sprinkles for summer.  Orange sprinkles for fall.  Red and blue sugar on white chocolate for Fourth of July.  I could go on but there isn’t enough room on the internet  to list all the options.

Six.  They are portable.  They store well, travel well, there’s no messy sauces to deal with and they are easy to grab a serving off the picnic table.  They won’t go stale, get soft or slimey or squishy and they have a shelf life that makes them just as tasty for a second helping when that fabulous party extends late into the night.  Plus, if by some miracle, there are any left and you take them home there’s no need to be concerned about contracting botulism from them sitting out on a table for hours and hours.

Seven.  They are pretty.  Yes, pretty.  Presentation is half the battle and the better they look the more likely they’ll end up on that disposable plate instead of that plain old generic brownie default.

Eight.  If you have kids, they can help! Get them dipping and rolling and you’ve not only got your potluck portion covered, but you’ve gotten your kids in the kitchen, kept them entertained and covered craft time.

Nine.  They really aren’t that bad for you.  Sure, chocolate covered pretzels aren’t exactly on par with eating a salad, but the pretzels themselves are low in fat and if you use a super dark chocolate they can be low in sugar too.  Topping with crushed peanuts even offers a protein boost.  Take that generic brownie.

Ten.  I don’t actually have a tenth reason, but nine reasons chocolate covered pretzels are the perfect potluck food sounded less cool than ten so how about you just take my word for it okay?

Pretzels in the Pan RW

Stop back in later for a post on how well these pretzels did at our last potluck . . . as well as how well other dishes fared!

– Joanna

P.S.  If you are asked to bring a side dish to your next potluck . . . well, ignore the request and go ahead and still bring these mmmm K?  No one will be mad once they eat them.  Besides, pretzels are carby and carbs are side dishes so WIN!

Question of the Day:  What’s your go-to potluck dish?

Occasionally I come across a cooking tip that’s too awesome not to share.

Garlic Chicken RW

Roasting a small bird for dinner?

Don’t want to pull out the big roasting pan and rack?

Love roasted garlic?

Love roasted garlic so much you could eat it by the spoonful?

Then this tip is for you!

Instead of propping your bird up on a fancy schmancy rack that you’d just have to wash later anyway, prop your bird up on a few heads of garlic with the tops chopped off.  It’ll get your bird up off the bottom of the pan for more even cooking, provide aromatics to help flavor your bird and BONUS you’ll have heads of roasted garlic for dinner or just for snacking.  It’s genius.  Pure genius.

For this bird I used four heads of garlic.  I stuffed the cavity with fresh basil from the garden plus a cut orange (I was out of lemons).  I brushed the bird with melted butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Roasted for an hour at 375 degrees, then flipped the bird over and doused with more butter and seasoning.  Baked for another hour.

So simple and so tasty. From this one quick and easy recipe I got ALL of the following:

1) A four pound chicken to eat for dinner

2) The most delicious butter sauce for drizzling or making into gravy

3) Roasted garlic

4) A chicken carcass for stock made in the crockpot

So go forth and roast some chicken and garlic my internet friends, roast away.

– Joanna

Question of the Day:  What are your favorite roasted chicken seasonings?

Beet pizza dough.  I promise it tastes better than it sounds.

Beet Pizza RW

The point here is not to make your pizza taste like beets, but to add some vegetably goodness to a meal often packed with gooey fatty cheese.  I LOVE cheese, but it’s not exactly considered a healthy staple.

It’s been a long while since I’ve made this, but I’m certain the recipe came from Never Homemaker.  Go ahead and click on over for the recipe if you want to make your own.

If you want some other fun alternatives to traditional pizza, check out my pizza posts!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza the recipe is way at the bottom so keep scrolling down till you get there mmmmm K?

Quinoa Crust Pizzathis is one of my favorites!

For a fun alternative way to eat beets, check out my one and only beet post!

Salted and Sauteed Beet Peels – take a slicer and curl those beets, then saute them till lightly crispy.  SO GOOD!  You’ll want to try this recipe.

– Joanna

Question of the Day: What’s your favorite pizza toppings?

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I don’t always have a back story for my recipes, but today I’ve got one.  Maybe not a crazy exciting one, but a back story nonetheless.

Once I hit the super pregnant stage I started having weekly appointments with my doctor.  Back in the day we all went as a family in the late afternoons, but I then switched to early mornings instead.  Morning appointments are always faster since there’s been less time for the office to get behind.  I’m in and out and the toddler gets some extra alone time with his dada.  Since I’m gone before Sweetey Petey wakes up, dada gets him dressed and fed and takes him to work till my appointment is over.

One of my last appointment before Charwee was born went faster than normal so I actually beat my boys to work.  Dada had already promised The Pete he could come into his office to color on his white board, but it was an extremely short visit.  When after a few minutes I tried to put The Pete in my car to go home, well . . . let’s just say he was less than pleased.  There’s no question about it, he’s a dada’s boy all the way.  I asked The Pete what would make him happy (other than dada of course because that was his first answer) and his response was “COOK!”

“Alright,” I said, “how about we make cookies?”

“Okay,” said The Pete.

“What kind would you like to cook?” I asked.

“Choc chip!!” The Pete said excitedly.  “Choc chip!!”

“Choc” chip cookies it was then.  Considering my toddler’s love for “choc” chips and his propensity for shoving things in his mouth, I immediately knew they had to be egg free.  As much as the toddler loves looking for eggs in the chicken coop and helping to stir the scrambled eggs in the mornings, I certainly didn’t want him nibbling the “choc” chips out of raw egg filled cookie dough.

Pete Cook 2 RW

I lean toward gluten-free desserts and normally I would attempt an almond flour cookie first, but I was out and my Honeyville order hadn’t arrived yet.  I had plenty of coconut flour but coconut flour needs eggs.  Gluten-filled cookies it would be then!

I did a quick Google search when we got back to the house and landed on this recipe.  I had most of the ingredients and knew I could modify it slightly enough to fit my taste preferences.  Also, I added rolled oats to help ease the guilt of making cookies in the first place.

And I gotta say, this recipe turned out awesome.  Seriously.  These cookies don’t need eggs and I don’t need to worry if my kid (or I) want to nibble on the dough.  Which we both did.  I will be adding these cookies to our family’s recipe binder and we will be making them again.  And you should too.

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Egg-Free “Choc” Chip Cookies

slightly adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup white granulated sugar

1/2 cup white granulated sugar (No this is not a mistake.  The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of brown sugar which I thought I had but turned out I didn’t so I added molasses to compensate.  And I think the flavor turned out even better than had it been brown sugar.  So just go with me here, mmmmm K?)

1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

1 1/2 cups cake flour (The original recipe called for all-purpose but I was out of that too.  So you could probably use all-purpose and be fine if that’s what’s in your pantry.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon roasted cinnamon (Okay, okay, I know.  You probably only have regular cinnamon.  I get it, but I would HIGHLY suggest you splurge on the roasted cinnamon because it’s AMAZING and you will never go back to regular cinnamon again.  Ever.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla (Make it the good stuff people, not the imitation junk.)

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup “choc” chips (Feel free to add some extra here because little hands may pick a few out before you get the cookies baked.  And by may I mean will.)

1/3 to 1/2 cup rolled oats (Oats are good for you so thus these cookies are good for you.  Right?  Right.)

The Haps:

This is a kid friendly recipe so if you have children, let them help!  I let the toddler do most of the stirring, but did pull out the hand mixer and stepped in to get the dough ball rolling.

Pete Cook 1 RW

Cream butter, sugar and molasses.  Mix in flour, baking soda, roasted cinnamon and salt in three parts.  Mix in coconut oil and vanilla.  Once combined, stir in chocolate chips and rolled oats.  Eat some dough because you can.  It’s alright.  I give you permission.  In fact, I insist you do this.  Drop whatever is left by rounded tablespoons onto a Silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet.

Silpat RW

Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes.  Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for several minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Cookies RW

My best guess is that this recipe makes 2 dozen cookies.  That’s if you don’t eat any dough first.  Which we did.  So again, 2 dozen is my best guess.

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If guilt isn’t something you struggle with and you are simply looking for a straight up “choc” chip cookie recipe to keep in your back pocket, just omit the rolled oats.

Also, please heed my previous warning on baked goods and the great outdoors.

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Despite the fact I know it’s a delicate balancing act to photograph food outside, a thin tightrope to walk balancing a heavy camera and a heavy lens all the while keeping your eye on the cookie prize . . . I still managed to drop an entire plate of cookies in the snow.

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I still managed to eat them too.  Fortunately this accident happened while I was still pregnant and still had my snow craving.  Now that Charwee has joined us, I’ve lost all appetite for the fluffy white flakes that fall from the sky.

DSC_0538 RW

I think both the cookies and I are ready to say farewell to winter for awhile.

– Joanna

P.S.  It’s nap time as I typed this post up and just as I finished I heard the toddler wake up and start chattering over the monitor.  What’s he saying you ask?  He’s saying “I cook!”  So maybe we’ll be making these cookies again sooner than I’d thought.

Question of the Day:  What’s your favorite thing to cook with kids?  If you don’t have kids, what’s your favorite thing to cook with your spouse or your friends?

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Last Sunday I took a whole broiler chicken, cut it up, and made this…… all by myself!

Manly Baked Dijon Mustard Chicken with Fried Potatoes and Onions

0Done

And it was quite tasty!  Even the two-year-old devoured everything on his plate.  OK, not the salad.  He didn’t eat the salad.

I slightly altered what I did from a recipe straight out of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

2Book

I’m pretty sure this is the first cook book I ever bought for myself.  Hopefully soon I can do a full review to properly convey my man-crush on these bound pieces of paper… but for now I’ll just say that this is right up my alley and I truly enjoyed reading it – not just referencing it.  Never thought I’d say that about a cook book.  Nourishing Traditions is chock full of great historical, anthropological, and medicinal facts, anecdotes, and tips that explain why much of our modern food industry is so ass-backwards when compared to the whole food and healthy preparation techniques that most of our great-great-grandparents seemed to innately understand.  Probably because they didn’t have Round-Up glyphosphates and everything wasn’t grown in terribly unsanitary Concentrated Animal Feed Lots which requires heavy doses of antibiotics and hormones to be in every bite.

Anyway, the book’s tagline pretty much says it all:

“The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.”

Plus, what is really helpful to a sucky fledgling chef like myself, each section (Beef, Poultry, Fish, Side Dishes, etc) has at least a few simple recipes that are not intimidating.  This is one such recipe.

Yes, color me smitten.

So let’s bake some chicken and fry up some fixin’s.

Stuff You’ll Need:

  • 1 Whole Chicken (we buy natural, pasture-raised broilers locally)
  • Double handful of Red Potatoes
  • 2 Onions
  • 1 tbsp of Mustard (I went way fancy with Dijon)
  • Butter
  • Spices (I grabbed a southern dry rub mixture for the chicken plus garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper for the potatoes.)

Stuff You’ll Do

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (Yes ladies, we Husbands need a written step at the beginning to remember to do that while dealing with this other stuff so we’re not standing around for 15 minutes later twiddling our thumbs.)
  • Cut up the Chicken. Separate both legs and both wings from the carcass. Remove both breasts.  Set aside (but save!) carcass and any bones from this step.  You’ll see why at the end.
  • Melt your Butter and then stir in Mustard until it’s uniform.
  • Use a brush or something to liberally apply the Mustard baste (is that the right word?) to Chicken.
  • Sprinkle on your Spices.
  • Cook Chicken in oven for 2 hours at 350 degrees.
  • Slice Onions and get them sauteing (is that the right word?) with some butter.

3Onions

  • Quarter or cut Potatoes and boil them for ten minutes.

 

4Potatoes

 

5StartCooking

  • After the 10 minute Potato boil, heat them in a skillet with some butter to brown.

 

6CookPotatoes

  •  When both the Potatoes and Onions have browned, only then combine them. (This is one of the tips in Nourishing Traditions that told me it improves the final flavor.  Who knew!?! They did.)
  • Add your Potato Spices.

 

9CookedPotatoes

 

  • Let’s check on that Chicken.

 

7CookChicken

OK, so this is where I learned we apparently have a Convection Oven (as opposed to a Concave Oven?!? Just kidding…  Kinda.) and apparently things bake much faster in one of those.  Luckily I checked these twenty minutes early.  A little brown on top but not burned!  I’m thinking this would have been a very bad scene if I waited the full two hours as the recipe dictated.  Lesson learned.

  • Festively plate (?) and present to a hungry toddler and 8-month pregnant wife who was ecstatic she finally didn’t have to cook a meal.

 

1Finished

 

But wait.  There’s more!

Remember the chicken carcass you set aside?  Let’s put that to some use.

Make Your Own Chicken Stock

  • Cut off the neck and cut it into a few pieces.
  • Place the neck, carcass, and feet into a large stock pot.
  • Cover with 4 quarts of water.
  • Add in tons of leftover vegetables.  Especially veggie trimmings or anything that has gone slightly past its prime you’ve been saving all week for this very feat.
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • Simmer somewhere between 4 and Infinity hours.  8-16 hours seems like a real happy middle man.

 

10Stock

  • Strain Stock
  • Can or freeze Stock and throw it in the pantry.

 

Verdict

This was a big hit and everyone enjoyed it.  I think next time I’ll add just a little more pizzazz in the way of Spices to the chicken, but the Mustard taste was surprisingly really good.  This was a fairly simple recipe for me to cut my teeth on.

Most importantly, my family lived through another Husband meal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a cook book to go make out with.

–Mike

Title Ranch Dip RW

When life gives you holiday parties, make ranch dip I always say.

Okay, that’s a lie.  I rarely ever say that.  Mostly because I rarely ever eat ranch dip.  I think it’s the texture and the fact it always always always reminds me of chugging super strong salad dressing.  Not that I’ve ever done that.  Seriously, I’ve never done that.  I’m a modest salad dresser and that’s putting it mildly.

This ranch dip recipe fixes all that.  I’m taking a few liberties by using the word “recipe” here since this is more of a to taste sort of thing.

I like sour cream in moderation.  I like mayonnaise in moderation.  I just don’t like them in my dips.  What I do like and don’t feel nearly as bad about chugging (not that I’ve ever done that, seriously I’ve never done that) is low fat cottage cheese.  It tastes better, the texture is better and best of all it’s better for you.  Although pretty much anything is better for you than mayonnaise amiright?

So here’s all you need to do to make the BEST ranch dip ever.

Two Ingredient Ranch Dip

Ingredients:

Low Fat Cottage Cheese

Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning Packet

The Haps

This is why I’m having a difficult time calling this a recipe.  I never measure.  Ever.  Depending on how many people I need to feed, I dump some cottage cheese into the blender or food processor (I never dump the whole tub because Sweetey Petey loves cottage cheese and he’ll want some later.)  Then I sprinkle in some ranch seasoning.  I whir it all together into a smooth consistency, taste test, add more seasoning if needed and whir some more.  Repeat as necessary.

That’s it.  Fabulously tasty.  Fabulously thick for dipping.  Completely customizable to your level of ranchy preference.  Oh, and it’s super simple as well.  Comes together in seconds!  Unless you are too lazy to wash the food processor and your blender stinks and requires a little bit of prodding with a spoon, then it’s more like minutes.  Still.  Very little prep work and no measuring cups to wash afterwards!  And isn’t it really all about how many dishes you have to wash anyway?

– Joanna

Oh!  Sorry the blog has been a bit sparse lately.  I’ve been working on painting the nursery (no VOC so no lectures please) and unboxing and organizing and boxing and organizing the mess that’s been shoved behind our bar for the past six months.  Also, I’ve been reading a lot more lately.  I had forgotten how awesome it feels to just sit and read a book.  Quietly.  With no distractions.  Bliss.  Anyway, coming up on Friday is Thrift Gift Facelfit and hopefully Monday The Husband will be in to give you a tutorial on that funky picture I posted the other day and made you guess on.  I’m also going to write up a review of Girl Reinvented by Ann Moore (Allchin) of Cooking Dangerously fame.  Not sure when I’ll get to that, but hopefully soon.  That’s the plan Stan.  Do I have any readers named Stan?  If so, show yourself please.

Oh Oh, as another aside, I really hate photographing white things.  Also, yellow flowers.  That is all.

Question of the Day:  To dip or not to dip . . .  that is the question. 

All bark and Bite RW

So now that the Christmas season is upon us, every blogger and their mother is making bark.  Most of them are making peppermint bark because peppermint is to Christmas as pumpkin is to Thanksgiving.

Channeling my inner SAT’s there for a minute.  Sorry.  No, I’m not really sorry, but I am sorry for apologizing when I wasn’t really sorry in the first place.

Moving on.

I have no problems with bark.  Unless it’s the dogs’ incessant barking, which I swear they do these days non freaking stop.

Anyway, moving on again.

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Believe it or not I do on occasion get requests for blog posts, thank you Tortillas and Honey!  Go check out their post on Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream Sandwiches or Tres Leches Pumpkin Flan if you haven’t gotten your pumpkin fix in this season yet.  Although don’t forget canned pumpkin is not seasonal, mmmm K?

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This particular request was for an Apple Cranberry Pie I tweeted about last week. Aside from pumpkin of course, it’s my all time favorite pie for the holiday season and a tradition I’ve started and withheld for the past four years.  I’m finally old enough to start my own holiday traditions right?

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In thinking about my blog header the other day I tried to narrow down the theme of my blog.  I know I’m not a mommy blogger or a food blogger or a healthy living blogger.  What I came up with was satire.  Food satire, when I’m being true to my roots, and photography with a little life, DIY and house stuff thrown in.  If you toss in The Husband’s regular contributions I’d also have to include “gentleman farmer” (his words, not mine.)  Clearly that makes for a complicated mess.  I’m no gentleman after all.

Articles I’ve read say consistency is key to blogging.  ‘Sota is Sexy brings the funny no matter what she blogs about.  Abby Has Issues brings the wit.  Aly brings food and LOTS of it.  Ann brings danger.  Oooooooooh.  I could go on.

So when I sat down to write a satirical post about squash, it occurred to me that squash isn’t funny.  Squash isn’t funny at all.

It certainly wasn’t funny to our Friend Patrick and his family months ago when we had them over for dinner and their acorn squash sat, for the most part, completely untouched on their plates.  Since our guests willingly ate the bizarre Sour Cream Raisin Pie I had made for dessert I can only surmise it was the squash’s fault for being just that unappealing (seriously, those things are hard to peel.)  Apparently even more unappealing than Sour Cream Raisin Pie.

We had another group of friends over last week (hi Julie, do you read this blog? I have no idea) and I had seven squash sitting on the counter.  Julie remarked that other than tasting purees with the kids she had never really eaten squash before.

Squash RW

My mom confessed she never ate the stuff growing up so it’s not really on her radar.  Mom’s never met a vegetable she didn’t like so in her defense I feel confident she would eat squash every day if I cooked it and served it to her.  Hell, I’d eat pretty much anything if somebody else cooked it for me.  Anybody else get tired of cooking every dang day?  Sorry, I’ve segued there.

My in-laws?  We shouldn’t even talk about them.  They do not eat anything they’ve never had before and there is absolutely no changing them.

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Chocolate malted Milk Cupcakes RW

Okay, so we’ve got our cupcakes that were dabbed with Chocolate Malt Ovaltine Soak.  Let’s put these puppies together once and for all.  Seriously, my lazy arse has been dragging this cupcake series on waaaaaay tooooooo looooong. Visit all the links below to see all the previous steps!

Ovaltine Soak RW 4

So, the next thing ya gotta do is microwave the Chocolate Malt Fudge Sauce for just a few seconds.  You want it to flow, but juuuuust barely.  It still needs to be thick.  Top each cupcake with a spoonful and put them all back into the fridge to set up.  There may be some drippage.  No worries, that’s what spoons were made for.  At least I think that’s what happened to the tray after the party . . . mom, you wanna fess up to scraping all the tasty bits off???  (Next time I might try piping the fudge sauce INTO the cupcake to see how that goes.)

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