1/31/11

4 I {Heart} Valentines Day!

 Need ideas for Valentines?
How about these Puffy Heart Dinner Rolls?

Or maybe these Cinnamon Heart Rolls?



Candy Cane Hearts in hot chocolate anyone?


Round Valentine Sugar Cookies?  These are super soft and easy to make...


Maybe I'll make a box of my favorite smooth mint chocolates...


Stay tuned for some more Sweetheart ideas!


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1/28/11

3 A Dull Knife is a Dangerous Knife

Many years ago, I asked my father to carve the Thanksgiving turkey.  Even after sharpening the knife with the file included in the knife block, he became frustrated with the dullness of the knives.  For Christmas, he gave me a complete set of Chicago cutlery.

Did you know that a dull knife is a dangerous knife?  It is, because with a dull knife, you have to exert more force.  Putting more pressure on the knife increases the chances of being cut and the severity.  Fortunately, knock on wood, we have only had one cut finger and it didn't require stitches.

America's Test Kitchen reviewed many knife sharpeners and found that Chef's Choice did a good job for the money.





I chose the 310 model, which is a two-stage sharpener.   I pulled out the instructions and read them thoroughly.

It has suction cups on the bottom, keeping the unit firmly in place on the counter top.

 I tested a clean chef's knife on a piece of paper and this is what I got:  a dull, ragged cut.





Stage One is for the dullest of knives.  I turned the machine on, which ran fairly quietly.  I started with the end, waited for the magnets to "grab" the knife, and pulled it slowly toward me. (Pass one)  The magnets keep the knife at the best angle for cutting.




It is VERY important that you do NOT push down with the knife...the knife may bounce up and out of the machine if you do.

Take about 3 seconds to pull the knife toward you and remember to pull the handle UP if it curves...



This process is repeated on the other side of Stage One (Pass two).  It may take up to 20 passes on a very dull knife to reach a "burr" which looks like this...



When you reach the burr stage, it is ready for about 6 passes in Stage Two.  This polishes up the knife.  Clean the knife with a towel...


and let's see if it is any sharper.  Much better, don't you think?


 It was a little trickier trying to sharpen the paring knife, as it has a shorter blade.  Just set it down, let the magnets grab the blade, and give it several passes on each side of the knife.





All in all, I was very pleased with the job that it did.  If your knives get regular use, you will only need a touch up in Stage Two with a couple of passes on each side. 

If you need to watch a video of the process, this is a good one here at HSN.

This is a great knife sharpener for your every day knives, even pocket or fillet knives.  A serrated (bread) knife can ONLY be used in Stage Two and it sharpens the tips only.   There are two other models that are better suited for serrated knives according to the manufacturers FAQ page.
 







CSN Stores provided me with the product to review.  The opinions expressed are all mine.

1/26/11

2 Creamy Poppyseed Dressing


This past summer, I set a goal to make my own salad dressing.  Summer came and went.

For a Christmas dinner, I went shopping for salad dressings at the store and couldn't bring myself to pay almost $4 for a bottle of Brianna's Poppyseed dressing.  I remembered my goal and resolved to make this dressing.

I read the bottle:  Canola oil, sugar, water, white onion, white vinegar, salt, apple cider vinegar, poppy seeds, mustard flour, xanthan gum, tocopherols, citric acid.  I nixed the last three ingredients.  I use canola oil in my homemade mayonnaise and decided to start there.

I found several different recipes online and came up with a compiled, modified version that tastes pretty good ~ I couldn't believe how easy it was to put this together...

I chopped up some green onions.  You can see the itty bitty bits of green in the dressing.  You can mince a sweet white onion, if you prefer.

This only takes 1/2 cup of mayonnaise.  My immersion blender mayonnaise only takes 5 minutes to make; you should try it sometime!  If you use the Miracle Whip stuff, you will need to reduce the vinegar and sugar levels of the recipe.





Sugar to sweeten it up...

Lemon juice...



Homemade apple cider vinegar...I love the flavor of apple cider vinegar.  You can use white vinegar.
Ground mustard.  This adds a little kick along with the vinegar and lemon juice...





Blend it all together.  You can use a food processor, immersion blender or mixer/blender.  I borrowed hubby's Ninja and it basically pulverizes everything....even the onions...into a smooth sauce.




See? Smooth as silk.  If you need it thinner, just add a little milk.




You don't want to pulverize the poppy seeds, so transfer the dressing into a bowl...




Stir in the poppy seeds and Viola!  Sweet, tangy, slightly crunchy ~ perfect for a salad!





Creamy Poppyseed Dressing
(4x6 recipe download)    (full page printable recipe)

1/24/11

7 Faux Fried Ice Cream


I have never had fried ice cream before.  I can't even imagine taking something cold and throwing it in a vat of hot oil...

Angie shared this sweet treat at a church function and it got raves!  I loved the slightly sweet, crunchy coating surrounding the cold vanilla ice cream.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that is has *gasp* cornflakes in it!  If you can use crushed cornflakes for "fried" chicken, why not for "fried" ice cream?

Just a few simple ingredients and you can have a quick, easy, yet elegant dessert ~

Crush your cornflakes....I like to use a freeze Ziploc baggie and a rolling pin.  You can use a mallet, a skillet, whatever floats your boat.  If you're experiencing any kind of stress, now's the time to let it loose...





Add sugar to your crushed cornflakes...




Sweetened flaked coconut...


Mix and add your melted butter...


Toss it all together and resist any nibbling!



My friend who makes this layers half of the cornflake mixture into a 9x13 pan, spreads a 1/2 gallon of softened vanilla ice cream for the middle layer and then puts the remaining cornflake mixture on top.  It is then put into the freezer to chill till firm.

I decided to make these into individual servings by using a large (muffin sized) scoop and my homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe...

My ice cream was soft and became softer as I handled it with the cornflakes, so I had to work fairly quickly.

Each covered ball was put on a baking sheet.  When the baking sheet became full, I popped it into the freezer overnight.




I think layering it in a 9x13 would be easier and less messy!

Take a look at the little flecks of vanilla bean.....


Serve this with caramel or chocolate syrup.  Oh, and whipping cream, if you want! 
Fried Ice Cream
(4x6 recipe download)    (full page printable recipe)

1/20/11

6 Making Time for Kids and Cookies!


My kids are all grown up.  *sniff*  Fortunately, my hubby is a kid at heart!  He suggested having some neighborhood kids over after school to bake some cookies.  What a great idea!

When he asked the kids what kind of cookie they wanted to bake, they jumped up and down and said, "Chocolate chip cookies!"

We didn't tell them, but these Applesauce Chocolate Chip cookies are soft, cake-like and a healthier version that OUR kids have loved over the years...


First, they read the recipe and got out all the ingredients...

Mixed the baking soda with the applesauce...

and watched science in action!  They loved how bubbly this applesauce gets!


He helped them measure all the ingredients and put them in a bowl...

This girl wanted to be in charge of the measuring scoop!  Don't worry, everyone got a turn...

When the cookies came out of the oven they couldn't WAIT to try them!  The cookies are done when the tops are dry and spring back when touched. 

While the cookies cooled on the baking sheet, hubby got down on the floor and played with the kids, which I think was the BEST part!  They were having so much fun, they almost forgot about the cookies...

The kids all thought dunking the cookies in milk was the BEST part!
If you need other kid-friendly cooking/baking ideas, head on over to the Kids' Cooking Academy, where you will find daily tips, great recipes and how-to videos to inspire your family to get cooking together!  

Even better, each time you visit the Kids' Cooking Academy between now and 4-25-11, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children to help make sure that more children have access to healthy foods!

Does this look good?  Then grab some kids and make 'em!

Applesauce Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a recipe that can teach your child about reading, math (measuring), science and teamwork!  Kids will love mixing the applesauce and soda to watch it "foam."  They can also help with some mixing and scooping the cookie dough onto a prepared baking sheet. 

Ingredients 
1 cup applesauce
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour (can use 1 1/4 c.  all purpose flour and 1 c. Wheat Pastry Flour instead)
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped nuts, if desired

Instructions
In a medium mixing bowl, combine applesauce and baking soda.  Watch the bubbling begin!  Set mixture aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. 
Crack eggs into a small plastic bowl.  Add the eggs and to the creamed shortening and mix well.
Stir in applesauce mixture.
Add flour, spices, and chocolate chips.  Mix thoroughly.

Lightly grease a baking sheet, or use parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Use a medium (2 T.) cookie scoop and drop cookie dough mixture on prepared pans, 2" apart.

Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 10-12 minutes or until tops are dry and when centers are touched, the cookie springs back.  

Allow cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet before eating.

Enjoy!
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