Thursday, July 31, 2008

Smiley Pancakes

What a great way to wake up with a smile! Use your favorite pancake recipe to make pancakes with smiles in them! All you have to do is first use a teaspoon to drop the batter eyes and mouth (and any other facial features you want) onto your hot griddle.

Allow the facial features to cook until bubbles form on top. Then just cover your smiley face with more batter and cook just as you would any pancake, allowing bubbles to come to the surface before you flip your pancake.

When you flip it over, the smiley face will be cooked right into your pancake! I made some with my children's initials, too. Think of the possibilities that you can cook into your morning pancakes, hehe!

Here is my basic pancake recipe. It's nothing special if not convenient for you to not have to search for yours.

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar (optional- I like my pancakes sweet)
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1/3 cup oil

Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl.

In another bowl, beat eggs. Stir in milk and oil.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix to a batter that is somewhat smooth. Little lumpy's are okay.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July Daring Bakers Challenge-- Pretzels

Today is the reveal day for the July Daring Bakers Challenge. I did not partake in this months challenge with the actual assigned recipe of “Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream” hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte for a couple of reasons.

The first being that I can not stand hazelnuts and the second being that I can’t stand buttercream! I did think about making the cake with a different nut, however, the only other nut that I could think of that I would enjoy would be almond. Unfortunately, just two months ago the Daring Bakers did the Opera Cake, and I didn’t want another layered cake with an almond/buttercream/ganache/sugar syrup combo to be tagged onto my backside!

If you'd like to see completed July challenges by other Daring Bakers, be sure to check out the blogroll.

So instead, I decided to bow out of this month (Daring Bakers are allowed 2 months of non-participation per year) and went into the archives of previous Daring Baker Challenges and decided to make Pretzels. Pretzels was the very first challenge way back when the Daring Bakers were born (as just twins).

I found this recipe extremely easy; had I known it was this easy to make pretzels, I would have made them years ago! They tasted okay-- I was surprised that they were a crunchy pretzel rather than a soft and chewy pretzel (or maybe they weren’t supposed to be crunchy and I did something wrong-- which is a likely possibility).

I found that they tasted more like a breadstick than a pretzel. But that didn’t stop me from drowning mine in Dijon mustard and eating two in one sitting. (Someone had to take one for the team!)

Here is the recipe. I’m not sure if I’ll make these again with this exact recipe; I may seek out a soft pretzel recipe for the next time. Feel free to point me in the direction of a great recipe if you have one!

For the dough:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
1 cup warm water (you may need a little more)

For the pretzel topping:
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
kosher salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Work the ingredients together until you can form a ball. If the dough is very dry, add a bit more warm water until it comes together. The dough will look messy, but don’t worry about it.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading by pushing the dough away with the heel of your hand, and then folding it back in onto itself. Push the dough away again and then fold back in. Continue this motion, working the dough until it’s smooth. This should take anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough in a mixer with your dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes).

Once the dough is done, sprinkle some flour on the dough and put it in a large, oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour. It will rise considerably.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and set aside.

Divide your dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long rope that’s roughly 24 inches in length. (Don’t make it too long or your pretzels will be too thin.)

Taking hold of the ends of the rope, cross the rope over itself to form a circle with about 4 to 5 inches on each end that are sticking out. Twist the ends over themselves and secure each end on either side of the pretzel.

Carefully dip the pretzel in the water and then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.

Sprinkle the pretzels with the kosher salt and let them rest for about 15 minutes.

Put the pretzels in the oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the trays and bake for an additional 6 minutes. Keep an eye on the pretzels so that they don’t burn.

Remove the pretzels from the oven and immediately brush them with the butter. Keep brushing them with butter until you’ve used it all.

Serve the pretzels warm with plenty of mustard or another condiment of your choice.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Eggs and Bacon Candy

My friend Shiela sent me the cutest recipe magazine. It is Taste of Home Fun Food and has some of the cutest recipes in there! This is one of them-- eggs and bacon.

What you need:

Pretzel sticks
12 oz pkg of vanilla or white chips (or a few squares of almond bark)
48 yellow M&M's

What you do:

Place pretzel sticks on waxed paper in groups of two, leaving a small space between each.

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat vanilla chips for 1 minute. Stir. If not completely melted, continue cooking in 15 second increments, until melted and able to be stirred smooth.

Drop by teaspoonfuls over each pair of pretzel sticks.

For "yolks", place one or two M&M's in the center of each "egg".

Allow to harden before serving.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Digging For Gold

Here is a cute idea that you can do for your little ones. Spray paint some rocks metallic gold and then hide them in the sand and let your children go digging for gold! I've done this before and it was a huge hit. I made some new gold nuggets today, so that there is a new stash in the sandbox when they go in there to play. Oh what a treasure for them to find!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, a la camping style!

We went camping over the weekend and I tried to make as many creative meals as possible. I have vivid memories of camping as a child and using pie iron to make a wonderful campfire treat using bread, butter and pie filling. I used the same pie irons to make our lunch one of the days (and of course the fruit pies at night). If you like to camp, or even like to have recreational fires in your own yard, I highly suggest a pie iron! You can make so many yummy treats and it's almost as fun to make them as it is to eat them.

You make a grilled cheese sandwich just as you would at home in your kitchen:

Butter one side of two slices of bread and place a slice or two of cheese between the bread.

Place the sandwich, butter sides out, into the pie iron.

Place the pie iron onto some hot coals and leave there for a few minutes. I actually continually open the pie iron up to check it because it burns fast! I think we ended up cooking it for about 2-3 minutes on each side... but be sure to check it often!

Each sandwich you make after the first one will not take as long since the pie iron will be hot.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Money Pants...

My friend Julie found some instructions for making Dollar Bill Pants, to go along with the Dollar Bill Shirt that I made earlier this month. I think these are so cute and can hardly wait to give someone a birthday card with a note that says, "We got you some clothes for your birthday" and have the shirt and pants wrapped up in a gift box! I suppose I'll have to use larger bills if it's a birthday gift, hehe...

What you do:

1. Fold the dollar bill in half and press at the seam to crease.

2. Unfold and then fold in the two sides to meet at the line left from the crease in step 1. Press the folded edges firmly to create nice creases.

3. Fold the folded bill in half, lengthwise. Press the fold to make another firm crease.

4. Fold down the top two corners (on the fold) to meet in the center, pressing to crease.

5. Unfold those small folds. Starting on one side, invert the fold you just made so that it's tucked into the dollar. The picture below is sort of blurry, and I realize I need to take that polish off my nails, but hopefully you get the idea from the photo.

Repeat on the other side.

6. Turn your bill so that the point is facing down and the two flaps are at the top. Fold one flap down.

7. Turn it around and fold the other flap down. You are basically making that point you made in step 5 be on the inside of the dollar. It will look like this:

8. Your last step is to open up the fold that you just made-- as if you were opening a book. Press the creases.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

This is a recipe for cinnamon rolls that I got years ago from an online recipe board. I modified the recipe a bit so it was more to my liking. It uses frozen dinner rolls and instant pudding; both of which I'm not a fan of. But I've found that after tweaking the recipe a bit, they taste much better than I thought they would! And they work great for a semi-homemade breakfast treat.

What you need:

20 unbaked frozen dinner rolls
1 mounded cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
2 rounded teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1/3 cup melted butter

What you do:

Put the rolls in a slightly greased bundt pan.

Mix the dry ingredients and sprinkle over the rolls.

Pour the syrup and the butter over the rolls.

Cover and let sit to rise overnight.

(Okay, so mine went a little crazy.... we slept in!)

In the morning, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, bake 20-23 minutes, or until deep golden brown.

Turn onto serving plate.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Homemade Bookmarks

My kids and I made super easy bookmarks tonight. I found the directions here.I didn't have elastic on hand, so I used a few of my daughters elastic headbands. This way, they are color coordinated, too!

What you need:
Thin cardboard, like a cereal box
Glue or double-stick tape
Decorative paper (even kids artwork!)
Flat elastic, whatever width you prefer
An exacto knife

What you do:

1. First, print out this template

2. Glue the template to the cereal box.

3. Cut along the outer edges of the template to get rid of all of the white extra. Turn cardboard over and glue the decorative paper to the other side.

4. Use your scissors to cut along the solid lines of each bookmark.

5. Use an exacto knife to cut the center hole out.

6. Use a blunt object to crease and make a clean fold on the center dotted line of the book mark (I used a credit card).

7. Thread a piece of elastic through the center hole. Mine was about 14 inches long.

8. Glue both ends of the elastic to the inside of the bookmark. I used Super Glue.

9. Place a couple pieces of tape over the glued elastic to make sure it is secure.

10. Cover one side of the inside of the bookmark completely with glue.

11. Seal the two sides together and place under a stack of heavy books to dry. I let mine dry overnight. I also clipped a clothespin on each side at the top, where the elastic comes out.... just to make sure the cardboard stayed secured.

I think these would be fun to make with holiday themed papers and to give as gifts to teachers and grandparents and sisters and friends and... so on and so on....

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Apple Dumplings

This recipe is from The Pioneer Woman's blog. If you've never peeked at her blog, take the time to do so now...

...I'll wait.

Did you come back? I will understand if you don't. Her recipes are usually amazing and taste even better than her pictures make them look-- which seems to be a pretty tall order considering how amazing her entries are. I've made many of her recipes and have yet to find one that someone that I served it to didn't love.

These are no exception.

I tweaked her recipe a bit.... I used less butter and less sugar, and I could have used even less sugar. I'll remember that for next time. I also made some with peach instead of apple. I'm not big on apple, so I figured Peach Dumplings would be fantastic. They were good, too... but in all honesty, I liked the apple better. And I don't even like apples. That's how good these are!

What you need:

(I did have Vanilla in mine, I forgot to sneak it in with the picture, hehe)

2 Granny Smith apples
2 cans crescent rolls
1 stick of butter (she calls for 2, I used only 1)
1 cup sugar (she calls for 1 1/2... I used only 1... and it was still a bit much)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 - 3/4 of a 12 oz can of Mountain Dew

What you do:

Peel and core apples. Cut apples into 8 slices each.

Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll.

Here is a peach one rolled up:

Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan.

Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir.

Add vanilla, stir, and pour over apples.

Pour Mountain Dew around the edges and down the center of the pan.

Sprinkle the top with cinnamon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Just out of the oven:

Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.

Here is the Peach Dumpling, minus the ice cream, which I also don't care for (I know, what is wrong with me?):