Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Peanut Butter Bars


Whenever we would go into a bakery growing up, we would get peanut butter bars. 

Our local store bakery (the one that makes the bread that I am obsessed with buying) makes them and sells them by the dozen (heaven help me!) 

My mom cannot be trusted anywhere near a batch of these. 


These along with giant cinnamon rolls the size of my head, and bread sticks as long as my arm always remind me of elementary school - school lunch. I loved school lunch so much! If I could open a restaurant and just serve all the Mountain View Elementary school lunch lady recipes (with the exception of the HORRID boiled spinach) - I would make a fortune and eventually open an restaurant in Times Square and have a show of Food TV.

On a side note, It is beginning to really become apparent that I have been crazy about food my entire life. Too many of these blog posts have strange childhood back stories.


School Lunch Peanut Butter Bars

1 1/2 C Flour
¾ C Butter
¾ C Sugar
¾ C Brown Sugar
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla
1 1/2 C Creamy Peanut Butter (3/4 C for Bars and 3/4 C for Pre-Frosting)
2 Eggs
1¼ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Baking Soda
1 ½ C Quick Oats

Frosting:

½ C Butter
3 ½ C Powdered Sugar
2 T Cocoa
¼ C Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla



Directions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugars, 3/4 C peanut butter, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add dry ingredients, just until incorporated. Then, stir in the oats.

Spread onto a greased cookie sheet (the kind with edges). Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes.

You frost in two steps

 First, whip the remaining ¾ C Creamy Peanut Butter until it becomes lighter colored and fluffy. Carefully spread the whipped peanut butter over the pan cookie.

Then, add butter to a small sauce pan and melt the butter. Add the milk and cocoa. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Heat just until boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Then, gradually add the powdered sugar. Stir until thickened. Pour over the peanut butter and gently spread over the cookie. Cool completely, and slice into bar cookies.

The bakery slices them in huge squares - it is probably best not to do that since you really could end up eating the entire pan of them and then saying, "but I only ate 4 of them". I am probably giving away too much about myself there. 


Friday, May 22, 2015

Summer Food Programs


Childhood Hungry is an issue that I am passionate about. I have kids, I love kids and I think that all kids deserve to have good food to eat that feeds their growth and fuels their minds and bodies.

Thankfully there are a lot of other people that feel this way too.

If you are looking to participate in a Summer Meals Program - you can find one HERE.

These programs are awesome and wonderful to take advantage of. They offer not just food, but a bit of nutrition education, a chance to get out of the house, a great time to play and meet with friends.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Family Secret Mustard Potato Salad


I have always thought that it is a little strange that a food that is so associated with Summer Time involves so much boiling and heating up your kitchen, but whether you want to boil gallons of water and cook eggs and potatoes - you can't argue with this being a must-have at every summer picnic and barbecue.

My mother-in-law makes the most fantastic potato salad in the whole wide world. You can just ask my husband. (or any of my kids - they devour it by the 25 pounds of potatoes full)

It has pretty much all the usual ingredients, but it is the way that you make it - she swears by cooking the potatoes with the peels on.

Here we go!!! - The Super Secret Potato Salad Recipe



Ingredients:

8 cups russet potatoes, cooked, peeled, then diced ( about 10 -12 medium potatoes)
6 eggs, hard boiled and finely crumbled
2 cups sweet onions, very finely diced
1 cup celery, peeled and very finely diced
3/4 cup dill pickle, very finely diced
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons mustard, the regular yellow type
1/4 cup pickle juice
1/4 cup cream ( I use half and half)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons sugar



Directions:

Boil potatoes in the peel with the whole eggs.

Remove the eggs after 10 minutes of boiling, and remove and drain the potatoes when just fork tender.

Let eggs and potatoes cool to room temperature.

Peel all and refrigerate whole potatoes and eggs until cold.

The potatoes will dice and hold up better when cold.

Dice the potatoes into 1/4- 3/8" dice. Place into a very large container with a lid.

Crumble the eggs (I do this by squishing them in my hand) and add to the container with the diced potatoes.

Very finely (like the size of dill relish pieces) chop the onion, celery and pickles. Add to the potatoes and eggs.

Gently stir to mix the ingredients evenly.

In a separate bowl, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, dill pickle juice, cream, salt, pepper and sugar.

Whisk until creamy. Pour over potato mixture. Gently stir until the dry particles are coated with the creamy mixture.

Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. 6- 8 hours is even better.

If you like color you can sprinkle some sweet paprika over the top.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Coconut Banana Bread - Create a Quickbread


Oh how I love banana bread. I really feel like you could throw just about anything into it and it would be delicious. Everyone in my family agrees too.

This bread tastes like a tropical vacation. I even thought about giving it a lime glaze and making it a real baked vacation.

You should defiantly mix some up because May 19th is National Baking Day!


Ingredients: 

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork until smooth (from about 3 bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped 



Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the melted butter and sugar until just combined. Beat in the eggs, bananas and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on low speed until just combined. Do not over-mix. Gently stir in the coconut and nuts (the batter will look lumpy).





Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center is relatively clean (tester should not be totally dry; the bananas keep it moist) and the top is golden brown. Do not overcook. 

Let the loaf cool in the pan for about ten minutes, then turn out onto rack. Slice while still warm or store in an airtight container. Toast individual slices for best results.

Note: Toasting the pecans is optional but enhances their flavor. Simply spread the pecans on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven for 4-5 minutes.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Simple Taco Soup that Wasn't



** I'll be honest with you - this is the second time I am writing this post because of internet / computer issues and frankly, it is not going to be as funny and awesome as the first one I wrote **


I made taco soup this week, well it was suppose to be taco soup, but the pasta cooked up all the liquid and it ended up being much more like a skillet dinner and it tasted awesome, so I didn't mess with it. 

For Menu Planning sake we have "Taco Tuesday". Tuesdays are a very busy day around here and I enjoy knowing that I don't have to plan something that is maybe / maybe not going to get eaten. 

I think the kids like to say, "Taco Tuesday" and I really try and mix it up when we get a little tired of it. We'll have fish tacos or like here... Taco Soup. 

Another thing that I Love about making Tacos is that I can totally clean out my fridge and it doesn't look like leftovers. 


The corn is leftover from the vegetable at Sunday dinner, the Pepper Jack Cheese is from when we had my dad over a few weeks ago, the Olives are left from make your own pizza night, and the bell peppers are from when Joseph's parents cleaned out their fridge before they left on vacation.

It looks like I am being super detailed oriented and spent hours chopping and preparing and being all creative, but really I am just being a smart little use-it-up girl!


The only thing that I didn't have on hand was Sour Cream. But I remember that Joseph has been talking about a friend at work that puts Cottage Cheese in a blender and uses that in place of Sour Cream and Plain Yogurt. Well I did have Cottage Cheese.

Cottage Cheese + Blender = Totally Awesome!  (I can't wait to make dips out of it!)


Ingredients:
1 lb. extra-lean ground beef 
1 onion, chopped 
1 lb. box pasta (I think the traditional shape is elbow, but I got all wild with it * because I didn't have elbow*)
3 cans (15.5 oz. each) mild chili beans
1 can (14.5 oz.) whole tomatoes, undrained
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce (I found some cans of V8 vegetable juice on super sale and bought them, no one likes them as much as I thought, so I have been using them instead of tomato sauce)
1 pkg. Taco Seasoning Mix
1-1/2 cups water - You can use more if you want it more "soupy"

Toppings: 
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
Salsa
Lettuce
Corn
Bell Peppers
Green Onions
Olives
Sour Cream (That Wasn't Really Sour Cream)
Tortilla Chips
Pretty Much anything else you have in your fridge that you can convince your family is a topping



Directions:
Brown meat with onions in large saucepan; drain. Return meat mixture to pan.

Add all remaining ingredients except toppings; stir, breaking up tomatoes with spoon. Bring to boil; simmer on medium-low heat 5 min., stirring occasionally.

Top with everything and anything!



Just because something doesn't turn out exactly like you had expected or just like the recipe says, that doesn't mean it was a failure. So many of us are terrified of getting in the kitchen and failing.

Get our there kitchen adventurers - Dinner time is coming and you have totally got This!!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Flavored Water and Fruit Infused Water

I think the oldest news in the whole world might be that water is good for you. But if we all know that it is good for us, then why aren't we drinking more of it? Is it because we don't like the way it tastes, are we too busy drinking a whole bunch of other stuff? There are probably a few reasons if you are like me that you aren't drinking as much water as you should. If one of the reasons is that you don't enjoy the "flavor" of water - or you enjoy drinking something delicious, today's post is going to help you.

I have heard words thrown around like Flavored Water, or Infused Water, and that may seem kinda foreign or confusing - at least for me it did. I wondered what the difference was between the two (if you are making it at home there is none really)

 ** Do NOT buy something called Flavored Water or Infused Water and expect it to be anything BUT chemicals. **


If you want to make it all difficult and a hassle process - you can blend the fruits / vegetables and herbs and then drain it through a sieve (so it doesn't have any chunks or pulp - you can totally not drain it too)

  • grapefruit + sage//rosemary//mint//basil
  • lemon + mint//cilantro//basil
  • lemon + lime + cilantro
  • lemon + ginger
  • Meyer lemon + tangerine + pear + hot green pepper + cilantro
  • lemon + orange + ginger
  • blood orange + ginger + basil
  • cucumber + lemon + lime + mint//basil
  • cucumber + grapefruit + sage//rosemary
  • cucumber + watermelon + mint
  • carrots + apple + lemon + ginger
  • carrots + pomegranate + sage
  • honeydew + cantaloupe + watermelon + sage//mint
  • watermelon + mint//rosemary//basil
  • cantaloupe + blood orange + lemon
  • pear + rosemary//sage
  • banana + nectarine + basil
  • blackberries + raspberries + strawberries + mint
  • strawberries + grapefruit + sage
  • apple + plum + blueberries + mint//sage
  • cherries + lime + mint





* First, simply add the fruit//vegetables in the glass first, take a muddler (or just use a wooden spoon or regular spoon) to slightly mash and breakdown the fruit//vegetables.
Tip: peel the citrus fruits from their skin to avoid a bitter taste.

* Next, simply take the herb//spice of choice and gently bruise the leaf (i.e. gently mashing), this helps release the natural extracts and oils from the herb//spice.

* Lastly, add either sparkling water or good ole’ filtered water and drink!

Be sure you keep your water in the fridge when you are waiting for the flavors to develop or storing water that you have already made. It should keep for up to a week, depending on the freshness of the fruit when you made the water.  (If you feel like the fruit might not last until you are finished with the water - you can freeze it into amazing ice cubes!) 


Friday, May 8, 2015

Happy Birthday - Happy Choices

So I had a birthday this week. A big birthday - one of the Pre-Milestone birthdays where there is a big number on a black balloon and all the decorations have tombstones on them. And while the numbers don't bother me too much, I have spent a little bit of time thinking about what my birthday next year is going to be like.

As I thought about it, I decided that I wanted to look back at my year and think - Wow!! I made that an amazing year.

So while I talk a lot about making little changes and tackling those things that are hard to do one step at a time. I have decided that right now, for this moment and this challenge I am going to take a great big giant leap!

Way way WAY back when I started this blog, I was invited to do a behavioral challenge.  I was excited about the blog and the new lifestyle and I jumped in head first. I decided that I was going to give up my soda habit. You can read about my crazy excitement Here. I re-read the post and I got all excited and motivated again (and I was a little bit sad that I had worked so hard and it hadn't "stuck")

I'd like to think that we all know that soda is bad for you.  If you don't, then I should probably tell you - Soda is really really Bad for you. If you don't believe me - which you totally should.. Here is a quick article that outlines the prominent reasons. Everything from excess sugar, to empty calories - scary chemicals and the fact that you aren't drinking "better" things (like water). Soda is bad, like really not good bad, Bad.

Another reason I need to give it up is the cost. We recently re-worked our budget and our food costs shocked me. (And the scary amount of money I was spending on beverage of choice was Really scary)  I felt really sad that I was using so much of our family's money on something that was so bad for me.

This discovery lead me to really examine that kind of role model that I was being for my kids. Was I setting them an example that I wanted them to follow. How many of us, when we go out to eat get ourselves a sugary soda and then order our kids milk or juice. Seems kinda like we aren't making the best choices for ourselves.

This is a really big jump for me. I am not going to cut down, or scale back. I am going to give it all up. I have kept around a bad habit that is costing my health, my wallet and my family something that I am no longer willing to give up.  Sometimes you just have to say, "Enough is Enough!" and hopefully I'll look back at my birthday next year and think, "Thanks for loving yourself enough to do hard things - You're worth IT!"   Here's to another amazing 39!!