31 March 2014

Cranberry Pecan Salad with Lemon Mustard Dressing

So, I realize that my posts have really been non existent lately. I hope to fix that, but I can't make any promises.  Between moving, little boy starting preschool at the beginning of the year and me training for my 1st 10K I haven't gotten my routine all worked out yet and blog posts have been pushed lower on my priority list.  But, I'm putting up this post and hope you can forgive me for now.

So a couple of weeks ago we had an activity for the women at church. The did little mini work shops on organizing, couponing, cooking, stuff like that. I stopped by the cooking workshop and the lady who taught gave us a couple of recipes for some delicious salads. One of there recipes had candied spiced almonds. I'm not a big fan of almonds, but I have to admit the candied almonds were delicious. I can home and though, I really like pecans. If the the almonds were delicious candied, pecans would probably be amazing! I decided to make the pecans and make up my own little salad to go with them, since I didn't have most of the ingredients the lady called for in her salad.  I even made my own dressing!

Cranberry Pecan Salad with Lemon Mustard Dressing
  • 6 oz Green leaf lettuce broken into small pieces
  • 6 oz Spinach
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Candied Spiced Pecans (see recipe below)
  • Lemon Mustard Dressing (see recipe below)
  • Grilled Chicken, sliced (optional)
Mix lettuce, spinach, and green onions together in a large bowl. Pour dressing over greens and toss until evenly coated. Top with cheese, cranberries and pecans. If desired add grilled chicken.
Tip- Adding the grilled chicken is a great option to add if you are using the salad your main course, but the salad is still fantastic with out chicken if you are using the salad as a side dish.

Candied Spiced Pecans
  • 5 cups pecans, slightly crushed (so some pieces are broken up but some remain whole)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1-1 ½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • sea salt, to taste
Place a large sheet of foil on a work surface. Spray with cooking spray or rub a teaspoon of oil over foil with a paper towel.
 Place sugar in a large non-stick sauté pan and heat over medium heat , occasionally tipping and swirling the sugar until it is all melted into a pale golden syrup.
Lower heat immediately and add butter, cinnamon, smoked paprika, cumin, and vanilla. Stir until well combined and all butter is incorporated into the sugar syrup.
Add the pecans and stir gently to coat. Don’t worry if you have some clumps of caramelized sugar – they will melt as you continute to sauté the pecans. Continue to cook on low, stirring every minute or so until pecans begin to darken. Watch very carefully as they can go from beautiful to burned very quickly! Turn out onto prepared foil and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Spread out and let cool. Store pecans in an airtight container.
Tip: Walnuts and almonds would also work great in this recipe

Lemon Mustard Dressing
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic,minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons oil
Juice your lemon and pour lemon juice into a small jar or container that can be sealed.. Add the zest from about 1/2 of the lemon peel. Add remaining ingredient and place lid on container. Make sure container is well sealed and shake until ingredients and well mixed.  Makes about 1/2 cup of dressing.
Tip: I use the small individual portion container on my Ninja Kitchen System Pulse to mix the dressing. If I do this I don't have to mince the garlic before I add it. 

10 March 2014

Cookies and Cream Popcorn ~ Chocolate Chip Cookie Popcorn

I have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to popcorn; well, popcorn and chex mix.  I, like most things on pinterest, haven't tried most of them.  You can't go wrong with buttered popcorn, but I have an air popper, so I don't use microwave popcorn very often. Air popped popcorn drizzled with real butter, just isn't the same as the buttery microwave packs.  Normally I make caramel corn, but I am always looking up ways to flavor my popcorn and expand my horizons. Well, we had an activity at out church the other day and one of the ladies put together a popcorn bar. She made 7 or 8 different kinds of popcorn. Holy moly, they were all delicious. My favorite was the cookies and cream popcorn. I remembered I had a recipe for the cookies and cream popcorn pinned to pinterest and decided I needed to try and make it myself. It was just that good. While I was looking that up I also discovered I had a chocolate chip cookie popcorn pinned too.   They were both really simple and used almond bark so I figured I'd pop up a big bowl of popcorn and mix Oreos into half of it and chocolate chip cookies in the other half. I'm very glad I made a ton of it (like 8 cups of popcorn or so), because both flavors are delicious and it might last me a couple days.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Popcorn
  • 4 cups popped popcorn
  • 12 Crispy chocolate chip cookies (like Chips Ahoy)
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 6 oz vanilla almond bark

Place cookies in a large ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin or heavy cup.  Melt almond bark according to package directions. Add melted almond bark to popcorn. Mix until evenly coated. Gently stir in cookies crumbs and chocolate chips.

Cookies and Cream Popcorn
  • 4 cups popped popcorn
  • 12 Oreo Cookies
  • 6 oz vanilla almond bark

Place cookies in a large ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin or heavy cup.  Melt almond bark according to package directions. Add melted almond bark to popcorn. Mix until evenly coated. Gently stir in cookies crumbs.

03 March 2014

Svíčková na Smetaně with Bread Dumplings

If you already haven't figured it out, I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Czech Republic. Sometimes, I really miss the Czech Republic, but the Czech Republic is 8 time zones away and that's not a quick or cheap trip so I have to settle with missing the Czech republic and reading my Czech friends status updates, which just makes me miss the Czech republic more. Someday, I'll take the hubby to the Czech Republic for a fantastic vacation, but until then the best I can do when I miss CR is cook Czech food. The only thing I've ever really know how to make is fruit dumplings, and they are fantastic, but lately I've really been craving Svíčková na Smetaně, or as know in english, Beef in Sour Cream Sauce. Well, I'd never made Svickova before, not from scratch anyway. I made it from mixes once, but I was willing to try to make it for real this time. I searched the internet for a recipe and found two at the top of the list that had the same exact ingredients list. I figured this would be the recipe to try. Well, there was one difference in two recipes. One called for red wine vinegar and the other had balsamic vinegar. This is a big difference. I'm telling you right now, Do not use balsamic vinegar! That's what I did. I had balsamic vinegar in my cupboard and figured I could save my self the trouble of buying red wine vinegar. WRONG! It tasted good, but the balsamic vinegar was a bit strong (I even used less than the amount called for) so the flavor of my Svickova was a little off, still delicious, but off. So, I'm telling you to learn from my mistakes. Balsamic vinegar is not a proper substitute for red wine vinegar, at least not in this recipe. Although, I should have realized something was off when I was reading the recipe that called for balsamic, and in the instruction it said red wine.  Anyway,  I kind of simplified my Svickova, by cooking it in the slow cook. So there was no searing and a lot less butter and it was still fantastic......Use red wine vinegar.

Svíčková na Smetaně
  • 2-3 pounds beef roast
  • 1 slice of bacon, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium parsnips, chopped
  • 1/2 small celery root, diced (I didn't find this at the local supermarket, but the nearby Sprouts Farmers Market carried it)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley or 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 cup / 8 fluid ounces red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
24 hours before cooking time, cut small slits into beef and stuff with slices of bacon, rub meat with softened butter and season with salt and pepper. If the ceramic bowl of you slow cooker is removable, place meat in the ceramic bowl of your slow cooker, if not use a glass bowl. Surround meat with chopped onion, carrots, parsnip, and celery root. Sprinkle on thyme, allspice and parsley. Season with salt and more pepper: add bay leaves. Pour in the vinegar. Add a little more water or vinegar if you need to in order to cover the meat, but remember that the vegetables will let off a little liquid in the marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate. Turn the meat in the marinade occasionally.

After letting meat marinade for 24 hours, transfer everything to slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. After meat is done cooking, Remove meat from crockpot and place on plate. Cover with foil to keep warm. 

Puree the vegetables and juices marinade with blender or food processor. Pour the vegetable puree into a medium-sized saucepan and heat to a low boil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and sugar. If the sauce needs thinning, add some water or beef broth. Finally, just before serving, stir the sour cream into the sauce and heat it through. Don't let it boil, or you risk the sour cream curdling.

Slice meat and serve with sauce and bread dumplings (see recipe below). If desired,  Garish with a lemon slice and a little bit of cranberry sauce

Bread Dumplings
  • 4 cups of flour (500 g)
  • 1 package of yeast (I used 1 tablesoon)
  • 2 eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup of warm milk
  • 2 stale hot dog buns, cubed
Combine the 1 cup wark milk, yeast, and sugar in a bowl, until yeast is disolved. Combine the salt and flour in another. Add the flour to the liquid bowl once the yeast has dissolved, and add the rest of the milk and eggs. Knead the dough very thoroughly, and let it sit in a covered bowl for 1 hour.

Once the dough has risen, knead the hot dog buns tear it into three pieces and knead the dough into loaves about 2 inches wide and 6-8 inches long . Let them rise again for 20-30 under a towel. In the mean time, start a large pot of salted water to boil. After the loves have risen, place them in the boiling water. (you'll only be able to cook one or two loves at a time, the poof up quite a bit.) Boil for 15-20 minutes flipping over once to make sure dumplings cook evenly. Remove from water and let cool. Cut into 3/4 inch slices.

This is me at Helfstyn castle ruins. This was one of my favorite castles/mansions I got to see.

And this is me and my friend, using her crutches to sword fight on a draw bridge at Karlstejn Castle.

19 February 2014

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Kansas City Style Pork Rub

The hubby and I wanted pulled pork, so we search the internet for some good recipes and came across this recipe for a rib rub. We decide to give it a try as seasoning for the pulled pork. I made a couple minor changes and it's definitely a keeper. We've made pulled pork a few times now and will continue to make a regular appearance on our menu. We usually eat it as sandwiches and eat the leftover on baked potatos with a little bit of cheese and barbecue sauce. So good.

Kansas City Style Dry Rub
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (optional to add a little bit of smokey flavor)
Mix all ingredients together and store in an air tight jar.

Slow cooker puller pork
  • 3 pound pork roast
  • Kansas City Style Dry Rub (see above)

Generously rub pork roast with dry rub. Place in slowcooker, fat side up.  Cook on low 8 hours until pork is tender. Remove roast from slow cooker and shred. (Tip: iYou can easily shred your meat by cutting your roast into quarters and place it in your kitchen aid with the cookie beater attachment.)  After pork is shredded, mix in the juices remaining in your slower cooker to keep the pork nice and moist. Serve on a bun or a baked potato, with a little cheese and barbecue sauce. 

10 February 2014

Stash-Busting for Stashaholics - Unicorn Hat

Well, I said I was going to make a Unicorn Hat for little girl and I did.  We went out of town to visit family and I had plenty of time to crochet in the cars so I whipped this one out pretty quickly.
Next up, a monster hat for little boy.

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