Monday, December 13, 2010

homemade mozzarella sticks

The hubby and I are both originally from Wisconsin, and though we like cheese, that's not the reason for this connection. He is from Milwaukee and in Milwaukee there is a restaurant known for their BBQ and that restaurant is Saz's. Well, hubby and I love the restaurant for other reasons as well, for their Mozzarella Sticks. They are just like these, which I found on Our Sweet Life, mozzarella enrobed in wonton wrappers.

Quick, easy and so delicious. I even think you could bake them if you didn't want to fry them, I'd say 400* would work just great.

Homemade Mozzarella Sticks

Wrap a string cheese in an egg roll wrapper

Lay one string cheese or strip of block mozzarella on one egg roll wrapper diagonally so the cheese starts at one corner and ends at the opposite. Roll up like a burrito and seal with water or egg.

Fry in a frying pan using oil (vegetable or olive oil heated to about 350) until golden.

Friday, December 10, 2010

orange chicken

This recipe is a tried and true staple in our house.  I also know for a fact that there are a few other families who have adapted this yummy dinner into their recipe repertoire as well.  I found this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs Annie's Eats. Her website is so inspiring with all the yummy looking food.

There are a few steps involved but once you make it once or twice it becomes so much easier.  This is not cloyingly sweet like many orange chicken dishes at local chinese restaurants.  In fact, the hubby and I are not really fans of orange chicken anywhere else.  But this, this is so good.

Orange Chicken                                                                                                                                (adapted from Annie's Eats)
For the marinade and sauce:
1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces (i used breast meat)
¾ cup low sodium chicken broth
¾ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 ½ tsp. grated orange zest
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
6 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup dark brown sugar
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
i added chopped scallions and some peanuts to the finished product

For coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut oil (or canola oil) (i only used 1/4 C of canola)


For the marinade and sauce, place the chicken in a Ziploc bag; set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper; whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and pour it into the bag with the chicken; press out as much air as possible and seal the bag, making sure that all pieces are coated with the marinade. Refrigerate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. Bring the remaining mixture in the saucepan to a boil over high heat. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water; whisk the cornstarch mixture into the sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the orange peel (if using); set the sauce aside.

For the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and beat with a fork until frothy. In a second pie plate, whisk together the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne until combined. Drain the chicken in a colander or large mesh strainer; thoroughly pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly. Place the dredged chicken pieces on another plate or a baking sheet.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in an 11- to 12-inch dutch oven or straight sided sauté pan with at least 3 qt. capacity over high heat until the oil reaches 350° on an instant read or deep fry thermometer. Carefully place half of the chicken in the oil; fry to golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning each piece with tongs halfway through cooking. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Return the oil to 350° and repeat with the remaining chicken.

To serve, reheat the sauce over medium heat until simmering, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and gently toss until evenly coated and heated through. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

cinnamon swirl bread

A couple of years ago I had much more of a defined schedule as far as work was concerned so Mondays were my day off.  I started a tradition that year of making bread every Monday.  Quite the undertaking but it was so much fun.  These days Mondays are filled with organizational tasks, South Face, and a million other things but hopefully this year I will make time once again for bread.

I always used to think that bread making must be difficult. But now that I have gotten the hang of letting the yeast bubble and utilizing my handy stand mixer, I think it may be one of the easier things I make
Here's a throwback from the days I kept up my food blog...a delicious recipe for either a cinnamon swirl loaf or a garlic swirl loaf.  Both were so delicious.  I used the same base for both but chose to fill and shape them differently. They are so, so good and so easy!

Cinnamon Swirl Bread (adapted from Williams-Sonoma)
see adaptations at end for garlic swirl


1 Tbs. active dry yeast
3 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (105° to 115°F)
1 cup warm milk (105° to 115°F)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbs. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 to 6 1/4 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
3/4 cup golden raisins (i omitted we don't care for raisins)
3/4 cup dark raisins (i omitted)

For the filling:

2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar mixed with 4 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
(i cut in half b/c only one loaf was cinnamon- 1/3 C with 2 1/4 t)


In a bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of the granulated sugar over 1⁄2 cup of the water and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the remaining 3/4 cup water, the milk, butter, the remaining granulated sugar, salt, egg and 2 cups of the flour. Beat on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the yeast mixture and 1⁄2 cup of the flour and beat for 1 minute. Add the raisins, then beat in the remaining flour, 1⁄2 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Switch to the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed, adding flour 1 Tbs. at a time if the dough sticks, until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased deep bowl and turn to coat it.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours. Lightly grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide the dough in half and roll or pat each half into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Lightly sprinkle each rectangle with half of the filling, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Beginning at a narrow end, tightly roll up each rectangle into a compact log. Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal in the filling. Place each log, seam side down, in a prepared pan.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough is about 1 inch above the rim of each pan, 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours. Preheat an oven to 350°F. Bake until the loaves are golden brown and pull away from the sides of the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. Turn the loaves out onto wire racks and let cool completely. Makes two 9-by-5-inch loaves.

For one garlic swirl loaf:

Swirl Ingredients:

4 T butter, softened
1 T garlic, minced
2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Combine butter, garlic, parsley and oregano and spread evenly over top of dough, leaving 1/2" at end to help seal loaf. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top of butter mixture. Tightly roll dough up into cylinder shape, pinching and tucking ends to form a tight seal and pinching seam to seal.

Bake as directed above.

Monday, December 6, 2010

homemade christmas decor

I like trying to be crafty.

I usually try to pick things that are easy and inexpensive but don’t look cheap.  Sometimes I succeed and other times I fail.  But this idea I think was a success.

Yarn Trees.

Yup, I have a thing for trees around the holidays.  I just can’t stay away.  Last year I acquired all my natural and glitter trees for about a dollar after Christmas and thinking they needed some friends, this year I added some made from yarn.

Wish I could say I came up with the idea but I actually spotted a finished one at Michaels.  Which of course led me to the paper mache cone aisle to grab the necessary supplies.

Because I am a knitting failure I have plenty of unused yarn around our house.  I chose the gray which I think blends nicely with the rest of the forest!  Along with some adhesive we were set to go.  This project is extremely easy, would be good for kids, and is really fun.

DSC_0115 (2)(plain cone on left/finished on right.  I used mod podge for my adhesive.)
1.  Paint mod podge onto first quarter of cone, repeating as you go farther down the cone.
2.  Starting at the top, press one inch of yarn down from the tip and then start winding the yarn around that 1 inch piece to hold the starting line in place and to create a tip at the top.
3. . Continue winding adding more adhesive when you run out of room.
Next project:  Coffee Filter Wreath

maple pecan granola

We love granola at our house.  Not the fattening, oil laden granola that so many places feed you, but homemade maple almond granola.  I have tried other recipes but this one is terrific and terribly easy that you can throw it together in a matter of minutes for a great snack or breakfast.

We love our granola with vanilla yogurt, hubby adds dried fruit, and I add fresh fruit.  But when the cereal and toast grow old, behold there is granola to save you from the breakfast hum drum.

The recipe is one I got from the Cooking Light website.  The only change I make is that I do not add dried fruit to the entire batch. 
Maple Almond Granola                                                                                                                         (Adapted from Cooking Light)


4 Cups regular Oats
1/4 Cup slivered almonds (or nut of choice)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup water
1/3 Cup honey
1/3 Cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons canola oil
Cooking Spray
1 Cup minced dried apricots
1 Cup raisins


1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2.  Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl.
3.  Combine water, syrup, sugar, and oil in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.  Pour over oat mixture; toss to coat.  Spread out on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 325 for 35 minutes or until golden, stirring every 10 minutes.  Place in a large bowl; stir in dried fruit and cool completely.

Note: store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Yield: 6 Cups (serving size 1/4 cup)

Nutritional Information:  calories (126) fat (2.8)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

thai slaw salad

I am always in need of side dishes for meals that we have. I usually just look in the fridge and decide what would best suit the main entree. We always have romaine in there along with green onions and celery. In the past, I have made a pickled celery salad that we both really loved, so I expanded this recipe to include some other ingredients. The other night when we had some thai food I created the perfect side dish, quick and very easy. The salad tastes sweet and sour with just the right punch of spice. It's clean and delicious.

Thai Slaw Salad

1 C very thinly sliced romaine
1 T chopped scallions
1 stalk of celery, very thinly sliced, leaved included
2 dry red thai chilis, thinly sliced
1 T sugar
2 T white vinegar
2 T rice wine vinegar
3 T chopped cilantro
Mix all ingredients together and let sit as long as possible, an hour up to a day, to allow flavors to meld.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

american sandwich bread

I've been trying my hand at bread making for the past four years.  Most of the recipes come out okay; that is, as long as they are toasted they seem edible.  There has yet to be a bread that I will eat out of hand, as a sandwich.

That is, until last year.  This is the.most.amazing.bread you will ever make.  So yummy I sampled a piece or two while I was cutting it for future use.  The hubby even texted me on his way to work: "this is the best bread."  In my book, that designates a winner.  Simple ingredients, quick assembly, and out of this world taste equal a bread I'm happy to make weekly or even, daily:)  For great pics of the finished product, head here!

American Sandwich Bread

(The New Best Recipe, pg. 725)

Time: About 2 hours (lots of inactive time)

Yield: One 9-inch loaf


3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm whole milk (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (also called rapid rise)


Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.

Mix 3 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid.

When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape dough from the hook, if necessary, about ten minutes. (After five minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to 1/4 cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

Gently press the dough into an 8-inch square that measures 1 inch thick. Starting with the side farthest away from you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil 2 cups of water and pour into a baking pan, and place it on the bottom rack. If possible, put the loaf on a rack above the baking pan of water (my oven is much too small to have a loaf of bread on anything but the bottom rack) otherwise put the two pans side by side. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.