Friday, April 1, 2011

Fantabulous Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is one of my all-time favorite breakfast foods. I'm not sure everyone eats it for breakfast, but I know my mom would make it for us as kids for breakfast. I also assumed everyone dunked their grilled cheese sandwiches in ketchup---apparently that was just a Miller family thing. Who knew??

So I tried out a rice pudding recipe last week as a way to warm up on a cold winter day. Wait, it's spring. Who knew??

Of course, I have some sort of genetic disorder that requires me to deviate from original recipes, so here's my yummy rice pudding concoction that I know you will enjoy. It's really pretty darn easy, too!

Saucepan Rice Pudding
2 cups half & half
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup white rice (NOT the quick-cooking type)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Combine the half & half and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring just to a boil. Add the salt, rice and raisins. Reduce heat to low and let simmer, covered (stirring occasionally), for 30 to 40 minutes, or until rice is tender and much of the milk has been absorbed.

Remove from heat and add sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Serve warm (my favorite!) or chill in refrigerator.

**If you don't have golden raisins--don't rush out to get them! I just added them because I had them, and the tartness of the golden raisin is really nice with the sweetness of the rice pudding.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Homemade Baby Wipes

I love just about everything about cloth diapers. Thanks to my sister-in-law, Carolyn, I've used cloth diapers almost exclusively with Calvin. This information is often greeted with horror by some--understandably so. Why wash dirty diapers when you can just throw them away? To be brutally honest, I'm not doing this for any environmental benefit. I use cloth diapers because they are convenient for me; I never run out of diapers, they save us lots of money and they are SUPER CUTE! It's not for everyone, I admit, but it's great for us. If you gag at the sight of poop--I'd think twice before attempting cloth diapers. Heck, if you gag at the sight of poop, I'd think twice about having kids. ;)

So a couple of months ago, I realized that I'm also overspending on baby wipes. My brother and sister-in-law used to make their own wipes, so I thought I'd try it for myself. This is the recipe that I came up with---and it works really well. (P.S.---I know this isn't a recipe that includes butter or sugar, but I thought I'd share anyway!)

You will need:
Bounty paper towels - preferably with select-a-size
*it is important to use Bounty---this is the only paper towel that can stand up to the recipe and wipe little bottoms (trust me, I've tried them all)
baby oil
baby shampoo
warm water
plastic container for storage

First up, cut the paper towel roll in half and remove the cardboard center---store the other half for later.
Place the half roll in a plastic storage container. I found this Sterilite brand container at Target and it fits perfectly!

To 1-1/2 cups of WARM water, add two tablespoons of baby shampoo...

...and two tablespoons of baby oil.

Give it a little mix...

...and pour it over the paper towel roll.
Pop the lid on the container...and voila! You have homemade baby wipes! There are all kinds of recipes out there on the internet, but this one works best for me. I can't believe I didn't try this before.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Go play with your toys; Mommy needs some chocolate.

Since about mid-November, I've lost almost 25 pounds that were packed on while pregnant with Calvin. Woohoo! I'm really not sure how I've done it, considering that we canceled our YMCA membership and I bake non-stop. In fact, I've eaten more chocolate and sugar in recent months than I have in years. I'm on the coffee and chocolate diet; coffee keeps me awake, chocolate keeps me happy.

On a recent trip to Bismarck with some girlfriends, we stopped to get was totally worth it even though my feet look just as unpresentable now (just a couple of weeks later) as they did before we went.

During our pedicures, we enjoyed a tasty little chocolate snack called an Oreo truffle. The pedicurists (?) raved about how easy they were to make--and I remembered seeing the recipe many times in my Kraft Food & Family magazines.

Today, I tried out the recipe, and wowza---are they incredible AND incredibly easy. They'd be a great Christmas treat...but who needs a holiday to eat chocolate????? Grab a package of Oreos, a chunk of cream cheese and make them now!
CLICK HERE to see the recipe. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Take That, Cinnabon!

My relationship with the internet when it comes to recipes is love/hate. So you say you want to make cinnamon rolls? Well, there are millions of recipes out there. So how do you find the RIGHT recipe? I figured if I found a copycat recipe of Cinnabon, I couldn't go wrong.

I am proud to say I conquered one of my biggest fears this weekend and for the first time in my life, I baked with yeast. I've decided I have never done it before now simply because my mom never did. The buns/rolls were always made by my grandma, so I never saw it happen.

ANYWAY...I found this great recipe. My first attempt was just okay. I underbaked the rolls a bit for fear of OVERbaking. Oops! It was also too sugary for me the first time around, so today I cut the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture down by about half. Here they are all rolled up and ready to get all warm and fluffy.

They came out of the oven looking good---but as usual, the baking time specified in the recipe was nowhere near long enough.

But let's be clear, people. The star of the show on a cinnamon roll is the frosting. This was a light and fluffy cream cheese frosting. OMG.

Baking with yeast was nowhere near as difficult as I thought it would be. Now I can't stop thinking about buns, breads, doughnuts, rolls..............

So here is the recipe...and again, I would suggest using just half of the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. I also had the rolls in my oven (which is admittedly not the best oven in the world!) for about 18 minutes. I think you'll be able to tell when they are done by checking to see if the cinnamon/sugar is bubbling up in the layers.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Birthdays: A Piece of Cake!

As I grow older, I've come to realize just how amazing my mom is. Three of her children (Scott, Melissa & Greg) have birthdays in a span of four days (January 15th, 16th & 18th). Each of us got our own cake...and I'm not talking about cake in a pan with a can of pre-made frosting. She created fun cakes for us each year; circus themes, carousels, Wonder Woman, name it, she's probably made it. She did this with seven kids and a full-time job; I'm in awe. That's why I just can't stand the taste of canned frosting or the Crisco-tasting concoction they put on store-bought cakes. It's disgusting and a waste of a perfectly good cake.

So, for my kids I knew I wanted to try to tackle the cakes on my own; it's fun and inexpensive. I found cute toppers for Natalie's cake and cupcakes online, and I knew that I wanted to create a "4" cake. It was easier than I thought! My favorite flavor of cake is strawberry...hands down. It was my first attempt at using a pastry bag with a star tip, but I think it turned out okay. The best part was the frosting: strawberry cream cheese. It was fabulous. Okay, so maybe I'm not going to make it on "Cake Boss," but I think everyone enjoyed it, and that's all that matters!

For Calvin's birthday (two very short weeks later) we used a barnyard theme. My mom showed me a picture of a barnyard cake that was absolutely adorable---so I did my best to replicate it. It was so easy---the key to getting that fabulous color in the frosting is using gel paste food coloring. It costs a bit more than the drops, but it's well worth it!
Calvin was pretty excited about it, too!
There were little cupcake animals that went along with the cake, but for some reason I didn't take pictures of them! Oops! The moral of the story is...I love cake.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Cookies!

I'm probably best known for my frosted sugar cookies. Let's get one thing straight: the sugar cookies are all about the frosting. The cookie is simply the vehicle for creamy, buttery frosting. I wonder how many sugar cookies I've cut out over the years??? I make pumpkins for Halloween and candy canes, bells, trees, angels, etc. for Christmas. The funny thing is, I never grow tired of it. Maybe it's because I know everyone loves them. That's the wonderful thing about baking...everyone loves makes people happy.
Here are my secrets for irresistable sugar cookies:

1. Roll out the dough THICK. I'd say it's about 1/4 inch. You may make fewer cookies from the batch, but they're better cookies, because they end up being soft and chewy instead of crispy.

2. Take the cookies out BEFORE they start to brown around the edges. They may seem like they're not done, but they are. I always know the cookies are ready to come out of the oven because the dough goes from shiny to dull. The cookies will bake a bit more on the pan outside of the oven before you remove them to a wire rack.

3. Almond extract in the frosting. Forget vanilla. Almond extract makes all the difference in the world.

4. Butter. Do people seriously still use margarine in anything?

Sugar Cookies for Cutouts
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine mixtures and roll into two separate balls. Chill for two hours. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes. (Every oven is different---take my advice from above for doneness.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fluffy Marshmallows in Vanilla Carmel Hot Chocolate

Sounds delicious on a cold winter day, doesn't it? This is my first time making homemade marshmallows. You may wonder why I would make marshmallows, since the marshmallows you buy in the store are pretty good. Let me tell you...there's NOTHING like a homemade marshmallow. It's light, fluffy and ooooh so good in hot chocolate.

I'm packaging these up with a homemade hot cocoa mix for some Christmas gifts for those difficult-to-shop-for people on our list. It's really worth the effort and pretty easy to whip up!

The recipe is below, but one thing I would add is that it's much easier to cut the marshmallows with a pizza cutter than with the knife, so skip the knife!
My quality control specialist approves!
The marshmallows melt much easier in the hot chocolate than regular marshmallows. I bet they will be spectacular in s'mores!
My friend, Abby made marshmallows for us years ago, and I never forgot them. I searched the internet for the best/highest rated recipe, and this is what I found. I would absolutely give it five stars.
Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows
About 1 cup powdered sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 Tbsp plus 2 1/2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla
Oil bottom and sides of a 13x9 metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some powdered sugar.
In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup COLD water and let stand to soften.
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water and salt over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
With standing or hand-held electric mixer, beat mixture on high speed until white, thick and nearly tripled in volume; about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer.
In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters, beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan. Soft 1/4 cup powdered sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, in refrigerator until firm; at least three hours and up to one day.
Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of the pan, loosen the marshmallow with fingers onto the cutting board. With a large knife or pizza cutter, cut marshmallows into one-inch cubes. Sift remaining powdered sugar back into your now-empty baking pan and roll the marshmallows through it on all sides before shaking off the excess and packing them away.