18 September 2014

It's time once again for the Improv Challenge.  And this isn't just any old Improv Challenge post; it's my first as hostess!  Kristen had been our faithful leader for almost three years but felt it was time to pass on the hostess duties to someone else.  I volunteered immediately because I had never hosted a monthly linky party before but always wanted to.  I'm super excited to be hosting this challenge.  I have loved this challenge from the first time I participated, in November 2011.  The lady who started the challenge abruptly quit blogging and Kristen swooped in and saved the day by hosting that month (most of us had already made dishes and typed up posts when we found out the hostess was MIA). And in that almost three years since, I have only missed one monthly challenge, the month we were packing up to move from Michigan to Wisconsin last year.  So I am very happy to be hosting now!

This month's assigned ingredients were milk and honey.  Nice!  I quickly found out that those are popular ingredients in soap-making.  While soap-making probably does resemble cooking in a lot of ways, I wanted my creation to be edible, so I moved on.  I actually found a recipe that not only uses the two assigned ingredients, but uses ONLY the two assigned ingredients.  Has that ever been done before?  Do I get some kind of special award?  :)  I found this recipe for popsicles at Honest Cooking and I thought it was so cool that it only had two ingredients; coconut milk and honey.  I am lactose-intolerant and my youngest daughter is allergic to dairy, so I was really intrigued by the idea of a dairy-free creamy popsicle.  Recipes don't get much simpler than this one!

Coconut Milk and Honey Popsicles

1 (13.6 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk
3 tbsp honey

Combine coconut milk and honey.  Stir or whisk until completely smooth (I used my stick blender).  Pour into popsicle molds.  Freeze at least 4 hours.  

Makes 8 small popsicles.

Note: Use the coconut milk that comes in a can that is found in the Asian aisle of the grocery store, not the kind in the carton that is found in the dairy section. They are two very different products which, unfortunately, have the same name. Also, get the full-fat version, not the low-fat.

These were so incredibly easy to make.  The only problem I had was getting them out of the molds.  The sticks pulled out of a few of them.  The trick I figured out was to run them under warm water for a few seconds.  They popped right out then.

So how did they taste?  I'll let my kids tell you.

 Lena's tongue was blue from a sucker she had right before this.  I like how it matches her eyes!  She has no dairy issues but she loved these pops.

 Eva liked them, but had a hard time finishing hers due to the weather.  It wasn't exactly popsicle weather last weekend here in Wisconsin!  I think we were struggling in the mid-50s this day.  

 These popsicles are on the soft side, so you don't want to take too much time eating them.

Or you will end up with a drippy face!

Be sure to check out all of the great milk and honey recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with chocolate and peanut butter.  Classic!


    An InLinkz Link-up

What I'm Reading Right Now


16 September 2014

Today I'm sharing with you a great slow cooker side dish.  My husband and I love potatoes; they are probably our favorite side dish.  (My kids don't like them; Eva won't eat them at all, but Lena is starting to wear down and will eat small amounts of them now.)  Even though my kids aren't huge fans, I make them at least once or twice a week.  They are cheap, filling, somewhat nutritious, and I love how versatile they are.  The only thing I don't like about potatoes is how long they take to cook.  I love mashed potatoes, but the peeling is a huge pain in the butt, then the chopping, then they take forever to come up to a boil and cook.  I like using the oven to make potatoes, but that can be a problem if your main dish uses the oven as well.  My automatic conclusion was to use the slow cooker to make potatoes.  I've had some iffy results doing that, but last summer I found a real winner of a slow cooker potato recipe.  I found it at 365 Days of Slow Cooking.

Slow Cooker Italian Potatoes

2 lbs. small yellow potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp Tuscan Sunset or other salt-free Italian seasoning

Halve the small potatoes; quarter the larger ones.  Place them in a 3 quart slow cooker.  Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and Tuscan Sunset.  Toss to evenly coat the seasonings.

Cook on low for 3-5 hours, stirring occasionally if you can.

Makes 4 servings.

They key is using yellow potatoes, I think.  Russetts tend to turn kinda brown and get too mushy in the slow cooker.  The yellows keep their color and their shape better.  This is how they look going into the slow cooker.  

They really don't look too different when they are done.  I was very pleased with how they turned out.  They are tender, but not mushy.  And the seasoning was just perfect.  I used Penzey's Tuscan Sunset, which is the best Italian seasoning ever, but you can use your favorite Italian seasoning, or a mixture of dried Italian herbs like basil, oregano, and thyme.  Tuscan Sunset also contains garlic, so add some garlic powder if using a different brand.  Tuscan Sunset is salt-free, so adjust the added salt if using a blend that contains salt.

Of course, these don't have to be Italian-flavored potatoes.  You can season them any way you like.  Greek seasoning, chili powder, smoked paprika, lemon pepper, and curry would all be delicious on these potatoes.

I served these with my favorite white fish recipe, Baked Cornmeal Crusted Cod.  The potatoes were awesome on their own, but I also enjoyed dipping them in a little bit of my Homemade Tartar Sauce.  Yum.

What I'm Reading Right Now


12 September 2014

Is it as cold where you are as it is where I am?  Geez, this weather is crazy!  Yesterday we barely made it to 50, which was the coldest high temp ever recorded for September 11th in Milwaukee.  Yesterday afternoon, watching the Cardinals game, I was freezing!  I considered turning the furnace on, but that seemed utterly ridiculous for the first half of September.  I was really wishing I had soup on my meal plan!  I couldn't get soup out of my head, so I got creative and took my planned meal of Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas and Golden Cheddar Corn Cakes and, using most of the same ingredients, turned it into this Chicken Bacon Corn Chowder and cheese quesadillas.  Meal plans are awesome, but you definitely have to be flexible too!  This is a chowder I made last December and loved.  I immediately thought of it when re-designing my meal plan.  I did have to run to the store for one ingredient (creamed corn because I don't keep that on hand), but I needed milk and some pork that they had on sale anyway.  This recipe is adapted from Better in Bulk.

Chicken Bacon Corn Chowder

3 tbsp butter
½ large onion, diced
3 tbsp flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
1 (15 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (15 oz.) can creamed corn
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt, to taste
Green onions, sliced

Melt butter over low heat in large soup pot.  Add onions and increase heat to medium.  Sauté onions until they are soft.  Stir in flour and cook for a couple of minutes.  Slowly whisk in chicken broth and milk.  Increase heat to high and boil until it thickens.  Dump in corn, creamed corn, most of the bacon (leave a little for garnish), chicken, and paprika.  Reduce heat to low and stir in cheddar cheese.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with reserved bacon and green onions.

Makes 6 servings.

I cannot even tell you how perfect this chowder was for our first chilly evening of the season.  It really hit the spot!  Lena, my six-year-old, had three servings!  And then begged to have the leftovers for lunch today.  The only bad thing about this soup is that my little one can't eat it because she's allergic to dairy.  She could probably handle the cheese, but the milk would be too much for her.  So I kept out a little bit of the chicken and the corn and mixed them into some brown rice leftover from the dinner before.

This is a pretty easy soup to put together.  I try to keep a can of chicken in the pantry, especially during soup season, because it's so easy to make a meal out of it in a pinch.  

We did buckle and turn the furnace on in the middle of the night, as the temp in our house dropped into the mid-60s.  We never once made it to 90 degrees this summer and the local weather dude has predicted that we will not reach 80 again this year.  This chowder will definitely be a go-to for us in the season to come!

What I'm Reading Right Now


11 September 2014

Yesterday I mentioned the game night we had with our kids last month.  I served party-type appetizers for dinner, fooling my kids into thinking they were having fun food for dinner instead of an actual healthy meal.  But what they didn't realize is that the meal was pretty darn healthy with tons of veggies and beans.  Sneaky mom!  Yesterday I shared the BLT Pinwheels we had.  They definitely aren't the healthiest things in the world as they do contain bacon and mayo, but they did trick my four-year-old into eating tomatoes and lettuce, neither of which she would normally eat.  I also served this awesome hummus, Pizza Hummus!  What is pizza hummus, you ask?  It's hummus that kinda tastes like pizza.  It has all of the usual hummus ingredients, including chickpeas and tahini, but you also blend in some tomato paste and pizza seasonings.  It really does taste like pizza.  It's slightly adapted from Food Network.

Pizza Hummus

¼ cup + 2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp pizza seasoning or Italian seasoning
2 (15 oz.) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed, ½ cup liquid reserved
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup water
1 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and puree using stick blender.  Taste for seasoning, adding more pizza seasoning or more olive oil if desired.

Makes about 4 cups.

Easy peasy!  The original recipe called for sauteing the tomato paste and the pizza seasoning together in the oil, and I tried it that way, but won't do it in the future.  I don't think it added that much to the flavor, and the dried herbs turned really dark.  Next time I will just blend all the ingredients together.  I also added more tomato paste because I wanted it to have a nice strong flavor.  This was perfect.

This is the pizza seasoning I used.  Penzey's of course!  They recently came out with this Frozen Pizza Seasoning and it is meant for "sprucing up" a frozen pizza.  We don't eat frozen pizza, but I have been using this stuff on all kinds of other things.  In this pic I was using it for Pepperoni Rolls (recipe coming soon).  If you don't have this, you might be able to find a pizza seasoning at the grocery store.  Otherwise use your favorite Italian Seasoning, or 2 tsp dried oregano and 1 tsp dried basil.

 My husband and kids LOVED this stuff.  I served it with fresh veggies, but if you were making this for a party or for watching football or something, it would be good on any kind of crackers.  I had it with some little garlic bread-type snacks and that was awesome too.  This stuff was such a hit that the tray was raided in a matter of seconds when I set it on the table.  I put it down (looking just like this pic above), and turned around to get the BLT Pinwheels, and when I came back, this is what I saw:

 Wow!  They were a bit excited to try this, I guess!

My six-year-old Lena, digging right in!  You can see that I did not even have time to get myself a plate yet!

So if you're looking for a great way to sneakily get your kids to eat more veggies, give this dip a try.

What I'm Reading Right Now


10 September 2014

I am not into football at all (I'm a baseball girl all the way), but I know that it's getting to be that time of year when people are looking for fun recipes to serve while watching football games.  I found this recipe last month while looking for fun appetizer-style dishes to serve at one of our Family Fun Nights.  We were having a game night and I thought it would be fun to serve party-type food for dinner.  I scoured my Pinterest pins for ideas and I found this recipe that I had pinned from Mostly Homemade Mom a while back.  I thought they would be perfect for our fun game night.

BLT Pinwheels

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayo
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 vine-ripened tomato, seeds removed and finely diced
¾ cup green leaf lettuce, finely chopped
2 flour tortillas, burrito sized

Combine cream cheese and mayo and stir until completely smooth.  Add bacon, tomato, and lettuce and stir to combine.  Divide this mixture evenly between the two flour tortillas and spread out to within ½” of the edge.  Roll each tortilla up as tightly as you can and wrap them up in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least an hour; can be done a day ahead.  When ready to serve, remove logs from plastic wrap and cut them into ½” slices.  I found a serrated steak knife worked best.  Place pinwheels on a serving plate and serve immediately.

Makes about 2 dozen pinwheels.

Kelly used shredded lettuce, but I used chopped green leaf lettuce.  I like it because it's much greener than iceberg lettuce.

You will see in the pic at the top that mine are not perfect.  That's because I goofed up.  I forgot that they needed to chill before being cut and I didn't allow myself enough time (I hate it when I do that!).  But I decided to go for it anyway.  While they were a little tricky to slice since the filling wasn't as firm, they worked out ok.  But I would definitely refrigerate them next time.  It was difficult to get them to stay round and they were slightly messy.

My kids sure didn't care!  They loved these things.  Lena could not shove them in fast enough!  I made a smaller dairy-free version for Eva using just mayo.  They were good that way too.  I think they would also be good with ranch dressing instead of the mayo.

I served these pinwheels with a super yummy pizza hummus and veggies.  The girls thought this dinner was super fun and that it was a big treat to eat pinwheels and dip for dinner.  But what they didn't realize was that their dinner was totally packed with veggies.  Win win! :)

What I'm Reading Right Now


06 September 2014

What do you think of my new look?  Those of you reading on a blog reader or via email might not understand what I'm talking about.  Click through to my blog and you will see that I made some changes yesterday.  I was tired of the old "notebook" theme I had and was ready for something more fresh and simple.  I also wanted more functions that that theme didn't provide.  I now have tabs across the top ribbon which are links to my pages.  My recipe indices are linked there, as well as info about the Improv Challege, which I am now hosting, a list of my recipe accomplishments, and a brand new "about me" page.  This will make navigating around my blog a little easier.  I still have the archive and the category list along the right sidebar. 

Another new feature are some social media buttons in the top right corner.  I don't have a Twitter account, so for now they are just for the RSS feed, Facebook, and Pinterest.  I have a lot more I want to do with  my blog, most importantly is to change the name and url.  I am really tired of the Edesia's Notebook name.  People call me Edesia all the time and it's getting really annoying!  I have purchased a new domain name, but I don't know how to switch everything over and make sure that it automatically redirects.  With over 600 posts already published, I want to make sure that people can find the post they want if they click on an old link.  So if you know anything about switching a domain on Blogger, please help me out!

So anyway, the recipe I have for you today is one that I have been meaning share with you all summer.  Where did summer go?  :(  School started this week and it was kind of crazy.  My kids were so tired that my husband had to drag my six-year-old out of bed yesterday, which NEVER HAPPENS and my four-year-old fell asleep on the couch while cuddling with the cat.  And that was a short week!  I do already miss summer, but what can you do?  This is a great recipe that will remind you of summer no matter what time of year you make it.  Salmon is coated in a bright and sweet honey lime glaze and roasted to perfection.  I got the recipe from The Apron Gal.

Honey Lime Glazed Salmon

4 (4 oz.) salmon filets
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp lime zest, finely grated

Preheat oven to 400°.  Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with nonstick spray.

Stir together the honey and lime zest.  Place salmon filets on baking sheet, sprinkle generously with salt, and brush the honey/lime glaze evenly over the tops of the filets.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork.

Makes 4 servings.

So easy, so fast, and so delicious.  I like to serve this salmon with brown rice and any kind of veggie.  My girls gobble this salmon up!  They love the pretty green flecks of lime zest.

This is a great go-to meal because it has very few ingredients, and they are ones I usually have on hand most of the time.  It's awesome for busy weeknights.

What I'm Reading Right Now


31 August 2014

It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.  

This month I was assigned the blog Cookin' Mimi written by Micha.  Micha is a Southern California gal who has been cooking all her life.  She has a great collection of recipes. Her Cheddar Potato Bites certainly caught my eye.  How can you go wrong with cheese and potatoes?  Yum.  I was planning a fun picnic dinner for my family, so I wanted something kind of picnic-y.  We have started doing a "Family Fun Night" one night each week and that week we were going to an outdoor concert.  I thought it would be fun to eat a picnic dinner there, so I planned for egg salad sandwiches (my girls love them), chips, and bottled water.  We were missing something. . . ah yes, dessert!  I perused Micha's dessert offerings and came across her Lemon Iced Butter Cookies.  Butter cookies?  I had never made butter cookies before but I was very intrigued by the fact that they did not contain eggs.  I don't think I've ever made cookies that didn't require eggs.  But they sounded absolutely divine so I couldn't wait to try them.  They were perfect for our picnic. 

Iced Lemon Butter Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup + 2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp + 2½ tbsp lemon juice, divided
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups flour
2¼ cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar.  Mix in the salt, 2 tsp lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Gently fold in the flour.

Form cookies by rolling 2 tbsp dough into a ball.  Place balls on a cookie sheet, leaving room in between for them to spread.  Dip the bottom of a glass into a bit of flour and use the glass to slightly flatten the dough balls.  Don’t smoosh them all the way down; just flatten them slightly.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges just barely begin to brown.  Remove from the oven and let cookies cool for at least 10 minutes on the baking sheet.  Transfer them to parchment paper and let them cool completely before icing.

For the icing, stir together the powdered sugar and the remaining 2½ tbsp lemon juice.  The icing should be thick, but if it is too thick, thin it out with a little more lemon juice or water.  Smooth the icing onto the cookies and let them sit for at least 15 minutes.  If the icing is nice and thick, it will harden on the cookies enough for you to stack them.  The cookies will be very soft; handle them gently.

Makes about 16 cookies.

 This is how I flattened the dough balls.  You don't want them totally flat, because they will flatten out even more during baking.  

I didn't change much about Micha's recipe.  First of all, I doubled it because I knew before even starting that my family would devour them.  They love lemony desserts.  I also increased the lemon zest.  I just went ahead and zested a whole lemon.  It was really due to laziness; it was easier than measuring out the zest.  But I always say the more the better when it comes to citrus zest.  I love it.  I didn't use quite as much lemon juice in the icing as Micha did.  I wanted to be able to stack these cookies in a container to take them to the concert.  So I made the icing nice and thick and it did a great job of setting up.  It doesn't get super duper hard, but it gets solid enough to stack.

 These cookies are super delicate and soft.  Tender, you might say.  I had to be careful putting them in my container, because some of them wanted to kind of fold in half.  But the delicate nature of them is part of why they are so delicious.  The softness and the lemony-ness make them the perfect summertime treat.  They are the ultimate combination of tart and sweet.

My daughter Eva showing me how much she loved her first bite.  As a control freak mother, I appreciated how the icing set up so that these cookies weren't a horrible mess all over my kids' faces.

These cookies were just perfect for our Family Fun Night picnic.  I think the people sitting next to us were getting pretty jealous watching us savor our delicious homemade cookies!  It was a great send-off for summer.

Happy Labor Day!  School starts tomorrow.  Eek!


    An InLinkz Link-up