June 24, 2014

Homemade Iced Sweet Mint Tea

I have a horrible time making female friends. As far back as I can remember I have had one very close female friend and than a small group of female acquaintances. At parties in college I was more likely to be talking about political theory or science than where I got my nails done (for the record I have never actually been in a nail salon, shocking I know). To this day I have a hard time discussing 'typical' female topics. I fully admit a large part of it is my fault. I grew up with male cousins that were obsessed with professional wrestling and computers. To make matters worse I was an only child and I loved spending time with my dad, we went to sporting events, on hikes, and watched movies. Now I live in a house full of men. Most conversations in my house involve video games or bodily functions, not necessarily in that order. As I've gotten older I've realized I need to be better and more patient with forging female friendships. I have a horrible habit of getting mad at close female friends and then cutting off contact, or just losing contact through my total lack of being great about remembering to make phone calls. We all have things we can work on and one of mine is definitely being better about getting along with other women. I'm a work in progress.

Our weather has been hot and very humid. Our humidity was 83 percent today and it was 93 degrees. It was horrible. Due to the lovely summer weather I have been making lots of cold drinks. Iced Tea is a family favorite and Mint Iced Tea is a great way to use garden mint. The recipe is as follows.

Adapted from Food.com.

Iced Sweet Mint Tea

Recipe Type: Drink
A refreshing sweet iced tea recipe using fresh mint.
Preparation Time: 0h, 5m
Cooking Time: 0h, 20m
Yield: 2 Quarts

Mint Iced Tea

  • 12 black tea bags
  • 10 mint sprigs
  • 2 gallons water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (or your choice of sweetener)
Cooking Directions
  1. Boil the 2 gallons of water.
  2. Once water has boiled add water to mint and tea bags.
  3. Let steep for 20 minutes.
  4. Discard tea bags and mint.
  5. In a heat proof pitcher add sugar (or sweetener) and then pour iced tea over.
  6. Place in fridge until cold.
  7. Serve over ice and with sliced lemon if you prefer.
This tea is strong and sweet. My husband and I are both fans of strong tea, so if you like your tea weaker reduce the amount of tea bags. The same goes for the sugar. If your like your tea sweet add the amount listed, alternately you can make the tea unsweetened or reduce the amount of sugar to meet your needs. When I make this for my whole family (including my kids) I use decaf tea bags and it turns out just as good. 

June 23, 2014

Oat and Nutella Cookies

Nutella and Oat Cookies, recipe
Gluten Free Oat and Nutella Cookies

I am jealous of adorable well behaved kids. My house seems to play by another set of rules, or at least my two boys seem to think it does. While I love my kids to no end, they can be the kids that other parents dread. You know the kids, the ones that fight at the store, touch everything they see, talk non-stop (really I don't think they breath in-between sentences), and think that having a MMA fight in the middle of the store is something that should happen. I have those kids. They are adorable, but since they travel in a pack it's like trying to tame wild hyenas. Then every once in a  while I run into another parent with multiple boys, and we share a moment. In a glance, a smile, or a joke we have instantly bonded over having all boys. The world seems a little less crazy, and then I realize my boys are currently on the floor trying to tackle each other. My word realigns back to normal and I realize I don't have perfect kids, but I love them just the same. Hopefully they will one day turn into the adorable well behaved kids that other parents seem to have, in the meantime they are still my off center version of perfect and that's just fine with me.

I have a slight Nutella obsession. I can't keep full jars in the house or I will eat them (normally with a spoon straight out of the jar - is there any other way..). So in order to avoid my waistline from becoming non-existent I only buy Nutella for recipes or as a very seldom treat. My Nutella obsession happens to work perfectly with my cookies obsession, they are a match made in heaven. Today I tried a new recipe for Oat and Nutella Cookies from the May 2014 issue of Food and Wine Magazine. Here is the recipe with changes.

Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

Oat and Nutella Cookies

Recipe Type: Dessert
A delicious combination of Nutella and oats that makes for a great snack or dessert.
Cooking Time: 0h, 10m
Total Time: 1h, 0m
Yield: 60 Cookies

Oat and Nutella Cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 13 ounces Nutella (one jar)
  • 2 cups quick cook oats
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl and mix.
  3. Using a mixer, cream the shortening and sugars until creamy (2-3 minutes on medium).
  4. Add the eggs one a time and then add Nutella.
  5. Beat the mixture until smooth (another 1-2 minutes on medium).
  6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Roll the cookies into balls (1 tablespoon for each ball).
  8. Place the cookies on the baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not over bake these cookies. They should be just barely set, if you bake them too long they will be way too crunchy. 
The original recipe has a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. I made the cookies as written in the magazine and I found that the cinnamon flavor was a little much. Now, that may just be my tastes, if you love cinnamon go for it. My husband thought that the cinnamon was the best part of the cookie, so you might love the cinnamon like he did. I also reduced the amount of salt. I found a full teaspoon to be too much for my tastes, so I reduced it to 3/4 of a teaspoon. However, I under salt everything so I'm a little strange. If you aren't a fan of vegetable shortening I would assume that coconut oil (you might need to reduce the total amount), butter, or another fat would work just as well. The version I made I used gluten free all purpose flour that had xanthan gum already added. If you use another type of gluten free flour I would suggest adding xanthan gum to the mixture (about a tablespoon).

June 22, 2014

Savory Rosemary Sage Bread

I have a habit of buying clearanced appliances.. Most of the time I use them, the ones I don't I give as gifts, a few sit for a few years before I get around to using them. Then there are the appliances that I get from someone else. About 5 years ago my mother-in-law gave me a bread maker. It sat on the shelf for a couple of months and then I used it non-stop for a year. Later it broke and I made bread from scratch for years. Until I found a bread maker marked down to 15 dollars (from 80!), so of course I had to buy it. Honestly, this summer it has been my best friend. It has kept my house cool when the weather is 95 and humid, which is seems to be frequently this year. My herb garden has also been crazy so I have been trying to combine my love of making fresh bread with the over abundance of fresh herbs I have in my garden. I discovered a recipe for Rosemary Sage Bread a couple of weeks back and I love it! The recipe is as follows.

Adapted from Recipe 4 Living
Rosemary Sage Bread

A savory bread that is a great way to use garden herbs. Works well made in both the bread maker and in the oven.

Yield: 2 loaves 16 slices each

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 3 cups bread flour
Cooking Directions
  1. If making in the bread maker add ingredients in order suggested by the manufacturer of your bread maker.
  2. If you are making the bread from scratch use the following instructions.
  3. In the one cup of warm water dissolve the sugar and then mix in the yeast.
  4. After 5 minutes (when the yeast is foamy) add the butter, sage, and rosemary.
  5. In a separate bowl combine the bread flour and salt.
  6. Add the wet mixture and then knead by hand for 10-12 minutes (alternately you may use a mixer for this step).
  7. Rub the inside of a plastic bowl with oil.
  8. Place dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and rise for 1 hour or until doubled.
  9. Punch down dough, and divide into two balls.
  10. Grease the inside of two loaf pans, shape the two pieces of dough into loaves and place in loaf pans.
  11. Cover top of pans with plastic wrap and allow loaves to rise for one hour or until doubled in size.
  12. While the dough is on the last rise preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  13. Bake the loaves in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and sound hollow when tapped (total time will depend on your oven, if they brown too quickly tent with foil. A bread thermometer is helpful-when the bread temps 190-200 it is ready to pull out.
  14. Allow cool for 30 minutes in pan and an additional 30 minutes before slicing.
This bread is nice as a side with soup. It also makes great savory toast, my kids loved it with goat cheese (my kids have adult tastes). You can adjust the amount of herbs based on your tastes. Some people might like more or less rosemary/sage. It would also work with other herbs if you have an over abundance of thyme, dill, etc. 

Rosemary Sage Bread

A savory bread that is a great way to use garden herbs. Works well made in both the bread maker and in the oven.
Preparation Time: 2h, 20m
Cooking Time: 0h, 20m
Yield: 32 Slices

June 20, 2014

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

So I am becoming somewhat of a hypocrite. When I started this blog I had a lot of idealism and firm rules in place on recipes. While I still believe in many of the ideas, I also have realized that some of my opinions have changed. The biggest change in my opinions is in regard to the use of recipes. I was pretty firm on my stance that I would never re-print a recipe from another site. While I still don't believe in re-printing recipes verbatim, I have softened my opinions on adaptations. That's part of the reason I took a couple of weeks off from blogging, I needed a break to decide what I wanted to do going forward on the blog. I have decided that I will begin to print recipes on my site with clear links to the original recipe and clearly adapted steps and directions. A lot has changed in the last three years since I started this blog and I have realized that I am constantly in a state of change myself. I hope that none of my readers will think badly of my decisions and continue to read my blog.

Now that I got through with the heavy stuff, on to the recipe. My kids are both home for the summer and have been eating me thru house and home. We are all big sweet eaters in my household so I am always trying new recipes for cookies and baked goods. Chocolate has always been my personal weakness, I can't get enough of the stuff. One of my favorite recipes is for No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, they are so good! The recipe is as follows.

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a boil and rapid boil for two minutes. In order for the cookies to completely set you must allow the cookies to boil for two minutes. If they aren't boiled long enough the cookies will stay soft.
  3. Take mixture off heat and quickly add oats, peanut butter, and vanilla.
  4. Drop cookies onto wax paper (I normally make my cookies about 1-2 tablespoons each, but the size is really up to you) and let cool. If your cookies don't completely set place the cookies in the refrigerator until firm.
My kids really love this recipe. Every time I make them they only last a couple of hours. They also freeze well in-between sheets of wax paper and placed in a freezer bag. Since there is no flour in the cookies it's a nice gluten free option that doesn't use a gluten free all-purpose flour mix (just make sure your oats are gluten free). 

June 5, 2014

Homemade Mint Iced Tea

I am a horrible food stylist. It seems to be a talent that many food bloggers have. They spend lots of time shopping for the perfect plates, utensils, and tableware in order to take gorgeous photos. I have to admit I hate shopping for photo props. While I love the second hand store, I don't like shopping for vintage tableware, or linens just to make my photos pop. Plus, with overly propped photos I never know if I am supposed to be looking at the food. I get distracted by the beautiful colors, tableware, plates etc. and more often than not the food becomes the prop instead of the focal point of the recipe that it is supposed to be representing. Honestly I am also a little bit jealous. I wish that I had the patience, time, and follow through to be able to spend hours putting together my photos. Most days I am lucky if the food gets on the plate and the photo taken. One thing I do love is angles. I spend more time finding the right angle for my photos than the worrying about the props. After preping, cooking, and plating my food I just want the angle of the photo to represent my food in the best light and hope that maybe no one will notice that I didn't spend hours finding the perfect vintage table linen for my shot.

Today's recipe is an example of my less than stellar food styling abilities. When I had time to take the photo the mint had all been used and I had no leaves left for photo props. So I am sad to admit that my mint iced tea photos have no actual mint in the picture. Oh well, without further ado here is the breakdown of the recipe I tried today from the Food Network for Mint Iced Tea.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active, and makes 4 servings. I only made a few small changes to the original recipe. First, I doubled the recipe to use the large amount of fresh mint that has exploded in my garden the last couple of day. Second, I used half sugar and half stevia. Whenever possible I try to reduce the amount of sugar in drink recipes since my kids are hyper enough without a ton of extra sugar added to their diet.

My youngest son fell in love with this recipe. He drank half of the pitcher this afternoon and insisted on drinking it with a sliced lemon on his glass, it was pretty cute. If you aren't a huge fan of mint you can take out the mint after a couple of hours and the tea will be more lemony than mint tasting. On the flip side if you are like my family and love mint, let the mint steep in the fridge for most of the day and the tea will have a nice crisp flavor.

For the recipe go to Mint Iced Tea.

June 4, 2014

Spiced Fava Bean Soup with Rice and Tomato

I am beginning to get a complex thanks to Pinterest. Apparently every woman except me has a recipe binder, feeds a family of 4 for 100 dollars a month, and keeps their house clean with only 15 minutes of work a day. I am lucky if I can find the recipe I am following for the day,  I don't even want to talk about my grocery budget (how much milk can two boys possibly drink!), and I laugh at the idea of cleaning only 15 minutes a day. That's hilarious, I clean pretty much from the time I get up until I go to bed, no joke. Most days I feel pretty good about myself, until I step foot on the internet, then it all comes quickly crumbling down. I am so jealous of people that can keep their house clean and keep their food budget down. I do reasonably well for a family of four with our food budget. However, we don't buy anything pre-packaged and gluten free flours are crazy expensive. Plus I really need to get my two boys to stop eating all day, that would save a ton of money (obviously I'm kidding, mostly). At least my food normally looks half way decent and no one complains that it tastes bad, that counts for something right?

While most people stop making soups in the summer, I'm a little abnormal. I make soup year round, I love warm soup in warm weather. I blame my grandmother who was determined hot coffee in the summer made you cool down (don't worry I know this isn't actually true). Last week I tried a new recipe for Spiced Fava Bean Soup with Rice and Tomato from the April 2014 of Bon Appetit Magazine.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes an hour of total time, all of which is active, and makes 6 servings. I made a number of changes to the original recipe. First, I used long grain brown rice. It was what I had in the cupboard and I didn't want to have to buy more rice. I have never actually seen dried fava bean in my area, so I used lima beans instead. I allowed the lima beans to soak overnight in order for them to be soft enough cooked in the recipe, I hate half cooked beans. Finally, for the broth I used homemade veggie broth. I love making homemade vegetable stock, you can literally throw in whatever old veggies you have in the fridge and let them simmer for a couple of hours. Much, much, cheaper than store bought.

My soup came out thicker than the magazine recipe. It was more of a stew than a soup. However, the flavor was delicious and it was a nice way to get my family to eat a vegetarian meal. Best of all there were enough leftover for two lunches for my husband for the week so it was economical. He's slowly coming around to eating more vegetarian meals, slowly.

For the recipe go to Spiced Fava Bean Soup.
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