Sunday, April 23, 2017

Breakfast Pigs in a Blanket

This time of year I'm always looking for new brunch and breakfast ideas with Mother's Day and Father's Day coming up. I look for easy recipes that can be prepped in just a few minutes and made ahead of time, ad this recipe for Breakfast Pigs in a Blanket definitely fits the bill.

All you need is one can of refrigerated cinnamon rolls and sausage links. You ca use regular sausage or turkey sausage. Personally, I prefer the sausage that's already cooked because it makes the prep even easier. Then you just take a cinnamon roll, unravel it, and cut it into 3 or 4 equal parts. (Obviously you can get a higher yield if you cut it into 4 parts, but if you don't have many sausage links, you can just cut it into 3 parts.) And then just wrap the cinnamon roll around the sausage.

After the Pigs in a Blanket finish cooking, I like to add a maple glaze on top. It's just a few ingredients (butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar), but it makes a huge difference in taste!

And that's it! The result is a portable treat that's the perfect combination of a little salty and a little sweet. The yield is pretty large, so these would also be great for a tailgate or bridal shower or other brunch function with a big group of people.

Breakfast Pigs in a Blanket
Yield: Makes between 15 and 20 Pigs in a Blanket
  • 1 can Grands Cinnamon Rolls (you can use another cinnamon roll brand as long as it unravels)
  • 15 to 20 sausage links
  • 4 Tablespoons Challenge butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit; line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside
  2. Unravel each of the 5 cinnamon rolls and cut into 3 or 4 equal pieces
  3. Wrap one piece of dough around each sausage link and place on baking sheet
  4. Bake between 20 to 25 minutes, or until cinnamon roll starts to turn golden brown
  5. Mix together butter and maple syrup; slowly add powdered sugar and mix until combined and there are no lumps
  6. Drizzle glaze over pigs in a blanket and serve

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Using food pantry staples to make filling meals

Food is a big part of my life. For me, it’s almost like art. I love looking at it, learning about it, and of course consuming it. I follow a lot of food blogs and restaurants because I love looking at everyone’s creations.

That being said, it can be so easy for me to forget that food is a painful topic for some people because it’s not always available and they have to worry about when they’ll get their next meal.

The amount of people that suffer from food insecurity in Indiana alone is heartbreaking. According to Midwest and Gleaners Food Banks, more than 1 million people in Indiana suffer from food insecurity, and one out of every six Hoosiers don’t know where their next meal will come from.

When I was in elementary school, my mom would pack me big lunches everyday. I remember in the fifth grade, one of my classmates would ask me for my leftovers. I never thought anything of it, and I gave them to her. One day when we were at computer class, she left to “go to the bathroom.” But in actuality she went back to the classroom to get in my lunchbox, and my teacher caught her eating my food.

We had a private meeting with the teacher about it. Our teacher asked her why she stole my food. She said she stole it because she was hungry. It made me so so sad for her. 

That’s why the recipes in this blog post are a little different. This week FOX59 teamed up with Midwest and Gleaners Food Banks to raise money to fight hunger. They asked me to create a few recipes using items at the food pantry to give patrons an idea of what they can make. So I visited Old Bethel & Partners Food Pantry, and these are the recipes I came up with! I really wanted to focus on filling recipes that can be stretched out to feed a lot of people.

When I visited the food pantry, I learned that yogurt and frozen fruit are most always available for patrons. There's also usually a fresh fruit option and granola. That's what inspired me to makes these yogurt parfaits. Use any frozen or fresh fruit you want, and if granola isn't available, use dry cereal!

Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits
  • 1/4 cup granola, plus 1 Tablespoon for sprinkling on top*
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries, plus 1 Tablespoon for sprinkling on top*
  • 1 cup yogurt, any flavor
  • 1 strawberry*
  1. Add 1/4 cup granola to bowl or mason jar. Layer 1/4 cup frozen blueberries and yogurt on top.
  2. Finish off by adding another Tablespoon of granola and frozen blueberries. Finish with a strawberry on top.
  3. Can be made up to three days in advance.
*You can substitute dry cereal for granola, and you can use any frozen or fresh fruit.

Eggs are obviously a good breakfast choice and a good source of protein, and they're available at the food pantry. However, patrons are generally limited to only taking one dozen. On the other hand, they had an abundance of English muffins, in fact, you could take as many as you needed. That's why I decided to make Egg "McMuffin" Style Sandwiches. It's more filling than just one egg, and you can make your egg supply last longer.

Egg Breakfast Sandwich
  • 1 English muffin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon cheese, if available
  1. Split your English muffin with a fork and toast it by laying both sides face down on a skillet for about 1.5 minutes. Add cheese to 1 muffin half and set aside.
  2. Lay the ring of a mason jar lid onto the skillet crack an egg, and pour it into the ring. Use a fork to break the yolk so it flows into the white but it's not completely scrambled. Cook the egg for about 2.5 minutes or until the white firms up.
  3. Remove the mason jar ring and carefully flip the egg. Cook for an additional minute and remove from skillet. Place egg on the muffin half with the cheese.
  4. Eat immediately or make ahead up to 3 days in advance.

The pantry always has a meat option available. Sometimes it's canned chicken, sometimes it's beef. But lately the pantry has been getting in whole frozen chickens. Some patrons may be overwhelmed by a whole chicken, but they're very easy to cook. 

Also, canned vegetables and rice are generally available, and this is a good way to use them up! I even added eggs for added protein to make it more filling. 

And they most always have lettuce which can be used with the chicken fried rice to make chicken lettuce wraps. This is great for leftovers. It's also a good idea because anytime you add a leafy vegetable it's going to be more filling.

Chicken Fried Rice
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 cups rice
  • 1 pound chicken, cooked
  • 1 can mixed vegetables
  • 5 Tablespoons soy sauce
  1. Prepare rice according to package instructions and cook chicken ahead of time.*
  2. Heat oil in large skillet on low and add green onions and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring intermittently.
  3. Push onion and garlic to one side of pan with spatula, and add eggs to empty side. Scramble eggs and cook until no longer runny. Stir everything back together so it's evenly distributed throughout pan.
  4. Add rice, chicken, and mixed vegetables, and drizzle soy sauce evenly on top. Stir until everything is combined and heated through, about 2 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately or keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  6. *If using a whole, frozen chicken let thaw before cooking and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Remove chicken meat from bones and dice into bite-size pieces.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Deluxe Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I’m a sucker for a good sandwich. In my opinion, texture, flavor and color are key. And even though grilled cheese sandwiches can be as basic as you want them to be (think Kraft Singles and Wonder Bread), I think they deserve the same love that every other sandwich receives.

So let’s first discuss the bread. It should be thick enough to securely hold all of your toppings, but it shouldn’t taste like you’re just eating a mouthful of bread.

My favorite bread to use for grilled cheese is sourdough. It’s just the right thickness and it doesn’t have a very strong taste, which is great because we want the flavor of the cheese to stand out.

Butter or Mayonnaise?
In the past week I’ve learned that some people prefer to spread mayonnaise instead of butter on the outside of the bread before cooking it in the pan. Apparently, it’s supposed to make the outside of the bread crispier.

I tried it, and I don’t like it. I say butter all the way! I always use Challenge butter in the pan beforehand in addition to spreading it on the bread. Challenge butter is 100% real cream butter without any hormones, additives, or fillers, and I think it makes a big difference in the taste.

Cheese is obviously the most important part of the grilled cheese sandwich. I don’t recommend using more than two types of cheese at once because you don’t want the flavors to overpower one another. If you do use more than one type of cheese, make sure they complement each other and pair well before you stick them on a sandwich.

If you’re stuck in a rut and you’re looking to try something new, Kareen Stephens, Brand Manager at Schuman Cheese, shared some advice on her favorite cheeses for grilled cheese sandwiches.

She says soft cheeses work really well and offer a fabulous melt.

“Our Cello Fontal has a smooth, creamy texture with a mild flavor that offers an amazingly gooey melt. Asiago is also great for melting and has a nice sweet and balanced flavor. One cheese that is sure to upgrade any grilled cheese recipe is Tallegio, which has a strong pungent exterior that reveals a delicious buttery soft cheese inside,” Stephens said.

Since a lot of the soft cheeses have a mild flavor, she recommends pairing them with cheese that has a sharper flavor like Copper Kettle Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

I don’t think you should go “over-the-top” with toppings because like I said earlier, you want the cheese to be the main focus.

Bacon and prosciutto are always good choices. I also love adding fried egg with a nice runny yolk to dip it in. And I love the texture of avocado on a sandwich.

Deluxe Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Yield: 1 sandwich
  • 4 Tablespoons Challenge butter, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 2 slices gouda cheese
  1. Add 1 Tablespoon butter to a skillet on medium heat. Once melted, add an egg and cook for two minutes on one side before flipping it to cook on the other side. Cook one minute longer, and remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Add another Tablespoon of butter to skillet and let melt. Use 1 Tablespoon to butter one side of a single slice of bread and stick butter side down in skillet.
  3. Add 2 slices of cheddar cheese, bacon, avocado, fried egg, and 2 slices of gouda cheese.
  4. Spread 1 Tablespoon of butter on second slice of bread and add it to top of sandwich, butter side up.
  5. Cook sandwich for about 4 minutes on medium heat and then use a spatula to flip it to the other side. Cook an additional 3 minutes on the other side and serve immediately. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Strawberry Pie Bites

Strawberry Pie Bites
For the pie bites
  • 1 tube refrigerated crescent roll dough
  • 4 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced (about 4 strawberries)
For the glaze
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
For the pie bites
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside
  2. Remove crescent roll dough from tube; separate each of the triangles and lay flat on baking sheet
  3. Brush each triangle of dough with butter; combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle teaspoon of mixture onto each triangle
  4. Lay several strawberry slices at the wide end of each piece of dough and carefully roll it up like you would do for a regular crescent roll
  5. Brush remaining butter on top of each crescent roll and sprinkle remaining cinnamon and sugar on top
  6. Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown
For the icing
  1. Add milk to powdered sugar and stir until combined; mixture should be thick but runny enough to drizzle
  2. Drizzle icing over pie bites and serve once icing hardens

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Bombs

Do you ever think about how much time you spend worrying about what other people think? I hate to admit it, but it consumes my thoughts for hours every single week.

For example, this week I'm doing a segment on FOX59 about Easter breakfast. I changed my mind about what I was going to make probably 10 times because I was so worried about other people's reactions to it. My parents can attest to this because I'm sure I annoyed the heck out of them asking for their opinion. "Is this unoriginal?" "Do enough people like this?" "Is this festive enough?" "Does this sound good to you?"

I want every recipe I share on my blog to do well, of course. But sometimes this leads me to worry too much about other people's reactions. I forget that the reason people started visiting my blog is to read about my ideas and my opinions.

I'm not going to pretend that I have the magic secret to stop worrying about what other's think, however, I hope this post helps you become more aware of when and why you do it. That's the first step in stopping.

All that being said, I really am excited to share this recipe with you that will be perfect for breakfast or brunch on Easter. I didn't want to make anything sweet because if you're like me you've already eaten at least 2 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup eggs and a handful of jellybeans by the time brunch rolls around.

So I made Bacon, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Bombs! I love this dish because it's unlike anything else I've ever made for breakfast. Family members of all ages will enjoy biting into one of the breakfast bombs. Also, you can easily prep this dish the night before so all you have to do on Easter morning is brush it with Challenge butter and stick it in the oven.

When I make this for Easter, I plan to make it more festive by inserting cupcake toppers into the buns. I also thought about using some Challenge cream cheese to pipe crosses onto the buns so they look like hot cross buns.

Let me know if you try this and what you think about it!

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Bombs
Yield: Makes 16 servings
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Challenge butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tubes refrigerated biscuit dough (16.3 ounce)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 6 slices cooked bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 jalapeno, finely sliced (optional)
  • 4 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  1. Beat eggs and milk together in large bowl until well-blended.
  2. Heat butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until melted and add eggs to skillet.
  3. As soon as the edges begin to set, pull the eggs across the pan with a spatula. Continue until no liquid egg remains.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare 9 inch pie pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
  6. Remove biscuit dough from tube and flatten and stretch each biscuit until it's about 3 inches in diameter.
  7. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon cheese, 1 Tablespoon scrambled eggs, 1 Tablespoon bacon, and 1 jalapeno slice over biscuit dough.
  8. Pull the edges of the dough together and seal with your fingers. Place into prepared pie pan.
  9. Repeat process until all dough is in pie pan.
  10. Combine butter, garlic powder, and parsley. Brush butter mixture over dough with pastry brush.
  11. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
Recipe adapted from The Slow Roasted Italian

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pizza on a Stick

Oh pizza. Pizza is such a big weakness for so many people—myself included. But it doesn’t always have to be completely unhealthy.

The recipe I came up with for pizza on a stick is low in fat and loaded with veggies.

As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, I am currently going to school to become a registered dietitian. And even though a lot of the recipes I share on my blog are desserts and other indulgent treats, I am very passionate about childhood nutrition.

I obviously don’t have any children of my own, but I’ve been around enough kids to understand the struggle parents face when trying to get them to eat nutritious foods.

Fortunately, there are certain “tricks” to making vegetables and other healthy foods more appealing. One way is to get kids involved with the preparation of the meal. This pizza on a stick recipe is a great way to do that because kids will enjoy sticking the veggies and meats onto the skewers.

Also, it’s a lot more enjoyable for kids to eat food off a stick rather than a pile on their plate. And as you can imagine, anything is infinitely more fun when you attach the word “pizza” to it.

This recipe would also be great as an appetizer for a party because you can grab one and eat it while standing up and chatting.

Pizza on a Stick
Yield: Makes 8 pizzas on a stick
  • 1 (13.8 ounce) tube refrigerated pizza dough
  • 16 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 8 small mushrooms, sliced in half
  • 6 sausage links, cut in thirds
  • 1 (7-ounce) package pepperoni
  • 1 large red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit; if you are using wooden skewers as opposed to metal skewers, soak them in cold water while you prepare the ingredients.
  2. Unroll pizza dough onto flat surface and use pizza cutter to cut dough lengthwise into 8 equal strips.
  3. Pierce 1 tomato, 1 mushroom, 1 sausage, 1 or a few pepperoni, 1 pepper, and 1 onion onto skewer. Repeat process so there are 2 of each on the skewer.
  4. Spiral-wrap dough around each skewer, securing in place by piercing dough on either end.
  5. Repeat process for each skewer until no pizza dough remains.
  6. Place skewers onto prepared baking and sprinkle mozzarella cheese and oregano on top.
  7. Bake in oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until pizza dough begins to turn golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and serve with pizza sauce or pesto.
 Recipe adapted from My Turn for Us

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Slow Cooker Big Mac Dip

The Big Mac is an iconic American food consisting of "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun." And we all know the sauce is what makes the Big Mac so special.

For years, the sauce recipe was a big secret, but now if you search "Big Mac sauce recipe" online, it yields nearly two million results. It's the contrasting sweet and tangy flavors that make it taste so good. That's why I decided it would make a perfect dip!

Chips and dip are my favorite part of parties, and they're a great centerpiece for social interactions.

I decided to make this a slow cooker recipe for several reasons. If you use  a slow cooker, you don't need to do worry about prep work or mixing because everything just melts together. Also, you can take the slow cooker with you to the party to keep your dip warm.

This dip is thick and meaty and could double as a meal. Not necessarily a healthy meals. But a good splurge meal nonetheless.

I used tortilla chips as my dipper, but you can definitely use any kind of chip. Actually, I saw these dill pickle-flavored potato chips recently that I really want to try with it next!

Slow Cooker Big Mac Dip
Yield: Comfortably serves 6 to 8 people
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound Velveeta 
  • 8 ounces Challenge cream cheese
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced and seeded 
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced (you can add more if you like a lot of onion)
  • 1/2 cup French dressing
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  1. Brown ground beef in skillet and drain; add to slow cooker
  2. Cut Velveeta into small cubes and add to slow cooker
  3. Add cream cheese, tomatoes, French dressing, relish, and vinegar to slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour or on low for about 3 hours
  5. Stir and serve with chips

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