Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Utilizing slow cookers during the holidays


Utilizing slow cookers is crucial for the holidays because oven space is always limited, especially when you’re the visitor. Fortunately, you can turn just about ANY recipe into a slow cooker recipe.

Cooking Time Conversions

The biggest change is obviously the cooking time.

Generally, one hour of baking in the oven at 350 degrees is equal to about 6 hours on the “low” setting of your slow cooker and 3 hours on the “high” setting.

Oven cooking time
Slow cooker setting on low (about 200 degrees F)
Slow cooker setting on high (about 300 degrees F)
15 to 30 minutes
About 4 to 5 hours
About 1 ½ to 2 hours
35 to 45 minutes
About 5 hours to 6 hours
About 2 to 3 ½ hours
50 to 3 hours
About 6 to 8 hours
About 3 ½ to 5 hours

There are a lot of slow cooker conversion charts online, but I’ve found that they seem to be a little off, as in the cooking times are much too long. I used to think it was just my slow cooker, but I have multiple slow cookers and it’s the same with each one. So just like anything, error on the side of caution, and check your food at the minimum suggested cooking time.


Don’t Peak

Try your best not to take a sneak peak before the cooking time is complete. The lid traps heat and when you lift up the lid, you break the seal and allow cold air in which affects the cooking time.

Moisture

Slow cookers create a lot of moisture and none of the moisture boils off because it stays in the sealed slow cooker.  To reduce the moisture, cut the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/3.

Also, keep moisture from ruining your dish by placing a tea towel under the lid so the condensation doesn’t fall back on top of the dish.

Conversely, slow cooker recipes should start out with some liquid. If a recipe does not include any liquid, add 1/2 cup of water or broth before cooking. Moisture is needed to produce the steam that allows the slow cooker to reach appropriate cooking times.


Cleanup

For the easiest cleanup in all of cooking, use either a slow cooker liner or make your own makeshift liner with aluminum foil. Aluminum foil also serves a dual purpose by helping the food cook more evenly

Keep food warm

Additionally, you're slow cooker can be used to keep dishes warm. You can stick your mashed potatoes in your slow cooker on Thanksgiving and choose the “warm setting” and it will keep your potatoes warm throughout without drying them out for several hours.

Here are a few of my favorite slow cooker recipes that I will be serving this Thanksgiving!



Slow Cooker Corn Casserole
Yield: Makes about 8 servings
Ingredients
1 (15.25-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14.75-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8-ounce) package Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 cup low-fat sour cream
2 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions
Mix together whole kernel corn, cream-style corn, Jiffy corn muffin mix, sour cream, melted butter, and cheese.
Dump in slow cooker; cook on low for about 3 to 4 hours (check at 3 hours).


Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Casserole
Yield: Makes about 8 servings
Ingredients
4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions
Peel sweet potatoes, chop into 1-inch slices, and add in slow cooker.
Add water, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cover and cook on high heat for about 4 hours or until sweet potatoes are very soft.
Mash sweet potatoes until smooth.
Add butter and milk, and stir until combined.
Sprinkle chopped pecans on top and serve.




Monday, November 21, 2016

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pecan Pie


This is the first of three blog posts I'm sharing this week ahead of Thanksgiving, so of course it only makes sense for me to talk about pie first. Because even as we're wading our way through the stuffing and the green bean casserole, we're just really thinking about the grand finale--the pie!

So what makes pie so special? I think it's the fact that we tend to only eat it around the holidays. Cookies, cake, ice cream... I can eat that year round. But not many people bring pie to a gathering outside of the months of November and December. And I'm not exactly sure why because they're not difficult to make!

I think maybe a lot of people get intimidated by the crust. Really, that's unnecessary though. You know why? Because they make these things called frozen pie crusts! I know it sounds too good to be true, but they exist in pretty much every single grocery store.

I love using frozen pie crusts because they're extremely easy to use, and also, I highly highly doubt your guests will notice much of a difference between a frozen pie crust and a pie crust you spent hours making. In my opinion, the main event is the pie's filling. People don't call it a crust pie with pumpkin. They call it a pumpkin pie!

Personally, I use Wick's frozen pie crusts. Wick's is made in Indiana and you can find it in most stores in the state (I'm not sure about outside of Indiana). It's less than $5 for two pie crusts, so you can't beat that.

In most cases, before you use a frozen pie crust, you should just let it thaw about 15 minutes. But make sure to always follow the instructions on the package.

Also, it's important for me to emphasize that I'm talking about frozen pie crusts and not refrigerated pie crusts. Personally, I'm not a fan of refrigerated pie crusts because I think the taste is significantly inferior to frozen pie crusts, but that's just my opinion.


Okay, pie crust rant over. Now let's talk about this delicious pie.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pecan Pie is the ultimate pie for indecisive people. It has a little bit of everything for everyone. It's like the turducken of desserts! The first layer is a delicious pumpkin cheesecake, and then it's topped with gooey pecan pie filling. I dare you to find a dessert that does a better job of encompassing all of the flavors of fall. It's a total flavor explosion, and your guests will be so impressed! You don't have to tell them how easy it was to make. That can be our secret!

If it's your first time baking a pie, no worries! Follow these easy tips for a perfect pie on the first try!

  • Make a “shield” for your crust. What I mean by this is when you’re baking your pie and you notice the edges start to turn brown shield the crust from the oven with aluminum foil. Do this by folding a square of aluminum foil into quarters and then cutting out the center of the foil so you can place it on top of the pie edges. I suggest putting the shield on the crust in the last 10 minutes of baking, but it's always best to just keep an eye on it.
  • Bake pies on the lowest oven of the rack. This is because you want the crust to cook well on the bottom but you don’t want the top of the pie to burn.
  • Place your pie on a cookie sheet before putting it in the oven. Pies are very delicate and hard to transport. If you put the pie on a baking sheet first, it’s easier to remove the pie from the oven.

If you missed my first post about Challenge Dairy's partnership with UNICEF to fight the childhood malnutrition crisis with their campaign called “Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child" check it out now! Through December 31, 2016, if you pin a recipe from the “2016 Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child” Pinterest board, Challenge will donate a meal to UNICEF for a child in need.



Pumpkin Cheesecake Pecan Pie
Yield: Serves about 8 people

Ingredients
For the pumpkin cheesecake layer

  • 1 (8 ounce package) Challenge cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg

For the pecan pie layer

  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon Challenge butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 frozen pie crust, thawed (or your favorite pie crust recipe)

Directions
For the pumpkin cheesecake layer

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Beat the cream cheese for 1 minute until smooth and creamy
  3. Add sugar and beat for another minute
  4. Add pumpkin puree, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon and beat well
  5. Add egg and beat until just combined; set aside

For the pecan pie layer

  1. Combine dark corn syrup, sugar, 2 eggs, butter, and vanilla; mix in pecans
  2. Add pumpkin cheesecake mixture to bottom of pie crust and spread until layer is even
  3. Spoon pecan pie mixture on top of pumpkin cheesecake
  4. Bake for about 50 minutes or until center of pie crust is set and toothpick comes out clean
  5. Let pie cool on wire rack for at least one hour and then refrigerate until served

Idea for recipe adapted from Inside Bru Crew Life






Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Easy Parmesan Garlic Knots


Every year, someone is assigned “bread duty” for Thanksgiving. Usually it goes to the person who doesn’t want to make anything (or who you don’t trust to make anything).

But good bread is the foundation of every meal, and this year if you’re assigned bread duty you should embrace it and empress everyone with a delicious homemade treat!

Easy Parmesan Garlic Knots look fancy, but they could not be simpler!

Start with a can of refrigerated biscuit dough and cut each pre-sliced biscuit in half. Slightly stretch the dough so it looks like a rope and tie it into a knot. That right there is the most difficult part of the recipe. Except for the part where you have to open can of refrigerated biscuit dough. Why do they have to make it so scary?

Next your going to brush the biscuits with a butter-garlic-Italian seasoning-cheese mixture. You’re going to want to pour the mixture on the biscuits but resist because you’ll need the leftovers for later.

Pop the biscuits in an oven heated to 375 for about 8 to 10 minutes. Start checking on the biscuits at 8 minutes to see if the bottoms are golden brown. The bottom is the best indicator because if you only look at the top it may be too late and you’ll have burnt biscuits. And the only Thanksgiving rule is don’t serve burnt biscuits.

Once you take your biscuits out of the oven, brush them with the butter mixture again and watch as the warm biscuits soak up the melted butter.

Impress your friends and family and pop them in the middle of the table. You can serve with marinara sauce or plain. They’re delicious either way!

This time of year I feel especially grateful as I look forward to Thanksgiving and a table full of more food than all of us can eat and leftovers for days. 

However, I know that many people don’t get to experience this luxury, and millions of children go without food on a regular basis. Challenge Dairy is partnering with UNICEF to fight and raise awareness of the childhood malnutrition crisis with a campaign called “Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child.” 

In order to participate, all you have to do is go to Challenge Butter’s “2016 Pin a Recipe, Feed a Child” Pinterest board. For every recipe that you pin from this board, Challenge will donate a meal to UNICEF for a child in need.  These meals go to wherever UNICEF determines they are most needed, and in the past, Challenge Dairy says many of the meals have gone to children in the U.S.

Currently, there are 95 recipes on their Pinterest board but more recipes will be added throughout the duration of the campaign which ends on December 31, 2016.




Easy Parmesan Garlic Knots
Yield: Makes 16 garlic knots
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough
  • 1/4 cup Challenge salted butter, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Open can of refrigerated biscuit dough and cut each biscuit in half
  3. Roll each halved biscuit into a rope and tie into a knot
  4. Place knots onto a prepared baking sheet
  5. Mix melted butter, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt.
  6. Brush knots with mixture; make sure to save leftover mixture for later.
  7. Place in oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes
  8. Remove from oven and immediately brush knots with leftover butter mixture 






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