Monday, April 27, 2015

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a friend with diabetes who is also going through chemotherapy right now. I wanted to bring here a dessert with dinner, but I wanted to keep the glycemic index low on whatever I brought.  Adding whole grains to your baking does just that. 
I try to cook with whole grains whenever I can, but so often it tends to dry out my baked goods unless I alter the recipe somehow. These cookies are 100% whole wheat, and they were SUPER moist. They have what I consider the ideal texture for a cookie: a little bit crisp on the bottom and edges, and dense and moist on the inside. The secret to having perfect cookies AND whole grain is PUDDING in the mix! 
Butterscotch pudding in cookies makes your house smell divine. My kids described it as a yummy, buttery smell ("Mom, what is that delicious smell??").  These cookies aren't overwhelmingly butterscotch-ey, but have a sweet, buttery taste that is definitely distinct from regular chocolate chip cookies. My family devoured them! And they were a hit with my friend I took them to, too.  Double win!

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 small or 1 large package butterscotch instant pudding mix, dry
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1.5 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line baking sheets with parchment/silicone mat.
2. Beat butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Beat in pudding, vanilla and baking soda. Stir in flour, then chocolate chips.
3. Drop by rounded spoonfuls (I use a medium cookie scoop) 1 inch apart on baking sheets.
4. Bake 10-12 minutes, remove from oven and cool.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies

These are what I like to refer to as a "sometimes" food with my kids. SOMETIMES I need something sweet. SOMETIMES I need chocolate. SOMETIMES I feel entitled to cheesecake, peanut butter, brownies, and a big glass of milk. Last weekend was a "sometimes." We went on a family backpacking trip for spring break. It was 3 days of seeing God's beautiful grandeur up close. But backpacking food is neither beautiful nor grand. It is edible and sustaining. 

So after we cleaned up and showered and rested for a day (and ate at Five Guys), I made these babies. They are perfect chewy brownies with a fluffy, peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake-ish truffle center, topped off with a drizzle of rich chocolate glaze. 

I ate mine slowly and deliberately, savoring each bite. Then the next day I ate another the same way. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies
Makes 16

Brownie Layer:
1 1/4  cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Truffle Filling:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut oil

1. Heat oven to 350. Grease a square baking pan (9x9" or 8x8")
2. Make brownie layer by melting chocolate chips and butter (don't boil). Set aside. Beat brown sugar and eggs. Add chocolate mixture a little at a time, beating well until completely mixed. Stir in flour and baking powder. Spread in prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool completely.
3. Make truffle filling by melting chocolate chips over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter. Beat cream cheese in a separate bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in chocolate-peanut butter mixture. Beat in corn syrup and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. Spread over cooled brownies. Place in refrigerator while preparing glaze.
4. Prepare glaze by melting chocolate chips and coconut oil, stirring until smooth. Spoon mixture into a plastic storage bag. Use scissors to snip a small hole in one bottom corner of the bag. Drizzle chocolate over the filling. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before cutting into bars to serve. Makes 16.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

CopyCat MOD Pizza Bar

 A few months ago our town moved up in the world. A MOD Pizza restaurant opened. It is one of a growing trend in pizzerias around the country that take the "Chipotle-angle" on service by providing customers the opportunity to customize their order, while still providing a fresh and fast product.

If you aren't familiar with MOD, maybe you have something similar.  PizzaRev, 800 Degrees, Blaze Pizza, and Uncle Maddio's are all MOD-like pizza places.

Whether or not you have a fast and fresh pizza bar close by, you can enjoy the benefits along with family and friends right in your own home!  I will give you the BEST Pizza Crust recipe, and tips for setting up your own fresh custom pizzeria!

First, make your dough! (Or don't, and buy some pre-made flatbread. I recommend Don Pancho Flatbread, found at many grocery stores).

 I have been using an incredible dough recipe for many years. It is my FAVORITE for pizza. It is consistent and is a quick recipe for a yeast dough.

BEST Pizza Crust 
Makes 24 8"-10" crusts

4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup oil
10 cups flour (I often use half whole wheat)

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar, and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until foamy.
2. Stir in salt an oil. Stir flour in 2 cups at time, stirring well until dough begins to be stiff. Knead in remaining flour and form into a smooth ball.
3. Turn dough over once in a large, oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours.
4. Once dough is 2x original size, punch down and divide into 24 1/2-cup balls. 
5. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees F.
6. Roll out each  dough ball to desired thickness and poke all over with a fork. Place on greased baking sheets (I sprinkle my baking sheets with cornmeal). Bake 5-8 minutes, just until hard on top. You don't want to brown them yet.

These crusts can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer until ready to use.


The dough will start to rise some on the counter while you roll out the crusts. If you don't want to make all the dough into pizza crusts, it makes yummy cinnamon rolls, too. ;-)
I go pretty thin on the crusts, since they rise more while baking.

Here are a couple of crusts ready to go in the oven

And here they are right after I took them out. See how nicely they bubble up?! Yummo! They will be baked again with the toppings, so be sure to under-bake the first time.

I have made these individual crusts for family get-togethers, for a birthday party (Ratatouille movie-themed), and just for fun easy meals. You'll love them!

Now, onto the PIZZA BAR!

Sauces: We like basil pesto, marinara sauce, and two varieties of barbecue sauce--one smoky and one sweet. White/Alfredo sauce is another good choice, especially if you are having chicken or shrimp as a meat choice.

Cheese and Meat: I like having at least a couple of cheese options.  For meats, I went easy on myself with this pizza bar and bought prepared hard salami and pepperoni. Ground sausage/beef/turkey, shredded chicken, bacon and cooked shrimp are also good options.

Veggies: Consider your eaters, and put it all out there. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many teenage boys were putting veggies on their pizzas. Sometimes all it takes is having it available! 

  Preheat the oven to 450. Line up the toppings and let the fun begin. Bake each pizza for 6-8 minutes (on baking sheets).

This is the bar after one round of 12 people enjoying it. We had to pull out reinforcements on the sauces and cheese. Notice how dwindled that stack of crusts is. Not pictured: Many happy and satisfied pizza eaters. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

DIY Indigo Shibori Textile Dyeing

*This post contains affiliate links. All opinions expressed are my own. 

In this month's issue of InStyle magazine, COLOR is the theme. One of the colors highlighted is Classic Blue, and several indigo shibori pillows are shown. I was immediately drawn to them. I love color and I LOVE originality in my decor. This Japanese tie-dye technique seemed to be the perfect marriage of these two loves, so I got to work.

First, I learned that Japanese Shibori is an ancient method of folding, twisting, tying, and using wood to bind fabric before dyeing it. I used 3 methods here, but there are dozens. 

I was stoked to find a true all-in-one indigo dyeing kit on Amazon. All I needed was fabric and a bucket. Buy the kit, and you don't need any other dyeing materials. 

My cotton throw. I walk through the folding and binding steps to make this piece below.

I used the same method for this pillow case as with the throw, though my folds were more rectangular than square for this piece. 

For this pillow, I used a technique in which you pull the fabric up in the spot you want as the center of the circle, then wrap rubber bands from the tip of that point, going down. Don't twist the fabric as you pull it up. The rubber bands will create the white circles in the finished piece.

This kit will dye ALOT. The box says a couple dozen shirts, so after I dyed a couple of pillow cases and a blanket, I couldn't resist doing some clothing, too. I found a cute shibori dyed cropped jacket from Anthropologie (shown below), so I decided to dye one I found at the thrift store. Isn't it fun! I haven't worn tie-dye in public in a few years, but I really love how this turned out. 

My kids and a neighbor each dyed a shirt, too. Once you mix up the bucket of dye, it will keep for 3-4 days if it is covered. So no rush to do everyone's at once!

Now onto the tutorial....

Here is the contents of the dyeing kit. You'll need a 5 gallon bucket, and another plastic container of some kind to hold the wet fabric. I used a disposable pan lid (you know, those ones that come with the foil lasagne pans). 
I used the wood blocks, but not the popsicle sticks. After reading more about the variety of shibori methods, I see how the sticks could be fun to use in the future.

I recommend this be done outside. I'm not brave enough to have 5 gallons of dye anywhere in my house. I also recommend wearing an apron and clothes you don't care for too much. 
 Fill the bucket 3/4 of the way full with warm water. Add the three ingredients shown (blue dye and two white agents--soda ash and hydrosulfate) to the bucket.  Stir in a circle, scraping the bottom. (The kit doesn't come with a stir stick, so you'll need something to stir with. I used a dowel).  

Continue to stir in one direction and bubbles will form on the top of the water. Make a few turns in the opposite direction, and the bubbles will mostly come together in a bunch in the middle (as shown here). This is called the "flower" and is a bunch of gritty dark stuff that seems to help keep the dye preserved, but doesn't do the dying. Push the "flower" off to the side before you dip fabric.

Cover the dye bucket while you fold and bind your fabric. I just set a cookie sheet (bottom down) on top of the bucket to cover it.

This is my cotton throw pre-dyeing. Lay out your fabric/clothing flat.

Fold in an accordion fashion from one end to the other. You'll have a long strip of stacked fabric. The method I used to fold my cropped jacket stops the folding here and then wraps rubber bands around the long folded strip. For the throw and pillow I made with the grid-like patterns, there is one more step.

Fold the strip along the length in an accordion fashion.

Press wood blocks on either side of the folded fabric and use rubber bands to hold it in place. The placement of the blocks (aligning with the square of the fabric, or turned at an angle as I did it here) affects the final outcome. The kit comes with excellent diagrams of this.

Run the fabric under water, soaking thoroughly.  Put on your gloves, and dip the fabric in the bucket of dye. Agitate it with your stirring stick for several seconds to a couple minutes.  Pull it out of the dye and squeeze out the excess dye.

When you first pull it out, the fabric will appear a dark yellow or green. This is one of the fun parts of this dyeing method. As the indigo dye oxidizes, it turns from yellow, to green, to light blue, to blue. 

Here is my circle design pillow after it had been sitting for a minute or two. The green is starting to turn blue. Let it continue to oxidize for about 20 minutes, turning regularly to expose all sides to the air. 
At this point you can re-dip the fabric to achieve a darker blue, or move forward to rinsing and unwrapping.

Rinse the fabric lightly. It's normal to have some blue dye come out. Ring out, and then you can remove the rubber bands. Let the fabric continue to oxidize until it all the indigo has emerged. (These are my son's non-gloved hands. Oops. The dye had mostly set, so his hands weren't too blue.) 

Using a mild detergent, wash the fabric in cool water and dry. I tumble dried mine on low. 

Here are a few helpful tips to know as you do your own Indigo Shibori project: 
  • The tighter you wrap your fabric, the more contrast you'll have between the indigo and the original fabric color. If you want to have more "bleed" and gradient blue color, leave the folds and rubber bands looser. 
  • Wear the gloves. This is non-toxic dye, but you will have Smurf hands if you don't wear the gloves.
  • Achieve darker shades by dyeing, letting oxidize (still wrapped up), then dying again--like coats of paint.
  • When decorating with Indigo Shibori, don't feel like it needs to perfectly match your room already. Indigo is such a rich color, it acts almost as a neutral (think blue jeans). 
  • This dye is for natural fibers (cotton, silk, wool). Synthetics may not respond as well to the dye. Be sure to test synthetics or synthetic blends before dyeing.
  • When you are done, you can just dump the dye down the sink. It is non-toxic, so no harm done. Just don't let it splash on anything you don't want dyed. :)