Friday, April 30, 2010

Food For Friday: Homemade Bread Machine Wheat Buns

I came across this recipe for whole wheat buns here on Mom Advice and added them to my list of recipes to try.  I have shared in recent posts how I am trying to make more and more of our staples, partially so I know exactly what chemicals aren't in them, and I've brought my bread maker out of semi-retirement in the process.

We used these buns for the Chicken Parmesan Burgers I posted last week.  This recipe seemed easy and looked delicious and I've made the homemade buns twice now.  They are indeed both easy and delicious, and well worth the little bit of extra effort in my opinion.  They are lightly browned & toasted on the outside, but nice and soft on the inside, and not at all doughy....a perfect consistency.  They don't have a heavy wheat flavor and aren't dense, but the wheat flour does add a little extra flavor.  They make your house smell divine while they are baking.  The dough only takes a little over 2 hours in the breadmaker, so you can make them start to finish in less than 3 1/2 hours.  The ingredient list is simple and all of the items are things I already keep on hand.  Even if I don't decide until the afternoon that we want to grill out, they can still be warm & fresh for dinner.  They are now a staple in our house, especially during spring and summer grilling season!

The recipe says you can make both hotdog and hamburger buns, but I have not perfected the hotdog buns.  They seem trickier to me to get the shape right, and they want to break into 2 pieces when I slice them to put the hotdog or brat in.  The hamburger buns are no-fail though!

1 cup water
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (can substitute with canola oil instead)
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons yeast (I use Fleischmann's Bread Machine Yeast)

Place all ingredients in bread machine pan, select Dough setting, Wheat setting, Large loaf setting, and press start.  When dough is ready, the machine will beep.  Preheat oven to 150 degrees, then turn off.  Remove bread pan, and turn out dough onto a floured countertop.

Gently roll and shape the dough into a 12-inch rope.  With a sharp knife, divide dough into 8 pieces for hamburger buns or 12 pieces for hot dog buns.  (For my last batch, I divided the dough in half and used half for 5 hamburger buns and half for 6 hot dog buns.)  I scored the dough to get the pieces even, then slid a cutting board under the dough to cut them.

Grease a baking sheet or use a Silpat mat like I did.  Roll pieces of dough into balls and flatten for hamburger buns or shape into 6-inch rolls for hot dog buns.  Place on prepared baking sheet.

Cover with a towel and let rise in warm oven 10 to 15 minutes until almost doubled.  Remove from oven and preheat oven to 400° degrees.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool on racks.

When ready to use, split buns horizontally with a serrated knife.

*Extras will keep for several days in a Ziploc bag.  These will also keep in a Ziploc Freezer bag in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bar Stool Toile

Our house has 2 large kitchen peninsulas, and one of them has an overhang counter made for bar stools.  I really liked this feature and envisioned menu planning while dinner cooks, friends hanging out while I'm in the kitchen, and someday, kids drawing or doing homework at that counter while I make dinner.  Our previous home didn't have a spot for bar stools, so when we moved to this home, I started scouring Craigslist for two affordable additions to our kitchen.  After several months of hunting, I came across this set for a good price:

I was drawn in by the shape and the black wood, but the fabric absolutely did not go with our decor.  I decided to give them a makeover with some cream and black toile.  I pulled out a screwdriver to pry out the staples that were holding the fabric in place and used our staple gun to attach the new print.  Here they are after:

I think they look great in their new home and am so happy with how they turned out.  I added a piece of 2 inch high density foam to each seat before recovering them, which added a lot of extra cushion.  I traced the wooden seat base onto the foam and then used an electric knife to cut it out.  It glides easily through the foam making a smooth cut.  They are extra comfortable now and a great spot to work or hang out in the kitchen!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Food For Friday: Chicken Parmesan Burgers

I am always on the lookout for fresh and healthy, delicious recipes to try for dinner. One ingredient that I haven't used much in my cooking but wanted to try was ground chicken.  What meats do I use in my cooking?  Ground beef, yes.  Ground turkey, sometimes.  Chicken breasts, definitely.  But, ground chicken?  I can't think of a recipe I've made using this low fat ground alternative.  When I saw this recipe, I knew it had to be added to my binder of priority recipes to try.

On one of the beautiful nights we had while my mom was visiting, we made these Chicken Parmesan Burgers on the grill and they were excellent!  They had a great texture, fresh Italian flavor, and were easy to prepare.  I would definitely recommend grilling the burgers, though in cold weather, I will try broiling them instead.  We really enjoyed the added grilled flavor.  We served them on homemade whole wheat buns, which I promise to share the recipe for on an upcoming Food For Friday because they were perfectly soft, light, and delicious...and oh so easy!  Baked sweet potato fries were the perfect side.


For the burgers:
1 lb. ground chicken
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
3 tbsp. chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For serving:
Pasta sauce
Sliced Mozzarella or Provolone cheese
Sautéed mushrooms (optional)
4 hamburger buns

In a medium bowl combine all of the ingredients for the burgers.  Mix well until thoroughly combined.  Wrap ball of seasoned meat in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.  Form the mixture into 4 patties. 

Preheat the grill to medium heat.  Grill the burgers for approximately 6 minutes on one side, then flip and grill for 4-6 more minutes on the other side until fully browned and cooked through.  Check the internal temperature of the burger with a meat or grilling thermometer to make sure that the center is done.  It is important to fully cook ground chicken through to prevent food borne illness.  (Alternatively, cook the burgers under your oven broiler.  Spray the broiler pan with cooking spray. )

When the burgers are almost done, add a generous layer of pasta sauce to each bun.  Bake at 350 until buns are lightly browned and sauce is hot.  Saute the mushrooms while the buns heat if you want to add mushrooms.  Add the chicken burgers to each bun, top with a slice of cheese, and add the sautéed mushrooms if desired, before adding the top bun. 

These burgers are definitely going to be added to the regular rotation at our house, especially during grilling season!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring in Bloom: Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

One of the fun surprises of the first spring in a new home is what pops up in the yard that you didn't know was there!  In the last week, three trees in our backyard that I didn't know were flowering trees, have begun bursting with absolutely beautiful pink spring buds. 

After a spring shower this afternoon, I wanted to capture our yard in bloom against the bright blue sky that came after the rain. I thought they were the perfect to share in celebration of Earth Day today, and the beautiful creation the Lord blessed us with!

I also adore these grape hyacinths that have popped up beneath the flowering tree.  There are more buds and more things getting ready to bloom, and I am excited to see what other spring surprises our yard has in store.

I have also decided that I am going to add a new regular feature to my blog.  Earth Day seems like the perfect day to announce Live Green Tuesdays!  Each week, I am going to post a quick tip of easy ways to live greener and healthier.  An eco-friendly life doesn't have to be difficult or expensive (in face, it can help you save money!)  I hope that these tips and tricks will help you to make choices, without a lot of hassle, that will protect the beautiful earth that God has entrusted to us and help to keep it beautiful for years to our children and grandchildren can enjoy it too.  We've been trying to make greener, healthier choices in our home, and I'd love to share some ideas I've found with you.

Watch for the first tip on Tuesday!

And coming tomorrow on Food for Friday, Chicken Parmesan Burgers...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Birthday Treasures

In my last post, I mentioned that part of my birthday was spent visiting some local antique shops that I had been wanting to check out.  The first stop was a bust, but at one antique mall, I found two of the items I have been keeping an eye out for for a long time!  I was excited to find 2 treasures to commemorate my 30th birthday.

I have been looking for a brown and cream transferware salad plate in a toile pattern for over a year.  I wanted a small, pretty plate for my nightstand to corral my jewelry and hair pins at night.  The colors of this vintage plate are perfect in our bedroom and it was only $3.50!  It has a small chip, but I think that adds to the vintage character.  I love it in it's new home.

I have also been wanting a vintage scale for my kitchen counter.  I found two, but decided on this white 1950's version. 

I am still trying to decide how to incorporate it into my kitchen, and what to display on top, so if you have any inspiration photos or ideas, I would love to hear your thoughts!  Do you have a vintage scale?  If you have photos on your blog of how you've used it in your home, or have bookmarked photos that caught your eye on other blogs, leave me a link to the post in my comments.  I'll let you know when my scale finds its home in my kitchen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Big 3-0: Happy Birthday to Me!

On Tuesday, I left my twenties behind and celebrated the milestone birthday of the big 3-0.  Many of my friends have approached this birthday with dread, and hearing 30 come out when asked how old you are does have a significantly older ring to it than 20-anything, but I honestly am looking forward to my thirties.  Everyone keeps telling me that their thirties have been their favorite season of life, so I am hopeful that will also be true in my own life.

Thanks to my thoughtful husband, the birthday fun extended over several days of celebration!

Over the weekend, we went out for a special dinner date downtown and enjoyed one of our absolute favorites for celebrating any special occasion....steak!  We had a delicious dinner and great conversation, reminiscing about what the Lord has done in my life for the past 10 years, and dreaming about what the next 10 may hold.

On Saturday, Tru said that he had somewhere he wanted to take me for lunch.  We pulled up at this super cute cafe, Duo, that I had never even heard of...

And these fun friends were waiting for me!  We laughed and talked and enjoyed a surprise (for me) brunch together.  The french toast was delicious and the spot that Truman chose was just perfect and so very me, from the colorful print napkins and mismatched tea cups to the old chippy window "wall" that hung down the middle of the restaurant.

My mom made the trip from Ohio to visit for my birthday, so it was special to spend my birthday day with her!  Thanks, mom!  On Tuesday, my actual birthday day started off with a pancake breakfast in bed made with love by my mom.  Then we headed off for the morning showing of The Last Song.  I rarely have company to see the girly movies with, so this was a fun treat.

Then lunch at Carino's for their awesome roasted garlic potato soup and all-you-can-eat soup, salad and bread.  They have the best crusty bread with the herb and roasted garlic dipping oil, and I won't even go for lunch if they don't have the potato soup!  It's my favorite.  It was my lucky day that it was on the menu for my birthday!

Then we were off to check out some local antique shops that I've been wanting to stop into for months!
I even found 2 of the items on my wish list that I've been keeping my eye out for!  Fun little treasures to remember my 30th.  I'll share photos of them this week...

After antique hunting, it was time to go home for presents!  I felt very loved when I saw all of these fun packages waiting for me. 

My sweet husband had put together such a meaningful surprise for me!  He had requested and collected e-mails & cards from many of my friends over the years, from all of the seasons of my life, and compiled them into one big birthday encouragement extravaganza!  It was such a special blessing to read note after note from people I love, sharing the things they appreciate about me, fun memories we've shared as friends, and the unique ways God has used me in their life.  What could possibly make a girl feel better about turning 30?

This is the evite my hubby sent out to my friends.  But, wait, the surprise didn't end there....

Notice the look of shock on my face as I unwrapped my first gift....a new camera!  I was so incredibly surprised!  Not only had I thought there was no way we were going to be able financially to get me a new camera this year as we had hoped, which made the surprise that much more fun and unexpected, but Tru went on to tell me that all of my friends had contributed and came together to get this special gift for me to bless me!  The Lord has blessed me with some fabulous friends and enduring friendships.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, to all of the dear friends who helped to make this day extra special and memorable! 

I can't wait to practice and explore and learn the ins-and-outs of my new camera!  As much as I love our DSLR, I like to have a smaller high quality camera that I can carry in my purse and keep easily accessible with me at all never know when an unexpected moment will pop up!

There were beautiful roses from my mom (love them!) and time with my mom and the handsome love of my life.

And how did we end this fabulous birthday?  Well, with Chipotle, of course.  One of my other absolute favorites. Mmmm.  It was a tasty ending to a fun, relaxing and memorable birthday celebration.

Bring it on, 30!  What is it that they say?  Thirty, flirty and thriving. (wink)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Food For Friday: Magnolia Banana Pudding

I love cake and cupcakes, so during our time in New York, I was on a mission to try both Crumbs and The Magnolia Cafe.  A friend of mine who lives in the City said that Magnolia's cupcakes were overrated (I highly agree, they were dry and the icing was too sugary), but the banana pudding was the best he had ever had and not to miss it.  We loved the banana pudding and I looked online to try and find a recipe for it when we got home.  I was successful and I made it for our Easter Brunch dessert.  It was close to the original at The Magnolia Cafe and a delicious version of an old favorite.

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (preferably Jell-O brand)
3 cups heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers
4-5 ripe bananas

In a medium mixing bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the sweetened condensed milk and water until well combined, about 1 minute.  Add the pudding mix and beat well, about 2 minutes more.  Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight, before continuing.  It is very important to allow the proper amount of time for the pudding mixture to set.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.

To assemble the dessert, select a large, wide bowl (preferably glass) with a 4-5-quart capacity.  I used a trifle pedestal, which makes for a pretty presentation.  Arrange one-third of the wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if necessary, layer in one-third of the pudding, and cover with one layer of banana slices. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers or wafer crumbs on the top layer of the pudding. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator overnight.

(Adapted from The Magnolia Bakery)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Food For Friday: NYC Favorite Eats

We like to eat.  New York has a lot of amazing food.  A long list of our to-do's in the Big Apple involved sampling eats at many of the restaurants around the city.  We hung out with some friends of ours one of our last nights in NYC and they said, "Wow.  You ate your way through the City."  Yes, yes we did.  And here is a rundown of our favorites and recommended don't miss spots if you ever find yourself in the Big Apple.

Crumbs hit my sweet spot.  It far outshined the more famous cupcake shop in the city in my book (and my husband’s.)  In town for 2 weeks, a combination of business and pleasure, I won’t divulge how many visits I made to this charming cupcake shop, just blocks from Central Station.  Moist, delicious, giant cupcakes with piles of perfect icing.  Don't miss the Fluffernutter, a vanilla cupcake filled with peanut butter cream and topped with cream cheese frosting. 

As big fans of a good burger, and fairly frequent travelers, my husband and I often find ourselves seeking out the best local burgers (not excluding regional chains) as we travel around the country. Always in search of a new favorite burger, we find ourselves sometimes disappointed, but often satisfied. But rarely do we come out of a burger joint having found a patty that tops our previous favorite. After 2 stops at Shake Shack in the Upper West Side during our recent visit to NYC, we agreed that we think we’ve found our new favorite burger!

And don’t forget to save room for dessert! The shakes are top notch, holding their own beside the burgers, with rich flavor and the perfect thickness that even requires a larger-than-usual straw. I ordered a combination of peanut butter and chocolate (possible though not listed on the menu) and it was like liquid Reeses in a cup.

Five Guys, I still love you, but Shake Shack has stolen this girls’ burger heart!

I adore mac ‘n cheese, so when I heard there was an entire restaurant devoted to this American favorite, I knew we had to try it.  S’mac is gourmet mac ‘n cheese at its best. The menu provides both a list of suggested favorites, or the option to create your own unique combination from their extensive list of ingredients.  The mac ‘n cheese is rich and pleasingly gooey with just the right amount of cheesy goodness.  Try the Alpine, it was our favorite and Tru is still talking about it!

Made famous by the movie “Serendipity,” this café is quirky and full of personality.  Go for dessert.  Order their famous giant Frozen Hot Chocolate, and make it a Peanut Butter or Mint one.  Chocolatey goodness.

There may or may not have been some slurping noises at the finale of this dessert experience that made my hubby roll his eyes.  Ehem.  Moving right along...

The Doughnut Plant is known for their innovative flavors, and the doughy goodness did not disappoint. The crème brulee doughnut had an intriguing slight sugary crunch to it’s exterior and a thick, rich crème filling that reminded me of a smooth custard. The peanut butter glazed doughnut filled with blackberry jam was another favorite.  They just might be the most interesting doughnuts you’ve ever tasted.

My hubby loves, loves, loves doughnuts.  This face is the face of pure delight and followed by, "mmmmmm."

The Popover Cafe is known for its namesake popovers, which are similar to a croissant in flaky, buttery texture, but shaped like a giant muffin. By giant, I mean 6-8 inches tall!  Many of their entrees feature popovers, and nearly all of the sandwiches can be ordered on one.

I was so nervous to get on the scale after our food adventures in NYC, but lucky for me, you also do a LOT of walking, so the needle actually tipped the other way.  And we had very happy, and full, stomachs!

(You can find my complete NYC review complete with tips & hints at Trip Advisor here: )