August 28, 2010

{recipe} Mom's Homemade Buns

Weekly Test Recipes - week 32!  And it's a special one this week :)

My Mom was always baking bread.  It seemed every Saturday she was making bread, or buns, or kolaches, or raisin rolls, or caramel rolls, or muffins, etc.  The house always smelled soooo yummy!  My favorite thing she baked was homemade buns.  All my sisters and I had to have sandwiches on Mom's buns for our high school graduations.  They made the best Broiled Buns (family recipe - I'll share sometime :).  Whenever we took road trips (even if it was just a two-hour trip to the Twin Cities), we packed a lunch for the car, preferably with homemade bun sandwiches.  They are yummy, they freeze well, and they say 'home' to me.  This week I decided to attempt to make them myself.  I was a bit nervous, because I've heard some bad stories about baking bread - that there's a knack for it, that it can end up like bricks.  I've never been so worried baking something before.  It was very important to me that these turned out edible, and as close to Mom's as possible.

3 c. lukewarm water
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. yeast
½ c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
~ 8 c. flour

Combine water, sugar, and yeast. Add oil and salt. Gradually add enough flour to make dough stiff enough to handle. You don't want it to be sticky when you touch it, but don't want to add too much flour or you'll get dry rocks instead of buns. 

dough all mixed up - before first rise

Let rise, punch down, and let rise again. Shape and place on greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise to about double. Bake @ 375* for 10 to 15 minutes.

after rising on the pan, ready to go in the oven.  these are not dough cookies, as my brother-in-law asked the first time he saw Mom baking buns

I made half of the above recipe and got 18 buns.  I also used half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.  Any additional flour added to make the dough stiff was all-purpose.  The rise times were much longer than I expected, but make sure you don't rush the rise.  It took 7 hours from the time I mixed the dough together to the time they came out of the oven.  I'd say each rise (the bowl rises plus the time for buns to rise after being shaped on the pans) took a good couple hours each. 

fresh out of the oven

I had 9 buns on each pan, and baked the first pan for 15 minutes.  They came out a bit darker than I wanted and the tops of the buns seemed rock hard when they came out of the oven.  I was crushed.  I thought I had failed, or maybe just overbaked them.  So I baked the second pan for 10 minutes and they looked much better, but still came out a little crusty on top.  However (hallelujah!), the buns softened up as they cooled.  Success!!  I had made yummy buns just like Mom's!!  You have no idea how happy this makes me!!!  These are definitely going in the regular rotation.

Tradition growing up was to put a slice of Velveeta in a fresh-outta-the-oven bun and let me melt until yummy.  So of course I did just that!  Cheese bun!  Mmmmmmmmm....

Rating: EXCELLENT and comforting.

I'm linking to Get Your Craft On at Today's Creative Blog

Get Your Craft On Tuesday

{recipe} Spinach Smoothie

Weekly Test Recipes - week 31!

I have been loving smoothies every once in a while since I bought my blender last spring.  Recently I came across a smoothie tutorial on Our Best Bites.  If you like smoothies, check it out.  If you like food at all, check out Our Best Bites.  I have a lot of future test recipes bookmarked from them.  Anywho, in this smoothie tutorial, they mention adding spinach to your smoothies as an easy and sneaky way to get lots of good nutrients into a tasty treat.  I like smoothies, and I like spinach, so I decided to test it out!  The recipe below is the one I tested out, but if you visit their site you can see there are countless ingredient combinations to discover.


1/2 c. orange juice
4 oz. yogurt (I like Activia light, and used peach this time)
1/2 c. strawberries (I used frozen)
1 frozen banana
1 handful baby spinach

Place orange juice and yogurt in blender and mix until combined.  Add strawberries and pulse ice-crush button until smooth.  Add banana and spinach and puree until smooth. 

Makes 1 smoothie.

This is seriously sooo good.  And, other than the slight color change, you can't even tell there's spinach! 

A couple days later I made one with strawberries, cantaloupe, OJ, peach yogurt, banana, spinach, and flax seed. It was also very yummy, but I didn't like it as much with the cantaloupe in there.  Go make your own smoothie today!  They are a refreshing and healthy snack or breakfast on a summer day!


{recipe} Carrot Cake

Weekly Test Recipes - week 30!

My co-worker has been requesting I make a carrot cake for months now.  She was taking a 3-week trip to visit her family in Colombia, so I decided to bring in a carrot cake for her last day before the trip.  I've never made a carrot cake, so I didn't have a recipe for one, but came across a yummy-sounding recipe from Pioneer Woman.

CARROT CAKE (Pioneer Woman)

2 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 c. grated carrots

Mix together the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. In another bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add to first mixture and combine. Add carrots and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured pan and bake at 350* until done, 25 (sheet cake) to 50 (Bundt pan) minutes, depending on the pan you use.  Cool completely.


1/4 c. butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. pecans, chopped finely

In larger bowl, cream butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and vanilla and blend, then mix in the nuts. Spread on cooled carrot cake. *This is a half-recipe from what's posted on the PW website.  I just thought frosting using an entire pound of powdered sugar would be waaaaaay too much frosting.  To be honest, I made my carrot cake in a 9x13 pan, and this half-recipe of frosting was still waaaay too much.  But yummy!  I looooove me some cream cheese frosting.

Rating: EXCELLENT, next time make with less frosting.

Sorry for the poor picture...I forgot to take one until the cake was almost gone!

August 18, 2010

Wedding Inspiration Boards

Came across this website: via iDiY (my new favorite wedding blog - check it out!).  It's a great way to view wedding inspiration boards created by other brides, or you can create your own by using the pictures on the website or uploading your own images!  Here are a couple boards I borrowed from other users:

*I L-O-V-E the purple damask invites on this one:

ADORING the deep purple hydrangeas on this next one!!

Definitely looking at the B&W swirly fabrics and patterns :)

The invitations on this one are amazing!

Purple and Damask - this one is my theme to a T!

Ohhh, I like the addition of blue to the purple:

Or maybe add some orange to the purple? I do love both colors...

Throwing this one in there...I also love pink and orange together!

I also love this color combination...purple, fuschia, and navy:

These are good September colors, don't you think?

Baaah, now I'm more confused than ever about which colors to choose.  Stay tuned...I'll upload my own canvas creation in the next few days!

August 15, 2010

{recipe} Sun-Dried Tomato Salad

Weekly Test Recipes: Week 29!

My sister made this salad for a picnic last summer.  I went back for seconds and it was all gone!  I decided to try making it myself this week.


1 jar (7 oz.) sun-dried tomatoes
4 cloves garlic (next time, I'll use 3)
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 c. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
16 oz. rotini pasta
1 pt. ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
1 jar kalamata or assorted olives, chopped (I bought a mixture of Kalamata, black, and green)
10 leaves basil, chopped or julienned
1 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

For the dressing:
In a blender combine sundried tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, and vinegar until tomatoes are chopped. Continue blending while drizzling in olive oil until mixed together. Can make the night before so flavors blend together.

To make the salad:
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until no longer hot. Pour 2/3 of the dressing over the pasta. Add remaining ingredients, tossing together and adding more dressing until the salad is coated to your liking. Serve cold.

I liked this salad, but my fiance did not.  The garlic was a little to intense for him.  Next time I will use 3 cloves garlic instead of 4.  I will also use just green and black olives next time. Also, this makes a HUGE amount.  So unless you're bringing it to a pot luck or have a big family, a half recipe should suffice. 

Rating: GOOD

{recipe} Summer Tortellini Salad

Weekly Test Recipes - Week 28!

I came across this recipe via The Sisters Cafe.  They have a neat blog where all the 5 sisters in the family post recipes they've been trying as well as family favorites.  It speaks to me because my five sisters and I have a private blog where we can keep track of each other's lives since we live all over the country.  I love it.  Here is the first recipe I tried from their website.  I have many more bookmarked to test in the future.


1 pkg. (9 oz.) uncooked refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced and cut into half-moons
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped (I use the equivalent of baby carrots instead)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
4 green onions with tops, thinly sliced
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
1/2 c. ranch dressing (I suggest a little less than this)
Parmesan Cheese - to taste

Cook tortellini according to package directions, drain and rinse under cold running water. Place tortellini in a large colander and set aside. Add vegetables to tortellini. Add dressing and top with grated parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
Makes 6 servings

This was so good!  It is very refreshing, and I love the hint of cheese that comes with the tortellini.  Definitely a keeper.  Soo easy to make and great for summer!

P.S. I suggest you use a large enough saucepan for cooking the tortellini.  I was afraid mine was going to spill or not cook evenly:

August 9, 2010

{recipe} Pound Cake

Weekly Test Recipes - Week 27!

A couple months ago, my sister Laura sent out a post asking if any of us had Mom's pound cake recipe.  Between us we figured out which recipe was the right one, and a challenge was put forth - make the pound cake and post your results!  I haven't brought any treats into work lately because there aren't many summer birthdays, and strawberries were on sale so I decided to make the Pound Cake!

1 cup butter
1 2/3 cup sugar
5 eggs
1/2 tsp flavoring (vanilla, almond)
2 cup flour
heavy whipping cream (whip in bowl with a shake of sugar and a splash of vanilla until thick)
fresh sliced strawberries

Work butter until creamy; beat in sugar and eggs, one at a time. When creamy, fold in flour with spoon. Spread in buttered and floured loaf pan. Bake 1 1/2 hours at 300 degrees.  Serve topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

Pros: yummy yummy yummy goodness.
Cons: baking something in the oven for 1.5 hours on a 90* day
Pros: yummy yummy goodness

Worth it! I knew this recipe was EXCELLENT, but I've never tried making it myself, and haven't had Mom's pound cake for a few years.  The first taste was so refreshing and familiar and brought me back to my parents' house on the farm back in MN :)

{recipe} Smoothie with a Twist

Weekly Test Recipes - Week 26! (The year is half over - GASP!)

I've fallen away from my smoothie addiction in recent weeks.  But this week we had an abundance of fresh fruit in the fridge and needed to get rid of some of the strawberries before they went bad.  On a whim, I decided to throw in some extras and use up some veggies in the fridge as well.  Similar to V8 fruit juice.  It was so good and I couldn't even taste the veggies.

SMOOTHIE WITH A TWIST* (one serving)
6 oz. yogurt of choice (I used strawberry banana this time, but usually use vanilla. Peach is good too. Any kind really!)

splash of orange juice
splash of lemon juice
1 ripe banana, sliced (freeze it first to add thickness)
handful fresh strawberries (I used 6 medium ones)
3-4 chunks fresh pineapple
*5 baby carrots (gasp, I know!)
1 Tbsp. flax seed  (optional)

Place yogurt and juices in blender and blend until mixed.  Add other ingredients a little at a time, blending between additions, until mixed.  Serve immediately. (I ended up adding a few ice cubes to this smoothie to add thickness.  If you use frozen fruit, ice won't be necessary.)  I've heard of adding spinach to smoothies as well, and have such a recipe bookmarked to try in the near future.

{recipe} Tortizzas

Weekly Test Recipes - Week 25!

When I was growing up, we loved making a quick lunch or snack of mini pizzas using English muffins as a base.  Spread with sauce, favorite toppings, cheese, and microwave or toast until yummy. My fiance said his family did something similar but used hamburger buns instead of English muffins (personally, I think the buns get a little too soggy for my taste). This next recipe is a fabulous idea that my fiance dreamed up as a compromise: personal pizzas made on tortillas!  Yum, flatbread-ish, crispy, goodness.  I call them Tortizzas!

flour tortillas (we like whole wheat or multigrain)
favorite pizza sauce and toppings
shredded pizza cheese
pizza seasonings (i.e. oregano or italian seasoning; salt/pepper; minced onions; paprika; etc. optional)

Spread pizza sauce on tortilla, and layer on toppings.  We like canadian bacon and mushrooms, or hawaiian, or pepperoni mushroom, extra cheese for me!  Cook in 350* oven 8-12 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to brown.  OR, last time we made them on the grill and they were also great.  Quick, easy, and so good!  Each person can personalize them with whatever toppings they would like.

August 8, 2010

{recipe} Shrimp and Broccoli Pasta

Weekly Test Recipes - Week 24!

I loved the simplicity of this recipe when I came across it.  Something new for me that came with this recipe was peeling/deveining shrimp.  More on that later.

2 cups uncooked bow tie pasta

1/4 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon butter or stick margarine
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. In a large nonstick skillet, saute onion and garlic in butter and oil until tender. Add broccoli and salt; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 8 minutes. Add shrimp; cook and stir 2-3 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink and broccoli is tender. Drain pasta; transfer to a serving bowl. Add the broccoli mixture; toss gently. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

I didn't know the proper way to peel and devein shrimp, so a quick internet search led me to this helpful site: Peel and Devein Shrimp  Let me tell you, this is a very unpleasant job, and really turned me off from the idea of ever doing this again.  From now on, I'm only buying pre-peeled and de-pooped shrimp.  Overall, the receipe was a MEH rating, and I'll probably never make it again.  It was quite dry and needs some sort of sauce to add.  Maybe some chicken broth or something just to add a little more moisture and pull all the ingredients together. 

{recipe} Fuit Pizza

Weekly Test Recipes - Week 23!

I loooooove fruit pizza, but have never attempted to make it myself.  After researching variations online, I decided on the following:

1 refrigerated sugar cookie dough (the kind you buy in a tube at the grocery store.  Maybe taking the easy way out, but it tastes just as good in this kind of recipe and is much less work than whipping up some sugar cookie dough from scratch.)
1 recipe fruit dip (8 oz. cream cheese, 7 oz. marshmallow cream, a couple shakes ginger; mix until smooth)
assorted fruit (we like red grapes, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, and mandarin oranges)
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. orange juice
1 tsp. lemon juice

Spread cookie dough onto pizza pan or cookie sheet; bake according to package directions.  Careful, because it's all one cookie, it might have to bake longer than called for.  However, I found that if I waited until the cookie was starting to brown in the oven, it was a little over-baked.  Take it out just before it starts browning.  Let cool.  Spread fruit dip on cooled cookie crust.  There will be some leftovers.  This is a good thing - it's amazing for dipping strawberries, peaches, etc.  This stuff is evil.  Place fruit in a lovely arrangement on top of the creamy dip (grapes sliced in half the long way, strawberries and kiwis sliced, blueberries, mandarin oranges, and blackberries, etc. can be placed on whole).  For glaze: combine corn starch and sugar in sauce pan.  Whisk in orange juice and lemon juice.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Remove from heat and cool, then spread over top of fruit pizza.  Cut into pieces and serve.  Betcha can't eat just one! EXCELLENT!

{recipes} Kabobs Galore

Weekly Test Recipes - Week 21 and 22!
These recipes were made utilizing my graduation gift for Tony - a portable grill :)

1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
8 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
2 cloves garlic
5 small onions, cut into 2" pieces
2 red bell peppers, cut into 2" pieces
wooden skewers, soaked in water to prevent from catching fire

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, honey, soy sauce, and pepper. Before adding chicken, RESERVE a small amount of marinade to brush onto kabobs while cooking. Place the chicken, garlic, onions and peppers in the bowl, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours (the longer the better).  Preheat the grill for high heat.  Drain marinade from the chicken and vegetables. Thread chicken and vegetables alternately onto the skewers.  Lightly oil the grill grate. Place the skewers on the grill. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until chicken juices run clear. Turn and brush with reserved marinade frequently.

1 large sweet onion
1 large orange, unpeeled
1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 medium fresh mushrooms
8 cherry tomatoes
2 small yellow summer squash, cut into 1 inch slices

1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons orange juice

Cut the onion and orange into eight wedges; halve each wedge. Alternately thread vegetables and orange pieces onto eight metal or soaked wooden skewers. Place in a shallow oblong dish. In a bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt if desired, garlic powder and pepper. Pour over skewers. Marinate for 15 minutes, turning and basting frequently. Grill, covered, over indirect heat for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Brush with orange juice just before serving.

I didn't get a picture of either of these, but picture all the ingredients on a stick and that's it :)  Check the links to see photos as well.  Both of these recipes were fantastic and fresh and EXCELLENT!

{recipe} Hawaiian Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Weekly Test Recipes - Week 20!

This was one of the recipes we made for Tony's graduation BBQ.  The original recipe was shared by my sister, and we tweaked it a little for the graduation.  The recipe below is as we made it.

2 lb. pork shoulder
1 bottle/can of your favorite root beer
salt/pepper/mesquite seasoning
16 oz. bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
hamburger buns

***side note: Tony wanted a luau-themed graduation BBQ, so we used 2 parts Archer Farms Hawaiian-Style Barbecue Sauce and 1 part regular sweet BBQ sauce.  It was soooo nummy with a little bit of a kick to it, and we will make it this way every time!***
Rub pork with salt/pepper/mesquite seasoning.  Pour half the root beer in the crock pot (use the entire bottle for a bigger pork shoulder) and place in crock pot.  Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.  Remove pork and trim off fat.  Drain liquid from crock pot.  Shred pork and place back in crock pot to cook for 20 minutes.  Add BBQ sauce, stir, and cook for 20 minutes.  Serve on hamburger buns. Yum, yum, yum! Definitely rated EXCELLENT and one of the best recipes I've tried in a long time.

{recipe} Fruited Tuna Salad

Catching up today and tomorrow....So sorry I have fallen TWO months behind with my recipes.  I have been cooking as normal, just not blogging the results.  I have some new favorites that I'll be posting about this week.  Bear with me while I catch up.

Weekly Test Recipes: Week 19 (From May....)

FRUITED TUNA SALAD (Simple&Delicious, May 2010)
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. honey (or corn syrup)
2 cans water-packed tuna, drained
1 can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
1 medium apple, chopped
1/3 c. chopped pecans
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/8 tsp. salt
4 whole pita breads
alfalfa sprouts

In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise and honey.  Stir in the tuna, mandarin oranges, apple, pecans, celery, cranberries, and salt.  Serve on pita breads with sprouts.

This was sooooooo yummy!!!!  I was a little apprehensive about how all the different fruits would mesh with the tuna, but it was amazing!  I will definitely be making this in the future.  Rating: EXCELLENT. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this yumminess for you.  Next time I make it I will add a picture to this post.

New Blog Design!

The lovely black/white damask blog background I had on here wasn't working anymore, so I found a new one!  All the credit goes out to Izzie Grace Blog Backgrounds - creator of free and custom blog backgrounds. She has sooo many beautiful designs, I had a very hard time choosing which one I liked best!  Hope you like it!