How do you Independence Day? July 4th it!

Independence Day: July 4th decor, songs, and food.One week from today is July 4th. Is it just me or does this feel like the summit of summer? After Independence Day it feels like summer is on the down slope. We are all coasting into fall.

Oh the barbeques! In some places they are called cookouts. Whatever you call the gathering of people eating char-grilled meat, it’s a hell of a time. Folks bring out as much red, white, and blue decorations as they can handle. If you’re feeling especially patriotic, check out these July 4th photo booth props I made. Social media and the birth of the United State never looked so good! Continue reading

Recipe: Easy Chocolate Chip Scones

pastryYou know when you forget to get stuff for breakfast, but you want something yummy? That happened to me the other day. Then I saw a box of Bisquick in my fridge as well as an opened package of mini-chocolate chips. I thought some how these two things should go together. I found a recipe for Easy Drop Danish in my Bisquick cook book and slightly modified it to include the chocolate chips. It was a tasty and easy to make treat.

Scones Recipe
2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup milk or whipping cream
Mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 450. My oven tends to run hot, so I only set it to 425.

  1. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray or lightly grease with shortening. In medium bowl, stir Bisquick mix, butter and granulated sugar until crumbly. Stir in milk until dough forms. Stir in mini chocolate chips to taste. I did this by sight and probably added in 2/3 cup.
  2. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Make shallow well in center of each with back of spoon dipped in water; fill each with mini chocolate chips
  3. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Milestone: Hosting my first Thanksgiving

holidays, pie, apples, wineThat’s right, in a few weeks, I will be in charge of a holiday. My parents are flying in from California and Paul’s parents are coming down from North Dakota to celebrate with a big ol’ turkey.

As Thanksgivings go, it will be fairly small for me, only 6 adults in attendance.

However, it’s not the actual holiday that is freaking me out (I know everyone in attendance & Paul will lend a hand)…it’s the preparation leading up to it. I just don’t want to be making something only to realize I’m missing an ingredient. Then of course there are these obsessive thoughts:

  • What if the turkey doesn’t thaw in time?
  • What if we don’t have enough potatoes?
  • What appetizers should we serve?

One thing for certain, I will NOT be making ridiculous turkey gourd decorations.  I don’t have the time nor the talent.  I bought some stuff at various stores to hang/place here and there to make our apartment festive, but I’m not going to try and create something I see on Pinterest and create a whole new (and unnecessary) ball of stress.

Speaking of Pinterest, I am using it to stay organized. When I see an article or recipe that might be useful, I pin it to my Thanksgiving board.  Also, I’ve been keeping lists. Thanksgiving To Do & Thanksgiving to Buy are updated regularly….when I think of something I definitely want to have or should do before the parents see our apartment for the first time.

When it comes right down to it, I love holidays. The decorations, the gathering with family and friends, the good cheer, the food, it all makes me happy and I choose not to let it stress me out…too much.

I can’t cook: Easy meal idea for two, the baked potato edition

baked potatoI know it doesn’t sound like a meal, but have you seen the size of the potatoes in the grocery store? They are massive! Paul and I try to keep a couple in the house for those days when we don’t feel like going out, but want to put little effort into cooking.

After washing/scrubbing the potatoes, we wrap them in foil and throw them in a 400 degree oven for an hour and a half. Perfect potatoes every time. If you don’t want to wait that long, before foiling said potatoes, you can throw them in the microwave for about five minutes or so. Then pop them in the 400 degree oven for about half an hour. I have trouble gauging the correct microwave to oven ratio for cooking times, so I just stick with the oven method.

A potato in and of itself isn’t really a meal. It’s all about the toppings. My go to toppings are shredded cheese and salsa. It’s like a potato nacho. Paul prefers cheese, butter and bacon bits. Not the fake ones, but there are some that come pre-chopped in a bag. These are all things we just keep in the fridge on a regular basis. Sour cream is always a good option too, pretty standard. I’m always looking for new potato topping ideas that might already be sitting in my fridge or cupboard.

Also, depending on your toppings, this meal isn’t that bad for you. If you have frozen veggies, you can steam them and throw them on top of your potato. Herbs and spices are also a good additive and they don’t add calories. Most people have an onion hiding in their fridges. Chop it up, and sprinkle on top. Please don’t ask me if a potato is gluten free. I’m not a scientist and you have Google for that.

I can’t cook: Brownies

baked goods, yum, chocolatePart of me doesn’t want to share this brownie recipe, but I have a feeling that these chunks of heaven are so good, they could probably help achieve world peace.  That’s right… world… peace. The secret? It uses chocolate chips.

Many, many years ago, I found this recipe in the San Francisco Chronicle.  I have tried to find it on their website, but it’s so old that the internet wasn’t around when they printed it in the newspaper.

Personally, I think this recipe is really easy, but I’ve been making it for quite a while, so maybe I’m not the best judge.

Here’s a little tip: Don’t cheap out on the chocolate chips in this recipe. Get the really good kind.  I prefer dark chocolate Ghirardelli chips. You can use semi-sweet if you prefer, but the dark chocolate ones give it another depth that makes it go very well with a glass of red wine.  Remember, this dessert is a splurge, so you might as well do it right.

Ingredients

1/3 cup butter (use unsalted butter not margarine or some substitute crap)1 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (again use real vanilla extract not that fake stuff)
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup nuts (this is optional and choose the nut based on your preference)

BrownieBatter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan. Combine butter and 1 cup of chips in a saucepan and place over low heat. Stir this almost constantly until melted and smooth. Set aside to let cool slightly. I keep the mixture in the saucepan and mix it all by hand.

Beat in eggs and vanilla, then add sugar and beat until smooth.  Add flour and salt until blended. Stir in nuts and remaining chocolate chips.

Spread in prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes.  The center should remain moist. Cool 15 minutes, then cut.

I Can’t Cook: Coffee Cake

baking, BisquickI may not be able to cook, but I certainly can bake.  In fact, this coffee cake recipe from Bisquick is one of the first things I learned to bake when I was a little kid.  Chocolate chip cookies were the first, but that will be another blog post.

In junior high, I took a home ec class. Do they still teach that in public schools? Well, they should, but I digress. This recipe was used to teach us various baking methods. Obviously, I aced that part of the class.  The sewing part…not so much.

The most difficult thing about this recipe is cutting up the streusel topping. If you’ve never used the two knife method, it might be a little weird.  Just keep going, you’ll get all the stuff mixed in together.  Also, I sometimes add in different spices.  The recipe calls for cinnamon, but I’ll add in nutmeg, cloves, allspice, or cardamom.  I’m kidding I almost never use cardamom.  Also, I’ve used square pans even though the recipe calls for a round one.  I didn’t notice a difference in cooking time or flavor.

Recipe:
Ingredients

Cinnamon Streusel
1/3 cup Original Bisquick® mix
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons firm butter or margarine

Coffee Cake
2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
2/3 cup milk or water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg

  • Heat oven to 375°F. Grease 9-inch round pan. In small bowl, stir streusel ingredients until crumbly; set aside.
  • In medium bowl, mix coffee cake ingredients until blended. Spread in pan. Sprinkle with streusel.
  • Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.

The original recipe can be found via this link: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/streusel-coffee-cake/6961f214-b8aa-480b-8cd5-d57ea4350757

I Can’t Cook: Easy Homemade Pizza Recipe

Maybe I’m a bit too harsh on myself, I might just be a lazy cook.  Regardless, I’m trying to cook at home more because it’s usually healthier and it’s definitely cheaper.  So, since yesterday was Friday, we deemed it pizza night. One of the products I just love is Bisquick.

No, the Bisquick people (nor anyone else) are not paying me to write this post.  I just love their baking mix.  It makes a pretty good pizza dough and it’s easy to make.  I always doctor it up a bit by mixing in a little garlic powder and basil before adding the hot water to the baking mix.

homemade, semi-homemade, pizza, BBQI had planned on making a pepperoni pizza because I’d seen some in the freezer.  Of course, when I pulled it out and looked at it, the stuff had expired a year ago.  It was probably fine, but I didn’t want to chance it.  Avoid diarrhea whenever possible is my motto.

Luckily, we had a bottle of barbeque sauce and a package of pre-cooked chicken sitting in the fridge.  I like to keep the chicken in the fridge because it’s so versatile.

So, I quickly whipped up a barbeque chicken pizza.  I took this recipe from Betty Crocker and modified it a bit to fit my needs:

1 1/2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
1/3 cup very hot water
Pre-shredded mozzarella
Pre-shredded cheddar
Pre-cooked chicken strips
Barbeque sauce

  • Preheat oven to 425. (The Betty Crocker recipe says 450, but I think that was too hot. The pizza baked for 11 minutes and I think it was a bit overdone on the edges).
  • Grease 12″ pizza pan and stir together Bisquick and hot water until soft dough forms. I put in the herbs & mix it with the Bisquick before the water goes into the mix.
  • Press pizza dough into pan. Spread sauce, sprinkle cheese to desired cheesiness, place chicken strips on top. You might want to chop up the strips a bit if they look a little too big.
  • Sprinkle a little more cheese if you like.
  • Bake 12 to 18 minutes (depending on oven) until dough is golden brown and cheese is melted.

If you’d like, you can chop up an onion, bell pepper or include any other veggies as well.  I just didn’t have anything in the cupboard to add.