Kitchen Concoctions

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kitchen Adventures: The Sixth Floor Museum {Dallas, Texas}

Kitchen Adventures... when life takes me outside the kitchen!  Today's kitchen adventure is from last summer's trip to Dallas and recaps our visit to The Sixth Floor Museum


I have always been a museum nerd. I guess it stems from my childhood and my Dad always taking us to museums, even when we were small, energetic children. And even though then, I may have not admitted out loud then, that I loved going to museums everywhere we traveled, I did. To this day I still enjoy visiting museums, seeing all the long lost artifacts, learning all the random facts that make up the history of this world, and meeting people from around the world.

When we went to Dallas last summer, Eric had just started reading the Stephen King novel, 11/22/63 and so The Sixth Floor Museum was one of the things at the top of our attraction list. I had been years and years ago, but probably didn't appreciate it as much as I should have, so it is was good to go back.


The Sixth Floor Museum is located on the sixth and seventh floors of the Texas School Book Depository. The museum features films, photographs and artifacts (including original books found in the depository that day, police reports, cameras from reporters and bystanders, official documents, etc.) that chronicle President Kennedy's life, death and legacy, as well as, special temporary exhibits.

While you can walk through at your own pace, I highly recommend listening along with the audio guide. The audio guide is included in the admission price and not only features thorough explanations of the exhibit's artifacts and photos, it has excerpts of original radio broadcasts and the voices and accounts of reporters, police officers and eye witnesses.

While the bulk of the museum is about JFK's assassination, I am happy they feature information about his life and presidency leading up to that day. The museum also highlights the legacy President Kennedy left behind.


Unfortunately, no photography is allowed on the sixth floor exhibit. Once you reach the seventh floor, where they have the special exhibits, you can take photos. At the time we visited, there was a photo mosaic exhibit, with photos of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy (pictured) composed of approximately 5,500 Dallas Times Herald Collection photographs.

Note: While we thoroughly enjoyed The Sixth Floor Museum, and would highly recommend it if you are in the Dallas area, I don't recommend it for small children, I suggest middle school and up.


For more information about visiting The Sixth Floor Museum, find additional information below: 

Additional Information:

Address: 411 Elm Street Dallas, TX  75202
Phone number: 214.747.6660
Hours: Monday: Noon to 6 p.m. and Tuesday-Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: Adult — $16.00 U.S. Senior (Ages 65+) — $14.00 U.S. Youth (Ages 6-18) — $13.00 U.S. Children (Ages 0-5) — Free or  $4.00 U.S. with audio guide

You can also follow The Sixth Floor Museum online here:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
You Tube


Friday, February 27, 2015

Dinner and a Movie: Big Hero 6 and Four Cheese "Baymax" Pizza

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BigHero6MovieNight #CollectiveBias #ad 

Enjoy a fun, festive dinner and movie night at home with friends and family! Celebrate the release of Disney's Big Hero 6 with delicious Four Cheese "Baymax" Pizza, that is sure to become a family favorite. 



Movie night is a pretty regular thing around here... but usually it is nothing special. We might be sitting around trying to think of something to do on a wild Friday night and decide we don't want to fight the crowds at a local restaurant or as of late, get out in the cold, so movie night it is.

Or maybe on Sunday evening, as we are trying to unwind from a busy weekend and prepare for an even busier week ahead, we pop in a movie and plop down on the couch, just to take a minute to catch our breath. But most movie watching days, are just this, an after thought.


However, lately I have been on a mission to be more connected. I realize as I type this, watching a movie probably doesn't sound like much of a way for families to truly connect with one another, but I beg to differ! Family movie night is a fantastic way to bond with those you love! With a little thought and preparation, those plain, boring movie nights can really become something special!

Instead of watching a movie you have seen before, let picking out a new movie become an adventure. I love heading to the store each week and checking out all the newly released books, CD's and especially movies! Picking out a new movie and some special movie snacks are fun, but if you have read this blog for any length of time you know I love creating entire themed dinners inspired by a movie or book.... something, sadly I have not done in awhile.



To make movie night more fun and exciting, and to get back to doing what I love, this past week when I saw that the new Disney movie, Big Hero 6, was being released I decided it was time for a special dinner n' a movie! I headed to Target to grab the movie and everything else I needed for our family night.

Since I think movie night isn't complete without pizza, a Four Cheese "Baymax" Pizza, inspired by the movie's leading robot, was just the thing to take our movie night from ordinary to extraordinary! And while you could make one large pizza, to feed the whole family, why not set up the kitchen table so that everyone can come together and create their own "Baymax" Pizza creation! Then after dinner, snuggle up in the living room and watch this touching and adorable movie together!



Four Cheese "Baymax" Pizza
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Bake Time: 15-20 minutes Yields: 1 large pizzas or 4 mini pizzas

Layered with a variety uniquely flavorful cheeses, this four cheese pizza is perfect for family movie and pizza night!

Ingredients:
1 batch basic pizza dough (recipe below)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated provolone cheese
½ cup grated white cheddar cheese
Large pepperoni or large black olives, optional

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease two baking sheets or pizza pans with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Set aside.

Divide prepared pizza dough into 4 equal portions. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into approximately ½ inch thick oval pizzas. Place crusts on prepared baking sheets. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together remaining olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and black pepper. Using a pastry brush, brush 1-2 teaspoons olive oil mixture evenly over prepared pizza crusts.

Place all the cheese in a medium sized bowl and toss to combine. Sprinkle each pizza crust with approximately ¼ cup of the cheese mixture.

To make Baymax face, slice 2-3 pepperoni into strips and and top each pizza with 2-3 strips of pepperoni and two whole pepperoni to form eyes (note, black olives can also be used).

Bake in preheated 400 degree F oven for 12-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Note: For a traditional large four cheese pizza, roll dough into a ½-inch thick, 10-inch round pizza. Top pizza dough as directed above and bake in preheated 400 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes.


Basic Pizza Crust
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Wait Time: 20 minutes Yields: 1 large pizza or 4 small personal sized pizzas  

Simple homemade pizza dough recipe for a crispy, chewy pizza crust.

Ingredients:
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
½ teaspoon salt

Directions:
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in olive oil and honey and set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 2 ½ cups flour and salt.

After resting, pour yeast water over flour mixture and stir to combine. Gradually add in remaining ½ cup flour, kneading by hand for 2-3 minutes until the flour is mixed in and dough is smooth and elastic.

Cover dough in bowl with a damp paper towel. Allow dough to rise covered in a warm, draft free place for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, use a lightly floured rolling pin and roll dough into approximately ½ inch thick, 10-inch round pizza pizza.

Top with desired toppings and bake in 400 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes (depending on size and thickness), or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.


For more information and ideas to celebrate the release of Big Hero 6, visit Target online and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Vegetable Barley Soup with Chicken Sausage Meatballs

Even with a much warmer winter than normal in my neck of the woods, it is still soup season! Whip up a big batch of this hearty and healthy Vegetable Barley Soup with Chicken Sausage Meatballs on this cool(er) February night! 


I would give anything for a big bowl of this soup at this exact moment. Actually I would give anything for a home cooked meal.

For the past month, I have barely kept my head above water. I have been workin' like crazy at my “day job(s)” and traveling quite a bit. Then I decided that life wasn't crazy enough right now. To shake things up even more, I decided I should move right in the middle of it all.


Needless to say, cooking, well it hasn't existed, for let's be real... weeks (maybe a month?). Obviously when I have been out of town it has been meals out on the town. And considering all of my dishes, pots and pans have been carefully not so carefully (because who has time to pack properly, not I) in boxes for going on 12 days... more eating out, or sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But things are looking brighter in my new, larger kitchen. I have a bigger fridge (and a second “garage fridge” on the way) and while my pantry is smaller, I have more counter and cabinet space. Oh and a breakfast nook (yes, a nook) with a gorgeous bay window that lets in the perfect amount of sun! (A food blogger's dream!)

Which is all fantastic... for when I can unpack and find my ice cream maker... priorities at it's finest (have I mentioned I've been stressed.)!


I haven't quite decided what our first home cooked meal will be in our new home, but this soup is so comforting and welcoming, that I am leaning towards it! I have been making this Vegetable Barley Soup with Chicken Sausage Meatballs all “winter” (if you want to call it that... more like a cold Texas spring) and it has quickly become a favorite! Since it is loaded with vegetables, chewy barley and plump, juicy meatballs; makes it not only delicious but good for you too!

Now... since I am drowning in a sea of boxes... what is your best tip for quickly getting settled into a new house? Err... that should read: SEND HELP!

One Year Ago: Restaurant Review: Jack Allen's Kitchen (Austin, Texas)
Two Years Ago: Raw Cauliflower Couscous
Three Years Ago: Classic Red Beans and Rice
Four Years Ago: Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
Five Years Ago: Boursin Cheese, Spinach and Pecan-Stuffed Chicken Breasts


Vegetable Barley Soup with Chicken Sausage Meatballs
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 50 minutes Serves: 6-8

A hearty, good for you soup loaded with vegetables, barley and sausage meatballs. 

Ingredients:
1 pound spinach chicken sausage links*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 large carrots, diced
3 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper, or to taste
2/3 cup pearl barley
2 small zucchini, diced
Parmesan cheese, as needed for serving*

Directions:
Remove sausage from the casing and place in a large bowl. Using a tablespoon or cookie scoop, scoop sausage into small meatballs; using hands to roll into uniform meatballs, if needed.

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Working in batches, add meatballs and brown on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

To the same pot add onions, carrots, and butternut squash and saute for for 5-6 minutes, adding additional oil, if needed. Add the garlic and cook for additional 1-2 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth, diced tomatoes, seasonings and barley. Bring to boil and boil for 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and add browned meatballs. Cook 30-45 minutes or until pearl barley is tender, yet slightly chewy. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, stir in zucchini.

Ladle into bowls and serve with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

*Note: Can be omitted for a vegan/vegetarian meal.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with dinner rolls and a side salad.

Adapted from Lauren's Latest


Other recipes you might enjoy:
Winter Squash Soup with Gruyère Herb Croutons
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Spicy Tomato and Turkey Soup
Lentil Bean Soup
Crock-pot Pizza Soup

Friday, February 13, 2015

Kitchen Adventures: Deep Ellum Brewing Company {Dallas, Texas}

Kitchen Adventures... when life takes me outside the kitchen!  Today's kitchen adventure is from last summer's trip to BIG D and recaps our visit to the Deep Ellum Brewery.


Over the last year or so Eric has become quite the beer snob connoisseur. Let me state he is not just drinking beer, he has studied the brewing process and appreciates all the hard work that microbreweries put into each batch of beer. And just like wine connoisseurs, he smells, sips, and truly tastes all of these different beers. He then will tell you if the beer is full body, hoppy, or if it has citrus, chocolate or floral undertones. He can tell you how to pair beer with different foods and even how to cook with it!

He will talk to anyone and everyone that will listen and eloquently describes the complexity of micro-brewed beers. I love listening to him talk because I feel that passionately about food.


Because of all this, we have been visiting a lot of microbreweries over the last year so that Eric can talk to the brew masters and learn more about the brewing process and what makes each brewery and the beers they brew unique.

On our vacation to Dallas, Texas last summer, we took time to stop by Deep Ellum Brewing Company in the historic Deep Ellum neighborhood in east downtown Dallas.


We have been to a few breweries and Deep Ellum's “tour” is unique in a few ways. First, they call their “tour” an “open house and tasting” because that is really what it is. You pay a flat fee and get a souvenir pint glass and three tokens to redeem to have your glass filled with your choice of beer. The brewery open house is only open to the public on Saturday afternoons. The set up is super casual and at least when we went very crowded.

As with any open house you can come and go as you please, but if you would like to learn more about the beers/brewery, an on site brewer/host will talk about the brewing process and history of the brewery on the brew deck at about 1:30 on Saturdays. At the time we went, you could not actually “tour” the inside of the brewery, as it was roped off, and you could just stand on the inside brew deck. However, outside the brewery there is a large beer garden where there are several picnic tables, a stage with live music and a food truck.


It is also my understanding, that since our visit they have opened an on site taproom which is open from 3-10 pm Monday through Friday. The taproom is where you can purchase beers and where they have special events.

I must note that our tour “host” was super passionate about the brand and his job, and talked to Eric and I extremely nice and knowledgeable about the beers! I am always happy to see people loving their job and that are passionate about what they do!


Deep Ellum Brewing Company offers a variety of beers including:

Deep Ellum IPA
Double Brown Stout
Deep Ellum Pale Ale
Dallas Blonde
Dream Crusher
Plus a variety of special seasonal beers


For more information about visiting the brewery or checking out some of Deep Ellum's craft beers, find additional information below:

Additional Information:

Address: 2823 St Louis Street Dallas, TX 75226
Phone number: 214-888-3322
Hours: Tap Room: Monday-Friday 12-10 pm and Open House: Saturday 12-3 pm
Price: Open House/Tour: $15 cash or credit at the door or $12 online (includes 1 DEBC logo glass (pint or snifter), and 3 beer samples)

For more information visit Deep Ellum Brewing Company Online:
Website and Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

Monday, February 9, 2015

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with an Asian Inspired Dinner Party

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NewYearFortune #CollectiveBias #ad 

Celebrate the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Sheep, with a festive Asian inspired dinner party. No Chinese New Year would be complete without wishes of good fortune and of course good food. These three custom dipping sauce recipes are perfect for dipping everything from chicken bites to classic Egg Rolls and Spring Rolls. 


If you have read this blog for any length of time, then you know I love celebrations! I love celebrating everything from a friend's new job to a family member’s birthday to every single holiday in between! And being a blogger, many of these celebrations, whether large or small, have been shared on this blog!You all have read the stories, seen the décor and enjoyed a variety of recipes.

One holiday that we look forward to celebrating every year is the Chinese New Year. I love this fun and festive holiday and the opportunity to have another start at a new year! :) Over the years we have celebrated with dinner out at a local Chinese restaurant or enjoyed restaurant inspired favorites at home, with many of these recipes being shared here on Kitchen Concoctions.


This year I am even more excited to celebrate the Chinese New Year with a small dinner party for some close friends and family. Hosting dinner parties are nothing new for me, in fact, I have shared several different parties and themes over the years, but this party will definitely be memorable! This is because we are moving into a new house and it will be our first gathering in our new home!

I don't think I could ask for a better holiday to be the first to celebrate in our new home. The Chinese New Year celebrates the wish of "good fortune" to all in the year ahead, which is the perfect theme for this new chapter in our lives!

Since we are literally in the process of moving right now as you read this, I know that I will need to keep our Chinese New Year dinner party simple. For the décor, I will stick with a classic red, black and gold theme. I will use red and bamboo place mats, black and white plates and bowls, and add a few simple decorations like chopsticks, fortune cookies, Chinese take out boxes and paper fans.


For our menu, I will serve a platter of spring rolls and egg rolls with a trio of dipping sauces and a simple Chicken and Bell Pepper Stir Fry over coconut rice for our main entree. For dessert? Chocolate dipped fortune cookies of course!

To help make this dinner as stress free as possible, I'll pick up some Tai Pei® Egg Rolls and Spring Rolls from my local Walmart. These authentic Asian appetizers are convenient, as they cook up in minutes, and come in a variety of flavors, like veggie, chicken and pork.

Even though these appetizers do come with a convenient dipping sauce, I decided that for my party I want serve a trio of custom dipping sauces. Not only will this add variety, it will be a nice, edible “center piece” for our dinner party.


Recently as I practiced for our party (yes, I do practice all the recipes for my dinner parties and set up “mock tablescapes,” because, well, it is fun!), I decided I wanted to take some classic Asian flavors and dipping sauces and put a new twist on them. Below are the recipes I came up with. The Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Mango Dipping Sauce is my personal favorite because I love a good sweet and spicy sauce. The Cashew Butter Dipping Sauce swaps out traditional peanut butter for nutty cashew butter and the Creamy Cilantro Lime Dipping Sauce is a cool and creamy sauce, which paired perfectly with the crispy Tai Pei® Chicken Egg Rolls!

What would you serve at your Chinese New Year Celebration?


Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Mango Dipping Sauce
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Yields: approximately ½ cup

This sweet and spicy dipping sauce with a tropical flare is perfect for dipping everything from chicken tenders to spring rolls! 

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, depending on taste
½ cup fresh mango chunks
½ cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/3 cup apricot or apple jelly

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large food processor. Process on high speed for 30-45 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides. Process for an additional 30-45 seconds or until sauce is smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.  Dipping sauce can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Cashew Butter Dipping Sauce
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Yields: approximately ½ cup

A new twist on the classic Asian inspired peanut sauce, this cashew version is perfect for dipping and dressing salads! 

Ingredients:
¼ cup creamy cashew butter
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
½ – 1 teaspoons hot sauce, depending on taste
1-2 tablespoons water or chicken broth

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large food processor. Process on high speed for 30-45 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides. Process for an additional 30-45 seconds or until sauce is smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste Dipping sauce can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Creamy Cilantro Lime Dipping Sauce
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Yields: approximately ½ cup

A creamy dipping sauce with fresh cilantro and lime.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced and zested
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons chopped jalapenos (optional)

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large food processor. Process on high speed for 30-45 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides. Process for an additional 30-45 seconds or until sauce is smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste Dipping sauce can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


I am excited to welcome the Year of the Sheep and look forward to lots of good fortune in our new home! I also wish a year of good fortune to all my friends, family and to all you dear readers! For more Chinese New Year ideas, visit Tai Pei® on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and check out their Chinese New Year app on the Tai Pei® Facebook page (under the Red Envelope tab) for valuable product coupons (available for a limited time).

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How To Make Candied Orange Peel

Making delicious, tart candied orange peel is simple and super satisfying! Follow the easy, step-by-step directions below and have a sweet, all natural, homemade candy in no time!


I've mention several times that for my “day” job, that I teach cooking classes. This is something I love, and while teaching kids can fun and rewarding, it's the adult classes that really challenge me. 

Not necessarily are the recipes I am teaching super difficult, in fact most of what I am teaching are basic cooking skills (things like knife skills, baking, etc.), but often when teaching adults, there are a wide range of cooking abilities in these classes so I have to make sure my teaching points will help all the students in the class. Not to mention, adults can throw a variety of questions at you, so I am always having to think on my feet!

But like I said, I love it!

In one of the my recent cooking classes, I taught how to make candied orange peel. I was super excited about this class because making candied orange peel is not something I do on a regular basis. I enjoyed practicing and perfecting this technique at home and then teaching this skill to my cooking class students!

Today I am sharing step-by-step directions on how to candy orange peel. This is not a super difficult technique but there is quite a bit of time involved. Luckily most of this time is spent just letting the orange peel simmer on the stove top, so you can do other things while it is cooking away.

These candied orange peels are a great homemade treat or can be used to garnish a decadent dessert (like the recipe I am sharing later this week... so stay tuned)! And don't worry the candied peels can be made well in advance and keeo for up to two weeks.

How To Make Candied Orange Peel: 
(for a printable version see below)


1. Rinse and thoroughly dry oranges.


2. Using a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom off each orange.


3. Next, score the skin of the orange in four sections. Do this by making four cuts along the curve of the orange from the top to the bottom. Use caution to cut through only the peel and not all the way through the orange.


4. Carefully remove the skin (peel and pith) in sections, making sure not to tear them. Wrap the remaining oranges in plastic wrap or place in a plastic baggie and store in the refrigerator for another use.


5. Cut remaining peel into ¼-inch wide strips.


6. Place the strips of peel in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.


7. Place saucepan on stove top over high heat and bring to a boil. Once water comes to a boil, immediately drain the water from the peels. Repeat this boiling and draining process two more times. (Note: This step is important as it helps remove a lot of the bitterness from the peels.)


8. After the third time for the water and orange peels to come to a boil, drain and leave orange peels in the strainer. Set aside.


9. Meanwhile, in the same large sauce pan, stir together one cup each sugar and water. Place pan on burner over medium heat.


10. Bring sugar water mixture to a simmer and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved and a clear syrup forms.

11. Add the orange peel and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain a constant simmer. Once the orange peels have been added, avoid stirring, as this will cause crystallization. If necessary, swirl the pan once or twice to make sure that all of the peels are covered with the syrup.


12. Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with wax paper and place a wire cooling rack on top of one baking sheet.

13. After the peels have cooked for 45 to 60 minutes, use a fork to scoop the orange peels out of any remaining simple syrup and place in a single layer on top of the wire rack. Let candied orange peel drip dry for 30 minutes.


14. After drying for 30 minutes, roll candied orange peel in reserved 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Place sugar coated orange peel on the second wax paper lined baking sheet and let dry completely at room temperature, for 6-8 hours or over night. Store candied peel in an airtight container at room temperature for about two weeks.


How To Make Candied Orange Peel 
Printable Version
Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes Wait Time: 6-8 hours Yields: about 1 ½ – 2 cups 

Tart, all natural homemade citrus candy; perfect for a sweet treat or impressive dessert garnish! 

Ingredients:
2 large navel oranges
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water

Directions:
1. Rinse and thoroughly dry oranges.

2. Using a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom off each orange.

3. Next, score the skin of the orange in four sections. Do this by making four cuts along the curve of the orange from the top to the bottom. Use caution to cut through only the peel and not all the way through the orange.

4. Carefully remove the skin (peel and pith) in sections, making sure not to tear them. Wrap the remaining oranges in plastic wrap or place in a plastic baggie and store in the refrigerator for another use.

5. Cut remaining peel into ¼-inch wide strips.

6. Place the strips of peel in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.

7. Place saucepan on stove top over high heat and bring to a boil. Once water comes to a boil, immediately drain the water from the peels. Repeat this boiling and draining process two more times. (Note: This step is important as it helps remove a lot of the bitterness from the peels.)

8. After the third time for the water and orange peels to come to a boil, drain and leave orange peels in the strainer. Set aside.

9. Meanwhile, in the same large sauce pan, stir together one cup each sugar and water. Place pan on burner over medium heat.

10. Bring sugar water mixture to a simmer and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved and a clear syrup forms.

11. Add the orange peel and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain a constant simmer. Once the orange peels have been added, avoid stirring, as this will cause crystallization. If necessary, swirl the pan once or twice to make sure that all of the peels are covered with the syrup.

12. Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with wax paper and place a wire cooling rack on top of one baking sheet.

13. After the peels have cooked for 45 to 60 minutes, use a fork to scoop the orange peels out of any remaining simple syrup and place in a single layer on top of the wire rack. Let candied orange peel drip dry for 30 minutes.

14. After drying for 30 minutes, roll candied orange peel in reserved 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Place sugar coated orange peel on the second wax paper lined baking sheet and let dry completely at room temperature, for 6-8 hours or over night. Store candied peel in an airtight container at room temperature for about two weeks.

adapted from Bright Eyed Baker and About.com via Patrica's Table

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Banana Bread Energy Bites



Need a tasty snack that fuels you for an intense workout or to get you through a busy afternoon? These Banana Bread Energy Bites, packed with good for you ingredients like flax seeds and prunes, will help keep you going through the day. 


Well my friends, it is the end of January. And the big question is, have you stuck with your new year's resolutions?

If you are rockin' it and still going strong with accomplishing all those new goals, then my friends, you deserve a pat on the back. But if you are like me and haven't been exactly on target with your resolutions, don't let the end of January get you down! This is a great time to reevaluate your goals, maybe changing them to be more realistic, and acknowledge the things you have accomplished.


For me, my health and fitness goals included working out regularly and making better choices when it comes to food. Even though my job requires a lot of cooking and therefore taste testing of a variety of foods, I can honestly say I am enjoy these things in moderation.

The area that is more challenging, is finding the time, energy and motivation to workout. I use to love working out, but it seems like the last few years it has become more of a chore and just another thing on my never ending to do list. When the new year came I decided that working out regularly was a must, but my crazy schedule (I have had to go out of town every week since Thanksgiving) has kept me form working out the way I would like.


Now for all you workout enthusiasts, this may seem like excuses, but I like to think positively, and I'd rather use this to reevaluate my goals. For me, right now in my life, I can commit to an intense workout about two days a week. The other days, well I just squeeze in as much activity as I can. This is going on 20 minute walks with my dog at least twice a day, or parking at the back of a parking lot or taking the stairs. I would rather be active like this than not at all, so I'll take it! And hopefully over the next few weeks I can start adding more days of exercise.

On the days that I exercise, or are just busy and on the go, a healthy, filling, yet tasty post workout or afternoon snack is essential (and if I am being honest, the post workout snack is what I look forward to most. Smile.). Most days this is a loaded green monster smoothie or a banana with almond butter, but sometimes I want more or want to change it up.


That's when I discovered energy bites. Have you heard of them? They are quite popular and are basically bite sized homemade protein/granola bars. There are so many possible flavor combinations and depending on the recipe, are packed with all sorts of good for you, all natural and raw ingredients. Ingredients like flax seeds, which are a good source of omega-3, protein packed nuts, whole grains and prunes, like Sunsweet Amaz!n™ Prunes, which are an excellent source of potassium, fiber and studies have even shown that prunes may promote healthy bones.

These Banana Bread Energy Bites I am sharing today are packed with all of these good for you ingredients, as well as bananas, cinnamon and pure maple syrup to give that great banana bread flavor. Grab a few of these energy bites after your morning workout or as you head out the door to run some afternoon errands and you will be good to go! I like them best served cold, as opposed to room temperature, and since they are stored in the refrigerator they will keep for up to two weeks, that is, if they last that long! What are your go to healthy snacks?


Banana Bread Energy Bites
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Wait Time: 30 minutes Yields: 15 bites

Tasty, yet full of healthy good for you ingredients, banana bread flavored granola bites. 

Ingredients:
1 cup raw walnuts or pecans
1 large ripe banana
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5-6 Sunsweet Amaz!n™ Prunes
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Directions:
Place walnuts in the bowl of a large food processor. Pulse several times, just until walnuts become small pieces. Remove half of the chopped walnuts and set aside.

To the remaining walnuts in the food processor, add banana, cinnamon, prunes, vanilla and flax seeds. Blend for 3-4 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula as needed, until ingredients are finely chopped and a thick paste forms.

In a large bowl, stir together rolled oats, maple syrup, reserved chopped walnuts and blended banana mixture; stirring until well combined. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop oat mixture and shape into balls. Place formed energy bites on a waxed paper lined plate and freeze for 30 minutes. Store leftovers in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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