Kitchen Concoctions: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pizza Is All About Ingredients

One thing that I have learned over the years is that every competent to a good pizza is critical. From the crust to the sauce to the toppings, for a good great pizza you need a good go to recipe for each ingredient of the pizza.

Today I have a good recipe for homemade pizza dough. Tomorrow an extraordinary recipe for pizza sauce and then Thursday and Friday I have two nontraditional, yet taste bud pleasing pizza recipes!

I am a huge fan of the pizza dough recipe that I am sharing today because it whips up in minutes and only requires 30 minutes to rise. If you remember, I hate working with yeast solely because I am an impatient person and hate having to wait for the dough to rise. I know. I know. It sounds silly but especially when it comes to making dinner I usually don’t have the time to start making dinner hours before we actually are going to sit down and eat.

That is why this dough recipe comes in handy because I can make it and go on to make other things for dinner while it rises and a SHORT 30 minutes later the dough and pizza toppings are ready. This dough makes a chewy, yet airy, and slightly thick pizza crust. The only thing that I am disappointed about with this dough is that it does not freeze well. The original recipe made enough dough to make four pizzas, which is way too much for us, so I would freeze the other two pieces of dough for later use. I have done this in the past with other dough recipes and have great success, but this recipe does not work well after being frozen. So I have adjusted the recipe below to be enough for just two pizzas, and I guess I will just have to keep looking for a dough recipe that I can freeze.

30 Minute Pizza Dough
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Wait Time: 30 minutes Makes enough dough for 2 pizzas

1 ¾ cup hot water
1 tablespoon yeast
½ tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4-5 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in hot water. Mix salt, brown sugar and 3 cups of flour together. Stir in yeast and water mixture and then gradually stir in remaining 1-2 cups of flour. Keep adding flour until dough is not sticky. Knead for 3-4 minutes. Let rise for 30 minutes.

After dough has risen roll divide into two equal portions and roll into pizza sized shape. Add your desired toppings and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

adapted from My Favorite Recipes

Monday, January 30, 2012

Let's Throw a Pizza Party!

I am not a huge sports fan per say but usually I keep up with my teams and with general sports happenings. Like I know enough to pick decent teams in March Madness, and what teams are headed to the world series and usually who are the hot shots playing in the Super Bowl. In fact, last year I was in Dallas for all the Super Bowl excitement (Pakers- 31 vs Steelers- 25). But this year, this year, I have been so outta the loop. It almost completely slipped my mind that this coming Sunday is Super Bowl XLVI. I actually had to do a Google search and find out WHO was playing in this year's big game (btw it is the New England Patriots and the New York Giants) and who was the honorary host city (Indianapolis).

So I decided I should take it upon myself to help you prepare for the big snacking game day! This week on Kitchen Concoctions will be pizza week! I can't think of what goes better with football watching than pizza?!?

First up, I am sharing an article that I wrote for meal planning/recipe site Food on the Table, with tips and tricks on how to host a perfect pizza party!

Have a birthday party, sporting event, or family game night in the near feature? Well why not throw a pizza party? Pizza is a food that is loved by kids and adults alike and sure to be a party pleaser! 

For a quick, easy, inexpensive menu, there's nothing like having a homemade pizza bar to please every taste. Here are some great ideas for throwing the perfect pizza party.
  • Be organized: Prepare and chop ingredients before the party. Place toppings in assembly-line order and in easy to serve containers with appropriate utensils.

  • The dough: Thin crust or thick? Pick one style or serve an assortment to please the crowd. Purchase frozen, refrigerated, or prebaked crusts from your local grocery store and prepare according to the package directions. Or try your hand at making a delicious homemade crust. Be sure and have plenty of crusts ready with enough pizza pans or the grill fired up and ready to go.

  • The sauce: Store bought pesto, classic marinara, or homemade alfredo are all tasty options.

  • The toppings: Choose good-quality readily available fresh ingredients. Great pizza toppings include pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, pineapple, green apples, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions. But really the possibilities are endless depending on your tastes and desires.

  • The cheese: Of course the traditional cheese toping for pizza is mozzarella but try cheddar, provolone, bleu cheese, or parmesan.

  • Make a toast: This is a party after all, but choosing age appropriate beverages is important. Beer and pizza go hand in hand, but for a girl’s night ‘in’ wine maybe more enjoyable. Also, if entertaining kids soda and fruit punch are a perfect pairing with pizza.

  • Dessert: To keep with the pizza theme, make a dessert pizza! Simply use refrigerated sugar cookie dough as the ‘crust’ and bake as directed. When cool, smear on some cream cheese frosting for the ‘sauce’ and top with candy, fruit or even nuts!

Pizza parties are fantastic way to have loads of fun without a whole lot of stress. The pizza recipes below will certainly be hits at your next pizza night!

Purple Potato Pizza (The Novice Chef)
Taco Pizza (Kitchen Concoctions)
Artichoke Spinach Pizza with White Beans (Good Life Eats)
Artichoke 'n Bacon Pizza Squares (Kitchen Concoctions)
Deep Dish Fruit Pizza (The Pioneer Woman)
Grilled Pizza- How To (Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Website Review: Food on the Table

I am excited about this new (but kinda old) monthly feature here on Kitchen Concoctions. Since I started this blog, each month I have had reviews for various cookbooks, cooking magazines, and now food websites. I usually choose 4-5 recipes make them, share my opinion and give an overall review. For 2012 it will be cooking/food websites (not blogs), which I think will be pretty useful considering the techy world we live in now and I know I am not the only person who does most of their recipe browsing via the Internet.

Since the month is quickly coming to an end it is time for a review of January’s site; Food on the Table. I am sorta partial to this website since I do freelance work for it. With that being said, I created a rating scale (similar to the one I used for the magazines of the month), so that I could give fair and honest opinions of each website. And while I will answer the below questions to the best of my ability for every site I review, the review below is pretty extensive because I do freelance work for this site (I'm actually not being paid for this review, just giving my honest opinion and review0 I am most familiar with it.

Pictures: Some

Some of the recipes have pictures but not all. Most of the pictures are clear but because the pictures are small (probably ½ square inch) it is kind of hard to get a clear picture of the food. And yes, if you have been reading my blog long you will recognize some of the pictures on the Food on the Table site from Kitchen Concoctions because I took them!

Prep Time, Cooking Time, and Number of Servings listed: Yes

Almost every single recipe has this information included as well as a spiciness indicator, wait time and total time required.

Nutritional Information provided: Yes

Some of the recipes have this but not all. Also I must add that some of the recipes seem to be off on the nutritional provided, so if you are on a strict diet or have major health issues I would double check the nutritional information provided with a more repeatable source.

Clear, easy to follow directions and ease of preparation: Yes

This site is full of fast, easy, family friendly recipes. Most of the recipes can be made in 45 minutes or less of total time and call for only 7-8 ingredients.

Easily available ingredients and budget friendly: Yes

The premise of this site is to help you prepare a weekly meal plan based on current sales at your grocery store. The site gears you towards recipes that include these sale items, actually helping you save money. I’d say that has budget friendly ALL over it!

Variety of recipes: Dinner only

Since this is a meal planning site it focuses solely on main dish dinners and side dishes. There are some recipes that could be used for breakfast, lunch, appetizer, etc. but currently this site is focused just on dinner time. Hopefully in the future they can offer more variety of recipes

Meal Planning Feature: Yes

This site is more focused on meal planning based on weekly sale items at your local store, and providing recipes is an added bonus.

Source of recipes: Chef approved as well as user uploaded

This site has recipes developed, reviewed and edited by a team of chefs and cooks (including some of my personal tried and true) as well as recipes uploaded by the users themselves. Right now it is hard to distinguish between these two groups of recipes, although the recipes with photos are chef approved as users cannot upload their own photos at this time.

Cost: It is free to plan 3 meals a week but costs $9.95 per month to plan unlimited meals and have access to hundreds of more recipes.

Special feature: This website is focused on meal planning and saving you money by planning meals around the sales at your store. The site offers the ability to rate the recipes and leave comments on them. Also there is a discussion board where users can post questions and comments, which is monitored by the site staff (stop by sometime and say hi to me!) with timely responses and help. Also the site has the ability to add your own personal recipes and save them to your profile as well as search hundreds of others submitted by other members and the chefs.

Overall, the recipes I tried all month for this review and in the past have been a tasty huge success (but I’m not saying I have become a roasted grape fan)!

In case you missed it, here are the recipes I featured:

Disclosure: Again I am not being paid to do these reviews, I just frequent these sites a lot and wanted to feature some recipes I get from these sites and sort of compare the different features these websites have to offer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Website Wednesday: Italian Sausage With Red Grapes

I have loved all the recipes I have shared so far from January’s cooking website of the month. But today’s recipe is one that I wasn’t such a fan of. This recipe is easy, uses pantry staples, and had good flavor (you may be thinking what the heck the problem is). And even though this dish is an Italian classic, I just couldn’t get over the texture of the cooked grapes.

Yeah I know, roasted grapes are all the rage right now, popping up all over the inter webs, but I sometimes struggle and have slight *issues* with textures of food (this may explain why in all my 20 something years of life I just recently started eating mushrooms and tomatoes). This recipe did produce a simple, yet satisfying sausage that was wonderful on its own or added to a pasta dish (recipe to come in the somewhat near future), but the grapes are something I could do without, at least for now (give me another 20 years and we’ll talk then)!

One Year Ago: Healthy Oatmeal and Banana Shake
Two Years Ago: Cumin-Scented Oven Fries

Italian Sausage With Red Grapes
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves: 4-5

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
2 cups seedless red grapes, stemmed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper

Heat olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook sausages, turning over once, until well browned, about 8 minutes total.

Add grapes, balsamic vinegar, dried thyme, salt and pepper. Cover, cook, stirring occasionally, until sausages are fully cooked through and grapes are softened, 5 to 8 minutes.

adapted from Food on the Table

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Giveaway: General Mills Cereal

This giveaway is now closed! The winner of the General Mills Cereal Giveaway (chosen by is comment number 25, Shawn. Congrats Shawn and thank you to all who entered. Shawn please email me with your contact information so that I can get your prize pack shipped out. Ok, now onto today’s recipe…

Hip Hip Hooray. Today is giveaway day! Today's giveaway is for General Mills new and improved whole grain cereals. All of these cereals are the classics we love just with whole grain ingredients. I am all for that and was excited to be able to host this giveaway since I am a big cereal eater. I mean really who eats cereal just for breakfast anymore! I enjoy it for snacks and dinner too!

For more information about the giveaway keep reading:
Ringing in the New Year often means new eating habits. We know whole grain is important to you, and the Dietary Guidelines recommend choosing products with a whole grain listed as the first ingredient. Now every cereal with the white check has more whole grain than any other single ingredient with the same great taste. You will see "whole grain" as a part of the first ingredient on the ingredient list, indicating that whole grain is the first and most prevalent ingredient.

According to Dr. Travis Stork, emergency room physician and host of "The Doctors," identifying whole grain products can be challenging. Shoppers can look for nutritional cues on the front of the box, but they need to read the ingredient list to know if they are getting enough whole grain. Ingredient lists detail ingredients in order of prevalence, and if the words "whole grain" are followed by a grain like wheat or oats, it means the food contains more whole grain than any other single ingredient. Here´s how to determine if your cereals have whole grain as a first ingredient:

With all the health messages facing grocery store shoppers, it can be confusing to translate what appears on food labels into nutritional needs, and hard to determine which foods have a meaningful amount of whole grain. Dr. Stork has some additional recommendations to help you include whole grain easily into your diet. They include:
•Start Early! The Dietary Guidelines recommend people get at least 48 grams of whole grain in their daily diets. Get a jump-start on the day´s nutrition by incorporating whole grain into your morning routine. For instance, when choosing cereal make sure whole grain is listed as the first ingredient. One easy choice is cereal with the white check, which have more whole grain than any other single ingredient.

•Make Simple Swaps. Choose whole grain versions of the foods you love. Great options include whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread or even whole grain crackers. Also, try different types of whole grain. Use brown rice instead of white rice as a side dish at dinner or popcorn, which is a whole grain, for a snack.

•Don´t Judge a Food by Its Cover. The front of food packages provide good nutritional cues, but don´t forget to read the ingredients and check the nutrition label and side labels for additional health information. Cereals with the white check even include the amount of whole grain per serving on packaging.

To help with choosing products with whole grain, General Mills developed "Fast Lane for Whole Grain," an online educational game. Consumers can navigate virtual grocery store aisles and identify products that have whole grain as the first ingredient, with the option to enter a sweepstakes to win one of each of the 50 cereals with the white check. Make a commitment to add more whole grain to your diet by simply pouring a bowl of cereal with the white check including Cheerios®, Lucky Charms®, Cinnamon Toast Crunch®, Honey Nut Cheerios® and Total®. For more information on the importance of whole grain and a chance to enter the "Fast Lane for Whole Grain" sweepstakes, visit

General Mills Giveaway Prize Pack Includes:
•5 boxes of General Mills cereal with the white check


You have SIX separate ways to enter the General Mills Cereal Giveaway! (NOTE: Please leave a SEPARATE comment for each response below):

1. Leave a comment on this post answering the following question: Which of your favorite General Mills cereals with the white check (listed above) are most interested in trying?

2. Become a follower of Kitchen Concoctions through Google Friend Connect.

3. Tell someone about this giveaway, whether it be on a blog, Facebook or Twitter and leave a new comment letting me know and sharing the link.

4. For a fourth entry to this giveaway, head over to Kitchen Concoction’s Facebook page and click ”Like”. Then come back here and leave a separate comment letting me know you did.

5. For a fifth entry follow Kitchen Concoctions on Twitter.
6. And last but not least I finally broke down and joined the Pinterest craze! For a sixth entry head over and follow me on Pinterest and leave a comment letting me know!
This give-away closes Tuesday, January 31, 2011 at 11:59 PM CST. Winner will be chosen at random (by and will be announced sometime shortly after the give-away ends. Winner must contact Kitchen Concoctions within 72 hours at kitchen_concoctions at hotmail dot com to claim prize. If winner has not claimed prize within 72 hours then a new winner will be notified. Giveaway for US residents only.

NOTE: Please check back shortly after giveaway closing to see if you are a winner. As much as I would like to run all over the Internet world looking for you, I do not have the time. So you as the winner MUST contact me with your information.
"Disclosure: The prize pack, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with Asian Cooking

Happy New Year! Today, January 23, is the Chinese New Year and year of the Dragon! Will you be doing anything fun or educational today? Well you can do both! Below is an article I wrote from meal planning/recipe site Food on the Table a few weeks ago about celebrating the Chinese New Year and learning a little about popular ingredients found in Chinese cooking. Hopefully I can help educate you some today and help clarify a few things regarding to Chinese food. Also be sure and check below for some recipes to make Chinese food at home, making a great alternative to pricey take-out!

Chinese New Year is just weeks away and is the most important of traditional Chinese holidays. It is known as the ‘Spring Festival’ and marks the end of the winter season. Celebrating other cultures’ traditions is a great way to learn more about their beliefs, history, and of course food!
To learn more about some common ingredients found in Asian cooking, continue reading!
  • A Wok is commonly used to prepare Chinese foods. Due to its large size, high sloping sides, and ability to handle high temperatures, a wok is a great tool used to stir-fry, deep-fry, braise, roast, steam, and simmer. The kind of oil used to cook in a wok is crucial. Oil that may be heated to a high temperature without smoking is essential; peanut oil and corn oil both work well. Due to the intensity of the heat used for wok cooking, a gas range with instant heat control is most efficient.
  • Hoisin sauce is a popular condiment in Chinese cooking and is sometimes referred to as Chinese barbecue sauce. Hoisin sauce is a reddish-brown sauce that is salty, sweet, and spicy. Hoisin can easily be found in most grocery stores, but if unavailable, a mixture of equal parts molasses and ketchup can be substituted.
  • Sesame seeds are common in all Asian cuisines and typically used as a garnish. White sesame seeds have a strong nutty flavor, which is enhanced when toasted. Black sesame seeds are less flavorful and are used mainly for color.
  • Chinese Rice vinegar is typically milder and less acidic than regular vinegar. Three common types of rice vinegar include black, red and white. White rice vinegar is most common and is similar in flavor to regular vinegar. Red vinegar is sweet and tart in taste. While black rice vinegar is similar to balsamic vinegar. These vinegars are used in dipping sauces, soups and noodle dishes. If rice vinegar is unavailable dry sherry or white wine vinegar may be substituted.
The recipes below are a great way to celebrate the year of the dragon and use several of the ingredients described above.

Stir-Fried Chicken (Kitchen Concoctions)
General Tso's Chicken (Taste and Tell Blog)
Kung Pao Style Ramen Noodles (Kitchen Concoctions)
Homemade Fortune Cookies (Our Best Bites)
Chicken Lettuce Wraps (Kitchen Concoctions)
Sesame-Crusted Salmon (Annie's Eats)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week Of: Oatmeal

 I loved all the recipes that I featured during last years oatmeal week of series and this year is the same. In case you were MIA all last week here is a recap of all those oatmeal recipes in honor of National Oatmeal Month!

Bananas Foster Oatmeal- Probably not the "healthiest" oatmeal of the week, with butter and brown sugar transformed into a beautiful caramel sauce topping, but this is a damn tasty one!

Banana Nut Bread Baked Oatmeal- Transforming the classic flavors of banana bread into baked oatmeal form made this one comforting breakfast. I choose to make this healthy and topped it with yogurt and honey but by all means go for ice cream if you please!

Herbed Oat Pan Bread- This bread was airy, slightly chewy, and had a nice savory flavor; making it the perfect side for anything from pasta to steak!

Lunchbox Granola Cupcakes- Oatmeal is a key ingredient in most granola recipes, but have you ever thought to transform that traditional oatmeal into some fun cupcakes?

Heavenly Honey Oatmeal Mask- I have never tried a homemade face mask before but this was a fun experiment that really did make my skin feel smooth and rejuvenated.

Don't think just because oatmeal week is coming to an end that this will be the last of the oatmeal recipes! Like I said I am on a mission to make that blah breakfast porridge into a tasty and exciting morning treat. So stay tuned to see more oatmeal concoctions on Kitchen Concoctions over the next few months!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Food on my face

Ok I again promise this is not going to become one of those super weird all natural tree hugging sites. Not that tree huggin’ is bad… I do it on a regular bases but I am only human and sometimes forget my reusable grocery bags at home, buy premade foods, and forget to recycle.

But I did resolve this year to eat fresher and to try making more things from scratch. I honestly did not think that making a homemade face mask would fall into that category of homemade concoctions I would try!

I mean oatmeal is meant to be eaten not slapped on my face and saved for later. LOL! But all kidding, stereotypes, and crazy looks aside, studies have shown that all the natural ingredients in the recipe for the recipe below DO have wonderful health and skin benefits.

Did you know:

Chamomile tea has been found to be great for naturally lightening your skin tone. It has also been shown to help relieve puffy eyes and dark circles.

Oatmeal has cleansing and exfoliating properties which aide in soothing dry skin. It will absorb dirt, cleanse pores and gently exfoliate.

Honey has been used for thousands of years to moisturize, protect, heal and rejuvenate skin.

I’ll admit I was skeptical about slapping what looked like my breakfast on my face. But after the 15 minutes and washing, my face felt smooth, clean, refreshed, and even smelt like lingering breakfast! Ha! I kid. I kid.

This was fun and interesting and I was actually surprised at how my skin felt afterwards, the same as when I use the pricey drug/department store masks, but at the fraction of the price! I have several sugar scrubs and avocado masks bookmarked so maybe this won’t be my last edible face mask experiment!

One Year Ago: Chicken Tortilla Soup and Tips to make the perfect pot of soup
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Chex Mix and Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

Heavenly Honey Oatmeal Mask
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Wait Time: 15 minutes Makes: 1-2 masks

For the rinse:
2 cups water
2 chamomile tea bags
For the mask:
1/3 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons honey

To make the chamomile rinse, bring the quart of water to a boil. Arrange the chamomile tea bags in a bowl pour the boiling water over the bags and let the tea steep and cool down to lukewarm.

While the rinse is cooling down make the mask. Put oatmeal in a blender and grind until it is a fine powder. Transfer the oatmeal powder to a small bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Using your fingertips apply the mixture to your face, avoiding your eyelids and the tender skin under your eyes. Keep the mask on for 15 minutes, just relax and read or let yourself stare at the wall, you need the break. After the 15 minutes, double check that the chamomile tea rinse is not too hot, be careful you're going to put this on your face, you want it to be lukewarm. Rinse face with the chamomile tea.
adapted from Rachael Ray via The Food Network

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lessons From My Job

I love my job as a freelance food writer and consultant. It has given me various different opportunities and pushed me to learn more and excel in my passion of cooking and food. All of these opportunities have also allowed me to not only grow in my career but grow as a person too.

One thing that I am heavily involved with in the city I live is an after school cooking class for kids. I help teach, develop the lesson plans and recipes. I love being involved with these classes because my first career choice and path in college was teaching. I decided not to go into teaching because after spending several hours in the classroom I realized that most of the teachers and students were burnt out by all the standardized testing requirements. I did not want to be in this position so I left to pursue my other passion, cooking.

These cooking classes are fun for both me and the kids, not stiff and boring as their regular schooling is. These kids learn a lot from me and I learn a lot from them. Like learning to think fast!

The recipe below was originally supposed to be granola ‘bars.' But since kids do better when they can do things hands on, I let the kids press these granola bars into muffin tins. This created the perfect size portion in cute and fun cupcake form (which also resulted in happy kids)!

Lunchbox Granola Cupcakes
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Wait Time: 30 minutes Makes 12 “cupcakes”

1⁄2 cup honey
1⁄2 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon canola Oil
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups brown rice or fiber cereal (ex: Fiber One and/or Whole Wheat Chex)
1/2 cup dried cranberries

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the first 8 ingredients and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until warmed through.

In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.

Add peanut butter mixture to oat mixture and fold to combine.

Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray. Press granola mixture into muffin tin and chill for 30 minutes before serving.

adapted from Cook Learn Grows

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Website Wednesday: Herbed Oat Pan Bread

Some people are terrified of baking with yeast. I am not one of those people. I conquered that fear a long time ago.

But I am lazy. And not patience. And I don’t like to bake with yeast because I don’t want to wait for the dough to rise. And even if the actual measuring and mixing of the dough only takes minutes the waiting game is where I struggle.

And this is why I don’t make yeast breads.

And this is why I came *THIS* close to not making this bread. I was lazy and impatient, (or whatever you want to call it) and wasn’t in the mood to start “cooking” dinner several hours before it was actually time to start “cooking” dinner.

But I did. Just for you. And I have no regrets.

This bread is actually easy to make, nice and airy, flavorful, AND worth the wait. I have always felt like there was something missing in my life and I guess yeast breads were that thang.

Hello bread….

Note: Speaking of lazy. I made this in a pie pan (instead of a square 8x8 inch pan) because I didn’t feel like washing the dirty 8x8 inch pan sitting in my kitchen sink. Even though I had 60 minutes of “free” time on my hands….

One Year Ago: Magazine Review: Food and Wine
Two Years Ago: Southwestern Sloppy Joes

Herbed Oat Pan Bread
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Wait Time: 60 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Serves: 6-8

1 cup water
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg

2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons oats

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil; stir in oats. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter; cool to 120 degrees F (130 degrees F). In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast and salt; set aside. Beat in oat mixture until moistened. Add egg. Beat with electric hand mixer at medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form stiff dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Punch dough down.

Press dough into a greased 8x8 inch baking pan or 8 inch round pie plate. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Brush with 2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter.

Combine all topping ingredients expect oats. Pour mixture over bread. Sprinkle butter topped bread with reserved oats. Bake bread in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until brown.

recipe adapted from Food on the Table

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Let's Mix Two Breakfasts To Make One

I absolutely love Banana Bread, and no one makes it as good as my Momma. Recently when I was home visiting her, she made up a big batch of her famous Banana Bread just for me for my siblings and I who were all visiting. And of course it was as delicious as ever!

I think I was day dreaming of that Banana Bread when I came up with this Banana Nut Bread Baked Oatmeal not too long ago. This defiantly is not the same as Mom’s traditional Banana Bread but all of the same flavor profiles are there, all in yummy baked oatmeal form.

If you have never tired Baked Oatmeal before I encourage you to. It is basically a giant oatmeal cookie! I wanted to keep this version healthy and I choose to top my finished oatmeal with some low-fat yogurt, honey and some extra chopped walnuts. This was seriously good!

One Year Ago: Magazine Review: Food and Wine
Two Years Ago: Southwestern Sloppy Joes

Banana Nut Bread Baked Oatmeal
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 8

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups quick oats
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed
½ cups applesauce
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 inch pan. In a large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and walnuts. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, applesauce, milk, butter, vanilla, and egg. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and whisk to combine. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve immediately with yogurt, honey, and additional chopped nuts.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Oatmeal: it's what's for breakfast!

Did you know January is National Oatmeal Month? Well it is! And it seems fitting since in my eyes oatmeal is a great breakfast treat or snack during the cooler days of the year.

Oatmeal is one thing that I use not just to tame my morning tummy grumbles, but is great to use in lieu of breadcrumbs in meatballs, or as breading for chicken, and of course in cookies! But because it is a pantry staple, healthy, and inexpensive (way cheaper than boxed cereal) oatmeal is a breakfast option I choose often.

To celebrate oatmeal month, I thought I would have an oatmeal themed week here on Kitchen Concoctions. (You know how much I love theme weeks!) This is not the first oatmeal theme week I have done, since last year’s was so fun and because I am on the life long quest to add as much flavor to bland oatmeal as possible, I thought I would do an oatmeal theme week repeat.

Today’s recipe combines oatmeal with a delightful and classic dessert. This Bananas Foster Oatmeal is a dessert that’s ok to eat for breakfast! The only thing that I think it is missing is a big scoop of vanilla ice cream! That is certainly a breakfast I can get on board with!

Bananas Foster Oatmeal
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 8-10 minutes Cook Time: 12-15 minutes

3/4 cup old fashioned oats
Dash Salt
1 cup skim milk
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon vanilla
½ tablespoon butter
1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon rum extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Combine oats, milk, water, and vanilla and salt in a nonstick pot on the stove.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.

Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very thick and creamy.
Meanwhile, heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add sliced bananas to melted butter and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and rum extract. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes longer, until bananas are slightly soft and caramel sauce has formed.

Pour bananas and sauce over prepared oatmeal. Serve topped with a dash of cinnamon, if desired.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Flashback: Sausage and Pepper Arrabbiata

One of my goals for the blog (from last year) was to go back and re-feature some of my favorite recipes that I shared on the early days of this blog. You know the ones that are tried and true and that I keep remaking over and over again.

I thought that this would be a fun 'Friday Flashback' feature. Of course I would include *new* and *improved* photos as part of this feature because we all know how my photography was slightly offensive in the early days!

Today's recipe is one of those recipes! It is one I turn to when I need a fast and easy dinner that won't cost a fortune either. We have eat this Sausage and Pepper Arrabbiata (formerly called 'Angry' Sausage and Pepper Pasta in my original post since arrabbiata means angry in Italian) on a regular basis and it is always a hit!

PS: I know what you are thinking, I said last week that I wanted to eat fresher, less processed foods as my goal/resolution for the new year. And yes that is true, and while this pasta dish uses jarred pasta sauce, there are quiet a few varieties of jarred sauce that I have found that use fresh ingredients, are low in sodium, and are free from all those icky preservatives, just read your labels and you can find a sauce that is right for you! Also this dish is packed full of so many other fresh ingredients that I am totally ok with using a jarred sauce to save some time and money!
One Year Ago: Roasted Broccoli with Chili Butter
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sausage and Pepper Arrabbiata
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Serves 5

1 pound penne pasta
1 pound Italian sausage
1 large red bell pepper
1 large green bell pepper
1 small onion
½ tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (24 ounce) jar Arrabbiata Sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
4 ounces feta cheese
salt and black pepper to taste

Slice peppers and onions into long thin pieces. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage links on all sides. Continue to cook until sausage is thoroughly cooked all the way through.

Once fully cooked, remove sausage from pan, cool slightly and slice. In the same pan the sausage was cooked, add the olive oil, peppers and onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes more.

While veggies are cooking bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

After veggies have cooked, add the sliced sausage back to the pan along with the sauce, crushed red pepper, and Italian seasoning. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cook until sauce is heated through.

Pour sauce mixture over prepared, drained pasta. Serve topped with feta cheese.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Website Wednesday: Carrot Fries

We eat a lot of burgers in our house. Sandwiches for dinner in general but mostly burgers. I talkin' a burger about every other week to once a week. I love them because they are so easy to whip up and can be transformed so easily. Guacamole burger (yup that's a fav), need a good vegetarian burger(?), I've got one that tastes like the real deal, and if you are on a budget I've got a recipe that mixes black beans with the ground beef stretch your dollar.

And even though I am an old pro at making burgers I get stuck in a side rut (as with most meals). Sometimes I serve potato salad and sometimes I serve baked beans. Other times it is chips and salsa or veggies and dip. But mostly I serve fries: the frozen store bought variety, or homemade ones, and even sweet potato ones.

So I was giddy and slightly intrigued when I saw these carrot fries. Now these may sound strange (it took some coaxing to get Eric to try them) but let me tell you they were outstanding! Not only are these carrot fries super easy to make and extremely cheap, they were crispy, yet slightly soft (think sweet potato fries) with a wonderful flavor. The dried dill weed does amazing things and made these fries absolutely perfect. In fact I can't wait till burger night next week because these are going right back on the menu!

One Year Ago: Black Bean and Hominy Stew
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Carrot Fries
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30-35 minutes Serves: 4

1/2 tablespoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup butter
5-6 large carrots

Slice the carrots into french fry-sized pieces and place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Melt butter and pour over carrots.

Season carrots with the dried dill weed, salt and black pepper.

Bake 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes, adjusting cooking time if you want the carrots softer or "crispier".

adapted from Food on the Table

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Healthy Cooking For Picky Eaters

Who is on the "I'm going to eat healthier and exercise more in the New Year" diet? (my hand is high in the air.) And who already failed miserably at this even though it is only the second week of January (my second hand is now in the air). Her...ll....ooooo? Anybody there? Tell me I'm not the only one?

Even though I shared some healthy eating tips last week, I thought we (the collective "we" that really means just me!) could use another reminder! So if you are like me a need some healthy cooking tips (or not like me and are rockin' the gym and eating like a rabbit) then check out the article below that I wrote for meal planning/recipe site Food on the Table, for some healthy cooking tips.

Many will begin ‘new’ diets as part of the New Year; however, healthy eating and cooking should be considered a daily habit or part of your normal routine. Some small steps and easy substitutions make that New Year’s resolution of eating healthy a reality that can last through out the year.

Here are a few healthy cooking tips that I try to incorporate into my daily cooking.
  • Swap out those cans with fresh or frozen. Canned vegetables often have very high sodium content. Look for “low-sodium” canned veggies or try the frozen or fresh varieties.
  • Veggies only. Many ‘hearty meat’ entrees are easy to make vegetarian. Substituting meat with extra vegetables or beans will not only save you money, but will add extra flavor and vitamins and nutrients without the added calories of meat.
  • Turkey all the way. If a meal of only beans and veggies is not your thing try cooking with ground turkey. From hamburgers, to chili, to spaghetti sauce; I almost always use ground turkey instead of beef. If seasoned properly ground turkey has great flavor and similar texture as ground beef but without all the fat.
  • Go half and half. Whole grain pastas and flours are an excellent source of nutrients and fiber, however, for many it does take time to get use to the flavor and texture of the whole grain variety. Substitute half the amount of pasta called for in recipes with whole grain pasta. Most baked goods can also easily be made with half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour.
  • Steam them up. Steam your veggies instead of boiling them. The extended heat and liquid of boiling can destroy nutrients as well as make them less flavorful.
Cooking fast, fresh healthy meals does not have to mean spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Try this flavorful recipes below, that even the pickiest eaters will love!

Tomato Bruschetta Chicken (Kitchen Concoctions)
Pork Chops with Caribbean Rub and Mango Salsa (The Sisters Cafe)
Southwestern Cobb Salad (Kitchen Concoctions)
Crock-pot Turkey and Wild Rice Soup (A Year of Slow Cooking)
Pineapple Crush Smoothie (Kitchen Concoctions)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Making 2012 a year of more homemade

One of my goals for 2012 is to make more homemade, made from scratch, treats, snacks, spice blends, sauces, salad dressings and syrups. Now I am not going to go completely Betsy Homemaker on you, but I would like to eat fresher, homemade foods, with less fat, calories, and sodium as the prepackaged counter parts.

I already make a lot of these things from scratch like hummus, salad dressing and syrup. Usually most of these homemade things uses pantry staples and there for can be made at a fraction of the cost of store bought, prepackaged goods. Not that there isn't a time and a place for these items, because there is and I certainly use prepackaged goods for many short cuts.

As late, my homemade obsession is homemade spice blends/mixes. There have been numerous times when I go to make dinner and realize that I am missing the main spice blend/seasoning packet that the recipe calls for. I have also had times were I need just a small amount of a seasoning, and it is not something I use regularly enough to justify the cost of buying a bottle of said seasoning.

That is why I have started making my own! Most of the ingredients in those seasoning blends use dried herbs and spices found in most spice cabinets or prefilled spice racks. Mixing just a little of this and a little of that and you get your own homemade spice mixture at the fraction of the cost of those fancy store bought kinds.

So far I have made pumpkin pie spice, Old Bay seasoning, taco seasoning, poultry seasoning, and now Greek seasoning. So how 'bout it are you ready to join the Betsy Homemaker revolution?

Greek Seasoning
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version

Makes about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon dried mint
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 1/2 teaspoon dried onion powder
1 teaspoon dried garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients. Store in an air-tight container in a cool dark place for up to 6 months.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kicking Off Website Wednesday

On Monday I gave you the run down on my plans for a few new features for Kitchen Concoctions for the year 2012. One of them was changing the Magazine of the Month series to a (food) Website of the Month series. This will entail featuring a different food/recipe/meal planing website each month of the year 2012. I will be sharing that week's selected recipe on Wednesdays for "Website Wednesday".

A natural choice for my first website feature of course had to be meal planning/recipe site Food on the Table. Since I already know a lot about this website (since I do freelance work for them) and already develop and test a lot of their recipes this was a natural first choice.

I am still trying to narrow down the other recipe sites I would like to review. On the list so far: Tasty Kitchen, All Recipes, and a few more. If you have any recipe websites that are your favorites please share!

Anyways, today's recipe is so tasty. A hearty black bean soup with sweet ham, bell peppers, smoky cumin and a bit of a spice from chili powder and jalapenos. And if you have any ham left in your freezer from Christmas this is the perfect soup to use it in, if not a small ham steak should suffice. Serve with a side of cornbread and you have a recipe that is a keeper!

Two Years Ago: Savory Biscotti
One Year Ago: Crispy Fish Tacos

Fast and Delicious Black Bean Soup
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 4-6

2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced
3 garlic clove, minced
2 (15.0 ounce can) black beans
1 (14.0 ounce can) chicken broth
2 cup cooked ham, cubed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, for serving
1 cup sour cream, for serving

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, bell peppers, jalapeno, and garlic, and cook 5 minutes, until tender. Mix in 1 can black beans and chicken broth.

In a blender, puree remaining can of beans until smooth. Mix into the pot. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Mix in ham, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes. Garnish with desired amount of cheddar cheese and sour cream to serve.

adapted from Food on the Table

Disclosure: Again I am not being paid to do these reviews, I just frequent these sites a lot and wanted to feature some recipes I get from these sites and sort of compare the different features these websites have to offer.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Healthy Cooking For The New Year

One thing that I would like to change regarding formatting and what not for the blog this year is how I present the freelance articles I write. Typically for the articles I write for meal planning/recipe site Food on the Table, I include a recipe related to the article. However some of these articles can be rather long and detailed and I would rather the recipe and the useful information not get lost or all jumbled together.

So if you noticed the last couple of articles I shared, and any new ones in the future, I will share the article and then have links to 5-8 related recipes at the bottom of the article (so you put your new information/tips to use). Some of these recipe links will be to recipes here on Kitchen Concoctions, but I am also going to include recipes from other blogs that have great reviews or ones I have tried and just not blogged about!

So today's article is all about eating/cooking healthy for the new year! Something I desperately need right now!

If your New Year brings with it goals of diet and exercise, you are not alone; losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution. However, without proper planning and the right tools, it is easy to get of track and lose focus. To help get your 2012 off to a healthy and successful start, consider the following:

• Make a plan. Taking a few minutes to prepare a weekly meal plan is crucial to dieting and healthy eating success. A weekly meal plan will help keep you organized and on tract. Knowing what you are cooking for dinner ahead of time prevents hasty stops for take-out at the end of a busy day or dependence on sodium laden convenience foods. You'll also find meal planning makes grocery shopping less painful; making it easier to pass up unhealthy temptations at the store and ensure that you have everything you need when you're ready to cook.

• Use your time wisely. When preparing your weekly meal plan, choose meals that can be doubled. Cook a few days a week, when your schedule allows, and freeze the extras. Having a freezer full of ready-made healthy meals will save you, and your diet, the next time you are simply too tired to cook or forget to meal plan. Some healthy foods that freeze well are turkey burger patties, soup, chili, and lean meats frozen in a marinade.

• Make dinner enjoyable. You are more likely to enjoy a meal if it is visually appealing. Spend a little time on the presentation and set the table. Eat with your family and give yourself the opportunity to enjoy your dinner without distractions. You are less likely to overeat if you eat slowly and enjoy every bite.

• Gather your tools. Use non-stick pans for cooking to eliminate the need for cooking oils; if oil is needed, use cooking sprays. For even healthier cooking options, steam, bake, boil, microwave, or grill your foods. For easier grilling during the winter months, invest in an indoor grill pan.

Remember, healthy foods don’t have to compromise flavor. Below are five healthy and tasty recipes:

Southwestern Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps (Kitchen Concoctions)
Coconut Chicken Salad with Warm Honey Mustard Vinaigrette (Skinny Taste)
Chili Lime Tilapia with Roasted Corn (Kitchen Concoctions)
Southwest Stuffed Bell Peppers (Our Best Bites)
Turkey Guacamole Burgers (Kitchen Concoctions)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Magazine of the Month Series

As one year ends and another years begins it is time to reflect and look forward! I love a new year (just like I love a new week), it is a fresh start and a time to get organized and refocused. Today I will be wrapping up my 2011 monthly series: the Magazine of the Month, and sharing what I have in store for 2012.

I, in fact, have quite a few new things in store for Kitchen Concoctions this year, some that I had hoped to do last year and never got to it and a few more ideas. Today I will share just a few of these ideas and in the coming weeks share/reveal more (all in due time).

When I first started this blog I had a monthly cookbook of the month feature (inspired by Deborah). You see I have a slight cookbook hording collecting problem. Usually I would pick up a cookbook, read it cover to cover, mark the recipes I wanted to try, make one or two and put the book on the bookshelf and never look at it again. I wanted to change this, so when I first started blogging I picked 5 recipes from one cookbook a month and featured them. Then at the end of 2010 (when I had a resolution to get organized and de-cluttered in 2011) I realized that I had the same problem, but with recipes from magazines. I decided for 2011 I would clean up my magazines, organize these recipes, and actually use them by changing my cookbook of the month feature to a magazine of the month feature.

These features are a lot of work but I feel like they really push me to explore new recipes and actually use the cookbooks and newspaper clippings I have been hoarding saving for many years (read: make me feel like I don't need to submit myself to some TV show to get help).

When organizing my magazine recipes (for more information on that stay tuned, I have a whole post planned with tips and organization ideas) I discovered I have a ton of recipes printed from various on-line food/recipe/meal planning sites that also fall into the category of "I print this out and carefully save it but it may never see the light of day". I decided that just like the cookbooks and magazines these precious online recipes need to have a moment to shine.

So for 2012 I will be featuring recipe/cooking/meal planning/food websites. One each month for the year. I think this is perfect for this day and age since most of us get the majority of our recipes in html form.

I should clarify that I will not be featuring blogs (as much as I love my blogs and want to support fellow bloggers, I have another plan up my sleeve for that), but will be featuring member run recipe sites, meal planning sites, etc. Last year I tried two different ways of  I featuring my selected recipes each month. Some months I would feature one recipe a week and other months I would pick one week a month and feature a different recipe each day. This year I will feature the website of the month recipe on Wednesdays (seems fitting right? Website Wednesdays!). Then after the month is over I will do a review with all the featured websites' specs (cost, quality of recipes, information provided, etc.)

I am very excited and have been busy making recipes from January's site (will be announced Wednesday!). I have a running list of websites I frequent and would like to feature but I am open for additional suggestions, so please share!
And in case you have no clue what I am talking about, or would just like a refresher, below are all the magazines I featured in 2011:

(Note: I am not paid to do these reviews! I just like to do them for my own benifit- to use the recipes I have filed away- and because I think hope you'll find this information useful!)
January: Food and Wine

February: Bon Appetit

March: Taste of Home

April: Cooking Light

May: H.E.B Texas Life Magazine

June: Everyday With Rachael Ray

July: Food Network Magazine

August: Real Simple

September: Taste of South

October: Family Fun

November: Martha Stewart Living

December: Better Homes and Gardens

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