I Am Baker

Truth or Dare


Let’s play a little game of Truth or Dare.  This should be fun.

First, I pick DARE.

I dare myself to live in Minnesota during a long, cold winter (there is a high of -15 today.  I am not kidding.) and still feed my family fresh farm-to-table ingredients.Beautiful Corn from DelMonte

Ha ha ha! (Evil villainous laugh here). Dare accepted!  See that gorgeous corn up there? That is from a can. A can of Del Monte® Whole Kernel Corn that was picked at the peak of ripeness and often canned that very same day.

Not only are they gorgeous straight outta the can, but they are even better roasted.

To make Roasted Corn, I drain and dry the corn softly with a paper towel. Then place the mostly dry corn on a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and coarse pepper.  Roast at 350 for 25-30 minutes. (The reason I roast for so long is because the corn sweats off a lot of liquid. Start watching your corn around 15 minutes so that none of the delicious bits get burned.  If the edges get too dark, simply open the oven and carefully toss the corn to evenly disperse.)

Amazing Roasted Corn (And its from a can!)

My family fights over the little brown bits. They are the best.

Fresh food in sub-zero temps? Check. (Ok, ok. So Del Monte made that easy for me.)

This time I pick TRUTH.

Ok… here goes.

“I can get my kids to eat green beans without complaining.”Roasted Green Beans

Do you think I am lying? Ha, ha! (there’s that evil laugh again!) Not only do they like these roasted Del Monte® Cut Green Beans, they ask for them.

Roasted Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 can DelMonte Green Beans
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil*
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Open can of green beans and dry very well. Place bean on parchment lined baking sheet. Break coconut oil up into little bits and drop sporadically over beans.
  2. Evenly sprinkle the paprika, garlic powder, onion flakes and salt and pepper over beans and roast for 15 minutes at 350.
  3. *You can also use Extra Virgin Olive Oil; just drizzle it over all beans.
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So clearly I dominate at Truth or Dare. I tell you what. No one likes a know it all. You (and by you I mean me) have one more chance to win this. For this last challenge, I choose dare. But not just any dare, a DOUBLE DARE.

I double dare myself to serve my family a dessert that they will accept as dessert but that will have no added sugar.

**starting to panic**

Must scan the garden of freshness in my pantry… Garden in my Pantry with DelMonte

Do you see what I see?  Del Monte® No Sugar Added Sliced Pears, and right at my fingertips! Pears & Blueberries, a bright winter time treat!

Top with a couple fresh blueberries and I have a delicious dessert that the kids like to eat and that I feel good about serving them. I don’t know about you, but I am feeling pretty darn good.

Not only did I dominate Truth or Dare, but I fed my kids nutritious and delicious food. That’s pretty much the best mom day ever!

And I want YOU to have the best mom (or dad!) day ever. I would love to give one of you a $100 Visa Gift Card!  To enter simply tell me: “What are your favorite fruits or veggies to stock in your pantry?”

 

Entry Instructions: You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post.
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post.
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post.
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
  5. No duplicate comments.

This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 1/6/2014-2/6/2014

Be sure to visit the Del Monte brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

I Am Baker

Kung Pao Chicken {healthy asian favorites: steamy kitchen}

There are two things about me that you may or may not know.

I have never ever eaten Kung Pao chicken in my life.

I have never cooked ANY Asian food before.

Kung Pao Chicken from Steamy Kitchens new book!

Both scared me.  Until today.

I made the Kung Pao chicken from Steamy Kitchens new cookbook, healthy asian favorites.

Let me be totally honest with you… my whole family loved it.  Adored it!

I loved it not only for the flavor, but because it is a heart healthy meal.

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I have talked about how my husband is learning to live life with AFib, and having this book arrive on my doorstep was such a blessing.  Not only are the meals low sodium and full flavor (which equals great heart healthy meals!) , but they are totally understandable for a horrible cook like me!  (I am not kidding, I am a terrible cook.)

As I sat and looked at my family, hardly stopping to breathe as they gobbled up their meal, I felt such an intense level of satisfaction.  Through Jadens great instruction and guidance, I was able to cook something that was delicious and good for us.  I dont know how she did it, but I feel completely indebted to her for that sweet moment of culinary (and familial!) joy.

Healthy Kung Pao Chicken from steamy kitchen

Kung Pao Chicken {healthy asian favorites: steamy kitchen}

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized portions
  • 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp cooking oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 tbsp fat-free vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar or non-aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chopped, unsalted roasted peanuts

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine checken with 1 teaspoon or soy sauce and cornstarch. Marinate for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat wok or large saute pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in the oil and add the chicken.
  3. Spread the chicken out over all the surface of the pan. Sear on both sides until lightly brown, but not cooked all the way through, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and bell peppers. Stir until fragrant. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, the stock, and the vinegar. Bring to a simmer and turn heat to medium-low. Cook for 2 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Top with chopped peanuts and serve.
  6. *I served mine over fried rice.
  7. *Jaden's original recipe calls for dried red chili's and no yellow pepper.
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 Recipe printed with permission.

healthy asian favorites: steamy kitchens new book! This Kung Pao is delcious!

 

We could not be more excited about this book!  I am so delighted that Jaden has found a healthy way for us to enjoy fantastic Asian food!

Jadens’ book is officially available today, so I highly encourage you to check it out!

I Am Baker

Bacon Gravy

I made bacon the other day.  Lovely smoked black pepper covered bacon.

It just so happened that my lovely bacon produced quite a bit of fat.

I could not bear to throw it away, so I decided to keep it and try and think of something fattening to make in the future.

Like… my Thanksgiving turkey!

Starting about an hour before it was done cooking, I basted the turkey in the bacon grease.  Generous amounts of the seasoned bacon fat drizzled down the breast and legs.

Even time I opened the oven door it was sensory overload… the site of that gorgeous golden bird mixed with the aroma of delicious bacon was almost more then I could resist!

When the turkey was done cooking, I simply prepared the gravy from the bird drippings.

Then I poured it over a nice sweet slab of white meat and took a bite.

And surely was transported to my happy place.

I think I may have even groaned aloud.

It was the best, and I mean the best gravy I have ever tasted in my life.  That little bit of (and when I say little I mean at least a quarter cup) of bacon grease has seasoned that gravy within an inch of its life.

It was rich.  It was decadent.  It was good enough to drink.  (not that I did that…)

Seriously… you MUST try this next time you cook a turkey. There is an occasion coming up quite soon right? ;)

I cant even imagine how it would taste over creamy, fluffy white mashed potatoes.  Its more then my little bacon grease loving brain can handle.

I Am Baker

Pumpkin Pancakes (Part Two)

I just posted the most amazing and delicious pumpkin pancakes I have ever had.  Well, here is another version of pumpkin pancakes.

Those pancakes tasted like pumpkins, these look like pumpkins!

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These are so easy!  I just made our favorite pancake batter and reserved 1/4 cup of it.

I added McCormick’s black food coloring to the 1/4 cup and blended well.  Then added orange food coloring to the rest of the batter.

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To make the fun designs, I put the black pancake batter into a ziplock bag and cut off the tiniest of tips from the corner of the bag.

Then simply piped out whatever design I wanted onto the medium high griddle, immediately followed by some orange pancake batter.

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It was easy, fun, and my kids had a blast!

So this year we are going to a Trunk & Treat at our church.  (which means we get to avoid handing out candy!)

Do you have any fun plans for Halloween?  Any cute costumes for your kiddies?  You know I am gonna want to see pictures! :)

I Am Baker

Pumpkin Pancakes

I saw these pancakes in a 2008 issue of my favorite magazine, Life Beautiful.

And I have made them twice in the last three days.

They are delicious!

 

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These pancakes are easy and quick, but so rich and decadent.  Especially with an extra sprinkling of cinnamon over the top… I felt like I was eating at a fancy restaurant!

Well, except for the baby screaming and the basket of folded clothes at the end of the dining room table.

Just sayin.

Can I set a mood or what?  Lets try again.

I can just see these sweet and satisfying pancakes on a cold, snowy Christmas morning with a cup of this fabulous Pumpkin Spice White Chocolate Cocoa.

Sound better?

Pumpkin Pancakes

Ingredients

  • Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp all spice (or pumpkin spice)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup milk (or buttermilk)
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. In large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and all spice. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, and pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture and blend until just incorporated. (lumps are ok)
  2. Cook pancakes as you normally would.
  3. Note: This is a dense batter, and you might not see bubbles form as quickly as they normally would. Look for the top to no longer be shiny and for bubbles around the edges as a sign to turn over.
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Extra options: Top with toasted pecans, maple sugar glaze, or a powder sugar/cinnamon blend.

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Seriously.  Try them.

Its like having dessert for breakfast!

 

I Am Baker

Homemade Granola

One of the fun things about being so close to the end of this pregnancy is the nesting stage.

Where my home actually gets cleaned.

Where I pretend to know how to organize.

Where I think in advance about what meal times are going to be like.

Which brings me to one of my favorite recipes ever.

Granola!  If you would have told me five years ago I would be making my own granola I would have laughed, laughed, laughed.

I had NO idea how simple it was.  How delicious it was.  Or how cost efficient it is!

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Now.  I have to admit, while I love my recipe… I needed a bit of help in the technique department.

Enter in Sylvie from gourmande in the kitchen.

She wrote this AMAZING post on how to make the best granola… and I think I may have wept a little.  I mean, yes I am pregnant and normally dont weep about granola, but really.  Its just that good of a post!

Plus her photography is absolutely stunning.

Seriously.  Dont go over there.  You will never, ever want to come back here!  She is an absolute master at what she does.

I drool.

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My recipe is pretty straight forward.  The only “specialty” ingredient I highly recommend getting is coconut oil.  I got this at my local grocery store.

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But after reading Sylvie’s recommendations, I added quick oats, some turbinado sugar (you can use white sugar) and used her clumping method to get crispy chunks.

Homemade Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Old Fashioned Oats
  • 2 cups quick cook oats
  • 2-4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons raw Turbinado sugar (or white sugar)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup dried fruit of choice (I like dried blueberries, my family likes Pomegranate Craisens)

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Place on baking sheet and put in oven for thirty minutes. Remove and sift gently, then put back in oven for 15-30 minutes or until mostly dry.
  3. Remove from oven and let sit out for at least one hour.
  4. Store in an air tight container. Serve over yogurt, in milk, or on ice cream.
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*You can also make this recipe gluten free by buying Gluten Free Oats

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Really, the sky is the limit with granola!  Heck, I love to just eat it right from the jar. :)

A quick note about coconut oil.  This site, OrganicFacts.net,  has some fantastic information on how to use it for stress relief, hair care, and even helping to reduce chance of cancer.

When you buy coconut oil it is in solid form, but will turn into liquid at 75 degrees.  You can stir it into granola in the solid form, but I often heat it slightly so that it turns to liquid. (making it a bit easier to incorporate)

 

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Hope you try this, and hope you love it as much as we do!

I sure do I hope my kids eat this when I am in the hospital with baby… but I have a feeling Grandpa might be sneaking them a donut or two. ;)

I Am Baker

Baked Oatmeal

 

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When I saw the delightful breakfast concoction on TidyMom's Blog I was smitten.  I didn't even need to try it to know I would love it! (it sure doesnt hurt that I love everything she makes!)

The directions seemed easy enough for even me… put all ingredeints in a bowl and stir.  Um yeah. I can do this!!

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It really is that easy too.

Here is TidyMom's perfect recipe, and when I say perfect I am not kidding.  It is wonderful exactly as is! 

  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

*I used organic eggs, organic peanut butter, and organic vanilla.  

Next time I would like to try 1/4 cup turbinado sugar in place of the brown sugar.  Cause there will be a next time.  Like, soon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put all the ingredients is a bowl and mix until combined.  I used a 8×8 glass baking dish because I wanted a soft and gooey texture.  If you use a 9×13 pan they will be a little thinner and less gooey, but also more familiar and delicious. (think warm granola bars)

Cook for 20-25 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

These are TidyMom's other serving suggestions, and seriously, I can't mess with them.  She is brilliant!

Other serving suggestions

  • slice bananas on top then pour warm milk
  • sprinkle with a few mini chocolate chips
  • add yogurt and a little maple syrup

I would also love these with a fruit puree, similar to what you would serve over waffles and pancakes.  And then a big ole dallop of whipped cream!  

 

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This was Colton and Parkers favorite way to eat it. Well, I should clarify. 

This was their favorite way to eat their second helping. 

The first was just baked oatmeal and a fork!  The second was covered in organic vanilla yogurt and honey and raisins.

With as easy as this is, you gotta try it.  With as delicious as this is, you will want to try it again and again!  

And be sure and visit TidyMom and thank her for ruining boring old oatmeal forever. Or, I mean, you could be a lot nicer than me and just say thanks. ;)

*****

And if you want to try another beautiful and fantastic version, try Marla's! She calls it Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.  Hello new fav!!

I Am Baker

The Best Tomato Soup

This is definitely what I consider to be the most flavorful and silky smooth tomato soup recipe I have ever made.

Be advised, I have only ever made one version of tomato soup.

Just sayin.

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This is how my kids like it.  With a small side of the soup to dip their grilled cheese sandwhich in.  They like medium cheddar cheese… but every now and I then I will get crazy and give them sharp cheddar.

 

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And sometimes I dont make them take a bath at night.

We are really quite adventurous around here.

 

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And here is how *I* like it.  Big huge bowl of soup with tiny grilled cheese bites around it… I prefer meunster cheese.  And sometimes I will add a bit of Gruyere cheese.

Ok, that was one time.  When we got it for a gift.  That stuff is like $20 a pound!

I posted this recipe on my blog once before,  but have since simplified it because I thrive on simplicity.

(actually, I just stumbled upon this recipe again over at Cook’s Illustrated!  They had a wonderful suggestion of adding 2 tablespoons of brandy when you add the broth… yum!  Just dont give the kids any!!!)

 

The Best Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (about 1 cup) - chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic (about 2 teaspoons) - minced or crushed
  • 2 cans of whole tomatoes packed in juice (I used two quart jars of whole canned tomatoes from our garden)
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 3 slices of large sandwich bread (crusts removed and cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 2 cups of chicken stock

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat until it is shimmering
  2. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes and their juice. Using potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than two inches remain.
  4. Stir in brown sugar and bread; bring soup to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.
  5. Transfer half of soup to blender.
  6. Add one tablespoon oil and process until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup and oil.
  7. Return the soup to the pot and add two cups of chicken broth. (or add enough to reach desired consistency)
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Any leftovers I just put right back into the jar I got the tomatoes out of.

I just love this soup because I can use all natural ingredients and the tomatoes from that we canned from our garden.  The kids love it and I feel good feeding it to them!

Its especially delicious when the temperature reaches a balmy high of 2 degrees.  (with the *feels like* temp. around -15 degrees)

Comfort food at its finest!

I Am Baker

Rainbow Stuffed French Toast

  This is Stuffed French Toast, with a rainbow of fruit inspired deliciousness.

Its Healthy and Colorful.

Rich and Tasty.

Pretty and Pleasing.

I will stop with the adjetives now and show you the goods!

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I have made these bad boys once before, but only with blueberries.  I asked the kids if they wanted blueberry or strawberry and they said, “Banana!” “Grape!” and “Yes!” simulantiously.

It was all very confusing.

And inspiring!

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So I got all the fruit together… and tried to think of an easy way to incorporate them all into the recipe without having to make the recipe six different times.

I think we found a winner!

*Side Note* Whenever I peel an orange, I leave as much of the white pulpy part as possible… this is where most of the nutrients are!

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I used our homemade plum jelly as the berry addition in the cream cheese.  It was subtle enough of a flavor that it lent itself to every fruit combination, but sweet enough to flavor the cream cheese nicely.

It was bliss!

Rainbow Stuffed French Toast

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf French Bread
  • 3 Tablespoons Any Flavor Fruit Spread (You Can Also Use Jelly, Jam, Or Fresh Fruit)
  • ½ packages Cream Cheese (4 Oz), At Room Temperature
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • ½ cups Skim Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter

Instructions

  1. Heat skillet or electric griddle to 325 to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut french bread into 2-3 inch wide slices. Then, with a paring knife, go back and cut halfway into each slice, in the center, creating a ‘pocket’ that your fruit mixture can be stuffed into.
  3. In a bowl, place the room temperature cream cheese and three tablespoons of fruit spread of your choice. Combine well.
  4. In a separate bowl, break 2 eggs; add cinnamon and milk and combine well.
  5. Now, take fruit mixture and stuff into the ‘pockets’ of your french bread slices. Place on a baking sheet.
  6. When done stuffing each piece of bread, completely coat each piece in egg mixture. Make sure all sides are covered. Do all pieces before starting to fry.
  7. Put two tbsp of butter into a hot skillet and melt completely. Add all of the bread to the skillet and cook roughly about 3-6 minutes on each side, until it reaches a nice golden brown. You want to make sure the cream cheese mixture heats through.
  8. When done cooking, add any additional fruit, and serve immediately with butter and syrup.
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I am not even kidding, I didnt even use syrup. They are that sweet and delicious!

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Know what my favorite combination was?  Blueberry and strawberry.

The kids loved kiwi!

What would your favorite be?

I Am Baker

Ham Balls {Recipe}

UPDATE:  I was interviewed by the NYTimes about these fantastic treats!

Hubby’s mom introduced me to Ham Balls when we were dating, and I have been hooked ever since.

I begged her to share the recipe with me (and she did, yay!), and now I am so excited to share it with you!

I made these before Christmas and we have been enjoying them ever since… they lend themselves to a elegant and refined meal, or a plop down in front of the TV snack.

I just have to say it… they are delicious!

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We actually went out and purchased a meat grinder just so I could make these.  I had asked the local grocery store if they would grind pork and they declined based on some sort of cross contamination rule.

If you are lucky enough to get your pork from a local farmer they will often help you with grinding, or you can visit your local butcher and take advantage of his services.

Unless you already have a grinder… then you are one step ahead!

Ham Balls

4lbs. ham

5 lbs lean pork {I usually use a pork loin}

8 eggs {well beaten}

3 cups of bread crumbs

1/4 tsp. pepper salt if necessary.

 

Sauce

4 cups of crushed pineapple

1 1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/4 cup vinegar

2 Tablespoons of dry mustard.

 

Grind ham and pork together then mix in eggs, bread crumbs, and pepper. (should make about 72 meatballs, you can easily freeze them -uncooked- for later use.)

For sauce, combine pineapple, brown sugar, vinegar, and dried mustard in bowl.

Place ham balls in shallow pan and pour sauce over all.  Bake uncovered for about 1 1/4 hours at 350 degrees.

*I had two large chicken breasts thawed in my fridge that I decided to use in this most recent batch.  I didn’t notice a flavor change, but they did taste incredibly moist and delicious!

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And even though I am not a pineapple fan, I love these smothered in the rich pineapple sauce.  Its just too good!

I hope you try these… I just know if you do you will be hooked!

P.S. If you snickered when you read this post you are in BIG trouble!  BIG TROUBLE!

Ah heck, who am I kidding.  I did too.