Posts Tagged by homemade
|August 28, 2015||Posted by Tracy Knutsen under Candy, Halloween|
I get a TON of catalogs. Don’t get me wrong – I love catalogs. But I get a ton. There are a couple of fancy pants food catalogs that offer me the opportunity to order tiny cookies or popcorn or chocolate-dipped things for a lot of money (but use this special code to get 10% off your purchase and free shipping on orders over $100…small print, exclusions apply, expiration dates, credit application, etc.)
Anyway, one of the items I often consider are the big, gorgeous caramel apples with different kinds of decorations and embellishments. I rationalize the $6.95 per apple price by telling myself that it’s so much trouble and so many ingredients, rendering them a huge pain to make. (Buy all the fancy apples now!)
Stop it! These cuties are easy, adorable and cost maybe a buck each when all is said and done. We can do this and it’s a blast for kids to help with. So put down that catalog and let’s make our own.
I made this first batch for Halloween.
Chocolate-Dipped Caramel Apples
What will you need?
- Well, grab your favorite apples. Tart, firm Granny Smith apples are my favorite, but Gala are very good, too. Red Delicious tend to be a little mealy and too sweet – not the best choice for caramel apples.
- Pick your caramel. Want to make your own? More power to ya! I usually opt to spend a little time in front of the TV unwrapping the traditional caramel candy squares. I wish someone else in my house could be trusted to do this, but I’d have no caramels left if I turned this job over. You could also use one of those cups of caramel that gets heated in the microwave and it’s ready to go.
- Melted chocolate. I used chocolate chips, but use your favorite here. White chocolate, butterscotch and peanut butter chips are pretty yummy, too. Maybe you want to use a bag of candy melts like these in your favorite color?
- Toppings! Don’t immediately run out and buy a bunch of new stuff. Inventory your pantry, cupboards, kitchen drawers and cabinets to see what kinds of goodies you already have on hand. Don’t forget that secret hiding spot and always look at things with a creative eye. Yes, I know cereal isn’t typically associated with caramel apples, but how cute would Fruity or Cocoa Pebbles be on an apple? Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch would taste amazing with the chocolate coating, and duh…Apple Jacks? Try granola or crumbled cookies. What about potato chips? Crumbled bacon? Pop Rocks? Cracker Jacks? You could also make your own colored sugars.
- To skewer or not to skewer? I have done these both ways. A skewer in each apple makes them more fun and easier for kids to eat. Grown-ups usually find themselves trying to be proper and take out the stick so they can cut the apple into slices. So, when I’m giving these to my friends, I take the stick out before packaging.
Directions and tips:
- Wash your apples in very warm water or soak them in a vinegar and water solution to remove the wax coating (unless you buy right off the tree, direct from a farmer or organic). This will help the caramel to stick better. Dry the apples completely.
2. Add the sticks. I found these at my grocery store. Popsicle sticks work well, too.
3. Prepare the caramel according to the instructions of your preferred product or make your own caramel. I simply melted mine per the directions on the bag of candies.
4. Let the caramel cool just slightly, then carefully dip each apple in the caramel and allow the excess to drip off. Place each apple on a nonstick surface (this is very important) to cool. Note: If you aren’t dipping in chocolate later, be sure coat the entire apple, including a little bit of the stick, to seal the hole and help it stay fresh longer.
The caramel on some of my apples pooled a little more this time. This comes from not letting the caramel cool enough. You can also refrigerate the apples to help the caramel cool quicker.
5. Prepare your toppings! Get your toppings set up while the caramel is cooling and before you melt the chocolate. Mine include traditional sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, candy coated sunflower seeds, crushed pretzels, peanut butter chips, Reese’s pieces, chopped peanuts and colored sugars.
6. Melt the chocolate according to the instructions on the package – whether it’s chocolate/butterscotch/peanut butter chips, candy melts, etc. I melted chocolate chips in a double boiler (a bowl over a pot of simmering water) with a little bit of shortening.
7. Dip each apple into the chocolate (up to the stick if these won’t be eaten in the next couple of days), allowing the excess to drip off. Let the chocolate set up a minute, then coat the apple with the toppings before it gets too hard. Set aside to fully harden. This will keep the toppings from sliding down as much.
8. Package your beautiful chocolate-dipped caramel apples and share!
What are your favorite toppings? Find any treasures in your pantry that you put on your apples? We used gummy bears one time that became the star of the party!
|August 20, 2015||Posted by Tracy Knutsen under Candy|
|July 2, 2015||Posted by Tracy Knutsen under Appetizers, Frugal Tips and Tricks, Healthy, Main Dishes|
I needed a dip to serve Sunday night and my go-to onion soup packet was nowhere in sight. Man, that stuff has become a crutch in my kitchen. Meatloaf, stews, pot roast, hamburgers, potatoes, chicken, chili, gravy, veggies…oh my gosh! There has to be a healthier, easier, more dependable way to season our food.
I had just finished a Homemade Taco Seasoning and did a quick search on the internet for an onion soup mix I could make at home. I was overwhelmed by the number of options that were presented and set about making a blend of several. Basically using the ingredients that were common among all of them.
This recipe will work well if you’re trying to lower the salt in your diet (i.e. sodium-free bouillon) and the ingredients are easily adjusted to suit your tastes and dietary needs.
Onion Soup Mix
4 tablespoon dried, minced onion
2 teaspoons parsley flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons beef bouillon granules (I had cubes and simply crushed them for this)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
(Optional – I found many recipes that also included spices like turmeric, sugar, thyme, dry mustard, etc. and most called for 1 teaspoon.)
Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. I tripled this recipe and stored it in a pint-sized jar. (You might have noticed my affinity for jars by now…) You could portion this into snack-sized zip-top bags, or even in your own packets made from aluminum foil – fold it right up inside.
Use about 4 Tablespoons of the Onion Soup Mix in a recipe in place of 1 envelope of onion soup mix. In many cases, you can use less. Be sure to give dips time to sit (overnight is best) to develop the flavors before serving.
My next batch will be with chicken bouillon cubes – it’s what I have on hand and I bet it will be delicious!
What’s your favorite Onion Soup Mix recipe?
|July 18, 2014||Posted by Tracy Knutsen under Appetizers, Side Dishes, Vegetarian-Vegan|
I’ve been declaring for years that my dream is to open a mashed potato-themed restaurant. Every time something reminds me of it, I start talking about it. Then I turn into kind of a Forrest Gump of mashed potatoes…
Mashed potatoes topped with pot roast, mashed potatoes topped with mushrooms and onions, mashed potatoes and meatloaf, mashed potatoes topped with pulled pork, mashed potatoes topped with fried egg and bacon, mashed potatoes topped with truffles, pizza mashed potatoes, mashed potato ice cream sundae, mashed potatoes with wings, mashed potatoes topped with asparagus and feta cheese, mashed potato-stuffed tomato, mashed potato quesadilla, mashed potatoes with spinach, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes…oh, and the possibilities for sweet potatoes. Don’t get me started!
I guess I can see how I might be a little annoying. My daughter just rolls her eyes when I mention it…she’s grown weary of her mom’s dreams. *sigh*
Regardless of my
shattered smashed mashed potato dream, I’ve also been on a quest for the perfect baked french fry. I found a few things that make them lovely and crispy, just how I like them!
First, pick the right potato. Russets and Yukon Golds seem to work the best for me and taste wonderful.
Next, while it’s just fine to cut your potatoes by hand, I’m a fan of a mandoline and the Swissmar Borner V Power Mandoline, V-7000 is the one I use. Whichever way you go, make sure to cut uniform pieces and keep a close eye on your fingers and the potatoes will cook in the same time.
Third, rinse the starch off the potatoes with cool water, then be sure they’re as dry as possible before baking.
Also, if your fries aren’t quite as crispy as you’d like them to be, try putting them on a baking rack placed on the baking sheet.
Finally, one more thing that helps if you want more “crisp” is to add a beaten egg white to the oil and seasonings when you toss the potatoes. (And btw, I almost always use Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil when I cook – even for fries!)
So let’s get to it! Crispy Homemade Baked French Fries for everyone!
|March 24, 2014||Posted by Tracy Knutsen under Diabetic Friendly, Frugal Tips and Tricks, Healthy, Sustainable Home, Try Something New!, Vegetarian-Vegan|
We have recently discovered the joys of homemade peanut butter. All these years I’ve spent so much money on jars of peanut butter at the grocery store, having had no idea how easy and yummy peanut butter is when you make it from scratch.
So…one ingredient peanut butter. I love this! No preservatives, no weird oils or chemicals. The one ingredient, of course, is the peanuts. I start with raw peanuts from the local farmers market. If you live in the Atlanta area, and haven’t been to the DeKalb Farmers Market, you have to go! I get a 5-pound bag of peanuts there for less than $10. Its a real bargain!
Next, I roast the peanuts without salt or oil or any seasonings. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and place a layer of raw peanuts on a baking sheet. Maybe about 3 cups – enough to cover the sheet without piling up. Throw the pan in the oven for about 10 minutes.
Around the time you start to smell their roasty yumminess, take them out and give them a toss, shake the pan and turn them with a spatula.
Put them back in the oven for another 6 to 8 minutes. They will be a nice golden brown when they’re ready. They’ll go past golden brown really (I mean REALLY) fast, so keep an eye on them. Take them out and let them cool right on the sheet pan.
Once they’ve cooled, toss the whole batch into a food processor or blender. Add about a teaspoon of salt (if you want) and turn it on. It will look like the peanuts don’t want to do much of anything that comes close to resembling peanut butter…but, like the song says “let it go.” You’ll notice a chopped nuts stage, then something that just looks crumbly. After about two minutes, it will start to get creamier and I start to get a little giddy! Scrape the sides when you need to, and magically it will turn into a nice creamy peanut butter. Let it go another minute or so and you’ll be in peanut butter heaven.
As the magic begins, you’ll see the transition between crumbly weird peanuts and beautiful, smooth peanut butter.
Test it for seasoning, and add a little salt if it needs it. This is also the point that you can add other flavorings to the peanut butter. Mix in things like cinnamon, honey, cocoa powder, garlic powder or maple syrup. How about a bit of Chinese Five Spice? We usually enjoy it just plain, but my husband also likes it with a little cinnamon and honey. If you like crunchy, toss in some chopped peanuts.
Have this on some fresh baked bread with some yummy preserves or jam and you’ll never go back to store bought peanut butter, I promise! Store this in a sealed container in the refrigerator – how about in an old peanut butter jar? It will keep for a month or more, but I promise I won’t last that long!
Next time, I’m going to try making some with almonds or sunflower seeds. Back to the Farmer’s Market! I wonder if pumpkin seeds would work? I think I have already have a jar of pepitos.
Have you made homemade nut butter before? What flavor or nut is your favorite?
|January 25, 2014||Posted by Tracy Knutsen under Frugal Tips and Tricks, Healthy, Main Dishes, Try Something New!|
I was up early this morning feeling pretty ambitious. I had challenged myself to try a few homemade mixes after really studying the ingredient lists of some of our favorites. If you’ve never noticed some of the crazy stuff in these mixes, you really owe it to yourself and your family to at least be sure you can pronounce everything in the food you’re eating. 😉
DH and I had picked up some fresh ground chicken at one of our local farmer’s markets that was destined for tacos this evening, so Taco Seasoning is first up this morning. (By the way, if you’re lucky enough to live in the Atlanta area and haven’t visited the DeKalb Farmers Market, you’re truly missing out on one of the BEST markets in the southeast. Go. Run! Bring a sweater, though…it’s chilly in there.)
Coffee in hand and inspired by my friend Kyndra at Peace, Love and Low Carb – she has a beautiful cookbook you should check out – I start pulling out spices from my cabinet.
1 T Chili Powder
1 T Ancho Chili Powder
2 T Cumin
1 t Onion Powder
1 T Dried Onion Flakes
2 1/2 t Garlic Powder
2 t Celery Salt
1/4 t Cayenne Pepper
½ t Black Pepper
1/2 t Salt
Then, it’s really just as simple as mixing all this up. You can adjust the heat by increasing (or decreasing) the cayenne pepper, or adding some red chili flakes. This particular blend reflects a little less heat, two kinds of chili powder and a bit more garlic. You can use whatever mix of chili powder you like, too. Evidently I’m trying to be Bobby Flay, and had Ancho Chile Powder on hand. (Again – thank you, DeKalb Farmer’s Market for having the most amazing array of fresh, inexpensive spices.)
I also doubled this recipe. It lends itself quite well to multiples. My doubled recipe nearly filled a half-pint sized jar.
To use the Taco Seasoning, after I browned the ground chicken (if you use ground meat, be sure to drain it, too) I started with 1 Tablespoon of the mixture per pound of meat. I also added 1/4 cup of water per pound and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes, uncovered. You can adjust the amount of seasoning to suit your family’s taste.
It was really flavorful and simple. DH gave it a thumbs up. Nothing in this stuff is hydrogenated, made with silicon or includes ethoxyquin.
6:45 a.m….Stay tuned for Onion Soup Mix, I’m on a roll!
Have you made any homemade mixes? Is there anything you’ve been wanting to try?