Christmas Tree Dolly

Our Christmas tree stays up for… you know, longer than socially acceptable… I was pretty impressed we made it until after Halloween this year!
We used to put our tree up in the front window but my kids love having it in our family room where we enjoy it more.  So the only spot is in front of our bookcases.. which we use.  So that means for 2 months it is practically impossible to get into them.
I was cleaning out the garage and came across an old table top and had an idea strike.
I added 4 small roller ball bearings (since they would be lower to the ground than regular casters). I found mine at Harbor Freight tools, these are the ones I used. 

Since the table top was all ready finished that was it! Now, we don’t have toddlers anymore and my girls are careful with things.  If you have rambunctious kids this may not be a good idea! I could see some kids riding it around the house!

And yes, we have a fake tree.  Since I’m allergic to pretty much every tree and grass it’s the best we can do.  But our kids don’t seem to care and love throwing 5000 homemade ornaments on it so you hardly see it anyways!

With a tree skirt you don’t even see it!

And now when I want to get to the bookcases I can easily move it out of the way! Problem solved!

Soft Buttery Rolls

I love making whole grain breads and typically when I make bread that’s the route I go anymore.  But for holidays I always make a soft white roll.
If you aren’t experienced with bread making this is a great recipe to start with.  White bread is much easier to make than whole grain as well.
These are super soft, buttery, and you can use the dough to make all manner of shapes.  Sometimes it’s fun to do a variety of shapes for a holiday meal as well.  There are so many you can do, but these are a few easy ones to get you started!  My daughters love to help make the bread and it’s a fun thing to get the kids helping with.  Don’t worry how perfect they look, they will still taste good!
While these are super easy, they are also some of the best rolls you’ll ever have!

SOFT BUTTERY ROLLS

2 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast (or 2 packages)
5-6 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup instant powdered milk (2 T non-instant)
1 egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (plus extra for brushing)

In a small bowl add the sugar and yeast to the warm water.  Gently mix and leave to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large mixing bowl if mixing by hand) measure in 3 cups of the flour, the salt, and milk powder.
Whisk to combine well.
Add the egg and melted butter to the bloomed yeast mixture.  Pour into the flour and mix until well combined.
Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough starts to pull together.
Lightly flour your counter and scrape dough out.  Knead for several minutes.  Add flour as needed but don’t be tempted to over flour.
The dough should be slightly sticky.
Place in a greased container and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise for 45 to 60 minutes.
Dough is done rising when it is double in size and when you poke it with a finger it doesn’t bounce back.

For rolls:
Divide dough into 24 for smaller rolls, or 12 for large rolls.
Form each section into a roll by pulling the dough and tucking on the bottom to make a smooth top.

Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise until double in size, approximately 25-30 minutes.
Bake for about 15 minutes (add extra time as needed depending on size of rolls.) Brush with melted butter right when you take out of the oven.
For pan rolls:
Form rolls, place rolls about 1/4 inch apart in a 9 by 13 pan.  Rise and bake as above.
For Flowers and Pumpkins:
Shape rolls.  After the rise use sharp kitchen scissors to snip 5 times around the edges, cutting all the way through. Bake as usual.

Add a pretzel stick or rod “stem” after baking for pumpkins.

For Bow Knots:
Divide into 24 sections (or 12 for large knots)
Roll into a rope and tie a knot.  Place on greased baking sheets and let rise and bake as usual.

For Rosettes:
Follow directions for bow knots, but make an open knot with a hole.

Tuck one end underneath and up into the hole.  Tuck the other through the hole from the top side to the bottom.
Raise 25-30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

For Crescent Rolls:
Divide dough into 4 equal sections.  Roll each section into a 12 inch circle.  Brush with melted butter and cut into 12 pieces.

Starting from wide end roll up and place on greased baking sheet, with the small end tucked underneath.
Raise 25-30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
(If you want large crescents, divide dough into 2 instead of 4 and roll out to an 18 inch circle.  Cut and rise and bake as usual, adding a few minutes to the bake time).

For Turkey Rolls:
Make crescent rolls as directed, but instead of rolling up place in greased mini muffin tins with ends on top of pan.
Use scissors to snip 3-4 times to make tail feathers.  Raise and bake as usual.

Gobble gobble!

Soft Buttery Rolls

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast (or 2 packages)
  • 5-6 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup instant powdered milk (2 T non-instant)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (plus extra for brushing)

Instructions

  • In a small bowl add the sugar and yeast to the warm water.  Gently mix and leave to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large mixing bowl if mixing by hand) measure in 3 cups of the flour, the salt, and milk powder.
  • Whisk to combine well.
  • Add the egg and melted butter to the bloomed yeast mixture.  Pour into the flour and mix until well combined.
  • Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough starts to pull together.
  • Lightly flour your counter and scrape dough out.  Knead for several minutes.  Add flour as needed but don't be tempted to over flour.  
  • The dough should be slightly sticky.
  • Place in a greased container and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise for 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Dough is done rising when it is double in size and when you poke it with a finger it doesn't bounce back.
  • For rolls:
  • Divide dough into 24 for smaller rolls, or 12 for large rolls.
  • Form each section into a roll by pulling the dough and tucking on the bottom to make a smooth top.
  • Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise until double in size, approximately 25-30 minutes.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes (add extra time as needed depending on size of rolls.) Brush with melted butter right when you take out of the oven.
  • For pan rolls:
  • Form rolls, place rolls about 1/4 inch apart in a 9 by 13 pan.  Rise and bake as above. 
  • For Flowers and Pumpkins:
  • Shape rolls.  After the rise use sharp kitchen scissors to snip 5 times around the edges, cutting all the way through. Bake as usual.
  • Add a pretzel stick or rod "stem" after baking for pumpkins.
  • For Bow Knots:
  • Divide into 24 sections (or 12 for large knots)
  • Roll into a rope and tie a knot.  Place on greased baking sheets and let rise and bake as usual.
  • For Rosettes:
  • Follow directions for bow knots, but make an open knot with a hole.
  • Tuck one end underneath and up into the hole.  Tuck the other through the hole from the top side to the bottom.
  • Raise 25-30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • For Crescent Rolls:
  • Divide dough into 4 equal sections.  Roll each section into a 12 inch circle.  Brush with melted butter and cut into 12 pieces.
  • Starting from wide end roll up and place on greased baking sheet, with the small end tucked underneath.
  • Raise 25-30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • (If you want large crescents, divide dough into 2 instead of 4 and roll out to an 18 inch circle.  Cut and rise and bake as usual, adding a few minutes to the bake time).
  • For Turkey Rolls:
  • Make crescent rolls as directed, but instead of rolling up place in greased mini muffin tins with ends on top of pan.
  • Use scissors to snip 3-4 times to make tail feathers.  Raise and bake as usual.
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    Sweet and Sour Pork Stir-Fry

    It’s happening.  The holiday season is upon us! Now don’t get me wrong, I have a plethora… I mean PLETHORA of sweets and treats recipes to post (now to just get around to posting them!) but this is also the season of busy family activities and having some quick healthy dinner options is more important than ever.  Now this sauce is only naturally sweetened with pineapple juice and a dash of honey.  If it’s not sweet enough for your family you could always add a little sugar to it as well.  But for me it’s perfect! And don’t be tempted to overcook the vegetables, that crisp tender snap is what you want!

    Sweet and Sour Pork Stir-Fry

    1 pound pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
    1/3 cup cornstarch
    2 T oil
    1 red or white onion, chopped
    1 bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
    2 ribs celery, chopped
    8 oz can pineapple chunks, (juice reserved for sauce)
    brown rice, for serving

    Sauce:
    3/4 cup pineapple juice
    1/4 cup rice vinegar
    2 T soy sauce
    2 T cornstarch
    1 tsp honey

    In a small bowl,  whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.
    Toss the pork with the cornstarch and heat 1 T of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
    Add half the pork and cook until well browned on both sides.  Remove and repeat with remaining pork.
    Cook the peppers, onion, and celery in skillet for 5-8 minutes, until crisp tender.
    Add pork back to pan along with pineapple and sauce.
    Simmer and cook until sauce is thickened and pork is cooked through.
    Serve hot with brown rice.

    Sweet and Sour Pork Stir-Fry

    Ingredients

    • 1 pound pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
    • 1/3 cup cornstarch
    • 2 T oil
    • 1 red or white onion, chopped
    • 1 bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
    • 2 ribs celery, chopped
    • 8 oz can pineapple chunks, (juice reserved for sauce)
    • brown rice, for serving
      Sauce:
    • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
    • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
    • 2 T soy sauce
    • 2 T cornstarch 
    • 1 tsp honey

    Instructions

  • In a small bowl,  whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.
  • Toss the pork with the cornstarch and heat 1 T of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add half the pork and cook until well browned on both sides.  Remove and repeat with remaining pork.
  • Cook the peppers, onion, and celery in skillet for 5-8 minutes, until crisp tender.
  • Add pork back to pan along with pineapple and sauce.
  • Simmer and cook until sauce is thickened and pork is cooked through.
  • Serve hot with brown rice.
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    Ghee Whiz!

    What is ghee? Well, think of it as caramelized butter.  It has a higher smoke point than regular butter and a deeper, more nutty flavor.
    Basically all you’re doing is evaporating off the water content and browning the milk solids (which you strain out).
    Clarified butter is similar, ghee is just cooked longer for a deeper flavor.
    My favorite uses for ghee are for popping popcorn and grains, stir frying, roasting… anytime you want to cook at a higher heat or get an amazing sear, pull out the ghee.  It is easier than you think and lasts quite a long time.  If you get any water in it, that can cause bacterial growth.  So I always keep it in a jar with a lid and use a clean dry utensil.  Or you can store in the refrigerator as well.
    It can take over 20 minutes, so I usually make it when I’m going to be in the kitchen anyways making dinner or doing dishes or whatever.

    GHEE
    1 pound unsalted butter

    Using a small heavy pot, add butter and heat over medium heat.

    After it melts it will begin to foam up.  Keep cooking!

    Turn your heat down if it is boiling too hard.  You want a gentle simmer.

    The second foam is what we’re looking for.

    When the milk solids are a deep brown you’re done!

    Just strain and let cool.

    Store on the counter for a month in an airtight container (I use a jar) or refrigerate for longer storage.

    Ghee Whiz!

    Ingredients

    • 1 pound unsalted butter

    Instructions

  • Using a small heavy pot, add butter and heat over medium heat.
  • After it melts it will begin to foam up.  Keep cooking!
  • Turn your heat down if it is boiling too hard.  You want a gentle simmer.
  • The second foam is what we're looking for.
  • When the milk solids are a deep brown you're done! This can take over 20 minutes to reach this point, but it depends on heat level and your pot as well.
  • Just strain and let cool.
  • Store on the counter for a month in an airtight container (I use a jar) or refrigerate for longer storage. 
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    Homemade Noodles

    I love making homemade pasta.  I usually enlist the help of my favorite sous chefs, my daughters.  They are more than happy to help especially when they know fresh pasta is coming! It may seem daunting but it is far easier than you think!
    Pasta dough recipes vary quite a bit, but this is how I make mine.  By adding more liquid/ eggs the dough is softer and easier to work with.  I find it is much easier to start with less flour and gradually add more to desired tackiness.  This makes a dough much easier to roll out as well.
    I use plain all purpose flour.  If you want to use whole grain flours I suggest just subbing out a quarter to a half of the flour.

    Pasta Dough
    Makes approx 19 oz

    2 Cups flour (plus more as needed)
    4 eggs (and water or other puree/ juice to make 1 cups)
    2 tsp salt

    Measure your flour onto your clean working surface.  Make a well in the center.

    Add water if needed to your eggs to measure 1 cup. (Or another flavoring, such as vegetable puree or juice)

    Add to the center of the well and add your salt.

    Use a fork to whisk eggs.  Start incorporating the flour from the outer walls.

     

    When you’ve added most the flour start using a bench knife to scrape it together.  Add more flour as needed so it isn’t sticky.

    When done your dough should be smooth but not sticky.  You may have to add a couple more cups of flour even.

    Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and rest at least 30 minutes before using.  This allows the flour to fully hydrate and relaxes the gluten to be able to roll out thinly.
    I like to make it earlier in the day or even a couple days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.

    Here is a dough made with basil pesto used for 1/4 cup of the water:

    To roll out by hand: Divide dough into 2 or 4 pieces (whatever is manageable for you) and roll out on a lightly floured surface as thin as possible.
    Cut into desired shapes.
    To roll out using a pasta roller: See steps here.
    After you have your pasta cut dry on racks or cook immediately.

    It cooks very quickly so if serving with a sauce have that ready before you cook the pasta.  Usually 1 to 2 minutes.

    Homemade Noodles

    Yield: approx 19 oz.

    Ingredients

    • 2 Cups flour (plus more as needed)
    • 4 eggs (and water or other puree/ juice to make 1 cup)
    • 2 tsp salt

    Instructions

  • Measure your flour onto your clean working surface.  Make a well in the center.
  • Add water if needed to your eggs to measure 1 cup. (Or another flavoring, such as vegetable puree or juice)
  • Add to the center of the well and add your salt.
  • Use a fork to whisk eggs.  Start incorporating the flour from the outer walls.
  • When you've added most the flour start using a bench knife to scrape it together.  Add more flour as needed so it isn't sticky.
  • When done your dough should be smooth but not sticky. You may have to add a couple more cups of flour even.
  • Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and rest at least 30 minutes before using.  This allows the flour to fully hydrate and relaxes the gluten to be able to roll out thinly.
  • I like to make it earlier in the day or even a couple days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.
  • To roll out by hand:
  • Divide dough into 2 or 4 pieces (whatever is manageable for you) and roll out on a lightly floured surface as thin as possible. 
  • Cut into desired shapes.
  • To roll out using a pasta roller:
  • See steps here.
  • After you have your pasta cut dry on racks or cook immediately.  It cooks very quickly so if serving with a sauce have that ready before you cook the pasta.  Usually 1 to 2 minutes.
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    Rosemary Salt

    If you plant one thing, I suggest fresh rosemary.  I have a few planted around our house and they become huge and are usable practically year round.
    Rosemary can be a little twiggy so getting the rosemary ground up small is helpful.
    You can sprinkle this on popcorn, rub on a pork loin roast or whole chicken before cooking, roasted potatoes, or toss with some homemade pasta with a little lemon zest. Yum!  You can also add lemon zest to this before freezing.

    Fresh Rosemary Salt

    2 parts fresh rosemary (removed from stem)
    1 part kosher salt

    Pulse rosemary in spice grinder (or food processor) or mince finely by hand.
    Store in the freezer.

    Rosemary Salt

    Ingredients

    • 2 parts fresh rosemary (removed from stem)
    • 1 part kosher salt

    Instructions

  • Pulse rosemary in spice grinder (or food processor) or mince finely by hand.
  • Store in the freezer.
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    Art Party

    This was lost in my “pictures for the website file” that seems to be a pit of things I haven’t gotten to! A few years ago we did this for our oldest daughter and I think it’s time to do another one.  She loves art and so an artsy fartsy birthday was perfect.  She also loves bright colors so I used primary colors to decorate.
    Her cake was so simple and cute!

    I made 6 layers and colored each a color of the rainbow.  I used a white frosting in between each…

    Frosted the outside and then went to town with primary colored sprinkles.

    On top I added a rainbow made from marshmallow fondant.  (Use a skewer on each side to give structure and place into cake)  I set this out to dry a couple days ahead of time to firm it up as well.
    Then I added some “clouds” with more white frosting on top

    It looked pretty cool when we cut into it.

    I made pizza and also some colorful whoopie pies.  Just use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Just use white chocolate chips and add some sprinkles, sandwich with frosting and roll sides in sprinkles.

    “Paintbrushes” were pretzel rods dipped in brown candy melts, then the tops in a colored melt.

    Rice Krispy treats made great paintbrushes too!

    I used my “Monster Munch” recipe but used m and m’s instead of reese’s and all white chocolate.

    Some white tulle bunches and primary colored streamers made a fun rainbow and cloud backdrop. White balloons would work well too.

    The activity was fun and pretty messy! I put an example up of what each station was for.
    Spin art is popular in our house.  I just use a cheap salad spinner from IKEA, paper plates trimed to fit it (or construction paper, but you’ll want something thicker), and watered down paint in small bottles.

    Marble painting got messy fast but they had so much fun.  Just use washable paints, a container for each color, marbles, and a tray that your paper fits in.

    I made the invite myself on Microsoft Word as usual.

    If you have a little one who loves art an art party is a fun inexpensive idea! Just make sure to have fun doing things together for the party and be prepared to clean up a mess! 😉

    Honey Garlic Salmon

    This is the first way I got my kids to eat (and love) salmon… scratch that, my kids AND my hubby!
    It is super quick to make and every time we have it I am reminded why we love it!  Perfect with roasted veggies and grains for an easy quick dinner that pleases everyone!

    HONEY GARLIC SALMON

    12-16 oz salmon fillets, skin removed
    1 green onion, sliced thin

    Sauce:
    1 Tablespoon soy sauce
    1 Tablespoon honey
    1 tsp sesame oil
    1 Tablespoon lime juice
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp black pepper

    Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and place in a ziplock bag with salmon.  Marinate for 15-20 minutes in the fridge.
    Heat a non stick skillet over medium heat and when hot remove the salmon from the sauce and add to pan.
    Cover and cook 3 minutes.  Flip salmon and recover pan for 3 more minutes.  Remove lid and continue to cook for a minute or until cooked through and slightly caramelized.  Garnish with green onions.

    Honey Garlic Salmon

    Ingredients

    • 12-16 oz salmon fillets, skin removed
    • 1 green onion, sliced thin
      Sauce:
    • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
    • 1 Tablespoon honey
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper

    Instructions

  • Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and place in a ziplock bag with salmon.  Marinate for 15-20 minutes in the fridge.
  • Heat a non stick skillet over medium heat and when hot remove the salmon from the sauce and add to pan.  
  • Cover and cook 3 minutes.  Flip salmon and recover pan for 3 more minutes.  Remove lid and continue to cook for a minute or until cooked through and slightly caramelized.  Garnish with green onions.
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    Homemade Steak Sauce


    “Steak sauce” is a little misleading, as this sauce is great on other things too.  Grilled chicken is particularly good with it, even veggies too.
    I am baffled at recipes for steak sauce, BBQ sauce, or other homemade condiments and the main ingredient is ketchup.  If you are going to the trouble of making a homemade condiment do yourself a favor and use tomato products, not a premade ketchup as a base.
    The end of summer is fast approaching.  But do yourself a favor and have at least one more grill night and take a tiny bit of time to make this easy amazing sauce.  I’m sure we’ll have it in winter even!

    HOMEMADE STEAK SAUCE

    1 white or yellow onion, chopped (approx 1 1/2 cups)
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    16 oz can tomato sauce
    6 oz tomato paste
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup Worcestershire
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    2 Tablespoons molasses
    1 tsp mustard powder

    In a medium pot saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until softened and fragrant.
    Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

    Pour through a strainer and discard onions and garlic.  Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a couple weeks or freeze for longer storage.

    Homemade Steak Sauce

    Ingredients

    • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped (approx 1 1/2 cups)
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 16 oz can tomato sauce
    • 6 oz tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup Worcestershire
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 2 Tablespoons molasses
    • 1 tsp mustard powder

    Instructions

  • In a medium pot saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until softened and fragrant.
  • Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Pour through a strainer and discard onions and garlic.  Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a couple weeks or freeze for longer storage.
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    Smoked Mac and Cheese

    DSC09339

    Do you have a favorite BBQ side dish? This was so fantastic, and unique and different.  Plus, in the summer when the smoker is going for a protein its great to be able to throw a side dish in there and not have to cook it in the house.  If you love smoked cheese you will love this!

    DSC09341

    SMOKED MAC AND CHEESE

    1/2 cup unsalted butter
    1/2 cup flour
    4 cups milk
    1 lb shredded cheese
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 pound elbow noodles, slightly under cooked

    Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and cook for a minute.
    Add milk slowly, whisking in.  Cook until thickened and smooth.
    Add cheese and stir until smooth.
    Season with salt and pepper.
    Place in a greased foil pan and hot smoke for 1-2 hours, to desired smokiness.

    Smoked Mac and Cheese

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 4 cups milk
    • 1 lb shredded cheese
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 pound elbow noodles, slightly under cooked

    Instructions

  • Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for a minute.
  • Add milk slowly, whisking in. Cook until thickened and smooth.
  • Add cheese and stir until smooth.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place in a greased foil pan and hot smoke for 1-2 hours, to desired smokiness.
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