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Monday, May 23, 2016

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

Summer is coming!!!  It's time to start thinking cool meals for warm summer days!  Salads are always a hit in our home and my teenage girls especially love pasta salad.  This delicious pasta salad is packed with flavor and pretty simple to assemble.  It travels well in a cooler to those summer potluck holiday meals.  Perfect!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

1 12-16 oz. package of shell pasta (Large or small), cooked until tender and drained.

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked, cooled, and diced (We like it grilled best but boiled is great too!)

2 C. Ranch Dressing thinned w/ a little milk - appx 1/4 cup.

4-6 slices of bacon, fried until crispy and crumbled (I like to use 6 slices of precooked bacon)

1 C. celery, sliced

1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks and sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning.

1 can black olives, sliced

Green onion, Optional

Mix all of the above ingredients together saving a few pieces of avocado and bacon out for garnish.  Chill until ready to serve.

Serve with a hearty French Bread or Breadsticks!!

Joy's Notes:   I almost never measure anything out for this salad.  I just add until it looks right. My kids always want me to add more olives.  :)  You may want more or less of the Ranch Dressing as the longer it sits the more the pasta absorbs.  If I have leftovers I add more dressing before serving it.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pretzel Dogs

Pretzel Dogs are a fun twist to using hot dogs for an easy meal!   Add a fresh fruit and vegetable tray and you've got a filling meal!  This is a perfect recipe to work with your kids in the kitchen!  

Our family really loves the soft pretzels and pretzel bites we've been making.  Dipped in cheese sauce or just by themselves, once a batch comes out of the oven it hardly has a chance to cool before it's gone.

These Pretzel Dogs use that easy Soft Pretzel recipe.   Enjoy!

Pretzel Dogs

1 batch of Soft Pretzels dough  (Recipe HERE)  prepared up to the point of shaping the pretzels.

8 bun length hot dogs, patted dry with a paper towel.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces.  Roll one piece of the dough into a long snake-like strand about 12 inches long.  Flatten the roll with your fingers.  Place the end of one hot dog at the end of the dough strip and roll at an angle until hot dog is all covered, leaving both ends visible but not much uncovered. Cut off any dough not needed to cover.   Place on greased cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough and hot dogs. (If you have extra dough from what you cut off of the ends, you might be able to roll 2 more hot dogs)

Make the soda wash by heating 1/2 C. water and 1 T. baking soda in the microwave for 1 minute.  Brush each Pretzel Dog with the soda wash and sprinkle with pretzel salt.

Let rise about 10 minutes and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Serve with your favorite condiments!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Soft and Chewy Pretzels and Pretzel Bites

My daughter Audra has been making delicious, chewy pretzels for her family for a while.  They were getting rave reviews from her hubby and kids.... so of course I had to try them!  We decided to try them as pretzel bites rather than a full sized pretzel.  It worked perfectly.  Family loved them!  Win!

Audra and I made several batches of these Pretzel Bites for a meeting I was attending.  So many of the people there loved them as well.  I've never had store-bought soft pretzels before, but several of the meeting attendees said they were as good as Pretzel Maker Pretzel Bites.  

The recipe is simple and not too time consuming for bread.  Give it a try!

Soft and Chewy Pretzels and Pretzel Bites

2 3/4 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 1/4 tsp. yeast

1 C. warm water

Pretzel Salt or Coarse Salt

3 T. melted butter (for brushing after baking)

Put all dry ingredients in mixer bowl.  Pour warm water over and stir with a spatula to incorporate.  Knead on medium low for 5 minutes.  Put in greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap (spray the plastic wrap as well for easy removal) and let rise for 30 minutes or so.

While the dough is rising, make a soda wash by mixing 1 T. baking soda with 1/2 C. of warm water and then microwave for one minute.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Place dough on an oiled surface and divide into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a long rope about 1/2 inch diameter.... twice as thick if you're doing bites.  Shape each rope into pretzels OR cut 1 inch pieces from the rope.  Dip each pretzel/bite into soda wash and place on a well greased cookie sheet.  While still very wet, sprinkle with salt.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Bake for 9-10 minutes or until beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.

Enjoy plain or dipping in cheese sauce.  YUMMM!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Perfect Poppy Seed Dressing

Summer is coming bringing warmer weather and the stronger desire for cool salads.  This sweet and tangy Poppy Seed Dressing is perfect drizzled on your choice of greens.  Last night we enjoyed this on a grilled chicken salad and today I've just tossed some sliced strawberries and almonds on romaine.  

This recipe is SO inexpensive per batch, particularly if you have the ingredients already on hand.  The only thing I had to buy this time was the poppy seeds.  I figured it cost me somewhere around $1.60 and it makes a generous 3 cups of dressing.

My sweet Mom shared this with me several years ago and I've no idea where she found this recipe but it has certainly become my favorite!   

Perfect Poppy Seed Dressing

3 T. chopped onion
2/3 C. white vinegar
2 tsp. ground, dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. poppyseeds
1 C. sugar

2 C. oil

Blend the first 6 ingredients well in the blender.  Slowly add the oil while the blender is running at medium to high speed until it is well incorporated and the dressing is smooth.   Chill before using.  Store in refrigerator.

Joy's Notes:  I like to use 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds - I add one with the first part to be blended and the second teaspoon I add after the oil is blended in so that some of the seeds stay whole.  I have used 1 1/2 C. oil and then a few tablespoons of water rather than the whole 2 cups of oil - but I like it best with the recipe as is written above.  Mmmm!!!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Chocolaty Peanut Butter Squares

I used to love Reece's Peanut Butter Cups but they've changed somehow since I was in love with them and it seems that they just don't have the same flavor. This recipe for a similar treat is much more like I remember the flavor of the old candy bar!   

My brother shared this recipe with me before I was even a teenager!  He got it from someone he met while serving a mission in Kentucky and Tennessee for our church.  It was easy enough for me to make by myself that my Mom let me mix it up even before I learned to bake cookies. 

I pressed this into an 8x8 pan but if you like a thinner peanut butter base to go with your chocolate, press this same amount into a 9x13.   If it's more than you can use, it freezes nicely but be sure to cut it into squares before freezing.

Chocolaty Peanut Butter Squares

2 C. Creamy peanut butter
2 cubes margarine or butter, melted
4 1/2-5 C. powdered sugar
1 12 oz package chocolate chips

Blend peanut butter and margarine in blender until well mixed.  Add powdered sugar a cup at a time mixing well until your dough is almost dry and crumbly.   Press into an 8x8 ungreased pan.   Melt chocolate chips in microwave carefully. (I put mine on defrost for about 5 minutes and stir - sometimes it needs a few more minutes on low power)  Spread on peanut butter mixture.  Refrigerate until firm.  Let warm to room temperature before cutting through the chocolate.  Cut into bite-sized squares.  Share!