Friday, March 17, 2017

Brazilian-Style Hot-dogs

Oh man, you guys, these are some of the best hot-dogs I have EVER had in my life! I was first introduced to a variety of gourmet hot-dogs while the hubs and I were living in Orem, Utah.  There was a small, family-owned and operated hot-dog restaurant and every single dog I ate there was A-MA-ZING! My favorite, by far, was the Brazilian dog; now, just like every other Brazilian recipe I have tried to master, the possibilities are endless, everyone makes everything in their own way so this is how we do things in our home. I hope you love them as much as we do!

Brazilian-Style Hot-dogs
All-beef hot-dogs
Hoagie buns
Mashed potatoes
Steamed corn and/or peas
Cooked & crumbled bacon OR diced ham
Diced tomatoes or *vinaigrette (Brazilian pico de gallo) 
Diced hard boiled egg
Potato sticks/French fry sticks

More ideas:
Mayo or cream cheese
Shredded cheese
Seasoned ground meat, like taco meat
Shredded carrot
Fresh cilantro or parsley

1. Alright folks, so this is how I do things: First, peel, chop, and boil potatoes to make your mashed potatoes. Next, slice bacon and brown in a separate pan, and cook your corn and/or peas in a separate pot. Once your potatoes are tender make your mashed potatoes as usual, and once the bacon is cooked remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Cook your hot-dogs in the same pan that you cooked the bacon in until they are heated through and browned all around.

2. Let's layer our dogs! First, I like to lightly toast my bun - you don't have to by any means but we rather enjoy the texture, then you layer as follows: mayo or cream cheese (if using), mashed potatoes, cheese (if using), hot-dog (we usually split ours down the middle), cooked veggies, bacon or ham, tomatoes or *vinaigrette, diced hard boiled egg, potato sticks. And there ya go! Enjoy!

**This particular way is done so that you can eat it on a plate with utensils, you are welcome to eat it hand-held like you typically would eat a hot-dog, just be prepared for the yummy messiness!**

2 medium-large tomatoes, diced
1/2 onion, diced
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped OR 1 tsp dried parsley
Salt & pepper
(Optional: add diced bell pepper)

1. Combine all in bowl, stir well, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pasta Half and Half

When I was younger, and growing up in the greater Houston area, there was a lovely Italian restaurant that my family would frequent and my absolute most favorite dish was "Spaghetti Half and Half". Every now and then I get a craving for this dish, and, like so many other meals I get cravings for, I do my best to just make it myself! Now, you can always just make a tomato cream sauce, it's practically the same thing, but isn't this just so pretty? And, I love that you can take bites of each individual flavor and mix them up at your pleasure. Oh, and as you can see, I didn't use spaghetti pasta this time around, I was just in the mood for something else, so feel free to use any pasta that you would like! A big plus to making this meal is that it takes less than 30 minutes so it's perfect for those crazy busy nights! You just need to do a little multi-tasking, I like to begin on the tomato sauce first and once I have that simmering I start on the Alfredo sauce, and while both sauces simmer I cook the pasta. I did use ground beef in this marinara recipe but feel free to leave it out, this dish is wonderful without meat or you could add chicken, it's all up to you!

Marinara Sauce:
1 lb ground meat (optional) - brown and drain the meat first
15oz can tomato sauce
*14.5oz can Italian stewed or diced tomatoes
1-2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried basil

1. In a medium saucepan combine all of your ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer. Taste occasionally and adjust seasonings to your liking.

*I blend the tomatoes in a food processor first so there aren't huge chunks of tomato in my sauce.

Alfredo Sauce:
4 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 C flour
2 C heavy cream
1-2 C milk
1 C grated parmesan
1 Tbsp dried parsley

1. In a medium pot melt the butter on medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant and beginning to brown (1-2 minutes), add the flour and whisk in. Slowly whisk in the cream, be sure that it's smooth and there aren't any lumps of flour.
2. Add 1 cup of the milk, parsley, salt, and pepper. Continue to stir and raise the heat to medium-high, bring to a low boil, whisking continually. Lower heat to medium-low, add the cheese, and if the sauce begins to get too thick add the remaining milk a little at a time. Let the sauce simmer until thickened (about 10 minutes)

***Now, cook your pasta as directed, drain, and serve by spooning each sauce over half then top it off with a little grated parmesan to bring it all together!***

Inside Out Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh man, you guys, seriously, these are AMAZING cookies! I was having a major cookie craving yesterday and the only chips I had were white chocolate chips, so I did a little experimenting and created these lovelies. They are just barely crisp around the edges, soft and chewy, and have just the right amount of chocolate chips - the cookie-to-chip ratio is perfect. You simply must give these a try, I promise you won't regret it in the slightest.

Inside Out Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda + 1 tsp hot water
1/3 C cocoa powder
1 C flour
3/4 C white chocolate chips (I prefer Ghiradelli)

-Preheat your oven to *375 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1. In a medium mixing bowl whip together the butter and sugars until smooth a creamy.
2. Add the egg and vanilla, beat in.
3. Add the salt and baking soda (mix the baking soda and hot water together first then add), and mix in.
4. Mix in the cocoa until incorporated. Use a spoon to stir in the flour and white chocolate chips.
5. Drop dough onto prepared baking sheet by the spoonful (yields about 24 cookies). Bake 10-12 minutes, until cookies are starting to crinkle and the edges are looking cooked. Let them sit on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool. Serve and enjoy!

*I live at high altitude so I often have to bake at different temperatures, if you're living at a lower altitude you may want to bake your cookies at 350 F.*

I am a big fan of your usual chocolate chip cookies but oh man, these are are incredible and I will definitely be making them often! Oh, and try your hardest to not eat the dough, once you start it's soooo hard to stop!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Chicken

Here is a wonderful, easy dinner! This chicken turns out juicy and full of flavor, definitely a favorite in our home! You can eat this chicken all by itself, on a salad, in a wrap or burrito, quesadilla, or on a toasted bun (my fav!). Hope you enjoy!

Crockpot BBQ Pulled Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1-2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Chili powder
Onion powder
Brown sugar
1 C. BBQ sauce

1. First, spray your crockpot with nonstick spray and place your chicken breasts in the pot. Next, drizzle with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire. 
2. Season liberally with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with chili powder and onion powder. Finally, cover chicken with brown sugar and pour the BBQ sauce on top. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
3. Shred with a fork - you can do this in the pot or remove the chicken breasts and shred it on a separate plate. Toss the chicken to thoroughly cover with remaining sauce in the crockpot. Serve!

*Serves 6-8*

p.s. Adding the chili powder brings a subtle heat to the meat, it's not overbearing but feel free to leave it out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What I Learned As A Gospel Doctrine Teacher

I recently finished serving as a Gospel Doctrine teacher in our church (we're LDS), and let me tell you, it ended up being a great experience! I was incredibly intimidated to teach the gospel and scriptures to a group of adults, especially being so young and perhaps not quite as knowledgeable as most of those who would be attending my class. I spent about a year and a half teaching this class and I learned so much and really wanted to share what I learned with others! So, here's some of what I learned, in no particular order:

Pray! Pray before you prepare your lesson, pray after you prepare, pray before and after you review, and definitely say a prayer before you present your lesson. You will be amazed at how much comfortable you become as you include prayer in your lesson preparation and presentation.

Prepare! Alright, I know life is crazy, everyone is busy, and it seems to be so very hard to get things done sometimes, BUT, preparation makes a huge difference! I would typically prepare my lesson on Monday and put together a PowerPoint presentation on Tuesday. There were a few weeks that I waited to prepare until Friday or Saturday and I could tell the difference, I was more nervous, less organized, and just less comfortable. Please, please, always prepare your lesson ahead of time, I promise you won't regret it in the least bit!

Know your class! Get to know everyone's names, get to know who they are as individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, and carefully observe who is okay with being called on to read or say prayers - many people struggle with reading aloud and even with praying in public (I used to be one of those people!). Occasionally I would write out the scripture verses and/or quotes we would be covering on slips of paper and would ask who would be willing to read during the lesson, that seemed to be a great way to get folks to participate.

Use doctrine! This one is huge! The teacher's lesson manuals are fantastic and are full of great resources but every now and then you may want to bring in a video clip, or a hymn, or a quote, or even other related scriptures and that's great! Just be sure to stick to doctrine, has great media resources, always check that quotes you use are actual, credible quotes from church leaders. You CANNOT go wrong if you stick to doctrine! And do your best to keep class discussion on topic and centered on doctrine; you are the teacher, you ultimately have control over class discussion.

Visuals! I am a big fan of visuals! It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, you can easily get a picture or two to display from your ward library, or write out some quotes or scripture verses on your chalkboard. My favorite way to display pictures and information was to put together a PowerPoint presentation then connect a HDMI cable to a TV, it was a great way to help everyone know where we were in the lesson and who doesn't love looking at a lovely gospel art picture? It really helps most people to be more engaged in the lesson if they have a way to follow along and visualize what is being taught.

Testimony. Always bear testimony of the gospel truths you cover in each lesson. It really solidifies what has been taught and allows the Spirit to bear witness to the individual class members. Ending each class with your testimony is powerful and you definitely shouldn't skip it.

Teaching in the Savior's Way. Your ward should be regularly holding special classes for teachers to go over what is taught in this book and you should really make every effort to attend these classes. I would also strongly suggest that you read and this study this book on your own. Remember, you have been called to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and this resource will teach you how to do that. You will learn how to teach as our Savior taught, and as He wants us to teach others His gospel.

Invite the Spirit. Always begin and end each class with prayer, never underestimate the power of prayer! Be organized and prepared - being organized and prepared really allows the Spirit to be present and to be felt by all those in the class. If possible, play some prelude music, I have the LDS Music app on my phone and put together a play list of some of my favorite hymns and would play them while everyone filtered into the room, it was a wonderful calming source for me but I also firmly believe that music is a great way to invite the Spirit to any meeting. Also, be okay with silence! This one is a biggie! When you're teaching and you ask a question 5 seconds of silence can feel like 2 minutes! Learn to be okay with silence! You never know how the Spirit is working on your class as you allow them to sit and think about the question you've asked. Please, be okay with silence.

Hope and Joy! Some lessons are going to be a struggle to teach, some chapters of scripture can be rather dark, dreary, and just plain heartbreaking. BUT, I can guarantee you that you can find a way back to hope and joy in EVERY lesson. I remember sobbing when I had to prepare a certain lesson, it was a topic that brought up a lot of painful memories and I dreading teaching that lesson, I prayed constantly that week for help teaching and as I reviewed the lesson I suddenly noticed the bits of hope and joy that were in it and I focused on that...I cannot fully express to you how grateful I was to realize that you can always find hope and joy when teaching and studying the gospel! The whole gospel of Jesus Christ is centered on hope and joy, so always come back to that, always end with that! This world needs more hope and joy, and I'm sure each of us could use a bit more of both in our day-to-day lives.

Be personal! Don't be afraid to share personal experiences! You can bring a power Spirit of truth to your class as you share personal witness of a gospel truth or principle. It also helps class members better identify with the lesson material when you, the teacher, are able to make it personal.

I hope this has been a helpful list! I really was terrified of this calling but as time went by I found myself learning and growing so much and I really ended up loving the calling. I actually cried when I was released. It was a wonderful experience and I'm actually finding myself hoping that it is my calling again some day. If you have any other tips or ideas feel free to share them!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wonderfully Easy and Soft Play Dough

I am so excited to share my favorite play dough recipe with you today!  This is incredibly fast and easy to make, seriously, 1 batch can be made in under 10 minutes! I also love how soft this dough is, and it doesn't have too much salt, dough with too much salt always makes the skin on my hands hurt and no one wants that when they just want to play and have fun! (see pictures below for a more detailed look at the play dough making process)

Here's what you'll need:
1 C. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 C. salt
1 C. water
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Food coloring

1. Add flour, cream of tartar, and salt to a medium sauce pan and stir to combine. Add water and oil, turn heat on to medium and stir until mixture begins to harden. Add your food coloring (8-10 drops) and quickly stir in.
2. Keep stirring until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove and let cool on wax paper. Once it's cool enough to handle knead for an additional 2-3 minutes to remove any lumps.
*Store in an airtight container or bag, can last for a few months.*

Note: I recommend buying the cream of tartar in bulk, it will definitely be cheaper in the long run.  Also, I have found that you really get the best results when using this ingredient.  After doing some research I discovered that cream of tartar affects the elasticity and texture of the dough, leaving it out will typically result in dry and crumbly play dough.

Here's what the beginning of your play dough will look like, notice the lumps? Lumps are perfectly fine at this point!

Add your food coloring...

There's your color! Keep stirring!

See how it's pulling away from the sides and gathering around the spoon? Time to remove it and let it cool!

Let it cool for a few minutes.

Knead it for 2-3 minutes and you're ready to go!  I love this camo/"Ninja Turtle" color we ended up with in this batch, it was a total accident but the boys loved it!

Now enjoy play time!  Be sure to store your play dough in an airtight container or bag when not in use.  If your dough does start to get a little dry you can knead in just a tiny bit of water.  Enjoy!

p.s. You can also create your own "calming play dough" by adding 4-8 drops of your favorite essential oil when kneading your cooled dough.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Hawaiian Haystacks From Scratch (Crock Pot)

Alright you guys, I had never ever heard of Hawaiian Haystacks until I lived in Utah and I'm really not sure why they are called Hawaiian Haystacks...probably because of the pineapple.  I've tried a few different recipes for this dish but I really hate using cream of whatever soups and/or evaporated milk in my recipes (how most folks typically make this)!  So I've come up with a way to make the chicken for this dish without using any of that stuff and we all really love it so I decided to share! 

Hawaiian Haystacks:
2 large chicken breasts
Salt & Pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp dried parsley
2 C chicken broth + 1/3 C flour
1 C plain Greek yogurt
(see toppings list below)

1. Spray your crock pot with non-stick spray, lay chicken breasts inside and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and parsley.  In a separate bowl whisk together the broth, flour, and yogurt then pour over chicken.  Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours, shred your chicken with a fork just before serving.
2. Layer your haystacks with whatever you'd like!  We typically use my non-sticky garlic rice as a base but you could easily make that healthier by using brown rice, wild rice, or quinoa. 

-Serves 4-6

Suggested Toppings:
Shredded Cheddar
Diced green onions (or regular onions)
Diced tomatoes
Sliced olives
Crushed pineapple
Crispy Chow Mein noodles (healthier options include nuts or sunflower seeds)
Mandarin oranges