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Make Your Own Recipe Book

February 3, 2016
A homemaker cracks an egg into a mixing bowl while following the instructions of a cookbook.

With the cost of eating out soaring beyond reach nowadays, most of us are learning to cook at home to survive. This calls for a set of recipes that we can look to when we want to make a meal. If you are tired of pinning your favorite recipes to the fridge when you need them, you may want to make your own recipe book that you can look to at any time. There are a few different ways to do this, depending on how you like to view your recipes when you cook. Check out this guide to learn how to make your own recipe book.

Printable Recipe Books

If you store copies of your favorite recipes on your computer, you can always print them off and store them in a binder for reference. With printer paper, a hole punch and a three ring binder, you can make a full book to use in the kitchen when you need it. You could cover the paper with plastic page protectors, just in case you spill something on the paper while you cook. You can separate your recipes with binder dividers to keep everything organized, and then you will have an easier time finding a recipe you need when you need it. Add to the binder as you like, and you’ll have your own foodcyclopedia in no time!

Note that you can also use magazine pages or handwritten recipes in your binder, as long as you have page protectors to slide the paper in. Make your own hodge-podge masterpiece that you can turn to day after day.

Index Card Recipe Folders

If you prefer to have index cards on hand instead of an actual recipe book, you can do that too. Simply write out the recipes on index cards and put them in an index card holder for safe keeping. If you have a huge assortment of recipes, you could put them in a file organizer to refer to whenever you need them. You could also use different card colors for different kinds of recipes. That is up to you. With the right plan though, you should have no trouble getting access to all of your most important recipes.

Digital Recipe Books

Want access to all of your favorite recipes no matter where you are? Consider creating a digital recipe book. There are many ways to go about doing this. You could create a Google Spreadsheet or similar document online that contains links to all of your favorite recipes. You could save screenshots of the recipes and store them in Dropbox. If you like using Google Chrome as your web browser, you could use the Google Bookmark Manager to save bookmarks on your computer that you could access from any Android device. You could even email links to yourself and then store the emails in a “recipe” folder in your inbox.

Use some or all of the tips above to create your own recipe book to use time and time again.

Blog Desserts Recipes

Make A Box Cake Mix Taste Homemade

January 18, 2016
Chocolate cake with raspberries on rustic wooden background

Store-bought cake mix can certainly save you time in the kitchen, but it doesn’t always taste like it comes from the heart. If you don’t have hours to spend making something from scratch, you might still be able to get that homemade taste from a box. You just have to put a little twist on the ingredients and present the final result in a straight-from-the-heart kind of way. Here are some tips to help you make a box cake mix taste homemade.

Add Custom Ingredients 

You can use a boxed cake mix as a foundation for other ingredients you want to incorporate. You could add nuts to the cake for extra texture, or you could mix in candy, coconut, or even pretzels. Think about your favorite ingredients and blend them into the mix. Custom touches like this will make people think it’s a homemade recipe.

Note: If you are going to add nuts to a cake mix, you may want to add extra milk or water to the recipe. The nuts are absorbent, so they could turn an otherwise moist cake into a dry one. Test out proportions in advance before serving this at a big party. 

Make Your Own Frosting 

The frosting is the first splash of flavor that hits someone’s mouth. If you can make that from scratch, you might be able to convince someone that everything else is made from scratch. Get a really good frosting recipe and whip something up. This won’t take long, and it will take away that store bought aftertaste that no one likes in his mouth.

Put Thought Into The Presentation 

If a cake looks homemade, it will taste homemade – theoretically. The ingredients will determine how successful that statement really is, but you will have a much easier time convincing someone if your cake looks like it came from your heart. Dirty ice the cake and add some homespun decorations to the top. Just make it look like you put some real time into its development.

You don’t have to be a professional pastry chef to make a great tasting cake, nor do you have to spend hours on end in the kitchen. Put some thought into customizing your store-bought cake in a box, and you will be able to get a great-tasting cake that people think you slaved away for.

Blog Recipes Sides

Creative Seed Snacks For Work

January 1, 2016
A lot of watermelon seeds for background

Most people enjoy eating seeds in one form or another. In America, sunflower seeds have become a staple snack food for hot summer days. Regardless of what time of year it is though, seeds can be a great source of protein to help you get through a long work day. Since seed snacks do not spoil, these foods are perfect to store in your desk and eat on a daily basis. Here are a few fun seeds you can plant in your diet when you want something to munch on at work.

Watermelon Seeds

Most people spit out watermelon seeds and focus on eating the fruit. These seeds are actually great sources of nutrients, and they offer a healthy snacking solution for the whole family. You can either buy watermelon seeds to eat, or you can take advantage of watermelon season and collect seeds from this delicious fruit naturally.

Broad Beans

Broad beans are used in many Hispanic and Asian cuisines, and they offer a unique flavor that you cannot find in America. The most common version of this seed is the fried broad bean, but there are other varieties that you can try. Some of them are seasoned, and others are just left to their natural flavors. You should be warned that these seeds can be addicting though, so be ready to enjoy this healthy snack over and over again.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are great foods for health nuts out there that like the taste of pumpkin products. A pumpkin seed has the same cinnamon-type flavor to it that you may find in pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, but it also has a nice crunch to it like you would expect from a seed. You can get full on a pumpkin seed snack pretty easily, so all you need is one little bag of this to get started.

Take a look at some of the seed snacks from around the world and see if any of them spark your interest. You can always mix some of them together to create your own trail mix if you want to. They should pair well with dried fruits and chocolate candies, so you can get creative in the dish you put together. See if you can work these seeds into your time at the office, and you may be able to find a new snack that you love.

Blog Desserts Recipes

Healthy Holiday Treats Kids Love To Make (And Eat!)

December 24, 2015
Cute girl and her mother reading how to make dough at home

The holidays are a great time of year to show off your cooking skills, but they can also be a fun time to bond in the kitchen with your children. If you want to give your kids something to make for the holidays without an instant sugar rush, the recipes below will be the perfect fit. Here are some simple and healthy holiday treats that kids love to make – and eat!

Grinch Kabobs

Grinch kabobs are a holiday staple in my household, and they are so simple to put together. All you need is a set of toothpicks, some green grapes, a banana, and some mini marshmallows. Rinse off the fruit, slice the banana into small rounds, and chop off the top of the strawberries. Then assemble the ingredients in the following order on a toothpick: grape, banana slice, strawberry (flat side toward banana), and marshmallow. You should end up with a tiny Grinch face that tastes great too!

Strong Cheese Snowmen

If your kids love string cheese, they are going to love putting these together. Just get a set of white string cheese in individual wrappers, making sure that the wrappers are clear and have no advertisements on them. Cut out small top hats from black construction paper or cardstock to put at the top of the cheese, and then use a ribbon to create a scarf about an inch below the hat. Use a black Sharpie to draw on the buttons and the face, and then use an orange Sharpie to create the nose. You should end up with a super cute treat that your kids will want to show off.

Strawberry Santas

There are several ways to go about making these appetizers, and some are a little more complicated than others. For all of the recipes, you need a set of large strawberries, rinsed and sliced so that the pointed end forms a small “hat.” You can choose to hollow the strawberries with a paring knife if you want to fill them up, or you can leave them as they are.

You will need a white, whipped substance to go in between the body and the hat, forming the appearance of a beard. That could be low fat whipped cream, or it could be a beaten mixture of one 8 ox pack of softened cream cheese, 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. For canned whipped cream, you may squirt it directly on the strawberry. For the mixture or whipped cream in a tub, use a piping bag or a freezer bag with a hole in the corner to control the flow.

Squirt your cream into the strawberry so it fills the bottom and covers the top like a fluffy beard. Then put the “hat” on top and add a tiny dab of whipped cream to the tip. You may also add whipped cream buttons to the front of the belly and seeds or raisins for eyes.

Play around with these delicious holiday treats, and you’ll be bonding with the kids in no time!

Blog Entrees Recipes

Ten Minute Turkey Tacos

October 28, 2015
turkey-taco

Tired of the slop served at Taco Bell? Want to make something healthy and delicious at home? Open your mind to the possibility of a turkey taco – similar to its beefy counterpart but a lot less greasy in the long run. If you have ten minutes of your life to spare on dinner, you could make some really tasty treats that still have the flare you need. Here’s a recipe for ten minute turkey tacos.

Ingredients

  • Ground turkey
  • Pre-made or homemade taco shells or tortillas
  • Taco seasoning (premade or homemade)
  • Toppings (lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, hot sauce, etc.)

Note: Quantities for ingredients will vary based on the number of servings you want to make and the amount of each ingredient you plan to use for each taco. As a rule of thumb, you can get about 12 tacos from a pound of ground beef, ground turkey, or similar meat product.

Step 1 – Brown The Turkey Meat

Put the ground turkey in a large frying pan and cook it like you would ground beef. You can either mix the seasoning in before you put the meat in the pan, or you can sprinkle it on as it’s cooking. Chop up the meat with a spatula as you cook it so it is easier to chew. Then just wait for it to turn brown or white, depending on the grade of ground turkey you got.

Step 2 – Assemble Your Tacos

With your meat fully cooked, all you have to do is put your tacos together. Put the turkey in the inner part of the taco shells or tortillas, and then add your cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, or whatever else you want. If you are cooking for a family, just leave the toppings out on the counter. Then each person can choose what he or she likes.

Step 3 – Enjoy!

With your taco fully assembled, all you have to do is eat it. You could make some Spanish rice to go along with it, or you could turn your tacos into a salad. Whatever the case may be, you’re sure to have a yummy dinner in no time.

Alternative: 10 Minute Turkey Nachos

For a slightly different take on this delicious classic, you could consider using the same ingredients to make turkey nachos. Instead of putting the ingredients in a taco shell, simply sprinkle them over a bed of tortilla chips. You could substitute nacho cheese for regular cheese, or you could melt cheese on top of the meat before you add the cold ingredients. Play around with your options until you have an awesome family meal underway.

Blog Entrees Recipes

How To Properly Marinate Meat

September 23, 2015
marinate-meat

Marinating meat can bring new flavor to your meals, and it may play a role in keeping your meat tender. There are a number of benefits to marinating meats, yet so many people do not know how to do this properly. The process does not take long, and you can get tons of great flavor from it. Here is a guide explaining the right way to marinate meat.

Choose The Type Of Marinade You Want To Use

There are many different types of marinades on the market, and each one has different setting and application requirements.

  • Acidic Marinades: These are the most common marinades used in grilling. They will involve oil, acid (vinegar, citrus, wine), and flavorings.
  • Dairy Marinades: Much milder than acidic marinades, but they can provide the most tender meats if left long enough. They usually consist of buttermilk or Greek yogurt, though they can have other dairy ingredients.
  • Enzymatic Marinades: Made with the help of enzymes from certain fruits, like kiwi, papaya, and ginger. These are subtle but incredibly flavorful under the right application.

Know what kind of marinade you’re working with before you get into the marinating process so you can set yourself up for success.

Acidic Marinades 

Acidic marinades are good for breaking down the bonds in meat that hold proteins together. This makes the meat tender, but only if you use it for the right amount of time. Anything longer than about two hours will result in tougher meat because the marinade will start to retighten the bonds it once broke.

You can minimize this effect by reducing the amount of acid in the marinade. Go light on the lime, lemon, or vinegar in the marinade, and add that to the surface of the meat before and during grilling. You’ll still get the flavor you’re after, but you won’t have to worry about your meat getting tough.

Dairy Marinades 

Dairy marinades are meant to sit for a long time. Most of them work best if they are left to sit for six hours or more. Note that you have to refrigerate dairy based marinades, whereas you don’t always have to with the other options. If you leave the dairy marinade out for too long, the dairy components will start to spoil. Most people use this type of marinade for Southern fried chicken, Indian tandoori, and other meals like that. It works well with chicken, but it may not be suited for other meats.

Enzymatic Marinades 

Enzymatic marinades are a lot like acidic marinades. They do not work well if used for too long. Two hours is a good cut off time for these as well. Anything after that could result in overly mushy meat. Enzymatic marinades work best when they are exposed to the connective tissues of the meat. Many people will use a meat tenderizer before using this type of marinade so it can soak in the best. If you make your meat particularly thin, you may only want to marinade for an hour.

How To Marinate Meat

Once you know what type of marinade you are using and what you need to do for that specifically, you can apply the same basic steps to all marinating processes.

  1. Prepare a zippered freezer bag with your marinade inside.
  2. Coat the meat on top and bottom with the same marinade, and place it in the bag. Push out all the air so that the meat is as close to the marinade as possible.
  3. Set the bag in the fridge for the required length of time.

If you want to apply a dry rub to the meat as well, you might do so before the marinade or right before you grill. Keep a little of the marinade out of the bag to use while grilling, coating each side as you turn the meat. Even though the marinade may have soaked through the meat, it can’t hurt to have an extra kick on the surface. Test this out with a few different recipes, and you’ll be a marinating machine in no time!

Blog Recipes Sides

How To Steam Vegetables On The Grill

September 9, 2015
Lemon chicken with vegetables cooked in foil

Steamed vegetables are incredibly healthy to eat, and they add a pure, natural touch to any meal they accompany. While you can grill vegetables to go with your steak or chicken, sometimes it’s nice to have a variation of flavors. Rather than going into the kitchen to steam them, you could easily do all of your cooking right on the grill. Here is a guide showing how to steam vegetables on the grill.

Set Up Your Grill For Steaming Vegetables

Create a pan-like shape out of aluminum foil by rolling up the sides of a rectangular sheet. This will act as a bowl to hold water while you steam. Place this on the grill rack, and add water to the bottom of it. Set the temperature to high until the water starts to boil.

Cut your vegetables into whatever size you want, but do not season them until they have been completely steamed or close to it. If you want to cook them separately, you will need to create more than one foil bowl.

How To Steam Veggies On A Grill

Per the instructions above, you can add the vegetables to your foil bowl once the water reaches a boil. Keep the heat on high for the duration of your steaming, making sure the flames do not go above the grill plate.

Stir the vegetables continuously, and water on top of them when you start to run low. You want to do this before the water evaporates to avoid burning the vegetables. Keep the veggies cooking until they are soft. Stop pouring water on them, and let them cook without the water for an additional 30 seconds.

If you want to season your vegetables, you may do that during the very last round of water or during those last 30 seconds. You may also season them when they are off the grill. Simple salt and pepper usually works well, but you could also use vegetable seasoning.

Present The Finished Product

Once the vegetables are ready to eat, serve them up on a plate or in a bowl. You can do this alongside grilled foods, or you could try it over brown noodles or rice. Add a couple sprigs of parsley to the top for a fancy touch, and you should be good to go.

There are a lot of creative ways to use a grill. You just have to think of it as a giant heat source and figure out how to use it to your advantage. Test out some different ideas and see what works best for you.

Blog Entrees Recipes

How To Make Shish Kabobs

August 19, 2015
Chicken shish kebab and fresh vegetables on wooden table

Shish kabobs are some of the easiest foods to cook on the grill, and they are incredibly versatile. You can add any kind of meet or vegetable you want to your shish kabobs, and they’re still going to taste good. The key to their success is grilling them the right way. Here is a simple guide explaining how to make shish kabobs on the grill.

Ingredients For Shish Kabobs

The ingredients for your shish kabobs really depend on what you want to eat. For meat, you could try:

  • Chicken
  • Steak
  • Shrimp

For vegetables, you could try:

  • Onions
  • Bell Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Italian Squash
  • Baby Potatoes (boiled ahead of time to cook the interior)
  • Jalapenos
  • Corn On The Cob

Other than that, all you need is whatever grilling seasoning/marinade you like to use and a skewer to stack everything on.

How To Make Your Shish Kabobs

Step 1 – Prepare The Ingredients

Some people like to use dry seasoning on their meat, and others like to marinate it. If you prefer marinating, prepare your meat a day in advance and let it sit in the marinade overnight. Cut the meat into small cubes, about an inch thick. In the case of shrimp, de-vein it and remove any other undesirable components.

Shortly before you assemble your kabobs, cut the vegetables up into small, bite-size pieces. For something like a baby potato, you will need to boil it ahead of time to get the inside cooked. Then you could slice it in half to make it easier to eat, depending on how big it is. With the veggies ready, you can get the meat out and prepare for assembly.

Step 2 – Assemble Your Shish Kabobs

Start threading the ingredients onto your skewer, alternating between meat and vegetables. The meat will absorb flavors from whatever vegetables are touching it, so you need to be careful in that selection. If you don’t want the beef to become overpowered by bell pepper flavor, you may want to put a mushroom nearby instead. At the same time, you may want to keep the bell pepper there if you like that kind of flavor. Play around with some different placement options until you find what you like.

Step 3 – Grill Your Skewers

Lightly brush some oil onto the outside of the kabobs to prevent them from sticking. If you want to use your marinade for this instead, you are welcome to do so. Some people use balsamic vinaigrette to coat their shish kabobs, but that flavor isn’t for everyone. With the kabobs coated, you can begin grilling them.

Heat your grill for about 10 minutes before you start cooking your kabobs. Then you can put them directly on the hot grill. Keep the lid open, and grill the kabobs for about 12 minutes. Flip them over every four minutes so they cook evenly. If you have a chance to, only rotate them 90 degrees so you can cook the sides too, depending on the way your meat is shaped.

Reapply oil or vinaigrette every time you flip the kabobs to keep them tender and juicy. Once the meat has been cooked through and all the vegetables look good, you can pull the kabobs off and let them sit for a few minutes. After that, you are free to enjoy your new work of art. It’s a whole meal on a stick!

Blog Recipes Salads

How To Make A Basic Vinaigrette

May 18, 2015
vinaigrette

Some of the tastiest salad dressings out there fall in the category of “vinaigrettes.” A vinaigrette is any salad dressing that includes a mix of wine vinegar, oil, and seasoning. There are dozens of vinaigrette recipes in the world, but they all start with the same essential steps. In the guide below, you’ll learn how to make a basic vinaigrette so you can start playing around with your favorite ingredients.

The Basic Formula Of Vinaigrette Dressing

Every vinaigrette dressing starts with this simple formula:

  • One Part Vinegar
  • Three Parts Oil
  • Salt, Pepper, And Other Seasonings To Taste

Whisk these ingredients together in a bowl, and boom! You have a homemade vinaigrette dressing. Most dressings are completed in under a minute, and they can be customized to suit your taste buds. How cool is that?

Playing Around With Vinaigrette Dressings

This is the fun part, mixing in different vinaigrette ingredients to get the perfect flavor for whatever you’re eating. It could be a salad, or it could be a dipping sauce for bread, appetizers, and more. Here are some different ideas for vinaigrette dressing ingredients:

  • Oils: Most people choose extra virgin olive oil for their vinaigrette dressings, but other options include canola oil, vegetable oil, nut-based oils (hazelnut, walnut, etc.), and grapeseed oil.
  • Vinegar: There are so many vinegars to choose from, depending on your personal tastes. Of course, balsamic vinegar is a classic salad dressing ingredient, but you could also use apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, sherry vinegar, and more. You could also substitute lemon juice for the vinegar, or add citrus fruit juices to the mix to enhance the flavor of your dressing.
  • Seasonings: You can’t go wrong with simple salt and pepper, but you could highlight the other flavors in your salad with fresh dill, basil, mint, thyme, parsley, garlic, shallots, onions, Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper, and more.

Don’t be afraid to try different combinations of vinegars and seasonings to see what best complements your food choices. With a recipe as easy as this, there is no reason not to test out your options!

Think Outside The Salad Bowl

Who says your vinaigrette has to go on top of a salad? You could add your custom concoction to just about anything you eat! Test it out on side dishes, like vegetable medleys and toasted breads. You could use the vinaigrette as a flavor additive for a healthy sandwich to enhance the flavors of the other ingredients. You could grill meat with it, or you could use it in a marinade. You could even use a sweet option, like balsamic vinaigrette, in a special dessert! Play around with all of these unique ideas and unleash the awesome power of your homemade salad dressing.

Blog Recipes Sides

Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner: Part 3 – The Green Bean Casserole

November 13, 2014

Part 1 – The Turkey, Part 2 The Stuffing

In Part 3 of our healthy Thanksgiving dinner series, we’re going to talk about another staple side – the green bean casserole. The classic recipe for green bean casserole uses canned mushroom soup, which is high in sodium, fat, and calories. The recipe below follows the same flavor pallet, but it eliminates all of the negatives that come with canned ingredients. Play around with other flavors to make this the perfect green bean casserole recipe for you.

Ingredients You Need

  • 3 Tbsps canola oil (divided)
  • 8 oz mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1 medium sweet onion – half thinly sliced, half diced (divided)
  • 1 1/4 tsps salt, divided
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 3 Tbsps dry sherry
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 pound frozen green beans
  • 1/3 low fat cup sour cream
  • 3 Tbsps buttermilk powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika

How To Make Healthy Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Use cooking spray to coat a 2 1/2-quart baking dish.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium in a large saucepan. Stir in diced onion and cook it until softened and slightly clear, stirring continuously – about 4 minutes. Add in onion powder, thyme, mushrooms, 1 tsp salt, and pepper.
  3. Stirring regularly, cook until nearly all of the mushroom juices have evaporated – 3 to 5 minutes. Distribute 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables and stir it in to coat evenly.
  4. Stir in sherry and milk and bring it all to a simmer. Add in green beans and cook until heated through – about 1 minute.
  5. Mix in buttermilk powder and sour cream, and transfer everything to the baking dish you coated earlier.
  6. In a shallow dish, whisk together the paprika, garlic powder, and the remaining 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix in sliced onion and toss gently to coat it. Alternatively, you can put the powder into a zipped plastic bag, add in the onion, and shake to coat.
  7. Over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, nonstick skillet. Stir in the onion and remaining powder and cook until golden and crispy – about 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle onions over the green beans in the baking dish.
  8. Bake the casserole in the oven until it begins to bubble – about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes, serve, and enjoy!

For more healthy Thanksgiving recipes, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4 of our guide!