Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Easy Homemade Pizza Crust (You Will Never Need Take-Out Again)

Our family spends wastes a lot of money on eating out!

After a LONG day of school, Bible quizzing, cooking, cleaning, and on and on and on, that phone number to the local pizza place is so TEMPTING! I know that with just the push of a few buttons dinner will arrive fast and hot. However, my bank account will take a hit that it was not expecting and I will have to figure out where that money is going to come from.

ENTER Easy Homemade Pizza Crust! With a just a few ingredients and a little bit of time, I can save some DOUGH (you saw that one coming right?) by making DOUGH!

Easy Homemade Pizza Crust (original recipe)

1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon yeast
1 heaping tablespoon sugar

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.

 Add water, salt and vegetable oil to a large bowl.

Add bread flour, sugar and yeast, mix with a spoon until a soft dough forms.

Put dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Then roll out dough, on floured surface, until a little larger than your pizza pan (I use a stone from Pampered Chef). Place the dough onto your pan and roll up the edges to create a lip that will keep your sauce on the pizza while it bakes. Using a fork prick holes in the dough.

Pre-bake your crust in your pre-heated oven for 10 minutes. Take out and top however you like.

Return pizza to the oven and bake another 10 minutes. ENJOY!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Melt In Your Mouth Buttermilk Biscuits

I have finally found a biscuit recipe that I can make (EVERY TIME) and they always turn out GREAT! I have also learned a few "secrets" to making fluffy, soft, EDIBLE biscuits that I will share in the recipe!

I am not sure if it's the recipe that is "fool" proof or if the "tricks" are what make this recipe work but either way it has taken me 17 years of marriage to be able to make a Homemade Biscuit that is worth eating.

Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits (original recipe
Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups bread flour
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
1 stick COLD butter, cut into pieces
1 - 2 cups buttermilk (may need more or less, depending on flour)

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in bowl of Kitchen-Aid Mixer. (If you do not have a Kitchen-Aid, or some other type of stand mixer, you can try this recipe using a hand held mixer).

Using your Kitchen-Aid mixer cut the butter into the flour mixture. Mix just until the butter becomes "pea" size.

Add just enough buttermilk to make a heavy, workable dough. I have found the drier the dough the more stable the biscuit.

Knead the dough lightly (still using your Kitchen-Aid), only enough for everything to stick together. DO NOT OVERKNEAD!

Dough Folded Over
Pat dough out onto a well floured surface to around 3/4-inches thick. Fold dough over so that it makes a "double" biscuit.

Use a floured glass or mason jar ring to cut dough into circles.

Place on an un-greased baking sheet (I use one of my Pampered Chef Stones). If you leave the edges touching it will make for a softer biscuit. If you want your biscuits to have a crunch, space them out a bit more.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for between 10 and 12 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack (we actually eat them straight from the oven)!

Buttery, Flaky, Goodness

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Chicken Pasta Salad

As you may remember my children are Bible Quizzers and that means that once a month we head out of town for a Bible Quizzing Tournament. We normally will go to wherever the tournament is the night before so that our children are assured of getting plenty of rest. Nothing like trying to remember 300 scriptures while dozing off at the quiz table!

And as we are a one income family, week-end getaways once a month do not really fit in with our budget. So I cut the costs as much as possible. We ALWAYS stay in a hotel that offers free breakfast. This enables us to sleep-in a little longer and also saves us money. And we ALWAYS stay at a hotel that offers Government Employee discounts (Thank You USPS).

I also pack our lunch to eat during the quizzing tournament. I do this for two reasons. One, to save money. And two, because sometimes we have 20 minutes in-between quizzes in which to eat our lunch. Not very conducive to getting in the car, driving somewhere, ordering, eating, getting back in the car, and making it back to the church before the next quiz. 

And so I pack sandwiches, potato chips, snack cakes, grapes, and I ALWAYS take Chicken Pasta Salad! WHY? Because it is AMAZING, that's why! And I'm going to share the recipe with you! WHY? Because I like you, that's why!

Chicken Pasta Salad

Amazing Chicken Pasta Salad

2 to 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cooked and cut into bite size pieces)
1 box corkscrew pasta
6 green onions, thinly sliced (the original recipe calls for only 3 but I like them so I add more)
1 medium green pepper, diced

Mix in a large bowl.

So Yummy!

1 1/2 cups Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Toss with chicken mixture.
Refrigerate overnight. (The original recipe says 2 hours but I like it better the next day). Also, if you are like me you will think that 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt is just too much but trust me and go ahead and follow the recipe exactly. When I tried to cut back the flavor was just not as great.

Shared On:
Homemaker's Challenge

Friday, March 28, 2014

No Bake Cookies (A Family Tradition)

Christmas Eve growing up was ALWAYS my favorite night of the year. We would head over to my Grandparent's (Ma-Maw and Pa-Paw) house and meet up with my mother's other 5 siblings and their kids for a family meal and presents!

I can still to this day recall that excited feeling that I would have ALL DAY long! The clock seemed to move so slow and the day felt like it was never going to end. And then somehow, almost magically, Mom would call for me to get my coat and we would head out the door. The best times were when it was snowing and the houses in the neighborhood were lit up with multicolored lights. In my mind's eye everything was beautiful and perfect. We would pull up to the house and the drive-way would be filled with cars, the windows would be steamed up from all the cooking and baking that went on in the house ALL DAY long! Their would be lights and laughter and presents and JUNK FOOD!

We ate buffet style and so once I was old enough to fix my own plate I bypassed the ham, noodles, and deviled eggs for BUCKEYES, FUDGE, AND NO BAKE COOKIES! My Aunt Shali makes the best No Bakes in the world. And still to this day it would not be Christmas Eve without an Aunt Shali No Bake.

I have to make them myself now that we have moved to Florida. The North Family Christmas parties have been over for a long time now. Siblings moved away, kids grew up, there were divorces, and deaths, and LIFE just changes. Of course, we still try and get together on Christmas Eve (from our own little corners of the world) but it will NEVER be like it was. Those perfect (if only in my mind) nights of gently falling snow, laughter, lights, Christmas trees, presents, and FAMILY!

But every Christmas Eve when I put out the Buckeyes and Aunt Shali No Bakes, my mind races back in time to Christmas Eve's long gone and I remember faces, and smells, and sounds, and sights that bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart. And as I pick up a No Bake and take that first chocolaty bite for just a second I am 5 years old again and all the world is right and it's the BEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR!

Aunt Shali No Bake Cookies (a Family Tradition)
Aunt Shali  No Bakes

2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups quick cooking oats (make sure you use the quick cooking)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Bring sugar, cocoa, milk and butter to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
As soon as it starts to boil, remove from heat and stir in vanilla, peanut butter, and oats. Mix well!
Drop by tablespoons (I use a medium cookie scoop and then flatten with the back of it) onto waxed paper.
Let cool!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Amish Baked Chicken

This is my NEW "Go To" recipe for chicken. We all love this chicken. It is juicy, flavorful, pretty simple, and Finger-Lickin' good!

I have made it for company (so you know it's good) and it never fails to impress.

Now I am going to give a disclaimer on this recipe: I bake it on a stone with sides (Pampered Chef: Bar Pan) so if you do not have a stone I have no idea how this chicken will turn out! For me, the skin is crunchy and flavorful and the chicken meat is juicy and tender. If you bake it in a pan or some other way please leave me a comment and let me know how it turns out.

Amish Baked Chicken
Amish Baked Chicken (Original Recipe

1/2 cup flour
1/2 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
6 bone-in chicken thighs
3 bone-in chicken breasts

In a shallow pie pan combine flour and spices. Blend well!

Dredge chicken in flour mixture and then place on baking stone skin side down. I use two stones, one for the thighs and one for breasts.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (mine always takes the whole 60 minutes). Flip chicken once, half way through cooking.

Shared on:
Make Your Home Sing
Think Tank Thursday
Wise Woman Linkup
Homemaking Linkup
DIY Accomplished 
Saturday Night Fever 
Meal Planning Monday

I do not work for nor do I sell Pampered Chef. I just love their stones and use them every single day!  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pretzels In Downtown Disney

I took the kids over to Downtown Disney on Saturday because we were having "Disney Withdraw" but I was afraid to go to an actual park because of my knee. I knew that if we went early enough in the day we would get a close parking spot and that the stores/walkways would not be crowded.

We arrived around 10 a.m. and I was not disappointed at all. I parked fairly close and the only store that was crowded was "World Of Disney" (which is always crowded). We headed over to Ghirardelli for our FREE sample of chocolate! One day I am going to buy a bag of that sinfully good chocolate and eat the whole thing myself (okay I'm not going to eat the whole thing myself, but I will want to).

Then we walked around and enjoyed the sunshine and the "feeling" of being at Disney! And because our minds are now always on our upcoming Disney Vacation we stopped at a few of the food places to see what snacks we could get with our dining plan.

After about an hour and a half of walking around I decided I had better not push my knee much further (the last thing I need is a relapse) and so we headed for the car. I knew the kids were quite let down about being so close to the Disney Magic and not getting to ride a ride or see a character and so as we headed for the exit I stopped at Wetzel's Pretzels for a quick (small) snack to hold us over till we got home and had some lunch. 
Little Sticks of Soft Pretzels

I ordered the "Original Bitz" for us to try. Think small sticks of soft pretzel. We had never had Wetzel's before but we are huge fans of Auntie Anne's pretzels and so we figured if Anne can make a good pretzel then surely Wetzel's at Disney would be even better.

And while the pretzel part was good (almost as good as our Dear Auntie Anne) they lacked BUTTER and SALT! I think what makes Auntie Anne's pretzels so amazing is that you literally LICK the butter off of your fingers after eating one. No need for napkins at Wetzel's that is for sure. And I ended up digging in the bottom of the bag for more salt to put on my "stick".

Our Bag of Sticks

And at $5.43 (I forgot to use my Passholder Discount- DUH) for a bag of about 15 sticks I really didn't feel that I got my money's worth.  As you can see from the picture either the bag is big or the portions are small (you decide).

Now in all fairness, we did not try one of their actual pretzels (which might very well be BUTTERY AND SALTY) and so I will not pass judgement on all of Wetzel's Pretzels. But I can tell you that if I am ever craving a pretzel I will be heading to see Auntie Anne at my local mall and skipping the trip to Downtown Disney.

I guess I should have just went ahead and splurged on that Ghirardelli chocolate after all!
No Complaints From This One!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Disney Dining Reservations Made (173 Days To Go)

Goofy Brings Out the Goofy In Us All
All the reservations have been made! Excitement is really starting to build around here. We have looked over menus, searched for pictures on Google, and planned and re-planned what we will be ordering.

We have counted or snacks and made lists of our "MUST HAVE" ones. I have also learned that when you have a "Sugar" kid 12 snacks at Walt Disney World does not go as far as one might think! And when you have a "Carnivore" kid there are not a whole lot of snacks that satisfy his need for BACON!

Some of the restaurants we will be dining at are OLD favorites and some are NEW adventures. I think we have a great mix of the two. Of course in all the years that we have been going to Disney and eating at Disney we can count on one hand the number of bad meals we have had.

Our vacation starts on a Sunday and when you are on the dining plan you must check into your hotel before you can eat because your meals are on your Magic Band. So we will only be eating two meals the first day. Sunday is also the first of our two EPCOT days.

Tyler Loved Coral Reef (Can You Tell?)
This is a new place for us, though we have walked by it a number of times. We think the decor looks amazing and the food looks simple and good! 
We have eaten here one other time (Tyler's Vacation) and we LOVED it! The atmosphere is amazing, the front wall is the aquarium in Living with the Seas. The food is great and when we ate here before the service was outstanding. This is definitely one of the places we are excited to go back to. The price of this restaurant is what has kept us away for so long.

Monday is our first of two Magic Kingdom days and also a very heavy food day. 3 meals this day and one is a buffet.

Pluto Makes Everyone Smile!
Breakfast: CHEF MICKEY'S
If you remember I said that we learned not to eat at buffets when you are on the dining plan but there are exceptions to every rule and Chef Mickey's is our exception. No Disney Vacation is complete (or birthday for that matter) without a trip to the Contemporary Resort for Breakfast with "THE MOUSE". (I say breakfast because one of the worst meals we have ever had at Disney was Chef Mickey's for dinner) We have eaten here many, many, many times and we always recommend to anyone that wants to know to add this spot to your vacation. Especially if you are like us and have a "Sugar" fiend in your family. This is also one of the most amazing places to celebrate a birthday! You get a "Happy Birthday" placemat, a card signed by the characters, a birthday cupcake, and every 30 minutes or so they do a Happy Birthday song with waving napkins and Mickey himself is there (along with a few of his other friends) to help you celebrate in true Disney style.
Another one of our favorite places to go and eat. The prices are great (for Disney) and the portions are fantastic. Also, THIS IS THE BEST PLACE AT WALT DISNEY WORLD TO GET MILKSHAKES (in our humble opinion, and that we have found so far). So even though we have eaten here many many times we are really looking forward to this meal!
This is a new restaurant to us and one that we are very much looking forward to.

Tuesday is our day at Hollywood Studios and we are super excited for this day. We LOVE Fantasmic (the night show) and we feel that one of the best rides at Disney is "Toy Story Mania".

Breakfast: NO BREAKFAST!
Another one of our favorite Disney Eateries. Being a woman obsessed with the 50's I have to tell you I love the decor of this restaurant more than I love the food. Don't get me wrong the food is good but the atmosphere steals the show! Black and white TV's, Formica tables, nick-knacks galore, and a view-finder menu of desserts! They could serve me a cold bowl of soup in this place and I would be happy!
Another one of our favorite places to dine in "The World". Good food, hearty portions, and great service keep us coming back to this ristorante again and again.

Wednesday is our second day at EPCOT (usually Wednesday is our hotel day but with the Food and Wine Festival starting on Friday we needed to get EPCOT finished early in the week).

Breakfast: NO BREAKFAST!
In the Japan Pavilion is one of my children's favorite places to dine in EPCOT. It is a Japanese Steakhouse (the kind where they cook the food right on your table) and my husband and I both think there are better hibachi restaurants outside of Disney but this is not our vacation so we will be dining here.
This is a NEW one for us and one that the "Carnivores" in our family are REALLY looking forward to. I think to date this has been the most looked at menu of all the restaurants and the most drooled over by far.

Thursday is our hotel day! After our first MAJOR Disney vacation I made a rule that in the middle of the vacation there would be a NO PARK day. It would be a day that we stayed around the resort, slept in, took pictures, ventured over to Downtown Disney, and basically just relaxed. This has quickly become one of my favorite days. I love the slow pace, the time together with no where important to be, and the chance to catch my breath after days and days of hurry up and wait!

Breakfast: NO BREAKFAST!
Lunch: T-REX
This is one of our go to restaurant at Disney too. We have eaten here many times and are never disappointed. The atmosphere is wonderful, the food hearty, the portions amazing, and the prices are reasonable (for Disney).
I am super excited to eat in this NEW to us restaurant. Not because of the food (I have looked over the menu and don't see anything that I WANT to eat), but because of the restaurant itself. This restaurant is actually in what appears to be an old steamboat and I think it's going to have the most amazing decor. I am sure that I will be taking lots of pictures so I won't even have time to eat.

Friday is our day at Animal Kingdom. And I have to admit this day (food wise) is the one I am most looking forward too. It's a three meal day (Not looking forward to that) but we are going to be eating at my three FAVORITE Disney restaurants.

Tyler and His Favorite DUCK!
This is one of the few places in Disney World where you can eat with Donald Duck (my oldest has loved Donald for as long as he has been alive). And so we have eaten here many many times! One of the reasons I love this restaurant so much is the fact that when my almost MAN sees that white fluffy duck he turns back into that little boy again with shiny eyes and bright smile. And I get to see real Disney Magic! Because there is nothing more magical in all the world than seeing your "grown-up" child become an innocent little boy again. And the food is pretty good too!

Mango Pie (Be Still My Heart)
Hands down this is the whole families FAVORITE restaurant in Walt Disney World. The food is beyond amazing. I would eat at Yak and Yeti every single time I entered the gates of Animal Kingdom if the prices were not so high. This restaurant is a splurge (that we have done a few times) but oh so worth it! And if you go YOU MUST try the Mango Pie (but don't ask for the recipe, it's not made on sight) it is by far the best pie ever made!
This is our most frequented sit down restaurant at Disney. There is something on the menu for everyone, you can (almost) always get a table, and the decor is fantastic. The food is however hit or miss. We have had amazing meals here and we have so-so meals here (never bad). I always always always get the Nachos and the deep fried lasagna (it is a must try for sure).

Saturday the very last day (I'm sad just writing about it) and our second day at Magic Kingdom.

Another one of our "love to eat at" places in Disney. The atmosphere is wonderful and the food is always good. The desserts here are amazing.
Nothing Like a Minnie Kiss!
Even though we have only ever eaten here one other time (Tyler's Disney Vacation) my children and my husband still talk about this meal. And they are so excited to be going back here again. I saved it for the last day (because that's what we did for Tyler's vacation) so that we would know for sure that the last meal would last in our minds.

So there you have it all of our meals planned out and reservations made! Now we just have to wait the 173 days before we get to start eating!