January 15, 2015

Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce

 "Can making your own marinara sauce really be that easy?"  That's what I was thinking when I came across this recipe for Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce from Recipe Tin Eats.  Could it really just take 5 minutes to throw everything in the slow cooker and then have a delicious, homemade marinara sauce ready that evening?  I already had all the ingredients in my pantry, so I decided to give it a try...

Ingredients (printable recipe)
4 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves, dried
1 Tablespoon brown sugar (I used dark)
1 Tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Set to low and cook 6-8 hours.
2. Remove bay leaves and use a handheld blender to puree until smooth or to your liking.
3. Cool before refrigerating or freezing. 
Makes about 8 cups.
This sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 week or in the freezer for 3 months.

Adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

Here's what goes into this sauce. There's also 2 garlic cloves that didn't make it into the picture.
It was super easy to throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning.
Here's the sauce after about 7 hours on low. I found the two bay leaves and took them out before I blended.
Blend, Blend, Blend
And that's it! Super easy, delicious, homemade marinara sauce.
The Results...
This was a hit! Everyone really liked this marinara sauce. We had this sauce with homemade breadsticks and with meatballs and pasta.  All together we give it 4 1/2 stars (out of 5).

Not only did this sauce taste terrific, but it really was so easy to put together.  Next time, I'm getting out my big slow cooker to make a double batch and put the extra sauce in the freezer.  I'm so glad I gave this recipe a try.  It's a keeper!

January 13, 2015

Orange Julius ~ Homemade

Happy New Year!  We're starting off the new year with a sweet, refreshing drink that I have loved since I was a child, Orange Julius

You don't have to drive to the mall or wait in line, because it's so easy to make this at home!

Ingredients (printable recipe)
6 ounces canned orange juice concentrate, frozen
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
10 ice cubes
Directions
Combine all ingredients (except ice cubes) in blender. Add ice cubes, 2 at a time and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Variations
1. Substitute a ripe banana instead of adding sugar to make an Orange-Banana Julius
2. Make Orange Julius popsicles by pouring into popsicle molds. (If you don't have popsicle molds, use a small (3 to 5  oz.) cup, let freeze slightly and add an wooden popsicle stick in the center. Then, let freeze completely. *Blend Orange Julius right before pouring into molds or cups to keep the mixture from separating.

Source: Mom

        For the 6 of us, I make two batches. So, I buy a 12 oz. can of frozen OJ concentrate. If I decide to make just one batch, I use half and put the lid back on and put the rest of the OJ back in the freezer for next time.
I made this batch with a ripe banana instead of adding sugar. It was yummy!
Nice and frothy. Just like the original.
If I have leftover Orange Julius, I pour it into popsicle molds and freeze it.
The kiddos love it this way! Makes a nice after school snack.
The Results...
My kiddos love this just as much as I did when I was little.  They get excited like I did when my mom would make this for me and my brothers.

My husband also likes this Orange Julius, except that it's a bit too sweet for him.  So, sometimes I reduce the amount of sugar to 1/4 cup or replace the sugar with a ripe banana and it is still delicious! 

December 3, 2014

Chocolate Mint Chip Bars

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I hope you did too!  After Thanksgiving, we spent the rest of the weekend decorating and shopping for Christmas.  We stayed home in our pajamas and did our shopping online.  We found some great deals and I'm so excited to see our kids' faces when they open their gifts this year!  Online shopping is the BEST!

It's time to start thinking about holiday goodies, too.  Each year, I try to stock the freezer with different kinds of cookie dough to have on hand for parties, gifts, guests and of course for Santa on Christmas eve.  This recipe makes one of our family's favorite cookies.  Technically, these are bars, but you can make them into cookies, if you want.  I wanted to save some time, so I just spread all the dough onto a large baking sheet to cook all at once.  If you're not a mint fan, these are equally delicious with peanut butter chips!

Ingredients (printable recipe)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups (10 oz. pkg.) Nestle winter dark chocolate and mint chips 
                                       OR Andes Baking Chips
Cooking spray
Directions
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside.
2. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in chocolate-mint chips.
3. Spray a 15 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 1 inch jelly roll pan. Spread batter into pan. Bake 15-20 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack; cut into bars.
Makes about 4 dozen bars

To make cookies instead of bars: Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-9 minutes. Do not overbake, cookies will be soft. They will puff while baking and flatten while cooling. Cool slightly and remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes about 54 cookies.

Adapted from Hershey's Kitchens

Dry ingredients
Butter, sugar with eggs and vanilla
Adding the chips to the batter
Spreading the batter into the pan
Rich chocolate bars with fresh minty chips
The Results...
We love the combination of fresh minty chips with the rich chocolate bars!

If you want to stock your freezer, shape cookie dough into a log, wrap well with plastic wrap (I usually use two layers), label and throw in the freezer until needed.  When you're ready to bake, thaw the cookie dough and spread onto your baking sheet for bars or drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet for cookies.  These cookies/bars are sure to be a hit with your friends and family, too!

More Favorite Cookies and Bars
cinnamon roll cookies
orange cranberry white chocolate chip cookies
heath bits peanut butter cookies
1-2-3 bars