Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Learning French: Greetings, Gratitude, and Goodbyes

French Chapter 1: Lesson 1-4

I was super excited to learn French! I was buzzing with excitement with anticipation with an upcoming trip, and my husband was on board to learn with me. Learning a language is so much better when you have a buddy!

I was shocked at first at how hard it was to pronounce words correctly! We were laughing together when they went over the conversation in the beginning, thinking "what did we get ourselves into!" But after the lesson, we understood the conversation and were giving ourselves high fives. Here is what we learned:

Grammar Lesson:
Sometimes in English when we talk about how someone is doing, we use good and well interchangeably.  In French you will always use bien, well, to describe how someone is feeling, so be sure to use this word regardless of how we say it in English. Salut is more informal, but is used very often.  We use it to both greet someone and say goodbye. Ça va is used to ask How are you? and to answer I'm fine. Sometimes in English when we talk about how someone is doing, we use good and well interchangeably.  In French you will always use bien, well, to describe how someone is feeling, so be sure to use this word regardless of how we say it in English. When used in the beginning of a sentence, bon, which actually means good, corresponds to Well... in English.
Practice outside of Mango: There are so many options with French, so try not to do too much. This will prevent you from moving on, and you will get overwhelmed. You can always go back to if you are struggling with a certain thing and have a more targeted approach on what you specifically need help with.

  • I've created a memrise course to go over and practice the vocabulary used on the Mango app.
  • Download a list of Chapter 1's vocabulary list.
  • Alexa does a great job diving into the greetings we learn on Mango and expanding and providing alternative greetings. 
  • Take a coffee break and practice your French! Coffee break's lesson 1 is a good match with Mango Lesson 1, and free! This is particularly good if you are craving a classroom format. 
  • Consider creating a free FrenchPod101 account! If you are like me and have only done Lesson 1 of the Mango app, start at the Absolute Beginner level. This should guide you to begin the "Master Level 1 French" lesson. 
  • If you are stuck somewhere and just want to do some light reading, French Together's website has a great detailed write up on the different ways to say hello! Check it out!
Realistic Me
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Monday, November 5, 2018

Fabulous Make Ahead Dinner Rolls

I'm a huge fan of the freezer. Anything I can do ahead of time and just pull out of the freezer is my go to. It's such an under-utilized tool in the kitchen, and ends up just being a storage space for most. I like to clean mine out and fill it with recipes like this.

Dinner Rolls

Why I like this recipe: 

  • It can be made a month ahead of time! I make these in the beginning of November and then pull them out 3 hours before Thanksgiving dinner. 
  • The rolls turn out perfect every, single time! Some bread recipes can be fussy and not rise one time and then be a showstopper another. This one provides me with consistent results. 
  • These rolls can be served with any type of meal: Thanksgiving, southern style, pasta, chicken etc. Very versatile in how many meals they can complement!
Dinner Roll Ingredients
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1 1/2 cup milk (whole or half and half)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4 Tbsp shortening (can use butter if you don't have)
  • 5 - 5 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, plus 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water
To begin, place the oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Once preheated, turn the oven off and try to minimize the amount of times you open the oven door. Using butter, grease a large bowl and a 9x13 pan lined with foil. 

Place milk, honey, butter, and shortening in a microwave proof bowl, and heat for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes, until the mixture reaches approximately 110 degrees. Do not overheat the milk as that will prevent the rolls from rising. Whisk together until all the butter and shortening is melted. 

Milk, honey, butter, and shortening

In a mixer with a dough hook, add 4 1/2 cups of flour, salt, and yeast (make sure the salt and yeast are on separate sides of the bowl, like the picture below). Turn the mixer on low, and slowly add the milk mixture until combined, approximately 1 min. Increase the speed to medium and add the egg, allowing the dough to come together until it's smooth, about 2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup of flour and mix for 6-7 minutes on medium. The dough should be smooth and have a shine; if it's sticky or wet, add up to 1/2 cup of flour more. 

Keep salt and yeast separate

On an un-floured surface, knead the dough by hand (1 -2 minutes). Once it's together in a ball and smooth, place in the greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the oven. The dough will prove for 50 - 60 minutes, and should double in size. 

Knead the dough

Once done proving, place the dough on a floured surface. Punch the dough down, and place on a scale. Divide the weight of the dough by 15, and you will have the weight of one roll. Measure each piece and roll into a ball, making sure the top is nice and smooth. Place each roll into the foil lined pan (the rolls should be lightly touching each other) and cover with plastic wrap. Place the pan in the oven, and allow the rolls to double in size (50 - 60 minutes). 

Rolled dinner rolls

Once the rolls are done proving, take them out of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Take off the plastic wrap, and brush the egg mixture on top of each roll. Make sure to get the egg wash on the sides of the rolls that are visible at the top. Once the oven is ready, bake the rolls for 25 - 30 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the bottoms are cooked. I take the rolls out of the pan and gently pull down the foil to confirm the bottoms are cooked fully. 

Once the rolls are done, allow them to cool with the foil lining for 1 hour. After an hour, remove the foil and let the rolls cool for 2 hours. Once they are fully cool, they rolls should be wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil, before placing in the freezer. They can be kept in the freezer up to a month. 

The day of "roll consumption," take them out of the freezer and allow to thaw for 2 hours. Remove the plastic wrap and re-wrap them in the foil. Warm the rolls at 375 degrees for 30 minutes and serve warm.

Make Ahead Dinner Rolls

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Grandma's Icebox Lemon Pie

This cake is a staple in my house, and is a must for any summer birthday, party, baby shower... (the list goes on and on). It is simple to make and can be done a day ahead to save on precious time!

Grandma's Icebox Lemon Pie

Why I like this recipe: 

  • You can make this recipe the day ahead of the event you plan on serving the pie. Even better, the pie gets better with time. The flavors even out and have time to shine!
  • This recipe may seem long; however, the actual prep time is minimal. Much of the time is when the pie or crust is cooling. You can slip away to do other important things while the pie does all the work in the fridge!
  • No decorating is needing to make this look fantastic. Simply spreading the whip cream over the pie is the finishing touch, and takes little skill.
  • This recipe was been perfected over generations, and tastes deliciously rich and fresh!
Icebox Lemon Pie

  • 9 graham crackers
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 5 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 cans (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk 
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup and 2 Tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with the rack positioned in the middle. 

Blend the graham crackers and sugar into the food processor for approximately 30 seconds. Add the butter and process for 8 pulses, until the butter is fully combined with the crumbs. Put the mixture in a 9 inch pie pan, and press down on the bottom and sides. (I have found hands work best for this step) Bake until slightly brown and fragrant, approximately 15 minutes. Allow the crust to cool for 30 minutes. 
Graham Cracker Crust

Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Place 3 tablespoons of condensed milk and the vanilla extract in a small container and set aside. Whisk the remaining condensed milk and eggs, until it has a smooth texture, about 1 minute. Slowly add the lemon juice to the mixture, and once fully combined, pour over the cooled crust. Bake for 15 minutes. When the edges are set, but the rest is slightly wobbly, take out of the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour. 
Lemon Pie in Oven

Then add the pie to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. Right before you are ready to serve take the cream and the condensed milk and vanilla you added to a container into a mixer, and whisk for 2 minutes over high. Once it is whipped cream, spread over the pie, and eat!

Finished Icebox Lemon Pie

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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Paleo - No Really - Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

My husband and I occasionally will go on a Paleo kick, and we really do enjoy the positives of the diet. However, sometimes I just want a damn cookie! This would mean either breaking the diet, (which is a slippery slope once you've re-taste the wonders of gluten) or eating fruit miserably, trying to pretend it is the same thing. Now we have discovered this recipe, and my time for complaining is no more! 
Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Why I like this recipe:
  • A "Paleo-lite" house could have all the ingredients for this recipe. The first time I made it, I didn't need to run to the grocery store and buy some obscure ingredient. Almond and coconut flour are the special ingredients, and I typically have them handy. 
  • In addition to the ingredients being readily available, they are pretty minimal. Making the prep time complete in a few easy steps. 
  • Measuring out the almond and coconut flour is really for the best results, but it also eliminates measuring cups to wash. Seems like a small detail, but you tell that to the person in charge of dishes! 
  • Now I'm not going to say that these are just like the real thing. The website says realistic, and I plan to stick to it. However, they are pretty darn close! 
  • This recipe has make ahead options in addition to being Paleo! See below for the make ahead options. 

  • 2 cups (200 grams) almond flour
  • 2 Tbsp (14 grams) coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt, preferably sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup pure chocolate chips
Take the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt and mix until completely combined. In a small bowl mix together the vanilla, oil, and syrup, then slowly add to the dry ingredients while your mixer is on low (or by hand). Add the chocolate chips, cover, and put the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 

Paleo Dough Mixing

Right before you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Level a tablespoon with dough, and make into a 1 inch ball. Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway. Allow the cookies cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Finished Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Make Ahead: 
  • You can make the dough ahead of time and put it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. That way right before you have guest coming over, you can pop them in the oven, and serve warm cookies while your house smells amazing!
  • Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container for a week, or frozen for up to a month. 
Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies
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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Fast and Easy Grilled Chicken Wings

I don't know what it is, I absolutely love wings. I know it isn't very culinary or fancy; however, they just make me so happy. Normally I would have to go out to a pub to get some good wings, but I would leave with a heavy bar tab and not feeling like it was worth the money! Here is my remedy to this situation, and to make it even better, it is fast and easy!
Fast and Easy Chicken Wings

Why I love this recipe:

  • This seems like a silly reason, but I only use two measuring spoons for the whole recipe. Aka...less dishes, less thought: just through in a teaspoon or a half teaspoon of that in there!
  • The grill keeps the heat out of the house on hot summer days. 
  • I also claim I do not know how to work the grill, so my husband does all the cooking. Shhh....don't tell him I really do! 
  • These wings aren't heavy, and the recipe is actually pretty healthy! It doesn't leave you feeling like you will have to run miles to work off what you just ate.
  • They come out so crispy, it is just like they were fried! This way you don't have the oil, and potential fire hazard of frying yourself!
  • You can double, triple, or quadruple this recipe and make it for a crowd! Looks like a lot of work, but it really isn't! If you have an event, it is a cheap way to provide amazing food!
Wings on the Grill

  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 2 pounds chicken wings or drumsticks
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional
Mix the water and salt in a large bowl and then place the chicken in the water. Cover and let the chicken brine in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes. 

Dry Rub Spices for Wings

While the chicken is in the fridge, mix all the remaining seasons together in a small bowl. Don't be alarmed that the seasons all together look "pale." They brighten up once you put them on the chicken. 

Wings Ready to Go

Heat your grill accordingly (gas: heat for 15 min on high), then turn down to medium-low. Place the wings skin side up, and cook for 10-12 minutes. Flip the chicken, and let the skin crisp up for 10 minutes more of cooking. Once removed from the gill, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. 

BBQ Wings for a Crowd

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