everyday food made simple

My little boy turned FOUR yesterday! Can you believe it? I can’t. I can’t believe we’ve had this little rascal for pretty much four years already.

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He may be the best decision both Brian and I have made together. Even though him and I had a little rough start during his first year (there was a alpha-struggle in the beginning as well as a minor anxiety attack that almost made me give him back to his breeder), he has grown into such a loving happy boy that we can no longer imagine our lives without him.

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He has so much personality, bring us so much joy, makes me look forward to coming home after a long day of work, pushes our limits at times, tests our patience, and has taught us how to be good, caring, loving parents. Our love for him really is unconditional, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be the best big brother for our little nugget.

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So to keep up with tradition, I’ve decided to make him some yummy homemade treats to celebrate his birthday.

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Bentley was not shy at helping himself to a couple of these during the photo shoot…

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You can find treats (and other dog-friendly treats) from previous years here.

He also got two brand new toys that has kept him occupied for two days straight.

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(yes, he’s spoiled…)

Just like all the other dog treats I’ve made in the past, these pretzels don’t contain any butter, sugar, artificial flavors, or preservatives of any kind. It’s cheap, easy to make, and you know exactly what goes in it. Not to mention they’re almost cute enough for people to eat! And I bet you probably have most of the ingredients sitting around in your pantry already!

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So go ahead and make these for your beloved four-legged friends, even if it’s not their birthday. Shouldn’t their constant companionship and unconditional love for you deserve something as tasty as homemade dog treats?

peanut butter, apple, and oats dog pretzels
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
  2. 3/4 cup quick cooking oats
  3. 1 large egg, beaten
  4. 1 cup all natural (no sugar added) applesauce
  5. 3 teaspoons peanut butter - make sure it does NOT contain xylitol
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour and oats and mix well. Add in all but 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg to the flour, reserving the rest of the egg for later. Then add in the applesauce and peanut butter.
  3. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together (I actually found it easier to use my hands to incorporate all the ingredients). The dough should not be sticky to the point where it sticks to your hands. If it is, add in a few tablespoons of flour and mix some more until the dough is pliable and not sticky.
  4. Scoop the dough using a medium cookie scoop (~1.5 tablespoons) and roll the dough into an approximate 10" rope. Shape the "rope" of dough into a U shape, then take the ends of the "U" and fold it back down, cross-crossing it in the middle to form it into a pretzel. Repeat for the rest of the dough.
  5. Once all the pretzels are made, brush the tops with the remaining 1 tablespoon of beaten egg. Bake for 25-30 minutes until pretzels are hard and golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wired cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
  6. Makes 18 pretzels
Notes
  1. * Some dogs may have allergies to certain ingredients - consult your veterinarian prior to making these if this is the case.
Adapted from The Cookie Rookie
Adapted from The Cookie Rookie
Simple Everyday Food http://www.simpleeverydayfood.com/
Recipe adapted from The Cookie Rookie

© Simple Everyday Food. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use any of my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or kindly link back to this post for the recipe.

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Happy New Year, friends!

golden oreo cupcakes

To say that it’s been a while would be an understatement, so thank you for sticking with me and following along despite the fact that SEF has been on a long hiatus since May of 2015.

The main reason why it’s been a little quiet on the blogging front is because I’ve been a leeeetle preoccupied with something else in our life right now. Something that’s been taking up most of my energy..

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Yep, we found out we were expecting a little bundle of joy (it’s a BOY!) not too long after we came back from our Taiwan trip last May, so instead of spending time blogging, I’ve been spending my energy shoving donuts and cinnamon rolls in my face and taking multiple naps on the couch for the past 9 months.

I can’t promise that there will be regular posts on SEF once the baby is born, but I’ll do my best to make an appearance on here every once in a while in between the messy hair, sleepless nights, and multiple diaper changes.

Now that we’ve got the big news out of the way, did everyone have a fabulous holiday season filled with family, friends, fun, and food? I hope so. Our holiday season this year was pretty low-key considering I’ve been achy, tired, and uncomfortable pretty much 24/7. Putting up Christmas decorations and planning a feast and making a few dozen Christmas cookies just seemed way too exhausting while carrying around a 6+ pound bowling ball.

To celebrate the beginning of 2016, let’s start the year off on the right note – cupcakes!

Diet? Diet schm-iet. You can resume your healthy diet after you make these cupcakes!

golden oreo cupcakes

golden oreo cupcakes

These golden Oreo cupcakes are made with a little help from a box of yellow cake mix. Each cupcake is lined with a golden Oreo on the bottom as a surprise, and is topped with homemade fresh whipped cream frosting.

golden oreo cupcakes

golden oreo cupcakes

IMPORTANT: Because the whipped cream frosting uses heavy cream as one of its main ingredients, I would recommend either making and piping the frosting right before serving. If you prefer to make the frosting ahead of time, transfer the frosting into a piping bag, store it in the refrigerator and pipe onto cupcakes when they’re ready to be served.

golden oreo cupcakes

golden oreo cupcakes

I brought these to work and they were a huge hit! Everyone loved the little Oreo surprise on the bottom and people raved about the fluffy frosting that had just the right amount of sweetness to it.

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Thank you again for everyone’s support throughout the past few years and sticking with me even when posts have been scarce – let’s make 2016 a good one!

golden oreo cupakes with whipped cream frosting
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For the cupcakes
  1. 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  2. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  3. 1/2 cup sour cream
  4. 1 cup skim milk
  5. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  6. 1 box yellow cake mix (I used a 15.25 oz box from Betty Crocker)
  7. 1 package (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
  8. 24-26 Golden Oreos
For the frosting
  1. 2 cups heavy cream
  2. 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  3. 1/3 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. 24-26 mini Golden Oreos, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners and place a Golden Oreo in each liner. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, sour cream, milk, and oil. Beat over medium speed until combined. Then slowly add in the cake mix and pudding mix and beat until just combined. Spoon about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons worth of batter into each liner.
  3. Turn your oven down to 350 right before you place the cupcakes in. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (mine took exactly 20 minutes). Remove from oven and cool for about 5 minutes before transferring them onto a wired cooling rack to cool completely.
  4. Right before you're ready to serve the cupcakes, make the frosting: beat the heavy cream over medium-high speed then gradually increase the speed to high (I used the splash guard that came with my mixer to prevent splatters all over my kitchen walls). Add in the powdered sugar, pudding mix, and vanilla extract, and continue to beat the mixture on high for about 5 minutes, or until frosting looks pale and fluffy. Pipe onto cupcakes prior to serving and top with a mini Oreo.
  5. Makes 24-26 cupcakes
Notes
  1. Because this frosting uses heavy whipping cream, the piped cupcakes cannot be stored at room temperature. I transferred the frosting into a piping bag, stored it in the refrigerator, then piped the cupcakes (as many as needed) right before serving.
  2. Otherwise the unpiped cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Adapted from Living Better Together
Simple Everyday Food http://www.simpleeverydayfood.com/
Recipe adapted from Living Better Together

© Simple Everyday Food. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use any of my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or kindly link back to this post for the recipe.

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A few weeks ago, I crossed one more thing off of my culinary bucket list: homemade pastry cream. I made some Boston cream pie cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday, and I was surprised at how easy it actually was to make pastry cream from scratch.

After it was all said and done, I was left with four egg whites sitting in a bowl on my kitchen counter. I had an internal conversation with myself regarding what to do with them: tossing them down the drain was out of the question. Maybe an egg white scramble for breakfast? Orrrrr…. I could make meringue cookies.

Yes! Meringue cookies. Now the big question: what kind of meringue cookies? Since Memorial Day is around the corner and summer is soon approaching, how about something that screams “summer”? That’s when I remembered that little bottle of root beer extract I bought last year, tucked all the way in the back of my “extracts” bin (yes, I have a bin just for extracts).

ROOT BEER MERINGUE COOKIES, you guys!

…Sorry, I’m yelling. But seriously, it can’t be any fancier and cooler than that, can it?

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You know how there are certain things and smells that remind you of something? Well, as these babies were baking in the oven, my entire house smelled like root beer, which totally reminded me of sipping on an ice cold glass of root beer on a hot summer day and how much I wish it was 85 degrees and sunny outside at the time.

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If you’re not familiar with making meringue cookies, I have a few tips that I’ve learned based on past personal experiences that I talk about here. And in case you’re not familiar with meringue cookies, they’re not the kind of “cookie” that comes to mind; instead, they’re light, slightly crunchy, and melt right in your mouth as soon as you bite into it. Think of it like a fancy cookie that fancy people eat, except it’s not at all difficult to make whatsoever.

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Make these for your family and friends to impress them – each batch easily makes at least 60-80 of these cookies so there will be plenty to pass around, plus I swear you can never just eat one!

root beer meringue cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  2. 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  3. Pinch of salt
  4. 1 cup granulated sugar
  5. 2 teaspoons root beer extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt starting on medium speed for a few seconds, then gradually increasing the speed to medium high. Beat for 1-2 minutes or until soft peaks form*.
  3. Turn your mixer to high and add in the granulated sugar into the egg white mixture, one spoonful at a time (about 1 tablespoon) until gone. Beat the mixture for 5 minutes until stiff peaks form**. Add in the root beer extract and beat until combined.
  4. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag with a large open star. Pipe meringues about 1" apart and bake for 60 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the meringues stand in the closed oven overnight. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 5 days.
Notes
  1. *Soft peaks = tips curl when you lift the whisk straight up
  2. **Stiff peaks = tips stand straight up when you lift the whisk straight up
Simple Everyday Food http://www.simpleeverydayfood.com/
© Simple Everyday Food. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use any of my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or kindly link back to this post for the recipe.

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asparagus pasta salad

Just less than 24 hours ago, we came back home from a two-week long vacation in Taiwan to visit my family. We had so much fun doing touristy things, taking little vacations during our vacation, eating everything in sight, visiting extended family, and spending time with my parents and my sister that I haven’t seen in years.

We were sad to leave, but we were also excited to hurry home and see my favorite boy. We sure missed him! But thank goodness for good friends who were willing to watch him and give him the love and attention he needed while we were gone.

asparagus pasta salad

asparagus pasta salad

We avoided the super hot and humid tropical weather this time around, but everyday was still a warm 80+ degrees with occasional rain storms and more than enough humidity.

Some days when it was sunny and hot, all I craved for was some summery light pasta salad. Like this one, which happens to use lots of bright summer vegetables and dressed with a light Italian vinaigrette. It can be eaten as a light meal, a snack, or as a side dish; it can be eaten cold or at room temperature – it’s so perfect for summer!

asparagus pasta salad

asparagus pasta salad

Are you ready for a confession? I can’t remember if I’ve ever made pasta salad before.

Yep, you heard me right. I’ve made potato salad and creamy broccoli/cauliflower salad before, but never have I made pasta salad from scratch, let alone one with a homemade dressing.

As far as I remember, the only kind of pasta salad I’ve ever made were from boxes that come with a packet of seasoning mix… I should totally be ashamed of myself.

So to redeem myself from being judged, today’s simple pasta salad only requires a few ingredients; you probably already have most of the ingredients for the dressing sitting in your cupboard right now!

asparagus pasta salad

asparagus pasta salad

asparagus pasta salad     

pasta salad with italian dressing
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For the dressing
  1. 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  2. 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  3. 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  5. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  6. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste (optional)
  7. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the salad
  1. 2-3 cups uncooked pasta (I used small bowtie pasta)
  2. 1 pound asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
  3. 2/3 cup diced red onions
  4. 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  5. 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk. Set aside.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heat. Add in the pasta for the amount of time as directed on the box, minus one minute. Stir occasionally. Add in the asparagus in with the pasta and cook for an additional minute. Drain and rinse pasta and asparagus under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the red onions, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese, then add in the pasta and asparagus. Drizzle the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to combine. Pasta salad can be served cold or at room temperature.
  4. Serves 6-8
Adapted from Just A Taste
Adapted from Just A Taste
Simple Everyday Food http://www.simpleeverydayfood.com/
Recipe adapted from Just A Taste

© Simple Everyday Food. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use any of my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or kindly link back to this post for the recipe.

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1. Brian and I always joke that when we retire, we’re going to plan a road trip and travel across America. Apparently someone was reading our minds and came up with a perfect road trip for us.

2. This list kind of made me chuckle. I haven’t personally experienced a whole lot this, but I do catch myself talking a whole lot about the weather here on SEF. And for the record, the Minnesota State Fair is NOT stupid.

3. Looking for a summer book list? Here’s 16 books that apparently you should read and will love. I’ve read a few on here and have a few on my to-read list, but I don’t know if I would consider Gone Girl a personal favorite…

4. Healthy freezer-friendly breakfast sandwiches that can be made ahead of time? I foresee a lot of these in my future. I’m pretty sure I can eat breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos every morning for the rest of my life.

5. Pretzels are on my baking bucket list and I actually have a few pretzel recipes saved in my recipe box, but when I saw these sweet almond ones, I knew these would have to be the first ones I ever make.

6. I’m really really sad that our Kitchen Aid ice cream maker broke last year. Because this. I want to make this. Or can someone make this for me?

7. Scallops and shrimp and pasta? Holy yum. I need to make this sometime. Except I haven’t cooked with artichoke hearts before. I like spinach artichoke dip, so I think I’ll like it from a jar?

8. Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of some of the best food trucks in the U.S. – did your favorite make the list? Last summer we went to a food truck festival in Minneapolis that was loads of fun that I’m sure we’ll be doing again this year.

Have a good rest of the week, friends!

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