May 2015 archive

Which Cornbread Mix to Buy

cornbread-muffinFor years I have been a loyal Marie Callender’s cornbread mix purchaser.  I stock up when Costco has the big bags in the fall and use them all year.  I do sometimes make cornbread from scratch (using this Corncake recipe), but most of the time I like the ease of a mix.  A few weeks ago I noticed that Famous Dave’s had come out with a cornbread mix.  We have loved eating at their restaurant for years and so I figured that I needed to try it and see if it compared to the Marie Callender’s one.  I also decided to throw a Betty Crocker mix into the taste test too, just to see if it would compare.  I had everyone in my family and some of my neighbors do a blind taste test and I was amazed to find the order that everyone picked was almost 100% unanimous.  Can you guess who the winner will be?

Cornbread-brandsAnneOpinion

famous-davesFamous Dave’s was a winner by a landside.  The only person who did not have it as their number one was my neighbor who is not a fan of sweet things.  The Famous Dave’s muffins cooked at the highest temperature which gave them a nice lightly browned edge and top.  The comment that I heard the most was that they tasted like they had honey on them.  I don’t know how they did it in a mix, but they really do taste like there is honey on them.  It was also a very moist muffin.  I would definitely recommend giving these a try.

 

marie-callendersMarie Callender’s was the middle choice for everyone.  They are still really good muffins (remember, they’ve been my go-to for years).  They cooked at the lowest temperature which resulted in a muffin with no browning at all.  They are super moist and cakelike.  Never a bad choice!

 

 

 

betty-crockerThe third place in our taste test goes to Betty Crocker.  These were still a good muffin.  They were not as sweet and were a little bit drier than the others too, but they were the top pick for one person.  If you like more of a southern style cornbread that isn’t as sweet, these might be the mix for you.  The one complaint that I had was that they all turned out looking kind of funky.  I used the same pan for all three muffin mixes and I cooked them according to the directions on the bag.  The weird shapes may have been a fluke, but since they came in third at my house, I probably won’t be buying them any time soon.

There’s the low down of our latest product comparison.  Remember, our taste tests are never sponsored by anyone, and all opinions expressed are those of AnneOpinion.

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How to Oil your Grill

I have been told for years that you should oil your grill before barbequing.  I have not listened.  Mostly because I only knew how to do it with a brush and I didn’t like cleaning the oil out of the brush and it always seemed to make a mess somehow.  I don’t know how, but it did.  So I have been content to grill and have part of my meat stick to the grate and I just figured that was a part of life.

That changed a couple of months ago when I saw a demonstration of how to oil your grill on Cooks Country.  It appealed to me right away because it involved soaking a paper towel in oil, grabbing said paper towel with tongs and then rubbing it on the grill to oil it and then the paper towel can get tossed in the trash.  No oily mess on the counter, or spilled bowl of oil or greasy brush to clean; you can see why I decided to try it!  I have been using this method religiously for the last two months (except when I made these hot dogs; I don’t know why I thought that I didn’t need to do it for hot dogs but you do) and I love it.  The meat and veggies get beautiful dark grill marks and part of them is not left on the grill when you flip them over.  Hallelujah!  Hope that this helps your BBQing experience!

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Hot Dogs- taken up a notch

hot-dogsI’ve been wanting to make these hot dogs from Plain Chicken for a long time.  Memorial Day seemed like the perfect excuse to try them out.  Barbequing is a requirement for us and hot dogs and hamburgers are always on the menu.  I’ve heard of many different kinds of topping that you can put on your hot dog but I never considered putting something on them before the grilling process.  Here’s what we thought of them if your looking to do something new this weekend.

AnneOpinion

When prepping the hot dogs you make slits down the side.  Make sure that these are more horizontal and not vertical.  I did some with one row of slits and some with two.  It didn’t seem to make a difference on flavor, so save yourself the trouble and only make one.

Make sure and oil your grill before putting the hot dogs on, otherwise the slits that you’ve cut will stick and tear off when grilling.  Yes that is personal experience talking.

These were super easy to make.  You start by putting the ingredients into a gallon sized bag, cut your hot dogs and then let them marinate for at least twenty minutes.  After that, it’s grilling time!  You could even prep them the day before so they’re ready to go when you need them.

When grilling these hot dogs they smell amazing!  Like, everyone in the neighborhood will smell the scent wafting over from your house and wish that they had been invited over for the fun.  If you’re having a party and want to get people excited for the food, cook these and they will be lining up.

When you actually try the hot dogs, they are really good, but the flavors were not as strong as I had hoped for.  Mild really.  I was disappointed that it wasn’t an “in your face flavor” but I’ve decided that the strong scent while they’re cooking outweighs the mild flavor and I’ll definitely be making them again!

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Hot Dogs- taken up a notch
Print Recipe
Servings
8 hot dogs
Servings
8 hot dogs
Hot Dogs- taken up a notch
Print Recipe
Servings
8 hot dogs
Servings
8 hot dogs
Ingredients
Servings: hot dogs
Instructions
  1. Mix the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and oil together in a gallon sized bag. Cut slits into the hot dog at an angle in 2 rows down, about 1/2 inch apart, cutting partway into the hot dog. The cuts should look like rounded half circles. Put the hot dogs into the bag and marinate for at least 20 minutes. Heat up grill. Oil the grill. Cook hot dogs until nicely charred, about 3-5 minutes. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes

AnneOpinion- Recipe from Plain Chicken

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No Mess Corn on the Cob

corn-on-the-cobI love corn on the cob and when I was growing up I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have it more than once or twice a summer.  Now that I’m a mom and have had the mess in my kitchen I completely understand and my family normally only has corn on the cob once or twice a year. Last summer, while visiting my husband’s family, my mother in law introduced me to a new way to cook corn on the cob, and it has been life changing.  I now feel like I can have corn on the cob whenever I want.  You won’t believe how easy it is.

Step 1:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place corn (in husks) on a baking sheet.

Step 2:  Place corn in the oven for 30 minutes.

Step 3: Remove corn from the oven.  Pull off the silk and husks (which will come off together, very easily and will not make a mess of silk strings everywhere) and eat.  You can add butter, salt and pepper if desired.

AnneOpinion

Can you believe how easy that is?  After baking the silks stick together and come off all together.  That alone would make me a convert to this method but it tastes better too.

I have boiled, grilled, and grilled in husks in the past.  None of those methods works as well as this one.  I love how the corn is super moist from cooking in the husk and you don’t loose any of the flavor like you do with boiling.

We now have corn on the cob about once a week during the summer.  It’s so nice to have this “treat” more often.  Everyone is loving it except for Boy 1, who is currently enjoying the benefits of a life with braces.  Guess you can’t please everyone.  😉

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Cinnamon Roll Cake

cinnamon-roll-cakeMy friend, Vanessa, asked me to make a Cinnamon Roll Cake for her daughter’s birthday.  Her little girl is not a fan of cake, but adores cinnamon rolls.  Vanessa found this cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction on Pinterest and forwarded the pin to me.  I had seen it before but had never looked into making one.  I decided I’d better try it before the actual “birthday cake” was needed, so I tried making it a couple of times.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make.  Sally had some great tips in her post and I discovered some things that helped me.

AnneOpinion

cinnamon-roll-cake2This is made just like a cinnamon roll until the assembly time begins.  When rolling the dough flat it is very important to use a ruler and measure a 12×15 rectangle.  You will also want to keep the ruler handy (warning: it will be food on it!) for measuring the 2 inch strips.  Having the strips the same size will help with the cinnamon roll looking uniform in height.  That said, I still have never had mine end up looking completely uniform on the top.  Sally suggests taking the cake out during the baking process and pressing raised areas down gently with a spactula to give the top uniformity.  I like the beauty of the imperfectness that mine has so I have not done that.

The first time I made one I left a two inch space at the top where I didn’t put any butter or cinnamon sugar, just like I would do with regular cinnamon rolls.  This turned out to not be necessary and I liked it better the next time when there weren’t spaces where there was less cinnamon sugar.

Sally says to loosely roll up the first strip and she means it.  I even rolled it loosely, then unrolled it and tried it again two more times, rolling it as loose as I could.  You want room for the roll to expand as it rises and if it is rolled too tightly it will rise up instead of out.  If you would like to see step by step pictures, click on this link.

I decided that I liked making this in a 9 inch spring form pan best.  That way you can take off the sides and have a beautiful giant cinnamon roll.  So fun!

I preferred a cream cheese icing on my cake.  I’m sure that the maple/vanilla glaze that Sally used would be amazing too.

I think the thing that I loved the most was the ratio of inner cinnamon roll yumminess to the crust.  On a regular cinnamon roll you have lots of edges (unless you’re the lucky dog that gets the center one) and with this cake there is only a little bit of edge on the outside.  Even better for me, 9 out of ten times when I’m having a piece, a kid will come and ask for some and I pawn the outer edge off on to them.  They’re happy that I gave them some and I’m happy because I only enjoyed the best part.  Don’t you love it when everyone is a winner?

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Cinnamon Roll Cake
Print Recipe
Servings
12 pieces
Servings
12 pieces
Cinnamon Roll Cake
Print Recipe
Servings
12 pieces
Servings
12 pieces
Ingredients
Dough
Filling
Cream Cheese Icing
Servings: pieces
Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine 2 and 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast together until evenly dispersed. Set aside. Heat the water, milk, and butter together in the microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot to touch (30 seconds-1 minute.) About 115-120F degrees. Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture. Add the egg and only enough of the reserved flour to make a soft dough. Dough will be ready when it gently pulls away from the side of the bowl and has an elastic consistency. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 3-4 minutes. Form a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover tightly and let rest for 30 minutes. The dough will slightly rise. After 30 minutes, roll the dough out in a 15x12 inch rectangle. Spread the softened butter on top. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle it all over the dough. Brush a 9-inch spring form pan with melted butter. Set aside. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into six 2-inch wide strips. Loosely roll up one strip and place it in the center of the pan. You're rolling it up loosely so the dough has some give as it rises. Coil the remaining 5 strips around the center roll, starting each strip at the end of the previous one to make one large rolled cake. Some of the filling may spill out as you pick up the strips, but I just sprinkled that on top of the cake after I was finished spiraling. Loosely cover the cake with plastic wrap or a damp teal towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes. (Mine only took 60 minutes, but I live in Arizona where a warm room is never a problem. 🙂 After the cake's dough has nearly doubled in size, preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Remove the ring of the spring form pan. Cream the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar together. Add milk in small amounts until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle over the cake. Cake is best enjoyed the same day, but will remain fresh covered tightly for up to 4 days at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

AnneOpinion- from Sally's Baking Addiction with slight changes

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Ombre Nail Polish

ombre-nail-polishI pinned a picture off of Pinterest and the description had these instructions “Ombre nails with an eyeshadow brush. Paint your nails with your base color, then apply the eye shadow and finish with a thick clear top coat to lock everything in!”

It sounded simple enough so I decided to give it a try.  Here are the ins and outs of what I found.

AnneOpinion

The basic idea of it does work.  It takes a lot of eye shadow.  I rubbed a ton of eye shadow on my nails and it still felt like it was a “light” ombre look.  I also tried it with a pink eye shadow and I couldn’t get it to show up at all on my nails.

I found that a eye shadow application brush worked better than the wand that came with the eye shadow.  I was surprised that it was not the other way around.

Be prepared for this to be messy!  I had eye shadow all over my fingers and on the counter where I was working.  Everything washed off pretty easy, but it was an unexpected mess.

I found that there were some spots that were really hard to get the shadow to stick to and required lots of going over.

Overall, the look that I originally saw on Pinterest was achieved, but it was “faded” looking.  Between that and the mess that it made, I don’t see myself doing this again.  If it’s something that you’re wanting to try for yourself, I hope that what I learned will help you.

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The Ultimate Cheese Bread

cheese-bread2A few months back I went with some friends to Oregano’s here in Phoenix for the first time.  I’ve been hearing about how good they are for years, but with all of their locations on the opposite side of town, I had never gotten to eat there.  Now they have two locations near us.  Yeah!!  One of my friends, who has lots of experience eating there, suggested that we try the KickBUTT Garlic Bread with cheese.  Good suggestion!  It was buttery and garlicky and cheesy and perfect!  I decided that I need to make a copycat version and I have to say that I’m pretty proud of how it turned out.  I love having it for a change of pace with a pasta dinner and it is always impressive when we have guests over for dinner.  I mean really, who isn’t going to love bread, butter and cheese?

AnneOpinion

cheese-breadThis recipe uses Our Best Bites Garlic Bread Seasoning  It is key to bringing in the right balance of flavor.  I use it both in the butter and sprinkled on top because, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t use too much garlic bread seasoning.  I don’t specify an amount because how much garlic I think is a personal preference.

After brushing the garlic butter over both halves (be generous!) add your cheese.  I like a mix of mozzarella and cheddar.  Colby Jack would also work well.  If you want your cheese to be nicely melted and gooey, use cheese that you have to grate yourself.  Pre-grated cheese has a coating on it to prevent it from sticking together.  This also affects it in the melting process.

After it come out of the oven add a light sprinkling of the garlic bread seasoning and dried parsley.  Cut and watch it get devoured!  * this is very rich so don’t be surprised if most people only have 1-2 pieces.

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The Ultimate Cheese Bread
Print Recipe
The Ultimate Cheese Bread
Print Recipe
Instructions
  1. Cut the French bread in half, horizontally. Mix the melted butter and garlic bread seasoning. Brush on French bread. Spread both cheeses on the bread. Cook under the broiler until melted and bubbly; about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle garlic bread seasoning, garnish with parsley for added color and cut into pieces to serve.
Recipe Notes

AnneOpinion

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The Perfect Self Tanner

self-tannerI have always loved having tan skin.  One part of the reason is that I have had weight issues my whole life and I figured out pretty early on that a tan overweight person looks much more attractive than pale white overweight person.  I first got into self tanners when I was a teenager.  I bought Estee Lauder’s, which at the time was the one that gave you the least orange tan.  During the early nineties most self tanners left you looking more like an Oompa Loompa  than a girl with a fabulous beach tan.  Thank heavens things have improved!

Since that time I have tried many different products.  Some have been good, some have not, all have had a not so pleasant scent.  When I saw a review on Maskcara.com which Cara had tried more than 40 self tanners to find the one that she liked the best, I knew that I had to try her winner.  It is called Tanwise Dark Bronzing Sunless Mousse.

AnneOpinion

The first thing that I love is that it doesn’t smell bad.  Even after using it for a year I still am afraid every time I use it that it’s going to smell bad and am pleasantly surprised when it’s doesn’t.

It is a mousse foam and that makes it super easy to get on evenly.  When I’m applying it to my legs I use one pump at a time, rub it in to where I’m happy with it and then use another pump.

It stays on for a few days.  I normally reapply once a week.  The only time that I’ve noticed it on any of my clothes is when I go running and when I’m done I find tanner on the inside of my socks.

The color is a perfectly bronzed tan.  For my skin, which is darker, I only put on one layer.  My friend, whose legs are in the picture (thank you dear friend who I promised would remain anonymous!), it takes 2-3 applications to get the look she wants.

The price is my favorite part.   It’s sold at Sally’s and at Amazon for under $20!  Much better than the $60 I spent in 1990 for a product that didn’t work nearly as well.  What do you know?  The future is bright and full of beautiful tans!!

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Why Does Food Make Me Feel Better?!?

This is not the post that I had planned for today.  Today was going to be about a great self tanner that you need to try, if looking tan with out the sun’s help is something that you’re in to.  Come back Friday to read all about it.

Instead, I’m frustrated with myself and thought that I would share because I feel pretty sure that I’m not the only one out there with this struggle.  Food, glorious food!  I love you and sometimes I hate you.  If you’ve been reading this blog for very long you’ve probably picked up on two things.  One that I love to cook and bake and sharing good food with others is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  Number two is that I have been working very hard this year to try and take off weight, which I’ve been told I can’t call baby weight when my baby is four years old.  I feel like I’ve been doing pretty well.  I’m just over half way to my goal.  I’ve been exercising and eating right and I feel great.  Most of the time I can say no to junk food, or control myself and just eat a small amount.  That is until I have a day like today.

Today the stress hit.  It’s been one of those days where I have so many things to do that I feel like I don’t even have time to make a list of things to do, and as soon as I’m done with one thing, I have five more things that I should be starting on right away.  Oh, and did I mention that guilt that I’m feeling that my son is watching Dinosaur Train for the third time in a row.  What happens at times like this?  I cave.  I know what I should eat and it’s not what I want.  I want that bag of chips or that doughnut that’s calling my name, so I eat it and do you know what happens?  I actually feel better.  I know that I shouldn’t; I should feel worse and learn a lesson about turning to junk food in times of stress but Sorry! it really does help me.  I can’t explain it but after snarfing that bag of Cheetos that is supposed to be for my kid’s lunch, I feel calmer.  I can slow down and I feel better able to handle the tasks at hand.

Crazy, I know, and I’ve decided that I’m OK with that.  I’ve figured out that it’s my way of telling myself, “It’s OK not to be perfect” and “It’s alright to not control everything.”   Sometimes I have to remind myself that others aren’t judging me as much as I’m judging myself and if I don’t have a cute tag on my teacher gifts or if I don’t have my house all picked up before my friend comes over that doesn’t mean that I’m a failure and I’m probably the only one who will notice.  Things are going to slip through the cracks and that’s OK.  I will do what I can and tomorrow I’ll start again.

Yep, I got all that from eating a bag of Cheetos. Thanks for listening and letting me share.  I know I feel better when I read about someone having the same struggles that I do and I hope this does that for one of you out there.

Now I probably should wrap this up.  I think Dinosaur Train is about to start again. 😉

Anne

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