Puppy Chow or Muddy Buddies

Today, I had the pleasure of taking my 4 year old son to the grocery store with me.  Honestly, it really was a pleasure.  He is finally to the age where he knows how to behave and can actually choose to do so.  What a concept....

I think he needs to share that skill with his teenage brother and sister.  Just saying.
While we were shopping, this cutie was telling me what he wants for Christmas.  He only listed one thing, which is surprising since his older siblings have taught him better.

For about two seconds, I was rejoicing in such a simple list and how great it would be to get him the only thing he wants.  Then he told me what it was....

A jet pack.  Thanks a lot stupid Special Agent Oso.  Now my baby boy won't be happy at Christmas unless he is flying around the world strapped to a jet fueled backpack.
After explaining to him that a jet pack would not be safe or possible, he was completely crushed.  Tears pooling in the eyes and everything.  My heart broke.

A few aisles later, he pulled a tiny package of Chex Muddy Buddies off the shelf and asked if we could buy them.  There was no way I was telling him no after crushing his little 4 year old world in the dairy department.  I told him I would love to buy them for him, or I would make him a big huge ice cream bucket full of Muddy Buddies when we got home.

He's not stupid.  He chose the later.
Chex Muddy Buddies or Puppy Chow
makes about 8 cups
8 C of Corn, Rice or Wheat Chex cereal (or a combination of all 3)
1 C semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 C smooth peanut butter
1/4 C butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C powdered sugar

1.  In a large bowl, place your cereal.  In a medium microwave safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter on high for 1 minute.  Stir for a minute until all the chocolate chips melt.  If needed, microwave for another 20 seconds.  Add the vanilla and mix in completely.
2.  Pour chocolate mixture over your cereal and gently fold until the cereal is completely covered.
3.  In a gallon size ziplock bag or old ice cream bucket, put about a third of the powdered sugar on the bottom.  Pour in half the cereal, then more sugar, then the rest of the cereal topped with the last amount of powdered sugar.  Gently shake and rotate the container until the cereal is completely covered in powdered sugar, about 2 minutes.   If needed, add a bit more powdered sugar and continue to shake until covered.

Triple Layer Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies

I guess this was my week of triple layer baking.  First I made these killer triple layered brownies.  So simple.
Then this weekend I made this triple decker wedding cake.  Not quite so simple....
The top tier was white chocolate with raspberry filling, the middle was Mexican chocolate with chocolate filling, and the bottom was poppyseed citron with lemon curd filling.  I honestly strained my back carrying this beast into the church.  I should have weighed it before delivery :)

Back to the brownies .... they are outrageous!  I made them with my favorite from-scratch brownie recipe, but don't hesitate to cheat with your favorite boxed brownie.  Be sure you cut them small because they are quite decadent, but our church youth group of 15 polished off the whole pan in one evening :)
Triple Layer Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies
recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 batch of brownies in a 9x13 pan (you can use boxed or I recommend my Classic Brownie recipe)
1 C chopped Reese's peanut butter cups
1/2 C chopped salted peanuts
1 1/2 C milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 C peanut butter
1/2 Tb butter
2 C Rice Crispies cereal

1.  Prepare the brownies according the the directions for whatever brownies you choose to make.  About 5 minutes before they are done cooking, sprinkle the top with the chopped peanuts and peanut butter cups.  Finish baking the brownies for the remaining 5 minutes then remove from the oven.

2.  Melt in a large glass bowl the milk chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter.  Microwave on high for 45 seconds and stir well.  Microwave another 30 seconds and stir well.  The heat of the mixture should finish melting the remaining chocolate.  Stir in the rice crispies then pour the mixture over the top of your brownies.  Spread to cover evenly.  Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the topping firm up.  When cutting, wipe your knife after every pass to help make clean cuts.

Fat Free Greek Yogurt

Last week, one of my teenagers firmly and dramatically bellowed that they "work harder than any other person in this family!!!"  Aaaahhh....to be so stupid.

These types of mothering experiences are those that make me go hmmmm.  (Cue CC Music Factory).

Do they really believe that?  Are they that wrapped up in themselves that they honestly don't see the unending slavery we go through on their behalf?

I know they will learn for themselves how eternally frustrating rewarding this all is when they become parents themselves.  But by then, I will be too senile to enjoy their misery.
Make this yogurt.  Make it now!   You will never go back to buying it.  It is sweeter and not as tart.  Not to mention, it is loads cheaper to make yourself.   I love the texture just as it is, but if you like it thicker, just strain it for a few hours in some cheesecloth or coffee filter to allow some of the whey to drain.

There are so many variations of this recipe out there, but after much research, this is my own take on quite a few different recipes.  If you don't want to use your crock pot, you can complete this on top of your stove, but be sure you don't scorch your milk when bringing it to 180 degrees.  I like the crock pot method because I can dump it in and walk away.

You can certainly make this with higher fat milk as well, but I needed fat free.  Also, be creative with what you mix in with your yogurt.  My kids favorite is my homemade raspberry jam but you can easily recreate your favorite store bought flavors at home.  In fact, I usually just add a bit of my favorite Crystal Light powder.  Great fruit flavor with no added sugar.

Some people have struggled with making yogurt at home, but it is EASY!  Newbies can sometimes make one of these mistakes:
  • You added the live yogurt when the milk was too hot and killed it
  • You used ultra pasteurized milk which won't work
  • Your live yogurt wasn't really "live".  Be sure the label mentions active live yogurt!
  • You didn't keep it warm enough during the overnight period.  Some people like to wrap it with an electric heating pad just to be sure :)
Fat Free Greek Yogurt
makes about 9 C
1/2 gallon (8 C) skim milk
1 C nonfat powdered milk
1 C store bought plain nonfat greek yogurt (or once you have made this recipe, just use 1 C of the stuff you made!)

1.  Combine the milk and powdered milk in your crock pot.  Heat on high for around 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the milk is at least 180 degrees.
2.  Leave the cover on (or a skin will form on top) and allow the mixture to cool about 2 hours until it is around 110 degrees but be sure it is below 120 degrees or it will kill the active yogurt cultures you are about to add.  It helps to occasionally open the lid as it cools and stir to allow the heat to escape faster.
3.  Remove a couple ladles of the warm milk mixture and whisk in the store bought yogurt until smooth.  Add this mixture into the warm milk in the crock and whisk until completely mixed.  Promptly cover your crock and wrap your crock pot with a thick blanket or two.  Your desire is to keep this mixture warm for as long as possible.  Allow it to sit 8 - 12 hours.
4.  You can now either eat your yogurt as is or strain it in some cheesecloth or coffee filter to remove some of the excess whey.  That will result in a thicker yogurt.  I carefully transfer it to a rubbermaid container without mixing it.  As it sits, the excess whey will rise to the sides which you can then remove with a spoon.  Each time I get some yogurt out, I remove any whey that has pooled.
5.  Add your favorite toppings:  jelly or jam, honey, nuts, granola, fresh fruit (whole or pureed), maple syrup or other sweetener.

Homemade Dishwasher Rinse Agent & Carpet Spot Cleaner

I don't know if it is because of the horrendous economic conditions we are all in, or because more people are interested in earth-friendly cleaners, but my posts for Homemade Laundry Detergent and Homemade Shout have skyrocketed the past couple weeks.  They are both my top viewed "recipes" for the month of September.

I'm starting to wonder if I should be offended or not?  I want you tuning in because of my amazing creations from the kitchen, or my sharp witty writing.  It begs the question of should I really be doing this?  This is a cooking and baking blog right?

Oh well.  What my readers want, I will provide.  Here's a couple more of my favorite household "recipes" for you.  Next week though....only something baked in the oven or fried up on the stove!
My discovery of Homemade Dishwasher Rinse Agent came a few months ago when I paid $4.00 for a bottle at the store.  I did some research and found the suggestion to use pure white vinegar in the dispenser of the dishwasher.  I was quite skeptical.  No way was it going to do as good as my Jet-Dry....and I was terrified all my dishes would reek of vinegar!

Well, I gave it a try a few weeks ago and I am 100% amazed.  My dishes are so shiny and spot free, and of course, absolutely no vinegar smell can even be detected.  You HAVE to try this.  It will cost you only a few pennies compared to the $4 and I believe it works even better!
My beautiful 100+ year old house is hardwood floors throughout and as a result,  I am quite lenient with my kids as far as food/drinks in other rooms of the house.  Unfortunately, I tend to forget that all of those rooms have area rugs in them which get nasty, crusty stains on them A LOT.

Again, I was tired of spending a lot of money on carpet spot cleaner that only did a so-so job, so I did some research and discovered this recipe.  Again, another HUGE "love it" from me.  In fact, by the time I have let the solution sit for 5-10 minutes after spraying it, I have a hard time seeing where I need to scrub.  I have to feel the rug for the wet spots.

To make, mix together 2 C warm water with 1 Tb of baking soda and 4 T vinegar.  I pour it into my old "store bought" bottle so it is already labeled and you are good to go!  I generously spray the spot, let it sit for about 5-10 minutes then use a rag to dab and scrub it out.  If your stain is a grease stain, you will need to separately use a tiny amount of dishwashing soap to get up the grease.