Sometimes life calls for waffles and I am not talking about that yellow box in your freezer.  I am talking about a sweet, brown sugar and vanilla batter that is baked up fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside.

Did you know that you can have waffles for dinner?  Now of course we do not do this all the time, it is like having dessert after all. But, it is a cheap and quick meal, feels like a special treat, and everyone is happy!  What's not to love about that?  Of course, we eat waffles for breakfast on the occasional weekend morning too!  I love being in the kitchen on a late Saturday morning, the smell of waffles drifting through the house, my family all together and don't forget the coffee.  Another wonderful thing about this recipe is that leftovers can easily be put into freezer bags and frozen.  They can be pulled directly from the freezer and reheat nicely in the oven for an effort free and delicious breakfast.

Until recently I had never had a homemade waffle.  I cannot believe I have been missing out on this delicious treat for so long!!  If you do not have a waffle iron, I suggest you do whatever it takes to get one in your possession as soon as possible!  I find that the promise of delicious baked goods is often more than enough to talk my sweet husband into funding my kitchen habit. I also suggest checking out thrift stores or asking friends and family if they have a waffle maker you can borrow. Just think of all the sad, lonely waffle irons out there, just waiting to fill your home with the smells of fluffy vanilla goodness!  If you plan to purchase a waffle iron, I can recommend the Presto 3510 FlipSide Belgian Waffle Maker.  The price is reasonable (under $40 bucks) and the performance has been perfect.  There are definitely fancier versions out there with bigger price tags, but I have had success with mine.  And no I am not getting paid to tell you that, I just like mine. I am sure there are tons of awesome waffle irons out there, my point is that you need to get your hands on one and make waffles right now!

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adapted from: All Recipes

yield: 4-5 large waffles (depending on your waffle iron size)

2 eggs (separate and whip the egg whites)
2 cups of all-purpose flour (8.5 oz if weighing)
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup oil (I use canola but vegetable oil will work)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
*optional semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Gather your ingredients and don't forget to preheat your waffle iron!  I also suggest checking out this post for a few baking tips that will be helpful in making the perfect waffle.

After separating the whites from the yolks, whip the egg whites with a whisk until nice and frothy. I can do this for about 45 seconds and then I get bored and my hand gets tired. I have accidentally skipped this step before and it still makes a yummy waffle, but whipping the egg whites makes for a much fluffier result.
*note*Don't throw away the yolks!  You will add them with the other wet ingredients.

Next, in a separate medium size mixing bowl add flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Use a whisk or fork to combine the dry ingredients.

Add the milk, oil, vanilla, and egg yolks to the dry ingredients. Stir briefly to combine.  Remember that  for a tender and light waffle, you do not want to over mix! This is a picture of the batter that is not completely combined.  See the big clumps of flour? I am not quite done mixing yet. I don't want you to be scared of mixing, just do not beat the heck out of that batter!

There may be some lumps in the batter and that is okay!  In the photo above you can see the small lumps and bumps. This is perfect. Trust me, put the utensil down and step away.

Lastly lightly fold in the whipped egg whites. This will add air to the batter and create waffles with big fluffy insides. Remembering that the less we stir, the less gluten we develop.  Less gluten formation = yummy fluffy waffles.

This is the batter after folding in the whipped egg whites. It is lightly color, has a some small lumps throughout but is completely mixed, and is full of awesome little air bubbles.

This part gets a little tricky.  Batter amounts and cook time will vary based on the type and size of your waffle iron. But here are some notes on my process that may help.

I usually have no need to spray the iron with a non-stick coating unless I am making a dessert waffle (see chocolate chip version below) but I have had a couple of my waffles stick and still have no idea why. If you are having problems with sticking, I suggest using a non-stick spray or a small pastry brush to lightly coat the iron with a tiny bit of oil.  Also, you can use the small brush to wipe away crumbs after removing a cooked waffle. This seems to help keep everything from sticking.

My iron makes a single, round, very large waffle and requires about 3/4 cup of batter and cooks for 2 minutes and 45 seconds.  Fill and bake yours according to your waffle irons directions.  I find that cooking the waffle until there is no steam (which is what the Presto directions suggests) makes for a dry waffle that is overcooked.  After some Internet research, I have found that many others suggest to pull the waffles before the steam quits rolling.  This process took several batches to perfect, so don't give up!  My husband and son seemed to have no problems with sampling the different trials, so the learning process isn't a complete waste.

*chocolate chip version.
My son prefers his waffle with chocolate chips and no syrup.  When I measure out the 3/4 cup of batter for his waffle, I just stir in little less than 1/4 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips before pouring it into the iron wells.  The cooking time is the same, but remember to use a spray or a little oil to keep it from sticking.

Since I can only make one waffle at a time, I like to keep the oven on a low setting (about 200 degrees.)  After each waffle comes off the iron, it goes right into the warm oven and sits directly on the oven rack to avoid getting soggy.  This way, the family can eat breakfast together, something we never get to do on crazy weekdays, and we all get a warm delicious waffle.

Another option is to make a batch of these, cool on a wire rack and then store in the freezer.  These will not fit in my toaster, so I heat them up in the oven, directly on the rack for about 5-7 minutes at about 300-ish degrees.  I like to flip them over halfway through the warming process. Check them early because your oven and results may vary. I dont want to be responsible for burnt waffles! These are not as fluffy and soft when reheated this way, but they still taste amazing.  Besides, when I am feeling lazy on a Saturday morning, I can pull these out of the freezer, heat them up quickly and still have a perfect breakfast with my family.

Do you have a special breakfast tradition in your family? Tell me about it!


Tipsy on Tuesday

Tipsy on Tuesday is a weekly recurring post that features tips that might just make your life a little easier.

Today's Tips
Here are a few baking tips that I wish I had learned a long time ago!

  1. Not all cups of flour are created equal.  Weighing flour is always the best way to get an accurate measurement.  I have a small scale in my kitchen and its uses are endless.  Besides being a great way to handle portion control, it has made my baking recipes much easier to follow accurately.  Go here to the King Arthur Flour website for a great weight chart for many common products.  According to their chart, 1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour should weigh about 4.25 ounces.  If you do not have a kitchen scale there are a few other ways to get a better measurement. The spoon method and the scoop and sweep method can be found at howtobaker.com
  2. Combine the dry ingredients of a recipe separately and make sure they get thoroughly combined with a whisk or a fork. We don't need the baking soda or salt sitting in one big clump of our batter. Getting the dry ingredients mixed properly before adding the liquids is also very important when making cakes or pastries because once you add the liquids, gluten begins to develop.  The more you stir, the tougher and more dense your baked goods will become. Gluten development is great for bread, but not so great for muffins, waffles and cakes. I owe you a much longer and better explanation of gluten development, but that is probably an entire blog post in itself.  For now it is important to know that we want to limit gluten development for recipes that require a tender crumb.
  3. Use real vanilla extract!  It makes all the difference in the flavor and smell of your baked goods.  Imitation vanilla is a chemical concoction that although much cheaper, is a very inferior product.  Did you know that imitation vanilla is largely created from the byproduct of pulp and paper companies?  Real vanilla has no substitute.  Spend the extra for the real thing and you will not regret it.


Tipsy on Tuesday

Tipsy on Tuesday is a weekly recurring post that features tips that might just make your life a little easier.

Today's Tips
Here are a few new tips I found to help out with kitchen cleaning. So get in there and start scrubbing!

How to clean your iron skillet using a salt scrub 

Using a lemon to clean food stains from your cutting boards


Broccoli Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes

Lets just get to the point. There are three reasons you should make these.
  1. They taste so freaking good!
  2. It is a fairly inexpensive but very filling side dish or main course.
  3. You can freeze them after cooking and pull them out anytime for a super fast hot lunch. Anyone else tired of the turkey sandwich for lunch?  This recipe made 8 and after baking and cooling, I wrapped and stuffed them in the freezer for a quick side dish or lunch. Ok I did eat one for dinner and left one in the fridge for lunch tomorrow, so only 6 actually made it into the freezer.
I found this tasty little broccoli cheddar potato recipe on Budget Bytes. I am a huge fan of this blog. You should definitely head over there and check out some of the recipes.  I basically followed her directions but made some minor changes reflected in the recipe below.  I am super excited to be able to grab these out of the freezer for a quick and delicious meal.

Broccoli Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes

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adapted from Budget Bytes
yield: 8 potato halves

4  large baking potatoes
1/2 of a 16 oz. bag of frozen broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups grated medium or sharp cheddar (Divided- 1 cup for filling 1/2 cup for topping)
1/2 to 3/4 cups low-fat sour cream
1 1/2 Tbsp butter (softened)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425. While the oven preheats, scrub those potatoes clean and pat them dry.  Remember to prick the potato skins with a fork or a potato explosion may occur.  I know that sounds fun, but try to stick to the recipe ok?

Place whole potatoes directly on the center oven rack (you did prick the skins right?) and cook for about an hour and fifteen minutes.  When potatoes are done the internal temperature will be about 210 degrees, and you can easily slide a fork into the center of the potato.  After removing potatoes, turn down oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Let the potatoes cool for about 10 minutes.  During this time cook the broccoli according to package directions, except I only let mine cook for about half of the time indicated on the package.  Cook just long enough to get a bright green color and still crisp to the bite.  The broccoli will cook more after you stuff the potatoes (twice baked remember?) and if you overcook the broccoli now it will be mushy and not that beautiful bright green color in the finished recipe.  Chop the cooked broccoli so that you don't have any big pieces of broccoli in the potato filling.

Slice the cooled potatoes lengthwise so that the wider flat sides of the potato will rest on the counter.
Scoop out the potato with a large spoon and put into a mixing bowl.

Leave some of the potato in the skins or they will not hold their shape very well. *IF your potatoes are not cooked completely and are still hard, Beth from Budget Bytes recommends to carefully scoop our the hard flesh and microwave for a minute at a time until soft enough to mash*

To the bowl of potatoes add sour cream starting with a 1/2 cup and add additional 1/4 cup if needed. My potatoes were huge so I thought they needed the extra sour cream, besides who complains about extra sour cream? Next add the chopped broccoli, 1 cup of cheddar cheese, butter, salt, garlic salt and freshly ground pepper to potato flesh.

Use a fork to mash the potatoes. Mix everything together enough to combine but do not over mix or you will get gummy potatoes.

Spoon potato mixture into potato skins and place on a baking sheet.  Top potatoes with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar.  This is just for a garnish to make them pretty. If you love cheese then use the entire half cup, for less calories just use about 1/4 cup and sprinkle a little on each piece or just leave it off entirely.

Baked the filled potato skins until the cheese melts and the edges get a little crisp and lightly browned, about 20-30 minutes.  I cooked mine for 30 minutes and they were perfect!

*To freeze leftovers
Place cooled potatoes on a flat surface (like a small baking sheet) that will fit in your freezer.  Stick the potatoes in the freezer uncovered long enough to make them solid and easy to handle.  Place potatoes in a large freezer bag. I wash and reuse my freezer bags for the sake of the environment and my budget, but I don't always use bags, any kind of container for freezing will work!

*To reheat leftovers
You can reheat frozen potatoes in the microwave until hot and steamy (about 2-4 minutes depending on the power of your microwave).  I recommend stopping halfway through and using a fork to "fluff" the potato so that everything cooks evenly.


Tipsy on Tuesday

Tipsy on Tuesday is a weekly recurring post that features tips that might just make your life a little easier.

Today's Tip

Stop throwing away your freezer bags! Wash them instead!

Don't laugh! They only take a few seconds to wash and you can reuse them again and again! Gallon size freezer bags are great for storage, but not so great for your budget or the 
environment.  Because life can be so hectic, I always look for ways to save time. I am constantly struggling with the need to use convenience products versus the need to stay within budget and just as importantly, the need to be an earth-friendly family.  

To clean the bag, wash it with hot soapy water. After washing, dry the bag thoroughly with a towel or let it air dry completely before putting it away.


Tipsy on Tuesday

Tipsy on Tuesday is a weekly recurring post that features tips that might just make your life a little easier.

      Today's Tips
  • Rubbing cornstarch on a knot will help to loosen it.  Really? Are you as amazed as I am?  I will definitely be using this tip on those crazy shoelace knots!  Source: Woman's Day
  • Place a damp paper towel or dishcloth under your cutting board to keep it from sliding around.  I think I first saw Rachel Ray do this years ago on her show 30 minute meals.  
  • Taking the time to organize your kitchen will save you precious time every day!  Everything should have a place and it should always be put back in the same place.  In my kitchen I could find just about any of my staples (flour, sugar, vanilla extract, spatula, etc.) with my eyes closed.  I took the time to organize every space and I cannot tell you the time it has saved me while cooking. It doesn't have to be done in one day. Devoting a little time each day to creating an organized kitchen will save you so much time and energy every day. Go ahead and start today, I promise that you will be a more efficient and happy cook!


Iced Citrus Green Tea (under 3 calories per serving!)

I cannot believe it took me this long to try green tea! I guess I always assumed it would taste "green", you know, like grass or something.  I had my first iced green tea at Pei Wei, it was a mandarin orange flavor. Turns out, green tea tastes nothing like grass.  It was so tasty and refreshing! Since our family has made a commitment to eating healthier and natural foods, I have had a hard time finding things that I really love to drink.  I was a diet soda addict, but now you couldn't get me to touch the stuff. Besides, even if you do love sodas, they are so freaking expensive!

I was really excited when I found green tea bags at the grocery store because I wanted to recreate this green tea drink at home using my favorite zero calorie sweetener, Truvia.  It is made from the leaf of the stevia plant, is natural, and really tastes delicious. You can find this product under other brand names too. I like this brand because they have the spoonable jar.  Tearing all of those little packets open is annoying and really just a lot of unneeded waste. I even save the Truvia containers because I know I will find a way to repurpose them, and you will probably read about it on here so stay tuned! Anyway, to find a stevia type sweetener,  just look in the same area of the store as the sugar and you will find it.

Iced Citrus Green Tea
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yield: 2 quarts

2 quarts of water
2 family size green tea bags
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Truvia (or any other stevia sweetener)

Fill a 2 quart pitcher with water.  Pour some of the water into a small saucepan (about 1 1/2 cups). Bring the water to a boil and remove from heat.  Add the tea bags to the hot water and let them steep for 3 or 3 1/2 minutes.  Do not leave them in the water longer or it will result in a bitter tasting tea.  While the tea is steeping, squeeze the orange juice.  Measure out 1 1/2 tbsps of orange juice and pour into pitcher of water, using a small mesh strainer to catch the pulp. I usually cut a small end off of the orange for juicing and I slice up the rest to store in the fridge so that each glass can have a fresh piece.

Tips for better tea:

Do not steep the tea for more than 3 1/2 minutes.  Longer steeping times will make the tea taste bitter.
Use a small mesh strainer for the orange juice unless you like pulp floating around in your glass.
Keep orange slices in the fridge to use as a garnish or for an extra citrus burst, give the slice a squeeze before dropping it into the glass.  Yum!

This citrus green tea is so tasty, basically calorie free (the oj adds less than 3 calories per glass) and much cheaper than buying all those sodas!  Besides being yummy and budget friendly, green tea is also a potent antioxidant and believed to have many positive health effects.  You can find out more about green tea by visiting Wikipedia.

I am looking forward to finding some great hot teas to sip as fall starts to show itself soon. Do you have a favorite hot or cold tea to drink? Leave a comment and let me know!