Olive Garden Bread…rolls

Who doesn’t love Olive Garden bread sticks?! Those fantastic things are often times the only reason I like going…that and their salad. Yum! I think these take a close 2nd to Pat & Oscar’s delicious bread sticks. If you’ve never had a chance to try the breadsticks from Pat and Oscar’s then get yourself over there this week! You can thank me later.

This bread stick recipe was once again inspired by a Pinterest recipe for Olive Garden Breadsticks. I decided to try these yesterday since it just felt like a bread making day! (originally posted by The Misadventures of Mrs. B but referenced by the following Chef in Training blog).

I decided that instead of making breadsticks I would make the recipe into little rolls. They make up quite a bit and I’m guessing if you use the dough for breadsticks you’re not going to get the 2 1/2 dozen I made up.

Another major plus to this recipe is how quick you’ll have fresh bread! I couldn’t believe that I only had  to knead once and then let it rise for an hour before baking them for 20ish minutes. Easy. If you’ve never made bread before, this is a great recipe to get started with.

I’ve made a bunch of different recipes for bread and I still have so much learning to do when making bread dough and working with active ingredients like yeast. One thing I would encourage you to have on hand is a thermometer. I know the quickest way to ruin your bread dough is not getting your water at the right temperature to activate the yeast or getting it too hot to kill the yeast. I’m sure someone out there could speak more science and purpose into that statement and also give you suggestions for assuring a good rise. Share your knowledge with me if you want, because bread is one of those things I would love to be really, really good at. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about different kinds of doughs and I’m still not turning out amazing bread. But, I’ve not given up just yet! I’ll keep passing on my wisdom as I learn and master the techniques.

Another reason I love making bread is that it doesn’t require too many ingredients to guarantee an awesome outcome. I think I get it in my head that you need oodles of ingredients on hand at all times if you want to be a skilled cook or baker. I don’t always have it in the budget to get the best ingredients so it’s comforting to know that some recipes just call for the basic pantry items we all have on hand! This novice cooks appreciates the simplicity of bread sometimes, especially when I’m in the mood to cook.

You only need a few ingredients to get going…AP flour (4.5 cups so make sure you’re not almost out) butter, salt, yeast, and sugar. The first thing you’ll want to do is get your yeast started. Each recipe I’ve made, gives different instructions for yeast, but here are three things I would suggest:

1. Read the yeast packet for instructions and then read your recipe and see what it suggests or requires. Sometimes it’s better to get the jar of yeast, but I like having the packets because 1 packet is usually all you need for one recipe.

2. Sugar is used to proof your yeast which takes about 10 min. Follow the packet or recipe to know how much sugar to add. You’ll know your yeast is doing it’s thing if your kitchen start smelling like yeasty bread! Proofing the yeast makes it foamy on top which is a good thing. The yeast is fueled by the sugar and that’s why it get’s like that….again, I don’t know all the science, but I’m sure Alton Brown has an episode of Good Eats that can fill in the blanks for me!

3. I mentioned it above, but have a thermometer, on hand to get the temperature of your water right before adding your yeast (read packet of yeast and recipe for tips on the right temperature range). I’ve made both mistakes with the water..too hot and killing it and too cool which does nothing to get it started. Proofing helps with the mystery of knowing whether the yeast is active so you don’t get an hour into your rising and realize it’s not doing anything. But to save some money on yeast, the thermometer is a nice thing to have on hand so you don’t have to throw anything out.

Now to make your dough, you’ll need to put your flour and salt in a bowl and make sure to melt your butter. Once your 10 minutes are up, your yeast should be ready to go. You can see in my picture that the once watery mixture has a foamy top to it now which is exactly what you’re looking for.

All ingredients can be dumped in with the flour and salt and the mixing can begin. They recipe suggests that you use a wooden spoon or paddles attachment on your mixer (what novice cook actually has a nice mixer?!…Well maybe it’s just me :0).

Here’s where my mistakes started…the recipe says not to over mix, which is what I was focused on preventing. However, I had bad luck getting the flour and salt mixture  incorporated into the dough which meant more mixing then was probably needed. The dough (sorry I don’t have a picture) was not soft but was already dense and tougher then I knew it needed to be. So, next time, I might do the combination process in reverse. Put the yeast and butter together and then gradually add the flour/salt mixture. I think that would have brought it all together better. My bread still turned out well, but it was not the fluffy texture I was hoping for. This is one of the reasons why bread can be so tough to make.

I went to lunch and came back so they had the chance to rise for a little more then an hour. They had not doubled like I was hoping, however, I’m sure if I had left them for another hour, that would have changed. If you have the extra 30 min or so to let them keep going, maybe give it a try and allow them more time to grow.

Our house is not the warmest place so I always use the oven to let the bread rise. I put it on warm or 170 degrees while I’m rolling out the dough and then turn it off before I put them in and cover them up. That gives bread a nice warm place to get started. If you do this, make sure to not leave the oven on. If the temperature gets too hot then the bread will go from raising to cooking. I’m always afraid that I’ll kill the yeast with a hot oven so I’m usually pretty careful on this step. Bread is easier to make in the summer since our house is a lot warmer, but you can get creative with how you let your bread rise  in a warm space.

The directions say to bake them for about 6/7 min and then take them out to brush the melted butter, garlic, and salt mixture on top. You’ll put them back in for 5/8 min before you take them out and top them with the rest of the buttery mixture.

Here they are cooling and ready to be eaten! They don’t look fluffy do they….hmmm. I will for sure to do this recipe again and try to get a fluffier version of the final product. I loved it because it was easy, if nothing else.

Tell me how it goes if you give it a try. I would love to hear from you bread making experts out there. Like I said, I have a lot to learn. I won’t even tell you about my potato roll experiment for a Valentine’s Day dinner. Again, they tasted pretty good, but they were too dense! One of these days I’ll figure it out…but I feel encouraged in moments like these that I didn’t name my blog…The Know-It-All Cook.

Enjoy, my small audience of readers, and happy cooking friends! 

Here is the recipe from the website.

recipe from: Full Bellies. Happy Kids.

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (between 110 – 120 degrees F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered. Mixture should be frothy.In separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
Add to yeast mixture. Add melted butter. Mix with paddle attachment of stand mixer or wooden spoon until fully combined.
Knead dough for a few minutes just until dough is smooth. Do not overknead!
Grease a cookie sheet. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into strips.
Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and once heated, pop in the bread sticks. In microwave, combine the following:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (or 1/2 cup margarine)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoons salt

After bread sticks have cooked for 6 or 7 minutes, brush the bread sticks with half the butter mixture.
Then continue to bake. Bake for 5-8 more minutes.
Immediately upon removal from the oven brush the other half of the butter on the sticks.
Allow to cool for a few minutes before eating.


Bacon and Corn Griddle Cakes….MY WAY!

What to make when you’ve lost your wisdom teeth and cringe at the thought of eating something crunchy…..I’m not sure if you’ve had the same dilema but that’s what has been on my brain recently since getting my wisdom teeth pulled on Friday. I was lucky and didn’t have any swelling or major jaw pain like I hear others struggle with. However, I still have 4 big holes in my mouth that do nothing but collect food when I eat. Talk about frustrating. Mashed potatoes, jello, pudding, ice cream, soup…all wonderful food, but I’m sick of them! I saw this recipe on Pinterest this week and figured I would give them a try for my poor mouth.

Don’t these look fantastic?! That’s what I thought too…a big Hurray for me since I’m not the biggest fan of pancakes. I love the idea of doing something savory sweet for breakfast and this has all of those elements. Pancakes are something I just have to be in the mood for, but these looked ideal at any time of the day, breakfast or dinner. Don’t drool to quickly though…that is just the picture posted from Recipe Girl who has her own story about making these griddle cakes. Mine look a little more noivce…just like me! You’ll see my picture at the end and be super disappointed, but consider it a generous dose of reality for when you make yours. Good luck making them look this awesomely perfect.

I decided to try these for dinner tonight and wasn’t disappointed. I made a few modifications to the recipe because I forgot to grab montery jack cheese from the store and the store didn’t have chives, AND I’m not the biggest fan of corn ( I know…the list of things I’m not a fan of are growing by the posts) but also though that would be a no go for my mouth condition. Here is the recipe and next to it is what I subbed some of the ingredients for:

8 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives green onion
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2/3 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 cup frozen, canned or fresh corn
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese smoked mozzarella cheese
warm maple syrup, for serving

I have become a huge fan of smoked mozzarella but it’s such a strong flavor that it’s something to be used with consideration. I’ve used it on a few home made and naan pizzas I’ve done recently but it just isn’t quite right. But then again, I stink at making home made pizza memorable so you may not want to take my advice. I love the cheese so much that I’m willing to find recipes that it can be used in! I would LOVE to hear how others are using it and what flavors go well with it so if you know a few, send them my way. I found my round of smoked mozzarella at Fresh and Easy and I’m starting to see it at other grocery stores too. If you ever come across it, just throw it in your cart to try and see what you dream up for how to used it in your normal recipes. It’s just yummy by itself so you won’t regret buying it. For the record, It goes really well in this recipe.

So, the first thing you do is take your bacon and start browning it in the pan…while it’s doing it’s thing, cut up your sweet onion and toss it in the pan. The recipe directions (see below) says to wait till the onion starts to brown, but I say throw it in whenever you want. I didn’t run into any problems with the onions being over done doing it this way. I ran it on medium heat which gave it time brown and me time to start mixing the dry ingredients without getting too ahead of myself.

Your dry ingredients include all purpose flour (I wonder what bread flour would do to this recipe….hmm. I will try and post the outcome. I’m thinking less dense cakes at the end), baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper and green onions. Easy.

Your next step is to mix in your wet ingredients and cheese. The wet ingredients include milk, one egg (beaten a bit), vegetable oil (mine I dumped in my milk which is why it looks a little funny), and of course your cheese. I mixed all the wet ingredients in then threw a handful of cheese in. I actually think I could have done more then the 1/2 cup suggested so don’t be afraid to add more if you’re a cheese lover. After that you’ll take your onion and bacon mixture and add it to the batter.
I made the mistake of not leaving some of the bacon and onion pieces out because I thought, the more the merrier for what was going in the batter….which was right, but there is something about having that extra bacon mixture for the top….SOOO…I caved and cut up a couple strips of bacon and some more onion to make some more. I did that while I began making the cakes which gave me enough time to finish up the bacon. I actually got lucky and timed it perfectly. The 8 slices was a good amount for the batter but secretly, I say you can’t have enough bacon! Make up the whole package for goodness sake! You can just use the leftovers in  eggs or a grill cheese sandwich.
Back to the recipe….I used a 1/4 cup and my mini spatula to get the size I wanted. I ended up adding some more milk to thinn out the batter. I probably should have added a little more, but I didn’t want them to loose the cake-essence of them…the recipe suggests it too, but add milk to get your batter the consistency you’re wanting. The picture to the right is of my first one…looks okay to me!
That’s basically it. I thought it was a very easy little recipe to throw together and I’m already thinking of the other varieties I could do with this basic flour, egg, salt, baking powder batter. I think this will quite possibly be one of the new recipes on my mental recipe box when thinking about meals for the week.
And to leave you in no more suspense, here is my final product…

 Give these a try and tell me what you think. Next time I may be adventurous and add the corn…but we’ll see. Happy cooking friends!


bacon and corn griddle cakes

Yield: Eight 4-inch griddle cakes

Prep Time: 25 min

Cook Time: 25 min

These unique pancakes are stuffed with bacon, corn and cheese. A good dose of warm maple syrup makes them a delicious choice for breakfast.


8 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2/3 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 cup frozen, canned or fresh corn
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
warm maple syrup, for serving


1. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon pieces until they begin to brown. Add the onion and continue to cook until the bacon is crisp and the onion is softened. Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the bacon mixture for topping the griddle cakes upon serving- and set it aside.

2. While the bacon is cooking, combine the flour, chives, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in the milk, egg and oil, just until moistened. Stir in the bacon mixture, corn and cheese. The mixture will be thick. If you’d like the griddle cakes to be slightly thinner than those pictured, add a little more milk to thin out the batter.

3. Heat and grease a griddle or large skillet. Pour a heaping 1/4-cup of the batter onto the griddle and cook until it is golden brown- 3 to 4 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining batter.

4. Serve stacks of griddle cakes topped with a sprinkle of the reserved bacon/onion and a good dose of warm maple syrup.


How To Properly Store Produce

Hey friends…so I found this on Pinterest and thought I would share. I am going to be printing this off and putting it near my fridge since I get a Farm Fresh to You box every other week. Sometimes it goes bad so quickly and this was an awesome help in understand what to do better. This was orginally posted on The V Spot’s her comments that are below. There is also a free printable that will help you remember these tips that you can grab from her original site. Enjoy!

How to Store fresh Produce (view printable on original site) 
What’s the best way to store fresh produce?
Do you ever buy fresh fruits and vegetables, toss them into the produce drawer and forget about them?  Then a few days later you open the drawer only to discover that  it’s all spoiled?  (‘Fess up, because I know I’m not the only one….)

There’s a proper way to store fresh produce, and as I am about to launch into a new work-out routine and a healthier diet, I thought I would finally determine the proper ways to store it all.  I read up on it… I googled all over the place, and this is what I found.
Updated: In addition to researching this post, I tried many of these techniques myself and they worked great.

It kind of comes down to which fruits and vegetables give off the natural gas, ethelyne. 
Ethelyne can affect the other fruits and veggies that they are stored next to.  (That’s the premise of the Debbie Meyer Green Bags.)  You don’t need to buy special bags, but you do need to know which produce doesn’t play nicely with others.

Apples – Do not wash until just before eating, keep them sealed in the plastic produce bag, in the refrigerator. They give off a lot of ethelyne gas, so don’t store them next to anything else.
Avocados – Keep them at room temperature.  If you need one to ripen quickly, put it in a brown paper bag along with a banana.  If it is ripe and you need to slow the ripening process, put it in the fridge.

Bananas – They produce more ethelyne gas than any other fruit.  Keep them away from other produce,   on the counter-top, away from other produce.  Once they are ripe you can stop the ripening process by putting them in the fridge, just be sure to put them in a sealed bag.  The skin will turn black, but the fruit will be fine.
Beans (snap, string or wax) – Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Do not wash until just before use.
Berries – You know when you buy berries and they look like they have a dusty layer one them…? That is called bloom, and it serves as a natural preservative.  Never wash berries until just before use.  Pick through them and throw away any berries that are bruised or molding.  Store loosely in shallow containers, cover with plastic and keep them in the refrigerator.
Broccoli & Cauliflower – These need to be kept in their wrapping/packaging and kept in the fridge.  Do not wash until just before using.

Cabbage – Keep in the fridge, in a plastic bag. Do not wash until just before using
Carrots – Whole carrots?  Wash them thoroughly.  If they have green tops, cut off all but an inch.  Wrap them in a damp paper towel, seal in a plastic bag and store in the crisper drawer.
“Baby” carrots? I just discovered that I should stop buying them… but if you still do, you can put them in a plastic container, covered in water.  Be sure to change the water every few days.  (Note: this may reduce the flavor of the “baby” carrot.)
Celery – Give it a rinse, loosely wrap it in a paper towel, then tightly wrap the entire stalk in aluminum foil and keep in the crisper.  It will keep fresh and crisp for weeks.  (I actually have had celery that I bought to make stuffing at Thanksgiving still be fresh and crunchy for Bloody Marys on New Year’s Day! Amazing!)

Cherries – Store in the fridge in a plastic bag.  Do not wash until just before eating.
Citrus – Since citrus fruits have thicker skin, they are easier to store.  They’ll stay fresh for about 2 weeks in the fridge, about a week on the counter.  It doesn’t matter if they are near other produce.

Corn – Husks on? Store loose and uncovered in the fridge.  Husks off?  Wrap in foil and store in the crisper drawer. It will keep for 1 to 2 days.
Cucumber – Store in plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not wash until just before use.
Eggplant – Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
Garlic – Store at room temperature. Whole heads will last 3 to 5 weeks, but once cloves are separated, they will last about 10 days.

Grapes – Do not wash until just before eating, as they also have a bloom.  Store them in the fridge, in the plastic bags they come in, or poke holes in a plastic bag to allow for air circulation.  They say they should last up to 2 weeks.  (I have never seen them last longer than a week before getting shriveled up and gross…)
Jalapeno Peppers – Store in plastic bag, in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Kiwi Fruit – store at room temperature until ripe, then cover with plastic and refrigerate.  Will keep for about a week.
Lettuces, Leafy Greens & Spinach – Wash, wrap loosely in paper-towels, then bag it… paper towel and all.
Melons – Store at room temperature until ripe, then refrigerate. They will keep for about a week.
Mushrooms – Do not wash until just before using.  Pre-sliced? Store in the refrigerator in their original packaging. They will last for about a week. Whole?  Store loosely in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator
Onions – Store in a cool, dry place that has good air circulation.  (Store in the fridge if you don’t have such a place.) They will keep for 2 to 3 months.  DO NOT STORE WITH POTATOES.  (If next to each other they spoil faster.  Who knew?)

Pears – If they aren’t ripe, store them at room temperature.  Once they ripen, place them in a plastic bag and store them in the fridge.  They will keep for about a week.
Peaches, Plums, Nectarines & Apricots – Store at room temperature until ripe, then store in plastic bags in the refrigerator until ready to eat.  They will keep from 3 to 5 days.  Do not wash until ready to eat.
Pineapple – Store at room temperature until ripe, then store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Potatoes – Store in a cool, dry, dark place that has good air circulation. They will keep for 2 to 3 months.  DO NOT STORE WITH ONIONS.  (If next to each other they spoil faster.  Who knew?)  Sweet Potatoes keep at room temperature for a week or in a cool dark place for about a month.

Tomatoes – Store them in a cool, dry place.  Don’t store them in plastic bags as the trapped ethylene will make them ripen more quickly. Once ripe, you can put them in the fridge to slow the ripening process, but let them come to room temperature before using them.

Zucchini – Refrigerate in a plastic bag.  Do not wash until just before using.

Be sure to check out my posts on keeping herbs fresh  and on how to chop and freeze fresh herbs for later use.

Here’s printable to tape inside your pantry or put of your fridge:
How to Store Produce

Did I miss anything?  Do you have any great tips to share?  Leave them in the comments and let me know.
Happy eating!

****UPDATED 2/9/12  This comment from a reader, regarding Asparagus:
Asparagus is actually something that can last for a couple weeks if stored properly (thanks Alton Brown and Good Eats). When you get them home, cut off about half an inch on the ends. Put enough water in the bottom of a jar or wide drinking glass to cover the bottoms about 3/4″ to 1″ (you don’t want half the stalk to sit in water). Put a ziploc baggie loosely down over the top of the stalks to keep some of the moisture around them. Store in the fridge! It’s that easy. When I learned this, I no longer hesitated in picking up asparagus whenever I was at the grocery store. I have some now in my fridge that has lasted about two weeks already.

Check the bottom of the blog to see where I link this project. Also linking here:

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