1.18.2018

Mel's Light & Fluffy Pancakes

Most Saturday mornings I make a big breakfast or brunch for us enjoy.
I make pancakes, waffles, french toast or Monkey Bread.
Sometimes we have bacon & eggs alongside our carbs :)
For the past several years, I would make Pancakes & Waffles from the box mix. Sometimes it was the just add water mix and the pancakes (and waffles) never turned out good. They were tough & bland. 
They never tasted like the ones you would get at your favorite breakfast spot.
Sometimes I would use Bisquick & their recipe for Pancakes & Waffles. Still not that good. Still tough/dense and not light & fluffy.

A year ago, Kate & Claire went to an American Girl cooking class at Williams Sonoma and they made Waffles from scratch. The girls said they were the best waffles they have ever had.
They got to bring  he recipe home and whenever we have waffles, Kate would make us the waffles from scratch. They were SO MUCH better than the box mix.  They were light & fluffy and tasted like restaurant quality. It inspired me to make pancakes from scratch and get light & fluffy pancakes.
As some of you know, my 105 year old Grammy loved to cook & I got her recipe box and her cookbooks. She had a recipe for Buttermilk Pancakes, so I tested it out. It was way better than Bisquick or a box mix, but it still wasn't perfect. After doing some research, I decided to tweak Grammy's Buttermilk Pancake mix. Instead of using store bought Buttermilk, I could make my own Buttermilk "soured milk"  using milk & vinegar.  I followed Grammy's recipe but instead of using store bought Buttermilk, I used my "soured milk" and BINGO!!! 
Pancake Perfection. Restaurant Quality.
A few weeks ago,  I posted about these pancakes on Instagram and a lot of people commented that they wanted the recipe, so here you go! 
Here is what you need.......
1 1/2 Cups of Milk
1/4 Cup of White Vinegar
2 cups of flour
1/4 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
*Optional: 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Cooking Spray or more butter for the skillet (I use butter for the skillet)

 Directions:
Combine your milk & vinegar. Set aside at room temperature for at least 10-15 minutes.
This is basically making your own buttermilk...also known as "soured milk" and this is one of the keys to light & fluffy pancakes. This makes all the difference!!!! Do not skip this step!!!
This is what it looks like after 15 minutes...bubbling is good :)
**Side note: Take out your eggs when you start making the "soured milk". You want the eggs at room temperature.
I keep the milk/vinegar in a 2 cup measuring cup. Then after 15 minutes, add the eggs, melted butter & vanilla into the "soured milk:
 Whisk together the milk, eggs & vanilla in into "soured" milk.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Then, pour the milk/vinegar/egg/vanilla mixture into the flour mixture. 
Stir gently with a spoon or spatula to combine until ingredients are just moistened.
 DO NOT OVERMIX!!!!!
 There should be clumps. This is good! You want the batter to be clumpy!
Again, I repeat.... DO NOT OVERMIX. Keep the batter clumpy!
The gluten in the flour starts to develop as soon as liquid touches it, and the more you mix, the tougher the gluten becomes. Tough gluten means tough pancakes. If your batter has lumps, that's fine....they'll cook out on the griddle. Trust Me :)
We cook our pancakes on an electric skillet. I have it heated to 350 degrees.
I like to use butter on the skillet before I add my batter. 
Adding butter to the skillet is another key to delicious pancakes.

Use a 1/8 the measuring cup & pour the batter onto the hot, buttered skillet. 
 I cook 6 pancakes at a time....after each batch...add more butter to the skillet. 
 A pancake is ready to be turned over when it's dry around the edges and bubbles have formed over the top. 
The second side will cook more quickly than the first.

While you're waiting for the second side to cook, resist the impulse to press down the pancake with your spatula. Look how light & fluffy these are....
 Pressing will not make it cook any faster, and you'll undo all the effort you've made to achieve fluffy, light, perfect pancakes in the first place.
 Who knew pancakes could be so beautiful? LOL!
These taste just like pancakes you would get at your favorite diner or breakfast spot.
This recipe makes between 12-14 pancakes and one batch is perfect for our family of 5.
 These pancakes are light, fluffy & they melt in your mouth.
  I hope you love these pancakes as much as we do! 
I will NEVER, EVER,  EVER make pancakes from a box mix. 
I will always make them from scratch....They taste so much better and they are easy to make!
Once you go scratch, you never go back :)
Let me know if you make them & have success with these light & fluffy pancakes!
Enjoy! 

1.16.2018

45 Books in 2017

I don't know about you, but I LOVE to read.
Reading is one of my favorite hobbies & I try and read each night before I go to bed.
My goal for 2017 was to read 50 books. I didn't quite make it. I read 45 books this year!
Here is a recap of the books I read....







 

Favorite Author I discovered in 2017:
I read 8 of her books in 2017.
She has 9 other books, so I am hoping to read some of those this year.

Favorite Book I read in 2017: 

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Hands down the best book I read in 2017.
Whenever someone is looking for a book recommendation, I tell them to read this book. 
You need to add it to your list of books to read!

Least Favorite Books: 
This book isn't bad, but I read a lot of amazing books in 2017. The author is Joy Felding, and I like the other books I have read by her. This book was just okay. 

Yeah, I know. Everyone raved about this book. I was underwhelmed....maybe because I had too high of expectations? The first 150 are reallllllly slow. It took me forever to read it. The ending was good, but overall....Eh.

Book that made me cry:
In 2016 more than half the books I read made me cry (I read a ton of Historical Fiction books based on WW2 era & they made me cry)
For 2017, I wanted to read more light hearted books. I  read a lot of  "beach reads" & also susupensful/pyschological thrillers in 2017, so not a lot of tears were shed with the books I read in 2017.
The book that did make me cry?
You guessed it.... It Ends with Us
Other books that made me cry are Secrets of a Charmed LifeThe Mother's Promise...both fantastic books. 

Book that made me laugh:
This was a feel good book & an easy read! 


Book that made me smile:
This book made me smile & also cry. One of the best books I read in 2017.

 Loved learning more about Chip & JoJo and how Magnolia started. If you love Fixer Upper, you will LOVE this book. It was fun to get to know them :)

Best series I read in 2017:
 This is easy....hands down the Women's Murder Club Series by James Patterson
In 2016,  I  started book 1 the first week of summer. 
By the end of the summer, I had read ALL 15 books in the series.
I'm slightly embarrassed by that.
But, they are SO good.
You must read them in numerical order.
And, they are based in San Francisco & the Bay Area, so that is fun.
I was so obsessed with these books that when I finished book 14 when I was in Lake Tahoe, I couldn't wait to get book 15, but I didn't have internet to buy it for my kindle on Amazon, so I went to one of the libraries in Tahoe, got myself a library card for that library and checked it out so I could read it.
That's how good this series is.
Book 16 came out in 2017 & I read it in 1 day! I LOVE this series.
Check out the series HERE.

Book 17 is coming out next month, can't wait to read it!
Kevin also loves this series, he is on Book 10. 

A new series I read in 2017 was Colleen Hoover's Slammed series. There are 3 books & they are wonderful. Great story and great characters. Here is the order of the books:


Book that surprised me:
I love a plot twist....here are some books that surprised me! I recommend all of them!

Biggest Beach/Fluff Read: 

Both of those books are by Elin Hildebrand & I loved them both. 

Book I couldn't put down:
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
  16th Seduction by James Patterson
The Mother's Promise by Sally Hepworth
The Identicals by Elin Hildebrand

All of those books I finished in 1 or 2 days each...they were that good!


Most likely to recommend:
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover. Like I mentioned before....I tell everyone about this book!
  The Women's Murder Club Series by James Patterson....you have 16 books that you get to read and all of them are great.
Author I want to read more from in 2018:
Colleen Hoover ( I read 8 of her books in 2017, can't wait to read her other 9 books)
Mary Kubica (I read her 3  books in 2016 & loved them all. She came out with a new one a few months ago and I can't wait to read it)
James PattersonI love his Women's Murder Club Series so much, so I am going to read more of his books...I think he has written over 60 books, so I am going to read more of them. He has an Alex Cross series that I want to read....has anyone read it?
Susan Meissner In 2016, I read A Fall of Marigolds (loved it!!!) and in 2017 I read Secrets of a Charmed Life (really liked this book as well) She has a handful of additional books & I want to read some of them this year.


 In 2016, I read 60 books. You can see the books I read in 2016 on THIS post.
In 2015, I read 35 books. You can see the books I read in 2015 on THIS post.


I have already finished 1 book in 2018....The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (She also wrote The Women in Cabin 10In dark, dark wood)


I would LOVE to hear YOUR recommendations!
 What are your FAVORITE books of 2017?
What books do you recommend that I add to my reading list in 2018?

Can't wait to hear your suggestions & what some of your favorite books are! 
 I read a ton of the books you guys have suggested in the past, so THANK YOU!
Book nerds unite :)

1.12.2018

Instant Pot Quick & Easy Shredded Chicken

I know a lot of you may have gotten an Instant Pot for Christmas & you may be intimidated by it or you aren't sure what to make in it.
It's also January, which means a lot of people are trying to start the New Year off by eating healthy.
Shredded Chicken is a lean white meat, so it's healthy & a great way to have some protein.
I wanted to share a SUPER EASY way to make Shredded Chicken in your Instant Pot.
What I love about this method is that it makes a ton of shredded chicken, it freezes well & you can add it to salads, soups, casseroles, etc.
 Here is what you need:
 3-4 pounds of frozen chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup of water
- Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions:
Pour 1/2 cup of water into the bottom of your Instant Pot liner. Add the frozen chicken breasts and then sprinkle with salt & pepper:
   Then put the lid on your Instant Pot turn the knob to SEALING:
You are going to cook this on manual high pressure for 15 minutes.
After it is done cooking, I wait 15-20 minutes for it to release pressure on it's ow. If there steam left, do a manual release.

It will look like this when you open the lid:
 Using cooking tongs,  I move the Chicken breasts to my Kitchen Aid mixer. I always do a quick check to make sure my chicken is cooked (I am scared of under cooked chicken...LOL)
 
Then, turn on your mixer!
If you don't have a Kitchen Aid Stand mixer, just use a hand mixer.
In about 1 minute, your chicken is completely shredded!
 So Easy! Look at all that Shredded Chicken!
 Then, I take what I need for what I am making & then I freeze the rest in a Ziplock.
 I label the bag so I know what's in there :)
 This is seriously the EASIEST and QUICKEST way to make Shredded Chicken.

I use this Shredded Chicken for several recipes that call for chicken like:

Speaking of other healthy & easy Instant Pot recipes, here are all the Instant Pot recipes I have posted in the last year since I have owned my Instant Pot:

Korean Beef






 
More Instant Pot Recipes coming your way...I hope to blog 1 or 2  Instant Pot recipe a month!
I am also hoping to blog more of my Crock Pot recipes into Instant Pot Recipes.
I have already converted my Slow Cooker Chicken FajitasSlow Cooker Corn Chowder with Potatoes + Bacon , Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili & Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup  to Instant Pot Recipes.....I just need to blog those conversions for you guys. 
Stay Tuned for those & more Instant Pot Recipes! 

If you have any Instant Pot questions, please ask me! I have had mine since October 2016 and I LOVE it. I was intimidated by it at first, but after I used it the first time, I realized it wasn't so scary to use. I am in love with it and haven't used my Crock Pot since I got my Instant Pot!
 
Hope you have a great weekend!

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