Saturday, December 28, 2013

10 Recipes of Christmas

I know, I know, I've been a total slacker lately and haven't been sharing nearly as many good recipes as usual.  I PROMISE I'll get better once the new year is here!  I have even been slacking in my picture taking.  I looked back and I hardly took any good food pics.  **Shakes head in shame.**  Forgive me?  Please? 
I decided instead to share the main 10 recipes of Christmas.  So, in essence it is a food overview of how our Christmas day went.  I don't have pictures of most of it (again, slacker), but I will give you what I got and hope you will check out the links for the recipes.  Trust me they are good ones!  We did Christmas food total justice this year!  Some are tried and true recipes that I make every year and others are new ones that I tried for the first time or that I've made in the past, but not very often.  Without further ado, let's get started!


Christmas Breakfast with Coffee
1. Crock-Pot Hot Chocolate from Mrs. Happy Homemaker: This was the first for this one and it was AMAZING!  It is thick and rich and creamy and everything you want the perfect hot chocolate to be.  It was easy enough to throw together and we drank it throughout the day. 

2. Cinnamon Rolls from The Pioneer Woman: This was another first.  I've made cinnamon rolls before, but not these ones.  One recipe of these makes a lot and I made 2 recipes.  I made a lot to give to neighbors as gifts on Christmas Eve.  I made them and rolled them and froze them.  That way they could thaw and bake them when they wanted them hot and fresh for Christmas morning.  They turned out great!  I got compliments from the neighbors and my family gobbled them up too.  I will definitely make these again next year.  Great gifts and great food, perfect combination!

3. Creamy Berry Goodness from Becoming Betty: This was super easy and quick to whip together.  My daughter has been eating a huge bowl every morning since Christmas.  A great lighter fruit to add to the all the richness of the day.

4. Hash Brown Egg Casserole: I make this every year and it is a family favorite!
-Pour 1 bag of frozen hash browns into a bottom of a 9x13 lightly greased dish.
-In a medium skillet cook 1lb sausage, bacon or 1 cup cooked ham
-Add and sauté 1 onion and 1 bell pepper.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly and then pour over hash browns.
-In a bowl whisk 12 eggs and 1 cup of milk.  Pour over meat mixture in dish.
-Top with 1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.
-Cover and refrigerate overnight.
-Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until knife comes out clean and is set.
**Note: Can be made with veggies instead to be vegetarian.

Christmas Afternoon Snacks
Since we had a big breakfast and I was making a big dinner and we were eating that early I just made some snacks and we just munched through the afternoon.  I had store bought hummus and cut up veggies, sliced salami and gouda cheese (we got it in a gift basket and it was the perfect addition) I had out all my Christmas cookies and then I made these two appetizers...


5. Oven Toasted Ravioli from Plain Chicken:  These were yummy and well liked too.  I had the smaller square raviolis and they worked just as well.  I put out store bought marinara sauce for dipping and they were delicious!

6. Deviled Eggs with Bacon: A friend made these sometime this summer and they were the best deviled eggs I had ever had.  I made up my own version for Thanksgiving and then needed a repeat appearance for Christmas.  Here's what I did: 
-Hard boil 12 eggs, let them cool and refrigerate over night. 
-Cook up 3 slices of bacon and refrigerate over night. 
-The next day peel, rinse and cut them in half. 
-Mix the yolks, 1 T mustard, 1/2-3/4 cup mayo (add and mix until it is the creaminess you want), 1-2 T sugar, 1 T vinegar (or you could us sweet pickle juice), salt and pepper to taste and the 3 slices of bacon finely chopped. 
-Mix it all really well and then spoon into each egg white half.  (I used a small cookie scoop)
-Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Christmas Dinner with Wine
7. Fresh Green Beans from The Pioneer Woman: I've made these before and they are delicious!  Not a lot of ingredients and fairly quick.  My kind of side!

8. Twice Baked Potatoes: These are a great "fancy" side and they are great to make a day or two ahead of time.  You can even freeze them!
-Bake desired amount of potatoes (remember that they'll be cut in half for portions, so people may take only 1 half if they are big or 2 if they are smaller potatoes).  I wrap mine in foil and bake at 425 for about 1 hour.  If they are big they may need to bake a little longer. Let cool for a couple hours or until you are able to handle them with your hands.
- Cut in half and carefully scoop out insides of the potatoes into a mixing bowl or bowl of your mixer.  Place potato "skins" on a cookie sheet or bar pan.
-Mix potato insides with 4oz soft cream cheese and 2-4 T melted butter.  Mix until beginning to get smooth.
-Add milk until they are thick, but creamy.  Add in salt and pepper to taste.  Once desired consistency is reached, spoon filling into each potato skin.
- Top each with chopped cooked bacon and shredded cheddar cheese. 
-When ready to bake.  Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 or until heated through.  Top with chopped chives or green onions if desired.


9. Prime Rib:  This is my mom recipe.  This was the first time I made it myself.  I think it turned out pretty good, if I say so myself.  It was tender, juicy and good!  Leftovers are just as good as the real thing.
-For Marinade combine:
1/3 cup orange marmalade
2 T brown sugar
1 T ground dry mustard
1 T grated fresh ginger root
3 T soy sauce
1/4 tsp hot sauce
4 cloves minced garlic
-Mix well and then stir in 1 cup beer
-8lb prime rib roast, poke holes all over roast and pour marinade over it.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, basting at least twice.
-Place roast on rack of roasting pan and 1 cup of marinade to pan.  Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil over roast and sprinkle with fresh black pepper generously.
-Insert thermometer into the middle of roast, don't touch bone if it has one.  Cover with foil and seal tightly around pan.  Cook at 400 for 1 hour.
-Remove foil and baste.  Return to oven uncovered.  Reduce heat to 325 and cook 1 more hour.
-Internal temp should be 145 for medium-rare, 160 for medium. (We wanted ours to be medium and it cooked for almost another 1 1/2 hours extra so plan accordingly to how your oven cooks and your desired doneness of your roast.)
-Remove from oven.   Cover and let roast rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Happy Birthday Jesus Cake
My mom started the tradition every Christmas to have a cake to light candles and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  I continued that with our kids when we moved away.  It is a special time to remember why we celebrate Christmas at the end of all the craziness of the day.


10. Popcorn Cake from Cookies and Cups:  This is a simple dessert "cake" that isn't too rich after all the other rich foods and desserts from throughout the past celebrations.  It's kinda like a rice crispy treat, but with popcorn and other goodies in it.  It would be a great dessert to make at any holiday with M&M's with the holiday colors.  I topped mine with Christmas sprinkles too.

Well, there you go!  I hope you enjoyed seeing our Christmas menu.  Make sure you try some of these great recipes!  Let me know which one you like best!  Merry Christmas (a few days late)!!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Apple Cider Sangria

I don't know many people who don't like sangria.  I, for one, love sangria of any flavor!  Usually it's more of a summer drink I think, but when I found this fall/winter version I had to try it.  I had an art party where everyone got to make their own subway style picture with their favorite quote, saying, Bible verse or holiday thing.  I made a bunch and we had lots of fun!  Here's one of the ones I made!
 
 
I love it!!  It is going to be hung in my coffee kitchen and is going to look perfect! 
So, fun crafts and lots of gals over called for good snacks and of course drinks!  This Apple Cider Sangria was the perfect one.  It was super quick and easy to mix up, looked good and tasted good too.  The fruit was delicious to eat at the end as well.  So, in some ways it's a drink and a snack!  What's your favorite sangria?


My nice pitcher was already packed, so I used a large bowl. LoL
 
 

Ingredients:
1 bottle (standard size) of pinot grigio
2 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
1 cup club soda (Next time I might leave this out, I thought it watered it down a bit.  Taste it before you add this in to see what you think.)
1/2 cup ginger brandy (I used regular brandy, I couldn't find the ginger kind.)
3 honey crisp apples, chopped
3 pears, chopped
 
Directions:
Combine all ingredients together and stir, stir, stir. Refrigerate for an hour or so (or longer!) before serving.


 

 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Library Birthday Party

My oldest daughter turned 8.  I still can't believe it!  She loves book and to read and write her own stories so we put together a library book party.  It was fun and different and everyone had a great time.  I was so excited about her invites, they turned out super cute!

 
I got the idea for these from here.  The template for the invites are from HERE and it is free!  I printed them on postcard pages and they were the perfect size and already perforated to cutting.  I bought the date stamp and stamp pad at Office Max.  They turned out so cute!  By far my favorite part. 
We had a book exchange where everyone came with a wrapped book that they had already read at home and were willing to pass on.
Then I invaded my scrapbooking stickers and pulled out all my pens, markers and stickers and they made bookmarks.  They did that at the table for almost an hour!
We of course did the usual cake and presents and then everyone went home with a gift bag.  For those I took an old book and ripped out pages, wrote the first letter of everyone's name and glued them onto brown paper bags.  I filled them with a little baggie of gummy "book" worms, pencils and little notebooks I found of sale.  I had also made stickers for their books with "This book belongs to" and forgot to put them in the bags.  Majorly mad at myself the next day!  Here is were there is a template for those or make your own using shipping labels.  This site had a lot of cute ideas.


 
It was a good day and good party and I had a very happy little 8 year old girl at the end of the day!  So if you have a reader and you're tired of the usual Disney something party, try something new!  It's fun!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mini Turkey Meatballs in the Slow Cooker

Hello my lovelies!  I know, it's been awhile.  I'm sorry for that, but you know how life is.  We have on going birthdays in this family in the fall, all the holidays, sports and dance, church events and did I tell you that we are moving to England?!  So cleaning out the house, selling stuff off and filling the storage unit has been a big priority around here.  We'll just say that the last month has been quite crazy and hectic!  So, I'm here now... for the time being.  It is still crazy central around here and most likely will be for the next couple months while we prepare for our move across the pond. 
Enough about that.  How have you been?  I hope well!  Any good new Thanksgiving or Christmas recipes you've tried?  I'm trying some new ones and can't wait to share with you!  Today I'm posting a new one that saved me during this busy time with a meal that took no time at all.  Why?  Because it was made in my slow cooker and then the leftovers were in my freezer for a second meal!  I love those kinds of recipes.  They make my heart smile!  So with out further ado, I give you Mini Turkey Meatballs!

Mini Turkey Meatballs
from How Sweet It Is

Ingredients:

1 pound 99% lean ground turkey breast
1 pound 94% lean ground turkey
2/3 cup cooked quinoa (preferably cooked in flavored stock) (I actually used almond flour instead and it worked great!)
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated Romano cheese
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large sweet onion, sliced into thin rounds
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine turkey, quinoa, garlic, beaten egg, olive oil, cheese, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly but quickly, just so the ingredients are combined - do not over mix! Roll into mini balls - slightly smaller than a golf ball, and place on a baking sheet.

Layer sliced onion on the bottom of the crockpot and add 1 can of crushed tomatoes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat (mine was actually almost high) and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add meatballs, searing on the top and bottom until golden, about 1 minute per side. To flip meatballs, gently toss with a spoon. I also shook the pan a few times to roll the meatballs around - if you pan is hot enough this works! Add meatballs one at a time to the crockpot. Repeat with remaining meatballs - it is okay to stack them once they are all finished.

Once all the meatballs are in the crockpot, add the other can of crushed tomatoes, completely submerging the meatballs. Cook on low for 6 hours. Serve!
 
{don't skip the browning step! it helps seal the juices in so the meatballs are tender and also keeps them from becoming one giant mess of meat in the crockpot.}
{if desired, you can brown the meatballs one day (such as the day before) and then refrigerate until ready to use. you can also freeze the same way!}
 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Homemade Tomato Soup (GF, V)

Baby it's cold outside!  Well, maybe not that cold here, but maybe where you are it is!  :)  One of the best meals for lunch or a quick dinner is good old tomato soup and grilled cheese.  I know it's one my family's favorites. 
A good friend of mine follows a vegan diet and when she would be coming over I was terrible at trying to figure out what to make.  Then she had my hubby and I over and made this soup.  Then it was like everything clicked.  Changing food to be vegan or gluten free doesn't have to be that hard.  You don't have to stop eating everything you've always loved, you just have to be willing to change a few ingredients a bit.  Now, I change everything!  Shhh, just don't tell my husband and kids!
I still make regular grilled cheese sandwiches for my family.  For me, I make a "kind of" quesadilla.  I use corn tortillas and I like provolone cheese for these.  Butter the outsides of the tortillas and cook until lightly browned, flip and do the same on the other side.  I cut them into quarters.  They make perfect dippers!
What are some of you favorite food that you enjoy but are afraid to change?  Give it shot!  You might like it better.

Tomato Soup

-Saute in 1/4 cup of evoo or butter:
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
-Add: 1/4 cup flour (all purpose or GF flour blend), stir until dissolved
-Stir in:  1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 28oz cans of crusted tomatoes
1-2 T brown sugar or honey
-Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 30 minutes
-Remove and discard bay leaf
-In small batches pour soup into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth (you may want to let cool slightly before doing this so it doesn't splatter everywhere)
-Return to pot and add: 1 cup soy creamer or 1/2 & 1/2
-If you'd like it a bit thinner add in some vegetable stock
-Season with additional salt, pepper and/or sugar/honey to taste
ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Triple Chocolate Nut Clusters

I don't know about you, but am so ready for this month to fast forward to Thanksgiving.  I want to enjoy a day of food, friends and fun and then move onto Christmas!  I'm one of those crazy people that has already pulled out my Christmas dishes and is thinking about starting to decorate for Christmas.  I start my Christmas baking sometimes as early as October and keep on going.  I like to do my baking before Thanksgiving, freeze it all and then it's done and I can pull my baked goods out to make platters of cookies anytime I need to during the whole month of December.  I love it!!  I've made over 20 different types of cookies and candies some years.  To me, that is right on the top of my list of favorite Christmas time things. 
This year I'm cutting way back with how much I'm baking since we are getting ready to move.  One of my favorite chocolate candies to make are Triple Chocolate Nut Clusters.  They are super easy, you make them in a slow cooker, it makes a lot and they also make excellent gifts to put in mugs, jars or bags to give out.  Try them  and let me know what you think!

Triple Chocolate Nut Clusters

1-16oz jar dry roasted peanuts
1-9.75oz can salted whole cashews
2 cups pecan pieces
36oz chocolate bark, squares cut in half
1-12oz package semisweet chocolate chips
4oz bittersweet chocolate
1T shortening
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine first 7 ingredients in a 5-quart slow cooker, cover and cook on low 2 hours or until chocolate is melted.  Stir, add vanilla, stirring well to coat.
Drop by heaping T onto wax paper.  Let stand at least 2 hours or until firm.  Store in an air tight container.  (Or freeze in zip-lock bags like I do.

Yummy Deliciousness!
)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Skylander's Birthday with Oreo Cake

Another birthday down and celebrated in our house.  With my husband and kids birthday's all in the fall/winter I feel like it is non-stop!  My little guy turned 6 and he is all about the Skylander's right now.  That is all he has asked for and wants to play.  We got him the game and now everyone else has been filling in the "guys."  He has made his huge list of the ones he still wants for Christmas and it keeps growing. 
We did a low key party for him this year with just a couple friends and cake. My favorite part was the favors.  I put together Skylander Element Boxes filled with candy for the favors and they turned out really great!  I think I was just as excited about them as he was.  I got the idea from here

So cute!  Right?

I printed off a Skylanders logo and elements pictures and taped them onto tackle boxes.  I tried to match the candy with the different elements.  Don't worry, I had to research what they all were too! 
Water-gummy fish, Fire-fireballs, Earth-chocolate rocks, Undead-chocolate eyeballs, Life-green licorice, Air-airheads, Magic-purple chocolate covered pretzels, Tech-orange jelly beans
This would be a fun favor for lots of different parties I think.  The tackle box idea you could use for a craft party, Legos and so many others!  It's cheap, versatile and you can use it afterwards for things too! 
My son requested an Oreo cake, so that is what I made.  I used this recipe for a Chocolate Sour Cream Cake and then made a creamy Oreo filling. 

Oreo Filling
Mix together:
1/4 cup butter, soft
4 oz. cream cheese, soft
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Fold in 8oz whipped cream until mixed well
Crush 1 1/2 rows of Oreos and fold into cream mixture.
Layer 1/2 of Oreo cream in the middle of the 2 layers of cake and the rest on top.
Melt 6 oz chocolate chips and 3 T butter until melted and smooth.  Drizzle and lightly spread on top.  Top with more Oreos if desired. 
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 
I think we had a successful party!  The birthday boy was happy and everyone was full of sugar.  What's your favorite birthday themes?

 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Dumplings (Paleo)

This week is my husband's birthday so I've been trying to make dinners all week that are meals he loves.  One of his favorites is his grandma's Dumplings.  I usually make them quite a bit during the winter.  The whole family loves them and they are pretty simple to make.  Although, now that I've cut out the gluten from my diet I can't have them anymore.  Bummer!  I had pinned a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi and thought I'd give it try.  I made a few alterations and voila!
So in one pot I made regular Dumplings for everyone and in the other I made a small pot of Sweet Potato Dumplings.  Everyone is happy.  I started with my regular recipe for Chicken Soup with Dumplings recipe and just added my Sweet Potato Dumplings instead.  They turned out pretty good!  These actually made the broth turn a little creamy and thicker and it was really good. 
I even think if you made the sweet potato mixture into patties to brown in butter or oil they would be yummy.  What do you think?

Sweet Potato Dumplings

Ingredients:
1 sweet potato, baked and peeled
1-1 1/2 cups almond meal
3 T tapioca flour

Directions:
Mash sweet potato and stir in almond meal and tapioca flour until you get a thick consistency.  Next time I might try adding an egg.  It was thick, but the dumplings were still very soft when boiling.
Drop by tablespoons into boiling broth or water until they float to the top.



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Great Grandma's Zucchini Bread

Fall is my favorite time of year, hands down!  I love the weather, but even more I love the food of fall.  Soups, stews, roasts, sweet breads...  Yum!!  I recently made Zucchini Bread.  I love it!  Any flavor, any add ins, I love it.  This recipe is my Great Grandma's recipe and it is a no fail one.  I love it because it makes 3 loaves and you can make it any flavor you want.  How great is that?!  These freeze well too.  Give as gifts, save for a pot-luck, pull out for a special breakfast or serve for company with coffee.  Enjoy!!
 
Chocolate chip, Chocolate chocolate chip and
regular zucchini bread
 
Great Grandma's Zucchini Bread
Ingredients:
3 cups shredded zucchini (try to get out as much water/moisture as possible)
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Directions:
Beat sugar and eggs.  Add vanilla and oil.  Add all dry ingredients and zucchini.  Stir in up to 3 cups of mix-ins*.  (I divided batter into 3 portions and flavored them 3 different ways, or you can make them all the same)  Divide between 3 greased and floured bread pans and bake at 350 for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.
*Mix-ins: 1 cup raisins, 1 cup dried cranberries, 1 cup chopped nuts, 1 cup coconut, 1-2 cups chocolate, white chocolate or cinnamon chips or anything else you can think of. 
*To make chocolate zucchini bread decrease flour to 2 1/2 cups and add in 1/2 cup of cocoa powder.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I realize that it is only the first week of October, but for me, once school starts it is fall/holiday time.  I get so excited for the parties, food, cookies, gifts and celebrations!  I just love fall and all that brings.  The unfortunate part is that living in Vegas doesn't make it always feel like fall, but I just play pretend from inside my house and then all is good in my world.  :) 
I love to make homemade gifts for teachers, neighbors, friends and family.  I think when you take the time to make something special, the person receiving always appreciates it a little extra.  I love to see people enjoy what I make, don't you?  Plus this is one that you'll want to keep one for yourself too!
I go through vanilla extract fast!  Although I'm picky about the kind I buy.  I only use the real stuff and it can get expensive, especially at the holiday time with all the cookies and other baking I do.  I found this recipe to make Homemade Vanilla Extract and I love it!  It is so simple.  Initially it can be a little costly, but overall saves tons of money.  So look at it that way.  All you need is vanilla beans, vodka and nice bottle.  How amazing is that?!
For the bottle(s), if you are making it just for yourself, you can always make one big batch and use the vodka bottle itself which makes it even easier.  If you want to make smaller bottles to have you can find nice glass bottles at Wal-mart and craft stores.  Just make sure they have a good seal.  I had gotten some single serve wine bottles and they were the perfect size.  I just washed them up, after drinking/using the wine of course, and they worked great and I didn't have to spend anything extra on bottles.  I made 4 bottles of this size with one bottle of vodka.  I took 3 home to Ohio to give as gifts and kept one for myself.  Yum! 
The only bad part about making your own is that you have to let it seep for 4-6 weeks before using.  So, if you do want this for your own holiday baking or to give as gifts, start now!

After 1 week of shaking, it will keep darkening
as the beans continue to seep.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
from Akshayapaatram
  • 2-3 Vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup - Vodka
  • glass bottle with lid/cork
Pick a glass bottle that can hold a whole vanilla bean. Clean and dry completely. Place vanilla beans in the bottle and cover completely with vodka. Seal well and place in a cool, dark place in your kitchen. Give it a shake every day or so for the first week.  Can use after 2 weeks, but for best results let seep for 4-6 weeks.

Notes: Within 3 days you will begin to notice a light brown color and the extract was strong enough to use within 2 weeks. A month would be ideal but if you want to use it sooner start off with extra vanilla beans. I used 4-5 beans in my current batch and add more vodka as I use some of it. I buy my vanilla beans on Amazon from this supplier, its a great deal and the quality has been great. You can use vanilla beans in the extract for recipes as well. They will be super moist and you can squeeze out the seeds easily.

When your extract is all gone and you have super moist and amazing vanilla beans to scrap, it is the perfect time to make Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding.  Delicious!! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Filling the Freezer Part 2

Freezer Cooking is such an underground cooking way of life I think.  You have the die hard freezer users, some that freeze leftovers sometimes and then those that think the concept is completely gross, that unless it came frozen it shouldn't be in there.  Where do you fit?  Me, I'm all about filling my freezer to the max.  I love to buy and cook in bulk.  It saves not only time later on but usually money too.  There are so many things you can freeze from whole gallons of milk to pre-made casseroles and dinners to bread to produce to cookies.  There are some things that freeze better then others, but as a whole, you can pretty much stick anything in there. 
At holiday time I always start my Christmas cookie and candy baking anywhere between October and November so that it is done by Thanksgiving.  I freeze them all and then pull them out as I need them to make a tray to take to a party or have for dinner or whatever it may be. 
I love to freeze leftover coffee in ice cube trays for iced coffee or juice lemons or limes that need to get used.  I haven't done it, but I've heard to do this with left over buttermilk and heavy cream too.  You always have some of those left over after you use them for that one recipe! 
Breads of all kinds freeze great.  Go buy day old artisan breads from the bakery when they are on sale and freeze them to use for garlic bread, French toast, bread pudding or just to heat and eat! 
Cheese is another one that I do ALL the time.  I prefer to buy blocks of cheese.  You can freeze the whole block, or slice or shred it and freeze that way, pulling out what you need when you want it.  Lunch meats in the same way freeze well. 
Pre-make pancakes or waffles and save money and time instead of buying the boxed ones for 1/2 the price. 
Left over spaghetti sauce, chili, lasagna, and casseroles all freeze great too.
This freezer cooking that I'm talking about today though is for Crock-Pot Freezer Meals.  You dump the ingredients into  a freezer gallon size zip-lock bag and freeze.  When you want to make it just empty the bag into your Crock-Pot and let it cook.  Cannot be simpler!  This time I really wanted to stay away from the cream of whatever soups and we learned from last time that we didn't always like the chicken recipes that weren't a soup as much as some of the others.  Here is the link for my first round of Freezer Meals.

 
This time I made these Crock-Pot Freezer Recipes....
Jambalaya
"Creamy" Chicken Tomato Soup (paleo)
Honey Apple Pork loin (paleo)
Taco Soup
White Chicken Chili
Pizza Sauce
I also made Freezer Friendly Pizza Dough, which I doubled and also made a 1/2 recipe to try with gluten free flour.  The gluten free turned out ok.  I think it needed a little less flour, it got really stiff and cracked easily, but tasted great.  This recipe is super fast and easy and doesn't require time to let rise.  I froze 3 portions of the pizza dough and with the 4th I made Calzones using The Pioneer Woman's Calzone filling recipe.  My family loved them and then I froze the left over ones for later.  (Just to clarify, I froze fully baked calzones)

 
Lastly, I made, what I call, Egg McMommies.  I stole this name from a childhood friend's mom.  She used to make her version of these for us after sleep overs.  My version I bake the eggs and make them a little bit healthier.  I first got the idea (again) from The Yummy Life.   Here is what I do...


Egg McMommies
Start by lightly spraying a jumbo muffin pan, ramekins or Pampered Chef Brownie Pan with cookie spray.  Crack an egg into each, sprinkle with a little pepper if you like.  Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until set.
Lightly brown Canadian bacon just long enough to sweat the water out.  *You could use fully cooked sausage patties if you prefer.
Split whole wheat English muffins (Toasted if you like) in half and layer with 1 slice of cheese (your choice, I usually use Cheddar or Colby Jack), 1 piece of Canadian bacon and 1 baked egg.  Put the top of the muffin on and wrap in parchment or in sandwich size zip-lock bags.  Freeze.  Heat in the microwave about 3 minutes on 1/2 power.  My hubby loves these!

Have fun filling your freezer with something new.  What is your favorite things to freeze?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Yummy Collard Greens... I'm Not Lying!

One of the hardest parts and worst things about having a military life is saying "Good-bye" to friends.  You move to new places and meet new people and make new friendships.  That's the fun part.  Then at some point, either you get orders and move or they do, or they retire or just separate.  Moves are inevitable for everyone.  They are usually happier for the one leaving than for the one being left behind.  I think it true weather you are in the military or not.  Whenever loved ones, friends or family, move it can be sad to see them leave. 
We have been here for about 1 1/2 years now.  And right now we are getting hit hard with people moving away.  Everyone from my hair dresser to our go-to babysitter to hubby's co-workers to a very good friend to neighbors.  Some have already left and some will leave within the next few months.  It seems like everyone around us are leaving, except us.  Boo! 
Old people out, new people in.  That is the ever changing cycle of base life in the military.  Sometimes it's good, sometimes not so much.  I'm hoping that we'll meet some new friends and maybe even some great ones.  Here's hoping!
Today's recipe is one I got from a great friend that just left recently for Germany.  She is going to be greatly missed!  She was like me and always trying new recipes and loved sharing them.  She made these Collard Greens and they were the first I'd ever had.  They were so good!  They have a good kick of spice to them that adds just the right touch.  It does make a lot, so if you think you'll be savoring them yourself, like I did, then you might want to half the recipe.  Or freeze leftovers in zip-lock bags or freezer safe containers.  Don't be scared!  Give these a try!

So good, it really is more of meal than a side if you ask me!
 
Collard Greens

Ingredients:
4 lbs collard greens (about 4 bunches) (I actually had Kale and used it in place of the collards and they worked perfect too!)
3 T olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 large ham hocks (about 2 lbs), cooked (I couldn't find just ham hocks in the store, so I bought a bone-in sliced ham and managed 2 meals.  A ham dinner and then used the bone hock for these!)
2 bay leaves
2 quarts chicken broth
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 T sugar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (If you like a good kick of spice add a little more)
seasoned salt

Directions:
Clean your greens.  Remove stems and wash thoroughly to get rid of any grit.  Dry well.  Cut or tear into ribbon-like pieces (Or cut into small leaves if using kale).

Coat a large stockpot with oil and place over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, stir, add the ham hock(s) and bay leaves.  Cook about 8 minutes.  Start to pack in the greens, pushing them down into the pot.  Add in broth, vinegar and remaining ingredients. 

Bring to a hard boil for 10 minutes, until greens begin to wilt without stirring.  Turn the greens over with a wooden spoon, do not stir.  Lower to a gentle boil, cover the pot and let cook for 45 minutes.  Taste the "pot liquor" or broth and season as needed.  Cover and let simmer for another 15 minutes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Easy Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups

I feel like I am still in the beginning of this journey to cut out the crap from the foods we eat.  I am not as strict with my kids or hubby.  They are more or less being forced to go with me on this.  Haha!  One of the things, since summer, that I am trying to most to cut out from my kids everyday foods is crackers.  I still make them Snack baskets filled with Granola Bars and other healthy options, along with fresh fruits and veggies.  Just trying to cut out the extra stuff they just don't need and try to save a little money in the process. 
My kids, all three of them, love fruit snacks!  As long as I find the ones with less sugar and made with juice, I don't mind them having them.  The problem is that they can get pricey!  I tried making homemade fruit snacks.  They turned out, but were not winners.  My kids didn't really like them too much and with the amount of gelatin I had to buy to make a decent amount of them, I don't think it saved any money at all.
So, plan B was to try Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups or (fruit leather.)  And they were so simple, so easy to make and everyone LOVES them!  I made strawberry the first couple times and just over the weekend I made mango and they seem to be just as good.  They are 2 ingredients and turn out great!

Fruit Roll-Ups
from Baked by Rachel

Ingredients:
Ready to puree
about 4 cups of ripe fruit (be sure to hull, peel, core whatever fruit you are using)
1/2 honey

Directions:
  • Preheat your oven to 170 or as low as it will go
  • Line 2 sheet pans with silicone baking mats, parchment paper or plastic wrap (the last time I made them I used plastic wrap and I like it better then the parchment.)
  • Blend until smooth.
  • If it is a seeded fruit, like strawberries, feel free to strain the seeds if you don't think you're kids will like them.  I did.
  • Pour puree onto each lined baking sheet and using an off-set spatula spread it out into a thin layer.
  • Bake for about 3 hours, rotating pans 1/2 way through.  They are done when the middle is no longer soft or too sticky.
  • Allow to cool then remove from sheet and place onto wax paper. 
  • Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into strips or squares.
  • Roll up with the wax paper and store in refrigerator or air tight container.

Cutting into strips

These won't last long!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Silly Monster Party

Silly Monster, tricks are for kids!  I know that's not the way it originally goes, but that is what keeps playing in my mind.  My daughters 3rd birthday is this week, so we had her party last night.  We had a silly monster party.  It was very fitting for this little crazy girl.  She is a very spunky thing and she definitely thinks that she rules the world, we just all live in it too.  We didn't go crazy with decorations or games this year and went simple on food.  But it was full of fun!

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!
For decorations I simply got multi colored polka dot balloons.  I also got polka dot plates and napkins.  I found brightly colored cups with a "My name is" place on them for 50% off in the bargain bin.  So the kids each got a cup with their name on it with a silly straw and got to take them home with their goodie bags.  The goodie bags had monster stickers on them that B helped with.  Each bag had a little monster zipper clip I found on clearance at Toys R Us, a glow stick, a small play dough, and a monster eye marshmallow.

 
For entertainment I had a basket full of glittery foam sheets, glitter glue, googley eyes, pom poms and markers for everyone to make their own monster.  It seemed like all the kids from 3 year olds to 10 year olds all liked doing this.  I say that is a successful craft!

In between eating and making monsters the kids all just played outside and inside.  We had 11 kids ranging in ages from 2-10, but everyone played well and although it was loud, it was a great time.  We also had the movie Monsters Vs. Aliens playing when everyone was first getting here.  That's one of B's favorite movies.  :)


For the food we just picked up $5 pizzas and breadsticks.  I figured I'd spend the same amount on food if I made snacks, so this way it was less hassle. For drinks we had lemonade and sweet tea.  For the desserts I got a big bag of cheddar popcorn and made monster cookies and of course cake.  For the cake B requested a chocolate cake with peanut butter.  So that is exactly what she got.  I used this Dark Chocolate Cake recipe from Bakaholic Mama.  This is a great moist chocolate cake and the frosting is always a crowd pleaser.  I used orange food coloring in the frosting.  I figured it would be the easiest color to make it.  Haha! For the eyes I used colored candy melts and dipped marshmallows in the different colors and bought large size candy eyes to put on them.  Easy enough!  With the little bit of left over melted chocolate I made the circles and triangles on wax paper and used them to add more color and fun to the cake.  It was fun to make and everyone liked it.  The only complaint I got was that it was super rich.  I'll take that!

Dark Chocolate Cake
from Bakaholic Mama
Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 a cup of dark coco powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp of salt
2 eggs
1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2/3 of a cup of boiling water (I used hot coffee, I like how coffee enhances the taste of chocolate.)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.
Grease and Flour 2 8 inch cake pans. Set aside
In the bowl of your electric mixer stir together your dry ingredients. Add in milk, oil, eggs, vanilla and beat on medium/low speed for 2 minutes.
Stir in boiling water by hand.
Pour into pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.


Peanut Butter Frosting
This is the best peanut butter frosting hands down!
Ingredients:
1 cup softened butter
1 cup peanut butter
5 1/2-6 cups powdered sugar
1-2 cup heavy cream
Directions:
Cream butter and peanut butter until well mixed.
Add in about 1/2 the powdered sugar and mix.  Once it begins to incorporate add in 1/2 the heavy cream. 
Add in the other 1/2 of the sugar and then gradually add in the remaining heavy cream beating at high speed until light and fluffy and desired consistency.
For a heavier frosting us less cream for a lighter one use more.

I'd say we didn't do too bad at all!  A lot of the stuff I already had at home so it made it easy and saved money too.  It probably still ended up being bigger then what I was going for, but it was a fun night either way and B had a blast! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sunbutter Bread

Wow.  It has definitely been a challenge getting back into the swing of things since being back home.  We are in the second week of school and now all the extra activities are beginning too.  Not to mention all the dentist appointments, birthday parties, my husbands obsession with racquetball and just life.  AH!  But in a good way.  :)  How's life going for you?  The school year is underway and here we go!
I have, however, gotten to try some really good recipes already though and I cannot wait to start sharing them with you all.  This one I've been wanting to try since before summer, but just never got around to it.  It is for Sunbutter Bread from The Paleo Mama.  I love her!  She is paleo, but is realistic with it, especially with kids. 
I'm always intrigued when I see recipes for "breads" that are gluten free, let alone paleo.  It just doesn't seem like it should be possible.  I see a lot of mentions of Sunbutter in a lot of paleo blogs and recipes and just around.  So I bought a jar at Trader Joe's awhile back and have been anxious to try it.  It is exactly what I says.  It tastes just like sun flower seeds, but in a "peanut butter" form.  Chances are if you don't like sunflower seeds you won't like sunbutter.  For me, I liked it, but it definitely won't take the place of my peanut butter or other nut butters anytime soon. 
All that being said, this was a really easy and simple way of making decent bread.  The first original recipe called for natural peanut or nut butter, but I made it with the sunbutter like Paleo Mama did.  Which means that my bread turned green.  Don't freak when this happens to you!  That is normal because of the chlorogenic acid found in sunflower seeds.  It doesn't mean that it is bad, it simply means that your kids will have another reason to try it!  Mine turned more and more green with time.  Try it this way for something different or try it with nut butter.  I added a little bit of honey instead of the stevia, next time I might add a bit more honey.

 

Sunbutter Bread
From The Paleo Mama
Ingredients:
1 cup Sunbutter or other natural nut butter of choice
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 servings Stevia (I used 2 T honey, next time I'd use a little more)
Directions:
  1. Blend all ingredients in large bowl until smooth, about 1 minute.
  2. Pour into a loaf pan lined with foil for easy removal.  I used a 8.5X 4.5.  This makes the bread rise a little higher.
  3. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. (Times will vary based on different ovens.  Just don’t over bake or it will be dry).
  4. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes on cooling rack.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Hello!  Summer is officially over.  Today marks the first day of school for my 2nd grader and kindergartner.  (Although he hasn't left yet, he goes in the afternoon)  After being "home" in Ohio for 8 weeks it feels good to be home and getting back in the swing of things. 
We were so blessed to be able to be with family and friends and completely drenched in love by those we love.  We got to stay with Grandma and Poppy all summer and enjoy lots of swimming.  My kids got spoiled with lots of attention, junk food, presents and mostly hugs and kisses.  We could not have asked for things go to better.  No one got sick or hurt (other then skinned knees and small bruises).  We had 3 bedrooms and a bathroom to ourselves, so our set up was more then wonderful.  Eric even got to surprise the kids and come for 2 weeks too.  It was amazing!
We also all got to the point of being a little homesick too.  Especially my 2 year old.  No one saw that coming!  She cried for Daddy, her Minnie Mouse bed and her princess castle.  We made it back about a week ago and it's felt so good.  Poppy even got to fly home with us to give me extra hands with the kids during the flight and left on Saturday.  Then I kicked into high gear and cleaned and laundered the house over the weekend.  I had to get that stale man smell out!  Last night backpacks were labeled and stuffed and lunch packed.  Kids were washed and in bed by a decent hour.  Yes, let the new school year begin! 
Eric and I decided to treat ourselves one more time with XXL Cookies before we got kick in gear this week too.  Today it's back to trying to run for me.  Haha!  Hubby is beginning to work out more to get ready for his next PT test too.  Let's not forget our diet.  Everyone has fully enjoyed summer, maybe a little too much.  So today I'm doing a liquid diet during the day and a good, healthy dinner at night this week to try and get my body back to liking me again.  Lots of water, juice, green and fruit smoothies and of course a little coffee too.  :) 
Hubby and I have talked about trying to eat clean and do our best to be healthy together.  I'm still working on gluten free and going to try to cut out some dairy for myself as well.  We'll smash together Clean Eating and Paleo and make it work for each of us and our family.  I'll be back in the kitchen and trying to keep it healthy and simple.  Here's to a fresh start again to a new school year!  I'm really excited to try more new things and let you know how they turn out.  Got any new things you've tried?  I'm always up for a new challenge. 

**Sorry for all the random blog posts.  I wrote them all as drafts before we left and tried posting every week, but I think they posted differently then I thought.  They had a mind of their own!  I'll be fresh and new again, promise.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Paleo Shamaleo

This thing called Paleo intrigues me.  I'm subscribed to a few paleo blogs that I really enjoy.  They each offer a little something different and recipes that I feel like I could take on and do.  Some I do already!  A few of my favorite blogs are Change of Pace, Paleo OMG and The Paleo Mama.  I never, ever dreamed that I would ever ever want to change my diet, way of eating and cooking to be so restrictive.  I'm still not totally there yet; but the more I read and the more I'm trying to figure out why I feel the way I do, the more I'm thinking about it.  I'm not ready to take that plunge this summer, especially being home with family and friends and picnics.  Soon, very soon, I just might though.
As I'm trying out some of these ways and dabbling in some of these recipes, it's fun trying new things.  Baking this way is especially tricky.  So many things call for banana and I like bananas, but a girl can only mash up so many in a week.  But, it is a great binder, sweetener and flavor for some great recipes.
 
I tried a little spin on one of my recent favorite recipes by adding blueberries to my Banana Bread Paleo Pancakes.  I love smearing them with butter, dousing them with maple syrup, cutting up some banana on top and this time I added some coconut chips too.  YUM!!  They were so good!  It was great to be able to put a spin on an already great recipe that I make a lot.  I probably make these once a week for myself, so now trying different flavors is great!

The Perfect Bite
Paleo and baking don't exactly go well together considering you can't have sugar, butter or flour; so it gets a little tricky.  I tried making sweet potato brownies during my GF brownie trial and they definitely needed some work.  Maybe it was a baker error, but they weren't that great.  I don't want to give up on paleo desserts though!  I'm determined to keep trying.  I found a recipe for Flourless Peanut Butter and Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.  They actually weren't bad at all!  My kids kinda liked them too.  If you try these, don't be surprised with oil on the cookie sheet after they bake.  Let them sit for a few minutes and it's all good.  These little cookies, puff up like regular ones and tasted not bad at all.  Only thing is, eat them within a day or 2.  The banana does make them get a little yucky quickly.  Refrigerate any that don't get eaten that first day and all is good.

Flourless Peanut Butter and Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
(From Inspired Edibles)
  • 1 cup all natural smooth peanut butter (just nuts, sugar free, sodium free), substitute almond butter for paleo version (I used Jiff, probably why I had the oil after baking)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 tsp natural vanilla essence (I used regular vanilla extract)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup or honey
  • 1/2 cup quality dark chocolate chips* + a few more for topping (I used semi-sweet)
  •  
    Directions:Heat oven to 325 F
    1. Using a simple hand mixer, food processor or blender, mix together peanut butter, banana and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
    2. Add egg and maple syrup or honey and mix to combine.
    3. Mix in dark chocolate chips by hand with the help of a spatula or wooden spoon.
    4. Place mixture in fridge for about 20 minutes to allow it to firm slightly.
    5. Place parchment paper over a baking sheet and gently brush or spray the paper with olive oil.
    6. Drop peanut butter cookies onto sheet by rounded tablespoons allowing room between the cookies (they will expand and puff up somewhat).  Add another chip or two to the top of each cookie.
    7. Place cookies in oven and bake for 20 minutes.
    8. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on a rack for a few minutes before enjoying!

    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    Summer Fun Popsicles

    Summer lovin' had me a blast.  Summer lovin' happened so fast.  Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well, huh!  That Grease song gets in my head sometimes when I think about the fun of summer.  Summer can be tricky with having school age kids home for summer, they seem to throw everything off.  Plus it's more mouths to feed during the day.  My oldest is going to be in second grade.  Although she is a petite little thing, she can out eat anyone, anytime.  She is constantly hungry and for the most part always finishes everything she's given.  She has even gotten trouble for sneaking extra snacks and candy in her school backpack and for spending all her saved money on buying food at school too.  She is ridiculous!  I promise you, she is fed enough, she just has her daddy's metabolism that is super fast.  They both are hungry every 5 minutes.  The funny part is that daddy has little patience with her with this.  Ironic isn't it?  The things that our kids get the most from us, are the things that drive us the most crazy.  Funny, funny life.
    That being said, I've told you all how I've been trying so hard to cut out the processed junk from my kids snacks.  One thing they always love, like most kids, is Popsicles.  I wanted to make some of our own.  I got a little creative myself with it and made 3 different kids.  My kids all seem to like them all. 
    Enjoying a nice cold treat after a hot day of swimming :)

    Strawberry Cream Pops
    1 cup (or more) Greek yogurt
    8 oz frozen strawberries in syrup, slightly thawed
    Blend together adding more or less of each until you reach a good consistency.  Pour into 5oz paper cups and freeze on cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes, pull out and insert Popsicle stick in the center of pop and put back into the freezer for at least 2 hours or until frozen through. Peel off paper cup when ready to eat and enjoy.  Makes about 6 pops.

    Blueberry Cream Pops
    1 cup (or more) Greek yogurt
    1 cup frozen blueberries
    1-2 T honey
    Blend together adding more or less of each until you reach a good consistency and sweetness  you like.  Pour into 5oz paper cups and freeze on cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes, pull out and insert Popsicle stick in the center of pop and put back into the freezer for at least 2 hours or until frozen through.  Peel off paper cup when ready to eat and enjoy.  Makes about 6 pops.

    Strawberry Ice Pops
    8 oz frozen strawberries in syrup, slightly thawed
    about 1 cup 100%  apple juice
    Blend together adding more or less of each until you reach a good consistency.  Pour into 5oz paper cups and freeze on cookie sheet for 20-25 minutes, pull out and insert Popsicle stick in the center of pop and put back into the freezer for at least 2 hours or until frozen through.  Peel off paper cup when ready to eat and enjoy.  Makes about 6 pops.



    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    Vanilla Rice Pudding Deliciousness

    Ever since I was a little girl I have loved rice pudding.  Although, I think it was the one thing that my mom never made.  I always had it at restaurants if they had it in a salad bar or dessert or something.  I had pinned this recipe for Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding a while back and kinda forgot about it.  Then I was at my friend's house and she had made some.  It was so good!  I hadn't had rice pudding in a long time and almost forgot how much I like it.  Then I remembered I had a recipe pinned for some.  I found it.  To my happiness I had everything I needed at home.  Even the coconut milk and vanilla bean!  I was so excited to try this and so hoping it was going to turn out good.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Did it turn out?  It was deliciousness in my mouth!  It was creamy, had amazing vanilla flavor, a hint of cinnamon and was just plain to die for!  This has become a treat for me.  No one else in my family likes it, which I'm ok with.  More for me then!  I usually double or make 1 1/2 recipes of it and snack and dessert and salivate over it for a few days.  It is just so yummy!  I like it warm.  So even though I keep it refrigerated I always heat it up in the microwave to make it good and steamy.  Is it just me, or is starting to sound a little time like a bad romance novel?  Ha ha!  Ok, I think  you get the idea now that this is deliciousness and that you have to try it!!!  Let me know if you love it as much as I do!

    Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding
    (adapted from Ffffood)

    1 1/2 cups of cold cooked rice (I either use left over rice, make sure to make extra so I have left over rice or cook it an hour or 2 before I'm going to make it so it can cool before I make it.)
    1 1/2 cups of coconut milk
    2 cups of whole or 2% milk
    1/3 cup of sugar
    pinch of salt
    1 vanilla bean, insides scraped out (The first time I made this I scraped the seeds out and put them along with the bean pod in the pot.  The second time I used only the seeds.  The last time I made this I didn't have any beans and added 2 tsp of vanilla extract and it was still great.  I don't think you can go wrong here any way you make this.)
    1 cinnamon stick (this is my addition and it give this a great cinnamon undertone)

    Combine all the ingredients together in a saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat for 40 minutes (or until most of the liquid has absorbed and is good and creamy looking). Stir occasionally to make sure it isn't sticking.  Allow to cool and serve.

    Cha-Cha-Cha-Chia!

    Alright, am I the only one that sings that commercial jingle every time you see a recipe for Chia Pudding?  I mean, come on, it was one of those huge novelties things from childhood.  Who here had Chia Pet?  I didn't, but I always wanted one to try.  I guess now is my chance!  Cha-cha-cha-chia!  Oh that makes me smile from the inside out.  :)  Guess what?  They're even still around!  Everything from a hippo to Sponge Bob.  Did you know they even make those things in the form of our president?  And not just in one style either.  No, they have him "happy" and "determined."  Now that's funny!!  Just me?  Oh well, at least I amuse myself.  Ha ha! 
    Ok, anyways, back to where I was going with this.  So chia seeds are the new big health thing it seems anymore.  Add them to your smoothie, oatmeal, yogurt or anything else for that matter.  Similar to flax seeds in nutritional value.  Loaded with Fiber, Omega 3's and Protein, can't go wrong I guess.
    I kept seeing recipes for Chia Pudding and pictures of this odd looking stuff.  I was intrigued and wanted to try it.  On a recent trip in Trader Joe's I saw a bag of them and there, right on the back of the bag, was a recipe for Chia Pudding.  I thought I'd give it whirl and still looked up few variations of Chia Pudding on Pinterest.  One that caught my eye was for Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding.
    So here is my take on the stuff...  It is easy enough to mix up to have a snack or treat.  The look of it is so weird.  It looks like caviar in cream almost.  Gross.  The taste isn't bad, but the texture for me was off putting.  I didn't really care for it much.  Be your own judge.  Try for yourself.  Maybe you'll love this healthy treat.  Me, not so much.

    Yes, I used a recycled pickle jar, but it worked
    great!  Look at that funky stuff!
    Chia Pudding

    In a jar combine:
    1/4 cup Chia Seeds
    1 cup coconut or almond milk
    1/4 cup or less of honey or sweetener of you liking.
    Add in flavoring, fruit or cocoa. 
    Cover, shake to combine and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours or overnight.
    Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding

    Mama's Apple Dumplings

    I think that most people have those certain foods that their mom made growing up, no matter how fancy or not, that just make you feel so comforted.  Since my brothers and I were completely spoiled with the best mom who has always been the best cook, there are so many favorites!  One favorite that has even spread onto each of our spouses as well is my Mama's Apple Dumplings.  I know I'm a mid-west girl from Ohio and not a southern one with an accent, but when talking about dumplings it only feels right to say "mama's" instead of "mom's."  Don't you think?  Her apple dumplings are so good.  I don't even think their is a season for them, I make them year round.  In fact, they are what my hubby wanted me to make for his father's day dessert this year.  Comfort food at its best, right here!
    They are best hot out of the oven, but if you happen to have any left over they are great reheated in the microwave too.  Most members of our family pour in a slash or two of milk when we eat ours, but feel free to top them with ice cream or whipped cream or anything else your heart desires.  These are also easy to adapt to make them GF by substituting your favorite GF double pie crust recipe or using GF all-purpose flour in the following recipe.  Or if you feel way too intimidated to making your own pie crust, go buy some ready to use crust from the grocery store and tell everyone you made it.  :)  Sometimes when it's colder out we'll have double dumpling night and I'll make Apple Dumplings and Dumpling Soup for dinner.  Yum!

    Double Pie Crust

    Ingredients:
    2 cups flour
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 cup chilled shortening, cut into small cubes
    1/2 cup (or 1 stick) butter, cut into small cubes
    4-8 T ice cold water

    Directions:
    -Combine flour and salt.
    -Cut shortening and butter into flour using a pastry blender or by pulsing in a food processor until it looks like coarse crumbs with pea size pieces. 
    -Add in water a couple tablespoons at a time, mixing until the dough holds together.
    -Form dough into 2 balls and flatten on 2 pieces of plastic wrap
    -Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before rolling out.
    -Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to desired size and place in pie plate






    Mama's Apple Dumplings 
    makes 6-8 dumplings

    Ingredients:
    Double Pie Crust, prepared
    2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1T cinnamon or cinnamon spice mixture
    about 1 stick of butter
    about 1/2 cup brown sugar
    2 cups dark Karo syrup
    2-3 cups of water

    Directions:
    -Preheat oven to 400
    -In a bowl combine apples, vanilla and cinnamon, mix until apples are evenly coated with cinnamon.

     
    -In a 9x13 baking dish, whisk together Karo syrup and water. (For a thicker sauce less water for a thinner sauces more water.  Either way it will be watery at this point.)  Whisk it until it is fully combined.
     
    -Roll out your prepared pie crust  in one large rectangular shape.
    -Use a knife to cut into fairly equal size "squares."  They do not have to be perfect.
    -In the middle of each "square" put a large spoonful of apples.  Top apples with about 1 T butter and 1 T brown sugar.  More or less of each to your liking.

     
    -Fold corners of each "square up and form into a ball, pinching all sides to conceal the apples with no openings.
     
    -Place sealed up dumpling in syrup in baking dish

     
    -Repeat with remaining dumplings
    -Sprinkle tops of dumpling with extra cinnamon if you desired
    -Bake at 400 for 45-60 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.