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

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

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

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

  • 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
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.)
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!
1 cup softened butter
1 cup peanut butter
5 1/2-6 cups powdered sugar
1-2 cup heavy cream
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
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)
  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.