Coconutty Chocolate Balls

Chocolate Coconut Oat Balls

When I eliminated dairy, soy, corn, and gluten from my diet last year for the littlest caveboy, chocolate was one thing that I desperately missed. Just one reason why I love those chocolate-quinoa cupcakes so much! Sometimes you just need some chocolate.

It's nice to have a chocolate snack in the fridge waiting for you, especially when you're short on time and starving all. the. time. like I am when I'm nursing. These are full of healthy fats, fiber, and use honey for sweetener, which means you can pop them in your mouth guilt-free! But honestly, one or two are completely satisfying to my strongest chocolate craving, and it's a snack I still feel good about eating.

My diet is completely unrestricted now (praise the Lord!) but I still make these. All the caveboys love them, that is, if cavedad doesn't hide these healthy chocolate treats;)

Coconutty Chocolate Balls

-Ingredients-

1/2 cup of cocoa 1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened) 2 cups quick oats 3/4 cup coconut oil 1/2 cup honey

1. In a bowl combine the cocoa, shredded coconut, and oats. Add coconut oil and honey, and use your hands to squish and squeeze until everything is evenly mixed - this is a great job for little helpers!

Do not melt the coconut oil; it should be at room temperature. If your house is very cold the coconut oil may be a little difficult to mix into the other ingredients. Just keep squishing it around and the heat from your hand will soften the oil enough to mix in.

2. Scoop, pack tightly, and roll into balls. The size is up to you, but I usually do about 2 tablespoons per ball.

3. Refrigerate for one hour to harden, then enjoy.

Do you have a favorite healthy chocolate treat? Please share in the comments!

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal

IMG_5133 It’s been a while.

Should I give a quick update? 2012-2013 was a rough winter for us, with lots of colds and nasty sicknesses. I learned a lot about herbs and targeting specific aspects of the immune system, and what works best for us. We decided to move closer to where David works and has helicopter training, so we did. I had a baby! Our third boy, Daniel, and he is just the sweetest baby. This was our first home birth, and we loved it. Due to the demands of a new baby, moving, and living in a tiny ant-infested old house I was forced to spend less time in the kitchen, and learn about balancing my desire to eat healthy and keep my sanity.

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This pumpkin baked oatmeal is a great fall breakfast. We each ate two huge pieces the first time I made it. It’s full of whole grain goodness, healthy fats, vegetables (pumpkin!), warm spiciness, and sweetened with honey. Then I top it with brown sugar – not so healthy. But we love the crunch, and I really think this would not be as good without it. Balance. Crunchy brown sugar makes me happy. Happy helps me be healthy. So brown sugar on pumpkin oatmeal is healthy? Sure. We’ll go with that.

Daniel has soy, dairy and corn intolerances. More on that in a future post, but I thought I should throw that out there so you know why I didn’t use butter in this recipe, and why I didn’t add more butter after it was cooked, and why I also didn’t drown it in cream:) That’s how I like to eat baked oatmeal. You could totally do that! But I happen to think this pumpkin baked oatmeal was just perfect, even without the butter. Is it culinary sacrilege to say that?

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal

-Ingredients-

3 eggs 1/2 C. oil (I used grapeseed – you could use melted coconut oil or butter.) 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree 1/2 C. honey

3 C. quick oats 1 T. baking powder* 1/2 t. salt 1 t. cinnamon 1/2 t. nutmeg 1/4 t. ginger 1/4 t. cloves

3 T. brown sugar Cinnamon, for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish. I used a 9x9, but you could use a 13x9 or an 8x8. I realize that’s a ridiculous variation in sizes. The original baked oatmeal recipe that I have called for a 13x9, but I’ve cooked it in an 8x8 before.

2. In a large bowl beat together the eggs, oil, honey and pumpkin. Add all the dry ingredients on top, then mix well. Spread in prepared pan (it will be very thick). Sprinkle top with brown sugar, then a little cinnamon. **

3. Bake for 30-40 minutes for a 9x9 or 9x13. For an 8x8 try 20 minutes to start, then check to see if a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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*I’ve been making my own baking powder since what I found at the store has cornstarch. It’s super cheap and easy to make your own baking powder! I’ll share that soon, too.

**You can prepare the recipe up to this point the night before, then refrigerate and bake in the morning.

Notes: David wasn’t home the first time I made this. There were only two pieces left after Jonathan, Joseph and I finished. We really, really like this.

Yield: Um, probably serves 6 normal people. 3-4 if it’s growing boys and a breastfeeding mother who happens to be starving all the time.

Potato-sausage Soup

IMG_2241 I’m feeling a little bit ripped off today. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law in Dallas have beautiful, fluffy snow. We have rain and ice here in Tennessee – so not fair! Comfort food is in order. It’s definitely a soup kind of day. A creamy, potato-filled, cheesy soup kind of day!

Before I leave you with this super easy sausage-potato soup recipe, here are some random tid-bits of news from my kitchen:

1. This morning I bought 120 avocados for $20. A steal of a deal, I know! There are maybe 20 that are still a bit green so those are going into my refrigerator. The rest are already ripe so I’ve been halving, pitting, and freezing avocados all day. I’ve heard that they’re fine to use in guacamole and sauces once thawed, and if they last until next fall, the new baby will eat them, I’m sure. Apparently some folks add them to smoothies . . . I’ll have to try that.

2. I have a new recipe for chocolate-avocado mousse coming soon. I was eating it out of the food processor, it’s that good!

3. I’ve kept a sourdough starter alive for over two months! This is a personal record. I’ve been sticking with one really good bread recipe, since it works every time and we love it. But I think I'm ready to branch out and try some new sourdough recipes. Suggestions?

Now, back to the soup. Potatoes are on the dirty dozen, so I do my best to buy them organic. I usually get them at Trader Joe’s, but I’ve gotten them at Walmart in the past, too (just a little more expensive). This time of year it’s easier to find organic potatoes reasonably priced, so take advantage and enjoy this soup!

Potato-sausage Soup

-Ingredients-

4 C. chicken broth 5 large potatoes 1 onion 1/2 t. dill

6 T. butter 6 T. flour 2 C. milk 1/2-1 C. cooked, ground sausage

Shredded cheese for serving

1. Scrub potatoes well, then chop (I never peel my potatoes. I hate peeling potatoes) and place in a large pot. Peel and dice onion, then add to the pot with the potatoes. Pour in chicken broth, stir in dill, then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).

2. While potatoes are cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook for a few minutes. Stir in milk, then cook over medium heat until very thick (about 10 minutes).

3. When potatoes are tender, stir in the sausage, then the white sauce. Cook for 5-10 minutes more until soup thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.

Notes: I use spicy sausage in this recipe and rarely need to add salt or pepper, but this will vary greatly depending on the brand of sausage you use. You can also substitute cooked, crumbled bacon:)

If you don’t have chicken broth you can use water. The soup is still good, but not as good. You’ll definitely need to add more salt and pepper.

As I mentioned in the other recipe, we love this soup served with Russian Brown Bread!

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Yield: 6 hearty servings

Adapted from various internet and real life sources.

Russian Rye Bread

Russian Rye Bread Ok, so one of the first things you learn in how-to-have-a-pretty-blog-people-actually-read school (that isn’t a real thing, FYI) is that you do not go long periods of time without posting. And if you should ever do such a terrible thing as go a long period of time without posting, you do not mention it. Ever. No apologies, no half-hearted attempts to make light of your absence.

I’m totally breaking those rules today. But I have a good reason! The past few months have been spent sleeping, dry heaving, snacking on cheese and frozen blackberries, and crying over spiders.

3 boys From facebook: “We have so much fun with these two turkeys we decided to add a third!”

The only baking I’ve been doing is for Baby #3! He/she should be joining the outside world sometime in mid-May 2013. David is very excited, the boys have no clue what we’re talking about, and I’m just glad to finally be joining the land of the living; I’m so thrilled to be in the second trimester!

I’m finally starting to feel like myself again, so I made some bread. I can see this Russian Rye Bread is going to be a staple this winter. It’s perfect to serve with all kinds of soups, and I can’t even tell you what completely perfect grilled cheese it makes. Fresh from the oven it’s great, but it’s even better a few days old.

The ingredient list is a bit long, but it’s super simple to mix up. I did it by hand in under 15 minutes, including a good kneading. If you start by 4pm, as I did, you can still have it ready in time for supper.

Russian Rye Bread

-Ingredients-

2 1/4 t. yeast 1 1/4 C. warm water 2 T. molasses 2 T. apple cider vinegar 2 T. softened butter 1 T. cocoa 1/2 T. espresso powder 1 C. rye flour 1/2 C. all-purpose flour (It really does need this little bit of white flour!) 2-2 1/2 C. whole wheat flour 1/2 C. wheat germ 1 heaping T. caraway seeds 1/2 T. salt

1. In a large bowl stir together warm water, yeast, and molasses. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.

2. Stir in the vinegar, butter, cocoa, espresso powder, rye flour, and all-purpose flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until well blended.

3. Add the wheat germ, caraway seeds, salt and 2 C. whole wheat flour. Stir together until it forms a soft dough.

4. Turn out onto a well-floured counter and knead for a few minutes until springy. Sparingly add additional wheat flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the counter.

5. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough with oil. Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm place until doubled in bulk – about an hour.

6. Grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Using greased hands punch down dough, then shape into a large, round loaf. Place on baking sheet, cover with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place until not quite doubled (about 30 minutes).

7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread for 45-55 minutes, until bread sounds hollow when knocked. Let cool, then slice thinly and serve.

Russian Rye Bread

Notes: It looks like a basic brown bread, but the flavor is really complex. We love this bread for sandwiches, and especially with potato-sausage soup.

Yield: 1 large loaf

Adapted from an internet source which I cannot for the life of me find:( If you have seen a recipe like this on a blog, please let me know!

Asian Sesame Dressing

Asian Sesame Dressing A few years ago we were eating supper at a friend’s house. All I remember of the food that night was the salad with asian dressing. I wanted to eat the whole bowl, just for the dressing!

But it was Kraft. Soybean oil and junk like that, you know. It never occurred to me that I could recreate it healthier and better at home, until I came across a recipe in Nourishing Traditions for Oriental Dressing. I barely changed that recipe and it tastes even more delicious than I remember that Kraft stuff!

Save with homemade salad dressing

Homemade salad dressing is an easy way to clean up your diet and add great flavor. It’s also a great way to save money. Convenience foods (like pre-made salad dressings) have a price, both in money and your health.

Making your own salad dressing only takes a few minutes, and the cost and health savings are enormous. Bottled salad dressings aren’t healthy at all, containing rancid oils, corn syrup and many different chemicals to improve the flavor and keep it shelf stable. Ick. And they’re kind of expensive!

A few pennies and minutes of your time can give you a delicious and healthy salad dressing – and you can customize it to your taste.

Our Favorites

David likes a drizzle of lemon and olive oil on his salads, but I like an actual salad dressing. If asian flavor isn’t your thing, here are a few more favorite dressings:

Lemon-maple salad dressing

Mock Caesar salad dressing

This post on Simple Bites has three recipes: garlic-herb vinaigrette, balsamic vinaigrette and buttermilk ranch.

Good, Cheap Eats has a simple Cilantro-lime dressing that sounds great!

This thousand island dressing recipe from Kelly the Kitchen Kop looks really good – I could make Reuben sandwiches . . .

Asian Sesame Dressing

-Ingredients-

4 T. rice vinegar 2 T. soy sauce 2 t. fresh ginger (or 1 t. ginger powder) 2 t. sesame oil 1 clove garlic, peeled (use a small clove, or half of a large clove) 1 T. honey 2/3 C. olive oil

1. Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Chill before serving.

Asian Sesame Dressing on salad

Notes: I use my magic bullet to make salad dressings. You can use a regular blender, or place all the ingredients in a tall container and use an immersion blender. If you’d prefer to not use a blender, finely mince the ginger and garlic, then shake all ingredients together in a mason jar until well blended.

Because there’s nothing to keep the dressing emulsified it will separate with time. I just shake or stir it well before using. It will keep for up to a week if refrigerated.

I always sprinkle our salads with seeds, as it’s an easy way to add nutrition (and seeds really are super good for you!). Sesame seeds are the obvious choice here:)

Yield: about 1 1/4 C.

Adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

This post is a part of Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Roasted tomato soup It’s the end of summer (can I get an amen?!?). My garden is slowly petering out, and I’ve made just about all the salsa I’m going to make this year. With the last tomatoes coming in, I decided to try a fancy-schmancy roasted tomato soup recipe. It just looks and sounds fancy, but it’s actually super easy!

Tomatoes for roasting

We’re starting to get a few chilly nights. I’m slowly transitioning to fall foods, and grilled cheese and tomato soup is one of my favorite meals. If you’re looking for a way to use up the last of the tomatoes from this season, I highly recommend this soup. It’s the perfect transition to fall!

Roasted Tomato Soup

-Ingredients-

Roma tomatoes – approximately 8 cups? I sliced them in half and filled a half-sheet pan. 1 onion, peeled and quartered 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled

4 C. water 1/2 t. cumin 1/2 t. paprika 1 t. thyme 1-2 t. salt

1/2 C. cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash tomatoes, cut in half and place cut side up on a large baking sheet. Add onion and garlic on top, then roast for 45 minutes.

2. When the tomatoes are done, carefully scrape the hot tomatoes, onion and garlic into a large pot. Pour water over top, then blend with an immersion blender* until very smooth.

3. Stir in the spices - start with 1 t. salt, adding more as needed. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.

4. When ready to serve, turn off heat and stir in cream. Serve hot, preferably with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

*If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can do this in two batches in a regular blender. If you plan on making many soups this fall and winter, an immersion blender is a great kitchen tool to have, and they are fairly inexpensive.

Notes:This soup freezes well. However, if you plan on freezing it, do not add the cream until you reheat the soup to serve.

Yield: 6 C. soup

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen.

Do you still have fresh tomatoes?

 

Walnut and Coconut Crusted French Toast

Crusted French Toast Ok, you know I love pancakes. We eat them every Sunday morning. Occasionally I might want something different. Occasionally I want french toast.

But not the soggy kind.

Soggy french toast is an abomination and completely unnecessary. If you cook french toast and then pop it in the oven to keep warm, it will probably end up soggy. Not good. With my big electric griddle we still need several batches to feed us all, and I hate having to jump up and down while I’m trying to eat.

This french toast stays crispy sitting in the oven while I cook the other batches. That’s just one of many reasons why I love this. The nuts and coconut make it more filling than ordinary french toast, and the coating helps it stay nice and crunchy, even through buttering and drizzling it with syrup.

This was inspired by Josh and Maria’s Coconut Crusted French Toast. David doesn’t like a lot of coconut flavor, so I used regular milk instead of coconut milk. Someday I’d love to try their recipe because it looks delicious!

It’s super easy to make, but it’s a real treat to eat. A special breakfast couldn’t be easier!

Walnut and Coconut Crusted French Toast

-Ingredients-

Bread (I used about 18 slices of everyday wheat bread)

6 eggs 1 C. milk

1 1/2 C. finely shredded unsweetened coconut* 1 1/2 C. finely chopped walnuts 1 t. cinnamon

*You could use sweetened coconut if that’s all you have, but I’d chop it a bit first.

 

1. In a large bowl beat together eggs and milk. Set aside.

Eggs and milk

2. In a separate bowl whisk together coconut, walnuts and cinnamon. Set aside.

Dry ingredients

3. Heat a griddle or frying pan to medium heat. Set up an assembly line with the bread, egg mixture and dry ingredients. Dip each slice of bread first in the egg, flipping to coat both sides. Transfer the slice to the bowl of coconut/walnuts/cinnamon and press down. Wiggle it around and flip to coat each side with the mixture. Be sure to press down lightly to encourage the coating to stick. Place on hot griddle. Repeat with all the bread.

Toast on the griddle

4. Cook for 3-5 minutes until brown and crispy. Flip and cook another 3-5 minutes. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the next round. Serve hot with plenty of butter and maple syrup.

Ready to eat

Notes: I’ve been baking extra bread lately just so we can have this. We all love it! It’s such an easy breakfast but it’s always a big hit.

Yield: About 18 slices of french toast.

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Are you a french toast fan?

Crockpot Granola

Yogurt and granola Did you know you can cook granola in the crockpot? You totally can! It still gets crispy and golden brown, it just frees up your oven. This is helpful if you need your oven for other dishes, or it’s summertime and you want to keep the oven off, or you live somewhere overseas where you don’t have an oven.

I first read about the idea at Stacy Makes Cents. I tried it immediately, and was very happy with how it turned out – just like cooking it in the oven!

Most crockpot recipes are of the set-it-and-forget-it variety. This one is not. You need to stir the granola every 30 minutes, scraping the bottom well to prevent scorching. Although it takes longer to cook than if you used the oven, it is MUCH easier to stir in the crockpot. No more dumping granola all over the counter trying to stir!

Crockpot Granola

-Ingredients-

5 C. rolled oats 1/2 C. sliced almonds 1/2 C. chopped walnuts 1 C. unsweetened shredded coconut 1/3 C. wheat germ 1/3 C. flax seed 1/3 C. chia seed (or another seed you like, such as pumpkin or sesame)

1/2 C. coconut oil, melted 1/2 C. real maple syrup 1/2 t. salt

 

(This is the same as my other granola recipe. Ingredients are the same, cooking method is different!)

1. Place all dry ingredients except salt in the crockpot. Mix together well.

Ingredients

Mixed together

2. Melt coconut oil, then stir in maple syrup and salt. Pour over dry ingredients in crockpot and stir together.

Add wet ingredients

Ready to cook

3. Place lid on crockpot, but leave cracked a little. You want the steam to escape so the granola gets crispy.

Crack the lid

4. Cook on low for 2-4 hours. It really depends on how hot your crockpot cooks. Stir every 30 minutes, scraping the bottom well.

*Every time you stir the granola, when you replace the lid be sure to leave it cracked a little!

Granola is done when it’s lightly browned and crunchy. I generally cook mine after the kids are in bed at night. I cook for 2 hours on low, stirring every 30 minutes. It’s not quite done at 2 hours, so I switch it to the warm setting and leave it all night. Waking up to hot, crunchy granola is a real treat!

This post is shared at Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes.

 

One Dish Pizza Sauce

I kind of don’t know how to say this. This sauce doesn’t knock my socks off. Oh, it’s good. It tastes like pizza sauce and it’s great on our homemade pizza. David loves it and thinks it’s the perfect sauce. Every time I try to change it he huffs a little bit. He likes basic, no-frills sauce. I like fancy-schmancy, heirloom tomato Smitten Kitchen sauce, and things like that. So I guess I should say, if you like regular, normal, home-cooked food, you’ll probably think this sauce is just right.

Also, if you’re the chief dish-washer in your house, you’ll think this sauce is the bomb since it only uses one dish – a spoon. Ok, two if you’re going to use a measuring spoon and feel the need to wash it after scooping dry spices (which I don’t. I rinse it and toss it back in the drawer. For real).

It also couldn’t be easier to make!

One Dish Pizza Sauce

-Ingredients-

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes (Hunt’s is BPA-free) 2 t. basil 2 t. oregano 1/2 t. garlic powder 1/2 t. onion powder 1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes 1 t. honey (you can totally just drizzle a bit of honey into the sauce. Measuring is optional!)

1. The can of tomatoes.

Hunt's crushed tomatoes

Open it.

You can use an electric can opener, or throw it against a rock repeatedly. Or, you know, use an old-fashioned hand-crank can opener. That’s what I do.

2. Add the spices and honey. Stir to combine.

Pizza sauce in the can

That’s it! Now use it to make some really awesome homemade pizza.

Homemade Pizza

Notes: I like to use half the sauce when I make it, then freeze the rest for another night. I get two pizza’s worth of sauce from this recipe, plus a little extra for dipping.

Yield: Enough sauce for 2-3 pizzas, depending on how much sauce you use, and of course, the size of the pizzas.

Meal Plan for August

Bowl of saladIt’s August – that means we’re eating lots of salad and smoothies to stay cool!

A while back I stopped posting my weekly meal plan. Honestly, I was getting bored posting it, so I thought you might be sick of reading it every week!

I enjoy reading other’s meal plans periodically. I always come away with new recipes or ideas to try. I decided to switch to posting my meal plan monthly. Hopefully that will still provide some inspiration for your meal planning, but not be repetitive and yawn-worthy:)

And yes! We’re halfway through August already! This month snuck up on me, but I’ll post the whole month’s menu anyway.

Meal Plan for August

Breakfast: We don’t do a ton of variety for breakfast. We’ll repeat these throughout the month:

  • Yogurt and granola
  • Scrambled eggs and toast
  • Smoothies and muffins/scones
  • Pancakes with fruit
  • Oatmeal

Lunch: We generally eat leftovers for lunch. If we don’t have leftovers we’ll have:

  • Taco bowls
  • PB & honey sandwiches and fruit
  • Salad with hardboiled eggs

One pot spaghetti

Supper: I’ve been planning our suppers using Lindsey’s meal planning method. I chose a theme for each day of the week. I pick one or two meals for each day, then repeat through the month. It’s been working great! I like having variety, but also some simplicity and predictability to our meals. It keeps all of us happy:)

        Sundays (grilling)– Burgers or hotdogs, with salad, potato salad or cut up veggies and hummus.

        Mondays (roast) – Beef roast*, rice and green beans or Chicken Mahkani.

        Tuesdays (sandwiches) – Gyros or tuna melts, with cut up veggies or fried potatoes.

        Wednesdays (Italian) – One pot spaghetti or chicken alfredo (with broccoli).

        Thursdays (Mexican)Tostadas or burritos with simple mexican rice.

        Fridays (date night)Homemade pizza. Sometimes we all eat together, other times I feed the kids pancake sandwiches and bake the pizza after they’re in bed;)

        Saturdays (Fish or vegetarian) – Salad with bean burgers or salmon patties.

Fried plantains

Snacks:

*We finally got our beef! We have been greatly enjoying it. Maybe it’s because we didn’t eat a lot of meat for several months, but steak has never tasted so good to me as it does now.

Do you crave meat if you don’t eat it for a while?

Whole Wheat Flat Bread

Whole wheat flat bread I keep a notebook in my kitchen to write down new recipes. I jot down notes of what I’m changing in old recipes and scribble down ideas for new dishes. I have trouble making a recipe as it’s written.  I pretty much always change something. Keeping a kitchen notebook has been helpful because now I can repeat the things that we really like.

Sometimes I get in a rush and don’t write down what I’m doing. It never fails that when this happens the dish turns out awesome! Last week I made Chicken Mahkani (Indian Butter Chicken). David’s not a big fan of ethnic food in general, so I didn’t bother to take notes. We all loved it, although my version ended up pretty different from the original recipe. I’ll remake it in a few weeks and share the recipe – it’s really, really good!

So why am I rambling about Chicken Mahkani in this post? Because there were leftovers. There were a LOT of leftovers! My crockpot was half full of chicken, rice and sauce after we had all stuffed ourselves. I had been looking for an excuse to make these whole wheat flat breads from Joy the Baker, and a crock full of Indian food was the perfect opportunity.

We folded the leftovers into these flat breads, hot off the griddle. It was a great sandwich, or whatever it was! Warm flat bread dipped in hummus is one of my favorite snacks, and that’s what happened to the rest of the flat bread.

On my next freezer cooking day I’ll be sure to whip up a batch for the freezer, as I’m sure they’ll store well that way.

Whole Wheat Flat Bread

-Ingredients-

3/4 C. warm water 2 1/2 t. yeast 1/2 t. honey

1 3/4 C. whole wheat flour 2 T. rolled oats 1 t. salt 1 t. olive oil

1. In a large bowl stir together the water, yeast and honey. Let sit for 5 minutes until foamy.

2. Add flour, oats, salt and olive oil and mix together. Knead for a few minutes (I knead right in the bowl so I don’t have to clean the counter), then form into a ball. Drizzle a little oil in the bottom of the bowl, then turn the ball of dough once to coat with oil.

Dry ingredients

Dough

3. Cover bowl with a towel and let dough rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

4. Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Divide dough into eight pieces. Lightly flour counter and rolling pin.

5. Roll each piece of dough to desired thickness. I did about 1/8 of an inch for the first few, then about 1/16 of an inch for the rest. We liked the thicker flat bread best (I forgot I wasn’t making tortillas and got carried away with the rolling. Oops).

It’s totally ok if they’re not perfectly round. In fact, it will make me feel better if yours are misshapen, too:)

Dough rolled out

6. Cook on hot griddle for about 1 minute. When you start to see little bubbles in the dough, it’s time to flip it.

Half-cooked flat bread

7. Cook on the second side for another minute or so, until it gets slightly brown. Place under a towel to keep warm while you cook the rest of the flat bread. Serve warm, preferably with hummus.

Cooked flat bread

Notes: The original recipe said to divide the dough into 12 pieces. We liked the size of 8 pieces – they were the size of soft taco tortillas.

Don’t cook them too long or they’ll be crispy, which you don’t want. Soft, pliable flat bread is what you’re looking for here. Don’t roll them super thin like I did, either:)

Yield: 8 flat breads.

Adapted from Joy the Baker.

 

Do you like Indian food? 

 

Baked Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

We’ve already had one massive heat wave this summer. Thankfully, we survived, although my electric bill this month is pretty ugly. Since I was sure not going to turn the oven on during the triple digit heat, I poked around the internet and discovered some new crock pot recipes. Cooking potatoes in the slow cooker was one of my experiments during the heat wave, and I’m converted. It always seemed a bit wasteful to keep the oven on for an hour just to cook some potatoes. David loves baked potatoes but I don’t make them very regularly, mostly because it takes up the oven for so long. With this new method he’s sure to get his potatoes a lot more frequently!

In case it snuck up on you like it has me, it’s almost AUGUST! That means we’re in for more heat – perfect weather to try out baked potatoes in the crock pot.

Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

-Ingredients-

Potatoes

 

1. Wash potatoes. Prick a few times to make sure they don’t explode. I’m told this is not necessary, but it makes me feel better. Exploding potatoes are terrifying, in case you’ve not experienced this before.

2. Place potatoes in crock pot.

Potatoes in crock pot

3. Place lid on crock pot, then cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6 if your crock is full. Mine wasn’t quite half full and the potatoes were done after 4 hours.

Serve!

Taco potatoes Taco potatoes – recipe coming soon!

Notes: I know you’re always supposed to fill the crock pot at least 2/3 full (or something like that), but I didn’t. It wasn’t even half full and the potatoes cooked just fine.

You do not need to add any water. Just plain old potatoes. How neat is that?

Have you ever cooked potatoes this way before?

This post is shared at Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes.

Stovetop Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Stovetop Enchiladas There are some meals that I just don’t think to make in the summer. Pot roast. Lasagna. Enchiladas. It’s too hot. I’m not turning the oven on unless it’s unavoidable (read: we’re all out of bread).

But we do like enchiladas. In fact, I make three different kinds and we dearly love them all. Enchiladas are usually one of our first fall meals once it finally cools down outside. There is something to be said for eating things seasonally in that it sure builds anticipation. But since it’s hot from about April though September, that’s a looooong time to go without enchiladas. Too long, if you ask me!

A few weeks ago (while I was showering, in case you wanted to know) I had the brilliant and terribly exciting idea to make stovetop enchiladas! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before, and I couldn’t wait to try out my idea.

It turns out that stovetop enchiladas aren’t anything new. It’s a pretty old-hat idea. Oh. It was still news to me, and I picked one of the hottest days of our mind-melting heat wave to try it out.

Honestly? I love this method so much more than baking them! It was faster and easier than baking. The only negative aspects of this method are: limited pan size, not freezer-friendly and you need to use either a non-stick pan or a very well-seasoned cast iron to cook these. I opted for my 12-inch not well-seasoned cast iron, and it was a serious pain to clean the pan. Next time I’ll try my 12-inch non-stick pan (yes, I know the Teflon is probably eating our brain cells. I’m cool with it for now).

If you need quick and easy and ovenless enchiladas, this is for you.

First, you’ll need to make some enchilada sauce. Please don’t use canned or package mixes. They have icky stuff in them. And this is cheaper and tastes better.

Enchilada Sauce

-Ingredients-

1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil 6 T. whole wheat flour (or 1/4 C. all-purpose flour) 15 oz. can tomato sauce (remember, Hunt’s is BPA-free!) 2 C. chicken broth 2 t. cumin 1 t. salt 1/2 t. onion powder 1/2 t. oregano 1/4 t. garlic powder 1/4 t. cayenne*

1. In a saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add flour, then whisk and cook for a few minutes to cook the flour. Don’t let it burn like I did the first time I made this.

2. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth and spices. Bring to a simmer, then cook until sauce thickens. Once sauce thickens it’s done!

Enchilada Sauce

*This makes a sauce that just barely has any heat, due to the kiddos eating it. Feel free to double the cayenne, or whatever suits your tastes.

Notes: Whole wheat flour takes a while to thicken a sauce – mine takes 15-20 minutes. White flour won’t take as long.

Chicken and Refried Bean Enchiladas

-Ingredients-

8 whole wheat tortillas Enchilada sauce 1 C. cooked, shredded chicken 2 C. refried beans 2 C. shredded cheese

1. Spread tortillas out flat on counter. Dollop 1/4 C. refried beans down the center of each tortilla. Add a few tablespoons of chicken over the beans on each tortilla, then top with a little cheese.

Assembling enchiladas Inside enchilada

2. Pour 1 C. enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 12-inch skillet. Place skillet on stove and turn to low or medium-low heat. If you’re using cast iron, I suggest low heat:) Roll up each tortilla and place seam side down in skillet. I wedged six side-by-side, then squeezed two on the end.

Enchiladas in pan

3. Pour more sauce over top (about 1 C.), then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Enchiladas before cooking

4. Cover tightly, then cook over very low heat for 20-25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Cooked Enchiladas

Notes: These taste exactly the same as when I bake them in the oven (shocker, right?). They’re just much faster and keep the kitchen cooler. Definitely something I’ll be doing again.

These are always “napalm hot”, as David says. Cool accordingly for small children who might otherwise hork them down and burn their little mouths.

What foods do you skip when it’s too hot for the oven?

 

This post is shared at Fat Tuesday.

One Pot Spaghetti (plus three steps to make it healthier!)

One pot spaghetti ^^Doesn't that just make you want to sit down with a big plate of spaghetti?

We love pasta of any kind and in any sauce. It borders on an obsession in this house, but for a while I felt bad about serving it. Spaghetti just isn’t a very nourishing meal, right?

Well, it depends. If we’re talking refined, enriched pasta and sauce made from canned tomatoes (swimming in BPA), then no, spaghetti isn’t very nourishing.

But we can totally make a few upgrades and turn it into quite an acceptable meal in the nutrition department. Let’s talk about that.

Three Steps to Healthier Spaghetti

Pasta: One step up from white pasta would be whole grain or whole wheat. That’s where we are now, because it’s dirt cheap and easy.

Brown rice pasta is easier on the digestive system than wheat, and this is what we’re working towards right now. When I find a good deal, we use brown rice pasta.

I guess the ultimate healthy pasta would be homemade from freshly ground flour, but I’ll just be honest: never going to happen. At least not while I have little kids!

Better cooking method: Wait, how is there a better cooking method for spaghetti?!? I found this little gem of a post through Kitchen Tip Tuesday. I had been looking for ways to feed us more homemade chicken broth, and I thought it was a really interesting idea to cook the pasta in chicken broth! It turns out that it’s super easy to cook pasta this way. It’s a little faster, saves dishes and adds nutrition all at once. I haven’t boiled pasta in water since I first tried this. I’ll show you how to do this in the recipe section.

Sauce: Chicken alfredo is a favorite meal here, but let’s focus on red sauce.

Some folks like to use ready-made sauce and just jazz it up a bit (totally ok! I do this too!). If you use jarred sauce, be sure to check the ingredients. Many sauces contain high-fructose corn syrup or way too much sugar, and sometimes they get sneaky and hide other weird additives. Read labels religiously and pick one with the fewest ingredients. I usually wait for a sale and use a coupon to get an organic sauce with only a handful of ingredients.

If you prefer to make your own sauce using canned tomatoes, beware. Tomatoes are very acidic and are one of the worst foods for leaching BPA from the can lining and into the food. Yuck. BPA-free canned tomatoes are slowly becoming more available. Apparently, Hunt’s plain tomatoes are now BPA-free. Woohoo! Here’s a list of BPA-free canned foods.

Recently I’ve been buying Hunt’s and making large batches of sauce to freeze. It’s a great way to make this speedy meal even faster!

Of course, you could always can your own tomato sauce. That’s probably the best way. Someday I hope to do this. Maybe when no kids are in diapers and no one colors eye shadow all over my dresser;)

Adding lots of garlic and onion to the sauce is a quick way to increase the immune boosting power of spaghetti. If we’re feeling a little run down, I crush a few extra cloves of garlic for the sauce. I also add cooked, pureed spinach and carrots. You can add homemade broth to the sauce, too, which is not only very healthy, it makes this cheap meal even cheaper. If you’re looking for ways to incorporate more healthy fats into your diet, spaghetti sauce is the perfect vehicle. Try adding some olive oil or (my favorite) a good splash of raw cream to the sauce. Rich, healthy and delicious!

Enough with the talking. Let’s cook some spaghetti!

One Pot Spaghetti

-Ingredients-

1 lb. spaghetti (I use whole wheat)* 3.5 – 4 C. chicken broth (or a mixture of broth and water) 4 C. spaghetti sauce, homemade or jarred 1 C. cooked sausage or ground beef(optional) A splash of cream (optional)

1. Place spaghetti in a large saucepan or pot. Turn heat to medium, then cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Toasting the dry pasta really does add a lot to the flavor.

Dry toasting Dry toasting the pasta.

2. Add 1 C. of the broth to the pan.

Pasta and broth 1 C. of broth added, but you can’t really stir at this point.

I like to cover the pan for about a minute just to help the pasta soften quickly. After the pasta starts to soften, stir frequently to prevent sticking and help the liquid absorb evenly.

3. When the first cup of liquid is absorbed, add another cup. Keep stirring and adding broth, 1 C. at a time, until the pasta is cooked but not mushy.

Pasta and broth 2 C. of broth added, soft enough to scoop and stir a little.

Pasta and broth 3 C. of broth added, easy to stir. Make sure you scoop the bottom up to the top, to make sure the pasta evenly cooks.

Cooked pasta 3.5 C. broth added, and the pasta is almost done.

4. Sauce time! Pour the sauce (and meat, if using) over the pasta and toss to evenly distribute (I think big tongs work best for this). Let cook for 5 minutes to heat sauce and finish cooking the spaghetti. Add cream (if using) and mix in gently. Serve immediately.

Pasta and sauce

One pot spaghetti

Notes: The chicken broth flavor is really subtle, barely noticeable. It may seem like a lot of steps, but this is honestly a very fast meal. Start to table it takes me about 25 minutes as long as the broth isn’t frozen.

This also keeps the kitchen much cooler since there are no pots of boiling water steaming up the kitchen. A major bonus this summer!

Yield: Ok, I know 1 lb. of pasta is supposed to feed 8 people or something, but we usually get five servings.

Technique adapted from Newlyweds Blog.

*You could use regular (white) pasta or brown rice pasta, but they will cook faster and need less liquid. 1 lb. of brown rice pasta only needed about 2.5-3 C. liquid and it was almost overcooked. Start with 2-2.5 C. and add more only as needed to get the pasta cooked.

This post is a part of Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes.

Do you eat pasta? Do you enjoy every last carbolicious bite or do you feel guilty?

Chicken Elegante

Chicken Elegante Casseroles get a bad rap. I think this is because we’ve all had too many lukewarm, bland, chemical-laden offerings at church potlucks. Real food casseroles can be delicious, nourishing and serious comfort food. Just don’t take casseroles to church. They’re not going to taste good after sitting at room temperature for two hours;)

A while back I told you about this dish I was converting to “real food”. I shared my recipe for the bottom layer. Now it’s time to show you the rest!

Chicken Elegante

-Ingredients-

Bottom layer: 6 C. seasoned long grain and wild rice (I use my Uncle Ben’s knock off recipe)

Middle layer: 3 C. cream of chicken soup (I use Tammy’s recipe) 1 C. milk 2 C. cooked, shredded chicken (I use leftovers from roast chicken)

Top layer: 1 1/2 C. shredded cheese

1/4 C. melted butter 1/2 C. breadcrumbs (I use homemade) 1/2 C. finely ground almonds

1. Butter a 13x9 inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare rice, then spread in the bottom of the baking dish.

Bottom layer - Chicken Elegante

3. Cook cream of chicken soup according to recipe, then whisk in the milk and stir in the chicken. Pour over rice.

Cream of chicken soup

Middle layer

4. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the middle layer. In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, ground almonds and melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over top of cheese.

Chicken elegante, unbaked

5. Bake for one hour, until bubbly and top is toasted and crunchy.

Chicken elegante bite

Empty pan *Ahem* This is what was left after feeding four adults and two kids.

 

Have you remade a recipe to make it real food friendly?

Are you a casserole fan?

Salmon Patties

Salmon patties I’ve always liked salmon patties. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a super healthy food, and it’s a frugal way to feed a family fish. For a long time I bought the canned salmon without skin and bones. I wondered why anyone would buy canned salmon with all the skin and bones in it!

When I read this post at Keeper of the Home that gives a recipe for salmon patties WITH bones and skin. I was seriously skeptical. Several commenters on that post insisted that the bones are easily crushed and unnoticeable.

I decided to try it, because 1. Canned salmon with the skin and bones is cheaper, 2. It’s actually healthier (the bones provide calcium and other minerals, and the skin gives lots of healthy fats).

I picked out the backbone, since it’s fairly large and hard, but left the small bones in. I smushed the salmon around between my fingers and the bones easily crushed to the point that I couldn’t even tell they were there.

These salmon patties are a family favorite. Even David, who isn’t a fish lover, raves about these!

Salmon Patties

-Ingredients-

14 oz. can salmon (the kind WITH skin and bones!) 3 eggs 1 C. bread crumbs* 2 T. dried onion flakes 1/4 t. garlic powder 1/2 t. dill 1/2 t. celery salt (did you know you can make your own?)

1/4 C. palm shortening, coconut oil or butter

 

1. Place the salmon in a large bowl. Unroll the salmon and locate the backbone. Pull it out and discard, making sure you don’t miss any large pieces of bone. Using your hands, smush the salmon around to break up the small bones. You really won’t be able to tell they’re there!

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with your hands. A great job for a small helper, if you have one! Form into four patties and set aside for 10 minutes.

salmon patties ingredients

Patties uncooked

3. Melt the palm shortening in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and cook for about 5 minutes, until golden. Flip, cook 5 minutes more, then place patties on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve hot.

Salmon Patties cooked

*I save the ends of bread loaves and make my own. Have you read the ingredients on store-bought bread crumbs! It’s yuck!

Notes: I’ll be honest, I love to dip mine in ketchup, but I want to try the recipe for homemade tartar sauce at the end of this post.

If you aren't using whole-grain breadcrumbs, start with two eggs, then add another if it's too dry. Whole-grain foods absorb more liquid than white flour products.

 

Have you ever used canned salmon with the skin and bones? Any budget-friendly ideas for serving a family healthy sea food?

This post is a part of Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes.

 

Snack Chunks

Snack Chunks Snack Chunks. Sounds appetizing, right? “Snack Balls” seemed odd, and “Snack Bars” limits the shape, so . . . Snack Chunks.

They taste good, I promise, in spite of the lame name;)

We’ve been really enjoying these the past few weeks. Since it is so hot now we’ve been swimming almost every afternoon. It’s so nice to have a healthy snack made ahead of time, so I can wake the boys from their naps, hand them a snack chunk, then head out to the creek. I’ve been enjoying being a little lazy, I admit.

Summers are busy for most people, so it pays to do a little advance food prep to ensure you have healthy food to munch on. These are quick and easy to throw together, and make a great project for little helpers.

Snack Chunks

-Ingredients-

1 C. rolled oats 1/2 C. quick oats 1/2 C. seeds (I do 1/4 C. pumpkin and 1/4 C. sesame) 1/2 C. raisins, chopped 1/2 t. salt 1 C. sunflower seed butter* 1/2 t. cinnamon 1/2 C. coconut oil 1/4 C. mini chocolate chips

1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl.

SC Ingredients I forgot to chop the raisins the first time I made these. They’re definitely better when the raisins are chopped – they hold together better and the sweetness is more evenly distributed.

Using your hands, mix everything together well.

2. Form into snack chunks. I rolled the dough into balls this time, but I’ve also just plopped spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, and pressed the dough into an 8x8 inch glass pan (lined with parchment paper)**. Use whatever shape you want!

3. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour to harden before serving. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Snack Chunks 2

*You can use any nut or seed butter you want, just be aware that some will be thicker than others, and also there are variations between brands. If your snack chunks aren’t holding together, add more nut butter or coconut oil until it starts to stick together when you squeeze some between your fingers.

I use a brand of sunbutter that contains flaxseeds, and is also sweetened. If you use a nut or seed butter that isn’t sweetened, you might want to add some honey or maple syrup to the snack chunks. Start with 1 tablespoon, then work up from there.

**If you press the dough into a pan, let harden in the fridge for at least two hours. Pull the parchment paper up to pop the snack chunks out, then cut into small squares.

Notes: We really like these! David doesn’t care for sunbutter, which he mentioned several times, but he kept going back to the fridge for more snack chunks:)

Jonathan really likes helping me make these, and it’s a simple recipe that makes it a little easier for me to let go in the kitchen and involve my kids!

You can completely change the flavor of these by using different nut butters, seeds and other add-ins. I think a tropical flavor might be in order next: substitute coconut for the chocolate chips, and chopped dried apricots for the raisins.

Yield: One 8x8 inch pan of bars, or approximately 16 balls/chunks.

Inspired by In A Nut Shell

UB’s Long Grain and Wild Rice Recipe

IMG_3587 We all have our favorite foods. If you’ve been eating a real food diet for long, chances are good that you’ve given up some of your favorites. Sometimes it’s easier to just not eat something than it is to figure out a healthified version.

Some things are too good to give up. Many times I think it’s more the emotional attachment and memories than the actual taste. Whatever the reason, I needed to remake Chicken Elegante.

Chicken Elegante is a family favorite. I grew up eating it regularly, and I still remember all the rave reviews it got when we had company over for supper. Of course I made it for David when we got married, and it’s one of his favorite meals.

The ingredients? Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, cream of chicken soup, milk, cooked chicken, cheese, butter and cornflakes. There were a few things that needed to be changed;)

I started at the bottom, with Uncle Ben’s rice. It took a bit of tweaking and retesting, but this recipe is pretty stinking close to that familiar orange box, only without the hidden MSG and other junk.

Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice

-Ingredients-

5 C. chicken broth (or use a combination of water and broth) 2 C. brown rice 2/3 C. wild rice 2 T. olive oil 2 t. minced, dried onion 1 t. parsley 1/2 t. garlic powder 1/2 t. onion powder 1/2 t. turmeric 1/2 t. cumin 1/4 t. ginger 1/2 t. pepper 1 t. salt (to start, add more as needed)

1. In a large pot combine the brown rice, wild rice and spices. Add broth and olive oil and stir together.

UB rice ingredients

2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover with lid but leave slightly cracked. Cook for 50-60 minutes. Wild rice takes a while to cook. Mine was almost done after 60 minutes, so I shut the burner off and closed the lid tightly, letting it sit for another 15 minutes. It was perfect after that.

3. Fluff and serve, or use in any recipe that calls for Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice!

Cooked UB rice

Notes: Be sure to add enough salt. I started with 1 t. and added another 1/2 t. after the rice finished cooking. Processed foods tend to be quite high in sodium, so if you’re trying to convince your family that homemade is just as good, don’t skimp on the salt! Bland rice is . . . boring.

Yield: 8+ C. cooked rice

Adapted from Food.com

Have you given up any favorite foods since starting to eat healthier? Have you remade any recipes? Share with us in the comments!