Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No Bake Energy Bites

I found this recipe for No Bake Energy Bites and adapted it. These are great for breakfast and a quick snack. They are rich and strong flavored. I listed what I used in red.

* 1/2 c Nut butter (almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower seed butter or any other nut or seed butter)
* 1/3 c honey
* 1 c old fashioned rolled oats
* 1 c shredded unsweetened coconut (or wheat bran/germ, oat bran, some ground flax seed, ground nuts or sesame seeds.)
* 2 t vanilla
* pinch of sea salt
* 1-2 t your favorite spices or spice combination (optional - I used 1/2 t cinnamon)
* 1/2 c other add-ins (roughly chopped nuts or seeds, dried fruit, mini chocolate chips, etc)

Mix together the nut butter, honey, vanilla and salt if needed. Then mix in the remaining ingredients. I used
equal parts sesame seeds, coconut and mini chocolate chips. Mix well. Allow to chill slightly and then roll dough into 1-2" balls.

Keep refrigerated or frozen until you are ready to use. Makes approximately 18-24 depending on size.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

I grew up on the Banquet frozen chicken pot pies. I thought that is what a pot pie should taste like. I was wrong. I tried a pot pie at a homestyle restaurant a few years ago which was more like a bland chicken stew with a puff pastry on top. I was getting closer. Then I discovered this mixture... and I have arrived at total comfort food.

This again will fall into my category of "I made it by method rather than by measurement." I know this will drive some of you nuts, but it's just how I cook. I'll give you the best estimates of what I did, but please feel free to adapt this to fit your needs (*see below). This is a great meal for leftovers for a quick fix, or you can cook the ingredients from start to finish.

2 pie crusts (top & bottom)
2-3 c cooked chicken, diced
1-2 c cooked potato, diced*
1 c cooked carrots, diced*
2 c chicken gravy **
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t celery seeds

In a large pan, mix together all ingredients other than the pie crusts. Allow them to simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Meanwhile, lightly sprinkle a pie tin with flour and add the bottom crust. Pour the mixture into the crust and quickly add the top crust and pinch the edges together before the heat starts to soften the dough. If it doesn't seal well due to the softened dough, that's okay, but make sure there something under the pan while cooking to catch any drippings. Make small slits in the crust with a knife to allow the steam to vent. Brush the pie crust with a bit of melted butter (optional) and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes. Cover the edges of the crust with foil or a silicone ring for the first 30 minutes and remove to allow it to brown in the final minutes. I recommend placing the pie tin on a cookie sheet or put tin foil under the pan to catch any of the gravy that may drip out.

* Method - use 2 cups of veggies total - split them however you like. I like a lot of potato in mine because it makes for a hearty pie. I know peas are traditional, but I just don't care for them. Celery would be a good addition, but I didn't have any.

**Depending on what veggies you use, you may need more or less gravy. Start with less and add more as needed. The potatoes tend to absorb more.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Coming Soon...

Made it twice in the last two weeks... homemade chicken pot pie. The second time I was brave enough to make my own pie crust (never done that before).  Sorry, no pictures (eaten way too fast for that), but recipe is coming. This tastes like fall, warmth, and comfort. I may have to make this every week for the rest of fall/winter.

We've been enjoying lots of fall fun and flavors over the past several weeks - apple pie, soups, roasts, and lots of good stuff. I can't wait to share. I just have to leave enough time after cooking to write about it. But first I have to come out of my food coma.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vegan Buttercream Frosting

Here's my go to frosting right now. Note, if you refrigerate the left over frosting, be sure to leave time for it to warm up before you need to use it. It hardens significantly after refrigeration, but will warm enough to use again. It tastes great.

1 c Palm oil shortening
3 c Powdered sugar
1 1/2 t Vanilla extract
1/4 c Almond Milk
1/2 t Cinnamon (optional) of 2 T Cocoa Powder (optional)

Blend all ingredients together until light and creamy. Works well for cake frosting (pipping bag or spatula), on crackers, with fruit, stuffed french toast, or straight from the bowl.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cinnamon French Toast

If I could keep cinnamon bread around the house, I could easily make cinnamon french toast. But cinnamon bread is a luxury that rarely finds its way into my pantry. Since that's the case, I make due with my own concoction.

4 eggs
1/4 c milk (cow, rice, nut)
1 t vanilla
1/2 - 1 t cinnamon (to your taste)
8 pieces of bread (regular, french bread, gluten-free, etc)

Whisk all ingredients together in a shallow dish. Dip bread in egg mixture to coat and place on a hot, well greased griddle. When the first side moves easily it is lightly golden, flip and fry until golden on the second side. Top with maple syrup, fruit, whipping cream, or your favorite toppings.

These freeze well. Simply pop into the toaster to re-crisp the toast. My kids like them cut into strips so they can dip them into the syrup.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This...

...there'd be days like this my mama said..."
Some days are just kind of like this.

Not every cooking adventures is a good one.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Caramelized Banana Sundaes

Oh this little piece of heaven. Please forgive the rotten picture, but I was so excited to eat this little treat tonight that I didn't have the patience to get a decent picture of this sundae. I only use this less than stellar picture so that you can see the caramel on the bananas. This is similar to a Bananas Foster but without the liquor and expensive price tag in a restaurant.

1 T butter or coconut oil
2 T brown sugar
1/4 t vanilla or vanilla powder (optional)

In a non-stick skillet heat ingredients until smooth and bubbly. Add in 2 bananas split lengthwise (I also cut mine in half), cut side down and do not move them so that the sugar can caramelize to the banana (1-2 minutes). Remove and serve immediately with ice cream. Pour any remaining caramel in the pan over top.

I may regret trying one out. So much for a healthy banana.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Applesauce Time

One thing I love about North Dakota, lots of people have their own apple trees and are more than willing to share them. Unfortunately most of my favorite varieties of apples do not tolerant the winter temps this far north. So I'm left with a tart apple called a Haralson (or varieties there of). I've processed probably about 2 bushels so far.

So a new apple variety has made my saucing a bit different this year. I haven't added sugar to my applesauce in years. I typically use a combination of gala, golden delicious, jonagolds, or other sweeter apples. Using those, I've had a sweet sauce requiring nothing but a touch of cinnamon, but that's just my taste. My boys and I aren't a fan of tart, so in goes the sugar. A trade off for free apples I guess.

While in Michigan I had the luxury of a wonderful friend Martha who taught me how to make and can applesauce. We always did it together and I used her equipment. Boy did I miss that when I moved to the northern plains. I've been using my apple-peeler-corer-slicer to prep my apples, then cook them down and mash them with a potato masher. It has worked effectively, but it's quite a bit of work. I do however love the chunkier texture of the applesauce.

So I gave in and got one of these beauties part way through this canning season.
Photo Credit
My Norpro Sauce Master a new friend. I'm inspired to try all sorts of new things with it... Tomato sauce is coming next, followed by mashed potatoes, pureed pumpkin, and all sort of veggie purees for enhancing recipes (like my loaded tomato sauce). The only issue is running out of freezer space and canning jars. It's a great problem to have.

I've gotten quite a few questions about canning lately.  I wish I was an expert on this. What I know is hot food, hot jars, hot lids, and a hot water bath. Keep everything hot to avoid bacteria. I use this website for most of my canning questions. I'm hoping to learn more about using a pressure cooker for canning so that I can put up my own meat sauces (marinara, alfredo, etc) and soups. Most of that is going to have to wait for winter for time to experiment.

For now I have all the goods from our CSA share to enjoy. The corn was amazing. I have 120+ ear of corn cooked and cut off the cob, 10 gallons of green beans, and 5 gallons of broccoli waiting in the freezer. The apples are sauced. Now to get a few more to make apple pie filling to can and some great desserts just to enjoy. Then bring on tomatoes, potatoes, and pumpkin.

We are going to eat well and healthy this winter!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Catching Up

It's been a while since I've posted here, mostly because there has been nothing new to share. I've joined the sports mom world and work full-time. That means we eat a lot of very quick foods on the fly. I get why so many people down massive amounts of fast food in their trek around town due to the time crunch.

I too have fallen pray to quick meals out a few times, but we've mostly managed to avoid that. However I've had my fill of sandwiches, spaghetti, leftovers, etc. The good news is football wraps up this week and that only leaves one evening every week on the fly.

To be honest, I've kind of lost my love of cooking for a while. I've been tired, busy, and had no imagination left for cooking. I find this happens to me about 2-3 times a year and it lasts a few weeks to a month each time. Then somehow inspiration returns. I think somehow it comes with the change of seasons. This time it came in the form of surgery. I've had my sinuses rearranged (deviated septum fixed and turbinate reduction) leaving me with a week of recovery to read food magazines, watch the food network, and think of how good food will taste once I can smell again!

Fall is here and so is inspiration. Fall really encompasses many of my favorite flavors. So I'm glad to get my kitchen mojo back. So here is to a whole bunch of great new soups, chowders, slow cooker meals, and apple concoctions coming soon. Glad to be back.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

I had forgotten all about this cake until last week when I was scanning through pictures from 2 years ago.

My youngest son wanted an ice cream cake for his 3rd birthday (summertime). I had seen something about making a flower ice cream sandwich cake in a birthday idea book at one point and tried to come up with a way to make it un-girlie for my little man.

What I cam up with was cutting the sandwiches in half and laying them into a springform pan, cut side towards the center. Then I let my little guy pick what ice cream he wanted to fill the center. I was happy to oblige with some cookie dough ice cream. Allow the ice cream to warm up just a bit so it is soft enough to spread and fill. Cover and re-freeze.

If you look at it, it still kind of looks like a flower, but not so much that it was an issue. You will want to pull the cake out of the freezer about 5-10 minutes prior to using so it can warm up to cut and eat easily.

TIPS: After this experience I would recommend lining the bottom with some wax paper, and removing the sides of the pan before it warms up. Make sure you have a crowd to help eat it or serious damage to your waistline could occur.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cucumber Cranberry Salad

This salad is definitely a new favorite. It has great texture. There are crisp veggies, smooth creamy cheese, and crunch from the sunflower seeds. The medley of salt and sweet leaves you wanting more. A double batch of this salad would work great for a brunch, picnic, shower/party, or family gathering.

2  Cucumbers, seeded & finely diced
1  Apple, cored & finely diced
1/4 c  Celery, finely diced
1/4 c  Crumbled Feta Cheese (optional
1/4 c  Dried Fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins, etc)
1/4 c  Sunflower Seeds (or chopped nuts)
1/4 c  Poppy Seed Dressing (Start out mixing in 1 T at a time)

Finely dice the cucumbers, apple, and celery – then toss together with the other ingredients. Add the salad dressing just before serving so that it doesn’t get soggy.

This cool cucumber salad is a great pair for your summer time meals, picnics, brunch or parties.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chip Supreme

No great recipe here, but rather one of my favorite snacks right now. I found these lovelies last winter in a random bin at Walmart and haven't found it since. That is until yesterday when I found them at Sydney's Health Market... Woo Hoo!

Let me introduce you to Chip'ins. If you love popcorn, you will love these. The light crisp texture of a chip, the salty flavor, the tender flavor of popcorn, and completely gluten/dairy/soy/egg free.

There are no artificial ingredients. I love when there are very few ingredients to read on the back of packaging... corn, sunflower oil, and sea salt.

That's it.

Warning, you may hate me for sharing this with you. Because once you start, you may not be able to stop.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Carne Asada Marinade

On our last freezer cooking adventure, we made a carne asada  marinade. We put the steak in a gallon freezer bag, put all the ingredients in a blender to mix it up, and poured the marinade over the steak.  Grill the meat to medium and allow the meat to rest/cool a bit before slicing. Be sure to cut the steak thinly, cross-grain to keep it as tender as possible.

When I pulled the steak out to make the tacos this week, it turned out tender and flavorful. My son couldn't get enough of it. This is a great way to use a less expensive cut of meat, and not a lot of it to feed the whole family. Serve with lots of veggies (peppers, onions, lettuce, tomatoes/salsa, etc) and a bit of sour cream.

3/4 c Oil (I used olive oil) - I'd use 1/2 c next time
1/4 c Lime Juice
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 t Cumin
1 t Salt
1/4 t Pepper
1/4 t Chili powder (optional)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Freezer Meal Ordeal - Summer

It was another round of freezer cooking with my girlfriends from our small group last weekend. It was a lot of fun and laughs (as usual), but a great time to really talk in depth about life and our experiences.

I love that cooking together allows us that uninterrupted time (thanks guys for handling the kids) to share life and our hearts. Working side-by-side with other generates a great environment for deepening relationships. Not only do we come out with lots of great food to save us cooking later, but a bit refreshed personally as well.

What was the menu?
Mini Ice Cream Pies (we did vanilla this time)
Belgian Waffles
Oatmeal pancakes
Sesame Garlic Chicken
Turkey Taco Meat (with pureed peppers) - recipe coming
Marinaded Meat - raw with marinade ready to grill
    - Carne Asada
    - Garlic Herb Chicken - recipe coming

I admit, we've already eaten several of the items. Need to pace myself to make these last.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bok Choy Slaw

I had a huge, mature bok choy from my CSA box last week. The flavor when they get that large tends to get a bit large, so it needs some stronger flavors to go with it. I didn't use the dark tops of the bok choy because it was rather tough and very strong, but I finally diced diced the base and mid portions.

4-6 c Bok choy, finely chopped
1 c Carrots, shredded or finely chopped
3 T Oil (I used sunflower)
2 T Vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
3 t Sugar
1 t Sesame seeds
1/2 t Poppy seeds
1/2 t Sesame oil
squeeze of lime

Toss the bok choy and carrots together. Whisk or shake together the remaining ingredients and add to vegetables. Serve immediately or allow the slaw to set and flavors to mesh together.

It's a fairly nice change from traditional cole slaw, but similar enough to the original.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Veggie Experimentation

Our family joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm this summer. We bought a share of an organic farm. Each week we get an assortment of vegetables, several that I've never tried before. It really forces me to experiment and broaden our vegetable horizons.

Some experiments have been successful. Others - not so much. I have learned that I really don't like radishes, in pretty much any form. HOWEVER, if I dice them up small they made a good replacement for onions in salsa. Their sharp taste offered a nice kick to sweet tomatoes.

Kohlrabi is one of the oddest looking veggies you've ever seen. I had no clue what to do with the thing.I did want to make my Jicama Lime Salad, but jicama is really expense in North Dakota and they come this of my child's head. I can't bring myself to spend that much money on a root veggie. So I replaced it with diced kohlrabi and it did quite well. I did miss a bit of the sweetness, but I added a touch more sugar to the dressing and it was wonderful. Next time I'll shred it rather than dice.

I have NEVER like peas. However, I have never had fresh peas from the pod. The smaller ones were so sweet that it was like popping candy. I couldn't get enough of them. I'm a believer now.

I managed to eat a different salad everyday last week with the most amazing lettuces. I didn't realize that when you cut into fresh lettuce that there is a milky substance that comes from the veins. Obviously I've never had really fresh mature lettuce before.

I've got a wealth of cucumbers and zucchini waiting to be tackled next. I have some great new ideas to try out and hope they taste as good as they sound.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Strawberry Pie

This gluten-free version of strawberry pie was a HUGE hit at a backyard party last week - with all the people that COULD eat gluten. The combination of oat flavor and texture was wonderful.

I also wanted to find away around using products with artificial flavors and colors. I think that it is pretty close to the original, and darn tasty.

1 3/4 c Oat flour*
2 T Flour or Potato Starch or Corn starch
1 T Sugar
1 stick of Butter

In pie pan, melt the butter. Mix in the oat flour, starch, and sugar and pat out in the pan and around the edges. The crust will slide down a bit in the pan as it bakes and consolidates so push it as high up the sides of the pie pan as it will go. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Cool.

* I pulsed gluten free oats in an coffee grinder until fine flour was produced.

1 c Sugar
2 T Corn Starch
1 c Water
1/4 c Mashed Strawberries
1 t Unflavored gelatin (about 1/2 a Knox packet)
1 1/2 lb Strawberries

Mix sugar and corn starch together in a saucepan. Add water, stir often and bring to a boil. Stir constantly and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add jello powder and mashed berries. Cool until lukewarm but still pliable.

Place cleaned and cut strawberries in the cooled pie crust. Pour cooled (but not cold) filling over the berries. Refrigerate and allow to set. Serve with whipped or ice cream.

Strawberry Pie - Traditional

This is the strawberry pie that I grew up with. It was one of my favorites and I loved when my mom would make it for us. This was the recipe that I picked to add to our class 5th grade cookbook (which 90% were desserts - go figure).

1 stick of Butter
1 1/3 c Flour
1 T water

In pie pan, melt the butter. Mix in the flour and water and pat out in the pan and around the edges.  Prick holes in the pie crust with a fork. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Cool.

1 c Sugar
2 T Corn Starch
1 c Water
4 T Strawberry Jello mix
1 qt Strawberries, cleaned & hulled

Mix sugar and corn starch together in a saucepan. Add water, stir often and bring to a boil. Stir constantly and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add jello powder. Cool until lukewarm but still pliable.

Place cleaned and cut strawberries in the cooled pie crust. Pour cooled (but not cold) filling over the berries. Refrigerate and allow to set. Serve with whipped or ice cream.

Gluten Free Strawberry Pie Option

Friday, July 1, 2011

Corn Toppers

It doesn't get much better than corn on the cob in the summer. The 4th of July is just around the corner and corn is likely on many of our menus. The sweet, juicy and crisp kernels are great on there own, but the right topping can make it over the top amazing. I have lots of fresh herbs coming from my container garden and I chopped a bunch of them for dinner tonight and the corn was AMAZING.

I melted a little bit of butter and let some fresh chopped flat leaf parsley hang out in the warm butter to infuse the flavor. Topped with a bit of sea salt - it was so good. I've got plans to try some of these options over the next couple of weeks. I'll keep you posted on the results.

Butter w/parley & lime
Butter w/cilantro & lime
Butter w/basil
Butter w/basil & lemon
Butter w/thyme
Butter w/thyme & lemon
* Butter can be replaced by Earth Balance dairy-free spread for dairy-free or vegans

Applying melted butter in a measured and moderate amount can be a bit difficult. I just used a butter knife to drizzle it on and spread it around. It worked, but it wasn't very efficient. Next time I think I will use a pastry or basting brush.

On to enjoy more tastes of summer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


So my son found a bottle of lime juice in the refrigerator and wanted to drink it straight. He should be thankful that I convinced him to wait.

He loves citrus drink (lemonade in particular) so I figured he'd love Limeade. He did. I found a great idea online about making a concentrate so you can make it as you go. This is going to save a whole lot of time.

Limeade (makes 3 cups)
1 c Limeade concentrate
2 c Water

Limeade Concentrate
1 c Lime juice (6-8 limes)
mixed with simple syrup
   - 1 3/4 c  Sugar 
   - 1 3/4 c Water

CONCENTRATE - Heat water and sugar until all the sugar dissolves. Add juice and allow to cool (or pour over ice when mixing the Limeade). 

LIMEADE - Add a ratio of water to concentrate (over ice if hot) and allow to chill. Serve cold.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Caprese Pinenut Pizza

This pizza is a seasonal sensation. I have fresh basil from my herb container garden. Real tomatoes are starting to appear in the store - you know the ripe kind. Put them together with freshly grated mozzarella, loaded tomato sauce, and pine nuts for a tasty and sophisticated pizza. 

There is something amazing about toasted pine nuts. They aren't cheap, but just a few add such great crunch and flavor. I keep them in the fridge for little splurges and to make pesto.

As a texture eater, crunch is one of the best things you can add to any dish. This pizza has the pine nuts for crunch along with toasted mozzarella and a crisp crust. Under that crisp surface is the stretching gooey cheese and a fresh sauce.

Spray the edge of the crust with a little oil and sprinkle with salt, sesame seeds, crushed herbs, or whatever you enjoy before baking.

The crust:
2 c Unbleached Flour
2 c Wheat Flour
1 1/2 c Water
2 T Olive Oil
1 t Italian Seasoning
1/2 t Sea Salt
1/4 t Garlic Powder
2 t Yeast

Throw it all the bread machine and let the paddles do the work for you. Spread out on parchment paper, add your choice of toppings and bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes. I put a bit of basil on the flavors to bake in and sprinkled on fresh chopped basil after it came out for the fresh taste.

Time Crunch Method - add topping to your favorite frozen cheese pizza. Reserve some fresh basil to sprinkle on after it finishes baking.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ice Tea Slushies

On a hot summer day it is really hard to beat the taste of an icee/slurpee/slushie (whichever term you use for a blended ice drink). However, I am not a fan of the super sweet/artificially colored and flavored syrups from which the are made. I've made lemonade slushies before with good results from the kids, but I thought I'd make one from one of my own summer time favorites - lemon sweet tea.

Can I just tell you that sweet tea is a weakness for me? I know the vast amount of calories that they can contain, so I usually make my own to try to control the calorie count - which is better but not great. So this slushie idea is great because I get the volume without sacrificing flavor, and the taste without all the calories. Win-win.

I started with about 2 c of ice in a blender and poured in 1 1/2 cups of tea (pick your favorite brew). I blended until it reached the right consistency (about 90 seconds on mine). I did end up adding a bit more tea to get it right, but that was more for the sake of my cheap blender than it was for the drink.

I filled a large sports bottle with me and hit the road (hence no picture - I'll try next time). It lasted far longer than an actual tea would because my mouth could only handle so much cold before needing a break. The slushie lasted the road trip to bring a meal to a friend recovering from surgery and made it for a nice summer drive.

This one is DEFINITELY going in the stack to make again. Now if I could justify a better blender...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Zucchini Bread Pudding

Why did I never think of this before? I love zucchini bread and I love bread pudding. Why not put them together and feast on their team effort? I broke a loaf of zucchini bread out of the freezer and made my plan. This plan is one that I'll be repeating for sure.

1 loaf of zucchini bread
4 large eggs
1 c milk
1 t cinnamon

Cube up the bread and put it in an 8" X 8" or 9" X 9" pan. Double the recipe for a 9" X 13" pan.
Wisk together eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Pour over bread cubes and use a piece of plastic wrap or the back of a large spoon to push the bread down into the custard mix. Allow to sit for 30 minutes - up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and back for 35-40 minutes until the top starts to brown slightly and appears to be dry. Serve warm or cool. Great topped with whipping cream or ice cream. Delicious on it's own.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gluten Free Zucchini Muffins

Here is the promised recipe for gluten-free zucchini muffins. This is a spin off of my amazing (and healthy) zucchini bread.  This is one of the truly successful gf baked products that I've been really pleased with in a long time.

1 cup Chickpea flour
2 cups Oat Flour (I ground up Bob's Red Mill GF oats)
1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Baking powder
3 tsp Ground cinnamon
3 Eggs (or replacer)
1 cup Applesauce
1 1/4 cup White sugar
1 cup Brown sugar
3 tsp Vanilla extract
2 cups Zucchini, grated
2 tbs Milled flax seed

1. Grease and flour muffin cups or use paper liners for 24 muffin. Preheat oven to 325 degree.
2. Sift flours, salt, xanthan gum, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs, applesauce, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini.
4. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pans, and completely cool on a wire rack.

Makes 24 muffins.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Falling Off

I feel like I have fallen off the face of the earth and I'm not sure why. I've stopped by numerous times and just had nothing to write, and nothing to give. It's been a month since I posted anything and no excuse why.

I'm not sure why that is.

I have been blessed to have my mom come for a long Mother's Day weekend visit. I've enjoyed the company of great friends. I've eaten fabulous food and created some pretty darn good concoctions. I've cried with friends struggling with illness, family issues, heartache, and frustration. I've come to the end of myself in weakness. I've had hope for great things to come. I've smiled and laughed at the craziness of my children. I've beat my head against numerous objects at the craziness of my children. I've picked up 9,647 articles of clothing and toys left laying around. I've discovered going to the gym. I've gotten sucked into social media too much for my own good. I've read magazines this week for the first time in 5 months (I've got a big stack waiting for me). And I've been loved by a great husband, children, and God every step of the way.

I'm in the doldrums of life. I've got spring fever. I've neglected spending time digging into what God's Word has for me. I've not slept enough. I have learned a lot.

Today is a new day, full or promises and no mistakes (yet).

So I'm back on the face of the earth, back in the kitchen, and back to blogging. Let's see what we can create together. I'm ready to feast on all that life has for me, and maybe some of the gluten-free amazing zucchini muffins on the counter (recipe coming soon).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Freezer Meal Ordeal

I am prepping for a major freezer-meal cooking marathon this weekend. Hoping that having a stash of go-to meals in the freezer will make mealtime so much more convenient and faster.

What's on the menu?

Lasagna Rolls (still looking for gluten-free lasagna noodles)
Dairy-Free Beef Stroganoff
Loaded Tomato Sauce
Polynesian Pork
Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas
Breakfast Burritos

Make two meals of each and I've got a large portion of our meals made for the month. I can handle that. I'm hoping to get some breakfast foods made this weekend to freeze ahead too.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dairy-free Beef Stroganoff

I've posted a recipe before for Beef Stroganoff before. I still really like it, but I can't feed it to my son with a dairy allergy. It was a favorite, so I needed to find a way to make it safe.  What we came up with was really good.

In a crockpot add:

2-3 lbs of Steak, cubed (any inexpensive cut will work)
1 pkg Beef Stock concentrate + 2 c water or 1 can beef broth
2 t Onion Powder
1/2 t Celery Salt or powder
1 T Minced Onion
1/4 - 1/2 t Salt

Cook on high 3-4 hrs or low for 7-8 hrs. When meat is fork tender, drain off liquids into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Add 1/4 t pepper and wisk (if soy isn't an issue, add 1 T of Worcestershire). Make a slurry by mixing 1 T or cornstarch to 2 T of water. Slowly wisk into liquid until desired consistency is reached. Return sauce to meat.

Serve over rice or egg noodles. If you miss it, mix in 1 t of sour cream to non-allergen eaters portion. I really didn't miss it at all.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Daily Struggle

I'm sick of winter, the cold, the bulky clothing, and indoor confinement.

That's why we splurged and enjoyed a great weekend away with the boys at an indoor waterpark last weekend. It was a great time to enjoy being together - all 4 of us. Unfortunately, that is a rare thing for us right now that my husband and I work opposite schedules. It helped with the blahs, but left me wanting more.

That short taste of relaxation and refreshment was intoxicating. I want more. Mentally I could use it right now. Just another week or two of major deadlines and projects to make it through. Then life will return... until the next thing comes up. In the craziness of life, I am feeling overwhelmed. There is so much to be done and so little time... Same old story.

I guess I'll have to learn what it means to be content in chaos, flexible in the flow of life, and how to pace myself.

I got a taste of spring today... 60 degrees. I haven't experienced that warm of temps in about 5 months. How I've missed it. I want more. Flip flops are calling. Thank you Lord for that reminder that spring is here, and warmer days are ahead.

I said something flippantly in conversation today, but think I need to frame it and look at it daily. Thank you Lord for the little bit of insight. "Life doesn't have to be 'fair' but just well lived." What am I don't to live well today? What about you?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Real Food Tastes Like

People said it would happen. I didn't believe them. They were right... About what you ask? That someday I would be able to taste the difference between "real"/whole foods and processed/artificial foods.

I thought that food was food. It either tastes good or it doesn't. I didn't get what it was to taste the "artificial." It's been almost a year since we significantly reduced our use of processed foods in exchange for whole/unprocessed foods. We did it out of necessity for my son's health/allergies but we have all benefited from the transition.

Today (and a few other times lately), in a hurry, I made a fast food choice to get by on for lunch. It tasted off, flavorless, with a residual flavor on the tongue afterwards. I missed the satisfied feeling when I was done. The difference is hard to explain, but "something" is missing and "something else" is in it's place that isn't quite right.

In that same way, I want to help kids learn early on about what real food tastes like. Join me over at Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution to speak up for students.

"The USDA is taking comments from the public on the new, healthier school meal guideline, and Jamie is speaking out in support of them. Will you join us and submit a comment to help get healthier school food standards put in place across the nation?" -- add your voice here

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm Alive...

...but barely. It's been a VERY long week. I've been finishing up a freelance project the last could of weeks and almost every spare moment has gone to that, work, and keeping kiddos fed and in bed. I'm happy with how the project is turning out, but I feel like I've just missed a couple weeks of life.

We had our first snow day of the year today. Unfortunately, that no longer means sleeping in. That means arranging childcare. I was blessed by a friend that had my boys come for an extended play date this morning until our babysitter could get here. I switched childcare at lunch time and tried to come up with something quick to eat. We were out of most everything quick.

So what's a girl to do? Improvise. My boys love pizza. Not uncommon. I had some of my loaded tomato sauce left over from dinner earlier in the week and some cheese. So I took the rolling pin to bread and flattened it for pizza crust and wa-la... you have pizza. I took some bread and cut it into strips, sprayed them with cooking spray, sprinkled them with garlic salt, and popped them into 425 oven for 6 or 7 minutes and we had breadsticks.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Batch Cooking

My new role as full-time working mom has really gone very well so far. I have an amazing husband, adaptable kids, and a great babysitter that are really all making this adventure work. The main kink in our life has been eating. I've been working on planning and utilizing the crock pot, but there is only so far that will take you. Allergen-free cooking and crockpots are a bit of a tough match (on a budget). I need to do some more experimenting in that area.

Until I get some experiments going, I'm relying on weekend batch cooking. I've been devoting part of each weekend to cook a whole bunch of a couple of things to freeze for the weeks to come. Hopefully the results of that in a few weeks will be a better stocked freezer.

Last weekend I made a couple of soups. This weekend waffles, chicken stock, and spaghetti sauce were on the to do list. The best part of the last two items is once you get them going you can forget about them for an couple of hours.

Next weekend I think I'll get some meat pre-cooked/shredded/browned, freeze pancakes, and try freezing pre-cooked rice.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Unused Celery

There are just certain habits you pick up from tradition, from the modeling of whoever taught you how to cook. You do those things simply because that's the way things "aught" to be.  I have them and so you do. However, it's difficult to pinpoint them because they come so naturally.

I worked at a greenhouse a couple of summers ago and LOVED the herb selection there. As the season moved on the selection diminished and most the usual suspects were sold out (oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, etc). One that there was plenty left of was Celery Leaf. I watered them but didn't pay much attention.

One day a customer questioned me about the taste and use of the herb. I claimed ignorance, but offer to taste the herb and give my opinion. To my surprise, it had a pleasant taste, that of celery. Imagine that.  I would come to realize later that it was the same taste as that leafy top of the celery that I had been chopping off and throwing in the compost.

I started to imagine what I would use it for. Soups was as far as I made it. I had heard of people using the leaves of celery in that. Life moved on and I really had not thought much of celery leaf until this weekend when I was trimming up celery and preparing to dump those greens down the disposal (man I miss my compost pile). It seemed like such a waste.

Upon remembering my adventure at the greenhouse I decided to take a walk on the wild side and use those greens. I chopped them up and added them along with the lettuce of my salad and I LOVED IT. It's a mild taste (using from the celery heart) but added a light taste. Much of the small diced leaves fell to the bottom of the plate along with actual celery heart, chopped carrots, and pine nuts - all coated in a light layer of Caesar dressing. It tasted wonderful. Next time I might skip the lettuce all together and just go toppings only. I'm kind of crazy with salads that way.

Yes, I know I need to get out more often.

Now I'm on a quest to discover other traditions that have made me miss out on good stuff. Do you have one?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

Ooooooo, another yummy smoothie favorite. It added a bit of tropical hope to the long, cold days of winter. The flavors just invoke thoughts of warms and sun. It's been a LONG and COLD winter so I'll take any piece of warm happiness that I can get.

2 c Frozen Strawberries
1 Mango
1/2-1 c Orange Juice (or Apple Juice)
1-2 T Strawberry Jam (to taste if strawberries are a bit tart)
Protein Powder (optional)

Throw it all in the blender and let it rip. Love this for a snack.Maybe I should get some of those little umbrellas for my smoothies and have a little tropical party? Nah, last time we had the umbrellas my boys used them as spears against each other.

What's your favorite smoothie combination?

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Big 7

I now have a 7-year-old. I don 't know why, but that sounds so much older to me than 6. If I blink, he might be 10, and then he'll be driving, dating, going to college, moving out, getting married, having kids, etc. Okay, take a big breath, we are still at 7. One day at a time and one year at a time.

I'm so proud of my "R." He's a good kid. He has a tender spirit and a strong sense of justice. He's not afraid to stand up for others or to speak up at inequality. In fact, it's hard to get him to stop talking at all. He is my social butterfly who genuinely believes that everyone he meets is his friend. I love his confidence and perspective.

Yes, he's a great kid, but far from perfect. Please don't read the above and think oh, she's blind to reality. Trust me, reality is vivid enough that I can't miss it. The awkward, goofy stage is sometimes more than I can bear. Every stage has its benefits and draw backs.

R has struggled with allergies for most of his life. The poor kid was born with an odd rash that had the pediatricians all guessing and it's been that way ever since. Yet it is that challenge that spawned my love of cooking and creating in the kitchen. My passion was born out of necessity. So if you have found a recipe that you love here, you really owe it to my son.

We celebrated #7 with a MYTHBUSTERS themed birthday party with some of his friends this weekend (and lots of loved ones over the phone/mail). The big deal was the appearance of a Wii.
We promised the boys back before Christmas that if they could save half of the money, that we would chip in the other half to buy a Wii. R's birthday money put the Wii fund over the top.

They have been begging for a LONG time for video games. We've postponed the gaming world purposely because we didn't want our boys (including the grown up one) to be anymore drawn/addicted to the TV than they already were.

We wanted their childhood to be about imagination and play. However, we've hit the point were our house is no longer where our kids wanted to be because they could go to someone else's house and play video games. We've always wanted our home to be open to kids/friends, so that we could supervise and have the influence in their lives. We figured a game console was just part of that equation.

Now comes the fun task of enforcing limits on usage and the type of games played which is another "discussion/battle" to be had. Lord give us discernment and wisdom to make choices which are best for our boys. Help us raise them to be men of integrity, that love God and love others. May they have hearts that seek to be generous and serve. Help them to work hard and enjoy time to play.

Happy Birthday big guy. We love you and are excited to see God's plan for your life unfolding.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gluten Free Chicken Coating

In our gluten-free world, I've been working on a thin (non-corn meal) coating to make chicken strips out of. I think we have reached success. My husband and kiddos devoured the chicken. This coating is lightweight so the chicken is the star, browns nicely, and develops a great crunch.

I used potato starch as the base for the coating. You'll find it in the baking isle near the flour and corn starch. However, it's much cheaper to find at an Asian or ethnic food market. I guess you could use corn starch as well, but I don't think the flavor would be quite the same.

1 c Potato Starch
1 t Salt
1 t Italian Seasoning
1/2 t Garlic Powder
1/2 t Onion Powder

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Dip the chickens strips in milk (cow, rice, or almond) and then into the coating mixture. Shake off excess and then add to a frying pan of hot oil. Allow to cook for 2-4 minutes until coating is browned and then turn. Continue to fry until chicken is completely cooked through and all sides are browned. Serve warm on their own, with BBQ sauce, sweet & sour, marinara, etc.

This tasted great dipped in sweet and sour sauce and might have to make a meal of that soon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dilled Chicken Salad

I've never been a fan of chicken salad. More accurately, I've always hated chicken salad. I'm a texture eater and chicken salad usually falls in the slimy category. With a gallon of mayo and gobs of watery grapes, I've not been able to see past the texture to even get close enough to taste.

That was until my friend Sheila at FM Cheapskate introduced me to her version of chicken salad. This has it all - creamy + crunchy, salty + sweet, easy + stylish. This one will likely be finding it's way into my lunches for work. However, this likely won't fall into the kids category any time soon.

Now Sheila makes this like I would, all by eye and taste. There were no measuring utensils out, but I tried to eye ball the measurements. Tweak this to any amount that fits your fancy.

2 Chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
1/2 c Mayonnaise
3 T Craisins
2 T Sunflower seeds
1 t Dill weed (more if yours isn't very fresh)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients to taste. Serve on sandwiches or on its own.

Thanks Sheila.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

So Much For Our Weekend

The kids are gone for 5 days on vacation with grandparents, my husband had a weekend off, and we were going to enjoy some time off. We still hadn't made it to go out to eat for our anniversary (in December) so this was the weekend. Unfortunately all that changed when I got a call on Thursday from my husband saying he was on his way home from the hospital.

He had been seen for cellulitis (bacterial skin infection) in his hand. They gave him antibiotics and sent him home with instructions to be off work for 3-4 days minimum. The fever/chills was setting in and we hoped he could kick it once the medicine kicked in.

On Friday, he woke up to find red lines moving up his arm to about his bicep and a hard bump under the skin. A trip to the med center had him increase his antibiotics (for the infected lymph node) and instructions to go to the hospital if it worsened. On Saturday (planned day for Anniversary date), he went into the ER because of increased pain near his shoulder. They gave him an IV of antibiotics and sent him home. This afternoon he went back in for another dose of IV antibiotics, but it appears that things are starting to get slightly better.

The boys come home tomorrow, we've canceled most of our weekend plans. Our "anniversary date" ended up being fried chicken and a DVD marathon of "The Closer" that I picked up at the video store.

I'm glad that the boys weren't here because I'm sure they would have worried and had a hard time to stay away from dad and let him rest. I'm glad they got great time with grandparents. I have enjoyed an enormous amount of sleep in their absence, but it wasn't really the weekend I had hoped for. At the same time, it was a lot better than sitting in a hospital if he had to have been admitted.

Someday we'll get to go out for our anniversary and use the gift certificate we've been holding on to for it. However, I think we are going to quit planning on it, because every time we do, someone gets sick.

Oh well. That's life. It is what it is.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lack of Menu

As you can probably tell, there is no menu this week. It's been a crazy, hit and miss, on the road kind of week. My in-laws took my boys on a vacation and all of our energies were poured into getting them there. My oldest had a long weekend off of school so it was the perfect chance to spend time with very much missed grandparents.

We drove to the cities Tuesday night to meet family at the airport Wednesday morning. Then we said goodbye as they flew off for some fun in the sun. What an amazing treat for my boys. I'm sure that they will be enjoying all sorts of experiences and making special memories.

I have to admit that I'm a bit jealous as it is snowy and blowing outside right now. It was hard to leave the airport without them, to put them on a plane without me... They are in loving hands, but as a mom I have a hard time letting go.

I was really excited for some time to myself and time with my husband too. Both are rare and precious. And as always, there's a hitch.

My husband spent a bunch of time in the ER today to find out that he has cellulitis, a bacterial infection in the skin. So he's on high power antibiotics and sleeping off the discomfort of it all. Here's hoping the medicine kicks in quickly.

So between all the travels, power outages, and running around, this hasn't been our healthiest week of eating. I can completely feel the difference between this and when we are eating healthy/whole food diet. So tonight I made a batch of fried couscous and boy was it good to eat at home.

So I wish you well. I hope and pray that you are having a good week with friends and family.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Irony of the Kid Label

When I started a new Kids category of recipes last year, I did it for myself. I was tired of staring into the refrigerator or at the menu planner and trying to think of "what can I cook that I don't have to fight my kids to eat?" I wanted a list of go-to recipes that we could rotate in and still try a few new things now and then. A meal without a headache is a beautiful thing.

This didn't use to be an issue for us. I had toddlers who ate almost everything. Somewhere along the line, my oldest son (maybe when he was 5 or so) started to get picky about what he would eat. We instituted the one bite rule that they had to try one bite of everything served to get some exposure without too big of a battle.

Over time he has gotten a bit more vocal about it, and introducing food allergies into the mix only made it more complicated. Over the past year I have served him some pretty disgusting stuff (many he did not have to eat because the only place it deserved to go was in the trash can).  And of course if big brother doesn't like something, that little brother tends to pick up on it. So now I have two more picky eaters (yes, they could be far worse than they are...)

This morning we hit a new low in the food adventure category that made me want to take the kid label off of every recipe. I felt like my son didn't like any of the foods that I gave him. This morning he refused to try a new popcorn chip. Yes a chip (and they are amazing and the bag is now empty). No, I don't normally feed my children chips for breakfast, but this morning I wanted him to sample them before I put them in his lunch. He had an all out fit over my audacity to ask him to try something new (even if it was a chip).

At 7:15, I really wasn't in the mood to discuss the benefits of a varied diet, the multiple taste exposure principle, etc. In fact, I was tired, emotional, and a lot frustrated. I had a bad attitude. I was quiet and snippy after that as we rushed to get to the bus stop on time. As he ran out the door, he popped his head back in and told me he was sorry for whatever it was that he had done to upset me, and darted off to the bus. It's amazing how conviction can come wrapped in such a simple act.

I was left in silence and near tears at his tender little heart. All I wanted to do was chase down the bus and pull him off so I could hug him and apologize, but that would have cause a lot of embarrassment for him and I'd have to apologize for that as well. So I sat there in silence and thanked God for my boy.

As I type this now, some 16 hours later, we've had time to talk through things and I got to apologize to him. I see how limited his food world is and his need to control what parts of it that he can. I understand that he is naturally fearful and hesitant. That's just who he is. I see that I was tired and at the end of my patience, and a 7:15 AM time slot is not the best time to experiment with him and new foods.

All that being said, I decided to keep the KIDS category. However, it comes with this disclaimer.
*All recipes labeled as kid friendly were enjoyed at one time by my children or someone else's child(ren). However, there is no guarantee that the next time I make it that they will enjoy it again, change their mind, or even want to try a bite of it.

Good night and good luck with your kids at the next meal time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Roasted Pheasant

There are two types of pheasant that I was familiar with... the fancy kind under glass and the rustic hunter kind. Well, I'm finding there is a few types in between.  My husband actually made the most amazing dinner for me a few weeks ago. It was a delightful and tasty welcome home.

Once again we learned the secret to good poultry is a good brine. No more dry and flavorless birds for us. I loved the subtle taste of the bay leaves that come out from the brine.

Take a peek at the recipe for roasted pheasant and test it for yourself. The brine my husband made omitted the juniper berries because we didn't have any. Don't think it really needed them.

The leftovers stayed moist and we used them to make soup and quesadillas.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I've had a wonderful weekend so far. I spent last night and most of today with a friend, scrapbooking! I haven't been able to devote any time to that in almost a year. I forgot how much I enjoyed it and how frustrating it can be. Last night I was in my zone and knocking out pages (unfortunately I'm still working on 2006). Today, not so much. Oh well. It was fun, regardless of what I accomplished.

So here's the new menu for the week.

SuperBowl Sunday:
B - Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes
L - Sandwiches, hot dogs
D (Party) - Meat Balls, Salsa, Bacon & Tomato Cups

B - Pancakes & Sausage
L - Leftovers
D - BBQ Pork Roast, Rice, Green Beans

B - Cereal & Cereal Bars
L - Turkey Sandwiches, fruit
D - Potato Starch Chicken Strips, Pasta, Loaded Spaghetti Sauce

B - Waffles & Sausage
L - Quesadillas
D - Out

B - Waffles
L - Grilled Cheese & Soup, fruit
D - Ham Bits, Rice, Corn, Carrots, Peaches

B - Smoothies & Sausage
L - Fried CousCous, Hot dogs, fruit
D - Pizza, Carrot Sticks, Peaches

B - Apple Juice Oatmeal, Sausage, Eggs
L - Grilled Cheese, Soup, fruit
D - Fried Rice, Applesauce

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Venison Stew

Sorry, no pictures from dinner, but it was eaten and enjoyed. Yes, I said I enjoyed venison. This is new. I've not been a fan until finding a few simple preparations that remove the wild game taste.

If you are not a fan of venison, you can replace it with beef.

1 lb Venison steak, cubed (or beef)
1 T Oil (Olive, Sunflower, or Safflower)
4 large Carrots, peeled and chopped
4-5 large Potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 Bay leaves
2 t Sea Salt
2 t Pepper
1 1/2 c Beef broth
2 T Corn or potato starch

In a hot skillet add the oil and venison. Sear (brown) the meat and add it to a crockpot. Mix in the potatoes, carrots and bay leaves. Add the broth to the pan and use it deglaze (pick up the tidbits off the pan), and pour over the meat/veggies. Season with salt & pepper (and a bit of Worcestershire if you'd like). On low, cook for 8 hours, or 3-4 hours on high. 

When meat and potatoes are tender, drain the juices off into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Make a slurry (mixture) of the starch and 3-4 T of water and wisk into the juices. Bring to a boil to thicken. Season to taste. Pour over meat and veggies and serve. Be sure to remove the bay leaves before eating. The are NOT edible.

With a nice crusty bread to dip in the sauce, you've got a hearty meal for those cold winter nights.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meal Plans

Happy February. Here's what we've got planned for the week around these parts. The end of the week is going to be pretty simple since I'm going to be enjoying some girl time with a friend scrapbooking. It's gonna be a good week.

B - Cereal bars, Cereal
L - Sesame Chicken, Rice, Carrot sticks
D - Leftover Quinoa Spaghetti w/loaded spaghetti sauce

B - Ninja attacked waffles (what I called them because they fell apart)
L - Sandwiches, apples
D - Venison Stew 

B - Ninja attacked waffles
L - Quesadillas, salsa
D - Basil Cream Chicken (marinara for R), Quinoa Pasta, Brocolli

B - Pumpkin pancakes (from the freezer)
L - Grilled Cheese, Applesauce
D - Packed lunch for on the road

B - Pumpkin pancakes (from the freezer)
L - Leftovers
D - Chicken Fiesta Enchiladas (from the freezer) & Leftovers

FRIDAY - My scrapbook weekend
B - Apple Juice Oatmeal, Cereal Bars
L - Hot dogs, Organic french fries, apples
D - Pizza, apple slices

SATURDAY - My scrapbook weekend
B - Sausage, eggs, toast
L - Hot dogs, Chips
D - Hamburgers, Applesauce, Carrot sticks

Monday, January 31, 2011

I've Been Published (Pt 2)

Part 2 of my article about Frugal Allergen-Free Shopping is now available over at FM Cheapskate. If you want to catch Part 1 - here's the link for the first 5 tips on frugal allergen-free shopping .

Thanks to Sheila for sharing my article and encouraging me along the way.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

One Year In The Making

This week we are celebrating 1 year since we arrived in North Dakota. Our moving truck/car caravan crossed over the state line to our "new home" on Tuesday afternoon, February 2, 2010. We were weary from our long adventure to get here, but had stuff to unpack and kiddos to get acclimated.

In some ways, that day seems so long ago and in other ways it seems like we just arrived. I'm not the same person who made a new home in ND a year ago. The roaring waters of change and challenge have streamed over my rough edges and resistance. I've emerged a bit smoother along the edges. My clouded eyes have begun to seem some of God's reasoning for bringing us to what I thought was wilderness. I now see these great plains as fertile soil for growing as God has for me once my hardened heart let go of what I thought was the best plan for my life.

It has been a year of ups and downs. I've had plenty of tears and laughter, joy and pain. I've learned what it feels like to feel utterly alone and isolated, an outsider. I've made some wonderful friends that are a true gift. I've experienced true friendship from those who still care even though some 1000 miles separate us. I've experienced generosity and what it means to be pursued.

So what do I think of North Dakota now?
  • That dang Red River of the North keeps flooding. However, there are hard working people who genuinely care about others - ready to sandbag and save each other's homes. Glad we didn't move into the flood plain. 
  • The winters are long and cold. I'm from Michigan. I grew up on cold, long winters... but this is a whole new level. I can't say that I'll be sad to see winter go. However, that 20' snow drift that the plow guys created is going to take a while to melt.
  • Summers are warm (and sometimes downright HOT) and sunny. The really clean air here and cloudless skins means our fair skinned family works hard not to be lobsters.
  • This is the flattest place I've ever been. My boys think traveling the overpass on the interstate is a big hill. Lord help us. I can't wait to show them what a mountain is.
  • We now talk a little funny. I don't say dollar as DAH-LAR anymore, it's DOE-LAR. Things aren't expensive they are "spendy" and you say "ish" for gross stuff. Uffda really is a word, and you use it to say "really?" or "I'm sorry" or "I can't imagine" or if you don't know what to say.
  • Life is a little slower here and people seem to have more time for you. It's not a "how are you?" as a greeting to pass on by without waiting for a reply.
  • We love our church and small group. That has really made this place livable and enjoyable for us.
  • My husband loves and thrives in his job that brought us here. I haven't seen him this content professionally in the 11+ years we've been married.
There are little pieces of the "Why ND?" puzzle starting to come together. Yet we still don't know for how long God has us here. All I know is that for now, we are staying put until he shows us otherwise...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ham & Cheese Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast has become a struggle in our world. Getting all of us ready and out the door in time to get the bus and to work on time AND eat a decent breakfast is a stretch. I manage to get the kids fed, but I've been surviving on granola bars. BUT NO LONGER.

I spent the night cooking breakfast for all of us for the next week. I have pumpkin pancakes, millet Belgian waffles (more like waffle shreds - but that's an epic failure story for later), chopped up ham bits, along with ham & cheese burritos in the fridge and freezer.

I've posted before about the breakfast burritos I made for my husband, but those were egg based. I am NOT a fan eggs. So I had to find another filling to keep me happy for breakfast. I had a whole bunch of leftovers and odds and ends around to use up so in they go. Think of it as a breakfast skillet in a tortilla. Eat it on your way (safely of course), for a quick snack, or just because.

4 med Potatoes, diced *
1/2 c Bell pepper, diced
1 c Ham, diced
1/3 c Cheese, shredded (omit if dairy free, but you might need to increase oil to 3 T)
2 T Oil (Olive, Sunflower, or Safflower)
1 t Salt
1/4 t Garlic powder
1/4 t Black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add potatoes and cook over medium-high heat until slightly softened and browned. Add peppers and continue to cook 2-3 minutes. Add spices and ham and continue to saute for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat (if freezing allow to cool completely and then) and add cheese and portion out onto slightly warmed tortillas. Fold tortillas burrito style and wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer bags for later use.

WARNING: if you add hot contents to the tortilla and wrap them up, the steam will cause your burrito to become very soggy in the storage process. Only fill with warm contents if eating immediately.

* You could substitute southern-style frozen hashbrowns (the square cut) for potatoes for a short cut. I prefer the larger potato chunks and organic potatoes are far less expensive than organic frozen hashbrowns.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Butterless Potato

Looking for ways to cut back on calories and not lose flavor? Can't eat dairy? Watching your pennies? Want the simplest side dish ever? I'm guessing you might fall into one of those categories.

I survived on these potatoes when I was in college and working close to full time. I had no money, no time, and a microwave to eat from. The good thing is they taste just as good now as they did then.

4 baby redskins/person
Lightly coat in olive oil
sprinkle liberally (1/2 - 1 tsp) of kosher or sea salt

In a microwave safe dish add your potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and make sure skin is coated, and sprinkle with salt. Cover potatoes with paper towel and cook for 4-6 minutes until potatoes are tender.
Cover lightly with tin foil and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until tender.

You really can use any type of potato, but the best flavor comes from a baby redskin potato. They have a buttery texture/taste to begin with.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Week, New Attitude, New Menu

I don't know how full-time working moms manage to fit everything in. After one full week, I am a full week behind on everything else. It doesn't help that I had a bad cold too. So this week I am headed into work and life with a different attitude. Life is much more planned for the week so that more gets accomplished. I hope that makes like a bit easier for all of us and help us get into a new routine. I know once we get into a rhythm it will feel much like second nature - but until then, I am on list overload starting with our menu:

B - Impossible Pie or Buckwheat Waffles
L - Sandwiches, fruit
D - Stir Fry, Rice, Peaches

B - Pancakes or Impossible Pie
L - Grilled Cheese, Applesauce
D - Ham, Baked Potato, Green Beans

B - Pancakes
L - Quesadillas, Salsa
D - Packed lunches for dinner on the run

B - Ham bits, eggs, toast
L - Hot dogs, Carrots, Applesauce
D - Chicken Noodle Soup, Grilled Cheese

B - Breakfast cookies, Bananas
L - Leftovers
D - Pizza, Carrot Sticks, Applesauce


B - Donut Muffins, Smoothies
L - Muffin tin lunch
D - Spaghetti with Loaded Tomato Sauce, Garlic Toast Sticks

B -  Cereal bars or Breakfast cookies
L - Sesame Garlic Chicken, Rice, Carrots
D - Beef Stroganoff, Rice, Salad

I'm going to try a bit of experimenting this week and next with a few allergen-free versions of some of our favorite foods. Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pizza Sticks & Bowling

My husband and I took our boys bowling today for the first time. They had the time of their life and made quite a few people around us smile and laugh. The sad part is my 4-year-old almost beat me. I pulled off a strike in the last frame just in time to save my pride. God bless whoever created bumper bowling.

I was looking for something pizza like to make for my son tonight since we were out of crust mix so I came up with a trick that we will definitely be trying out again. I took a few slices of bread (in his case it was a millet/flax), buttered it and sprinkled it with garlic salt like we would for making garlic toast. I took the pizza cutter and cut it into thin strips and then sprinkled on some cheese (Daiya shreds) and broiled it until nice and toasty. I served it with a side of our loaded spaghetti sauce that we use for pizza sauce. It was a huge hit and very easy to make. I'll be putting this one in the snack file for later too.

Not a bad day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I've Been Published

I wrote an article recently for FM Cheapskate about eating and shopping allergen-free on a budget. I love this site and it has helped me tremendously as I look to make the most of our money. If you are interested pop on over for the article. Part 2 will be posted some time next week.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Menu - A Little Late

Better late than never right?

I started the new job, got a cold, and got really behind on everything. So as I sit amid tons of baskets of laundry waiting to be put away (only because my husband folded them) I offer you our menu for the week as we work on eating through our pantry/freezer.

My husband has helped take on some of the cooking, so you'll note an increase in wild game in the menu. Feel free to substitute a meat of your choice if you don't have any on hand...

B = Cereal Bars, Yogurt, Juice
L = Leftovers
D = Spaghetti with Loaded Tomato Sauce, Garlic Bread (recipe coming soon)

B =  Pumpkin Pancakes
L = Sandwiches
D = Venison Fajitas (recipe coming soon), corn, applesauce

B = Apple Juice Oatmeal, Toast
L = Quesadillas, Salsa
D =Bacon Roasted Pheasant, Mashed Potatoes, Carrots

B = Leftover Pancakes
L = Leftovers
D = Sauteed Spaghetti

B = Buckwheat Waffles, Bananas
L = Hot dogs, apple slices
D = Ham, Baked Potato, Corn, Broccoli

B = Ham bits, Eggs
L = Loaded Baked Potato, Oranges
D =  Pheasant Enchiladas(variation of the Fiesta Chicken), Rice, Corn

B = Sausage & Toast
L = Leftovers
D = Turkey Brats, Salad, Peaches

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Survived - Thanks to the 80/20 Rule

I started my new job today, the kind where you have to wear corporate casual clothing, do your hair and make up kind of job. It went well and I've got lots to learn. My head is whirling trying to figure everything out and remember what I've been told... but I enjoyed it.

It's a nice company and good people to work with. The two ladies in the office took me out to lunch today because they are so excited not to have to answer phones anymore.

I'm tired though and it was a drive through dinner on the way to church tonight. Not something I wanted to do, but that's the way it went today. 

I personally subscribe to the 80/20 food rule. If you eat healthy and nutritious 80% of the time, then you don't have to feel guilty about the 20% of the time when life happens. Someday I'd like to subscribe to the 90/10 rule, but we aren't there yet. Happy Monday to you all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Challenges and New Menu

I start my new joy this week so I'm going to be taking it easy on the menu side while we transition into life as we are about to know it.

Breakfasts - Pancakes, Waffles, Sausage & Fruit, Cereal Bar & Fruit, Bagels & Bacon

Lunches - Leftovers, Sandwiches, Hotdogs, Quesadillas

Monday - Ham, Eggs, Toast, Fruit
Tuesday - Golden Chicken & Autumn Veggies (take 2 from last week)
Wednesday - Out
Thursday - Spaghetti with Loaded Tomato Sauce & Ground Turkey
Friday - Pizza, Carrot Sticks
Saturday - Sesame Garlic Chicken, Rice, Carrots

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Skillet Potatoes

This is a super quick fix side dish that has a rich taste for little work.

6-8 med Russet Potatoes
1 T Garlic, minced
1 T Olive Oil
1/2 t Salt
1 1/2 c Chicken Stock
1-2 c Green Beans (optional)

Wash and cut the potatoes into rounds about 1/2 inch thick. Add oil to a skillet over medium high. Add garlic and potatoes and turn to coat in the oil. Be careful not to let the garlic burn. Allow potatoes to brown slightly and then add chicken stock. If desired you can add green beans at this stage. Cover and cook until potatoes are cooked through and chicken stock is absorbed (about 15-20 minutes)

The flavor is rich and the potatoes melt in your mouth.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Frugal Quick Fixes

Okay, so I had planned to make pizza tonight, but never made it to the health food store to get the cheese alternative (Daiya Shreds) for my son's allergen-free pizza... so, needed a quick fix dinner with whatever I have on hand.

I keep 2-3 meals that I don't usually schedule during the same week that I usually have all the components for. My husband knows them by heart because they appear frequently on the kitchen table for dinner. They may be ordinary, but it saves us a lot of money in takeout, fast food, or other dining out alternatives.

Ground beef tacos (or whatever meat I have on hand - ground turkey, shredded chicken/pork, etc)

What's your go-to emergency meal idea?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Life Changes

So just about the time I start to think that I've got things into a rhythm, the music changes. It seems that I'll be dancing to a new tune starting next week.

I'm heading back to work, full-time.

I haven't been employed full-time outside of the home in about 7 years - when my oldest son was born. I stepped down to part-time after son #1 and stayed at home after son #2 was born. The last couple of years have been a series of part-time and freelance jobs trying to make ends meet as Andy returned to school and searched for employment.

I wasn't looking for full-time work, but everything part-time that I had applied for (outside of being a substitute lunch lady) has fallen through. This job literally fell into my lap. My new employer is a well respected man that many people we know speak highly of. He has seemed kind and flexible so far.

That being said... I'm a bit uncertain. It's like the feeling before starting everything new. A bit of the pit in the stomach and a feeling like you have NO idea about what you are about to start. Yet added to that I now have the challenge of quickly finding quality childcare for the few hours of which my work and Andy's will overlap.

So, all that being said... I'd appreciate your prayers. This job is the answer to ours as we searched for the best way to financially get our families re-established after a couple of years of chaos. I'm anxious to see what God has for us in the new adventure.

What does this all mean for Frugal Family Feasts/Domestic Artistry??? Probably more crockpot experimentation, quick meals, maybe a return to eating out a bit. Let the fun begin.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Apple Au Jus

So, Monday was suppose to be pork roast on our Pantry Challenge menu. Slight problem. The package I thought was roast wasn't. Opps. So I found some pork country style ribs and concocted my own brine style braising juice. When the pork was done cooking, I strained the liquid  and then cooked it down a little bit. Served as a dipping liquid for the meat, it turned out wonderful. My 4-year-old thought dipping anything (including his hands) in the au jus was fun.

Pork Ribs, country style
2 c Apple juice
8-12 c Water
1 T Sea salt

I put the pork ribs in a large dutch oven pot. I added the apple juice, salt, and then enough water to just cover the meat. Cooked at 325 degrees for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, the meat was moist and flavorful. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Pour the juices through a fine stainer or cheesecloth (my preferred method) and return to heat and boil for 5-10 minutes to reduce a bit.

Good news, enough left for leftovers to make BBQ pork and Mexican pork salad.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Caramel Corn

 This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas treats that really is an anytime treat. WARNING: once you start eating this you may curse the day that you read this post and decided that it was a good one to try. This is like the crack of popcorn. Best if eaten with others to reduce the likelihood that you eat the whole thing.

I was also excited to find that I could make this for my son by using a soy-free vegan spread (butter substitute). It was still really good.

7 qt  (28 c) Plain popped popcorn
2 c  Dry roasted peanuts (optional)
2 c  Brown sugar
1/2 c Light corn syrup
1 t  Salt
1 c  Butter
1/2 t  Baking soda
1 t Vanilla extract

Put the popped popcorn into two greased baking pans (I like to use disposable foil pans or roaster pans). Add nuts to the popcorn if you would like.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 250. In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt. Stir to mix over medium heat, bringing to a boil. Then boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.

Once you've removed from the pan from heat, add the vanilla and baking soda. This will cause the liquid to bubble and expand. While hot, pour the mixture on the popcorn and toss to coat.

Bake for a total of 60 minutes while stirring every 15 minutes which will make the caramel distribute more evenly. Put parchment or wax paper on the counter and spread out the hot caramel corn on it to cool. Immediately use a spatula or spoon to break up the caramel corn into bite-sized pieces. Let it cool and then store in airtight containers or resealable bags. Wrap it up and it makes a great gift for teachers, bus drivers, or friends.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sesame Garlic Chicken

I've been experimenting with new recipes again. I love the flavors of Chinese, but I can't use soy if my oldest is going to eat it... That posses a bit of a problem. So I'm working with the flavors I can use - garlic and sesame.

1 lb. Boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 t Garlic, minced
1-2 T Oil (sunflower, safflower, other)
1 T Sesame seeds
1/2 t Sea Salt

I sliced the chicken into very thin slices and added it to the oil I had pre-heated in a large fry pan. I browned the chicken over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes and added the garlic, sesame seeds, salt and pepper to the chicken and finished cooking until the chicken was cooked through (being careful not to burn the garlic).

I served this over basmati rice (any type will do) and leftover chopped carrots. The oil from the sauce lightly coated the rice and it wasn't dry at all. I tried a bit with sweet and sour sauce and that worked well too.

We'll definitely be making this one again. It was super fast and easy.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January's Pantry Challenge

I'm starting the process of eating through what we have in our freezer/pantry. My intent is to try to eat through our stockpile for the month January. Think of it as a challenge in menu creativity.

What this does NOT mean is that I won't be grocery shopping, just shopping less. I'll be buying produce, allergen-free food for my son, and a few great deals when I find them. I intend to use the money I'm saving from our grocery budget to put toward some bulk food purchases - which should over time reduce our grocery budget all together.

That being said, here is week #1 of our stockpile menu

B - Buckwheat Waffles, Banana
L - Leftovers
D - Pork Roast, Salad, Roasted Potatoes, Carrots

B - Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes, Clementines
L - Grilled Cheese, Applesauce
D - BBQ Ribs, Mashed Potato, Frozen Corn

B - Sausage, Apple Slices
L - Leftovers & Hot Dogs
D - Pasta & Loaded Spaghetti Sauce, Garlic toast, Green Beans

B - Fried Ham Bits, Grapes
L - Biscuit Ham & Cheese, Pirate's Booty
D - Mexican Pork Salad

B - Bagels, Bacon
L - Quesadillas, Salsa
D - Homemade Pizza, Carrot Sticks

B - Donut Muffins, Sausage
L - Sunbutter Sandwiches, Pretzels, Apple Slices
D - Golden Chicken & Veggies replaced with Grilled Sausage &Skillet Potatoes

B - Impossible Pie, Smoothies
L - Hamburgers, Frozen Corn, Chips, Applesauce
D - Leftovers