Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Crock pot pumpkin apple butter! (No peeling!)

...And so the pumpkin obsession continues! This was kind of an experiment :) I just replaced some of the apples with fresh pumpkin puree in a normal apple butter recipe. I had to add a little bit more honey, because the pumpkins aren't quite as sweet, but it worked well!

I've been looking for an apple butter recipe that uses honey instead of sugar and doesn't require peeling. And yesterday, Health, Home, and Happiness blog posted THIS simple crock-pot recipe for apple butter that uses honey without peeling the apples!

So I just decided to replace some of the apples with fresh pumpkin puree. And I increased the honey since pumpkins aren't very sweet. And added nutmeg and cloves, because every pumpkin deserves some nutmeg and cloves :) So here is what I did:

6 apples, cored and sliced
puree from 2 small pie pumpkins
1/2 cup water
1 cup honey (you might need more if your family is not used to minimally sweetened food :)
Cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg to taste (Sorry; I never measure :)

Directions: Put everything in crockpot and cook on low for about 12 hours. At this point you will have apple-pumpkin sauce. Puree with blender or food processor til smooth and place back in crockpot on lowest setting with lid cracked for another 4-6 hours. Stir every hour or so and it will darken and turn in to apple -pumpkin butter! Freeze or can as you would apple butter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Healthy and Yummy Pumpkin Pancakes!

Oh, it is definitely that time of year again! You know, the time of year when any recipe containing the word pumpkin catches my eye :) Yes, I definitely have a pumpkin obsession! I've always LOVED pumpkin pancakes and there are tons of recipes out there, but I had not yet found one that meets my healthy standards (i.e. honey instead of sugar and soaking the flour to reduce the phytates and improve digestion.) So I was excited to randomly come across the Come Walk With Me blog, which discusses Nourishing Tradition-style food and recipes. Lisa's recipe for pumpkin pancakes is not only healthy, but delicious, and even my "not-so-obsessed-with-pumpkin" husband whole-heartedly approved :) She says they freeze well, also, but there weren't enough left today for me to find out :)

Squash (or Pumpkin) Pancakes
2 c. flour (I used spelt)
1 1/2 c. buttermilk ( I used keifer because it was what I had on hand; yogurt would work as well)
*12-24 hours beforehand, combine these two ingredients & cover

1 c. squash or pumpkin puree (I just used the whole can, probably 1 1/2 cups)
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/8 t. nutmeg
2 T. raw sugar, honey, or maple syrup
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
2 T. melted coconut oil

When you're ready to make the pancakes stir in all remaining ingredients to the soaked flour/buttermilk mixture. Lisa likes thin pancakes (not fluffy) so she added about 1/2 c. water and 1/2 c. milk to greatly thin out this batter. I wanted them thick, so I didn't add any, and the batter didn't pour easily but still made great pancakes! Heat additional coconut oil in a skillet over medium low heat (you want these to cook all the way through) flipping when bubbles pop.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stuffed Peppers With a Mexican Flair

I love stuffed peppers! But my husband is not a huge fan of the normal rice and beef and tomato sauce version. So I thought I'd try something different and he really liked it! (Of course, he decided to eat it with chips, and that makes everything wonderful in his book :) But this dish would also be great served over quinoa or rice, and I ate the leftovers wrapped up in one of my home-made tortillas and it was delicious! You could even make it a vegetarian dish if you skipped on the ground beef. I got the recipe from Kitchen Stewardship, a great blog for finding healthy recipes and learning about nutrition! I substituted my own taco meat for the ground beef and seasoning packet because I wanted to avoid all the MSG and fake seasonings in those packets. My girls won't eat the peppers, but I saved them a mixture of the taco meat, corn, and beans before adding in the salsa. They loved it with a little bit of quinoa and cheese added.

3-5 bell peppers, green or colored, halved, seeds removed
1/2 pound ground beef (or a full pound)
1 Tbs. taco seasoning (or follow package directions for 1/2 pound beef)
1 1/2 c. frozen corn (optional)
2 c. black beans (dried and prepared or about 1 can)
1 16 oz. jar salsa
1/4 c. diced red onion
(optional) other vegetables: diced red pepper, zucchini, leafy greens, etc…anything you have on hand to enhance the mixture
shredded cheese

Directions: Mix all the ingredients except cheese (I warmed mine and mixed on the stove top) and simply fill the raw peppers, adding a little water around them in the casserole dish to soften them up while it bakes. Bake 30 minutes, covered, before removing the cover for 5-10 minutes to brown the cheese.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Taco Seasoning Mix

We were planning to have taco salad this week, so I decided to try out a new recipe. While at my parents' house a while back, I watched an Alton Brown show about tacos. (Yes, I LOVE the Food Network!!! But we don't have cable so I only get to watch it at my parents' house :) His tacos looked so good that I had to try the recipe. Mark thought it was great, and I like it because I can mix up a bunch of the dry ingredients ahead of time for whenever I want to make taco meat in a hurry!

Seasoning mix:

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put all of the ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Yield: 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons

Other ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 16 ounces ground sirloin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 recipe Taco Seasoning Mix (recipe above)
  • 2/3 cup low-sodium beef broth (I used some home-made chicken stock and a few Tbs of tomato sauce)
  • 2 Tbs oil (I used olive)
Directions: Heat oil on med. heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned around the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground meat, 1 teaspoon salt, and garlic. Cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, to break up the meat. Add Taco Seasoning Mix and beef broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until sauce is slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

I found the recipe @ http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/all-american-beef-taco-recipe/index.html

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yummy strawberry or peach bread!

After reading THIS GREAT POST about why a fellow blogger decided to not eat any more cereal (all the same reasons that I had for making the same decision!), I decided to check out her healthy recipes for some new breakfast ideas. Her Strawberry bread jumped out at me because we have tons of strawberries in our freezer right now. I made the healthier soaked version, but she also gives the non-soaking version if you want it. YUM! I only used 1 cup of sucanat instead of 1 1/2 cups and it was plenty sweet for me. Next time I might lessen it even more! You should really check out her blog: Homemade Dutch Apple Pie for some other great recipes!

Strawberry Bread (Peach Bread/Fruit Bread)

2 cups fresh (or frozen) strawberries
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups rapadura or sucanat
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup melted butter (organic)
3 eggs (hormone/antibiotic free)

First…you can do one of two things with your strawberries: If they’re fresh, you can slice them and stir them into your dry ingredients. Or, if you don’t think your family will like chunks of strawberries in their bread…blend them all up in the blender, then mix in. If you’re using frozen strawberries, thaw, then blend in blender.

Mix dry ingredients together. Stir in butter, eggs and strawberries. Pour into two buttered loaf pans. Bake in a 350° oven for 45-50 minutes.

To soak flour:
Melt butter and cool slightly. Mix flour, butter and enough buttermilk to just moisten the flour. Cover and let sit for at least 7 hours. When ready to bake add remaining ingredients. You can add a little extra buttermilk if the dough is too dry or just to make the bread lighter/more moist. Bake as directed above.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Easy raspberry or chocolate swirl cheesecake

Cheesecakes are impressive. If I see one at a covered dish, I always think, "wow; someone went all out for this meal!" They can be somewhat intimidating, but I recently learned that I could make a really good one with very little effort. I couldn't decide between the chocolate swirl and the raspberry swirl, so I did half and half. Believe it or not, we preferred the raspberry side because the cake is so rich and sweet that the tangy raspberry flavor was the perfect compliment. But the chocolate was definitely delicious as well :) Give it a try; you won't be disappointed!

(Warning: this is not one of my "healthier" recipes, in case you had any doubts... I want to try it with honey instead of sugar, but haven't had the nerve. I suppose these homemade graham crackers would work for a healthier crust, though :)

2 pkg (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 graham cracker crust -- you can use an pre-made one, but the home-made kind is pretty simple as well and looks more impressive :)
3 Tbs. fruit preserves or 1 square Baker's semi-sweet chocolate, melted, slightly cooled

Directions: Mix cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs; mix until blended. Pour into crust. Dot top of cheesecake with preserves or melted chocolate. Cut through batter with knife several times for marbled effect. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

Recipe found in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Collection

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dinner Options

When I am making my monthly meal plan, I keep this list of our favorite meals in front of me. I usually try to pick one beef, one chicken, one soup, and one pasta recipe a week, as well as a meal from our freezer and a penny-pinching (inexpensive :) meal. Since we pay more for grass fed beef and organic chickens from the farmer's market, I'm also trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our plan to save money. However, my husband generally doesn't like them as much so I don't do it every week. I also try to double and freeze at least one meal a week.

Meg's Dinner Options

Our top 6 favorites (can you tell we like Mexican?):
Sweet n Sour Chicken Tacos or over quinoa or rice

Baked Spaghetti
Baked Turkey and Gravy
Baked Ziti
Barbeque Chicken (on rice/Sand/or w/ bacon and cheese)
BarBQ beef cups
Chicken, grilled, with lime and cilantro
Chicken Parmesan
Chicken/Turkey Pot Pie
Chicken Salad
Chicken Mexican Crockpot Dinner
Chicken Taquitos
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Chicken Divane
Chicken-Apple-Cheese Bake
Chili -- over spaghetti, chips, or potatoes
Corn and Cheese Chowder with grilled ham and cheese sand.
Cranberry Chicken
Creamy Chicken Spinach Pasta
Cream Cheese Chicken Chili
Crockpot Roast with veggies
Grilled Chicken Salad with strawberries/grapes/almonds/whatever in fridge :)
Shepherd's Pie
Sloppy Joes
Stirfry w/ onions, peppers, and other veggies-- chicken or beef
Spaghetti Squash Casserole
Smothered Cheesy Roasted Club Sandwich
Stromboli (just using my pizza dough)
Steak Fajitas
Stuffed Mexican Peppers
Sweet Chicken Tacos or over quinoa or rice
Sweet N Sour Chicken
Taco Bake
Amazing Taco Salad
Taco Soup

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Taco Salad Dressing

My sis-in-law gave me this awesome recipe for an easy, healthy, and delicious salad dressing that satisfies my current lime and cilantro obsession!

2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 oz fresh lime juice, lemon will also work if needed
1/4 tsp. salt
splash of tobasco, optional
finely snipped cilantro to taste (between 1-2 TBS)
8 oz. olive oil

Directions: Mix all the ingredients except for the olive oil together really well then add 8oz. olive oil and mix again. Try to make it early in the day to let it sit so the acidity of the lime juice will blend the flavors well.

Stocking the freezer!

With 2 little ones and a husband whose work schedule changes randomly, I often end up without time to prepare a nice dinner for my family. We are on a strict budget and try to avoid eating out just because "there is nothing to eat in the house!" (We like to plan on eating out for special occasions instead :) So when I make my meal-plan each week, I try to make sure I plan one day (usually the day that Mark is off work so he can help watch the girls :) to go crazy cooking and double or triple a recipe or two for freezing. That way I always have something to pull out in a pinch. So I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite things to make in bulk and freeze.

(Note: I "flash freeze" the enchiladas and manicotti before cooking on a cookie sheet and then dump into freezer-safe ziplocks bags. You can also freeze them in a pan with the sauce, but it takes up more room and I find that they come out more soggy. I flash freeze the chicken strips, cordon blue, bierocks and meatballs the same way. Everything else just gets dumped in a tupperware :)

Taco Meat
the Best Sloppy Joes Ever
Cheesy Chicken Strips
Taco soup
Tortilla Soup
Chicken Cordon Blue
Lime Chicken Tacos

Home-made Pizza Dough
Home-made Tortillas
Pancakes and Waffles
Breakfast cookies
muffins -- pumpkin and berry
Harvest Loaf
Zucchini Bread
Pumpkin pancakes
Pumpkin waffles