Sunday, May 30, 2010

Almond Butter

I made some almond butter with some of my crispy almonds the other day. I used the recipe in Nourishing Traditions. I didn't think it needed much honey at all - I just put in a small dab and it is plenty sweet. I love almond butter and buy it from Whole Foods quite often. I figured I'd just make some homemade, even though it is cheaper to buy it. I've made cashew butter in the past, but never have made making nut butters a regular thing because there is no cost savings in it. But it is nice to have homemade. And I needed almond butter in a protein bar recipe (to be posted later) that I wanted to make, so I figured I'd make some of my own rather than wait until I get to the store to buy some.

Almond Butter

2 cups crispy almonds
3/4 cup coconut oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon sea salt

Place nuts and sea salt into a food processor. Grind into a fine powder. Add honey and coconut oil and process until "butter" becomes smooth. It will be somewhat liquid but will harden when chilled. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Meal plans and the week ahead

I missed my weekly post last week, with being gone camping, lots of stuff going on, and limited internet access. But I'm back this week. Hopefully I'll be getting lots of new recipes posted from the last couple of weeks... I think I have like 6 or 7 recipes to post from during this time that I haven't gotten to yet. Anyway, on to the weekly post...

This week will be filled with family and fun stuff. We'll be doing our fair share of work, too, though. We'll finish up our front yard project this week. We had a bunch of fill dirt and more topsoil delivered on Friday, so we're just working on the grading now and then will plant the grass seed. The flower beds and landscaping are done for now - and it looks so great!! What an improvement! We just have to finish mulching once we get some more this afternoon. And we are still going to get some shrubs for the front, but we'll have to wait for that now and we have some other stuff in there for the time being. We ended up having to replace our central air conditioner on Friday night and then had a water leak in our basement by our well pump, so its been an expensive weekend.

So what's on the agenda this week? We're heading to the farmers market this morning and we'll be heading over to my in-laws' house this afternoon for a family party and cookout. Tomorrow we're headed to my aunt's house on the lake for a family party. Thursday I'll be in Detroit all day for work and will be stopping at Trader Joes and Whole Foods on my way home. Friday I have to work. :( But I'll be leaving a little early so I can make it to pick up our CSA order on my way to pick up Carson. I ordered some more tomato plants, dark rye flour, rhubarb, romaine lettuce, raw milk colby cheese, raw milk parmesan cheese, and a 3-pound bag of braeburn apples. On Saturday we're planning to do something fun with Carson's cousins. We'll either all head to Lansing for Be A Tourist In Your Own Town, or we'll go to Swartz Creek Hometown Days.

So here's the menu plan... still trying to use up a lot of stuff from the pantry, freezer, and fridge... and at the same time I'm adding stuff to the freezer. I have been blanching and freezing asparagus... I have about 5 pounds frozen so far. And I'm planning to do another 5 or so pounds this week. I'd also like to maybe freeze some rhubarb this week, too. Gotta stock up while its in season and the prices are so low! Anyway, on to my plan...

Sunday - farmers market; family party at the in-laws'
(grade front yard; plant grass seed?; buy mulch and finish up side flower bed; weed in backyard flower beds; plant flower bed around magnolia tree in backyard)
B: smoothies
L: buttercrunch salads (lettuce from the garden) with cukes, tomato, broccoli, hard boiled eggs, and crispy pine nuts
D: at the in-laws'... spare ribs and I'm not sure what else... I'm bringing potato salad and a dessert... strawberry jello poke cake

Monday - Happy Memorial Day! family party at the lake
(make spinach pesto to freeze)
B: oatmeal breakfast souffle? or blueberry coffee cake from freezer
L & D: cookout at the lake... grilled pork tenderloin, grilled chicken, potatoes, veggie, jello salad, desserts

Tuesday -
(trim lilac bushes and japanese maple in front; blanch and freeze asparagus)
B: smoothies
L: K & S - buttercrunch salads with leftover grilled chicken or pork tenderloin, hard boiled eggs, cukes, crispy pine nuts; C - leftover grilled pork and chicken, other leftovers from Monday
D: crockpot pulled pork sandwiches; creamy cucumber salad; fresh fruit

Wednesday -
(clean kitchen and bathroom)
B: smoothies
L: leftover pulled pork; cuke salad; fruit
D: mexican baked fish packets with mahi mahi

Thursday - in Detroit for work; Trader Joes/Whole Foods Market
(vacuum and dust entire house)
B: toast with almond butter
L: S - lunch at my meetings; K & C - misc.
D: crockpot quinoa and chicken

Friday - pick up CSA order
B: fresh fruit salad
L: leftover quinoa and chicken
D: eating at my parents' house or leftovers

Saturday - tbd... either Swartz Creek Hometown Days or Lansing for Be A Tourist In Your Own Town with BIL, SIL, and cousins
(make rhubarb banana muffins)
B: crockpot breakfast risotto
L: tbd once we know our plans
D: tbd once we know our plans

Dutch Baby Pancakes

I decided to give soaking grains a try. I figured I'd start with something simple and easy - dutch baby pancakes. I used the recipe from Passionate Homemaking. It just sounded a little easier to me, being cooked entirely in the oven, than the one in Nourishing Traditions. This was super easy to make and so yummy! I soaked my flour for only about 18 hours because my kitchen was so hot from having a broken a/c. Even soaking 18 hours, they got pretty sour. We had them with strawberry syrup and they were just delicious! All three of us really liked the a lot. They come together so quickly, this is something I can actually make on work days, too. I think these will definitely be a regular breakfast for us. I've got another breakfast or two in the freezer now, too! That's always great!

Dutch Baby/German Pancakes

1 cup acid medium - whole milk kefir, yogurt, or combination of water and lemon juice (for dairy intolerant)
1 cup whole wheat flour, spelt or kamut, as desired
4-5 large eggs, free range/pastured is our preference, as desired (I used 5)
1/3 cup coconut oil and butter, any combination (I used butter
dash of vanilla extract

Combine acid medium and whole wheat flour. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours.

When you are ready to serve, heat oven to 425 degrees. Place oil/butter in small chunks in an 8×11 inch glass baking pan. Place pan in oven to melt. Meanwhile, beat eggs in a blender (or food processor) for 1 minute. Add soaked flour mixture and beat (or process) again for 1 minute. Add dash of vanilla extract.

Pull out the baking pan from oven and rotate around to spread the melted butter/oil around to cover the entire bottom of pan. Slowly pour the pancake batter into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly brown and fluffy. Enjoy!

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

I made another recipe from Heavenly Homemakers. This time for blueberry coffee cake. This is another super yummy recipe! We all loved it, it was so delicious!
A wonderful treat for breakfast! Its not as sweet as most coffee cakes have been that I've made, but this is still very good.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup rapadura or sucanat (or cane sugar)
3 T. arrowroot powder
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 cup rapadura (or cane sugar)
3/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 t. vanilla

In a medium saucepan, cook blueberries and water together until boiling. Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about five minutes. Stir together rapadura and arrowroot powder in a bowl. Slowly pour rapadura mixture into the blueberries, stirring while you pour. It should very quickly become bubbly and thick. Remove from heat. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and rapadura. Make a "well" in the center and pour in malted butter, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir well. Pour half of the cake batter into a 9" x 13" baking dish. Spread blueberry mixture over the batter. Drop remaining batter by spoonfuls on top of the blueberry mixture. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes.

Crispy Cashews

I also made crispy cashews when I made the pine nuts and almonds. These have a slightly different process/timing than the others, but I just synchronized them so I could dehydrate them all at the same time. The recipe says cashews need 200 degrees, but I just put them all in my dehydrator on 155 (the highest temp my dehydrator will go) and they were just fine. Carson and I love snacking on cashews, so I mainly made these for snacks. I might make some cashew butter with half of them, or not... and just snack on them.

Crispy Cashews

4 cups "raw" cashews
1 Tablespoon sea salt
Filtered water

Some care must be taken in preparing cashews. They will become slimy and develop a disagreeable taste if allowed to soak to long or dry too slowly.

Soak cashews in salt and water for no longer than 6 hours. Drain in a colander. Spread on a stainless steel baking sheet (or on the trays of a dehydrator) and place in a warm oven (or dehydrator) for no more than 200 degrees for 12 to 24 hours. Stir occasionally, until completely dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Crispy Pine Nuts

I also made some crispy pine nuts at the same time I made the Crispy Almonds. I'm planning to use these in spinach pesto - figure I'd make up a few big batches of that this weekend with spinach from our garden and get it in the freezer. I'll also use some in salads and other misc. dishes.

Crispy Pine Nuts

4 cups pine nuts
1 Tablespoon sea salt
Filtered water

Mix nuts with salt and water and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander. Spread on a stainless steel baking sheet (or on the trays of a dehydrator) and place in a warm oven (or dehydrator) for no more than 150 degrees for 12 to 24 hours. Stir occasionally, until completely dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container.

Crispy Almonds

I decided to give the crispy nuts a try after seeing them on my SIL's blog and her encouragement to dig out my Nourishing Traditions book to re-read through much of it. I had just picked up a bunch of almonds a couple of weeks ago, so I figured these would be perfect to make into crispy nuts. I'll be using most of them today to make into almond butter and then into protein bars (recipes to come later). These are very good and almost effortless to make, plus they're supposed to be more easily digestible. Extra bonus!

Crispy Almonds

4 cups raw almonds, preferably skinless
1 Tablespoon sea salt
Filtered water

Skinless almonds are easier to digest, but the can be hard to find. You may also use almonds with skins on. (I did)

Mix almonds with salt and water and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander. Spread on a stainless steel baking sheet (or on the trays of a dehydrator) and place in a warm oven (or dehydrator) for no more than 150 degrees for 12 to 24 hours. Stir occasionally, until completely dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container.

Variation: use almond slivers or slices instead of whole almonds.

Hobo Dinners

I decided to try out hobo dinners for the dinner that I was responsible for on our camping trip. I got the idea from my SIL, Mary. I had never even heard of these things, but after doing a little reading on the internet, I realize they are quite common. This was the first time I'd actually ever cooked over the campfire, as well... well aside from roasting marshmallows or hot dogs on those long extendable sticks, anyway. It was pretty cool... true camping food and cooking at its best. :) These hobo dinners were super easy to plan, put together, and cook. And they were awesome! Everything gets so perfectly and evenly cooked with the steam created within the packet and they end up being so delicious! They're very versatile, too. Use whatever you like. I found so many different variations online. But here's what I did.

Hobo Dinners

ground beef (or any other ground meat... I used half ground chicken and half ground beef)
potatoes, sliced
carrots, sliced
onion, sliced
any other veggie you like (I added peas)

Use whatever quantity you like of all the ingredients for each hobo dinner (1 per person).

Form a patty with the beef. Lay it on a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. Add layers of potatoes, carrots, onion, and any other veggie you like (I used peas... and Kati even put shrimp in hers, too). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make a foil packet around the food. Wrap again with another piece of foil (double-wrap). Place on hot coals right in your campfire. Cook for about 25-30 minutes. There is no need to flip them, as the steam within the packet will cook everything evenly.

You can also make these at home in your oven. Just bake for about 1 hour at 375-400.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

I made this quinoa tabbouleh to take on our camping trip this past weekend. We were camping with the Gluten Free Girlie, so I had to make sure all of my food was gluten free. I have been wanting to make quinoa tabbouleh for about a year now, so I figured this would be my chance. I love tabbouleh! And this is a great way to have it if you're gluten free (and even if you're not!). Even Kevin liked this - and he doesn't normally care for tabbouleh. This was very quick and easy to make and is a great summertime healthy salad to take along to your bbq!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
2 bunches green onions, diced
2 carrots, grated
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
(I added about 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh garlic)

Bring water to a boil. Add quinoa and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature; fluff with a fork. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, carrots and parsley. Stir in cooled quinoa.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

So we didn't have the topsoil delivered last week. I had it scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but the guys called and said it was just too wet. We'll talk tomorrow and see where we're at... though its supposed to rain tomorrow, so I doubt it'll happen till more towards the end of the week. Maybe we can shoot for Wednesday or Thursday and it'll be ready for us when we get back from camping. We have gotten a lot of the clean up done in the front yard - most of the roots and sticks have been picked up, I have popped out all the pre-existing concrete garden borders, and I've started digging up some stuff and moving it. We still have some to do, though. I have a lot more digging out to do in the flower beds, but I can't do much more till I know when the dirt is coming and have an idea of when things can get back in the ground. We've got our work cut out for us, but its such fun work! I seriously love landscaping projects - I should have gone to school for something related to it... hindsight is 20/20, right. ;-). Anyway, we took a trip to a local nursery yesterday and picked out some shrubs for the front and a new dwarf Japanese Maple tree for off the corner of the house. We bought the tree because there was only one like it. We'll go back for the shrubs when we're ready for them.

So this week will be filled with lots of yard work and preparation for camping next weekend. We're headed to PJ Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon with our friends, Ben and Kati. Kevin and I have been there before, but its been a good 8 or 9 years since we've been there. We're looking forward to a weekend away filled with fun... even though the weather forecast looks perfect for us to knock out some yard work. But we need the break. :)

Today, we're heading out to check out some local farmers markets. Tuesday I have Zumba. I might stop by the Allen Street market in Lansing on Wednesday after work. Thursday will be all prep for our trip. Friday we're leaving for Muskegon, but Carson and I will have to make a quick trip out to Linden to pick up a CSA order in the morning. There is a small group of local, organic/sustainable farmers that put together an online CSA for folks in our area. Most of them also do normal CSAs and then had the idea to distribute even more through this online system. As a customer, you don't have to commit to anything in advance, there are no membership fees, so you just order what you need/want that week. Right now, they're doing 2-week rotations, but once crops start producing well, they'll move to every week. Its a pretty good deal for everyone. For our first order, I ordered some heirloom tomato plants, orange and green bell pepper plants, braeburn apples, yukon gold potatoes, pork chops, mozzarella cheese, raw milk parmesan cheese, and raw milk colby cheese. I have a great cheese guy in Lansing, but figured I'd try out a few of this farmer's cheeses to see how they compare. The CSA guy has better prices than my Lansing guy, so hopefully his cheese is awesome, too!

So anyway, here's the plan for the week...

Sunday ~ SC and GB farmers markets
(make blueberry coffee cake; make honey whole wheat bread; work outside)
B: blueberry coffee cake
L: misc. leftovers
D: grilled t-bone steaks;creamed spinach; grilled asparagus; peaches

Meatless Monday ~
(clean bathroom, kitchen, and master bedroom)
B: strawberry bread
L: misc.
D: whole wheat crepes with mushrooms and spinach

Tuesday ~ Zumba
(vacuum; dust)
B: blueberry coffee cake
L: S & K - romaine salad with strawberries, walnuts, and gorgonzola; C - misc.
D: grilled chicken breasts marinated in italian dressing; grilled asparagus; applesauce

Wednesday ~ Allen St farmers market
(work outside in the yard)
B: strawberry bread
L: misc.
D: spaghetti; green beans; peaches

Thursday ~
(food prep for camping - slice cheese, sprout quinoa, slice fruit, slice veggies, make pesto pea salad; package everything up and pack everything that we can)
B: strawberry bread
L: leftovers and misc. to clean out the fridge
D: leftovers and misc. to clean out the fridge

Friday ~ pick up CSA order; camping at PJ Hoffmaster

Saturday ~ camping at PJ Hoffmaster

Here's what I'm bringing for meals while camping... everything is organic/sustainable and everything but the bread for sandwiches (which will be for the boys) is gluten free... Kati will be bringing something for a Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, as well.
B: yogurt parfaits... yogurt; granola; fresh fruit (strawberries)
L: chips/salsa; sliced cucumbers; baby carrots; pesto pea salad; turkey sandwiches
D: hobo dinners
Snacks: chewy granola bars; crunchy granola bars; sliced cheese and GF nut crackers; raw tabbouleh; hummus; bananas
Drinks: bottled water, beer, apple juice
Misc.: ketchup; mustard; mayo; salt; pepper

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Strawberry Bread

I made a batch of strawberry bread this morning. The recipe comes from Heavenly Homemakers and my SIL also made a variation of this bread recipe with peaches. This was simple and fairly fast to mix together. I made 3 mini loaves and two small loaves from this. We'll keep one out for breakfasts and snacks this week and I'll freeze the rest. I love having sweet bread in the freezer. It makes for a fast and easy breakfast and its great to have on hand if you head over to a party or something and have no time to make something. We couldn't resist and had to try the bread after just cooling a bit. It is so moist and delicious! Yum!

Strawberry Bread

2 cups fresh (or frozen) strawberries
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups rapadura or sucanat or cane sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup melted butter
3 eggs

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.

Crunchy Granola Bars

Carson and I were on a granola kick this week, I think. We also made some crunchy granola bars. My SIL had posted this recipe from Ina Garten a couple of months ago and I've wanted to make them ever since. Another quick and easy recipe! And they taste so good, too! I think I like these better than the chewy granola bars, just because they're not so sweet. And I like the crunch. These will definitely be a regular thing for us now, for sure! We'll take some of these camping, too.

Granola Bar

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (I used ground flax so they'd be GF for camping)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (I used raisins)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I substituted with chocolate chips :) )

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.


I needed to make a new batch of granola to take some on our camping trip. I had planned to just use my normal granola recipe, but Kevin asked that I try a plain and simple one... without nuts, fruit, etc. So he found a recipe on RecipeZaar that sounded good to him. I figured I'd give it a try since he rarely makes requests and has never went out to find a recipe! So I made it. Very quick and easy to throw together and it does taste good. I just prefer lots of other stuff in my granola. We'll use this granola in yogurt parfaits for camping and Kevin and Carson will eat it. I'll be making another batch of granola with more add-ins for me. :)

Quick and Crunchy Granola

3 1/2 cups oats
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter in microwave. Heat honey in microwave for 45 seconds. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour onto a baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, stirring after the first 10 minutes. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container for 1 week, or freeze.

Chewy Granola Bars

Carson and I started some food prep for our camping trip that is coming up next weekend. We made some chewy granola bars earlier this week. I had originally seen this recipe on Heavenly Homemakers and then my SIL made them. They sounded too easy and delicious not to make them... plus I've wanted to try making some chewy granola bars for about a year. I can't believe it took me this long to try a recipe for them! They are so easy to make - probably about 8-10 minutes of prep (and that is with a 2-year old helping), then spread in a pan and chill in the fridge. So simple! I'll definitely be making these regularly so I don't have to buy the super pricey ones at the health food store anymore. Carson absolutely loves granola bars (we all do) and these are no exception. He declared them "SO delicious!".

I made a double batch so we'd have plenty to eat for snacks this week and next, take camping, and still have some in the freezer. I also made this batch gluten free. Next time, I'll add some wheat germ or bran. I came so close to adding it to this batch before I remembered these needed to be gluten free for camping. I'll also add another cup of oats next time to make them more like the granola bars we're used to and probably a little less honey since they are so sweet. I calculated the cost of the way I made them this time. They ended up being about 25 cents per 1" x 3" granola bar. This was using all organic/sustainable or homemade (dried cherries/blueberries) ingredients.

Chewy Granola Bars

1/2 cup peanut butter or sunbutter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup oats (I used a little more than 1 cup)
1 cup total of any combination of: sesame seeds, coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, mini chocolate chips (I used sunflower seeds, unsweetened coconut, raisins, dried cherries, dried blueberries, chocolate chips)

In a medium sized saucepan, melt together peanut butter, honey and coconut oil.

Remove from heat and add one cup of oats. Choose your favorite combination of coconut flakes, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, dried fruit and mini chocolate chips, to equal a total of ONE CUP. (I just got out my one cup measuring cup and poured in the ingredients until the cup was full.) Pour in and stir well.

Spread mixture into a 8×8 or 9×4 pan.

Chill for two hours, then cut into bars.

Wrap in plastic wrap for a quick grab and go snack! Keep in refrigerator or freezer.

Raw Strawberry Pie

I've been wanting to expand on our raw food experiments for a few weeks, but I just haven't had the time, energy, or reason to really get into making some new things. I figured our family party for Mother's Day provided me the perfect opportunity to try out a raw dessert. So I decided to make a raw strawberry pie from Gone Raw. My friend, Lina, made this a few weeks ago and brought some into work, so I knew it was good. It ended up being so easy to make, too! Yes, there is some pre-planning (soaking the cashews) and down time (letting the crust and pie set up in the freezer), but aside from that, this was super quick and easy to make! It went over very well at my family party, too! This is definitely a keeper recipe! I can't wait to try out some other raw desserts!

Picture to come later... I'll warn you its not the best picture b/c I took it when it was still frozen, but you will at least be able to get the idea.

Raw Strawberry Pie

2 cups almonds or pecans (I used 1 cup of each)
1/2-1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or half of a vanilla bean
4-5 medjool dates, pitted
pinch of sea salt

2 cups cashews soaked 1-2 hours
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup agave or honey (depending on how sweet you want it)
3/4 cup fresh strawberries
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1-2 cups sliced strawberries

To make the crust, place almonds or pecans in food processor and process with the S blade until crumbled. Add coconut oil, sea salt and vanilla and pulse a couple of times. Add the dates last, one at a time and pulse until the crust holds together when you squeeze it between your fingertips. If the crust does not hold, add more dates (again one at a time). Press into oiled (with coconut oil) tart or pie pan. Chill in Freezer for 30 minutes before adding filling.

To make the filling, blend all ingredients well in a Vitamix blender if you have one (I used my food processor). Pour part of the filling into the pie crust, just enough to cover the bottom. Take some of the strawberries you cut up for the topping and scatter them on top of the filling. Pour the rest of the filling on top and place in freezer for 1-2 hours until firm. Decorate with the rest of your cut up strawberries.

This pie needs to stay refrigerated to keep its firmness so make sure you keep in cold up until serving. I put mine in the freezer overnight and the just kept it in the fridge (or in the cooler when we were on the road) in the morning.

Banana and Peanut Butter Yogurt

This is another breakfast idea that I saw in the May 2010 issue of Fitness magazine. This is very simple, tasty, and filling - three great aspects to a good breakfast.

Banana and Peanut Butter Yogurt

1 medium banana
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
Wheat germ
1/4 cup Greek yogurt

Peel banana; halve lengthwise. Spread peanut butter on one half. Sprinkle with wheat germ. Top with other half of banana. Slice into rounds. Place yogurt in a bowl. Top with banana slices and a drizzle of honey.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

We all love pizza at our house, but we're trying to cut back on ordering it. For two main reasons - to cut out some junk since we don't know what the stuff from our local pizza joint really contains... and to save money. I saw this in one of my Rachael Ray magazines and thought it might be something we'd like and would satisfy the cravings that Kevin and Carson have for pizza. Don't get me wrong, I love pizza, too, but I don't get hungry for it like the boys in my house do. So anyway, these were very quick and simple to make and they taste pretty good, too. And they're better for you than the local pizza joint, though still not the best for you.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup pizza sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 red bell pepper, sliced

Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 24-cup mini-muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, microwave the pizza sauce until warmed through, then stir in 1 tablespoon basil. Sprinkle the puffs with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil. Serve the puffs and red pepper slices with the pizza sauce for dipping.

You can also freeze the baked puffs (I did) in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag. To reheat, bake the frozen puffs on a baking sheet in a 350° oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This is going to be a sort of chaotic week. Today is Mother's Day. We'll be going to church and having lunch with Kevin's family. Then we're heading out to the lake for my mom's family party. Kevin leaves early tomorrow morning for a business trip to Texas. Tuesday I have Zumba, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to go, or not. We'll see if my mom can pick up Carson for me so that I can make it. Wednesday I'll be making a quick stop after work at the grand opening of the Allen Street farmers' market in Lansing. Friday is my flex day, so that means Kindermusik for Carson and me in the morning. Then we'll be meeting up with my friend, Kati, at Indian Springs Metropark to do some biking. And Kevin comes home on Friday night. Saturday we'll be visiting a local farm to check it out and we'll be doing a lot of work outside. We may also head over to my cousin's house in the afternoon for some dirt biking, we'll just see what we feel like doing.

We had our entire front yard tilled deep last week. The guy pulled out a couple of smaller trees in front for us, as well. We're still working on getting everything leveled out. This week, Carson and I will be working on picking up and pulling out all the roots that were chewed up from the trees we've had cut down in years past. Hopefully we'll have everything ready for Kevin to do another round of leveling on Saturday. If we're lucky, we should be ready to spread new grass seed by the end of next weekend. Hopefully the weather cooperates this week and next weekend so that we can get it all done. We're also going to have a load of topsoil delivered, possibly on Friday, but it will depend on how much Carson and I can get done in the evenings this week. I'll need to work on digging out all of the perennials in the front and side flower gardens during the week so that we're ready to start building up the flower beds with the topsoil. I'm so excited for this project! Its about time we focus on a good landscaping project. This is going to be a major improvement to our curb appeal... and for very little investment (just the dirt, really, since I'll mostly be moving things around for now)! So fun! We also finally mulched in our blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry patches last week. It looks so nice, now! Plus, it'll save me a lot of work weeding - now that is a major bonus!! :) My next step will be mulching around all of the fruit trees, but that probably won't happen for a few more weeks. I also planted a few more things in the veggie garden last week and can't wait to get going on the major plantings soon! We're well on our way!

Here's the plan for the week...

Sunday - Happy Mother's Day! church and out to lunch with in-laws; family party at the lake
B: broccoli parmesan scramble
L: eating at Julie's house - I'm bringing baked beans
D: eating at the lake - I'm bringing a raw strawberry pie

Meatless Monday - Kevin leaves for Texas
B: yogurt parfaits
L: PB&J sandwich; apple slices
D: herbed baked eggs; toast with jam

Tuesday - Zumba?
B: cereal
L: cheese and crackers; cucumber slices; carrot sticks; apple slices
D: leftover tacos from Saturday

Wednesday - Carson is going to see his first movie on the big screen - Disney's Oceans - with Nana and Great Grandma Jackie; Allen St. Farmers Market (Lansing)
B: PB toast
L: misc.
D: eating at my parents' house

Thursday -
B: banana bread (from freezer)
L: cheese and crackers; cucumber slices; carrot sticks; apple slices
D: eating at my parents' house

Friday - flex day; topsoil delivered; Kindermusik; Indian Springs Metropark; Kevin comes home
B: scrambled eggs; toast
L: PB&J sandwich; string cheese
D: hot dogs; macaroni and cheese; roasted asparagus; applesauce

Saturday - visit Simple Times Farm; dirt biking?
B: breakfast burritos
L: leftover hot dogs and mac & cheese
D: if we're home, grilled pizza... otherwise we'll probably be cooking out at my cousin's house

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tomato Cucumber Salad

The Gluten Free Girlie, Kati, and her husband came over for dinner a few weeks ago. Kati brought along this tomato and cucumber salad. It was so delicious and I was so glad to see her post the recipe recently. Of course, I had to try it out, so we had it for lunch today. Its healthy and has all raw veggies in it, though its not considered a raw dish. But it still fits in with our goals to eat more raw and healthy. This is super fast and easy to throw together. And it tastes awesome! Carson and I love it! Kevin also really likes it, though he could do without the feta... he just picks it out, though.

Tomato Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber, peeled and cubed
1 large tomato, seeded and cubed
1 avocado, cubed
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pepper, to taste
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix all ingredients together except juice, vinegar and olive oil. Chill. 20 minutes before serving add in other ingredients and stir. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Broccoli and Parmesan Egg Scramble

I've been looking for more ideas for breakfasts lately. Quick, healthy, tasty, filling breakfasts. The May 2010 issue of Fitness magazine featured ideas for each meal of the day. All of their breakfast ideas were under or at 300 calories. While we eat veggies in our scrambled eggs almost every week, I don't normally think to use parmesan cheese. I think I will start using it on our eggs more often, though. You get so much bang (of flavor) for very few calories. So anyway, this isn't really a novel idea of a recipe, but I wanted to post it anyway, in case their are others looking for little ways to eat a larger variety of breakfasts. This is very good. I love starting our day with a good dose of veggies, especially with the super-food, broccoli!

Broccoli and Parmesan Egg Scramble

2 eggs
3/4 cup chopped broccoli
1 1/2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Whisk together eggs; set aside.

Coat a frying pan with nonstick cooking spray and saute broccoli florets for 2 minutes.

Add eggs and scramble. Once eggs are cooked, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Meal plans and the week ahead

We have a pretty low key week ahead of us again. Today we'll be making a stop by the grand opening of our local farmers' market. Later on, we're heading to the Whiting for my niece's violin recital and we'll all be going out to eat afterwards, most likely at Big Boy since that is my niece's favorite. Tuesday is Zumba. Thursday I'll be in Detroit for work. Saturday we're having my cousins, grandma, and parents over to celebrate my grandma's 75th birthday. She requested tacos, so I'll be doing all the main stuff (meat, beans, shells, toppings), my cousins are bringing the sides, and my mom is bringing dessert. The weather looks like it'll be fairly nice this week, so we're planning to do a lot of yard work. We need to mow, do some weeding in the flower beds, remove some dead branches from trees in the front yard, clean up another brush pile, and move some perennials around. I also need to dig some plants for the annual MDOT Plant Exchange, which is being held on Wednesday at lunch time. I know a few things that I'm planning to bring in, but I need to figure out what else I'll bring in. I love the plant exchange! People bring in perennials that they have in their gardens at home and we trade. You get to take home as many as your brought in (plus some once the orphans are up for adoption). Its great!

So here's the plan...

Sunday ~ SC farmers market; niece's violin recital
(make bread for week; make steel cut oats for week; prep veggies for week)
B: broccoli parmesan egg scramble; toast with jam
L: tomato and cucumber salad
D: out to eat with family after the recital - Big Boy?

Meatless Monday ~
B: banana and peanut butter yogurt
L: S - tomato and cucumber salad, string cheese; K - out to lunch; C - leftovers from Big Boy
D: raw lettuce wraps; raw fruit salad

Tuesday ~ Zumba
(dig up plants for MDOT plant exchange on Wednesday)
B: steel cut oats with strawberries and banana
L: S & C - turkey and avocado sandwich, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, grapes; K - turkey and ham sandwich, chips, banana
D: baked or grilled (if its not pouring rain) chicken breasts with balsamic BBQ sauce; roasted asparagus and cauliflower; peaches

Wednesday ~
B: banana chocolate smoothies
L: S & K - spinach salads with strawberries, mandarin oranges, slivered almonds, mozzarella cheese; C - leftover chicken and veggies
D: baked potatoes with beans, cheese, and chicken

Thursday ~ in Detroit for work
B: steel cut oats with peanut butter and banana
L: S - eating at my meeting; K - turkey and ham sandwich, cucumber slices, carrot sticks; C - PB&J sandwich, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, grapes
D: misc. leftovers or salads

Friday ~
B: PB toast
L: S & C - turkey and avocado sandwich, carrot sticks, grapes; K - turkey and ham sandwich, chips
D: pepperoni pizza puffs; roasted veggies; fresh fruit

Saturday ~ Grandma's birthday party
B: scrambled eggs with veggies; toast with jam
L: corn and chickpea salad with tuna
D: tacos with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, guacamole; chips and salsa; jalapeno poppers; mexican rice; pineapple upside down cake; ice cream

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pesto Pea Salad

I saw this recipe on my SIL's blog almost a year ago now and have wanted to make it, but I always forget about it. We almost always have all of the ingredients on hand on any given day, so I can't believe it has taken me this long to make it. But like I said, I always forget about it. So anyway, I finally made this for our lunch today since I didn't have anything planned since we were thinking we'd be out in Holland. This salad actually popped into my brain as I was thinking of what kind of salad to make for lunch. This was delicious! And super simple and fast to put together. I think I will probably be taking this salad on a regular basis for my lunches. I didn't have any cooked chicken in the fridge, but it'd be great with chicken and other veggies, too.

Pesto Pea Salad

2 cups of frozen peas, thawed
2 Tbsp. crispy pine nuts
2 1/2 cups baby salad greens
grated parmesan (I forgot to put this on, but it was delicious without it!)
4 Tbsp. pesto, recipe follows (I used some that I had frozen last year)

To assemble, place the spinach leaves in a salad bowl. Sprinkle the peas and pignolis over the spinach. Add the pesto and toss. Top with cheese.

1/4 cup crispy walnuts
1/4 cup crispy pine nuts
3 Tbsp. diced garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Serve, or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.