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I must start by saying, I hope I make Mrs. W proud with this post!

I never liked beans.  Green beans occationally, but anything sort of dried legume?  No thank you.  (And my husband was in the exact same boat with the same opinions 🙂 ).  However, I’m amazed at just how far our family has com in the past few years.  1.5 years ago, we lived with our friends the Windhams for a week in a moving transition.  And while I love my friend Sarah, that girl talked about beans all the time!  🙂 And we ate them several times while we were there.  I didn’t really mind.  They were housing us after all.  But I would never imaged that a year and a half later, my lunch several times a week would look like this:

Pardon the lopsided tortilla, that was my 2nd attempt in my life at making whole wheat tortillas.

Lets just say I have a ways to go before they look very nice. 🙂

Anyhow, we eat a lot of beans around here these days!  Particularly pinto/refried beans. But bring on the chili beans, lentils & black beans as well. 🙂  Once I found this recipe this fall?  We have been hooked.  Super easy, I start them cooking after dinner at night and I wake up the next morning to my house smelling amazing and lunch is ready! Like someone is cooking while I sleep… perfect! 🙂  I keep a huge bowl in the fridge to eat and freeze some as well.  I just make up about 2.5 lbs a week ago and we are nearing the end of our stash. I love that they are whole, real food.  And I especially love how budget friendly they are!  I enjoy mine with some sprinkled cheese (I left that out yesterday since I had leftover avocado to use- bonus!) and hot sauce. My kids just like them with shredded cheese, as does my husband.  You might be wondering what the rest of my family things of this lunch?  Well, let me just tell you what I hear most days:

“What is for lunch?  Bean & cheese tacos?  YEAH!!!”

“That was delicious!”

I really think the seasoning with the onions and the jalepeno help give the beans a great flavor.  Another thing I love to do (and did at the beginning to get everyone used to the texture) was serve the tacos with some rice mixed in with the beans.  Honestly, that is still my favorite way to have them. But I’m usually not thinking about making rice at 10 each days, so most days it just ends up with beans and cheese.

Gotta love all that fiber!  Did I mention that besides grapes, pinto beans are my littlest man’s favorite food!?! 🙂  Wow!

I have made these muffins a few times in the last month or so for morning snacks around here and they are a hit!  You might remember that I really have only ever wanted 1 cookbook & recently found it again once I unpacked the kitchen.  I had only made a handful of recipes from the Deceptively Delicious cookbook, but wanted to give some more a try.

Especially when it comes to snacks around here- I’m always looking for budget friendly, healthy & yummy.  I found the recipe for the applesauce muffins & decided to give them a try.  As always, I’ve edited it & played with it each time I’ve made them.  So think of this as a general framework- ok? :

First I needed to roast my butternut squash. And since I needed to make Kade some baby food, I decided to make him some sweet pototatoes as well.  It was pretty simple.  Jessica Seinfeld has a step by step “how-to” when it comes to making the purees.

Butternut Squash:

-Cut off the stem, cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds

-Roast the halves in cookware flesh side down with a little bit of water in the bottom to keep it moist at 400* for 45-50 min.

-Scoop out the flesh & puree in the food processor for a few min (I added a few tsp of water)

Since I was making and freezing baby food, I decided to just put all the squash in ice cube trays so I could use it in the muffins or feed it to Kade.  The night before I made the muffins, I just took several squash ice cubes and set them in the fridge overnight.

Here is my edited recipe.  And since I’ve been toying with soaking more of our grains (don’t ask me about my cinnamon rolls! yikes!) I decided to try to soak them overnight before I made them.

Batter: (I double this to make 24 muffins total)

1.5 c whole wheat flour

1 c old fashioned oats

1.25 c kefir

(I mixed those three ingredients up the night before & let sit till morning, then I added in the following:)

1 tsp baking powder

.5 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 c unsweetened applesauce

.5 c butternut squash (or she says you can use carrot puree- haven’t tried that yet)

.5  c brown sugar

.25  c oil (i used coconut)

1 large egg (I honestly think i forgot this the first 2 times I made these!)

handful of dark chocolate chips or carob chips (my addition- makes for a little party in your mouth in every bite!)


Would you look at all that color in those muffins!  Love it!  Since I doubled that batch above, I was ready to make 24 muffins.  I have done this just by spraying the tins with oil & with muffin liners in the pans.  I will just spray with oil in the future as the liners keep way to much of the muffin on there when you take it off.  Combine all the ingredients- batter should be lumpy.

Then put together the topping: (My kid’s favorite part- ok mine too!)

2/3 c old fashioned oats

1/4 c  brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbs butter

Mix those ingredients together and sprinkle over the muffins.  Bake at 400* for 18-20 min or when toothpick comes out clean!

While it did take some thought to plan ahead to get my grains soaking the night before, it has been a breeze for some time having snacks ready to go from the freezer.  I just whip out 3 muffins (1 for Johnny, Belle & mom 🙂 ) at breakfast time & they are almost completely thawed by our snack time around 9:15am.  Works like a charm.  In fact, we are getting pretty low so I need to plan a baking day for early next week!

And on an entirely different, non-healthy note, I plan to try these this weekend for our family breakfast. Do those look fabulous or what???  I’m hoping to mix up the batter and keep them in the fridge overnight Friday so that I can just pull them out and pop them in the oven first thing on Saturday morning.  Cause my kids get out of bed at 7am and are ready for breakfast by 7:02am. 🙂  Yum-O!

It did not take long in my quest for eating healthier for me to come across things like Kefir.  And while the concept seems great and I love all the benefits that Kefir would bring to our diet, the idea is was completely overwhelming to me.  Once I noted the prices of Kefir in the stores, I decided that if I ever wanted to try it, I would have to make my own Kefir at home.

Yep, pretty sure once I figured that out, I decided to put that idea on the back burner forever for a long time. 🙂  I mean, I have no idea what I’m doing.  I feel like a crazy lady trying to explain to people what the benefits of Kefir are AND what if it fails???

Once we got things settled after moving out to CO, I decided I wanted to give Kefir grains a try.  I had heard great things about Cultures for Health.  I set aside about $20 in our food budget last month to make my purchase.  I was so excited.  Until the box came… now what?!?  Well, apparently, you have to rehydrate the Kefir grains.  Put in a glass that is “partially sealed” (seriously, what does that mean? 🙂 ) and let sit overnight.  Ok.  Step one done.  Now I can go to sleep.

Day two and three were the same thing.  Strain the extra milk and put grains in fresh milk.  I was nearly walking on air thinking “this Kefir thing is so easy!” then, day four happened:

W-H-A-T is that?  Apparently, when the kefir starts to set up, it separates.  I called the company wondering what I did wrong, but they tell me I did everything correct!  When things start to look like cottage cheese????  By golly, you have got yourself some Kefir.

And here it is all nice in a clean jar ready for the fridge.  🙂

Actually, I did not put it in the fridge right away.  I wanted to start soaking oats for oatmeal the next day.  So that is what I did.  I followed this recipe and was quite pleased that first morning.

Isn’t it pretty? 🙂  I know I’m weird to think that soaking oats are pretty.

However, the next few days I had a hard time with the soaked oats.  They tasted quite sour, not sure if I’m putting too much kefir in or what.  (I do intent to try serving it with real maple syrup instead of the agave that I was using, but I need my mom to come back to town so we can make a Sam’s Club run!) But we needed a break so I decided to give brown rice soaked waffles a try.  I was very nervous about these, but put on a brave face for the fam. 🙂  Since they had a cup of kefir and the oatmeal only had a tsp, I was so worried about the flavor. But they were awesome!  The only thing I plan to change next time is that I will try to grind up the rice a bit in my blender before adding the kefir.  The waffles were light and fluffy and looked amazing, but they had little bits of rice that you were chewing so I want to see if I can make it more of a smooth texture.

Overall?  I like it. I am still overwhelmed, but I’m learning a lot.  One thing that was quite freeing in this whole process was that I asked Jason if I could order the Kefir grains, spend the money, if I messed it all up and we were out $20…..was he ok with that?  (He knew I was going to give it all I had. 🙂 ) But I was worried that I would waste our money on something that I would not be smart enough to figure out.  With that settled, I gave it a whirl and the grains are working great- and I’m only using one of them.  Not sure what I do with the other one… yet another question I have.  🙂  But I am happy that I overcame my fear of this crazy & weird highly nutritious food and I’m delving into new adventures each day!

I’m always on the hunt for quick, budget friendly & healthy snacks for my family.  I have heard many, many times in the past that hard boiled eggs make great snacks.  And while I would agree, especially now that my eggs come right to my front door, the part I didn’t get or understand was how to cook those hard boiled eggs.  I can not tell you how many times I have tried to hard boil eggs over the past years only to have them crack open or come off in little millimeter size pieces that take 12 min to peel.

I finally realized (after WAY too many failed attempts) that my water temp was too high so the rolling boil made the eggs crack.  Once I got that figured out I thought I was good to go.  Then I took my cousin’s advice and “boiled their little hearts out” and while that worked, peeling them never seemed like an easy task.  I pretty much gave up.  And only made hard boiled eggs when absolutely necesary.

However, since moving to Colorado, we have had hard boiled eggs sitting in the fridge almost all the time.  I discovered an amazing way to cook them that turns out perfectly every time and takes seconds to peel.  For real, several times the shell comes off nearly in one piece- can you say jack pot?!?! 🙂

My mother learned how to steam the eggs when she was in China.  She traveled half way around the world to learn this technique!
Sweet story, right?  Well, let me just add, that she she learned it from the other pastor’s wife, Carol Meyer (from here in Colorado) who went with her. 🙂

Not that I’m knocking it… I’m loving having this snack at our house! If you have a few eggs handy, you should give this a try!

Hard Boiled Eggs- Steamed

Set a timer for 25 min
Put enough water in the pan so that it is just under the steam basket.

Place eggs in basket and cover with a lid.

Turn the water on high heat for 8 minutes.

Then turn water to medium heat for the remaining 17 minutes.

Remove from heat and uncover.

And your done!  Easy as pie, just don’t set  a timer and go work in your room where you can’t hear it beep after the 8 minutes… that might come back to bite you. 🙂  Thankfully my husband walked out into the kitchen and asked me why there was a timer going off in the kitchen. Whew!  🙂

Now I’m wondering if I’m the only person who failed for so long with eggs?  Surely I’m not.  Or maybe there is another “kitchen fail” that took you forever to figure out?  Do share! It would make me feel better. 🙂

If you have been here long, you know how much I enjoy tweaking recipes to make them just a little bit healthier.  I had looked up a recipe for whole wheat chocolate chip cookies a while ago to have something on hand for my sweet tooth besides junk food.  What I came up with was several recipes that had whole wheat flour as the base but still had a lot of sugar and oils in them.  I went to work creating my very own chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I think I have made these 3 times now in the last month and a half and each time I have changed a little something else here and there.  But here is my general framework.

(And how could I forget my lil’ helpers!)

1 C turbinado (I have been using about 3/4 C the last few times)
1/2 C butter
1/2 C coconut oil (last time I doubled the batch but instead of doubling the oils, I used unsweetened applesauce as the other cup of oil)
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 egg white
1 3/4 C whole wheat flour (maybe a little more depending on how sticky the dough is or how many things you change 🙂 )
1/4 C flax
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 -1 C mini chocolate chips
1/4 C sunflower meets

Oven to 375*

Roll into balls, bake for 8 min.  Take a fork and get them flat.  Bake another 3-5 min.

Keep in mind that these instructions are for Colorado baking times.  Even then when I used applesauce instead of all the oils they took longer to cook.  So –keep an eye on them… just in case. 🙂

Serve warm with a cup of milk.  Yum-O!

And can I just show off my Mother’s Day gift to you all? Yes, I did pick it out myself… and order it (with husband approval of course). *Ahem*  But when the package arrived I promtly took it to my husband and let him hide it until the day of.  And I tried to act super surprised when I opened it on Mother’s Day! 🙂

I had found a 60% off sale at Flirty Aprons a few weeks back had my eye on this “Sugar and Spice” apron.  Would you look at those three layers of ruffles at the bottom of my apron?  And the touch of “wow” with the pink bow and rhinestones!!!!  Who wouldn’t feel fabulous cooking in this apron! Love it!!!  Thanks fam for an amazing Mother’s Day gift!!  Perhaps this is why I’m on such a baking kick these days… I just want and excuse to wear this all day long! 🙂

I was pretty excited when we went over to our good friend the Meyers a few months back and Rach had made homemade batch of lemonade.  I’ve really not been a huge fan of the powdered lemonade mix.  I had yet to find a healthier option to give to my family so we rarely have any other drinks besides milk and water in our home.  Oh yes, and coffee creamer. 🙂  (I might add, I have been using some flavored almond milk this week and trying to substitute it for my coffee creamer.  I am not ready to make the switch yet… but I’m working on it.  B.a.b.y. steps, right? 🙂 )

Anyhow, back to the lemonade recipe.  Contained three ingredients, lemon juice, water and stevia.  Here is her recipe:

Stevia lemonade
1/2 t. Liquid stevia
2/3-3/4 c. Lemon juice
6 c. Water

I had just seen on Facebook yesterday that someone had made homemade limeade with the same recipe as above.  Thankfully I had just purchased my very own bottle of stevia this last month and when I saw limes were on sale today for 4/$1- I decided to give it a whirl!  (P.S. What is a good price for limes?  I rarely buy them… in fact I was thinking this would have been an even better deal if I had just bought a bottle of lime juice.)

However, there is something about rolling my limes back and forth on my counter (thank you Rachael Ray for that tip!) before I sliced them to make extracting the most juice out of them a little easier.  Then cutting them and squeezing them and mixing everything together.  I must say… move over Countrytime!  There is a new lemonade/limeade in town!  Yum!

Super excited to have this healthy option to drink this summer!  What do you prefer?  Lemonade or Limeade?  Or something else?  I’m thinking about trying my hand at sun tea… once the sun decides to come back!

I’M BACK!!

Hey gang! Long time no writing around here, but thankfully we are mostly unpacked and settling into our “new normal” out here in Colorado.  I’m so thankful to have taken a little break, but my brain is overflowing with ideas and I’m super excited to share them with you all. 🙂  However, I have decided that I need to pace myself so I while I do plan to be posting on a regular basis… it might not be quite as often as before.  I missed this though- I really do enjoy writing!

Without futher ado…

Do you struggle with snack time at your house?  I sure do. I want to feed myself and my family whole, real foods that are healthy and budget friendly.  Oh yes, and did I mention fast and convenient?  Short of making everything from scratch… which I have started doing more, I have yet to find something that fits all of the above requirements.  Until now.  Enter my new favorite snack:

Can I just tell you how much I love these coconut flakes?  I first tried them a few weeks back and didn’t think much of them.  However, I found myself reaching for them more & more often these days.  And then today, I actually wanted this for my snack.  I have not priced out the best place to purchase this yet, I just bought it at the first store I found them, for $2.99 a bag. And while that seems a bit more than I like to spend on just one snack, I realized that if I eat a serving size (3 TBS) which is about what I eat, then it is only $.23 per serving!  Not bad at all!  AND, did I mention that there are 2g of fiber in each serving?!?  It satisfies my hunger and has just the perfect amount of sweetness to tackle my sweet tooth as well!

I’m completely happy with my new find, however, my kids are not quite as convinced. 🙂  That is ok though, I’m totally fine with just having my own personal snack that I don’t have to share. 🙂  How about you?  What is your go-to, fast and healthy snack?

While 98% of the time I’m all about healthy, frugal and yummy meals around here, there is a side of me that LOVES to make desserts.  And I’m not talking about low fat ice cream covered in fruit.  I’m talking about terrible/awful for you/clog your arteries kind of dessert.  Thankfully this urge only happens every once and a while and I mostly deal with it by making treats to take to other places or give away.  This pecan cheese cake pie is what my mother-in-law made for us when we visited and YUM-O was it delicious!

When Jason said his co-workers requested that I bring in treats one last time before we move, well, it did not take long to know that this seemed like the perfect idea!  If you ever need a non-chocolate mouth watering dessert?  Well, my friends, look no further. 🙂

Pecan Cheesecake Pie

(I doubled this recipe below to make enough for a jelly roll pan)

I started with the topping so that it had time to cool:

Topping
1.5 C chopped pecans (I thought I had enough pecans, but when I went to get this ready I realized I did not. I used chopped walnuts for the other nuts)
3/4 c coconut
3 TBS butter

Combine ingredients and bake on an ungreased jelly roll pan.  Bake at 350* for 10 min.  Cool.

Crust:
2 and 2/3c quick  oats, uncooked
2/3 c brown sugar
6  TBS butter
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and press onto bottom of 9×13 pan.  Bake 8-10 min at 375* or until golden brown. Let cool completely before adding the filling.

Filling:
6 oz cream cheese (softened)
1/2 c powdered sugar
3+ c whipping topping
3/4 c  caramel ice cream topping

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Fold in whipped topping.  Spoon onto crust.  Chill.

Sprinkle with coconut topping right before serving.

Then run away!!! Or you might end up eating half the pan!  Thankfully I sent these right out the door to Beisser and did not even lick the spoon- whew!

 

I turned around to see the surprised look on my husband’s face as he asked me that question. Apparently, he had been reading this week’s menus on our calendar.

“Yessss…” I slowly replied. “But it is not from a box.” 🙂

In one of my recent visit’s to Heavenly Homemakers I was once again happily reading her menu ideas.  I saw her recipe for Cheeseburger Macaroni (A Hamburger Helper Makeover) and instantly thought of the majorly slightly freezer burnt pound of ground beef that I still had left in my deep freeze. 🙂  Since we are moving in a few weeks I have been trying to clear out my freezer and pantry stashes without having to buy a lot of extra ingredients.  This recipe seemed perfect since I had everything on hand except the whole wheat noodles.  Which were $1.00 at Walmart.  And I only used half the box for dinner- so I can handle a $.50 purchase to make dinner happen. 🙂

I started with her Creamy Mac and Cheese Recipe:

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pasta
3 cups whole milk
1/2 t. sea salt
1 cup shredded cheese (I use sharp cheddar)

Mix pasta, milk and salt in a large sauce pan.  Cook over medium-high heat STIRRING ALMOST CONSTANTLY until the pasta is tender (10-15 minutes).  Remove from heat.  Add cheese and stir until melted.

Now… I must say I had tried this before and served it as regular old mac and cheese at our house.  And we were not all that thrilled with the taste.  I loved the creaminess of it, but the flavor of the whole wheat pasta seemed overwhelming to me.  However, seeing that the hamburger helper meal had beef and spices added- I figured it would hide the taste better of the noodles and this dinner just might be a hit for all involved.

I then added a little bit of each of these seasonings.  Sorry I did not measure them, just added some of each (more chili powder and garlic) than anything else and just tasted it a few times to make sure it was ok.

These are all the spices that she suggests adding in (homemade taco seasoning) – however, since we are moving I did not want to mess with having extra in the house so I just created my own combo.  Bummer too, since my family LOVED dinner… I probably won’t be able to re-create it. 😉  And no, that skillet is not hot.  But I have found that since my cast iron skillet is so heavy, I don’t want to take it in and out of the cabinet.  So I just leave it on the stove top and I’m much more willing to use it to to cook.

Here is a look at the finished product:

See how creamy that looks?  I was pretty excited initially (since having tried cooking the whole wheat noodles in the milk instead of water before I knew that it created a starch that really make things thick and saucy).  However, once I added in the beef, I realized it was not going to be as creamy as I hoped.  And I’m not one for dry food…. at all. My first thought was “add more cheese” but then quickly realized that is not going to help me reach my goal. So I decided to take measures into my own hands and whip out my favorite secret ingredient.  If you have been here long, you may remember me mentioning this before:

Yep, that did it!  Dinner was so creamy and yummy- wow it was good!  (The final picture above already had the plain yogurt added in).  I seriously keep a tub of this yogurt in my fridge at all times- I have used it so many times!  In fact, I am using it tonight again on our tuna melts to mix with the tuna instead of mayo!  Boom- baby!

So that my friends is “hamburger helper not from a box” 🙂 and I plan to keep this recipe on our meal rotation in the future!

As you may remember, we are BIG fans of applesauce around here.  Last week I was reading about how to make homemade kefir (something that scares me to death – but I would love to try in the future!) and I came across a recipe on their site for Apple Pie Smoothie.  Since it included yogurt (that I had in the fridge already) and frozen applesauce (again, already had some homeade stuff in the freezer) I decided to give it a try.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Unsweetened Applesauce (best if frozen or chilled)
  • ¾ cup yogurt or kefir
  • Dash of Vanilla Extract
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • Dash of Nutmeg

I ended up making a tripple batch so it could feed our entire family.  And on my own, I also added some agave and some chopped pecans to make it more “apple pie” ish. 🙂

The end result?  It was not very sweet, but I really liked it.  I enjoyed something different than our usual bowl of applesauce.  However, I think the kids were all excited and thought they were getting apple pie, so they were a little disappointed with the final product.  Plus, they informed me that “the nuts were not their favorite” – good to know. 🙂  I do think I will make this again in the future, I’m hoping at some point with my homemade kefir.  And next time I might add a bit more agave and serve it more as a dessert than a side dish.  Oh, and I will probably just put the nuts in mine. 🙂