Monday, March 23, 2015

Italian Orzo Soup

My husband isn't usually a huge fan of soups. When we were first married he would always respond to my question "Should we try to make some ______ soup for dinner tonight?" with a resounding "Ugh. No...I don't really like soup". That left me with little options as far as soup is concerned. However, since I'm a soup lover, over the years I've weaseled in a soup here and there. Now when I ask him about soup, his response is generally "Yeah, we can try it." He even asked me to make this particular soup a second time already! I'm okay with that. :)

*My husband noted that this soup would be really good with some Italian sausage thrown in, too. So if you have some and try it, let me know how you like it! 



Ingredients

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 c. carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 c. orzo pasta, uncooked
2 handfuls fresh spinach
splash of heavy cream, optional
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven.
Saute onion for a minute or two.
Add carrots, celery, and garlic.
Season with salt & pepper.
Saute until celery is beginning to look translucent.
Add the stock and tomatoes. 
Bring to boil.
Add orzo.
Turn heat down and simmer 8-10 minutes.
Add cream, if using.
Stir in spinach.
Cook until wilted (1-2 minutes)
Serve.


We served our soup with a slice of homemade Dutch Oven Artisan Bread. It was pretty tasty. :)










Friday, March 20, 2015

Replacing Wax---the easy way!

"Um...how about No!"
"Please!"
"Ugh...they stink!"
" Honey, honestly, they don't have an offensive smell!"
" Pet stores smell like hamster cages.  Ick!"
"I promise I will keep their cage clean."
"Fine!"

That about sums up my concern when my child at heart husband announced he wanted to get a couple of iguanas.  Expressing my concern was necessary as I really dislike the smell of pet stores. After our discussion :), we agreed we'd give it a try. Although they don't make the house smell like the hamster cages I associate with walking in one of those stores, I still find I am not particularly fond of it of what it does smell like. He was right, it's not a bad smell.  However, I definitely wouldn't say it smells like a bed of roses either. ;) 

With that said, I wanted some "smelly ideas" to keep my living room (yes, they live in my living room) smelling nice. I absolutely love my wax pots, but I don't like cleaning out the wax when the smell is gone.  It's just messy and annoying.

NOT ANYMORE!  I found the following idea and it's fantastic!

Now, we're both happy.  He gets his crazy pet and it smells better!

All you need is:

A wax pot
"Expired" wax
Cotton balls
Aluminum foil (optional)

(Sorry for the horrible pictures ;)

                                                                                                                                                           

1.  Keep your lamp plugged in so the wax stays liquefied.

      

      2. Throw a couple cotton balls in the wax.
           
  

3.  Let sit for a minute to soak up the majority of the wax. 


4.  Use a few more cotton balls to wipe out the excess.  I throw the cotton balls on a little piece of aluminum foil to be sure there won't be a waxy mess, but that's up to you. 


5.  Add your new wax cube. DONE!  The room smells good again. ;)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Curried Chickpea Salad Sandwich

One of the hardest things about quick meals for me is keeping a variety so we don't get bored. We keep struggling with going back and forth from a regular (and somewhat unhealthy) diet to full veganism. There are times when I am so on board with being vegan and we do REALLY well for a week, but then one day, I can't imagine not being able to enjoy a bowl of raspberry cheesecake ice cream after a meal of grilled meats, probably smothered in cheese or sour cream. I'm like a squirrel with bipolar disorder.

When we first made "the switch" last summer, one of the first things my husband and I talked about were sandwiches. At the time he was going through a big sandwich phase. Not that his sandwiches were big (at least not ALL of them), but more the fact that he ate sandwiches almost every day. Sometimes twice a day. As far as vegan options go for sandwiches, we were a bit disappointed. Our minds weren't broadened past veggie sub's and pb&js. His Mom told us one of their favorites was a toasted grain bread with peanut butter, craisins, fresh spinach, and green apple slices. Amazing! And now we have another under our belts. Quite literally, in fact.


This sandwich fills some big shoes when it comes to yummy, filling, and protein packed vegan sandwiches. It has a texture similar to a hearty egg salad sandwich with a dose of crunchiness from the bell peppers and cashews. It is something you just have to try. :)


CURRIED CHICKPEA SALAD SANDWICH
This recipe can vary with each batch. Test yours each time you make it. Adjust the seasonings to your liking and if you need a little more creaminess, don't be afraid to add another dollup of thinned hummus or some mayo. Vegan or not. ;)

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 c. garlic hummus
filtered water
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. raisins
1/4 c. sweet bell peppers, diced
1/4 c. cashews, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. chives, chopped
1-2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper, to taste


DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, mix hummus with a little water until thinned to the consistency of a thick soup.
Add the lemon juice and your seasonings.
Toss in the raisins, peppers, cashews, cilantro and chives.
Mix well.
Add your chickpeas and mash with a fork until they are mostly mashed. (You still want some chunkiness to it.)
Stir it all together and place between two slices of hearty whole grain bread before serving. 
*Fills about 3-4 sandwiches.


Now that we have another variation to add to our collection of vegan options, maybe we can continue working up to more than one successful week at a time. :)







Friday, February 20, 2015

Burrito with Homemade Chipotle Adobo Sauce

   






It's amazing how much a sauce can affect a dish.  Looking through different recipes, I came across this one- Chipotle Adobo Sauce.  Having never used the chili peppers, I was a little hesitant at first.  However, realizing it only took a few ingredients, and understanding if it was nasty, we could resort back to our stand by of sour-cream and salsa, I decided to move forward.  Very glad I did.  It made just our standard burrito reach another dimension.  We will definitely be exploring new homemade  condiments on future dishes.   

1/2 c coconut yogurt
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, deseeded
1/2 tsp. adobo sauce
1 1/2 - 2 cloves garlic
1 T. fresh lime
1/8 tsp. cumin 
  

Start by gathering all your ingredients for the sauce. 

 
1.  Start by cutting the adobo chili in half and and carefully scraping the seeds out.


2.  Next, in a 1 serving blender (or whatever you have on hand) add the greek coconut yogurt.


3.Throw in your coarsely chopped garlic. 


4.  Next, squeeze fresh lime juice. 


5.  Add to mixture.


6.  Lastly, add your cumin. 


7.  Blend until creamy. 


8.  Looks yummy. 


9.  Prepare rice per box instructions. 


10.  Rinse black beans. 


11.  Chop up any veggies you would like to use.  We did pepper, tomato, avocado, lettuce, chives, cilantrol, and corn.  We also spread hummus on the burrito shell which was great. 

Pile how you would like and enjoy!



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Aunt Sue's Brownies

This is my Aunt Sue's recipe My mom makes these on special occasions. My family loves the moistness of these yummy brownies!  We love it when Mom lets us help her bake. It is so fun, and yummy, because we get to sample the goodies! This time we thought it would be fun to use cookie cutters to make them into hearts because it was Saint Valentine's Day!

This recipes makes a LARGE cookie sheet pan.





INGREDENTS

3 c. melted butter
1 1/2 c. cocoa
4 c. sugar
8 eggs
2-3 tsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
6 TBS. oil


DIRECTIONS

Preheat your oven to 350.

1. Mix together sugar, cocoa and melted butter.

2. Then beat in eggs one at a time.

3. Add vanilla, flour and oil.

4. Then pour mix on lightly greased cookie sheet.

5. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, do not over bake.



Enjoy!!!





Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Spiced Slowcooker Applesauce


"Mom, can I please have a snack?"
Please assure me that I am not the only one that hears that approximately 42 times a day?  With six kids, I am constantly being asked for a snack.....Aw, the joys of motherhood!  :)
So this post is a tribute to one of our (EASY) homemade snacks. 
 
ALL YOU NEED:
5 pounds of peeled, cored, and sliced apples
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup real maple syrup (yum!)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
A Slowcooker
A Blender


Start by peeling, coring, and slicing your apples. If you have one of those handy apple peeler/corer/slicer contraptions. ..please use it. It will be your best friend.  My ten year old used mine and did all my apples for me. :) After they are all peeled and sliced put them in your slowcooker. You want there to be 5 pounds after they are all sliced and ready. If you don't have a scale, it ends up being a very full 5 quart slowcooker. 

Note: You can use whatever apples you have on hand. But keep in mind that different apples will result in different flavors. Pictured here I used Hidden Rose apples, hence their beautiful, pinkish-red color.


Yep. That full.


Now measure out your spices.....2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg.


Measure out 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and a 1/2 cup maple syrup.
You can easily adjust your sweetness level by decreasing or increasing your sweeteners.
I found this amount to be perfect! :)


Sprinkle your spices and brown sugar on your apples. Drizzle with your maple syrup. 
Turn your slowcooker on high for 4-6 hours or until the appled are fully cooked and soft. If you think of it,  you may give your apples a stir halfway through cooking time to distribute your spices and sugars. When they are all done unplug your slowcooker, remove the lid, and let cool for 15 minutes or so.


Now it is time to puree all your delicious smelling apples.
Now, let's be real. This is the real reason I decided to make apple sauce. It would give me, yet another, reason to use my new favorite toy....My Ninja blender!  :)
If you don't have a ninja...don't panic.  You can easily use a different blender, or an immersion blender if that's what you have. But seriously,  if you are debating over a Ninja purchase, you won't be sorry after you make the purchase!  :)


Blend until you reach your desired consistency. 


Now time to Enjoy! I prefer my applesauce cold but it is fantastic warm, too!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Parsley Potatoes

It's no surprise that my husband and I like potatoes. Oddly enough, we very rarely eat them mashed. Usually only around the holidays. On Easter Sunday and at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I'm not really sure why. We both like mashed potatoes, but I guess we like the variety of making them differently with each meal.

Normally, we turn to a version of Baked Garlic Potato Wedges but we've been on a kick lately to try new things. I threw some seasoned baked potatoes in a frying pan one night and we found another favorite. These potatoes are perfect served just as they are, but are even more amazing with a dollop of sour cream. (Because everything is better with sour cream!)

We tried a recipe for Tuscan Baked Fish last week and these potatoes were the perfect accompaniment to our meal. They are very easy to make and full of flavor!


INGREDIENTS

6 small yellow potatoes, scrubbed
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2-3 Tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper, to taste


DIRECTIONS

Fill a large pot with the potatoes and enough water to cover the potatoes by an inch or two.
Bring to a boil.
Boil until potatoes are tender when pricked with a fork.
Immediately remove potatoes.
Start heating a skillet over med-high heat.
Carefully dice potatoes into about 3/4 inch cubes.
Place in a bowl and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. of the oil.
Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and parsley.
Cover bowl and gently shake to coat.
Add remaining oil to the hot skillet and add the potatoes.
Let them sear for about 3-5 minutes, turning occasionally to get a crisp searing.
Remove from heat.
Serve plain, with ketchup, or with a good dollop of sour cream!

*****************************************************************

When choosing your potatoes, don't worry about making sure they are 6 small potatoes.
Ours just happened to be very small so I used up the rest of what we had.
This recipe is very flexible. I would say to use your best judgement. You know what you like. :)

Bring to a boil. Boil until potatoes are tender when pricked with a fork.


Immediately remove potatoes.


Start heating a skillet over med-high heat.
Carefully dice potatoes into about 3/4 inch cubes.


Place in a bowl and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. oil.
Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and parsley.
(If they seem too dry, add a little more oil and toss them again.)


Cover bowl and gently shake to coat.
(You want them very well seasoned. If they look pretty plain, add some more!)


Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the hot skillet.


Add the potatoes.


Let them sear for about 3-5 minutes, turning occasionally to get a crisp searing.


Remove from heat.
Serve plain, with ketchup, or with a good dollop of sour cream!