Monday, July 27, 2015

Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

When you go grocery shopping, do you ever stock up on tons of fruits, then realize later in the week that there is absolutely no way you are going to be able to eat it all before it starts rotting?  Unless I'm careful about what I'm purchasing, this happens nearly every week.  Before I go to the store, I make a menu, write down my grocery list needed for the meals, then I generally put "fruit" at the bottom of the list so I can pick and choose once I'm there, depending on prices.  

However, once I get there, I see sale prices.  It all looks so juicy and delicious that, before I know it, I have enough fruit to not only feed my husband and me, but probably all of my 10 siblings, too!  I know you're probably thinking "Just put some back!", but I don't usually realize it's way too much until I'm at home putting everything away.  Fruit is sneaky like that.

Don't worry, I really try not to let it go to waste.  Our freezer is packed with cleaned, chopped fruit: very handy when throwing together a smoothie or some blueberry muffins!  Apples, however, are trickier for me.  If any type of fruit gets wasted in our home, it's generally the apples.

These babies were created so I didn't have to feel the guilt in my chest as I chucked a half dozen braeburns.  If you're not looking for a way to use up your fruit like I was, go buy some apples just for this recipe.  You won't regret it.  They are pretty tasty.


Don't worry too much about the type of apples you use, any kind will do!
(I think I had a mixture of braeburn and gala.)  


Apple-Cinnamon Muffins
Makes about 32-36 muffins.

Ingredients

APPLES:
4 c. apples, peeled, cored, and diced small
4 tsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon

BATTER:
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. coconut oil
2 c. cane sugar
2 eggs
2 chia eggs*
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. unsweetened almond milk

CRUMB TOPPING:
butter, melted
flour
sugar
cinnamon
oatmeal


Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the apples, combine the flour and cinnamon and toss with the apples. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set this aside, too.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar with the butter and coconut oil until creamy.
Add the eggs, one at a time.
Beat in the chia eggs and vanilla.
Begin adding the flour mixture and the almond milk, alternating between the two, just until combined.
Fill lined muffin tins about 3/4 full with the batter. (I filled 24 muffin liners, then poured the remaining batter in a greased loaf pan.)
Now, it's time to mix the crumb topping.  I melted 1/2 cup of butter in a small bowl, then mixed in a couple teaspoons cinnamon, about 1/4 cup sugar, about 1/2 cup flour, and about a 1/2 cup oatmeal.  If it's still too wet, add more flour or oatmeal until it resembles a coarse crumble topping.
Sprinkle over the muffins and bake for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove from pans and let rest on a cooling rack.
Enjoy!


*For each chia egg you want to mix 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water and set aside for 5-10 minutes or until gelled. (So for this recipe, you will be using 2 Tbsp. chia seeds & 6 Tbsp. water.)


A warm, apple-cinnamon muffin fresh out of the oven and a hot cup of coffee in the morning sounds like a pretty perfect breakfast to me. :)







Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

I can't believe I'm writing this post.  Not only does it feel strange blogging, since I haven't been very good about keeping on it lately (sorry about that!), but I'm posting yet another recipe about black bean burgers.

Over a year ago, I posted a recipe for Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Burgers.  At the time, I liked them, but now I realize that I didn't know any better.  That was the first "meatless" burger I had ever had.  They were good, but they weren't something I would choose to eat regularly. 

The Black Bean Veggie Burgers that I'm posting today?  Phenomenal.  At least that's my opinion. And my husband's.  As well as other family members we have made these for.  The combination of it all makes these "burgers" so amazing, I find myself craving these over a big, greasy, real cheeseburger.  I have already lost count on how many times we have made these over the last 6 months.

If you make these, I order highly suggest you make the burgers exactly as written below (with the chipotle sauce) before branching out on your own version.  The combination of these patties with a toasted kaiser roll, smothered in the chipotle sauce, and topped with thick slabs of avocado, tomato, a few slices of red onion, and a mound of leafy greens is truly unbeatable.  I can't promise you a truly delicious "burger" if you make them any other way. :)


BLACK BEAN VEGGIE BURGERS
Recipe adapted from Tastes Better From Scratch.
Makes about 5 patties.

Ingredients

BURGERS:
1 kaiser roll, torn and baked to dry out
3 mini sweet bell peppers, stems & seeds removed
1 small red onion
2 tsp. garlic paste
1 egg
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
salt & pepper
1 can (16 oz.) black beans, rinsed, drained, and patted dry with a paper towel

*CHIPOTLE SAUCE:
1/3 c. mayonaisse
2/3 c. plain Greek yogurt
2 canned chipotle chilies, seeds scraped out
1 Tbsp. adobo sauce
juice from 1/2 lime
salt & pepper

SERVE WITH:
toasted kaiser buns
chipotle sauce (*recipe above)
avocado
red onion
tomato
lettuce


Directions

Place a large cast iron skillet or cooking stone on the middle rack in a cold oven.
Turn the heat on to 400 degrees.
Once preheated, tear the kaiser roll to pieces and spread onto a large cookie sheet.
Bake in the oven until the pieces feel dry and crumbly.
Remove from the oven and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the peppers, onion, and garlic paste.  Pulse until the veggies are in small pieces.
Add the egg, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Pulse until well combined.
Add the baked kaiser crumbs. Pulse until mixed.
Lastly, add the black beans and pulse a few times until they are mixed in as well.
Carefully pull out the rack holding the skillet/stone and spray with non-stick spray.
Scoop about 1/2 cup of the mixture, form a ball, place on hot skillet and pat into a patty.
Repeat with the remaining mixture. (Makes about 5 patties.)
Bake for 10 minutes.
Lightly spray the tops of the patties with non-stick spray and gently flip.
Bake another 10 minutes.
While the patties are baking, combine all ingredients for the chipotle sauce in the food processor and blend until well combined.
A few minutes before the patties are done, place the remaining kaiser buns face up in the oven to "toast".
Serve patties on the toasted buns with a generous dollop of the chipotle sauce, avocado, a thick slice of tomato, red onion, and leafy greens.
Enjoy!


Normally we serve these burgers with a mound of well seasoned, oven-baked sweet potato fries and a side of the chipotle sauce for dipping.  SO good together!






Thursday, May 28, 2015

Multi-Grain Bread

Okay, so I'm pretty sure I told you guys that my absolute favorite homemade bread was a toss up between my Mom's homemade bread and the Honey Oat Bread that I posted awhile back.  I'm here to tell you that I found another recipe that is going to give them a run for their money!  While I still love both of those, this new recipe for a multi-grain loaf is absolutely incredible. 

I really wanted to find a recipe that used more grains and felt a bit "healthier" for us.  I searched all around town for a whole grain loaf of bread that had a lot of texture and nutty-ness. I found a local bakery that had a high fiber, nutty loaf that matched the texture I was looking for....but it was almost $7 a loaf! I'm willing to pay that once in awhile to get a good loaf of bread, but we can't afford to buy that to use as our normal supply.

I searched the web to find a bread that would satisfy my cravings and came upon a recipe for multigrain bread that was posted by Sara at Our Best Bites.  She used a 7-grain mix, but my grocer didn't have it stocked.  I chose an 8-grain instead and I have already used a 10-grain mix, as well. (Because obviously I've already made like 6 loaves of these bad boys!) Both turned out great!  However, I think I preferred the 8-grain over the 10-grain for the simple fact that it seemed "nuttier". 

 I know it seems like more grains would give you nuttier bread, but that's not necessarily the case.  The more grains they put in the mix, the more fillers get added, like oats, corn grits, and soybeans. Both mixes I used contained flaxseed (which I wanted), but the 8-grain had sunflower seeds too, whereas the 10-grain didn't.  Basically, what I'm trying to say is that the 7, 8, and 10-grain mixes all work to make wonderful bread, just be sure to check the bags to see what types of grains you prefer.

Just as an example on how yummy this bread is...a few of my siblings came and stayed with us for a weekend about 3 weeks ago.  I made 4 loaves of this bread the night before they arrived.  (I made 2 regular and 2 with cinnamon raisin. Yum! But I'll get to that in a bit...)  When they left on Sunday, we only had 1 loaf left! My thirteen year old brother, Paul, went especially nuts for it.  He really liked it smeared with my Raspberry Chia Jam!

The following week, I made another batch and froze the loaves.  When I knew my Mom was bringing Paul down to swim in the pool at our apartment, I pulled out a loaf to have thawed and ready.  That evening he ate half of it by himself!  Last night he was here again and asked me quietly if I had "that bread" again.  Looks like I may need to make another batch soon! :)

**I know the directions may look pretty intense at a glance, but it really is a simple bread to make!
I just tried breaking it down into steps that were easy to follow.  You can do it! :)


Multi-Grain Bread
Adapted from Our Best Bites


Ingredients

1 1/4 cup 8-grain hot cereal mix, dry (I used Bob's Red Mill brand)
2 1/2 cups boiling water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup old fashioned oats, for rolling


Directions

1. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of the dry cereal mix into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
Bring the 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil, then pour over the cereal mix. Stir until moistened.
Set aside to rest for 1 hour.

2. While that is resting, in a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour and the whole wheat flour.
In a small bowl, melt the butter completely, then allow to rest and cool until needed.

3. Once the hour wait is over, pour the honey, butter, and yeast into the mushy cereal mix and stir until well combined.

4. Add the mush mixture to the large bowl of flour and stir 3 or 4 times.

5. Add the salt.

6. Continue stirring, creating a lumpy mass of floury dough.
Pour onto a clean counter and begin kneading. (It will seem way too dry at first, but keep kneading!)
It will begin to take the form of dough and may become sticky, but do your best not to add more flour. (You can if you absolutely need to, but only a light dusting at a time.)

7. Knead for at least 5 minutes!

8. Transfer dough to a well oiled boil, cover, and let rise for 1 hour.

9. Punch raised dough down and divide into two equal portions.

10. Using your fingers, press one portion into a rectangle (about 1/2 inch thick).
Starting at a narrow end, begin tightly rolling the dough into a log.

11. Turn the seam to the bottom, then pinch the ends and tuck them under. 
Lightly spray the loaf with oil.

12. Sprinkle the oats on the counter and roll the loaf in the oats.

13. Place in a greased loaf pan.

***Repeat steps 10-13 with the remaining portion of dough.***

14. Adjust the oven racks to the middle position, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, then cover the loaves with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-45 minutes.

15. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown and thermometer reads 200 degrees (mine took about 40 minutes).

16. Transfer pans to a cooling rack and let rest 5 minutes.

17. Gently remove bread from the loaf pans, return them to the cooling rack, and let rest about 2 hours before slicing. (If you can wait that long!)
Be sure the loaves are completely cool before wrapping to store.

(I have wrapped them in 2-3 layers of plastic wrap, then a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil to freeze them. Then, when I'm ready for one, I take it out of the freezer, and place it (still wrapped) in the fridge or on the counter to thaw overnight. Works great!)


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

This gives you an idea of what the 8-grain hot cereal mix looks like.


After mixing it with the boiling water and letting it rest for an hour, it should look something like this:


Some people don't test the temperature of their bread, and you may not like to.  You certainly don't have to.  I do like to check mine though.  It makes it much less stressful.  You don't have to worry about cutting into a golden brown loaf of bread, only to have it heavy and gooey inside. If a thermometer reads at 200 degrees, you know it's done!


Doesn't that just look delicious!!?
I wish I had something other than the camera on my phone, so I could do it a little more justice! :)


Now, I told you before that I have made some as cinnamon-raisin loaves.  It makes wonderful cinnamon-raisin toast!  When you are at step 10 (pressing it into a rectangle), just melt some butter and spread it over the rectangle (just enough to coat it), then sprinkle it heavily with a mixture of ground cinnamon and cane (or granulated) sugar.  Next, sprinkle on the raisins!
When you begin to roll it into a log, be sure to keep it nice and tight, so it stays together after it's baked. :)







Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lotion Bars & Lip Balm

When I first heard of lotion bars, I thought they sounded...interesting, to say the least.  I wasn't sure if I would like using a solid bar as a moisturizer, but I figured I could handle giving it a try if it was healthier for our bodies.  I experimented a bit, making a few batches, and tweaking it along the way.

I came out with lotion bars that my husband and I both love!  The bars are in a solid state, but when you rub them between your hands, they warm just enough to coat your skin, creating a moisturizing barrier.  Because of the oil & wax, they do feel a little greasy at first. However, after a few minutes, it's all soaked in and your hands (or whatever you're moisturizing!) is so soft!  Another great thing about these lotion bars is that it doesn't wash away the second you wash your hands.  It seems like I can apply regular lotion to my hands all day long, but as soon as I wash my hands (which is a lot), it's all gone and needs to be applied again.  Not with these lotion bars!  I can use these bars, wash my hands, and the water just beads up, protecting my skin from drying out quickly.  Love this stuff!

You have the option of not adding any essential oils, but I will tell you that the smell of cocoa butter is fairly strong when you do that.  Personally, I love customizing the bars and having a variety of types & scents to choose from.  I have a selection of essential oil blends, so I chose a few and made various types of lotion bars.  These are just a few that I did:

*Muscle Relief (for my husband's back/shoulder pain)
*Tea Tree/Lavender (for healing)
*Goodnight Blend (for a restful sleep)

When I was making these bars, I decided to try the mixture as a lip balm, too.  It was great!  I actually love how it feels when you apply it, giving that moisture barrier, but not feeling heavy or sticky.  Just keep in mind you will want to use essential oils that are safe for your face.  I'm not that educated with EOs so I would suggest doing some research yourself rather than me giving you advice. :)

You can buy the empty lip balm containers on Amazon, as well as any shape of silicone molds for your bars.


I used a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients, which worked perfectly, but if you don't have a scale, measure it out as best as you can.  Just keep in mind, the more coconut oil, the softer the bars will be, and the more beeswax, the firmer they will be.  It worked best for me to have equal amounts of the three ingredients.  1:1:1 Ratio

Ingredients

20 g. organic cocoa butter, raw, unrefined
20 g. organic beeswax
20 g. organic coconut oil, cold-pressed, unrefined
essential oils, optional


1. Measure out your ingredients.


2. In a double boiler (or a glass bowl set over a sauce pan of water-just don't let the water touch the bottom of the bowl), heat over medium-high heat.


3. Let it heat and melt down, stirring occasionally.


*If you are putting the same essential oils in the entire batch, you can stir them in as soon as it's all melted.

*Since I made different types, I poured it into my molds (I used silicone cupcake liners) and dropped the different essential oils in each one, then stirred them up.  It's important to work quickly.  It sets up fast!

*With the leftover mixture, I just put the essential oil directly in the bowl, then used a clean, glass medicine dropper to fill the lip balm containers.

4. Once it's completely melted, remove from heat and pour it into your molds (see notes above about adding essential oils).  If you find that the mixture is setting too quickly, return it to the heat and melt again.


5. Leave them on the counter and let them cool completely until firm.


6. Once set, you can pop the bars out and store them in containers or use them right away!


My hubby and I have one on each side of the bed to use before we go to sleep.  I also apply mine throughout the day if needed, but he prefers to only use it at night so he doesn't have to deal with the greasiness.  He gets a little irked when his hands don't feel clean, so even though these lotion bars soak in quickly, he can't stand the feeling of it on his hands.  He says if he uses it at night, the greasiness is gone by the time he wakes up so he doesn't have to worry about it. :)


If you want my advice...try them.  Even if you don't like "greasiness", I think you will be pleasantly surprised on how great these lotion bars are.  You really only have to deal with the greasy feel for a couple minutes, and the benefits of how great these bars work make those minutes totally worth it! 

They are awesome for any dry spots.  Hands, elbows, knees, even your feet!  
Perfect timing since the flip-flops are back again! :)









Monday, April 20, 2015

Crock Pot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

I'm not really sure why I waited so long to post this recipe.  I made it as a snack for the Superbowl and got some pretty great feedback.  It was just my husband, his brother, and me for the actual game, but I kept the leftovers in the fridge and when my family came to visit, I pulled it out and reheated it.  It was gone in no time and my brother even asked me for the recipe!


This is a super easy dip and well worth the minimal time it takes to make it!  We served it on toasted french baguette slices and with tortilla chips.  Both are fabulous. :)


It's as easy as mixing up most of the ingredients....


...then topping with the spinach and cooking until it's creamy. Easy peasy! :)


SPINACH DIP

8 oz. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
8-16 oz. cream cheese (depending on how creamy you want it)
12 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
1 c. fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Combine all ingredients, except spinach, in the crock pot.
Stir as best you can.
Place spinach on top and cover.
Cook on HIGH for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to mix spinach in evenly with melting ingredients.
Once it's all melted and creamy, it's ready to go!
Serve while still warm with tortilla chips or toasted baguette slices.







Monday, April 6, 2015

Antipasto Skewers w/balsamic glaze



Happy belated Easter, everyone! I know, for me at least, this year has been flying by quickly! There are endless things to do and it seems nearly impossible to find the time to sit and blog.  I mean, I definitely get a chance to sit, but by the time I get everything done that I need to do, I'm exhausted and too lazy to do anything other than mindless channel surfing. Unless The Middle is on, then that's where it stays. I have a slight obsession lately. I can't decide if I like it so much because it always makes me laugh, because Axl 's mannerisms remind me of my brother, or because it's just a relatable show that seems more like a reality show than any actual "reality" show. It really doesn't matter, I guess. I just like it. :)


Anyway, back to the blogging bit. I made these for Easter at my parents' house.  They were super easy to throw together, I was able to make them the night before, and then when we were ready to serve them on Sunday, I loaded them on the platter and drizzled 'em with the balsamic glaze.


Super easy and they were a big hit!
 I liked how they were so versatile. You can really just find what you like best and put it together. I decided to make mine with two of each ingredient (besides the basil, I only had one leaf on each skewer) to make it easier for "choosing", but if you know someone hates olives, it's easy to accomodate. :)


As far as the glaze goes, I just tweaked it until it tasted how I wanted it to.  I just kept testing it by drizzling it on a piece and trying it. I may have tested it more than necessary...hehe.


Ingredients

three cheese tortellini
cherry or grape tomatoes
deli-style hard salami, thinly sliced
fresh mozzarella, balled or cubed
fresh basil leaves
black olives
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
skewers

Directions

Prepare tortellini according to package directions.
Set aside to cool.
Choose which order you want things and start skewering!
Cover and refrigerate until serving.
When ready to serve, mix balsamic vinegar and olive oil to your liking. (I did about 1/3 c. vinegar with a splash of olive oil.)
Drizzle over skewers and serve.

(With the extra pieces, I sliced the basil leaves up and tossed it all in a bowl and drizzled with the glaze. Very yummy salad!)






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. :)










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