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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Homemade Applesauce from Re-Hydrated Apple Chips

Being a first time mommy has been full of learning experiences for me. One of the hardest things I have found is saying no to my son. On the one hand, I DO NOT want to create a little spoiled monster who grows up getting anything and everything he wants. On the other hand he is so dang cute and sweet and when he flashes me that adorable smile, tilts his head and says "peeese mommy", how can I possible be expected to stand my ground! Luckily at this point his major demands only include little hot wheel cars and specific addictions to specific foods. E needs at least 2 more hands to carry all of his favorite little cars. He tries so hard to balance as many as he can in his little hands and prop them against his chest and tummy. I'm convinced he is going to have arthritis by the age of 5 from contorting his little finger to manage holding 5 cars in one hand for hours at a time.
Some of the troops lined up for battle
And his second major demand is his love for food. He is such a ball of energy that I can understand a growing boy needing lots of yummy, healthy foods to fuel his body...but!...sometimes his need for certain food borderlines addiction. Seriously! No joke! I am convinced that if I gave him as many of these squeezable applesauces as he wanted that his stomach would pop before he decided to stop eating them. So consequently I have had to start limiting his consumption, and it has been hard for me to say no to my sweet little boy who loves his apple sauce so much! Plus, after doing a few calculations of how much money we actually spend on these little gems, which by the way are not cheap, I definitely knew it was time to scale back.
That is when a tender little mercy appeared! After 8 years of stocking up on food storage in case of an emergency of any shape or size I thought it time to open the boxes and take an inventory of exactly what we had, how much longer it would last, and how I could start incorporating it into our meals. I was shocked to say the least at how much we actually had. But I was so thrilled when I saw how many #10 cans of dried apple chips there were! I new immediately what I was going to do with them! Rehydrate them and make my own applesauce, for a fraction of the price, for my little apple-saucier!
It couldn't have been more simple or quick to make. And it tasted even better, I might add, than any of the store bought options. Apple chips are sold almost everywhere now if you want to give it a whirl. Or in case you stocked up on too many during your last shopping trip or you have a hoard of them in your food storage like we do, give this recipe a try! Plus making your own applesauce allows you to add any flavors you want or nothing at all.  Needless to say it will be a long time before I purchase store bought applesauce and I fear that Costco might go out of business when they start to realize the sales they are going to loose, from our family alone, when we stop buying their Go Go squeeze applesauce :)

Apple Chips Applesauce

6 cups apple chips
6 cups boiling water
Cinnamon to taste, if desired

Place the dried apple chips in a large bowl and fill with 6 cups of boiling water. 
Pre boiling water
Let sit for a minimum of 5 minutes to rehydrate.
Post boiling water
 Transfer apples, including any remaining liquid in bowl, and cinnamon if you are using, into a blender and puree until smooth. 

Let the mixture cool before storing in an airtight container in your refrigerator. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sun Dried Tomato and Tarragon Stuffed Mushrooms

I love mushrooms and they have always reminded me of my father. Every time he eats mushrooms he always likes to make the statement that mushrooms are a good substitution for eating meat. He continues for a few minutes giving us all the ways you can replace mushrooms for meat and how satisfying it could be. He repeats this as if he has stated it for the first time in his life, when in actuality I hear it at least a dozen times a year :) Although mushrooms are meaty in texture I am not sure I could substitute my meat for mushrooms all the time. But, I do love mushrooms and especially stuffed ones.

These mushrooms are so flavorful and packed full of really interesting flavors like tarragon, sun dried tomatoes, basil and cheese to name a few. And even though there is no meat incorporated into the stuffing, they sure are as satisfying and delicious as my good ol' dad says they are!

Sun Dried Tomato and Tarragon Stuffed Mushrooms

1 pound mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 small onion, diced
2 cups finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
4 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
fresh mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. place your mushrooms with caps removed onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and a little bit of slat and pepper. Bake for about 8-10 minutes if you are using small mushrooms. If using large portobello mushrooms bake for about 15 minutes. While mushrooms are cooking heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the onions. Cooks on low heat for about 7 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Add garlic and sun dried tomatoes and cook for and additional few minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cooled, add the Parmesan cheese, basil and tarragon. Taste for needed salt and pepper. 

Pile the filling on top of your mushrooms and top with a slice of fresh mozzarella. Return to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the mushrooms are hot. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and serve hot. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Whole Wheat Pasta with Shrimp, Lemon, Parsley & Red Pepper Flakes

Sometimes simple recipes with just a few ingredients can be some of the yummiest and most flavorful! In fact this recipe is a staple in our household because of those simple facts. Most of the ingredients are pretty standard and are staples in our household which makes it a snap to put together in as little time as it takes my pasta to cook to al dente!

Now that's my kind of recipe...quick, delicious and easy! This recipe has just a few ingredients but when combined together are packed with flavor and will leave a lasting impact on your taste buds! Be sure to make extra; your family will be begging for more and as the flavors sit and continue to meld together they only get better! 

Whole Wheat Pasta with Shrimp, Lemon, Parsley & Red Pepper Flakes

1 box whole wheat pasta
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
6 small to medium cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds shrimp, more or less according to your preferences
2 lemons
1/2 cup parsley plus more for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare pasta according to package directions, being sure to cook al dente. While pasta is cooking, melt butter and oil in skillet. Once oils are hot, add garlic and let cook for about 1 minute. Add red pepper flakes, stir, then add shrimp and cooked until just pink. Turn heat off and add the zest of one lemon, the juice of two, and parsley. Stir to combine and check for needed salt and pepper. Add cooked and drained pasta to your skillet, toss before plating and garnish with more parsley.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Easy Chicken Brine

I have always heard about brining meat and the wonders it does for flavor and texture but I have never been very interested in trying it. Im not sure what sparked my interest in it this week but I decided I would give it a try so I could either prove it wrong or become a believer. After cleaning up from our dinner meal for the night I simply put together my brine recipe and added my chicken and stuck it in the fridge for the following day. When it was time to start preparing dinner I simply removed my chicken breasts, rinsed them under water and stuck them on the grill. My husband, son and I sat at the dinner table each with chicken on our plate very anxious to dig in. Of course my son had already started attacking his food, but lets be honest, I couldn't use him as a gauge for whether the chicken was a success or not since I'm convinced he would eat just about anything. So my husband and I decided to slice off a piece and give it a try. The first thing that came to my mind was "I will never prepare my chicken any other way." Yes, thats right, it was a huge success, like big time! I had never had chicken so perfectly juicy and seasoned in my life. And heres the kicker...after taking my chicken out of the brine I put absolutely zero seasoning on it, zilch, nada, nothing! So all of the flavor I was tasting was coming strictly from the brine. 100% delicious, and it couldn't have been easier to throw together. Everyone has salt and water on hand and you can always play around with any of the other added ingredients. Give it a try, you might turn into a brining fanatic like me!!

Chicken Brine

4 cups water
4 tablespoons of grated or finely chopped red onion
4 tablespoons salt
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 1 heaping tablespoon of dried rosemary
1 lemon, thinly sliced
5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Place the water and salt in a large tupperware container. Stir until salt is dissolved. Add onion, garlic, rosemary, lemon slices and your chicken breasts. Seal the container and place in your refrigerator for 24-48 hours. When ready to cook, run each of your chicken breast under cold water and pat dry. BBQ the chicken breasts until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Headboard Anniversary

Yes, its that time, the 2 year anniversary of my favorite headboard ever! I am such a lucky lady to have such a  wonderful and handy husband. One day about a year ago I pointed to a photo of a wood headboard and said "I want this, can ya make it for me sweetie?!" Of course he could...and make it he did!! We had just pushed out our fence line in our back yarn and used new wooden boards to do so. That meant we had an incredible pile of old wooden planks that were already gorgeously aged. The timing could not have been better. Ben laid out the planks, made some cuts and voila, my favorite headboard was born. Maybe just maybe a little something to do with me loving my headboard so much might have included the fact that we purchased our first king size bed at the same time.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mexican Roasted Sweet Potoatoes

We recently had a Costco built very very close to our house. So close that it didn't make sense not to have a membership simply for reasons of proximity :) Having shopped there the past year I feel like I have learned a big lesson for my little family of 3. Less is more! So many times I have picked up produce or packages of food and thought "We, two adults and a 1 1/2 year old, wont have any trouble eating all of this food before it goes bad" Wrong! Oh the money I have wasted, but oh the lessons I have learned. 
So when I ventured to Costco last month I thought nothing of buying a large bag of potatoes. After all potatoes last in a dark cool place for like forever...right! Wrong again! At least for me that is. I kept my hefty bag of potatoes in the garage to store and noticed one day that they had started to sprout through the bag! Holy cow, I hadn't even gone through half the bag!!! What was I going to do with all of these potatoes? I was determined not to have them end up in the trash with all of my other failed purchases. That's when Mexican roasted sweet potatoes came to be. They turned out to be so good that we had them all week and even invited family over to enjoy them with us.

Mexican Roasted Sweet Potatoes

8 medium sweet potatoes, diced (I used half sweet and have russet)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more for sprinkling on top before roasting
black pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 lime, juiced

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Combine all of the ingredients except the potatoes and lime into a jar or in a deep bowl and mix thoroughly. Toss your potatoes in a bowl with the oil mixture and then transfer to a foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast the potatoes for 40 minutes, until they are browned on the edges and fork tender. Remove from oven and sprinkle with lime juice. Test for additional salt or pepper and serve warm.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vietnamese Fried Quinoa with Shrimp

This recipe is a little play on Vietnamese rice. I used quinoa instead of rice and added some yummy shrimp. This dish is so great because you can add or subtract so many elements to make it something that your family will really enjoy. Instead of shrimp you can add chicken or even pork. And if you have some picky eaters in your house who wont come near cabbage with a  ten foot pole you can always substitute snap peas or broccoli. There are a million possibilities. 
I didn't even miss having traditional rice in this dish. The quinoa compliments all of the ingredients very well and added a nice variation. In fact when I platted dinner for my husband and myself, Ben looked at his bowl and said "oh wow, this looks like something I'm gone like!" Its safe to say that after we licked our bowls clean that it was indeed a dish that both of us like very much.

Vietnamese Fried Quinoa and Shrimp

1 lb shrimp
3 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 cups quinoa
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth 
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
4 large eggs or 7 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and chopped 
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
4 carrots, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Place your shrimp into a large zip lock baggie along with the soy sauce, sesame seed oil, vinegar and ginger. Let marinate at least 30 minutes in fridge or longer. Place rinsed quinoa into a pot with vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Once a boil is reached turn the heat down to a simmer and cover with a lid for around 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed; set aside. Combine soy sauce, sugar and hot sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Mix together eggs with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Heat cast iron skillet or wok over heat and add two tablespoons of oil and half of the onions. Pour in the eggs and cook swirling the eggs as you stir intermittently, until they have set, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter and set aside. Add your marinated shrimp and juice to hot pan and cook until pink and cooked; set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to pan and add remaining onions and garlic. Cook stirring for a few seconds. Add cabbage and carrots and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and add cooked quinoa. Stir for a few seconds and add soy sauce mixture. Add eggs, vegetables and shrimp. Before serving toss in fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Biscoff Oatmeal Cookies

Lucky for me I am related to the ever so talented +Maria Lichty from Two Peas & Their Pod. She happens to be my sister in law and an incredible cook and baker extraordinaire! She specializes in creating recipes that are simple, fresh, and family friendly...and I might add delicious!! One of my families favorite recipes that she came up with are her Biscoff Oatmeal Cookies. Holy cow people these are addicting. I have made two batches in a 1 1/2 days time and I have nothing to show for it except an empty cookie container. 
There is nothing quite like the flavor of Biscoff Spread and if you have not had the fortunate opportunity of tasting it then I highly recommend you making a trip to your local grocery store immediately so you can cross this one off of your to do list. Though it has the same consistency of peanut butter, it is not made with nuts nor does it taste like peanut butter, but can actually be found on the same isle right next to your favorite peanut butter spread. So go ahead, make a batch and I dare you not to finish the batch before the day is done!

Biscoff Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup Biscoff Spread
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter, Biscoff Spread, sugar, and brown sugar and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Chill the dough 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Form the cookie dough into rounded tablespoons and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are golden and just firm around the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove with a spatula onto a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pesto Bacon Grilled Cheese

Talk about a comforting sandwich! Good bread smothered with pesto, topped with bacon and wrapped up in a warm cheese blanket...say no more! In fact while making these for dinner I decided to whip out a couple extra just so that we would have some to eat for lunch the next couple of days. And boy am I glad I did, because one sandwich for dinner was not going to be enough for me! I needed to know that I had another one of these delicious indulgences waiting for me the next day!

Pesto Bacon Grilled Cheese

sandwich bread, I used sourdough
homemade or premade pesto
bacon, 3 large slices per sandwich
grated mozzarella cheese

Cook your bacon until golden and slightly crisp, set aside on a paper towel to drain while you prepare your sandwiches. Lightly spread butter on the outside pieces of your bread. On each of the unbuttered sides of your bread slather a nice helping of pesto. Place a layer of mozzarella cheese down over the pesto, then 3 pieces of bacon on top of the cheese.  Top with an additional layer of grated mozzarella. Place your remaining piece of bread over the cheese with the buttered side up. Heat a large pan over medium heat and cook your sandwich until a gold crust forms on the bread. Turn and repeat on the other side. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gooey Oreo Chocolate Cake Bars

I dont know when my obsession with Oreo cookies began but once it started it has not ceased to exist even for a moment.  I don't care how I eat them, dipped in cold milk, hot chocolate, in my ice cream or eaten right out of the package. I know I know Oreos aren't exactly figure friendly or considered a healthy treat but lets be honest...any good treat is gona be a little naughty, right?! Well naughty is exactly what this dessert bar is, and packed full of Oreo cookies...double stuffed to be exact. I found this recipe on Picky Palates amazing food blog and I knew that I had to make it at once!

Gooey Oreo Chocolate Cake Bars
Recipe from Picky Palate

1 devils food cake mix
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
20 double stuffed Oreo cookies, broken into bite size pieces

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x13 inch baking dish with tin foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Place cake mix, butter and egg into a large bowl and mix to combine all ingredients. Press mixture into prepared pan and top with broken cookie pieces. Pour sweetened condensed milk over cookies and top with chocolate chips. Bake for 25 minutes and let cool completely. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Candlestick Candy Jars

Turns out after going through what seemed like endless boxes, as Ben and I decided to clean out our garage, I must have been some kind of candle holder collector. I mean I had so many candle holders I couldn't believe my eyes! What to do with all of them?! Oh I know, how bout spray paint them an assortment of colors, glue plastic tupperware containers on top and use them as candy jars!!! 
Turns out thats just what I ended up doing. I happened to order thai food one night for dinner and the food came in these perfectly sized, tall plastic containers with lids that were exactly the diameter of my candlesticks. How perfect was that! So I hot glued each base to the candle holder and filled those puppies with some favorite sweets! They have been a hit ever since!

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