Snow Day Pretzels

Well…we are snowed in today…rather iced in. A big storm hit last night and dropped some snow followed by freezing rain. Our backyard is literally a big sheet of ice. In other words- we ain’t going no where.

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Cold days call for cozy food and hot coffee. Am I right or what? We had these soft fluffy pretzels at a friends house the other day and erhmehgersh were they good. Thanks Sarah for your delicious confections! So today, I decided we would make them again…it was a toss up between these or cinnamon rolls. Since of course we could dip these in cinnamon sugar topping…it was kinda the same thing right? Except that these pretzels are a cinch to make. Regardless, you should make some on your snow day…errr, ice day.¬†They may not be the healthiest thing on the planet…but good for a nice treat. After eating them, you can do some house work…like scrub your kitchen floors. (Well…at least that is what I did…)

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Snow Day Pretzels

Slightly adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut sugar, or brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Kerrygold salted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup baking soda (for later)
  • 3 cups hot water (for later)
  • Melted butter (4 Tbsp)
  • Pretzel salt, Cinnamon sugar and/or other various toppings or dipping sauces.

Directions:

  1. Warm your milk in a pan to 110 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, this is just hot enough that it doesn’t burn your finger. Any hotter and you’ll kill the yeast…so don’t do that. After your milk is warmed, add yeast to the milk and let it sit for a few minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Add the sugar and butter to the milk/yeast mixture and stir. Now dump this into a stand mixer. Add one cup of flour and begin stirring. If you don’t have a mixer, you can just add the flour to a bowl with milk and mix with a spoon.
  4. Add the salt and another cup of flour and continue kneading either in the mixer or by hand. Continue adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky. You may need to add more than the 2 cups. Knead for 5-6 mins in the mixer or 10 minutes by hand (come on…you can do it!)
  5. Let the dough rest and rise for 1 hour.
  6. Near the end of the rise, mix the baking soda with the hot water in a dish.
  7. After rising, divide the dough into 12 parts. This will make 12 smallish pretzels. If you want huge pretzels (aka “mall size”) then divide into 6 parts. Roll the dough into long logs and shape as desired. Feel free to use your play dough snake making skills for this ūüėČ
  8. Dip the pretzel shapes into the bowl of hot baking soda water and lay on a greased baking pan or parchment paper lined pan.
  9. If you want salted pretzels, sprinkle the salt on now.
  10. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
  11. After removing pretzels from oven, proceed to dip pretzels in melted butter and then cinnamon sugar mixture if desired. You could also make a cheese dip…or chocolate dip…or mustard dip…or just eat them plain!
  12. Serve with a cup of hot MonroePost Coffee¬†…unless you are serving to kids, in which case hot cocoa might make a nice pair.

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Even buddy liked them! (Well…that’s not a surprise)…

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Orange-Vanilla Brown Sugar Scrub

I’ll admit I have an obsession with sugar scrubs. They smell delish, feel luxurious, and taste good too! You think I’m kiddin? Ewww who eats their body care products anyways? I may or may not be guilty of that. In reality, aside from the part that sugar is sweet, I actually prefer sugar scrubs over salt scrubs because I find that the sugar is more gentle and is less prone to burn your skin like salt does occasionally. In particular, I have found that brown sugar is better than white sugar; for some reason the particles are finer. Sugar scrubs are so easy to make you have everything in your kitchen already. You don’t have to go out and buy fancy ingredients to make this… Unless you want to. Sugar scrubs are perfect for dry wintry skin, which if you’re anything like me, you are very prone to it this time of year.

The scent of the scrub was inspired by a product a friend gave me recently which smells like the classic Dreamsicle popsicles we grew up with. Of course like everything, I always have to try to recreate it in my own way. Not to mention, as I mentioned before, which means that I actually already mentioned it, I really enjoy sugar scrubs a lot. When you are a mom of three kids, shower times can easily become spa times with the addition of sugar scrub… It’s that yummy.

So back to the part where I suggested you eat it. I don’t actually recommend that you get a spoon and eat it spoonful by spoonful, however, it makes a very lovely facial scrub and lip scrub. And in case you accidentally lick your lip you might actually crave more. I’ll leave that to your discretion. On a serious side note (cue putting on your smart hat)…the ingredients contained within are all food ingredients, hence why I’m suggesting you taste it. However! Homemade things don’t last as long as store bought body products. If by some miracle this lasts more than a month, of toss it and make a fresh batch. If it smells weird don’t rub it on your body. Mk? On another safety side note I have used essential oils from a company that I am very proud to be a part of and I trust their quality. If you are interested in finding out more and supporting a stay a home crunchy mama visit my oils page! For all my oil geeks out there and those who would like to know this information, the dilution ratio for the essential oils is 1% or less, depending on how many drops you choose to use. This scrub would be safe for the whole family to use (except delicate baby skin…don’t scrub that!)¬†Finally, while orange oil is considered a phototoxic oil (meaning if applied to skin and then exposed to sunlight for extended period of time it can cause burns), since this application is a rinse off product this is a non issue. There is no need for concern about that effect in this use method.

Okay so on with the recipe so you can go get in the shower!

Orange-Vanilla Brown Sugar Scrub

Ingredients:

Directions:

In a clean bowl place the coconut oil, and using a hand blender, or mixer, blend until fluffy. Add your avocado or grapeseed oil and vanilla and continue to whip it until it is again fluffy.¬†If your coconut oil is not solid (ie its over 76 degrees in your house)¬†you may put the mixture in the fridge to allow it to cool down so that it will whip better. Or, don’t worry about it…might look a little different than picture, but it won’t effect the end product.

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Next, add your brown sugar and mix it in. Finally, add your EOs. Start by adding 5 drops of orange, smell, continue adding until you reach your preferred strength up to 15 drops of the orange and 4 drops of the Stress Away‚ĄĘ.

Place in a glass jar and leave it in the shower or near the shower if you have little ones in the bathroom! Glass is important here due to the presence of citrus oils. Citrus can breakdown plastic, so we want to be careful that doesn’t happen here. No one wants to rub plastic chemicals all over themselves. Oh…one more thing…then I promise the over-protective mama will go drink a cup of coffee…be careful getting out of the shower as the floor might be slippery from the coconut oil.

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Sweet Potato Cornbread

I know we have been focusing on coffee a lot around here on the blog. Life seems to have revolved around coffee for the main of this summer. I barely got a chance to tell you all about my exciting garden adventures this year. Maybe I’ll tell you about that next. I figured you were due for a recipe. Of course it will involve sweet potatoes. Did I mention that we harvested over 200lbs of them babies out the of garden this year? Man it’s been a while, I don’t even remember my last few posts. Regardless. Here’s a simple, yummy fall recipe perfect in time for eating festivities that are going to be taking place THIS VERY WEEK. Can you tell I get a little excited about eating? Someday…someday…I may convince my mom to let me post her family secret stuffing recipe. Ya’ll will go nutso crazy over that. Just ask my husband. He came into the family hating stuffing. He’s a believer now. Weren’t we talking about cornbread though?

Cornbread really has a special place in my heart. Over the years I gradually evolved my cornbread palate away from Jiffy mix. Yes, I really did eat Jiffy mix at one point in my life. I would eat a whole box of muffins by MYSELF. I was pregnant. Nevertheless, there’s something about cornbread that makes me happy. However, I have yet to actually “settle” on the perfect recipe. I can’t tell you how many recipes I’ve actually tried. Probably like 100. I rule out any that call for 3 cups of sugar or a can of creamed corn. I just don’t have that stuff sittin around if you know what I mean. No judgement here if you do! Bet you actually have a dy-namic tasting cornbread. My ideal recipe calls for a lot of butter, a pinch of sugar, and heavy on the cornmeal. I stumbled upon a sweet potato cornbread recipe that actually tickled my tail feathers. I actually made the recipe more than once…so that speaks VOLUMES. Of course I have since tweaked it to my liking and thus present you with my final product. Please do not make this if you don’t plan to slather it with more butter and honey. Mk?

Sweet Potato Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups mashed sweet potatoes (boiled or baked doesn’t matter-I boil to save time!)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 1/4 cup thin yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 1/2 cup non-GMO cornmeal (we fresh grind it, so it’s more of the stoneground variety)
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar or sucanat
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray or butter a 9×13 pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl mix sweet potatoes, eggs, oils, yogurt and lemon. In another bowl mix together the remaining dry ingredients.
  3. Pour the dry ingredients into the sweet potato mixture and gently mix just until all flour is combined. Pour into pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes until top is brown and toothpick comes out clean!
  4. Serve with butter and lots of honey!

What is YOUR favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving?

We hope you have a very blessed Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for!

Cardamom Ginger Snaps

My house smells so good right now. I am really craving the fall and winter festivities. The pumpkins, the warmth of spices, curling up on the couch in blankets…cookies…

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Alright back to reality…or at least toss out the idea of afternoon naps. Sigh.

I had a craving for some ginger snaps today…random, ¬†I know. I think its my subconscious reacting to my poorly digested Mexican food from yesterday. ¬†Ginger snaps are one of those things I think you either love or you hate. So if you’re on the hater side, you prob want to skip this recipe. Unless you think you might be cured from your hating by trying my awesome recipe. I claim no cures…

On the other hand, these cookies make a lovely home freshener. Pungent ginger smell mixed with cinnamon and a pop of that super fresh cardamom smell…ahh…it’s good for the dreary day. And the uneasy stomach if you happened to eat something you probably should not have.

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Before I proceed with the recipe…I should go ahead and address that look on your face…the “Holy dude what the hay is cardamom?” look. It’s ok, I promise it’s not that scary. And I promise to refrain from all bad jokes regarding moms or cards or anything like that. If you know this amazing spice and its super powers…proceed to the recipe. For the rest of you…

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Cardamom is a spice that comes from a plant in the ginger family. (No wonder it tastes so good in these cookies!) The variety I use comes in a small green pod. The seeds inside the pod are what we use for cooking. It’s often used in middle eastern dishes. It’s a very different flavor than you may have experienced before…almost like a spicey, citrus, floraly flavor. It’ truly unique. You gotta try it! There are a couple different types of cardamom, but the kind I use is called green cardamom. It’s not that hard to find in stores, although I think you would have best of luck finding it Indian food stores or in stores like Whole Foods in the bulk section. I recommend that you only buy it in the whole pod form. They sell ground cardamom, but this is one of those spices that you loose a TON of flavor after its been ground. Soo, it means more work for you but its worth it. So how do you work with these strange little things? First off, each pod has about 6-8 seeds in it. The easiest way to get these seeds out is to gently smash the pod with the side of a chef knife. Then use your fingers to break it open and dump out the seeds! You will then need to crush the seeds a bit as you probably don’t want to bite an entire seed…they are strong tasting! I use a mortar and pestle. You could use a coffee grinder, or even just the blunt end of a butter knife in a cup or bowl that won’t break from you hitting it with metal! Make sense? Just crush the seeds however you can…they aren’t that hard!

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Cardamom Ginger Snaps

Ingredients

  • 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1¬Ĺ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 cardamom pods worth of seeds. About a 1/2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds. (See note above)
  • 12 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (I¬†find that the microplane does an excellent job!)
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¬ľ cup organic molasses
  • For coating: 1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 tsp powdered ginger mixed

Directions

  1. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, and spices.
  2. With a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl.
  3. Add egg, fresh ginger, vanilla extract & molasses and mix.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix. You may need to use a spatula at this point! Dough should be thick!
  5. Scooping a spoonful at a time, roll the dough in your hands to make a ball.
  6. Drop the ball in the sugar coating mixture and roll around until coated.
  7. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 mins. 12 min will yield a softer cookie, if you like crunchy traditional “snap” cookie bake longer…maybe even closer to 16 min.
  9. Let cookies cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.

While I was sitting here working on typing up this post earlier, Elyse decided to sneak into the kitchen, get a chair and start chowing down on these. I was obviously too focused. I eventually caught her…this is her running away with a handful of cookies laughing her head off. Oh children…

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Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup

We’re creeping up once again on that dreaded time of year…the time when school starts back and the germies start spreading around. Sigh. I think sick kids is a parent’s worst fight. I’m going to be completely transparent here…I have some serious anxiety issues when it comes to my kids getting sick. I am constantly having to remind myself that I am not in control. I have to rest in the knowledge that God has not neglected us. I am also thankful that we have never encountered any serious illnesses. I wrestle with guilt when I feel anxiety over a runny nose when I know so many parents struggle with much worse issues. My heart goes out to you who are suffering from much worse. Nevertheless, it is a struggle that we can all relate to. As moms, our children carry part of our hearts around…ok, I won’t lie…my kids carry most of my heart. I would take their burdens any day. We know that is not how things are designed though. On this side of heaven we are going to have to keep fighting. I am looking forward to the day where these worries are no more.

In the meantime however, we strive to maintain the best health that we can through our own choices! I ultimately cannot control if my kids get sick or not, but I can give wellness my best shot! We accomplish this through a variety of ways, mainly diet, healthy vitamins, natural remedies, & essential oils. One of our favorite immune boosting “vitamins” is Elderberry syrup!! So, I thought we would share this today!

First, let me tell you why we think this is such good stuff!
1. Elderberries have been around for centuries and people have been using them to treat a number of different problems. They are known for their immune boosting properties, helping coughs, colds, influenza, etc. Elderberries are high in vitamin A & C and also high in iron. The antioxidant levels in elderberries are high and thus makes them a good candidate for combating free radicals in the body. Elderberries have higher antioxidant levels than blueberries or cranberries! Want to learn more about antioxidants? I found this article helpful and easy to understand!!

2. Elderberries are high in the polyphenol anthocyanin.

“Anthocyanins have been shown to boost the production of immune cytokines. The cytokines are key messengers in the immune system to help regulate the immune response. This allows the body to defend against disease. These studies have shown the antioxidant balance of elderberry¬†to be greater than equal doses of vitamin E and vitamin C.”¬†Read¬†more

Studies have also found that they anthocyanins have been effective in reducing inflammation of the mucous membranes, thus helping sinus issues.

3. And if you still need some convincing read this:

“Viruses multiply by invading our cells through their hemagglutinin spikes. These spikes allow them to penetrate the cell membrane and move in and take control the cell. Elderberry contains a potent antiviral agent called “antivirin” which helps neutralize the activity of the hemagglutinin spikes. When these spikes are deactivated, the viruses are no longer able to get inside of the cell and replicate.”
Read more

Muahahah. Elderberry Super Powers! This is good stuff. Let’s make it shall we?

Immune Boosting Elderberry Syrup

  • 1 cup dried elderberries
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 knob of ginger, chopped
  • 1/2-1 cup of honey, local and raw if possible!

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a stainless steel pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Turn the stove off and let the pan sit until contents have cooled sufficiently.
  4. Strain the elderberries and other ingredients out of liquid. Use a spoon to mash the berries in the strainer.
  5. {Optional} Often times I will add the smashed berries back into the pan and add another cup of water and boil for 10 more mins. After that,  strain them again and add to the other juice.
  6. After juice has cooled, add desired amount of honey for sweetness. We usually use about a 1/2 cup, any more than that and it is too sweet for us to drink!  If you can source some local, raw honey that will add to the immune boosting properties as well as help with seasonal allergies!! If not, regular honey is good too.

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We take this daily during cold and flu season or anytime someone is feeling a little icky. I don’t really measure the dosage out, I just put a little bit in a shot glass and give it to the kids…probably about a tablespoon worth. Actually, we usually use elderberry syrup as our chaser for our fermented cod liver oil!

 

References (Just in case you decided you really wanted to read more…lol):

https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu07/pdfs/charlebois284-292.pdf

http://www.naturalnews.com/043430_elderberry_natural_antivirals_health_benefits.html

 

 

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor! You knew that right? So I am not attempting to diagnose, cure, or solve any of your health issues! Please ask your doctor if you have concerns about your health! I am here as a mom sharing my story! 

Disclosure: Some of the links provided in my posts may be affiliate links. You pay the same if you were to purchase the product through my site, however, I may earn a commission of your purchase. Helps keep our garden growing, ya know? Thanks for supporting the homestead!

Coconut Flour Peppermint Brownies

Coconut flour scares me. I’ve tried many recipes and they have all failed miserably. Not to mention Coconut flour is expensive. Or at least it WAS…until my beloved Costco started selling it by the 4 pound bag. SCORE! I was determined as usual not to give up. We’ve tried a few things here and there that were¬†ok, but I’m gonna be honest, cooking with any alternative flour is an experience for your palate. We have to let go of the expectation that it’s going to taste the same. Alright? Oranges taste like oranges not apples. Wheat tastes like wheat. Coconut flour tastes like…well, coconut flour. (Ps-It doesn’t really taste like coconut, it’s pretty bland on its own so its versatile).

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So. Brownies. Yes, that’s why we are here right? I just feel obligated to fill up the page with words before posting a recipe and a (less than professional) photo. I really want to invest in a better camera someday (sorry iPhone). Okay, I am not going to lie to you…because that would not be very nice…but while these brownies taste great…they taste healthy. Come on, you know what I mean. I mean, they ARE healthy. Like you-can-eat-a-whole-pan healthy. BUT, they don’t taste like the (no names mentioned but starts with a “G” and ends with “delli”) boxed ones. Leave those hopes at the door. Instead, opt for this yummy, gluten free, refined sugar free, high fat brownies. If you cringed at the last part, you need to go read my¬†article¬†on fat ok? One last word- I have added a some peppermint flavor in the form of a high quality Essential oil. I use Young Living oils as they are safe for eating, please be mindful that not just any peppermint oil will do. If you don’t have that oil, feel free to use peppermint extract or leave it out. ūüôā Mk? Let’s go.

Coconut Flour Peppermint Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons Coconut Flour
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup or honey (or 1/2 and 1/2 of both)
  • 5 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 drops Young Living Peppermint Essential Oil (if doubling stick to 3 drops)

Instructions:

It’s really easy. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to incorporate everything. Pour in a small pan (I used a glass bread pan). Cook for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for as long as you can, ideally like 30 mins…otherwise it kinda falls apart. If you want to double the recipe, use an 8×8 pan. Triple it for a bigger pan. They are pretty rich and dense so a little goes a long way.

There ya go.

Now, don’t all run to Costco at the same time for this amazing deal on coconut flour.

P.S- If you need some Peppermint oil, give me a holler, I can hook you up. ūüôā

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Summery Radish Salad

I’ve never really been a huge fan of radishes. At least not the kind that you buy from the store. But then, once upon a time, I ate a radish strait from a garden and wow, it was such a different story. Radishes and I lived happily ever after…

So this year I decided I’d try my hand at growing them myself! I had often heard that radishes were one of the easiest things to grow. They mock me I tell you. Sheer mockery. Well, my attempts at growing them didn’t, umm, go so well. Apparently I am very skilled at growing radish greens but not the actual radish.

My radishes. Heavy on the greenery.
My radishes. Heavy on the greenery.

Thankfully a wonderful family of farmers at the market have got the skills for growing the actual radish.¬†Doesn’t really surprise me…I seem to have garden faux pas fairly regularly. That’s what keeps you coming back right? Too find humor in my sad little radishes? I digress. If you are a local check out¬†www.farmchicksproduce.com, they have some wonderful stuff available at the local farmers market in Chesapeake.

Farm Chicks radish...much more proportionate
Farm Chicks radish…much more proportionate
A visual comparison. Sad really…
A visual comparison. Sad really…

The real reason for this post was to spot light the beautiful¬†little¬†BIG radishes that I obtained from the farmers market (well technically a friend obtained for me…). I present you with a cool, crisp, summery salad that is perfect along side anything grilled, baked, broiled or flamb√©ed. Ok so maybe not the last one…what is flamb√©ed anyways? I had to google the spelling…don’t think I’m some sort of master chef or nothing.¬†This salad,I imagine, will taste a bit different depending on your selection of radishes as I’ve had many that tasted vastly different. These ones I got were particularly sweet with that classic peppery bite right at the end. They were also super juicy! Sweet and juicy=good. Hard and bitter=not good. The mint is so good as it gives this cooling affect after the spicy bite. I have not tried with any other vinegars, but I am sure it would work well with any light vinegar. You could try regular balsamic if you’d like, but I found the white balsamic to give it a very light, fruity flavor. Maybe a champagne, white wine or rice vinegar would be good as well. Give it a try, tweek until your heart and palate are content.

Cucumber and Radish Summery Salad

  • 2-3 large radishes (maybe more like 5-6 for normal sized radishes)
  • 1 cucumber, I used an English cuke as they are my favorite
  • 1 small handful fresh mint leaves chopped about 1 tablespoon
  • 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • Dash of sugar (optional depending on how sweet your radishes are)

Slice radishes and cucumbers to desired thickness. I then cut mine in quarters but you are welcome to cut however you desire. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and then pour over the salad. That’s it! This salad is best served a few hours later to let it marinate a bit. It’s also absolutely the best if it is very cold. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours for best yum factor.

I have replanted some more radishes to give it another go. Maybe the second time around I’ll have better luck. Here’s to summer salads!!!

Erica

Hacienda Chicken with Saffron Rice

Got a new recipe for you today! Aren’t you excited!!? It seemed blog worthy enough because it turned out looking so pretty. I mean, it tastes pretty good too, but I really fell in love with the colors!! Saffron is one of those spices that probably never gets touched in most home kitchens. Not only is it a hard to find ingredient, it is also highly expensive. I am not really sure what makes it so expensive. Regardless, it was one of those intriguing spices that would lure me every time I did run across it. I made a run to our local Indian food store a few weeks back and happened to see a small little box of red thread! Saffron! And it was affordable! I couldn’t resist that time.

I have to admit however, that even though the saffron was very pretty in the rice, I cannot vouch that it was entirely all that flavorful. Not sure what saffron is suppose to taste like?! Maybe I got a bad, cheap-o batch of the stuff? Maybe that’s why it is usually far more expensive? I did notice a subtle flavor, kind of earthy, but I am not sure I’d spend money on that flavor. All that to be said…feel free to make this dish without the addition of saffron…unless you really just want pretty rice to accompany it! In that case, I don’t judge either way. Just don’t blow your grocery budget on the stuff. And maybe I am wrong after all and saffron really does taste amazing. In which case, save up and buy some good stuff!

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On another note. Green olives. I know some love them and some hate them. My husband, as adventurous as he is and usually willing to try just about anything, really does not like olives. He did nearly freak out when he saw them in the pot. Lol. For this reason, I chose to keep the olives whole so they can easily be fished out by those who are less than enthusiastic about them. No problema…more for ME! However, I do think that you should add the olive brine irregardless of if you like olives or not. It adds a very subtle salty flavor that is unmatched. My husband had no problem with that flavor. I just fished out the green orbs before serving him his plate. No complaints after that ūüėČ If you positively cannot stand the olives, maybe add some capers and caper juice in place of them. If you love olives however, I would suggest chopping them so the flavor is more evenly distributed. Ok that’s a long enough spiel about olives.

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Hacienda Chicken

  • 3 T butter
  • ¬Ĺ large onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (use two cups diced fresh tomatoes if you wish!)
  • 2 cups chopped baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 lb of chicken cuts of choice (we use boneless/skinless thighs)
  • ¬ľ cup white wine
  • ¬Ĺ cup green olives (sliced if everyone likes them or leave them whole if you have someone who doesn‚Äôt like them and wants to pick them out!)
  • ¬ľ cup of brine from the green olives (pour it out of the jar!)
  • Salt to taste
  • ¬Ĺ cup feta cheese crumbled
  • Fresh parsley for serving

 Directions:

Heat butter in Dutch oven (or large pot) and add onions. Saute onions until translucent 3-5 mins. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Toss mushrooms in now and continue to saute for just a couple minutes. Add your diced tomatoes, broth/water, parsley, paprika and chicken. Bring to a simmer and let cook until chicken is done. If you are using chicken breasts or thighs, prob about 20-30 minutes. Near the end of the cooking time, add the white wine, olives and olive brine. Salt to taste. Turn burner off and sprinkle feta cheese over the dish. Serve over saffron rice if you really want to be fancy! A sprinkle of fresh parsley would be oh so lovely too. We ate ours with sauteed kale and garlic.

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Erica’s Quick-Easy Saffron Rice

  • 3 cups chicken broth or water
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 ¬Ĺ cups white basamati rice

Directions

Bring broth, butter, salt and saffron to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add rice and stir once. Cover pot and set timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, make sure all your water is absorbed and take pot off the stove and set aside for a few minutes. Fluff rice with fork and serve.

Photo Mar 03, 5 38 19 PMEnjoy!!

Babies, Duckies, Puppies & Yummies

Is it terrible that I am sitting here eating coconut macaroons, dreaming of ducklings and puppies? I should be like washing and folding baby clothes or something…I think my nesting instincts are more interested in researching and preparing for ducks then they are interested in washing yet another baby worth of clothes. Somehow, that doesn’t spark my fancy right now. I keep telling Alex I need to get the crib set up and he just sighs and laughs at me because we both know how well the crib worked for our other kids. Read: It Didn’t. About 2 days of no sleeping them babies are nestled right up with us in the big ol King bed and we all sleep peacefully. I have heard my fair share of negativity regarding this choice. Anyways. This is not a post about co-sleeping. This is a post about…hmmm, well…not sure really…macaroons? Mmmm… I am slightly addicted to them. That is probably an understatement. Hang on…lemme go get another one.

Ok back.

So, I got my first “To Read in 2014” (see this post for more) book in this week.

Photo Jan 25, 6 51 58 PM

I know, I am officially a homesteading geek. I dream of lush gardens, fresh apples, country air, spring weather, bare feet, and ducks. Yes…I have actually dreamt about ducks. As part of my 2014 goals, I would really really¬† like to get some ducklings. Why you ask? Why not chickens? Lemme give you the 5 second low-down.

  • Ducks are cuter. (Ok so that’s not the best reason but…)
  • Ducks lay eggs as much as chickens (or better!)
  • Ducks are much much more resistant to extreme weather (tolerate very cold and very hot without much needed help). Unlike chickens who need pampering…
  • Ducks are much more resistant to diseases and parasites and have less overall health issues
  • Duck eggs are hello good. Like for real, if you have never had a duck egg…well. Get one. I’ll give you your first one free once I’m in abundance.
  • Ducks are excellent foragers and LOVE to eat all sorts of bugs that chickens sometimes overlook…like Fire Ants. I sorta feel bad for them, but I sure could use some help in that department. Ducks also eat lots of hard-shelled insects that chickens sometimes overlook. I can take all the help I can get for that.
  • Did I mention they are cute? Ok…stop me now…

Houdini

Sorry if that took you more than 5 seconds to read.

Problem is…we have so much to do before lil Mr. comes. Not to mention that money is a bit tight around here with everything that needs to get saved up for and prepped. Car seats and vehicle maintenance are eating away at my duck fund. Not that there was ever a duck fund, but I like to think there is…Sigh. And in the back of my mind I think I might be slightly crazy even entertaining the idea of getting baby ducks that will need a lot of attention right after a new baby is born. But that’s at the very back of my mind and my super woman “I-can-do-everything” mind is winning out. Naw, in all seriousness…I just want to walk out my door and collect some eggs for breakfast.

Moving on.

We recently traveled out of town for my grandmothers funeral, which was bittersweet, but we got to visit family that we hadn’t seen in years! Spent lots of time laughing and recalling memories of “Nanny”. While we were there we stayed with my uncle who had a big ol loving goldendoodle dog. We I fell in love and felt that I desperately needed one too. So, that’s where my puppy dreaming started…I really am just wishfully thinking that one will show up at a rescue near us and we can adopt since the whole tight wallet issue will most likely prevent a new dog for a while. Stop! I know what you are thinking. “Erica you need a smack upside yo head…you cannot possibly handle baby ducks, baby boys, and puppies this year.” Meh. I can dream! And if one showed up at my door, for heavens sake I would take it in. (If anyone wanted to just gift me a doodle puppy I wouldn’t resist!) Alright, alright.

Finally, I know all this posts about baby-ish things is probably making you feel a bit tired. How about I give you that recipe for the macaroons? Will you let me have a duckie and a puppy if I make you some cookies??

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Mmm…coconut yumminess….

Slightly Addictive Coconut Macaroons

Barely adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup sugar, use organic if ya got it!
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites

Method:

Dump all ingredients into a bowl and mix until sticky. Use your hands to form small (or large if you’re into that) balls. (Don’t laugh out loud at that sentence.)¬†Place on greased cookie sheet or parchment lined sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 2o mins. The last min or so I pop the broiler on just to give them a little more toasty look. I eat them strait off the cookie sheet. I suppose if you are the patient-type person, you could wait until they cool and dip in chocolate and then wait until they cool again. But that’s way too much waiting for me.

Alright. That’s enough for one night. Leave me a comment and lemme know what you think…I feel loved.

Red Lentils and Spinach in Masala Sauce

It’s been a while since I have posted a recipe. I guess I just lack self-confidence in feeling like my recipes are “blog worthy” ya know? I don’t want anyone to make something and be like, “ew”. Although, I suppose all taste buds are different. To each his own.

I had a craving for some kind of curry/Indian/spicy dish tonight. Baby decided it would be a good night for a spicy dish. When I use this word “spicy” I am really referring to a dish with a lot of spices, not necessarily heat. So, don’t freak out this won’t burn your buds (unless of course you want it to).

I had this recipe on my menu plan for the last like 4 months and I have had yet to make it. I was very pleased with the results even though I was missing a couple of ingredients. Shhh, no one will ever know….It ended up being delightful, despite having not had everything. A great throw together, light, weeknight meal that is vegetarian and superbly healthy! Give it a whirl and let me know what you think. I am going to try some more revisions on the recipe to see if I can make it even more epic, but for now, the simple will do. Oh and by the way…it’s really not a very beautiful dish…or at least my food photography skills are seriously lacking. Sorry bout that. It’s better than it looks I promise!

Red Lentils and Spinach in Masala Sauce

Adapted from: Naturally Ella

Ingredients-Listed in two parts below!
Masala Paste:
  • 1¬Ĺ teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1¬Ĺ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 0-1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (depends on how hot you want. I did not add any since my kids don’t like hot).
  • 1 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garam marsala
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped almonds or cashews
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
Additionally:
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Masala paste, that you made above
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (or approx 2 cups, chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 can of coconut cream (in a pinch use FULL-FAT coconut milk…don’t use low fat!)
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 3/4 cup red lentils (please only use red lentils, they are much different from your average brown or green lentil!)
  • 2 cups frozen spinach or a large handful of fresh spinach
  • Optional Garnishes: Cilantro, Limes, Yogurt
Directions:
  1. To make masala paste, toast cumin and coriander seeds in skillet until fragrant and wisps of smoke start to come off. Be careful not to burn! Use a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder) to grind spices.
  2. photo 1 (32)In a small food processor or with immersion blender, add the grated ginger,  red pepper flakes (if using), paprika, cumin, coriander, garam marsala, and salt. Next, add olive oil, nuts, and tomato paste. Pulse until paste forms and everything is well incorporated. Feel free to add a few tablespoons of water if your paste is not mixing well! Set aside.
  3. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Melt coconut oil and add diced onion. Cook until translucent and starting to turn golden 5-10 minutes.  Add in minced garlic and cook for one more minute.
  4. Stir in masala paste and cook for 1-2 minutes, then stir in diced tomatoes and coconut cream. Stir together and bring to a boil.
  5. Add in lentils and reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring often, until lentils are tender, 25-30 minutes. You may need to add up to a cup of extra water if the lentils start sticking to the pan. You want a thick sauce but no burning!
  6. Stir in spinach. If using frozen, let it cook for a few mins to bring temperature back up. If you are using fresh, just toss it in and turn the burner off…it will cook in no time!
  7. Serve with rice or your favorite grain (quinoa or even some naan bread would be good!). Spritz a bit of lime on top and add plenty of cilantro. Feel free to try with some plain yogurt as well! (I did’t try with yogurt but I imagine it would be lovely).

photo 2 (33)

So there ya go! I know some of those ingredients are scary. Rest assured you can usually find these spices in bulk at places like Whole Foods. So, you don’t have to buy a huge jar of coriander seeds if you have no idea how to use them! Also, in a pinch I am sure you could already ground spices (like the cumin) if you really wanted. The flavor just wouldn’t be as pungent, so maybe toss in a dash more!

PS- Did you know that coriander seed is really cilantro seeds? Cool huh!