Saturday, July 28, 2012

Banana Oat Muffins

I love these muffins.  I made them for something quick and healthy for breakfast.  They are very dense but tasty and filling.  I got the recipe HERE but mine didn't turn out as pretty as hers.  I think I should have blended it longer.  You will need a really good blender to do this.

18 oz. container old fashioned oats (this can be gluten free if certified gluten free oats are used)
1 cup plain greek yogurt (very few of these are corn-free but they are out there; coconut yogurt can also be used for dairy free)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sweetener of choice (I used raw organic sugar but I'm sure honey would work)
1½ tsp. baking powder (corn free)
½ tsp. baking soda
2 bananas
Non stick spray

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Spray 12 cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.  (NOTE:  Do not use paper liners.  Without flour, these stick to paper.)  Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  (I had to blend a little at a time to get it smooth and even.)  Divide batter into muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes.  When done, toothpick comes out clean.  Remove the muffins from the pan immediately. Eat warm.  I tried them warm and cold and they are much better warm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup

I love to have good soups for comfort and easy slow cooker meals.  The base of this soup could easily be made ahead and frozen to easily dump in the slow cooker on a busy morning before work. I did this soup in a slow cooker but you could do it in a big pot on the stove too.  This also freezes well in freezer safe pint sized jars.  We did that with several soups this year and the frozen pints made perfect lunches for work.

2 handfuls of carrots, sliced
2-3 stalks celery, minced
2-3 boxes chicken stock (watch ingredients)
10 chicken tenders, thawed and diced (2-3 breasts or whatever chicken you prefer can be used.  Shredded is fine too)
1 bag egg noodles
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of rosemary
pinch of celery salt
pinch of thyme
pinch of oregano

First, slice carrots, mince or slice celery (I prefer minced because I don't like large chunks) and dice chicken.  Dump the veggies and chicken in the slow cooker and cover with chicken stock.  In a small cup, combine flour and chicken stock to make gravy.  When combined, stir into the mixture.  This adds a little bit of thickness to the soup.  Add seasonings and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Twenty minutes before eating, add the noodles and more chicken stock.  You could also add other veggies.  I think it would be great with peas but J doesn't like peas much.  Don't over cook after the noodles are added or the noodles will completely disintegrate.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Taco Salad/Lettuce Wraps

Here is a healthier version of an easy family favorite.

Romaine Lettuce (I've also used Green Leaf Lettuce)
1 lb. ground beef
4½ tsp. taco seasoning (I use mine which you can find HERE)
Preferred taco toppings (shredded cheese, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, guacamole)
Chicken stock (approximately 2 cups)

In a large skillet, brown turkey with about one cup of the chicken stock.  The stock helps to break the turkey down to a fine texture.  When the turkey is cooked through (it will be white if you use the ground white turkey, not brown), stir in the taco seasoning and about another cup of chicken stock.  While the turkey is cooking, wash and prep the lettuce and toppings such as diced tomatoes.  We have done this as lettuce wraps with the meat and toppings wrapped in the lettuce.  J really liked it like that.  I prefer the lettuce torn up and mixed in like a salad.  When the meat is done, it all of the liquid should be cooked out.  Now, scoop some in your lettuce and add your toppings.  Enjoy!

Our family loves tacos and this is a healthier version.

Taco Seasoning

This is my taco seasoning concoction.  It has taken several times to perfect the recipe and I may still update it again.  But this got the thumbs up from J so it must be pretty good.  This mixture is enough for one pound of meat.  Or, you can make a large jar/shaker of the mixture and use 4½ teaspoons per pound.

3/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. onion powder

Stir together and use.

This is a picture but I modified after this picture so your mixture will be a little darker/redder.

Portable Magnet Board

Here is a Pinterest success story.  I have posted before about the magnet board we made for our toddler and attached it to her wall.  Well, this time I made a portable magnet board.  L has started getting bored easily.  She is a very busy toddler so I always make sure I have plenty for her to do, especially for long car trips.  This was made with car trips in mind along with learning letters and numbers.  She actually already knows a couple of letters.  I used an old cookie sheet that was rusting and wasn't fit for cooking on anymore.  It is a smaller one so L can handle carrying it around.  I spray painted it with several coats after thoroughly cleaning and scraping the surface.  Then I went and bought two packs of cheap letter and number magnets from Walmart and one of those little baskets with handles for a dollar at Target.  The basket is small and easy for L to carry around too.  She already loves magnets.  These might end up all over your car when you take them along but that doesn't bother me as long as she is occupied.  Easy, cheap and educational.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lasagna Roll Ups

This is another recipe from Pinterest.  The original blog is HERE.  I changed several things around to make it work for me though.  The original recipe (I believe) was more complicated than it needed to be.  I am all for short cuts when available since I cannot use convenience foods.  And again, in this recipe I used garlic and onion powders instead of the real thing.  I use the real thing sometimes but I save a lot of time when I use powders and I often don't have enough fresh on hand.  I also hate cutting fresh onions.  I rarely buy onions unless J will be there to cut it up for me.  I do use fresh garlic regularly since it is easier to chop up.

The lasagna roll ups are easy and versatile.  You could easily add chopped spinach to the cheese or omit the beef and make it a veggie lasagna.  And the rolls make it easy to portion and store leftovers.  My little picky family liked this meal.

3/4 lb. lean ground beef (you could also use ground turkey here but I have yet to find a corn-free ground turkey)
2 small onions or powder equivalent
3½ cups crushed tomatoes (No cans for corn-free)
4 cloves garlic or powder equivalent
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil if you use fresh garlic/onions
1 cup water

1(15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
grated parmesan and/or Romano (I mix the two or buy the container that already contains both)
mozzarella cheese, shredded

NOTE:  The cheeses are not corn-free.  At least not that I have found yet.  Cheese cultures can be made from corn ingredients.  I am working on a new recipe here as well.

Boil lasagna noodles in salted water until desired texture.  (Most recipes say to cook pasta to al dente but I like it more tender than that.)  While noodles boil, cook onion and garlic in olive oil. (Skip this step if using powder.)  Brown ground beef with 1 cup water.  Water helps break the beef down to a finely ground texture.  You could also grind the beef further in a food processor or blender.  Add powder now if that is what you use.  Stir basil and oregano into beef mix.  It should start smelling AMAZING now.  This is when I knew this was going to be a good meal.  Stir in crushed tomatoes and simmer.  Add salt and pepper now to taste.  (Always taste your sauce!) I added more onion and garlic here in mine so feel free to add to your preferred flavor.  Turn heat off of sauce.  Strain noodles and wait until cool enough to touch.  Lay noodles flat on some wax paper.  Your noodles may dry out a bit in the time it takes to get the rolls prepared.  Don't worry, they soften back up in the moisture of the sauce.  Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spread a heaping spoonful of ricotta onto each noodle.  Sprinkle parmesan and/or Romano on top of ricotta.  Spread sauce over cheese.  Use olive oil to grease a 9x13 baking pan. Spread a VERY thin layer of sauce across the bottom of the pan.  Roll up noodles.  I found it easier to roll from the top toward me.  Put rolls in baking pan.  Spread a good layer of sauce over the top so that the noodles won't dry out.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle parmesan and/or Romano over the top.  Spread mozzarella over that.  Bake for 10-15 more minutes until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

I had pictures of this but I think my toddler erased them off of my phone.  She has figured out how to work the phone by herself and if I am not watching very close, she will delete pictures.  I will add pictures next time I make it.

UPDATE:  I found some of the pictures!  They were deleted from one place but I found them in another.  Good thing I back most of my stuff up!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Natural bug sprays and Uses for Baking Soda

This year is extremely bad for bugs.  We have been battling them for a few months now.  It started with spiders, then went to fleas.  Luckily we got a barrier up against the ants before they took over too.  And out by the pool we have wasps that won't go away.  I thought I would share my natural bug remedies.

We have ants every year around here but this year we were determined to prevent from the beginning.  We spread diatomaceous earth around outside of the house and window sills.  We've had many ants outside but none have made it inside or even on the patio or deck.  This is natural and won't hurt kids and pets.  If ants do make it inside, dilute some tea tree oil in water.  Spray around the areas where ants are or could be and even spray ants themselves.

Magic potion:  Orange oil.  I was surprised that this worked so well but it did.  We were infested with wolf spiders.  I was killing 2-6 a day.  Good thing I'm not afraid of spiders.  I bought a big spray bottle from Target and put a tablespoon of orange oil in about a quart of water.  I cleaned everywhere!  They were mostly in the kitchen and living room so I even cleaned out the cabinets and sprayed inside with the orange oil and moved the refrigerator to spray underneath and behind.  The pantry got cleaned out and all along the baseboards, window sills and doors inside and out.  I have not had any more spiders!  However, apparently the spiders served some purpose because as soon as I got rid of them, they were replaced with another pesky bug.

I despise fleas and ticks.  Luckily here in town, we don't struggle too much with ticks.  But the fleas are a completely different story.  I have three dogs and a toddler so I don't like to use those nasty, chemical filled bombs.  I did end up using a flea shampoo on the dogs because no other methods were working but I was able to use essential oils on the rest of the house.  I will give a warning right up front though:  Do NOT use wintergreen oil if you have cats.  It can be dangerous.  What I was told is that it is safe for animals after it dries, but not while you use it, especially for cats.  So if you have cats and decide to use this, make sure you have a place to keep them for a couple of hours while it dries.  With those warnings out there, I bathed my dogs in their flea shampoo, then left them in the bathroom for a few hours while I cleaned and sprayed.  I also did this while the toddler was staying with her Nana for a few hours.
So, now to the cleaning.  On the furniture and stuff that cannot be put in the washing machine, you use Eucalyptus oil.  About a teaspoon of Eucalyptus to about 4 ounces of water.  I actually found 2 ounce spray bottles at Walmart and used those.  They have 4 ounce bottles too but I needed multiple bottles and the 2 ounce bottles came in a pack of four.  I don't even measure, I just drop it in until it smells about right.  I also sprayed the dogs' collars with the Eucalyptus oil mixture.  I was told that Eucalyptus is safe for dogs.  If you are concerned, I recommend you discuss it with your vet.  My dogs did not have any issues.  Eddie, our oldest chihuahua had sores from the fleas.  He has sensitive skin and allergies anyway so he struggles more with the bugs.  I used tea tree oil to doctor his sores and they healed right up.
On the floors and curtains I sprayed a Wintergreen oil mixture.  It is diluted about the same as the Eucalyptus.  One teaspoon to four ounces.  If this is too strong for you, it is okay to dilute it more.  Using this much wintergreen definitely assaults the senses.  Make sure you open windows and turn on ceiling fans.  I actually didn't open windows because it was VERY hot but the ceiling fans helped so much.  So I sprayed the wintergreen on all of the carpets and curtains.  I let the oil mixture set for a bit.  Then I sprinkled baking soda over all of the floors.  I have a new love for baking soda.  It helps pull stains out of the carpet and soak up any leftover wetness.  NOTE:  Keep this in mind if you are house training a dog or potty training a toddler.  Let the baking soda do it's thing for about 5 minutes and vacuum it all up.

The proof is in the vacuum!  Look!  I bet you see a surprising amount of dead fleas in there.

Update:  One of my close friends called me after she read this and said you can also put dried eucalyptus leaves in your furniture cushions.  It was a trick her mom used when we were growing up.  So try that too!

Another hint:  I reuse a large parmesan cheese canister to fill with baking soda.  This makes it easier to sprinkle evenly across the carpets.

 See?  It works great and this is much cheaper than buying so many of those store bought carpet cleaning powders.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Easy Cocoa Frosting

I've been experimenting with homemade icing because L's second birthday is coming up and she can't have store bought cakes and icings.  This is a really easy and really good chocolate icing.  And that says a lot because I am picky about chocolate.  I have never been able to get icing to come out right.  I have always gone to my mom to make it for me.  But I made this one on my own.

3 Tbsp. butter, softened
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. canned coconut milk
½ tsp. corn-free vanilla extract

In a small bowl combine all ingredients together.  Beat to your preferred texture.  Add more milk if necessary.  I actually used a whisk by hand to mix this.  I tend to experiment after the family has gone to bed so I don't use electronics.

This is enough frosting for an 8" or 9" cake/brownie.  Double this recipe for a 9x13 cake/brownie.

I don't have a picture of this one but I will when I make a cake/brownie with it.