Worms in your fridge?

Last night there were 12 cups with these translucent little slimy guys in our fridge – my did they look cute and taste good!

Worm/Dirt cup recipe

1 package of natural, non-hydrogenated Oreo cookies processed in the food processor
1 large box of instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups cold milk (I use nonfat, can’t tell the difference)
1 8 oz package cool whip
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, marshmellows, nuts, etc for use as ‘rocks’ in your dirt
Gummy worms

Pour milk into bowl, add pudding mix.  Whisk 1-2 minutes then let sit 5 minutes till firmed up.  Fold in whipped topping.  Stir in 1 cup of crushed cookies and all the ‘rocks’ into mixture.  Sprinkle 1 T cookies into bottom of clear 8 oz cups.  Spoon pudding mixture over top.  Sprinkle more cookie crumbs over top then add gummy worm.  Freeze or chill until ready to serve.

A recipe for breakfast success

After a week without my second most important survival tactic-COFFEE-I am still alive.  I haven’t been the most patient or most perky mother every morning but my stomach feels better and I managed to get off the caffeine roller coaster I’d found myself on each day.  Every 3 hours I needed more coffee.  With a little cream and sugar.  So the calories were adding up and my stomach hurt from at least a half a pot a day of liquid energy.

Instead I drank two cups of Guayaki Yerbamate.  What the heck is that?  That’s what I thought when I bought a box last week.  But the tag line for the product said “Vitality. Clarity. Well-Being.”

Those are three things I’d like to have a bit of.  So I’ve been steeping myself some tea every day and it’s been good.

Along with that change, I have been bored to tears with our breakfast regime.  I make pancakes or waffles almost every morning.  Eggs sometimes too.  So I was delighted to find a recipe on one of my fav blogs for Breakfast Cookies.  I’ve tried to make these several times with several recipes.  None were good enough to make again.

Enter “Analiisa’s High-Protein Breakfast Cookies“.

Easy to make, full of awesome ingredients and absolutely the best ‘health cookie’ I’ve ever made.  As Caleb carefully measured each ingredient with me, the first sample of the dough told me we were in for success.  Caleb would like to eat a ZONE protein bar for breakfast, lunch and snack.  So my hope is to have these on hand and it will be far more economical even with the long-ish list of ingredients.

High-Protein Breakfast Cookies

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 c organic sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup soy protein powder-be ready to shell out a few bucks for this one (not soy flour)
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t mace (I used nutmeg after I couldn’t find mace)
  • 1 t allspice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 eggs (I used 4 small eggs)
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries (I used dried cranberries)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (or any other nuts-I did walnuts)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In food processor chop dried cranberries till nicely small.  Then process nuts and oats if desired.  With kids, I prefer this to big chunks that they can pick out or complain about.
  3. In a large bowl, mix sugars, flours, berry/oat/nut blend, soy powder, baking soda and baking powder, salt and spices.
  4. Add oil, eggs, water and vanilla, and stir thoroughly until blended.  The dough should begin to gather in a ball in the center. Sometimes you have to add more water, depending on your ingredients. This recipe is not an exact science!  The dough will be sticky.
  5. Place balls a little larger than a golf ball on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Flatten slightly.
  6. Bake 8 to 9 minutes (do NOT overbake), and cool on a rack.
  7. Store in a tightly covered container. These cookies freeze well.

Laundry soap and enchilada sauce

After a romantic and dreamy weekend away, we jumped back into real life with both feet.  It’s been good.  Having soaked in so many hours of uninterrupted, easy going ‘husband-wife time’-I feel replenished and restored in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.

Since returning, I can say navigating kid behavior has been the greatest challenge for sure.  Not that I expected all present struggles to disappear while we were gone, but you know, one can hope right?  I am keenly aware of all the dynamics taking place in our house every day and with 4 different kid personalities and 2 grown ups too-I’ll be the first to tell you it isn’t easy.

Neither is maintaining an organized household.  Finding the balance between ‘frozen pizza’s in a pinch’ and homemade, from scratch, healthy, whole four course dinner for six isn’t easy either.

I have another post in my head but for now, let me randomly share a couple things.

In an effort to be economical and earth-kind, I recently gave my first go of making our own laundry soap.  The toxin-free laundry soap I use is spendy but I love it so it was a stretch to try something new.  I used the following recipe that I found online.

1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax, 1 cup Washing Soda and 1 bar of castile soap (grated and ground)

Christopher kindly grated the soap for me then I ground it into powder in the food processor.

Then Kyler stirred it all up.  He asked to lick it.  I said no.

Down sides? I think that it cost about $3.50 to make that small amount and it washed about 10 loads of laundry.  Perhaps if you live alone that would seem appealing but when we do about 1-2 loads per day, it really seemed like a poor return on time/money spent.

Up sides?  We did it together, and that is always a good thing.  It also contained no bleach, phosphates or other things that harm the environment (or us!).  It washed the clothes well.

Next time I’ll try making a liquid and make a much larger amount.

On another domestic note, I have 10 quarts of homemade enchilada sauce in my kitchen cooking right now.

It was an accident.  Sort of.  In trying to do the math to make a LOT more than the recipe said, I over estimated the amount of chili powder (1 1/2 cups did sound like a lot of chili powder!).  So I kept adding.  Adding water, adding broth, adding tomato sauce and even sugar as a last ditch effort.  It still is a bit spicy.  But it is really, really yummy.  I plan to make 4 trays of black bean & beef enchiladas with it and then freeze the rest for future use.  Since making the sauce involved mess, I figured I should make a lot and just make a big, huge mess.  That is most often my cooking philosophy whenever possible.

This is my recipe in case you’d like to give it a try.  It puts canned enchilada sauce to shame if I do say so myself.  Mind the math if you make it x 6 like I did!

3 T vegetable oil

1 small onion (or half a large one), finely minced

1 clove fresh garlic, crushed

2 T flour

1/4 cup (or less, if you have kids I’ve decided)

1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce

1 1/2 cups of water or chicken broth

1/4 tsp ground cumin

Directions:

Heat oil in a skillet (med-high) and saute onion till tender.  Add garlic, briefly saute.  Stir in flour and chili powder, stirring constantly, careful not to burn it.

Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water/broth & cumin.  Simmer on low-med heat for 10 minutes till slightly thickened.  Pour over your enchiladas and enjoy!

For this batch, my filling includes green chilies, black beans, brown rice and ground beef all mixed up with a bit of the sauce.  Each tortilla I dip quickly in the sauce too, to keep it all moist.  I also pour a bit of sauce in the pan before putting the enchiladas in so they don’t stick.  I topped it with shredded cheddar cheese too.

Naptime is about over, so that’s it for now!

A whole lotta turkey

After taking a quick look back at all my facebook status entries since I joined a few weeks ago, I am amused that so many have to do with food.  But really, as a mother who is at home with little people, a large part of my life involves food.  Learning about food, trying not to eat unhealthy food (like the peanut M&M’s on my desk here),  menu planning, grocery shopping, teaching about food/cooking to whoever wants to help, providing nourishing choices for our household to eat, snack breaks, sitting for meals…you get the idea.  A tremendous part of the day is related to food.  So I suppose it is not too strange that I blog or talk about it often.

I am not sure how it happened but I feel like I’ve turned into a ‘hippie’ in so many ways.  I used to think it so strange that people ate anything but cereal for breakfast every day, that there were wives who actually cooked real dinner every night of the week, that it was possible to ‘plan’ meals for weeks at a time, that people actually used freshly ground flour, that people could make anything tasty that had whole wheat in it, that using fresh garlic really tasted better than garlic powder-but now, I understand those and many other strange things and realize although I did not inherit a cooking ‘gene’ as my mother informed me more than once, it is possible to immensely enjoy whole foods, cooking, recipes and (duh!) eating too.

Since some of my favorite posts to read are about people’s tips, shortcuts and food ideas, here are a few I thought I’d share today.  I thawed a turkey last weekend to cook up (but it took longer than I expected so we had to serve pizza to our guests which was LAME compared to a full Thanksgiving dinner like I’d planned).  In case you too have a gigantic turkey hiding in your freezer that your neighbor gave you when you already had 3 from the holidays, here’s what my 20 pound turkey provided:

1 turkey dinner Sunday night (with potatoes, gravy and salad)

1 enormous batch of turkey brown rice veggie soup (enormous as in two dinners worth frozen in my freezer and dinner for my neighbors on both sides)

1 large batch of creamed lentil, pea, turkey and veggie soup (tonight’s dinner along with enough to freeze for another meal)

6 cups (individually frozen in 1 cup bags) of chopped turkey meat for random use in casseroles or salads

I figure that is roughly about 8 dinners.  That’s a pretty good return and pretty healthy too.  My last turkey made a big turkey dinner and then 4 trays of turkey tetrazini for the freezer.  Not so healthy but nice to have.  I’m personally sick of tetrazini.  Everytime I get to have a night off and need to leave dinner for Christopher and the kids, they get a tetrazini.  They all dig it, so it works out all right.

So here are a few ‘recipes’ if you could call them that,  to share, and one important note.  Instead of using canned broth which I cannot stand and besides it’s expensive, I always, always use “Better than Boullion“.  It is like concentrated paste and stays in the fridge for a long while.  It does not have extra yuckies like boullion often does such as MSG.  And 1 tsp mixed with 1 cup boiling water makes a cup of great broth.  Obviously not like homemade but my much prefered second choice.

Also, so that my kids cannot pick them out, I personally mince quite small veggies that go in soups.  This works best for my kids, you could surely do them bigger.

Creamed Veggie Soup (with turkey) – all this is is Bob’s Red Mill’s package of dried lentils, peas, barley and pasta.

I cooked a heaping cup of the legume/grain mix with several cups broth, a finely minced onion, 4 large carrots, a zuchinni, a red bell pepper and a few celery sticks (I put these all in the food processor together till they were tiny).

After it was all soft (about 40 minutes) I pureed it in my blender.  I then added a few cups of shredded, diced leftover turkey and a cup of milk to make it creamy-that was optional of course.  Heat it back up in the pot then serve.

Even my picky 3 year old ate his whole bowl.  This is shocking.

Turkey Brown Rice Soup –

After dinner tonight, in my (favorite, heavy, seasoned, still-dirty-from-the-previous-soup) large cast iron dutch oven that Kim just gave me, I tossed in:

a bit of olive oil

a huge pile of finely food processed veggies (same ones as above)

8-10 cups of broth as described above the first recipe

4-5 cups of chopped turkey

a cup of brown rice and another heaping cup of a grain mixture (Israeli couscous, orzo and red quinoa)

I put on the lid, went for a half an hour walk, came back and remembered the leftover gravy in the fridge, tossed that in too then 15 minutes later added a few grinds of fresh pepper and a tad bit of salt and turned off the stove.

This made about 4 or 5 dinner’s worth of soup.  My pot was all the way full.  And the kids had some for snack after our walk.

Turkey Tetrazini-

I didn’t do this tonight but last turkey I did, everyone loves it but me.  I’ve had it too much.  And it’s not super healthy.  It’s adapted from my friend Deb’s recipe.

Cook 10 oz of whole wheat spaghetti noodles, drain.

While they are cooking chop and saute one onion in a bit of butter.

In a big bowl, toss in the noddles, the onion, a few cups of chopped turkey leftover, a good pinch of fresh rosemary (or other favorite herb), 2 cans cream of chicken (or celery) soup, 1 soup can full of milk, 3-4 cups of shredded monterey jack or mozzarella or parmesan cheese, a cup or so of frozen peas and/or a 1/2 cup cooked chopped broccoli.

Stir it all up.  Pour it in a 9×13 dish.  Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.  Till it’s all bubbly and hot.

This freezes awesome, I often make it triple or quadrupled.

I realize we aren’t really in turkey eating season, but thought I’d share anyway.  Happy cooking!

Rainy (snowy) day fun

Snow, rain, cold wind-there was no way we were going anywhere today.  To help with developing arm strength and to provide good sensory input (important for all kids but especially one of ours), we’ve been encouraged to draw on an easel with chalk-messy but fun, to use crayons instead of markers because of how they feel when you write with them and to drive cars along a racetrack that hangs on our wall.  Our OT made this and then we made another one so both boys would have one.  It has proved super fun this week.

Kyler racing two trucks down the wall (while Audrey napped and actually stayed asleep!)
Kyler racing two trucks down the wall (while Audrey napped and actually stayed asleep!)

We also made spelt oatmeal cookies with no refined sugar, maple syrup and honey and molasses, that was sticky and fun too!  I am sick of all our lunches so we tried a new lunch today and it went over far better than I expected.  The idea came from the bottom of MckMama’s post today, we added/omitted as we saw fit.  This was the final product (no pics sorry!):

Tuna Pasta Salad

Drain and rinse one can of cannelloni beans.

Drain one can of tuna.

Cook 1 cup of tiny pasta (elbow or mini shells).  Drain, rinse with cold water.

Chop a few tablespoons of onion, red bell pepper, pickles and carrots.

Add a scoop of mayo and plain yogurt.  Mix well.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Rylee took one bite and said “This is awesome”.  I never hear that from her.  Especially not at lunch.  It was super yummy.  I added extra pepper and kick to my serving.  Kyler turned his nose up to it, no suprise there.

Our other indoor fun which also had good sensory input built into it was making puzzles.  We took old photos, glued them onto cardboard, let them dry, then cut them into pieces to create little mini picture puzzles.  It was great fun and Caleb worked extra hard to cut through the thick paper, it was hard work.  Throughout the day we put the puzzles together several more times.

Caleb working the scissors
Caleb working the scissors
I could watch her 'working' face all day...
I could watch her 'working' face all day...
Puzzle pieces
Puzzle pieces

My favorite pasta salad

I had the pleasure of making this for a birthday party last night, this salad is so full of flavor.   The recipe is always requested so instead of emailing it, I thought I’d share it here.  It involves a fair bit of chopping but is so very worth while.  The base of the recipe is from Barefoot Contessa’s Family Style cookbook.  That is probably my very favorite cookbook of all time.  I’ve made a few changes and below is how I make it.  Enjoy!

10-12 oz dry pasta radiatore
Kosher salt
Olive oil
1 pound ripe cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and diced
1 pound fresh mozzarella, medium diced
6 sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped

For the dressing:
8 sun dried tomatoes, drained
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
9 Tablespoons good olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp capers, drained
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves, julienned
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:  Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Allow to cool slightly.  Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, mozzarella and chopped sun dried tomatoes.
While cooking the pasta, make the dressing.  Combine the sun dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.
Pour dressing over pasta, sprinkle with basil and parmesan cheese; toss well.  If you want to make it early, it sits very well.  Just wait till serving to add the basil and parmesan.

Whole wheat breakfast

At my friend Kristin’s house yesterday, while the kids ate lunch, she generously ground me some fresh flour. She promised it would taste like nothing we’d ever had and that I could make anything with whole wheat. Even things that before had turned out flat or heavy or icky. So today we started with waffles. Wow. I was not disappointed. The last batch of whole wheat waffles I made were barely edible. These were amazing. Kristin educated me about whole wheat and fresh flour-as one who grew up enjoying it. She said I have to keep it in the fridge so it stays fresh and that flour sold at the store is often rancid which is why it makes crummy bread. I never knew, just thought I was a really bad bread maker. So here is my flour (and a window into my slightly neurotic, labeled world):

And here is the recipe along with this mornings leftover waffles (mind you I doubled the recipe hoping for leftovers!):

Whole Wheat Oat Waffles

1 cup oats, blended into powder in blender
1 1/8 cup milk
3 T oil
3 eggs
½ cup whole wheat flour (fresh if possible-second best is whole wheat pastry flour)
1 T brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder (must be fresh)
¼ tsp salt

In a blender, blend oats then add milk, oil and eggs. Then add brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add flour, blend. Let sit 5 minutes then cook on hot waffle iron.

A few of my favorite recipes

For my friends who’ve asked for recipes lately, these are some of my super easy things I love to make and my kids love to eat.

Meatballs

1 lb ground beef
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
¼ cup milk
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp pepper
1 small chopped onion
1 egg

Mix all ingredients and form
balls. Bake at 400 for about
15-20 minutes or until browned.
These freeze well, double or triple depending on how many hungry kids you have!

*Note* I serve these three ways, with BBQ sauce over rice, with sweet and sour sauce over rice and with spaghetti sauce over noodles.

Tina’s Taco Soup

1 pound ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
1 chopped onion
1-28 oz can V-8 juice
2 cans beans (any kind)
1 can corn
1 small can chopped olives
Small can diced green chilies
Tabasco sauce (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

1. Brown ground beef, taco seasoning and onion – drain fat
2. Add everything else
3. Simmer for 20 minutes then serve
4. Top with sour cream, chips or cheese if desired
(I double this and freeze half)

Sesame Noodles (Rachel Ray)

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 T tahini
2 T sesame oil
2 pinches cayenne pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 inch gingeroot, grated (or 2 pinches ground ginger)
1 pound angel hair pasta (I use whole wheat)
3 green onions, sliced
1 large carrot grated or chopped

Combine soy sauce, tahini, sesame oil, cayenne, garlic and gingeroot in a bowl. Whisk till smooth. Drain cooked pasta, run under cold water to chill. Drain very well.

Toss noodles with dressing then add veggies and transfer to serving dish, garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and/or red pepper flakes.

*Note* I sometimes add shredded, roasted chicken breast if I have some leftover.

Kristin’s Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups flour (freshly ground if possible, or whole wheat pastry flour is 2nd best)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt

2/3 cup combined fat (butter and/or oil)
3/4 cup liquid sweetener (honey and/or maple syrup)
2 eggs
1-2 tsp vanilla
2 cups oats (or other flaked grain or a combination)
1 cup raisins (or chocolate chips!)
nuts optional

I just mix all the dry separately (including oats & raisins), then mix the liquid ingredients including fat, then mix them all together. Cook 8-12 minutes @ 350. This dough freezes well…if you can manage not to eat it all.

Berry Cobbler
(I make this all summer with whatever fresh berries we have)

4 cups fresh berries (can use frozen)
½-¾ cup sugar depending on sweetness of berries
3 T cornstarch (more if needed to thicken)
Mix above ingredients on stovetop for 15 minutes or till starting to thicken

For biscuit topping:
Mix 1 cup flour, 2 T sugar, 1 ½ t baking powder & ¼ t salt
Cut in ¼ cup butter
Combine ¼ cup milk and 1 egg – add to dry mixture

Place berry mix in 8×8 pan, drop spoonfuls of topping onto berries
Bake at 400º for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top
.