Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Healthy(ish) Cooking

Carrot Muffins
It is that time of the year! We are making/buying fudge, cookies, candy, and all the goodness of the holiday season. Normally I have no problem with nibbling chocolate chip cookies and drinking hot cocoa topped with heavenly whipped cream while watching Miracle on 34th Street but every now and again I need a break.  In order to keep up the energy for late night caroling and even later night present wrapping I make these:
Carrot Muffins!
Okay, so they are still a muffin which isn't exactly a spinach soy smoothie but with lots of modifications over time from a recipe I got 14 years ago they are a spiced filled yummy snack that won't send you into a sugar induced coma!
1 cup flour
1 cup wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 scant teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup coconut
2 cups shredded carrot (or carrot pulp from your juicer!)
Optional -  1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup pineapple bits, or 1/2 cup nuts
Mix together flours, baking soda, baking soda, and spices. Make a well in the middle (my kids like that part)
Mix sugars, eggs, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Add to the well and mix. Fold in coconut and carrot with a spatula.
Line 12 muffin tins and add 1/2 cup to each (we like big muffin tops)
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  These muffins are going to be denser then a cupcake (not awful, I can't eat these dense but you do get the feeling that you ate something)
This morning we juiced the about 6-8 carrots and saved the pulp for our recipe, then juiced 5 mushy apples that were not quite bad but no one was going to eat. We made the muffins, put pecans on top half so they would be toasty, drank our juice and felt like we were ready to conquer to day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lunch Ideas

Yesterday I posted my most tried and true breakfast ideas. Today let's talk about lunch.

I homeschool my three youngest kids. Lunch is really easy, most days it's leftovers pulled out of the fridge. But in case you need ideas (because seriously, who doesn't...I mean there are days leftovers just won't appease the 6-9 year old crowd) here is a list of ideas.

Sandwiches - duh. I have one child who would eat PBJ every day, every meal. I have another who won't touch PB with a ten foot pole. Seriously. Sandwiches are versatile like that, no one has to have the same thing as someone else. Our family favorites are roast beef with horseradish, PBJ and turkey, cheddar and ranch with veggies. I actually prefer a pita stuffed with sprouts, avocado, cream cheese and season salt...and maybe some turkey.

Macaroni and Cheese - blasphemy, I know. However, it is one of my kids favorite. I usually try to make it from scratch with cheddar cheese and noodles, but I'm not ashamed to admit I have boxed stuff in my pantry. I'm busy, people!

Ravioli's - not only Chef Boyardee...though the kids do like that stuff (natch), I like the refrigerator kind with my homemade marinara on it.

Quesadillas - Flour or corn tortillas, melted cheese and maybe some left over chicken or beef cut up inside. Preferably served with a side of homemade tomato soup...mmm, mmm, good.

Noodle stir-fry - Cook up some noodles, add some left over veggies from the fridge, a splash of something saucy...even my pickier ones will eat this.

Homemade Hot pockets - I make biscuits, fill them with cheese, meat and veggies and bake. These actually work really well for sack lunches for the oldest too. Very versatile and delicious.

Stromboli - (portable pizza) This one is usually what I make on Saturdays for our busy household. Roll out your pizza dough into a big rectangle, cover with your favorite toppings minus the sauce and then roll up (think cinnamon rolls) bake until dough is cooked, slice and serve with or without marinara sauce. When my kids are running around to different activities this is the ideal lunch!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Breakfast Ideas

Recently I've had a handful of friends (and acquaintances) balk at our families morning routine and the fact that I make a hot breakfast 5-6 days a week. I certainly didn't have the same opportunity growing up with a working mom and really early mornings, which may explain my love for cold cereal, but Shane and I decided it was something we definitely wanted to do with our family.

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely mornings (especially Sundays with 9:00 a.m. church) where we pull out the cold cereal, and there are mornings when (gasp) I stop at the donut store on my way home from picking Lincoln up at seminary (waaaaaay too early). But most mornings we really enjoy sitting around starting our day together at the table over something hot.

Our mornings start early, and our days end late. The early mornings certainly make it easier to make something hot before the kids head to school, but some of these ideas would be easily made beforehand and just heated up in the morning. These ideas are just the base of breakfast, I usually have either bacon or sausage, or eggs (scrambled, fried or poached) and a fruit or juice to go along with it...not usually all though, we'd weigh 500 pounds and that'd be overkill.

Pancakes/waffles - I make homemade buttermilk pancakes that are amazing (it's not me, it's the recipe) but we make variations like cornmeal, wheat, blueberry, and chocolate chip pancakes/waffles to shake things up a bit.

Crepes - typically this is NOT accomplished on a school morning, it's way too time consuming for me before eating at 7, but it's the kids favorite, so we work them in on the weekends a lot!

German pancakes (also known as dutch babies or puff pancakes) - These are a close second for the most requested breakfast at our house. I've taken to making them in muffin tins instead of the typical 9x13 baking dish because they are sooo much easier to serve that way.

French toast - Again, I shake things up every so often with different kinds of breads, or adding different spices/extracts in with the eggs. My favorite? Sliced homemade French bread with vanilla and orange juice in with the delicious!

Cinnamon rolls - let me clarify...this is basically a cheat day for me. I totally buy the refrigerated cinnamon rolls 95% of the time, because seriously, "ain't nobody got time for that"...except when I really want to enjoy them and then we make them from scratch...on a weekend...for brunch.

Biscuits and gravy - Hello, I live in the South. People here live for their biscuits and white sausage gravy. I'm just learning to love the stuff. It helps when I use my Texas shaped biscuit cutter...

Monkey bread - you know that lovely cinnamon-sugar-y goodness? Delightful with some scrambled eggs and juice...

Gorilla bread - Monkey breads cousin...on steroids. And oh, my gosh, It's delicious. Basically it's monkey bread but instead of just quartering the refrigerator rolls you don't cut them, but roll up cream cheese inside... it's worth the calories and time.

Omelets - I love these...the kids (namely one of them) can't stand eggs so we rarely do these, but they are very versatile and easy, and healthier than Gorilla bread.

Hashbrown Frittata - Hashbrowns, veggies, eggs and cheese baked in my cast iron pan...really good with salsa...

Quiche - (see omelets) I love quiche, I have some kids that HATE it. It's a rarity when I'm sick of little attitudes...or it's my birthday.

Breakfast burritos - Lincoln's favorite. Cook up some hashbrowns, add some scrambled eggs, some sausage or bacon, warm tortillas and shredded cheese. And salsa.

Baked Oatmeal - I swear by Our Best Bites. They are amazing and this recipe does not disappoint. I've posted it on this blog before and it's worthy of revisiting. Nothing is better on a cold morning. Plus it has grain, eggs, fruit and dairy...what?

Other hot cereals - yes, I'm lumping them all together. Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Grits, Germade, and hot Quinoa...all good for cold mornings. All equally hated by one of my kids...

Muffins - I have a great recipe for bran muffins that keeps in the fridge for months. I can bake enough for breakfast and throw it back into the fridge for another day. I usually serve muffins with fruit and yogurt.

Bagel sandwiches (or Muffin Sandwiches - but I have a child who will not eat English Muffins...) - Warm up bagels in oven, layer with cheese, fried egg, and bacon/sausage/turkey/etc. Very easy and filling.

Sausage in a blanket - Roll link of sausage in crescent rolls. Bake. Dip in honey mustard/maple syrup's delightful.

Those are my go to breakfast ideas. I decide before I go to bed what I'm going to make so I don't have to stand around my pantry for 15 minutes deciding in the morning when I'm dead tired.

Oh, and my favorite on-the-go breakfast when I'm on the run? Plain yogurt and homemade granola, It's the best!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

I'm cheating and totally going to post what I just posted on Facebook. But it's important, and it struck me really hard today that I needed to share this. Maybe one of my readers needed to hear it as much as I did.

I needed to read this today, and I need to try to remember it the next time I feel like life is flying by so fast that I just can't keep up with everyone else. I'm in this race of life as a mom and wife first. That comes before being a friend, a photographer, a piano teacher, a blogger, and everything else I've tried to be successful at. And it's the little moments, spent playing and reading with my kids that I need to work on. Not the elaborate parties, and impeccably decorated house. 

This is a must read, for every mom, dad or anyone who feels like a good read...

And HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! It's the best job I've ever had (and every will) in my life!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Fools!

In an effort to stop my kids from pulling their own pranks we do a prank dinner on Dad. Our family nights are on Monday and we usually have dessert so tonight we decided to only have dessert for dinner!

Mmm, Dad, don't those cupcakes and that frothy juice look delicious? They would be IF that is what they were!
In fact, they are mini- meatloaves with mashed potato frosting. That drink, yeah, just try and drink it. It is actually fully set jello. We did a few green beans we pulled out once the joke was out. My two year old kept eating the 'frosting' and saying, 'yummy frosting mommy!'

For my gluten free meatloaf (we have a gluten free guest in the house)
1 1/2 pds ground beef
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 cup rolled quick oats
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 tsp seasoning salt (we use Lawrys)

Mix together and form in balls. Put each ball in a separate muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes. Take out with a large spoon and let the mini-meatloaf drain on a paper towel for a few minutes. Place each in their own cupcake liner (foil works best - we were out of foil and had to triple up to keep the shape)

For the mashed potatoes -
Okay, I admit it! I used the just add water kind! My kids and I then added 10 drops of blue food coloring to make them look like frosting. Then with a frosting bag we 'decorated' the tops of the meatloaf. The potatoes can be a little hot so let cool or wrap a towel around the bag first.

For the 'fruit punch' -
We got clear plastic cups from the grocery store and made our favorite jello. We blended it to make a frothy top (the girls worried that Dad would guess if we didn't). Put in a straw and let them set up in the fridge. Ta-da, drinks you can't drink!

We initially got the idea from
The link (and her cupcakes look much cuter - my kids were helping A LOT with the decorating) is

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Eliora's Broccoli Soup With Dumplings

 This is Eliora. She is 11 but she really acts like one of those goofy, fun, 20 year olds who just has it all put together. She is the oldest of 5 girls and she is a HUGE help to her mom. Tonight she asked if she could cook dinner. She also crochets headbands, writes, babysits, and more productive then most people I know.
She decided to make broccoli soup with dumplings. (My dumpling got mixed in but that is what is on the spoon) She got down all my cookbooks and started flipping through. She liked one of my broccoli soup recipes better but it had chicken. She is not a big meat fan (she declared herself a vegetarian at 4 years old) so she found another broccoli soup recipe and modified the two. Then she found a dumpling recipe and decided to add that so the little girls wouldn't still be hungry later. She showed what she had in mind to me and I took her shopping. I waited by the oranges while she grabbed her broccoli and onions (the only things I didn't have at home). She then decided to grab a bag of frozen seasoned red potato wedges to throw in the oven while cooking. Then she cooked, all by herself. I'm serious, I didn't help her once. I did answer a few questions and explain a few techniques but I never lifted a finger. The soup was gone. It was SOOOOO good.
Yes, she is that awesome. No, it is not my parenting. She was born that way. :)

Eliora's Broccoli Soup with Dumplings (taken from 3 old church recipes)

6 c. fresh broccoli, finely chopped
1 c. onion minced
1/8 tsp garlic powder
4 1/2 c chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
6T butter
1/8 tsp pepper
3 c milk
6T flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 c. medium cheddar cheese shredded

In a large pot combine broccoli, onion, garlic powder, chichen broth, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil. While it is boiling......

Make the Dumplings
2 c milk
1 cube butter
7 eggs
2 c flour
2 tsp salt

Scald milk, add salt and butter. Bring to a boil, add flour, beat until it forms a ball (do while still hot). Begg eggs into mixture one at a time (Eliora used a hand mixer). Set aside for a minute while returning to soup.

Back to Soup!

Remove bay leaves. Drop the Dumpling a large spoonful at a time into the boiling soup. She used only about 3/4 of the dumpling dough because of room. Cover the soup and simmer for 20 minutes. While waiting get out a pot. Add melt butter (from soup ingredients), stir in flour until thick and bubbly. Add milk and whisk until smooth.. Add salt and pepper. Add cheddar cheese. Turn off heat and clean up a little while waiting for timer to go off. (This is also when she got her sisters to set the table). Once the timer beeps remove lid from pot. Check on dumplings. If they taste fantastic then gently scoop them out and onto a plate. Add milk mixture to soup. Stir in well, put dumplings back in and serve!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rainbow Doodle Cake

This month was my favorite 6 soon to 7 year old's birthday. She wasn't really getting a party this year so we wanted a special cake. I spent a bit of time on pinterest and found this!
It was made by a lovely lady with the cutest website ever. Lots of tips on baking! The picture above is hers. (used with permission) You can tell she has a few more skills and a way better camera then I do!!
 Here is our version. It was late at night so the lighting is horrible but it was super cute.  I had never heard of edible markers but seriously, how cool are they?! I really wanted my girl to make cute rainbows and such but she had to draw a Longhorn. She's a bit of a Texas fan. This was my first time working with fondant. It went pretty well except a crack here and there (I left it out too long after rolling it - kids were calling my name) but we cut out some fondant with cookie cutters and let the kids color those to cover the few flaws.
This got a little massacred in the cutting but you get the general idea. The  colors really are that vibrant! The actual cake was good and although my layers ended up larger then hers we just cut thin slices. The cake got eaten over the next two days and not a crumb was spared! I am going to admit to cutting and pasting the recipe. Honestly, it is hers and not mine and if you visit the site she has great tips on Swiss merginue buttercream (it's sad how many buttercreams I could have salvaged if I had read the article first) and on how to fondant.

White Cake (but not really)
2 sticks (226 g) butter, room temp
2 1/3 c (466 g) sugar
5 egg whites, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 c (375 g) all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/2 c (355 g) milk, warmed for 30 sec in microwave to bring to room temp
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple GEL food coloring. Liquid will not be vibrant enough!
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Oil and line how ever many 9” cake pans you have (I have three and I just reused them).
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Cream the sugar and butter, then add the egg whites (I cracked them all into one bowl) and add them a little at a time. Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Then, alternating between wet and dry, add the milk and flour mixture in two parts.
Divide the batter amongst 6 bowls (I did it by weight. Weigh your mixing bowl before you begin adding ingredients and then subtract the weight of the bowl from the final measurement after the batter is completed. Divide that number by six and add that weight of batter to each bowl), and then whisk a fair amount of the appropriate food color into each bowl. Keep in mind that the color of the unbaked batter will be the color of the baked batter. Pour into the pans and bake for 15 minutes each.
When you remove them from the oven, let them rest on the cooling rack, in the pan, for ten minutes. Then flip, cover, and stash them in the fridge to cool quickly.
Lemony Swiss Meringue Buttercream
To fill and crumb coat:
9 egg whites
1 ¾ c (350 g) sugar
4 sticks (454 g) of butter, room temp
2 tsp lemon extract
To frost:
5 egg whites
1 c (200 g) sugar
2 sticks (227 g) butter, room temp
1 tsp lemon extract
Cook the egg whites and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing some between your fingers. If it’s completely smooth, it’s done). Pour into another bowl (a stand mixer is preferable) and whip on high speed until room temp. Then, on a medium-slow speed, add the butter, waiting until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer back to high speed and whip until it has come together, about five minutes. Add the extract, beat briefly and then use.
If the buttercream seems soupy after all of the butter is added and does not come together after whipping, refrigerate for 5 to 7 minutes and continue whipping until it becomes fluffy and workable.
Stack the layers in your preferred order and fill and frost as you would any other cake.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cheesy Spuds 'N Ham

Enjoy this one, it's a new family favorite. Sorry, still no pics, but it's pretty too.

6 small potatoes, peeled & cubed
3 tbsp. butter
2 c. cooked ham, cubed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 c. milk
salt & pepper to taste
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. bread crumbs

1. Place potatoes into large pot and cover with salted water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

2. Preheat oven to 350°.

3. Grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish.

4. Melt 3 tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the ham and onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.

5. Stir potatoes into ham mixture; transfer to the prepared baking dish.

6. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir flour into melted butter until smooth.

7. Gradually whisk milk into flour mixture; season with salt and black pepper. Continue cooking & stirring until thickened, about 2 minutes.

8. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir cheddar cheese into the white sauce until melted.

9. Pour sauce over ham & potatoes.

10. Sprinkle bread crumbs over casserole.

11. Bake in preheated oven until sauce is bubbly and browned - 25 to 30 minutes.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Homemade Marshmallow Cream and Oatmeal Scotchies!

Christmas is over and we are planning on breaking out the raclette for New Year's Eve before starting the traditional diets on Jan 1st. Before all that gets posted however I thought I would post the favorite two recipes that went on the plates this year.
Best Ever Fudge
(the secrets of creamy fudge? Homemade Cream and brushing down the pan)
Homemade Marshmallow Cream
3 large eggs whites
1/4 cream of tartar
2 Tb white sugar
1/3 c. water
3/4 c. light corn syrup
2/3 c. sugar (to be used separately)
1/2 Tb vanilla extract

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until light and foamy. Sprinkle in 2 Tb sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Let sit. In a saucepan melt sugar and corn syrup in 1/3 c. water/ Bring to a boil and stirring continually bring to 246 degrees or firm ball stage. Take off heat and slooooowlllly drizzle in egg whites while beating. Beat 5-6 minutes (honestly, I use to stop early but it's better if you do the full time) till stiff, shiny, and beautiful!

My Favorite Fudge Recipe
1 1/2 c. sugar
2/3 c. evaporated milk
2 Tb butter (real butter)
1/4 tsp salt
7 oz marshmallow cream (you just made enough for 2 batches)
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (the better the chocolate the better the fudge)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (optional)
Line a 8 inch dish with parchment paper or aluminum foil. In a medium saucepan boil sugar, evaporated milk, butter, and salt. Now for your secret to perfect fudge. Take a pastry brush and a cup of water. Dip the brush and when the mixture is boiling dip into the cup of water and really wet down the sides of your saucepan. A sweet elderly lady showed me this trick once for making divinity. It gets all the sugar granules that have crept up on the pan and keeps your fudge smooth instead of grainy! Keep stirring and boiling for 5 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234-240 degrees. The stirring also helps to keep the fudge from getting grainy or burnt! Remove from heat and quickly stir in marshmallow cream, chocolate chips, nuts and vanilla. Now use those muscles! The better you can beat the fudge the better the texture! Pour into 8 inch dish  and let cool. Enjoy!
Oatmeal Scotchies

I don't make these often. Something about these cookies makess me to lose all will power and self control. The butterscotch mixed with the oatmeal and cinnamon is the ultimate combination. My husband gets teased about liking butterscotch (I don't know, the guys in our family are wierd) but one taste and no one teases anymore.

Oatmeal Scotchies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or grated peel of 1 orange
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 11-oz. package butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Combine, flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and butterscotch chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Yep, it's pretty simple and easy.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 1 - 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Banana Muffins

We have been making and eating fudge and I still have all those delicious ingredients for the plates to take to the neighbors but sick kids and Christmas shopping has gotten us a little behind. Last night we did take our browning bananas and make the best ever
Banana Muffins!
I got this recipe years ago from It is my favorite and I have tried a few! It was submitted by Lisa Kreft. You can find the link here!
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins or line with muffin cups. In a large bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. (For this one I add these one at a time to the bowl after creaming all the other ingredients together. I start with the teaspoons and go to the flour with the mixure on high) In separate bowl beat bananas, sugar, egg, and butter. (The bananas are my kids favorite part. We keep them in the peels and my kids mush them lightly instead of mashing them. Then we peel and put them in the bowl.) Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture and spoon into the muffin tins. Don't put in oven yet!!

Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon cold butter
Mix together brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter with two forks until it resemebles cornmeal (small crumbs).

Spoon crumb topping over muffins, place in oven, and bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean!

We woke up this morning to discover that our elf was enjoying the muffins as well.