Tuesday, September 16, 2014

German Chocolate Frosting

Happy Fall! And fall means it's birthday season around here. We celebrated my husband's this weekend and it was a lot of fun. He LOVES and I mean LOVES a good German chocolate cake. I had never really been a huge fan of it until I married him and his mom shared her family recipe with me. Oh my. It is so good. We have a restaurant in town that makes really good chocolate cake including German chocolate and lots of people rave about it, but it really doesn't compare to this recipe. This is the best.

One of the nice things that we've recently discovered about German chocolate frosting is that it's a frosting that can easily be sweetened with just honey. It took a few tries to perfect, but I got it down. And just for fun, today I'll share both the original and honey-sweetened options with you. For my husband's birthday (and in the pictures), we actually made the honey-sweetened option. He loves it. There is a bit of a honey flavor that's not present in the original. It's yummy. Try both and see what you like.

P.S. Don't worry, someday I plan to share the cake recipe found in these pictures with you. Believe it or not, it is entirely honey-sweetened, 100% whole-grain, and gluten free. And tastes amazing. Especially with this German Chocolate frosting on top. It's so nice to be able to celebrate a birthday with a delicious treat that's made from scratch from real ingredients and isn't just nutrition-less garbage.

German Chocolate Frosting
Printable Recipe

*Makes enough to frost 1 regular-sized cake

1/2 Cup Butter
1 Cup white sugar (or 1/2 Cup honey)
1 Cup evaporated milk
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 Cup shredded coconut

In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar (or honey), evaporated milk and egg yolks. Whisk well until mixture is fully incorporated. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Simmer on medium low heat, stirring, for about 12 minutes or until mixture turns brown and thickens. Remove from heat and then add vanilla, nuts, and coconut. Cool before using as a frosting or in a German chocolate pie. To cool quickly, put pan in bowl of ice cold water and stir until cooled.

*Recipe Source: Adapted from a family recipe shared with me by my Mother-in-law Jenny.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Marinara Sauce

I have been swamped the last few days. Picture me in my kitchen covered with purple grape juice and you know what I've been doing. Canning season is always busy, but always so rewarding. I love the sights and smells and tastes of the season.

Speaking of sight and smells and tastes. Do you ever daydream of food? A friend of mine posted on her facebook page about making some roasted pasta sauce the other night and I couldn't stop daydreaming about that yummy looking sauce until I created my own version of it. And oh my. I've been daydreaming about it ever since. I made it two days ago and had it for lunch yesterday and again today and I will not be satisfied until I eat it at least 2.2 more times this week. It was so yummy.

If you happen to be reading this today it's your lucky day because I happened to have had a few seconds to post it for you to make. It is the perfect dish for this time of year. Roasted tender vegetables mixed in a sauce made from fresh roasted tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, garlic and onions served over pasta. If that's not enough, one more thing I love about it is that the flavor just gets better and better the longer it simmers. So if you make it in the morning and let it stay warm in your crockpot or on warm in your pressure cooker all day that can save you a lot of stress during that most stressful what's-for-dinner-time of day. I need these kinds of meals right now. Especially with canning season in full-force and two boys in soccer.

Don't worry if your family is not a fan of eggplant. We're not really either, but in this dish, the eggplant is really good. If you're really too scared to try it, you can also use yellow squash (or another of your favorite vegetables) as a substitute. Just make it. Now I've got to hurry off to tend to my grapes before I get wrapped into the soccer craze of the evening. Ta ta for now.

Roasted Vegetable Marinara Sauce
Printable Recipe

*Makes a lot, about 10-12 servings

1 eggplant diced, about 2-3 cups (if you don't want to use eggplant you can alternately use 2 small yellow squash, diced)
1-1/2 tsp. + more sea salt, divided
24 medium tomatoes (I used about 3/4 of them Roma tomatoes for a thicker sauce)
2 large onions, divided
10 cloves garlic, divided
1/3 Cup + 1/4 Cup Olive oil, divided
8-10 large fresh basil leaves, washed
6-8 sprigs fresh oregano leaves, washed and leaves removed
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme, washed and leaves removed
2 small zucchini (or 1 larger) diced, about 2-3 cups
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 yellow or orange pepper, cored, seeded and diced
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (make sure to use a good quality brand)
1 tsp. dried rosemary or 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
Hot, cooked pasta, for serving
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Place the chopped eggplant (if using, skip this step if using yellow squash) in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the sea salt and stir well. Drain for 30 minutes and then rinse with cold water and pat dry with towels.

Preheat oven to 425. Meanwhile prepare tomatoes by washing and coring. You can cut some of them in half or leave them whole. Place tomatoes in a large 10x14 casserole pan if you have one or use another pan that has deep sides (you can also split this between two pans). Quarter one of the large onions and peel 6 cloves of the garlic. Toss the onion pieces and peeled garlic cloves evenly in the pan. Add fresh basil, oregano, and thyme leaves. Drizzle with 1/3 Cup (or more) olive oil and season generously with sea salt. Place casserole pan in the oven and roast for 45-60 minutes or until tomatoes blacken slightly. For a thicker sauce you will want to roast longer, stirring the mixture occasionally.

While the tomatoes are roasting, dice the second large onion. Combine the diced onion with the eggplant (or yellow squash), diced zucchini, and diced peppers in large bowl. Mince the remaining 4 cloves of garlic. In a small bowl whisk remaining 1/4 Cup olive oil, 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, and minced garlic, and rosemary. Pour over the squash/eggplant vegetable mixture and toss until evenly coated. Scoop these vegetables on a separate large, rimmed baking sheet (12x15-inches) and spread them evenly. If there is room in your oven you can roast this pan at the same time. Roast at 425 F for about 30 minutes or until vegetables turn tender and golden brown. Stir the mixture occasionally while roasting. When finished, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tsp. sea salt over the mixed vegetables.

When tomato mixture is done roasting, scoop them into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Puree tomato mixture until it reaches the desired consistency. Then pour into a large saucepan. Add the roasted vegetables and heat until sauce starts to simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then add salt to taste. Simmer longer, if desired. Serve over hot, cooked pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Source: healthyfamilycookin.blogspot.com

Friday, September 5, 2014

Frugal Friday: School Lunch Ideas

It's back to school time and one great way to save money (and encourage your children to eat healthier) is to pack them a lunch from home. I've mentioned in another post a bit about my thoughts on school lunch versus home lunch. We let the kids choose one day a month to eat lunch provided at school if they would like. The rest of the month we pack them a lunch at home to bring with them. I'm always on the lookout for ideas and tips to make planning and preparing school lunches easier and more enjoyable for my kids. Today I'll share a few ideas and then I'm really hoping that you'll all share your fabulous ideas with me.

Question 1: How will they carry it?
Plastic bags and reusable containers work well and CAN save money. I say CAN because it depends. Are your kids responsible to not throw them away or lose them? If they throw them away or lose them, that's just money down the drain. We've actually done both ways. When my oldest son was in first grade, he found it was just too stressful to bring a lunchbox so we gave him a brown lunch sack and packed everything in plastic baggies so he could just throw them away. Now that he's a bit older, he prefers the lunchbox with plastic containers and that does save us money on bags. Make sure to put your child's name in permanent marker on the lunch containers that you send to school. That will help protect your investment too.

Question 2: What do you pack?
When's the last time you visited your child's cafeteria? I went just last week and it's a loud, stressful situation. You can hardly hear yourself think let alone feel like eating anything. And kids are no different. There's A LOT of waste in a school cafeteria, and I mean A LOT! So make sure you pack the appropriate portion for your child. Not too much.

I've found that packing simple, easy foods work the best for a school lunch. Of course it depends on the child. I'm dealing with something new this year: my first grader won't eat sandwiches. He's been in school for a couple of weeks now and if I can get him to eat more than a few cucumbers and a bite of fruit for lunch, I've really accomplished something. Usually he comes home with at least half or more of his lunch packed in his lunch bag and eats it for snack. As I said, I think it's just too stressful for him to eat in the cafeteria. So simple, easy, familiar foods seem to work the best. Here's a few ideas I've come up that work well for my kids:

Main Dish Ideas:
Sandwich (Ham, Tuna, Cheese, Turkey, PB&J)
Sandwich on a Skewer (Just add sandwich parts and skewer with a mini skewer)
Bagel with Cream Cheese (Cinnamon Swirl, Whole Grain)
Tortilla with melted cheese (Whole-Wheat)
Roll with Cheese (Cornmeal Crescent, Wonder)
Naan Bread with Topping
Pizza Rolls (like cinnamon rolls but with pizza toppings)
Chips & Salsa
Noodles with Cheese or Macaroni & Cheese
Leftovers...(if your children are less picky than mine)

Carrot Sticks/Baby Carrots
Cherry Tomatoes
Sliced Cucumbers
Sugar Snap Peas

Apples or Pear Slices
Dried Pears/Raisins
Fruit Leather
Berries (Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
Sliced watermelon/cantaloupe
Pineapple Chunks
Mandarin Orange/Orange slices

Other Sides:
Cheese slices or cubes

Desserts (for once-in-a-while):
Peach or Apple Lunchbox Tart
Chocolate or Vanilla Honey Wafers
Cinnamon Roll (Honey, Toasty Oat)

Question 3: How do you keep food Hot or Cold?
As you know, to prevent food-born illness you need to keep food at the correct temperature, which for many prepared foods is cold or hot. Many of the items listed above can be kept at room temperature just fine, but some may need to be kept cold or hot. I'd love to hear your ideas on this, but what we generally do is send an insulated lunch box with our children. Then I will try to pack either a hot or cold lunch (usually we do cold because my kids prefer it). I have a few different ways to keep things cool. I often will pre-freeze what I am putting in their lunch (things like muffins, tarts, rolls, etc). Then I just place it in their lunch frozen with some other items that need to stay cool and usually everything is at just about the right temperature at lunchtime. If I'm packing a sandwich with meat, then I have a few lunch ice packs that I will put in with their lunch to keep them cool. If I am packing a hot lunch, then I will heat it up beforehand until it is piping hot and place it in an insulated thermos (sometimes I place tin foil around the food first) to keep it hot. That usually works well so that it will stay hot by the time lunch comes around.

Now it's your turn...What are your favorite school lunch ideas? How do your kids carry their lunch? How do you keep hot foods hot or cold foods cold? 

Thanks for sharing! Have a great day.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Honey Sweetened Lunchbox Peach Tarts

We had a wonderful peach harvest this year off one of our trees, a fair harvest off another and will enjoy our first (very meager) harvest two more two trees later this month. Is there anything better than a perfectly ripe, juicy fresh peach picked fresh off your very own tree? I really don't know. At the moment I can't think of anything. 

We've actually had such a great harvest that we've had more than we could eat fresh. Which is saying something because we eat a LOT of fresh peaches. I've loved it because I've gotten to try out and discover some delicious recipes with them this year.

The recipe I'm posting today is a peach spin off of these lunchbox apple tarts that I posted earlier this year. Have you tried them yet? You really should. They are amazing. Totally delicious. And the peach version is equally delicious, if not more. I think if I was creating a menu with these I would describe them as follows:
A light and flaky pastry filled with juicy morsels of honey-sweetened peach goodness. 
I love that if I'm acting quick and sneaky-like, I can double or triple the recipe and freeze a few. They make a wonderful, healthy treat to add to a lunch from home or serve as an after-school snack. This is all in theory of course, assuming they last that long from little peaking eyes, grabbing hands, and stuffing fingers.

Do you need any more encouragement to make these? Just look at the photos and drool a bit (I know I am). Okay done? Now get busy.

Honey Sweetened Lunchbox Peach Tarts
Printable Recipe

*Makes about 12 tarts

*Note: I often double or triple this recipe to make a large batch of these and store them in the freezer for quick lunchbox treats, a healthy afternoon snack, or even an on-the-go breakfast once in a while. To double or triple the recipe, double all of the ingredients except the egg wash at the end of the recipe. One batch of egg wash makes plenty for a triple batch of tarts.

1 Cup Wonder Flour
1 Cup Unbleached White Flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp. softened butter, divided
1/4 Cup ice water
2 Cups peeled, cored and diced peaches (about 3 medium)
1/4 Cup raw honey
3 tsp. ultra gel or 1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1 large egg
1 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. honey

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine wonder flour, white flour, salt, and 1/2 Cup softened butter and mix together until crumbly. Add ice water and stir until dough forms. Cover and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium-low heat. Add diced peaches, honey, ultra gel or cornstarch, and stir until honey dissolves and any juices from the peaches begin to thicken, about 5 minutes.

On a lightly floured counter, roll dough to 1/8" thickness and cut into 12 rounds with a 4-inch biscuit cutter (or equivalent sized bowl). Place dough rounds onto greased baking sheets. Add a Tablespoon of the peach mixture to half of each dough round. Fold opposite end of dough over peaches and seal with hands or a fork. Use a little water rubbed on your fingers to help the seal stick. Repeat with all of the tarts. Cut a small slit in the top of each pie to vent steam.

In a small bowl combine egg, 1 tablespoon water and 1 tsp. honey and stir until well blended. Brush on tops of each peach tart.

Bake tarts in a 375 F oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool completely before storing or freezing.

Recipe Source: healthyfamilycookin.blogspot.com

Friday, August 29, 2014

Frugal Friday: What to do with Garden Produce

Garden season is coming on into full force and we are loving it. Did you see our garden update that I posted earlier this month? If you've been following my facebook page you may have seen the harvest pictures that I've been posting once in a while. Gardening is great. We love it. Especially the harvest.

One of the questions I get asked a lot is what do I do with all of the produce from the garden. We grow a big garden and obviously for a family of four, there is more fresh produce than we can use at the time it ripens. For the last nine years we've been learning tips and tricks to use the produce in the garden. Using what you have is one of the great ways to live a frugal life. Today I'll share a few ideas with you and then I'd love to hear any that you have to share with us.

What to do with Garden Produce:
Eat them raw - This is probably the most popular and quick way to use up garden produce. Much of it can be eaten raw. I always am finding my kids out in the garden with fistfuls and mouthfuls of tomatoes or beans fresh from the garden. There are so many good vitamins and minerals that are found in fresh vegetables that will not be present after it is cooked. Salads are a delicious way to eat lots of raw vegetables. We love to have build-your-own-salad dinners where we serve a variety of vegetables and let everyone put together their own salad.

Steam, roast, grill, or broil them as a side dish - When steaming vegetables, you place them in a pot with a lid and a little bit of water and heat on high until the water boils and steams. Turn down the heat and let the vegetables steam in the water until the vegetables are tender. The time will vary depending on the type of vegetable. Roasting vegetables is also easy and delicious. We mix them with a bit of olive oil and season them. Then cook them in the oven at a high temperature (450-475 F) until tender. Roasting really brings out a delicious flavor. You can also cook them on a grill or under a broiler after mixing with oil. Here are a few recipes to get you started:
Add them to baked goods - We love shredding or blending up garden produce to add to delicious baked goods. Not only does it add moisture and flavor, but also lots of healthy nutrients. Here's some of our favorite recipes:
Add them to sauces - Vegetables are delicious in sauces. They add texture, health and delicious flavor. Try these recipes to help you get started:
Creamy Spinach Pesto Alfredo
Creamy Squash Pesto Alfredo
Pumpkin Sausage Penne Pasta
Spaghetti Squash Carbonara
Pasta Primavera
Pizza Sauce with Dried Tomato Powder
Chile Verde
Add them to soups - Garden vegetables make soups extra homey and delicious. Definitely a favorite way of ours to eat them!
Blend them in a smoothie - We use a lot of fresh garden greens in our morning green smoothies. 
Freeze them - Freezing works great for extra produce. Here's some tutorials on a few of our favorites to freeze from the garden:
Can or bottle them - We do a lot of canning or bottling this time of year. It's a busy time, but a fun time. I love the sight of freshly canned bottles sitting on the counter. It's so beautiful and satisfying to see. Here's a few of our recipes to get you started:
Dehydrate them - I also dehydrate a lot this time of year. I especially love to dehydrate my tomatoes and grind them into tomato powder to use in sauces. It's such an easy, wonderful thing. We love to eat dried fruit as a snack all year round. Dried pears are probably our favorite.
Give them away - Last but not least, we give away a lot of produce to family, neighbors and friends. I like to find people that I know can use it and love it. In fact I'd rather give our excess produce away so someone can enjoy it fresh, rather than just preserving it all for us for later. We have a lot of neighbors that share with us the produce that our garden isn't producing right now and we love it too. I'm a firm believer that neighbors and friends should share and give their excess instead of letting it go to waste.

Well I hope that gives you some ideas. And now I'd love to hear from you.

What is your favorite way to use garden produce? 

Thanks for sharing! I hope you have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Beef or Chicken Massaman Curry

I may have mentioned before that my husband gets to travel for work sometimes. And of course he eats out a lot when he's traveling. He has grown to love Thai food. He found a restaurant in Hawaii that he would rave about their Massaman Curry. He went their multiple times (on different trips) and loved to order it. He always said it was the best. Well I decided for Father's day this year to surprise him with a Massaman Curry dish. I hoped it would be good, but never intended to be able to match his beloved Hawaiian restaurant's version. He coached me a bit at the end with how to adapt this recipe that I found at Favorite Family Recipes. And lo and behold when we tasted the finished product, he loved it and I did too! He said it was equally as good if not better as his favorite version. Soul food. So there you have it folks. You can make exotic (at least for me this is considered exotic) food in the comfort of your own kitchen. This version is not too hot or spicy, so even the kids loved it.

Just a few notes about the recipe. We've made it several times since with both beef and chicken. Both are amazingly delicious. I tried making it once subbing the fresh lime, ginger and cilantro (because I was out at the time) for their non-fresh counterparts. Don't. It really makes a difference. If you want to feel even more unauthentically (my spell checker says this is not even a word) exotic, make this dish with Naan bread. I know it's not Thai food, but it really should be. It's a delicious companion. And great for soaking up all of the leftover yummy sauce.

Beef or Chicken Massaman Curry
Printable Recipe

*Serves 8-10 

3 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 Cup (or 4 oz. can) Massaman curry paste (You can make this, but I use the Mae Ploy brand from the Asian Market)
2 14-oz. cans coconut milk
1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. fish sauce (Trust me the brand matters here, some are "fishy". I use the Tiparos brand from the Asian Market)
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, sliced thin
1 lb. boneless chicken or beef roast sliced VERY thin
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed into bite sized pieces
2 carrots, peeled, sliced into bite sized pieces
1-2 tsp. Sriracha sauce + more to taste (I used the Grand Mountain brand from the Asian Market. I was a little wary of this ingredient as it says it is very strong, but trust me on this 1-2 tsp. is not hot but adds a very important flavor. If you are looking for heat go ahead and add more.)
3 Cups brown jasmine rice or regular brown rice, cooked (*See Note below)

Heat oil in very large skillet or saucepan (I use a large saucepan as my skillet is not large enough). Stir in curry paste; cook and stir for about 2-3 minutes. Add 1 can coconut milk and stir until well blended. Add minced ginger, cilantro, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and Worcestershire, and bring to a boil. Add thin sliced onion and meat and then reduce to a simmer. When meat is cooked through (about 5 minutes or so) add another can of coconut milk and bring back to a boil. Add potatoes, carrots and Sriracha sauce and stir until everything is well mixed. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Serve hot over brown rice.

*Note: I cook the brown rice or brown jasmine rice in my pressure cooker on high pressure for 21 minutes with a 3:5 ratio of brown rice to water. 

Recipe Source: Adapted from a recipe found at Favorite Family Recipes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Zucchini Lasagna

We're always excited to find new ways to use our garden produce. I shared these yummy zucchini muffins last week in case you missed them and they are superb. Today I'm excited to share this delicious Zucchini Lasagna recipe given to me by Kim, my hair stylist and good friend. She grows a beautiful garden and has shared many awesome gardening tips and ideas with me. She told me about this lasagna at the end of last gardening season and I never got a chance to make it. I texted her this year begging for the recipe when my zucchini came on in full force. She was kind enough to share the basic ideas with me and I adapted it using on my own spaghetti sauce and a few ideas I read about from the web. 

One of the wonderful things about this recipe is the fresh Mexican ricotta cheese. Mexican ricotta is different than regular ricotta in that it has a wonderful firm texture without a lot of liquid. If you can't find the Mexican ricotta (I think you can actually make it too, but I usually buy mine at a Mexican market near my home) you can use regular ricotta or cottage cheese. If I was making this with regular ricotta or cottage cheese I would probably buy a little bigger container than 16 oz. and leave it for a little while in a fine mesh strainer to strain out some of the extra liquid. Then measure out 16 oz. and use as directed in the recipe. 

This is a delicious lasagna and we've really enjoy eating it this harvest season. It's light but filling and packed full of flavor. I made it for my dad who is Celiac and has to eat gluten free and he loved it. My husband has commented a time or two of eating this that you really don't miss the lasagna noodles or even notice you're eating zucchini until you look at the color. I hope your family enjoys it too. Thanks Kim for sharing an awesome recipe!

Zucchini Lasagna
Printable Recipe

*Serves 6-8

2 small-medium zucchini (no monsters please)
sea salt
1/2 - 1 lb. ground meat (beef, turkey, turkey sausage, Italian sausage, etc. I usually only use 1/2 lb. when I make this with the quinoa sauce)
1 recipe Homemade Spaghetti Sauce with Quinoa (or a 28-oz. bottle of spaghetti sauce of your choice)
16 oz. ricotta or cottage cheese (I use fresh Mexican ricotta cheese. It's called Requeson.)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 Cup fresh parsley, chopped or 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/3 - 1/2 Cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
3 Cups grated Jack or Mozzarella cheese or cheese blend

Slice zucchini lengthwise into thin strips 1/8" to 1/4" thick. I usually use a mandolin slicer to do this so they are all fairly evenly sliced. Sprinkle zucchini strips lightly with salt and let drain in strainer for about 30 minutes while preparing the sauce (This is an optional step. I've made it without draining the zucchini and it's still very good, just more runny than if you let the zucchini drain first). Brown meat in large saucepan. Drain and discard grease. Add sauce ingredients and let simmer until done according to the recipe or if using bottled spaghetti sauce just heat until warm. While sauce is heating, combine ricotta cheese, black pepper, salt, parsley and Parmesan cheese in medium bowl and mix until combined. Set aside. Dry off zucchini strips with paper towels until no or little moisture is left.

Preheat oven to 350 F. When ready to assemble lasagna, add about 1/3 - 1/2 cup sauce to lightly cover the bottom of a 9x13" baking pan. Lay out the zucchini strips without overlapping to cover the pan. Then add a 1/3 of the remaining sauce and the ricotta cheese mixture on top. Lay out another layer of zucchini strips on top of the riccotta cheese mixture and press down lightly. Then add 1/2 of the remaining sauce and sprinkle with grated jack or mozzarella cheese. Lay out the rest of the zucchini strips and then add the remainder of the sauce and grated cheese.

Bake lasagna in preheat 350 F oven for 45 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted. Once cooked, let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

*Note: This lasagna can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking.

*Recipe Source: Adapted from a recipe shared with me by my friend Kim.

Popular Posts


Related Posts with Thumbnails