Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Vanilla Pudding {Honey Sweetened}

I love me a good pudding. To me it spells H-O-M-E. It's amazing how easy it is to make from scratch and so much tastier, but still most people buy the boxed stuff from the store. This pudding is a Healthy Family Cookin' original, adapted from the pudding that my Mom made for us growing up. So many variations are possible - chocolate, banana, coconut (I bet you could think of more), but I think my all time favorite is the original vanilla pudding. Make sure you're prepared with a real vanilla extract. No imitation stuff please. It will make all the difference in the taste.

We make this pudding A LOT. And each time - oh yum. I've adapted it to be honey sweetened so there is no processed sugar. We love to use it on top of a warm, honey-sweetened, whole-grain cake. Seriously it's melt-in-your mouth delicious without leaving you with the after affects that comes with processed sugar. I know you'll love it to.

Vanilla Pudding {Honey Sweetened}
Printable Recipe

*Makes 3 servings

2 Cups Milk or Half n' Half (or use 1 Cup Whipping Cream and 1 Cup Milk)*See Note
1/4 tsp. salt
3-5 Tbsp. Flour
1/4 Cup honey
1 egg
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Measure the milk into a glass measuring cup and whisk the flour and salt briskly into the cold milk. Whisk until mixture is thoroughly combined (this will prevent lumping). Use less flour (3 Tbsp.) for a fairly runny pudding. Use more flour (4-5 Tbsp.) for a thicker pudding. I actually love it both ways, it's just up to your own preference.

Once mixture is combined, pour into a medium, heavy duty sauce pan and heat over medium to medium-low heat, until milk is warm (not boiling) and it starts to thicken. Whisk occasionally at the beginning and more often as the mixture starts to thicken. This also will prevent lumping.

When mixture thickens (if you only used 3 Tbsp. of flour the thickening will be very subtle at this point) add 1 egg and immediately whisk briskly until egg combines with milk mixture. The quicker you whisk it in, the less egg-white strings you will get. If you're opposed to the strings all together you could experiment with using just an egg yoke, but I've never been quite that picky. Allow egg to cook (while still whisking) for a couple of minutes until the pudding custardizes slightly (My spell checker tells me that custardizes is not a word, but I'm using it to mean "tastes custard-y").

At this point you can take the pudding off of the burner and while still whisking add 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 tsp. vanilla. Pour into serving dishes and allow to cool slightly before serving. You can also cool it completely and serve at room temperature or refrigerate it and serve chilled. Either way it is delicious. If you are making this ahead of time and serving it chilled, I recommend using only 3 Tbsp. of flour as the pudding does thicken even more in the refrigerator.

*Note: As I mentioned, we've made this recipe dozens of times and love all the variations. Of course the whipping cream and milk option is my favorite. But often all we have is regular milk and it's still amazing. You could try it with other kinds of milk too, almond, coconut etc. Let me know if you do. I'd love to hear how they turn out, as I've never tried them.

Chocolate: Add 3 tsp. cocoa or a square of dark chocolate
Banana: Add slices of a ripe, sweet banana to each serving dish before pudding
Coconut: Fold in 1/2 Cup shredded coconut when finished

Recipe Source: healthyfamilycookin.blogspot.com adapted from a recipe from my Mom

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Honey Glazed Chicken Legs

Yum. This recipe is one of those that when you make it, you crave it again the next day and the next and the next. Tender, juicy chicken seasoned with a honey barbecue-like sauce. Melt in your mouth tender. I served it with steamed frozen green beans and these garlic smashed potatoes and it was the perfect combination. Seriously, make this dish. It's out of this world good. Enough said.

Honey Glazed Chicken Legs
Printable Recipe

*Serves 4-5 people

*This dish can be put together ahead of time. Just follow the steps to put it together and instead of baking immediately, let the chicken legs marinate in the sauce for up to 24 hours before baking. When ready to bake, rotate each chicken leg and bake as directed in the instructions.

2-1/2 lbs. chicken legs
3/4 Cup honey
1/2 Cup soy sauce
1/4 Cup ketchup
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sprinkle chicken legs with salt and pepper on all sides. Put them in a foil-lined baking dish with high sides (foil is optional, but nice for easy clean-up). Measure honey in glass measuring cup and microwave for 30 seconds. This will soften the honey and make it easier to combine in the next step. Add soy sauce, ketchup and minced garlic and stir well. Pour sauce over chicken legs. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and rotate each leg so that saucy side is up. Return chicken to oven. Increase oven temperature to 425 and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and starts to caramelize on the chicken. Remove chicken from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Source: Slightly adapted from Bless this Mess

Friday, April 4, 2014

Frugal Friday: Spring Break Staycation

Vacations are fun, aren't they? But the costs can be a huge burden for a family trying to stay on budget. This year for spring break, we decided last minute to change our plans and have staycation. I'm really excited. Not only will it save us a bit of money, I actually think it will be more fun. Today I'll share some of our ideas for our spring break staycation and hopefully hear some of yours also.

My husband found some fun on our last day trip adventure. 

The Family Hotel - I got this idea from a neighbor whose kids are grown. She said they had a family hotel when their kids were little and they loved it. She put room numbers on all the rooms in the house. Then in the master bedroom they set it up with pillows and sleeping bags like a big hotel room and camped out in there for their staycation. I loved that idea so we'll be doing that for ours. We're also going to have room service. I'll give the kids a card to fill out the night before with what they want for breakfast. They'll get a choice of things for breakfast that are a treat for them. Probably on our list will be cold cereal, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, and Waffles. They'll also get to choose things like chocolate milk and stuff that we don't have very often to make it a special occasion. My husband once stayed in a fancy hotel that made his bed and left chocolates on his pillows every night. Won't that be fun to include in our family hotel? I'm sure you can think of lots of other things to include also. The lady I talked to that did it said they didn't answer the phone that week and just made it super special for her kids. They even filled up a kiddie wading pool with warm water to go swimming in the "hot tub" one day. So awesome. You could also do a camping theme and set up the tent inside or even outside if it's warm enough.

The Food - It wouldn't be fun for everyone if one person was in the kitchen cooking or cleaning after everyone else. That's not really a staycation. That's just normal life. So depending on what your budget allows, plan ahead for meals or eat out. We're planning on eating out for dinner meals, packing a picnic lunch and eating breakfast at the "family hotel". That's what we do on vacations so we'll do it on our staycation too. If you're budget is too tight for eating out, you could splurge on disposable dishes and make easy dinners ahead of time to freeze and warm up. Make sure to include your kids favorite meals so it makes it even more exciting for them.

Have the Kids Plan it - Part of making the adventure memorable for the kids is including them in the planning. Give them some guidelines, but find out what they really want to do and try to include it as much as possible. I asked the kids if they want to stay home mostly during our staycation or be away from home mostly. They chose be away from home mostly, which I figured they would. So we've picked day trips to do away from home each day. If that doesn't work for you though don't give them the choice. Let them choose other things. Involving them in the planning helps them be excited and look forward to the fun.

Day Trips - As I mentioned, we're planning adventures to do each day away from home. We're doing things like swimming at a rec center that we've never been to. Riding the train into the city to go to a museum. And going to the aquarium. Again if you're budget doesn't allow activities that cost that much, find things that are free or cheaper. I've shared lots of ideas that would be perfect in my post on More than 100 Frugal Family Activities for Spring. Another idea that I read about and loved was a playground extravaganza. You pack a picnic lunch and spend the day playing at local playgrounds and parks. That would be a lot of fun. If you lived close enough to them, you could even bike or walk to some of them.

The New and Exciting - Make sure to include the "new and exciting" element into your staycation. Do things you've never done, but have wanted to. Doing something new adds spark and zest to life, which is one reason why vacations are so appealing to people. With a little planning, that spark and zest is possible even in a staycation. Don't be afraid to change plans part way through the day. If you can be spontaneous but still stick to the budget, do it. Those spontaneous moments are so often the best memories.

Free Time - A few weeks ago my son and I planned a little day trip for our family. I learned some important things from him that I wanted to share. We started out planning our day. He had everything figured out, down to the minute we'd leave, where we'd go, etc. We got to lunch time and then he left the afternoon wide open. "Free time" he called it. We went on our adventure and it was a blast. We enjoyed the activities he had planned in the morning and then we got to free time. It was grand. We may have even enjoyed those activities even more. So don't forget that "free time".

Well I hope that gives you some ideas to get started planning your next staycation. What about you? What has your family done? I'd love to hear your ideas. Thanks for sharing. Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fresh Asparagus Pizza

We love pizza. We make it every Friday night. Our boys look forward to the traditional pizza/movie party that we have and us parents do too. If you've never made pizza before it might sound hard to do, but I'll tell you a secret. It's one of the easiest meals that I make all week long. Honestly. It comes together so fast. That's why we do it again and again. Every single week. 

For the kids the pizza is ALWAYS the same. Pepperoni. Just plain pepperoni. That's what they want. That's what they love and I make it for them every week. It's our one meal a week that is EXACTLY the same and they count on that (unless for some reason we run out of pepperoni or something, heaven forbid). 

Our kids love that consistency. But there's no way on earth that I'd be able to eat pepperoni pizza every single week. BORING! So we always make 2 pizzas (unless we have friends or family or neighbors over which we often do, we'll make more). Pepperoni for the kids and something a lot more exciting for the parents. 

I love experimenting with vegetarian pizzas. This veggie deluxe pizza is amazing and we still make this one a lot. It's a winner for sure. Today I'm so excited to share with you another equally amazing vegetarian pizza recipe today. This fresh asparagus pizza rocks my world. So much so that I was craving it again the week after I made it and almost cried when I realized I didn't have any asparagus in the house. Fortunately for me I will remedy that problem in the very near future. I can't wait until my asparagus starts growing in our garden and I can make this all spring. That will be a very happy day! :)

Fresh Asparagus Pizza

*Makes 1 large pizza

1 bunch tender asparagus
5 Tbsp. Olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 Cup chopped red onion
1/2 Cup chopped bell pepper (about 1/2 red bell pepper)
Salt & Pepper
Pizza Sauce (Here's My Favorite)
1-2 Cups Mozzarella cheese or Mozzarella cheese blend
1/4-1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese

Place pizza stone*(See Note below) on lower middle rack in the oven and preheat to 475 F. Wash the asparagus, trim off the bottom few inches and discard (if not picked fresh), and chop into 1-2" pieces. In a large frying pan over medium heat add 3 Tbsp. olive oil. When oil is heated add chopped asparagus, minced garlic, chopped red onion and chopped bell pepper. Sauté until vegetables start to sweat a little and then season with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté until vegetables are barely tender then remove from heat and cool slightly. 

Sprinkle counter with olive oil. Coat rolling pin in oil. Roll out dough into a large circle (10 - 12” diameter) and place each on parchment paper. Brush with remaining olive oil until covered. Add sauce, then the mozzarella cheese blend, then the sautéed vegetables. Finally sprinkle the Parmesan on the very top. Bake on preheated 425 F pizza stone, for 8-10 min or until crispy and cheese is bubbly.

Note: If you do not have a pizza stone, I've had success making yummy pizza using this method.

Recipe Source: healthyfamilycookin.blogspot.com

Friday, March 28, 2014

Frugal Friday: Healthy, Fun Laughter {And a Fun April Fool's Day joke}

I actually love April Fool's day. I think April Fool's day should be named "Laugh a lot day" or "Share a smile day" or "The Love joke day".

Okay those might be horrible names, but what about the original? The "fool's" part makes it sound like it's a day to be mean to people and make a fool of them. I think April Fool's day is a perfect day for healthy, fun laughter, not horrible practical jokes.

One of the ingredients for a healthy family is laughter. But it has to be the right kind of laughter. Not laughter AT people. That's no good. The healthy kind of laughter is laughter WITH those you love.

Growing up I remember my Dad playing April Fool's day jokes on my Mom. Not every year, but once and a while. Obviously they made an impression on me because I still remember them in detail. I remember she laughed. Like, really laughed.

Today I'm going to share with you one of my most favorite April Fool's Day jokes ever. It's called:
The Pre-sliced Banana

Did you know that bananas come pre-sliced? No? Well this one does. On the outside it looks perfectly normal, but inside...it's all sliced up and ready to eat.

I did this one with my kids a few years ago. We have their reaction on video. They watch it now and we all laugh and laugh. :)

Here's what you do:

The Pre-sliced Banana (An April Fool's Joke)
Printable Instructions

1. Pick your banana. This trick will work best if you select a banana that’s ripe with spots.

2. Get a clean needle and thread. Poke a hole in a corner of the banana about an inch down from the top until it just barely goes through the skin.

3. Then slide the needle through the skin layer to the next corner of the banana. Sometimes there are really big gaps between corners. In that case just go in between two corners. You want no more than about 1/2" between pokes.

4. Pull needle with thread through banana skin, leaving a few inches of tail on the string.

5. Poke the needle back through the last hole you made and then pull it through the peel to the next corner (or about 1/2" distance)

6. Repeat the above steps as needed until you have poked the needle all around the banana and your last hole is the very same hole you started with (the lower right picture shows this - it looks like it's not the same, but the banana peel split just a little, which is completely normal).

7. Now take both ends of the string and gently pull until your string comes out. If you've followed the steps correctly, this should slice the banana inside the peel.

8. Repeat the above steps to slice the banana and two or three more locations.

9. Leave the banana for your unsuspecting person to discover. When they peel it they will be amazed that it's already sliced for them!


Source: healthyfamilycookin.blogspot.com, inspired by several places on the web

Here's a picture with a quick recap of the steps.

If you need a few more ideas, here's a great list of fun April Fool's Day Jokes @ Kid's Activities Blog. Have fun!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pasta Primavera

Spring is here and I'd so much rather be out in the garden than inside preparing a huge meal. I love this dish because it comes together so quickly (less than 30 minutes) and is packed with flavor and fresh tender vegetables. The asparagus from the grocery store is so good this time of year, tender and crisp. I love it that way. We planted some asparagus in our garden last year and I'm hoping in a few years that we'll be able to harvest it.

This dish is so nice for a weeknight meal, quick and easy. I've mentioned before that I like to make several meatless meals every week. Adding the white quinoa in this dish adds protein in our diet it blends right in with the sauce making it great for picky eaters.

Pasta Primavera
Printable Recipe

*Serves about 6

1 lb. Spaghetti, Linguine, Fettuccine, Angel Hair or other stringy pasta
1 bunch broccoli
1 bunch asparagus
1 red bell pepper
1/4 Cup butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 Cups half and half
1 Cup cottage cheese
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese + more for serving, if desired
fresh basil, chopped (optional)
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 Cup Cooked White Quinoa (optional)
salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Trim the ends off the asparagus and cut them into 2" pieces. Slice the bell pepper into 2" strips about 1/2" thick. Add the vegetables to the pasta during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

While pasta and vegetables are cooking melt butter in a small sauce pan. Saute the garlic in the butter. Stir in the half and half and let it heat for about 3 minutes. Then add the cottage and Parmesan cheese. Continue to heat the sauce until cheese is melted and sauce thickens slightly. Turn the heat down slightly when the mixture starts to simmer to keep it from boiling. Add the cooked white quinoa (if desired) and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

When pasta and veggies are tender, drain them and put them back in the large cooking pot. Add the sauce, green onions, and chopped basil, if desired. Toss it all to combine. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Recipe Source: Adapted from eatathomecooks.com

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Zesty Honey Vinaigrette

I love spring. So many things to love about it. My crocuses and daffodils are blooming right now. Makes me so happy to look outside and see them. Soon maybe I'll see a few tulips if the deer don't get to them first. They already nibbled on a few. I still haven't gotten out to plant my spring garden yet. I'm running a bit behind this year. Our remodel project is close to being done and we're really pushing to try to finish it in the next couple of weeks. That project has put the garden off a few weeks, but hopefully we'll get to it soon.

One thing I love about spring are spring fruits and vegetables. Isn't it interesting how your body is hungry for certain foods during certain times of the year? Well this time of year my body is hungry for spring salads and tender spring vegetables and fruits. Mmmmh...I love how this salad combines fruit and vegetables into an amazingly beautiful and delectable appetizer. It's a perfect salad for my liking. Simple enough for everyday, but fancy enough to bring to a potluck or share with guests. It's very easily adaptable too. I think it would be fabulous with raspberries, blackberries or blueberries instead of (or in addition to) strawberries. That would be wonderful for later on in the summer when those fruits are available. Add some toasted slivered or sliced almonds for a bit more crunch. Some cooked or popped quinoa sprinkled on top would be amazing. Oh and can I even mention bacon here? This is a healthy food blog, but this salad is screaming bacon bits to me (real ones of course). I may just have to try it and let you know. Or not let you know if you prefer it that way. Anyway, I kept the recipe simple here for simplicity's sake, but feel free to dress it up to it to your heart's

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Zesty Honey Vinaigrette
Printable Recipe

12 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 qt. fresh strawberries, sliced
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
other optional toppings (not pictured): slivered or sliced almonds, toasted; real bacon bits; cooked or popped quinoa

1/2 Cup canola oil
1/2 Cup raw honey
1-1/2 tsp. grated yellow onion
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 Cup apple cider vinegar

Layer spinach, strawberries, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and any desired optional toppings in a large salad bowl. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid or blender. Shake or blend until thoroughly combined. Let sit at room temperature for twenty to thirty minutes to blend flavors. Just before serving pour the dressing over the spinach and toss lightly to coat the spinach and berries.

*Note: If you don't want to make the entire salad. Just layer a salad plate with spinach, then strawberries, then sprinkle with seeds and desired optional toppings. Then pour on desired amount of dressing and enjoy! Makes a quick and delicious lunch. 

*Note 2 (yeah a lot of notes I know...): An easy way to make this would be to make the dressing ahead of time. If it's several hours early (or a few days), just refrigerate the dressing after making. Then 20-30 minutes before serving allow the dressing to come to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Source: healthyfamilycookin.blogspot.com

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