Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chicken Taco Meat {Electric Pressure Cooker Recipe}

Today I'm sharing another wonderful Pressure Cooker meal that can be made quickly and simply. I love quick and easy dinner meals. This one was fabulous because everyone in my family ate and enjoyed it. The chicken was tender and juicy and full of flavor. I secretly ate the leftovers for lunch the next day. These tacos are delicious served with Cilantro Lime Brown Rice.

Chicken Taco Meat {Electric Pressure Cooker Recipe}
Printed from

2 fresh boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt, pepper
1 Cup crushed or diced tomatoes (can use fresh)
1/2 Cup water
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. dehydrated minced onion
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Sprinkle chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Place in electric pressure cooker. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, water, chili powder, salt, minced onion, paprika, cumin and cornstarch. Pour over the chicken in the electric pressure cooker. Close and lock lid. Cook on high pressure for 17 minutes. Release pressure naturally. Shred chicken with 2 forks. Serve meat in taco shells or with chips in a taco salad.

Recipe Source:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Frugal Friday: Buying and Storing Whole Grains

One way to both eat healthier and more frugally is to cook from scratch using whole grains. I love to use a variety of whole grains in my cooking. I've found that it's a lot cheaper to buy whole grains in large quantities, but most of us can't use 25 lbs. of wheat or quinoa every week. So we will need to find a way to store these whole grains so that they can remain fresh and bug-free while we are using them. Today I'd like to share some tips that I use in my family for buying and storing whole grains.

Buying Whole Grains
I get a lot of questions about where I buy my grains. Today I'd like to answer this for you as best as I can. A lot of it will depend on where you live and what's available in your area.

I posted a few years ago about what to include in a frugal pantry which includes a lot of the grains that I buy on a regular basis. If you look through my recipes you will notice that I use a lot of the following grains:
Brown Rice
White Wheat
Oats (Oat Groats and Quick Oats are what I usually use)
White Quinoa
I use others as well but these are the grains I use the most often in my recipes. All of these with the exception of brown rice store very well long term so I buy them in bulk (25 or 50 lb. bags). I usually inventory once (sometimes twice) a year and decide how much I have of each grain and how much I am going to buy. Because I cook our family's food from scratch almost exclusively, we go through a lot of grains. Just making our family's bread for example uses 10-12 cups of white wheat for a 6-loaf batch. And I make a batch about every week to ten days.

After I've created my inventory of what I have and what I need, I spend a few days shopping around for the best prices. Prices vary on these grains depending on the year and the time of year. Some places won't give prices over the phone, but I'll jot down the prices when I'm in the store so I can keep track. When you buy several hundred pounds of grains at a time it saves quite a bit of money to shop a little bit for the best prices. I always buy more than I'll need for the year so that I have time to shop around before I run out completely.

Here are the places that you can look into to compare prices:
  1. WinCo Foods - This is a specific store chain that may or may not be in your area, but it's local to me and I find a lot of what I need at this store. They have bins that contain a lot of the grains that I use. But I usually buy my grains in bulk bags. Some of the bags of grains they have on shelves in the store and some you have to ask about special ordering. I've ordered these on the phone before and picked them up on my next trip. There's is a small discount for buying the grains in bulk instead of just from the bins and with the quantities that I buy it's usually worth it.
  2. Rainy Day Foods - A great online source for many of these bulk grains is Rainy Day Foods. I bought from them last year for the first time and I was very happy with the products. If you don't live near them you will have to pay a bit for shipping. I live near a drop off location, however, and was able to order them and pay for a lot less shipping through their regular shipping delivery truck. You may want to call and see if that's a possibility where you live. There's also a possibility to get together with some friends and create a very large order to save on shipping.
  3. Azure Standard - I bought from them for the first time this year and was satisfied with the products and prices. Again they have options to deliver at a drop off location which saves considerably on shipping. 
  4. Health Food Stores - usually health food stores are one my last resorts for shopping because they are usually more expensive. But if I can't find them at the other places I will shop there. I again ask for the bulk prices (rather than buying the grains in the bins or smaller bags) and they will usually discount for ordering in larger quantities. 
I'm always keeping my eye out for these grains during other times of the year (even after I've bought what I need). Once I found spelt at Walmart in 6 gallon buckets for nearly half the price of anywhere else I had seen. Unfortunately I think it was a close-out sale and I haven't seen it there since. But if you keep your eyes out you'll find great deals and can save quite a bit of money on buying grains.

Storing Whole Grains
Most grains (with a few exceptions like brown rice) have a extremely long shelf life. As in at least 25 years, and some have been proven to still germinate even after hundreds of years. That's one of the amazing properties of grains. You do need to store the grains properly in order to ensure that they will store well for a long time.

Heat, air, moisture, insects, and rodents are the enemies to whole grains. Heat increases spoilage and decreases health benefits of grains by killing their germination properties. Moisture allows for mold and bacteria to grow, which can lead to spoilage and illness. Insects and rodents eat and destroy grain (not to mention they are just disgusting).  By selecting your storage containers and conditions carefully and rotating the grains you store properly, you can ensure that those enemies will be defeated and your grain will store for a long time.
  • Storage Containers - Make sure the containers you use to store grains in are airtight with tight-fitting lids or closures. Also the containers should be rodent proof, meaning they can't be bitten through. I use 5-gallon hard plastic food grade buckets for all of my long-term grain storage. Make sure the buckets are food grade and have not been previously used to store anything toxic. 
  • Storage Conditions - Ideally grain should be stored in a low temperature (40-70 degrees or less), low humidity environment, that is out of direct sunlight. We store our grains in the non-heated side of our basement. The garage or attic would not be a good place to store grain as the temperature fluctuates too much and would cause the grain to spoil quicker. Store buckets off of the floor, especially concrete. Concrete can wick moisture to the containers very easily or leech chemicals (even through buckets) into stored foods. I try to by my grain from good sources where I can be sure they are cleaned and generally insect free. But as an extra precaution, I always add oxygen absorbers to each five gallon bucket before I seal it. Each oxygen absorber (300 cc) will absorb the oxygen up to 1 gallon, which will kill the insects and larvae living in that space. I use 5 oxygen absorbers (300-cc/each) for each 5 gallon bucket. I buy my oxygen absorbers here. After opening the oxygen absorber package, I quickly transfer the absorbers to the buckets that I am sealing, lock the lids tightly, and then put the remainer in a 1/2 gallon airtight mason jar and seal it with a new lid. You have to work quickly because the absorbers start absorbing oxygen immediately and will only absorb a limited amount before they stop working. You want to make sure you will still have absorbency left in the absorbers when you later place them in the five gallon buckets. If you are interested, there are some other methods I found to help control insects here. They are interesting to learn about, but I always use the absorbers because of how easy and effective they are.
  • Storage Rotation - Making sure you are using the grains you store on a regular basis, will ensure that they will be the freshest and least likely to spoil. I label each bucket with what is inside as well as the date it was sealed. Then I store the buckets on heavy duty shelves, with the oldest used first. I use buckets with these gamma seal lids with the oldest grains that I am currently using to fill my pantry. They are more expensive then the regular bucket lids, but they make it easy to rotate and use the grains. When the bucket I am using becomes empty, I open the next oldest bucket and pour it into my gamma-lid bucket to use. Then I keep the empty buckets (still labeled) to help me decide what I need to buy the next time I buy grain. These buckets can then be refilled, add new oxygen absorbers and then re-sealed. You may eventually need to replace the lids if they become compromised or not fit tightly any more. 
Finally I'll share a few products that I use in storing whole grains. These are affiliated Amazon links and I do receive a small profit if you click and buy from here, but please still do your research as it may not be your best price, value, or option.

Now it's your turn for questions or comments. Where do you buy whole grains? Do you have any tips or ideas to share on buying or storing grains? Or questions? I'd love to hear them.

Happy Frugal Friday. Have a great weekend!

    Tuesday, November 4, 2014

    Orange Julius {With Kefir}

    Temperatures are cooling and the sick season is upon us. I've been trying to be vigilant about giving myself and my kids kefir every day to help them fight off the germs that they are surrounded with. This is one of our favorite ways to get our daily dose of kefir.

    This Orange Julius is so easy to make and so yummy. We love to have it for breakfast, but it works with any meal or as a snack. The Orange Julius in my pictures might look a little more frozen then yours will turn out if you follow my recipe. I actually made it for my kids for breakfast that morning and didn't have time to snap any pictures so I stuck it in the freezer for about a half hour before I took the pictures. It crystallized just a little and turned out really yummy. Kind of like a frosty.

    If you don't have kefir milk and still want to make this recipe, you can substitute regular milk. It will work great. Make sure you read up on kefir though. It's really good for you. We use the kefir to make sure we get all the wonderful probiotics (especially this time of year) that our bodies need.

    Orange Julius {With Kefir}
    Printable Recipe

    *Makes 4 servings

    2 Cups kefir milk
    1 Cup orange juice (freshly squeezed is really yummy, but any kind will work great)
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    1/4 Cup honey
    2 Cup ice cubes

    Combine kefir milk, orange juice, vanilla and honey in blender and blend for about a minute until honey is dissolved. Add ice cubes and blend until frothy. Serve immediately.

    Recipe Source:

    Monday, November 3, 2014

    Hard Things {A Personal Success}

    Once again it has been a busy couple of weeks. My husband and I ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) a few weeks ago. It was an awesome experience. I never intended to be a runner. I still don't really consider myself one. But I wanted to set a fitness goal that would be a challenge and push me to a new level. I trained for 12 weeks, running 5 days a week. On Saturdays, my husband and I would run the longer runs together. Our kids supported us by coming with us on many of those Saturday runs. They rode their bikes and we ran. It was hard, but I'm so glad we did it. It was worth it. Here's a picture of us at the finish line:

    I'm sharing this with you because I want you to see that if you are determined, YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS too. You can make changes in your life. You can set goals and achieve those goals. You can create a healthier person and encourage your family in being healthier as well.

    There are so many things in life that we don't have control of. Life gives us challenges. But it's empowering to take control of the things we CAN control and make our lives better in those areas.

    November is a month full of gratitude for me. Today I'm especially thankful for family - my husband and children, my parents, siblings and all those wonderful people that belong to me. I'm thankful also for my God and a beautiful world He has created for me to enjoy.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

    Traditional Fresh Mexican Chile Rellanos

    We harvested the peppers from the garden a few weeks ago and I went on the lookout for a simple recipe to use our peppers in. I found this recipe over at My Humble Kitchen and it looked really good. I decided to roast my own tomatoes rather than using the canned variety (since I've got only a million of them around here...) and made a few other minor adaptations to the recipe. It was a big winner.  Next time I make this (hopefully very soon) I'm going to make this Cilantro lime brown rice to go with it.

    Traditional Fresh Mexican Chile Rellanos
    Printable Recipe

    *Serves 4

    4 Large sweet bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange would be my preference) or Poblano peppers
    7 small/medium ripe tomatoes
    2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
    1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    2 eggs (fresh are best)
    Coarse sea salt
    extra virgin olive oil
    Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
    Sour Cream/Avocado, for serving, if desired

    Wash the tomatoes and peppers. Place tomatoes aside. Place peppers on a baking dish and broil 5-8 minutes per side or until blackened and charred. The second side will take less time than the first. Once done, cover peppers with a damp cloth in a dish until cooled.

    Meanwhile prepare tomatoes by slicing in half and placing on a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Broil tomatoes 3-5 minutes per side or until skins barely begin to char. Again the second side will be quicker. Watch them closely so they do not over cook. Once the tomatoes are done, take them from the oven. Remove their skins, they should peel away easily. With a sharp knife, gently dice the tomatoes and place in a saucepan. Heat until warm and add salt and pepper to taste.

    Separate the egg yolks from the whites and place the whites in a small bowl. By hand or using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. In a separated bowl, whisk the egg yolks until light and frothy. Gently fold in the egg yolks into the egg whites until just incorporated. Do not overmix.

    Heat 1/2" of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan.

    Once the peppers have cooled, cut the tops off and remove their skins and seeds. Stuff them with a cheese mixture of both cheddar and mozzarella. Gently lift them and coat them with the egg mixture, giving them a good coating. When olive oil is hot, fry the peppers in the oil until golden brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

    Serve the Chile Rellanos on a bed of diced tomatoes, garnished with sour cream and avocado, if desired. This cilantro lime brown rice would be a delicious side dish.

    Recipe Source: Adapted from a recipe found at My Humble Kitchen

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    Spinach Salad with Tangy Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

    We had a family reunion this summer with Brandon's family. His cousin's wife brought this salad. Once I tasted it, I immediately forgot about all the other food that was being served and had seconds and thirds of this salad. It is SO good. Vanessa was kind enough to share the recipe with me and agree to let me share it with you.

    I dream about this salad. Yes that is a confession. I feel better getting it out in the open. Not many salads capture my heart so totally and completely like this one has.

    I adapted it to be sugar free using raw honey as a substitute. If you don't like mushrooms, leave them out or substitute them with something like a sliced red bell pepper. I understand. I'm actually a newly converted mushroom liker. Yes liker, not lover. Me and mushrooms used to not get a long aaaaat all, but now I'll put up with them (and maybe even enjoy them once and a while).

    So for me to put up with mushrooms in a salad that I dream about...Well that's saying something.

    Spinach Salad with Tangy Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
    Printable Recipe

    1 large head Romaine Lettuce, washed and chopped
    6 oz. spinach leaves, washed
    3/4 lb. sliced mushrooms
    1/3 Cup finely chopped red onion
    1/2 lb. cooked and crumbled bacon
    2 11-oz. cans mandarin oranges, drained
    1/2 Cup slivered almonds, candy coated*
    3/4 lb Swiss cheese, grated or finely sliced

    1-1/2 tsp. poppy seeds
    3/4 Cup canola oil
    1/4 Cup onion (I usually just use a half of a small yellow onion)
    2 level Tbsp. prepared mustard
    1/3 Cup white vinegar
    1/3 Cup white sugar or raw honey (I use honey)
    3/4 tsp. salt

    Prepare salad dressing by combining salad dressing ingredients in a blender and blending well. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to a week before serving. In a large salad bowl combine chopped lettuce, spinach leaves, mushrooms and chopped red onion. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, add the mandarin oranges, crumbled bacon, candy coated slivered almonds, and grated Swiss cheese. Serve dressing on the side, or add to taste (you may not use it all). When I serve this for my family (as a main dish salad), I like to leave the mandarin oranges, the crumbled bacon, the candy coated slivered almonds, the Swiss cheese, and the dressing separate so my kids can add them to their liking. It also works better for leftovers if they are not already combined.

    *I adapted this recipe to candy coat with honey according to the directions found in this previous post, but the original recipe called for candy coating with sugar. To candy coat with sugar, melt 3 Tbsp. sugar in heavy bottomed saute pan. Add 1/2 Cup almonds and coat with melted sugar. Separate and cool.

    Recipe Source: Adapted from a recipe shared with me by Vanessa

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    Honey Candy Coated Almonds

    I love sweets. With a passion. Like in a bad way. I must have a mouth full of sweet teeth I guess. These honey candy coated almonds are a new discovery for me, but I really couldn't not share them with you. That would be like denying you of one of the important things in life that is making me happy right now. I know this recipe calls for 1/2 Cup almonds, but I'm telling you right now that's not going to be near enough. Feel free to double or triple or quadruple the recipe to your heart's content. I love making this recipe with either slivered or whole almonds. When candy coated, the whole almonds make a yummy snack. And the candy coated slivered almonds are my favorite for salads, but to be honest I usually shove handfuls in my mouth so there's not much left for a salad when I'm done.

    Honey Candy Coated Almonds
    Printable Recipe

    1 Tbsp. honey
    1/2 Cup slivered or whole almonds
    1/4 tsp. sea salt

    In heavy duty (thick bottom) frying pan, melt 1 Tbsp. honey over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 Cup slivered or whole almonds. Stir until almonds are well coated with honey. Keep almonds in single layer in pan as much as possible. Stir often at first and then constantly towards the end of cooking time to prevent almonds from burning. Heat for 10-15 minutes over medium-low heat until almonds have darkened in color and honey has thickened (slivered almonds should turn golden brown, whole almonds will turn deep brown). Sprinkle 1/4 tsp. sea salt over almonds and stir well. Turn off heat and set aside pan to let almonds cool for 5 minutes in pan. Place almonds on wax or parchment paper separated from each other in a single layer until completely cool. Once completely cooled, stored in a sealed container. Use as a snack or salad topping.

    Recipe Source:

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