Sunday, November 23, 2014

Creamy Southwestern Pumpkin and Sausage Soup - DAIRY FREE

This is by far my most popular pumpkin recipe to date.

1 lb sweet Italian sausages
1 small onion - finely diced
1 jalepeño pepper - de-seeded and finely diced
4 cloves garlic - minced
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 TBS flour
2 cups homemade pumpkin puree
4 cups homemade chicken stock
3 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk.
1 tsp lime juice
Fresh cilantro (optional) - garnish

1. In soup pot: brown sausages. Remove from pan and slice in fourths lengthways and dice.
2. Add olive oil to sausage grease. Sauté onion, jalapeño, and garlic. Add flour to make a roux.
3. Add spices, chicken stock and pumpkin.
4. Cover and simmer 25 minutes stirring occasionally
5. Remove bay leaves.
6. Blend soup with immersion blender.
7. Add sausage, coconut milk and lime juice.
8. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Adapted from Jan's sushi bar  and A Spicy Perspective's recipes.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Food Storage: Onions

Onions and I have come to an understanding. I couldn't stomach buying one at a time for $1.00 each only to find the recipe I wanted to make calls for 1½ onions. To buy a bag of 10 for $2.50 was a daunting commitment. Not to mention, a bag of rotting onions is the worst smell imaginable. Coincidentally, it seems that onions are magical in that one day they are fine and the next they are rotten...usually THE day I decided to make French Onion Soup. C'est la vie

Today I will share with you a little secret: how to store onions. I came across this tip the old fashioned way...from a fellow lover of ease and freezers - my mom.

First dice or slice the onions. I do both because I have some recipes for diced and some for sliced. Save your scraps!
L to R: scraps, whole, diced
Next line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap and spread a layer of cut onions:
Flash freeze. I throw them in for as long as I feel like it but at least 20 minutes. Flash freezing prevents them from forming a solid clump and allows for measuring while frozen later.

Pull up the edges of the plastic wrap.

Pour into a gallon size zip top freezer bag: 

Freeze immediately. Add more until full or stop there. Use as required but keep frozen. If allowed to thaw they will re-freeze in a solid clump making it impossible to measure them out unless you completely thaw the whole batch. 

I do not know how long these keep. I have never had them go bad. Although onion day is a tearful one, at least it comes so rarely.

For the scraps (not the dried up peels), you have three choices:
  1. Throw them in the crockpot with a chicken carcass, water, and apple cider vinegar for 24+ hours to create a delicious and healthy bone broth out of garbage
  2. Place them in a freezer zip top bag with your other veggie/fresh herb scraps (specifically carrots, celery, rosemary, thyme, parsley that will go bad before you use them) for a later use in a broth.
  3. Throw them in the garbage

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coconut rice

1 TBS Butter
1 cup jasmine rice
1 can coconut milk+ enough water to equal 2 1/4 cups liquid

  1. Melt butter in sauce pan
  2. Add rice and stir until coated
  3. Add liquid and bring to boil over high heat
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 18-20 minutes
Adapted from different recipes around the web and from friends.

Lean and Clean Crock pot Pork Carnitas

L to R: spice/olive oil combo, green pepper, jalapeño pepper, onion, lime zest. lime, garlic
I adapted this recipe from Simply Scratch to make it leaner and cleaner:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Product Review - Just Tasting by Libbey® - Montessori-ish Utensils

(This review is not sponsored by any company.)

The great "Montessori" utensil search left me crushed. So many gorgeous three piece sets for the low low price of $19.99 each. While gorgeous they were just too far beyond my price range to make the commitment (I knew it'd be a temptation to yell if they were ruined/lost). With the Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon:"$5 off any purchase $15 or more" (available on the back of most of their fliers) these come to just $10 for a set of either 12 spoons or 12 forks.
12 pack Libbey® "Just Tasting" Spoon
12 pack Libbey® "Just Tasting" Forks

Here are pictures with them next to my utensils. You can see the size difference makes sense. Note, these forks are as sharp as regular forks and are not Oyster Forks.

L to R: Espresso Spoon, Soup Spoon, Teaspoon, Just Tasting Spoon, Just Tasting Fork, Salad Fork, Dinner Fork

L to R: Soup Spoon, Dinner Fork, Teaspoon, Salad Fork, Just Tasting Spoon, Just Tasting Fork
These hold up extremely well in the dishwasher....but not scraped on the cement. C'est la vie. You win some you lose some! ;)

I can't wait to test out the rest of the Just Tasting series from Libbey®

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Food Storage: Bananas

Bananas are feast or famine around here. We either have "1 last banana" or "15 black ones". I've tried a myriad of ways to freeze very ripe bananas this is the best for several reasons:

  1. You don't have to defrost them to measure
  2. Minimal amount of space. (they stack nicely)
  3. No peeling slippery banana icicles.
Most recipes measure banana by "number of bananas". These easily break off and can be thawed individually for most recipes or used frozen in the case of smoothies.

Peel very ripe bananas and place in 1 qt ziploc freezer bag:

Freeze flat and stack when frozen solid

P is for Penguin and P is for Peacock

Burger - Food Storage

"What's for dinner?" "Oh, dinner. Right...TACOS"except it takes you 20 minutes to defrost a pound of beef. Not anymore... 

Costco sells beefs in two ways one large brain looking thing or sectioned off into what some people mistakingly assume are patties (these weigh 8oz+ each). I purchase the "patties" and roll from there. I'll explain why:

First off I get as close to 6 pounds as possible. 6.15lbs? That'll do! Honestly I never make ANYTHING gourmet out of burger meat. It just doesn't happen around here. So if there is a little less or a little more beef in a certain dish NO BODY NOTICES.

As I mentioned each "patty" is 8ish ounces. I grab six 1 qt freezer ziploc bags and write "1# Beef date".  While not necessary, if you fold the tops over you greatly reduce the amount of raw burger stuck in the zipper of the ziploc bag. This may not be important to you but it is very very very important to me. 

Note: the "#" is not a is called a pound sign and I have two little boys itching to get their grubby hands on my sharpie. I can use the pound sign to indicate pound and move on with my life.

Place two patties in each bag and wash your hands. YOU ARE DONE TOUCHING THE MEAT!

Seal the bag most of the way and while safely hiding behind the plastic you can now manipulate the beef into a perfectly flat airless blob. Flat is important for storage space and airless is important to eliminate freezer burn.

Stack the meat and freeze. Can you believe that is 6 pounds? That's a lot of tacos.

Mine fit perfectly below the bottom shelf. Yes that is my only freezer space. Now you know why I am a storage snob. 

If you are particularly OCD you may place the bags on a cookie sheet to freeze flat prior to stacking. Personally I like the grooves in the bottom's on less thing that attacks me when I open my freezer. 

Beef Round Eye Round Roast

I know beef has become a naughty word in this health conscious world but realistically there are options:
This Beef Round Eye Round Roast from Costco is gorgeous: 

 Hott right? But you havent even seen the most attractive part. Feast your eyes upon this nutritional info

And now for the grand fanale take a look what a little salt pepper and 5 hours in a 200 degree (F) oven can do:

This roast is cooked to 130 degrees and rested for 10 minutes to reach 135 degrees
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Farenheit
Place meat fat side down.
Rub in salt and pepper on exposed sides.
Bake for 4-6 hours depending on preference.
Check internal temperature.
Remove from oven 5 degrees below desired temperature.
Let rest uncovered for 10 minutes or until desired temperature is reached.

Suggested uses:
Slice and reserve all drippings for Au Jus
Dice and freeze in 1 lb increments in separate ziploc bags for The Best Beef StewGreek Yogurt Stroganoff, Steak Salads, etc
OR separate the raw roasts by weight and freeze for future meals such as: Barbacoa Beef

V is for Vulture

To be fair, I got the layout idea from several places but this one is particularly inspired by this vulture.

We're running out of room...ignore the umbrella tangled in his wings. When I use white on my white walls I like to outline it with a black sharpie.

v is for vampire bat

My 3 year old is isn't familiar with "vases" and while he loves eating "vegetables" it just doesn't sound like a thrilling craft. So we came up with another fun one especially when paired with I'm the Scariest Thing in the Castle by Kevin Sherry

U is for underwear

My search for short sound letters is leading me down an unexpected path. My little boy loved this one!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Grandma Spiering’s Fabulous Miraculous Dump Cake

You don’t dump the cake.... you dump the ingredients! I don’t understand how it works so we’ll just call it a miracle
1 lg. can crushed pineapple (undrained)
1 can pie cherries (undrained).
1 reg. size white or yellow cake mix
1/2 cup Butter or margarine thinly sliced

Directions: Put cherries in bottom of pan; then the crushed pineapple then sprinkle dry cake mix over top and dot with butter or margarine. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

i is for indian - Character Letter Craft

I scoured the web for a short i sound shaped like a lower case i. Too many variables led to too few search results... until Alligators All Around by Maurice Sendak inspired m:

Yes!! "i" is for indian..."ih" "ih" indian!
I freehand cut all my letters and post pictures for ideas NOT patterns. I'm sure the more creative individual could do something far more attractive with this idea but here goes:

I'm big into starting with the original letter shape.
You could save a lot of pasting if this is not one of your goals.
Keep in mind my 3 year old pastes the character letters with a glue stick so some of the aesthetic magic is lost:

In the end I got what I wanted. A character lower case i letter craft for the short sound "ih"

Friday, March 7, 2014

n is for ninja

Pre-school craft. All you need: Free-hand cut up construction paper. Fine tip markers. Glue stick. Favorite pre-schooler(s)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Beer bread - recipe from a friend

Beer bread:
3 cups flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 
1/4 cup sugar
1 12oz beer
1/4 cup butter, melted. 
Mix all ingredients except butter. Spread in a GREASED round cake pan. Pour melted butter on top. Bake in preheated oven 375 for 55 minutes.

The Best Beef Stew: Altered from "Crock Pot Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes"

Here's the book the stew recipe is from:
Crock-Pot Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes

I have altered the amount of meat in this recipe. The original called for 3 lbs of stew meat in standard size and 1lb smoked sausage sliced. I've found that dicing the reduced amount of meat still have meat in every bite but it's much more manageable.

The Best Beef Stew:
1/3 cup flour + 2 tablespoons divided
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp pepper
1 lb beef stew meet diced (I use med-rare cooked roast which I freeze in 1lb ziploc bags alread diced)
1 can (15-16 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
3 red potatoes (I've used yellow too) peeled and diced
1/2 smoked sausage (I used turkey smoked kilbasa)
1 cup chopped leek (I used 1-2 leeks, whatever looks good) 
1 cup chopped onion (I used 1 medium and didnt measure)
4 sticks celery diced
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp dried thyme
3 TBS water

1. Combine 1/2 cup flour, salt & pepper in bag. Shake meet to cover. Dump in Crock.
2.Add remaining ingredients except 2TBS flour and the water. Stir. Cover. Cook on low 8-12 hours or on high 4-6 hours. 
3. One hour before serving turn to high. Combine 2 TBS flour and cold water (I shake it well in a plastic container). Add to crock and stir into stew. 

I serve with Beer Bread

Costco Shopping, Food Storage and corresponding recipes

I make a bee line to the produce department.

I only shop in season fruits (a 10 lb package of gross apples is a complete waste of money).

English Cucumbers. A key part of our day. 2 3-packs will last us a week...maybe two

The only "sides" we make are salads, roasted veggies, and veggie "fries" A package of Romaine keeps in our crisper drawer for 2+weeks. Plenty of time to eat it all.

This spinach is delicious.
We love it with beef and feta!
It only keeps in the fridge for about a week but it freezes well and is excellent in smoothies
To Freeze just flatten bag and release air. I roll mine so it sits end over end.

These torta rolls are excellent for French Dip sandwiches (with the Beef Round Eye Round Roast).
They have a very short shelf life (typically 4 days) so plan to eat them soon or don't pick up any.
$4.29 for two loaves Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat.
This typically lasts for almost 1 month.

These are delicious and they have a shelf life of 2+ months.
Meat and Poultry: 
88%/12% reasonably lean for a reasonable price.
I prefer to get my ground beef in this package as close to an even 6lbs as possible.

For storage ideas click here 
For recipes click here

This Beef Round Eye Round Roast is amazing. Super lean and delicious. According to most data I've found this averages 1 gram of fat and 8 grams of protein PER OUNCE. At $4.29 (was $3.99 in Jan 2014) it is an excellent choice for a red meat.
For more information on this roast click here
For meal ideas and other storage options click here

I used to think Pork Tenderloins were the way to get more lean pork in our diets.
Two Tenderloins in each vacuum packed section.
In my opinion, Pork tenderloins are not nearly as versatile as Pork Roasts,
particularly because the tenderloins do not fit in my round crockpot.

4 roasts individually vacuum sealed and ready to freeze or cook.
Just $1.99 per pound.
My preferred recipes include:

Update: Costco quit selling the Pork Sirloin Tip Roast. I was heartbroken, devastated, crushed, etc. I spoke to the butcher shop manager and sure enough, they cancelled their agreement with Smithfield due to unpredictable packaging causing spoilage. Next time I go to Costco I'll try to remember my camera my updated option.

Chicken Breast:
$2.99 per pound fresh chicken breast vacuum packed and ready to cook or freeze. The organic option is available for $3.99 per pound. Legs set you back a mere $.99 per lb with boneless skinless thighs (a favorite around here) weighing in at $1.99 per lb
Or over in the freezer section Kirkland Individually Vacuum packed chicken breast check out for $2.61 per pound.

Click here for recipes

Checkout that beautiful rack.
At $10.99 a pound I think I'll just admire it
from a distance until I've somewhat mastered lamb
I've never cooked lamb.
Weighing in at $4.99 per pound. I hope to give this a go soon.

Block of Parmigiano $11.49 per pound.
A substantial per pound saving but grating
 this is a long process or pick up the pre-shredded
Shredded Parmigiano: $14.39 per pound

The price tag was missing from the Feta but I do buy it. I believe it's about $4 and it's life expectancy is over a year!
So many great recipes call for Feta. We eat tons of salad and a little feta on a beef and spinach salad is truly magical or go for a wedding salad with the Organic Spring Mix, craisins, feta, chopped almonds, and a drizzle of your favorite salad dressing/oil/vinegar.

I'll pick up a tub if I'm planning multiple Italian meals
(lasagne is my go to new mom meal) or
I'll freeze it flat stored in freezer quart Ziploc® bags in two cup increments

Excellent price.
I grate it, flash freeze on a cookie sheet,
then store in freezer in 2 cup increments in freezer quart Ziploc® bags.

This cheddar is delicious. It's shelf life is about 3 months.  
Did you know most cheddar cheese is safe for the lactose intolerant? It's true, depending on the aging process, cheddar cheese may be safe for the lactose intolerant. My husband has extremely severe reactions to lactose and yet this cheese sits with him just fine.
Almond Milk $2.60 per half gallon carton.
Amazing in smoothies and for the lactose intolerant in your life.

2% milk. $3.15 per gallon

Plain, Fat Free Greek yogurt.
Great for recipes and useful to substitute for higher fat options.
$3.45 per 32 oz container
Greek Yogurt uses: In smoothies, use it instead of sour cream to compliment food, Stonyfield® published a fantastic PDF of different ways to substitute for other high fat options, with a cake mix to make a delicious high protein low-fat cake, in this amazing chicken breast recipe, in place of mayonnaise in tartar sauce, in place of buttermilk in Ranch® dressing mix for a fat free salad dressing or dip, with a packet of onion soup mix for chip dip, etc.
Butter. 4 boxes (4 sticks per box) $8.79. That's $2.20 per box.

$4.99 per bag. These are the only chips we buy.
My husband is a chip person, I am not. Our compromise is tortilla chips.

Check out the ingredients: Organic Apples.
The bag says there are over 30 apples per bag.
Having made my own apple chips in the past I totally believe them.

Organic Animal Crackers-I could live without these and haven't purchased them in 2 years.


These are the individually vacuum packed chicken breasts. $2.69 per pound
SMOOTHIES!!! Frozen berry mix is perfect for smoothies.


We get the Kirkland Columbia.
$3.00 per pound this is my absolute favorite coffee and not just because of the price.


7-1lb boxes of variety pasta usually $7.99
This lasts us about 6 months.

Organic Diced Tomatoes
8 15oz cans
$.75 per can
Organic Tomato Sauce
12 15oz cans
$.63 per can

Here is Extra Virgin. I think this is what I get...but it's been a year+ since I last purchased any.

$15.99 for Organic Cold Pressed Coconut Oil is an amazing price


If you have a 3 year old son with a brand new bike (or any kids), I highly recommend stopping by the pharmacy for a box of bandaids. This box contains 100 of THE perfect size Baind-Aid® brand adhesive bandages. This box of magical boo-boo disappearing stickers set me back $4.57 which is approximately $1,000,000 cheaper than a box of 10 Jake and the Neverland Pirates undersized bandages. These are available at the pharmacy counter and are more affordable than the other bandages in the health department area. Update: these bandaids were a BAD IDEA. For some reason the sticky strips rip off when I try to remove the backing. Stick to the health department ones.