Category Archives: Recipes

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Apple Cider Winter Fondue

What is better than having fondue on a cold winter evening.  It’s sort thematic or something isn’t it?  Snow, skiing, the Alps, and so forth.  Yodeling.

Okay, there are no Alps here in the Midwest, and I didn’t plan far enough ahead to rent a pair of cross country skis for neighborhood transportation during the Great Snow of 2014, but it was plenty cold, and when I saw the cheeses already shredded for me in Trader Joe’s, I grabbed them!  I may have even yodeled quietly with excitement when I saw that bag of cheese there at the store.

So we made it home, and then the snow came and we were stuck.  That’s when I realized that I didn’t have any of the other ingredients for fondue.

Bread is an easy fix.  I can bake that myself.  But I usually make a traditional emmenthaler or gruyere fondue which calls for white wine (sometimes I make it with beer for a creamier end result), garlic, the cheeses, and an optional splash of kirsch.

I was out of wine.  Out of beer.  Out of garlic.

Oh boy.  We were in trouble.  I’d already set the expectation with the kids and the husband that it was going to be a fondue night.  I’d already baked the bread.  Their mouths were practically watering.

So I did what any good chef does when faced with an impossible recipe and a bunch of savage, hungry faces.

I improvised.

An you know what?  It was pretty tasty!

So my Post Polar Vortex gift to you is my Seat of the Pants, Desperation Fondue.  It is a sweeter fondue that a traditional emmenthaler fondue, and would be wonderful as an appetizer with some of those long crackers that have the herbs and cheese right on top. Something salty and herb-y to counter and compliment the sweet creaminess of the cheeses.

If you don’t have black garlic, don’t let it stop you!  Just substitute regular garlic.

Apple Cider and Black Garlic Fondue

  • 8 oz shredded emmenthaler
  • 8 oz shredded gruyere
  • 1 cup unfiltered apple cider
  • 2 cloves black garlic, chopped
  • 1 T finely minced or grated red onion
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar if you don’t have ACV on hand
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

In a sauce pan, combine the apple cider, garlic, and onion and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer.

Begin adding cheeses one handful at a time, stirring after each addition until the cheeses are melted.  At this stage, you will need to watch the heat carefully and adjust it if the cheeses begin to boil or if they are not melting quickly enough.

Once the cheeses are added, mix in the apple cider vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper and sea salt.

Transfer to your fondue pot and enjoy with bread, apples, rolled prosciutto, and garlic and herb crackers.

Have you ever found your pantry to be bare and made up a recipe?  How did it turn out?

Packing My Lunch

I’ve been analyzing our family’s finances lately.  Gosh, doesn’t that sound fancy!  At any rate, I got curious about how our food budget plays out over the course of a month, and as it turns out, we spend way too much money eating out.

Mostly, this is because my husband and I grew accustomed to eating lunch in the very reasonably priced corporate cafeteria before we moved out here to California.  Out here, there is no corporate cafeteria with healthy, fresh food, so we got into the habit that so many very busy people do of eating out in the nearby restaurants.

When I was sick, restaurant fare became even more of a deeply ingrained habit because for some reason that other HGers will probably understand, homemade food just did not sit well on my poor stomach.

Frankly, I was pretty appalled when I looked at what we were spending on food.  I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how bad.  I am a little terrified to confess to my readers that 30% of our food budget had been going to groceries and the remaining 70% went to eating out. At lunch, on weekends, and on and on and on.

That is not okay.

It’s an easy decision to make: Take my lunch to work.  But I will admit, eating out is a tough habit to break.  What do I take?  What do I pack?  How do I keep things interesting and avoid a ham sandwich every day?

I started easy.  I visited Trader Joe’s and purchased a few of their prepared lunches.  Is this cheating?  A little bit, but if you can get a salad for $3, that’s a darn sight better than $9 for a meal out. 

That first week, I ate TJ’s salads.  I immediately learned that a single salad does not contain enough calories to make a meal for me.  I learned to pack sides.  A string cheese here, an apple there.  By Thursday of that week, I felt brave enough to slice some leftover meat and augment my store-bought salad.

Giving myself a week of TJ’s salads helped me to learn how and what to pack to make up a lunch for myself.  That following weekend, I didn’t have time to go to TJ’s and the regular grocery, so I decided to make my own “TJ’s” salads.  I took their ideas of multiple, fresh ingredients and made it work for me.  I haven’t looked back since.

Here’s an example of a lunch.  This is what I had today in fact:

Layered Thai Rice Salad Bowl (layers listed from bottom to top)

  • Leftover Trader Joe’s microwaveable brown rice
  • Dollop of leftover homemade Thai Peanut Sauce
  • Lettuce
  • sliced mushrooms and sliced yellow squash from my garden
  • Sliced leftover Coconut Crusted Chicken (basically just breaded, baked chicken, but instead of bread crumbs I used unsweetened coconut)
  • limes and Asian salad dressing

It was easy and filling.  Plenty of protein and calories in the chicken and peanut sauce, and packed with interesting and delicious flavor.  I ate it with an apple and a piece of string cheese.

It’s so easy to do variations on this theme.  Salads don’t have to be boring.  Mixing in things like rice, quinoa, and other non-standard ingredients keeps things interesting and appeals to my creative spirit. 

I’ve also been saving money!  We’re on track right now to cut our food budget by $400!

It may seem like a simple step, but it’s a change that’s made a big and positive impact on our family.

Do you pack your lunch for work?  What goes into your lunch box?

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs – The Answers

Last week, in celebration of Easter, Gabi and I dyed eggs using food-based ingredients.   Here’s a quick link in case you missed that post.  It was so much fun and a few of the colors were so surprising that I decided to make a game of it and let you guess which ingredients produced which colors.

Here’s that list of dye ingredients again:

  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Turmeric
  • Purple Cabbage
  • Yellow Onion Skins
  • Blueberries
  • Paprika & Chili Powder

And here’s that picture with the numbered eggs:

Which egg is which?

 

I had a few people guess in the comments and several guess in real-life and via email.  So here are the answers!

# 1 - Onion skins. I love how the membranes of the onions left that pretty pattern on the shell.
#2 was blueberries. Look at the polka-dots left behind where the berries rested against the eggs!
#3 was spinach. I think if I had processed the spinach in a blender I might have gotten a greener color. But it's still so soft and pretty.
#4 was a blend of paprika and chili powder. Juan said that this one looked like marble.
#6 was beets. This one actually changed pretty significantly as it dried. It turned into a beautiful green and purple marbled effect which you can almost see in this picture.
#6 was turmeric. I loved how speckled this turned out!
#7 was purple cabbage. This one was such a pretty surprise! Who knew that the purple cabbage would turn blue!

I hope you all had a wonderful week this week!  Happy Easter, happy spring!

SAMSUNG

Easter Eggs, Naturally! – and a game

I loved dying Easter eggs when I was a kid.  I loved the colors.  I loved the weird smell of the dye.  I loved eating them afterwards and feeling so lucky when I got one where the shell had cracked and the white was tinted a nifty color.  Easter eggs are so much fun.

I haven’t dyed Easter eggs in years!

This year, I decided it was time to start passing that tradition along to Miss Gabi.  But, like many of the things I’ve done over the last year and a half, I decided to see if there was a natural way to dye the eggs.  As it turns out?  There absolutely is!

This year, we dyed eggs with things in our pantry!

It was surprisingly easy.  Sure, it took a bit more work than the PAAS kits, but only a bit.  I just hard-boiled my eggs, researched my ingredients, dumped them into jars, and made my dye.

Here’s how to dye the eggs:

  1. Put a handful of the ingredient into the bottom of a large mason jar.
  2. Pour boiling water over the ingredient to fill the jar.
  3. Allow the ingredient to steep in the hot water until the water cools (several hours).
  4. Place the eggs in the jars and poke them right down to the bottom.  The dye will overflow, so do this over the sink.
  5. Leave them overnight in the fridge.
  6. Pull them out in the morning and take pictures to show your friends on the internet.

Pretty!

These turned out so well.  The colors are so soft and the various ingredients I used to dye gave a pretty marbled appearance.

Here’s a shot of the jars of dye in action:

From left to right we have: onion skins, paprika & chili powder, blueberries, beets, turmeric, spinach, and purple cabbage.

I probably would’ve gotten darker colors if I had boiled the dye ingredients for some time instead of just steeping them and letting them cool right away.

The Game – Guess which Dye made Which Egg

Gabi and I had such fun finding out what colors the dyes made.  There were some real surprises in there!  See if you can match the eggs to their dyes!

Here are the dye ingredients again:

  • A. Spinach
  • B. Beets
  • C. Turmeric
  • D. Purple Cabbage
  • E. Yellow Onion Skins
  • F. Blueberries
  • G. Paprika & Chili Powder

Here’s a shot of the eggs, numbered to make it easier:

Leave your answer in the comments.  Next week, I’ll post the answers and you can see if you got them right!

Happy Easter everyone!

Lactation Muffins-Snacks

I’ve had the fortune (misfortune?) to join Pinterest recently, which explains why so many of my posts have been delayed.  I just can’t tear myself away from it!  I’m getting some great ideas, though, and one of them was the idea for these Lactation Muffin-Snacks.

A friend of mine recently pinned a link to this recipe from Sugar-Free Mom for Personal Sized Baked Oatmeal snacks.  Basically, you make your oatmeal ahead of time in muffin-tins, freeze it, then grab and go in the morning.  Easy!

I followed her recipe carefully the first time I made these, and I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty and convenient this was.  I don’t have time to stop and eat in the morning, but with these, I could pop one in the microwave, stick it in my purse (in a container of course), and eat it when I got to the office.  Nice.

They were so delicious, but each time I ate them, I kept thinking, “You know, these kind of remind me of those lactation cookies I tried and failed to make back when Gabi was a baby.” (I failed because I messed up and used steel cut oats instead of regular rolled oats.)  The more I thought about it, the more I wondered what would happen if these two recipes got married and had a baby.

The recipe already has the oats and flax in it.  How hard would it be to add in the brewer’s yeast?  A Facebook friend of mine raves about brewer’s yeast anyway.  Why not give it a shot?

So this weekend, I gave it a try.  The results were great!  Now before I go further, I want to warn you that these are definitely not muffins.  They’re heavy and dense.  They’re baked oatmeal in individual serving sizes.  But that’s really hard to say.  So I’ve been calling them muffin snacks.

Here is my modified, lactation version of Sugar-Free Mama’s original recipe:

 

Lactation Muffin-Snacks (makes 2 dozen snacks if using standard-sized muffin tins)

Ingredients

**Ingredients that increase milk supply.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 banana (Older bananas work best.)
  • 2 cups applesauce, unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I always use Mexican vanilla.)
  • **5 cups, Old Fashioned rolled oats
  • **1/4 cup flax seed meal (Grind your own or buy a bag and store the extra in the freezer to keep it from going bad.)
  • **1/4 cup brewer’s yeast (This is light sensitive, don’t buy from the bulk bin. My friend recommends Lewis Labs brand.)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 containers of blueberries (You really could use any fruit: raisins, chopped apples, currants, strawberries, etc. I just really like blueberries.)
  • Walnuts, brown sugar (for toppings)
  • Coconut oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk the egg in a very large mixing bowl until the white and yolk are well mixed.
  3. Peel the banana and place it in a plastic bag.  Squish the bag until the banana is mush. Cut a corner off the bag and squeeze the banana mush into the bowl with the egg. Imagine you are frosting a cake for a monkey. Whisk into the eggs.
  4. Add vanilla, applesauce, and honey to the egg and banana mix and stir until well combined.
  5. Add in oats, salt, baking powder, flax, brewer’s yeast, and cinnamon and mix well with wet ingredients. A spatula works best for this.  Everything got stuck in my wisk and was annoying.
  6. Finally pour in milk and mix well.
  7. Gently fold in blueberries.
  8. Grease the muffin tins well with coconut oil.
  9. Fill each muffin cup to the top with the mixture.  These aren’t really muffins.  They won’t rise.
  10. Sprinkle walnut pieces and brown sugar onto the top of each muffin.
  11. Bake 30 minutes until a toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool and enjoy!

Since this does make 2 dozen, you can freeze them for later.  I just take them straight out of the freezer and microwave them for 90 seconds.  Two of these make a great breakfast.  Or one of these with a hard boild egg.  Very easy to travel with to work.

You could also add in some fenugreek if you want, but I didn’t have any on hand. I’m not sure how that would change the flavor.

Enjoy!