Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ice Storm Fun

That sounds like a bit of an oxymoron doesn't it?

Thankfully, it hasn't been all that bad for us. Everything did freeze over and the husband took a day and a half off from work (not that he's complaining, or me..) but our power stayed on, we had plenty of goodies to eat, we only lost one dead part of a small broken down tree, all in all we did pretty well and I am grateful.

We did decide to let the Little Bit take a venture outdoors and check out all of the ice and a bit of snow..  she enjoyed busting icicles, having her Daddy spin her around on the slick ice in the road and crunching the ice under her feet in the grass.

I can't wait til we get a big snow she can play in.. probably not this year but who knows?

Our surroundings, our fun:

 well.. there was one casualty.. a dog toy left outside..  LOL

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Southern Ketchup AKA Ranch

Like any good Southerner, I love ranch. It's just one of those things. However, practically every ranch that comes in a bottle is downright gross..  sure, I will eat it in a pinch but it's not like "restaurant ranch" or maybe I should say steakhouse restaurant ranch, for whatever reason, they seem to have the best.

Now, I have tried a few of the fancier cold bottle ranches that you find in your vegetable section and some of those are good, particularly the various yogurt ranch brands you can find.

But alas, none are quite like that of restaurant offerings..   so, among a few other things I decided I will never buy bottled again, ranch is one of those, it's mind bogglingly <--yes, bogglingly..easy to make at home. Now, you CAN go the full fat route here and it IS good..   1 package of hidden valley (haven't tried any others) ranch dressing mix, 1 cup milk, 1 cup mayo - whisk, store - it gets thicker once it sets for a bit.

I've made it just like that and it was yummy but unfortunately or fortunately since I am on the road to healthier eating and a more trim waistline, whole milk and full fat mayo isn't going to cut it because let's be honest, 1 teaspoon of dressing ain't going to cover it.

So today, I swapped whole milk for part whole milk, part silk cashew milk. I swapped mayo for 3/4 light mayo and 1/4 greek non fat yogurt.

I also tossed in some dried cilantro and a touch of hot sauce. It is absolutely lovely and although I am not going to divulge the nutrional info because I am a bit green in that department and I dont want to give out incorrect info...from what I calculate, it is about half the calories, maybe even less than that of the bottled junk or if you were to use the full fat versions of mayo & milk. You could scale this back further of course if you used all greek yogurt or non fat mayo if that exist & 2% milk or any of the nut or soy milk varities..

Anyway, I am pretty happy with how it turned out and even more happy I don't have to dump half of my days calories trying to sauce up my salads...

As a side note, I am having photography block or something, I can't seem to get the lighting, angle, anything down recently..   oh well? You catch my drift.  :]

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Not What I Intended

I spent some time this last Sunday making "truffles"..   yummy, healthy, raspberry truffles..  I took pictures of my process, was amused at how yummy they ended up being, even more amused at how few calories each contained..  but then, when it was time to roll them into neat little balls and dive them into a pool of chocolate, I got lazy.. really lazy. They ended up partially bathed in chocolate and in no round ball form to speak of.

Damn, they really are good too.

I plan to make more and I plan to share because I cannot keep these to myself. Not that I came up with the recipe but they are lovely and just in time for the pinkish red holiday on the horizon.

Please forgive my laziness and accept this cute picture of my cute kid being cute.

I taped together a sturdy little card board box so that she can get up to the window sill and spy on the neighbors and wave to their dogs and point out the birds and of course, greet daddy when he gets home. Simple pleasures, for us all.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Butters of the Nut Variety

I can't stop making nut butter. There, I said it.

Two things: (1) Never knew it was easy. (2) Really..  never knew it was this easy.

I cannot imagine buying store bought peanut butter again..

This butter that I am about to show you is a roasted cashew "nutella" and kind of happened by accident - as some great things do tend to do.

So, I was originally just set on making sort of standard cashew butter but it really wasn't coming out how I imagined or liked so I decided to step it up a notch and smooth it out a bit with almond milk & coconut oil and I then tossed in some cocoa for good measure and I was half ass shocked how good it tasted.

It's just sweet enough, thank you, Agave. It's just creamy enough, almost like a thick frosting, thank you coconut oil & milk and it's just chocolately enough..  you get it. Roasting (drying, really) off the cashews really gives it a nice flavor that is quite reminiscent of hazelnuts, in my opinion of course.

Here's what I did:

  • soaked cashews over night (7.5 oz can)
  • pour off water, rinse
  • let them dry on a paper towel for a bit
  • put on pan and let them dry in the oven at 250ish for about a half hour or so
  • toss them in the processor, i let them do their own thing for about 5 minutes or so before i decided i wasnt crazy how they were coming out 
  • at this point, i added about 2 tablespoons, maybe a touch more of coconut oil and let it do its thing
  • added about 2 tablespoons of cocoa and then followed with roughly 1/4 cup or less of almond milk
  • blended for another minute or so
And here's what we got:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Simple Pleasures Are A Big Deal

Simple pleasures ARE a big deal.. particularly when you're a parent. After the little ones bedtimes.. when peace restores itself to the house and all of the squeaky, squawky toys that make you feel like you broke a toe off when you step on them are all neatly put away again, for the 3255466 time..  yes, after all of that.. sometimes you just need a simple pleasure to sit down and relax with.
Could be a nice glass of wine, could be a long bath, could be mopping the kitchen floor.. I don't know, sometimes cleaning helps me unwind.
Last night, as I plopped down for a few episodes of one of my favorite shows, I decided to do it with an italian soda.. or rather, my simplified take on it. 
These things:
  • milk or half/half - i think heavy whipping would be too much but ya never know
  • soda of your choice, i prefer something dark like plain coke
  • ice 
Now I think traditionally italian sodas are made with seltzer water, flavored syrup and milk or half & half  but this is just as yummy in my opinion and quite simple if you don't keep some of those other things on hand.

Things to note: always pour your milk or cream first, if you pour your soda first, it tends to separate the milk and looks kinda gross.. and probably throws the taste a bit too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Too Easy

I feel like the richest person in the world. I feel like I've unlocked some secret knowledge about the world of cooking.

How so? Well, my husband bought me a food processor for Christmas. Now, she's not the biggest or the baddest, but for me? Perfect.

I feel like the world of cooking has just been leveled for me.. in terms of ease, variety and option. I am sure anyone that actually has a food processor is rolling their eyes at me... they already know.

Anyhow, in the few short weeks I've had it, I have used it a ton already, trying out stuff that would have kind of been a pain the rear without it or trying stuff that is just different..and maybe better sometimes with it.

One of those things is salsa.. restaurant style salsa. Don't get me wrong, I love chunky salsa too but there is something about restaurant salsa that unmistakeable and for whatever reason, up to this point in my life I kind of assumed it wouldn't be all that simple to throw together and perhaps it's not without a food processor, who knows? What I do know is I made, it was great, I patted myself on the back, I can have restaurant salsa any-damn-day-of-the-week now. Check.

Tossed these things in processor:
  • half teaspoon of chopped garlic (probably could've used a bit more)
  • small handful of fresh cilantro
  • nearly drained can of diced tomatoes
  • s&p
  • quarter of a red onion
  • few squirts of lime (equal to about half a lime)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of hot sauce (you could of course use any hot pepper, didn't have any)
I started off with the onion and garlic, once they were combine in the processor (2 or 3 pulses) - I added everything else and it was done as quick as it started.

I was almost surprised how yummy it tasted, I never expect anything to be near perfect on my first try. I think next time I will add a bit more salt, a bit more garlic and use a hot pepper. Here's to experimenting!

These photos aren't the best but it was night time and I was in the middle of getting dinner of the table and trying to capture this :]

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Clean Your Candle Jars

Decided to jump on the candle upcycling wagon and clean out a few of mine from the holidays. It was a fairly simple process for the most part and since most of my bigger candles have lids, I am sure I can find a variety of uses for them. 

Here is how I went about it: (once candles have completely burned down the wick)
  • pour boiling water into the jar
  • wait for it to cool, it will bring the remaining wax to the top of the jar in one piece, some of mine (the little pucks) still had great smell to them so I threw them in my electric warmers to get a few more hours out of them
  • repeat - for me, the boiling water trick didn't get it all the first time, think I did it maybe three times total
  • pry out the wickstickers at the bottom of the jars, I used an old butter knife for one and pliers for the other. ha
  • soak them in soapy water, then scrub and pick off the labels, they come off fairly easy for the most part - rubbing alcohol also helps get some of the sticky off.
  • throw in the dishwasher - they should come out crystal clear.
That's it.

I don't think I would use them for any food related items unless they were pre wrapped, but that's just me.

 boiling the wax out.

 cooling process

  the little "pucks"

ta-da. clean.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Energy Bites

I was perusing Pinterest the other day for some simple, healthy snacks to make for a quick bite in between meals on workdays..  or anyday really. I decided on these adapted No Bake Energy Bites from Gimmie Some Oven - a great site btw! Original recipe created by Smashed Peas and Carrots.

I made these exactly as described however I didn't have flax or chia on hand, I think the chia is neither here nor there = your own preference but I think maybe the flax would've helped a bit, I added a bit more oat to compensate for the lack of flax.

These turned out perfectly yummy AND were fairly quick to put together. They do get a bit crumbly when putting together, I recommend maybe rubbing a little bit of coconut oil on your hands before rolling or just rinsing your hands in between every 3-5 balls or so, otherwise, the peanut butter sticks to your hands pulls the balls apart while you're trying to roll them. I also ended up letting these chill closer to an hour, I felt they were still too "soft" at a half hour but that might have been the lack of one ingredient, not sure?

I am looking forward to making more of these (with flax) and trying some of Gimmie's other creations and coming up with some of my own.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Crockpot Oatmeal

Decided to give this a shot the other day, based off of this recipe. It was relatively easy to put together as most crockpot meals are and it has been nice to pop a container in the microwave in the morning while I've got a toddler super glued to my leg. 

It turned out pretty tasty, though this is the first time I've "made" oatmeal and I think I'll try it again and make a few tweaks..

Here's my thoughts on this specific batch I whipped up:

I made this recipe with the apples on the bottom to make it more caramel like - I think I'd mix it all next time and maybe make a small batch of apples/butter/brown sugar in a saute pan to put on top to give a little more oomph.

I used all spice instead of nutmeg (I didn't have any), don't think this made too much of a difference.

I used less sugars than called for as I am trying to cut back on sugar and slim down in general, it definitely didn't turn out very sweet so I did sprinkle a tiny bit of brown sugar on my individual servings, I think this is where the sauteed apples would be really yummy and you wouldn't really have to go overboard, just a good heaping tablespoon would really be yummy.

I think I will add nuts the next time around to give it a little more bite.

Looking forward to making another batch and topping with different fruits.

I've always had oatmeal with a dash of milk..  my breakfast buddy approved!

prepped for the hubs on his way out the door in the mornings.

precious little guys.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Small Luxury

There is nothing like simple pleasures.. true wealth without wealth itself. Some of the things that I find as true pleasure and am so grateful for is..
  • hot, sweet, creamy coffee
  • a clean bed
  • clean, hot water
All of these things are incredibly simple for most of us and I'd say a lot of us take pleasure in them without giving them a second thought which is natural when it's all you know but take a moment to truly be appreciative and grateful for the "necessities" we can enjoy daily without so much as turning a knob or pushing a button. Don't get me wrong, I'm not preaching.. just taking a moment out of my day to be conscious of the things I am allowed to revel in and yet be humble about them as there are plenty of folks on my own turf as well as far across this world that cannot.