Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pumpkin Puree

Yummy note: So if you are running behind like me, I FINALLY pureed up our little pumpkins that were sitting on our kitchen counter for decoration. We successfully grew a handful of little pumpkins this year in our garden box, so instead of carving them, as they were kind of small, I let the kids paint them. The kids painted the pumpkins with a non-toxic washable paint. I was able to easily clean the paint off and washed the pumpkins so that I could get them ready to head into the oven. I'm just happy the pumpkins were still nice and not mushy or spoiled and I'll have enough pumpkin puree for some thanksgiving dishes... If you have time try the homemade pumpkin puree out; it really tastes so much more wonderful using a freshly roasted pumpkin than some of the canned pumpkin. Also you'll notice the color, texture, and taste are just amazing.

Pumpkin Puree

Small pumpkins-- cleaned, cut in half, and seeded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pumpkin by cutting of the top and removing the stem. Next, split open the pumpkin in half and clean out the pumpkin. Remove all of the fiber and seeds, leaving only the pumpkin flesh and skin. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil and lay the pumpkin halves, flesh side down. Leave pumpkin uncovered in the oven to bake for about 30-45 minutes. Roast pumpkin pieces until a knife can be easily inserted/removed into the pumpkin skin in several places to ensure doneness. Once the flesh is tender and roasted, it is ready to take out of the oven. Let the pumpkin cool for a little bit until it is ok to touch. Remove the roasted flesh of the pumpkin from the skin using a knife or spoon even to peel back the skin. It should just fall off easily. Place in a blender, food processor, or a food mill. Process until the puree becomes smooth; this usually only takes a few minutes. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for later use in your favorite pumpkin dishes.

Note: I went ahead an measured out my portions before freezing them as it is easier to thaw that smaller portion for recipes. Muffin tin pans worked well for small portions. I got about 1/3 of a cup of puree in each. I frozen individual "cups" of pumpkin and then just packaged them up that way noting the measurement on the bag.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sloppy Joe Pizza

Yummy note: If you are anything like me, the Fall seems to be the crazy time of year around here; between school functions, various appointments and activities, the evening meal sometimes gets comprised. I hate to admit it, but there are a few of those busy nights where take out is handy.  I am always looking for quick midweek meals, so when I found these recipe from my Secret Recipe Club friend, Jamie from Our Eating Habits, she really nailed it with some fast, easy, not to mention kid friendly meals. I'm always looking to add another staple to our round of supper choices, and I think this one for Sloppy Joe Pizza captured a spot. :) We love making our own pizzas here, as it is so easy to customize; seriously, we love sloppy joes and pizza separately, so why haven't we tried making this Sloppy Joe Pizza at home before?!  Needless to say, it was delicious. Also, what a nice way to use up leftover sloppy joes and incorporate them in a new meal or if you are in a pinch and don't have pizza sauce, it is an easy replacement. After your pizza, make sure you stop by Our Eating Habits for some amazing dessert options. Jamie has a ton of homemade cupcake recipes and other desserts like the Rootbeer Float Cake or these festive Gingerbread cupcakes!

Sloppy Joe Pizza
Source: Our Eating Habits Sloppy Joe Pizza

2 tubes of refrigerated pizza crusts or your own homemade pizza dough
1 lb of ground beef or turkey
1 - 15 oz can of sloppy joe mix*
 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top - up to 1/2 cup

*I didn't have a can of sloppy joe mix on hand, so instead, I just used my quick standby sloppy joe/bbq recipe here for Easy BBQ.


Prepare your sloppy joes by browning the meat and adding your choice of sloppy joe mix or ingredients to make a homemade version. Next, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pizza dough and press into lightly greased cupcake pans for smaller mini pizzas or on a cookie sheet for larger pizzas. Pre-bake crust for a few minutes, 5-6 minutes for the smaller pizza cups or 7-8 minutes for a larger pizza. Basically just bake it just until the dough sets up a bit. Top each pizza with the sloppy joe mixture and then layer on the cheese. Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Note: This recipe can be easily cut in half to use up leftovers! 

Prepare the Sloppy Joes. 

Gather the rest of the pizza ingredients.
To make a pizza non-dairy, Daiya cheese  is a good alternative to try. 
We ended up making some smaller mini pizza bites as well using cupcake pans.
Top the partially baked pizza crusts. 
All ready for the oven - individualized pizzas perfect for all! 

In just a few minutes, bubbly golden pizzas ready to enjoy. 
Sloppy Joe Pizzas!!  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Coconut Caramel--Dairy-free dulce de leche

Yummy note: With dairy-allergies in our family, I've been trying to figure out a substitute for caramel. I  like caramel with brownies, dip for apples, and so on.. So when I found this recipe for dairy-free dulce de leche the other day on the Bon Appetite website, I had to try it out. The results-- it was not as thick or creamy as some traditional caramel sauces are, but it was delicious still being dairy-free.  It seriously couldn't be any easier. Just a few ingredients and about 25-30 minutes, you have a coconut-flavored caramel sauce, and it's a done deal! 

Coconut Caramel - aka dairy-free dulce de leche

2 -14-ounce cans of unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar (packed)
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

Put coconut milk, brown sugar, and salt in a large saucepan. Whisk together ingredients over medium heat until the brown sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Keep a low boil going on this mixture to keep it going. Continue until the mixture is reduced even more and beginning to turn thicker and darker in color. Stir mixture occasionally, roughly about 25-30 minutes. You should get about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of dulce de leche caramel when finished. Transfer sauce to small jars to cool. Cool completely, cover, and refrigerate. This coconut caramel will keep for 1 month chilled.

Whisk together, keep stirring occasionally. 

Starting to boil after a few minutes. 

It is starting to look like dulce de leche!  
Thick and slightly coconut-flavored caramel! 

Yummy Tip: Coconut milk opens MUCH easier when you look for the right "top" to open, haha. I tried opening what I thought was the top and it took forever, then I turned the can and saw an "OPEN" arrow on the bottom of the can... Oops.. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Coconut Macaroons

Yummy note:  I had such a fun and whimsical read this month for my Secret Recipe Club assignment. Chelsy from Mangia has a great blog devoted to many healthier recipes and adaptations, such as gluten-free, vegan, and even Paleo, like these macaroons I ended up picking to feature. So friends if you need recipe help or ideas in these categories, check this blog out. However, one thing you will find as a common theme running through her recipes, is that Chelsy has a passionate love affair with peanut butter and coconut. So I knew with some of the allergies in my house, I was going to be making something mostly for myself to enjoy. Yippee, mommy doesn't have to share ;-)  Mangia was perfect for it though, as Chelsy often refers to many recipes as a solution for the single gal :)  It was a toss up between making this banana pineapple coconut souffle or Paleo Coconut Macaroons... Either way, both recipes were things I've never even tried making before so I thought it would be fun. Macaroons ended up being the winner, as I am a sucker for those cookies the girls sell that resemble crispy yummy macaroons with chocolate drizzle.

Coconut Macaroons 

For the macaroons:
2 cups of unsweetened, shredded coconut
2 large eggs
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of honey

For the chocolate glaze:
2 tbsp. or so of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp of melted shortening or coconut oil
2 tbsp honey to sweetened it up
*I also added in a splash of coffee to my chocolate glaze to get it to a consistency I liked.

Stir together eggs, honey, and vanilla in a mixing bowl; then add in the coconut and mix well together.

Drop the mixture using a cookie dough scooper prepared baking sheet. In a preheated 350 degree oven Bake macaroons for 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges.

Not sure if this is normal but I had some run-offs from the macaroons.
 It was ok, just got a bit gooey and dark on the edges faster. 

 Let the macaroons cool on the pans for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Prepare the chocolate glaze in a small bowl until smooth and dip the bottoms of the cookies into the glaze.

 Once the bottom chocolate dries, flip macaroons over and finish the tops with more chocolate drizzle.  
Chewy flavorful coconut macaroons - reminds me of a Hershey's Mounds.
These macaroons were pretty delicious paired up with a nice cup of mocha... 

Wait, what's this here?  I had a tiny bit of coconut macaroon mixture leftover so I used it in a different way. I liked the how the coconut and honey made like a caramel flavor, so I wanted to try it on top of a shortbread like cookie. So I used these mini shortbread cookies as a bottom to hold this leftover coconut macaroon mix, and wow, this is so going to be a new cookie I want to make. It was amazing; crunchy cookie bottom with a chewy coconut middle, topped with a chocolate coffee drizzle.. oh, yes, or as Chelsy would say, "Mangia!"

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Protein balls

Yummy note: I love to graze, my kids seem to have the munchies a lot, too. So it feels like we are eating all the time here at my house. I have been trying to make healthier things to fill our tummies with, especially between meals. I also like to eat a little something before or after I workout, which these little protein balls fit perfect for that. They are small and quick to pop for a snack, plus when I add in the added protein powder they really seem to help ease my hunger in between meals. My kids like to eat a modified version of these which are dairy and nut-free as more of a granola bar form, but I like to make my version in a bite size form for smaller portions and with nuts. Last month, I took these to the fitness center, where I take some exercise classes, for a birthday treat and they also agreed that these little protein balls were a good healthy snack. :) 

Protein Balls 

Source: recipe slightly adapted from


1 cup (dry) old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup prepared PB2 or peanut butter (or other alternative, such as soybutter, sunflower seed, etc.)
1/3 cup honey
2/3 cup toasted or regular coconut flakes
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 tbsp vanilla protein powder (If you don't add in protein powder, you may want to add in a teaspoon of vanilla extract or cinnamon for additional flavor.)

*optional add-in - 1/4 to 1/2 cup of either mini chocolate chips, chopped raisins/prunes, or chopped nuts

*note if you add in additional add-ins above, you may need to adjust and add in more peanut butter or honey to keep the mixture from being too dry.

In a large bowl, first mix together the peanut butter and honey. Then add in all of the remaining ingredients and stir together until thoroughly mixed. Chill the mixture for about an hour or so. Then roll into bite-sized balls or use a cookie dough scoop for equal portions. Store protein balls in the refrigerator so they will last longer. This recipe makes about 20 balls, depending on the size. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Peach Cobbler

Yummy note: This summer, the kids and I sure loved hitting all of the amazing farmer's markets around the area. They made me quite proud the other morning, when the farmer was asking them what each vegetable or fruit was, and my kiddos correctly answered about 80 percent of his questions right! My oldest could recognize zucchini, kale, squash, red bell peppers, and garlic; while my youngest identified melons, carrots, apples, and these amazing looking peaches. So we ended up with a bunch of peaches we found at the farmer's market, and I wasn't quite sure what we were going to do with them all at first, other then to just enjoy eating them fresh! Then came along the Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month of September. Well, hello and thank you to Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake, as she had some great peach recipes I could pick from to use them up on; like a Tomato Salad with Peach and Basil Vinaigrette or a Peach Upside Down Chiffon Cake. Then just recently Liz featured a Peach Galette. All great choices, I'm sure, but for some reason, I realized I've never really made a true cobbler before and this Peach Cobbler looked awesome. I've made various fruit crisps but not cobblers, and there is a real difference between the two in the topping category. The cobbler was more of a buttery biscuit like topping, while the crisps are more like an oatmeal cookie topping. Both equally delicious in their own rights! 

Peach Cobbler

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup of flour
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of baking powder
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of milk
6-8 peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced - *See picture for easy peach prep techniques.
1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place butter in large baking baking dish and place in the oven to melt the butter. I used roughly a 9 x 9 baking dish and I think it was too small, as you will note some spillage in my photos.

So I would use a slightly larger one to prevent any loss of cobbler. Next prep your peaches. I used a simple method of slicing an "x" on the bottom of my peaches and placing in a pan of boiling water for roughly only 30 seconds. This helps release the peach skins, so that they peel off with ease. After placing peaches in the boiling water for only about 30 seconds, immediately place them in cool water to stop the heating process and then they will become cooler to touch and then peel the skins. After the skins are peeled cut the peaches into about 1/2 inch slices for the cobbler.

In a bowl, combine flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk, without over stirring, and pour over the melted butter.

Combine 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice, and peaches in a large pan over the stove. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar starts to dissolve and mixture becomes bubbly. Mix in some cinnamon to taste.

Pour over the cobbler batter, without stirring it together. Bake the cobbler (on a cookie sheet if you are concerned about spillage) for about 45 minutes or until it is a nice golden brown and the peach mixture below is hot and bubbly.

 After I cleaned up my overflow of peach cobbler, look at the beautiful golden brown crust.
A warm cobbler is the way to go... tender peaches and a slightly crunchy, gooey topping is the way to eat this cobbler! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Watermelon Sorbet

Yummy note: Need a cold treat that isn't too sugary or sweet but tastes awesome! Not to mention it seems to be a hit with everyone? Watermelon sorbet is it! This dessert is a dairy-free, light and refreshing frosty treat. This watermelon sorbet also would work like a palate cleanser too as this sorbet is such a nice way to finish off a meal and it is pretty light. If you have a bunch of watermelon and need to use it up in different ways other than a fruit salad this is perfect. For an adult version, perhaps add in a little vodka to the watermelon mixture or make a cool cocktail.

Watermelon Sorbet

3 cups watermelon, diced and seeds removed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water 
1/4 cup lime or lemon juice 
Chocolate chips, optional
Salt, optional
Watermelon rind, optional for presentation purposes

Make simple syrup using the water and sugar. Do that by cooking the sugar, water, and juice together in a small saucepan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove simple syrup from the heat and cool. 

Prepare watermelon. Cut into cubes and remove the seeds (or use seedless watermelon which saves some time.)  Place watermelon in blender or food processor and process until smooth. Stir this into the chilled simple syrup. Cool the mixture if you wish, or pour directly into your ice ream maker. Process according to the ice cream maker instructions. My Cuisinart ice cream maker took bout 35-45 minutes of churning before it became scoop-able.  

You could also use this recipe without an ice cream maker by pouring the mixture into a shallow metal pan and freeing it. Every 30 minutes or so stir in the ice crystals that forming on the sides of the pan into the center. Repeat this process until the liquid all becomes icy and frozen. 

Serve with chocolate chips tossed on top to look like seeds for fun or sprinkle with a little sugar. You could also freeze it in the watermelon rind and serve it in a fun way. If you are one of those "need salt on watermelon" people, yes, you know who you are, haha.. This actually tastes pretty awesome with a sprinkle of salt, which brings out the intense watermelon flavor.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Unicorn Poop Cookies

Yummy note: It was like Christmas in July for this month's Secret Recipe Club assignment time. Why? Well, with school starting up again here, I wanted to be able to pick out a fun kid-friendly recipe for this month with my kitchen helper shadows. I knew when I got my assignment, it was a perfect fit for us to pick from. The blogger I received was one that I have secretly stalked in the past few years! :o) Erin from Making Memories With Your Kids was the lucky recipient and she has such a fantastic site that features a bunch of recipes, to cutesy crafts, and fun activities to keep you and the family busy!  I had seen these Squigglers from her site a while back, and my kids enjoyed those guys here. Then last year, Erin made some brownies in eggs that my kids flipped over!  What a fun April Fool's Day treat we had with our friends! So I knew this time around, I had to find yet another amazing recipe to use. We thought of the Martian Cookies as we have home-grown zuchinni's coming out of our ears still with my little garden box producing plenty; but we were looking for some real hands-on fun. So I consulted my husband for his input too; he found the Play Doh Cookies, but I vetoed that and went a step above Play Doh Cookies for Unicorn Poop Cookies! Both had fun color, but when you can add sparkles and sprinkles and frosting, it is way better according to my daughter :) They could still play with their food (aka, cookie dough, which won my kids over. I think they enjoyed eating the cookie dough part more than making creations though! Thanks, Erin from Making Memories With Your Kids for such a fun post, as I made some great memories with my kids making these cookies!

Unicorn Poop Cookies 

1/2 cup of butter, softened (or we used a soy margarine for dairy-free option)
1/2 cup of margarine
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Food coloring
pearl ball decorations
sparkling gel
Shimmery sugar dust/flakes

Cream together margarine, butter, and sugar. Add in the eggs and vanilla. Slowly add in your flour, salt, and baking powder; adding too much too fast results in a large cloud of flour dust. Trust me, on that one... Once the dry ingredients are mixed in, divide the dough into 5 or 6 smaller bowls. Add in a few drops of food coloring and stir into dough until well incorporated.

Chill the dough for about an hour so it is easier to handle and roll out into "snakes" or strips. Next sprinkle a little flour on your work surface so that the dough doesn't get sticky while rolling out your snakes. Erin suggested to make one long snake out of each color and then put the separate colors all together at the end to make one big combined color one. I think that plan would have been easier than what my kids decided to do. They each wanted their own snakes to play with while designing their cookies, so I went for it... This took considerably longer to create cookies, so I'm sure Erin's route from the beginning was much faster to do, as I ended up creating a larger snake once my kids were "done" making their creations and it was moving along much faster :) Either way, makes snakes and let the kids have a good time manipulating the dough into whatever colorful unicorn poop creation they'd like! So check out Making Memories With Your Kids for better visual of the creation of he larger snakes if you need!

Once your creations are ready to bake, place them in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes. After you take the cookies from the oven, place the pearl balls into the cookies before they cool or else they will fall off. If the cookies are already too cool, just add them at the end after you put on the decorating gel or glaze. We made a quick vanilla glaze too, with just powdered sugar and a little bit of water.

So what was the review: I got a couple of "stinky p-u's" from my little guy who is 2 1/2, who thinks anything associated to the word "poop" means stinky or gross, but then retook his statement to "mommy, yummy" after he ate it :)  Then my older 7-year old daughter proclaimed that unicorn poop cookies are super cute and funny, especially when you can say the word "poop" and not get into trouble. :) Also, the cookie ingredient base is a pretty delicious tasting cookie, so if you are scared of all of the color, just try to make the cookies without the coloring to enjoy a soft, not too crumbly sugar cookie.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Spinach Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

Yummy note: I feel that cooking is about having fun, trying new things, and getting your hands hands a little messy along the way. Sometimes I get in that never try anything new rut, and forget how exciting it is when you try a brand new recipe. That is why I love our Secret Recipe Club. This month I had Manu's Menu.  Manu's site has a wide variety of recipes on her site, ranging from regional Italian dishes, to cake pops and cookies, to her daughter's adorable birthday party treats. My favorite parts of Manu's site are in the techniques and tips sections. Seriously check her site out and bookmark it for later! You will want to make your own pasta after you see how easy it is; it is just one of those things you should do once in a while. 

My daughter and I had a free afternoon and it was perfectly open for making pasta. The weather could have cooperated a bit more with us, as it was a tad humid out, which seemed to take longer for our pasta to dry. Eh, either way, we had fun "squishing the dough" and "making noodles."  We let it dry out a bit before using it for supper and it worked, plus it gave us time to start our sauce for it. This Spinach Pasta with Bolognese Sauce was a hit. Everyone, yes, all 4 of us in our family, ate it and enjoyed it. I think part of it was due to the kids enjoyed having a hand in making the noodles for our supper and it was a "cool"-ness factor I think for making green noodles. This dish had great color! Then we topped these noodles with an amazing rich bolognese sauce as well. These recipes resulted in a double win-win!  I loved the chopped carrots in the bolognese as it added a slight sweetness to the dish, while the wine added more flavor depth than I have tried in some of my previous sauces.

Spinach Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

Spinach Pasta
under the Green Egg Pasta Dough portion

5.25 ounces of fresh spinach
salt for seasoning
2-3 eggs (depending on how much moisture is in the dough)
10.5 ounces of flour (roughly about 2 or so cups)

Either follow Manu's directions here, or I happened to mix mine up in a blender. You need to wilt your spinach; all I did was throw it into a sauce pan with a little bit of salt and water and warmed it up for a few minutes, until it started to wilt. Cool the wilted spinach and squeeze out the water, getting out as much water as possible. Put the flour, wilted spinach, and eggs in a blender or food processor and mix. Once all ingredients are incorporated and looks crumbly, dump it out onto a floured surface and knead the pasta dough. It will take a few minutes, and you might need to adjust the consistency of the dough and add more flour, as the moisture from the spinach begins to incorporate into the dough. Do this process until you get a nice smooth dough and the spinach green color is prominent.  Roll into a ball and cover it with cling wrap and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. After the rest, roll out the dough and cut into smaller rectangular sheets to begin the passes through the pasta machine. NOTE: Manu has wonderful instructions here on how to prepare your dough and how to use it with your pasta machine, so I would check her site out here for instructions if you are new to pasta making. Once you have your thin sheets of pasta, send it through again to cut to desired noodles. Place cut noodles and gently separate into piles to dry.   

In the meantime you could begin your sauce for the noodles. I picked this awesome bolognese recipe from Manu's site to pair it with. However, if you don't care for red sauces, or your are looking for something quick with your pasta, check out this fairly simple dish using a tuna and ricotta

Bolognese Sauce

1 pound of ground beef 
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 glass of good red wine
1 can of diced tomatoes (I happened to use a combination can of tomato and green chilies as that is what my kids and I accidentally opened and it still tasted great!)  
Salt and Pepper for seasoning
3 cups of water

In a large saucepan, drizzle in the olive oil and toss in the finely diced onion, carrot, and celery. Once they begin to soften a little, add in the ground beef. Stir well and continue to brown the meat.  Once the meat is brown, add the red wine and scrap off any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan and turn the heat up some to burn off the alcohol, leaving the flavor behind. Add the salt, pepper, can of tomatoes, and water.  Cover sauce and cook on low for about an hour. Keep the sauce simmering throughout this time. Stir occasionally. If it begins to thicken up too quick, you can turn the heat even lower and add in a little more water. Towards the end of your sauce time, you should start cooking your pasta, which didn't seem to take very long. Once again, Manu has a wonderful area set aside to just this, preparing pasta al dente. Spoon over your favorite pasta and top with a little cheese, if desired.   

Manu, thank you so much for sharing this recipe. Really, your nonna had to have been an amazing woman and cook, as this recipe took me to a little place of Italy without even leaving my kitchen!