Do it Yourself: Homemade Barbeque Sauce

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20130413-092809.jpgSooooo…. this is the first time I’ve ever made a homemade condiment!  Other than salsa, if you count that!  Did you know that most store-bought barbeque sauces have an insane amount of sugar and most have high fructose corn syrup in them?  I’ve decided I no longer want to buy barbeque sauce from the store because of this and also because of all of the extra, unwanted additives and chemicals they put in pretty much all processed foods.  But, this recipe is seriously SO easy! Anyone could make it.  Just throw all the ingredients in a pot, stir and simmer for 25 minutes or so.  And I have the YUMMIEST recipe idea that I will post about tomorrow or very soon… it was SO good! Liquid smoke, one of the ingredients, is something I had never bought before. It is a substance produced from smoke that is passed through water.  It’s used to flavor and preserve foods.  In this recipe, it adds the distinct hickory flavor that is common to barbeque sauce.  I found it in the condiment aisle of my grocery store, I think next to the barbeque sauces, even.

Homemade Barbeque Sauce
from Skinnytaste
Makes 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons

  • 1 1/3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses (unsulfured)
  • 2 tsp all natural hickory liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let it cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To use on grilled meat, brush onto chicken, pork or beef the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Unprocessing My Diet and Whole Wheat Waffles recipe

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So I will say first things first: I don’t believe actual “diets” work.  As stated in my About Me page, people who lose substantial weight on popular diets (think Atkins, HCG, etc) almost always regain the weight within 5 years.  What works is a healthy lifestyle.  I DO believe in changing the way you eat to include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These 3 things are the 3 categories of food that most people need to work on eating more of.

I’ve recently come upon the blog, 100 Days of Real Food.  Um wow, I can’t stop reading through all of the posts.  A wife and mom of 2 kids decided to completely eliminate all processed foods from her family’s diet.  At first it was a 100-day goal, but now they have continued this way of eating.  I’ve always known that it’s best to limit processed food intake, but the more I read and the more I think of it, it really makes sense to eat hardly ANY of it.  The “American” diet is saturated with processed junk food like Cheez-its, donut holes, Oreos, Reeses’… and is made with unnatural and even harmful ingredients such as artificial coloring dyes, artificial flavorings, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and genetically-modified organisms.  The saying is true that says if you wouldn’t find the ingredient in your pantry, then why should you be eating it?

Now that I have a daughter (she’s 2 months old), I’ve really been re-thinking my approach toward nutrition.  I ate pretty healthy before, buying low-fat products and whole-wheat bread, rice and tortillas, while trying to include lots of fruits and vegetables.  But I don’t think that’s enough anymore.  There is a definite link between nutrition and diseases of the body; you truly are what you eat.  I have a healthy body, but what I eat now will determine my health in 30, 40, 50 years from now, and I want my daughter and other future children to grow up eating the most healthy foods possible with a love of nutrition like mine.  I want their risk of getting illnesses and nutrition-related diseases to be as low as possible, and I know that I can minimize that risk in my own home.

Now I’m not going ever going to be perfect.  I can’t say I will never bake with all-purpose flour again (a true “real food” diet does not include any enriched flour) or that I will never eat an Oreo again. That is simply unrealistic.  However, I am going to do my best.  These are the things I am going to work on improving in mine and my family’s diet:

1. I’m not going to buy any products with high-fructose corn syrup in it
2. The products I buy will have as few ingredients as possible (the more ingredients it has, the more processed it is)
3. I will bake with whole-grain flour and unrefined sweeteners such as honey, pure maple syrup and sucanat
4. I will try to purchase as many organic products as I can afford
5. I will try to make homemade versions of store-bought items (like BBQ sauce, chicken broth, granola, bread, etc.)
6. I will stop buying low-fat and fat-free products (this post and this post were both an eye-opener to me but after additional research it makes sense that low-fat products are not healthier and they add in extra preservatives and other chemicals that make the product unsafe and unhealthy!)

This will be an on-going journey that will take time to completely adjust to, but I’m feeling committed.  I want the best for my family.  I feel SO amazing when I feed my body healthy, whole, REAL foods.  I constantly think back to the diet of our ancestors- processed junk food did not exist and they ate REAL food! It is the food that God intended us to eat, I think! (I’m definitely NOT saying it is a sin to eat processed foods at all, just that unprocessed food is in or is as close to its God-given natural state).

Here are some additional posts from the 100 Days blog that were interesting and helpful in eating less processed food:

Why you should cut processed food
What exactly is “real food?”
10 common misconceptions about real food
Real food meal plan ideas
85 snack ideas

I am definitely going to make a serious effort in eating “real” food and cooking and baking with real ingredients.  I’m excited to start this lifelong journey.  On a final note for today, I have a real food recipe that I got from the same blog… 100 Days of Real Food: waffles.  These are 100% whole wheat, using white whole wheat flour.  It is a little lighter in texture than normal whole wheat flour but yet has the same nutritional benefits.  These waffles are husband approved! My husband loved them, although he did not love the pure maple syrup that I put on top of my own waffle; he opted for regular pancake syrup (the processed, high-fructose corn syrup kind!). I personally enjoy the fresh taste of 100% real maple syrup and even though it is much runnier than pancake syrup, it is still very sweet and yummy.

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Whole Wheat Waffles
Makes 4-5 waffles

2 large eggs
1 ¾ cups milk (anything from skim milk to thick buttermilk should work)
¼ cup oil (I used coconut oil)
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour (organic white whole-wheat flour works great)
2 teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
Warmed 100% pure maple syrup for serving
Fresh fruit for serving

  1. Preheat your waffle iron.
  2. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, honey, cinnamon, and baking soda until well combined.
  3. Add in the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk together just until the large lumps disappear.
  4. When the waffle iron is hot, dab it with a little butter and then ladle some batter onto the center of the iron. Follow the instructions that came with your waffle maker to know how long it should be cooked (mine takes about 3 – 4 minutes each).
  5. Keep waffles warm until you finish cooking all of them. Top with pure maple syrup and fruit. Enjoy!

PERFECT Sugar Cookies

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It’s absolutely insane to me that Easter is just 2 days away…. I swear it was JUST Christmas! Time is FlYiNg by, especially now that I have a little one.  My baby is exactly 2 months old today! I’m loving that she is a lot more aware and more playful and super smiley but it seems like yesterday she was born. I’m afraid I’ll wake up tomorrow and she’ll be like 2 years old or something… I just wanna soak up as much as I can of this moochie baby phase.  Yes I just said “moochie.”  It’s a word, adjective, really, that my mother and I use to describe cute, chubby, irresistable babies that you just want to eat.  Moochie.  Perfect.  But seriously, can someone just pause time!? Please… just. stop.

Let’s talk about SUGAR COOKIES.  Okay so growing up my mom made sugar cookie cut-outs for just about every holiday- ALWAYS Halloween though, and USUALLY every Easter as well.  It is a fun tradition that I want to continue in my family.  I remember gathering around the table with my brothers and sister and decorating the baked and cooled cookie shapes with colored frosting and holiday-themed sprinkles.  The cookies my mom made were very good, in fact I’d make them again and again with no second thought if it weren’t for this other cookie recipe.  This “other” cookie recipe is the recipe of my sister-in-law, Annie.  She has made them a couple times and brought them to family gatherings.  They are ah-mazzzzing.  Super thick, not dry at all (perfect moistness), and so so soft with a thick, creamy frosting that sets up beautifully. They remind me of the store-bought sugar cookies with thick frosting and sprinkles that everyone is obsessed about. Except better. I wanted to try making them myself to see if they would taste as good as hers… and they definitely did!  Wow… this is my go-to sugar cookie recipe now forever! So yeah you should try them out… cause like Easter is this weekend so it would be a perfect occasion!🙂

Perfect, Thick Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs
Yield: about 2 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter (I used salted though and it was fine)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one.  Add sour cream and vanilla and mix.  Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add 1 cup at a time to batter.  Chill dough for 1 hour.  Roll out thick on floured surface (1/4 inch).  Cut into desired shapes and place on baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Wait until completely cool to frost.

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk

Mix all ingredients together using an electric mixer.

Bacon Cheddar Florentine Quiche- A Perfect Easter Breakfast

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I can hardly believe how fast this year has already gone. Seriously, this weekend is Easter? I’m not ready. KAY so I’m just gonna get right down to it.  Never made quiche before today (yes I actually made this recipe today!) and I was pleasantly surprised at the easiness and deliciousness! I’m thinkin’ this recipe might be on the repeat for this Sunday’s morning brunch..

Bacon Cheddar Florentine Quiche
recipe adapted from the Picky Palate cookbook
serves ~4 main dish servings

2 cups spinach
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup cheese- cheddar or monterey jack
1 refrigerated pie crust (or frozen pie crust- I used this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unroll the pie crust and put in a 9-inch pie plate.  Poke the bottom of crust with a fork several times.  Put chopped bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until it is cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Place bacon on a paper-towel lined plate.  Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Add spinach and onion to the reserved grease over medium-high heat and cook until onions are tender and spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes.

When oven temperature is ready, bake pie crust for about 10 minutes to pre-bake it (do not need this step if using a frozen pie crust).  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  When crust is done baking, take out of the oven and spread the spinach and onion mixture over the pre-baked crust, and top with the bacon. Pour egg mixture over, and then top with parsley and cheese.  Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until eggs are set.  Let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

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So prettttty much I’m obsessed with Pinterest.  So addicting. If you follow me, then you probably have seen my gazillion boards with food.  Cause like if I wanna make a pie, then all I have to do is go to my pie board and choose one! Haha oh wow I sound like a total geek right now.  This pasta was pinned a long time ago but I decided to just now give it a try. Um, it is dang good! I recommend making it! Although I did tweak some changes- mostly that I increased the red pepper from one to two. This was because a) I feel like there was not nearly enough red pepper for the whole recipe, and 2) I’m trying to eat less meat in my life (hopefully will be a blog post one of these days) and one good rule of thumb for this is to cut the meat portion of recipes in half and to double the veggies. Now I didn’t do exactly that, but you get the idea. Enjoy!

Chicken Enchilada Pasta
adapted from Pearls, Handcuffs and Happy Hour
serves ~4-6

2 chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 red peppers, diced
1 {4 oz.} can diced green chiles
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 {10 oz.} cans green chili enchilada sauce
2/3 cups red enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cheese {I used colby & monterrey jack}
1 cup sour cream
2/3 box of penne pasta
Optional toppings: avocado, green onions, black olives, tomatoes, sour cream

Cook chicken, drain, and shred.  Meanwhile boil pasta according to package and chop the veggies. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet and cook onions for about 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic & red pepper and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add cooked chicken, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt, & enchilada sauces.  Let sauce simmer for about 8-10 minutes.

Add cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and heated through.  Now toss in the sour cream, but whatever you do, DO NOT bring to a boil!  Cook on low heat or the sour cream will curdle.  Gross.  Stir until sour cream is well mixed and heated through.

Drain pasta & return to pot. Pour sauce over pasta and mix well.  Serve and garnish with avocado, tomato, green onion, and a dollop of sour cream.

Coconut Granola

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Here’s the deal. In my experience, homemade granola recipes just don’t tend to be as crunchy and “cluster-y” as store-bought granola.  Am I right? Or is that just me?  I’ve tried several granola recipes before this one and none of them were up to par with my crunchy granola standards.  Except this one.  Holy wonderful it is the best darn granola I think I’ve ever eaten. Can’t really tell in the picture, sorry I’m definitely no photographer.  But don’t let the pic deter you from making this granola.  It’s super easy, very healthy and amazingly delicious.

Coconut Granola
from Two Peas and Their Pod

2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a Slipat or parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, almonds, pepitas, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and coconut extract. Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients. Stir until dry ingredients are well-coated.
3. Pour the granola mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread granola into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes or until granola is golden brown, stirring every 10 minutes. Let granola cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 month.

The only advice I’ll give you is to not turn the oven temperature hotter than the recipe calls for, and don’t increase the time it’s in the oven because you think it’s nowhere near done yet.  This was my case making batch #1.  It turned out black and unedible.  I was very upset because it was smelling INCREDIBLE! Well I made another batch a week or so later (had to re-stock my coconut and pepitas) and actually followed the directions.. it came out perfect!🙂

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies and Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwich

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I have to be honest I’m not really sure what St. Pattys day is all about.  It’s fun to dress up in green and eat green food and celebrate the Irish and leprechauns and pinching but what is the actual purpose? And I’m not trying to downgrade the holiday, I seriously love any holiday where food can be made in celebration, but I’m just curious.  If anyone knows, please enlighten me.

Anyway, in celebration of the green holiday, I made something green and minty. Chocolatey and minty. Deliciously, chocolatey, St. patty’s day-worthy minty! These lovelies are basically to-die for. First you start off with the most fudgey, chocolatey cookies on the planet. Seriously I’m in love with these Double Chocolate Cookies from the Let’s Dish recipes blog. I’ve made them several times, and they always turn out.  Although I’ve found that the recipe requires a little more flour- I use 2 1/2 cups instead of 2 cups and bake them for 10 minutes at least. I tried 8-9 and it was not enough, they were a little gooey, but still awesome!

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Directions:

So, basically make the above cookies (follow the link to the blog). Eat the dough and eat a bunch of cookies before you realize you only have a dozen left to make ice cream sandwiches with.  Then whip out some mint ice cream (I used Dreyer’s Mint Cookie Crunch) and soften it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. (You could leave it on the counter for 10 minutes or so but I did not think ahead and was not patient enough to wait).  Then take a big dollop of ice cream and place it on one cookie, and then sandwich it with another.  Press down gently so that the ice cream flattens out, and use the back of a spoon to evenly spread the ice cream between the two cookies.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  In fact mine were pretty messy. Doesn’t affect the taste! Then wrap in a piece of aluminum foil. (It helps if you tear a bunch of pieces of foil off before starting the process, as then you don’t have to tear each one off with your messy, ice-cream fingers.) Place each cookie directly into the freezer after wrapping. Let freeze for a few hours until solid, then eat straight from the freezer!

I love these so much. I’m so excited to make different cookie/ice cream combinations… chocolate chip cookie and vanilla or chocolate or strawberry ice cream, peanut butter cookie and chocolate or Reeses ice cream… ah there’s so many possibilities! Love.

Homemade Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

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Look at these beauties.  I’m seriously so happy about them right now.  I saw the idea to make homemade sun-dried tomatoes on Pinterest and pretty much immediately went into the kitchen to make them yesterday.  All you need is a little basket of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (if you only had regular tomatoes, I’m sure you could slice or chop them up and it’d also work just fine!), some olive oil, and spices.  I used salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder.  I just sprinkled it all on without any measurements.  Then, toss it all together on a aluminum foil sheet-lined baking pan and stick in the oven at 250 for 2 hours.  Yes, 2 hours! Once you bite into one of these babies, you will be in heaven.  Ah-mazing!! Oh and to warn you, your house will smell incredible while these are in the oven.

Then I had the marvelous idea to mix these babies with some leftover whole-wheat spaghetti in the fridge along with pesto and parmesan cheese.  Best decision ever! I very much recommend making this for lunch. Or dinner.  Just whenever. It’s super easy and VERY TASTY and healthy too!

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Homemade Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

1 carton of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
dash of oregano
dash of garlic powder
dash of salt and pepper
Pesto sauce (can be homemade or jarred- I used jarred)
whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked
parmesan cheese, for sprinkling (optional)

Heat oven to 250 degrees F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, place the tomatoes and combine with olive oil, salt and pepper, oregano and garlic powder.  Just sprinkle the spices on until you feel like it’s enough.  Toss until all tomatoes are coated and then spread out evenly on baking sheet.  Bake in oven for 2 hours.  When they are done, combine whole-wheat spaghetti with pesto sauce (1/4 cup of pesto for every 1 cup of pasta) and top with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Yum!

Baked Mushroom Rice

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Oookayy so I truly am a mushroom lover.  Honestly, I think my favorite kind of pizza is cheese with mushrooms. I must be 80 years old or something.  But I feel a tad better because my meat-loving husband also adores mushroom pizza.  So there.  It’s cool to love mushrooms.

Anyway… even if you don’t love mushrooms all that much, you will most likely, probably still love this dish.  I pretty much am obsessed with it and want to make it again right now.  It’s got a TON of flavor.  a ton.  The only thing I think I will change next time is that I will use brown rice instead of white because brown rice is much healthier.  This recipe is from the Our Best Bites cookbook- a really awesome blog with awesome recipes.

Baked Mushroom Rice
from Our Best Bites, published on Sue’s Favorites
Yield: 6-8 servings
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cups beef broth
1/2 cup apple juice
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups long grain rice, uncooked

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Melt butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms. Continue cooking until onions are translucent and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat. Combine remaining ingredients in the pan. Transfer mixture into 9×13 dish. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir before serving.

Nutrition Facts: (1/6 of recipe) 158 calories, 5g fat (3g saturated), 10mg cholesterol, 1400mg sodium, 1g fiber, 5g protein

Vegetable Lime Chickpea Chili

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K what is up with the Arizona weather lately? Seriously three days ago it was 60 degrees and now this week it’s forecasted to get into the 90’s.  What the what? Not to mention it snowed a couple weeks ago! Snow in Arizona. Fur-real. Anyways I’m kinda bummed because chili and soup is technically a lot yummier to eat and more appropriate when it is at least slightly chilly outside.  And now the weather has (almost) screwed up my plans to give you this great recipe.  ‘Cause I figure that guess what? This will still taste just as good in 80 degree weather as it will in 50 degree weather. No warm spell is gonna bring me down! Anddd maybe, just maybe, you are actually somewhere where it IS still chilly! Yay for you!  But, seriously, this chickpea chili is very fabulous at any time of the year.  My meat-loving husband loved it in all its veggie glory.  I have an idea- if it is warm where you are (like AZ) simply blast your AC to winter conditions.  (Oh my husband would just LOVE that!) Then enjoy this soup? Sounds good to me.

Vegetable Lime Chickpea Chili
from the Picky Palate cookbook, published on Two Peas and Their Pod
Yield: 6-8 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped white onion
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
1 1/2 cups yellow squash
1 cup chopped mini sweet peppers (I just chopped one red bell pepper)
1 8-ounce package baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Optional: shredded cheese and sour cream as toppings

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet peppers, and baby bells and cook, stirring, until tender, 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, broth, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper, stir to combine and cook until hot, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until ready to serve. Top with cheese and sour cream if desired.

Nutrition Facts: (1/6 of recipe) 265 calories, 6.5g fat (0.9g saturated), 1513mg sodium, 11g fiber, 10g protein