A favor and a new recipe

So, I’ll admit the obvious – it’s been a while since I posted.  Like, months.  Sorry.  We moved, had summer break, started school, and now it is March 8th already.  I’ll promise to do to better.

Now, onto my favor.  When I am not at home cooking and spending time with my family, I’m a middle school teacher.  I teach 4 Family and Consumer Science classes and 2 reading enrichment classes.  I’ve applied for a grant through Farmer’s Insurance but can only be awarded by getting a certain amount of votes.  Right now, our number of votes isn’t looking very promising.  The money from the grant will be used to purchase reading material for our reading enrichment classes.

This is where I need your favor – go vote for me and my school!  Click on this link : http://www.thankamillionteachers.com/vote-for-a-proposal/

My last name (obviously enough) is Soll and my school is New Providence Middle School.  Our school has very low-income students and a large percent of the students have parents in the military.  Our school needs all the support we can get.  You have to provide your e-mail address, but you will not get any type of spam and junk mail.

After you have voted, please pass this along to everyone you know.  You can vote once everyday until April 1st.  Every single vote matters.

In return for your vote, I’ve provided the recipe to my new favorite dressing.  It can also be used as a great pork chop marinade.

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Dressing

1 t ground sage

1/2 t salt

1/4 t pepper

1 garlic clove

1/2 c water

1/2 c brown sugar

1/4 c balsamic vinegar

2 T soy sauce

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat and stir until sugar is fully dissolved.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

I hope you will enjoy this dressing over a nice salad while you vote for my grant!

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

med103255_1107_penne_pump_vertIt is pumpkin time again.  I have gotten burned out on pumpkin muffins in the past, and I’m not a big fan of pumpkin in my coffee.  However, I still wanted to get on the pumpkin bandwagon.  I searched for some recipes that used pumpkin in ways other than what I have had in the past.

And I found it.  Creamy Pumpkin Pasta.  It is delicious.  As usual, I made a few changes from what the recipe calls for.  Here’s the link with the recipe and then my changes.

http://www.marthastewart.com/314671/penne-with-creamy-pumpkin-sauce

I doubled the garlic only b/c I really like garlic.

I used shredded Parmesan instead of grated b/c it gives a better flavor.

I used apple cider vinegar instead of white wine vinegar b/c I already had the cider vinegar.

I also added some shredded chicken to give the dish a little protein.

We ended up with enough left over for another meal.  It was delicious.  Whether you are a pumpkin fan or not, I suggest giving this a try.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Black Bean and Avocado Brownies

 

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I saw a black bean and avocado brownie recipe on Pinterest the other day and decided to try them out.  They were easy to make and are very moist.  They tasted a little different than normal brownies but are still really good.  My sons would have eaten the entire pan if I had let them.

Here’s the link with the recipe.

http://www.bakeaholicmama.com/2012/03/healthy-brownie.html

I doubled the sugar and used 1/3 of a cup of peanut butter instead of a 1/4.  I pureed the beans and avocado in my food processor first and then added the rest of the ingredients into the food processor and let it run until it was the same consistency as regular brownie batter.

In the end, these made a nice afternoon snack that we all enjoyed.

 

 

Homemade Tortilla Shells

Photo courtesy of www.allrecipes.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.allrecipes.com

When buying  pre-made food, I try to find food that contains 5 or fewer ingredients and has ingredients that I can pronounce.  I’ve searched different grocery stores and haven’t been able to find tortillas that meet my requirements.  So, I began searching online for some simple homemade tortillas.

Here are two recipe for tortillas that I recommend.  Both are good, but I’ll be honest, the white flour ones are better.   Sometimes white flour just taste better.

This recipe uses white flour.

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Homemade-Flour-Tortillas/Detail.aspx

This recipe uses wheat flour.

http://www.cookingalamel.com/2013/05/homemade-whole-wheat-tortillas.html

I use butter instead of lard or olive oil like the recipes call for.  If possible, get a tortilla press.  I have to use my rolling-pin, but I hope to get a tortilla press at some point.

I’ve given up on trying to make them into a perfect circle and all the same size.  Homemade tortillas taste the same no matter how “perfect” they look.  I guess that is one thing about homemade tortillas – they may not look “perfect” like the store-bought brands, but at least they taste better.

You can also make these in large batches and freeze them.

Making tortillas can be a little time consuming, but trust me – they are much better than what you get at the store.  Much better!

Fat Free Zucchini Muffins

courgettesI’m a big fan of zucchini muffins.  They are great for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  Plus, they are easy to make.  Over the summer, I’ve made zucchini muffins more times than I can count and each time they were a little different.  My husband teases me and says that I never make something the same way twice.  I must agree.  I usually cook with what I already have in my kitchen.  It’s a great way to decrease cost and it helps prevent food from going bad.

My most recent zucchini muffins are very different than the rest.  All of the recipes that I have used call for oil and eggs to keep the muffins moist.  However, oil and eggs add a significant amount of fat.  I wanted to add some protein and try to decrease the fat content in my muffins.  I decided to use Greek yogurt instead of oil and eggs and the final product taste great.  Here’s my final recipe (which I think I will stick with for now on) and the links to a few other good ones.

Fat Free Zucchini Muffins

1 cup Fat Free Greek Yogurt

1 cup honey

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

3 cups white whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the yogurt, honey, and vanilla until fully combined.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until the dry ingredients have absorbed all the liquid.  Last of all, add the zucchini and mix well.

Pour the batter into lightly greased muffins tins and bake for 15-20 minutes.  You should end up with around 18 muffins.

The final result isn’t as sweet as other muffins, so keep that in mind if you have a sweet tooth.  Here are the other recipes that I have used and recommend.

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/06/25/recipe-zucchini-bread/

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/100-whole-wheat-zucchini-chocolate-chip-bread-recipe

Batch cooking, round 2

A few weeks before Spring Break we finished off our last frozen meal.  I was already planning on spending time during our Spring Break cooking and freezing more meals.  During those few weeks before our break, I realized  how convenient frozen meals were.  Supper took more time and effort to fix, and I missed the convenience of my frozen meals.

So, I started planning out what I would cook.  We enjoyed all of the meals I made last time, but I wanted to make some new dishes this time.  I also didn’t make any soup this time; I assumed since it would be spring soon, we would start to  have some warmer weather.  Although, it did snow the first 2 days of our Spring Break.

turkey-shepherds-pie

Along with the 2 Shepard’s pie,

http://www.laaloosh.com/2011/01/21/turkey-shepherds-pie-recipe/

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I also made 3 Chicken and Pasta Casseroles,

https://sollmomsrealfood.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/chicken-and-pasta-casserole/

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2 Taco Casseroles,

https://sollmomsrealfood.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/taco-casserole/

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and 2 Chicken and Potato Casseroles.

https://sollmomsrealfood.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/chicken-and-potato-casserole/

The following day I cooked a 15 pound turkey in the oven, separated it into 1 pound bags, and vacuumed sealed them.  I also fixed 4 green bean kits and 5 meat loaves.

I have a feeling we will be well stocked until the summer.  I’ve come up with a few tips to help when planning on cooking a big batch of meals.

1. Potatoes that need to bake or boil get priority.

2.  Cook as much meat ahead of time as possible.

3.  Have a plan for the order in which you will fix the meals.

4. Keep in mind the pots that you will use and try to use as few as possible.

5.  Make sure the kids are not at home.

6.  Be very certain that you have all the ingredients you need.

7.  Find recipes that use very basic ingredients that are easy to fix.

8.  Find recipes that use similar ingredients. * Notice that 2 of my meals used potatoes which are very inexpensive.

I only spent $175 on all of the food, and I expect to get a total 50 servings.   Which, in the end, means that each serving will cost around $3.

Keep in mind that all the meat and fresh produce are organic and nothing I used was highly processed or pre-made.  I made all of the chicken broth (which was used in almost all of the recipes) from the chicken scraps, bought the cheese in blocks and shredded them, and used dried beans that I soaked the night before.

It took me about 8 hours to put everything together.  I was very tired at the end of the day but was proud of what I had accomplished.  If you haven’t tried cooking in bulk yet, I highly recommend you do it.  Start out small if you need but at least give it a try – and be sure to let me know how it goes.

Homemade Yogurt

One of the first fooFinished-Yogurt-on-a-Spoonds I made when I started cooking at home was yogurt.  I made it about once a week and would mix it with homemade blueberry jelly.  Talk about delicious!  It was wonderful.  And filling. And healthy.  And inexpensive.  Everything a real foodie could want.  But then I got sick and got out of the routine of making the yogurt.

I missed this creamy treat but no longer had the motivation to make it.  So, I started buying organic yogurt at the store.  Now, although this is also good, it just isn’t the same.  Plus it is more expensive.

After realizing how much I was spending on yogurt, about 8 dollars a week, I figured it was time to get back in the habit.

The recipe I had used in the past made for a runny yogurt.  While is tasted good, I wanted something a little thicker this time.  I had been using the oven light to let the yogurt incubate, but I wanted to try something different this time.

And then I found it.  This website gives instructions for using a pot and heating pad to incubate the yogurt.  Believe me, it works.  I now have a yogurt that is thick enough to mix with vanilla and honey without loosing its thick consistency.

http://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2012/10/how-to-make-your-own-yogurt/#.USnxwGfUww9

Although making yogurt may seem intimidating, it is really easy.  It only takes heating up milk, letting it cool down, mixing in a starter, and then keeping it warm for about 8 hours.  I highly suggest trying it out.

Once it is finished, you can mix it with honey and vanilla (homemade is best – https://sollmomsrealfood.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/homemade-vanilla-extract ), homemade jellies, or make a smoothie with some frozen fruit.  I hope you enjoy this as much as my family does.

All Fats are Not Created The Same

fats It took me a long time to stop worrying about the amount of fat in my food.  It was as if I had been brainwashed to believe that eating fat was bad and should be avoided at all cost.  However, once I started researching some sites and gathering information, I realized that not all fats are created the same.

It gets rather complicated, but here are the basics.

1.  Fat that naturally occurs in animals or plants is good fat.

2.  Anything that has the root hydro in it is bad fat.

3. Anything that was created by a scientist in a lab is bad fat.

I know that seems very simplistic. Feel free to do some research on your own for a more detailed explanation.

How did I overcome the brainwashing?  I started thinking about how our bodies are designed and how God knew what he was doing when he created nourishment for our bodies.  Have you ever thought about the fact that He didn’t create any fat free cows?  He intended for our bodies to consume fat.  There are plenty of sites that explain why we need fat.   It is the type and the amount of fat that we put into our bodies that matter.

We drink whole milk at home and I cook with three different fats.

1. organic butter (not margarine)bttr_1lb_cltrd

2. olive oilolive oil

3. coconut oilCoconut Oil

Here is a site that does a better job of explaining the different fats and how to cook with them.

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/05/14/mini-pledge-week-10-no-refined-oils/

Eating fat may be a challenge to you as well.  However, it won’t take you long to realize that adding fat makes food much more enjoyable.  Just keep in mind, moderation is key.  To be honest, I began using and eating too much fat when we first started eating real food.  I could definitely tell a change in my weight.  I wasn’t focusing on moderation.  I don’t stress about the amount of fat that I consume each day.  I’m aware of the amount that I consume, but I don’t feel the need to count every gram.  Like I said, moderation is key.

I no longer feel anxious and worried about adding butter and oil to my food and drinking whole milk.  I’ve overcome the brainwashing!  Do you feel that you have been brainwashed to avoid certain foods?