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!

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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!

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.

Chicken and Pasta Casserole

100_2888As I was planning my menu for the next few months, I wanted to have a chicken pasta dish.  I didn’t want one that had an Alfredo sauce or a tomato based sauce.  I found this tuna noodle casserole and decided to use chicken instead of canned tuna.

It turned out great and makes for a nice chicken pasta dish.  I cooked a whole chicken in the crockpot and shredded it.  I used to bones and scraps to make the broth.  I also made bread crumbs from my homemade bread.  The most expensive ingredient in the dish is the mushrooms.  That’s mainly because I made my own cream of mushroom soup and used organic mushrooms.

Overall, it’s rather inexpensive to make and very delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

http://onceamonthmom.com/lighter-tuna-noodle-casserole/

Whole Wheat Birthday Cake

So, my oldest100_2827 son turned 4 on the 13th.  I wanted to have a homemade cake but wasn’t sure what recipe would be best since I was using whole wheat.  I found this one on one of my favorite blogs ( http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/08/05/recipe-whole-wheat-chocolate-cake-with-easy-whipped-cream-frosting/)  I used all wheat flour instead of 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat.  I also decreased the baking soda by a tsp b/c I thought it would taste too strong.  The cake turned out great.

I wasn’t very interested in the icing that goes along with the cake recipe.  I thought about what would go best with chocolate cake.  Then it hit me, peanut butter icing.  Everything, especially chocolate, taste great when you add peanut butter.  So, I made this peanut butter icing ( http://allrecipes.com/recipe/fluffy-peanut-butter-frosting/) .  I wanted to write on the cake with chocolate icing, so I mixed some cocoa powder, milk, butter, and powered sugar until I got the right consistency.

The cake turned out great.  It was a pirate themed cake, so I added a few figures from my son’s favorite pirate show.  Overall, it was a great party and everyone enjoyed the good food.   100_2831

Real Food Snacks – Ideas for food during the Big Game

Most people haveImage the notion that party food has to be junk food.  That is definitely  not the case.  Although we don’t have big plans for the big game, I do have plans for food to eat during the game.

I’m going to make some Loaded Potatoes Skins based off of this recipe:

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/potato_skins/

I’m going to use coconut oil instead of canola oil, and I’m leaving out the green onions.  I didn’t see the need in spending money on some green onions for just this meal.  Instead, I’m going to add more cheese and bacon, that sounds like a reasonable substitute to me.  Here’s what I bought in order to keep this meal real food friendly.

1 Bag of organic potatoes – these aren’t much more expensive than non-organic

Sour Cream with just cream, milk, and vitamin AImage

* Be careful, the generic brands usually add oil and other additives

Nitrate and additive free bacon

* This type of bacon tends to cost more, but it taste so much better!

The rest of the ingredients are real food friendly.

I’m also going to make some Buffalo Style Chicken Legs.  I bought some organic chicken legs at Kroger and will make this sauce to go with them.

http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/condiments/homemade-buffalo-wing-sauce/

I’m really looking forward to these dishes.  I’m a big potato fan and you can’t go wrong with adding bacon and cheese to most dishes.

My husband likes buffalo style chicken, so that dish is for him.

No matter who wins the game, I have a feeling these dishes will both be winners at our house.  I hope everyone enjoys the game tomorrow and enjoys some real food snacks as well.

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?

Some tips to begin with

I have people ask me what I buy and what I eat.  It’s fairly easy to explain.

What I Buy

As far as groceries go, I have a few rules that I follow:

  1. The food must have 5 ingredients or fewer.
  2. If there are more than 5 ingredients, it must be ingredients that I could cook with.
  3. I must be able to pronounce all the ingredients and know where they came from.

I spend the majority of our money on meat (organic chicken and ground turkey), dairy, and fresh organic produce when available.  I buy organic foods because they don’t have pesticides and chemicals added.   During the summer, I bought our produce at the local farmer’s market.  You can click on the following link to locate a farmer’s market in your area: http://www.localharvest.org/

As far as dried goods go, I buy 1 ingredient peanut butter, almond butter, honey, coconut oil, olive oil, Triscuits, popcorn kernels, dried beans, organic spaghetti sauce, whole wheat pastas, organic granola bars, and many ingredients from the baking isle.

What I cook

It all started with bread.  The first  food I made from scratch was bread.  Don’t for a second believe that I spent endless hours letting the bread rise, kneading the dough, letting is rise again, shaping it, and then cooking it.  I’m much more resourceful than that.  I went to Goodwill and bought a used bread machine for $5 and haven’t bought a loaf of bread since.  Here’s the link to the bread recipe that I use:

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/100-whole-wheat-bread-for-the-bread-machine-recipe#.UODwcc7MGzQ.pinterest

I usually have to make bread twice a week.

Meals:  For breakfast we have eggs, cereal (usually plain cheerios), granola bars, or some fruit.  It depends on our mood and the amount of time we have.  For lunch I make chicken or tuna spread for sandwiches.  One of these days I will actually write down the recipe and post it.  We usually have stove popped popcorn and some fruit with lunch also.  For supper, we usually have soups, casseroles, spaghetti, or pizza (yep, all made from scratch).  I try to double the meat in most recipes so that we get plenty of protein.  For snacks, I make stove-popped popcorn, trail mix, and granola bars.  We also have plenty of cheese, yogurt, and fruit that we eat.

How to Start

My best recommendation for someone wanting to change their eating habits and begin eating real, wholesome food is to go through your fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Either give away or eat the foods that don’t meet real food guidelines.  This is one of the hardest parts b/c it means saying goodbye to food that you enjoy, but don’t worry.  You will be able to replace it with food that not only taste better, but it is also better for you.  After that, stock up on white whole wheat flour, spices, healthy oils (extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil), nuts (be sure to check the ingredients – you’d be surprised with the extra stuff they add to peanuts), dried fruits, and any other food that you find that meets the guidelines.  Just be sure to check the labels.

And remember, making any type of change is far better than not making a change at all.