Homemade vanilla extract is the easiest thing you will ever make…in your life….period! Keep reading to see how simple it is and so much cheaper than store-bought! Read the rest of this entry
Who among us has not opened the pantry only to find we do not have a necessary spice that we KNEW we had? Here is a list of emergency substitutions that can hopefully help you avoid that dreaded trip to the grocery store! Read the rest of this entry
Why cook dried beans you ask? Several reasons come to mind:
- You know what is in them
- The beans are not filled with sodium
- Better taste and texture
Here is how to cook dried beans…
Sort: I started with 2 cups of dried beans and I pull out every dried bean that is broken or discolored and throw away.
Boil: Boiling removes toxins that can be in dried beans. Put the 2 cups of sorted beans in a pot and add 4 cups of water. Bring the beans to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Tilt the lid on your pot to allow steam to escape so that the beans do not boil over. After five minutes of boiling, return the beans to the colander. and drain. Draining the water helps the beans to cause less gas when you eat them (very important!).
Crock Pot: Put beans in crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Put salt in to taste after the beans are cooked.
Freezer: Store beans in freezer. I used glass mason jars. Thaw beans ahead of time or defrost on stove top or microwave if you forget (Never happens to me…).
The dried beans in this post are white beans but any type of dried bean will work. For faster cooking, beans can be placed in a pan on your stove top and cooked for 1-2 hours until tender. Add water as necessary.
Here is a great link to different types of beans from Whole Foods Market.
If you have not yet tried coconut oil you really should. This oil can be used in anything from cooking to beautification….very versatile! There are not many things that you can rub into your hair and also eat. Think about it. Anyway the oil in a jar is hardened, much harder than shortening. The cool thing is when you put it in your hands it begins to melt!
What kind should you get?
From my research on the internet unrefined coconut oil is best Unrefined coconut oil is often referred to as “virgin” or “pure” coconut oil. It is coconut oil extracted from fresh coconut meat rather than dried.
Chemical solvents are often added to refined coconut oil and it often contains trans-fats (bad fat). Unrefined coconut oil retains the distinct flavor and odor of coconut. There are complaints when used for frying that food retains the coconut taste but I have not personally experienced it.
Here are several ways to use coconut oil:
- Replace shortening or butter for cooking. Coconut oil has a high heat point and is great for pan-frying and stir-fry.
- Can be used for dry skin (test a small area first)
- As a makeup remover
- Rub between your hands and apply to tame frizzy hair
- Replaces vegetable oils in recipes
- As a natural deodorizer (yes, under your arm-pits…try that out before you go anywhere!)
- Add to smoothies
Here is a photo showing how hot the oil gets but it does not turn black like vegetable oil:
There are many more claims about coconut oil, from being an anti-depressant to curing Alzheimer’s. All I know is, I like the way it works in recipes and there seem to be some health benefits from eating it. Ellie, the dachshund, goes crazy when I get the jar out of the cabinet so I put about 1/2 teaspoon in her dry dog food and she laps it up! Good for people, good for wiener dogs! Can’t beat that!
If you love to bake and have not tried Artisan non-stick baking mats, you are missing out. You can use these mats in place of parchment paper or cooking sprays and there is almost no clean-up when you are finished. To clean, you rinse off in the sink with a little soap and hot water and air dry. The Amazon website says you can wash them in the top rack of the dishwasher but I have never done that mainly, because it is so easy to clean them in the sink.
The baking mats can be used in the freezer as well as the oven up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit. They also conduct heat well.
When I roll out biscuits I use a mat to keep my counter-top clean. You can use them for making candy or anything that makes a mess you are trying to contain.
Food odors do not penetrate the mat so you can cook a variety of foods on them without worry of smelling the last thing you cooked on them.
Have you tried any of the silicone baking products? What is your favorite?
Imagine coming home from work and all you have to do is pop dinner in the oven and cook it. Aah…feels good doesn’t it. That is what appeals to me about freezer meals. The last thing I want to do is come home and cook!
Now, what if I told you that you could buy a book full of freezer meal recipes for $1.99 to download from Kindle. Woo Hoo!
What I love about the Don’t Panic books is they give you directions and measurements to cook 1 meal, 3 meals, 6 meals, or 9 meals. Along with recipes, the book gives you shopping tips, cooking tips, and how to freeze your meals. The meals include appetizers, soups, meats, side dishes and desserts. The kindle edition is on Amazon for $1.99, you can’t beat that price!
On Sunday, I have started to make our breakfasts for the week. This has been such a time saver. Think about what it would be like to have breakfast and dinner out-of-the-way every day. I use our dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. Suddenly cooking is appealing again! Well, sort of!?!
Here is a link to other kindle edition freezer meal cookbooks. Most of them are very inexpensive!
Everywhere you look, you see articles on clean eating. Pinterest is filled with recipes for clean eating foods. What is clean eating you ask? Here are the basics:
- Read food labels! If it is in a package and there are more than 1 or 2 ingredients, it is probably not clean.
- Drink lots of water-some sources say 2 liters per day, while others argue that is too much!
- Eat 5-6 small meals per day. By eating smaller meals, your metabolism stays active and you feel full longer.
- Choose organic whenever your budget allows. Here is the “dirty dozen“, twelve foods that you should buy organic.
- Avoid processed foods-sugar, flour, pasta, bread. Substitute whole grains instead.
- Cook your own meals. Pick a time during the weekend when you cook for the whole week. It makes life easier, especially if you work!
Here is a link with a variety of books on the subject of clean eating, most of which, I have found at my local library or on Amazon.
One of the best websites I have found on clean-eating is called Gracious Pantry. The recipes are very “normal” and do not have a million ingredients! Here are a few others:
- He and She Eat Clean
- Funeral for My Fat (I love her slow approach to clean eating by giving up something each week)
- Eat Yourself Skinny
I will be posting my clean steel-cut oats recipe very soon!
Recently, I ran across an article about cooking bacon in the oven. Sunday, we made sandwiches after church and girl #3 wanted bacon on hers. Here was my chance to experiment!
I started the bacon out in a cold oven and set the temperature to 400 degrees. I set the timer for 17 minutes but ended up cooking the bacon for 20. I used a slotted roasting pan so that the grease would drip down away from the bacon.
This is what it looked like when 20 minutes were up. Some of the pieces were cooked and some needed to cook a little longer. So I thought about it and came up with a new strategy.
The next time I tried cooked bacon I preheated the oven to 400 degrees instead of placing it in a cold oven. I cooked the bacon for 16 minutes and it turned out much better this time because the bacon cooked more evenly.
This method of cooking bacon allows all the grease to drain off and there is no splatter mess to clean up.
Last night was a gorgeous, cool evening in Tennessee. We grilled out and I whipped up a salad (from a bag) and made these easy oven roasted potatoes. You really cannot mess up this recipe. Read the rest of this entry
Chicken pot pie is something I never cooked or ate, for that matter, until just a couple of years ago. I was looking for easy freezer meals that I could make for my family and I stumbled upon Holly Clegg’s Trim and Terrific Freezer Friendly Meals. This has become one of my favorite cookbooks because the recipes included are healthy and they taste great! Holly Clegg also has a diabetic cookbook in the Trim and Terrific line.
The hardest part of this recipe is chopping the sweet potatoes. And if you are wondering, they do not have a strong taste in the recipe. Next time, I will use a smaller pan so that there is not a hole in the middle :).
I hope you enjoy the recipe!
This recipe was adapted from Holly Clegg's Trim and Terrific Freezer Friendly Meals Cookbook.
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced sweet potato, raw
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups diced chicken, cooked (I use 2 chicken breasts).
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1/2 cup frozen green peas
- 1 can reduced fat crescent rolls
- Chop all ingredients and place in a non-stick skillet to cook over medium heat until softened, about 5-7 minutes. I usually put in 1/4 cup of water so that the veggies will not stick.
- Add the flour, salt, and chicken broth and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and continue cooking until mixture thickens.
- Add the cooked chicken and peas and stir mixture.
- Place the mixture in a 9-inch square pan and place the crescent rolls on top.
- Bake at 375 for about 10-15 minutes until top browns.
This recipe can be frozen for up to 3 months. I usually take out of the freezer the night before and put in the refrigerator to thaw and then cook the next night for dinner.