King Arthur Cookie Mix

IMG_8041I love chocolate chip cookies.

No, really, I LOVE LOVE LOVE chocolate chip cookies. You get the point.

Cookies are my weakness….and brownies too, but that’s for another experiment.

It’s a real bummer that I’ve taken it on myself to try all the different cookie mixes and review them. Oh darn…. πŸ˜‰

Today, I decided to try the King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Cookie Mix. It’s base is rice flour blend, which I’m learning is my favorite gluten-free blend.

The was as easy as any other mix…pour in a bowl and add a bunch of stuff to it. The recipe called for 1/2. butter/oil, which I substituted 1/4 c. applesauce for half of the oil. The mix is a cookie mix, so you can technically add up to 3 cups of your favorite mix-ins. I was thinking this recipe would be great with walnuts, cranberries, and white chunks. But I didn’t have all that and was in the mood for chocolate.

So, chocolate chip cookies was the final out come. I used the Enjoy Life dairy-free chocolate chunks.

Final verdict on the cookies: PURE AWESOMENESS! Excellent fluffy cookies without the “gluten-free” flavor. Basically, it tastes like the ‘real thing.’

These are not sugar-free, but they taste great for the occasional gluten-free treat. I do NOT however, like the price for the mix. Ugh! I think its was over $4.50! Ah, all for the sake of the blog… πŸ˜‰Β  Back to my quest for the perfect homemade flour blend!!! πŸ™‚

Kelly

Even the “animals” are gluten-free!

Eating boxed gluten-freeΒ  “convenience foods” just are crazy expensive for our family. I would open a box of crackers and they would be gone in one sitting. For some reason, gluten-free boxed foods are smaller in size/quantity,Β  BUT higher in price! Go figure!

My boys go to preschool twice a week, and during that time they have a snack provided for them by the school. It is usually pretzels, animal crackers, or something of that nature. I pack their snack for them to bring to school, so they can have a gluten-free snack.

I realize they are only 3, but there is quite a bit of peer-pressure that goes on at that age! I understand the need for the kids to be similar to their peers and not have that feeling of “being weird.” So I graciously try to find things to help them fit in with what the others are eating.

Jacob (age 3): “Sam brings butter-peanutΒ  sandwiches (a.k.a. peanut butter sandwiches) to school, can I be like Sam?”

I made some gluten-free bread using some Pamela’s Bread Mix, and packed him and Logan and sandwich on that day. Both of their teachers commented on how they “couldn’t wait for lunch,” and that “they savored their sandwich.” Having a PB&J everyday would get old and loose it’s appeal, but for every once in a while, it’s special.

Okay, back to their snacks….. at first, I would take the time to pack a snack similar to if we were to have one at home:

  • cut up apples
  • almonds
  • carrots

I realized very quickly that they teachers didn’t have time to wait for the kid to eat all that. It had to be a quick snack. One of their teachers mentioned to me that another kid with a gluten allergy had the gluten-free version of animal crackers.

So, I gave them a try, and golly, they’re pretty good! AND “Jacob and Logan approved.” They enjoy their animal crackers at snack time, and they come in a few different flavors. Yes, they still cost me (an arm and a leg!) ton. But it’s half of my kids eating a serving two times a week. So I justify it. It is also only a snack for preschool.

This is my most favorite brand, K-Kritters. It’s base is rice flour.

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Until next time, *GRRRRRRROWLLLLLL!!!!!* (like the noise you make when you eat an animal cracker…..)

Kelly

Recipe: Granola Bars

Today, I decided to catch up on some baking. The kids were happily eating lunch, so it was my quick 5 minute “window of opportunity.” (If your a mom of young kids, you know exactly what I’m talking about!)

I had checked out from the library “Happy Herbivore” by Lindsay Nixon. I found several recipes in the book that were easy to whip up and were quite tasty. However, sadly, the book had to be returned after 3 weeks.

A few months later, Amazon came up with a suggestion for me to buy (isn’t that convenient for them?) “Everyday Happy Herbivore: On the table in 30 minutes or less!” by Lindsay Nixon. Well, Amazon won that day, and I purchased the book.

I’ve tried several things from her book so far. Tonight I’m making the Veggie Lo Mein. But by far, my most favorite thing from her book has been the granola bars. I cannot say enough of how EASY these were to put together, stay together, healthy, tasty, yummy, fast…..should I go on? I would really have to challenge these bars against Chewy brand on taste. (They are similar in texture and taste to the brand.)

Today, I made three different flavors in about 15 minutes (plus, baking time). I’m not about spending all day on recipes unless it’s in a crock pot. πŸ˜‰

The recipe calls for “instant oats.” If you don’t have instant oats or want to use rolled-oats, the chefs notes on the page say “you can send rolled oats through your food processor [or blender] to grind them down into instant-oat consistency.”

Another item I used in my granola bars was the Enjoy Life chocolate chips. They are soy, nut and dairy free. (If you go to their website you can download a coupon for $0.55 off one of their products.) I like using the chocolate chips for a number of reasons, but one is that they don’t melt as much when baking as regular chocolate chips. The taste pretty much the same, but I think because they are lacking dairy, they don’t melt like regular ones. Anyways, they hold up really well in the granola bars so they don’t make a gooey mess.

Anyways, long intro, but here is the recipe! Enjoy. πŸ™‚

Granola Bars (taken from “Everyday Happy Herbivore” by Lindsay Nixon p. 23)

  • 1 c. instant oats
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp chocolate chips
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp raw sugar (optional: I didn’t use it…it was plenty sweet enough)

1. Stir all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. They will appear too dry at first, by they’re not—keep stroking

2. Once combined, let the batter rest while the oven preheats to 325F

3. Grease a bread pan [or use parchment paper] and pack mixture down firmly and tightly

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden, firm, and light brown around the edges

5. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before cutting

Variations:

1. Peanut Butter Granola Bars: substitute 1 tablespoon of peanut butter for 1 tablespoon of applesauce. Combine peanut butter with applesauce and heat in microwave for 10 seconds so peanut butter softens. Whisk together and use as directed.

2. Use dried fruit instead of chocolate chips. Today I used dried cranberries.

Makes 5

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Smoothie

I love smoothies….my kids love smoothies…..Shawn loves smoothies. All I have to say is: “It’s smoothie time!” And all four kids come running.

I’ve posted another recipe using blueberries and almond milk. Then hiding some spinach in the mixture. Sounds gross (it’s not!), but I feel better, because my kids get some greens, and it’s completely undetectable in flavor. (SCORE!)

Here is another smoothie recipe that is “super good.” (quote from Hannah Grace, 8) She gave the smoothie it’s name after trying it. This is a very hardy smoothie that is really perfect anytime of the day. I could see eating this for breakfast or a mid afternoon snack.

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Smoothie

You will need:

  • 2 cups frozen banana (about 2 whole bananas)
  • 1/4 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 2 T. mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup almond milk

Put all the ingredients in the mixer (I have an$80 Ninja that has a broken lid….so I don’t want to hear any complaints!). Blend well, and then pour into a cup. Enjoy!
Kelly

 

Crockpot Applesauce!

I have quite a good collection of cookbooks and cooking magazines. I look through old ones, often, to find new inspiration or to try something I may have missed before. Recently, I discovered Pinterest and now my recipe collection is growing exponentially via the virtual world. What can I say, I really love food!

One of my newest cookbooks is “The Vegan Slowcooker.” I got this as a gift, for my birthday, from my parents. (Thanks Dad and Mom!) I cannot say enough great things about this book! The author, Kathy, takes seemingly complex recipes, and makes it so simple by throwing all the items in the crockpot! This past weekend I tried her pumpkin puree, which was as easy as [pumpkin] pie. I have also made a split pea and lentil soup, from the book, that my kids couldn’t get enough of. She also runs a website, Healthy Slow Cooking.

After trying the pumpkin puree, and realizing the absolute power my slow cooker has, I looked around my kitchen for something else I could slow cook…..applesauce!Β This was so easy, I have no idea why I hadn’t done it before.

Homemade Applesauce

Ingredients:

  • 5-8 large apples (I used honey crisp)
  • Cinnamon or 2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water or juice

Directions:

Wash and peel the apples. Cut the apples into large chunks and place them in a crockpot. Add 1/2 cup water or juice (I used white grape) and pour it over the apples. Add cinnamon and season to taste (about 1-2 tsp), or add 2 cinnamon sticks. Turn crockpot on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours. When the apples are done, use a potato masher to mash up the apples. I prefer chunkier applesauce, but you can mash until it’s to your liking. πŸ™‚ Enjoy warm or let it cool and keep it refrigerated. If you have leftovers, freeze it.

Yup, it’s that simple! I have a second batch cooking right now…..because the first batch seems to have disappeared. Huh, funny how that happens!

Enjoy!

Kelly

Salty and Sweet Roasted Nuts

I picked up a new magazine a few days ago called “Natural Home and Garden.” Most of the magazine was pretty good, and I did find a recipe I wanted to try in it for honey-roasted peanuts.

Hannah LOVES peanuts, peanut butter, honey-roasted peanuts, Reeses, peanut butter straight for the jar….you get the picture. The girl loves peanuts. Before our big diet change a year or so ago, she lived on a daily diet of peanut butter (yup, the regular old Jif kind too!) and Smuckers Jelly sandwiches.

We were at Sprouts this past weekend and they were having a bulk sale. I usually only make it to Sprouts about once a month or so for bulk items. Hannah usually begs for honey-roasted peanuts, (nicely!) to which I usually give in. But for some reason, on this particular trip, I decided to take a look at the ingredient list posted above the bulk bin. To my surprise, I was shocked on how much sugar was on the peanuts….no wonder she loved them so much!….and they were coated in “vegetable oil.” I really wish she loved eating raw almonds as much as sugar-coated peanuts, but she’s just not there yet.

Thankfully, the recipe from my magazine popped into my mind and I told Hannah I was going to make her “homemade honey-roasted peanuts.” She was excited and jumped up with a “goody!” I went over to the raw peanut bin and started scooping.

Today I decided to try the honey-roasted peanuts. The recipe called for things like butter and sugar, so I modified the recipe, and here’s what I came up with:

Honey-Roasted Peanuts

(adapted from Natural Home and Garden recipe)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Real Salt)
  • 1 pound shelled raw peanuts (which is appx. 2 cups)
  • 1-2 tablespoons coconut/palm sugar

1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and then grease. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (note: do not forget the parchment paper! I am still soaking my pans from the mess it left me because I didn’t use the paper!)

2. In a medium saucepan, heat honey, coconut oil, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon salt over medium-low heat.

3. Stir in peanuts, then pour them out into a single layer in the baking dish.

4. Roast peanuts for 15-20 minutes, or until golden, shaking the pan a few times to stir nuts. Remove from oven, stir to break up clumps, and let cool slightly.

5. Sprinkle on remaining salt and coconut sugar and toss to coat, then serve warm.

 

The peanuts turned out so great and yummy, I decided to try raw cashews. I think the cashews are my favorite! But Hannah still likes the peanuts the best. πŸ˜‰

Enjoy,

Kelly

Freezer Peaches…With Step-by-Step Directions!

Peaches are kind of a “June-thing” here in Texas. The super hot summers kill the fruit pretty quickly. Around the first week in June, our family packed up the car and headed out to Fredricksberg and grabbed up several boxes of white flesh peaches. We filled our fridge with peaches…and surprisingly, we ate all those peaches too! I think I only had to throw out one or two.

Peaches are “on sale” right now at the grocery store. The are grown local, but you can tell, just by feeling them, that the summer was hot. They are rock hard. But, I’m missing the taste of fresh peaches, and we have 9 months until the fresh new crop is ready. I know too, that as September drives on and winter gets closer, fruit prices are going to go up!

Last time we went to the store, I decided to buy about 30 peaches, even though they weren’t the best. I paid $1.19/pound.Β  (Can you see that I’m desperately holding onto the summer fruit!?!?) When I bought them, they were all rock hard. I let them sit out on the counter for a few days and thankfully they softened up some.

I really wanted to try canning them, but for some reason, canning fruit and vegetables is completely terrifying to me. I know it’s not that scary, but when I get to the part about “put the jar in the water bath for 20 minutes….” I just throw in the towel.

So, canning these peaches was out, and I decided to try freezing the peaches! This was so easy and I was able to make 8 quart-sized bags of peaches in about an hour. (and I should mention that during that hour, I was interrupted about 20 times and had to clean up 3 accidents…)

Directions:

Step One: Select a child to peel the stickers off of all the fruit. Preferably a younger one who thinks the fruit stickers are still cool. If you don’t have a young child, have an older one do the job and “pay them” with extra Wii-time πŸ˜‰ If you don’t have a child in the house to do the job….well then, you know what you have to do.

Step Two: Wash fruit off and slice an “X” in the bottom of the fruit. This will help peel the peel off of the fruit. Which leads us to…..Step three.

Step Three: Blanch the peaches. Or if your like me, and have absolutely no idea how to blanch something, here’s what you do: Have a pot of boiling water and a pot of ice cold water right next to it. Put 4-5 peaches in the boiling water for 45-60 seconds. Remove peaches with a slotted spoon and immediately put them in the ice water.

Step Four: After the peaches have been sitting in the ice water for 1-3 minutes (or longer, if your me and have to go rescue a child from the roof of his playhouse…) gently pull away the peel of the peach. I found out the more ripe peaches, the better the peels separate.

Step Five: Stand back and admire your hard work of peeling the peaches without totally destroying the fruit. πŸ™‚ “Ah, my Mom would be so proud….”

Step Six: Cut up your beautiful peaches and shove them into Ziplock freezer bags. I have been reading about how fruit can get freezer burn easily, so to avoid this, I used white grape juice as the liquid in the bag. You can make a syrup out of sugar and water, but that kind of defeats the purpose of fruit, right?…anyways, Pour white grape juice in the bag until it seemed full enough to cover the peaches, and then I closed it and labeled the bag.

Simple, right! Totally…..Maybe some day I’ll buck up and try canning, but until then, I’m totally diggin’ the freezer stuff!

Kelly

Growth Spurts

After a weekend of rain, my container garden has sprouted some small growth! I guess that means the seeds were good. πŸ˜‰

We now have lettuce, swiss chard, kale, and some more cilantro growing. YAY! On Saturday, I planted dill seeds, so I am anxiously awaiting those to pop up soon.

Here’s some pictures of my new little “baby buds.” Guess it’s about time to do some thinning out?

 

Kelly

Double Chocolate Nut Butter Oaties

If this title isn’t enough to draw you in, I am lost at marketing.

Anytime I hear the words “chocolate” and “nut butter” in the same title, my mouth starts drooling. I love chocolate and peanut butter. This heavenly combination is one of the many reasons why, a mere 18 months ago, I was at my heaviest of almost 200 pounds. (AH!)

I have a sweet tooth….really bad. I think that’s why I’ve been drawn to alternative baking. My sweet tooth has changed over the past year and a half. I now crave the sweetness of fresh fruit and enjoy lightly sweetened treats. Refined sugar is now too sweet for my taste buds. But, I think, that is the way nature intended it to be.

Yesterday, Shirley (from glutenfreeeasily.com) posted an excellent recipe that I had to print off right away and try. Super simple, quick cookies that got 5 stars from everyone in my family.

The recipe calls for “nut butter,” (which can mean your favorite butter) and I would probably put in peanut butter as my first choice, if Julia didn’t have an allergy. I substituted “nut butter” for Sunbutter, which is sunflower seed ground up to make a butter. To me, it tastes very similar to peanut butter, but without oil and obviously, peanuts.

I also substituted Stevia/Cane sugar for the sugar in the recipe. The recipe calls for 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar, but trying to be as sugar-free as possible, I opted for 1/4 cup of Stevia/Cane sugar. I found this to be the perfect amount of sweetness. It took the bitterness of the cocoa powder away, and added a touch of sweet. Perfect!

Another item on the recipe list was “oat flour.” I didn’t have any pre-made oat flour. You can purchase some at the grocery store for some crazy price. I chose to not purchase it and just make my own.

Making your own flours is very cost effective. Unfortunately, I do not have a food processor, so making almond flour, for example, is out of the question for me…..until I get a food processor, *wink*! Today was my first attempt at making my own oat flour. I have a so-so quality blender. It’s nothing fancy but today it did a great job on making some homemade oat flour. (yay!)

To make oat flour: pour old fashioned oats in the blender, put the lid on, and press the “on” button. Blend for a few minutes, and then *TA-DA*: oat flour.

Popped the cookies in the oven, and the finished product was: TOTALLY AWESOME! πŸ™‚

You can get the recipe here at Gluten Free Easily: Double Chocolate Nut Butter Oaties.

Enjoy!!

Kelly

 

Our New Little Green Garden

I really wish I had a green-thumb, and knew all about plants and how to grow them into these healthy beautiful things. Unfortunately, I am not a natural gardener. But I guess anyone can change by researching and reading books. So, I’m turning a new leaf (haha) this fall, and trying my hand at gardening.

Actually, I should say “WE are trying our hand at gardening” because this has become a huge group effort.

Our little garden started out as a simple, “let’s grow some tomatoes.” Shawn and I didn’t really want to spend much money on this garden, nor did we want to rip up our yard. Eventually, Shawn would like to make cedar planter boxes to make a raised bed, but that’s not in our budget right now.

We got creative and resourceful and call this our “Recycled Garden” because everything used to make this garden (with exception of the fence, dirt, and seeds) was found around our house. And yes, EVERYTHING.

We had to start out by building a fence to divide our yard out. We have a puppy who loves fresh dirt to dig in, and well, tomatoes would be ripped up pretty fast. The fence was pretty easy to put up. We found it at Home Depot, and installed it in about 30 minutes.

The wrought-iron fence was priced well: $25 per section and we needed only 3 sections, plus a gate: $20. Anyways, a good solution to keep over-zealous gardeners and puppies out of the area. πŸ˜‰

 

Julia and Hannah take turns watering the garden. They worked out their own system.

The next thing that we added to the garden was tomatoes. We found 5 large containers in our garage, and used those for planting. Rather than placing them directly on the grass, we put bricks under them to help the buckets sit nice and straight.

In the small orange planter box (pictured above) we put kale. I’m not sure how this will grow in this container, so we are just experimenting! In the above picture, Julia is watering thyme and garlic.

Another way we used recycled materials was by using this book shelf from Target. We had bought this boxed-type bookshelf for the girls when they were just toddlers. It has been sitting in our garage for about 4 years, gathering dust and bugs. πŸ˜‰ So, we decided to lay it on it’s side and put it to use!

In the bookshelf is basil, rosemary, cilantro, lettuce, and green pepper.

Directly in front (in the pots) is, cucumber and oregano.

 

The girls were digging through the garage and found some plastic planter boxes. We were trying to figure out where to put them, and the idea came to me to put them on the fence! We are trying to use our space wisely and building a garden UP, makes use of all available space.

Shawn reinforced the boxes with screws. The fence is reinforced with metal poles to help hold the weight of the dirt and plants.

We put lettuce in one box and strawberries and the other two boxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was our last little addition. I haven’t decided what we’re going to put in these small pots. Maybe some more strawberries?

Anyways, I’m sure we will add more to the garden in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Kelly