Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts

Nov 11, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites Recipe

In my never ending quest to fill up my 7 year old son's tummy, I ran across a scrumptious snack: Banana chunks covered in dark chocolate and peanut butter. The whole family loves them. Best of all, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites are SUPER easy to make and you can easily customize them.

First, a few notes about the recipe. The bananas should not be ripe; that is to say, they shouldn't have brown spots on the peel. I use yellow bananas that are still slightly green at the stem. They should be firm when you slice them. Ripe (browned) bananas may lead to mushy, brown bites.

For the chocolate, you can really use whatever type you like. Dark chocolate is healthier, and we like it with the sweetness of the banana. I recommend choosing a brand of chocolate that doesn't use child slave labor. (You can see a list of the offenders here.)

With the peanut butter, you can use any type you like. I use "natural" style because it contains less sugar. I also use smooth peanut butter, but I think you could use chunky, if you wish.

At the end of the recipe, I discuss ways to customize the recipe, too.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites Recipe

2 large bananas
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 - 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (I use 1/3 cup)

1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. If you don't have any, I think you could use wax paper or maybe even aluminum foil. Measure out the chocolate chips and peanut butter and put them in a microwave safe bowl.

2. Peel the bananas and cut into chunks. The size is up to you. Mine are about an inch long or so.

3. Place the bowel of chocolate and peanut butter in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds on high. Remove from the microwave and stir. Continue heating for 30 seconds, then stirring, until the chocolate chips are nearly melted. Then continue stirring until there are no more chocolate lumps. (If you don't want to use a microwave, just put the chocolate and peanut butter into a small, heavy saucepan and place over low heat, stirring frequently until nearly melted. Then remove from the heat and continue stirring until fully melted.)

4. One at a time, dip the banana chunks in the chocolate mixture, coating all sides. Don't worry if there are spots where the banana shows through. Place the chocolate covered chunk on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the banana chunks are covered. Spoon the remaining chocolate mixture over the banana chunks, covering any areas where the banana was showing through the chocolate.

5. Pop the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze until the banana chunks are hard. Transfer to a freezer bag.
To serve, I prefer to remove servings from the freezer and place them in a dish or bowl to sit for perhaps a minute before eating. (This way, the banana chunk isn't so hard.) But it's totally a matter of preference!

Customizing the Recipe

You can add so many things to this recipe!

 * A tablespoon of coconut oil, for health and flavor. (Add during the melting phase.)
* Coconut flakes. (Sprinkle on just after covering the bananas in chocolate.)
* A different type of nut butter in place of peanut butter.
* Finely chopped peanuts, walnuts, or any other type of nut. (Added immediately after covering the bananas in chocolate.)
* Chocolate or candy sprinkles. (Added immediately after covering the bananas in chocolate.)

Thanks to The View From Great Island and Never Homemaker for giving me the idea - and a recipe to work from - for this yummy snack!

Nov 9, 2015

No Fail Healthy Pie Crust Recipe

Years ago, I posted a "no fail" pie crust recipe on this blog, but recently I removed it. Yes, it really was "no fail," and yes, it tasted great, and yes it was the recipe my mother used and that I used, also, for many years. But it included vegetable shortening (like Crisco), which I have since learned is terrible for our bodies. Even so, I thought that as rarely as my family eats pie, it was probably okay for us to eat once in a while. But in fact, I've come to believe this attitude is probably what that caused me to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. (No fun!) So many of the fats that are popular in the U.S. are really hard on our livers.

So, I experimented with a number of other pie crust recipes, and eventually landed on one that I'd used years ago, but had forgotten about. It's made with real butter - which not only is healthier, but makes a flakier pie crust. It's also the flour based pastry crust recipe featured in my cookbook Easy As Pie, and it really is easy! There are just a few little tricks you need to know in order to make this truly a "no fail" recipe:

1. All the ingredients must be cold before you start. It's most important to have ice water and thoroughly chilled butter, but I recommend chilling the flour, too. And if you use a pastry blender, chill it, also! For the butter, cut it into chunks (see the photo on the right) and wrap in a single sheet of plastic wrap. Place this package in the fridge or the freezer until thoroughly chilled (but not frozen). For the water, start with cold tap water, then add a few ice cubes to the measuring cup.

2. Never use your hands to mix the dough. Your hands will warm the butter, and result in a tough crust. Instead, use a pastry blender or - my favorite "no fail" tool - a food processor.

No Fail Healthy Pie Crust Recipe

Makes one crust for a 9 in. pie plate. For a double crust pie, simply double the recipe.

1. Put the flour, salt, and butter into a food processor and pulse until it looks like coarse crumbs. (Or, in a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.)

2. Add the very cold water a tablespoon at a time until the dough sticks together. (You may not need all the water.) Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. (If you're doubling the recipe, divide the dough in half and place each piece in its own piece of plastic wrap.)

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. To check that it’s the right size, set the pie plate on top of the rolled out dough. The dough should be 2 – 3 inches wider all the way around the pie plate. Carefully transfer the dough to the pie plate. (One popular way to do this is to wrap the dough around the rolling pin and carefully unwrap it over the pie plate.) Press the dough against the sides and bottom of the pie plate. If the crust tears, simply take a small amount of dough from the edges and press into the tear, creating a patch.

4. Refrigerate. (This helps the dough relax so it doesn't shrink when it's baked.)

To pre-bake: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Keep the pie plate in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes. Using the tines of a fork, prick the bottom and sides of the crust all over. Place a piece of parchment paper over the crust and line the pie plate with pie weights, uncooked rice, or dried beans. This step helps the crust retain its shape. Place the pie plate in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and very carefully remove the paper and weights. (They will be hot!) Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. and bake another 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling the crust.

Nov 3, 2015

Easy as Pie: 45 From Scratch Pie Recipes

My pie recipe cookbook is complete! I had a lot of fun testing recipes - and my husband, kids, and neighbors thought it was tasty fun, too. I think you'll find this cookbook does make pie making "easy as pie."

Easy As Pie features favorite types of pies all in one easy to use cookbook – plus it gives tips for making them healthier. (Yes, pie for breakfast may actually be healthier than boxed cereal!) The book also features:
  • Recipes for four different types of crusts – including gluten free! 
  • 45 from scratch pie recipes, including cream pies, fruit pies, nut pies, vegetable pies, and more.
  • Over 60 full color photos. 
You'll learn:
  • Tips for easy, no fail pie crusts.
  • How to successfully make meringue.
  • How "cutting in" ingredients makes the difference between a tender, flaky crust and a tough one.
And much more!

Featured are:
  • Blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and mixed berry pies.
  • Lime, lemon, and orange pies.
  • Peach, strawberry, pear, cherry (not from a can!), apple, apricot, raisin, plum, and nectarine pies.
  • Banana cream, chocolate cream, and coconut cream pies.
  • Pumpkin (not from a can!), butternut,  sweet potato, and rhubarb pies.
  • Pecan, walnut, and peanut butter pies.
  • Plus other pies you may not have heard of, including green tomato, zucchini, green pumpkin, cookie dough, shoofly, and brownie pies!
Perfect for the holidays - or any day of the year!

And don't worry if you don't have a Kindle to read it on. You can read it on your computer, tablet, or cell phone, too!

Bonus: Right now, Easy As Pie is available for a limited time, introductory price of only $1.99. I hope you enjoy it!

Oct 23, 2015

DIY Cinnamon Sugar

Recently, my son's pediatrician recommended we try a no-wheat diet for our 6 year old son who's
been experiencing tummy troubles. Knowing this was just a trial, I didn't want to invest in the many ingredients to make gluten free bread at home - but at the same time, I was constantly getting puppy dog eyes because the little guy was longing for bread. So I bought some gluten free bread. Sadly, not only was it expensive ($8 for a tiny loaf), but it didn't taste very good. My solution? I toasted and buttered the bread and sprinkled cinnamon sugar over it. A success!

But, if you've been reading this blog for long, you probably know I don't like to buy spice blends. Some store bought blends have unhealthy ingredients. Others, like cinnamon sugar, are just more expensive to buy already blended. And cinnamon sugar is so easy to make, I just can't bear to buy it pre-blended. Here's how I make my own:

DIY Cinnamon Sugar

All you need is sugar, cinnamon, and an air tight container to store your blend in.
1. Find a container for your finished spice blend. I use a cinnamon sugar container I bought eons ago, but any glass jar with a well-fitting lid will work great. You could even use a Ziplock style bag.

2. Measure out 1/4 cup of sugar. I recommend cane sugar, since beet sugar or sugar of unknown origins is usually GMO. Pour the sugar into a bowl.

3. Measure out 4 tablespoons of cinnamon. Add it to the bowl.

4. Stir the sugar and cinnamon together and transfer to your air tight container. If you're like me, you'd also better label the container or you may confuse it with taco seasoning or something equally yucky on toast.
You can, of course, adjust these measurements to suit your personal taste. For us, though, this ratio of sugar to cinnamon is just right - not too sweet and not too "cinnamony."

Oct 20, 2015

How to Make a Campfire Cake...It's SO Easy!

Over the years, I've made all of my children's birthday cakes (except my oldest's very first). Being a bit over-eager, I often attempted difficult cakes. Some came out great...

 Others, not so much...
But last weekend I made one of THE easiest cakes I've ever made...and my little boy loved it! I posted a photo of it on Facebook, and thought I'd leave it at that. But so many people "liked" and commented on the photo, I thought I'd share it - and the super easy directions for making it - here.

How to Make a Campfire Cake

You will need:
A cake and frosting
Twix candy bars
Life Savers in red, yellow, and orange
Parchment paper
Rimmed baking sheet

1. Bake the cake, using your favorite from scratch recipe, or a boxed cake mix. (I admit it; I used a cake mix, even though it's not as healthy!) You can make any type of cake you want. I made a double layer chocolate cake.) Let the cake cool completely.

2. Frost the cake. I recommend doing a crumb coating (i.e., a rough coat of frosting), then letting the cake sit in the refrigerator for an hour or more. Then do a second frosting; this time it should be easy to make it smooth and crumb-free. If you won't be serving the cake right away, pop it back into the fridge.

3. Make the "fire:" Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet. Place Life Savers about 1/2 inch apart on the parchment paper. Use only red, yellow, and orange candies. Pop into the oven and turn the temperature to 300 degrees F. Check on the candies every minute or so until they start melting, then watch closely. As soon as the candies are completely melted, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Let the melted candy cool completely.*

4. Shortly before serving the cake: Pile a little extra frosting - 3 or 4 tablespoons, I'd say - in the middle of the cake. This will give the "logs" on the cake a foundation to stick to. Place Twix candy bars in the center of the cake, to look like wood logs.

5. Break the melted and cooled Life Saver sheets to form the cake's fire. Stick the larger "flames" in the center of the logs. Place smaller "flames" in between the Twix "logs."

You're done!

* I think lollipops would work well, too, though I've not tried it. I would try to remove as much of the lollipop sticks as possible before melting, then, once the candy is fully melted, use tweezers to carefully remove the remaining sticks before the candy cools.

Oct 8, 2015

How to Roast Pumpkin and Squash Seeds

When the leaves start turning brilliant shades of yellow, red, and orange, it's winter squash season - something everyone in my family looks forward to. It's no secret I think winter squash is an awesome food - yummy, nutritious, and perfect for we homesteader types. But did you know nearly all squash have deliciously edible seeds packed with protein, calcium, folate, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamin K?

Most of us are familiar with roasted pumpkin seeds - but most other types of winter squash seeds are equally wonderful when roasted. Some are even superior to pumpkin! (My personal favorite is roasted butternut squash seeds.) In fact, the only winter squash seeds I've discovered that aren't particularly yummy are the seeds of red kuri squash.

Happily, making roasted squash seeds is very easy. Here's how I do it:

1. When cooking the winter squash of your choice, scoop out the stringy parts and seeds. Separate the seeds from the stringy parts. If a little bit clings to the seeds, that's okay. Compost the stringy part, or feed it to your chickens.

2. Place the seeds in a single layer on a plate; set aside. Once a day for a day or two, stir the seeds so they don't stick to the plate. Do not refrigerate.

3. Once the seeds have dried for a day or two, pop them onto a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. If desired, use other spices, too.

4. Place the baking sheet in a preheated 350 degree F. oven. Check the seeds every few minutes until they are golden.

Sep 29, 2015

Easy DIY From Scratch Steak Fries

I call them steak fries, but they are actually pretty similar to jo-jos - except they aren't fried. So think of them as a cross between jo-jos and steak fries. (On second thought, who can even afford steak these days? Maybe I should call them burger fries, instead!) But whatever you call them, these fries are super easy to prepare and extremely yummy - soft on the inside, and crispy on the outside.

Easy DIY From Scratch Steak Fries

Yellow potatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Begin with yellow potatoes. You could probably use another type of potato, but they won't hold up as well, and the texture and flavor will be different. Scrub up the potatoes, and prick them with a fork three times each. (How many do you need? I typically use one per person, plus one or two extra.)

3. Place the prepared potatoes in the microwave and cook them - 3 minutes per potato. (So if you have three potatoes, you'll need to cook them 9 minutes.) When done, the potatoes should no longer be hard - but you don't want them mushy, either. (NOTE: If you don't want to microwave the potatoes, you can bake them whole in the oven.)

4. Allow the potatoes to cool enough so you can comfortably handle them. Cut each potato in half and place the cut sides down on a cutting board. Slice each half into wedges that are a generous 1/4 thick.
Slice potatoes a generous 1/4 in. thick.
5. Place the wedges on a rimmed baking sheet. A few may fall apart; that's okay. Just make sure the wedges are in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil over the wedges. Turn the wedges over, making sure both sides are lightly coated with olive oil. (You can use spray oil, but it has added ingredients that may or may not be healthy.) Season the wedges liberally with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Season liberally with sea salt and pepper.
6. Pop the baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes.

7. Now broil the wedges for about 5 minutes; remove from the oven and turn the wedges over. Broil for about 3 more minutes. Be sure to watch the potatoes carefully at this stage, or they may burn. When the wedges are golden brown and the skins bubbly, they're done.

Feel free to serve these fries with catsup or homemade Ranch, but honestly - even my kids agree these fries don't need condiments!

Jul 17, 2015

Lacto Fermented Pickled Carrots

Once I began reading up on all the benefits of fermented food,* I knew they were something I needed
to serve my family on a regular basis. I love my homemade kombucha, but I found it difficult to eat other fermented foods - even sauerkraut (in anything other than tiny portions). Tiny portions are okay (one bite of fermented food contains 100 times more pro-biotics than the best pro biotic pill), but I wanted to learn to love fermented food. So I looked all over Pinterest, trying to find fermented foods that were recommended for children. After all, children are often picky eaters; if kids loved it, maybe I would, too. That's when I discovered lacto-fermented carrots. At first, I wasn't sure I liked them...but by the time I was at the end of my first batch, I found myself craving more.Yummy!

If you love pickles, you'll likely love these lacto-fermented pickled carrots. And if you're less excited about the flavor of fermented foods, I encourage you to give these a try. They are easy - and super healthy!

How to Make Lacto-Fermented Pickled Carrots

Carrots (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
2 - 3 cloves garlic
2 cups of non-chlorinated water (I use tap water that's filtered)
2 tablespoons sea salt**

Quart canning jar (or similar sized glass jar)
Lid (preferably plastic***) or cheesecloth and a rubber band or piece of twine 
Cutting board 

1.Start by cleaning everything you'll use (the jar, lid, cutting board, knife) in hot soapy water - or run them through the dishwasher. Wash your hands thoroughly, too. This will help prevent any bad bacteria from forming in your ferment.

2. Make the brine by stirring the salt into the water until the salt is completely dissolved and the water looks clear. (If you're using Himalayan pink salt, as I did for this batch, the water may still look pinkish once the salt is dissolved.) If the water is cold, you may need to heat it on the stove while you stir, or the salt might not fully dissolve. Set the brine aside and allow it to come to room temperature.

Combine salt and water to make a brine.
3. In the meantime, cut up the carrots. They need to be short enough that, once they are in the jar, they reach a little below the first screw band rings. (In other words, the carrots must be about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 inch below the top of the jar.) I generally cut my carrots in half, then cut each piece into quarters. If you have especially fat carrots, you may wish to cut them into thinner pieces. All pieces should be approximately the same width.
Carrots must be the right length for the jar, and quartered.
4. Peel the garlic cloves and put them into the bottom of the jar.

5. Pack the cut carrots into the jar, lengthwise. Fit them in snugly, since that will prevent them from rising to the top of the jar, which could potentially lead to badly contaminated food. (In fermenting, it's vital to keep the food beneath the surface of the brine.)
Pack carrots into jar.
6. Pour the cooled brine over the carrots. It should cover them completely; leave one inch of headspace (the amount of room between the top of the liquid and the lid of the jar). If the liquid doesn't fully cover the carrots, add a little more water. Place the lid loosely on the jar (or cover the jar with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band or piece of string). It's important that the lid be loose; gas can build up in fermenting foods and if the lid is tight, it could potentially cause the jar to burst. If the lid is loose, however, there is no danger of this. Place the jar on the counter, away from direct sunlight or drafts.
Pour the brine over the carrots, immersing them completely.
Cover loosely with plastic lid or cheesecloth.

After seven days, taste one of the carrots. If it tastes great to you, refrigerate. If not, allow it to sit on the counter for a few more days, then taste again. How long counter top fermentation lasts depends upon the temperature in the room and your personal tastes. Once you refrigerate the carrots, eat them up within a month or so.

* Fermented foods increase mineral absorption, improve brain function, may help you loose weight, boost your immune system, may reduce the risk of some cancers, and heal "leaky gut" - a condition that's at epidemic levels in the United States and leads to a myriad of health complaints, from fatigue to diarrhea and stomach troubles.

** It used to be canning or kosher salt was recommended most for pickling, but now we know processed salt is linked to autoimmune disorders. Sea salt will make the brine cloudy, but is much more healthy. I used Himalayan pink sea salt, but you can use any type of pure (nothing added) sea salt. I used coarse salt, but it's okay to use the same amount of fine salt.

*** Most experts advise against using ordinary metal lids or canning jar lids with rings. This is because metal can react negatively with the brine.

Jul 6, 2015

Making Jerky - Part II: Making Traditional Jerky with a Smoker

Last month, I showed you how to make your own jerky using a dehydrator or your oven. Now, as promised, I'll show you how my husband makes his a more traditional way: In a smoker. And let me tell you, this stuff is a thousand times better than what you can buy in a store. It's truly carnivore candy.

Notes on What You Need 

Smoker: First and foremost, you need a smoker. For years, my husband used an inexpensive Big Chief electric smoker. I bought this for him about a decade ago (for something like $80), and I sometimes see them on Craigslist. If you don't want to invest much into smoking meat, this is probably the best way to start. But it can be difficult to control the temperature in this type of smoker - and the smoker may not come up to the necessary temperature during cooler weather. My husband currently has a Yoder smoker/BBQ, which was quite an investment. If you don't mind spending a lot of dough, this is a fantastic smoker, although again, it can be tough to control the temperature. An in between solution is to build an old school style smoke house.

Jerky cure: Jerky cure helps preserve the meat, keeping it safe to eat. You can buy cure online and at some grocery and big box stores. All it is, however, is uniodised salt (usually kosher salt, but sometimes sea salt) and nitrates.You can leave out the nitrates - but your jerky won't last nearly as long. In my husband's recipe, the teriyaki acts as the cure, because it's high in salt.

Jerky seasoning: You can buy jerky seasonings online or in some grocery stores, also, but do read the ingredients label. I have yet to find one that wasn't full of nasty chemicals. You can also make your own seasonings - which is what my husband does. You'll find his recipe below. If you use store bought seasonings/cure, be sure to follow the instructions that come with it.

Grill racks: You can find these where barbecue and grilling supplies are sold. In a pinch, you could use wire cooling racks. (Here's the exact type my husband uses.)

Air tight containers: Including at least one Ziplock bag for marinating, plus more bags or containers for storing the finished jerky.

Meat: Always choose the leanest meat you can find. Fat may make your jerky go rancid.

A good knife: You really need a good, sharp knife for this job. Just be careful not to cut yourself.

How to Make Jerky in a Smoker

1. Slice the meat thinly, along the grain. On the day I photographed my husband making jerky, he sliced the pieces fairly thick; this is fine, but it means it has to spend more time in the smoker. Try to get the pieces about the same thickness, but don't stress if there is some variation in thickness. HINT: The meat is easier to cut if it's a little bit frozen. Also, be sure to cut off as much of the fat as possible. It's fine to leave the fine "silverskin" or membrane on the meat, if it has it.

2. Pour your cure and seasonings into a gallon Ziplock bag. My husband always eyeballs his ingredients, but this time I measured the amounts he used: About 1 cup of teriyaki sauce, 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

3. Add the sliced meat and massage the bag to mix well and completely cover the meat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal, and refrigerate over night.

4. Get the smoker going by adding wood and lighting it off. (My husband likes oak for beef jerky, but any non-resinous, hardwood works.)

5. Lay the grilling racks on a flat work surface. (You may wish to line the work surface with paper towels first, to make clean up easier.) Lay the marinated pieces of meat on the racks. The pieces may touch, but they must not overlap.

6. Sprinkle generously with freshly ground pepper.

7. Allow the meat to sit 1 - 2 hours at room temperature. This allows the marinade to evaporate, sink in, and drip off. The meat should not be wet when it goes into the smoker. Just don't let meat sit at 40 - 140 degrees F. for more than 4 hours total, or it may go bad, making you sick if you eat it.

8. When the smoker reaches 160 degrees F., place the prepared meat (on the grilling racks) inside.

9. Check in on your jerky periodically and rotate the racks when you notice that the jerky nearest the heat is getting more done than the jerky above it.

10. When the jerky is at 160 degrees F. and is dry, the jerky is done. To test for dryness, pull a piece of jerky apart. No liquid should come from it.

Store the finished jerky in air tight containers in the refrigerator*. If desired, portion out the jerky into freezer bags and freeze until ready to eat.

* You might wonder why you can't store the jerky at room temperature, like our ancestors did. Theoretically you could, if the meat is very lean. But our ancestor's jerky was also super-duper dry and tough because they sucked the life out of it during smoking or drying. Most of us don't find that palatable now.