Thursday, August 22, 2013

Almond Butter and My Favorite Kitchen Appliance

I have decided that the food processor is the best kitchen invention ever. Okay, so maybe major appliances like the refrigerator and dishwasher are slightly more significant, but the food processor is a close second. This is the one I own.

You can buy it here on Amazon for $99.95. There are amazing deals on them all the time around Christmas too. Seriously, if you don't own one, find a way to get one. It chops my chicken and veggies for casseroles and soups. It assists me in making a variety of baked goods. And today, it helped me make almond butter. Yep, I made my own almond butter. You can call me Suzy Homemaker.

Okay, so here's a confession: I don't like making special trips to the "health food store" for ingredients. It's a pain. But each time I tried to buy a jar of almond butter at one of my local grocers, I took issue with the ingredient list. Every jar I looked at had added sugar and oil. And I really didn't want that in my almond butter. I mean, if I am going to pay an arm and a leg for a natural nut butter, it should just be the nuts. Maybe a little salt. But mostly just the nuts.

So I bought 2 small containers of whole almonds. Each one was 6 oz. for a total of 12 oz. Yes, I'm a math wizard too!

I emptied both containers into my food processor.

Then I turned it on and let it process while I unloaded the rest of the groceries. After 1 minute, it looked like this.

I let it go for about 4 more minutes before I checked again. This time it had started to clump together, but it still didn't resemble any sort of nut butter.

I let it process for 5 more minutes. Voila! Almond butter!

I added a dash of salt, processed it for a few more seconds and stored it in a small tupperware container. You could also add a little honey, vanilla or coconut oil to suit your taste.

I love it! The natural sweetness of the almonds gives it a great flavor. I can't wait to try it in some new recipes soon.

Question of the Day

Do you like almond butter?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Flourless Brownie Cupcakes!!!

It's been a busy week around here. The kids started school. *sniff*

Jeff and I celebrated our 13th anniversary with a little Focus T25 and Shaun T.

And I made *healthy* flourless brownie cupcakes!!! I found this recipe on Team Beachbody website. Who knew they had dessert recipes?!? Since my last two recipes using beans as a substitute for flour were such a big hit, I just had to make this one as well. And it did not disappoint!

Here's what you'll need.

First, find two cute kids. Let them line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. You don't have to use cute kids. You could just do this yourself. But it's more fun with cute kids. 

Next, drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Then place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until smooth.

Add all your other ingredients except the chocolate chips. Process again until smooth.

Dispense the batter evenly among the 12 prepared muffin cups.

Here's where the cute kids come in again. Let them top each cupcake with 4 - 5 chocolate chips. They'll love it. And they'll practice counting. Smart kids eating healthy cupcakes?!? You're now the parent of the year.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

The instructions say to let them cool completely. Really? Just sit and smell the pretty cupcakes while they cool for 2 hours?!? I think you all know me better than that. As soon as they were cool enough not to blister my tongue, I was ready to eat! 

Have mercy. They were amazing!!!!!

The kids have absolutely gone nuts over these! One of my girls shared part of hers with a friend at lunch. They now have plans to have a sleepover and make these. I can get behind that.

These come in at just 160 calories and 4g of protein each.

Flourless Brownie Cupcakes
  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp. virgin/unrefined coconut oil (you could use refined, but you'll miss out on the great coconut flavor!!!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (we didn't use quite this many...probably more like 1/4 cup)
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Prepare 12 muffin cups by lining with cupcake liners or coating with nonstick spray.
3. Placed chickpeas (drained and rinsed) into food processor. Process until smooth. Add all other ingredients except chocolate chips. Process until well-blended.
4. Divide batter among 12 prepared muffin cups.
5. Top each cupcake with 4 - 5 chocolate chips; push the chips into the batter slightly.
6. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes (I probably cooked closer to 15 minutes), or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
7. Cool completely and enjoy!

Question of the Day

Do you wait for your baked goods to cool before sampling?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Grilled Chicken with Garlic, Lemon & Herbs

I am going to miss these lazy days of summer. I didn't get out of bed until 8:30 this morning. And then I puttered around, getting breakfast for the kids, making the hubby his daily dose of dense nutrition (Shakeology) and emptying the dishwasher before I started my workout. In two days, that all changes. In two days, I'll be up at 5:45. Yuck.

I decided to try a new recipe for dinner tonight. You know how I love a recipe where the work can be done early in the day so there's very little to do at suppertime.  I used this recipe from Once Upon a Chef

Here's the cast.

I did a few things differently than the original recipe. For starters, I did not use a meat mallet to thin out my chicken. Mostly because I was using chicken tenders and they were already pretty thin. Next, I mixed my marinade in a bowl instead of a bag because I thawed my tenders in a bag. And I didn't want to waste two bags. I'm cheap eco savvy like that.

That being said, I put all the oil, herbs, and spices into a small bowl. Then I set off to zest my lemon.

Confession: I had never zested a lemon. I have wanted to try it many times, but I didn't own a zester, and I was too cheap lazy frugal to buy one. When I saw this recipe, I decided I would finally make the plunge. I purchased my zester at Walmart for just under $6. 

Zesting didn't go quite as well as planned. I have no idea why, but all the lemon zest stuck to the zester and wouldn't budge. I ended up using a toothbrush (don't worry, it was new) to remove the zest from the zester. 

When I had finally collected my lemon zest, I added it to the bowl with the other oil and spices.

Then I whisked them all together. 

I poured them into the bag with the chicken tenders, and I let it marinade for about 7 hours.

Jeff was kind enough to grill these for me tonight. In the rain. He's the bomb.

I served the chicken with some grilled veggies. That Jeff grilled. In the rain. Did I mention he's the bomb?

Everyone loved this chicken! It was super tender and very flavorful. The recipe is definitely a keeper.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic, Lemon & Herbs
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1-3/4 lbs. total)
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced (I used dried, minced garlic)
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano (I used 1-1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning instead of the thyme and oregano)
  • 1-1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • zest from one lemon
~Mix all ingredients except chicken in a small bowl. Place chicken and marinade in a zip-lock bag, seal, and massage marinade into the chicken until it's evenly coated. Marinade 4 - 12 hours.

Question of the Day:

What are your best lemon zesting tips?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Staycation Week In Review

I mentioned in my last post that we had decided not to take a vacation away from home this year for a variety of reasons. So instead, my hubby took the week off, and we decided to do some fun, local things.

You may remember that on Monday we went to a local splash park. 

Tuesday, we let each of our older 3 kids invite a friend to the pool. I brought a bunch of snacks, and they swam for hours. The kids had a blast! Here is the boy with one of his besties. How cute are they?!

After the pool, we came home and roasted hot dogs and 'smores in the firepit Jeff built in our backyard last fall. He's totally talented.

It rained on Wednesday, so we decided this was a good opportunity to go see a movie. We saw Smurfs 2. It wasn't quite as good as the first one (are sequels EVER as good as the first?!), but it was very cute.

The bag I am carrying in the picture was my diaper bag when the kids were babies. It makes a great movie-snack-smuggling bag today. There is a part of me that feels bad about smuggling snacks into the movies. But the cheapskate frugal woman inside me usually tells that part to sit down and shut up.

Thursday we took the kids bowling. It was the first time the younger ones had ever bowled, and they LOVED it! We played 2 games. I was terribly out of practice, although I did get a couple of strikes.

Friday we went to a local miniature golf course. I thought this would be the highlight of the week, but it was hot, and the kids weren't very into it. After we golfed, we rode the bumper boats. It was a ton of fun, but we were drenched. I failed to get any photos of this part of our adventure.

We did follow up the golf course with pizza and Bruster's ice cream. Jeff and I both ate pizza, but we were well behaved and didn't eat any ice cream. 

Saturday, my parents hosted a back-to-school bash at their house. They rented an inflatable water slide and had all the kids and grandkids over. It was a ton of fun! Some of the adults even got in on the action. Can I just say that water slides seem WAY scarier as an adult than they did as a child?!? I screamed every time I went down.

I am so sad that the kids go back to school in a couple of days! I always miss them when summer is over. But I'm glad we could end the summer with this fun week together.

Question of the Day:

Do you bring your own snacks to movies?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pepper and Squash Parmesan

For a variety of reasons, we decided not to take a vacation away from home this year. So instead, Jeff has taken this week off from work, and we are having our own little "staycation." We have lots of fun, family activities planned! We started the week off by going down to a local water splash park. It was good, free fun.

After a couple of hours at the park, we had planned to eat at a favorite, local pizza joint. Unfortunately, we forgot it is closed on Mondays. So we the kids ate Taco Bell instead. I waited until we got home so I could fix myself something a bit healthier. And then I proceeded to eat my weight in Muddy Buddies. *sigh*

In other news, we went to my brother-in-law's house last weekend. He has a garden, and he very generously shared a bit of his harvest. I was super excited about this spaghetti squash in particular.

I have been wanting to try spaghetti squash forever, and I haven't been able to find them (when I actually remembered to check) at our local grocery stores. Even more exciting was that I had just pinned this recipe from Pinterest last week, so I immediately knew how I was going to prepare it.

Here's the cast.

First, you need to cook your spaghetti squash. I did not follow the directions that were with the recipe for this part. Instead, I followed these instructions from Chelsea Eats Treats.

I weighed my squash by stepping on the scale with and without the squash and doing a little subtraction. The squash was around 4 lbs. First, I stabbed it with a sharp knife quite a few times. Then I put it in a microwaveable dish and cooked it on high for about 16 minutes.

When it was finished cooking, I sliced the squash in half.

Then I scooped out the seeds and the slimier looking strands.

While the squash was cooking, I sliced a couple of bell peppers. I didn't have a green one like the recipe called for, so I just used what I had on hand.

Next, I sauteed the peppers in a tablespoon of olive oil until they started to brown. Then I added the cooked squash and spaghetti sauce to the peppers.

Finally, I added the parmesan cheese and served up a plateful.

This was delicious! I questioned whether it would really be very filling, but it was great! I loved it, and I can't wait to try spaghetti squash again soon.

Fun fact: Spaghetti squash has only 42 calories per cup! AND if you eat spaghetti once each week and replaced traditional noodles with spaghetti squash, you would lose 2.5 lbs. over the course of a year! Without even trying! 

Pepper and Squash Parmesan
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1. Using a sharp knife, stab slits in squash. Place the squash in a microwaveable dish and cook for 4 - 5 minutes per pound. The squash is cooked when you can easily press down on the outside skin. Slice the squash in half and remove the seeds and slimier-looking strands.

2. While spaghetti squash is in microwave, heat skillet on high and saute bell peppers in olive oil until peppers start to brown. 

3. Turn heat down to medium. With a fork, scoop spaghetti squash into pan with peppers. Add Parmesan and sauce. Mix all ingredients together over heat for 3 minutes, or until warm.

Question of the Day:

What's your favorite way to prepare spaghetti squash?