Monday, April 30, 2012

Strawberry Preserves (No Sugar)

This past weekend our family went strawberry picking and came back home with two huge buckets full of strawberries.  Boy am I excited to find new recipes to use my strawberries.

My oldest son and I love strawberry preserves, but I don't love all the sugar.  Therefore, I discovered a recipe that uses no sugar, just honey and it was great.

Strawberry Preserves (No Sugar)


5 Cups Freshly picked strawberries, hulled and halved or diced
1/4 Cup Honey
1 1/2- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Combine ingredients together in a pan over medium-high heat.  You must watch this very closely and continue to stir frequently.  It can burn to the bottom, so be very careful.  

Continue to cook and lower heat to medium if it is sticking.  Cook for about 20-30 minutes until it reaches the preserve consistency that you prefer. 

This recipe only made about 1 cup of preserves.  I think next time I will double or triple.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Strawberry Season is finally here!
Go ahead, take a look at our dinner menu and laugh.  I know the combinations are a little weird, but our week is full of activities and will require easy prep meals.

I try to remember that not all meals have to be fancy and gourmet.  The purpose of a home cooked meal is that you have control of the ingredients and most of all you get to spend quality time with your family.

Have a wonderful week!

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Monday - Tuscan Vegetable Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Tuesday - Tuna Melts on Thin Bagels, Roasted Asparagus, and Pretzel Crisps

Wednesday - Black Bean and Spinach Quesadillas with Guacamole and Slices of Kiwi

Thursday - Salad with Chicken and Strawberry Sorbet Smoothie

Friday - Grilled Kiwi Chicken, Kale Chips and Crowder Peas

Saturday - Baked Vegetarian Spaghetti and Caprese Salad

Sunday - Dinner at Awana Awards Ceremony

Friday, April 27, 2012

Asparagus, Bacon, and Cheese Strata

When I came across this recipe on Weight Watchers I had never heard of the word "strata".  I looked it up on the internet and found that a strata is a casserole type dish of layers that usually consist of eggs, cheese and bread (stale).

My husband surprised me and said he really liked this dish, probably because it has bacon.  He likes anything with bacon.

I did make some changes to the original recipe based on what I had on hand.  

Asparagus, Bacon, and Cheese Strata


4 Slices of uncooked reduced fat bacon, diced (turkey bacon would be better, but I did not have any)
1/2 Cup onions, diced
2 Cups asparagus, diced
5-6 Slices whole wheat bread
4 Large eggs
4 Large egg whites
3/4 Fat-free evaporated milk (you can also skim milk)
2 Tsp honey dijon
1/4 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp black pepper
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp of low-fat cheese (such as cheddar, mozzarella, or monterey-jack)

Heat a cast iron skillet or ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook until brown.

Remove bacon from skillet and pour any remaining grease out.  Add onion and asparagus and cook for about 5 minutes.  

Remove vegetables from pan and set aside with bacon.  

Preheat broiler.

Remove skillet from heat and spray with cooking spray if necessary, then carefully arrange bread slices around the bottom of skillet (I did have some overlapping).

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg whites, milk, mustard, salt and pepper.  Pour over the bread slices covering completely.

Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of cheese over the bread and egg mixture.

Place skillet back onto medium-high heat.  Cook and shake the pan to allow for even cooking of the eggs.  Cook until the eggs become a little set (about 4-5 mins.)

Place skillet under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes to allow the eggs to set further.  Remove the skillet from oven and top with bacon/vegetable mixture.  Then add remaining cheese and place back under broiler until cheese is completely melted.

Remove from oven, cool slightly and serve into individual slices.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Magnolia flowers are so pretty!

This week I am only making one new recipe.  The dinner plan below covers some of our favorite recipes that are posted on this blog, as well as other blogs.  

Have a great week!

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Monday - Refried Bean Soup with Guacamole and Spinach Cheese Taquitos

Tuesday - Eggs with Spinach, Sausage Links, Hash Browns and Fresh Strawberries

Wednesday - Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo (Healthier Version), Salad and Fresh Rolls

Thursday - Asparagus, Bacon and Cheese Strata (recipe coming soon) with a Yogurt Parfait

Friday - Vegetable Calzones and Fruit Salad

Saturday - Shrimp Kabobs with Rice and Corn

Sunday - Leftovers

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chicken in Onion Buttermilk Gravy - Crock Pot

On days when I cook meals in the crock pot I always seem to feel more relaxed. I don't have to fret around 5pm trying to prepare dinner because it has already been cooking all day.

Even though summer is approaching I will still be using my crock pot quite often. I just find that it saves time and money.

Chicken in Onion Buttermilk Gravy


1 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 lbs Chicken thighs or breasts
1 Onion, sliced
1 Carrot, diced
1/2 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp pepper
1/4 Tsp dried thyme leaves (use a little more if you like)
1/8 Cup all-purpose flour
8 oz Vegetable or chicken broth
1 Bay leaf
1 Cup frozen green peas
3/4 Cup buttermilk (I used 1/2 cup of fat free milk and 3 Tbsp of sour cream)
I also added some celery and yellow pepper, but that is optional

Heat oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add chicken and cook until all sides are lightly brown. Transfer to the crock pot.

Add onions and carrots to the pan and cook until tender. Add salt, pepper, and thyme and cook for an additional minute. Add flour to the mixture and stir well cooking for another minute. Add broth and bay leaf and stir until the mixture thickens.

Pour mixture over the chicken and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Add peas and buttermilk to the crock pot stirring to combine. Cover and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes.

Remove bay leaf and serve.

I served this over homemade mashed potatoes and it was delightful.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Apple Celery Coleslaw

My husband and I really like traditional southern coleslaw, but my children do not. I found an easy non-traditional coleslaw recipe and thought we would give this a try.

Even though we thought this coleslaw was horrible, I thought I would post it anyway to get recommendations on how to improve it. Please let me know if you have suggestions!

Apple Celery Coleslaw


1 Large apple, peeled and shredded
1/4 Head of red cabbage, shredded

1 Large celery stick, shredded (or fennel bulb, shredded)

1/4 Cup fat free sour cream

1 Tbsp Mayo

Juice from one lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for an hour to mingle flavors. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Last week did not quite play out like I had hoped as far as sticking to the meals I had planned. Instead of homemade pizza on Friday night I ended up ordering out because I was so exhausted and just really did not feel like cooking (somebody out there knows what I am saying, right?). Another night last week I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer so I was unable to make the chicken with buttermilk gravy recipe as well.

I hope this week goes a little smoother. Here is our dinner menu plan for the week.

Happy Patriot's Day!

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Monday - Chicken in Onion Buttermilk Gravy and Apple Celery Coleslaw (the coleslaw was not that great)

Tuesday - Pesto Pasta and Salad

Wednesday - Shaved Beef Sandwiches, Roasted Asparagus and Homemade Scalloped Potatoes

Thursday - Tomato Shells Soup with Spinach and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Friday - Modified version of Sandra Lee's Crunchy Salsa Chicken Bake and Guacamole Salad

Saturday - Friend's are coming over - not sure what I am making at this point

Sunday - Leftovers

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

Panera Bread is one of my favorite places to eat soup and salad. I love how they have the calories listed on the menu so you can make a wiser choice for you and your family.

I am a member of the "My Panera" club and frequently get emails from them with recipes, another great reason to love Panera. I received the recipe below in my email box from Panera and decided to give it a try (with a few changes).

Tuscan Vegetable Soup


3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Cup onions, chopped
1 Cup celery, chopped
1 Cup carrots, chopped
4 Garlic cloves, minced
1/4 Tsp red pepper flakes
1 (15oz) Can diced no-salt tomatoes (basil, oregano, garlic flavor)
8 oz Rainbow chard (you can use any kind you like)
1 Cup pinto beans
1 Cup black beans
6 Cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 Tsp salt
1 Sourdough, French or Italian bread, cubed (optional)
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots and cook until the vegetables are tender about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute.

Add the tomatoes with their juice, and chard and cook for about 10 minutes.

Puree one cup of pinto beans and 1 cup of broth in a food processor. Add to the soup along with 5 cups of vegetable broth.

Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

Stir in the parsley, salt and bread cubes and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Serve with parmesan cheese.

* My husband did not care for the bread inside the soup, so next time I would just serve it along side.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Banana Cream Parfait

My intentions were to grab a picture of this scrumptious dessert, however it was gobbled up so quickly I never got a chance.

My kids ate their vegetables in a heartbeat so they could eat this yummy dessert and they were not disappointed.

Banana Cream Parfait


1 Package vanilla pudding, prepared
Graham crackers (as many as you like)
1-2 Bananas, sliced
Nuts (I used pecans) - optional
Honey, drizzle over the top of each

Layer the first four ingredients into a glass or small bowl and drizzle the honey over top, serve.

My oldest son said this dessert reminded him of homemade banana pudding. I think we will be having this again very soon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans

My husband loves brussels sprouts and has been talking about how I never serve them. I have to be honest and say that I really have never been too fond of brussels sprouts. I think I never liked them because of the way they were prepared. I found a super simple (I like simple) recipe to prepare these little creations and thought we would give it a try.

My youngest son, my husband and myself really liked the brussels sprouts prepared this way. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans


Brussels sprouts - about 20 or so, halved or quartered
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (or more if you like)
Salt and pepper
Toasted pecans (heat in a skillet with olive oil until toasted)

Preheat the oven to 400°

Toss brussels sprouts with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Roast for about 15-20 minutes or until tender. Top with toasted pecans and serve.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Our Dinner Menu Plan

This week my dinner menu plan includes some new recipes as well as some old favorites. My husband said that I am on a rustic food kick with Tuscan beans last week and Tuscan Vegetable Soup this week. I go through phases with food so he is probably right.

I am branching out a little with my selection of side dishes in hopes that my children will explore other vegetables unfamiliar to them.

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Monday - Refried Beans and Rice, Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans and Banana Cream Parfaits (recipe coming)

Tuesday - Beef Stroganoff with Garlic Bread

Wednesday - Tuscan Vegetable Soup (recipe coming) and Cornbread

Thursday - Chicken in Onion Buttermilk Gravy (recipe coming) and Apple Celery Coleslaw (recipe coming)

Friday - Homemade Pizza and Salad

Saturday- Leftovers

Sunday - Pesto Pasta and Caprese Salad

Chickpea Minus the Meat Balls (Great for Spaghetti or Hoagies)

I have to admit that although I love preparing vegetarian meals for my family I was not too excited about making chickpea meatballs. For some reason the sound of chickpea and meatballs just did not make sense to me. Well, I am super glad that I finally got a chance to make these delightful little balls, they were actually really good.

Next time I prepare them I think I will add some fresh herbs like oregano, parsley and basil to give them some extra pazazz.

Here is a link to the recipe I used from Rachel Ray. The only ingredient I omitted was the lemon. Rachel served the Chickpea Balls on a baguette and I served them in spaghetti. I think they would work great either way.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday

My kids are really excited about making Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. I figured I would go ahead and post the recipe for these delicious treats if you wanted to also make them on Friday (or any other time).

Along with the Resurrection Rolls, these buns are another great way to help kids understand the Easter story.

Hot Cross Buns


¾ cup scalded milk
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
¾ cup dried plums, currants or raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Put milk into a saucepan and scald it. Let it cool until it’s lukewarm.

Add warm milk, butter, sugar, salt, one egg + one egg white (save the yolk to coat the buns later), flour, and yeast in bread maker to mix and knead.

When the kneading cycle is almost finished (some machines beep at this point), add the raisins and cinnamon.

When dough cycle is completed remove the dough from bread maker and press it out on a floured surface.

Cover it and let rest 10 minutes.

Shape dough into 12 balls and place them in a greased 9 x 12 inch pan.

Cover the pan and let the dough rise in a warm place 30-40 minutes, until doubled.

Mix the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water and brush on buns.

Bake at 375ยบ F for 20 minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Frosting Recipe


½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoons milk or water

Mix together confectioners’ sugar and milk.

When the buns have cooled completely brush frosting on each bun making a cross.

Black Bean Salad

If your family likes beans this recipe for black bean salad is a super delicious and completely versatile dish. It makes an awesome and flavorful side dish or light main dish. A friend of mine gave me this delightful recipe a few years ago and I had forgotten all about it until I was flipping through my disorganized recipe book.

Black beans are a good source of protein, thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese, and an excellent source of dietary fiber and folate. After researching black beans a little further I also found information that suggests that black beans help lower your risk of colon cancer. It seems they provide additional support for our digestive tracts, particularly the colon. All good reasons to make black beans a part of our diet.

Black Bean Salad


1/2 Cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 Cup red, yellow, or orange pepper, finely chopped
1 Tsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 Tbsp cilantro (I used parsley because that is what I had on hand)
1/4 Tsp cumin
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp red chile honey (see recipe below)
1 Tsp salt
3/4 Cup corn kernels
1 Cup ripe tomatoes, chopped (I used grape tomatoes and those worked just fine, however romas would have been better I think)
1 Cup black beans, cooked

Saute the onions and peppers in olive oil over medium heat until soft.

In a separate bowl, combine cilantro, cumin, vinegar, honey mixture, and salt.

Add corn, tomatoes, black beans and sauteed vegetables to the dressing mixture and combine thoroughly. Allow flavors to blend by letting the salad stand for 30-45 minutes. I placed my black bean salad in the refrigerator and served it cold, however you can serve it room temperature as well.

**If you like things spicy you can also add 1 finely chopped or minced jalapeno. For the sake of my kids I decided to leave the jalapeno out.

Red Chile Honey


1/2 cup honey
1/2 Tbsp red chile powder
1/8 Tsp cumin
1/8 garlic salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat for about 2 minutes. Stir continuously until all the flavors have combined.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Resurrection Rolls

Our family enjoys reading our bible and working together on various bible activities. I am always searching for projects and activities to increase my kids knowledge of the word of God. It is a way for our family to connect and spend time together.

Recently I began searching the internet for great Easter activities. I came across a super cute hands on activity to communicate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to young children, called resurrection rolls.

You can get the complete directions and pictures on how to make resurrection rolls here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Our Dinner Menu Plan

My kids have always preferred Mexican, American, and Italian food. This week I am going outside the box and making a healthier Indian Butter Chicken that I hope my kids will enjoy. Indian food is so fragrant and colorful. My husband and I love Indian food, but only get to have it on special occasions.

Have a fantastic Easter week!

* I will be making resurrection rolls later this week, so look forward to a post on that as well.

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Monday - Crock Pot Mexican Chicken to make Tacos, Mexican Salad and Black Bean Salad

Tuesday - Sweet Potato Pancakes, Sausage, and Fruit

Wednesday - Tuscan Slow Cooker Beans (Recipe coming), Salad, and Honey Cornbread

Thursday - Indian Butter Chicken, Rice and Sweet Peas

Friday - Eating Out

Saturday - Chickpea Meatball Spaghetti (I know I moved this again, but last week we received a complete homemade dinner to help support a missionary fundraiser so I did not make these meatballs)

Sunday - Smoked Pork Loin, Sweet Potato Casserole, and Kale Chips