Creamy Orange Coconut Smoothie

The best part of making homemade coconut milk, in my opinion, is definitely using it toĀ make smoothies! We’ve tried several different smoothie flavor combinations in the past few months, but the boys’ very favorite recipe is what I usually call our Orange Creamsicle Smoothie. When we made our first batch of homemade coconut milk yesterday, Zander immediately wanted to try it in that recipe. The results were fantastic! In fact, I only got half of a glass because the boys slurped down their own before descending on mine when I wasn’t looking! I wish their mother had taught them better manners… Oh wait. šŸ˜‰

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Ingredients:

3 frozen bananas (I had these already peeled, but I often just toss the whole banana in the freezer and use a knife to peel it when I’m ready to use…either way works!)
1 cup orange juice
1 cup fresh, homemade coconut milk (or whatever milk you prefer, but coconut is AWESOME in this)
1/2-3/4 cup cottage cheese (I use this to add a kick of protein and additional creaminess–processed dairy likeĀ cheeses and yogurts don’t botherĀ theĀ milk-sensitive tummies in ourĀ family likeĀ plain milk does)
Optional additions:
Sweetener to taste (our milk was sweetened, so I didn’t use any additional sweetener)
Ground flax seed (I often toss 2T or so into smoothies for the nutrition bonus, but I didn’t think about it for this batch)

Put all ingredients besides bananas into blender. Cut up bananas and add them to blender. Blend until smooth and serve immediately.

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Creamy, fruity, delicious! No single flavor overpowers the others, and it was just the right level of sweet. Yum!

Creamy Chicken and Pasta

I have been trying to creep toward cooking with more “whole” or “real” foods. It’s a difficult journey, as any of you who’ve tried it know all too well.

I baked a beautiful batch of whole wheat muffins, and no one would eat them. NO ONE.

I tried to get rid of the margarine, and my sweet husband fussed because he missed it.

And don’t even get me started on the snack cake and sweet tea situations.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to do my best, take small steps, and make sure that whatever I serve up is delicious. If they love what they are eating, they won’t care what’s in it!

That leads me (finally) to my newest recipe. I had been reading on blogs like Heavenly Homemakers about using heavy cream to make…wait for it…CREAM sauces! I know it’s a novel concept, but just stay with me. šŸ˜‰

I was getting ready to cook supper, and all I could think of was caramelized onions. It was a chicken night, so I knew I’d need to work that in too. Hmmm…and pasta. We’d had rice and potatoes most recently, so pasta it was. Unfortunately, that was all I had in the way of inspiration. I didn’t want a tomato sauce, and I hadn’t done any meal planning.

I just started cooking the onions to see where it would lead.

This is what it turned into…

 

Creamy Chicken and Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 8oz pasta (I used penne)–cook and drain
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 1lb chicken tenders, defrosted if frozen
  • 1 small bell pepper (picked from my garden!!), chopped
  • 1/4-1/2t dried basil and rosemary
  • salt to taste
  • 3/4-1c heavy cream
  • butter for cooking onion and chicken–maybe 1-2T?

Cook the onion in 1T butter on medium to medium-high heat until beginning to soften and brown. Add chicken (and a little more butter if needed for moisture) and cook until lightly brown on both sides. Toss in bell pepper pieces, herbs and salt, cover and let cook for about 5-10 minutes tossing and/or stirring as needed until chicken is cooked through. Add about 1/2c water about half way through to help keep from sticking and to begin creating a sauce.

Break up chicken into smaller pieces, lower heat, pour in cream and stir. Add cooked pasta and toss to cover with sauce.

Enjoy!

(You can also top it with Parmesan cheese, but we didn’t make it that long. The flavors are so deep and rich that we all gobbled it down before we had the chance to add anything else to it!)

 

 

The easiest homemade bread EVER

If someone was just randomly reading my blog, I guess that they would immediately assume that all I cook and eat is bread. I have a recipe for whole wheat bread, one for rolls, and now yet another bread recipe!

That person would be really close to being right. šŸ™‚

I love bread. I love homemade bread. Mainly though, I love EASY and DELICIOUS homemade bread.

Did I mention that this recipe only uses a handful of ingredients? AND doesn’t require kneading? AND comes out with a deliciously buttery crust that will make you think that you are consuming something that involves way way WAY more than 1 tablespoon of butter? Yeah…I now make 4 loaves at a time.

Oh…and they freeze beautifully too. Bonus!

I found the recipe at Alexandra’s Kitchen, and you should look there for great step-by-step photos that I just can’t seem to make.

Peasant Bread

Ingredients:
4 scant cups flour (I prefer bread flour)
2t salt (kosher is great, but any will work)
2c warm water (warm to touch but not hot enough to burn)
2t dry yeast (or one packet)
1T sugar

Mix water, yeast and sugar. Let proof for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir well. Cover the bowl and let rise 1 hour in a warm spot.

While the bread is rising, thoroughly butter two oven-proof bowls (1-1.5 qt works best because larger bowls won’t let it rise properly) using about 1T of room temperature butter for each bowl. Seriously…use the whole tablespoon of butter in each one…you’ll thank me later.

After the rise, fold the down with 2 forks. Kind of pull it down and toward the middle a few times with the forks to “punch it down,” then divide it in half. Place each half into a buttered bowl.

Let the dough rise another 30 minutes. Go ahead and turn the oven to 425 so that it’ll be ready.

Bake the loaves at 425Ā° for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375Ā° without opening the door and bake for another 22-25 minutes. If the bread is browning too much on top, you can cover it loosely with foil for the last 5-10 minutes.

Turn it out onto a wire rack to cool a few minutes before devouring.

The bottom crust will be golden brown, deliciously buttery, and perfectly crispy. The smell is amazing, and your husband will think you can work magic.

If you want to freeze the second loaf for another night, just let it cool all the way before wrapping it in foil. Pop the foil-wrapped loaf into the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, you can put it (foil and all) directly into the oven to warm.

I cook 4 loaves at once now so that we can enjoy the fresh-baked taste even on quick-cook nights. Since I don’t want to worry with a single huge bowl of dough that doubling the batch would make, I just make two regular batches at the same time. It’s really only a couple more dishes and no extra time.

Hope you try it and enjoy!

45 Minute Rolls

Ok…so this recipe was originally called “30 Minute Rolls” when I first tried it, but it bugged me that it actually takes 45 minutes to make them. šŸ™‚ Regardless, these rolls are super fast to put together and absolutely delicious. We like to use the leftover rolls for sandwiches or hamburger buns.

45 Minute Rolls

Ingredients
1cup plus 2 Tbsp warm water (1 1/8 cups)
1/3 cup oil
2 Tbsp yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3 1/2 cups bread flour (all-purpose will work if you don’t have any bread flour)

Heat oven to 400Ā°.

Combine water, oil, yeast, and sugar in the mixer bowl and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Using a dough hook, mix in the salt, egg, and flour. Knead with the hook for a few minutes–until flour is well incorporated and dough is soft and smooth.

Grease a 9″x13″ pan. Grease your hands and pinch the dough into 12 balls. Place the dough balls into the pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Bake for 10-12 minutes at 400Ā° or until golden brown.

 

These rolls are Michael’s new favorite recipe. I make them at least once a week unless I want to risk a cranky crew at home! Please let me know if you try them.

Sneaky Chicken Pasta Bake

Ok…I am calling this recipe “sneaky” because it has LOTS of veggies in it, but tastes so good that they don’t even notice! I made this dish for the first time a couple of days ago after seeing this recipe on Pinterest. I knew that I had some frozen spinach at home, and this recipe looked too good not to try. I decided to make a few adjustments though. Here’s my version of the recipe:

Sneaky Chicken Pasta Bake

  • 8 oz uncooked pasta (I used two different kinds that I had leftover from other meals)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 c chopped onion
  • 1/2 (16 oz)Ā bag frozen spinach
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 1lb boneless chicken
  • 1 (14 oz) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (8 oz) brick cream cheese
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1Ā½ c shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375Ā°. Cook pasta according to package directions. If you’re using two different types like I did, make sure to put the longer cooking pasta in earlier if you don’t want texture differences.
  2. While pasta cooks, cook onion and chicken in a large skillet until nearly cooked through. Season to taste as chicken cooks.Ā I used Nature’s Seasoning, a dash of italian seasoning mix, onion powder, and garlic powder.
  3. When chicken is almost done, add 1/2 bag of spinach and let it cook a couple of minutes before adding zucchini andĀ tomatoes. When mixture begins to bubble, add cream cheese and sour cream and stir until well incorporated.
  4. Mix in drained pasta and spread in a large baking dish. Cover and bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
  5. Top with cheese and return to oven until melted.

This dish was SOOOĀ good! We ate it with my homemade rolls (the recipe for which I will post very soon), and everyone was raving about how deliciousĀ this supper was. I was just thrilled that no one seemed to notice that there were THREE different veggies in it. I knew I was taking a chance on the boys not eating at all that night because the spinach was easily visible. I never dreamed that ALL THREE of them would want seconds!

Just for clarification, that’s a toddler male, a 6-year-old male, and adult male ALL eating a meal without complaints that did not include hamburger or potatoes. They didn’t even TRY to pick around the spinach or tomatoes. This one is a keeper for sure!

Next time I’m going to double the recipe and freeze the second half to bake another night.

Homemade Sports Drink

Zander is going to daycampĀ this summer (at least until I finish training my replacement in August). They play outside all morning and have inside activity stations in the afternoons, so I want to make sure that he is getting plenty of fluids and replacing those electrolytes that he is sweating out. I do not, however, want to pay the amount of money required to send a bottle of Powerade or Gatorade every day.

Thankfully, I found the answer on one of my favorite blogs–One Good Thing by Jillee. JilleeĀ was looking for a homemade version of the sports drinks that her boys were guzzling down, and she posted her recipe for the rest of us to enjoy. I have made it about 8 times now, and can throw it together in less than 2 minutes while trying to run out the door to work, daycare, and daycamp in the mornings.

Zander loves it, and it’s made from ingredients that I typically keep around my kitchen anyway. Plus, I know exactly what’s in it! I like that.

Homemade Sports Drink
Adapted from Jillee’s recipe:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (the only real change that I made…Zan likes a little more flavor than 1T will provide)

In a 1 liter bottle, mix dry ingredients and lemon juice with about 1/2 c hot water. Put the cap on and shake to mix until the sugar is dissolved. Add orange juice and fill the rest of the way with cold water. Serve immediately or chill until ready to use! Easy, huh?

I make a liter at a time, and his water bottle holds about half. So far, he has never failed to drink every drop! You could easily make a larger batch by scaling the ingredients up, but it takes so little time to make, I just do it as I go.

Enjoy!

Mexican Lasagna Recipe

Last night I tried a new recipe, and it was a HUGE success all around. In fact, it was devoured by the hungry horde before I could even snap a picture of it, so you’ll just have to imagine a 9×13 dish full of melted cheesy goodness. I’ll add a photo next time I make it.

I started with a recipe that I found online, but I ended up changing it so much that the only thing that remained was the name “Mexican Lasagna.”

Here’s my version:

1 pound ground beef (or deer)
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained
1 can southwestern style tomatoes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 pkg or 1/2 c taco sauce
5 (8-inch) flour tortillas (wheat works well)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 c sour cream

(seasoning, cheese, and sour creamĀ measurements aren’t exact…just season and top to taste)

Cook ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Season cooking meat with listed spices. Drain. Stir in beans, tomatoes, taco seasoning, half a can of water,Ā and sauce; cook until thoroughly heated.

Slice tortillas into strips 1 inch wide. I used a pizza cutter to make this quick and easy.

Lightly greaseĀ a 13- x 9-inch baking dish; cover bottom with tortilla strips. Spoon half of beef mixture over tortillas; dot with half of the sour cream; sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Top with a layer of tortillas; repeat layers ending with tortillas. Spoon any remaining sauce over top layer of tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350Ā° for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Let it stand for a few minutes to come together if your family will wait. If not, serve at once like I did last night!

Enjoy! Let me know what you think if you try it.