Happy Healthy Halloween!

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Healthy Halloween

A Healthy Halloween Snack Option!

I tend to be “that mom” that has the treat or snack option that sways on the side of healthy.  I feel like my children are already inundated with sugar filled foods that the last thing I need to do is add to it.  Specifically on Halloween.  So, I tried to think of an innovative way to still have a festive treat while not being a sweet.  Pinterest, Instagram, and a few other Google searches pretty much came up empty. So, here is something for your searches if you are looking for something that is:

  1. Quick
  2. Easy
  3. Something most kids will still eat

Introducing, a baby carrot pumpkin with hummus!

Carrot

How to Make it Yours

I used muffin liners and shaped them as best I could into triangles.   There’s probably some more involved way to ensure the shape is more defined, but I didn’t get that detailed.  I filled them with hummus, but you could also fill with ranch (see post on a delicious homemade option for that).  I had high hopes of adding some sliced green peppers to make a stem, but as you can see that never happened.  There’s lots of other veggie and fruit options that could have worked.  I went with baby carrots because no chopping required! I also would have used different colored muffin liners.  Something darker to help edge the colors between the hummus and the carrots.

Healthy Halloween

What creative Halloween treats have you made?  Have you implemented little tricks to make it more healthy?  I would love to hear from you on creative snacks you’ve made for Halloween parties!

Crochet: American Flag Blanket

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American Flag

A Patriotic Blanket for a Friend

I have been crocheting for several years now, definitely as a hobby and not as a business.  Because of this, I am flattered when I get a request for a crochet item.  Not to say I don’t love making crocheted items as gifts, but a request is something slightly different.  In this case, a friend showed me a picture of an American flag blanket she had found on Pintrest and asked if this was something I could do.  I looked around and could not find a pattern that I thought mimicked the picture, hence the move even more beyond my comfort zone.

Star Testing

I was upfront that it would be a self created pattern.  First, I did some testing on creating the stars.  Then, the creation of the blue joining of the stars.  The stripes would be easiest as I could use a granny stitch, or so I thought.

The star hexagons were an adaptation of a hexagon blanket pattern I already owned from a wonderful designer CypressTextiles.  The stripes included some math to try and determine how to join to the star portion of the blanket.  This portion ended being slightly more difficult and didn’t lay perfectly flat when all said and done.  While it didn’t turn out as professional looking as I had hoped, it did turn out beautiful, and large!  The final product was 3.5 feet by 6 feet and my friend was overjoyed to receive her special order.

American Flag

My crochet journey

This project was certainly special.  I typically work with professional patterns (queue etsy, instagram, and other social media stalking).  Most of the other posts on my website will be exactly that, and I will give credit to those pattern makers.  If you are looking for a hobby that isn’t terribly time consuming, relatively affordable, and is great for stress relief, I recommend taking a look at crochet.

Homemade Bouillon Cubes

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Stock

Bouillon Cube Making Epiphany

Raise your hand if you have ever bought those little cubes of bouillon at the store.  I definitely did.  As one of my first steps on my real food journey, I began making my own stock.  After all, it is so much cheaper and truly is easy to do. One night of making said stock, I had an epiphany.  To clarify, my mother-in-law did.  She happened to be at my home when I was finishing up a batch one night when she asked, “Why don’t you use those vegetables?”  For the most part, those vegetables were scraps and only great for stock making anyway.

Queue the light bulb.

Blend veggies

Bouillon Cubes and Stock How To

I buy organic vegetables particularly for least amount of prep.  Note, I did not mention peeling the carrots in my recipe!

After done cooking (and cooled a little), spoon out the veggies into a blender and it’s plenty okay if a little stock comes too.  Next, transfer leftover stock into a mason jar and use for dinner that week or freeze for another time! Finally, pour the pureed vegetables into molds and freeze.  In case you’re like me, a purchase like these soap molds can assist with large batches of soup making.  Although, if you have ice-cube trays, you are set!

You don’t have to sauté the veggies, but could roast them or skip altogether.  I particularly like the deepness of flavor this step offers.  Certainly, my fancy Instant Pot makes this easy for me because I can complete this step without adding dishes to my clean up.

Bouillon moldReady to Freeze

How to make it yours

It is important to point out that I have an obsession with fennel. That obsession is a direct result of a recipe I found for Cioppino.  YUM.  However, if it’s not readily available for you or a flavor you enjoy you can skip this ingredient.

Vegetable Stock/Bouillon
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 mins
 

Homemade vegetable stock and bouillon cubes. 

Course: Soup
Cuisine: Any
Servings: 5 Gallons
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 8 medium Carrots, organic (no need to peel), chopped
  • 8 stalks Celery, organic, chopped
  • 1/2 Onion, organic, chopped
  • 1/2 Fennel, fronds and half a bulb chopped
  • 5 cloves Garlic
  • 3 tbsp Italian dried seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil, Extra Virgin
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. First, set Instant Pot to "Saute".  While it heats up, chop the vegetables.

  2. Add butter to Instant Pot to melt, then add all ingredients.  Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

  3. Add 1 gallon of filtered water to Instant Pot and stir once.  Cover and select "Manual" setting on high pressure for 20 minutes.

  4. Next, leave house, do what you need to do, ignore stock in the making 🙂

  5. After pressure is released (quick or natural release), use a slotted spoon to transfer all large pieces into a blender.  Allow for some stock as this assists with blending.  In addition, transfer remaining stock (approximately 1 gallon) into suitable storage container(s).

  6. Blend vegetables on high for about 2 minutes or until smooth.  

  7. Finally, ensure ice cube trays on a baking sheet before pouring mixture into molds. Allow to freeze 36 hours. Once properly frozen, transfer to freezer safe storage bags.

Oven Baked Salmon

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Cooked Salmon

 Salmon for dinner

This recipe is a favorite of mine because it takes little prep and is hands off while cooking.  The key is including enough liquid so the salmon doesn’t taste dry.  It’s so good that we don’t need a sauce to eat it (think tarter, cocktail, etc.).  Also, there are only a few ingredients needed and barely any chopping or slicing. Win, win, win!  It’s also elegant enough if you want to make for a special occasion and impress that significant other with your skills.  This takes weeknight dinner to a different level.

Salmon Prep

How to perfect this dinner

Wild caught salmon is necessary.  The flavor is deeper and richer.  Also, I like to purchase with the skin on: again to enhance flavor.  Next, you mix, combine, bake, serve.  Pair with rice or quinoa side dish and a vegetable and you have dinner with a only few minutes of prep.  If you’re like me, this will make it into your meal plan rotation on a frequent basis!

Oven Baked Salmon
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

Quick prep makes this meal an easy choice for any weeknight dinner!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
  • 4 fillets Salmon, Wild Caught
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil, Extra Virgin
  • 1/4 cup White Wine, Dry
  • 2 tsp Dried Dill
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Cut the lemon in half, slicing one half and juicing the other.

  2. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, white wine, and seasoning in a small bowl.  Whisk together to make sauce.

  3. In a dish that just fits your salmon fillets (without touching) place evenly apart skin side up.  Pour sauce over each fillet and ensure bottom of dish is evenly coated.  

  4. Season with salt and pepper and top with lemon slices.  Bake for 25 minutes or until flaky and done in the center.

Recipe Notes

I have made this recipe many times from frozen salmon and it is still delightful!  Simply thaw per package directions prior to cooking.

Shrimp Risotto

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Shrimp Risotto

Quicker Than Risotto, Risotto

I can’t take credit here, the quick risotto tip is one I found quite a long time ago. What I can take credit for, is the deliciousness of this risotto recipe.  My substitution to cut down on time is using Orzo pasta instead of Arborio rice. Next, add some yummy frozen vegetables and a few other key ingredients and you have a fantastic dinner.  How can I sum up how good this is?  Everyone gets seconds… including my daughters that are 2 and 4.

Corn and Peas

Make it tonight

Most important for weeknight dinner, is to have thawed shrimp (or other protein) on hand.  Frozen peas and corn are always a win.  This recipe is also wonderful because it can stand on its own due to the protein and vegetables.  I often don’t include anything more for dinner than maybe some fresh fruit.  Enjoy!

Shrimp Risotto
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

Quick Cook Shrimp Risotto!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 People
Ingredients
  • 3 cup Broth
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1/4 cup Onion, diced
  • 2 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 lb Cooked Shrimp, shells removed and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1.5 cups Orzo Pasta
  • 1 cup Frozen Corn
  • 1 cup Frozen Peas
  • 1/2 cup Frozen Chopped Peppers
  • 1/2 cup White Wine, Chardonnay
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Heat broth in small sauce pan.  Meanwhile, dice onion and mince garlic.  Prep shrimp, season with Old Bay and set aside.

  2. Heat butter in large sauce pan.  Add onion and saute for 2 minutes or until soft.  Add garlic then Orzo.  Stir to brown and coat pasta.

  3. Add 1 cup of broth to pasta and stir to ensure no pieces are stuck to bottom of pan.  Add remaining broth and let cook for 7 minutes stirring occasionally. 

  4. Stir in wine, corn, peas, peppers, and shrimp.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are warm, about 2 minutes. 

  5. Stir in shrimp.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Notes

Instruction on when to add vegetable is for frozen vegetables.  If fresh, add 1 minute before orzo is finished cooking.

Italian Meatballs Dinner

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Italian Meatballs

We Love How Easy These Meatballs Are to Make

What is more comforting than meatballs?  My girls often ask for spaghetti and meatballs.  Tip: many times that “spaghetti” is actually spiralized zucchini and neither are none the wiser! Let’s get started with how easy this recipe is.  You’ll have meatballs ready for dinner in about 30 minutes.  Of course, if you double the recipe and freeze then you’ll have meatballs for dinner just as fast as those store bought brands, but a MUCH healthier version.

Italian Meatballs

How to Make Them Yours

I very rarely follow a recipe 100%, even my own recipes!  Feel free to substitute different ground meats for what is listed in the recipe.  I would recommend an additional tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the mix if you choose ground turkey as one of those substitutions.  Similarly, you can use whatever milk you have on hand, we just always have Unsweetened Almond Milk in our fridge.  Comment below with your questions!

Italian Meatballs
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
22 mins
Total Time
32 mins
 

Yummy, moist meatballs for all your dinner needs!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 lb Ground Veal
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Dried Basil
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 cup Breadcrumbs, whole wheat
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan or Romano Cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit.

  2. Add all ingredient to your Kitchen aid mixer (or mixing bowl).  Mix with beater or by hand until well combined.

  3. Portion into same sized round balls.  I used a scoop like this to help me!

  4. Coat bottom of baking dish, sheet tray, or other oven safe item with extra virgin olive oil. Place each meatball at least a half inch apart.

  5. Bake meatballs for 22 minutes or until done through.  Use with Spaghetti and Meatballs, Sweet and Spicy Meatballs, or by themselves!

Recipe Notes
  1. It is important that ground meat is cooked thoroughly and to FDA recommended temperature.
  2. Separate and freeze what you don't need for dinner!  These freeze and reheat well.

Slow Cooked Chicken Cacciatore

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Cacciatore

Must Try Northern Italian Chicken Cacciatore

I love my slow cooker. It’s my lifesaver (when I plan ahead) for dinner on a busy night. This recipe is a family favorite in our house, and it is so easy to get ready. If you have one of those fancy slow cookers like this one then you can save a dirty dish when prepping this meal.

 
 

How To Make It Yours

I never follow a recipe 100%, even my own!  So one thing I always want to provide you with is OPTIONS.  For this dish we prefer it served on top of a creamy polenta, but have served it with rice, quinoa, and just about any other starch option I’ve had available in my pantry. If you don’t know what polenta is then read this and then feel free to make a pot of mashed potatoes instead!  The non-negotiable items in this dish is the wine, rosemary, and tomatoes.

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