Beverages, Food

Mama Chia {Copycat Recipe}

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Finally. I have finally concocted a cheaper version of the Raspberry Passion Mama Chia beverage my daughter and I love so much.

It was much easier than I expected it would be. I’m not sure why I kept putting it off.

I began by looking at the ingredients list.

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Already I had decided to use pomegranate juice. Odd that that isn’t one of the ingredients listed. Pomegranate juice to me tastes like a combination of juices…like a raspberry/grape/cranberry combo maybe?…so I was confident that this would work.

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Raw honey, soaked chia seeds, pomegranate juice and lime juice.

First I prepped the chia seeds. I took about 1 ¼ cups of dry seeds and poured them into a mason jar along with about 30 or so ounces of water.

I actually miscalculated the amount of water I would need initially. I filled my glass bottle (see pictures below) 3/4 full with chia seeds, then added water.

That is not the way to do it.

Chia seeds absorb a lot of water. Like 3 times as much as the actual seeds. 

So after that sat in the fridge for awhile I was ready to throw it all together.

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One teaspoon of honey was just right, once I figured out how to stir it up (stir with a metal skewer then shake vigorously).

A bit of lime juice added to the pomegranate juice added another element to the flavor that made it pitch-perfect, and just like the Mama Chia beverage I remembered.

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Rachel’s Copycat Mama Chia Recipe

Makes about 10oz (1 serving).

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup soaked chia seeds*
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon lime juice

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in liquid measuring cup.
  2. Pour into desired container.

*To make about 25oz/3c. of soaked chia seeds, I put about 1 ¼ cups dry chia seeds into a quart (32oz) mason jar. I filled the jar with water, shook up the jar and let it sit in the fridge about 24 hours.

Cost:

For 10oz of this Mama Chia brand drink from Aldi, it was $2.29. My version was only $1.28 for the same amount.

Granted, my recipe doesn’t have the same exact ingredients. But the taste is very similar and still delicious.

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Beverages, Food

Easy, Dreamy Pumpkin Spice Smoothie (without using a blender!)

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Ah fall. Fall means pumpkins. And we Americans (most of us anyways) love our pumpkin spice. Is that just an American thing? I don’t know. Hmm.

(Ok international readers. Is pumpkin spice a thing in your country? Let me know in the comments, I would love to know!)

On a whim the other day I decided to cook up a pie pumpkin. I’m not really sure why they are called pie pumpkins. It’s not like they are used expressly for pumpkin pie. Honestly I buy one almost every year…not knowing if it will be for decor or for eating.

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The pumpkin in question *cue dramatic music*

My kids decided that the pumpkin was purchased so that they could roll/push it off of the kitchen table. No. That was actually not the purpose, my dear sweet children whom I love with all my heart but also who drive me completely loopy.

So to take the loopiness down a notch I cooked it up in the oven. I thought I could make some pumpkin bread with the puree.

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Pumpkin puree! I actually cooked the pumpkin and put it in the fridge for a few days before I pureed it.

And yep I made 4 full sized loaves. That used up about 4 cups. And I still had about a cup left over.

So I made up a new drink which was totally easy and delicious. My daughter (age 1 1/2) literally goes crazy for it. My son (age 4) asks every time if it is chocolate milk and wants nothing to do with it when I tell him that no, it isn’t.

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The flavors here are so simple and yet so delicious. Pumpkin tastes a bit like cooked squash, so on its own it isn’t all that tasty. But with honey, spices and almond milk? Yum 🙂


 

Easy, Dreamy Pumpkin Spice Smooothie

Makes: 16oz

Ingredients:

  • 12oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 4oz chilled pureed pumpkin (you can make your own puree, see below)
  • 1 small spoonful honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch or two of nutmeg

 

Directions:

  1. Measure about 1/2 cup pumpkin puree into a large glass. (I use a pint mason jar.)
  2. Add honey, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir well to combine.
  3. Add vanilla almond milk and stir.

 

To make the pumpkin puree

  1. Preheat the oven to 395°.
  2. Take a pie pumpkin and carefully cut it in half with a large knife.
  3. Place cut sides down in a large baking pan. (You can also bake them one half at a time if you don’t have a big enough pan.)
  4. Add a few inches of water to the pan and cover with tinfoil.
  5. Bake for 1 hour.
  6. Remove from oven, test for doneness and cool.
  7. Scoop out seeds and stringy stuff, set aside. Save the liquid from the pan.
  8. Scoop out the pumpkin and put it in the blender. Add a cup or so of the saved liquid (eyeball it) and puree.
  9. Chill the puree.

Cost:

This is super cheap. 89¢ for 16oz. Isn’t that crazy? I will definitely be making this again!

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Food, Main Meal

Easy Rustic Kielbasa and Noodles with Tomato-Onion Sauce

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Sunday night I was cooking away in the kitchen. My husband came in and peered into the skillet. He said, “You’re going to have to save some of that for my lunch tomorrow”.

He had an appointment to keep and was eating supper out of the house that day. Meanwhile…yum. Seriously this was so good.

I had an inkling to make a skillet supper using kielbasa. Its a cheap and tasty ingredient. I thought about rice. Nah. How about onions…and tomatoes? Then add some noodles? Yeah that sounded good.

And that’s what happened.

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Note: do not do what I did here! Tomatoes and cast iron skillets do not mix. Acid is about the only enemy of the cast iron skillet.

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I’m a big fan of rustic, simple food. Don’t overthink it. Don’t overcomplicate things. Get the best ingredients you can and let them do the talking.

The onions carmelized a bit. The tomatoes, combined with the onions turned into a beautiful sauce. Everything together was wonderful. I have found a new favorite kielbasa recipe.

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Don’t feel like you have to use egg noodles. I use them because my family loves them and they are cheap.

Other good choices would be rotini, campanelle, farfalle (bow ties) or rigatoni noodles. Whole wheat is better and healthier of course. Which is what we mostly do. Anymore it seems like organic whole wheat noodles aren’t that much more than regular noodles.

I always buy my kielbasa from Aldi because it is currently the only place I can find it cheap and msg-free.


 

Rustic Kielbasa and Noodles with Fresh Tomato and Onion Sauce

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 8oz Polska Kielbasa (1/2 of a 14oz package), sliced into thin diagonal pieces.
  • 3-5 small tomatoes (I used 3 the first time. 5 made it more saucy), halved and quartered
  • 1 onion, diced
  • A few tbs. extra vigin olive oil
  • 4oz (about 1/4 of a 16oz package) egg noodles
  • s & p

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add egg noodles.
  2. While noodles are cooking, saute onion in about 2 TBS olive oil until just beginning to carmelize. Add tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add kielbasa and cook until tomatoes break down and the onions are translucent.
  4. Add noodles, stir and serve.

 

Cost:

It cost me only $1.94 to make this recipe. Using tomatoes from the garden makes it cheap.

If I doubled this recipe, it would be $3.87.

I shop at Aldi mostly so if you’re curious about prices it was $1.99 for 14oz of Polska Kielbasa, $1.19 for 16oz egg noodles, and $1.49 for 5 onions. Olive oil I purchased at another store for $6.09 for 17oz.

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Food, Seasonal Food

Apple Season Always

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Apple season is upon us. I looove this time of year. Even if it has been uncharacteristically hot. I know that fall is on its way.

Today I wanted to talk about apples. About oh..2 weeks ago I brought home a bushel of apples to add to the peck I already had. I was planning on canning A LOT of applesauce and possibly doing some other things if I had any left.

This is what happened…First, the apples. I used 3 kinds.

Newton Pippin (I think)

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We picked these (With permission of course. Our neighbor was very kind and didn’t want them.) from our neighbors tree.

My friend and neighbor helped me pick apples and helped me during part of the canning process. We picked about a 1/2 bushel and 1 peck of them. Ended up not using the red ones because they didn’t have as much flavor as the green ones, which tasted like a combination of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples.

After a lot of research (I love a good mystery), I believe these are Newton Pippin apples. They have some sooty blotch (a fungus) on them but peeling or scrubbing them makes them a ok to use. I found this interesting I thought they were just naturally that way. At any rate, they are delicious. Very crisp, a bit tart but still on the sweet side too. You can learn more about them from the link above.

Melrose

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This is part of the 1/2 bushel of Melrose apples.

The awesome thing about Melrose apples is that they turn the applesauce a pinkish-peach hue, depending on how many you add. I found that making half or slightly more apples in each batch made the sauce a pretty peachish color.

Cortland

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And part of the 1/2 bushel of Cortland apples.

Cortland apples aren’t very exciting. They are quite similar to a Macintosh. Rather soft and cooks down easily. A nice white fleshed apple.

~~~

And now…preserving the apples! Here are 3 ways to keep it apple season, always.

You Can Can Them,

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We had to use 2 big pots to make a double batch that would fill 8 pint jars.
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Pressing the mixture through a collander to strain out the peels and cinnamon sticks.
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Made about 30 pints applesauce. About 24 pictured here.

I used all 3 types of apples in my applesauce, but mostly Cortland and Melrose.

I used the recipe from this book.

 

Or Freeze Them.

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Had a ton of apples left to make apple pie filling to freeze.

With the extra Pippin apples I made some apple pie filling. Not sure if the apples are suited for baking but I guess we will find out! I made an apple crisp a few days ago with them and it turned out ok. Took a bit longer for the apples to get tender but delicious none the less.

I used the recipe from this book.

Or Even Dry Them.

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More Pippins for dried apples. Used about 10 apples to make 2 batches.

The Pippin apples are wonderful dried! So good. I did not peel them because I didn’t know about the sooty blotch at that time. I think its fine. I mean, I haven’t died yet. That’s a good sign.

I sliced them thin and dipped them in lemon juice, shook off the extra liquid and filled up the dehydrator trays. I think I dried about 8-10 apples total and it made quite a bit. Cheaper than buying it in the store and so much tastier 😊 My daughter L agrees!

I dried them for about 10 hours each batch at 135°.

~~~

Cost:

Applesauce

I paid $16.75 for 30 pints of applesauce. That’s 56¢ per pint, 28¢ per cup and 3.5¢ per oz.

Apple Pie Filling

$1.43 for 5 1/2 quarts. (Remember the apples were free.) That’s 26¢ per quart. Hopefully I can just use 1 bag per pie crust but we shall see.

Dried Apples

It was about $1.22 for 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice that I used to dip the apples. (Again the Pippin apples were free.) We can get technical and calculate the money spent to run the dehydrator for 10 hours each time but I won’t go there atm.

I made enough to fill at least 3 quart bags. Not too sure on the exact amount.

~~~

So there’s the breakdown! Pretty inexpensive to preserve apples. It may take a bit of time and patience but it is so worth it 🙂

Doing anything interesting with apples lately? Any baked goods with apples that you love?

~Rachel


 

Resources:

http://www.applename.com

Fantastic website for finding the kind of apple you have if you or the owner do not know. Trees/orchards planted long ago may have not-so-common names.

http://www.pickyourown.org/info.htm

Great website that has multiple handy charts. Mostly helpful for canning and freezing. If you want to know how many pounds/bushels/pecks you need to make a certain number of jars of a specific size, or vice versa, this should be a helpful site for you.

Food, Lunch/Simple Meal

4 Ingredient Baked Beans with Garlic and Dill

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Lately I’ve been working on a big ole post of all things apples. Oh yes the marvelous season of apples is beginning! I’m so excited. I’m working on canning and tweaking a recipe for a certain apple dessert.

In the meantime, I thought I would share one of my favorite recipes for baked beans.

My mom and I invented this recipe together. It was one of those days when we weren’t sure what to have for lunch (I was a teenager at the time and still living at home). My mom had a brilliant idea to take a simple can of baked beans and spruce it up.

And this recipe was born.

Garlic, butter, dill and beans. That’s it! The flavors work so well together. Garlic and butter give it a great flavor and the dill adds another layer to the dish. Plus dill is a herb which is good for digestion and the…problems associated with eating beans. Haha.

I always use the cheapest kind of beans from Aldi (49¢ pork & beans). The type of beans doesn’t matter because the sauce will just be rinsed off the beans 🙂

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4 Ingredient Baked Beans with Garlic and Dill

Serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pork and beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 6 tablespoons butter (more or less to your liking)
  • a teaspoon or two of dill weed (I went heavy on the dill)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 395°.
  2. Slice half of the butter into a small baking pan and put it into the oven to melt.
  3. Add the garlic to the butter and stir.
  4. Add the beans and dill.
  5. Slice the remaining butter and place it on top of the beans. (This keeps the beans from becoming dry.)
  6. Bake in the preheated oven till bubbly, 20 or so minutes.

Cost:

It cost me about $1.50 to make this easy dish of beans. I used some garlic from my garden and dill weed from a bulk food store to save some pennies 🙂

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Desserts, Food

Accidental Hot Fudge

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A few days ago I accidentally made hot fudge. Want to know how? It goes like this…

My son J demanded wanted no bake cookies. I thought that was a good idea because I love them too.

Out came the recipe and I began making them. Butter, sugar, cocoa…oh and almond milk. But then it looked strangely soupy. Oh no I added 1 cup of almond milk instead of 1/2 cup. I didn’t want it to go to waste so…

I added double the amount of butter, sugar and cocoa. Let it boil for 1 minute as usual. Then poured it into a glass measuring cup. It was about 2 cups so I poured out half back in the pan and made the cookies like normal.

Except now I realise that I had a double recipe’s worth of milk and varying degrees of the others. The butter, sugar and cocoa were at the same level but the peanut butter and oats were still at the half-batch amount.

No wonder they looked like pancakes. Oh well. They still tasted fine.

What to do with the rest of the liquid? Well it certainly looked like chocolate syrup. I wondered what would happen when I froze it.

So I poured it into a cake pan and popped it in the freezer. I forgot about it until the next day when I brought home a pint of frozen custard.

When I pulled off the plastic wrap from the cake pan, the chocolate sauce had all the appearance of “hot” fudge.

I put it on my frozen custard and it was divine. A bit heavy on the butter but totally delicious.

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Accidental Hot Fudge

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter (can sub non-dairy butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or other dairy or non-dairy milk)
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small saucepan as the butter melts. Boil for 1 minute.
  2. Pour into a metal cakepan to cool. Cover with plastic wrap (press it to the surface of the syrup) and freeze overnight.
  3. Spoon or drizzle hot or cold over your favorite dairy or non-dairy ice cream/frozen yogurt/custard 😊

Cost:

$1.24. Yeah. Cheap. If I divided the chocolate sauce and my pint of chocolate frozen custard into 4 servings it would only be $1.31 a serving. Even for 1 cup servings it would be $2.62. That’s about a dollar cheaper than the ones I order ready made.

Yay for frugal wins!

~Rachel

Food, Main Meal

Crockpot Calico Beans

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Growing up, there weren’t many family cookouts that felt complete without my Mom’s broccoli cauliflower salad or her calico beans. Just thinking about them brings me back to my Grandma’s house. All of my senses are enveloped and anchored when I enter Grandma’s kitchen.

Memories, comfort and love have always surrounded me there. We all loved seeing Grandma (still do!) but we especially appreciated all the food she and everyone else made for us.

After I was married, I made the transition to cooking a lot more. I had to find my niche. See what recipes work for my family. And even now, its a process.

I’ve recently learned that I can make calico beans in my crock pot. I found an awesome recipe by The Crockin’ Girls that I adapted a bit. It tastes different than my Mom’s recipe. She uses more beans and cooks hers in the oven. It’s thicker that way and richer in flavor. Soooo good!

So yeah it does taste different. But still yummy 🙂 My husband wolfed down his when I first tried the recipe. I said, “I didn’t know you liked calico beans so much!” To which he replied, “It’s the sauce babe. It’s so good!” Suffice to say, he stuffed himself. And L loved it too. She didn’t eat a lot but this is the only way I can get her to eat beans.

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Bacon.

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Ground beef.

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Vinegar, lima beans, brown sugar, pork and beans, organic ketchup and onions.
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Add all ingredients to crock pot.
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Mix.
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Yummy leftover calico beans I had cold for supper yesterday.

 


 

Crockpot Calico Beans

Makes 8+ servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 1 can lima beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 cans pork and beans
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 pinch s & p

Directions:

  1. Dice bacon & cook till barely done. Add to crock pot.
  2. Drain bacon grease & cook ground beef. (Optional: cook the onions with the beef.)
  3. Drain fat and add beef to crock pot. Add remaining ingredients.
  4. Cook on low 1 hour, high 3+ hours. **Edit: I realize now it makes more sense to cook for 4+ hours on high, if you are not cooking the onions with the ground beef.

Note: If you cook the beef and onion together, you can cook the calico beans for 4 hours on low. This method would bring the flavor up a notch. I seem to forget every time but either way it works out!

Cost:

I calculated that it cost me $9.26 to make this recipe. But it makes a lot. Like 2 quarts. So (8) 1 cup servings at $1.15 each. 

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Recipe adapted from “Calico Beans”, by The Crockin’ Girls.

Food, Main Meal

Delicious Beef & Root Vegetable Soup

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This is a simple supper recipe that I cooked up on Thursday. It turned out surprisingly well. Such is not always the case with my food “experiments”.

And yes, it is hot outside lately. Eat the soup slightly warm with a cold side dish and you have it made. It works.

My family might as well be hobbits. We don’t have hairy feet but we do like to eat a lot. The little ones more so. And we crave simple flavorful food.

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I love simple. I love easy. Sometimes I don’t want to share any recipes ’cause I’m like, “Nah. That’s too easy. Not interesting”. But seriously. This one is surprisingly flavorful and good. I say that because the only seasoning is salt and pepper, yet it tastes like there is more.

We all loved it, except for J, who tends to be a trifle finicky. At least he loves raw carrots. (Suprises me greatly.)

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Work with what you’ve got. I had potatoes, carrots and onions so I used those. Any root veggies typically blend well. Ground turkey is a good sub for ground beef as well. Use what you’ve got. You might be suprised at how well it turns out.


Delicious Beef & Root Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 large white baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, halved and sliced.
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes (I use Massel 7’s brand)
  • s & p

Directions:

  1. Boil potatoes (cover with at least 2″ of water).
  2. Add the carrots.
  3. Cook the ground beef with the onion until the onion has softened (slightly translucent). While cooking, season with s & p.
  4. Add beef bouillon cubes to soup pot. Dissolve, then add meat mixture.
  5. Let cook 5-10 minutes, or till reduced and tender to your liking.

 

Happy cooking with the po-ta-toes!

~Rachel

Reflections

Lessons In Caramel Sauce

As I sat down to write this post, I am thinking of two things. One, Lemony Snicket quotes. Because the title of this blog reminds me of something that he might say. Something like:

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That is from the book The Grim Grotto. Which yes is a kids book and yes I am admitting that I read it. I really like Daniel Handler’s writing style because I do believe that we have the same sense of humor. He has a very unique writing style which I appreciate, as I’m drawn to things that aren’t quite as mainstream.

So now that I’ve divulged that bit of info…the second thing on my mind as I write is that I’m working on expanding the blog to other subjects. Last month I wrote a blog post titled “A Grace-Filled Approach To 50 Shades Of Grey”. (You can read the edited post here.) After writing that post, I realized that I wanted to expand the blog to include other topics. Hence, in the future you may see some diy posts and maybe other reviews of books or movies. Also maybe some gardening stuffs. There’s a reason I chose the name @thehonestherb you know.

Also, I am currently working on narrowing down my posts so my readers can feel like they are reading an actual blog post and not someones med school thesis.

So here is what I learned from caramel sauce last week.

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Yummy carmelitas

Last week a had a dear friend visit me from out of state. So I thought it would be nice to make this dessert to share, since I’ve had it on my pinterest dessert board for forever. I got all of my ingredients together and was feeling very smart and prepared. Problem was, I don’t typically bake anything with caramel sauce in it. Make that I’ve never..somehow..made a dessert with a caramel sauce in it.

But I was feeling very confident. And you know what they say, “Pride comes before a fall.” So I realized afterwards.

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I have destroyed my oven.

This is how it happened. There was a sheet pan in the oven when I put the carmelitas in. From one of those I’ll-just-hide-this-dirty-pan-so-all-my-guests-won’t-see-it type of situations. I took it out, thinking, “Oh I know what I’m doing I won’t need this!” I was sitting visiting with my friend when I smelled a peculiar smell. The caramel sauce had overflowed onto the heating element and had caught fire. I turned off the oven. But. The dessert was not cooked completely to my liking so after the oven had calmed down I turned the oven back on and put the dessert back in. A larger piece of the element caught on fire and broke off. Way to go. I had ruined my oven element trying to cook this dessert.

Lesson learned. Put a sheet pan under the dessert item before baking. Because the caramel was full of sugar, when it burned it heated super hot and apparently had the capacity to catch a red hot element on fire. I wasn’t even aware that this was possible.

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Fixed! Horray!

Because I have the sweetest, smartest and bestest husband in the world, he fixed the oven for me 🙂 He removed the old element and got a new one and installed it. Also he cleaned the outside of the back of the oven and fridge. He made me laugh when he said, “I think I found Jimmy Hoffa!” when he discovered the epic dust ball that had probably never ever been touched since said refrigerator had been purchased. (Notation: we rent and said appliance has been in our apartment for awhile.)

All in all these carmelitas were very good. The top and bottom crust are very comparable to the top crust in an apple crisp. And there is melted chocolate and caramel sauce in between. It was super hard to wait until it had cooled down to try it! I was telling my friend that it really reminded me of a snickers bar meets (some sort of a) crisp. A snickers version of apple crisp.

There you have my latest adventures in baking! What humorous escapades have you had in the kitchen lately?

~Rachel

Food, Snacks

Strawberries & Cream

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Howdy. Its been a long time! I bet you all thought I abandoned this blog. And yes I did have to clear away some spiderwebs (figuratively and literally) as I sat down to write this post. Truth be told, I was looking for a perfect recipe to share. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, really. I tried this and that but nothing seemed good enough.

Then we took a vacation to Florida. We’ve been back for almost a week now but the memories and the sun still linger with me. It is so beautiful down there. Most of you know that I live in the cold northern state of Ohio. Which, yes, some states in the continental US may be colder. But I doubt any of them have such wildly unpredictable weather as we do. That’s mostly reserved for the spring and fall seasons where we famously run the ac and heat both in one day. Anyways. Its been a bad winter for everyone. On our trip down south, we saw snow as far south as Georgia. And later we heard that Hawaii and Florida are the only two of the 50 states that haven’t gotten snow this winter. It has seriously been so harsh and awful for everyone. But I know that spring is on its way. I’ve heard the birds sing more lately and that’s brought a smile to my heart.

It was no surprise that it was very crowded down in Florida. Apparently everyone wanted a piece of the Florida sand and sun. We saw license plates from all over. East coast. Texas. Even Ontario. The locals said this is the busiest tourist season they’ve seen in..possibly forever. Which is nice for the economy.

But besides all that lovely sun the other thing that the state is known for is..the food. And I don’t just mean seafood. Though I do love that..we don’t get “fresh” seafood in the big OH. What I’m talking about is the produce. Amazing and fresh and wonderful. All of it. We visited a produce stand before we left and I picked up some lovely oranges, bananas, apples and strawberries of course.

Growing seasons and peak produce seasons vary from state to state. Just because something is available in the grocery store year-round does not mean that it is necessarily good, as I’ve tried to communicate in my past produce posts. Strawberry season in FL has just begun. I think it may take a bit longer for it to reach the northern states. According to ourohio.org, strawberry season for Ohio is in May and June. (source) When we reach full summer though the season is usually spent across the country. So even though they aren’t as good in other states yet, if you live down south, you may be able to find some nice berries.

I’ll admit it, I get jealous of those Florida folks! They have good food and lovely beaches..so much vitamin D. But then I remember the things I love about my home state. We may not have palm trees but we have many more varieties of  trees that change color in the fall. Not many sandy beaches but we do have good solid dirt to grow crops and gardens. We may have cold noses in the wintertime but it gives us a chance to stay indoors and slow down and plan for the year ahead. And to write food blogs while our darling sons and husbands are asleep. Ha.

Alright onto the actual food.

If you’ve never made your own whipped cream then you really ought to give it a try. It is so divine. And aside from a hot fudge sundae, nothing goes better with whipped cream than fresh strawberries. Ok maybe pumpkin pie. But not until Thanksgiving.

To make it, all you need is heavy whipping cream, a whisk and a little sugar.

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A bigger whisk would make it easier. But if your whisk is on the petite side like mine, take heart! I did it and so can you. All there is to do is pour that heavy whipping cream into a bowl and whisk away till its light and fluffy. Or if your kitchen is a part of the modern world you can delegate the task to a mixer. (Lucky.) As it is, hand whisking builds character 🙂

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In about 15 minutes, you will have this. Yes it did take me 15 minutes and it got a little discouraging along the way. But I’m glad I didn’t give up. And fun fact, if you continue whisking you can make your own butter! I wasn’t feeling that adventurous but it does sound like an interesting activity for the future. I’ve also heard that you can recruit your kids to make butter by putting whipping cream in a small glass jar and letting them shake away.

Then you add sugar. This time I tried it with powdered sugar. In the past, I’ve tried it with granulated sugar and I like it better that way. The grainy texture makes the whipped cream taste better in my opinion. Just add in however much tastes good to you, a little at a time.

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My son took a few bites of whipped cream. I really can’t convince him of the yummy-ness of strawberries just yet though. Ah well. I thought they were quite delicious.

Even if you don’t live in a southern state, you can take confidence in the fact that Spring is only weeks away. The new season will bring new foods and a kinder weather forecast for the winter weary. Until then, happy cooking and stay warm!

~Rachel

Food, Seasonal Food

Salad Challenged

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I am salad challenged. I’m not sure what it is but salad does not go over well at my house. The greens are a pain to wash. You can only buy it in a ginormous bunch or bag and I’m the only one that ever eats it. Sound like I’m complaining? I am! Salad greens are a pain to wash and dry and eat. So I never buy any. But then I remember. I’m supposed to eat my greens. It’s my mother’s voice I hear. The voice saying, “Be good to your body! Do what’s right! Be healthy! Be fit!”. Yes, I know. So I’ve been looking for a way to make salads a little less challenging.

My produce pick of the month is one that is a little off the beaten path (haha). People don’t often request them. Some may pass them over at the grocery store. And until now, I was one of those people! I would look at this purplish vegetable with its tall leafy stems and think, “Eww. What on earth could I do with THAT?”.

But then I remembered something that I had seen in a magazine. And because all great cooks push themselves to try new things, I decided to take a risk and buy some.

Ok. So let me let you in on the reason I bought them the first time. I wanted to make a red velvet cake for my BFF’s birthday. I thought it would be sweet if I could use some natural dye to color it.

Enter beets!

Sadly beets were not the answer for this particular recipe. At least not for me. I could have possibly baked the cake incorrectly. I’m open to that. But a crunchy on the outside, under cooked on the inside cake is not palatable to anyone. It was a disaster.

However, beet greens  = delicious. It tasted like spinach but with an added sweetness. I like to think that I’m hardcore when it comes to eating salad. But I can hardly eat spinach raw. It just tastes so icky. They have the added bonus of being larger and therefore easier to wash and dry. My bunch of 3 beets had about 9 large leaves and several smaller ones, which made the perfect amount for me. I could eat them all before they spoiled.

So I dug out a magazine article about greens that I had cut out from an old Real Simple magazine. It recommended adding raw grated beets to beet greens for a healthy salad.

So I did.

But I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating plain beets with only the greens. I added some chopped apples and oranges and this disguised the taste quite a bit.

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Beet salad with apples and oranges.

But the taste wasn’t quite complete. I found myself still not liking the strong taste of beets. It needed some walnuts and dried cranberries. So I went to the store and then made…

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Beet Salad: with Oranges, Walnuts and Craisins

So much better. Some raspberry vinaigrette would go well with this too. I’m not a dressing fan usually so I left this ingredient out.

Is it healthy enough to brave eating? The answer is yes.

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Beets are low in protein, fat and carbs. The beet root has a very high amount of folate and manganese. Even though the beet root has less nutrients than the beet greens it is worth noting that it contains some of the protein Tryptophan. Which, interestingly enough is also found in turkey!

The greens are high in vitamin A and vitamin K. A 1 cup serving has half the daily value of vitamin A and an astounding 152 µg, or almost double the dv, of vitamin K.  The greens also contain a fair amount of Riboflavin, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese.

There was something about the taste of beets that intrigued me. Why did they taste so different than all of the other greens? In my opinion two things: high magnesium and high calcium. Beet greens have over twice the magnesium compared to kale and slightly more calcium than swiss chard. Or maybe beets are just weird like that..or maybe it’s just me I don’t know haha

The conclusion: Beets are great! Eat more of them. They are easy to wash and store. I tore mine in half and put them in the fridge, in a large plastic container. If you can’t stomach beet root no worries cause the beet greens really have more nutrients anyways. Aside from folate. Personally I didn’t feel that beet root was a very tasty form of folate. But they are what they are. I think there’s probably a reason why beets are typically pickled or canned.

I will leave you with this excellent Christmas prank.

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Source: here

Happy New Year!

Food, Seasonal Food

With this apple, I will make…

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It’s October. Such a gorgeous, gorgeous month this year. One thing we love about this month in my house are the apples. Apple season starts typically in August and reaches its peak towards the end of October. That’s the time when you can find the best apples for the cheapest price. I am so very excited about this blog post. Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. Buying local, delicious

2. Apples to make into

3. Homemade applesauce

4. Using the crock pot

5. And doing it on the cheap.

Applesauce.

In the crock pot.

Where have I been? Why didn’t I think of this before? I was browsing pinterest, looking for things to do with some wicked awesome apples I picked up in Amish Country when I came across these recipes for crock pot applesauce:

How To Make The Best Slow Cooker Applesauce (Live Simply)

How To Make Your Own Applesauce In The Slow Cooker (One Good Thing By Jillee)

My blog post is based on sort of a combo of these two recipes. I used the ratio of apples to lemon juice and cinnamon from @onegoodthingbyjillee and I did my prep like @livesimply and took her advice and added water and honey.

Because I’ve made applesauce on the stove-top a kadjikillion times, I felt ok just using guidelines from these recipes to make it in the crock pot.

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First, of course, I had to get some apples. So long story short, I found this wonderful place to buy apples. It’s cheap, local and the customer service and product value are exceptional. About a week ago, I went there for the second time to buy more Macintosh apples and some Golden Delicious with the intent of making boatloads of applesauce.

Amount: I ended up buying a 1/2 bushel of golden delicious and 1 peck of Macintosh. I wasn’t really sure on the exact amount of applesauce I wanted to make. Maybe I should have checked out this chart sooner..

According to the chart, I could have made 6-7.5 quarts of applesauce with 1/2 bushel of apples, and about 3 quarts with the Macintosh for a total of 10 quarts of applesauce. That’s roughly 52 pounds of apples for 10 quarts or 40 servings of 8 oz each.

I did not feel like making that much. Plus, I would rather save some apples to eat. The Macintosh are especially good for eating in my opinion. Here is what we brought home.

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Tiny baby hand for scale 🙂
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Add cinnamon and lemon juice.

Mix.

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All Golden, batch #1.
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Batch #2 is Golden + Macintosh.

My method:

1. Peel, slice, cut the apples. I would guesstimate I cut up 6 lbs, or a little over 1/4 of the 1/2 bushel bag. I was aiming to double jillee’s recipe. I just filled the crock pot with as many slices as it would hold.

2. Juice 2 lemons for 3 TBS lemon juice. Again, this is double of jillee’s.

3. Grate 2 tsp. of cinnamon.

4. Pour on the lemon juice and sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples.

5. Then toss it all together and turn the crock pot on high.

6. On batch #1, I added about 3/4c. water and a few TBS honey about 1 1/2 hours into it.

7. Stir it periodically. I had to watch every so often to make sure the apples weren’t boiling over.

The apples actually cooked rather quickly. It took only 2 or 3 hours for the applesauce to be done. I didn’t need to mash them overly either. I actually prefer the semi-chunky texture, so I didn’t puree or alter the sauce in any way.

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It’s very easy, no? As long as it isn’t too sour or cinnamon-y for your taste, you should be good. Live simply used Red Delicious apples in her sauce, but I really wouldn’t use that kind…her sauce was really brown and I think the type she used may have something to do with it. But to each his own! My fav. apple is a Golden Delicious, so I used those. On batch #2 I mixed in some Macintosh with the Golden Delicious. It’s all in your preference, really 🙂

How much did it cost me? About $3 (apples) + $1 (4 lemons) + 79¢ (4 TBS organic honey) = $4.79 for both batches.

We did eat some before I really measured but I think it’s safe to say we made 4 quarts out of 12 lbs. It adds up with the afore mentioned chart (http://www.pickyourown.org/info.htm). So that’s about 3.7¢ per oz, 30¢ per 8 oz serving. And $1.20 for 1 qt, or 32 oz.

The farm that I got my apples from is open year-round. I understand that not every apple farm operates that way though. If you can’t get out to an apple orchard in your area, just remember that apples go on and off sale at the grocery store all throughout the winter. It’s not a must that crock pot applesauce be made from farm fresh apples, although I highly recommend the experience. I would equate it to comparing my Grandma’s homemade strawberry jam to Smuckers jam. You can just taste the difference, and you’ll never want to go back to store bought again.

Cooking food from home is all about combining what your values are, what your family loves, what’s available in your area and what you have time and energy for. There are many many paths to healthy homemade cooking!

~Rachel

Food, Main Meal

Homemade Pizza: Part 1-The Dough

Pizza.

Everyone loves it. It can be a lifesaver when that pizza delivery person shows up at your door with that lovely flat cardboard box full of pizza-baked goodness. It’s so nice to have someone else cook sometimes. What woman doesn’t love that? This post is not about bashing take-out. Or convenience food. I wholeheartedly support both. Because cooking meal after meal has a tendency to get old. You would have to be pretty passionate about food in order to not be disheartened about making 3 meals plus snacks every day of your life. A break from being head chef is necessary from time to time.

I’ve bought pizza from 3 or 4  different pizza places in my town. Tried Wal-Mart and Aldi’s brand refridgerated ready-made pizza. Red Baron, DiGorno and Kashi Roasted Vegetable frozen pizza, plus a few other brands. My husband lovesRed Baron’s pepperoni. I’m more of a thin crust person. Love me some thin crust pizza margherita. Mmm. Crispy crust covered in nothing but juicy cherry tomatoes, cheesy blobs of mozzerella and fresh basil leaves=the best! Love it. Wish I had a classic Italian pizza oven so I could flash bake some right now. Delicious.

Anyways. Goes without saying that I have tried a lot of pizzas. And one day I decided that I would like to try my hand at making one myself. The pros? You choose the ingredients. No mysterious ingredients that you don’t know about. Also, your pizza will be cooked in your own kitchen. There’s something satisfying about knowing that you made this meal and that you made it well.

The cons? It takes awhile. But you can make this pizza in stages. After you make the pizza dough, you let it rise for an hour. That’s an hour of doing whatever you want (or whatever else needs done). Then if you’ve had enough, you can throw that pizza dough in the freezer for later.

But…you can also load that pizza with toppings and bake it for supper. Or lunch. Or breakfast. Personally I can’t deny that I’ve occasionally had pizza for breakfast.

So this blog is labeled Part 1 of my Homemade Pizza blog. This recipe is from: you guessed it. The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook. I know, I’m always promoting Dinner Mom recipes. But it’s for a good reason! Everything in that cookbook is easy, nutritious and delicious. I needed an easy recipe for pizza dough and I found it in that book. Bread dough can be a challenging thing to create and if you are making it for the first time, I think it’s important to use an easy recipe.

Erin has a new recipe on her website for pizza dough. Here is the link. I think that Erin is an awesome blogger and this recipe for whole wheat pizza looks really good. But the recipe is for a breadmaker. Which I do not have. Anyone else? No breadmaker is no problem. Just mix and knead the dough by hand. I can see you rolling your eyes! It’s not that hard, I promise. I’ve been making my pizza dough using this method for 3 years and it gets easier every time.

You can find this recipe in The $5 Dinner Mom cookbook, but this link from Erin’s website has the same dough ingredients as the book, with the exception of 2 TBS parmesan cheese that is listed in the book. This recipe is also made using a breadmaker but I will show you how I make my pizza dough by hand.

Begin.

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Here I have a cup of white flour and a cup of lukewarm water together in a bowl. The salt, oil, sugar and yeast are in a smaller bowl off to the side.

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100_3893After combining the warm water and the flour, i stirred in the rest of the ingredients. My recipe that I got from Erin’s book didn’t call for italian seasonings to be mixed in at this point.

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Then I let it sit for 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes it was slightly spongy, not a whole lot though.

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Next I mixed in my remaining flour. I like to use 1 cup of white flour, 1 cup of wheat flour. I have a bowl with 2 TBS Parmesan cheese and 1 tsp italian seasonings in it off to the side, to be mixed in during the kneading process.

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I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon as much as I could, but eventually you will have to mix it a bit by hand, pressing the dough pieces together till they form into a ball. I decided to use a wooden cutting board or “bread board” to knead my bread on, instead of my counter. I will have to say that I liked it a lot better.

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I put my dough ball on my floured bread board.

This is my least favorite part of the process. It took me 7 1/2 minutes of kneading to get it to the right texture. (Soft baby skin texture, as Erin likes to put it.) To knead the dough, you fold it in half, then press down and push away from you all in one motion.

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Step 1: stand your dough ball on one end, then with *both* hands fold it in half.

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Step 2: Press the folded dough down with your palm and heel of your hand.

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Step 3: Use the heel of your hand to simultaneously roll and flatten the dough. Repeat until the dough is smooth, elastic and has the texture of “soft baby skin”.

After the kneading is done, I add my parmesan cheese and italian seasoning to the dough. This isn’t an absolutely necessary step, but it does add a lot of flavor to the dough, and compliments the pizza sauce nicely.

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I added it a little bit at a time by sprinkling it on the bread board, squishing down the dough on top of it, then kneading it into the dough. In the past I’ve tried to add it all at once and it didn’t work as well for me that way

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Now the seasonings are fully incorporated and it is time to let the dough rise. The $5 Dinner Mom cookbook I used said to grease or flour a bowl, then put the dough in and cover it with a towel and let sit in a warm place. I did not like the vagueness of “a warm place”. A lot of places in a kitchen can be warm but how do you know what the optimal dough rising environment is? (Yes, very technical I know.) I can’t remember where exactly I got this tip, but I’ve heard a good place to let your dough rise is in your oven, with a bowl of hot water on the shelf underneath your dough. This method has always worked well for me.

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Here the dough is in a greased, slightly icky bowl.

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And in the oven, with 2 bowls of hot water, for good measure. After that, you close the oven door and let it rise for an hour while you take a break!

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My little cutie fell asleep as I was making the dough. I laid him down for a nap 🙂

This ends Part 1 of my 2-part Homemade Pizza post. Part 2 will follow soon! I will show how I prep my pizza dough for baking and how I made the sauce and toppings. Plus, a picture of the finished pizza before I devoured it. Yum. It was seriously gone in like a 24-hour period. Looking forward to sharing the rest with you 🙂

~Rachel

Food, Snacks

Muffins For Your Munchies

**Note: this post is originally from August 2014. One of my first posts. Hanging out in my drafts folder for some reason. We still love these muffins!

Hello Readers,

So, in my last blog, I made a promise to include more pictures in blog #2. This blog will indeed have lots of pictures. 🙂

However, due to the fact that me & mine are currently in the process of moving…this blog will draw on pictures taken several months ago. Still good, right? Hoping to save myself a wee bit of sanity.

This week’s recipe will be from Erin Chase’s The $5 Dinner Mom recipe book, that I shared with you last week.

Have I mentioned how much I love this book?? 🙂 I do. Her recipes are so healthy and blessedly easy. One of my go-to snack recipes from her book is for Fruit or Veggie Muffins. It can be found on the $5 Dinners site.

Here is my mise en place (somewhat) of all the ingredients you will need for your recipe, minus 2.

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I took this today, and was out of sweet potatoes and canola oil.

I’m not going to include a photo of the dry ingredients mixed together, but I will pause and say a word about one of them…cinnamon.

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I grate my cinnamon by hand. Sounds tedious, I know. But I’ve been doing this for 2 years! The grater I bought from Amazon. I originally bought it just for nutmeg, to use in my peanut butter cookie recipe (more on that later). Then I happened to have some cinnamon sticks on hand and decided to use it to grate cinnamon, too.

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I bought this jar of cinnamon sticks about a year and a half ago, and I have used roughly 2/3 of it, in that time.

It takes about 2-3 minutes for me to grate the 1 tsp. of cinnamon called for in this recipe. I really like my cinnamon better this way. That, and well, its just cheaper. And honestly, the taste is just a lot better, in my opinion.

In this particular post, I will be using mashed sweet potatoes as my fruit/veggie of choice. You can use different single (or combinations of) fruits or veggies, but this is my favorite option, so far.

I begin by cooking the sweet potato. I typically cook 2, to be on the safe side. One large one would work well, too. I preheat the oven to 395°, wash and scrub the s. potatoes, prick them all over with a paring knife, put them in a baking pan with about a 1/2″ of water, cover with foil, and pop them in the oven for 1 hour.

If the sweet potato(s) are really big, they may need more time. You can test them for doneness with a knife.

I don’t let them cool much since I’m usually in a hurry. (Just being honest.) Also, if you keep the oven on, you don’t have to wait while it preheats again for the muffins! I peel them, put them on a plate and slice and mash them with a fork. Measure off 1 cup, and you’re good!

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I put the sugar, oil, eggs and mashed s.p. in a bowl. Mix that and then add the dry ingredients.

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I believe that in this particular recipe, I used PAM cooking spray to grease the muffin tins. But I’ve since been using this coconut oil to grease my pans:

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I’m no coconut oil expert, but I’ve heard it has a lot of wonderful health benefits. Yes, I know, using it at high heat ruins the health benefits. But I still like it a lot better than PAM or Crisco for greasing pans. Also, when I made homemade popcorn last night, I used coconut oil in place of canola oil and noticed a distinct difference.

I find I can only get 10 muffins max out of this recipe, even though it says 12. Especially because the sweet potato makes the batter so dense that it really doesn’t rise very much.

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They go in the 395° oven (my oven is on the cool side) for 15 minutes.

We (myself and my son) entertained ourselves by taking pictures for most of the waiting time. Here are a few of the better ones:

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And when the muffins are done, they will look like this:

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As you can see, we ate 2 already because they were that delicious.

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Sweet potato is, by far, my favorite out of the fruit or veggie options. May try more in the future, but this tops apple, zucchini, banana, and apple-banana. The sweet potato adds so much moisture and sweetness. Makes it taste so good with all that natural sugar 🙂

In May, when I made this my ds wasn’t too into muffins. But he is now! I love making this recipe because it is just such a wonderful snack food. Low in sugar, high in fiber, easy to eat on the go. Freezes very nicely too.

For 10 muffins this recipe cost me: $2.00, about 20¢ per muffin. There you go! Hope you enjoyed my Muffin Munchies blog post, complete with lots of pictures!

~Rachel