Monday, January 16, 2017

Sauteed Bacon & Fresh Spinach

Becca here with one of my family's favorite side dishes.  In fact, when I made this again a few nights ago, I had almost everyone asking for seconds, and it was all gone, even though I had used a full pound of fresh spinach!  I really think even two pounds of fresh spinach wouldn't have had any leftovers either!  This is a super quick and simple recipe, with just two ingredients, bacon and spinach.  It really is delicious though, and a great way to get a lot of veggies in really easily.  Don't let the two full packs of bacon in the photo scare you away, I just use half of one pack, but wanted to picture my two favorite bacons.  I always use either the Oscar Mayer "Natural" one without nitrates, or Farmland Naturally Hickory Smoked "Double Smoked" (my very favorite, but it does have nitrates, etc., and the Oscar Mayer is almost as good, though more expensive).  I like to go ahead and cut up, and then freeze, the other half of the package of bacon, so that it's ready to go next time I have a full tub of spinach to use!

Sauteed Bacon & Fresh Spinach

1/2 of a 12-16 ounce package of your favorite bacon
16 ounce package of spinach (I always use this Taylor Farms Organic Baby Spinach from Sam's Club)

I use kitchen shears to quickly cut several slices of bacon at once into small, bite sized pieces.  Add them to a large pot.

Stirring occasionally, cook the bacon on medium-high (I usually do 6.0 on my stovetop that has a range from 1-10) until it is browned and crispy.

Immediately start adding big handfuls of the spinach, until all 16 ounces have been added.  It will seem like a ton of spinach, but will quickly cook down.

Cook for an additional five minutes, gently stirring occasionally, until the spinach is bright green, and wilted.  Serve immediately.

Be careful not to overcook, you don't want it to be dark green and mushy!!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

{Instant Pot} Super Tender, Chuck Roast

Becca here with an easy and pretty foolproof way to make a roast that is incredibly tender.  It literally is falling apart, and can be cut with a spoon!  One of the best parts is that I started with a completely frozen solid chuck roast mid-afternoon, and it was ready and waiting for us at dinner time.  I also like to add my own seasonings, because it is a lot less expensive than the seasoning packets I see a lot of recipes calling for, and also avoids a lot of the yucky additives we try to avoid.  My roast here was from Aldi, I try to go once a month or so to stock-up on some items that I can buy for significantly less there, chuck roast being one of them, at $2.99 a pound.  I use (and love) Walmart Grocery Pickup, and Sam's Club Pickup for most of my main shopping.  We do try to eat organic as much as possible, but grass fed, organic beef is not a good, feasible option for our family.  Let me know how your family liked this recipe!  My husband said that it was "better than candy", and all of my kids ate it well, even the one with some texture/sensory issues that can make meats tricky!

{Instant Pot} Super Tender, Chuck Roast - From Frozen!!!

1 Frozen Chuck Roast, about 3 pounds
1 Tablespoon coconut or olive oil
1 cup water
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
3 teaspoons Pink Himalayan or "Real Salt" Salt

Turn Instant Pot to the Saute setting, and add the Tablespoon of oil.

Add the frozen chuck roast.  Try to get it to rest flat on the bottom.  If it won't, do the best you can.  Mine was at an angle at first, as you can see.  Rotate the roast a few times, until you have as much of it browned as you can get, about 10-15 minutes total saute time.

Pour in the 1 cup of water.

Add the seasonings (black pepper, onion powder, granulated garlic powder, and salt), sprinkling each one evenly onto the top of the roast.

Add the Instant Pot lid (make sure saute is turned off!), and push the meat button, then the + button I'm pointing to in the bottom right photo, until the pressure time reaches 90 minutes. The Instant Pot will automatically switch to the warm setting and keep the roast nice and warm and tender, so it's ready when you are ready to eat!

I have also made gravy using the liquid remaining in the Instant Pot, and it was really flavorful and delicious!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

{Dairy Free} Chai Latte

Becca here with a recipe I'm excited to share; it has become my favorite afternoon drink lately.  While we were driving back home from celebrating Christmas with family that live about four hours away from us, it was getting bitterly cold, so we stopped at Starbucks and I used a gift card I had received for my birthday to order an Oprah Chai Tea, with no sugar or syrups, add honey and almond milk.  It was really delicious, so I have been experimenting to make a similar substitute here at home, and am really happy with the recipe I'm going to share today!  Because it's caffeine free, I am able to drink it as my after lunch, quiet time treat.  What is your favorite hot tea "recipe"?

{Dairy Free} Chai Latte
Makes 32 ounces

2 bags Celestial Seasonings "Bengal Spice" tea, or Good Earth "sweet & spicy" (I use caffeine free)
3/4 cup UNsweetened almond milk (my favorites are 365 Organic from Whole Foods, or Califia Farms I can get at Walmart)
2 - 4 Tablespoons honey, to taste
About 25 ounces of boiling water (we love our electric kettle!)
32 ounce container to make it in (I use my Ozark Trail "Yeti" style cup)

Combine the boiling water and two teabags in your heat safe container.  Leave it for ten minutes.

Remove the tea bags, add in the almond milk and honey, and stir well.  (Don't try to skip a step and not stir well, the honey clumps up at the bottom, and almond milk doesn't mix evenly if you don't!)


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

{Instant Pot} Baby Food

Hello!  Jana here with a tutorial for how to easily make baby food in the Instant Pot!  My fourth child is 6 months old, so we are in the early stages of eating table food. Making your own baby food is beneficial for so many reasons!  First of all, it is the most inexpensive way to feed your baby. An entire bag of organic baby carrots (32 ounces) costs $3.48 in my area. From my research, non organic jarred carrots would cost about $1 for two 2.5 ounce containers. As you can see, you can get a higher quality food for much cheaper when you make it yourself!  Some of you might be thinking that the time it takes to make the food isn't worth the cost savings. I can assure you, that it only takes minutes to prepare the food.  Below, I am going to show you an example of making carrots using the Instant Pot. There are many other foods that could be prepared in a similar way, including the following:

Green Beans (using a steamer basket instead of a trivet)
Peas (using a steamer basket instead of the trivet)
Squash (peeled first)

From my experience, homemade baby food is much more flavorful, which makes it more fun for baby to learn to eat!  I like that you can add more or less water, depending on what stage of eating your baby is in. You can also begin to mash instead of blend once your baby gets older. I also like to start adding spices (cinnamon, garlic, etc) to foods once my baby gets older. (typically closer to 8 or 9 months) 

I will also discuss below how to store the baby food that you make.

To make the carrot baby food, I placed about 20 carrots on the trivet in the IP. I could have stacked them and done more, but I wasn't making a huge amount of baby food this time. Pour 1 cup of water or broth in the bottom of the IP. Close the lid, push Manual, and choose 4 minutes. You can do quick release or natural release once it is finished.

Add some of the water back in if needed (depending on how thick or thin you want the consistency for your baby), and puree. I used an immersion blender for this step, but you could also use a normal blender. I have found that if I make more baby food than what I will need for a few days (and can refrigerate), then freezing in some sort of ice cube tray works great!  I prefer silicone trays, because the food comes out much easier when frozen.  The trays I used above are a little bigger than the size I wanted, so I filled about halfway.

Once they are frozen, you can remove from the tray, and store in a Ziploc bag or other container in the freezer. Then, just remove the amount you are needing for the day, microwave, and you're ready to go!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

{Instant Pot} "Baked" Sweet Potatoes

Becca here, with a quick "Instant Pot" pressure cooker recipe/tutorial.  I have been an avid Instant Pot user for seven years now, and am actually on my second Instant Pot, after an unfortunate incident with the lid being left too close to our gas stove, and melting.  When we had a major water leak at our home, requiring my family of myself, my husband, and our five kids, to live in a hotel for exactly sixty nights, my Instant Pot is the one kitchen thing I brought with me, and enabled us to eat somewhat normally some of the time, while living in a hotel!  I'm super excited that they have become really popular lately, and recipes are showing up all over, so I thought I would add some of my favorites to the mix now that it's something many more people have in their kitchens!

One thing that I commonly use mine for is to make perfect "baked" sweet potatoes.  To get great results, with non-mushy sweet potatoes, you'll want to get out the steam rack that came with your instant pot.  It looks like this, once placed into the bottom of the stainless steel pot insert (which I have two of, and often use each of them every day!).  You want to make sure that it is feet side down.  Pour in 1 cup of water.  The water will not be touching the bottom of the steam rack.

Insert sweet potatoes.  It is okay to stack them up, as long as the lid will fit on without touching them.  I can generally fit about five pounds of sweet potatoes in mine at one time.   I have a larger than typical family, so this is two meals worth for us.  We usually eat them 'baked' the first meal, and then I put the leftover ones into a square casserole dish with a bit of maple syrup, cinnamon, and sprinkled with pecans and coconut oil on top, for an oven-ready side dish for another meal.

You want to cook the potatoes for 30 minutes at high pressure.  You may do that by pushing either one of two buttons.  Either the Bean/Chili button I'm pointing to here, OR

the "Soup" button I'm pointing to here.  You could also manually set the pot to high pressure for 30 minutes, but I'm not sure when you would go to the extra trouble when either of these buttons work perfectly with preset settings!

The Instant Pot will pause for a moment, and then switch to the screen reading "On".  This means that it is heating up, and building up pressure.  This will take several minutes.

When the Instant Pot has reached the correct temperature and pressure settings, it will start counting down the remaining time "at pressure".  I think this is confusing to people sometimes, because a 30 minute setting actually takes quite a bit longer, allowing for the Instant Pot to heat up and reach pressure, and then naturally release pressure, unless you're in a hurry, and to a quick pressure release.  These are often abbreviated in Instant Pot Recipes/Groups as NRP (natural release pressure) and QPR (quick pressure release).  Natural pressure release simply means that you don't do anything at the end of the cooking time, and let the Instant Pot automatically switch to the "warm" setting, and open the pot to eat when you're ready.  Quick pressure release means that you move the valve on the top of the pot, to "open" to let the big burst of heat and pressure out, so that you can then safely remove the lid and eat, before the pot has naturally and slowly let the steam and pressure out itself.

At the end of the cooking time, the Instant Pot automatically switches to a "warm" setting, where the screen looks like this, and it counts up the warming minutes, or hours, if applicable, and slowly starts lowering the pressure.  Because it is an airtight and sealed environment, I have found that even something like rice can stay on the warm function for several hours without any loss of quality at all.

What are your Instant Pot questions or recipe requests?  Or favorite tips?  Let us know in the comments here, or on our Facebook Page!!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

{Instant Pot} Cauliflower Rice

 *This is a great recipe to have children help you make!

Jana here with another really simple, and very versatile recipe you can make in your Instant Pot!  Many people are trying to cut carbs in their diet, and this recipe is an easy way to do just that. Using a head of cauliflower, you can make a rice substitute!  My family ate it this time as a type of 'rice bowl', along with mexican seasoned (DIY taco seasoning here) shredded pork, beans, lettuce, salsa, Greek yogurt (we substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream), etc.  Instead of shredded pork, you could also use shredded chicken, or ground beef. When the cauliflower rice is mixed in with all of these other ingredients, it truly was just as good (or better!) as rice would have been!  My children all enjoyed it a lot!

There are many other uses for cauliflower rice, as well. Most recipes where you would typically reach for rice, give the cauliflower rice a try!  Some ideas include: chicken curry, red beans and rice, or creamy chicken over rice.

{Instant Pot} Cauliflower Rice

1 head cauliflower
1 cup broth or water
salt and pepper

1. Place the trivet in the bottom of the IP, and pour the 1 cup of liquid into the bottom.

2. Cut the head of cauliflower into small florets, and set those on top of the trivet.

3. Secure the lid of the IP (making sure the valve is pointed towards the back- Sealing), and push Manual, Set the timer for 4 minutes.

4. Once it has reached pressure, and cooked the 4 minutes, most the pressure valve to Venting, to do a quick pressure release.

5. When the pressure is released, carefully open the lid, and remove the florets. Put them in a bowl, and use a fork to cut them into rice like pellets. Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy! If you make this recipe, leave a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Olive Spread

Becca here, with one of my favorite recipes from growing up.  Our Mom would make this Olive Spread just a time or two a year, but it has always been one I looked forward to, so I was excited when she brought it to my last birthday party!  The green olives give it a lot of flavor, the pecans add crunch, and the mayonnaise and cream cheese smooth, creaminess.  We normally have it with wheat thin type crackers, but I ate the leftovers with veggies, and it was just as good!

Olive Spread

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup green olives with pimientos, sliced
2 Tablespoons olive juice, reserved from the green olives
Dash of black pepper

Combine cream cheese and mayonnaise, and mix well.  Stir in remaining ingredients (pecans, olives, olive juice, and black pepper) until combined.  The filling will be slightly mushy at first.  Refrigerate for a few hours to reach spreading consistency.  Keeps well for a week or two in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!!

Monday, January 2, 2017

{Instant Pot} Spaghetti

Jana here, with one of my new favorite small kitchen appliances!  How many of you have heard of the Instant Pot? It's an electric pressure cooker, and it has almost completely replaced my use of a slow cooker!  There are also other brands of electric pressure cookers available. Everything I have cooked in it so far has been wonderful; moist, flavorful, and fast!  I am planning to start sharing the recipes I make using the Instant Pot (IP). To easily access all of the Instant Pot recipes, you can click on the category on the right side bar. This will pull up all available Instant Pot recipes!

There are several reasons it is nice to make really basic recipes,such as spaghetti, in the IP. First, you are only using one pot. (as opposed to 2 or 3 when you make spaghetti on the stove!) Second, once you add all of the ingredients, you are able to walk away and do other things. You don't have to stand at the stove and stir,make sure things aren't boiling over, etc. Third, once the spaghetti is finished, it will automatically stay on the Keep Warm feature until you are ready to eat!

{Instant Pot} Spaghetti

1 lb ground beef (or turkey or venison)
1 jar spaghetti sauce
3/4 jar water
1/2 box spaghetti noodles

1. Turn the Instant Pot on saute mode, and brown the ground meat (lid off).

2. Drain, if there is excess grease.

3. Add the noodles,breaking in half first.

4. Pour in the spaghetti sauce, followed by the water.

5. Close the IP, and press Manual. You will need to set the time for half of what your noodle box suggests for normal boiling.

6. Once the time is up, let it stay in the keep warm feature for 10 min before releasing the pressure, and opening the lid. If the spaghetti is too runny, you can turn the saute feature on for a couple of minutes. Stir constantly so it doesn't stick to the bottom.

Enjoy! Let me know in the comments if you would enjoy a How To post about the Instant Pot.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Funday #3 TobyMac Dance Party, Oranges, and Christmas Books

So, tonight's Family Monday Funday wasn't my plan A, or even plan B, more like plan D, ha!  After a fun but very busy weekend, and full day of homeschool, etc. by dinner time, all of us were pretty run down, no one was at their best, including myself.  However, for many of my kids, being over-tired means more craziness, not less, so I decided to adapt Monday Funday to get the rest of the crazies out before bedtime, and we had a TobyMac Dance Party, complete with awards!

TobyMac is one of my boys' favorite artists, and I had come across these exercise dance videos on YouTube a while back, but they hadn't seen them.  I appreciated that while they are exercising, they are dressed in clothing I am comfortable playing for my whole family to watch together.  We did 3-4; TobyMac Songs.

Then, it was time for the awards, I had quickly written different titles on fluorescent yellow index cards.  The Participant 'award' went to the child that had a really hard time with not being able to keep up with all of their moves, and was in tears until they finally decided to participate and just have fun, FYI ;) Like I said, tired people here today.......

I also handed out a huge orange with the award.  I have seriously seen Miss America's be less enthusiastic about winning the entire pageant than my youngest daughter was about her award, jumping, yelling, hands raised up clapping!

While everyone ate their orange slices, I read three of the Christmas Books we read every single year.  While it wasn't my original plan for this Monday Funday, it definitely made for a way more fun evening than we were headed towards with the pre-dinner moods, so that's a win in my book!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday Funday Family Night #2

After we had the Kombucha Tasting Rating Family Night last week, the kids had been begging to do it again with another food.  Which I do have planned, but we decided to make "Monday Funday" and do a food every other week, with some other family activity on the opposite weeks.  I actually had planned to do this with the tiny dixie type cups, but happened across these bowls at a local sale, 50/$1.00, so that's what we used.

At dinner, I explained the way the activity was going to work.  Each person got their own sleeve of 50 bowls.  You couldn't use any extra items, just the bowls, and just your 50, no more, to complete the challenges.  The time limit was the span of whatever Christmas song came up next on my Spotify playlist.  Interfering with anyone else's building, or working after the song is over meant disqualification.

The challenges were things like "tallest structure", "widest structure", "tallest structure that I can balance a book on top of for three seconds", "longest structure using only five bowls touching the floor", etc.  It was pretty fairly matched; the first round, my oldest daughter came in first, and my husband second place.  The next round, my oldest son won by a landslide.  

Everyone enjoyed stacking the cups!

Let me know if you try a Monday Funday Family Night, and what ideas you think we should try next!! -Becca