Monday, September 12, 2016

German Lentils with Sausage

Becca here with a recipe (no photo, sorry, we ate it before I got a picture!) that my family really enjoyed.  I recently did a big freezer cooking session, and adapted this recipe to be both freezer and Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) ready.  I have used an Instant Pot for many years; I'm actually on my second one, after the first had had an unfortunate incident with the plastic part of the lid coming in contact with the hot stove-top and melting.  When we had to leave our home last year and stay in a hotel for 60 nights, because of a water leak, my Instant Pot was the one thing from our kitchen I took with me to the hotel.  I love the popularity they have gained in the past few years; my newer model Instant Pot has several great features that my original one did not, one of them being the "saute" button.  This was my first time using saute, and I'm wondering why I haven't before.  I was able to brown the sausage, and then cook the meal all quickly, and in the same stainless steel (no toxic chemical non-stick finishes!) pot.  My family all really enjoyed this recipe, and our youngest son that is a new eater even had seconds, as did most of the kids!  The seasonings were delicious, and had just enough of a distinctly different taste, to make the recipe unique.

The recipe makes a generous portion; my family of seven, with several large appetites in the bunch, ate it for a meal once, and had enough to accompany lunch the next day, with the five kids and I each having a small portion.  I will include the directions for making up a double batch to keep in the freezer, as I did, below the recipe.

German Lentils with Sausage

1 pound dried brown lentils
Orrington Farms Chicken Base or 'Better Than Bouillon' (use package instructions, see amount needed for 10 cups of water)
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

10 cups water

4 cups grated carrots
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
21 ounces Kielbasa Sausage or Ham, diced

Place diced Kielbasa Sausage (or Ham) into the instant pot.  Stir on 'saute' setting until browned.

Add remaining ingredients, stir, and cook on meat/stew setting.

Enjoy! -Becca

To make ahead and freeze:
Multiply all ingredients times the number of meals you want to freeze.
Put top ingredient section (lentils, chicken base, and spices) into a quart bag, and label with recipe name.
In order, place the grated carrots, worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, and then diced sausage into a gallon bag, and label with recipe name.
To prepare the dish, follow the recipe above (the sausage needs to be on top of the freezer bag, so it can be browned first, before adding the other ingredients!)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Dairy Free "Buttercream" Icing

 Photo Credit, Sister Sara :)

As I shared in my post earlier this week, a recipe for Dairy Free, 100% Whole Wheat, Chocolate Cake, my youngest son has had some significant health issues that have impacted his eating, so until a few months ago, he was still on formula exclusively, without any safe foods.  For his 1st Birthday, we weren't able to have any kind of cake, I froze his formula into a popsicle shape, because that's all he could have.  So, now that he has a lot of safe foods, we were super excited (ecstatic may be a better word!) to make him his 1st Birthday Cake, for his 2nd Birthday.  I followed this recipe fairly closely, and was happy with the outcome.  The frosting tasted good, and the texture was similar to a buttercream.  I will note, I made the cakes the night before, let them cool, frosted them, and refrigerated them overnight.  I removed them from the fridge a couple of hours before serving, but the coconut oil base, meant that the frosting was a bit more solid than I would have preferred; next time I would take the cakes out of the refrigerator earlier, although no one complained about the icing :)

Dairy Free "Buttercream" Icing

1/2 cup coconut oil, at room temperature (liquid form)
1/2 cup Earth Balance, soy-free, dairy-free butter substitute, softened (in a square tub near the margarine, I purchase at Walmart)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar (most mainstream brands have cornstarch, look at a health food type store if corn is an issue!)

In a mixer bowl, whip the coconut oil and butter substitute until smooth and creamy, with no lumps remaining.

Add the vanilla extract.

One cup at a time, blending after each addition, add the powdered sugar.

For best results, use immediately.  It may be store in the refrigerator, but will need to be brought to room temperature before icing.  Do not microwave!

Enjoy! Becca

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dairy Free, 100% Whole Wheat, Chocolate Cake

Photo credit Sister Sara :)

Becca here, with a recipe that I was super excited to experiment with, and make.  My youngest son has had some significant health issues that impacted his eating, so until a few months ago, he was still on formula exclusively, without any safe foods.  For his 1st Birthday, we weren't able to have any kind of cake, I froze his formula into a popsicle shape, because that's all he could have.  So, now that he has a lot of safe foods, we were super excited (ecstatic may be a better word!) to make him his 1st Birthday Cake, for his 2nd Birthday.  I did a lot of research on cake recipes, since it was important to me that it tasted good, I wanted him to be able to eat the same cake as everyone else, that it was dairy and corn free, and 100% whole wheat.  I settled on a variation of a Crazy Cake, a depression era cake that doesn't use eggs, butter, or milk.  I was really pleased with the way the cake turned out, and several party guests without dietary restrictions commented on how much they enjoyed it also.  I definitely don't think it tasted "healthy" or "dairy free"; it was very moist, and had a great flavor.  An unexpected bonus, was that you actually mix the cake up in the 9x13 pan, so there isn't a mixing bowl to wash also!!

I will be sharing the dairy-free "buttercream" recipe on the blog soon as well.

Dairy-Free, 100% Whole Wheat, Chocolate Cake

3 cups whole wheat flour (I recommend King Arthur brand, or grinding your own, the results are significantly better I think!)
2 cups sugar (I use unbleached, cane sugar)
1 teaspoon salt (I use "Real Salt" or Pink Himalayan)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like a dark or dutch cocoa powder, and fair trade is important to our family as well)
3/4 olive oil
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (we make our own in large batches).
2 cups tap water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder together in an ungreased, 9x13 glass baking pan.

Make three wells.  Pour oil into one, vinegar into the second, and vanilla into the third.

Pour cold water over everything, and stir well with a fork.  Be sure to scrape the edges and bottom, and make sure it is thorougly mixed.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Store, covered, in the refrigerator.  We thought it tasted just as good, or maybe even better, the second day.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Chewy Oatmeal Squares

Jana here with a recipe I had to share!  I recently had a baby, and was looking for some extra snacks to eat while I am feeding the baby in the middle of the night. I bought a few boxes of oatmeal squares and granola bars, but was unhappy with the ingredients. So my husband and I started brainstorming, and came up with this delicious recipe!

Chewy Oatmeal Squares

1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
6 cups oatmeal (steel cut or old fashioned)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 1 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

2. Mix the wet ingredients (butter, oil, honey, eggs, vanilla) in a stand mixer (or with a handheld mixer).

3. Add the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, oatmeal, baking soda, cinnamon, salt) and mix well. Last, add the raisins and stir.

4. Pour onto the baking sheet, and spread evenly. Press mixture firmly onto baking sheet to compact it.

5. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Cooking Lessons at Home, via Home Chef

This is my second post on how we are using Home Chef as in-home cooking lessons.  You can see part one here, for a detailed description of how it works, and our thoughts on receiving our first delivery.

The second meal we received was Flat Iron Steak with Bleu Cheese Butter, with green beans and roasted fingerling potatoes.  My 10 year old daughter actually made this one by herself, and my 8 year old son did the 3rd meal by himself.  This was rated as an 'easy' recipe, and was seriously amazing.  I'm not a huge steak lover normally, but it was super tasty.  My husband does love steak, and told her it was delicious, and he would be happy to eat it again anytime!

The meat comes vacuum sealed, and the rest of the ingredients are in a pouch, clearly labeled with the recipe name on it.  Olive oil, salt, and pepper are the only ingredients you need to use out of your pantry.  There were fresh herbs in this recipe, and they were really fresh looking also.  The kids love the 'notes from the chef' and full color photos on the recipe instructions.

The kids are enjoying the independence in the kitchen, and we have been thoroughly impressed with the cooking techniques, and quality of food they've produced.  The Home Chef box delivery to your house contains all of the necessary ingredients, and a great tutorial.  The normal price is just under $10/person a meal.  We have all agreed that the portions are very generous, definitely 'restaurant sized'.   If you use my link you will get $30 off of your first delivery (and we get some credit to use for more deliveries also, in the interest of full disclosure!)  Let me know if you have any questions, or comments if you've tried Home Chef!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Cooking Lessons for Kids, via Home Chef!

Becca here, returning to the blog!  I actually do use Thrice the Spice weekly at least, to look up one of the many recipes we've posted over the years.  My older two children, ages 11 later this month, and 8, have had a huge interest in expanding their cooking repertoire beyond the basic scrambled eggs, pancakes, and sandwiches that they are proficient at making alone.  My daughter was able to take some middle school culinary classes at our local community college this summer, further whetting her appetite (pun intended, ha!) as well as that of her brother that was still to young to attend.  I received an advertisement about trying out Home Chef for a $30 discount (that you can receive as well, along with my kids getting a bit of referral credit, in the interest of full disclosure, by using my links in this blog post!!  More about that later) and thought we would give it a try.
The basic premise is that Home Chef mails you a box of fresh ingredients, exactly enough to make a meal, and a step by step tutorial on how to prepare an amazing dinner.  While not intended for children, we have used it like a cooking lesson in a box, and it's pretty much one of my favorite things ever.  In fact, along with a trip to 'anywhere in Africa' and Costa Rice, donations to a specific refugee camp, or an orphanage, etc. my daughter asked for more Home Chef boxes for her upcoming birthday in a couple of weeks!!

Here is one of the meals they prepared, totally on their own!!  The only time I provided any assistance at all, was when they came and asked me what they should use to zest a lemon.  Other than that, I literally didn't even step into the kitchen, and this is what they served up!  It was SO delicious, definitely restaurant quality (and better than a lot of restaurants I've had!) and even my 'picky about food texture' husband said that the salmon was cooked perfectly.  This was the "Cedar Roasted Salmon with Root Vegetable Slaw" and looked nearly identical to the front of the cooking tutorial card they provided.  See below for a full review on the ordering and delivery process, and posts over the next few days on the other recipes they prepared.  Plus, I do have some new family favorite recipes of ours to share on the blog in the coming weeks as well!  

The week before my first scheduled delivery, I was sent an email, telling me the three meals Home Chef had selected for me, based on the few questions I answered on my profile.  They offer meat free, seafood based, beef based, low-carb, etc. options on your food profile.  When I answered my quick 'taste profile' questions, I selected beef and seafood as my two main items, as well as the low carb diet, since we prefer to eat vegetables over 'empty' carbs when possible.  I had a window of about 24 hours I believe, after receiving the email, to click on it to change my menu selections.  Out of curiosity, I have clicked to check out the other menu options both times we have received deliveries, and while all of the 10(!!) meal options for the week have looked delicious, I have stuck with the three they had chosen for me.  Because we are using this as a culinary class for the kids, I chose to cook things that were a bit 'fancier' or offered foods & skills that I know they would like, but we don't commonly eat at home. So, while the chicken & pasta dishes looked amazing, that was a skill I felt like I could more easily teach them, and not something new and adventurous like they are wanting to learn.

The delivery arrived at my house via FedEx, in the middle of the day.  They use insulated boxes, careful packing, and lots of ice packs (see more below!) so that you don't have to be home to receive the box right when it arrives.  Our first box said that it weighed 19 pounds, and is taking up a lot of the surface of my stove top, for size reference.  Immediately upon opening it were our recipe tutorials.

Our first delivery also came with a 3-ring binder, to collect the recipe tutorial cards in.  On the back of each full page (8.5x11) recipe card, are detailed instructions, including 6-8 photos of the process, a note from the chef, etc.  Approximate cooking times and difficulty levels are included on the front also, as well as the amounts of items needed, so we can duplicate the recipe at home with our own ingredients, which I love.  The salmon was considered to be an 'intermediate' level recipe, while our other two in the first box were 'easy' (Flat Iron Steak with Bleu Cheese Butter with green beans and roasted fingerling potatoes, and Thyme and Rosemary Roasted Pork Tenderloin with apple cider pan sauce and broccoli mash, reviews with photos coming as well!)

 Directly under the recipe tutorials, is a thick, kind of foam feeling (although it's a biodegradable substance, maybe paper based?), lined in plastic, layer that surrounds the entire box, top, bottom, and sides, for insulation.  The day we received this box was nearly 100 degrees F, and everything was still very, very chilled, including ice packs having cores of ice still in them.  All of the non-meat ingredients for each recipe are packaged together and clearly labeled with what recipe they are for.   Your first box also includes a guide to different types of cuts (julienne, dice, chop, etc.), basic guidelines for kitchen equipment, safe meat cooking temperatures, and how to recycle and dispose of the Home Chef packaging materials.  This box actually had 7 nice quality, reusable ice packs that we have already re-used in our cooler we take with snacks, and the safe food & formula that we take everywhere for our son with a GI disorder.

After another layer of ice packs was the meat.  I found the portion sizes for everything to be very generous.  For reference, this delivery was three meals, for two people.

 The kids learned a skill I haven't even known how to do before; they soaked thin sheets of cedar in water, then wrapped it around the raw salmon, and secured it with baker's twine before baking.  All of the necessary supplies were included in the Home Chef box that was delivered!

The carrots were preshredded, but everything else the children got to prepare themselves.  I was (at their request!) staying out of the kitchen, so I didn't get photos of the whole process, but they started with whole golden beets, a new food to them, whole garlic cloves to peel and mince, etc.

The kids' slicing and dicing, getting ready to make the marinade for the root vegetable slaw!

The cost per meal is definitely comparable to a restaurant meal, at right about $10 per person per plate.  I would say that the portion sizes are definitely on the large size as well; we actually split these two meals into halves, and it was a great portion size for four people on a hot summer night, with a piece of fruit for dessert.  And the food quality has been better than most restaurants also.  While that is definitely significantly more than our typical grocery budget, we felt like it was a bargain using the introductory coupon code to get $30 off our first delivery, making it just under $30 for our first three meals (each with two generous servings), including free shipping, nice quality recipe tutorials that truly are beginner friendly, definitely a teaching tool, as well as the 3-ring binder, & kitchen guide with your first Home Chef delivery. Honestly, I didn't expect to be so impressed, or for my kids to love it so much, and add a request for more deliveries to their birthday wishlists.

Rather than a higher-than-typical meal, Home Chef has really been a great, inexpensive culinary class for my children, that they can do, and learn to clean up after, in our own home, no running all over town with five kids and hanging out for a few hours while they're taking a class and we're waiting to pick them up.  Plus, they are super proud to serve the family and show off the new skills they've learned.  We homeschool our kids, and I think cooking is a vital part of their education, one that my daughter is known for often reminding me that they will all need to learn how to do, maybe even more than algebra ;)

I'd be happy to answer any questions you have, or hear about your experience if you've tried Home Chef, feel free to leave a comment below.  And, again, you can get $30 off of your first delivery (and we get some credit towards more deliveries) by using this link.  This was how we first tried the service, making it just over $29 for 3 different meals for 2 people.

Skipping a week, or cancelling the subscription entirely is super easy, literally two clicks of a button from your Home Chef account.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Chicken Lazone

Jana here with a simple, delicious chicken meal!  I found inspiration for this on . I served ours over basmati rice, but you could also use your preference in rice or noodles!  I also think this recipe has great flexibility with the type of chicken you can use. I had bone in chicken breast in my freezer, so I opted for those. But you could easily use chicken tenders, chicken breast, leg quarters, etc.

Chicken Lazone

2 pounds chicken, cooked to your liking (I roasted ours for an hour in the oven at 400 degrees)
1/4 cup butter
2 cups half and half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

1. Melt butter in a small skillet or saucepan. Once melted, add the half and half, and heat on medium heat.

2. Add the spices, and stir to combine.  Continue heating on medium heat until it nears boiling. At that point, turn to low and simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Once sauce has thickened, combine with your rice or noodles, and serve with chicken.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Avocado Ranch Dressing

Jana here with a dressing that is delicious on a salad, and could also be used as a dip for vegetables. We have a lot of leaf lettuce growing in our garden right now, so salads have been on the menu more often!  My husband and I were talking about different types of salad we could make, and we came up with this Avocado Ranch dressing.

Avocado Ranch Dressing

1 medium size avocado (ripe)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons ranch dressing
salt and cayenne pepper to taste

1. Remove the avocado from the peel and pit. Combine with other ingredients, and use an immersion blender to blend well.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Kale Chips

Jana here with a super easy recipe!  We are probably the last ones to jump on the kale bandwagon...I've heard a lot about it in the last few years, and know that it is really healthy. It is loaded with antioxidants, and a great source of vitamin C, A, and K.

When my son picked this much kale from our garden recently, I knew it was the time to try kale chips!

The prep is so easy, and a great recipe for kids to help with!

The finished kale chips! These are SO light and's hard to just eat a few!

Kale Chips

1 head of kale, or kale leaves from your garden
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

2. Remove the leaves from the thick stems, and tear the leaves into bite size pieces.

3. Lightly brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.

4. Bake for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Garden Fun

My husband and I enjoy growing a garden each year! We started about 6 years ago, and do our best to learn as we go.  When deciding what to grow, we think about several factors: 

1. Can the vegetable be preserved?  (canned, frozen, etc)
2. What return will we get for the space planted?  
3. How expensive is the vegetable to buy at the store?  
4. Is the vegetable hardy/fairly easy to grow?

In our region (we live in Northwest Arkansas), it is currently the right time of year to be planting most Summer crops. Cold weather crops (lettuce, peas, etc) are being harvested.  The only cold weather crops we planted this year were leaf lettuce and kale. We have planted corn, zucchini, okra, tomatoes, jalapenos, cucumbers, green beans, and wax beans for our summer crop!

The leaf lettuce is ready to pick!

Gardening is such a great activity to involve the whole family in!  Even my youngest, Silas, is a great helper!  He is only 2.5 years old, but with some basic instructions is very good at planting, watering, and harvesting!
 My oldest, Caleb, is 6.5 years old. He wrote out some labels to help remind us where we planted which seeds!

Our lettuce has really taken off!  We are enjoying lots of fresh salad with dinner, and will probably be giving lettuce away soon too! :)

Do you grow a garden? I would love to hear where you live, and the types of things you grow!