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Fun Friday: To warm your heart and soul

10 Feb
We have had blizzard conditions for most of the day today, but we're warm and safe and all together.

We have had blizzard conditions for most of the day today, but we’re warm and safe and all together.

Today (Thursday, as I type this) was our first snow day of the school year, and tomorrow (Friday) will be our second. We had quite a storm today, with about a foot of snow falling throughout the day. It was cold and windy and snowy, but inside we had a lazy day for much of the day, and we were warm, safe and together, which is really what matters on a day like today.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some recipes with you for some nice, warm, delicious treats, since it’s so cold and snowy here. Even if it’s not snowy where you are, there’s nothing like something warm and delicious to warm your heart and soul in the winter months.

DIY crepes in both the regular and gluten free varieties.

DIY crepes in both the regular and gluten free varieties.

Early in the day we had crepes, which is one of our favorite special breakfasts. They are labor intensive, so we don’t do them often, but they’re so delicious when we do. They can be made gluten free, so we make both kinds. My husband does the majority of the cooking for these, but today I did the hot bananas with the maple-brown sugar sauce and Elizabeth made the scrambled eggs, so he had some help. We put out many filling options for our crepes: scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, cheese, peanut butter, Nutella or a Hershey’s chocolate spread, bananas, and today the maple-brown sugar bananas. Everyone can fill them as they wish.

The recipe we use is the same for both gluten free and not, but we use gluten free all-purpose flour for our gluten free crepes, specifically Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 All-Purpose Flour. This is the recipe we use:

Thanks to the New Betty Crocker Cookbook!

Thanks to the “New Betty Crocker Cookbook!”

Warm chocolate pudding is soothing on a sore throat, especially on a snowy day.

Warm chocolate pudding is soothing on a sore throat, especially on a snowy day.

Tonight, my youngest daughter requested homemade chocolate pudding, which is a relatively new recipe for us, but I have posted it on the blog before. You can find it here. She’s had a sore throat and cough, and prefers the pudding to be warm, which would soothe her throat. I didn’t have a sore throat myself, but that pudding sounded good to me too, especially on a day like today, so I obliged. Another warm and soothing recipe that I make often in the winter months is homemade hot chocolate. Although I didn’t make it today, I will re-share it here anyway, since it’s been a long time since I originally posted it. It’s an absolute favorite for my family.

Finally, I had some great new articles in this week’s paper to share with you too, and they will warm your heart and soul also. You can find my latest feature from this week’s Providence Journal here, about Rachel’s Sugar Shop in Cranston. She’s got lots of great Valentine’s Day treats on deck, and she does amazing wedding, birthday and all kinds of occasion cakes, so stop by and see her if you’re local.

I have lots of stories in this week’s Cranston Herald, but this one about a family who immigrated to the United States is one of my favorites, especially with all that is in the news currently about immigration to America. I also loved doing this one about Janet Tanury, the owner of Botticelli’s, which is a local store whose tagline is “Generous clothing for the curvaceous woman.” Janet is working hard to make plus-size shopping a whole new experience for women of all ages, especially when it comes to formal wear, and her shop is wonderful, as is she. If you have a prom or formal event on the horizon, stop in and visit her in North Providence, RI or visit her website here. She’s hosting a special prom shopping event on President’s Day from 10-5pm.

You can view all of this week’s Cranston Herald stories by visiting their website, and there you will see all of my work for this week. It’s certainly been a busy one!

newspaper-1     newspaper-2  newspaper-3

newspaper-4   newspaper-5   newspaper-7                  newspaper-6

 

 

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals and a new recipe for you

8 Feb
This was a recipe we tried out a couple months back and loved, so we put it on the list again this menu cycle.

This was a recipe we tried out a couple months back and loved, so we put it on the list again this menu cycle.

The weeks are flying by! Today I have a two week menu for you, and a new recipe that we recently tried, loved for Loaded Baked Potato Soup, and therefore, just made again. In fact, it is my lunch today, left over from last night’s dinner, as I write. I know that I mentioned last time that I love the Skinnytaste blog, and although I don’t usually share from the same spot so many times in a row, I’m going to have to make an exception in today’s post, which really shares more than one new recipe with you. Thanks to Gina for making such delicious healthy recipes!

Without further ado, here is two weeks of menu inspiration for you.

Sunday (Superbowl): Don’s Chili, Teriyaki Wings, Buffalo Chicken Dip, and Baked Zucchini Rounds with Marinara (her recipe calls for sticks) Here is an alternate recipe for Baked Zucchini Fries from our lunch at the White House that we also love.

Sticks or rounds, using gluten free bread crumbs, these are a favorite treat at our house.

Sticks or rounds, using gluten free bread crumbs, these are a favorite treat at our house.

Monday: Baked Potato Soup from the Skinnytaste Blog. You can see her recipe here, which also calls for the addition of sour cream as a topping option. We did use turkey bacon on ours.

Tuesday: Hot Dogs and Potato Puffs (Mom’s out on this night, this is NOT my favorite dinner. At least the hot dogs are turkey hot dogs! And there is at least one of my kids who is of the belief that Potato Puffs aka Tater Tots, are a root vegetable. That’s another issue for another day.)

Wednesday: Paninis

Thursday: Steak Lettuce Tacos I shared this recipe on my last two weeks of meals post. I won’t say whose recipe this is…any guesses? Click the link and see!

Friday: Homemade pizzas (This and Nachos are often our go-to Friday night meals.)

Saturday: Chicken nuggets and mac and cheese (all gluten free) not homemade, tonight is a kids’ night in, parents’ night out for a 7:30 theater show, something we very rarely ever get to do, and we have a final end of season basketball game until 5:30, so desperate times call for desperate measures! This is probably one of their favorite meals when it comes to the not-good-for-you kind of meals, but this is real life. It’s not all good for us all the time. The mac and cheese is a white cheese, organic kind, and the nuggets are better than some we have found, as good as we can get in a frozen, breaded, gluten free tenderloin. And to boot, I have no idea what or where we parents are even are eating, given our time crunch. So there’s that.

Sunday: Baked chicken dinner, a Sunday favorite of ours which uses one of my favorite Pampered Chef  bakeware items.

Monday: Chicken, veggie and rice soup (homemade, gluten free with white rice)

Tuesday: Tacos

Wednesday: Pasta with meatballs

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: First night of school vacation week, so dinner is currently TBA

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Skinnytaste Grilled Steak Lettuce Tacos

1 Feb
Another all thumbs-up meal at our house!

Another all thumbs-up meal at our house!

Recently, we tried out a new dinner meal and I wanted to share it with you today. It was not difficult to make, and everyone liked it, which doesn’t always happen, and I’m about to put it into the rotation again when we do our next two weeks of meals.

The Skinnytaste blog is one of my go-to sites. I love her recipes, I love that they’re healthy and delicious, they have nutrition facts and  Weight Watchers points attached to them for those who need them, and I get lots and lots of menu ideas from her. I have sworn off getting any new cookbooks because of space constraints, but if I were to break my own promise to myself, her cookbook would be the first one I’d buy.

Our family of five does really well when we can pick and choose what we'd like on our plates, all from one meal option.

Our family of five does really well when we can pick and choose what we’d like on our plates, all from one meal option.

This recipe came across someone’s radar, I can’t remember whose, but we put it on the list of recipes to try, and one of the reasons that I liked it is that we do well with meals and recipes where people can choose what they like or don’t like, but there is something for everyone at the table. This was one of those meals. We have one person who doesn’t love the steak, but loaded up her lettuce wrap with all the veggies. We have another person who doesn’t love the veggies but ate the steak, and we threw a bowl of cucumbers into the a la carte options because she likes them, and she ate those on the side. Everyone had something to love on their plate, and some of us just loved it all.

For our purposes, we used sandwich steaks for the meal, which are budget-friendly, but you can see Gina’s recipe here, and use the grilled sirloin steaks she recommends as well. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try, and while you’re on the Skinnytaste site, be sure to check out Gina’s other recipes. I’m sure you’ll find them as wonderful as I always do!

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals and a new recipe

25 Jan
Last time around, we utilized our crock pot three times in one week!

Last time around, we utilized our crock pot three times in one week!

It’s hard to believe another whole month has passed! It seems like I was just posting Christmas cookie recipes, but yet here we are in the final stretch of January!

It’s been a couple of weeks, and I have our Two Weeks of Meals for you, but I also have a new crock pot recipe for you that we tried out in the last round of meals. It was new, so I didn’t post the recipe last time, until we tried it. I promised to post it if it was good, and sure enough, it got all thumbs up from all five of us. It’s rare to find one thing that all of us like, especially with a picky eater and another eater who will eat very little meat, and this was beef to boot, so that’s a feat in itself.

The recipe we tried out is called Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef, and you can find it on the Recipe Critic’s site by clicking here. It was quick to prepare, easy because it was cooking while we were gone, and delicious! We used stew meat instead of flank steak and it was delicious.

Be sure to visit the Recipe Critic's site to try out her slow cooker Mongolian Beef recipe!

Be sure to visit the Recipe Critic’s site to try out her slow cooker Mongolian Beef recipe!

Without further ado, here is our two weeks of meals for you and links to the recipes I have posted in years past. I hope it helps you to plan your own budget-friendly meals for the next couple of weeks!

Saturday: Marinated London Broil with mushrooms and onions, with vegetables and red potatoes with fresh rosemary and olive oil

Sunday: Chicken stuffed with herbed cream cheese and broccoli with rice pilaf

Monday: Chicken Marsala over white rice

Tuesday: Pasta with tuna sauce

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Pork chops and homemade applesauce with broccoli and cauliflower

Friday: Homemade Pizzas (Hawaiian, Margherita, and BBQ chicken) and salad

Saturday: BBQ chicken breasts on the bone, on the grill and sugar snap peas

Sunday: Chicken Parmesan and pasta with salad

Monday: Beef Stir Fry with sweet and sour sauce and Asian vegetable mix

Tuesday: Ravioli with shrimp and tomatoes in a garlic and oil sauce

Wednesday: Pastena Soup and salad

Thursday: Breakfast for dinner

Friday: Nachos

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals for your new year

11 Jan

meals-1

Happy New Year!

We are already ten days into the new year and looking ahead to Martin Luther King Day now. It doesn’t seem possible that we’re already halfway through January.

That being said, after the new year, it was time for us to get back on track with our weekly meal plans. Through the holiday weeks we were off our schedules completely. When school started up again we had a one week meal plan, so this is our first two week plan.

With a new plan comes the usual “all-call” to the kids, asking if anyone has anything they’re craving or wanting over the next couple of weeks. We had one kid down for the count with a virus, so she did not weigh in this time around. However, the other two both sent me recipes they wished to try this time. I was happy to see some new recipes on the list, and I am happy to report that of the two we’ve tried already, they were both well received and something we would make again.

We made our list of meals and did our grocery shopping, and I wrote out the recipes for the two new meals and stuck them on my kitchen cabinet. Both were recipes the kids had seen online and one was a video. I will link to them in the list below. There are other ones we are trying out that I will feature in a future post if they are voted into the rotation.

Here is our current list of meals.

meals-2Sunday: Italian Antipasto (a huge salad of sorts containing various meats and cheeses, tuna and hard-boiled eggs)

Monday: Two soups: Normally I don’t make more than one meal, but I made an exception here. We had planned our typical Chicken Escarole Soup with gluten free pasta, but Liz wanted to try out a new soup. I knew some of us would like it and some wouldn’t, but I didn’t want to eliminate it just because not everyone would eat it. I had a sick kid that could use the chicken soup, so I opted to make both. One was a crockpot soup, and I’d totally make it again. You can find the recipe for it here. A photo is shown above as well.

Tuesday: Mongolian Beef (this is a new recipe we have not tried yet).

Wednesday: Spaghetti with Tuna Sauce (see recipe here)

Thursday: Zucchini Shrimp Scampi: This was a great new recipe submitted by Caroline and again, everyone loved it. We got to use a new grating tool for the zucchini that made long spaghetti-like noodles. You can see this recipe here. A photo is shown below as well. We did add tomatoes to ours, and for a family of our size we would use six zucchini next time, instead of four. It was that good, with very little left over.

meals-3

Friday: Hamburgers and hotdogs, Quinoa Salad on the side as a request from Caroline, see the recipe here.

Saturday: Out for dinner

Sunday: Red Wine Crockpot Roast: We tried this recipe a few menu cycles ago, and absolutely loved it. Everyone loved it, which is often rare. We are adding it back in this time around.

Monday: MLK Day: Roasted Chicken Dinner

Tuesday: Paninis

Wednesday: Chicken/Broccoli/Pasta Saute (we usually make Wednesday a pasta night at this time of year because all three kids have a Wednesday night commitment and it allows us to cook early, eat early and eat quickly before we go our separate ways.

Thursday: Breakfast for dinner: Pancakes (another busy night meal we often rely on)

Friday: TBA

Hopefully this two-week schedule of meals will help to inspire your own menu planning. What’s on your menu for the upcoming weeks?

-Jen

 

The challenge is real: health and wellness vs. tradition

23 Dec
Red and green crinkle cookies were new for me this year and I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy them.

Red and green crinkle cookies were new for me this year and I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy them.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 22, 2015

It seems to me that our family often has their “ah ha moment” in regards to what’s been bothering their stomachs *right* before the holidays, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s.

Although I’m always so happy we’ve figured it out and can help them, I always find it totally and completely overwhelming trying to figure out our traditional holiday meals versus their new health and wellness needs. I want everyone to feel good, and yet I want everyone to be able to partake in our usual favorites, whether it’s grilling and eating pumpkin bread in our pjs in front of the television on Thanksgiving morning, or whether it’s making and eating all our favorite Christmas cookies from recipes we’ve held near and dear through the years.

It’s very challenging.

Very.

With our new gluten free needs, I found myself completely overwhelmed, trying to immediately figure out what we needed for Thanksgiving, but while doing so, knowing that Christmas was literally right around the corner, and that holiday for us, had visions of flour and gluten dancing in my head. We normally bake dozens and dozens of our favorite Christmas cookies every year, and it’s a tradition I have held near and dear to my heart since growing up baking with my mother and it’s something I’ve passed on to my children as well. In addition to our old favorites, each year I also will often try out a new recipe and with that, I’ve added a few new favorites to our traditional list as well.

As I searched, scrolled and pinned, I tried to make heads or tails of what I was going to do. I saw many holiday cookie recipes online, and although they looked good enough, they weren’t *our* holiday cookie recipes and I knew that no matter how good they might be, it wouldn’t be good enough for us. I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy our old favorites and any new favorites we might find this year.

Winner, winner! This was the flour blend I decided to try for our cookies this year.

Winner, winner! This was the flour blend I decided to try for our cookies this year. I measured cup for cup as I would have in my regular recipes, as it said you could.

Finally, after avoiding the thought process for a while between Thanksgiving and Christmas, last week I decided to attempt to make our own recipes using gluten free flour. Specifically, I opted to use the Pillsbury gluten free flour blend which already included the various types of flour I’d seen in from-scratch recipes as well as the needed amounts of xanthan gum that is needed to hold the flours together.

I tried a new recipe for Grinch Crinkle cookies that I thought were adorable. I opted to use them for a cookie swap and instead of doing just green, I split the batter, which is made with a vanilla cake mix, and make red AND green. How cute is that??? Very, very cute. They were a big hit.

We'd already successfully used this for cupcakes, so I was willing to give it a go for Grinch Crinkle cookies too.

We’d already successfully used this for cupcakes, so I was willing to give it a go for Grinch Crinkle cookies too.

Luckily, I could make the red and green batch above to take with me Saturday night and use a gluten free cake mix from Betty Crocker for another set. Purple and sparkles were requested but I stayed with the Grinch Green theme. This time.

The cake mix worked out great, and these will be a keeper in our yearly baking for sure. I even see them as being red and blue with white chocolate chips around July 4. Wouldn’t that be adorable? It would. I’m sure of it.

These gluten free Grinch Crinkles were not mixed in with the red and green cookies above. They stayed at our house and got all thumbs up from everyone!

These gluten free Grinch Crinkles were not mixed in with the red and green cookies above. They stayed at our house and got all thumbs up from everyone!

And so, here it is, two days before Christmas Eve, and I’m on a roll. I’ve made a totally gluten free set of Grinch Crinkles, Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip Butterballs, Chocolate Thumbprints, Holiday Chex Mix, and I have more to come. A few more, anyway. You can find all the recipes by clicking on the titles and see if any of them work for your dietary needs! I use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to reduce the fat also, so they’re not too bad in that department either. Overall I find that the batters are coming out almost the same. Maybe a bit more crumbly but not awful by any means, and definitely workable 100% of the time. The cookies taste the same, I’ve made sure to taste plenty of them just to deliver a valid verdict for you!

I wish everyone who celebrates the upcoming holidays this week a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Blessings to you and yours for health and happiness always!

 

 

Your Tray or Mine? Cookie Tray Recipe of the Day: Snickerdoodles

23 Dec
Snickerdoodle Cookies

These are fast and easy cookies to make and one of my kids’ favorites.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 12, 2011

Today’s recipe is a new addition to our cookie trays. It is not one that we did when I was growing up but it’s one I include every year now.

Several years ago when my kids were in preschool we attended a book fair there prior to Christmas. I got them a “Strawberry Shortcake Holiday Treats” cookbook and this recipe is from there! It had all “regular” ingredients (aka ingredients I had on hand) and that’s why I liked it.

I usually have them help me by dropping the cookie dough in the cinnamon and sugar and having them roll them. Rolled cookies are good for that!

I often double this one, it’s a fast tray filler.

Tomorrow be on the lookout for a fun craft for the kids to go along with this recipe!

Strawberry Shortcake Holiday Treats Cookbook

Here’s the girls’ cookbook that this recipe came from.

SNICKERDOODLES
Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

also 2 Tbl. white sugar

1 egg

2 Tbl milk or cream

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375

In medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

Use the electric mixer to cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar.

Beat in the egg. Add the milk and vanilla. Beat until all combined.

Add in dry ingredients and beat til well mixed.

In the small bowl, stir together the 2 TBL sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Roll the dough into 1″ balls. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place them about two inches apart on the baking tray.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are done. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.