In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Monday, September 14, 2015

My Trim Healthy Mama Challenge

Hello dear blog readers!  I'm trying something new on my blog today. I'm posting my very first vlog, which by the way, I spent more time trying to upload to my blog than I did creating the video!  I ended up having to create a YouTube account and upload the video to my blog from YouTube, which was a little frustrating, but that's ok.  Honestly, if I didn't put this post into a video, I know I would have never sat down to the computer and typed it all into a blog post!

Today, I'm starting my Trim Healthy Mama Challenge, which is what this video is about.  In the video I discuss the following:  What is Trim Healthy Mama?  Why am I trying Trim Healthy Mama?  What are some of my concerns with Trim Healthy Mama?

I'll try to get an update up in a few weeks to let you know how things are going, but for now here is my very first video on my blog....

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Classic Cucumber and Onions

Classic cucumber and onions!  A childhood favorite of mine!  I can't have a summer cookout without them!  I heart the salty,vinegary crunch of the garden cucumbers in this dish! I remember snacking on cucumber and onions in the warm summer months when I was a kid.  As an adult, not much has changed about that.  Here is how my mother made this classic dish growing up, and how continue to make them now.

One cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/2 to 1 sweet onion, sliced thinly
1/2 c. white vinegar
2 c. water
2 tbs. salt 
1 tbs. sugar

Mix vinegar, water, salt and sugar.  Soak cucumbers and onions in the liquid for 3-4 hours, or overnight for best results.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Slow Cooker Maple Mustard Chicken

As a busy mom, I heart my slow cooker!  In my kitchen, the crock pot easily gets used 2-3 times a week, no mater what season it is.  The easier the recipe, the better!  You really can't get much easier than this maple mustard chicken recipe.  I discovered this recipe on Pinterest a year or two ago, and decided that with a few adjustments, it was a keeper!  For one, I couldn't find quick tapioca for thickening, but had cornstarch in the pantry and used that instead. Secondly, I don't usually keep a stone ground mustard in my fridge, but I always have Dijon mustard on hand. 

While this recipe only has a few ingredients, I do recommend using good quality ingredients.  In my pantry, I keep a bottle of 100% real organic maple syrup for my cooking and baking needs.  It's definitely more expensive than the bottle of Aunt Jamima, but it also doesn't taste like a bottle of Aunt Jamima, as it is not quite as sweet as the typical processed pancake syrup most people have in their pantries. 

4-6 Boneless frozen chicken breast (thighs or tenders will also work)
1/2 c. Maple syrup
1/3 c. Dijon mustard
1 tbs. corn starch

Spray crock pot with cooking spray.  Combine syrup and mustard and pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.  When chicken is almost finished cooking, set chicken aside. Whisk cornstarch in the sauce until smooth.  Add chicken back in for the remaining time. Serve over rice.

Slow Cooker Southern Green Beans

As a first time gardener, we planted half a box of green beans.  We almost didn't plant any green beans, but one of our little guys LOVES green beans, so we decided to plant some for him! He seriously eats green beans like candy!  Fresh, frozen or canned, as long as they are cooked, he'll eat 'em up!

Now that I've discovered this recipe for green beans, I wish we would have planted more!  The flavor maker is the bacon, making these green beans the best I've ever had!

These taste great, but they are also really easy.  Fresh green beans take awhile to cook, so using the slow cooker is the ideal way for me to make these. I love that I can throw everything in the crock pot, walk away, and a few hours later my house smells amazing!

This is truly the only way I will make green beans ever again, and next year, we are definitely planting more than half of a garden box of green beans.

2 c. chicken broth
1 pound of green beans, cut into two inch pieces
1 sweet onion, diced
1/2 c. cooked bacon, choped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. white vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a crock pot and cook on high for three hours or on low for six hours.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Crock-pot Rotisserie Chicken

I love a good rotisserie chicken.  I often find myself buying one from Target on a regular basis, as it makes for a quick and easy meal on grocery days.  Plus I really like having leftover chicken around the next day to make wraps for lunch. When I saw that you could make a rotisserie chicken in the crock pot, using aluminium foil balls, I decided to give it a try.  

I really wanted to love this recipe....but truthfully, I just found it to be mediocre and probably wouldn't make it again anytime soon. Yes, the foil worked, and the end result was a rotisserie chicken, but the flavor and juiciness that I was expecting, just wasn't there for me.

I only buy whole chickens when they are on sale and love using them for things like roasted herb chicken.  But truthfully, the all-natural rotisserie chickens that I buy from Target for $6-7 are about the same price as a whole chicken on sale and taste better than what I made in the crock pot without any of the work.  I am speaking only about the all natural savory rotisserie chickens from the Target deli.  I personally find Walmart's and Kroger's chickens to be much more greasy than Targets.  

In the end, if given the choice to use a whole chicken I find on sale to make this dish, or buy an already cooked all natural savory rotisserie chicken from Target, I will probably opt for the Target chicken, but that's just me.

Anyway, this recipe did work, and if you want to give it a try, here are the basic steps.

STEP ONE: Make aluminum foil balls and place them in the bottom of the crock pot.

STEP TWO: Mix together seasonings of choice to make a dry rub.  I use 1 tbs. paprika, 2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 2 tsp. garlic powder. 1 tsp. thyme.  If you like heat, you can add cayenne pepper. 

STEP THREE: Remove all insides of the chicken and rinse well. Coat chicken with 2-4 tbs. melted butter.  Rub dry mixture all over the chicken and place chicken in the crock pot.

 STEP FOUR: Cover with a lid and cook on high heat for 4 to 4.5 hours or until chicken has reached 165 degrees. Let rest about 20 minutes before cutting.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

A few weeks ago, I had The Chew on TV during the kiddos nap time.  I'm sure it was a summer-time rerun, but with fall upon us, one particular dish from the episode caught my eye.  Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese....What?!?....It sounded comfortfully-delicious (yes,
I do realize that is not a word), and the next day I found myself buying the ingredients to make this dish.

The only thing I did different from the original recipe is substitute Gruyere cheese for shredded cheddar, and the only reason why was because of the cost.  While Gruyere may be a fancy Swiss-like cheese that melts really well, cheddar cheese fit into my budget a little bit better!

Overall, this was a hit for me.  A little more time consuming than than my go-to Greek yogurt mac and cheese I shared early, but definitely something that I will occasionally make again.  The flavor was more of the squash than the cheese, and the creamy texture was amazing!  You can find the original recipe here.

3 c. cubed butternut squash
1 1/4  c. chicken stock
1 1/2 c. milk
2 cloves garlic
2 tbs. nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 c. shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
1 c. parmigiana cheese
1 pound cavatappi pasta
1 tbs. butter
1/3 c. Italian seasoned panko breadcrumbs
2 tbs. fresh chopped parsley.

Cook and drain pasta according to package instructions.  In a saucepan on medium high heat, add squash, stock, milk and garlic.  Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes or until squash is tender.  Remove from heat and pour in a blender.  Add yogurt, seasoned with salt and pepper, and blend until smooth.  Then add cheese and blend again until smooth and cheese is melted. Stir mixture into the cook pasta.  In a small bowl, melt butter and stir in breadcrumbs.  Top pasta with breadcrumbs.  Garnish with parsley.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Greek Yogurt Mac and Cheese

When my boys were big enough to start eating table food, I decided to rethink how I make mac and cheese.  Trying to avoid the powdered cheese mixes you can buy in a box, I knew I could make something a little healthier that took just as much effort as the box stuff.   My effort to find a healthier mand cheese recipe led me to this recipe, found nearly a year ago, and I've been using it ever since!  Greek yogurt is of course packed with protein, but it also gives a creamy texture to this mac and cheese, while the garlic and onion powder add a nice flavor.  And of course, I throw in vegis when I can.  I really like spinach mixed in with this dish, but my boys prefer peas!

8 oz elbow pasta
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp.onion powder 
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 c. fresh spinach or frozen peas

Cook and drain pasta according to packaging, reserving half a cup of the pasta water, and place cooked pasta back in the pan on low heat.  In a bowl, mix garlic powder and onion powder with the Greek yogurt and then add to the pasta. Stir in reserved pasta water and shredded cheese until cheese melts and is well combined.  Add frozen peas or fresh chopped spinach, stirring until peas are warm or spinach has wilted. 

Greek Yogurt Biscuits

I've recently started to use a lot of Greek yogurt in my cooking, especially since I've started cooking for my toddlers.  Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, and I love to add it into things when I can.  Around a year ago, I tried this recipe for Greek yogurt biscuits, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I don't often make bread or biscuits, but when I do, this recipe has become my go-to recipe.

What makes these biscuits unique is that they don't really taste like a biscuit.  I guess I would describe them as a cross between a roll and biscuit, because they have more of the flavor of a roll, but the dense texture of a biscuit.  I find that I often make these instead of yeast rolls to go with home-style meals.  These are also really good when used for breakfast sandwiches. My personal favorite way to eat these biscuits is with a small amount of butter and honey!

2 c. all purpose flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 c. plain Greek yogurt (I prefer nonfat)
1/2 reduced fat milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.  In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  With a wooden spoon, mix in 1/4 c. milk and the yogurt, just until incorporated. Place mixture on a lightly flour counter top and add the remaining 1/4 c. milk to the remaining pieces in the bowl, then add those pieces to the dough before kneading until dough is smooth.  This is a very sticky dough.  You may need to add a bit more flour as you work with it.  Using a flour rolling pin, roll the dough out to .5-1 inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter, or something round like the top of a drinking glass. Place cut out biscuits one inch apart on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Best when served warm.