One of the first ways I began using essential oils was in my skin care – in sugar scrubs, to be exact! Today I’m sharing some helpful tips on which oils are best for particular skin conditions. Read on!
Coming soon: DIY Steam Facial!
One of the first ways I began using essential oils was in my skin care – in sugar scrubs, to be exact! Today I’m sharing some helpful tips on which oils are best for particular skin conditions. Read on!
Coming soon: DIY Steam Facial!
Recently we’ve had so much going on that I kind of fell into one of those traps of making the same meals over and over every week. Sure, they’re good, but I’m getting pretty tired of the same sausage and tomato pasta!
In searching for new recipes to try, and also ones that were healthier, I remembered my good friend had posted that she made orange chicken with fried rice… but instead of rice, she used CAULIFLOWER! I know, it sounds like one of those substitutions that doesn’t even make sense and that everyone spits out.
Let me tell you, IT’S NOT. I made it tonight, substituting some leftover pork I was trying to use up, and I didn’t miss the rice, not one bit!
It’s a little messy turning the cauliflower into ‘rice’, but it’s super easy and kind of fool proof.
Here’s what you need:
1/2 head of cauliflower
Half an onion (I used red)
2 cloves garlic
About 2 carrots
About 1 TBLspn cooking oil
About 1 1/2 TBLspn coconut oil
About 1 cup cooked pork – loin or chop would work fine (I used leftovers from this)
Optional: green onion for garnish
First get your cauliflower ready. Chop up half the head of cauliflower and add it to the food processor. This is the part that’s a little messy; it’s just difficult to get it all in there without getting tiny crumbs all over the counter and floor. Once it’s in there, pulse until it’s at a rice-like consistency. Honestly? Mine looked more like couscous or quinoa, but it still turned out fantastic, so you don’t have to be too particular about this. Just be sure you stop before you turn it into a puree. Side note: of course you’re going to wash it before you chop it, but make sure you ring out all the water and/or pat it dry after chopping. If you don’t, the water will turn it into a puree!
Next, chop the onion and finely chop the garlic cloves. Drizzle the cooking oil in a deep skillet and heat it over medium heat. Once hot, toss in the onion. Let cook for about 2 minutes, then add in the garlic. Let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile cut up the carrots. I actually only had baby carrots, so I cut them in quarters lengthwise, then chopped so they were diced like you see in fried rice so often. Add those in the pan too and stir, cooking for approximately 5 minutes.
Then, using a spatula to get it all out, add in the cauliflower ‘rice’. Stir of course! Add the coconut oil. Then crack the eggs into the pan, on top of the cauliflower, one at a time. Just crack them in whole, and stir!! Once incorporated, let cook for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it and stir once to prevent burning and sticking to the pan.
While that’s cooking, chop up the pork, then add it in with the cauliflower and stir. Cook until everything is warm, stirring frequently. You can also garnish it with some fresh chopped green onion. (I wish we’d have had some!) You could also add diced celery if you have it.
And that’s IT! I told you it was easy. And quick! And healthy! All the things we want in one recipe 🙂
Oh. And drizzle a little sriracha. Because it’s good.
Hope you enjoy! If you try it be sure to come back to comment how your family liked it!
So many of you asked for the recipe for this quinoa, so here it is!
I started making quinoa because I was looking for an accompaniment to one of our favorite fish dishes, and the hubs and I were trying to eat healthier. Plain quinoa is okay, but honestly it’s not my favorite. At some point I wondered, can I make quinoa RISOTTO??? I tried it a few times myself and it was fine, but then I found this original recipe on Pinterest. The recipe uses similar technique to what I was doing, but her recipe was more polished and flavorful. You can check it out for yourself; I was true to the recipe except for these changes:
*I do not stir the garlic in the oil. I just keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t burn. I do tilt the pot a little just to get it to cook evenly. I also don’t necessarily MINCE the garlic; I chop or finely chop it.
*When adding liquid is when I deviate most from her recipe:
– First add 1/2 cup white wine to ‘deglaze’ the toasted quinoa. I’ve used a variety of whites, but chardonnay is my favorite for this recipe. I just use a cheap one like Turning Leaf (around $10) because I don’t drink chardonnay much on its own. I always hope for a buttery, rather than oaky, chardonnay. Let the quinoa absorb the wine for at least a minute (and stir!) before adding the rest of the liquid.
– … Then add the rest of the liquid ( 1 1/4 cup). As long as I have it, I use chicken stock for this whole amount (I love Meijer Naturals). A few times (like tonight) I didn’t have enough, so I make up the difference with plain ol’ tap water. (NOTE: please do NOT try to substitute only water for the liquids; even if you use 1/2 c wine plus 1 1/4 cup water, the result will not be nearly as good.)
Then I let it come up to a boil; once it’s boiling I cover and simmer for 15 minutes. I have an electric stove/oven which runs hot, so you may have to adjust this time. After you make it a handful of times you’ll find your timing sweet spot. 🙂
Then I add the freshly grated parmesan cheese. Let’s face it, I likely use more than 1/2 cup because I love cheese. I never actually measure, I just eyeball it. I also have been adding a bit of crumbled goat cheese (probably only a tablespoon or so) for that extra creaminess and light earthy flavor.
At the very end I stir in some chopped green onion that I pull right out of my garden! (Did you know that green onion is SUPER hearty and easy to grow?? I never even planted this; I don’t know how long it’s been in the garden, but I sure do love using it all the time!)
This quinoa is everything you want a ‘starch’ to be and more! It’s satisfying, it’s nutty, it’s creamy, it’s got a bit of texture still, it’s delicious – and it’s full of protein! Healthy! Plus, it’s easy!! Probably only 20-30 minutes from start to finish.
I make this once a week with our favorite fish dish, Salmon Florentine (which I have also changed up a bit since I originally wrote the recipe). It’s for sure one of my family’s favorite meals! (I won’t lie; at least once a week for lunch, our 2 year old C goes to the fridge and says, “I want salmon Mommy!” Yeah. I’ll take that!)
School is back in session! And with it, extracurricular activities. Our eldest, A, auditioned for a Junior Dance Company at her current studio and was invited to participate! This is super exciting as I was never a dancer, but now I’m like officially a “DANCE MOM”. (Um, wait. I think there’s a reality show about dance moms… I don’t think they have a good rep. So, I’m just a dance mom. Not one of THOSE dance moms. Glad we cleared that up.)
My struggle with extracurriculars is scheduling them at a time that works with school and meals and bedtimes. Last year I learned that 4pm is the WORST time to have an hour long class, because everyone is so hungry during and right after, and by the time we got home it was already 30 minutes past our normal dinner time – that’s if we were lucky and didn’t hit a whole lot of rush hour traffic. Not the ideal way to make a meal. It makes that witching hour in the kitchen just a little bit worse.
But today I tried something that I will absolutely be doing again. A’s class is from 5-6pm, so I knew I had to have something at least half-way prepped before I took her. Today we had to run a few errands after picking her up from school, so we didn’t go home in between the end school and the start of class. Commence early major meal prep!
If you have a similar situation and don’t want to do take out, fast food, or frozen TV dinners every week, try this:
Several hours before dinner – about 5 is good, but schedule it however works for you – start on this Homemade Pasta Sauce. I started about 1:30, knowing I had to leave to pick A up from school between 2:45-3, and wouldn’t be back until after class, about 6:30. Once that has simmered for about an hour, blend it up and turn it down as low as possible. Pop a lid on it, and leave it to simmer for another few hours while you’re gone. My hubby was home on this particular day, so I informed him of what was going on – but if you’re uncomfortable leaving a burner on while you’re not there, just transfer it to a crock pot after blending, and leave on low (or even just the “keep warm” setting) until you return.
*Side Note: If you don’t have time or don’t want to attempt making the homemade sauce, I SUPPOSE you can use jarred sauce. It won’t have the same effect when you get home and walk in the door though. 😉
About an hour and 15 minutes before you have to leave, prep a spaghetti squash for the oven. The ones I’ve purchased at the store are generally VERY LARGE, and difficult to cut. One tip is to cut it on a damp kitchen towel so it doesn’t roll around. If you’ve never used spaghetti squash before, here is a picture:
All you do with this awesome squash is cut it in half lengthwise and put it cut-side-down on a foil-covered baking sheet drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with S&P. I have heard of people doing it the opposite way – cut side up – and then of course you’d put the olive oil, S&P on the inside/top. The large ones need about an hour at 400ºF. I had 2 small ones fresh from our visit at Frederick Family Farm (possibly it’s own future post – we had a blast!), so I baked them at 350ºF for 45 minutes. *Note: I also cut the stems off. It makes it easier to cut in half lengthwise and also, since ours were fresh from the garden, they were very long and would’ve been more difficult to handle if I left the stems on.
Right before you leave, pull that baby out of the oven and let it rest on the stove until you return. It needs to be at least room temperature for you to handle it, regardless of when you cook it.
The other thing you’ll need for this make-ahead meal is some pre-cooked ground sausage. I had some in my fridge from a few days prior when I made biscuits and gravy. (Do you remember my posts on Second Meal sausage pasta & this one sharing other Second Meal ideas?) I use half the chub for the biscuits and gravy, and save the other half for a dinner in the next day or two.
So. Before you leave you have:
1. Cooked ground sausage in the fridge
2. Spaghetti squash cooling on the stove
3. Sauce simmering in the pot
When you return home, follow these simple steps:
1. Turn the heat up on the sauce just to medium-low. Leave lid off. Stir.
2. Add the sausage and stir.
3. Holding the squash by the outside, use a fork to remove the seeds (I just pile them up on my baking sheet with tin foil) and then use the tines of the fork to scrape along the squash from top to bottom to remove the good stuff:
Once I have the majority of it out, I scrape along the inside with the side of my fork to remove whatever is stubbornly clinging to the inside of the rind. (Peel? Crust?)
4. You can scrape that good stuff right into your pot with the sauce simmering. Once you’ve finished that, stir again. *If you’re not sure that you made enough sauce, or think you made TOO much, you can scrape the squash onto a cutting board or into a different pan and then add the sauce after the fact.
5. Sprinkle some cheese on top, and VOILA! You have successfully completed a healthy, home-cooked, filling, delicious make-ahead meal that will be ready to serve your family in 10 minutes within arriving home. (I think fresh grated Parmesan would be amazing here, but all I had was shredded mozzarella and some Kraft grated parm. So that’s what I used. OHI, right?!)
Any questions? 🙂
My great-grandparents on my father’s side came to America from Italy. My mom learned a lot of homemade Italian recipes from my great-grandma Florence. Up until very recently, I’ve been either too busy or too inexperienced to attempt any of these homemade recipes. But I found myself wondering the past few weeks, why don’t I just quit buying jarred sauce? Most of the ingredients for the homemade alternative are staples in my pantry anyway, and it is SO good – and healthier, I’m sure. So finally last week I called my mom up and asked how she did it. (Her sauce is always AMAZING.) I’m about to share with you the secrets to that amazing homemade gravy! (Um, right: if you’re not Italian, gravy is spaghetti sauce.)
Okay here goes!
You will need:
*Roughly chopped Veggies (Onion, celery, carrot, mushroom, bell peppers, garlic are all options)
*White wine (or red, or stock of your choice)
*Canned tomatoes (unless you know how to peel and crush them yourself)
*An immersion blender (you can use a regular blender or food processor I suppose, but immersion is so much less work)
*Seasonings – bay leaf, basil, oregano, thyme, etc – whatever you like.
Disclaimer: If you want to do this right, you need to allow for a lot of time. The longer the sauce simmers, the more flavor it’s going to have. I think 3-5 hours is a good goal. Too short and it’ll still be good, but not EXCELLENT; too long and you could find it reduced down too much (unless you want it to cook extra long – just use more of everything).
We start by sweating our veggies. Melt some butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Just like anything, you can tweak this to your desired tastes. My mom uses Onion, Celery, Carrot, & Garlic. (The first time I made it I used a LOT of carrots. I told myself it was okay, but it wasn’t the sauce my mama made.)
This past time when I made it I started with 2 small farm-fresh yellow onions. Just toss in the pan with the butter. I also used half a red onion. I like the balance of both because red onion is a sharper flavor while the yellow onion is sweeter. Now garlic. I used about 5-6 very large cloves, smashed before chopping. (*Do not do the garlic first, as it could burn much more easily and leave a bitter flavor.) I included about 1/4 cup red & orange bell peppers. Next I added Baby Bella mushrooms. They’re the smaller version of portobello, so add very rich flavor. Stir after adding each new veggie.
Now add your seasonings. Again, use what you want, but I sprinkled dry bay leaf and chopped farm fresh basil. Stir.
Next, 1-2 Tablespoons tomato paste. This time all I had was a pesto-flavored one that I saw and decided to try for fun. I used probably about 1 1/2 Tbspn. Now you stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to mix all the veggies in with the paste, until all the veggies are covered and they’re completely combined.
Here’s my favorite part. This is what we call deglazing the pan: using a small amount of liquid to pull up all the flavors from the bottom of the pan, and to marry the flavors from the veggies and seasonings together. My mom’s secret is using the white wine. Lots of people use red, but she found the flavor is too strong when combined with the tomato paste (I agree!!! Love you Mom!) I think a medium white is perfect. You don’t want a super dry Chardonnay, but you don’t want a Moscato either. A sweeter Pinot Grigio or Savignon Blanc is wonderful. This last time I used a local white called Oktoberfest that my in-laws brought from Galena. Having a wine that’s a little sweeter balances out the strong flavors of basil and garlic, and works well with tomatoes, which are naturally semi-sweet. *Side note: if you don’t drink, or don’t want to use wine, you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock. You only need about 1/4 cup or so – just enough to go once around the pan. Stir that and bump up your heat to medium-high. Now just lean in, carefully, and take a whiff. SO GOOD, right? I did actually add a splash or two of a red blend that I have sitting on my counter, just for good measure. 😉 Let this simmer for 2-3 minutes to really build up that flavor.
Finally, add your canned tomatoes. I added one of those LARGE cans of whole peeled tomatoes and the regular size diced tomatoes. I suppose it doesn’t matter much if they’re diced, finely diced, chopped, or whole, because you’re going to blend it all together anyway, but I’m pretty sure my mom always used whole ones. Therefore, it doesn’t feel right to me without whole peeled tomatoes! Stir that all together, and let it simmer for about an hour.
After the hour is up, blend everything using an immersion blender. You want to turn off your burner and remove it from the heat for this part, in case of splattering. Again, if you don’t have an immersion blender, you have alternate options: wait for it to cool, then use either a regular blender or a food processor. I just don’t like this method because it takes so much more time. If you don’t have a big enough blender or food processor you might have to do it in batches, plus now you have to clean those out… I like my immersion blender. I blend until it’s a thick consistency but still has some very little chunks.
Now all that’s left to do is let it simmer, covered, on low, for another few hours until ready to eat! Mine simmered for 5 hours total and was A-MAY-ZING. I wish I could describe my feelings as I walked in the house after it simmered for that long… I could smell it before we even opened the door. It smelled just like my mom’s house would, and mentally transported me directly to her kitchen. Visually, a picture of her at the stove with her big pot and her whole bay leaves in the sauce.
It always feels good to make something your mama made. This is partly why I love food: passing on the tradition of healthy, simple, homemade recipes. Because when I do that, I feel like a part of my family history and heritage is being passed on as well. It’s timeless. 😉
The hubs is officially down over 35 pounds since he started working out and eating better! I am so proud of him. He’s been on a spinach kick, which is awesome, since its one if the most nutrient – rich leafy greens out there.
Lately he’s been eating a spinach salad for lunch every day, so I’ve started eating them too. But just plain, raw spinach can get boring after awhile. So I started switching it up.
For the hubs, the winner seems to be spinach with sliced Fuji apples and an Italian/balsamic dressing mix I made. One day I tried adding feta cheese to the mix and loved it.
Today I tried something new and it’s definitely my favorite so far, at least in terms of a quick and healthy lunch salad.
First put your desired amount of spinach in a salad bowl. Slice up your favorite apple and toss some in there. (For the portions we eat, 5 slices are about right. Sometimes I eat the rest of the apple plain… or dip it in peanut butter!)
Now wash 3-4 mini-bella mushrooms and slice them. Heat a small pan over medium -low heat with about a teaspoon of olive oil. When the pan is hot, add the mushrooms. Let them cook until they start to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle a little salt, and toss or flip them to brown then evenly.
Then place them down the middle of the salad, sprinkling feta cheese over top of them. Drizzle with a bit of salad dressing, and you’re good to go!
Fresh and healthy. You get crunch and sweet from the apples, warm earthiness from the mushrooms, creamy from the feta, and a bit of acidity from the dressing. The whole combo plays nicely on the strong taste of spinach. So delish!
What are your favorite salad creations or combinations? 🙂
This is a Second Meal using leftovers from Chicken tacos It Was inspired by a traditional Mexican dish, chilaquiles. While I didn’t have all the traditional ingredients, I decided to do what I do, and make my own version with my OHI. .
After I made chicken tacos in the crock pot, I had a bunch of meat leftover and was trying to think of another, different way to use it. I was having a late breakfast – kind of a brunch – that day, so I came up with this. It was really really good, lots of protein (so it’s filling), and not too bad for you either since the chicken taco meat is all homemade using no preservatives.
So here’s what I did!
And that’s it! Now eat and enjoy!
I’m telling you… it’s really good!
I know I haven’t been super consistent with this series, but… it’s Crock Pot Wednesday!
I’ve seen lots of recipes floating around out there for chicken tacos in the crock pot, but most of them used a lot of store-bought ingredients. So I waited for the right time, when sales and time were on my side, and cooked this up! (See what I did there? 😉
What you’ll Need
Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs*
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 batch Cassie’s Homemade Taco Seasonings (measured in teaspoons)
*More often than not, the thighs are sold with bone-in and skin on. These were miraculously on sale one day and I knew it was perfect for this recipe:
#1. I like the thigh meat better – it’s more tender and juicy, and it’s also usually cheaper.
#2. I didn’t want to worry about pulling bones out of the crock pot, or worrying if there was a small bone mixed in with my child’s taco. If you can’t find the boneless skinless variety, you could probably skin them yourself and pick the bones out when it’s finished. But I was feeling lazy ;)
This one’s really simple. Just put your chicken in the crock pot, season with some salt, and pour the taco seasonings over top.
Use a pastry brush to spread across the surface area of all the chicken. Use a tongs to lift chicken thighs up and get the seasonings underneath as well.
Then add the can of tomatoes & chilies and a thin layer of water (I think I used too much because I had to use a slotted spoon to remove my meat later – but use your discretion).
Set on low for 6 hours. Or, since I was short on time but didn’t want my chicken to be overcooked, I set it on high for the first hour and a half, then separated the meat a bit, and then set on low for the last 2-3 hours. To separate the meat, just take a metal spoon or a flat wooden spatula and poke at the chicken until the pieces fall apart. It will be pretty easy.
Here’s what it looked like with the chicken separated and cooking up in the juices:
If you have older kids that are in lots of activities, or if you and your hubby have opposite schedules one night, this is a great meal to make, because you can prep everything, and leave the crock pot to “Keep warm”. This way everyone can eat when they’re ready.
Then serve it on up with your favorite taco fixins! We use whole wheat tortillas, sour cream, salsa, limes, Mexican cheese, and I also made homemade guacamole (if you’ve read this recipe before, check it out again – I changed something that I completely forgot was the most important ingredient!).
Now wait, that’s not all… because tomorrow I’m sharing a REALLY good Second Meal using the leftover chicken!
This is Meal #6 in our meal plan using chicken breast.
You’ll Also Need:
Whole Wheat Tortillas (2 per quesadilla)
1 8oz bag Shredded Mexican blend cheese
Cilantro (you’ll need less than 1 bunch)
1 Large Mango or 2 Ataulfo Mangoes
3 Kiwi, peeled and chopped
1/4c fresh chopped Pineapple
Jalapeno (however much you like)
OPTIONAL: chimichurri **see OHI recipe (link to be added soon)
Here is the original recipe for the avocado cream and the fruit salsa.
To make the fruit salsa:
Here are the Ataulfo mangoes I used. They are smaller than the ones I normally use – but they were only $.50 each, so I went with these and they still taste the same.
Chop the mango by making knife cuts lengthwise and crosswise and then sliding your knife underneath parallel to the cutting board to remove the chunks. Add to your salsa bowl (or, to save on dishes, make directly in tupperware so you can save leftovers!).
Slice the kiwi and then chop it into smaller pieces and add to salsa.
Chop the red onion and add to salsa.
Dice up the cilantro, chop the pineapple, and add them to the salsa along with the juice from half a lime. Stir and then salt to taste.
The original recipe called for jalapeno IN the salsa, but I left it out because of the kids.
For the avocado cream:
Note: I actually like this LESS than the avocado spread I made in some OHI quesadillas. But you might like it, so I’m including the recipe here still.
Mash 1 avocado in a bowl. Add about 2 Tblspn minced cilantro, juice from the other half of the lime, 1/2c sour cream, and a little salt. Stir until well combined.
(recipe for my avocado spread soon to come on a different post – link will be at bottom)
To make the quesadillas:
1. Spread the avocado cream on one tortilla and then cover it with cheese
2. Add chopped chicken, tomatoes, red pepper, jalapeno, red onion.
3. Place another tortilla over top. With one hand on each side holding the tortillas together, place in quesadilla maker. *If you don’t have a quesadilla maker, you can make these in a large frying pan or skillet. Placing a lid or plate over the pan right away will help the cheese melt more quickly, before the tortilla burns. You can also use the fajita size tortillas and fold them over. If you cook them this way, you will probably need to flip them. Use caution and be sure the cheese is melted so you don’t end up with a mess!
4. Slice into triangles and serve with avocado cream or sour cream and fruit salsa.
**Now, I’m going to make a suggestion. After this week of chicken you might be looking to eat some BEEF. I recommend planning your next week starting with this steak with chimichurri and making the chimichurri a day or two early (it’s good in the fridge for up to a week). Before you make the quesadillas, toss the chicken in the chimichurri sauce. It. Is. SO. good!
Click here for the complete story on these OHI quesadillas, including my original avocado spread recipe!
This is Recipe #4 of our Meal Plan using Chicken Breast.
What we’re repurposing
Homemade stock (8 1/2 cups total)
Chicken, about 2 breasts worth, chopped
*Note: I love dark meat in soup too. If you prefer shredded meat, you can use chicken thighs and the soup is equally good!
What you need
Half an onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, cut in half lengthwise and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Carrot – probably about 1/2 cup total, peeled and chopped
Noodles – Whatever shape your family likes. This time I used whole wheat rotini.
*Optional: Seasonings (bay leaf, oregano, parsley, basil are good in chicken soup)
I like to let my soup cook as long as possible, because it develops flavor better that way. And usually, the longer you let the chicken simmer in the broth, the softer it gets and it breaks into smaller pieces. I started my prep around 9:30 in the morning and we ate around 4:30.
In a stock pot or large sauce pan add a pat of butter, then add your chopped onion.
Here’s how I like to do my carrots. One end is always thicker than the other, so right in the middle I cut the carrot in half:
If you’re using additional seasonings, now’s the time to add them. Sprinkle maybe a 1/2 teaspoon of each that you’d like to use and stir. I didn’t use them this time because I just wanted a good chicken flavor and a more mild broth since I’m still on the mend. Plus our chicken was heavily seasoned, so that will add lots of flavor.
Now we’re going to “sweat” the veggies. Place the lid on the pot and let them cook for a few minutes. When you open it again, it will be steamy, aromatic, and the veggies will be nice and soft:
Continue to simmer over low heat until dinner time – another 3 hours is good.
Add your choice of noodles about 10 – 15 minutes prior to serving, depending on the type of noodles. Remember that the longer it simmers with the noodles in it, the more the noodles will absorb the liquid. So be careful not to leave it too long, or you’ll end up with no broth!
Serve with salad and a nice loaf of bread.