How About That? God Really Does Work Everything Out.

gratituesday[2]

Remember this post? You know, that one post I wrote last September? The one where I shared this:

I hate to spoil the ending...

The one where I talked about how we had no idea how everything would work out for our oldest son at the end of the school year? How we didn’t have any idea what would be best for him? How if he chose college, which one would it be and how we could work that out financially? How there were so many unknowns and what ifs and major decisions to make?

And more importantly, the one where I shared that God was teaching me to trust – like for real.

Last school year was wonderful and exhausting in countless ways. In the midst of it, we knew God had a plan and would roll it out for us in His timing. But when I wrote this post, we had no idea how the story would end. I just knew that it would…end. And that the ending would be good because God was writing the story.

In the midst of the waiting (we all know what that’s like, right? no matter what it is we’re waiting for) – our minds can turn toward all kinds of doubt and worry. We can invent scenarios that may or may not happen and then create all sorts of responses to the made up scenarios.

Unless any of those thoughts are Spirit led, they are absolutely pointless and completely exhausting. When I look back on our school year and how we watched our son learn to listen to God as he made his decisions, I am…

1) Really glad it’s behind us because it was just hard. Good, but hard.
2) So excited to realize God’s absolute promises and His guidance in everything. Everything. All of it. Every single bit.

We should never doubt. Never, ever, ever.

Not sure about an employment situation looming in your future? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure about a decision you’re making about parenting? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure how you can possibly afford whatever that need is that there is no money for?  God knows. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure what to do about forty different questions floating in your head about everything from little to big? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

God never asked us to get it all figured out. He only asked for our faith. If you don’t believe me, go read all the words of Jesus in the gospels. All of them. They will change your life.

And oh yeah – about this post. The one where I wrote about how we had no idea how the story would end, about what would be best, about how we would survive such a major change in our lives (yeah, I know, all the parents do it, but it’s hard and that’s just the truth). Go back and read this.

Then. Then read this one. Seven months after I wrote the “we have no idea” post – I was blessed to be able to write the “well look at that. now we know” post.

There is always an ending to the story. If we’re seeking God, the ending is beautiful. If we’re not, well, God can still work and God is always lovingly waiting for us to turn to Him.

I write this as a reminder. To you – to me. Trust God. Where there are question marks, trust God. There will always be question marks. But there will always be answers because God is God and He is faithful. And because of that, there can always be peace.

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Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Recipe

Real Food Velveeta and Rotel Dip

To be clear, this recipe does not include Velveeta as one can not use the words “real food” and “velveeta” in the same recipe and be telling the truth. In addition, this is not a recipe for Velveeta. I refuse to experiment to come up with a way to make a cheese product that has a shelf life.

But. As many of you know, I have a ridiculous love for the completely nasty and absolutely delicious Velveeta Rotel Dip that I grew up on as a kid. You may remember that I wrote a love letter to Velveeta a few years ago and bid her farewell as I created a tasty dip to replace her. Sure enough, we make that dip frequently at our house as it is super easy, all real food, and absolutely yummy.

But. That recipe, as good as it is, is still not the same as the Velveeta Rotel Dip I crave. That is why (and I’m not proud of this) sometimes I put a $6 log of boxed cheese product (otherwise known as Velveeta) into my cart along with 2 cans of Rotel and I bring it home and I melt it together and I eat it even though it is terribly terrible and truthfully it doesn’t even taste as good to me as it used to because of that whole real food thing I’m into now which has made all bad foods taste like chemicals on a tortilla chip.

So what is my problem?

Problem? I don’t have a problem.

Okay fine. Whatever. I have a problem.

And also? When did fake cheese become so expensive? You’d think that would deter me from buying it. But as I said, I have a problem.

It was either time to begin a Velveeta support group or get back in the kitchen to try my hand at another dip recipe since I’ve only tried like seventeen other times and posted like five other cheese dip recipes through the years and may have to rename this website to cheesediprecipesforaddicts.com with the tag line “All Cheese Dip Recipes, All the Time.”

A support group was out of the question because it is my understanding that they don’t serve chip dip at those meetings. So here we are again, back in the kitchen for another attempt at a real food version of my beloved dip.

You guys. I think I nailed it this time. And I mean that with all the humility and sweetness possible, but hey guess what? I just made the best chip dip ever!!! 

So here’s how this dip becomes amazing. Two things:

  1. We must make a cheese sauce for this to work. This requires butter and corn starch and actual cheese. Relax. It’s not as hard as it sounds.
  2. We must use actual Rotel or an off brand of “diced tomatoes and green chilies. Salsa isn’t the same. Thankfully, Rotel is still a real food – read the ingredient label and rejoice.

Note: My wonderful grass-fed beef produces the perfect amount of fat so I never have to drain off grease. In order to make a sauce, one must have fat or grease to work with. That’s why my recipe includes butter. Depending on what meat you have, I recommend either skipping the butter (if your meat has some grease to work with) or draining the grease and adding the butter or using your grease with some butter. Just so you have about 4 Tablespoons of fat to work with, you’re golden.

Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip Recipe

1 pound hamburger meat
2-4 Tablespoons butter
2 heaping Tablespoons corn starch
1 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder
sea salt to taste
2 cups heavy cream
10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel)
1-2 cups shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese

Brown the hamburger meat in a large pot. Add butter to the meat, melting it throughout the pot. Sprinkle in corn starch, coating the meat. Pour in water, chili powder, and salt. Turn heat up and stir until the mixture thickens. Add cream, continuing to stir as the mixture thickens. (This all happens quickly in my experience.) Stir in Rotel, heating for about 2 more minutes. Remove from heat. Add shredded cheese, stirring until the cheese has melted and the dip is smooth.

If you don’t remove your sauce before adding cheese, your cheese will end up funky and not smooth and creamy. You’ve been warned, so don’t add your cheese while your pot is still on the stove, then email me and ask why your cheese got funky. Not that anyone would ever do that.

Real Food Velveeta and Rotel Recipe

If you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen eating another bowl of my homemade not velveeta but way better than velveeta because it’s real food Chip Dip.

Who wants to come join me? I need to know who loves this dip as much as me. Admit it. Join my support group – the one where there IS CHIP DIP AT THE MEETINGS because my support group meetings rock and we support one another by eating dip.

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Who Has a Favorite Pen? Everyone, Right?

I have a favorite pen. I know I’m not the only one. You also have a favorite pen, right?

For whatever reason, my nicest handwriting, my best brainstorming, and my most meaningful journaling times are when I’m using my favorite pen. This may be as weird as my “can’t handle sticker on produce” issues so if you don’t also have a favorite pen…just whatever. Not all pens are created equal and if it isn’t my Pentel, I just can’t write nicely. This is for real.

pentel

I really prefer a black pen (thanks for asking) but the colored ones are fun too. They have these squishy finger grippers that are just right for, you know, gripping. If I lose the lid to my pen, it ruins the entire writing experience because while I’m writing, the lid to my pen must be securely on the end of the pen or I just can’t hold it correctly. This is also for real.

I should probably stick to blogging recipes and homemaking stuff because writing about my weirdness may scare people away. Though I, for one, think that good pens are a part of homemaking. The best grocery lists are written with pens like these. And they are certainly a part of my healthy spiritual walk (reference the meaningful journaling times above).

Well, all that to say: If you don’t have a favorite pen, maybe you’d like my favorite pen to become your favorite pen? Then we can {squeal!} be pen pals (except not the actual kind who write letters to each other, because while I love the idea of that, I stink at writing letters to people. I’m not proud of this.)

So there I was, looking at Amazon for organic food coupons (found this one for coconut oil) – and would you believe I came across a coupon for a whole pack of my favorite pens?! Indeed. Plus, they are marked down 58% off. Be still my heart.

I’m going to grab a couple of packs to use for all the reasons I love these pens, plus to share with the teen girls at church camp I’ll be teaching in a few weeks. I figure they might not yet have a favorite pen so I need to take advantage of these moments during their formative years.

Please tell me you have a favorite pen.

This post contains affiliate links.

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We Can Bake Quick Breads in a Slow Cooker!

You Can Bake Bread in a Crock Pot!

I had no idea that this was an actual thing. Did you?? I came across this idea here and am ever so grateful.

I’ve been baking potatoes in a crock pot for several years, but I did not know a person could bake quick bread this way too. (And also yeast bread, but I’m trying to perfect that idea before posting about it. You can look forward to that…as will I if I can ever figure out how to do it right.)

This is going to change how we eat this summer. No more avoiding bread on hot days since I never want to turn on the oven. However, since I only have one crock pot, I can obviously only do one loaf of bread at a time. This is a little bit limiting for my family of huge eaters. But all I’ll have to do to remedy this is scramble up a bunch of eggs and make a blender (or two) full of smoothies to go with our loaf, and we’ve got a meal.

I’ve tried this idea with two different types of quick breads – Chocolate Chip Bread and Snickerdoodle (it was a recipe experiment). Both worked great! This leads me to believe that any quick bread recipe will work. (Actually, I’m not sure about gluten free breads. Anyone have experience with this?)

How to Bake Quick Bread in a Crock Pot

How to Bake Quick Bread in a Crock Pot

1. Turn your crock pot onto “hi” to preheat.

2. Mix your quick bread as usual and put it into a buttered loaf pan. (I used glass as I’m not sure about using a stone in my crock pot. Any have experience with this?)

3. Wad up two pieces of tin foil and place them at the bottom of your crock pot. This will offer some space under your bread pan which will help your bread bake better.

bread in crock pot 2
4. Set your loaf pan into your crock pot. (Mine is actually barely the right size, so it didn’t fit all the way in thus negating the need for wads of foil. As you can see in the pictures above, my pan sat on the edge of the top of the crock. It worked perfectly.)

5. Place the lid on your crock pot slightly off centered so as to allow a little bit of steam to escape during baking.

6. Leave the bread to bake in the crock pot for about 2 hours. You’ll be able to watch it baking from the outside into the middle, making it quite easy to see when it has finished baking.

bread in crock pot 3

How excited are you to learn this fun trick?! What quick bread are you going to try baking in your crock pot first? I’m asking because I know you are going to try this right away, this minute, today, as soon as you stand up.

P.S. Look through our quick bread/muffin recipes here.

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No-Bake Snickerdoodle Bites – A Quick and Easy Low Sugar Treat

I’ve been making a treat similar to this recipe for several years (found over at TheNourishingHome.com). I’ve tweaked it here and there…then sort of forgotten all about this great treat. Last week I decided I needed a lightly sweetened snack. Not salty. Not desserty. Not meaty. Just something filling and lightly sweetened.

These Snickerdoodle Bites are perfect.

snickerdoodle bites2

I’ve kept these Snickerdoodle Bites in my fridge, grabbing one in the afternoon when I need a little something to get me through until dinner. Because these are made with coconut flour, they are filling and nourishing. And did I mention that they are lightly sweetened to perfection? Like, if they were produced in mass and put into a box, the box would definitely say, “Lightly sweetened…to perfection.” Yep, that’s what it would say.

No-Bake Snickerdoodle Bites

1 cup creamy almond butter or peanut butter (almond butter is my fav for these)
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut flour

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Roll the mixture into teaspoon-sized (or whatever sized) balls. Refrigerate before serving – or just start eating because who can wait?

Do feel free to add more honey if you prefer – although then these might be slightly more than lightly sweetened, thus ruining my description. But I’ll never know, so it won’t matter, and truly – we want these to be perfectly sweetened for your family’s delight.

No-Bake Snickerdoodle Bites - a quick and easy low sugar treat

Coconut flour is naturally gluten free – a great option for those of you who must avoid gluten. Our family doesn’t not need to avoid gluten – however we like coconut flour because it is so rich in nutrients! “Coconut flour is the fiber from coconut meat after most of the oil has been extracted to make coconut oil.” (source: Tropical Traditions) Adding protein and fiber to our (lightly sweetened) snacks? Yes please!

Where do I get coconut flour? I either order it from Tropical Traditions or Amazon. (Right now, this coconut flour at Amazon is a wonderful price!) Here are some of my other coconut flour recipes:

But right now, these lightly sweetened No-Bake Snickerdoodle Bites are my favorite coconut flour recipe. It’s probably because they only take 5 minutes to prepare and don’t require baking. And also because they are lightly sweetened to perfection.

Are you a fan of coconut flour? How do you use it at your house? 

This post includes affiliate links.

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What is Whole Wheat Pastry Flour? Where Do I Get It? How Do I Use It?

There’s this stuff called “whole wheat pastry flour” I keep talking about in my Low Sugar Treat baked goods. What in the world??

Never fear. I shall explain. You need to know this so that you can make this Low Sugar Super Moist Chocolate Cake. And probably for other reasons too.

All About Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

What is Pastry Flour?

First let me explain a little bit about different varieties of wheat so you can understand what makes pastry flour. There are other grains worth mentioning, but to keep things simple (I like simple), let’s just stick to what is most commonly used and what I like best. (Not that it’s all about me and my preferences, but I am the one writing this so…)

Hard Red Wheat

This is most commonly used in store-bought breads. It has a high protein content and a heavier texture and flavor. When you purchase “Whole Wheat Flour” at the store, you are most likely getting flour ground from red wheat. This is all good, however, it is my least favorite flour to bake with and eat. My experience is that breads turn out too heavy and dense when made with red wheat.

Hard White Wheat

I prefer the hard white variety of grain over red wheat a million times over. It is slightly lower in protein, but still offers all the goodness and nutrition of whole grain with a lighter taste and texture. Don’t let the word “white” throw you off here. It’s not white flour – it is a white wheat grain used which makes a delicious whole wheat flour. I use this almost exclusively in my kitchen. Or at least I did…

Soft White Wheat

This is my new love. Soft wheat has a low protein content, making it light and fluffy and absolutely wonderful to work with. It is this soft wheat that becomes Whole Wheat Pastry Flour when ground. Aha! Now we know what pastry flour is.

Take a look at the following picture, although it’s a little bit tough to see the difference in the grains of wheat. On the right are “soft wheat berries” and on the left are “hard wheat berries.”

hard wheat soft wheat

The soft wheat berries are a bit more rounded whereas the hard wheat berries are more flat and pokey. (I excel in the use of adjectives.)

How to Use Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

This is very important! While soft wheat produces a pastry flour that looks and acts like all-purpose flour in many ways, we cannot use soft wheat in any recipes that include yeast because it does not contain enough gluten. Ground soft wheat (pastry flour) can only be used in non-yeast recipes like muffins, quick breads, pancakes, waffles, cakes, and cookies.

But let me tell you what I’m learning! Grinding soft wheat into whole wheat pastry flour for use in non-yeast goodies is fantastic! Hard wheat can be used in any recipe – yeast or no. But soft wheat (pastry flour) helps cakes and muffins bake up softer and lighter.

Lookie. Here’s my freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour.
Doesn’t it make you want to bake a cake?
(Scroll through these recipes for low sugar cake recipes.)

Pastry Flour 3

Where Can You Get Whole Wheat Pastry Flour?

Well, you can buy some Soft White Wheat Berries and grind your own if you have a grain mill. (I have a Nutrimill.)

Or, you can purchase ready-made whole wheat pastry flour from Amazon or Vitacost (learn how to get $10 off your first Vitacost order here). You can order some through a health food co-op like Azure Standard or another one you are a part of. And while I haven’t looked and don’t have one close-by, I would imagine that stores like Whole Foods and Natural Grocers carries it.

So Let’s Review

Hard wheat makes regular whole wheat flour which can be used in ANY whole wheat flour recipe.

Soft wheat makes whole wheat pastry flour which can only be used in non-yeast recipes like muffins, quick breads, pancakes, waffles, cakes, and cookies.

You can keep it simple and use regular whole wheat flour for all of your baking needs. Or you can use pastry flour for your non-yeast baking for a lighter, fluffier baked good, then use regular whole wheat flour for yeast breads.

For more information about flour, grain, and varieties of wheat, you may want to look through all of my posts on Grains and Grain Mills.

What is your favorite flour to use in baking? Do you use a variety or stick to one kind?

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So…What Are the Cake Boys Up to Now?

Remember the Cake Boys? That series of videos, started by our little boys, was the beginning of what has become a passion of theirs: video and music creation.

cake boys

In fact, Asa (who is now 18) plans to make a career of videography. His chosen college major is Business Communication, which will guide him in the right direction for pursuing his own business as a videographer. He continues to learn, experiment, and develop his talent. He researched and used some of his savings to purchase a very nice camera as well as professional video editing software. The guy is well on his way. He even has his first professional video job later this summer (filming and editing a wedding video). Skies are the limit with how he can use his creativity in videography.

And Justus? He’s 15 now and while he also loves creating videos, he has also discovered a bigger passion and talent for music. He is taking both piano and guitar lessons, and he loves singing. Even more, he is gifted with the ability to compose music sound tracks on FL Studio – music creation software Matt found and invested in for the boys a few years ago.

Elias (13) and Malachi (10) join in with both music and video creation from time to time. We are anxious to see how God continues to grow all of the boys and develop their talents.

So Cake Boys videos have given way to several varieties of videos – both fun and serious. It amazes me. I cry like I’m their mom every time I watch something they create.

Here are two of their recent “Ace Video” productions, now being shown in Asa’s YouTube account.

NOTE TO PARENTS: The first video below, called “Refresh” was created with kids in our youth group to encourage and refresh a large gathering of teens we hosted for a youth rally at our church back in January. The struggles addressed in this video are real to life and important. However, some of the content is a little bit heavy for young viewers, so please use discretion. Matt and I are actually featured in this video (oh my) and you can be assured that nothing is actually being smoked. Video editing software is amazing, which makes the cigs look very real (oh my). I told you you’d need to use discretion. The video is powerful and had a huge impact at the youth rally. Note the sound track, as it was created completely by Justus, specifically to fit this video.

Refresh

Below is the boys’ most recent video in which they took four of their favorite songs and recreated them into a music video “mashup.” No viewer discretion needed on this one! It’s awesome, music fun!

Brothas C Mashup

I’m offering you this show-and-tell for two reasons:

1. Many have asked about the Cake Boys. Sniff (and rejoice) along with me that the little boys in those videos are not little boys any more, but are instead becoming young men working for the Lord and following His leading. We get quite a kick out of watching the boys’ first video attempts – hearing their young boy voices that are now such deep manly voices. Now you know what the Cake Boys are up to these days!

2. I want to encourage you to be excited – as we are – to watch God develop the talents in your children as they grow. Not sure what your kids’ talents are? Pray. Ask God to bring them to light in His time, then watch Him do His work. You will be amazed at what our Father will do. Be prepared to foster your child’s talents, but most of all – be at peace, resting in the truth that the Lord will do His work.

Happy Gratituesday, by the way! I’d love for you to leave a comment to share what God is doing in your life – specifically in the lives of your children if you are a parent.

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Stickers on Produce. I Cannot Handle It.

Those of you who know me well are very aware that I have plenty of weirdness lurking in my brain. Hey, we all have a variety or three of weirdness going on, do we not? We all think our personal weirdness makes sense (and is, therefore, not weird) and we do not understand why other people’s weirdness is different from ours. Then when we see someone else being weird we’re all dude, that’s so weird. When in truth, the weirdness we see in others is simply a different variety from our own weirdness because we are all weird.

The Bible backs me up on this although I think it uses more terms like “different gifts” and “knit together uniquely” and stuff like that.

So here’s one of the ways I’m weird that you likely did not know as of yet.

First, I love staring at my groceries. Yes, you knew that one already. That’s not my weird thing even though it kind of is. What you didn’t know is what I’m about to show you. I cannot handle it. I mean, it looks like a lovely table full of grocery and Bountiful Basket purchases. But as it is at this point, I can not admire it. There’s too much distraction.

stickers produce 2

There are stickers everywhere. It’s highly alarming. I want to see the pretty produce in all its natural beauty. But the bar codes and the item numbers and the sticky residue – oh it is all too much.

stickers produce1
Say it isn’t so.

stickers produce 3

So weird thing #672 about Laura: I have to take all the stickers off my produce the minute I set it down in my kitchen. The admiring of the produce cannot happen until all stickers are removed.

stickers produce 4

You think I’m kidding.

stickers produce 5

Ahhhhhhhh, there now. Now we can all stare at the pretty produce, without stickers, in all its God given glory.

stickers produce 6
Before you say, wow Laura that’s weird – let me just remind you that you also have weird things that you cannot handle. They are perhaps different from my weird things because God knit us each together uniquely amen and amen. But you, my friend, are also weird. And I mean that in the kindest, most supportive way. I do.

Today, let us embrace our weirdness. Leave a comment confessing one way you’re weird.

Just so you know, if you make fun of my weirdness, I will pretend to give you a big bear hug but what I will actually be doing is placing all 28 of my produce stickers onto your back then watching to see how long it takes you to notice. Then people will see your back full of stickers and think you’re weird and it would be for real.

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Free Summer Blessings Printables ~ Use These Free Printables to Be a Blessing!

What can you and your family do to be a blessing to someone during the next few days? I encourage you to pray with your family about this. Can you take someone some food? Visit a neighbor? How can you be a light and bless someone?

To bless your efforts (blessings all around, right?!) – we’ve made some fun Summer Blessings printables for you. They are free. Help yourself! Print as many as you like.

Summer Blessings Printables

Download the Summer Blessings Printable
Cards and Gift Tags Here!

Suggestions for ways to use these printables:

  • Print a set of 6 or 8 of the Blessed and Hello note cards. Tie them up with a ribbon and give them as a gift. Be sure to include envelopes! (Like these.)
  • Print a few Blessed and Hello note cards. Spend some time writing encouraging notes in the cards to give or send.
  • Bake something yummy, package it up and attach one of the cards or gift tags. (Here are some baked good recipes to pick from.)

What else? Leave a comment to share ideas of ways we can use these fun new printables!

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Make Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream – No Ice Cream Freezer Required

Orange Ice Cream

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Orange.

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t bore you with the ridiculous banana knock-knock joke your three year old thinks is funny every time he tells it over and over? Between my four boys, I heard that joke 45,000 times. It was so hilarious every single time, of course. If you don’t know which joke I’m talking about, I am very, very jealous and and also very happy for you. Look it up if you must, but I’m warning you: do not tell your three year old.

All jokes aside, orange you excited to try this recipe? You should be! It’s very refreshing – and super easy. No need to dig out the ice cream maker and rock salt. You do need a high power blender, however. I invested in a BlendTec about a year ago, and I’m not sure how Ma Ingalls and I ever lived without it. That thing is a power horse and makes my kitchen life so much easier. I probably use it three times every day – no exaggeration.

But speaking of exaggeration, check out this orange:

orange ice cream 1

I got two of these giants in my Bountiful Basket order last week. As you can see, this one was so huge, I could barely hold it in my hand. This recipe calls for two medium-sized oranges. The above orange does not qualify as “medium-sized.” He is an over-achiever and we are so proud. I used about 1 1/2 of this size orange for this recipe. And really, this recipe isn’t rocket science because I don’t know what rocket science is and also because this recipe is flexible in its ingredient quantities. Just freeze some orange wedges and throw them in a blender with the other stuff and it makes a really great treat.

Knock, knock.

Just kidding.

Alrighty, here is the very easy recipe, which I found here and tweaked only slightly. Thank you for the great idea, SuperHealthyKids.com!

Low Sugar Orange Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk or coconut milk
2 medium-sized oranges
3 Tablespoons maple syrup or 20 drops liquid stevia
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel oranges and divide them into sections. Lay them flat on a cookie sheet. Place them in the freezer for about two hours or until they are frozen solid.

Put half the frozen orange segments into a high power blender. Add milk and blend until smooth. Add remaining oranges, maple syrup or stevia, and vanilla. Continue blending until smooth.

Pour mixture into a 9×13 inch dish. Place in the freezer for 1-2 hours before serving. (If it is in the freezer longer than 1-2 hours, remove from freezer a few minutes before serving to make scooping easier.

Orange Ice Cream with dairy free option!

Do you have a BlendTec or other high power blender (like Vitamix)? What all do you do with it? Isn’t it great?!

 Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.
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