Strawberry Shortcake Muffins

It’s no secret that I like to serve fun treats for breakfast.  If it’s made with whole grains, is low in (natural) sugar, can be served with fruit and/or eggs, and will keep my family nourished and full for at least two hours before they start asking for a snack or lunch, I consider it a breakfast food.  Don’t get me started on my frequent rant of “who decided store bought donuts, honey buns, fruit loops, or other sugar-filled negative calories are a part of this balanced breakfast????”

You’ve already been informed of my Giant Breakfast Cookies, Breakfast Cake, and Homemade Poptarts.  I’ve also shared that I occasionally serve homemade apple pie or peach cobbler for breakfast.  Filling and wholesome, less sugar than drizzling syrup over a pancake = breakfast of champions.  (Or at least of my boys, who I consider to be champions, without a doubt.)

While strawberries have been in season, from time to time, I have served Strawberry Shortcake for breakfast.  It’s made with whole wheat and honey, and topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.  If that’s not breakfast, I don’t know what is.  My boys agree, of course.

Recently, I decided to bake my Shortcake batter in muffin cups for a fun twist.  It was super easy. I made them the night before, and had a great breakfast to present to my family the next morning.

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Find the recipe here.  Instead of spreading the batter in a pan, scoop it into 10-12 well greased or paper-lined muffin cups.  Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.  Serve with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

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What are some “treats” you serve for breakfast? 

(And by the way, we enjoy the occasional Krispy Kreme when we’re visiting family or friends.  It’s fun -just not a regular occurrence at our house. )  :)

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Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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What’s great about having a recipe that is flourless?  If you have run out of flour, you can still make this cookie.

Profound.

But there’s more.  Because these don’t have flour in them, they turn out super moist and chewy.  Trust me when I say that there is much yum in one of these cookies.  (Or in three or more of these cookies if you just can’t control yourself.)

And…if you’re someone who eats gluten free or you’re baking for someone who eats gluten free, these cookies fit the bill.  I have no idea what the phrase “fit the bill” means.  Are we talking about a dollar bill, or the bill of a hat?  Or maybe we’re talking about a duck?  I went to school with a boy named Bill.  As far as I know, he can eat flour.  But I’m guessing he would still really like these cookies.

Anyway, I should look up the phrase “fit the bill” someday when I have spare time, which will be never, since I typically spend my free time rambling about ducks, hats, and my classmates who like cookies.  Come to think of it, I don’t remember Bill ever wearing a hat.

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup natural peanut butter (I use homemade)
1 cup sucanat or brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Cream together peanut butter, sucanat, egg, vanilla, and baking soda.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Place 1 1/2 inch balls of dough about two inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Bake in a 350° oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cookies will firm up as they cool, so do not overbake.  Allow the cookies to sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.  Makes about 18 cookies.

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You will love how easy these cookies are to make.  If you need to, you can prepare this dough up to five days in advance, pulling out the dough and baking as needed.  How very handy.  You can also mix up the dough, shape it into balls, and freeze them unbaked.  Then, when you need a cookie fix or you need to quickly bake cookies for an event, all you have to do is put them on a pan and bake them as directed.

I’m telling you, if you’re looking for an easy, delicious cookie, these really hit the nail on the head (because I just hate to use the phrase ”fit the bill” twice in one post).

And for the record, I couldn’t resist.  I took the time to look up where the phrase “fit the bill” comes from.  Turns out, “Fit the bill” is a British, American and Australian idiom which means to have the qualities or experience which are needed. Thank you online search engine.  I already understood what it meant.  I just didn’t understand its origin.

Well, I guess we’ll never know.  Maybe I should just ask Bill.  He was, after all, our class Valedictorian.

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Homemade Grape Nuts Cereal

A huge thank you to Michelle for telling me about this recipe idea!!

High Five Recipes 2

First of all, I have to ask – because I know you’re all dying to know the answer to this as well:  Why is this cereal called “Grape Nuts” when there are neither grapes nor nuts included in the list of ingredients?  Haven’t you always wondered about that?  Who named this cereal?  And why, if they were going to call it something random like this, did they not call it “Pickle Sprouts” or Olive Berries?”  How about “Banana Seeds?”  I mean, if we’re going for titles that don’t make sense…

Yeah, don’t waste much time pondering that paragraph.

At the Colorado Springs Meet & Greet, we talked about everything from kids and media time to cereal.  When Michelle told us she made a cereal like this, we all got super excited!

Homemade Grape Nuts

Looks like the real deal, huh? This cereal is pretty tasty with berries!

Homemade Grape Nuts is super easy to make, and I personally think it tastes better than the boxed stuff.  Can you guess my kids’ first question when I introduced them to this at breakfast?   “Looks good, but why is it called Grape Nuts?”  I don’t know, Son.  I don’t know.

Homemade Grape Nuts Cereal

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat)
1 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
2 cups buttermilk (or milk mixed with 2 Tablespoons vinegar)
2/3 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix all ingredients together, beating well until smooth.  Spread mixture onto a parchment paper lined (or well buttered) cookie sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes in a 375° oven. Remove cereal from the oven, and cool completely.  Once cool, grind in a food processor until it becomes “crumb like.”

Return crumbs to cookie sheet or a large baking pan.  Bake in a 250° oven for one hour or until crisp, stirring every 15 minutes.

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I found it easiest to bake the crumbs in a dish with sides (my 10×15 pyrex) so that I could stir more easily.

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Cool the cereal and store it in an air tight container in the pantry (for about two weeks) or freezer (for up to two months).

The geek in me decided to do the math to see if this was not only a High Five Recipe, but a Real Food Dollar Menu recipe as well.  Sure enough!  It took about $2.00 to make a batch of this cereal – using all organic ingredients.  This makes about twice as much cereal as you would find in a regular sized box of Grape Nuts.  When’s the last time you were able to buy a box of whole grain, organic cereal for a buck?

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far:

Tell me you’ve always wondered where Grape Nuts got its name.  And by always, I obviously mean, “Yes, I’ve pondered that for a second or two once in my life.”

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Perfecting Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola

I consider myself to be a pretty good cook.  I’m not bragging.  I’m simply stating that I really enjoy cooking, I can throw together meals and snacks quite efficiently, and when people eat my food, they often say, “Yum, this is good.”

But for the life of me, I can’t make a No-Bake Cookie.  It’s the recipe most ten year olds can make and the cookie even those who hate cooking can create without issue.  But me?  I can’t get a No-Bake Cookie to turn out no matter what I try.  I’ve turned that job over to our 16 year old because he has the method down pat and makes perfect No-Bake Cookies nine times out of ten (even though I think he’s really only made them six times in his life but who’s counting?).

So would you believe that last week, while I was making a batch of Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola - I turned out a perfect batch of No-Bake Cookies?!  Yes.  I cannot make them when I try, but when I’m trying to make something different, I actually master the blasted cookie.  So let’s review:

1.  I stink at making No-Bake Cookies.  I have attempted making them at least 14 times in my life and have had success…never.

2.  Asa is great at making No-Bake Cookies.  The job is his.

3.  A few weeks ago, Asa was making No-Bake Cookies but they got crumbly so we turned the mixture into Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola.  That was his one time out of ten (or six or whatever) that he didn’t get them perfect. 

4.  The granola was delicious, I reduced the sugar and posted the recipe because everyone needed to have access to it.

5.  I then tried making the granola again, and turned out the best No-Bake Cookies ever.

Unbelievable.  You’ve got to love the lame irony.  But hey, we’re talking about peanut butter, chocolate, oats, butter, and vanilla – all favorite ingredients of mine.  I’m not whining too loudly.

So just in case you want to make Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola, but end up with No-Bake Cookies, I will share with you how I solved my “problem.”  I added a few extra oats to soak up the liquid (which did not help the mixture turn into granola – just really oaty cookies).  Then I spread the mixture on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and baked it at 250° for one hour, stirring occasionally.  The granola got nice and crispy (and made my house smell amazing).

I will now go edit the Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola recipe page to share these suggestions in case you too accidentally find yourself with No-Bake Cookies.  If only all mistakes in the kitchen were this delicious.  :)

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How are you at making No Bake Cookies?  I think I might be the only person on the planet who can’t make them.  ;)

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Pineapple Mango Smoothies (No Sugar Added – Dairy Free Option)

High Five Recipes 2

We were on our way home from Kansas City after a weekend event our boys had participated in.  The event had been awesome, our boys had done great, and we were all flying high.  Except for Asa (our 15 year old) and me.  It appeared that the two of us were coming down with the flu.  Our throats hurt, our chests burned, and we both began to get feverish.  Our eyes were red and achy.  Our heads pounded.

(Great story so far, eh?)

We were both a little bit hungry, although nothing really sounded good to eat.  We had packed food, but all of it seemed too difficult to eat.  Funny how the normally simple act of chewing takes so much energy when you’re sick.  All I could think of was, “I just want a smoothie.”  (Well, and “I just want my bed.” But out on the interstate, a few hours from home, that was not an option.)

Matt, bless his heart, was determined to find his feverish bride a smoothie.  We finally managed to find a place that had some decent options (without too many funky, sugary ingredients).  I chose a pineapple mango variety and aside from the fact that it was cold and made my chills just a little bit more miserable – I had never enjoyed a smoothie more.  It was so refreshing.  It was just what Asa and I needed.  We slept the rest of the way home.

Asa and I are all better now.  In fact, this all happened a couple of months ago.  But ever since, I’ve been craving a Pineapple Mango Smoothie.  I typically make my smoothies with berries – which we love.  But the refreshment that comes from pineapple, mango, and orange juice all blended up in a glass?  I knew I needed to recreate this treasure.

It’s not hard to make – you just need five simple ingredients.  Add a little maple syrup or stevia if it’s not sweet enough for you.  We think it’s sweet enough as is.  Coconut milk makes it taste great and offers a dairy free option if you need it.  We like it with plain, whole milk yogurt.  I think I may make these every single day this summer.

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Pineapple Mango Smoothie

1 1/2 cups frozen mango chunks
1 1/2 cups frozen pineapple chunks
1 cup orange juice
2 cups plain yogurt or coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor together.  Blend until smooth.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Pineapple Mango Smoothie

What’s your favorite fruit smoothie combination?  For the record, I don’t recommend getting the flu before trying this.  It’s much more fun to eat when you can hold your head up off the pillow.

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Cranberry White Chocolate Breakfast Cookies

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Just in case you’ve never tried this before.  Just in case you hadn’t thought of this idea.  Just in case you want a breakfast or snack that will make you pass out cold on the floor because it is so delicious.

I thought you should know that the Giant Breakfast Cookie recipe made with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips are really, really wonderful.  I used about a half cup of each (instead of raisins or chocolate chips) when mixing up the dough.  I almost sort of felt guilty eating these and serving them for breakfast.  But then I got over it and helped myself to a second one.

Yum.

Where do I get white chocolate chips?  I found some at Vitacost that aren’t necessarily as good for you as green beans, but aren’t as horrible as those that have hydrogenated oils.  We won’t eat these every day for breakfast, but when we do, I will enjoy myself very much.

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What other tasty combinations have you figured out to add to the Giant Breakfast Cookie recipe?

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Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

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It really pays to listen to your friends.  (Not all of them though, because if they’re encouraging you to do things that aren’t good for you, maybe you should consider getting new friends.)

Well where did that piece of parenting advice come from?

Anyway, I happen to have good friends, so I feel that it is okay to listen to them.  It just so happens that I had two friends in one week tell me that I was missing out by not adding sweet potatoes to my menus more often.  When the first friend said it, I kind of nodded and smiled.  But when a second friend mentioned it a few days later, I sort of wondered if God was trying to tell me something.

Okay, I’m pretty sure He is working in bigger ways in my life than sweet potato consumption encouragement.  But still.  I figured there might be something to this sweet potato thing since it came up twice in one week with two different people at two separate times.  (Am I making too much of this?  I mean, should I just get around to sharing the recipe already?)

Why have I not been eating or feeding my family sweet potatoes very often, as in, pretty much never?  It’s very simple really.  As a child, the only way I had been served sweet potatoes was in a casserole with brown sugar and marshmallows at Thanksgiving and I didn’t like it one bit.  If I’m going to eat something sweet, I want it to be a dessert – not as a side dish with my turkey.  But that’s just me.  I’m the one who needs chocolate with my sugar.  What can I say?

But, per my friends’ suggestions, I decided to try making sweet potato fries.  They looked and smelled great.  I ate one.  Hmmm, it was okay, I guess.  But I kept thinking about marshmallows, and couldn’t get past it.

By the way, I don’t like marshmallows.

But I’m a big girl, and all grown up, so I made myself eat a second sweet potato fry.  And then a third.  Oh wait.  They suddenly began to taste good to me.  Then, before I knew it, I had to tell myself to stop eating the sweet potato fries and save some for my family.  (I didn’t feel bad though, because usually it’s the other way around and I’m the one asking my family to save me some food before they inhale all of it.)

So it turns out that while I think my friends may have helped me become an addict in this regard, it does pay to give in to sweet potato peer pressure.

How to Make Sweet Potato Fries:

Scrub and cut sweet potatoes into wedges or fries – as thin as you like.  Toss them in olive oil or coconut oil (about 1 Tablespoon per sweet potato).  Place them in a single layer on a baking pan.  Sprinkle on sea salt and bake in a 400° oven for 30-40 minutes.

or

Deep fry the cut sweet potatoes in a fryer (we have this one, which works great) for 3-4 minutes, remove, salt, and eat.

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What is your relationship with sweet potatoes?  How do you like them cooked?  And while it’s completely irrelevant, I am curious.  Do you like marshmallows?

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola

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I’m guessing that many of the greatest recipe ”inventions” have happened by accident.  Asa (our 15 year old) really didn’t mean to create this wonderful Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola.  His real intent was to make No-Bake Cookies for a mission trip fund-raising meal last Sunday.  But somehow the liquid ingredients got slightly overcooked, the oats made the mixture way too dry, and no way no how was a cookie going to be formed once it was all said and done.  I told him to press his mixture into a 9×13 inch pan and that we’d try cutting them into bars later.  While that was a brilliant idea, it didn’t work any better than forming the mixture into cookies.  We ended up with peanut butter chocolate oat crumbles instead.  Peanut butter chocolate oat crumbles that tasted really, really good.  :)

And so – we all just grabbed a bowl and a spoon and had at it.  (While planning a different dessert to take to the fund-raising meal.)

I’m calling this “granola” because that’s what it looks and feels like.  But I do have a hard time calling this a healthy breakfast or snack.  While it is made with real food ingredients, it is still more dessert-like, for sure.  In an effort to make this a little less sugary, and a bit more diverse for “stir-in” options, I’ve tweaked the ingredients from the original cookie recipe Asa used.  I’m pretty sure it will still taste awesome with less sugar than originally called for in the cookie recipe!

By the way – depending on how you make this, it can be completely dairy free if you wish.  :)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1/2 cup milk or coconut milk
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (we use homemade peanut butter)
1 cup sucanat or 1/2 cup honey
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes (optional)

Put butter, milk, peanut butter, sucanat, and cocoa into a medium sized saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Allow the mixture to boil for one minute.  Remove from heat.  Add vanila, oats, and coconut flakes.  If the mixture is too liquidy add a few more oats or coconut flakes until you reach desired consistency.

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Or shucks.  If you “mess up” this recipe and the mixture turns out to be nice and smooth instead of crumbly – go ahead and spoon it onto wax paper and make No-Bake Cookies.  ;)

 UPDATE:  If you do find your mixture too wet:  Add a few extra oats to soak up the liquid.  Then put it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and baked it at 250° for one hour, stirring occasionally. The granola should get nice and crispy!

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Easy Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

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I’ve probably already written this sentence a time or three, but here it is again:  Cream cheese makes everything better!

Or was I talking about butter when I said that?  Actually, maybe it was cream?  Well, the same is true for cream cheese, butter, and cream.  (Although I will draw the line at adding any of the above to my lettuce salad.)

This recipe includes both cream and cream cheese.  And homemade vanilla.  (Or store bought vanilla, but homemade is so YUM.)  And then there is just a bit of maple syrup to make it sweet.  Last but not least – you’ll add a shot of lemon or lime juice.  Here are the specifics:

Easy Fruit Dip

1/2 cup cream (heavy whipping cream)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice (fresh or bottled)

Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.  In a separate bowl, cream together the cream cheese, maple syrup, vanilla, and lemon or lime juice.  Fold cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream.  Chill until ready to serve, or serve right away.

Tastes great with strawberries, grapes, and apples.  Makes about two cups of dip.

Cream Cheese Fruit Dip
Have to eat dairy free?  This wasn’t a winner of a post for you then, was it?!  I’ll try to make it up to you next time.  :)  Everyone else – multiple choice question:

Everything is better with:
a) butter
b) cream cheese
c) cream
d) all of the above

I’d love to hear your opinion on this one!

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Breakfast Pizza {Real Food Dollar Menu}

Our boys discovered that you can use my Whole Wheat Pizza Crust to make an awesome Breakfast Pizza. They also discovered that if you work ahead in your math book, you will finish ahead of schedule. On the contrary, if you avoid doing math some days, you will have to do double the lessons on the days you’d really rather go outside and play with your brothers on the trampoline.

But back to the pizza.

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Make it just like you would a regular homemade pizza, using this crust recipe.  Top it with salsa, scrambled eggs, cheese, and any other toppings of choice - like veggies and meat.  Homemade Turkey Sausage is great on this pizza!

Bake it as directed.  Serve with fruit.

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Without adding meat, I found that it cost about $4.52 to make this meal, which filled my family of six.  That’s about 75¢ per person, for a meal that actually sticks with them for several hours!

Easy, delicious, filling, versatile, inexpensive, and healthy.  What more could you want?  (Except maybe to be finished with math lessons for the year.)

*I calculated my cost based on the food sources and prices I have available to me. Most of the ingredients I use are organic. Your cost may be slightly more or less depending on where you find your ingredients.

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far:

Stay tuned for many more recipes and ideas for our Real Food Dollar Menu!

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