3/25/19

Quick & Easy Dinner Idea: Bacon, Shrimp & Pepper Stir-Fry



 



Years ago I would spend bigger money than I would like to have, to purchase extra large sized fresh shrimp; painstakingly wrap them all with strips of bacon, chop onions and peppers and finally, thread them all on skewers to grill for dinner.  If I was doing enough for guests, this could take over an hour.

It was time consuming and as our family got older and busier, there just wasn't time for it.  That slowly led to me just chopping the veggies up, adding the shrimp and marinating them in a baggy with olive oil, salt and pepper, and throwing it all together along with diced bacon into a grill basket.  This was yummy but it's hard to get everything to cook evenly.

Over the past 6 years I've found myself making it all three ways.  If I have time, I grill the bacon wrapped shrimp on skewers along with peppers, onions and mushrooms on separate skewers, and serve all together.  If we want to grill but didn't have time to do the prep work (which is about an hour that way) we use the grill basket.  But often, when it's a "Oh no, it's 5:40 and I want dinner on the table at 6!" kind of night, I've found it so fast and easy to make this on the stove.  I've even made it in the Instant Pot once by using the saute' function for the whole meal and not sealing it.

Here is the quick version - no recipe needed as you just use the amount of bacon, shrimp, peppers and onions you wish.  

Bacon, Shrimp & Peppers

Raw, cleaned, shrimp  (You can grab frozen from the freezer, rinse under cold water in a colander to thaw)
Peppers - orange, red, yellow - chopped
Onions - any style you like/wish
Bacon - diced
Olive oil, salt and pepper


Fry the diced bacon in a pan on the stove.  You might have to add some olive oil to the pan to start so the bacon doesn't stick if you don't have a non-stick pan.  When it's golden brown, remove it to a plate and in the same pan, add the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper.  There should be enough fat left in the pan to cook the peppers but in case there isn't, drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  When the peppers and onions are starting to get soft and lose their crisp, add the shrimp.  Shrimp cooks quickly so stir, moving the ones starting to turn white to the outside, the uncooked to the center.  As you stir and cook, it should be almost done in just 3-4 minutes.  When all the shrimp are just about finished, add the bacon back in and stir all.  Remove to your serving platter.


























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3/24/19

Product Review Time! Where I Finally Come Close to Having Soft, Silky Hair





When I see celebrity photos online, see photos of the Kardashians in the entertainment news or watch an old episode of Friends, I'm probably not noticing what the average viewer is. Partly because I don't watch television, I don't care about celebrities, don't follow any fan clubs. I really don't care much about them or their lives but I do notice... their hair. Oh how I notice smooth, silky hair.

Because I've never, ever been blessed with it.

I remember in 5th grade I was so jealous of my friend Christi's hair. It was soft and silky and feathered so perfectly. My hair was genetically doomed, but I hadn't learned about genetics yet so I didn't know this. Thick, wavy, coarse and dry; that was my normal.  After staying at another friends house, I took note that she also had silky beautiful hair, so I made a mental note of the brand of shampoo I saw in their bathroom. I went home and asked my Mom if we could buy it because Heather's hair was so soft and I wanted mine to be soft too! When I told her the shampoo name, she informed me that Head & Shoulders was a dandruff shampoo, not an everyday kids shampoo.

Now I'm also going to admit something embarrassing I did in my quest for pretty, silky hair. I believe it was 6th or 7th grade. I decided to deep condition it. With Vaseline. I layered gobs of goo on my hair, wrapped it plastic wrap and slept on it, with visions of luxurious tresses greeting me in the morning before school. Instead, I had a greasy mop of thick, coarse, dry hair. And I washed it as usual. The 13 year old me not realizing that wasn't going to cut it. I washed it again... and then had to get to school before I was late. I spent that whole day with the grossest, greasiest hair. I'm STILL embarrassed for myself decades later!  And that night I recall finally, out of desperation, grabbing the Dawn Dish Soap and washing over and over again until it was out. Then I was back to where I started before that whole fiasco. Dry, coarse hair.

If you have thick, dry, coarse hair you know the game. Wash it about once a week. When it's newly washed it's going to be unmanageable for the first 2 days. You absolutely have to add some oils or moisture products and use a straightener just to get it to calm down.  If you have a special event, date, wedding, dinner party... anything... to go to where you want your hair to look nice, you wash it 2 days in advance. That 3rd day is the magic day when your hair is finally laying down nicely and has enough hair products in it to pass as being silky smooth. You just invest in a LOT of plastic shower caps so you can shower without getting your hair wet and having to start all over again.

After showers however, this is pretty much we look for the first day.....  I'm not kidding.  This is pretty realistic.  Just make her hair 'blonde' and it's a photo of me on day 1 after a hair wash. 



About three weeks ago I was doing some research on various hair conditioners, as I was ready to delve in and try something 'new' in the hopes that I could make a fair attempt at taming my dry locks.  It just so happens I was approached by a company and asked if I wanted to try and review their SILK18 CONDITIONER.

I did some research on the product, the company and reviews and said sure!

What I expected was a typical conditioner.  No real difference. Nothing that makes it stand out.
What I got was a conditioner that smells so amazing that I would use it JUST FOR THE SCENT ALONE!  ha ha.  Cupcakes. Yummy vanilla cupcakes piled high with frosting and sprinkles.  That is what this smells like!  When it was first delivered, my daughter and I ended up smearing a little bit on the back of our hands just so we could keep raising it to our nose and sniffing it!

And I'm not kidding you, after the very first time using it, I noticed a difference in how smooth my hair felt.  That next day I kept running my fingers through my hair because it felt so good to be able to!  Without a lot of conditioning oil and using a hair straightener, my hair just does not feel that good.  And it did.  Without ANY hair products on it.  Zilch.  Just using SILK18 conditioner.


Maple Holistics has a page dedicated to "Damaged Hair Explained"  which you might find helpful if you have hair that looks like the brunette I featured at the top of this article.  They offer a whole line of products on their site, (apparently including massage oils and lubricants if that's your ah, need?)  but I personally can't speak to any of them except the Silk18 Conditioner that I tried.

If you already have beautiful silky soft, smooth hair, you might not find this improvement impressive but these photos are of my hair after just 2 uses.   If you forgot what my hair normally and naturally looks like, check out that brunette at the top of the page again. 



This is a product I know I never would have heard of if they hadn't reached out to me, but as such, I plan to not only buy it again, but we are hosting a huge wedding weekend at our house and I plan to purchase a couple extras to put in the guest bathrooms.

Thanks to Maple Holistics for letting me try their SILK18 Conditioner for free.  All the commentary and thoughts are mine and mine alone. 

Find more information on SILK18 Conditioner here.



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Products related to this post available through Amazon; 

Sulfate Free Shampoo and Conditioner for Dry Damaged Hair - Natural Anti Frizz Curly Hair Care for Men Women Kids - Color Treated Hair - Silk18 Amino Acids Argan Oil and Keratin Restore Hair - 10 oz
Silk18 Natural Hair Conditioner Argan Oil Sulfate Free Treatment for Dry and Damaged Hair Silk Amino Acids Jojoba & Keratin All Hair Types Women & Men & Teens Safe for Color Treated Hair
Natural Hair Conditioner and Color Safe - Sulfate Free Argan Oil Hair Moisturizer - Hydrating for Dry Curly Hair - Silk18 Amino Acids - Pure Jojoba Oil for Hair Growth for Women Men Kids - 10 oz


   

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3/23/19

A real cook in a real kitchen - Snitching bread before it's finished baking! It smelled SOOOO GOOD!





Although we are almost always low carb, no sugar - there are some times when I go through an intense craving for homemade bread.  Today was one of those days, although it's been building up for some time.  Finally, I decided to head to the kitchen and made some ciabatta bread dough... but I knew that wasn't going to be 'fast' enough as ciabatta takes a long time since you have to make a starter first.

I mixed up a starter for the ciabatta but then I grabbed my old trusty bread machine from the cupboard where he's mostly sat ignored for the past few years since high carb bread isn't a 'normal' in our home any more.  Oh I LOVE this machine though.  And sadly, they don't make them anymore.  I love it so much that as I was adding ingredients in this one, I was thinking about how one Christmas, years and years ago, I gave both my parents and my father-in-law one for Christmas.  Only I'm almost positive neither of them use theirs anymore and I was pondering asking them if they still have them, because I would TOTALLY LOVE TO HAVE IT if they EVER plan to get rid of it.  I'd want to cry if they donated it or in my Dads case, threw it out.  They do NOT make them like this anymore... and that's sad.

But where was I?

OH!

So I figured while I waiting for the biga (starter) to foam and bubble, the quickest and easiest way to get bread FAST was my machine.  So I made it - set it - and tried to stay busy while it did it's 'thang.

And then... my house started to smell SO GOOD.
The smell of baking bread is just one of those smells that made you CRAVE that bread.
And when you haven't ate all day and you are sooo very hungry, that bread is just calling your name from the kitchen!

Although it was still baking, I opened the lid and started to pick at one tiny little part that was kind of hanging over the side.
OH MY. So good.
My mouth watered for more.
So I picked a little more.
And then I realized the whole top was basically 'done'.  It was only the center that had to finish baking.
So I grabbed a small plate and ripped off the whole top of the still-baking bread.
I smothered it with real butter, and I did not feel guilty at all.  NOT AT ALL.
Because yes, it was that good.



When I removed the bread from the machine it looked like this.  Ha ha!  I don't care.  It was amazing at the time.  And I don't think anyone can fault you for picking at fresh, homemade bread.




I have a couple 'go to' recipes for bread and I've never made this particular one in the machine before.  But it came out great!  Also I used almost all unsweetened almond milk with a dash of heavy cream since we don't have 'regular' milk in our house.  Again, it came out great. I had to go downstairs to my 'Christmas baking' storage to find some white flour - which I mixed with some of my freshly ground flour from wheat berries.  I dug out the only 'real' sugar we have in the house which was a little package of 'raw' sugar and I didn't use the full 1/4 since that amount is not only for the yeast, but a little extra for sweetening, which we don't need.  In other words, I played with the recipe... as I do all of them.

Iowa Farmhouse Style Homemade Bread

1/4 c butter
1 c scalded milk
1/4 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1 pkg. yeast in 1/2 cup warm water (not hot)
1 egg
3 1/2 - 4 c flour

Put the butter, salt and sugar in a bowl.
Scald the milk and pour over the butter mixture to melt.
Let it cool.
Add a beaten egg.
Add the yeast/water mixture.
Add the flour.
Knead.
Cover and let rise to double.
Punch down.
Let rise again.
Shape into loaves (2) or balls for rolls.
Let rise.
Bake 350 for 15 minutes for buns and about 30-35 minutes for bread or until golden brown and done.



I used this recipe in my bread machine by adding all the ingredients and setting it for a 2 lb. loaf - which it was almost too big for my 2 pound bread machine!  It came ALLLL the way to the top.  But then I guess that didn't matter since I opened my machine and ate the whole top of the bread even before it was finished baking! 



Need a bread machine?  Bread pans? Ingredients?  Heck, do you need a new oven!?

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3/15/19

Rosemary Garlic Almond Crackers - or ANY seasoning you like! Low Carb & Sugar Free

 


Almond crackers, almond thins, etc. have been featured on An American Housewife many, many times in the past since I've been making them pretty much 'all the time' since the early 2000's.  2002?  I don't even recall.  But they are a staple in our house since cheese and crackers in almost any form has always been a favorite of mine.

I always play with this recipe though!  Starting with the basic almond cracker I've been making for over 15 years and adding whatever I feel like to it, based on what sounds good or what I have on hand, or what I want the finished cracker to be.

The original Almond Thin Cracker I've posted a LOT is more like a 'wheat thin' style.  The other versions are more like a little bit thicker cracker.  This one is a thin, very crisp cracker but is a little bit thicker than the wheat-thin style due to the baking powder.  I used garlic salt, onion powder, poppy seeds and a store store Rosemary Garlic blend today.

My favorite way to eat any of my almond crackers is with cream cheese and banana peppers!



Rosemary Garlic Almond Crackers (Or ANY seasoning you like)

2 c almond flour or fine ground almonds
1 t sweetener of choice
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt (I use sea salt)
2 egg whites

*options - add what you want, and as little or lot as you like. This is just a starting point. Taste your dough and adjust to how you like it.  You can also use things like ranch dressing, sea salt, pepper, tomato powder, basil... whatever kind of crackers you wish.

1/4 t garlic salt
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t onion powder
1 1/2 t poppy seeds
1 t Rosemary and Garlic spice blend 

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor or a small bowl. Make sure it's mixed well so all the almond is moist and the dough starts to hold together and form a ball.  You can either mix in the seasonings OR sprinkle them separately on top.  If you sprinkle on top, press them in lightly.

Roll the dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper or well greased foil.  It is very sticky so you need 2 sheets of parchment or foil or it will stick to your rolling pin.

Roll the dough out with a rolling pin as thin as you can - 1/8 of an inch is what to aim for.  Aim for a rectangle shape to make it easier to score squares.  Peel off the top layer and score with a pizza cutter to make squares either 1" or 2" - your choice in size.  Leave them on the bottom parchment to bake and place it on a baking sheet.

Bake at 325 degree's for 10-15 minutes then check and use a metal spatula, fork or your fingers to gently pry the crackers apart, flipping the ones on the outside to the inside and mixing them up a bit. When all are golden, remove, break apart and let cool completely. Store in an air tight container.

These are incredible by themselves, with cheese or as a cracker dip for any number of spreads. I love them dipped in plain cream cheese with yellow banana peppers as a snack.


















You might also be interested in these related products, available through Amazon;


Kirkland Signature Almond Flour Blanched California Superfine, 3 Pounds
Nature's Eats Blanched Almond Flour, 32 Ounce
Almond Flour Blanched (2lb) by Anthony's, Batch Tested Gluten-Free

 




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3/13/19

Making hard boiled eggs in my electric pressure cooker... (Instant Pot, Cosori, Bella, etc)









Making hard boiled eggs in my electric pressure cooker... one jumped out of his shell.

Just put about 1 1/2 cups of water in your instant pot or electric pressure cooker, add your eggs and set your cooker for a manual 5 minute setting - seal and cook.  When done, do a quick release vent, remove your eggs and run them under cold water.


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You might also be interested in these related pressure cookers available through Amazon:


      


























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Spanakopia - made with leftover phyllo dough that was dried out and starting to crumble, but I didn't want to throw it out





I made this quite awhile ago, as we've not had any pastry or high carb foods since the first of the year, but I'm just so busy in day-to-day life that I have hundreds of photos and posts just waiting on me to update An American Housewife - and since this site is my 'personal' site for my family to store and collect recipes, I guess I'm only answerable to myself for how often I get around to posting some of these!  Especially when I won't be making them again for awhile, until we add back more carbs or pastries into our daily routine.

But, every time I see my photos of this yummy dish in my file folder, I feel a pang of guilt for not 'getting around to posting' because I think this is a recipe my oldest daughter would love - so I am quickly going to post it!

The reason I love this one is obviously because it's good, but because it's a GREAT IDEA TO USE UP PHYLLO DOUGH that is a bit older or dried out.  Instead of the hassle of buttering each layer and keeping the pile covered with a damp cloth, etc.  I had a box of phyllo that I had used 'some' of and popped the leftovers back in the freezer, which in turn then dried out a little and became brittle. I never throw out food though - how wasteful!  So I always try to find a way to use up everything.  This worked out just fine!

I had 1 1/2 packages of phyllo dough to use up (the one was kind of dried out from being opened, and we were getting ready to get serious about low carb so I wanted to use it up and get it out of the house - so here is the smaller version and if you want 1 1/2 - 2 packages, then double all the ingredients and use a large lasagna pan, a 9X13" pan or make 2 pans and freeze one for future use.)

You'll see in the photos, I made one pan and then I also made one rolled into a bundle or loaf as well.  Both worked great.


Spanakopia

3 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 - 10 oz. packages frozen spinach, thawed or use 1 1/2 pounds fresh, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c ricotta cheese
1 c crumbled feta cheese
1 package of 8 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 - 1/2 c real butter - soft for brushing sheets of dough or melted for drizzling


Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned - don't over cook or the garlic gets bitter. Stir in spinach and parsley, and continue to cook about 2-3 minutes to heat the spinach and make the fresh limp if you've used fresh. Remove from heat.

Mix together eggs, ricotta, and feta. Stir in onion/spinach mixture.

In a greased pan, lay either a layer of pastry or if yours is all dried out, use the pieces to make a thin layer.  Spread about 1/3 of the mixture.  Add another layer of pastry, filling, pastry, filling.  If you are using full sheets you'll have to use a brush to brush each layer with real butter or olive oil.  Use 2 sheets to every one layer filling.  For the broken sheets, again, just make a thin layer.

For the top, end with your pastry and if it's a full sheet, brush the top with butter, but if it's the broken pieces like I had to use up, just drizzle melted butter over the top.   Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, until golden brown. Let it set for a few minutes after removing it from the oven to let it 'set up' a bit to make it easier to cut.  Cut into squares and serve while hot.



Here is my older, dried out sheets of phyllo dough that I wanted to use up - with butter drizzled over the top and ready to go into the oven



Fresh from the oven - golden brown and crisp!


I had 1 1/2 packages to use up and used some of the full sheets that weren't dried and crumbly, to roll up the spinach filling and baked it as a wrap style.










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