September 29, 2015

Repost....  because it's Autumn!  Enjoy.

Autumn is here!  The perfect time to celebrate the awesome pumpkin.  Don't wait for Thanksgiving to make a pumpkin pie and call it 'done' for the season.  Here are over a dozen recipes from my website that I've posted over the years.  From cakes to cinnamon rolls, pasta to griddle cakes.  There is something here for everyone - as I even have an amazing pumpkin bread that can be served to those doing sugar free or low carb way of eating.    Enjoy!!

Pumpkin Cake with Broiled Coconut Topping
Perfect Pumpkin Bread
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Cupcakes
Mexican Pumpkin Dip
Flaxseed Pumpkin Bread (sugar free and low carb too!)
Pumpkin Butter Pie
Pumpkin Pie with an Oatmeal Crust
Homemade Pasta
Pumpkin Bars
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Pumpkin Griddle Cakes
Pickled Pumpkin
Pumpkin Dessert
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cupcakes
Pumpkin Pie

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Triple Layer Pumpkin Bars

A re-post because well, it's Fall and... they are yummy!

This time of year I crave pumpkin.  Cinnamon and spice infused pumpkin... anything.  Breads, bars, pound cakes, pancakes, lattes...   Last night I decided I really needed to use up the 1/2 can of pumpkin I had leftover in the refrigerator from another recipe.  I decided on these bars because I had a random yellow cake mix in the pantry as well as a 2nd can of pumpkin.  It comes together so quickly because you bake all three layers at the same time.

I made my version sugar free since my cake mix was sugar free and I used Ideal Brown Sugar Substitute for the filling and Just Like Sugar for the white sugar in the topping.  I will link to those products at the end of the recipe if you are interested.  Otherwise, this is just another 'Grandma' style recipe from the heartland of the USA where I grew up!

Triple Layer Pumpkin Bars

1 yellow cake mix, divided. Save 1 cup out for top.
1/2 c real butter
1 egg

2 eggs
3/4 c milk
20 oz. pumpkin
1/2 c brown sugar
1 t vanilla - liquid or powder
2 t pumpkin pie spices

1 cup of the dry cake mix reserved from bottom layer
1/4 c sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 c butter

Combine the bottom layer ingredients; dry cake mix, butter and egg.  Press into a 9X13" pan or the equivalent sized pan.  I used 10X10.  Mix together the filling ingredients by hand, whisk or electric.  When blended smooth spread over the bottom layer.  Mix together the reserved 1 cup dry cake mix with the sugar, cinnamon and butter.  When crumbly, sprinkle over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.  Cool completely and preferably chill before cutting. 

Press the bottom layer in a pan

Add the filling on top

Make the crumble topping

Ready to go into the oven to bake

You might be interested in sugar free products;


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September 28, 2015

Product Review Time: Mighty Mug - the Mug that Won't Fall Over

The view
When I'm working at my laptop everyday, this is my view....  I always have a drink of 'something' to the left of my computer on my desk.  I'm a coffee fiend so until about 11:30 it's hot coffee.  After 11:00 it's either iced coffee, ice water or once in a great while, a sugar free energy drink.

My actual view
To be honest, more often than not, this is my view.
My type-A 'get it done' personality often has me multi-tasking and I tend to focus on what I'm reading or researching so I am more than likely reaching for my drink while my eyes are on the screen.  Or I'm carrying papers or a binder in one hand, a coffee mug or drink in the other, and sitting down at my desk and attempting to put my drink down when this happens.

Yes, this really happened this weekend right when I was going to sit down and start to write this review

I've spilled coffee on white carpet, numerous desks, my white blouse, my pants...  the dog.

I've actually even ruined a laptop when I spilled an entire mug of hot coffee on it.  I grabbed it, flipped it upside down immediately to get the excess liquid out and then tried to dry it completely but the left half of my keyboard never recovered and I had to purchase a new one.

Knowing my background and my penchant for spilling liquids on my desk because I'm too preoccupied with what I'm typing or researching to slow down... you can understand my interest in when the maker of Mighty Mug contacted me to see if I would be interested in receiving one of their "smartgrip" mugs at no cost to me in return for reviewing the product. 

Uh, yes!

Mighty Mug is the highest funded coffee mug on KickStarter and since then has not only went to production but has a variety of styles to choose from.  From desk top mugs to travel mugs; different kinds, materials and colors.  I got to choose my own product to review and even though I really (really, really) wanted to choose a stainless steel solo mug, I decided the product I really needed to review was the desk top version because that is what I always end up tipping over with my hand and spilling on my desk.

 "Mighty Mug is the innovative mug that grips to your desk 
when knocked into. Say good-bye to your old mug 
that falls over and spills. Desks of the world rejoice!"

Mighty Mug
  • No spill design keeps the mug in place even when you push the side.
  • Lift straight up using the handle to take a sip.
  • Contents are kept hot with the double wall insulation.
  • Built in coaster eliminates watermark rings.
  • Constructed from BPA free plastic.
The mug is a lightweight BPA free plastic and has a fat handle for easy gripping.
The base is flexible and grips the surface it sits on.
To use the mug, you must lift it straight up to release the grip and allow you to sip.
If you try to pull it or push it at an angle, it will not tip, lift or obviously... spill.

I had just finished painting an exterior door and decided to take a coffee break and check emails.  I decided it was a great time to take a picture of me trying to push over my mug.  I knocked it, pushed it and hit it with my hand and fingers but it held fast.  Kudos you little mighty mug, you!

You can see the force I'm using to try to push the mug over

I personally found this mug to be a good design, truly does stay fast when jostled or knocked and lifted easily when I wanted it.  It absolutely is perfect for the desktop and while working.  I believe honest reviews also note the things I don't care for about products and there are a couple.

First disappointment is a personal thing.  I drink my coffee hot.  As in, piping hot.  My husband teases me that I like my coffee at 300 degrees and when it cools to 299 degrees, it's too cold for me to drink.  While that isn't exactly true, I do drink my coffee at 192-200 degrees.  And it's true, once it cools even a bit, I won't drink it.  So, my personal disappointment is that this mug is double insulated but it's plastic - and it does not keep my coffee piping hot for very long.  If I didn't have it drank within 10 minutes it was cooling too much for me (the hot head) to enjoy it.

The second isn't a 'con' to me personally but could be for others.  Although it's dishwasher safe, you have to take it apart first.  The flexible grip pad won't be flexible if it goes through the high heat cycles in a dishwasher, so you have to take the mug apart and only wash the mug so the grip doesn't get damaged.  I rinse and wash my coffee mugs by hand after my last use each day, so that's not an issue to to me. 

Generally speaking, I love this design of this mug.  If it were a ceramic base instead of plastic, perhaps it would keep my coffee hotter, longer but they do offer stainless steel travel mugs or smaller similar mugs I could choose that I think would keep it hot longer. Cost for the mugs run from $14.99 - $24.99.  Check out Mighty Mugs for more information, as well as browsing all the various versions, styles and colors they have available!  

You might also be interested in these related products sold through Amazon;
Mighty Mug Stainless Steel Go Travel Mug 'The Mug That Won't Fall Over' Thermos 18 oz
Mighty Mug (Red)
Dexam Mighty Mug Travel Mug 'the mug that won't fall over' Thermos
Dexam Mighty Mug Solo 'the mug that won't fall over' Thermos in Stainless Steel, 11.8 floz


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September 25, 2015

Jalapeno Chicken Breasts

If you follow me on Twitter, then you already know that about an hour ago I posted I was not in the mood to cook or bake today so I was going to pull out the slow cooker and throw something in - a 'no work for me' dinner.

I pulled some chicken out of the deep freeze, set it on the counter and then had to decide what I was going to do with it.

After a bit of decision making, I decided on Jalapeno Chicken Breasts.

This recipe comes from Midwest Living and doesn't take a lot of crazy ingredients!  It needs at least 3 hours to cook though (3 on high and up to 6 on low) and more if your chicken is still frozen so if it's early enough in the day when you are reading this - go pop it in!  If it's not?  Well, take it out of the freezer, put the poultry in the refrigerator and plan this one for tomorrow instead.

Jalapeno Chicken Breasts

Makes: 6 servings
Bake 15 mins
Slow Cook 5 hrs to 6 hrs (low) or 2 1/2 to 3 hours (high) plus 15 minutes (high)

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6 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sliced pickled jalapeno chile pepper, drained
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1 8 - ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened and cut into cubes
2 slices regular bacon or turkey bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, and crumbled (optional)

Sprinkle chicken with chili powder and salt. Arrange chicken, bone sides down, in a 4 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour broth and lemon juice around chicken. Top with drained jalapeno pepper.
Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Transfer chicken and jalapeno pepper to a serving platter, reserving cooking liquid. Cover chicken and keep warm.
If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. For sauce, in a small bowl, combine cornstarch and the water; stir into cooking liquid. Add cream cheese, whisking until combined. Cover and cook about 15 minutes more or until thickened. Serve chicken with sauce. If desired, sprinkle with bacon.

Nutrition Facts

(Jalapeno Chicken Breasts)
Servings Per Recipe 6, vit. C (mg) 6, vit. A (IU) 923, sugar (g) 1, Thiamin (mg) 0, Riboflavin (mg) 0, fiber (g) 1, Niacin (mg) 18, Lean Meat () 7, Pyridoxine (Vit. B6) (mg) 1, Folate (µg) 12, Cobalamin (Vit. B12) (µg) 1, sodium (mg) 489, Potassium (mg) 474, calcium (mg) 81, iron (mg) 2, Monounsaturated fat (g) 3, Polyunsaturated fat (g) 1, chol. (mg) 143, sat. fat (g) 6, cal. (kcal) 329, carb. (g) 5, pro. (g) 49, Fat, total (g) 11, Fat () 2 Print Friendly and PDF

How to get your kids to talk during family dinner time - Conversation Starters for Any Age!
These are the actual cards we own - I bought for our family in 2009

Our family always tried to have family mealtimes - as in sit down together and share a home cooked meal as a family every evening. And even though Dad had to work that shift fairly often, the kids and I always had a set time and I worked hard (very, very hard) to keep family mealtimes a 'thing'.   When you are a parent working around the schedules of the whole family and that includes things like school work, music, dance, football, baseball, cheerleading, soccer, track and more... you know not only how difficult it is to continue to pull of family time - but how frustrating it is when the conversations goes something like this;

Mom:  "So, how was school today?"
Child:  "Fine."
Second Child:  "Boring."
Third Child:  "Same thing as every day."

So early on I started to avoid that sort of question and went to things like;

"So, tell me one thing you learned in school today."
"What was one really good thing that happened today?"

And for the most part that worked until it turned into answers like, "We got fries for lunch."

Then I changed it to;

"Tell me three things about your day."

And that worked pretty well!  As a matter of fact, the kids knew it was coming and would think about their 3 things to share.  AND even better?  We always had 'extra' kids at our house and even their friends knew they would be expected to jump into the conversation as well, and would have their 'three things' ready.

In order to mix it up a bit, I found these meal time cards in 2009 and bought them. 

The Meal Box: Fun Questions and Family Tips to Get Mealtime Conversations Cookin'

Designed for all ages, The Meal Box is comprised of 52 cards that feature a question designed to start conversations and get parents and kids talking. The reverse side of the card offers a practical tip to help parents apply the general theme of the question to their family’s life of faith or a short devotional type thought.

Sample question:   If you could build a private bridge or tunnel that would take you directly from your home to any place at all, what would it connect you to?

I have to admit that even though it got everyone answering questions and we learned a little bit more about each other, the kids started to groan when I would bring them out.  Ha ha.  As a matter of fact sometimes they would say;  "Can I answer the 3 things about my day instead!?"  HA!  So yes... in our house you had a choice.  The question card or tell us 3 things about your day.

And now that it's 6 years later and my 'kids' are all young adults and flying from the nest... that 'mealtime question' they groaned about has become a GOOD memory to them!  They all laugh and shake their heads now when it's brought up at holidays or other times we are able to gather together throughout the year.

There are A LOT OF VERSIONS OF THESE.   The one I bought (above) was one of the earlier versions but now there are so many available at local stores and online.

I found this one online and it has many different cubes (you buy each separately) and each follows a basic 'theme' of questions.  I really like this set and each cube has 135 questions!

 TABLETOPICS Family: Questions to Start Great Conversations
  • Questions specially designed to engage kids in the art of conversation
  • Perfect for mealtime or bedtime, use it every day
  • Fun mix of age appropriate questions range from silly to thought-provoking and encourage up-building conversation between parents and kids
  • Learn something new about your kids and even yourself
  • 4-inch acrylic cube with 135 questions

You don't have to purchase anything either - you can make these yourself! 

One way would be to write sample questions on slips of paper and put them into a vase or jar.  Keep the jar at the table and each night at mealtime, have someone draw the 'question of the day' from the vase.   

Or use card stock and cut out your own cards.

Design cards in your favorite editing program and print them out.

ANY way you come up with to inspire conversation with your kids, spouse and friends is a good one and family mealtimes are a great way to do it.   

Related products available to purchase through Amazon if you can't find them locally;
TABLETOPICS Family: Questions to Start Great Conversations
The Meal Box: Fun Questions and Family Tips to Get Mealtime Conversations Cookin'
Melissa & Doug Family Dinner Box Of Questions


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September 24, 2015

Homemade Sausage Gravy on a Low Carb Bagel

It's frustrating that a food so comforting and yummy photographs so gross.  Because really, how do you make a sausage or hamburger gravy look good when it's cooking, right?

As a child this is not a food I grew up with in my home but we had hamburger gravy on mashed potatoes in school during the deepest and coldest days of winter - and ohhhh it was one of my favorite meals!  The cooks (a Catholic school with an older woman as head cook and since it was the late 70's and early 80's, the government still knew their place and hadn't gotten insane with making the lunch ladies serve crappy, inedible food to kids... )  we had gloriously delicious meals at my school that were known for miles around.  *(Seriously... meeting kids from other towns when I was a teenager, I found out even THEY had heard about our amazing meals at the Catholic school.)  We didn't get this often enough for my tastes, but I would go back for seconds (seconds were free back then as well) and gobbled every bit of this white, thick, magical gravy up.

And then I went to public high school and never had it again.

Until I got married and remembered it one day... made it and grinned at the comforting memories recaptured.

And it's so easy!!!

Typically you make this with flour - but if you are cutting out carbs you can thicken it with a tiny bit of xanthan gum or thickener of your choice.  I'll link to a couple items at the bottom of the post. 

UPDATED FOR JANUARY 2019:  PLEASE SERVE THIS GRAVY OVER MY ALMOND FLOUR CHEDDAR BISCUITS... OH YUM!!!  Find the recipe here:  Homemade Low Carb, Keto Cheddar Biscuit

Sausage Gravy
(can be made with ground beef or even bacon, too)

1 lb. sausage
3 T flour or 1 t xanthan gum or 1-2 t Thick it Up
3 c whole milk or if low carbing using cream
garlic salt
black pepper

Brown the sausage in a pan on the stovetop until brown and done.  Remove from pan and drain all but 2-3 T fat in the pan.  Whisk in the flour and make a roux - or if using a low carb thickener, don't add it yet.  Whisk and cook the flour/fat mixture for about 1 minute and slowly start to add the milk or cream while whisking.  If you are using a low carb thickener, mix in half the milk, THEN LIGHTLY SPRINKLE THE 1 teaspoon xanthan over the cream while whisking or it will clump.  When it's smooth, whisk in the rest of the cream.  Cook the gravy over medium or medium low depending on your stove, until it starts to bubble.  Season with garlic salt and black pepper to taste.  You can whisk in a little more thickener if you need it, or if it's too thick for your personal tastes, add a bit of milk or cream.   Serve over a biscuit, toast, mashed potatoes, bagels or mashed cauliflower.  You can adjust pretty much all the ingredients in this recipe to your own tastes - using less or milk cream or milk or half and half, use regular salt instead of garlic, add more or less - well, any of it.  :)

If you want to make it with hamburger gravy, make it the same way.  If you are making a bacon version, only use about 6 strips of bacon and crumble them in or dice them small before cooking - do not use a whole pound.

Related products you can purchase from Amazon through my affiliate links if you can't find locally;

Great Low Carb Bread Co. - Everything Bagels
Thick-It-Up Low Carb Food Thickener: - Make Your Health Food Taste Like Junk Food - Great for Soups, Gravies, Sauces (Sugar Free!)
NOW Foods Xanthan Gum,  6 Ounce Bottle


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