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 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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Centrum VitaMints: Product Review Time!

I was sent a weeks worth of Centrum VitaMints free to try and sample - and I do NOT have to mention it on my blog - but I am anyway because well, they turned out to be pretty darn good!

I'm not a vitamin girl and never have been. I've never gotten in the habit of taking a mutli-vitamin to support my system because they either tasted horrible to me, were too large or I just couldn't remember to take them.  And... I absolutely cannot take any vitamin of any kind without some sort of food in my stomach or I'll vomit.

And guess what?  That's not true anymore!  As a matter of fact these work awesome for me because I can keep them in my office.  Next to my computer.  Where I have coffee.  Lots of coffee.  And when I'm done with my coffee I pop two vitamins in my mouth and chew them up...  thereby accomplishing 1)  Getting rid of coffee breath and 2) I just took a daily mutli-vitamin!
Centrum wants everyone to know they are not a mint, and they don't give you energy or do anything that makes their legal team nervous when people make 'claims' about it.  But they say to "Take them any time of day, with or without food or water, to replenish your body with vitamins and minerals that support your energy, immunity, metabolism, and overall well-being".

What I know is this is the first vitamin (except for those gumball styles) that I can take without getting sick, I can take without food or water, and they taste like mint, which I like after drinking my morning coffee.  So... there's that.   If you would like to try them, they are offering a free sample through Smiley360 and Centrum while supplies last.

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September 23, 2015

Homemade Sugar Free, Low Carb Pop Tarts

If you don't count carbs and aren't worried about wheat products - use your favorite pie crust recipe to make these! So fun and yummy!

First:  I love how they turned out looking - So cute and fun - and yet healthy, since I used sugar free preserves and almond flour for the crust.

But basically - I was lazy and wanted the dough to be a little more easier to work with so I could go faster and I grabbed a product that lives in the back of my deep freezer because I don't like the taste of it - (Carbquik) - but low carb products are SO EXPENSIVE I won't throw it out and I use it in SMALL amounts in recipes where I can mask the taste.  It's not in the ingredient list... this is something I used to dust the dough and surfaces and worked into the dough to make it more sturdy so I could just whip this up like I would have with a regular wheat flour based crust... and it ruined the taste of the pastry for me enough that I don't like it.

But my husband liked these (because he is one of those people that can't taste the offending ingredient I added stupidly) and you can refrigerate them and pop them into the toaster just like the store bought versions.  (My icing melted just a bit in the center but not too bad!)   Because we don't have to do low carb for any particular health issue, and we can have carbs and wheat if we choose, I'm probably going to make these with a regular flour based crust (and sugar free fruit filling) next time - and when our kids are all back visiting.

If you don't have to worry about wheat products or carbs, please make these with a regular pie crust.  They are relatively quick and easy, are fun to make - and taste so much fresher than the store bought kind. 

Homemade Low Carb, Sugar Free Pop-Tarts

1 1/2 c Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour
4 T Hodgson Mill Vital Wheat Gluten or Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat and Gluten Flour
1 1/2  t xanthan gum
2 T Nature's Best Isopure Unflavored Whey Protein Powder
1 t baking powder
dash of salt
4 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 egg yolks (save the whites)
2 T cold water
Egg white for brushing the pastries

Smuckers Sugar Free Preserves - Strawberry
1 c sweetener (confectioner's style preferred for smoothness) (I prefer Ideal Sweetener
heavy cream (2-5 tablespoons depending on how thin you want the icing)
sprnkles (optional)
For a Brown Sugar Version - omit the fruit and sprinkle heavily with Brown Sugar Substitute and Cinnamon

Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor bowl with (shortening if you've substituted any for some of the butter) and butter.  Pulse until it's coarse and crumbly.  Mix the egg yolks with the ice cold water and drizzle while pulsing but do not add all of it at once.  You might not need it all.  As soon as it starts to form a ball, stop adding any liquid.  Remove, place on plastic wrap, form a disk, wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. 

Divide the dough into 4 balls, put 3 back to chill while you work with one. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment because it's sticky. When your dough is thin enough, trim the edges straight to a nice rectangle and cut 2 smaller rectangles out of the dough.  Transfer to a baking sheet (I didn't line mine because I wanted them to brown a little like real Pop Tarts but you can line yours with parchment if you wish.)

Brush the entire bottom halves of the pastry with left over egg white - all the way to the edge to help seal. Spread a tablespoon of filling over dough, leaving a space around edges. Take spatula and transfer a matching rectangular piece of dough to cookie sheet, flipping it over onto the bottom tart piece. Press together the edges gently with a fork to seal, if desired. Poke the tops once or twice to allow steam to escape while baking.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until they start to brown around the edges. Remove from oven, let cool about 2-3 minutes and temove pastries from cookie sheet to cool on a wire rack.

Mix the sweetener with the cream and a dash of vanilla. Whisk and add as much cream as you like depending if you want to ice the pastries or frost them.  Can sprinkle with colored sprinkles if you like. 

The pastry was perfect and delicious (taste tested the dough) until I did one thing to ruin the taste for me...   I decided to treat it like a 'regular' pie crust and dusted the parchment, grabbing a product I knew would work - but that I don't like.  A carbolose baking mix.

Carbquik Baking Mix
Some people LOVE this mix as it works so much like wheat based flour, you can make breads and biscuits out of it pretty well.  However, I found (after buying 2 versions of it) I cannot tolerate the taste of it.  I can taste it in anything it's used in and can't (won't) eat it.  So my baking mixes live in my deep freeze for emergencies.   I THOUGHT I could use it to toughen up this dough and help dust the parchment to make rolling and cutting easier and faster.  I THOUGHT I wouldn't be able to taste the carbolose flour and it would be fine.  I was WRONG.  I can taste it.  I have a STRONG aversion to the taste of Carbolose or Soy flours in my food and unfortunately, although my pastries turned out perfect and look great - I can taste the carbolose.  Many people can't taste it (my husband can't) so it's up to you if you want to use it to 'dust' or not.

When I make these again I will dust with something other than a carbolose baking mix (probably OAT flour - which I should have grabbed in the first place, but I was being lazy and this was right there). 

ALSO:  do not roll the pastry TOO thin.  I did that the first time to try to get 3 rectangles instead of 2 from the first batch of dough, and it was too thin and crumbly and hard to work with (which is partly when I started to think about adding baking mix - stupid me I should have just added another egg yolk and some oat flour).  By making 2 rectangles (for a total of 4 tarts) the dough was easier to transfer and work with.

Having said all that - my husband just popped one into the toaster and had it for breakfast with his coffee and LOVES them.  I thought it was ok but next time... no baking mix to dust.  Ha.

Stop processing when the dough pulls away from the sides

A great dough until I used carbolose  to dust - which I hate the taste of carbolose. I'm an idiot.

Love this filling. So fresh tasting!

Seal the edges

Baked until they start to turn golden brown

Here is a copy of the ingredients in the original store bought version complete with alllll those versions of sugar - I don't have the counts for this version but most of the products are 0-4 carbs and sugar free so....  there's that.  If you don't mind enriched flour, nor count carbs - use your favorite pie crust dough and sugar free jam to make an even closer version to the real thing... just healthier without preservatives or sugars.  Play with the recipes to make it your own.

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