Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Apple Spice Muffins

Ummm, do I have a new favorite muffin?? Maybe. I ate 3 the night I made them. They lasted a total of 24 hours in my house. They were a hit with everyone who tasted them. They remind me of what would happen if a spiced cupcake met apple pie.... yummmmmmmm........ that good :)

2 cups flour (I used 1 cup all purpose, 1 cup whole wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut crystals or brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup butter, melted
1.5 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped apple
1/2 cup shredded apple
*** I used Granny Smith apples***

1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 TBSP flour
1/4 cup brown sugar or raw coconut crytals
1 TBSP butter

Preheat your oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and sift. Then add your eggs, maple syrup, melted butter, apple sauce, and vanilla and mix well until all ingredients are blended. Lastly, add your apple, stirring well. Use lined cupcake tins and pop them in the oven. After 5 minutes in the oven, open the oven door and scoop the crumb some crumb topping on each muffin, close and let it cook for the remaining time. The WHOLE cooking time is 18- 20 minutes- they are done when you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Veggie Chop Salad..

I really wanted to make a salad the other night to accompany our Mexican Lasagna, but I was out of lettuce--- but that didn't stop me! I thought, not every salad needs lettuce, let's think out of the box! This was a crunchy, satisfying alternative to the everyday green salad that I always make!

3 large carrots, peeled & chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 crown broccoli, chopped
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds, toasted
balsamic dressing

Wash and chop your veggies. In a small skillet, add a drizzle of Grape Seed oil and your sunflower seeds, stirring them around to coat them in the oil. Add a shake of sea salt and stir once more cooking over medium heat until they are browned and toasted. Add them to your veggie chop right before so they don't get soggy. Drizzle on the dressing and serve!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Hummus

Simple. Creamy. Flavorful. Effortless. Enough said.

2 cans garbanzo beans
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp sea salt
2 TBSP pine nuts
2 tsp fresh parsley
* 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes if you want to heat it up!
Dump it all in your Vitamix or blender and puree until smooth. Serve with pitas, crackers, vegetables, and more!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mexican Lasagna

There are a few dishes that I have tried over and over again in order to find the perfect combination to the perfect dish- and Mexican Lasagna is one of them... but I believe I have finally found THE recipe- a healthy combination that we all enjoyed over at my house! Hope you like it too!

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
2 cans tomato paste
1 cup water
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
1-2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or jack or combo)
1.5 tsp cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
12 corn tortillas, cut into quarters
cilantro for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350. Chop your onion and mince your garlic and brown them both with a drizzle of Grape Seed oil in a large skillet. (If using beef, drain your fat). Then add your tomatoes, water, seasoning, beans and corn and mix well cooking for 3-5 minutes until everything is well blended. Get out a 9 x 13 glass dish, spray the bottom, them add some of your meat/tomato mixture in a thin layer, then add a layer of cheese, then a 4 of your quartered corn tortillas (the tortillas will over lap one another). Repeat so you have 3 layers on ingredients. Then cook for 15- 20 minutes. I turned my broiler on for the last few minutes to get the top of it bubbly and gooey. Remove from oven, garnish with fresh cilantro, cut into squares and serve!

This is a gluten free recipe!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Maple Whipped Cream Frosting

OK, I desperately need to get to bed, but I also feel DESPERATELY compelled to tell you about this DELICIOUS frosting/whip cream I just discovered. Let me tell you a little secret.... I don't normally like frosting. I scrape it off of every cake (you should see my plate when I am done, it's kind of embarrassing with smooshed frosting everywhere!). I scoop it out the center of cakes and I avoid corner pieces and any piped decorations on top. I don't even like whip cream, I order my Starbucks drinks without, I scoop it off of any desserts that I get out in restaurants... are you getting the picture?? I really don't care for it AT ALL.... until that is, I found this recipe. It's actually worth putting on, maybe even using in excess. And guess what, it's super easy and made with maple syrup! Give it a "whip" you'll love it, I promise!

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup softened butter

Simple. Add all ingredients to a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until peaks form (about 5 minutes or so) then put on top of cupcakes, pie, anything else that will stand still long enough- it's delicious!

...And next I promise to post something you can put it on... double chocolate cupcakes! Also made with Maple Syrup!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tips for hosting a Party...

I love to throw parties, I love to have people over, I love to let my creative juices flow and have fun showing others so that they know I enjoy having them in my life! I think I might have inherited this from my mother. Here just a few ideas for some of your parties- big or small...

To add a splash of color to the bottom of your vases, thinly slice some citrus (limes, lemons, oranges, blood oranges, even grapefruit), it will give an extra pop of color and a pleasant aroma too!
Don't feel like you have to confine yourself to vases either, there are lots of fun holders for flowers, just start looking around your kitchen, garage sales, and the Good Will for fun and unusual finds! Like this...
and this...
Need a centerpiece for Easter coming up?? Grab a small wooden box or clay pot and grow some grass in it (great project for kids too!) Then add a small fluffy chick or fuzzy bunny to it- simple, inexpensive, and springy... And low enough for your guests to talk over.... don't you hate it when people move your centerpieces! (Sorry this isn't the best picture, it's always awkward to take pictures of other peoples centerpieces at a large BBQ!)

Another centerpiece of table decoration that's great for showers or events is glass jars full of colorful candy (which always seems to be snacked on throughout the event!) with homemade pinwheels poking out the top! These are great for kids and adult themes alike, they are a great way to incorporate colors and themes to any party.
How about making your own block signs?? Super simple. Cut a 2x4 into different size blocks, paint, and letter them with a message for your next holiday or season! These could make their way out for the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran's Day and more!
Here is a picture of my dear friend Monica's wedding- it was SO beautiful I wanted to share it with you! The thing I loved about this was the way she used bright colors that contrasted each other so well- with the turquiose and yellow. Every table was a little different, don't confine yourself to making everything the exact same... and her attention to detail was awesome! Notice the clocks?? The only number on the clock represented the table number in order to let guests know where to sit... creative huh?? She made them with Target clocks and cardstock- super ingenious!
Here's a picture of my baby shower that my girlfriends threw for me when I was pregnant with my son- I LOVED every detail! The were really creative and went with a bird/nest theme... it's always fun & more interesting to chose a theme! Notice the wreath with the blue Letter "J" on it, the cake pops made like Robin Eggs, the cupcakes with shredded coconut to look like a birds nest, the birdie tags on the treats that read "A Tweet for YOU!". Choosing a theme can really tie a party all together!
Choose a fun topper for your cupcake stand! You of course can reserve the top of the stand for the cupcake with the candle on it, but why not top it with something creative like a flower, baby toy or mini bride... something out of the ordinary... again to help tie in the theme!
For tips on how to make your OWN EASY letters for on top of your next cake, check out these SIMPLE directions!
And here's a fun thought, give your guests something simple and fun to leave with- even big kids like party favors!
Consider this your virtual Party Favor... thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tips on the Top 10 Kitchen Tools...

If you were to ask me to pick my Top 10 Favorite "Tools" for the kitchen, the things I use most (besides the obvious ones like a good set of pans, cutting board and sharp knife set), the things that are most versatile, the things I would take with me if I were stranded on a deserted island with an empty kitchen... here's what I would say :)

10. Garlic Press- I used minced garlic almost everyday in everything from marinates, to dressings, to main dishes and more- and there is no easier more convenient way to add garlic to a meal than with a good garlic press. Oxo, Pampered Chief, Crate & Barrel, and Williams Sonoma have great ones if you are in need of this essential.
Weber 6432 Silicone BBQ Accessories Style Silicone Basting Brush
9. A Silicone Basting brush. This is essential if you BBQ or use marinates frequently... I use to use the ones that looked like a paintbrush until it started shedding all over my food and grossing me out! These are a great alternative, dishwasher safe, and come in a variety of fun colors!
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8. A Cookie Scoop. Do you bake?? Then this needs to be in your drawer- no questions asked. From cookies to granola snacks to scones to nutballs- this is a time saver! Not only does it quickly distribute your goods, but it helps to make sure they are all the same size for even cooking. OXO makes a small and large scoop, check them out!
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7. A Pastry Blender. Now, I know this is for pastries, so you can definitely use it when making baked goods like lemon bars and shortbread's, but can I fess up that I use it for so much more! I use it to squish my avocados for guacamole, for mashing bananas before they go into banana bread, for smashing my potatoes when making mashers... the list could go on and on- it's a great tool with many different uses when you think outside of the box!
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6. A zester. This is wonderful for not only zesting citrus, like lemons, oranges, and limes for marinates and dressings and chicken dishes, but it can also be used for Parmesan cheese and dried spices like cinnamon sticks. Add a fine sprinkle of grated goodness to your dishes.
2-in-1 Lemon and Lime Squeezer
5. A lemon/lime juicer. My favorite one is the hand-held squeezer that will allow you to squeeze the juice from a lemon or lime and add it to drinks, baked goods, marinates, dressings, guacamole and other dishes that call for a splash of citrus juice. A lot of times mine sits on a cutting board with half a lemon in it and I continually squeeze it into my water glass throughout the day to freshen up my water! The only time this tool isn't so cool is when your lemons are bigger than the tool... this happens to me at the end of the citrus season with our home grown Meyer Lemon tree.... so if you think that might be your case... then this would be my second choice for Tool #5:
5.5 A rounded cutting board and chopper. This was one of my favorite wedding gifts I received.... and I think it was purchased at Costco along with a giant cutting board- but they also sell them online and at specialty cooking stores. It is so wonderful for chopping nuts, dried fruit, and other small bits without them flying all over the counter. Check them out!
Chef N Corporation Palm Brush Palm Held Vegetable Scrubbing Brush
4. A Vegetable Scrubber Brush. This sits on my window sill and I am constantly using it to scrub carrots, potatoes, parsnips, and other root veggies and fruits too before eating them. An inexpensive find.

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3. Glass Storage Containers. Honestly, these are the best thing EVER. I love them for so many reasons. They don't crack and age like plastic, they don't stain like plastic or obtain odors from foods, they are dishwasher safe, and OVEN safe (that's HUGE! That means if you have left overs one night, you pop them in this dish and the next day for lunch you take off the lid and put it directly into the oven (or microwave) to reheat.... easy peasy, time saver!) They sell a set at Costco and sometimes have a coupon for them as well, keep you're eye out!
2. My precious Vitamix. I love this beast. It was by far the best investment ever (cuz they are an investment, I am not going to lie, they are a pretty penny- but worth every bit of prettiness!) I use this almost every day. I make hummus, ice cream, sorbet, smoothies, dressing, baby foods, sauces, and more. You can make your own rice cereal, puree tomatoes, grind oats, the list could go on and on. Need I say More?? cuz I can.... (If you are interested in getting one, call your local Costco and see when the Vitamix rep is coming because they travel from place to place selling them, then start saving those pretty pennies!)
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1. MY SALAD SPINNER! Honestly, Mr. Salad Spinner, where would I be with out you??? I will tell you where...I would be wasting a lot of time in the kitchen! I make a salad almost daily, and if not a salad - kale, herbs, Swiss chard or some other leafy green! There is no better way to wash, spin, and DRY your leaves for a crisp and crunchy salad or side. There is nothing worse than a soggy salad or watered-down dressing, so invest! Do not spend any more time blotting your leaves dry with a paper towel or whacking them against the sink! Make this your next addition to your arsenal of kitchen tools!

** I purchase some of these items online, or at Bed, Bath, Beyond (you can use a coupon for every item you buy!), some at Costco, and at other cooking stores.***

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tips on Essential Oils

Today's guest blogger is Krissa, from More than mundane. She has so much good stuff to share, check out her blog for recipes, recipe reviews, ideas for learning with young kids at home, book recommendations, and so much more! Really her blog is AWESOME! For now we pick her brain on Essential Oils and how to incorporate them into our lives:
"Hi, I'm Krissa--wife, mom to two beautiful children, and teacher. When I'm not busy grading papers I enjoy trying new recipes (especially Andrea's), learning with my preschooler, and blogging about it along the way. I also love learning about ways to use natural remedies to improve my family's health and daily life. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about using essential oils, and I'll do my best to answer...or if you have a favorite use for essential oils to share with me, I'm always looking to learn more!"

My Top Ten Uses for Essential Oils

For the past six months I’ve been using essential oils in a variety of ways in our home. Here are my top ten:

1. Lemon Oil in my Water-I put lemon oil in my water every day to build immunity and because it tastes great! However, not all essential oil brands are safe for internal use, so please make sure you read the label carefully before using any essential oil internally. I use a brand called DoTerra, which is CPTG (Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade) and is safe to take internally. Learn more about the health benefits of lemon here.

2. On Guard for Immunity-On Guard is one of my favorites. I mix it with a carrier oil and apply it to my children’s feet at bedtime. For myself, I put a few drops in a capsule and take it that way. Read more about On Guard and how it can protect you from getting sick here.

3. In my Homemade Deodorant-I use Melaleuca (Tea Tree) or a blend called Purify in my homemade deodorant to scent it. Learn more about how to make your own deodorant here.

4. In my Husband’s Facial Toner-I make a facial toner for my husband and use Melaleuca (Tea Tree) Oil in it. Tea Tree helps with acne, but you can also use lavender.

5. Breathe for a “Vapo-rub”-When my kids are congested or have a cough a use a blend called Breathe mixed with a carrier oil and rub it on their chest and on the bottoms of their feet. It’s a great natural alternative to Vapo-rub.

6. For Cleaning-I often take Lemon essential oil or a blend called Citrus Bliss and drop a few drops on a sponge to wipe down my counters. Not only does it clean but it also smells great!

7. Lavender for a Calming Room/Linen Spray-In a small glass spray bottle, I mix water with Lavender essential oil and use it as a room and linen spray. Lavender has calming properties so it’s great to use at bedtime.

8. To Soothe a Sore Throat-Add a drop of Lemon to honey and take it to soothe your throat. Or use On Guard: rub (diluted) on the throat externally or take a few drops internally to relieve sore throat.

9. In Bath & Body Care-I’ve made body oils, body scrubs, bath sachets, and lotion and scented them with lavender, ylang-ylang, wild orange, and other essential oils. I also enjoy dropping a few drops in the shower before I hop in.

10. Aromatherapy-I use a diffuser to diffuse essential oils in our home, especially in the kid’s rooms. It purifies the air and smells great.

For information on using essential oils to build immunity, check out my previous post on essential oils here.