Monday, January 30, 2012

Kids Cook Monday: Spinach Empanadas


It's The Kids Cook Monday and Bug and I made Spinach Empanadas, which are posted over at OAMM today. These empanadas are incredible, even the neighbors said so, so  you know I'm not just biased. Bug, our nearly 3-year-old was able to be a huge help. Here's how we split up the work.

The Kiddo's Tasks:
  • Peel the packaging off of the butter and cream cheese and set it out on a plate to bring it to room temperature
  • Toss the cream cheese and butter into the stand mixer bowl
  • Pour the flour into the mixer bowl
  • Help squish the dough into a disk and place it in a plastic bag to chill in the fridge
  • Take turns with Mommy rolling out the dough 
  • Help select the container lid that's the perfect size to cut the circles in the dough
  • Take turns with Mommy cutting circles out of the dough with the container lid
  • Peel the packaging off the spinach when it's thawed
  • Squish the spinach over the colander to squeeze out the water
  • Set the spinach in the colander (and try in vain not to squish it more) to drain out the rest of the water
  • Mix the ricotta cheese and spinach into the cooked red onion, garlic and mushrooms
  • Crimp the empanada edges
  • Spray baking/cookie sheets with oil or non-stick spray
  • Eat the empanadas and say "yummy, yummy"
The Mommy's (or Daddy's) Tasks:
  • Run the stand mixer for the dough
  • Set the timer for the dough's refrigeration time (3 hours)
  • Do a little dance with Bug when the timer goes off
  • Help roll out the dough
  • Help select the container lid nearest to 5 inches diameter to cut the dough circles out (and wash the container lid before and after cutting...we had company coming over to eat with us, after all)
  • Help cut circles in the dough
  • Preheat oven
  • Saute the onions, garlic and marinated mushrooms.
  • Place sauteed veggies in a bowl to cool and check temperature while Bug waits to put in remaining ingredients
  • Fold the empanadas and let Bug do the fork crimping (make it look prettier if necessary)
  • Brush egg wash over empanadas
  • Bake the empanadas
  • Eat the empanadas and say "mmm" a lot
We had so much fun making these together and it was honestly a lot easier than I first suspected when choosing to make this recipe. And oh my goodness are they delicious! We and the neighbors all loved these empanadas and I'd definitely go through the effort of making them again in the future. Delicious!

This Week's Cravings {FAVORITE COOKBOOK RECIPE}: Spaghetti Frittata {Vegan}

Today's This Week's Cravings theme is sharing Recipes from your Favorite Cookbook. If you've followed the blog for long, you may know about my tween crush (except they didn't call us tweens then...they just called us 11 and 12-year-olds) on The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith. His cookbook, a now stained and battered paperback copy of The Frugal Gourmet (1984) is my absolute favorite cookbook. Probably a great deal of that is sentimental attachment. You can read more about my tween crush in my posts for Eggplant Caponata and Spaghetti Frittata (a version of which I'm making today). Yes, his books are filled with meaty meat recipes, too. But, there is an incredible about of vegetarian dishes, especially for the mainstream 1980s. And, a lot of the non-vegetarian stuff can be easily converted.

Thanks to Angela's excellent egg substitute post over at Onceamonthmom.com ... no joke, it changed my cooking life, I've decided this go-around to substitute canned pumpkin puree for the eggs instead of the cornstarch and water mix I used last time.

Spaghetti Frittata
Ingredients
Adapted from Spaghetti Frittata, originally from The Frugal Gourmet (1984), serves 2
  • 1/2 pound thin spaghetti, cooked, drained, rinsed and cooled
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (or 4 portions other egg substitute
  • 1/2-3/4 cup parmesan cheese or substitute
  • Italian seasoning, to taste
Directions
Turn oven on broil.

Blend all ingredients (reserving a bit of "parmesan") together and fry in an oven-safe pan in olive oil until under-side is browned. Once under-side is browned (about 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat), top with reserved "parmesan" and broil until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Eat it all before your husband sees it. Or be sweet and share (I won't tell if you don't).

The Results
I LOVE the pumpkin puree in this, it brings its own flavor without completely taking over the dish. The kids loved this version, too. We may have *accidentally* eaten it all before my husband could get a serving, so we're not sure what he thinks.

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Veggie Converter This Week's Cravings


My This Week's Cravings co-hostesses are: Tina at Moms Crazy Cooking, Angie at Big Bear's Wife and Nicole at The Daily Dish. As hostesses, we will try our hardest to visit as many of the links we can. We all enjoy your links and look forward to gathering recipes each week.
The party has a few SIMPLE RULES and all of the themes for the entire year are list here on the THIS WEEK'S CRAVINGS tab at Moms Crazy Cooking. Plan ahead, check out the weeks you want to make sure to link up or just browse them to see what's going on.

This Week's Cravings Upcoming Linky "THEMES"
Here is a complete list of the past and what's coming up next on THIS WEEK'S CRAVINGS!
    • February 6: Nutella DAY (Peanut Butter, Almond Butter & More)
    • February 13: Valentine's Day Treats or Romantic Dinners
    • February 20: Avocado Recipes & Homemade Salsa
    • February 27: Smoothies & Shakes

      If you are a regular link-up we're excited to see what you made this week. If you are new please read and follow the simple rules, so that everyone can enjoy the linky party! If you forget to follow the theme, your post will be deleted. Please don't feel hurt, just come back and link up a recipe that follows the theme. Thanks a million, we look forward to blogging with you!

      The LINKY PARTY is open ALL Week!

      PLEASE do not link more then 3 recipes per week.

      This week's theme is: FAVORITE COOKBOOK RECIPE

      Please only link recipes with our theme!

      This week's theme is: FAVORITE COOKBOOK RECIPE

      Please only link recipes with our theme!

      Sunday, January 29, 2012

      Menu Plan Monday January 30


      I'm so hooked on making new Homemade Condiments and whole food Breads as we continue Get Real, it's a good thing I have plenty of meals to pull from the freezer. I keep forgetting to make dinners and lunches in addition to the bread and condiments!

      And this weekend is the BIG GAME. So I'm sharing what vegan and vegetarian treats we're planning to munch on during the event (so we can pay more attention during the commercials). For my ideas, see last year's Game Day Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes Round-up post.


      Monday
      Spinach Empanadas @ OAMM (link will go live Monday morning)

      Tuesday

      Wednesday
      Blueberry Bagels adapted slightly

      Thursday
      Leftovers

      Saturday
      Spinach and Mixed Greens Salads with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing before the game 

      During the Game: Vegan Crockpot Chili and 7 Layer Dip, in which I might try a new Guacamole 
      (My 7 Layer Dip includes homemade refried black beans, homemade salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, black olive slices and green onions...I'll try to post the proportions if we don't eat it too quickly to take a photo.)

      This post is linked at·Menu Plan Monday.

      Friday, January 27, 2012

      Homemade Tortillas and Salsa

      As you may have noticed from the preponderance of quesadilla recipes on the site, my kids LOVE tortillas. It may border on obsession.So, when we started our Get Real journey, we knew we had to break down and get a handle on our store-bought tortillas. Yes, you can buy store-bought tortillas with quality ingredients, but what can I say, I really get into the whole challenge thing (see the year of 2011). So, I made tortillas. Not as pretty as Kelly's, but tortillas, which the kids ate...and loved. Awesome. I served them with my Easy Homemade Picante Salsa, which Bug and I made together. It is incredible and I'm so glad we made 5 pints of it. Delicious and easy.

      Homemade Tortillas and Salsa
      Adapted from Homemade Tortillas.
      Ingredients for 20-24 small tortillas
      • 6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (I had to increase this amount by half a cup, possibly due to altitude or humidity)
      • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
      • 2 cups HOT tap water
      • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
      • Easy Homemade Picante Salsa
      Directions
      Cube the cold butter and add flour and butter to the food processor with a chopping blade. Process until combined.

      Dissolve the salt in hot water. Switch to dough blade, if applicable. Pour salt water through the feeder tube of your processor. (Watch that the flour doesn't get too wet, next time I might reduce the water amount, because this is where I got frustrated...I ended up adding the 1/2 cup of flour and was fine, but was kicking myself that I didn't stop adding water before-hand.) Stir until combined.

      On a floured surface, divide dough into equal balls. Roll out flat on floured surface (I did this in batches, because I have limited counter space...this prompted me to go out and buy a 6-inch tortilla press later). Heat a griddle to high and then turn down to medium. Grill tortillas on one side until small bubbles appear. Flip and grill about another minute. Repeat process until all tortillas are grilled.

      I had enough flour on the outside of my tortillas that I didn't need to separate them with plastic wrap before bagging and freezing. But, with the tortilla press that might not be the case.

      The Results
      In spite of my minor frustrations (hey, I'm new at this homemade tortilla thing), these came out really well and were delicious. The only thing the kids didn't like (really just Bug, Goose didn't chew slow enough to even notice), was the extra flour on the outside of the tortillas. Once I knocked that off, they went crazy for them. We served the first ones with just salsa. Later, we served them with salsa, refried beans and cheese. They also love them with peanut butter (yes, I know they're weird, I'm OK with it).

      This post shared at Gallery of Favorites, Fresh Bites Friday, Friday Favorites, Potluck FridayFrugal Fridays and I'm Lovin' It.

      Wednesday, January 25, 2012

      Accidental Beer Wheat Bread

      As you may know, I'm trying to make more homemade items, including condiments and bread as part of our family's personal Get Real challenge. I made bread several times throughout my 2011 family vegetarian meal challenge, but not what I'd call regular bread. I made Potato Kale Bread {Vegan}, Homemade Pita Bread {Vegan} and Mashed Chickpea Cauliflower Bread to name a few. I even made Sour Dough Pockets and rolls pretty regularly and a TON of pizza crusts. But one thing I never really did was make regular wheat bread for the family. We still bought all-natural wheat bread from the store.

      Why? I have no idea. It may have something to do with the fact that I was being all zen with my KitchenAid and not letting it knead for me. I didn't fully understand the kneading awesomeness of the mixer until recently. I did the kneading myself after I mixed the bread in the mixer. Silly I know, but beating up on some bread is a stress-reliever to me. Downside: I didn't make it as often as I could. So, in the last week, I've made replacements for whatever bread we've run out of, including tortillas and three loaves of wheat bread. I've never claimed to be a bread guru, so I, of course, make mistakes.

      When I decided to make wheat bread, I'd just made Cinnamon Raisin Bagels {Vegan}, which uses 2 TABLESPOONS of dry yeast. So, for some reason, when I read the original recipe here, calling for 2 packages of yeast, my brain went, "OK, there's 2 1/4 TABLESPOONS of yeast in a package, right?" (I buy it in bulk, so I am scooping it out of a larger bag). For the record, there are 2 1/4 TEASPOONS in a package. A fact that I SHOULD HAVE remembered as the yeast, water and sucanat mixture threatened to bubble out of the Pyrex measuring glass I'd mixed them in. But the kids were hollering and testing their father's limits and it just didn't click until the bread was in the oven. So, I put 4 1/2 TABLESPOONS of yeast in this bread. Fortunately, this was an extraordinarily happy mistake. This bread, which is completely non-alcoholic, tasted like a rich beer wheat bread. Everyone loved it, including neighbors and several kids.

      In addition to the ahem, inadvertent, yeast change, I swapped out powdered milk for real milk and reduced the water amount a bit, switched oil to applesauce and a bit of olive oil, and brown sugar to sucanat.

      Beer Wheat Bread

      Adapted from KitchenAid Whole Grain Wheat Bread.
      Ingredients for two 9 x 5 loaves
      • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sucanat (or brown sugar)
      • 1 1/2 cups warm water
      • 1/2 cup milk
      • 4 1/2 tablespoons yeast
      • 5-6 cups whole wheat flour
      • 2 teaspoons salt
      • 1/4 cup applesauce (yay! I got to thaw a little applesauce puck for baking!)
      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      Directions
      Dissolve 1 tablespoon sucanat in warm water and milk. Add yeast and let mixture stand for at least five minutes.

      Place 4 cups wheat flour, remaining sucanat and salt in mixer bowl. Set to Speed 2 and mix for 15 seconds. Gradually add yeast mixture, applesauce and oil. Mix about 90 more seconds, stopping and scraping sides if needed. Continue on Speed 2 and add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix about 2 minutes or until dough starts to clean sides of bowl. Knead on Speed 2 for about 2 more minutes.

      Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape each loaf by rolling out into a rectangle, rolling tightly into a cylinder from the short side, folding over ends and sealing seams. Place loaves seam-side down in two sprayed or greased 9 x 5 baking pans. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

      Preheat oven to 400. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350F and bake 20-30 minutes longer, until bread is golden-brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove bread from pan and cool on wire racks.

      The Results
      We loved this beer bread, it has such a yummy yeasty taste. I feel like I'm eating beer and can still watch the kids without guilt. Hah. The kids and our neighbors loved this bread and we were so pleasantly surprised by the flavor. I think my words when it came out of the oven were something to the effect of, "they don't look like creepy mutant bread loaves." I wasn't expecting much to say the least, due to my mistake. We started calling it beer bread after the first few of us tasted it. It's lovely with real butter spread over the top. I do want to try the recipe with only my intended changes someday soon. But for now, we're happily munching away on our beer bread. Oh, and if you're curious, the sandwiches shown above that we ate were tomato, lettuce, green pepper and cheese. And yes, this was at the request of our 3-year-old, Bug. Yes, we know her vegetable-eating habits are weird.

      This post is shared with Real Food Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesdays, What's Cooking Wednesday, What's on Your Plate?, What's on the Menu Wednesday, Let's Do Brunch, Works for me Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, Foodie Wednesday and Bake with Bizzy.

      Monday, January 23, 2012

      Pear Crumb Pie: This Week's Cravings {Homemade Pies}

      Today is National Pie Day and the This Week's Cravings theme is Homemade Pies. I've gone to my pie wheelhouse today to make one of my husband's favorites, pear pie. He is inexplicably not a fan of apple pie, but a huge fan of pears, so pear pie is what I always make when I'm craving apple pie and don't want to eat nearly the entire pie myself (the kids can only help so much, right?). Pear pie was actually what I made him for his very first father's day. That version had two crusts, but I decided to top this one with walnut crumb topping (yum!).

      Bug, our 3-year-old, helped so much with this pie. She did all the fork crimping (including a bit of extra poking inside the pie) and dropped the pears into the food processor shoot. She also helpfully snacked upon the entire bowl of pear peels throughout the day (OK, there were two peel fragments left, but still...she was crazy for them). I used 3 Bosc and 3 Concorde pears, all of which came in my CSA box, but pears (or even apples) of most varieties would be yummy.

      Pear Crumb Pie
      Ingredients
      Adapted from Apple Crumb Pie recipe from Cuisinart
      • 1 flaky pie crust
      • 6 large pears, peeled, cored and sliced (about 4mm slices)
      • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons, I zested mine first to make Lemon Poppyseed Muffins)
      • 2 teaspoons vanillla
      • 1/3 cup sucanat or sugar
      • 2 tablespoons Plum Jam
      • Walnut Crumb Topping
        • 1/3 cup walnuts
        • 3/4 cup flour, unbleached
        • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
        • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
        • 1/4 teaspoons salt
      Directions
      Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pie crust, crimping edges.

      Prepare walnut crumb topping. Pulse walnuts in food processor. Add remaining crumb topping ingredients and pulse until blended, but crumbly. (You could also crush the walnuts and cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or two knives.)

      In a large bowl, mix pears, lemon juice, vanilla and sucanat/sugar. Spread jam over the inner surface of the pie crust. Spread or pour pear mixture on top of crust (mine came out a little soupy from pouring it all in, so watch your liquid amount).

      Top pears with Walnut Crumb Topping and bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes until golden brown.

      The Results
      The first slice was a little soupy (I MAY have gotten a bit impatient and sliced it before it was completely cooled), but the rest were actually pretty normal pie consistency. The flavor in all the slices was amazing. I really liked the jam barrier for the pie crust, but the best part is he lemony freshness really came through in each bite of pear along with the subtle hint of vanilla. Delicious.

      Please Grab Our Button

      Veggie Converter This Week's Cravings


      My This Week's Cravings co-hostesses are: Tina at Moms Crazy Cooking, Angie at Big Bear's Wife and Nicole at The Daily Dish. As hostesses, we will try our hardest to visit as many of the links we can. We all enjoy your links and look forward to gathering recipes each week.
      The party has a few SIMPLE RULES and all of the themes for the entire year are list here on the THIS WEEK'S CRAVINGS tab at Moms Crazy Cooking. Plan ahead, check out the weeks you want to make sure to link up or just browse them to see what's going on.

      This Week's Cravings Upcoming Linky "THEMES"
      Here is a complete list of the past and what's coming up next on THIS WEEK'S CRAVINGS!
      • January 30: Recipe from Your Favorite COOKBOOK
      • February 6: Nutella DAY (Peanut Butter, Almond Butter & More)
      • February 13: Valentine's Day Treats or Romantic Dinners
      • February 20: Mexican Appetizers and Avocado and Salsa Recipes
      If you are a regular link-up we're excited to see what you made this week. If you are new please read and follow the simple rules, so that everyone can enjoy the linky party! If you forget to follow the theme, your post will be deleted. Please don't feel hurt, just come back and link up a recipe that follows the theme. Thanks a million, we look forward to blogging with you!

      The LINKY PARTY is open ALL Week!

      PLEASE do not link more then 3 recipes per week.

      This week's theme is: HOMEMADE PIES

      Please only link recipes with our theme!

      This week's theme is: HOMEMADE PIES

      Please only link recipes with our theme!

      Friday, January 20, 2012

      Homemade Ketchup

      I'm continuing my quest for the perfect homemade condiments for our family. Today, we're trying a homemade ketchup. This version sounds incredibly simple and versatile. I altered the seasonings a bit to fit our family's tastes, but it's really the tomato and vinegar base that's important. The kids went crazy for the flavor of this ketchup and if we can figure out how to make storage work for our family long-term, we'll definitely be making this ketchup more often.

      Homemade Ketchup
      Adapted from MYO Ketchup.
      Ingredients for about 1/2 cup ketchup
      • 3 ounces tomato paste
      • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
      • 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
      • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
      • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
      • 1/4 cup water
      Directions
      Heat all ingredients, except water, over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes to meld flavors. Add enough water to achieve desired thickness. Bottle in a clean, empty ketchup bottle or picnic squirt bottle. It will keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week. It can also be frozen.

      The Results
      I absolutely love the flavor of this ketchup. It's really easy to make and it's great that it's so versatile, you could flavor it however you like. The only downside, which is really a plus side I suppose, is the lack of preservatives. I hope to make it in larger batches and keep the majority frozen, I'm just not sure of the best way to store the frozen portions. I'm considering making a large batch and freezing it like I do the Applesauce, in 1/4 cup portions, since I know now that we like the flavor now. Bug, our almost 3-year-old, ate the entire portion from the photo with her fingers. I think that means she likes it. A lot.

      This post shared at Gallery of Favorites, Fresh Bites Friday, Friday Favorites, Potluck FridayFrugal Fridays and I'm Lovin' It.

      Wednesday, January 18, 2012

      Cinnamon Raisin Bagels {Vegan}

      I've made bagels several times previously, including the delicious but somewhat tedious Sourdough Bagels and the incredibly easy, but not quite as pretty Homemade Bagels that I made into Bagel Egg and Cheese Sandwiches. But we've still been known to buy store-bought bagels pretty frequently since the kids are bagel fanatics. Now that we're trying to Get Real, we need to get serious about this bagel thing. The kids' favorite flavor is blueberry, but cinnamon raisin is a close second and not quite as daunting. I'm hoping to try dried blueberries in the same recipe soon to see how that goes. I don't keep bread flour on-hand, so I used a combination of unbleached all-purpose flour and vital wheat gluten, but the recipe can be made with 4 1/4 cups of bread flour instead of the combination listed. 

      This is the first bagel recipe I've tried that uses the poke-the-hole-in-the-center method, instead of the rolled cylinder of dough that you wrap around your hand. It certainly seems a lot simpler to poke the hole, but I'm not sure how the texture will vary. Bug and I made these together and she had a ton of fun with this method, so that's a factor, too.

      Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
      Adapted from Homemade Bagels.
      Ingredients for 8-12 bagels
      Bagel Dough:
      • 1 1/2 cups warm water
      • 2 tablespoons yeast
      • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
      • 1 tablespoon salt
      • 4 cups flour
      • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
      Mix-ins:
      • 1/2 cup raisins
      • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
      Boiling Water:
      • 8 cups water
      • 1 tablespoon baking soda
      Directions
      In a small bowl, mix together warm water, yeast and maple syrup and let sit until foamy. Meanwhile in a large mixer bowl, mix 2 cups of flour, salt and vital wheat gluten. Add the yeast mix to the bowl. Slowly stir in remaining 2 cups of flour. 

      Knead dough for 5 minutes on a floured surface. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled (30-45 minutes). 

      Punch dough down, mix in cinnamon and raisins by kneading into the dough just until swirled throughout. I found this a little bit difficult with the raisins and may rinsing the raisins first next time in order to make them stick in the dough more readily. I also lost a few to the boiling process, so the raisins are a work in progress.

      Divide into 8-12 bagel balls, depending on desired size (I went with 8 for the standard bagel size). Let dough balls rest for 5 minutes.

      Preheat oven to 350F. Boil water and baking soda. Meanwhile, place bagels on greased cookie sheets. Poke holes through the center of the bagel balls and stretch the holes to about 2 inches in diameter. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

      Drop bagels into boiling water (2-3 at a time, depending upon the circumference of your boiling pot and the size of your bagels) for 45 seconds, flipping once. Drain on a wire rack with a towel underneath. Once drained, place bagels back on your greased baking sheets.

      Bake at 350F for 35 minutes, rotating pan(s) once halfway through baking.

      The Results
      The bagels are nice and yeasty but not overwhelmingly so and the kids love the cinnamon raisin flavor. The process was really simple and I'll definitely continue to experiment with this recipe. The texture turned out very good, but the holes don't survive quite as well as they do with the rolled cylinder technique for bagels. That actually makes it easier to spread cream cheese inside the bagel, but if you're a bagel purist, the rolled method is a tad more effort but more effective.

      Tuesday, January 17, 2012

      Get Real Muffin Comparison

      Homemade Lemon Poppyseed (left) and instant muffins (right)
      When I was taking inventory on my pantry for Get Real, I uncovered a package of Lemon Poppyseed Muffin mix. Now, I've never been a food snob by any means. I'd eat store-bought muffins and make cakes and treats from mixes, no problem. There's a special place in my heart for those tiny little mini blueberry muffins that you make from a bag mix. We used to make them all the time when I was a kid and I loved them. But, since having kids, I've been more aware of labels.

      The muffin mix was something we grabbed in the store out of habit over a year ago. When we got it home and read the label, we realized we didn't want to feed it to our toddler or to me (I was nursing a newborn at the time). But, I'm not one to throw things away, so there it sat in the back of my pantry.

      When I realized I had these delicious homemade Lemon Poppyseed Muffins scheduled to bake for Once A Month Mom, I decided it was kismet. I dug out that bag o' instant muffins and decided to do a little comparison between the homemade and the instant muffins. First up, in the comparison the ingredients. The instant muffins are of the "just add milk" variety. So, all I needed for those was the package and the milk. I used organic whole milk, which seems a little silly considering what's on the label, but organic is all I keep on-hand. As for the label ingredients, I think my favorites include the aluminum-filled baking soda and the anti-caking agents for the powdered eggs.

      For the homemade muffins, I used mostly organic whole food ingredients, and aluminum-free baking soda. The ingredients included lemon zest, organic eggs, unbleached flour, organic unsalted butter, organic poppy seeds (strangely they were actually cheaper than regular poppy seeds and in a larger quantity...bizarre), pure vanilla extract and organic whole milk yogurt.

      Now, as for the mixing part, I had a lot more fun mixing up the homemade muffins with Bug, but I'll admit the instant muffins were ridiculously easy. I cut the bag, Bug poured the contents in a bowl. We poured the milk in her little whale measuring cup and she mixed it up all by herself. Definitely simple. I let bug pour all scoop all of our muffin batter into the muffin tins. The instant variety was lumpier, but it still looked okay at that point. It's when they came out of the oven that you could really tell the difference. And the difference was pretty crazy.

      The homemade muffins looked like the muffins I'm used to now. Fluffy, with rounded but lumpy tops. Yes, they're all different sizes, but hey, there was a toddler at the helm for the scooping. They're looking pretty good, considering.

      And then came the instant muffins. They actually baked around the same amount of time, but at a higher temperature and yet they came out pale, with smooth tops and looking a little sickly. But, I still assumed at this point that the muffins would be tasty in spite of their other faults. Here was my mistake: I tasted the homemade muffins first. If you're trying this at home, I'd highly recommend doing the taste test the other way around. You may not know what you're missing for at least a blissful few minutes.

      As for appearance and texture, the homemade muffins, (on the left, without papers) were a nice golden yellow from the lemon zest, but not that creepy neon yellow of some store-bought lemon items. The cake was fluffy and moist and the poppy seeds were speckled evenly throughout. The instant muffins (on the right, in papers) were lighter and without a yellow cast at all. This was preferable to neon yellow, so I was OK with that, but the texture was not terribly fluffy they appeared more like the consistency of boxed white cake mix.

      So, then we tasted them. The homemade version was incredibly lemony, which is awesome since the lemon consists of just 2 tablespoons of lemon zest (about 1 lemon) for a batch of 12 muffins. That zest really packs a punch. The muffins held the right amount of sweetness and the cake was moist and fluffy without being soggy. The instant version had a hint of lemon juice flavor, but the dominant flavor was something vaguely metallic that, after taking a bite, I remembered as something I was fond of in those mini blueberry muffins. Now it just creeps me out. The texture was OK, but not nearly as hearty and fulfilling as the homemade muffins. Bug's criticism was the best. She spit the instant muffin back in her little toddler bowl and then frantically wiped at her tongue to get the crumbs off. I took a photo, but I decided not to gross anyone out with pre-chewed toddler food. Her little sister, Goose, was less discerning, she ate both versions happily. She did seem to gobble the homemade muffins more quickly than the instant variety.

      I was honestly a little surprised that I didn't like the instant muffins at all, I thought I'd probably like my homemade version better, but still appreciate the convenience of the instant and think they tasted pretty good, considering. I didn't think that at all, I thought they were gross by comparison and I wouldn't make them again. The good news is, I'll be much happier in my whole food journey with the prospect of better flavors on the horizon.

      Monday, January 16, 2012

      The Kids Cook Monday: Lemon Poppyseed Muffins {Vegetarian}

      Bug, who turns 3 next month, decided recently that she is too much of a big girl for naps. Now, at first, I'll admit it, I was terrified. I had no idea what I was going to do without my two to three hour break in the middle of the day to get things done around the house and to just veg out a bit by myself.

      We started our nap-free lives going out for walks with the baby monitor (so we can still hear little sister, Goose) and playing quietly in the rec room. Then I thought I should be using this opportunity with Bug by herself to teach her something. So we started doing some homeschool activities. And, of course, I still need to get some things done. Bug loves to help me cook and she learns a lot (in a fun, subtle way) about math and measurements when we cook together. We also both learn about patience. But it's not always the easiest thing for us to do together. Sometimes helpful little hands make cooking a little more challenging so I end up avoiding it for all but the easiest cooking tasks. That's going to change a bit now, in part due to necessity with our naplessness and in part because Bug is growing up and more able to help.
      Lemon Poppyseed Muffins @ OAMM

      This week we're cooking up two batches of Lemon Poppyseed Muffins. One, the homemade version is over at Once A Month Mom today. These muffins turned out incredibly fluffy and delicious, with just the right combination of tart, sweet and crunchy. The other is a pre-packaged mix that we found while doing our Get Real pantry purge. I'll be writing up a taste and texture comparison of the homemade versus packaged muffins later in the week.

      We mixed up all of our dry ingredients for our muffins. Bug was able to do this part exclusively, with her whale-shaped measuring cup and her little giraffe-handled whisk as well as my teaspoons. Meanwhile, I mixed the wet ingredients together in the stand mixer.

      Bug handled the final mix, mixing all the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients together in the stand mixer bowl after using that whale scoop to place all the dry ingredients in the bowl. She stirred so fast her hand's a blur! Bug helped scoop the batter into the muffin tins and I handled the work from there with the oven.We both shared taste-testing duties. The homemade muffins were incredible. The fluffy texture and slightly tart lemon flavor had just the right hint of sweetness. Bug gave the muffins the coveted "Yum, Yum" rating.

      This post is shared at·Mouthwatering Mondays, My Meatless Mondays, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Cravings, Just Another Meatless MondayHomemaker MondayMeatless MondaysMingle Monday, Mangia Monday, Made By You Mondays and Monday Mania.

      This Week's Cravings {CHEESE LOVER DAY}: Broccoli Cheddar Pockets

      Today's This Week's Cravings theme is CHEESE LOVER DAY and we're having our delicious Broccoli Cheddar Pockets, which we haven't had since way back on Day 159 of our 2011 challenge. The whole family loves the soup on its own and the bread pockets make everything more fun and less messy for the kids. The broccoli cheddar soup is cheesy with REAL cheddar and Mozzarella cheeses, which seems to be difficult when looking for cheese soup recipes. It seems so many are made with plastic cheese product.

      Please Grab Our Button


      Veggie Converter This Week's Cravings


      My This Week's Cravings co-hostesses are: Tina at Moms Crazy Cooking, Angie at Big Bear's Wife and Nicole at The Daily Dish. As hostesses, we will try our hardest to visit as many of the links we can. We all enjoy your links and look forward to gathering recipes each week.

      The party has a few SIMPLE RULES and all of the themes for the entire year are list here on the THIS WEEK'S CRAVINGS tab at Moms Crazy Cooking. Plan ahead, check out the weeks you want to make sure to link up or just browse them to see what's going on.

      This Week's Cravings Upcoming Linky "THEMES"
      Here is a complete list of the past and what's coming up next on THIS WEEK'S CRAVINGS!
        • January 23: Homemade Pies
        • January 30: Recipe from Your Favorite COOKBOOK
        • February 6: Nutella DAY (Peanut Butter, Almond Butter & More)
        • February 13: Valentine's Day Treats or Romantic Dinners

          If you are a regular link-up we're excited to see what you made this week. If you are new please read and follow the simple rules, so that everyone can enjoy the linky party! If you forget to follow the theme, your post will be deleted. Please don't feel hurt, just come back and link up a recipe that follows the theme. Thanks a million, we look forward to blogging with you!

          The LINKY PARTY is open ALL Week!

          PLEASE do not link more then 3 recipes per week.

          This week's theme is: CHEESE LOVER DAY

          Please only link recipes with our theme!

          This week's theme is: CHEESE LOVER DAY

          Please only link recipes with our theme!

          Sunday, January 15, 2012

          Menu Plan Monday January 16

          This week we're playing it simple again, pulling out several meals from the freezer and creating simple meals from what we have on-hand. We're doing a bit of a pantry challenge as part of the family's participation in Get Real and it's been incredible for our budget.


          Monday
          Broccoli Cheddar Pockets (This Week's Cravings: CHEESE LOVER'S DAY) and Lemon Poppyseed Muffins (at OAMM)

          Tuesday
          Taco Bar

          Wednesday
          Bacon Cheeseburger Soup

          Thursday
          Leftovers

          Friday
          Salsa and Black Bean Quesadillas

          Saturday
          Spaghetti Bolognese

          Sunday
          Pizza Bagel Bites

          This post is linked at·Menu Plan Monday.

          Friday, January 13, 2012

          Pumpkin Oatmeal {Vegan}

          I tend to hoard canned pumpkin when it's available ever since that freeze a couple years back made it difficult to find year-round. I opened up a can recently for something and had some leftover and blundered upon a recipe in my head that turned out great for myself and the kids. It was one of those moments where I was just sitting at the breakfast table (OK, I'll admit it was more of a brunch table because my lovely husband made it possible for me to sleep in) thinking of what to do with the leftovers in my fridge. Yes, I daydream about my leftovers. Is that weird? Regardless, I decided I'd mix pumpkin into my oatmeal and here's what I dreamed up.


          Pumpkin Oatmeal
          Ingredients for 1 serving
          • 1/2 cup oats
          • 1 cup water  (or almond milk or milk for non-vegan)
          • 2-3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
          • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
          • pure maple syrup (or honey if you're not vegan) to taste
          Directions
          Mix all ingredients except syrup and cook according to package directions. I used quick oats this time, and microwaved it about 2 minutes. Stir in syrup to taste, if desired (I used about 1/2 tablespoon).

          The Results
          This oatmeal is incredibly easy and incredibly tasty. The kids and I all went crazy for it and have had it several times since the first bowl last week (that one didn't even make it to the picture stage...I had to fight off the wolves, aka toddlers, to take this one). We absolutely love this oatmeal. Unsurprisingly, meat-eating hubby, aka pumpkin hater, didn't even care to try a bite. More for us pumpkin-loving girls, I say.

          I kept the spices simple for the kids, I think a pumpkin pie spice-type assortment (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger) would be excellent in this oatmeal, too.

          This post shared at Gallery of Favorites, Fresh Bites Friday, Friday Favorites, Potluck FridayFrugal Fridays and I'm Lovin' It.

          Wednesday, January 11, 2012

          Baked Seitan Pepperoni {Vegan}

          I'm hoping this recipe will be another big step in our Get Real progress. Vegan pepperoni is one of the fake meats I buy occasionally for recipes (though I have had a little success with Zucchini Pepperoni). The spices in the infamous Seitan o' Greatness recipe seem kind of pepperoni-y to me (and yes, pepperoni-y is completely a word...in my head). Now if this works out I'll just need to find a good baked chickeny seitan recipe to use for our favorite chicken dishes.


          Baked Seitan Pepperoni
          Adapted from Seitan o' Greatness.
          Ingredients
          • 1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
          • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
          • 1 teaspoon salt
          • 2 teaspoons paprika
          • 1/4 teaspoons cumin
          • 1-2 teaspoons pepper
          • 1/8 teaspoons cayenne pepper
          • 1/8 teaspoons all-spice
          • 3/4 cup cold water
          • 5 tablespoons (3 ounces) tomato paste
          • 2 tablespoons olive oil
          • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
          • 1 tablespoon veggie Worcestershire sauce
          • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

          Directions
          Preheat oven to 325. In a large mixing bowl mix dry ingredients. Mix the rest of the ingredients (liquid ingredients) in a smaller mixing bowl. Whisk well until mixed.

          Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix well. I start out with a spoon and then switch to my hands. Knead for several minutes.

          Form into a log 6 to 10 inches long (depending on desired slice circumference), wrap tightly in foil, twisting ends (I actually ended up wrapping mine more like a burrito). Bake for 90 minutes. Place it on a baking sheet or additional foil if you're worried about leakage.

          Unwrap and leave out to cool completely. Wrap in foil or plastic and refrigerate. Slice it to use as you wish. I highly recommend using a bread knife for the slicing. This seems to work best for seitan in my experience.

          The Results
          This was incredibly easy. I am completely in love with the baking process. I've only ever tried boiled seitan and CrockPot boiled seitan before (of which I loved the CrockPot process ever so much more). The baking is incredibly simple. Squish the stuff up, pop it in the oven and walk away for an hour and a half. Win!

          This did come out a little bit too salty for my tastes to eat on its own. It reminded me a bit of that Hillshire Farms sausage log they used to give out in samples at the mall when I was a kid, but not as sweet. Next time I'm going to try cutting the soy sauce down to 1 tablespoon and see where that brings us.

          This post is shared with Real Food Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesdays, Recipes I Can't Wait to Try, What's Cooking Wednesday, What's on Your Plate?, What's on the Menu Wednesday, Let's Do Brunch, Works for me Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, Recipe Link Party, Foodie Wednesday and Bake with Bizzy.

          Monday, January 9, 2012

          Menu Plan Monday January 9

          I'm getting my menu plan in a little late today, but better now than never. We didn't actually get to all of our meals from last week's plan (the kids didn't eat well due to sickness, so we had a lot of leftovers from the other meals). So, for lunches this week, we'll be having Eggplant Pizza, Vegan Curry, Chickpea, Cauliflower and Kale and Zucchini Fritters. I'm mostly pulling out of the freezer this week as party of my Get Real Pantry Purge. And luckily, I now have this handy freezer inventory to pull from.


          Monday

          Tuesday
          Tacos with our version of this mock Pace picante salsa recipe

          Wednesday
          Spaghetti with Vegan Bolognese

          Thursday
          Leftovers and making Seitan o' Greatness

          Friday
          Pizzas with Bolognese and seitan pepperoni

          Saturday

          Potato Kale Soup {Vegan}: This Week's Cravings {COMFORT FOOD}

          Today's This Week's Cravings theme is COMFORT FOOD: Soups and Casseroles. January is lovely, wonderful National Soup Month (in case you can't tell, soup is one of my absolute favorite types of meals). Bug (our nearly 3-year-old) recently decided she is far too big for naps, so she's become my big kitchen helper.

          She was so excited to pull the the kale leaves off all of the stems and place them in our veggie scrap bag for our Easy Slow Cooker Vegetable Broth that she wanted to put the veggies in, too! We had such a great time making this recipe, which is a favorite for my husband and I from the early days of our marriage. It's the first vegetarian recipe that I made for him from scratch that he really enjoyed. The soup's subtle spices, tender kale and creamy potato base are delightful for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. It's creamy with or without milk and the kids like a little cheese on top of their bowls of soup. I'm sharing the delicious recipe Potato Kale Soup over at Onceamonthmom.com today.

          The Results
          The soup is one of our all-time favorite homemade soup recipes. The kids can sometimes be a little weirded out by the kale in the soup, but they like the subtly-spiced creamy potato base immensely. My husband and I are both huge fans.

          Please Grab Our Button


          Veggie Converter This Week's Cravings


          My This Week's Cravings co-hostesses are: Tina at Moms Crazy Cooking, Angie at Big Bear's Wife and Nicole at The Daily Dish. As hostesses, we will try our hardest to visit as many of the links we can. We all enjoy your links and look forward to gathering recipes each week.
          The party has a few SIMPLE RULES and all of the themes for the entire year are list here on the THIS WEEK'S CRAVINGS tab at Moms Crazy Cooking. Plan ahead, check out the weeks you want to make sure to link up or just browse them to see what's going on.

          This Week's Cravings Upcoming Linky "THEMES"
          Here is a complete list of the past and what's coming up next on THIS WEEK'S CRAVINGS!
            • January 16: CHEESE LOVER DAY... YUMMY Cheese recipes
            • January 23: Homemade Pies
            • January 30: Recipe from Your Favorite COOKBOOK
            • February 6: Nutella DAY (Peanut Butter, Almond Butter & More)

              If you are a regular link-up we're excited to see what you made this week. If you are new please read and follow the simple rules, so that everyone can enjoy the linky party! If you forget to follow the theme, your post will be deleted. Please don't feel hurt, just come back and link up a recipe that follows the theme. Thanks a million, we look forward to blogging with you!

              This post is shared at·Mouthwatering Mondays, My Meatless Mondays, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, This Week's Cravings, Just Another Meatless MondayHomemaker MondayMeatless MondaysMingle Monday, MMMmonday, Mangia Monday,Make a Food-e Friend, Made By You Mondays and Monday Mania.


              The LINKY PARTY is open ALL Week!

              PLEASE do not link more then 3 recipes per week.

              This week's theme is: COMFORT FOODS: SOUPS & CASSEROLES

              Please only link recipes with our theme!

              This week's theme is: COMFORT FOODS: SOUPS & CASSEROLES

              Please only link recipes with our theme!