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Kids In The Kitchen: No Bake Granola Bars

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My kids and I love Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, but it has recently come to my attention that these are probably one of the most unhealthy granola bars on the grocery shelf…no wonder they taste so good.  So, I decided to try to make my own granola bars at home and found a great no bake recipe to try.  The kids were able to make them with almost no help from me, and they taste unbelievable.  No more store-bought granola bars for me and my family!

Here’s the step-by-step recipe with cute pics of my kiddos in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

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No Bake Granola Bars

Ingredients:

2 cups quick cooking oats

1 cup crispy rice cereal

1/4 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Choice of mix-ins

Directions:

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the oats…

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the rice cereal…

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and the coconut.  Set aside.

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2.  In a small sauce over medium high heat, melt the butter.

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Add the honey…

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brown sugar…

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and salt.

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Stir together and allow to come to a boil.  When the boil has reached the edges of the pan, begin timing for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

3.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

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4.  Pour this mixture over the oat mix and stir everything together until oats are completely coated.

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Allow to cool.

5.  Add your choice of mix-ins.  We did cranberry white chocolate chip.  Add 1/2 cup of each ingredient you choose.  So for ours, we added 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips…

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and 1/2 cup of Craisins.

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You could add nuts, pretzels, chocolate chips, dried fruit, or candy…anything you think you might like in a granola bar.  Don’t you just love the freedom!?!

6.  Press the mix into a 9×13 pan…

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and stick in the fridge for 20 minutes.

7.  When cool, turn out onto a cutting board.  (I had to tap the bottom of my pan gently with a knife to release the granola.)  Cut the granola in 16 bars…

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and enjoy!

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I also did my own batch with salted peanuts, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chips.  It turned out very yummy!

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Hope you have as much fun making your granola bars as my kids and I did.

Beans And Greens…A Country Staple

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I hope all of you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend as much as I did.  It’s wonderful to spend time with family while honoring and remembering the ones who have served our country and died for our right to be free.  We live in such a great nation with so many freedoms we take for granted on a daily basis.  I am proud to be an American and so proud of all those who serve and have served our country, including many of my own family members.

Although the recipe I am going to post has nothing to do with Memorial Day, I needed to take a moment to show thanks for those who have served and the freedoms we enjoy because of them.

Now, on to the delicious country dinner of beans and greens, which I’m quite certain any service man or woman would love!  This dinner is one of my favorites, right up at the top with meatloaf.  There is nothing like good ole country, stick to your ribs, beans and greens.  And no dinner of beans and greens would be complete without corn muffins to sop up the soup at the end of your meal.  I always dice up some onion to put in my beans, and for some reason, I always serve slices of cheddar cheese with beans.  And, for goodness sake, make sure you throw some of the ham hock in your dish of beans.  The whole combination of beans, greens, corn muffins, ham hock, onions, and cheese just seems to be perfect.  Hope you enjoy!

Beans and Greens…A Country Staple

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Pinto Beans

Ingredients:

1 pound dry pinto beans

1 ham hock

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.  Place dry beans in a pot and cover with 6 to 8 cups of water.  (Make sure to check your beans for little rocks before you start cooking.)  Bring beans to a boil for 2 minutes and then remove from heat.  Allow them to soak for 1 hour.

2.  Now, you can either drain the water from the beans and rinse them, or not.  I know that every recipe I’ve ever read tells you to drain and rinse.  This soak and rinse method is supposed to make the beans cause less “uncomfortableness” after you eat them.  (You all know what I’m talking about!) I’ve never noticed any difference in soaked and rinsed beans and soaked and non-rinsed beans.  So, I just soak my beans to cut down on cook time, but do not rinse.  I think it takes away a lot of the flavor of the beans to rinse them, but the choice is up to you.

3.  Add the ham hock and salt and pepper to the pot.  Cook the beans low and slow, stirring often, for about 4 hours.  Always make sure the beans are covered with water, at least 2 inches above the beans.  Cooking the beans slowly, and on low heat, makes for a richer soup and keeps the beans from busting.

Collard Greens

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These greens came straight from our box garden.  There’s nothing like eating fresh greens and knowing what goes in them and where they came from.  Since I garden organically, I know that absolutely no pesticides touched my greens.  And they are so very yummy!

Ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh (or frozen) collard greens

2 cups water

4 Tbsp. butter

1 ham hock (from pinto beans)

1 Tbsp. sugar

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.  Separate the stems from the leaves and throw the stems away.  Wash leaves in cold water.

2.  In a large skillet, combine water, butter, ham hock (just steal the one in your beans), sugar, and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and add the collard greens.  Simmer over medium heat for about 1 hour, or until tender.

Corn Muffins

Ingredients:

Shortening

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups Buttermilk Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix

Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 450F.  Place 1 small spoonful of shortening (I use Crisco) in the bottom of 12 muffin cups.

2.  Stir eggs, milk, oil, and corn meal in a bowl until smooth.  Batter should be creamy and pourable, so if it’s too thick, just add a little more milk.

3.  Put the muffin pan in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until shortening is hot.  Fill cups about 2/3 full with the batter (I use an ice cream scoop to fill my muffin pans, makes less mess), and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

In The Garden

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I promised a garden post yesterday, but got a little sidetracked trying to rescue a little birdie. (More on this in a later post.)

So today, I am finally blogging about my garden.  I love time spent in my garden…  working in the soil with my hands, pulling weeds while I sing to my plants, and finally, eating all the yummy fruits, herbs, and veggies that grow.  My husband and kiddos also love working in the garden with me and enjoying the rewards for their labor.  I think there is something very therapeutic about working in the garden, whether you grow flowers or edibles, or both.  Everyone should have a garden!

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I have landscaped around my entire house with trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and annuals.  I love walking out every day and seeing the beautiful growth and vibrant colors.  Since I also spend time bird watching, all these trees, shrubs, and flowers have provided a welcome haven for the little birdies and attract more of them for me to enjoy.

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For my edible garden, I decided to build garden boxes.  Much of the soil around our house is fill dirt or red clay, and even though I was able to amend the soil for my landscaping, I didn’t want to fight with it every year for my garden.  With my garden boxes, I’m able to till the dirt every spring with a hand rake without having to break my back.  It sure makes gardening more enjoyable!

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I have four garden boxes, and this provides more than enough food for my family to enjoy in the spring, summer, and fall, plus canned food for the winter.This is my greens box.  I grew collard greens, kale, romaine, and spinach this spring.  I just put down summer crisp lettuce seeds.  Must have greens all season!  I love my greens!

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I have chives, garlic, onion, and leeks in this box.  These are my cooking staples.  I cook with garlic and onion almost every day.  And chives have so many uses…even the blooms are edible, and pretty, too.

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I just put my tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in the ground.  We’ve had a very cool spring, so I didn’t want to risk putting them in early and being hit with frost.  I have 6 different types of tomato plants including Better Boy, Roma, and Cherry tomatoes.  I plant red and green pepper, and slicing and pickling cucumber.  I always make sure to can plenty of crushed tomato to use in the winter, and lots and lots of pickles.  I love pickles!

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Although this garden box looks empty, there is a lot of work going on beneath the soil.  This box will be full of corn and beans soon.  I have 3 different varieties of corn, bush beans, and pole beans.  With boxes, you can plant the corn closer together, which helps with pollination, producing a better crop.  So even though I won’t have a large crop, those ears will be full and yummy.

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I also added a few garden pots this year for my herbs.  I have an Italian herb pot with Rosemary, Oregano, Italian Parsley, and Sweet Basil.  All the makings for any Italian dish.  I also have a pot for my Mexican meals.  I put Cilantro, Jalapeno Pepper, and a small container Tomato in this pot.  I see some yummy salsa in my future!

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I am also experimenting with carrots and squash in pots.  I found this idea on Pinterest, and decided to give it a try.  So far, they look good…we’ll see how it turns out.

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All these wonderful herbs and veggies will make for some very yummy food and some very yummy recipes for me to post on my blog!  Here is a sneak peek of my next blog post.  It’s gonna be a southern dinner you won’t want to miss.  This meal has cooked collard greens, and they are delicious.  Here is a picture of the greens just added to the skillet, wilting around a big chunk of ham hock.  Oh, they’re good!

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Spring Is Here!

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Finally, spring is making its way to Mingo County!  I have been patiently waiting to see my spring bulbs bloom and to get out in my garden and plant my spring crops.  Well, maybe I haven’t been all that patient.

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I was so excited when my daffodils and hyacinths started pushing their way through the ground, but the weather still felt so very wintry.  Unfortunately, the deer ate all of my tulip bulbs…every single one…silly deer!  My iris bulbs are sprouting, and soon I will be rewarded with their beautiful blooms.  I can’t wait!

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This week, my daffodils and hyacinths finally bloomed, and how very gorgeous they are!  It’s no wonder my favorite flowers are spring bulbs, and of course hydrangea, but I’ll have to wait a while yet for those to bloom.

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And, even more exciting than watching the flowers bloom in my yard is being able to get in my garden and plant my spring crop.  I love getting in my garden boxes, tilling the soil, and planting my own vegetables.  There is nothing better than eating fresh food from your own garden!  I already have some yummy chives popping up.  I use no fertilizer or pesticides on my plants, so I know what I eat is actually good for me.

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I am a barefoot and bare hands gardener.  I have tried to wear shoes and gloves when I garden, but I just can’t do it.  I love the feel of the dirt on my feet and under my nails.   I love the work that goes into tending my garden…I don’t even mind pulling the weeds.  I love the reward of fresh fruits and veggies, and lovely flowers, for all the work.  I just love being out in nature and being able to enjoy the rebirth and growth of spring and summer.  Bring on the warmth!

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Here’s To My Health

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Our family makes a point of sitting down together at the table to eat dinner every night.  I try to put a healthy, home cooked meal on the table each night.  I think it is so important for families to have that time to spend together enjoying food while talking about the good and the bad of the day.

Having said this, I’ll go ahead and let you know that I don’t sit down with the kids for our meals in the middle of the day because I’m usually busy trying to catch up on some household chores.  I make sure I feed my children a very healthy lunch with fresh fruits and veggies while I grab an Easy Mac on the run.

I realized today that I am very concerned that my children are eating three balanced, super healthy meals a day while I’m eating junk.  Am I the only mom who does this?  Surely, I am not alone.  Anyone want to make me feel better about myself?  Go ahead, tell me you eat junk, too.

I need to make sure I’m taking care of myself, too, so I can take care of my children.  I made a decision today to make sure I sit down to every meal with my family, not just dinner.  And, I’m going to make sure I’m putting the same good-for-you food into my body that I insist on putting into my children’s bodies…no more Easy Mac for me.

So, here’s to my decision to make time to eat healthy.  Here’s to my health!

 

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