Tag Archives: cooking

Healthier Worms and Dirt : A Fun Snack For Kids!

healthier worms and dirt

Today I’m sharing a healthier twist on a fond childhood memory!

healthier worms and dirt

I love treating my kids,¬†but I prefer healthier snacks that will provide extra nutrients to get them through their day! I’m not even sure they notice a difference, to be honest! And it makes me feel like a good mom. ūüôā

I have fond memories of eating “worms and dirt” as a kid. The best librarian ever made it for us once at story time – just one of the many reasons to love her! In case you’re not aware, worms and dirt is chocolate pudding layered with crunched up Oreo cookies and gummy worms lurking inside! I thought it was the best thing ever as a young child.

So a couple months ago, I set out to recreate this awesome memory for my kids. I was inspired by finding organic gummy worms at the grocery – on sale! The next step was waiting for the healthier brand of Oreos to go on sale. (Yep, I’m really cheap.) I buy the¬†Back to Nature brand¬†whenever I get a hankering for yummy cookies (like Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Thin Mints, etc.) with no high fructose syrup, artificial colors, preservatives, or flavorings.

Once all those stars had aligned, I went looking for a healthier chocolate pudding recipe. I won’t buy the boxed mixes (especially when homemade tastes SOOO much better!) I couldn’t find a recipe I liked, so I combined a couple. Here is my tweaked version of an “Eat to Live cookbook” recipe and a random pin I found (and since lost).

Healthier Worms and Dirt Avocado pudding
Ingredients necessary for worms and dirt (plus vanilla!)

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

  • 2 avocados
  • 3/4 – 1 cup chocolate almond milk or plain, unsweetened almond milk (add until you get the consistency you like)
  • 7-8¬†Tbs. cacao powder
  • 10+ dates (possibly more, depends on your sweet tooth – can also add honey or maple syrup at the end if you find it’s not sweet enough. It’s easier than adding more dates!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

First, blend dates into a paste. This¬†is KEY¬†for getting a smooth pudding consistency (Unless you have a Vitamix, perhaps, or another high powered blender, which I don’t.). The dates will come together and ball up in a lump. Once that happens, you can¬†add all other ingredients. Add more almond milk if it’s too thick and¬†adjust amount of cacao and sweetener to taste. If it isn’t sweet enough, I recommend adding maple syrup or honey instead of more dates¬†for ease of blending it all in.

That’s it! You’ve got pudding!

  • Now crush some¬†cookies in a ziploc or chop them up in a food processor (I used about one row¬†out of 3 from the Back to Nature brand box of cookies.).

Grab a pretty glass or parfait dish for the pudding if you have one the kids can break (I have a glass mug set I got at a yard sale for 25 cents. 4 glasses for 25 cents! Totally breakable.).

  • Layer a couple scoops of pudding, then some smashed cookies. Add a couple Black Forest organic gummy worms. Repeat layers. Top with extra gummy worms and add a spoon!

Eating her healthier worms and dirt pudding!

My kids loved helping me make this special, healthier treat! And I loved eating it with them (sans gummy worms)!

Their favorite part was finding the hidden gummy worms…in fact, I probably could have skipped the whole pudding part and just thrown some worms on the table. Oh well. Someday they’ll appreciate me. ūüėČ

Thumbs up for healthier avocado pudding!
This is how they felt about their special snack! Thumbs up!

What’s a fond childhood snack memory you have? Anything you’d like to recreate as a healthier version for your kids? Let me know in the comments below!

 

The Best Kitchen Hacks To Save You Time, Effort, Money, and Misery

My Best Kitchen Hacks!

Welcome to this compilation of my best kitchen hacks!

I’ve been cooking and baking since I was a little girl, and I’ve learned a lot from my mom, a neighbor that let me cook with her, and my own personal experience since getting married.

Today I’m sharing with you kitchen hacks that took me decades to learn! (Two decades to be exact, but it is quality, not quantity that matters.)

My Best Kitchen Hacks!

Baking Muffins¬†Evenly – Only ended up with 11 muffins instead of 12? Fill any empty muffins cups with water to ensure even baking. So say my mom and grandma, anyway….could be family folklore, but I still do it every time. ūüôā

Boiling pasta¬†(etc.) – Place a wooden spoon across your pot and it won’t boil over. This is apparently scientific but only works if you do it before you run screaming to the stove because the contents of your pan¬†have already gone over the edge.

Oil/butter substitute for baking – Keep those¬†snack size¬†containers of unsweetened applesauce on hand.¬†Measure yours, but the ones I buy for my kids are¬†just about an exact 1/2 cup. That’s perfect for substituting in recipes that call for 1/2 cup of butter or oil. It may not be eco friendly, but it’s a lot better than opening a big jar only to have it go moldy in the fridge because you forgot about it. Not that I would ever do that.

Healthy Banana Substitute – Dislike banana but find it in EVERY healthy recipe? I knew I¬†wasn’t the only one! Cook a sweet potato in the microwave until soft and use that instead (equivalent amount- you may have to guesstimate). Applesauce will sometimes work, too. Or, pick a banana that’s on the greener side. They’re not as sweet and not as banana-y tasting. ūüėõ

Multitasking coffee grinder – Gave up on grinding your own coffee beans? Or upgraded to a new grinder? Keep that old extra grinder on hand to grind your own¬†spices. Or nuts, flax seeds, grains….

Make your own oat flour – Ever see a recipe calling for oat flour? My fav muffin recipe calls for it, but I’ve never once bought a bag of it. I grab my Ninja food processor bowl and toss in whatever kind of oats I have on hand. Whirl and pulse until fine. Voila!

Food Processor

Keep your cold foods¬†cold – Having a party and need to keep your salad¬†cold during the event? Put some ice in a bowl that’s slightly larger than whatever your salad (or other cold item is in). Nestle your bowl of salad into the larger bowl of ice and it should keep for longer! I also saw this idea on Pinterest –¬†How to Make an Ice Bowl. Great for serving shrimp, or chilling wines, maybe keeping fruit cold?

Rising Bread – Trying to master¬†homemade breads? Most recipes tell you to put your oven on warm to rise your bread, but¬†that doesn’t always work. My oven is still pretty hot on the warm setting and begins baking the bread prematurely! Instead, microwave a couple mugs of water until boiling. Stick the mugs in opposite corners of your microwave and put your bowl of dough in, covered with a light towel as usual. Close microwave and leave to rise – but occasionally check the warmth inside. You may need to remove the bread and reheat the mugs of water. Do NOT leave the bowl of dough inside when you microwave the water. Your towel might catch on fire. Not that I would know this from personal experience…

Stop¬†crying while chopping onions – Freeze onion briefly or refrigerate before chopping. This is scientific – look it up! You can also run under cold water but it’s not as effective.

Rotten Eggs – Not sure whether your eggs are still fresh? Play sink or float. Place your eggs in a bowl of cool water. If they sink they’re fresh; if they float they’re no good. (To remember which is which, remember – dead fish float to the top, and so do your dead rotten eggs. Ha!)

Save on Citrus Fruit¬†– Don’t you hate when a recipe calls just for citrus zest, no juice? Or vice versa? Next time, squeeze the juice from your citrus fruit and freeze the rind. Next time you just need the zest, you won’t have to waste a fresh lemon, lime, or orange!

Save On Citrus!

Another lemon tip – Enjoy having fresh lemon in your water? Or a slice in your tea? Slice up a couple lemons all at once, and freeze in a layer on a parchment paper lined pan. Or use my lazy man method –¬†line them up in a freezer bag and carry it as carefully as you can over to the freezer. Either way works! Next time you want a lemon slice or two for your drinks, grab one from your frozen stash!

Softer edge brownies – I don’t make brownies much anymore but I learned as a kid, it is best to grease the pan, not spray it. You have more control this way…brownies do NOT like greased edges and the cooking spray often gets on the sides of the pan whether you want it to or not. Also, bake at 25 degrees lower than the box calls for and a few minutes longer. The edges won’t get too crisp before the middle is done. It depends on your oven (and your pan) of course, but this tip helped us be able to stop throwing out concrete edged brownies.

No more grating on my nerves (or cheese)¬†– Let it be known that I HATE grating cheese or anything else. So one day, I had this brilliant idea (or, okay, I’m not gonna lie, maybe I saw it on the Food Network, I really don’t remember). Roughly chop up your bar of cheese and throw it in your food processor. Pulse until you have tiny little crumbles. Once it melts, no one is the wiser for your time saving method! You’re done in about 2 minutes as opposed to the hand-cramping hour it would normally be (give or take, ya know). This also works for zucchini! And¬†I sincerely doubt that anyone will care if you have zucchini crumbles instead of shreds¬†in your bread or muffins.

I hope you’ve found some of these kitchen hacks to be useful! I also have a coffee hack post,¬†How to Make Gourmet Coffee at Home¬†in which I share an easy way to quickly froth your own milk!

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to share with your friends, so they can save time and misery too. ūüėČ

My best Kitchen Hacks to Save You Time, Effort, Money, And Misery

How to Make the BEST Zucchini Noodles Ever

Tips to make the best zucchini noodles ever!

Lately,¬†I’ve found myself repeatedly sharing with friends¬†how to make¬†the best zucchini noodles. Finally I thought to myself, why not just make a blog post about it?

Tips to make the best zucchini noodles ever!

We’re cutting back on grains, and with zucchini in season, it is the PERFECT time to be making zucchini noodles! I never expected “zoodles” to take the place of my beloved carb loaded pasta. BUT….I’ve found it to be a pretty delicious alternative.

If you don’t like zucchini, try these anyway. (I typically hate cooked/stir-fried/baked zucchini – yuck!!) Use my method, and these “noodles” will come out with a great texture very similar to pasta.

  1. Make your zucchini noodles. (I use a Pampered Chef spiralizer I bought from a friend. My Palermo brand one from Amazon broke after six uses. Spend a little more for better quality!)
  2. Put the zoodles in a colander and set it over a bowl.
  3. Salt the zoodles well.
  4. Let sit in fridge for several hours, the longer the better.
  5. Remove from fridge. You will see a lot of zucchini water in the bowl below!! Squeeze and pat zoodles dry with a paper towel or two.
  6. Grab a skillet and throw those zoodles right in there. I don’t even oil my pan, but you can if you think you need to. ¬†Saute over medium to medium-high heat for a few minutes. Just long enough to heat through and get a bit more water out.
  7. Add your sauce and Voila!

Follow these tips and you’re almost guaranteed to come out with the best zucchini noodles you’ve ever made!

So far, I’ve never managed to ruin my zoodles, not even once. Well, ok, I came close when I tried to make sauce and cook the zoodles at the same time in the same pan. (They were a bit chewy. So don’t do that.) So, I’ve either got the touch or these are pretty much fail proof! Try them and let me know!

Here are some of my fav zucchini noodle recipes I’ve made so far:

Zucchini Noodle bowl

Ginger Scallion and Egg Drop Bowl Zucchini Noodle Bowl¬†(If adding the zoodles to soup, I think they’re pretty much dump and go. No need to spend a lot of time getting the water out and saut√©ing since they’ll be going into broth.)

and…

delicious zucchini noodles with sesame ginger sauce

Zucchini Noodles with Sesame Ginger Sauce 

which go great with :

Asian Quinoa Meatballs to serve with zucchini noodles!

Asian Quinoa Meatballs

Just remember not¬†to saut√© the zucchini noodles in the same pan you’re making the sauce in. It¬†ruins any chance of great pasta-like texture. Go ahead and make both the sesame ginger sauce and the meatball sauce if you make those two dishes for dinner- you will probably need the extra sauce. I used almond butter in the sesame ginger sauce and we LOVE it that way!

You can also saut√© extra veggies along with your zoodles – bell peppers, mushrooms, super finely diced¬†carrots (I obliterate my carrots in the Ninja Master Prep¬†chopper bowl¬†– ain’t nobody got time for a cutting board! ūüėČ And unless the carrots are chopped tiny, they won’t cook fats enough.)

Good luck¬†making the best¬†zucchini noodles ever! I hope my tips help and are easy to follow! If not, let me know about it in the comments and I’ll do an edit just for you. ūüôā

Cheddar Basil Parmesan Toasts

Cheddar Basil Parmesan Toasts Social
I came up with these Cheddar Basil Parmesan Toasts one day when I just had to have some toasty warm, cheesy bread! They turned out delicious!

Cheddar Basil Parmesan Toasts Social

It all started at Kroger…and I was hungry. Carbs never seem more appetizing than when your stomach is running on empty, amiright?

Salivating, I perused the bakery shelves with their crispy asiago bread and four cheese Italian loaf. But those darn loaves of bread were $4! All I could think was, this is cheap old white flour and water! And I could make it myself, had I the time and inclination (which I certainly did not).

I moved on to the clearance bread rack and found a yummy looking (yet somewhat boring) multigrain loaf for only $1.49. Bingo!

Multigrain Loaf for Cheddar Basil Parmesan Toasts

When I got the bread home, I sliced it into 1/4 inch pieces.

I laid the bread slices in a small pan (leave a little space between each slice for crispier results).

I put a few pieces of white cheddar cracker barrel cheese on top of each slice of bread. (This cheese is seriously awesome Рanother blogger recommended using it in her Creamy Dreamy Mac N Cheese recipe and she was totally right about it!)

Then I grabbed some fresh basil leaves from my little herb garden on my back porch (herbs are pretty much the only thing I can get to grow. ūüôĀ ).

Basil Parmesan Toasts

I ripped my basil up really small and covered every square inch of that bread and cheese with it.

Next, I topped it all off with some shaved¬†parmesan I bought in a giant container from Costco. ‘Cause I’m super fancy like that. You want something to hold the basil on and something to protect it from the broiler.

Cheddar Basil Parmesan Toasts with shaved parmesan from Costco

Which brings me to baking instructions…

Cheddar Basil Parmesan Toasts
Leave a little more space than this between slices- this was my second batch and it was not as crispy as the first. I think I overcrowded the pan.

Set your oven to high broil, and leave your rack in the middle. I ALWAYS burn things when I try to broil them, but this method did not fail me.

Four minutes on high broil did the trick perfectly! The cheese was bubbling all over, some had run over the sides and crisped up ever so slightly, and it was all just pure perfection.

The minute I took the pan out of the oven, my four year old bloodhound daughter perked up her nose. Sniffing, she said, “Something smells delicious! What’s that Mommy; can I have some?”

Begrudgingly, I shared.

It wasn’t long before the 2 year old came in and Big Sis¬†had to flaunt her basil parmesan toast, “Look what I have!!”. Grr…

Needless to say, I had to make a second batch! But that was ok – hubby got to enjoy some too!

To recap the instructions:

Layer:

Slice of bread

Slices of Cracker Barrel White Cheddar cheese (one or two per slice of bread, just make sure bread is covered end to end)

Ripped Basil (Be generous! I used a leaf or two on every slice)

Shaved parmesan (just enough to cover basil)

Broil 4 minutes on middle rack.

Enjoy!

This makes a great, cheap side or appetizer that just might impress your guests!

I was going to sprinkle some garlic powder on these babies, too. Because garlic makes everything taste better! But I forgot, and was surprised to realize I didn’t miss it at all.

Try it and let me know what you think! Try different cheeses, try garlic and chive, whatever sounds good to you! Whatever yummy creation you come up with, report back to me!

And don’t forget to pin it for later!

Delicious, quick and easy cheddar basil parmesan toasts!