Our family is growing in many ways... Growing in numbers, knowledge, parenting skills, growing in love, in our faith, growing our culinary skills (if you can call it that), growing without gluten (some of us), growing green...........

Monday, October 31, 2011

Snack time! Apple Nachos

I saw something about apple nachos on pinterest recently,and it caught my attention. I'm glad I clicked to learn more because I first thought it looked like they were drizzled with caramel. Sure, that might be yummy (though I'm not a big caramel fan, myself), but it's not the healthiest thing ever. I almost passed right over the pin and moved on. But then I realized, nope..it was peanut butter. The whole snack was pretty darn healthy. And I knew I had to try them. But I had to tweak them to make them allergy-friendly for our home. The hubby has some tree nut allergies and is also allergic to peanuts, so out went the peanut butter and sliced almonds. Apples are in season big-time in North Carolina right now, so we've been buying a half of a bushel at a time from the Farmer's Market and eating lots of apples. So, a new way to eat them for a snack really appealed to me. Not that we tire of just plain apples. We can, and do, eat them every day! But new is nice sometimes.

So, this is our version (based on this one). Hope you try it and like it! You can easily change things up and make it your own. Feel free to share how you make it, too!

Apple Nachos
2-3 apples, depending on size, sliced thin (thin enough for little kids to easily eat after toppings are on them, not super thin)
3-4 Tbsp Sunflower Butter
Small handful of chopped pecans
Small handful of chopped walnuts
Small handful of dark chocolate chips and/or raisins
Unsweetened shredded coconut

Slice the apples and place them around a big plate, overlapping some, if needed. If you want, you can spritz them with some lemon juice to keep them from turning, but we didn't do this.

Melt the sunbutter until thin enough to drizzle over the apple slices.

Side note: I first tried this on the stove. Even though I used low heat, it still did not work and resulted in sunbutter that had to be tossed. Maybe this works fine with regular peanut butter, but it didn't work for me with the sunbutter. I could have attempted using the microwave to melt it, but I was left with just enough for the snack at this point and didn't want to chance ruining it all. So, I used the double boiler method, just as if you were melting chocolate. That worked well enough! It did take a few minutes, but it was very worth it in the end! (Updated to add...tried the microwave. That didn't work, either. So far, double boiler is the best way I've found to thin the sunbutter.)

Once sunbutter (or whatever nut butter you choose) is melted and thin enough, drizzle over the apple slices. I just took the whisk and did a little at a time. It didn't drizzle perfectly, but it worked well enough! Leave a little bit of the sunbutter for the very top layer.

Sprinkle on pecans, walnuts, chocolate/raisins, and coconut. Drizzle remaining sunbutter on top of everything. Serve!

We used dark chocolate chips on one half and raisins on the other half. I actually (surprisingly) preferred the raisins! Aiden didn't seem to care which he got. So, I'll probably stick to raisins next time. Camden, the 12-yr-old, wasn't thrilled with the snack but kept coming back for more here and there. He isn't a huge fan of sunbutter, but he liked the rest. I didn't love sunbutter when we first started using it, but I've gotten so used to it now, I kind of prefer it to peanut butter. If you've never tried it, it's a great nut-free alternative.

Raisins side...

Dark chocolate chips side

We ate this while having some family time with a redbox movie (Rio - very cute!). The snack did not last long, even though I made a huge plate full of it! One other thing I loved was that it is not nearly as messy as it looks! Everything really sticks to the nut butter pretty well! It was a big hit, and we will definitely be serving this up again.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Green Cleaning: Microwave and Garbage Disposal

We use green cleaners for just about everything in our house. Actually, I can't think of a cleaner we use that isn't "green," but by now we make most of those cleaners. I have a tab along the top of the blog that includes all of our green cleaning recipes, but I haven't really posted about them much. So, I thought I would do that, going through each one here and there, giving some tips on how we make and use them.

Since I just used this one the other day, I thought I would start with it... Green cleaner for your microwave and garbage disposal. Now, using a garbage disposal is not so green in the first place. It uses a lot of energy, for one thing. We don't use ours much, but inevitably things get dropped down there or plates with a tiny bit of food get rinsed off in the sink with the disposal instead of the other side, etc. Regardless, it needs to be cleaned from time to time! Some would also say that using a microwave may not be the greenest or safest thing. We make a lot of food in large batches so we'll have leftovers, among other things. So, our microwave does get used often, and therefore needs to be cleaned often.

The good thing is, cleaning these two items in a green way is beyond easy! And it helps to do them at the same time because they involve the same items.

Let's start with the microwave!
First, take the peels from an orange (or other citrus fruit...grapefruit, limes, lemons, etc.). 
Put them in a deep microwave safe bowl.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Easiest Meal Ever? Close, at least! *Salsa Chicken*

If you're looking for a super easy slow-cooker meal that is healthy, delicious, kid-friendly, inexpensive...this is a great one! This has quickly become one of our favorite meals. I got the original recipe from my friend, Leigh Ann, and have adjusted a little based on how I usually cook. You can use canned items, but we try to avoid them when we can and use either fresh or frozen in place of them. We cook dried beans and freeze in jars that would give us a can's worth at a time. We do use a jarred salsa, but you can use whatever you like. It's one thing I haven't tried making myself yet. ;)

This is supposed to be called Salsa Chicken, but after I somehow kept getting the words reversed and got tired of my 12-year-old correcting me, I decided it would be called Chicken Salsa in our home. I don't know why I never get it right, so we just made the backwards way right. Now I can correct that kid when he says it "wrong," right? Right. I'll use the "correct" name for you, though. We've also made this with turkey leftover from Thanksgiving before. Came out just as yummy!

Salsa Chicken

Only five ingredients!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Green Polka Dot Box (And how to get a FREE membership!)

I just wanted to let you all know about something I recently found out about that I think some of you might be interested in. I'm pretty excited about it myself! I know some folks live in areas where health food stores are hard to come by (or are simply nonexistent), making your food choices limited if you're searching for certain foods that convential chains might not typically carry. Some of you might be interested even if you are near good health food stores because the prices can be high for some of the foods you want/need to purchase. I've got great news for all of you! :)

There is a new "membership discount" store that is opening up in just a week or so, and if you get in now, you can actually get a one-year membership for free this year. Think Sams Club, Costco, BJ's (whatever is in your area)...except that the focus of this store is organic, whole foods! It's called Green Polka Dot Box. As far as I know, this is the first store like this. I've even been wondering when something like this would get going and am surprised it's taken so long, but...at least it's starting now. This is actually just one store at the moment, located in Utah, but you will be able to order online, as well, with good shipping prices (and free for orders over $150). I know when we go to BJ's we can TOO easily spend over $100 at a time, since you're buying in bulk (even with the discount prices). Same would go for here, I'm sure - buying in bulk you can easily spend that much a couple times a year but come away with some really good savings.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

FREE Project: Dry-Erase "Board"

Who likes free stuff? Um, yeah. I do, too. This project is pretty cute, easy, and functional, and odds are you might already have everything needed to make it.

Have any frames that you're not using? I do. But I happened to find the one I used for this at Goodwill. I think it would have cost maybe $1.50. But my mama was with me and she had cash, while I didn't, so she bought it for me. (Thanks, mom!) So, this wasn't necessarily free, I guess. But even at $1.50...it's pretty close.

I love the little owl in the corner. Adds some character and makes it a
bit friendlier, since to-do lists aren't usually all that fun in the first place...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hutch Transformation

In case you're wondering (I'm sure you all are, right!?) why the lack in posts lately... We've been a bit busy.

Turning this...
Into this...

Before I decided to paint, I made one small change that started it all... 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Overnight Steel-Cut Oats

I know a lot of folks out there like oatmeal. I am not one of them. For me, it's totally a texture issue. I like other things with oats in them, but oatmeal not-so-much. That is...until I started eating steel-cut oats. What a difference! The taste is still there, but they're a bit chewier and nuttier than rolled oats. It's not the same as the other mushy oatmeal that I don't like. I still can't eat it every single day, but I do like to have it on occasion, especially when it gets colder outside and we all want a nice warm breakfast in the morning. And the boys really like it!

The only thing is, steel cut oats can take a while. Half an hour or so. I know I certainly don't have that kind of cooking time in the morning! For a while I would just cook it at night and then put it in the fridge to reheat in the morning, but then I learned about making *overnight* steel-cut oats. It's the best of both worlds...you get the good kind of oatmeal (in my opinion) and it doesn't take forever to make. Plus...steel-cut oats are actually better for you than regular oats. They are much less processed and have more dietary fiber. (And if you eat gluten-free, you can just use gluten-free oats.)

This recipe makes quite a bit, which we happen to like because we can all eat it for breakfast one weekend morning and then use leftovers for some of us for breakfast during the week. You can easily halve it or change the amounts to make the amount you want.