Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Vegetarian Stroganoff

I have often heard vegetarians criticized for trying to recreate meat-like meals. I'm really not sure why this is a sore spot between meat eaters and non-meaters. In my opinion- you eat what you like and I'll eat what I like. At the time of writing this, it has probably been about four years since I gave up meat. I really don't miss it. From tacos to a hearty spaghetti sauce, if you've looked through the recipes on this site, you can see that we are eating well.

Stroganoff was a personal favorite that I remember from back in my meat eating days. It was one of those childhood meals I didn't think I was missing until I created this dish and tasted it for the first time. My husband could not get enough of this when he ate it. To quote him, "Ooooooh, this is really really good!"

Now, setting aside how delicious this meal is, it was also one of the ugliest I have ever tried photographing. Stroganoff with lentils is a big pile of brown mushroom glop. (Oh, but what gloriously delicious glop it is!) I tried my best with this photo.

Rich, creamy, and delicious.... I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as my family has. Our family is filing this one under: Vegetarian Comfort Food.

Vegetarian Stroganoff 
((Printable Recipe))

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup flour
5 cups vegetable stock, divided
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces egg noodles, cooked 

1. Prepare the lentil/rice mixture by bringing the lentils, rice, and 3 cups vegetable stock to a boil in a stock pot. Cover and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Set aside. 

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the onion and green peppers together for about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking another 3 minutes until the onions are tender and the mushrooms have released some of their moisture. 

3. Add the minced garlic clove and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the flour and stir to coat. Cook the mixture for another minute or two. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups stock until you have a nice gravy. Stir in the sour cream and lentil/rice mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked egg noodles.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quick and Easy Apple Skillet Breakfast Cake

This breakfast gets the words quick and easy added to the title because it uses a premade baking mix. As you may know by now, I don't use boxed or premade much of anything. I decided to come up with my own "Bisquick" made with real butter that I store in the refrigerator. This time saver really helps get a delicious homemade breakfast on the table in a hurry.

Quick and Easy Apple Skillet Breakfast Cake
((Printable Recipe))

Homemade Bisquick Baking Mix-
4 cups all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
2 cups whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur's white wheat)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup butter, cubed
(*see directions below)

Skillet Cake-
2 cups baking mix (from above)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or melted coconut oil)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large chopped apple (like honey crisp or granny smith)
1 tablespoon butter (for the skillet)

For the streusel-
1 tablespoon "Bisquick" mix
2 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. with a 10 inch cast iron skillet in the oven while it preheats.

2. Mix the streusel topping together in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Combine the milk, oil, egg, and brown sugar together with a whisk. Stir in the baking mix, cinnamon, and apple.

4. Remove the cast iron pan from the oven and add the butter to the hot skillet. After the butter melts, add your batter and top it with the streusel mixture.

5. Bake for 25 minutes until the center is done. Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

*For the baking mix: Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas. You can divide this in half and make two batches if it won't all fit in your food processor at one time. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel-Topped Brownies

Salty? Sweet? Enjoy both with these decadent chocolate brownies that get swirled with a luscious peanut butter filling. Top them off with crunchy salty pretzels and you have a winning combination!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel-Topped Brownies
((Printable Recipe))

Brownie Batter Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder (like Hershey's Special Dark)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Peanut Butter Filling Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a large handful of broken pretzels
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 11x7-inch baking dish

2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, stir together the cocoa powder, flour, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and baking powder with a whisk.

3. Melt the butter and add to a large mixing bowl. Add the chocolate chips and stir with a whisk until they begin to melt. Add the sugar and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the dry ingredients.

4. Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Set aside.

5. For the peanut butter topping, mix the 4 tablespoons melted butter, powdered sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla together. Spoon this over the top of the brownies. Drag a knife back and forth through the mixture to swirl it all together.

6. Break a large handful of pretzels over the top of the brownie/peanut butter mixture, pressing them down gently into the batter. Sprinkle lightly with a little additional sea salt.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove them form the oven when the center is still slightly underdone and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.

*You will also find my recipe for these brownies featured over at Recipe Lion.

Monday, March 24, 2014

10 Tips for Microwave Free Living

A few years ago our tiny microwave began shooting sparks out the side of it. It quickly headed for the trash. I headed out to the store the next day to buy a new one. Since I only needed a small one, the prices were pretty reasonable. Then I began thinking about what I actually used the microwave for...

1. Heating water up for tea when my friend comes over once a week.

2. Softening butter when I forget to set it out ahead of time for baking.

I couldn't quite justify a $60 price tag for that. I could tell you I gave up microwaves because they are unhealthy, and there are plenty of studies that show this to be true (and untrue), but let's be honest here- food that comes out of a microwave just doesn't taste that good.

-Food is cold on the outside and scalding hot on the inside.
-Vegetables are over steamed and rubbery.
-Popcorn gets scorched.
-You never quite know when water is "boiling" because it doesn't bubble in a microwave.
-Butter gets melted spots when you're trying to simply soften it.
-Melted chocolate gets hard clumps.
-Heating plastic containers in microwaves is bad news!

I could go on, but these were a few of my microwave issues. According to an article from Kitchen Daily titled Are Microwaves Toast? ... microwave sales are falling every year. I guess I'm not alone.

Here are my 10 Tips for Microwave Free Living:

1. Plan ahead: Food will not be ready within 2 minutes of you deciding you are hungry. But in our fast paced society, I think slowing down and planning ahead isn't such a bad thing.

2. Defrosting: Thaw meats or frozen food in cold water. Cold water thaws food more evenly.

3. Heating leftovers: Invest in a tiny toaster oven to save energy. Instead of storing leftovers in plastic, store them in glass or small CorningWare dishes that are oven safe. Baked food always taste better than microwaved. You can also place your CorningWare dishes in a water bath on the stove. Set your dish in a larger pot with about an inch of water surrounding the dish. Warm the water gently and stir. This is a great method for reheating rice that you don't want baked to the side of a dish. Water bath methods can also be used in an oven. (Find a how to picture here.)

4. Popcorn: After having popcorn on the stove there is no going back to microwaved popcorn! We use coconut oil for cooking our popcorn in. Then once you dump out the popcorn into a bowl, the same pot can be used for melting the butter to go on top.

5. Butter: To soften butter, use the rolling pin method or simply leave it out at room temperature. Melt butter in a small pot on low heat or use a butter warmer like this.

6. Tea: Use a tea kettle!

7. Pancake syrup: We keep our homemade syrup in a glass jar. Rather than dumping the whole contents into a pot that needs to be cleaned, try the water bath mentioned up above in #3. Simply warm the water and allow your syrup to warm while you're making the pancakes.

8. Reheating liquids: Pour it in a small pot and warm it up. (Or use the water bath method in #7.)

9. Melting chocolate: Water bath! (I know, I'm getting redundant here.) Find a great method here or use a double boiler.

10. Vegetables: Use a steamer basket for perfectly cooked frozen veggies. Boil corn on the cob for perfectly cooked summer corn. Parboil potatoes instead of microwaving them before throwing them on the grill.

So what side are you on? Team toaster or team microwave?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Homemade Electrolyte Drink

The stomach "flu" (gastroenteritis) has been making its way around the schools, my husband's office, and our church. Though we homeschool, we were not exempt from catching it this round. A phone call to our pediatrician confirmed that she too has been seeing many cases.

Our first time dealing with all three of our kids catching this at the exact same time was on our first trip to the happiest place on earth- Walt Disney World. Let me tell you, being trapped in a hotel room with three vomiting children is magical. (<---Note sarcasm.)

This time around our cases were a little more spread out, but just as dreadful. However, I would take sick kids in the comfort of our own home over being out of state on vacation any day. Time for some homemade electrolyte drink! (With none of the nasty ingredients in the other stuff.)

My recipe below was adapted from the Mother Nature Network. The amount will make enough for about 1 or 2 servings and can be easily doubled. *Honey can be used in place of the maple syrup, but my kids prefer the milder flavor of the maple syrup compared to my raw honey.

Homemade Electrolyte Drink
((Printable Recipe))

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup filtered water
1-2 tablespoons pure *maple syrup
1/16 teaspoon (small pinch) sea salt (I prefer Himalayan salt)

Mix, shake well, and chill.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day

What better way to celebrate mathematics than with pie!
Savory or sweet, I've got you covered for Pi Day.


While you're browsing my pies, check our Modernist Cuisine at Home for a delicious  recipe for Flakey Pie Crust and Sous Vide Vanilla-Cinnamon Pastry Cream.

Are you hungry yet? 

Monday, March 10, 2014

DIY No-Sew Cloth Napkins

I'm cheap. I am a tightwad. I'm frugal. I'm a penny pincher. Call it what you will- I have embraced this about myself over the years. On the other hand, I do indulge in such things as flour sack towels, real dishes, silverware, glass mason jars, and cloth napkins. As The Frugal Girl says, "Life with sturdy, non-disposable things is nicer, don't you think?" I find these are all beautiful little indulgences in my life. I have not purchased paper napkins in a couple of years. The paper towels are hidden under our kitchen sink. I use old cloth diapers to clean with, and I upcycle my husband's old work shirts into cloth napkins.

Switching over to cloth napkins is not nearly as daunting as it may seem. Has my laundry increased? Sure, I guess, but not enough that I have noticed. Do I spend all day folding things? No, it adds a few more minutes to laundry folding, but not much. Isn't using paper less wasteful than doing all that laundry? I think that argument is up for debate. What I love about these no-sew upcycle cloth napkins is that because they are made using my husband's old dress shirts, they are thin and take up hardly any extra space in my laundry. Once he wears holes in them that are not worth repairing, I simply cut them up and bam- instant napkins! What was my cost? NOTHING.

So how do you make them? Cut up an old shirt. Really, that's it. You can find a link to where I read about it here. Since we use these just for our family for everyday meals, I wasn't too specific about keeping every napkin the exact same size.

Sometimes you'll see a button hole. Sometimes a pocket.

But I figured..... who cares. I wanted to get as many napkins out of one shirt as I could. (I am a tightwad after all!) I even split the sleeves in half and got some more napkins that way.

Please note: These napkins do fray. However, the fraying dies down significantly after a few washes. Since I save the nicer store-bought cloth napkins for company, I'm not overly sensitive with how these turned out. You can also use pinking sears, but I noticed they frayed only slightly less than straight scissors.

If you don't have any old shirts to cut up, head to the craft store and look for the really cheap fabric remnants on clearance. They work just as well. (But not quite as frugal.)

So there you have it. Pile them up. Use them and reuse them... again and again. Quick, easy, environmentally friendly, and most importantly.... cheap! Embrace your inner tightwad.

(These napkins also make great handkerchiefs. I empty out old tissue boxes and fill them up with these. We use a different shirt pattern specifically for our washable "Kleenex". We don't use these on a daily basis, but when your nose is sore and raw from a bad cold, these feel so much better than even the softest tissue with the added "lotion" in them.)

Other posts you may like:
Homemade Tightwad Cleaners for Body and Home