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Easy Baked Spinach Ravioli

18 April 2014

Easy Baked Spinach Ravioli

Have you ever heard of oil pulling?  I hadn't, until a couple of weeks ago, when I ran across a post on it in my blog feed and then saw a whole bunch of stuff about it on Pinterest. 

I figured that I didn't have much to lose, so I went ahead and tried it.  The jury is still out on whether it works or does anything at all for me or not.  I don't think it was doing anything, but then I switched to an organic coconut oil (one that you can actually taste the coconut flavor), and I'm hoping it will do something more for my teeth sensitivity.

I've also very recently started using magnesium topically, doing oil cleansing for my face, and brushing with activated charcoal.  I feel like I've gone off the deep end a little bit.

And yet, I still eat ice cream and marshmallows.

Go figure.  I guess you've got to find balance somewhere!
Easy Baked Spinach Ravioli

On to the pasta...
I love pasta, but haven't had that much of it since being pregnant.  I am never in the mood for things like spaghetti.  However, I loved the idea of a ravioli bake because of its simplicity.  I threw it together in the morning before church, popped it in the oven, and it was just about ready to eat when we got home.

I love meals like this.  Simple and easy, yet still healthy enough to make me feel good about feeding it to my family.  If you want to make it even more from scratch, make the ravioli homemade too.  Homemade ravioli is delicious, but I gave up making it after having my baby girl, since it is also time-consuming.  Either way you have it, this makes a delicious and easy meal for your family.

Notes about this recipe:
1. Feel free to use ground beef, ground turkey, whatever meat you want in this recipe. I used venison because that's what we had on hand.
2. Generally, I like to cook a large batch of ground meat at once (if you're getting it from the store, just come home and cook it) and then stick it in the freezer in smaller packages for quick meals.  It's super handy and it doesn't really take any extra work. (Actually, it's less work if you fry a couple of pounds at a time.)

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Whole Wheat Cinnamon Maple Muffins

15 April 2014

Cinnamon Maple Muffins ~ Healthy, light, & airy, with no refined sugar!

I posted last week about the Mom Conference, and it has been seriously so helpful for me.  I'm sad that all the speakers & lectures are over, but I'm pretty excited about applying the things I learned.

One tip that I took away, was a challenge to make Mondays "No Sugar Mondays".  Doctor Rach mentioned that the American Health Association recommends no more than 3 teaspoons of sugar per day for 4-8 year olds and 4-6 teaspoons for 9-12 year olds.  However, the average American child consumes a whopping 30 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Now, our family usually eats pretty low sugar, so I don't think my little one is taking in anywhere near that much in a day, but that staggering statistic was enough to make me excited about ditching sugar (in all it's forms, honey, molasses, maple syrup, refined sugars, HFCS, etc.) for one day per week.

I had already made up my meal plan for the month, but still thought that I was up to the challenge anyway. (This was late Sunday night).  I ran into my first roadblock when I realized that we were out of milk, meaning I couldn't make the no-sugar breakfast that I planned to.

Scrap that.  We ended up having these banana muffins that I had leftover in the freezer.  They are still pretty healthy, but definitely have a little bit of sugar in them (not to mention the white chocolate chips on top that my daughter prefers to just pick off and eat).

The next hiccup I ran into was for the very next meal.  We were planning to have sloppy joes, but I had forgotten that ketchup (even my organic, no high fructose corn syrup, ketchup from Trader Joe's) has sugar in it.  I scrambled to find a different recipe and settled on one with decidedly less sugar, but it still had a tiny bit of molasses in it.  I managed to easily make our sides of corn and hummus sugar-free.  However, I remembered that even though I had used homemade hamburger buns with our sloppy joes, they still had a wee bit of sugar in them (honey).

Alas, this whole "No Sugar Monday" was a lot more difficult than I had originally thought. (Plus, whenever you tell me I can't have sugar, that just makes me crave it even more.  With quite disparaging results, I might add.)  Next week, I'm going to plan ahead a bit more to make sure we can have a completely sugar-less day.

Cinnamon Maple Muffins ~ Healthy, light, & airy, with no refined sugar!

On to the muffins - which aren't completely sugar-free - but it's not Monday anymore, so our family is off the hook.

It seems like I've posted lots of dinner recipes, so here's a recipe for a healthy snack or breakfast for your family.  We had them for snack one day, mostly because I adore muffins for snack, then I packed the rest of them up and put them in the freezer for another quick snack.

With these cinnamon maple muffins, it was love at first bite.  I knew immediately that I would have to blog about these.  They were light and airy, which I loved. Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to get a nice moist, airy muffin with completely whole wheat flour.  And that's another that is great about these muffins...100% whole wheat.  Finally, I love that there is no refined sugar, only a bit of maple syrup to sweeten.

Go ahead and try these muffins, I know you'll fall in love with them too.
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The Best {Slow-Cooker} Chicken Fajitas Stuffed with Guacamole Salad

10 April 2014

The Best {Slow-Cooker} Chicken Fajitas Stuffed with Guacamole Salad

Have you heard of the Mom Conference?  It's completely free, going on all week, and 100% online.  There are several "classes" or videos each day for you to listen to on topics ranging from parenting to finances, organization, and personal care.  I've enjoyed so much listening to these lectures and benefited greatly from them. Now I'm ready to purge our clutter, organize the house, and keep a better daily schedule!  I've also got some great home remedies up my sleeve for energy, teeth whitening and more.  If you haven't heard of the Mom Conference, I'd encourage you to go check it out ASAP before it's over.  There's still several days left to learn from.

After that public service announcement, we'll get right to the recipe.

The Best {Slow-Cooker} Chicken Fajitas Stuffed with Guacamole Salad

These fajitas are a-MAZ-ing!  Every time we have them, I eat way too many.  And then there's the leftovers, which means I continue on my fajita binge for several days.  They are THAT good, trust me.  The hubby loves it when he finds out these fajitas are on the menu, and we both continue to go ga-ga each time over the leftovers.  (Plus, having fajitas for leftovers is kind of like having a freshly cooked meal since the warmed fajita mixture is scooped into a fresh tortilla each time.)

Besides tasting so awesome and being packed full of flavor and juice, these fajitas have something else going for them.  They are a super-easy, hands-off, slow-cooker meal.  It really doesn't get any easier than this. These fajitas are one of my favorite Sunday lunches because it's so simple to dump the ingredients into the crockpot before heading over to church, and you've got a nice, hot meal waiting for you when you get home.

The guacamole salad is optional, but it definitely ads to the fajitas.  In keeping with the "set-it-and-forget-it" fajitas, you can mix this guacamole salad up ahead of time and just add the avocados in before serving (so they don't brown).  I originally planned to serve the guacamole salad on the side with the fajitas, but the hubby decided it would be terrific on the fajitas.  It was a genius idea and we've been enjoying the fajitas "stuffed" ever since.

The hubby commented the other night, while we were eating fajitas, (these were the LEFTOVERS, mind you) that he didn't think he could get anything better at a restaurant than he was getting with leftover fajitas.  The only thing better a restaurant affords is, of course, the atmosphere.  This is a 5-star recipe y'all.
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Crispy Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

08 April 2014

The best oatmeal cookies...you'll love them, even if you're not usually a fan of crispy!

I enjoy cooking, but baking is not something that I do much of.  I usually say that's because I don't really enjoy baking, but that is not entirely true.  After making breakfast, dinner, and snack most days, I just don't have a lot of energy (or desire) left for baking.  This is generally a good thing though, because that means we don't have that many desserts around the house.  However, lately I have found a way to get my desserts in...ahem, grocery store snack and frozen aisle...

I recently spent a week at my parents house, since my grandparents are visiting from Minnesota for a couple of months. (They're scheduled to fly back this week, once again in the land of ice and snow.)  Since I didn't have my regular meal-making responsibilities, or any responsibilities for that matter, I went to town on baking.

First stop on my baking journey was a strawberry-lemonade layer cake, which turned out ok, but not great. (Part of it was because I believe I added too much flour.  I told you, I am really not a baker and into all this precise measuring!)  I photographed it for the blog just in case it was tasty, and baby girl was NOT happy that she had to wait to eat it.  My mom was outside with her, and she managed to sneak one of her hands into the cake while my mom wasn't looking.

Isn't that face just pitiful?

Next I made some lemon brownies, which I also didn't care for.  I think my Grandma was the only one who ate those.  Third on the baking list were these crispy coconut oatmeal cookies (Of course, there were a couple of boxes of brownie mixes somewhere in there too.)

Baking attempt #1: Meh
Baking attempt #2: Fail
Baking attempt #3: Hit!

When given the choice between soft and chewy or thin and crispy I usually don't never choose crispy.  In fact, I would have passed on this recipe entirely, but it came from Mel's Kitchen Cafe of whose blog I eternally adore.  She said she also is not a fan of thin and crispy but loved these cookies anyway, so I decided to give them a shot.  After all, if Mel likes them I'm bound to as well.

The best oatmeal cookies...you'll love them, even if you're not usually a fan of crispy!

Into the oven they went and out came thin and crispy cookies. (I did have to smash the cookie dough balls a bit for them to thin all the way in the oven.  I was at my mom's house though, so I'm sure I won't have that issue in my own oven.)

I decided to wait to try them until they were completely cooled.  You never can tell if a cookie is going to be crispy or not when it's still hot and soft from the oven.

They were crispy, sweet, and sooooo good!  I swear that they almost tasted like they had a bit of cinnamon in them, although they do not.  I guess my taste buds must be a little off, but I loved them.  If I hadn't had to share, I think I would have eaten the whole batch.  (This might explain why I made another batch of cookies the next night...)

Anyway, I'm sold on crispy, at least for these cookies.  Give them a shot, I promise they'll surprise your taste buds!

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Cheesy Chicken and Rice Skillet

27 March 2014

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Skillet: Hearty, full of flavor, and pretty healthy too!

My 16 month old finally decided it was time to give up her morning nap.  (Actually, I think she wanted to give up her afternoon nap since she napped wonderfully in the morning and not at all in the afternoon.)  The only problem is, that even without a morning nap, she will barely nap at all in the afternoons.  Hopefully things will normalize soon and her body will tell her she's actually tired and ready to sleep during her nap!

Anyway, the point of me saying all this, is that my routine has gotten a little off-kilter lately, due to the nixing of the morning nap.

For the past couple of years, I have cooked lunch as our big meal for the day, and we've just had leftovers for dinner.  I really like it that way, because then in the afternoon, I can focus on other things without having dinner "hanging over my head".  Plus, I can get all the clean-up done in the afternoon, and I don't have to worry about a mess late in the evening. 

However....

My little girl is extremely whiny if I'm in the kitchen and she's not getting fed.  So far, things have worked out for me to cook a hot lunch every day, because she's always napping just before lunch (meaning I can get the prep and actual cooking done before she gets up).  Now with our later nap schedule, she doesn't go down until after lunch, making it just about impossible (or miserable, at least) to cook a hot lunch.  I think the only way it would work is if I cooked lunch right after we finished breakfast!!

Anyway, I haven't really enjoyed the transition to cooking supper, but I'm hoping this will be a somewhat temporary transition until she can handle being in the kitchen without having a snack.  Luckily for you (and me) the days are getting longer, so I can still manage to get a decent photograph of our meal in natural light at dinnertime.

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Skillet: Hearty, full of flavor, and pretty healthy too!

Whew, that was a long prologue.  Sorry!

All that to say...actually, that doesn't have much to do with this meal at all except that we ate this for dinner and not lunch.  Not that you actually needed to know that.

What you do need to know is that this skillet is delicious and packed full of great flavor. The hubby thought it was so good, he kept going back for more.  In my book, that means it's definitely a winner, especially when it's got so much flavor and it's not spicy.  (spice = bad, to me.  The hubby often adds hot sauce to his meals, although he didn't use any for this one.)

The fire-roasted tomatoes add a lot to this dish, so definitely don't skip out on those.  You could go with 2 cans of fire-roasted (instead of adding one can plain diced tomatoes), but I thought one was plenty, and I prefer that flavor not to be overpowering.

We're definitely going to be having this one over and over.


Notes on this recipe:
- My apologies to non-leftover people, but this is a leftover note.  I think that this dish is even better the next day (if that's possible) because all of the flavors have had more of a chance to mesh, especially with the rice. Plus, it doesn't dry out at all because of all the tomato juices.

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{Slow Cooker} Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

25 March 2014

{Slow Cooker} Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

O-M-GEEEE this soup is good! Like, I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner good.  (Maybe not breakfast because that's kind of weird, but you get the idea.)

You should believe me when I say it's good because remember that several-month-long hiatus I took from blogging?  My last post in the beginning of December was these iced molasses cookies, and I finally started posting again at the end of February with this salmon recipe.  Anyway, during that stretch, I was still cooking a little but definitely not photographing or writing.

However, I made an exception for this soup.  It was soooo delicious that I knew I had to photograph it for you guys, even though I wasn't blogging at the time.  I almost didn't post it though because I thought we were finally over "soup weather" here in the sunny South.  Yet, the weather threw us another curveball and we've gotten cold again, with snow in the forecast.  I'm pretty sure spring is never actually going to come.  Mr. Groundhog must have seen 5 shadows this year.

All this cold weather calls for a hearty pot of soup.

{Slow Cooker} Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

And you've come to the right place for that!  This soup is so creamy and delicious, and packed full of flavor.  When I look for a chicken tortilla soup, I'm usually looking for something thin, lime-y, and a bit spicy, but this soup is on the other end of the tortilla soup spectrum.

It's thick and creamy, and definitely qualifies as comfort food for this cold spring weather.  This soup is going to be on my slow-cooker rotation all winter next year!

Notes about this recipe:
1. If you notice, this recipe calls for a can of cream of chicken soup.  I do not use cream of ___ soups, since I generally try to avoid the more processed foods.  However, it's super easy to make your own cream of chicken soup.  If I hadn't been in my lazy stage when I made this soup, I would have written up a cream of chicken soup recipe for you.  However...I used the cream of chicken soup from this recipe and really liked it.  This one is also similar, and I've also tried this one.
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Big, Soft {Easter} M&M Cookies...with a secret ingredient

20 March 2014

Big, Soft {Easter} M&M Cookies: Fluffy and soft for days...with NO shortening!

Oh goodness, M&M cookies. Definitely one of the best things in life.  But what's better than M&M cookies?  Irresistibly soft M&M cookies with absolutely no shortening!

I always prefer to cook (& bake) without shortening...I think it sort of looks like plastic.  Am I the only one?

Anyway, I saw this recipe on Pinch of Yum's blog the other week and knew I had to try it.  Shortening and all.  They were delicious, but I was determined that I didn't want to post a shortening cookie recipe on my blog, so I had to find a way around all that plastic-y stuff.

And guess what I found?

Coconut oil.

But that's not all, I also added....

white beans!

Please do not get worried .  These aren't "healthy" cookies (they've got too much sugar in them for that).  And they're certainly not bean-y tasting.  The fact that my husband had no problem devouring these attests to the fact that they don't taste like beans. (In fact, I recently added white beans - leftover from said cookies - to my vegetable lasagna roll ups, and the hubby could barely eat it.) He can sniff beans out of anything.  Except these cookies.  Bean-hater proof, for sure.

Big, Soft {Easter} M&M Cookies: Fluffy and soft for days...with NO shortening!

I actually made 2 batches of M&M cookies, in order to find the best substitute for shortening. (Extra cookies are a hazard of the job, I guess.)  The first batch I made completely with coconut oil and they turned out yummy, so you could definitely try with just the coconut oil.

However, the second batch with coconut oil and beans were even better.  They stayed nice and fluffy and didn't flatten out at all.  If you know me, you know I am the queen of flat cookies.  I swore off baking cookies a while ago because I have so much trouble with flat cookies.  These cookies drew me back in though.

The beans are where it's at.  The cookies stayed nice and soft for several days (I didn't test beyond 2-3 days because....we ate them all!), and you can make them as big and fluffy as you want. The hubby even pronounced the bean version better than the original shortening version I baked. Cookie perfection heaven. Definitely the best M&M cookies I've ever eaten.  I think I'm going to put beans in all my cookies now.  Watch out!

On a non-bean note, aren't these the cutest Easter M&M cookies ever?

It happened by accident when my mom picked up a bag of Easter M&M's instead of regular. (I baked the original batch at my mom's house.)  So the next time I made them, I decided I definitely needed to be festive and go with the Easter theme.  Adorable and just in time for Easter!
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