Hot Cocoa With Soy Milk.

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The creamiest of the creamiest hot cocoas….. this is it! I sat out in 30* weather watching soccer games this morning…. it was windy, cold, and then it started to drizzle and rain. People get really crabby when they can’t feel their fingers or toes, their face hurts, their legs are numb, and they just want to go home…. dry off… get back into their pjs and sip on something warm.

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Normally…. I over-dress for these things to be on the safe side…. but today I totally spaced checking the weather and showed up less than prepared. I was bitterly cold…. and so were my boys. I promised I would make hot cocoa for them when we got home…. and I did!

We all agreed, this recipe here is definitely the best we know of and we hope you give it a try and let us know what you thought!
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Hot Cocoa with soy milk: serves 4 kids and 2 adults.
4 C Soy Milk1/4 C Cocoa
1/3 C Raw Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Pure Vanilla
Pinch of sea salt

In a large sauce pan mix together milk, cocoa, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set your burner for high heat and using a stick blender, continually blend the milk while it heats. Once you begin to see steam rising, continue for another 30-40 seconds and then remove from heat, add in vanilla, and ladle into cups! (The creamiest part will be on top, so you can spoon the extra foam to top it off.) sprinkle with a little cinnamon and ENJOY!! (Add in a shot of rum, or Jamison Irish Whiskey to give it that extra “adult” flare to enjoy with friends in the evening on the back patio with a fire going!)
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Fall Apple Salad

Ever have those days when lunch time sneaks up on you…. and suddenly you find yourself lunchless with a rapidly crashing blood sugar level? Yeah, well…. that sort of happens to me every day…. and then in some sort of rabid hunt for food to stabilize myself I feel like time has slowed down and the idea of waiting 20-30mins to put something together makes me panic. It’s also what causes a lot of people to pick up and hit some sort of “fast food” option (despite the fact that it takes just as much time….)

The only tip I know of…. PLAN for this by keeping easy to assemble items around your house (or pack your lunch if you work out of the home….. and then try not to forget it.)

This….. this beautiful healthy creation came together in about 3mins…. this IS fast food! (and no, that is NOT real chicken…. it’s Gardein’s gluten-free Chick’n Scallopini)
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So, what does one do in a rabid state? Toss about 2 cups of spinach into a bowl… drizzle with dressing (recipe below). Sprinkle on some craisins, some cashews, and some ground flax. Toss a “chick’n” into the microwave for 25 seconds, flip 25 more seconds. (Sure, the directions say to fry in oil… and that definitely gives it a more dense “meaty” feel…. and I do if serving it as an entree… or shredding…. but for this? Nah.)

If you are on the “microwaves are the devil” wagon, then you probably are a much better planner than I and have not allowed yourself to grow rabid before seeking out food… and have that extra 10 mins to fry up your chick’n….. go for it.

Next, slice up an apple (and by that I mean, push the little thingy over the apple…)

lay them on, and top with a little more dressing…. and EAT!!!! It’s very filling, satisfying…. has just about every flavor one could crave…. AND it doesn’t just have to be a lunch, it could be a quick dinner too! (You could even get crazy and serve some soup and muffins with it…. but let’s not over reach our boundaries of expectation…)

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Apple Salad Dressing:
(Make ahead and keep this on hand, always, because it’s yummy.)

1/2 C Raw Sugar (or less)
1/2 C Lemon Juice
1 TBLS Mustard Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 TBLS Poppy seeds
1/4 C Apple Cider Vinegar
2/3 C Vegetable Oil (I tend not to use Olive oil for this…. it’s too strong of a flavor.)
1 tsp Onion Powder
several turns on a pepper mill

Throw it all in a food processor and blend it up!

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Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte.

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Deliciousness.

So now…. how about we get straight to making that super yummy pumpkin spice latte: Recipe Makes 2…so you can share or…. not…

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 Cups soy milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • couple turns on the pepper mill
  • 2 TBLS raw sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • optional, shot of espresso…. if making for kids, not so much.

Add all the ingredients minus the vanilla (and espresso) into a sauce pan. Put on a burner on med-high heat and using a stick blender, keep it blending while it heats up. Once you see steam rising, continue for about 30-40 more seconds. Then, pull off the stove, stir in vanilla, and pour over top of espresso in a mug, or just pour it into a mug all by itself! Top with a little sprinkle of cinnamon and enjoy! It is SOOOO YUMMY and easy and cheap to make. So your kiddos can have one too!

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What are you waiting for?…. invite some friends over for dessert and lattes and impress them with your ability to make Starbucks (and $5/ drink) a thing of the past!
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Kale Powder

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So….. who doesn’t know that Kale has been coined one of the healthiest vegetables around? I think everyone by now should be familiar with all the benefits of Kale. BUT, not everyone enjoys eating it like a salad… and really… it offers more to one’s body if it’s been cooked first.

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I grow Kale in my garden and truthfully it’s one of the easiest things to do…. plant the seeds early in the spring, they grow, you break off leaves and eat them, they put up more leaves…. and this process continues well into Fall. Continual harvest. At first, everyone is excited about eating Kale fresh…. we use those first big leaves like a wrap for tofu salad…. then our big leafy green salads…. then by August the apetite for more kale has briskly dwindled.

So, that’s when I start making Kale powder…. 1 tsp of this magic green powder is equivalent to 1 cup of leaves, otherwise known as a serving. So, for a family of 6, I can toss in 2TBLS to any soup, chili, rice, sauce, etc and we get more than our fair share of Kaleness.

It’s extra easy, we like easy…. pick, de-stem, dehydrate, blitz, cook.

DSC_1097  DSC_1099Pick the leaves far down on the stem where the leaves stop. Make sure to leave a few leaves on each plant so it can feed itself.

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After picking the fresh leaves, de-stem them. Fold them towards eachother in their natural direction and just tear off the stem. Place the leaves on a dehydrator tray, and compost the stems.

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Load up your dehydrator as full as you can get it. I have a 9 tray dehydrator, but due to the bulkiness of the plants, I usually only get 4-5 trays. Dehydrate around 120* for 3-4 hours.

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Once the leaves are done, load them up into a blender…. you can squish them in to fit. Then blitz away on high speed until a nice powder is formed. You may have to manually remove any left over stems that didn’t feel like cooperating.
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Voila! Kale powder…. add it to virtually anything to boost nutritional content.

Pumpkins, the most beloved squash.

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Growing up….. I pretty much thought pumpkins sole purpose was for carving on Halloween. That was the only time I ever saw them…. if we were lucky my mom would bake the pumpkin seeds. I laugh now…. my mom doesn’t read this so i can make fun of her here, lol. But she didn’t do anything to those pumpkin seeds except wash them off and throw them on a pan and put it in the oven, yet every stinkin year she’d make it seem like the most time consuming task and we were REALLY asking for a lot to get pumpkin seeds out of the carving process. The same goes with my dad and putting Christmas lights on the tree. You’d think you were requesting him to solve the gordian knot.

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Well, being now a grown up myself… several things are quite different. I try to grow pumpkins every year. Some years they happen, some years they don’t…. this year I was lucky enough to get some! And they aren’t for Halloween…. they’re for me! You always hear of people eating acorn squash as a side dish, sometimes a soup, sometimes it makes it as a yummy entree star….. but you never, NEVER hear of someone eating pumpkin as a side. And yet you totally could and you’d never know the difference. (Pumpkin was my third child’s first food!) I love it… the rich orange-y goodness is loaded with vitamins and cancer fighting goodies, so it loves me too. I have a theory that most of the veggies that are especially good at developing the immune system are ready to be eaten August-October…. just in time for everyone to be hit with the flu. I guess we’ll find out. It’s hit our house this week… Elliott, husband and I had it last week, my daughter came down with it last night and spiked a 103* temp today. But I would bet my left leg nobody will end up with bronchitis, ear infections, sinus infections, pnumonia, or other because of what we’ve been eating on for the past few months. It’s okay to be sick once in a while, it forces you to slow down and rest a little… contemplate how nice it is to get up and work! 😉

Well, my pumpkins have all been picked. Generally I wait for the stems to start drying up and the “stalk” to die, then just twist off the dry portion of the stem and they just pop off.

Preheat your oven to 350*. Wash off the exterior of the pumpkin… Cut them down the middle, scoop out the seedy guts and put them in a bowl.  Place the pumpkin half cut side down on a jelly roll pan. Bake for 50 mins.

MEANWHILE: Dig through those guts and collect your seeds. Wash them off and toss them into a bowl. Douse them with some olive oil, salt, ground pepper, and paprika (generously with the salt and paprika). Mix it all up and spread out on a pan so it’s ready to go in the oven when the pumpkin comes out. 15mins at 350*, mix, another 15mins, done.

Pull the pumpkin out of the oven and allow to cool for 30mins while the seeds are baking.
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You will probably notice that the pumpkins quickly collapse when you pull them out of the oven, and there will be water on the pan. This is good…. but don’t get overly ambitious and try to skip the cooling off step. You will probably burn yourself if you do.

Once the pumpkins have cooled, the seeds are done, and your blender is ready to go….. flip them over and scoop them out! Plop the pumpkin meat into a blender…. and blend on high until nice and smooth. (Don’t add water…. this is 100% pumpkin!)

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Voila! Your very own, organically grown, pumpkin puree. This wonderful stuff can become pumpkin chili, a pumpkin side dish, pumpkin bread or muffins, pumpkin coconut spice ice cream, OR…….
a Soy milk pumpkin spice latte!!!

Kale Wrappers

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This is just experimental… I have an abundance of Kale at the moment and I’m kind of sick of eating it in salads…. we’ve dehydrated lots of it and ground it up into a powder. I add it to jut about everything these days….. but it keeps putting up new leaves faster than I can get around to dehydrating. So, I wondered if I could make it into something like a fruit leather…. or like we call them “Fruit rolla” only it’d be Kale…. which I could basically use as a wrap for things like eggless salad or chickenless  salad…. or hummus and tomatoes…. or rice and veggies…. maybe sushi?

The first thing I did is look on pinterest. I found a lot of spinach wraps…. mostly as a “raw” recipe…. but everything I found looked like it would probably tear easily (like paper)…. and in general probably not be super easy to spread, dehydrate evenly, or remove….

So…. I just did this on a whim, making it up…. and after I eat more and more of it up, I’ll share how things went. I loaded up a soup kettle with about 20 cups of Kale (removed from the stems) added about 1 cup of applesauce…. added maybe 1 cup of water…. some salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder…. a little dill…. and cooked it til it was all mushed and boiling. Then I dumped it into the blender, blended it up…. and poured it and spread it onto parchment lined dehydrator trays. I set it for 135* and dehydrated for 8 hours, turning the trays 180* half way through. Peeled them off, and cut them (with kitchen shears) into fourths. (I had 4 trays, so all in all I have 16 “wraps” I was going to keep them larger…. but decided… smaller might be a little better since they’ll be filled… plus I don’t want to have too much of the wrap, that might be kind of…. chewy? So, I employed more of a sushi concept with the size. Less is more.

Anyway, it’s yummy, it’s Kale, and it’s just one more way to eat it up!
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I’m back!! Here’s what I did with these for lunch. Unbelievably good….. and really…. perfect! It’s a garden veggie sushi…. I grew the kale that made the wraps, the carrots and zucchini that went inside seriously so cool!!  I didn’t actually have small grain rice, so I just used basmati. Just added a little apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and salt while it was cooking…. cooked a little longer to get it more “starchy”…. I’m so excited about this!! Yay for backyard gardens and dehydrators! (and gluten-free soy sauce…. and sriracha, our favorite condiment.)

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100% Fruit “Rollas”

I make this a lot for my kids…. adults around here like it too…. but really it’s intended for the kids. It’s easy to pack in lunches, it’s not going to get juice all over, doesn’t require a container, won’t get their hands dirty and will hopefully help keep their clothes a little cleaner before the end of the school day. Plus, it’s a quick thing to pop in… and it fits the bill for “snacks” allowed at school, because it isn’t an actual fruit roll-up with hardly any fruit in it…. it’s actually 100% fruit, no sugar, no anything additional added. We call them “Fruit Rollas” because that’s what Elliott, my almost 3 year old calls them… and the name has stuck.
DSC_1026The start of the process goes like this: roughly 6 cups of apple sauce, a quart of strawberries (or a bag of frozen strawberries), a pint of blueberries (or about half a bag of frozen), and 2 bananas.

None of those amounts is set in stone, use whatever you’ve got…. but I like that combination because it gives it kind of a pretty reddish/ purple color. The bananas and the applesauce are both needed for the right consistency though.

Okay, so throw those into a gallon sized pot and turn on the stove to high-med heat and bring it up to a boil. Turn the heat down to med and just let it boil until everything is quite soft and squishy. Maybe 15-20 mins. Cooking it this way REALLY helps the end product to not be too thin, and not be too sticky….

Then, carefully spoon it into a blender (I say carefully because it’s hot and you don’t want to burn yourself… that hurts.) Once it’s all in the blender, just blend til there’s no more chunks. Little bits of blueberry skin and strawberry seeds are inevitable and add to the charm.

Line your dehydrator trays with parchment paper. (This is where you really do need parchment paper and not wax paper…. it does make a difference and wax paper isn’t as nice to peel off.)

Then pour onto the trays in a rectangle and using a spatula, gently spread into the center. You want the whole thing to be roughly 1/4″ thick…… and it helps a little to have a bit more on the exterior than in the middle. Leave a good inch around the perimeter between the edge of the rectangle and the edge of the parchment paper. Don’t go all the way to the edge or it will be quite difficult to remove. I think I shoot for my total rectangles to be about 12″ x 9″ give or take… it’s all eyeballed.
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Then, add your trays to the dehydrator and set for 135* for about 8-9 hours. With this amount, I almost always end up with 6 trays…. and I cut each tray into 6ths, so I end up with 36 fruit roll ups. Not too shabby! (Considering I can usually get all the fruit for about $5….  and if I were to purchase these it would cost $3/ box x4… so the $7/ week savings throughout the year is probably worth a good dehydrator by itself because it pays for it, hahaha…. see that…. justification! 😉

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Half way through the time frame, I do turn my trays 180* so that they dry a bit more evenly…. you don’t have to, but I feel like it ensures there will not be any wet spots at the end.

Once they are all dry, they should not be sticky to the touch. They should feel dry. Gently pull the parchment paper off the racks and take them to a table along with some nifty (and clean) kitchen shears.

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Then, gently peel back the parchment paper. typically I kind of release it all the way around the edges and the center peels away super easily. The exterior peels away easily too, but if some gets trapped in the little wrinkles that happen with the heat and the drying, it might start a tear, and it’s like packing tape where the tear just wants to keep on tearing…

Once they’re all separated, feel free to admire the beautiful stain it leaves behind on the parchment paper….. Every time I’m like, It’s so pretty!! And then you will have 6 very large fruit roll ups just waiting to be turned into the snack of children’s dreams.
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So, this next part is also super easy. Basically just cut down the middle lengthwise with the kitchen shears, double up, then cut into thirds…. and now each of those really large fruit roll ups has turned into SIX. It’s quite magical how that works….

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Look at that beautiful pile of snacks for my kids! This will be gone within a week….. and then the process gets repeated. Each of those delicious nutritious rectangles is one serving of fruit for them as well…. so nobody feels guilty.

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Then, the last step is optional. They do actually pack into a smaller space flat…. but… I like to roll them up. I don’t do anything to keep them held into a roll, after a little while sitting that way they just hold it themselves… and I don’t add anything to keep it from sticking, because they aren’t sticky… because of the pre-boiling process. If you were to skip that to keep them “raw” you’d have a stickier product on your hands and would probably need to do something to keep them from sticking to each other.

DSC_1023So, that’s it! Just roll and set into a container…. and keep in your “snack” cupboard. Add them to lunches, send for school snacks, grab on the go, hand to a screaming toddler…..take it along backpacking or camping…. whatever you need it for. Just remember, while it’s boiling, you are doing other things…. plus that’s only like 10-15mins. Then, blender, spread, and you are not involved during the hours it dehydrates. Peel, cut, and roll. Your time involvement is pretty minimal for a yearly savings of nearly $364 if you make this once a week. Seriously…. very few DIY kitchen projects actually produce that kind of savings…. and it’s FRUIT…. it’s a win win win.

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