Recipe: Homemade Granola

Granola was a staple in our house growing up. My mom rarely bought cereal, but we had granola at least twice a week. Homemade granola is simple to make, cheaper than cereal and much, much more nourishing which is why it’s one of our favorite healthy frugal breakfasts.

We eat it topped with raisins, chocolate chips, or craisins; with homemade yogurt; or as a layer in Eppli Cakka (a delicious Faroese dessert or breakfast).

Homemade Granola

Family’s Favorite Granola Recipe:

Ingredients: 

4 1/2 cups oatmeal (I prefer old fashioned oats)
1/2 cup whole grain flour
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/8 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup oil (or melted butter)
1/2 cup honey (or agave nectar)
1 tsp vanilla (homemade is delicious!)
2 T water

Instructions: 

  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Combine wet ingredients and add to dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Bake in a 9×13 pan (glass seems to heat more evenly and avoid burning as easily) at 300° for about 1 hour.
  4. Stir after 20 minutes, then 15, then 10, then 5 until evenly golden brown.
  5. Cool thoroughly and enjoy!

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

Favorite Fruit Popsicles

The first real waves of summer heat are upon us and it’s popsicle season again (not that my kids would object to popsicles in the dead of winter.)

I have been doing my best to keep the freezer stocked with homemade, real food popsicles. The kids love helping make them, and I love knowing their favorite summer snack is not pumped full of sugar and food coloring.

Here are a few of our favorite fruit-sweetened popsicles.

Fruit juice popsicles

One of my favorite garage sales finds of the season was a set of old-fashioned popsicle holders that are just like the ones I loved as a kid! Need popsicle molds? Amazon has a great selection!

Fruit juice popsicles

Fill popsicle holders with leftover fruit juice: apple, orange, grape, mixed, etc. Freeze and enjoy. (I can’t think of many simpler ways to get happy grins from my kiddos!)

Creamy fruit popsicles

Mix plain yogurt with freshly mashed strawberries OR orange juice concentrate. Sweeten lightly, if desired (I use agave nectar, but sugar or honey would work great too) Freeze and enjoy.

Fresh fruit popsicles

Aren’t these just amazing looking? Freeze fresh fruit in watermelon puree or fruit juice for a gorgeous and delicious summer treat! Usually I’m not that fancy though.

What are you favorite hot-weather snacks? 

 May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Recipe: Spinach Chips

“Mama, can I please have more spinach chips?” my two-year-old begged.

“Yes, but finish the rest of your food first,” I said. As I answered, I could hardly keep from chuckling. Since first trying these delicious spinach chips, “more spinach” has been a regular request at our dinner table. Spinach has become a reward for finishing the rest of their food.

A bed of spinach

I planted a whole bed of spinach, just to keep up with the demand.

We’ve made this recipe so many times, I thought it was high time to share our own favorite varieties.

Spinach (or Kale) Chips

Spinach chips tossed in oil

Ingredients:

  • Fresh spinach (or kale)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Our favorite flavors (optional):

  • Fresh garlic & a touch of cayenne (I use about one clove per of garlic plus a teensy dash of cayenne per panful) OR
  • Lemon juice & pepper (about half a squeezed lemon and a generous dash of freshly ground pepper per panful)

Spinach chips ready to bake

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325° for spinach [or 300° for kale].
  2. Wash spinach thoroughly and pat dry
  3. Toss very lightly with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt
  4. Add flavors, if desired, and toss thoroughly
  5. Spread in a single layer on pan.
  6. Bake for 7-12 minutes, depending on the size of your spinach. The chips should be paper thin and crisp.

Enjoy!

 May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking Redeemed, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, & Graced Simplicity

7 Simple Sanity Savers

Many of us dreamt of being mothers from our earliest girlhoods and would not trade the joy and responsibility of shaping souls for any career.

That fact doesn’t make mothering multiple little ones easy.

There are plenty of days that six o’clock rolls around and I haven’t thought of dinner once and the stacks of folded laundry form a maze on the living room floor. But these seven simple sanity savers have helped calm the chaos considerably during this full season of life.

(Photo credit)

Follow me over to A Mama’s Story to read the rest.  

Kitchen Counter Challenge

Ending the day with clean counters is a little like going to bed with a clear conscience. Clean counters certainly pale in comparison, but they make the day feel finished and walking into the kitchen in the morning a treat.

The problem is, at least in my house, that the kitchen counters are the perfect place for papers to pile up, Lego creations to accumulate, and half-finished projects to gather dust.

Homes are to be lived in. Love, not cleanliness, is next to Godliness. That said, when I walk into a tidy kitchen in the morning it jumpstarts the day, makes breakfast more enjoyable, and helps even an exhausted Mama be much more happy to be around.

Clearing the counter’s accumulated mess usually only takes a few minutes. Even though I know it will be worth it in the morning, I often don’t get around to it after I wash the dinner dishes.

So after a very long break from focusing on developing new habits, in the month of April my challenge is to have the kitchen counters completely cleared each night before I go to bed.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be thanking myself every morning.

Anyone else want to join me? (With this challenge or your own!)

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

Photo credit

Nourishing Protein Bar Recipe

Slightly-crunchy with the perfect touch of sweetness, these protein bars are one of my favorite snacks. (If I’m in a hurry they work for breakfast too!) Unlike many store-bought protein bars, they’re jam-packed with nourishing whole foods.

Looking for a delicious & sustaining snack (or breakfast!)? Try these nourishing protein bars.

Since first reading about these bars a couple years ago, I’ve made them dozens of times and adapted the recipe to suit our tastes. One of the great things about this recipe is its versatility! If you don’t have, or care for, one of the ingredients there’s usually at least one way to substitute.

Nourishing Protein Bar Recipe

Ingredients

All measurements are approximate. 

Instructions

  1. Blend almonds, raisins, oatmeal, and flax seed in a blender until fine.
  2. Pour into a bowl, add the coconut flakes and salt and mix well.
  3. Over low heat, melt peanut butter, coconut oil, vanilla & honey in a saucepan.
  4. Add to “dry” ingredients and pour into an 8×8 pan.
  5. Refrigerate until firm.
  6. Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil over low heat and spread over bars. Refrigerate, cut into delectable pieces, and enjoy!

Due to the coconut oil, these bars are best just out of the fridge. 

For those interested, Country Life Natural Foods–has wonderful prices on bulk coconut flakes, organic raisins (just barely more than Aldi!), oatmeal, and much more.

Keep To-Do Lists Short

One of the first things Rose did after she could piece together words was write lists. She made her own morning to-do lists, evening to-do lists and all-the-fun-things-we’ll-do-tomorrow lists.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a list sort of gal too. Lists help me focus, keep important things from falling through the cracks, and give a sense of accomplishment. (Yes, I’m even one of those list-lovers who will add things onto my list I’ve already done, just for the joy of crossing them off.)

The trouble was, my lists were so long that getting to the bottom of them generally required a 48-hour day, uninterrupted effort (hah!), or some other impossible stroke of luck.

Enter the short to-do list.

Short to-do lists have all benefits of a superwoman to-do list, but have the added benefits of forcing prioritization and actually being attainable.

Instead of starting out the day with unrealistic goals, now each morning I pick out three of the things I’d like to accomplish that day. Things that are already worked into our morning or lunch routines (like washing breakfast dishes), do NOT make it onto the list.

Picking only three things and then concentrating on finishing them, helps ensure that the important things actually get done.

Some days things don’t go anything like what I planned. No big deal, the list can usually wait till tomorrow. But often by focusing on just three things, the list is knocked out by lunchtime, leaving the afternoon free to tackle three more things, read a book, or take a nap.

If you’re overwhelmed by a never-ending to-do list, ditch the long lists. It’s exhilarating!

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGrace Simplicity, & Proverbs 31

photo credit

Caramel Corn Recipe

Few foods stir up as many pleasant memories for me as caramel corn. In my mind, it is as much a part of Christmas as stockings. The sweet crunch of caramel corn brings back images of sitting around the living room putting lights on the tree and of gathering around while my dad read aloud the Christmas story.

Caramel corn is one of my favorite Christmas foods.

For years a jar of corn syrup sat in my cupboard for the sole purpose of making caramel corn. I don’t like using corn syrup, but giving up caramel corn was simply not an option. Then my friend Natalie shared a delightful discovery with me: you can substitute honey for corn syrup to make any recipe healthier! Voila.

My favorite caramel corn recipe was easily transformed into my favorite caramel corn recipe without corn syrup. Problem solved.

Sweet and crunchy, this homemade caramel corn makes a delicious Christmas dessert or gift. Plus, it is made without corn syrup!

My favorite caramel corn, “healthified” just a little

Caramel Corn Recipe, without corn syrup

Ingredients: 

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 300. Lightly grease a 11×15 pan.
  2. Heat sugar, butter, honey, and salt until bubbly. (WAIT on the baking soda and vanilla!) Once the mixture starts to boil, turn to medium and cook for 5 min stirring. Do NOT stir. If it smells like its burning pick up the pot from the heat and roll it around a bit to cool.
  3. While waiting, mix the baking soda and vanilla.
  4. Remove from caramel mixture from heat and add soda & vanilla. Coat corn.
  5. Place in greased pan and bake for 15 minutes. Stir then bake 5 more minutes.
  6. Remove, cool slightly and remove from pan. Enjoy!

If you have leftovers, store tightly sealed to keep the crunchy caramely goodness from getting soft and sticky.

*Food rant: Have you noticed that brown sugar isn’t less processed sugar?! It’s just white sugar with molasses added that costs about twice as much as regular sugar!

Caramel spells Christmas to me as much as stockings do. This sweet and crunchy caramel corn is even made without corn syrup!

Enjoy your caramel corn!

Beautiful bowls full of crunchy homemade caramel corn make a lovely addition to any holiday spread. Caramel corn also makes a yummy handmade Christmas gift. Just pack it into a canning jar, close the lid tightly, and cover the lid with beautiful holiday fabric.

So pop up some popcorn and make up a big batch of caramel corn.

9 Reasons to Shop at Aldi (Besides Saving Money)

After four years of the nearest Aldi being almost an hour away, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have two Aldi stores within fifteen minutes of us. If I were a millionaire, I would still shop at Aldi. I much prefer shopping there than at other stores.

Shopping at Aldi saves money. Lots of money. But that’s only one of many reasons why I love shopping there. 

  1. Shopping at Aldi saves brain power. There’s only one brand of diced tomatoes and one choice of dried basil. Instead of staring at rows of canned tomatoes and trying to decipher the differences (or determine if there are any) between twenty varieties, there’s just one option. Take it or leave it and save your brain power for more important decisions.
  2. The store brand is generally good. There are a few items we don’t like, but for the most part we can’t tell a difference or like Aldi’s brand just as well as other brands. (Though most of what I buy is not processed.) Try the Aldi brand. You just might like it. If not…
  3. They offer a double-back guarantee on most food items. If a product is not satisfactory, they’ll replace it AND refund your money. You can’t really lose with a guarantee like that.
  4. Their produce sales are amazing. It’s hard to beat avocados for 19¢ a piece or a pound of mushrooms for 79¢! Apparently some Aldi stores regularly have sub-par produce, but I’ve been as happy with the produce from the Aldi near us as I have with other grocery stores (though of course it can’t compare to a farmer’s market or fresh from the garden!) You do have to check the produce and be selective, but I do that no matter what store I’m at. ( To help minimize pesticide consumption, I try to purchase items from the “Dirty Dozen” list organic or grow them myself.—on that note, our Aldi recently started carrying organic spinach. Yay!)
  5. Their “special-buy” items rock! Besides the regular food items, Aldi carries “special-buy” items that change regularly. In the spring it was garden goods. In late summer it was back-to-school items. I’ve been tickled with how often just the item I needed shows up in the “special-buy” aisle at Aldi. A few of my favorite finds include a garden spade (that was much nicer than the more expensive one from Lowes), a heavy-duty magnifying glass with an LED light (batteries included) for the same price as a cheap school kind, a cute white hamper, and beautiful trellises for the garden. Not only are the items a great deal, I’ve consistently been surprised by how good quality they are. (And, if they’re not good quality, returns are easy.)
  6. The store isn’t huge. I like walking, but prefer to get my exercise in the great outdoors. Thanks in large part to reason #1, you don’t have to walk a mile just to get your groceries. Of course this also means that Aldi doesn’t carry every single thing we need, but I can usually shop there weekly or every other week (if we get our milk locally) and then only go to Wal-mart or Target occasionally for the other items.
  7. The customers are friendlier. Maybe it’s because they’re saving so much money, maybe it’s because they don’t have to spend all their brain power wading through too many choices, but whatever the reason, customers at Aldi tend to be much more friendly…at least at the Aldi we go to.
  8. The cashiers are lightning fast. 
  9. Last, but certainly not least, EVERYONE puts away their cart. Not-putting-away-carts is a pet peeve of mine. Add a 25¢ incentive and voila! Problem solved. (I try not to believe that this says something rather sad about our country.)

Do you shop at Aldi? Why or why not?

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Proverbs 31 

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Cake

Fall is here, and with it the delightful smells of soups, stews, and pumpkin!

This moist pumpkin spice cake is a family favorite and tastes even better a day or two after you make it. Plus, if you don’t polish it off in a day or two, it freezes well for later.

It’s not exactly healthy, but are cakes supposed to be healthy?

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Cake

adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 1- 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups oil (I use light olive)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (it’s so yummy fresh!)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2+ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/ 2+ tsp. allspice
  • 1/2+ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2+ tsp cloves

Instructions: 

  1. Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 9×13 pan.
  2. Mix wet ingredients.
  3. Mix dry ingredients and add to wet. Stir until moistened.
  4. Pour into pan and bake 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted near middle comes out clean.
  5. Cool and top with spiced cream cheese frosting, if desired.

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe: 

  • 1 /2 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • Powdered sugar

Instructions: 

  1. Mix together cream cheese, butter, and spices
  2. Add powdered sugar to make a smooth frosting. If too thick, add a couple drops of milk.

Frosting Tip: for years I painstakingly tried (and failed) to get the frosting perfectly smooth across the top of my cakes. Instead, now I “swirl” the frosting. It looks cute and takes so much less time. 🙂

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking Redeemed, Our Simple Country Life, & Proverbs 31