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

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.

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.

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

How to Make Kefir Water

Lime flavored kefir water, garnished with fresh mint. 

When a dear friend offered me a glass of homemade kefir water, all sorts of alarms sounded in my mind.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. It sure wasn’t a drink that tasted like an amazing sparkling limeade.

What exactly is kefir water? It’s a slightly sweet carbonated drink that’s simply bursting with probiotics. You make it by letting kefir “grains” (a gel-like combination of yeast and bacteria) sit in sugar water and minerals for a couple of days and ferment into a drink that’s refreshing and incredibly good for you.

We eat homemade yogurt regularly, but I’d been wanting to add more probiotics to our diet. After that first drink, kefir water was an obvious choice!

My friend gave me a kefir starter (thanks so much!) and I’m having a hard time keeping up with demand even with doing a gallon at a time. My 22-month-old’s name for kefir water is simply “nummy!”

We don’t even have pet fish, just pet bacteria. Thankfully, they’re about as low-maintenance as fish, plus you get a yummy drink out of them!

Kefir water recipe

(Makes one gallon—so far the gallon hasn’t lasted more than a few days! You can also half the batch.)

Ingredients

  • Heaping 1/2 cup kefir grains*
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup raw natural sugar, depending on how sweet you want it. 
  • Small handful of organic raisins or other dried fruit 
  • 1 eggshell or trace minerals, optional 
  • 1 gallon water [Spring, well or filtered tap water are the best options. Distilled water has lost so many minerals you’d want to add trace minerals back to the water.] 
  • Flavorings, optional

Instructions

  1. In a glass gallon jar, dissolve the sugar in a little water.
  2. Add the raisins, kefir grains, eggshell/minerals (if using), and finish filling with water.
  3. Cover with cheesecloth or a tea towel and rubberband securely.
  4. Let sit on the counter for 2-4 days. If it tastes good after two days, proceed. If you want more of the sugar “eaten”, let sit for another day. Don’t let it go too long though, especially in the summer, otherwise once the grains run out of sugar to eat, they beging to starve.
  5. Removed the raisins and eggshell and toss. Strain out the grains to start a new batch.
  6. Start a new batch immediately or store the kefir grains. 
  7. You can drink the kefir at this point, but it tastes much yummier if you let it carbonate for a day on the counter. To carbonate, pour into sturdy glass jars, leaving plenty of headspace for the kefir water to expand. I leave a good 2+ inches, to be on the safe side. Add fruit, juice, food-grade essential oils, or vanilla (if desired) for flavoring. Seal tightly and leave on the counter for a day. 
  8. Refrigerate or drink immediately over ice.

Tips and tricks: 

  • If you don’t have a local friend who can give you a starter, you can order dehydrated water kefir grains online from Amazon or a kit (including minerals and a strainer) from Cultures for Health
  • To store the kefir grains, mix 1/4 cup of sugar with filtered water. Add the grains and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 
  • Kefir grains love the added minerals from eggshells, but the thought of tossing in a raw eggshell groses me out. Instead, save the eggshells when you make hardboiled eggs and store them in the freezer. Just pop one out when it’s time to make another batch of kefir.
  • Different natural sugars contain different minerals. My friend recommends using 3/4 natural cane sugar and 1/4 sucanat. I haven’t bought any sucanat yet, and the kefir is surviving fine on just the natural cane sugar, but I’m sure it would make them even happier to add sucanat.
  • You can get organic raisins in bulk from Country Life Natural Foods for only a few cents more per pound than Aldi’s raisins. Grapes are on the dirty dozen list, so as you can expect, conventionally grown raisins tend to have quite a bit of pesticide residue! 
Have you made kefir water? If so, what’s your favorite flavoring? 
[Full disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links.]

Why & How to Soak Almonds (& Other Nuts)

Crispy soaked nuts not only taste more flavorful, they are easier for your body to digest!

Don’t you just love it when you can very simply make a food healthier and tastier at the same time?

I love raw almonds, pecans, and walnuts so my friend Kathryn told me she’d been making the “crispy nuts” from Nourishing Traditions, I was a bit skeptical. Why on earth should you soak almonds or walnuts when they’re so tasty raw?

Want to make raw almonds (and other nuts) even tastier and easier to digest? Follow these simple steps to soak and dry them.

Our first batch of soaked crispy almonds–the kids can’t seem to get enough of them! 

Not only does soaking and drying nuts increase the natural flavor, the soaking process makes the almonds (or other nuts) easier to digest.

Soaking mimics the practice of many native cultures who traditionally soaked and dried the nuts they collected before eating. Soaking them dramatically increases the ability of our bodies to absorb the nutrients.

Thankfully we don’t have to depend on the sun to do our drying for us!

Soaked Crispy Almonds Recipe

Ingredients/Supplies:

  • Salt
  • Almonds (or other nuts)
  • Filtered water
  • Large glass bowl or pan
  • Dehydrator OR an oven you can use for at least 12 hours

Instructions

Mix a tablespoon of salt with filtered water. Add 4 cups of almonds and let them soak in a glass pan or bowl for about seven to twelve hours.

Drain the almonds. The skins pop off very easily at this point, so if you want, pop some (or all) of the almonds out of their skins. I prefer the taste with the skins on, but skinless is nice for baking.

Dehydrator Method for drying

If you plan to dry almonds regularly, consider investing in a dehydrator. It makes the process SO easy (and of course has countless other uses, like preserving herbs, making homemade fruit leather, drying apple chips, etc. I received a L’Quip Dehydrator for Christmas and love the fact that you can control the temperature and fit so much on it. )

Once your almonds are thoroughly rinsed and patted dry, spread them out on the trays of your dehydrator. Turn on and let dry for 12-24 hours, testing every few hours. Once they’re thoroughly dried, cool and store in a air-tight container

Oven Method for drying

Before I had a dehydrator, I just used the oven. Spread on a glass or stainless steel pan. Try not to let the almonds touch. Let dry 12-24 hours in a 150 degree oven and stir occasionally. (Ours doesn’t go quite that low, so I would heat it to 170, leave the light on and turn off the oven.)

After about 20 hours, they still weren’t as crispy as I’d like, so I left the oven on at around 170.

Once they’re thoroughly dried, cool and store in a air-tight container.


Turn raw nuts into even more of a powerhouse by soaking and drying them. Not only does it increase flavor, it helps your body absorb the nutrients better.

Make soaked crispy almonds

Much as I love raw almonds, I have to agree that soaked crispy almonds even more flavorful soaked and dried.

Not only do they taste richer, soaking the nuts makes it much easier for your body to absorb the nutrients.

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

Discover the Wonders of Your Own Backyard (& a Backyard Quiche Recipe)

Thanks so much for your prayers and kind encouragement these past weeks/months as our family battled sickness after sickness. I am so grateful for each of you and so grateful to be feeing better again! (Plus I’m so excited to have the time and energy to blog again!)

I love the first spring in a new home. It’s so fun to watch the yard and see what surprises come up: a sunny patch of daffodils, a bush that’s radiant with flowers, or a tree whose unfolding leaves are so beautiful.

This year though, I’ve determined to do more than simply enjoy the beauty. I want to learn about the trees and flowers and even the weeds in our yard. I want to learn about them, and teach my children about them.

photo credit

Why?

Learning about the incredible variety of weeds that stubbornly grow beneath our feet, makes the grandeur of Creation come alive before your fingers (or toes). Plus, while you investigate the wonders, you’re soaking up Vitamin D from the sun and breathing in the fresh spring air.

Did you know that the early American settlers brought weeds to plant in the new world? That’s right. Millions of dollars a year are spent trying to eradicate the dandelions and other weeds so prized by the early settlers. (Read why dandelions are so loved here!)

For our neighbor’s sake, I’ll try to keep the dandelions at bay in the front yard, but dandelions, onion grass, plantain, red clover, wood sorrel, and the variety of other edible and medicinal weeds are more than welcome in our fenced-in, pet and pesticide-free backyard.

The children and I have had so much fun finding the weeds native to our yard, marveling at their uniqueness, and learning about them. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many of them are edible and even really good for you. (Always make sure, of course, that there are no inedible or poisonous look-alikes!)

To celebrate the arrival of fresh spring dandelions, we decided to make a “Backyard Spinach Quiche.” It was delicious, though next time I plan to add quite a few more dandelion petals.

Backyard Spinach Quiche

adapted from Better Homes & Garden

Ingredients

  • 9 inch single pie crust (I replace the shortening with real butter and love it!)
  • 8 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream 
  • 1/2 cup cream or milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen spinach, thawed (or 3 cups fresh spinach or fresh backyard greens!)
  • petals from 2+ dandelions, thoroughly washed
  • 10-20 pieces onion grass, thoroughly washed & finely chopped (or 1/2 cup onion)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup crumbled bacon or diced ham, optional
  • 2/3 cup cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. Bake un-pricked pie shell at 450F for 10 minutes, or until dry and set. Reduce oven to 325F.
  2. Stir together remaining ingredients
  3. Pour egg mixture into baked pastry shell. Cover edges with foil, if desired.
  4. Bake at 325F for 45 to 50 minutes, or until knife inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWild Crafting WednesdayWalking RedeemedProverbs 31Natural Living, & Simple Lives

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

Recipe: Mrs. Thompson’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Chocolate, peanut butter, and oatmeal. Some of my very favorite foods.

Before moving, I tutored Literature and Western Civ to a small group of high schoolers. We had many wonderful discussions of great literature and historical exploits over cookies.

It was fun. Not only because the topics were wonderful and I had amazing students, but because just about anything discussed over a plate of cookies is fun.

My students liked the cookies, but when I brought out a plate of Mrs. Thompson’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars they really got into the discussion. (After a brief bunny trail in which we agreed that foods named after a person are among the best.)

Follow me over to Little Natural Cottage to get the recipe! 

Buckwheat Pancake Recipe

Buckwheat is not a grain. It’s not even a grass. It’s a gluten-free fruit that is “high in digestive protein and contains all eight essential amino acids,” according to Making Babies.

Delicious gluten-free pancakes that are light and fluffy. They can also be made without eggs.

Buckwheat pancakes with real maple syrup and chopped pecans on top. Yumminess! 

Thankfully, no one in our family has any food allergies (that I know of!) and I really hope that continues. But, adding a greater variety of whole foods into our diet seems like a prudent, and yummy, idea.

Buckwheat is naturally gluten-free and used to be a fairly common part of people’s diets until the last century. (We’re reading Farmer Boy and buckwheat pancakes are one of Almanzo’s favorite breakfasts!)

After watching Shoshanna make buckwheat pancakes in Making Babies they looked so yummy that I just had to see if I could turn our favorite whole wheat pancakes into buckwheat pancakes. It definitely worked!

I’ve made them four times in the last two weeks because they’re so easy and my kids keep asking for them. Plus, I ran out of eggs and they turn out light and fluffy even without eggs! [Check out 12 more of my healthy breakfast alternative to cereal!]

 

Buckwheat: a “fruit” that’s high in protein and naturally gluten-free

Buckwheat Pancakes Recipe

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook with inspiration from Making Babies and Almanzo

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buckwheat
  • 1 T. sugar or honey
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt (I just started using sea salt regularly and love it!)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk OR milk plus 1/2 T vinegar to make your own sour milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 egg OR 1 T ground flax plus 1 T additional water
  • 1/4 cup oil (I use light olive oil)
Instructions
  1. Start heating up the griddle.
  2. If making your own sour milk, add 1/2 T vinegar to the 1/2 cup of milk and let it sit.
  3. Meanwhile, mix together the dry ingredients
  4. Then add the remaining wet ingredients to the sour milk and mix well.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just moistened.

  1. Fry your pancakes. I usually make a “test” pancake just to make sure I have the griddle at the right heat. (The batter should sizzle softly and the top of the pancake should bubble and be lightly “glazed” before you have to flip it.)
  2. Serve with hot maple syrup and chopped pecans. (I like making yogurt-based shakes to go on the side for added protein!)

Note: apparently, even buckwheat can cause allergic reactions in rare cases! Read more here.

Have you made buckwheat pancakes before? Or tried any new recipes you love? 

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

Homemade Pumpkin Purée and Pumpkin Seeds

photo credit

Though I gladly eat pumpkin all year round, I was excited to see fresh pumpkins in the store again.

Not only are pumpkins loaded with nutrition, it’s so easy to make fresh pumpkin purée (and pumpkin seeds!) yourself. Plus, it’s a fun project for little ones to help with.

We past our first fresh pumpkins out shopping recently and Rose begged for me to get one so she could make pumpkin seeds. I obliged.

In order to make good pumpkin puree, select healthy-looking pumpkins and wash the outside thoroughly.

Cut the pumpkin into thick slices and remove all the seeds and string.

Place the pumpkin slices in a large pot. Add a couple cups of water (I like my puree thick, so I don’t completely cover them), bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the pumpkin starts to stick to the pan, add more water. Once the pumpkin is soft, remove from heat.

Cool slightly and then scoop the soft flesh into a blender. Blend thoroughly.

Now you have fresh pumpkin puree to use in your favorite recipe. Place extra into freezer bags for use all year long.

While the pumpkin cooked and cooled, let your five-year-old remove every last seed from the strings, rinse the pumpkin seeds, and pat dry.

Place in a large pan, toss very lightly with oil/butter and your seasoning of choice. (I just used sea salt.) Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes, stirring regularly until the seeds are golden brown.

Store the seeds “for winter.” Though my children are highly attached to the idea of preserving food for winter, “winter” usually lasts all of three days around here.

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 Feminine Adventures

Now it’s your turn! Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.)