Italian Party Mix

Sorry about the sporadic posts. In all honesty, it’s just busy around here with Christmas and my husband and I trying to finish our basement before Christmas, and so computer time has been minimal. But I had to go look up this recipe in my ‘favorites’ recipe binder because I realized I’d never posted it here, so I thought I better do so now so I can have this recipe online for the future. We love party chex mix, though because we don’t normally have cereal or pretzels and spaghetti mix on hand, we make this more for a holiday treat around Christmas time. We’ve made this every year for lots of years; in fact, I remember making this with my mom, in the house I grew up in, and bringing it to neighbors. And now we do something similar, though because I have five kids that love this mix, we usually only give away a bag or two so they can eat up the rest. 

 

This recipe is pretty simple and straighforward. You add all your cereal, pretzels and nuts/seeds to a large bowl and gently stir. Then you drizzle it with olive oil and the spaghetti sauce and garlic and gently stir to combine and that’s it! 

We sometimes will double the recipe so we can have more to give  away. We’ll usually gift them in cello bags or christmas tins. I hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!

THE RECIPE
*Makes 24 cups. We fill about five cello bags for neighbor gifts.

Italian Party Mix

1 Family size box Chex (or 18c; I like to use a rice and corn chex combo)

8 c pretzel sticks

2 c cashew pieces (or other nut or seeds; i also like sunflower seeds)

8 Tbsp olive oil (about 1/2 c)

1 packet McCormicks dry spaghetti sauce mix (I find this on aisle with other packets for gravy and sauces etc)

1 Tbsp garlic powder

Optional: 1/2 c Parmesan cheese; if you do this, you only need to use half the McCormiks dry spaghetti mix

Combined checks pretzels and cashews in a large bowl. Pour oil over top and stir gently to coat. Add dry spaghetti mix garlic powder and optional Parmesan cheese and stir gently to coat. Makes 24 cups. We fill about five cello bags for neighbor gifts.

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Butternut Squash Soup with Candied Pecans 

I was at a good friends house for lunch last week(we have the same first name, which never happens to me!) and she pulled out some leftovers and asked if I’d like to try her butternut squash soup; I’m always game for trying new things if there’s not meat involved, also, it’s been cold and i’ve been craving soup  but only have a few favorite recipes. So we warmed it up and then she had some candied pecans that she threw on top and, wow, that was such an amazing combination, I loved it! I asked her for the recipe and came home and recreated the soup, making only a couple minor substitutions: I used almond milk instead of half-and-half, I used vegetable broth instead of chicken bouillon and water, and I candied my pecans with pure maple syrup instead of sugar.

As a sidenote, I love candied pecans! This something that my husband‘s mother made often times in the winter for their family and so, early on in our marriage, I learned from her how to make it the way she did, by cooking them in the oven with maple syrup for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. I love that cooking method and I use that most often but if I’m in a time crunch and I want some candied pecans in five minutes, then I do it over the stove, and that’s what I did today. I just took a handful of pecans, tossed them on a pan over medium heat with some coconut oil and pure maple syrup and cooked them up, while stirring, until the pecans had absorbed the liquid and they had crystallized. But like I mentioned, you can also for sure cook them in the oven and you can make them before hand and keep them in an airtight container in your pantry for up to a week ahead of time. If you’d like an recipe for the oven baked candied pecans, click here. 

Now, onto the soup! You’ll need about 4 cups of cooked and cubed, butternut squash. I bought and used this 1 lb. package of already cut up squash to save time. Throw that into a rimmed baking sheet (lined with silicone or parchment for easier cleanup, if you like) along with your carrots and a little olive oil and salt and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, until tender.

In the meantime, coarsley chop and saute your onion in a medium stock pot(you’ll be adding all the soup back into this once it’s pureed) until it’s translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Once your squash and carrots are tender, add them to a blender jar with half of your broth and the onions. Puree. Empty the blender into the stock pot (where you cooked your onions) and add in the almond milk and salt to taste, and stir together. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve warm, topped with candied pecans.

THE RECIPE:

Butternut Squash Soup with Candied Pecans

*Serves 4-6

1 1lb package butternut squash (about 4 cups, peeled and cubed)
2 c baby carrots
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 large white or yellow onion, coarsley chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 c vegetable broth (or chicken broth, or 1 Tbsp vegetable/chicken bouillon in 4 c water)
1 c almond milk (or regular milk or half and half)
1/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Topping: candied pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicone mat for quick clean up, add your carrots and squash and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp sea salt. Cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, until tender. In the meantime,  in a medium sized stock pot, saute your onion with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat, until translucent. Set aside.

Once your squash and carrots are tender, add them to a blender jar with half of your broth and the onions. Puree. Empty the blender into the stock pot (where you cooked your onions) and add in the almond milk and salt to taste, and stir together. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve warm, topped with candied pecans, that you’ve cut into smaller pieces.

You can candy pecans ahead of time up to a week in advance. You can find the oven baked recipe I like to use here. To candy pecans quickly, in about 5 minutes, follow these instructions:

5-minute candied pecans 
1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 c pecans

Cook over stove on medium heat for about 5 minutes until the pecans have absorbed the liquid and they’ve crystallized.

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Vegetable Korma

I recently made friends with an Indian woman whose son is in our  daughter Nora’s school class. She’s been in the United States for about 3 years now and when I found that out, I asked her if she knew how to cook Indian food. She of course did, and she asked if I’d like her to make some for me. What a dear! I told her that what I would really like would be to have her teach me how to make Indian food. And so we got together one day last week and she taught me how to make Vegetable Korma! I was so excited and pleased to be in her kitchen, watching, smelling, tasting, taking notes and learning from her! It really was a dream come true! And guess what?! She said we can do it again! Next time we meet we’ll go to the Indian Market together so I can get some of the ingredients she used that’d I’ve never seen before like the chana dahl in the first picture below on the far left, and the white poppyseeds in the next picture, and the Indian chilies. I took lots of pictures!

The first thing we did was make our korma paste. We did this by adding all the ‘paste’ ingredients (listed below in recipe) to the blender and blending it til smooth. We added more water as needed if it was too thick to blend.

Next we chopped up the red onion (she advised we use red or white, but not yellow as it’s too sweet) and sauteed it with a little oil (you can use olive oil or coconut oil), salt, curry leaves, turmeric and chili powder. Next we added the tomatoes and cooked them until they were mushy, about 5 minutes.

 

Next we added the paste from the blender to those tomatoes. Once we dumped that in, we added about 1/2 cup warm water to the blender jar, put the lid on and swirled it around to get all the paste sticking to the inside of the jar, and we poured that into the frying pan.

Next up we added the chopped veggies. And you could really use whatever you like here. I love carrots and chopped potatoes in my Indian food. Cover the pan and bring the heat to low and cook 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add the beaten yogurt to the sauce, bring heat back up to medium and cook another 20 minutes, stirring ocassionally and adding more water if needed, a Tbsp at a time, so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

Garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice and Naan.

Vegetable Korma

Paste:
5 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
12-15 cashews, blanched (or can just soak in water for a couple of hours)
2 tsp white poppy seeds
1/2 tsp roasted chana dal
1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves
2 green cardamom
2-5 black peppercorn
2 small green chilies (indian green chili found at an Indian market)
3-4 cloves garlic (3 if big cloves)
3/4 inch ginger, peeled
1/2 c water (or a little more if needed, to get a creamy paste)

Combine all paste ingredients into your blender and blend until smooth, adding water, 1 TBSP at a time, if needed to blend.

1 red onion, diced (or white, but not yellow because too sweet)
1/4 tsp sea salt
7-8 curry leaves
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 large Roma tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp yogurt, beaten until smooth
1/2 c water for slightly thinning gravey if needed, added a little at a time
optional chopped veggies: carrots, russet potato, peas
chopped cilantro to garnish

In a large frying pan, add 2 Tbsp coconut or olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely diced onion with 1/4 tsp sea salt, curry leaves, turmeric and chili powder and cook until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and cook until they are mushy, about 5 minutes. Add the paste from your blender. Add about 1/2 cup warm water to the emptied blender jar, put lid on and swirl it around to get all the paste sticking to the inside of the jar, and pour into the frying pan. Add chopped veggies. Cover the pan and bring the heat to low and cook 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add the beaten yogurt to the sauce, bring heat back up to medium and cook another 20 minutes, stirring ocassionally and adding more water if needed, a Tbsp at a time, so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice and Naan.

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Scott’s Challah Bread

My husband Scott is great in the kitchen. Not only can he follow a recipe, but he can also create some amazing things on his own. He served a two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and while there, he and his companion cooked pasta dinners with sauces almost daily for dinner, so he can make some great sauces and he’s amazing at knowing which spices go well together :). Now, I’m not sharing any of his sauce recipes today, but I am going to share a Challah Bread recipe that he has made his own and which we LOVE and have asked him to double so that we can make one loaf into French Toast and snack on the other loaf :). We have breakfast for dinner, once a week, on Sundays, and he will make this recipe one Sunday a month and it’s something we look forward to.

Since we double this recipe to make two loaves, after the dough has risen, we split the dough in half, braid one, then braid the other.

Sometimes Scott will take 2 of the 6 ropes (or 1 of the 3), and rub it with butter and roll it in cinnamon before he braids it. Yum!

 

Nora brushing the bread with our egg white wash. And normally we’ll fit both loaves on this large cookie sheet.

The Recipe:

Challah Bread
*makes 1 loaf

2 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1 c (8 oz) lukewarm water
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (we use an umbromated white flour)
2 1/2 c whole white wheat or spelt flour
1/8 c granulated sugar
2 tsp sea salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
1/4 c softened butter (or oil)

Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a small bowl and add a pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and let stand until there’s a frothy layer across the top. Set aside. In a standing mixer with dough hook attachments (we use our Bosch), combine 4 cups of flour, sugar and salt. Add the eggs, yolk and softened butter and mix. Pour the yeast over top. Knead with dough hook for 6 minutes(or knead by hand for 10 if you don’t have a stand mixer). If dough is very sticky, add flour, a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough is finished kneading when it is soft, smooth and holds a ball shape. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel in a warm area (we wrap a towel under and over and set it on our counter). Let rise until doubled about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate the dough into 3 to 6 equal pieces for braiding. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope, about 1-inch thick and 16 inches long. Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. Braid the ropes together. Line a baking sheet with parchment and lift the loaf on top. (If you have the time, you can certainly allow this to rise a second time, which you would do right now. But it’s not necessary, we almost never have time to do a second rise and it turns out beautifully, just as pictured). Whisk the egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush it all over the challah. Be sure to get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf. Put in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, challah will be browned. Cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm, slice and eat.

*We like to double this recipe and snack on one and cut the other into thick slices for French Toast.

 

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“Refried” Beans

Growing up with a father who was born and raised in Mexico, we ate Refried Beans and Mexican Rice almost daily. And that’s not an exaggeration. As I’ve gotten older, my body can’t handle all the oil and just fried food in general, and this recipe has none of that but is still so yummy! This recipe comes from my sister, who gave me permission to share it with you here. As I mentioned these ‘refried’ beans are really not fried at all, but instead you cook the beans in water in a crock pot for 5 hours, drain them, then add some salsa, diced chiles, and spices and mash them up and they’re ready to eat! Delicious and nutritious!

 

I like to use as few dishes as possible, so I cook the pinto beans in the crock pot, drain them in the sink (I don’t even use a strainer to save on dishes; it’s okay if there’s a tiny bit of water left in there), and then I dump all the other ingredients into the crock pot with the cooked beans and mash them with a potato masher.

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We love to eat these beans with enchiladas, or inside burritos, or on the side of any Mexican dish. It’s also a great chip dip! Enjoy!

‘Refried’ Beans
*serves 8-10

3 c pinto beans (or more if you like, just add a little more spieces), rinsed
1 c salsa (I like medium heat)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 8 oz can diced green chiles
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cumin

Put beans in a large crock pot and fill with cool water. Cook on high for 5 hours until soft. Drain beans and put back in crock pot(if you strained them in a separate dish). Add all of the other ingredients and mash with a potato masher until desired consistency.

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Peanut Butter and Honey Popcorn 

 

We love peanut butter popcorn and I have another recipe posted on here that we also make all the time but I wanted to share a variation of that recipe that I often use because sometimes I don’t have brown rice syrup on hand, and sometimes I have a big Costco bag of SkinnyPop popcorn (which only has a couple of ingredients, which I love!) and I want to make a fun, yet somewhat healthy, Friday night treat for the kids that I know they’ll love (you could also easily pop 1/2 c kernels as well, which is what we usually do). It’s super quick and easy, you’ll be done in five minutes and have a delicious treat, one in which everyone will keep coming back for more. And look at how few ingredients you need! I love it! (As a side note, you can add a little vanilla extract to this recipe when you add in the peanut butter, but we treat vanilla like gold these days as prices have jumped crazy high, so if it doesn’t make that much difference in a recipe, I tend to leave it out.)

 

First you’ll want to get out get out a large mixing bowl and either make your 1/2 cup, plain, air popped popcorn, or measure out 10 cups of Original flavored SkinnyPop. Set the popcorn aside.

Next you’ll want to add your coconut sugar and honey to a medium saucepan over medium, to medium-high heat. Stir this mixture together  and once it comes to a soft boil, set your timer for 1 minute and allow it to boil while you’re continuously stirring. Once the timer rings, remove it from the heat and add in your peanut butter and quickly stir until they’re melted together. Immediately pour this peanut butter and honey mixture over your popcorn and stir until everything is combined and evenly coated. And that’s it!


 

Peanut Butter and Honey Popcorn

*makes 10 c

10 c SkinnyPop original popcorn (or 1/2 c kernels popped)

1/2 c coconut sugar

1/2 c honey

1/2 c natural peanut butter (creamy or crunchy; personal preference)

In a large mixing bowl add 10 cups of popcorn. Set aside. In a medium sauce pan, stir together coconut sugar and honey over medium  to medium high heat. When it comes to a soft boil, allow it to boil for one minute while stirring continuously.  Remove from heat, immediately add peanut butter and stir until combined and melted together. Immediatley pour over popcorn and stir to combine. Enjoy!

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Pitaya Bowl

My mom introduced me to these pitaya granola bowls at Jamba Juice several months ago, which I love! So later, when I was shopping at sprouts, and I saw frozen pitaya(or dragon fruit) packets I grabbed some and have made several Pitaya Bowls since! I like to have this for lunch or a late afternoon snack if I’m feeling really hungry. It’s a pretty simple recipe, basically put half a pitaya packet in your blender along with a little bit of milk, strawberries and banana and blend it til its smooth.

Pour this over some granola and add whatever other toppings you like and that’s it!  I make this homemade granola weekly, but any store bought granola would work too.


Pitaya Bowl

*makes 1 large serving, or 2 small

1/2 frozen Pitaya smoothie packet (aka dragon fruit)

1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk

1/2 banana

1/4 c strawberries (frozen or fresh)

In a blender blend all ingredients together until smooth. Pour into a cereal bowl and top with any of the following:

1/2 c granola

Shredded coconut (I like unsweetened)

Blueberries, sliced bananas, sliced strawberries

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Wild Rice Salad

 

All the kids are back in school! My elementary kids started back Monday and our 8th grade daugther started back today which means the house is super quiet! There are definitely pros and cons to that, but as it’s our first day, I’m going to be honest and say that it’s very nice :). But it’ll only be that way for a few hours each morning as our youngest is in AM kindergarten this year. This will ease me into an all-day quiet home for next year :).  I hope you all had an enjoyable summer, I know we sure did and I soaked up all the time together with all five kids. On top of camps and family vacations (WA to see my family), we did a sort of homeschool type schedule in the morning where we studied, cleaned, exercised, practiced instruments etc and were usually done around 1pm so they had several hours in the afternoons to play and swim and explore. This schedule meant that I was even more busy than most summers as I did a lot of supervising and tutoring during the day and once play time rolled around I wanted to play with them, so I did! And now we’re back!

There were a couple of recipes that I’ve made lots over the summer that I realized were not posted here on this blog, so I am going to share one of them with you today: Wild Rice Salad. I found this recipe in the cook book Run Fast. Eat Slow.  and lightly adapted it. It is packed with nutrition with it’s kale, radishes, green onions, wild rice and edamame (soy beans), and the homemade creamy dressing (creamy from the tahini) pairs perfectly with this salad. I usually serve this along side a dinner entree, like Italian or American, though I personally always end up eating this as the main entree, while the rest of my family has it as a side. And the leftovers are just as good, if not better, from marinading all night. My husband is not normally a kale fan but I think with the homemade dressing and the kale being finely chopped, he doesn’t mind it at all. In fact whenever I make it he mentions how much he likes this salad, and he takes the leftovers to work! Here are the ingredients for the apple cide vinaigrette dressing:

Sometimes I slice my radishes and then cut them in half, and sometimes I cut them in quarters or dice them even smaller. Any way you like is fine.

Typically I grate my carrots into the salad with my potato peeler because I like how thin you can get them, but you could also slice them with a knife if you like  them to be a little thicker. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Wild Rice Salad- lightly adapted from Run Fast. Eat Slow.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette Dressing:
2/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced onion (or 1 tsp onion powder/dried onion)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste/butter)

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar with a lid and shake vigorously for a few seconds. (Can be used immediately or keep in fridge for up to a week so it can be made in advance.)

For the salad:
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 c wild rice, rinsed
Apple cider vinaigrette dressing (above)
6 radishes, diced
3 c loosely packed, finely chopped kale, stems removed
3 carrots, grated
6 green onions, sliced
1 c edamame, cooked and shelled
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring 4 cups of water and the salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the rice and reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is soft and chewy, about 35 minutes. Drain the rice, tranfer to a large salad bowl and immediately toss with half the dressing. Allow the rice to cool in fridge while you cut up veggies. Add them to your rice and toss until combined. Add more dressing and salt and pepper to taste. Let the salad marinate in the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to serving. This is also great the next day as leftovers. If you don’t use all the dressing(I usually have some leftover), you can save it in the fridge to use on other salads during the week.

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Watermelon Sticks

I’ve been experiencing some technical difficulties with my photos/camera/laptop, and I’m not quite out of the clear yet, but I think I’ve figured out how to still make things work for now, it’s just a little extra work on my part. On top of that, my kids are out of school for the next couple of months and I am trying to soak up all the extra time with them, so my posts may be a little less frequent during the Summer months.

I got the idea to cut the watermelon into sticks, from my mom and I love it! Most often I cube it, removing all of the rind, and sometimes we do triangles, but this is a fun and pretty way to serve it and still be able to hold onto a bit of the rind as you eat. It’s an easy, inexpensive, fresh snack to have on the counter for kids to grab, or to bring to a BBQ to share with friends.

Start by slicing your watermelon in half, right down the middle of the fat part (not the long way, the shorter way). Lay the cut side down on your cutting board and then cut vertical lines about 1-2 inches apart across the entire watermelon. Then do the same thing but making horizontal cuts.

 

The edge/corner pieces don’t have as much melon on the rind, and don’t look as pretty, so I just cut the melon off of those and we eat them right away and don’t put them on our serving dish.

So pretty and fresh! Perfect for summer!

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Mexican Kale Quinoa Salad

I can eat quinoa in so many ways, I throw it in stir frys, chili’s, in place of brown rice, but my husband doesn’t love quinoa, and will always go for the brown rice instead of quinoa. But this recipe is an exception. I think all the mexican foods, kale and the lime juice, masked the flavor and texture.He told me twice during dinner that he really liked this salad, and the next morning he had it for breakfast with some scrambled eggs on the side! If you’re looking for a good way to use this superfood, that contains all 9 essential amino acids, give this one a try!

THE RECIPE

Mexican Kale Quinoa Salad
Serves 6-8

1 c dry quinoa
1 1/2 c water
1/2 tsp sea salt, divided
3 c loosely packed, finely chopped kale, stems removed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (include seeds if you like spice)
1/2  red onion, chopped (if you don’t love onion, try soaking in cold water for 10 min, drain then add to salad)
1/2 c chopped cilantro leaves
1 1/2 c cooked black beans (or a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1/3 c lime juice (about 3 limes)
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c Feta cheese, crumbled (chopped olives work too)
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 c toasted pepitas (toast on cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for about 5-8 minutes)

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water, quinoa and 1/4 tsp salt to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until water has been absorbed. Transfer to a large salad bowl and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool. Once cool, add the kale, bell pepper, jalapeno, onion, cilantro, back beans, lime juice, oil, Feta cheese and remaining 1/4 tsp sea salt to the quinoa and toss to combine. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Just before serving, top with the avocado slices and pepitas.

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