Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Less-Is-More Resolutions

Last year I made a few resolutions, which I am happy to share, I actually kept.

No really. I did.


I'll admit, the fanny pack thing didn't happen.

This year I've decided to see if I can make it 2-in-a-row by setting some more goals. Unlike last year's tongue-in-cheek resolutions, these will be a little more difficult to keep.

Because they're real.

And since they have absolutely nothing to do with weight loss, these should last a little longer than the first week of January.

So, here is my list, in no particular order.

1. Consume less.

Since we don't have a weekly garbage pick-up (at $60/month), we take our trash into the dump/recycling center ourselves. Our goal was to make this trip on a monthly basis, but so far, we haven't been able to get past the 2 week mark. With our recycling credit (newspapers, cans, glass) our total cost to dump is between $2 and $5.00/load.

The price is not the issue. It is the amount of garbage that we are taking in. Four of our five cans are usually filled with recylcables. In our area, there are only 2 kinds of plastic that can be recycled, all the others head to the landfill. Before you start thinking "Uh-oh, another nutty environmentalist..", let me assure you that I am not. Well, I am, but not one of those weird incense-burning, pot-smoking, free-love kind of environmentalists. I'm more like the milk and cookies with a hug at bedtime kind of nut.

My resolution isn't just to decrease my trips to the dump, but to decrease our family's dependency on all the items that we don't always need to purchase or that come with hard-to-dispose-of packaging.

Such as:

Packaged foods~We all know that most packaged foods are processed foods. And we know that those aren't good for us. But there are plenty of whole foods that come in cartons, bags, boxes, and plastic.

Solution? Buy in bulk. Whole Foods (and many others) have an awesome selection of healthy beans, pastas, nuts, dried fruits, and spices, not to mention honey, olive oil, and grind-yourself nut butters. Cut consumption by bringing your own bags and containers. Most places will weigh your empty containers and subtract that from the filled weight. Mesh produce bags are another way to cut wasteful packaging. (Store bulk items in glass canning jars that you probably already have!) Make your own mixes, seasoning "packets", breads, and yogurt. Not only are these a healthier alternative to store-bought, it is a good way to keep the grocery budget in check. (I'll share more tips later for saving at the grocery store!)

Reusable bread bags~My Mister "gets" me!

Cleaning products~Most of us have at least on cupboard filled with cleaning supplies. One for the toilet, one for the shower, one for the floor, etc...Not only are most of these products toxic, they take up space in the house and the garbage can.

 Solution? Make your own. It's surprising what a little white vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap can do. Just be careful reusing bottles that had toxic chemicals in them as they can become even more toxic and even deadly. (Bleach & ammonia for instance.) Also, forgo that expensive, toxic laundry soap and make your own for pennies. (White vinegar makes a great fabric softener and a gallon usually costs less than a dollar.)

Drying clothes~Most people don't think twice about running an electric dryer, until the power bill arrives. The energy wasted on a load of laundry is only second to the stove/oven. The power comes from somewhere, and someone is going to pay for that power. Probably you.

Solution? Install a clothesline for outside drying during the warmer months and use a drying rack for the winter. I have 2 hanging racks in front of my woodstove and am hoping to purchase a wooden rack from here. And check out the repurposed baby gate here. Save the dryer for the important stuff, like jeans. Nothing puts me in a bad mood faster than crunchy jeans...

 Speaking of clothes...

Clothing~Ever notice the poor workmanship of the clothing nowadays? Most are sewn in foreign countries, possibly by underage employees, who are probably not being paid enough of a wage to live on. Remember Levi jeans? Sorry to tell you, but these are not made in America anymore.

Solution? Buy from second-hand stores. These stores are not the disgusting places they once were. Second-hand shopping has become en vogue, and retailers are finally understanding that we don't want to purchase items that have last year's Christmas gravy stained to the front. In our area, we actually have some pretty classy thrift stores that we have scored numerous deals at. And some of these stores actually benefit other organizations such as, our local women/children's shelter, hospice, boys & girls clubs, etc...(Local people~check out The Red Hat Thrift Store, The Hospice Thrift Store, and in Vancouver, Plato's Closet.)

Sometimes you'll even find furniture worth saving!

Solid wood bed for $124...My grandmother has the same bed and paid $1200 new!
Toiletries~This is kind of a touchy subject for me.

Because I'm a girl.

I like my mousse, hair spray, makeup, razors, deodorant, lotions, and the like, but there is a lot of packaging involved with this stuff. Not to mention, most of it is overpriced, toxic, and marketed in a way that makes a woman think she is less of a woman to not have these things.

Solutions? Don't buy into the lie. Yes, I still use mousse, hairspray, makeup, and thankfully, deodorant (most of the time☺), but I'm more choosy and I don't use this stuff everyday. I take into account how long something will actually last. I make what I can at home, and make purchasing decisions based on whether the package can be reused or not. Crazy? Maybe, but I have raised 6 girls and that's a lot of "stuff". There are recipes on the web for making your own deodorant, soaps, shampoos, and lotions. If that's not your thing, try a mineral salt deodorant stick that can last for an entire year. Use coconut oil right out of the pantry (I store mine in a little cup on my bathroom counter.) instead of expensive moisturizers and lotions, and try making your own bar soap. (I'll be sharing a recipe for shampoo bars soon!) I use mineral powder makeup and reuse the little jars for important things like scrapbooking embellishments, buttons, and tacks. And disposable razors? No way. Use a razor with replaceable heads, or even better, an electric razor.

Finally, make things that you use a lot of. For us, it's candles. When the winds blow, we're the last to get our power back on. Instead of purchasing some made-in-China (or wherever) candles, we roll our own from beeswax sheets.

It's a fun way to spend an afternoon and there is NO GARBAGE to pack to the cans.

And that's it. My New Year's resolution for the year.

Just one.

I should be able to manage just one, dontchathink?☺


This post is linked to the Living Well Blog Hop.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Peepin' Tom

While in the midst of holiday hustlin', bustlin', wrapping & baking, we had a visitor.

He was not offering his gift wrapping services.

He was not sharing his recipe for pickled peppers.

And he was certainly not selling Avon.

It seems a rumor was started (probably by those cackling hens) that...

...we might be serving beef for this holiday dinner.

Since Tom trusts no one,

he decided to take the "wait & see" approach.

Two days of sitting in the exact same spot, Tom was finally convinced that beef is "what's for dinner."

Today we welcomed the rain...and if you have turkeys, you'll know what I mean.☺

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Last Menu Monday...sort of...

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! Ours was the usual chaos, without the organization. Because of my lack of attention to detail, we had a houseful of guests who had to maneuver their way through a clothing maze in the bathroom; didn't eat dinner until after 8 p.m. because I failed to notice that the prime rib I had set in the fridge to thaw needed more than the 2 days I gave it; and our guests had to dodge, weave, and knee the 4 dogs that I neglected to have kenneled for the festivities.


It was perfect.

Now that we're in our last week of 2011, I am working on my organizational skills. By working on, I really mean, acquiring some.

I'm a late bloomer.

While looking over our spending habits in the grocery store, I noticed 2 things.

1. We spend entirely too much.
2. I always spend more when my Mister is with me.

Since I'm not willing to endure the hell that is the grocery store alone, #1 has to change. So, starting January 1, 2012, our grocery shopping will be limited to once a month. This means that meal plans will be planned monthly instead of weekly. By visiting the store less, our goal is to slash our ever-growing grocery bill in half. Face it, the more times a person goes into a store, the more money is spent. Even if you have a list. Stores have mastered the gentle art of persuasion and practice these technique's on the unsuspecting consumer at every opportunity. Fancy packaging, deli/bakery smells, happy music, in-store advertisements placed right at eye level, and friendly greeters are all part of the master get us to spend more.

It's time to beat them at their own game.

This week will be the last of my weekly meal plans. Starting on January 1, my monthly plan will be under its own tab at the top of my blog. I will also be keeping a monthly grocery total in the side margin of the blog. My hope is to be able to share some tips as I go, some of them you may already know, while others may be new to both of us. The end result will be the same...more money left in our pockets.

Game on.

Here's what's cookin' this week...

Eggs fried in ghee, Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls (left over from Christmas morning!)
Beef stew, cornbread

Cinnamon Rolls, plain yogurt w/ frozen mixed berries
Navy Bean & Ham Soup

Hashbrowns, eggs fried in ghee
Pot roast, mashed potatoes w/ gravy, green beans

Sourdough pancakes

Cheese/onion omelette's, toast

Simple Soaked Oatmeal w/ cinnamon & dried apples
leftover soups
*New Year's Eve snacks~cheese fondue, sausage, sourdough, Banana Splits

Scrambled eggs, toast
Spicy Hoppin' John, cornbread

This post is linked to Menu Mondays.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Dancing and Pie

This is what's known as "The Happy Dance". Currently, I am doing this. While typing.

My talent knows no limits.

Unless I hit my knee on the coffee table again. Ouch.

After another round of needle poking in the neck, I have received the greatest gift for Christmas.

A clean bill of health.

Yes, I still have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, but I do NOT have cancer. Yes, I have a goiter growing in my neck, but it is cancer-free. Yes, I need to follow-up with bloodtests every 2-3 months and an ultrasound in 6, but IT IS NOT CANCER!!! Did you hear me?


Now that this little bump is behind me, it's time to make some pie. Specifically, Hazelnut Mocha Cheesecake. And because I can, I plan on keeping a whole one to myself.

After all, it is gluten-free.☺

~Hazelnut Mocha Cheesecake~

~The Players~
*use organic ingredients, if possible

Crust: 3 cups finely ground hazelnuts
10 Tb. salted butter, melted
4 Tb. sucanat (or Rapadura)

Filling: 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 (8 oz.) cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
2 t. espresso powder
1 t. vanilla

Crust: Using a fork, mix hazelnuts, butter, and sucanat. Press into 2 pie dishes, making sure to press up the sides too. (It will look rugged, this is okay.) Bake in preheated 350F. oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool before filling.

Mix heavy cream and cream cheese together until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift powdered sugar and cocoa together. Stir in espresso powder. Slowly add sugar mixture into creamed mixture; mix until creamy. Add vanilla.

Spread into prepared crust. Chill at least 2 hours.

This makes 2 pies, but shhhh...don't tell the family.☺


Monday, December 19, 2011

Spiced Candied Nuts

I realize that I'm a little late to the party, but this week I'll be sharing some of our favorite Christmas goodies. To earn the title of "Favorite", a recipe must be tried and true. It must be able to stand alone as a goodie, without the need for fance and frills. It must be able to hold it's own against the highly popular, yet superficial beauty of the frosted cut-out cookie. Especially if it is sporting a never-before-seen color.

That said, sometimes we make exceptions to the favorites list. Like, when Mom decides to try a gluten-free version of a snickerdoodle and it turns into an unrecognizable pile of goo that even the goats won't touch.

It could happen. I'm not sayin' it did, but it could.☺

I liken this turn of events to a beauty pageant. You know, where one of the top 5 girls are equally perfect, but then just before the final judging, there is a scandal that is revealed, leaving girl #6 the opportunity to shine.

Yep, just like that. It's time for goodie #6 to shine, because the infamous gluten-free snickerdoodle has been bumped.

And if the sticky fingers and trips to the candy dish are any indication, #6 just might be the real winner.

50 #'s of walnuts, just waiting to be shelled.
~Spiced Candied Walnuts~

~The Players~

3 cups shelled, walnut halves
1-1/2 cup organic sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the sugar on medium heat until it starts to melt.

 When the sugar starts to melt, use a wooden spoon and continue to stir until sugar is a medium amber color. Add the spices and mix well. Turn heat down to simmer.

Pour the nuts into the saucepan, stirring to coat all of the nuts. Using 2 forks, quickly move nuts, a couple at a time, to the parchment-lined cookie sheets. Be careful, these are extremely hot!

This is kind of messy, but once the nuts have hardened (about 5 minutes), the sugar "hairs" can be picked off. I'm sure there's a technical term for the strands of candied sugar, but it looks like hair to me.

I'm a simple girl.☺


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Menu Monday {Week of Dec. 18-24}

'Tis the season...

...for last minute dashes to town to get some forgotten, but highly important ingredient,

...for wrapping paper pieces on the floor and scotch tape stuck to the hair,

...for get-togethers and Christmas programs,

...for noses pressed against windows, waiting for snow,

...for Christmas lights and "It's a Wonderful Life,

...for eggnog and candy-sprinkled, gluten-free cookies.

Now that you know what's up at my house, tell me, what's going on at yours? Am I the only one running around like a crazed psycho-mom, who has some serious time-management issues?

Please say no. I beg you.

Last week, I made a list and before I could check it twice, the week was over! I'm not entirely sure where it went, but I'm fairly certain I was jipped a few hours. Each day. So, this week we are going to try again. This week we will do all the crafty projects that were planned, bake all the sweets that are on the list (just as soon as I find the list!), and even try to manage a movie marathon of "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story". Of course, I may be sleeping during the marathon, but it will be on.☺

A quick update on the biopsy results. Some of you already know this, but last week's biopsy didn't go as well as expected. The pathologist didn't find some cells that are actually supposed to be in the thyroid, so this week I'll be having a second biopsy. *sigh* Just add it to the list...

Here's what's cookin' this week...

Teriyaki Chicken, brown rice, green salad w/ Green Goddess dressing (I'll share the recipe this week.)

French Lentil Soup, green salad w/ Green Goddess dressing

Sourdough Pancakes
Pan-Seared Citrus-Glazed Salmon over Wilted Spinach (new), Avocado Quinoa Salad (new)

~Wednesday~ (biopsy day)
Cinnamon Spiced Granola (new)
Cincinnati Chili, green salad w/Lime Vinaigrette (new)

Swiss cheese & Green onion omelette's
Vegetarian Chipotle Chili (new), Kim's Kornbread

Simple Soaked Oatmeal w/ blueberries & almonds
Spicy Split Pea Soup (not new, but I haven't posted it yet~oops!), Kim's Kornbread

Hashbrowns, scrambled eggs
Sloppy Joes, 3-Bean Salad

~Christmas Day~
Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls (Heaven help me~because I sure can't!)
Dinner: Grass-fed Prime Rib, Potatoes Au Gratin, Broccoli Salad, Raw Cranberry Relish, Rolls, and a whole bunch of different desserts...but I'll have to get back to you on that one...once I've narrowed it down to single digits.

I like pie.☺

This post is linked to Menu Mondays.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gift Basket for the Chocolate Lover

Need a quick, last minute but frugal gift idea?

How about a themed basket of chocolate?

For under $10.

Here's what you'll need:
1 basket~look around your house for any extras, or pick one up at a thrift store for less than a $1.
2 cute coffee mugs~thrift stores have oodles of them, usually for 50 cents a piece, or less. Or look in your own cupboard, we usually have more coffee mugs than my entire family lineage could use!
1 pint jar with lid and ring
1 kitchen towel~I bought a new one for $2.
Cute cellophane bag, or Saran Wrap
scrapbooking paper
packing material
curling ribbon
Homemade fudge sauce, see below
mini candy canes and assorted chocolates

A home-made label with hot chocolate directions.

Fill the mugs with packing material and mini candy canes.

Almond Joy Granola

Cover the basket with the towel and tie with a large ribbon.

The packing material was shredded computer paper that my daughter curled for me (with a pencil). (Never say to a momma that "I'm boooooorrrrrred!")  Make sure to tuck it between the mugs and jar of fudge sauce so they won't break during the drive to Grandma's house.

To make the fancy lid for the fudge sauce, place a canning lid over the back of a piece of scrapbooking paper. Trace with a pencil, cut, and use a glue stick to attach to lid. If you have a label-maker, now's a good time to pull out the instructions and try to figure out how to use it!☺ And if you can't or don't, a black felt pen works too.

Use curling ribbon or other holiday decorations to gussy up the basket. At Christmas, you can never have too much gussy-ing.

And if you take a chocolate themed gift basket to a gift exchange, and if there are men at this same exchange, never, ever, ever underestimate the power that chocolate has on members of the opposite sex. (The recipient of the gift basket had to be escorted out by unarmed security guards who may or may not have wrestled said basket from winner's least, I think they were security guards...)

And if you do, underestimate I mean, make sure you have another jar of fudge sauce secretly stashed in your refrigerator at home...and only enjoy it in the the privacy of your own locked bathroom.

Just sayin'.☺

~Hot Fudge Sauce~
*use organic ingredients if possible*

1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

In a medium saucepan, stir together the cream, sugar, cocoa, and butter. Cook on medium heat until butter is melted and ingredients are combined. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture into mixing bowl and beat for 1 minute. Pour into pint jar.

Makes 2 cups of fudge sauce.

To make hot cocoa:
Heat 1 cup milk to hot, but not boiling. Add 3-4 tablespoons of fudge sauce and whisk well. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

I'll be using this same Hot Fudge Sauce to make an ice-cream themed gift basket too!

This post is linked to The Great Holiday Barn Hop.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Because Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut Granola

This is not the breakfast of champions.

I don't actually know any champions, but if I did, I'm sure they'd agree. (My gene pool is more like a puddle of serious under-achievers, if ya know what I mean.)

Since I don't know of one who can verify this claim, you're just going to have to trust me on this one. Better yet, trust me that hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup are bad ideas for breakfast food. But, while they may be bad, the tasty combination of almonds, coconut, and chocolate are still as good as the day they were born. 

They just don't tuck into the side pocket of a purse as easily.

Recently, I ran across a recipe for Chocolate Granola on another blog, and I knew with a little "tweaking" on my part, I could have my Almond Joy again, this time without the guilt.

Okay, there's a little guilt, but that may be because I kinda, sorta, maybe, might've eaten most of the batch.

It could happen.

And if nuts aren't your thing, leave them out.

♫Because, sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't!♫

~The Players~

1/3 cup organic brown sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (I use Tropical Traditions)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup organic cocoa powder (unsweetened)
7 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
1 cup chocolate chips (I used bittersweet, but milk chocolate would be good too.)
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 cup almond pieces (I used sliced almonds this time, but chopped are good!)

In a small saucepan, slowly melt coconut oil. (Don't worry about about measuring until after it's melted; simply pour any unused oil back into the container. It will firm back up.)

   Pour the melted oil back into the saucepan and whisk together with the brown sugar and honey. (Use the same measuring cup that was used for the oil to measure the honey, it will slide right out!) Bring to boil. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa.

Measure out 3 cups of rolled oats; put into a large bowl.

Put remaining 4 cups of rolled oats into a food processor and pulse until 50% of the oats are a finer texture.

Mix the processed oats with the whole oats.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the oats, stirring with a large spoon until cool enough to handle.

Go ahead and lick your fingers...I won't tell...

Spread into 2 9x13 pans, cookie sheets (with sides), or broiler pans. Bake in preheated 350F. oven for 10 minutes.

Seriously. I said 10 minutes. Trust me.

Remove pans and turn off oven. Stir in coconut chips, almonds, and chocolate chips.

Return pans to the oven (make sure it's off!). Leave pans in the oven for 1-2 hours. Do not stir them during this time, just leave them be.

Be strong.

Remove from oven and let cool. Do not stir until cool. Store in sealed jars or other containers.


**Check back tomorrow to see what I did with all this granola!**

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Sigh of Relief

Today was the day.

The day that I have been stressing about for the last couple of weeks.

Biopsy day. 

Just to clarify...I'm alive. I'm not sure what I was expecting, as fear took hold and rendered me senseless...not to mention left me crying like a 2 year old who had lost her dolly.

Anyway, I survived.


The doctor who performed the biopsy knew of my anxiety, so he highly suggested a couple of anti-anxiety pills. Because he has so many more years of doctorin' experience than me, I took him up on his very generous offer.

Let me just tell you, there is a reason that I have never done drugs.

I'm a control freak.

And a wuss, hence the reason for the drugs.

While I don't have any official results to share yet, I can tell you that the doctor does not think the masses in my thyroid are cancerous. As a "betting man" (according to the doctor), he's pretty sure that my official diagnosis will be Hashimoto's disease. And he doesn't think I need to start any medication yet as my thyroid is still producing enough hormone on its own. The only residual effects of the biopsy is a very sore neck, and a Xanax hangover that I'm sure a good night's sleep will rectify.

Currently, I am being pampered by my family, loved on by my granddaughters, and enjoying the comfort of my very own recliner.

And to make this lovely little mini-vacation last a little longer, I've thrown in a limp for good measure.

But let's just keep that between us, shall we?☺

I want to send a big THANK YOU for all the prayers, encouragement, and well-wishes. It has meant more to me than words could ever express.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meal Plan for 12/11

Because this week will be a little more stressful than usual, I've decided to have a little fun.

Keeps people guessin'.

So this week, we're putting away the school books (until after the holidays), and we're dragging out the glue gun. It's time I teach these kids how to use a real weapon. With my arsenal of glue sticks, we'll be making a primitive banner for the fireplace, some vintage-looking, glittery birds for the tree, and a stocking for the newest member of the family, Emily Jane. We'll also be putting together a gluten-free baking list, cleaning out the chicken coop, and decorating an outdoor tree for our fine feathered friends.

My biopsy is scheduled for Tuesday morning, with results as soon as the end of the week, so the plan is to keep me busy.

With lots of noise.

Keeps me from thinkin' too much.☺

Here's what's cookin' this week...

Pot roast, mashed potatoes/gravy, green beans


Almond Joy Granola (recipe this week!), Coconut milk fruit smoothie (for mom)
Kelsie's choice

Almond Joy Granola, yogurt & fruit (for mom)
Taco Mac & Cheese (new), fruit salad

Simple Soaked Oatmeal w/ blueberries & toasted walnuts
French Lentil Soup (carried from last week), sourdough

Sourdough pancakes (for family), Buckwheat pancakes (for mom~new)
Christmas party potluck

Scrambled eggs & deer sausage
Teriyaki Chicken, brown rice, steamed broccoli or Swiss chard

This post is linked to Menu Mondays.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Movie Theater Popcorn

Recently I went to the movies with my daughter, Valerie. I hadn't been in awhile so was quite surprised at the $9 price tag. What is it exactly that our $9 gets us? The privilege to occupy an already warm, germ-encrusted seat that someone else has just vacated? A place where our carefully chosen because-they-match-my-outfit shoes are now glued to the floor by Mountain Dew and melted Milk Duds? A chair, if you will, that is either too close to the screen, or directly behind the largest person in the county...who has a cell phone that he refuses to shut off. A phone that he spends the entire movie texting on. A phone, whose light is by far brighter than the North Star. And because he's texting some unknown, but seemingly very important person, he has to have his friend provide a running commentary throughout the entire first half of the flick.

Who doesn't know how to whisper.

Suddenly that movie you couldn't wait to see doesn't seem as appealing as it once was.

The movie people know this though. To keep you from walking out, they hire employees to pop  corn, then turn on fans (They call it "air conditioning".) that blow the scent of freshly popped corn directly up your already cooled nose.

Movie people are a sneaky bunch.

While the movie may not be worth the ticket price, the popcorn sure is. Its scent can entice even the ones who would rather have the red licorice or peanut M&M's.

Just ask my Mister. Movie theater popcorn can render its victims senseless and even though we know that we shouldn't indulge, we do. Then we feel guilty. (Some of the guilt can be attributed to the additional $10 that was just spent at the snack bar!) We may even consider popcorn rehab, but as soon as the sequel, prequel, or anything with Harrison Ford comes out, we're back in line asking for extra butter like the popcorn junkies that we are.

Since I can't afford to see a movie every time the popcorn shakes begin, I've decided to take matters into my own hands.

I'm making my own.

And watching an old guy with a hat, whip, and a quirky, crooked smile jump around like he's still 20.

And for $9, I can watch the DVD 9 times and still afford the snacks.☺

~The Players~

2 Tb. unsalted butter
3 Tb. coconut oil*
2 t. red palm oil*
1 cup organic popcorn kernels*
sea salt

In a 6 quart pot, melt the butter, coconut oil, and palm oil on medium-high.

Add the popcorn. Give it a little shake to evenly distribute it.

Ummm....don't forget the lid.

It could happen.

Once the popcorn starts to pop, give the pot a little shake. Let it pop some more, then shake it again. Do it again, just for kicks.

When the popping slows down to a couple of pops at a time, remove from heat. Carefully remove the lid and sprinkle some sea salt on the popped corn. Turn the corn out into a large bowl and sprinkle with a little more sea salt. Taste and add more salt if needed.

*I use unrefined coconut oil, but if you don't want the coconut essence, opt for the refined version. My favorite is from Tropical Traditions. The red palm oil is from Wilderness Family Naturals, but most health food stores carry different brands. And I always, always, always use organic popcorn to make sure we aren't popping a GMO experiment.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pear & Hazelnut Salad with Creamy Cranberry Dressing

After consuming 2 entire bowls of this salad, I've decided that change is good.

Of course, I've come to this conclusion after only 1 day of this new lifestyle change, but so far, it's good. REAL GOOD.

My photography skills are another matter altogether, so I'll just clarify right now that this is not ketchup, cottage cheese, and leftover greens.

This in fact, is pure bliss.

Salad bliss.

This salad is fairly easy to put together, but if you purchase hazelnuts still in the shell like I did, you'll need to skin the nuts first. (See below.) If hazelnuts aren't your thing, try substituting walnuts or pecans instead. Which is what I ended up doing since somebody used up all the hazelnuts in some chocolate chips cookies without letting me know.

Somehow the cookies got past me too.☺

This recipe was adapted from the book, "The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook".

~The Players~

1 head of leaf lettuce (I used romaine.)
1 firm ripe pear, cored and sliced thin (Do not peel!)
1/4 red onion, sliced thin in rounds (I cut them smaller.)
1 cup raw hazelnuts, toasted
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 t. plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (Found next to the fresh garlic or onions in the produce dept.)
1 cup fresh cranberries (I used frozen, but let them thaw in a colander.)
zest from 1 orange
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 Tb. balsamic vinegar
3-4 Tb. maple syrup (Grade B)
1/2 t. sea salt

Place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

To make the dressing, heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the 2 teaspoons olive oil and sliced shallots. Saute' shallots for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Add cranberries and continue to saute' until berries are soft and have "popped."

Place shallot & cranberry mixture into food processor or blender with the orange juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, zest, maple syrup, and sea salt. Blend on high until creamy. Add a few tablespoons of water for a thinner consistency and blend again. (I skipped this step.)

Drizzle dressing over salad and serve immediately. Extra dressing can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

~Skinning & Roasting Hazelnuts~

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place shelled nuts on cookie sheet. Roast for 10-12 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times during cooking time.

Pour the nuts into the center of a clean towel. Gather the edges of the towel to bundle the nuts up and rub the nuts against each other inside the towel for quite a while until the skins come off.

Now get to crackin'!