Hit or Miss

I hope everyone is having a great start to 2016!  The weather has turned colder here in Michigan but the sun is out which is nice!

I am a bit of a health nut (“nut” being the operative word) and like to use natural products as much as possible both with food, household cleaners and cosmetics.  My family gives me a hard time about some of my “experiments” but I enjoy trying out new ideas.

My latest was trying to make my own hand soap.  In hopes of avoiding the harsh chemicals in many soaps, I tried a recipe for hand soap using liquid Castile soap, essential oils, vegetable glycerin and aloe vera.  I really loved the way the soap turned out and it smelled wonderful. I ordered some pump dispensers on-line (both regular and foaming) and made up a few bottles.  I really like Castile soap because it doesn’t leave a soap film in the sink or shower, which makes for easier clean up.

All was going well and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for trying something new, when one day I went to pump the soap not noticing the dispenser was clogged and it squirted all over my clothes!  I thought it was a fluke until the Mister started complaining about the soap squirting him every time he went to wash his hands! I’m not sure if it was the dispenser or something in the soap recipe that kept making it clog but I will let you know when I find the perfect recipe that doesn’t wash your clothes when you wash your hands!

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I also had a bottle in the shower on a top shelf and accidentally squirted myself in the eye with the soap.  As I was clutching my burning eye, I was questioning my sanity-maybe people don’t typically make their own soap for a reason!

When I mentioned to the Mister the other day that I was going to save us tons of money on our grocery bill by starting to make our own cleaning products, I got a huge eye roll and a reenactment of a soap dispenser dispersing soap all over his shirt!  Hopefully the homemade cleaning products turn out better than the soap!

How about you?  Do you have any great homemade recipes using natural products?  I would love to hear about any that have worked out for you!  Regardless of the fails, I do enjoy trying new recipes and products in the hopes of stumbling on a great one.  I will be sure to share any “hits” I find!

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

~Blessings,

Jen

Strawberry Time!

I hope all of the Dads out there enjoyed their special day. We are so blessed to have such awesome Dads in our family from my own Mister to my brother, nephews and brother-in-law!  My own Dad is not here on earth to celebrate with us but he left me with many, many fond memories of a father who was always there for me, spending time with me and loving me unconditionally.  For more on the story of my inspirational Dad click here.

Here in Michigan it is strawberry time!  Since my oldest daughter was little, it has been a tradition to visit the local U-pick strawberry patch and pick strawberries for homemade jam!  I have tried various recipes over the years, but have settled on this no-cook freezer jam.  It is quick, easy and delicious.

There is a low-sugar pectin option, but I have had a hard time finding it in my area, so I opted for the full sugar option this year.

So in a few hours we went from this:

upick

to this!

Jam

I followed the recipe on the Ball pectin jar and multiplied the recipe by five.  I did this for two batches and made about 20 or so jars of jam.  Here is the recipe I followed:

Homemade Strawberry Jam (Ball Recipe):

1 2/3 cup hulled and crushed strawberries ( I used a potato masher to crush the strawberries doing about 4 cups at a time in a bowl.  You can crush to preference-I like small pieces of strawberries in the jam.)

2/3 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. Ball Real Fruit Instant Pectin

Directions:

1.Stir sugar and pectin in a bowl.

2.Add fruit, stir 3 minutes.

3.Ladle name into clean freezer jars and let stand 30 minutes.  Leave space at the time to allow for expansion during freezing. (I let mine stand overnight and then transferred to the freezer.)

There is nothing like opening a jar of homemade strawberry jam on a cold Michigan winter day and being reminded of the tastes of summer!  This has become a very special family tradition and we even got my brother to join us for this fun outing!  If you have not picked strawberries or made jam, I encourage you to give it a try.  It is a super easy and fun-filled family activity!

Hope you are enjoying this first week of summer!

~Blessings,

Jen

 

Lemon Daisy Cupcakes

I hope everyone had a Blessed Easter!  We have a tradition in our family to have Easter dinner at my Aunt’s house.  We have been doing this since I was born and our clan has grown.  There were sixty-two of us this year!  I am so blessed to be able to spend time with this special bunch of people.

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One thing there is not a shortage of at this get together is food!  Everyone brings something to share and the table is overflowing with delicious treats!  This year, Little One and I decided to get creative and make daisy cupcakes.  I adapted a recipe from McCormick called Easy Lemon Daisy Cupcakes (see link for original recipe).

The recipe took some time and patience, but it was a great recipe for Little One to help with.  She was in charge of  the jelly beans and yellow sprinkles.

Lemon Daisy Cupcakes (adapted)

Cake:

1 pkg. white cake mix (I used french vanilla)

1 tbsp. pure lemon extract

Prepare cake mix according to directions adding 1 tbsp. lemon extract.  Spoon batter into 24 paper lined muffin cups filling 2/3 full.  Cool on wire rack.

Frosting:

The original recipe called for a cream cheese/sour cream frosting so if that is your preference, see the above link.  I went with a traditional vanilla frosting.  This is a recipe from my Mom.

4 cups powdered sugar

1/2 c. butter softened

3-4 tbsp. milk

2 tsp. vanilla (or you could add lemon extract-I used vanilla)

yellow food coloring

Mix all ingredients together and frost cupcakes.

Decorations:

24 large marshmallows

decorating sugar

jelly beans

Cut marshmallows crosswise into 5 slices.  Sprinkle 1 side of each slice with yellow decorating sugar.  Arrange 5 marshmallow petals on top of each cupcake to resemble a daisy, press in the marshmallows into the frosting.  Place jelly beans in center.

I left some plain, without sugar sprinkles to mix it up (honestly-we ran out of sugar sprinkles!).  We also sprinkled the cupcake with green sugar before adding the daisy marshmallow petals.

Tips:

Sometimes it was hard to get 5 slices out of one marshmallow so you may need a few more than 24.  The scissors got very sticky!  Be careful! I had an injury trying to clean off the scissors.

You could use many different colors/flavors for the cake and a variety of candies for the middle.  I thought pink frosted, strawberry flavored cupcakes would be pretty for Mother’s Day.

Here is our final product!

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Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Sorry for the lapse in posts this week!  Jules and I have been busy visiting and helping with her new twin grandchildren!  It has been a while since we have posted a recipe.  I thought I would share this muffin recipe from skinnytaste.com with you.  The bananas make them super moist and of course the chocolate makes them extra special!  You can make this recipe as mini loaves or muffins.  I have always opted for the muffins, but the mini loaves would make great gifts!

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Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3  ripe medium bananas
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 oz mini chocolate chips
  • Smart Balance baking spray

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a non-stick loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. Mash bananas in a bowl, set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add egg whites, bananas, apple sauce, vanilla; beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.

4. Add flour mixture, then blend at low speed until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Do not over mix.

5. Pour batter into muffin pan; bake on the center rack for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

As muffins:
Servings: 12 • Serving Size: 1 muffin • Old WW Points: 3 • Points+: 4 pts
Calories: 131.9 • Fat: 3.3 g • Carb: 27.2 g • Fiber: 2.7 g • Protein: 2.8 g • Sugar:14.6 g
Sodium: 148.6 mg

Enjoy!

~Blessings,

Jen

Low-Fat Potato Soup Recipe

These cold winter days have had me on the search for some healthy alternatives to classic “comfort food” recipes. I did a search for potato soup and found this recipe.  It was a hit with the whole family, which hardly ever happens!  It was rich, creamy and very filling!  I doubled the recipe and it was enough for two dinners for my family of four.

The first time I made it, I did not have fat-free evaporated milk, so I used whole. I was curious if it would taste the same using  fat free.  The second time I made it, I used 2%  evaporated milk, which did not affect the taste at all. It still got a thumbs up from the family.  Next time, I will go for the fat free version.  The calorie count is the same, but why not save fat grams where you can!

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Hubby chose to garnish his with soy bacon and broccoli. (I’m sure he would have preferred real ham or bacon but that was all we had on hand!)

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Low Fat Potato Soup Recipe

From: Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1-3/4 cups diced peeled potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 can (12 ounces) fat-free evaporated milk, divided
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Directions

  • In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, onion, celery, broth and
  • pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-18
  • minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • Combine cornstarch and 1/4 cup milk until smooth; stir into potato
  • mixture. Add the remaining milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for
  • 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Stir in cheese
  • until melted. Yield: 5 servings.
Nutritional Facts: 1 cup equals 178 calories, 2 g fat (0 saturated fat), 9 mg cholesterol, 274 mg sodium, 26 g carbohydrate, 0 fiber, 14 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 medium-fat meat.
© Taste of Home 2014
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family!
Stay warm!
~Blessings,
Jen

Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes

Hi all!  I wanted to share a new recipe and website with you. This healthy dessert blog has many yummy looking recipes! I have been following the blog, Chocolate Covered Katie, for a while and this is the first recipe I’ve attempted.  Oldest daughter actually texted me the recipe and asked me to make them.  She is in need of a quick on-the-go breakfast and this fit the bill!  The recipe was a hit with three out of four family members (youngest didn’t like it-she is going through a picky phase).  They were so moist and very filling and the chocolate made them seem extra special. I preferred them warm from the oven or heated in the microwave, Oldest daughter and Hubby liked them at any temperature! Here is the recipe and the link for the blog in case you want to check out more of her recipes.

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Baked Oatmeal Cupcakes To Go

from: Chocolate Covered Katie

(makes 24-25 cupcakes)

Adapted from: Cookie Dough Baked Oatmeal.

  • 5 cups rolled oats (400g)
  • 2 1/2 cups over-ripe mashed banana (For all substitutions, see nutrition link below) measured after mashing (600g)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 NuNaturals stevia packets (or omit and use 5 tbsp liquid sweetener of choice–such as pure maple syrup or agave–instead)
  • optional: 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 2/3 cups water (640g) (If using the liquid-sweetener option, scale water back by 1/3 cup.)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp oil (45g) (I really like coconut, but veg oil will also work. For lower-fat substitution notes, see nutrition link below.)
  • 2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • optional add-ins: cinnamon, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, ground flax or wheat germ, raisins or other dried fruit, etc.

Preheat oven to 380 F, and line 24-25 cupcake tins. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir very well. In a separate bowl, combine and stir all wet ingredients (including banana). Mix wet into dry, then pour into the cupcake liners and bake 21 minutes. I also like to then broil for 1-2 minutes, but it’s optional.

Each cupcake has 88 calories and 2.9 grams of fat.  You can view more detailed nutritional information by visiting the link to the blog.

I did not have enough bananas for the whole 2 1/2 cups , so I used about 2 cups of bananas and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce.  I also used pure maple syrup as the sweetener and broiled them for 2 minutes which gave them a nice crispy top.

Oldest daughter likes them for breakfast, I prefer one for an afternoon snack with a cup of tea!

Here is to a happy, healthy week!

~Blessings,

Jen