To Foam or Not To Foam

espresso-machine.jpgMeet the newest member of our family….

Ain’t she pretty?

Buying this little baby is turning out to be one of the BEST decisions that we’ve made recently.

I’d been thinking a lot about the kids calcium intake or rather the lack thereof, and wondering what to do about it.

I’d also been trying to figure out a way to cut down on the cost of our daily latte habit.

A few things happened all at the same time, and the end result is hapiness and joy all around.

We’ve recently decided that I will be handling the family finances.  I have the time, energy and drive to tackle that particular mountain…..in the hopes of turning it into a mole hill….it’s a work in progress and I’m sure you’ll hear WAY more about it in the not too distant future than you really care to.

Any way,….. for the same cost of one month of latte’s and coffee we bought ourselves an espresso machine.  The old coffee pot, which isn’t very old at all, has become an “office” machine in case Jon has clients come to the house to meet.  We fired up the machine, and made ourselves Americano’s the next morning in half the time that it took to run a a pot through, AND….it was fresh, and we didn’t have any coffee sitting around for half the day waiting to be thrown out ’cause it tasted like mud.  Bonus points for freshness and the time factor.

Then, I asked for a latte, and I was pleasantly surprised that it tasted pretty good.  That was a part of my concern.  I actually LOVE the taste of Starbucks Soy Latte’s, and didn’t think that I’d like a home made one – not the case AT ALL!  It was delicious. 

Being the frugal sort that I am, I didn’t want to go out and buy a bottle of sugar free hazelnut for two reasons.  ONE being the cost, and TWO being the chemical factor.  I’m trying to get further and further away from ingesting chemical’s and trying to stay closer to naturally sourced food.  So, I decided tojust have plain latte’s, and that was okay, UNTIL….we thought we’d try a bit of cinnamon with the milk……OH!  MY!  GOODNESS!

No flavoring needed!  It’s amazing!  Try it!

So, at the same time that all this was happening, Jon got a Costco membership through his company, and we went down to pick a few things up, and found out that they sell a 3 pack of SILK SOY for $7.99.  That breaks down to $2.66 per carton, and that is WAY CHEAPER than the $3.89 that the grocery stores are selling them for.

The kids were watching us make coffee’s, and I figured that I’d offer a cinnamon steamed milk….and they were hooked from the first sip.  They actually ask for a cup of milk now, and I’m no longer concerned about their calcium intake.  YAH!

Also, we are training our kids so that they have the option of being barista’s when they grow up – if they want to be…..

My Kids Are Really Thankful for Good Food

I’ve been trying to figure what kind of treats or snacks I can make for the kids (and Jon and I, too).

We need cookies and crackers and snacks for school.  My kids are AMAZING, and I’ve said before that they have no issues with fruits and veggies, but I like to have vareity, and try to find special things that they could eat or snack on so they aren’t “the weird kids” who only eat fruits and veggies.

I shared my recipe that I found for Oatmeal Cookies, those are a big hit in our house (either the zucchini or pumpkin variety), but I have yet to try them with carrots.  Soon, maybe this week – if I have time……

I found a recipe for healthy rice krispie treats made with tahini…..which is just sesame butter.  I thought they were delicious, and Jon thought they were okay, and the kids hated them……..BUT they made me think of Granola Bars, and so I went searching for Granola Bar recipes.

Lala, H. can eat these – no corn syrup!

So, I used this recipe, and best of all, you can put whatever you want in them, and make them as thick or thin or big or small as you want.  I think that you could even make granola for cereal……AND, it is SUPER EASY to make.

Granola BarsHomemade Granola Bars

3 cups Rolled Oats (I use old fashioned)
1 1/2 cups chopped Pecans
1/4 cup Flax Seeds
1/2 cup Sesame Seeds

2 cups Puffed Rice Brown Cereal
2 cups Dried Fruit

1 cup of Honey
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Tahini
2 Tblsp Butter (optional)
2 tsp Vanilla

Directions

1.   Heat Oven to 350 degrees Farenheit
2.   Spread first group of ingredients on 2 baking pans and toast for about 15 minutes, or until you can smell the toasted nuts.
3.   Remove from oven and place in LARGE mixing bowl, and add the 2nd group of ingredients and mix well.
4.   Heat (over low heat) the Honey, Salt, Tahini, (butter, if using) and vanilla until well combined
5.   Add sticky mixture to the dry mixture and stir well
6.   Spread mix into 2 greased pans…it’s your choice as to how thick you want to make it.
7.   Press firmly so it all sticks togetther
8.   Bake for about 15-20 minutes (less for chewier – more for crunchier bars)
9.   Let granola cool only slighty before you cut into bars, but wait until they are completely cool to remove from the pans.
10.  Wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap and store in an air tight container…..could store 2 weeks or longer if they make it that far……

I substituted and added here and there, but kept the general outline as my guidline.  I’ll explain what I did and some of my thoughts. 

I did use pecans, but you could use whatever nuts you wanted to use or don’t use nuts if you can’t for health/school reasons.  I used a bit more than the 2 cups of puffed brown rice cereal, but again, if you can’t find any, use 2 cups of somthing else.  I used raisins, but would advise that whatever fruit you use that you chop it up first.  The raisins puffed up and made my bars a bit wobbly and I had to smush them down flat.  I also added a handful of Carob chips to further entice the kids to give it a try….not that I needed to.  (Ah Hindsight but it’s a nice treat!)  If you can’t find Tahini (it’s in the ethinc food section in our Superstore or at a health food store) you could use any type of butter ie peanut or cashew or almond or whatever….I’m sure you could even substitute it for something else like molasses or something else.

I used only one pan, and they were freaky thick.  It’s totally feasable to use both pans.  I put the mixture in and then used a rolling pin to smush it flat into the pan.  Watch it carefully when it’s cooking, as you don’t want it to burn.  When I pulled it out, I gave it about 1 minute and then I used my pizza cutter to cut it up.  I got 30 pieces, but could easily have got double that if I’d used 2 pans.  I wrapped it up later that night when it was totally cool and stored it in Ziploc bags.  So far we’ve plowed through almost half of it, and I can see that I’ll definately have to make more of this. 

And then………. we are having our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow at GF Strong with Chris.  It should be interesting ’cause we are bringing the dinner in, and hopefully we have figured out a way to have it still be warm when we get there.

Making the dinner got me thinking about how I’m not preparing the whole meal and how that it will have foods that we are not supposed to eat because most of my family is not eating they same way that we are.  I initially thought that I would just let the kids cheat, and for some of it I will, but then I started thinking about and wondering if I could make a pie that tasted good, but was within our eating guidlines, and then I wouldn’t be so stressed about the kids having dessert or having no dessert.

So, I’ve made a pumpkin pie, and judging by the fact that Geli came back for 3 pieces (I made them just slivers.) I’m saying that it was a hit.

Xan and her Pie

My mom makes Tenderflake pie crusts and swears by them, and (when she makes them) makes the BEST pie crusts EVER!  They are SO light and flakey and crisp. 

I just followed the recipe on the box, but instead of regular wheat flour, I used Stoneground Spelt Flour, and it made an AMAZING pie crust.  My only complaint would be that I rolled it too thin, and you couldn’t hardly taste it with the pie filling, but the kids have picked off the crust from around the edges of the left over  1/3 of the pie that I said they couldn’t eat, so it must be a big hit (at least in their minds).

 I was a little more worried about the filler than the crust, although I’ll admit I was hoping it wouldn’t be a cardboard pie crust.

The recipe I used calls for

2 cans of Pumpkin puree (14 oz cans)
4 large Eggs
3/4 cup of Milk(I used Soy)
3/4 cup of Honey
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp ground Cloves

Mix all the ingredients together and pour into unbaked 9 inch pie crust.  Bake at 375 degrees for 55 minutes or until center is almost set.  Turn off oven and let it sit ’till it cools a bit.

I would say that if you are sitting comparing a regular pumpin pie with my honey/soy pie, that you might be disappointed.  BUT WE LOVE IT.  It set just like a regular pie, and tastes SOOOOOOOOO GOOD!  The kids love it, and I love that I can let them have it and not feel bad.  I’m going to try to make another pie tonight, but am not sure if I’m going to try to make a no sugar peach or apple one.  I was thinking about using a can of peaches in unsweetened juice and cooking down the juice into a syrup to use instead of using sugar.  We’ll see.  At the very least, I might just make another pumpkin pie. 

 I’m just glad that I have a few more sweet treats to put in the kids lunches once in a while.

Well, I have to get off here and go and be thankful for my family.

 Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to y’all!