Shredded Beef & Gravy over Mashed Potatoes

4-20160329_185002This was truly a delicious home cooked dinner.  It doesn’t get much more satisfying than fork-tender roast beef with gravy and tender vegetables, all swimming in a fluffy pile of buttery mashed potatoes. That’s comfort food in every way! And, if you are trying to cook more meals without using pre-packaged ingredients and more whole foods, you’ll want to add this to your list!

Serves 4-6

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Our Favorite Pumpkin Muffins- Cleaner Version

P1020761My children’s eyes light up when they discover that pumpkin muffins are for breakfast. They absolutely love them. And yes, they are pretty tasty- moist, slightly sweet, and hinting with flavors like cinnamon, ginger and cloves- classic pumpkin companions!

I posted my original recipe for these favorite Pumpkin Muffins of ours a while back. Since then, however, I have cleaned them up a bit by drastically reducing the sugar (originally 3/4 cup white sugar – now down to 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup) and using healthier “oils and fats”- real butter and coconut oil- instead of canola oil. The kids can’t tell the difference, and I am much happier. The muffins taste just as delicious, if not better!

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Homemade Doughnuts (3 ways- glazed, powdered or cinnamon-sugar)

20141224_094457Homemade Doughnuts are something extra-special. We don’t make them too often, but it always seems like a kind of holiday when donuts are on the menu for an evening.

At first glance, this might look like a long process, but these are really not very hard to make. A little time, and advanced preparation, and you’ll be enjoying hot, soft, delicious donuts that YOU made. I’ve tried to include as many specific details as possible.

In our family, we have a tradition of making donuts several times throughout the Christmas Season, or when we get a good snow. (which isn’t too often where we live!)

One of our family’s favorite nights of the Christmas season is when we make the donut collagefirst batch of donuts of the season and watch White Christmas together. It’s one of the nights we look the most forward to each year.

The actual cutting, frying, and coating of the donuts is a family-affair, too. I cut them out, daddy fries them, the kids help to coat them.

We’ve been doing the Christmas-donut tradition for years- my husband grew up with this tradition and we carried it over to our own family. But, we used to use canned biscuits for the dough. I have to say, they tasted great, and they were quicker to prepare, but as I replaced our packaged and processed, chemical-laden food choices with more homemade foods made from real ingredients, I knew that our beloved donuts needed to change, too. (see canned biscuit ingredients here)

Well, at first this was not a popular decision- especially with the man of our house. You see, he’s the biggest canned-biscuit-donut-lover in the family- not to mention a big time traditionalist at Christmastime. But, I was determined to find a good replacement that we loved just as much.

Well, it has taken me several recipes and a couple Christmas seasons to find the “right’ recipe. This one is it. We all love it! I really think the mashed potatoes are the key ingredient for the perfect texture. it helps them to be lighter, and not so dense and cakey. Lard is the best frying option. The donuts don’t become oily or greasy inside- but fry up beautifully on the outside. (and though you might think frying in lard is taking your life into your hands- consider that lard is high in monounsaturated fats- like an avocado or olive oil-and rich in vitamin D. READ HERE.- it’s a GREAT article )

Which coating to choose? Well, we do love them all. Most of the time- we do some of all 3 coating options. If we could choose just one, the preparation would be simpler, I must say! 🙂 But, the general consensus with all of us is that the glazed is the winner for the best coating. It just melts in your mouth.  Oh, yum! (tastes awesome the next day, too!) I think the powdered sugar coating is #2.

Now- a few disclaimers, just to get them out in the open….

1. Yes, the process is a little messy and little bit of work.  When the donuts really get frying and there are several bowls full of coating, and plates for holding the donuts, and several children wanting to ‘help’- yeah it gets a little busy and messy in the kitchen. But you know what- messes can be cleaned up. It’s worth it. Memories are made of these things.

2. I know these aren’t exactly diet food. But, you don’t make donuts because they are good for you. They’re sugary, made with all white flour, fried, etc. Like I said- we don’t make these every other week. Donuts are a special treat for once-in-a-while. And that’s another reason why they are so special.

Here’s how to make them:

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Broccoli Cheese Soup

20150216_112858The weather around here has been cold and windy recently. It can chill you down to the bone!  In these conditions, not much can satisfy like a hot steaming soup to warm up body and soul.

Though this broccoli cheese soup is made completely from scratch, using only real foods -it comes together very quickly, uses simple ingredients, and contains tender carrots and broccoli with a luxurious, thick and creamy, cheesy broth.

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Yeast Biscuits (Best Biscuits Ever)

20150204_181051Light, fluffy, flaky, golden, buttery…These are absolutely wonderful! If you want to make something really special out of something pretty simple- this will do it. Some people call these “Angel biscuits” because of their light and airy texture. Basically it’s the perfect- and might I say it- ‘heavenly’ combination of half biscuit/half yeast roll.

Baked in a cast iron skillet, the bottoms turn just slightly brown and beautiful to match the golden tops.

I like to serve these along with eggs and bacon or hot soup, or all by themselves at breakfast, slathered with butter and honey.

One of the nicest parts of this recipe, is that you can make the dough ahead, then let it chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or even a few days. One whole recipe will yield approximately 30 biscuits- but you can take out as much or as little dough as you want and use, and then put the rest of the dough back in the refrigerator to use on a different day.

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Hamburger Rice and Cheese Dinner

20150121_175122I’m always on the look-out for yummy dinners that use ground beef, since it’s such an economical cut.

Add to that- budget friendly, and healthy, and free of packaged and preserved foods, and the options narrow down quite a bit.

But, I’ve decided this one is a keeper for my recipe books. My inspiration came from an old casserole recipe that I used to enjoy as a child.

Not only is this new and improved version really tasty, it’s also “cleaner”, using all real food- nothing processed or packaged. Budget-friendly ingredients like Ground Beef, Brown Rice, and chicken broth are key players, so it’s easy on the wallet, too.

Fresh basil adds the perfect little compliment to the creamy rice and beef- it really gives this dish a special flavor. And who doesn’t like bubbly, gooey cheese to top it all off? As a bonus, this reheats really well for great leftovers, too.

Serve up with 1 or 2 veggies as side dishes. Enjoy!

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Apple and Caramel Sauce (Ice Cream Topping)

20141116_144111Here is a super simple recipe you can make in less than 30 minutes, all on the stove-top!

Caramel and Apples are one of those truly great combinations. Spoon it on top of ice cream and you will feel indulgent!

I did not use exact measurements for this one,so it might be a little like following your Grandmother’s recipes…you know, a little of this and a little of that. But please don’t let that discourage you from trying a batch for yourself. This one is quite easy and there is a bit of wiggle room in there for amounts depending on your preferences.

So, here we go:

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Oven-Roasted Summer Squash

P1050922The next few posts, I want to share my favorite ways to enjoy summer squash. (whether that be yellow or zucchini!)

I always look forward to that first wonderful taste of freshly picked summer squash each summer, because I do love this vegetable! It’s so versatile and there are many ways to enjoy eating it. You probably already assume that since it is a vegetable, that it is good for you. And this is true! But, do you know HOW good for you summer squash really is? According to whfoods.org, Summer Squash is high in copper, manganese, vitamin C, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K just to name a few!

So, what are some of my favorite ways to prepare and eat this great veggie? Comin’ right up!

Today’s version is roasted in the oven. It really could not be any simpler than this. When you bake the squash, the flavors become more concentrated and I feel like the taste is a little more bold.

You only need about 5 minutes to put this together, and only about 20 minutes to let it bake. I love to serve squash with steak, chicken, or burgers!

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Shortbread Cookies with Lemon Glaze

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Homemade shortbread cookies are already a favorite of mine- buttery, flaky, delicious, and… dangerous!

But then top them with this pretty lemony glaze that gives a pleasant little tartness, and my oh my! They become ‘to-die-for’!

 

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Fresh Summer Chicken Salad

P1050885Last night I made chicken for dinner and since my Tim was out of town, we had more left over than usual.  So, when I began the search through the refrigerator today wondering what to whip up for lunch, Chicken Salad just sounded really good. I hadn’t had any in a long time!

Now, I know people are picky about their chicken salad. It seems like there is the camp that likes all the mix-ins- like grapes and celery, and nuts. And then there is the camp that adamantly hates that and likes it more plain. Well- I am one of those in the mix-ins camp. But, sadly I didn’t have any of that good stuff on hand to mix in!

So, I created this chicken salad with a fresh summer-flavored twist, using ingredients you are likely to have in your vegetable or herb garden this time of year, or that are in season for you to buy- and yum, yum, yum! I will make this again!

Instead of the traditional grapes, I used strawberries. Instead of celery, I’ve used cucumbers, plus fresh summer herbs and avocado. Perhaps the combination sounds a little weird to you, but it really hit the spot, and it was a great way to use up leftover chicken. It gave me a non-boring lunch for a change, too!

I ate mine right out of the bowl, but it would also taste great served over lettuce or on some good homemade bread! Give it a try!

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