healthy living

Mashed Butternut and Sweet Potato – Or Faux Loaded Mashed Potatoes

Don decided on a whim recently that he wanted to add a sweet potato to our mashed butternut to see how it tasted. As usual, his ideas always come out amazing.

So, the next time he decided to add a little bacon, and a few other things, and hello delicious! We discovered a new household favorite – faux loaded mashed potatoes.

Not a lot of fancy pictures for this one. (Life is too darn hectic right now! I barely had time to throw this together. lol)

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Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 sweet potato
  • few strips of bacon
  • green onions/chives
  • sour cream
  • butter
  • salt
  • pepper

How to do it:

  1. Peel the butternut. Core out the seeds. Cut into chunks. (See previous post.)
  2. Peel and cut the sweet potato.
  3. Place both in pan with water to about half way covering the squash and potato.
  4. Boil until soft, just like you do with potatoes. (Usually 15-20 minutes.)
  5. Cook bacon and set aside. Chop into bits when cool.
  6. Dice green onion.
  7. Drain squash and potato when soft.
  8. Add bacon, green onion, butter, and sour cream. Use a stick blender or hand mixer to mash/blend it all together.
  9. Add salt and pepper as desired.

Go with your instincts on quantities. You’ll need more or less of everything depending on the size of your butternut squash and sweet potato. Just start out with a little and add more if you think it needs more butter or sour cream. 😉

It’s really easy, peasy, and crazy delicious. Your welcome. 😛

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.
~ Paul Prudhomme

Sweet and Spicy (and sticky) Cashews

I made these tasty little delights for Superbowl Sunday.

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The recipe comes from Juli Bauer at paleOMG. She posted her Smoky and Spicy Candied Cashews in January, just in time for the Superbowl. I didn’t have enough cashews to follow the recipe exactly, so I winged it and I’m fairly certain I screwed up the process a bit so they came out a bit sticky. BUT, they were yummy and I learned from my mistake for next time.

Juli’s recipe calls for the following:

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • pinch of salt
 The instructions are as follows:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together honey, coconut oil, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the cashews to the bowl and coat in the mixture. Pour the cashews on the baking sheet and spread out.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together coconut sugar, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt. Sprinkle the crystal mixture on top of the nuts.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, tossing the nuts every 5 minutes to ensure they cooked evenly.
  6. Remove from oven, slide the parchment paper onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  7. Once the nuts have cooled, break apart the pieces that have stuck together.

I only had 1.5 cups of cashews. So I tried to reduce all the other ingredients but it was not an exact science. Mixing the nuts in the bowl with the coconut oil, honey, paprika, cayenne, and salt went fine. I laid them out on the parchment paper below and dusted them with the dry mix of sugar and spices.

sweet spicy cashews

Where I went wrong was when I took them out of the oven at 5 minutes to turn them. They didn’t look anything like the (beautiful) photo on Juli’s site. I was worried that maybe I didn’t put enough sugar and/or honey on them. So, I dusted them with more of the dry sugar and spices. Which, btw, I should mention that I knew I had made far more of the dry mix than I was going to need. Or so I thought. Once knee-deep in the baking, I second guessed myself and it went terribly wrong. LOL  I’ve never baked anything quite like this before. I think it’s probably somewhat similar to making brittle. Because that’s the direction mine took eventually. When I took them out at 10 minutes to stir them again, I again misjudged how things were going and I dumped the rest of my dry mix on the nuts. When I took them out at 15 minutes, the sugar had bubbled up into a huge ball surrounding and obscuring the nuts. The moment they were out of the heat, the bubble fell, coating the nuts. I stirred them and pulled the parchment off the tray, placing it onto a wire cookie sheet to cool, which was a balancing act since I had ton of molten lava sugar all over the paper. But, I got it on the wire rack with no spills or burns and I hoped that it would cool and harden so I could “break the pieces apart that stuck together” as the recipe instructed. This, didn’t, happen. Another fail on my part, I think, was my choice to make this on a day with high humidity and I had the house at about 72 degrees. So, while the nuts and sugar cooled to a touchable temperature, the sugar never solidified. After a couple of hours I had a sticky, gooey, mess of nuts that I had to just pull apart and remove as much of the excess sugar as I could. I used WAY too much sugar (and probably honey too.)

So. Lesson learned. Next time I make these, I’m going to have 2 cups of cashews and I’m going to follow the measurements exactly, and I’m NOT going to worry when the nuts don’t look quite right at the beginning of the baking. I have faith that after 15 minutes they will look more like the finished product without tossing oodles of extra sugar on them.

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.
~ Rabindranath Tagore

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Creamy Broccoli Soup

My hearty thanks to Michelle of Nom Nom Paleo for her Curried Cream of Broccoli Soup recipe. It saved my butt the other night. I had an abundance of broccoli this week so I jumped online and Googled, “paleo broccoli soup”. Presto! Nom Nom Paleo was in the top few hits and since I know her recipes rock I clicked on her link.

I didn’t have all the same ingredients but I made do with what I did have. The soup. Was awesome. Definitely a winner and something to go in my little box of quick and easy meals. (Okay, quick is a relative term, it took me over an hour to make but I was multitasking and doing a bunch of things. I think if I’d been focused on dinner only, it might have only taken 30-40 minutes.)

Here’s the nitty-gritty on what I did.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs broccoli (if you don’t have a scale, it was about 4 big heads of broccoli)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 small apple
  • 2 tbsp of coconut oil
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 cup water with about a tbsp of Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate (substitution for coconut milk that I did not have)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

What I did:

1. Roughly chopped the onion and sautéed it with the coconut oil for about 5-10 minutes while chopping the broccoli, including the stalk. I also peeled and cored the apple and roughly chopped it.

2. Then I added the broccoli and apple to the pot and poured the 4 cups of broth over it. Michelle’s recipe said that the broth should be covering the veggies and mine only about halfway filled the pan. So I added more water until I had what you see below. I don’t know how much extra water I added.

broccoli soup1

3. I brought the pan to a boil then reduced to low to simmer. I think I turned it down too low, too soon, because it wasn’t really simmering and I had to turn it back up a bit at one point, then down again. In the end, it simmered for about 35 minutes until the veggies were soft.

4. Next, I added the curry, salt, and pepper. Michelle’s recipe called for 1 tablespoon of curry. Either because I had so much extra broth/water, or because my curry isn’t very spicy, I added another tablespoon. (It wasn’t very spicy in my book, just very flavorful.)

broccoli soup2

5. I took the pot off the stove to cool a little but I didn’t let it cool down much; we have a metal stick blender that handles the high heat just fine. (I have seen a plastic one melt before so be careful and mindful of that if yours is not metal.) I blended it until the mixture was smooth. 

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I know. It looks like baby food. Try to look past the green. I’m telling you, it’s yummy.

broccoli soup4

6. I returned the pot to the stove and turned the burner back to high to ensure my last ingredients would not reduce the overall heat of the soup and then I added the 1 cup of water and the Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate.

You can essentially make coconut milk with TT’s coconut cream concentrate. The jar says to use 1-2 tsp for 6-8 ounces. I’ve never actually used my coconut cream much before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It didn’t dissolve well in the cup of water because the concentrate is in a solid state and my water was not hot. And since it doesn’t really look like coconut milk and I was afraid it wouldn’t have enough flavor, I added about 2 tablespoons. I figured it couldn’t hurt anything. I also hoped that the cream would melt and incorporate in the heat of the soup so I just put it in the pot and stirred it for a bit. It all came together fine in my opinion.

I dished out a bowl and topped it with some canned chicken. Nothing fancy. Just great tasting.

broccoli soup

The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years.
~ Deepak Chopra

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Make Your Own Ready-To-Go Burger Patties

I don’t know why we never did this before. Such a simple and yet ingenious idea. Make your OWN burger patties and freeze them for quick, easy dinners. (Instead of buying what someone else made for you and is loaded with preservatives and other additives.)

You can modify this any number of ways to make the preparation as easy and quick as you need; ours was a little more time-consuming because we used venison that we had to grind first but if you don’t want to take the extra time for that sort of thing (or don’t have an appliance that will grind your meat) you can just buy ground beef and add spices and flavors to your liking. Here’s how we made ours.

Ingredients
Servings: 12 half-pound patties

  • 2 lbs venison
  • 5 ounces of salt pork
  • 1 jalapeno
  • red onion
  • bell pepper
  • green onion
  • minced garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp tapioca flour
  • small handful of bacon bits

Sorry that I don’t have exact measurements on most items. This was Don’s brainchild and as many of you know, he’s not the measuring type. 

  1. We ground the venison and salt pork and mixed them well until they were fully incorporated. (It is important to add fat when using venison or even very lean beef because it helps hold the patty together and it adds flavor as well.)
  2. We diced and chopped all the other ingredients and mixed it all together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Using our handy-dandy kitchen scale we experimented with kitchen tools until we found a measuring cup that we could use to accurately measure out 1/2 pound servings that we then shaped into patties.
  4. Using parchment paper as a separator, we stacked them on a cookie sheet and placed them in the freezer until they were firm but not frozen and then we packaged them two at a time in food saver bags for quick, easy use.

burgers

We have made two dinners since we made the patties about a month ago and they are everything we hoped for. Quick, easy, and delicious.

burgers1

burgers2

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
~ Buddha 

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Sausage and Black Bean Soup

Don threw this together on a whim one day and it instantly became a new household favorite. The photos below were actually hastily taken the second time we made the dish. We are calling it Sausage and Black Bean Soup but there are other beans in it as well. You could adapt this to incorporate different types of sausage and different types of beans to your liking.

We try to minimize our use of beans in dishes because but they do add carbs and not a lot else. This is just one of those dishes that we make the exception for and, knowing we’re eating a higher carb load in this meal, we make adjustments to our other meals in the day to offset the overall daily carb intake. Or we try to anyway. Nobody’s perfect. LOL

Sausage and Black Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sausage
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cans of other beans
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 jalapeno (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (or a tbsp of minced garlic)
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • salt
  • pepper

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  1. Slice sausage into bite-sized pieces. (We slice the sausage in half then cut into half moons.)
  2. Dice onion and jalapeno.
  3. Use stick blender or food processor to mash/reduce the black beans.
  4. Combine all in crock pot.
  5. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or until onions are cooked to your liking. (You can also speed it up if you’re cooking on the stove and monitoring the temperature. We’ve made it in less than an hour on the stove. The crock pot is just handy for walking away and not worrying about it.)
  6. Enjoy!

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It’s just us trying to start a movement where everybody passes on a bit of cooking knowledge. We estimate that one person can potentially affect 180 others very quickly so we’re just trying to spread the word.
~ Jamie Oliver 

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