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I’ve shared about my pinterest addiction before, so it will come as no surprise to you that I have been perusing recipes there.  I keep finding pumpkin recipes popping up.  I am not a fan of pumpkin.  No pumpkin pie for me, thank you very much!  Growing up the only pumpkin dish ever made in our house was pumpkin pie, and because I did not like it, I falsely assumed I did not like pumpkin.  Imagine my surprise to have recently tried a few pumpkin breads, muffins, etc and find it is not bad 🙂

One intriguing idea I kept coming across was pumpkin chili.  I have shared with you all my black bean and sweet potato chili recipe before and I was feeling like making that this week.  I mentioned it as my dinner plan and my children groaned!  Imagine the nerve!  I was undecided how to proceed with my dinner plan, should I go ahead with it anyway, or just make regular chili, what to do!  I needed a couple staple couldn’t live without items from the store (I find toilet paper is just something we cannot live without ;-)) after dropping M off at football practice, so we stopped at my “favorite” (NOT) store-Walmart 😦  Now it all begins in the parking lot for me. What is it about their parking lots that just seem so chaotic?  The way you have to park?  The fact that the rows are so long?  I don’t know but the negative experience always begins there, and it goes downhill quickly.  But I digress!

I picked up extra cans of beans so I could make a larger batch.  Always good to have some for the freezer as long as you are making it 😉  Then as we were walking toward the pet care aisle (there was a theme to our shopping-the hamsters needed new bedding too ;-)) I passed a holiday baking display.  And there right before my very eyes was a can of pure pureed pumpkin.  AAAHHHH!!!!!  It was like a light went off.  I grabbed a can and tossed it in my cart hoping my girls wouldn’t ask what I was going to use it for.   They were busy chatting with each other and didn’t ask!  Yes!

When we got home I busily started prepping the chili.  Fortunately for me, my girls had a report on John Quincy Adams to work on so they disappeared to finish that.  I quickly sauteed the onion and browned the ground beef, added some chopped green chilies, the beans (black, kidney and cannelini) and a large can of pureed tomatoes. I really needed two cans of tomatoes but my only other can in the pantry was chopped tomatoes, not a family favorite so I used half a can.  This actually worked out perfectly.  Then when I added the molasses and pumpkin it made the perfect consistency for our family.  We like our chili a little thicker, I never add water to it.  The pumpkin made it rich and creamy.  I added the spices, simmered it for a while and voila-pumpkin chili!

I hid the pumpkin can in the trash 😉  I declared it one of my best chili’s ever upon tasting it.  R asked to try it.  She really loves chili.  She agreed it was really good.  We ran to pick up M from football and to drop some chili off to hubby and G, who were serving at church and wouldn’t be home for dinner.  I again declared to G that I thought it was one of my best recipes yet 😉

We arrived home, cut our gf cornbread up and prepped our bowls of chili, adding what each person likes-cheese, sour cream.  S, who is not a huge fan of chili, said it was okay.  R declared it great, close to my best but she likes another version best 🙂  M said it was one of my best.  Now remember I am a lazy cook and don’t always measure spices and such so it is rare for a batch of chili to ever taste exactly the same in my house 🙂

Here’s my basic recipe for a very large pot:

2 lbs ground beef

1 large or 2 small onions chopped

1 extra small can chopped green chilies

1 large can pureed tomato

1 small can chopped tomato

2 large cans of red kidney beans

2 small or 1 large can of cannelini beans

1 large or 2 small cans of black beans

(And you can adjust for your preferences, my kids like the white beans and black beans in their chili along with kidney.  When they were smaller they didn’t like kidney beans as much so I used fewer of those.  Now they love them all!)

1 small can of pumpkin puree

1/4-1/2 c unsulfured black strap molasses (again to your preference, but it adds a great richness to the flavor, not to mention health benefits)

4 tbsp of chili powder

4 -8 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of cumin

1 tsp italian seasonings

1 tbsp chipotle chili powder (this will make it spicy, adjust according to your families tastes)

1-2 tsp sea salt

Now the spices are approximate measurements. I add, taste, then add more depending on the flavor.  R thought it wasn’t spicy enough so I added more chipotle, I wouldn’t go higher than a tablespoon without tasting it though.  I love the smokiness the chipotle gives, but if you don’t skip it.  I love recipes that can be adapted to our flavor profile-chili is definitely one of those.

I did confess to the kids after dinner that there was pumpkin in it.  S immediately declared that the reason she didn’t like it.  Of course, she forgets she never likes chili night!  R and M said it was good, they couldn’t even taste the pumpkin.  When G arrived home later, she said it was great but she liked a phantom pot from the past that I have not been able to recreate since, the best!  Hubby was too absorbed in the debate to comment.  He is not a huge chili fan though, and basically, like S, just tolerates chili night.  The chili lovers give it two thumbs up though, so give it a try, even if you are not a fan of pumpkin.

And just so you know,  pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse!  Beta-carotene, magnesium, zinc, potassium, Vit A, C, anti-inflammatory, helps kidney stones, etc.  Check out some nutritional info here.

Happy Autumn! 🙂

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Really that’s a bit misleading, but I am trying to shop for major items just once a month.  We are paid once a month and have been for years!  You’d think I would have started this long ago.  I know, I know I’m a little slow sometimes 🙂

I realized as the food prices keep soaring, I am spending a lot more money at the grocery store.  I’m sure you are all feeling it too.  You go in for a couple items and come out $80 lighter in your wallet, and have only 3-4 flimsy plastic bags to show for it!

Obviously, we are not buying everything just once a month, fruit, veggies just don’t last that long.  (I am trying a new filter for my refrigerator that is suppose to help your produce stay fresher longer.  I’ll let you know what I think of it in a couple weeks :-))  I am buying toilet paper,(let’s face it, with a family of 6 this is a precious commodity in our home!:-)  We all get cranky if we run out!)  paper towels, (now my mom was super frugal and she would dry her hands on the paper towel and then lay it out to dry so she could use it again.  I have not resorted to that but my children know not to waste them!  If only I could get my hubby to understand how expensive they are.  And on that note, I realized I am a paper towel snob!  Yes, it is true.  I am strictly a Bounty girl.  My mom always said they were the better paper towels and she was right.  As thrifty as she is she is a paper towel snob too! :-))  Also meat, any canned beans, pasta, sauces, snack items, apples, oranges, and cheeses.  These are all good bulk items to buy at a wholesale store.  We have a second refrigerator so I realized I could easily store the extra in that.  I am having a little more work on the front end, in having to divide the meat into meal sized portions but the bonus of that is I have dinners prepped in the freezer.  If I buy the huge pack of ground beef, I can easily portion it for chili, tacos, burritos, and pre-make meatballs and then just pull them out for the crockpot and dinner is easy.  Steak, the same thing, add a marinade to it and store it in a ziploc in the freezer for easy grilling.

I’ve recently cooked up double batches of virus killing chicken soup for those times when a cold sneaks up on us and we need it.  Often it is just as easy to cook double of an item and freeze part for a future meal.  And this football schedule means lots of late evenings when it would be dinner out if we didn’t have a meal in the crockpot already.  Yesterday we prepared mongolian chicken in the crockpot, cooked the rice before the game, and when we came home just poured some of the chicken over the rice and it was a fast and easy dinner.   A little steamed broccoli, or a green salad and dinner in the time it takes my son to shower 🙂  Given the game was delayed for weather, we were so happy to have that meal all ready for us when we arrived home!

My go to marinade for steak:

2-4 tbsp of olive oil

3-5 tbsp of balsamic vingear

1 tsp of fresh garlic, or garlic powder

1 tsp of italian seasonings

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Pour in a ziploc bag, add your steak, freeze for future use.  It marinates while it defrosts.  Delicious!

Tell me your favorite tips for keeping your grocery budget low.  Don’t you wish there were coupons for fresh produce? 🙂

 

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No photos 😦  It was a new recipe and it smelled so good I should have known it would be a keeper but I wasn’t thinking photos!  Really easy and my family ALL LOVED it!

So that boneless, skinless breast sat staring at me.  So plain, so boring.  What to do??  I grabbed some shaved parmesan cheese out of the fridge, the gf breadcrumbs (I am sure the regular ones would be just as tasty), olive oil, salt, garlic, italian seasonings, and my pampered chef bar pan.  I set the oven to convection and 350 degrees.  I sliced the chicken into thinner cutlets (it was still slightly frozen, so this was easy), dipped it in the mix of ingredients above.  Realized I needed a little oil on the chicken to help the breading stick, so Gaby helped me out as I was contaminated with chicken 😉

It doesn’t stick as easy as if you used plain breadcrumbs because the cheese is shaved but work at it a little.  I added more on top after laying it on the bar pan.  The smell is amazing as it bakes!

I didn’t measure, you know I hate dirtying extra items in the kitchen!  I just added enough olive oil to wet it.  I actually didn’t have enough mixed for the amount of chicken I had and had to mix up more as I went but it was worth it.  Easy and delicious!

I served it with roasted red potatoes with slices of onion and rosemary and a green salad.  There were no leftovers 🙂

 

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In light of my pinterest obsession, you won’t be surprised that it inspired today’s blog 🙂  Chocolate filled strawberries!  I mean really, who doesn’t like chocolate and strawberries?  Cool, creamy chocolate, with juicy, sweet strawberries.  A win-win!  So while perusing pinterest I came across a picture of strawberries hollowed out a little and filled with chocolate.  Genius!  The problem with eating chocolate covered strawberries is the chocolate breaks up and falls off.  Problem solved!  🙂

My daughter posted a chocolate ganache recipe to her blog not too long ago and it has become a favorite chocolate dessert in our house.  We call is ganache, but it’s more like mousse??   I am not sure where the recipe came from but it is a rich creamy bite of chocolate heaven, made with coconut milk. It is pretty thin when you first make it but sets up nicely overnight in the refrigerator.

Ganache

I used the ganache to fill the strawberries.  We’ve tried dipping them in the past but it wasn’t a huge success, a little messy.  I think this is going to work out perfectly.  My only issue with them so far is appearance.  It may be better to let the ganache set up a little before filling the berries.  I will play around with the timing in the future.  Last night I made the ganache at 8:30, it only takes about 5 mins to make.  But I didn’t want to wait up a couple hours to let it set before filling the berries, so I filled them right away.  I think if you wait too long the ganache will be too set to fill neatly, so experimenting is necessary.  I guess someone has to be the guinea pig 😉

So here’s the finished product.  I’m taking them to a ladies event at church tonight.  There was plenty of leftover ganache to keep my girls happy too!

Chocolate filled strawberry! 🙂

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Actually, in our home, ice cream is never out of season 🙂  It is a welcome addition on a hot summer day especially though.  But when we discovered dairy was an issue for our daughter we realized we needed to come up with a good substitute.  We found a few items in the grocery store that passed muster, but they are a bit pricey.

Coconut Bliss has a good coconut milk ice cream in multiple flavors.  

Purely Decadent also has a good coconut milk ice cream.  Again check for other allergens.  The gf cookie dough is a hit in my house.  (any links I find for this take me to Turtle Mtn which makes So Delicious ice cream ???)

So Delicious, again has a good coconut milk option.  My girls like the neopolitan and chocolate velvet flavors.  They also make chocolate covered popsicles;-)

Then there are the Rice Dream options.  These are made with rice milk and come in different varieties.  Sandwich cookies (not gf), popsicles dipped in chocolate, some with nuts 🙂  We went to Whole Foods today with friends who had not tried these before.  They enjoyed them just as much as we do 🙂  This is a treat for my kiddos when we shop at Whole Foods.

There are other options for dairy free ice cream.  I saw today that a company now makes almond milk ice cream, but we have not tried that.  Our favorite was on sale so we picked that up today 🙂  I’m not comfortable with soy milk ice cream, it seems to be in everything these days, sort of like wheat :-/  I’m not convinced we need that much soy in our diets.  I know it is estrogenic so I try to avoid it due to that.

We have been known to make our own ice cream though too.  This is the more budget friendly option 🙂  I was using the attachment for the Kitchenaid mixer until it was recently dropped and broken.  (Amazing how that happens and no one knows when or how???  Does the “Not Me” phantom live in your house too?)  It worked wonderfully though. Sure beat the ice cream ball!  That was great fun at first, but the return on the time investment was not worth it.  The kids want more than a tablespoon each after spending an hour throwing the ball around to make ice cream!  I will probably just replace it to alleviate the issue of one more appliance to be stored.  I’ve heard good things about the Cuisinart ice cream makers though.

Here is the super simple recipe we use.  You can certainly change it up and add any number of additional flavors to make your ice cream the way you want it.  It is a very personal thing.  My girls will turn their nose up at almost any ice cream that is not chocolate based.  My hubby will not eat ice cream that is chocolate based.  You see how hard it is to please my gang with one recipe!

Coconut milk ice cream
2 cans coconut milk (we like Thai Kitchen)
8 tbsp agave (you can use honey, maple syrup or (horrors;-)) sugar too)
2 1/2 tsp cocoa powder (if you want chocolate flavored)
1 tsp vanilla
This is the basic recipe, add whatever you’d like-strawberries, peaches, mint, peanut butter, coconut, almonds, chocolate chips, pecans or walnuts with maple syrup would be good 🙂

It helps to put your coconut milk in the refrigerator to get cold ahead of time.  Cuts down on the time it takes to freeze in your ice cream maker; if you are impatient like we are 🙂

Let me know if you have a favorite cool summer treat.  I’d love to expand our options.

 

PS-all these sites had coupons too 🙂

 

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Am I the only one who doesn’t feel like cooking much during the summer?  I don’t want heavy foods, I would love just some salad with a little chicken, mushrooms and onions on top.  A nice light dressing..I think I could eat that every day.  Maybe some avocado to change things up occasionally.

Unfortunately, my family thinks I should still cook real meals.  Yesterday my husband even suggested lasagna!  Umm, no,  not even close to being on my list of summer activities!  Okay, maybe for our anniversary/Father’s Day coming up or his birthday but not just for any old day out of the week!  Lasagna, said so casually, as if it doesn’t take forever to make.  Hmmphh.

Grilled pizza is becoming one of our favorite go to meals.  I personally like mine with a thin crunchy crust, a little Greek salad dressing and salad on it, and a few pieces of grilled chicken.  My kids are more typical-pepperoni, black olives, cheese, tomato sauce, maybe a little pineapple if they are feeling adventurous.

On Friday we are having friends over to celebrate the end of school and we will be learning how to make bbq chicken pizza and chicken alfredo pizza.  I am going to try out a new pizza crust recipe from Baking Beauties, gluten free of course.  My girls are missing thicker crusted pizza.  Most gf crusts tend to be thin and crispy.  This one promises to be be a thicker chewy version.  I am going to omit the egg white and milk as those don’t fit in with our allergy profiles.  I am hoping it still comes out.  I’ll let you know if we think it’s a keeper 🙂  Check out some of their topping ideas too.

What are some of your favorite unusual pizza toppings?  I would love some that are dairy free but still yummy for my dairy free girls 🙂

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 the lowdown on GMO foods.

From Wikipedia:

Genetically modified foods or biotech foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA bygenetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise[1] than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change. Other techniques by which humans modify food organisms include selective breeding; plant breeding, and animal breeding, and somaclonal variation. Since genetically modified food has been introduced into supermarkets, there has been much controversy as to whether it is actually safe.

Genetically Modified foods (GM foods) were first put on the market in 1996. Typically, genetically modified foods are transgenic plant products: soybeancorncanolarice, and cotton seed oil. Animal products have also been developed, although as of July 2010 none are currently on the market.[2] In 2006 a pig was[3][4] engineered to produce omega-3 fatty acids through the expression of a roundworm gene.[5] Researchers have also developed a genetically-modified breed of pigs that are able to absorb plant phosphorus more efficiently, and as a consequence the phosphorus content of their manure is reduced by as much as 60%.[6]

Critics have objected to GM foods on several grounds, including safety issues,[7] ecological concerns, and economic concerns raised by the fact these organisms are subject to intellectual property law.

How do they do it?

Method

Genetic modification involves the insertion or deletion of genes. In the process of cisgenesis, genes are artificially transferred between organisms that could be conventionally bred. In the process of transgenesis, genes from a different species are inserted, which is a form of horizontal gene transfer. In nature this can occur when exogenous DNA penetrates the cell membrane for any reason. To do this artificially may require transferring genes as part of an attenuated virus genome or physically inserting the extra DNA into the nucleus of the intended host using a microsyringe, or as a coating on gold nanoparticles fired from a gene gun. However, other methods exploit natural forms of gene transfer, such as the ability of Agrobacterium to transfer genetic material to plants, and the ability of lentiviruses to transfer genes to animal cells.

The method to introduce new genes into plants requires several important factors such as specific promoter, codon usage of the gene and how to deactivate the gene. The specific promoter must relate to area that we want the gene to express. For instance, if we want the gene to express only in the rice instead of the leaf then we would only use an endosperm specific promoter. The reason is because we only want our transgenic genes to express only in the rice and not the leaves. The codon usage of the gene must also be more optimized for the rice since there are several different codons for each of the 20 amino acid. The transgenic genes should also be able to be denatured by heat in order for human consumption.

And then there’s this, as if the above isn’t scary enough!

Goats that produce silk in their milk: A company called biosteel has genetically engineered goats to produce milk with strong spider web like silk proteins in their milk.[36] This product is not used for consumption, but to make bulletproof vest and anti-ballistic missile systems for military contracts instead.

Should the milk from this be used to make that?

Who thought of goat’s milk to make silk for one of these? :-/

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