Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A tweaked cookie

I'll tell you making healthier food choices in the Bacon house is easier than finding time to blog about them. But I haven't left you all out.  I have hundreds of pictures on my camera just waiting to post on here!  In our quest to better food, I'm happy to have tweaked the good ol' chocolate chip cookie!  I've searched and tried several recipes in the past few months and this one the judges, aka Mr. Bacon and the kids have approved of. FINALLY!  This eating better and healthier stuff isn't that hard to do. Honestly!  For those who are starting out on this journey to, what have you though?  I'm finding it easier to just substitute healthier ingredients in many of our favorite dishes.  Baked goods is one of those areas this works pretty well with.  So here is my "bacon approved" whole wheat chocolate chip cookies for everyone to try!

"Bacon Approved" whole wheat chocolate chip cookies:

 1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup oat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold butter (yes we only use real stuff!)
1/4 c up white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup almond milk (or any milk)
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract. (we prefer almond)
1 cup chocolate chips (not one bag)

 What I think makes this cookie so great is the white whole wheat flour I found . And guess where I picked it up- Walmart. Are you surprised?  Sure it's not organic, but we buy what we can afford and it's better than white flour! And for $3.50 for a 5 pound bag it's not bad.   Also if you are curious about oat flour it's nothing fancy.  I took my box of oatmeal and tossed it in my Ninja blender and gave it a whirl.  Once you have something that resembles flour (I blended mine for about a minute) I poured it back in the container to use for baking.  Super easy! 

Preheat your oven to 350*.  Now it's time to mix everything up. In my kitchenaid mixer I placed my cold butter and my sugars.  Beat until well combined. This is important because if you don't mix all the cold butter you'll have chunks that melt in the cookies when they bake.  Next add in the egg, milk, extract of your choice and mix well.  Then add in your dry ingredients- flours, soda and salt. Combine it well and mix in chocolate chips.

Now some of you might be second guessing only 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Again this is a compromise, Mostly good ingredients and a few not so good. These would be great with dark chocolate chips too!  Really the kids and Hubby didn't miss the extra chocolate chips in the cookies, and one bag can now make 2 batches unlike my old recipe. 

 Place your cookies by teaspoon full on the baking tray.  I get about 2 dozen cookies out of this recipe.  And they're not super small cookies, but not huge either.  Bake them in the oven for 9-12 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let them cool on a wire rack and enjoy your healthy cookies!

While I was baking those I made up something else for dessert that night.  I had a container of heavy whipping cream in my fridge that needed to be used up (from my homemade healthier coffee creamer- more to come on that in another post!)  I already had my mixer out so I cleaned up the bowl and tossed in 1 cup heavy cream.  With the whisk attachment I started mixing.  Making homemade cool whip is super easy.  I beat the creamer for about 5 minutes our until firm peaks formed. Be careful not to mix too long or you get butter! 
 Once it's forming peaks add in 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla and mix just to incorporate it.  There you have it, super easy homemade cool whip! 
 Next I tossed about a cup of frozen strawberries in my ninja blender. Have I told you how much I LOVE my ninja blender?  Mr. Bacon and the kids got it for me for Christmas and it' was my favorite gift!  I use it almost every day.  I blended up the frozen berries (which came from my garden last year. I froze them to enjoy later on!) and it resembled crumbles. 

 Then I mixed the two together.  This is heavenly!  Strawberry fluff. Try not to eat the whole bowl at once!  It's a much lighter texture than ice cream and only 4 ingredients!  Not too bad for a healthy dessert. 
 I did take a little of the extra and stick it in these cute ice Popsicle molds I bought. They'll make a great after school treat for the kids!
So tell me what you think when you try these healthier treats for your family! I love to hear back from my blog followers!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ever heard of a healthy cookie?

I can't say I've been ignoring my blog, but I had taken a break for a bit.  Mr. Bacon and I have had some serious discussions lately about food.  Good, bad and nasty discussions actually.  We've also been doing some reading, video watching and blog reading about how unhealthy some of the foods we had been putting into our family really are.  No we're not super health nuts now, but lets say we think a bit more before dumping a lot of chemical rich or refined that into our belly and the bellies of our Bacon kids.  Because lets face it, there are LOTS of 'healthy' recipes out there, but some do take just like cardboard!  I'm happy to say I'm ready to share some of our tried and true recipes with you.  And no, we're still not using a lot of 'weird' ingredients because well, I have kids and a budget!

One that we have found to love is the healthy cookie. There I said it, there is a healthy cookie out there, several in fact.  I knew if I was to clean up our eating I needed to still have treats be a part of it, and this is one that even Little Miss Bacon approves of.  And to say that is a lot because well, there isn't much she does like these days.  Show of hands who else has a picky eater? Ugh, good I'm not the only one!

These cookies were not entirely thought up by myself, however the original recipe did taste like cardboard, ok that was a stretch, but it did taste like beans. Perhaps because that's one of the main ingredients, but if you're a going to make a cookie, it should taste like a cookie!  These little cookies remind me of a cross between a cookie and a brownie after I fancied up the original recipe. 

Now I'll say, I couldn't seem to find my camera while I was making these, but I promise next time I make them, I'll get more pictures.  None the less, these are super easy to make. Here is what you need.

Ma Bacon's Healthy Cookies:

1 cup Pecan halves
1 can rinsed and drained Garbanzo beans
3 TBSP ground flax seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter (I use smucker's natural but any will do)
1/4 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips (mini are the best!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Place beans and pecans in blender or food processor  and mix until fine and crumbly. I mixed mine about 2-3 minutes. Add in flax, cocoa, sea salt and baking powder and blend some more until all is mixed in.  Dump in a bowl. Add in vanilla, honey, peanut butter and milk and mix well.  I actually use my hands for this job.

You could just dump the wet ingredients into your blender or food processor too if it's got enough power to mix it all in.  For some reason my ninja doesn't mix it all that together well so I just use my hands.  When everything is mixed, add in the chocolate chips. 

Now you could just eat this dough this way. it's actually really good.  Or roll them into small balls and dip in chocolate like a truffle!  Humm.. I'm going to have to try that next time.  But this time I took out a teaspoon full at a time and rolled it in a ball, then flattened it with my hand when I placed it on the baking sheet.  You can also place the dough on some wax paper and roll it into a log. Place the log in the fridge for an hour or so and slice the log into cookies.  Either works great.  See how easy this eating healthier thing is!
 Once they are on the cookie sheet you can toss them in the oven.  Oh and you can load up your cookie sheet if you'd like, these cookies don't rise or expand so you don't have to leave a lot of room for them to grow.   Bake them in the oven for 10 min and cool on a wire rack.  That's it.
 Now they do taste great just this way.  Or you can make them fancy by drizzling them with a little melted chocolate (dark is my favorite!) or lightly dust them with some powdered sugar like Mr. Bacon likes them.  Any way you eat them, you can feel a little less guilty about having that second cookie!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Bacon's Breakfast Battle

So how does Mr. Bacon and I spend a day off together with only one kid at home?  Baking in the kitchen of course!  Well not every day but we do enjoy cooking with each other.  Lately we've been discussing breakfast ideas for our busy mornings. We do stock our freezer with plenty of homemade pancakes and waffles made from my home made mix.  But we were wanting something with more protein in it and eggs always make a good breakfast.  We were looking to put egg bake into a easy, single serve breakfast.  So we started brainstorming some ideas and we came up with egg bake muffins.

Out came the ingredients!

Egg Bake muffins:
 breakfast sausage
 sauteed mushrooms
 hash browns
 salt & pepper

Lots of great fillings for our egg bake.  That was the easy part!  How to assemble them was where Mr. Bacon and I had differences.  His idea was to layer the ingredients in the muffin pan and then add the scrambled egg over the top. Not bad but I thought it might be better mixing all ingredients in a bowl and pouring them in the pan.  Who's idea was better? We'll find out. We figured we'd  try out different types of egg bake in each muffin cup.  So we got busy mixing.

I mixed up all my ingredients in my bowl, and Mr. Bacon got busy layering.  Each has one egg mixed with milk and seasonings, hash browns, mushrooms, bacon, sausage, and cheese.  Make sure before you put anything into your muffin pan, you grease it well first.
Here they are side by side. They don't look much different right now.

After seeing them side by side, Mr. Bacon did admit he thought mine might turn out better.  So we decided to mix up a few more of the mixed one's since Bacon Bit could eat three all by himself!   During my mixing, I was a bit distracted and I noticed I didn't add in the hash browns.  No problem, we decided it would still make a good experiment for us.  We filled the two middle cups full and decided to only fill the other one 2/3's full to see if that made any difference.

Then there was one lonely cup left.   I decided it might be good to try one like the egg bake recipe I have. I mixed up one egg, a splash of milk, seasonings, bacon, sausage, and about 1./3 of a slice of bread diced up.  Mixed it all together and dumped it in.  Now they are all ready for the oven.

Since we were only trialing out our egg bake muffins we only made up a small 6 cup muffin pan. And to help save on electricity we popped them in our toaster oven to bake them up.
  Bacon Bit thought it was just as fun to watch them get big as Mr. Bacon!  It took them about 25 minutes at 350* to turn golden brown and get fluffy.  Your oven may be a bit different, especially since these were cooked in a toaster oven, so watch them starting around 20 minutes.
They look pretty good!   I found the one's with the hash browns and the bread in them got fluffier than the one's without.
I have to say we were surprised they all popped out of the pan just fine with no sticking. Mr. Bacon was a bit worried that when he layered the hash browns on the bottom of his muffin pan they might stick.
 Here is the 2/3's full muffin with no hash browns in it.  This one we decided to put in the freezer to see how it would taste re-heated.  I'll let you know how that turned out in a a bit.
Wonder how do they look from the inside? Delicious!
Like any good food critiques, we sat down with half a muffin of each to taste test them.  Yes we have quite hot dates huh?!   The verdict is in and the mixed egg muffin tasted the best.  The layered one was good, but you could taste each layer and the hash browns at the bottom seemed too mushy without being mixed together with all the other ingredients.  The muffin with no hash browns wasn't bad, it tasted more like an omelet.  But we both preferred the hash browns added in.  As for the one with the bread, it was just too much bread in it for our taste.

The best thing with these, is you can specialize them to everyone's liking.  All the kids except Bacon Bit think we are poising them when we add mushrooms to anything. So we can leave them out when we make their muffins.  I can't wait to remake these this weekend and let the kids design their own eggs. 

As for that frozen egg muffin, it re-heated perfect!  About a minute in the microwave and you have egg bake for a busy morning.  We waited to try it until Bacon Jr. was home and let him have a say in how it tasted too and he can't wait to have them on busy school mornings. And he's excited to help make them next time too!  And what did Bacon Bit think of them?
Well he ended up eating almost three of them, just like predicted!  I'd say they were successful!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Thanksgiving leftovers in January

I love making extra food to save.  It's one mess and several meals.  This past Thanksgiving I made a turkey with all the fixings.  We had several leftover days and a few turkey sandwiches from it but there was still turkey leftover so I tossed it in my foodsaver and froze it for another day.  Yesterday I rummaged though the freezer and the pack of turkey crossed my path and it was my inspiration for dinner.  What to do with turkey? Make thanksgiving dinner again right.  However I hate making a lot of dishes, especially in this house.  We don't have a dishwasher so I try to limit how many dishes I use.  So how do you make Thanksgiving dinner in one pan, read on!

What you need for thanksgiving dinner in a pan:

Turkey- I used about 5 cups or 1.5lbs worth I'd guess. It's what I froze.
Potatoes- for making mashed potatoes
Green Beans- one frozen bag or 2 cups worth
Stuffing- use your own homemade or pre-made box
Shredded cheese

First peel and dice your potatoes, I used 5 medium/large potatoes.  Put them in a pot of water on the stove to boil.  Many of you have made mashed potatoes for years, but there are a few cooks out there learning, I'll walk you though how I make mine.

 Cover them and place them on med heat. Let them boil for about 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.  While those are boiling it's a great time to make up the gravy.
Take about 1.5 cups of chicken broth and place them in a skillet.  Turn it on and let it come to a boil.

In a 2 cup measuring cup place 3/4 cups of water and 1/4 cup flour and mix well.  Pour that into your boiling broth very carefully. 

Stir constantly with a whisk until thickened.  If it's too thick, don't worry just add a bit more water until you get gravy consistency.  Oh and don't forget to add some salt & pepper to it too! About 1/4 tsp of each is what I add.  

Now that the gravy is ready to go, it's time to mash the potatoes.  Drain the potatoes and place them back in the kettle.  

I add in about 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream depending on what I have on hand, 2-3 tbsp butter and 1/4 tsp salt.  Mash them up with a potato masher or mixer.  It's that easy!

Now it time to assemble our dinner.  In a 9x13 greased pan, place your stuffing. I used a box mix I had on hand.  I also added the 2 cups of water the box called for.
Now take your turkey and lay it on top of the stuffing. I cut mine into smaller pieces before laying it on top.  If you don't have leftover turkey, no problem. Cooked chicken works for this as well, use about 1-1.5lbs of chicken for the recipe.
Next layer is green beans. I tossed mine on frozen.  Then pour your gravy over the beans.

Last step is take the mashed potatoes and spread them over the top of it all.  I tossed a handful of shredded cheese on top too because everything is better with a little cheese right?! 
 Now its time for the oven.  Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.  It's that easy.  This would also be a great way to use up those thanksgiving leftover when you have them too.  You could even prepare this ahead of time in a freezer safe pan and place heavy duty tin foil over it and toss it into the freezer for another day.  That's great for when you are just sick of eating leftovers from turkey day but don't want to waste them!  

After it's hour in the oven it's ready for the table!  Only thing missing from this Thanksgiving in January is the biscuits, cranberry sauce and extended family members!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lots of new challenges, let chat over a drink

It's been a whirlwind with moving a family of 6 to a new town, new schools and starting new jobs, but we are finally settling in! Temporary anyway.  We have stumbled upon many challenges in our new town that has strained our budget a bit, but thankfully we are figuring it out and I figured it was time to start to share my challenges with my readers.  Thank you to all my loyal readers who keep messaging me saying they can't wait for me to come back and welcome to all my new readers!

Where to start off a new post?  How about with a drink?

Ahhh, nothing like a rich chocolate hot drink on a cold day.  And even better with frosty the snowman melting in it!  A few weeks ago I stopped at one of my favorite coffee shops because they had a great deal going on.  Ok a confession, I love Caribou Coffee's turtle mocha's.  I rarely get them because well at almost $5 a drink, I have better places to go with that money. But they were offering a buy one drink, get a second for $.20!  It was too good of a deal to pass up.  And I was even feeling in the giving mood so I got 2 sets of their special and decided to surprise Mr. Bacon and Brother Bacon with a morning break at their work.  With 4 turtle mocha's I set off.  Sometimes there are other's helping at the work site and I'd figure I'd come prepared with an extra drink to hand out, however that day it was just the 2 of them.  I dropped off their coffee and had a dilemma on my hands, there was no way I could handle the caffeine in 2 big cups of coffee like that.  I hate the though of dumping a treat like that so I did what any budget saving person would do, freeze it!

It was a great time to try out the cool ice cube tray Sister Bacon bought me for Christmas too. Coffee bean ice cubes! Perfect for freezing my coffee for my iced drinks. 

In went the turtle mocha and out came cute coffee bean shaped cubes!

 I tossed a few in a mug, and then added some hot water and a packet of hot cocoa mix I got in a gift basket for Christmas also. 

Mixed it all up but it was still missing something.  Melting frosty the snowman!  Nothing better than a scoop of whipped cream in your hot chocolate.  A few days before I had some left over whipped cream from a recipe. No wasting it here, (and good thing I got to it before the kids because they'd eat it by out of the bowl!) so I took out a mini cupcake pan and added a few spoonfuls to each spot.

And had some fun decorating them, a few with sprinkles, others with some mini chocolate chip eyes and orange sprinkle nose.  Then they went into the freeze. I popped one out and tossed it in my drink to melt away.  Delicious!  The Bacon kids love these in their hot chocolate too along with a few marshmallows!
So now that I have my warm drink, on to those challenges.  A few things we are figuring out is managing in a house half the size we used to have along with a much smaller kitchen and fridge.  This has put a challenge on how much we can keep on stock in our pantry and fridge. We are finding that we are shopping for 1 week only at a time now because there just isn't much room to fill up the fridge.

Where to shop is another challenge, Walmart here is not so great.  I have to say there are good Walmart stores out there, we were spoiled where we used to shop.  This one has many empty shelves and the produce is less than desirable.  So we are exploring other stores.  Thankfully I have found a great bread store!  I can get healthy whole wheat bread for $1-$1.25 a loaf.  So I stock up the freezer with it.  We'll keep exploring around town and working on our budget now that we shop weekly.

We're also working on adjusting to a 2 parent full time job family and we have also added to our family! A month before we moved we had a  kitty adopt our house, she was a stray and we decided to give her a home and welcomed Meow Bacon to our family.  And Brother Bacon's dog had a litter of puppies who needed a new home so we welcomed Woof Bacon to our family just last week.  It's a crazy new life and so many things have changed and challenged us the past 3 months but we continue on our path to save money!  I hope you all stick around, I will be having more recipes to come and I'm hoping to update the very popular and over a year old post  on how we budget our grocery money soon too.