Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chatterbox: SodaStream New Flavors

I became a SodaStream convert well over a year ago when I was chosen to be a Houseparty.com participant. I was given the Soda Stream "Source," 24 flavorings, and coupons. I then had a party and invited my friends. I was instantly hooked!  Now I have joined Chatterbox by Houseparty.com and have had the opportunity to try some of the new Crystal Lite, Kool-aid, and County Time flavors.

We are in the second Polar Vortex here and when I think about Country Time, the first thing that comes to mind to me is Summer. The pink lemonade was quite tart but refreshing. I also enjoyed the half and half which was half Country Time lemonade and half tea. I have purchased both before and will again this summer.

The nice thing about having a SodaStream is that it's not only environmentally friendly, but also very economical. Each bottle of syrup retails from $4.95/25 liters of soda up to $8.00 for the newer natural sugar options. We used to spend about $15.-20 a week on bottled water and soda. Now we spend an average of $20.00 or less a month including carbonation. We can exchange our used carbonator for a new one for around $12.95. We also signed up to Bed Bath and Beyonds website and receive 20% off discounts every month. Also you can vary the amount of fizz in your drink. Mine is the first light on the Soda Stream. My hubby prefers before the one and my daughter likes a fizz of 3. He was a Mountain Dew die hard and loves the diet Fountain Mist. There are a ton of diet sugar free options.

The Crystal Lite flavors were also very good. Crystal Lite offers drinks that are very low in calories and I really couldn't tell they were diet. Today I drank the Fruit Punch. Crystal Lite has 5 calories/8oz serving which is perfect for those of us watching our calories. The fizz adds a whole other dimension to the Crystal Lite flavors. Soda Stream also has Peach Iced Tea and Raspberry Lemonade. The great thing about Crystal Lite is that you can't tell that they are diet. The flavor is great!

The Kool-aid flavors quite honestly I am still getting used to. My daughter did like them though and has the Kool-aid smile to prove it. Here also you can control the calories at just 50/8oz.

I have rebate coupons and $5.00 off a purchase of $25.00 coupons too. Please feel free to contact me and I can help you choose the perfect flavors for you and your family.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Waffles! Special Breakfast Day

We call this day "Special Breakfast Day" because it's the one day we all sit down together and eat breakfast together. This past week I got a free waffle maker from our local casino. We made sure to put it to great use. We haven't had a waffle maker in some time. Our wedding gift bit the dust. I like to make a batch and freeze them so my hubby can just pull out and pop them in the toaster as needed. Another tip is put a baking sheet under the waffle maker to prevent needless clean up. I didn't add oil this time but they still came out good.


2 cups flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 flour
2 eggs
1 3/4 c. skim milk
PAM for spraying

Add and mix all of the dry ingredients. Preheat the waffle iron and spray with PAM. Next mix in the wet ingredients and beat with a whisk until there are no more lumps. Use a ladle to add the batter. Don't overfill or it will spill out the sides. This is by trial and error. Don't peek for 5 minutes. Times will vary. Remove the waffles. Pop them in the toaster to reheat or freeze in zip loc bags. Serve with your favorite fruit or syrup.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pistachio Pesto Gnocchi

Some days you just don't feel like meat. Today I made Pistachio Pesto Gnocchi. Gnocchi are little potato dumplings. I bought mine from the grocery store made but you can also make them yourselves. I live in a cold winter climate and it isn't always easy to get fresh herbs. I made cilantro my major herb and then added some fresh basil leaves. This dish would also be great with some chicken added or I like to roast chicken with pesto on top also. Using pistachios is also cheaper than using pine nuts.

Pistachio Pesto

1 bunch cilantro
1 packet basil (sold by the salad section)
2 cloves garlic
1 8oz packet pistachio nuts shelled
4 oz. fresh parm cheese shredded
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt and pepper
2 packages gnocchi

In a food processor pulse the garlic around first and then add the herbs. Pulse a few times.  Next add the pistachios and pulse 2-3 more times. Add the parm and then the oil through the feeder tube. Lastly season with salt and pepper. Boil the gnocchi and drain. Add the fresh pesto on top and mix. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Easy Hummus and Pita Chips

I am a pretty fortunate Mom in the way that my kids will try anything once. I try to get a variety of foods of all nationalities into their diet. My oldest Cassie is fond of the Sabra hummus spreads. Today at the grocery store they had chickpeas on sale for 2/$1.00. Tahini which is sesame paste can vary in price. I went with Roland brand which was $4.00. This will last a long time in the fridge and can be used in Indian dishes also.

For the pita chips I purchased some Kangaroo pockets and cut each in half and  in 4ths. I sprayed each with cooking spray and sprinkled them with sea salt. They went into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. They were flipped in between.

Easy Hummus

2 cans garbanzo beans drained
4-6 TBSP lemon juice
1/3 cup Tahini
2 TBSP water
2-4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup oil (olive or veggie)
1/2 tsp sea salt

In a food processor run the whole garlic cloves for a few pulses. Add the drained garbanzo beans, Tahini, lemon juice and water in the food processor. Pulse until the mixture is chunky. Slowly add in the water and some of the oil until you have a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper and add more oil on top if you like. Serve with pita chips.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Navy Bean and Ham Soup

Dried beans are inexpensive and easy to store. They are also shelf stable and a great source of energy. I haven't been grocery shopping in a few weeks and am trying to extend our pantry as much as I can. A great way to do this is to make soup. This soup could also be made in the crock pot. I used a bag of navy beans. It's always a good idea to rinse and sort the beans. It is no longer required to soak the beans overnight but be sure to look at your package directions.

I added the beans to 8 cups of water in a large stock pot. I reserved and froze some ham from our Christmas dinner. To the beans and water I also added 1 tsp. of salt and two small onions whole. I love onions and call it "cooks treat" to have the onion. I cooked the beans on a medium heat for two hours.

 At that time I also added 2 TBSP of chicken bullion or soup starter. I love a pinch of pepper in this soup too. Lastly I take a potato masher and mash up some of the beans. I also removed the pieces of ham and cut them into bite sized pieces. Ham hocks can be bought cheaply and substituted for the ham pieces.  It thickens up the soup and I taste it for seasoning. Perfect for these frigid days in the heart of the polar vortex.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cinnamon Sugar French Toast: Special Breakfast Day

I haven't been blogging for a while. On the 8th I slipped and fell at my school playground and tore a tendon in my knee. I have a MRI scheduled for tomorrow. It has also been my first weeks back to work since Christmas vacation and pretty hectic.

Sunday is the day we can all relax. I made Cinnamon sugar French Toast today. I used a really good sour dough bread from our local bakery. For the eggs I used two jumbo eggs and about 1/2 milk. I cut the bread into 1/2 inch pieces. Any thinner the bread will fall apart. I also used a huge frying pan. Mix the eggs and milk together and dip the bread slices you are about to fry in the egg. Only for a dunk on each side or the bread will fall apart.

Cinnamon Sugar: 1 cup sugar to 1 TBSP cinnamon. Store in a air tight container.

Heat a few TBSP oil in the frying pan and put no more than two slices in at a time. Let the toast fry for around 3 minutes per side or until the bread is cooked through. At the last minute I added cinnamon sugar and fried the pieces for another minute. This made a creme brulee crunch to the French toast. Serve with your favorite syrup.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Salsa Chilaquiles: Special Breakfast Day

We had to brave the elements to get to the grocery store before the deep freeze happens here in Milwaukee tomorrow. I needed to get back home in time before the kids work up to make breakfast. I just happened to watch one of my favorite chefs, Rick Bayless' program and he made Chilaquiles. His recipe was pretty involved and when I searched for it on his site, I found a less complicated recipe that came out delicious!
Salsa Chilaquiles

16 oz of salsa
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
4 large eggs (we eat two per person here)
8 cups thick tortilla chips (I used Chi-chi's)
1/2 small white onion
1/3 cup sour cream (I forgot to use)
1/2 c. pepper jack or Monterrey Jack cheese
chopped cilantro for garnish
butter for the eggs

Heat the salsa and chicken broth in a sauce pan. In an egg pan, heat and add a pat of butter. Crack two eggs and let them set on medium heat until the whites are no longer runny. Add 8 loosely packed cups of thick tortilla chips and stir. Cover with a lid and finish the eggs. Bring the salsa just to a boil and shut off. Cover for 5 minutes.

Add the tortilla chips to the bottom of a plate. Top with cheese, onion, and the eggs. Garnish with more cheese and enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pecan Pies in Muffin Tins

Ignore the Dora Plate!
I wanted to make this around Christmas but kept procrastinating. I wasn't in the baking mood. Day 3 of being trapped in the house and I decided to finally make these delicious pecan pies in muffin tins. I started out this morning by making a Crisco double pie crust. I rolled out it out this afternoon and made the filling too all within a few minutes.

Double Crisco Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cups cold Crisco
4-8 TBSP ICE water

Add the flour, salt and Crisco into a medium sized bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the Crisco into the flour. Begin adding the ice water two tablespoons at a time. Mix the dough with a spoon initially as to not heat up the fat. Keep adding water until you reach 8 TBSP. By this time the dough should no longer flake and will come together in a ball. Cover and refrigerate for a half hour or up to two days. When ready dust your surface and rolling pin with flour. Press the dough with your fingertips into a circle. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness. I used a circle form to cut our dough for the muffin tins.Spray each tin with pam or spread Crisco in it. Or you will live to regret it! Press the dough into each tin making sure it's spread out evenly.

Pecan Pie Filling

2/3 cup Karo syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cup pecans
sea salt for sprinkling

Add the pecans to the bottom of each crust. Mix the Karo syrup, sugar, brown sugar, and eggs. Pour over the pecans filling each to 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool and use a knife to go around the edges to get your pecan pies out. Let cool and sprinkle with sea salt before serving.