Recipe: Cranberry Sauce

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Your search for the perfect cranberry sauce has ended, because here is what I like to call Christmas in a Jar.  The spices are seasonally on-point, and the color is just gorgeous.  It really is so easy, too!  There’s no reason to open a gloppy congealed can of cranberries when you can have this fresh, citrus-y sweet and tart combination.

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My favorite way to eat cranberry sauce leftovers- in yogurt for breakfast!

My old recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, which is just an absolute ton!  It was so sweet that it overpowered the tartness of the cranberry.  I’m really trying to cut out all refined sweeteners and just stick to significantly smaller amounts of the more natural ones, like honey or maple syrup.  So this recipe lightens up the amount of sweetener to just a third of a cup of maple syrup.

My ten year old niece, who was a devoted cranberry-from-a-can fan, tried this when I brought it to Thanksgiving and she loved it!  She loved the cinnamon in it.  I was trying to play it cool on the outside, while secretly rejoicing inside!

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I love my new bowl from Mud Pies Pottery in Salado!

So the next time you are headed out for a holiday meal, bring this homemade cranberry sauce.  People will be so impressed and think that it was so hard.  It’s okay, you don’t have to tell them how easy it really is!

Cranberry Sauce

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Christmas in a jar!


This recipe is lower on the sweetness side than regular, so I recommend making it as is, tasting, and then adding extra sweetener to taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag, or 4 cups, fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, or the juice from two small oranges
  • zest from one orange
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Directions

  1. In a medium pot, combine all items and cook over medium high heat until the cranberries pop, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes.
  2. Lower heat to medium, and cook for another 20 minutes while the sauce thickens and reduces, stirring frequently.
  3. Let cool and store in the fridge to chill until serving. This can be served at room temperature or chilled.

Recipe: Tahini Sauce

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I’m a huge fan of peanut sauce.  I could eat it every week.  But sometimes, it’s good to mix things up!  So for the sake of variety, I’ve been playing around with a tahini sauce recipe.  I didn’t know what tahini was for the longest time… come to find out, it’s just a paste made from sesame seeds!  It’s kinda like peanut butter, but made with sesame seeds instead.  So the tahini paste becomes the basis of this mild and smoky sauce.

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I’ve been loving it on my roasted vegetables.  In fact, I may have found a new obsession in roasted eggplant.  Move over roasted broccoli!  Just kidding, broccoli, I will love you forever.

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This sauce can be made thicker for dipping veggies into, or thinner for drizzling over roasted veggies, like I did for my lunches last week.  A sprinkle of smoked paprika over the top adds an even deeper smoky flavor.


 

Tahini Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A mild sauce perfect for roasted vegetables.

This recipe can be made thicker using less water if you are wanting to use it as a dip. For a true drizzle-style sauce, add more water.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 roasted garlic cloves, or 1/2 t. powdered garlic
  • 1/4 c. tahini paste
  • 1/4 c. very warm water
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/4 t. fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 t. ground cumin
  • pinch of salt, or more to taste

Directions

  1. In a wide mouthed container that will fit an immersion blender, add all ingredients except water.
  2. Slowly add water and blend until it is the consistency that you desire.
  3. Store covered in the fridge until ready to use. This will be good for up to a week.

Favorite Things 2017

For those of you who have been hanging around for a year, you may remember last year’s Favorite Things party.  If you are new, let me fill you in!

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Does anyone remember Oprah’s Favorite Things show where she would give away one of her favorite things to each audience member?  The idea is the same for the party.  All through the year, we think about what our absolute favorite thing is, and then we buy one for each of the other six friends who come to the party.  There are a few rules: the guest list does not change.  Everyone makes the party a number one priority on their calendar for the year.  And finally, there’s no dollar limit imposed.

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How much is that doggy in the window?

As the creators of Christmas magic in our families, we felt a smidge overlooked when several of us said we were even buying stuff for our OWN stockings.  In an effort to bring a little bit of magic to the season for ourselves, we started this gathering, and now it has been 12 years.  Some of us only see each other the one time a year, others, much more often.  But one thing that has been unchanging is our dedication to the event and each other.

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So welcome to the 12th annual Favorite Things at Sherry’s house!  I’ll give you an inside peek into the party.

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Every year, the table looks amazing!  My mom does such a great job with this part.  All the little finishing touches are just right.  There’s usually a small gift at the table for each person, and this year, there were two- the placecard picture frame and a custom made wooden hanger on the back of each chair.

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My mom’s house is always so beautiful.  I took several pictures.  Here are a few to enjoy!

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I love the “stay awhile” frame and the pine cone print in the entry way.

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Beautiful fall mantel decorations

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She has such a green thumb!  I wish I had inherited that!

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It was a gorgeous fall day, so even the outside was decorated!

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I couldn’t resist photographing my gift and my mom’s gift before everyone came over.

When everyone arrived, we put the presents on my mom’s bed and gathered for drinks and appetizers.

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Did I mention the other unspoken rule?  Everyone wraps their gifts beautifully!

We played a few fun games (no toilet plunger this year, darn it) and had a blast.  Then it was time for dinner.  I wish I had taken a picture of the entire spread, but it was amazing!

Here’s a snapshot from Instagram of the main course, though:

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Creamy Chicken Alfredo

So what was in those pretty packages?  Here’s a peek at some of the gifts:

 

 

 

Simple Roasted Broccoli

It’s Thanksgiving week, people! I think Thanksgiving might be my most favorite holiday. I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. But, my favorite season is fall because the weather is changing, the leaves are changing, and the anticipation of the extended holiday season is coming. Sometimes the anticipation is better than the real thing, am I right?

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But I also love Thanksgiving because of the meaning behind it. The history of the first Thanksgiving, not so much. But spirit of it, that’s what I can get behind. To me, it is all about gratitude and perseverance and thankfulness for what life has to offer. And even though life can tear your heart out, it can also be breathtakingly beautiful.

And in in the end, Thanksgiving is about family. The people you turn to, the people that have your back no matter what. So my wish for you this Thanksgiving is that you can hug the ones you love this season, and think warmly of the ones who have passed.

Roasted Broccoli

And I am thankful for YOU, all the readers of my ramblings.  So this simple broccoli recipe is for you this week.  If you are deep the in the preparations, frantic house cleaning, shopping and prepping for the big day, or if you are packing up the car and closing down the house and preparing for travel, it’s important to take care of yourself.  Because as wonderful as holidays are, they can be stressful, right?!

So take care of yourself this week in small ways.   And eating something healthy and delicious can be one of those small ways.  So chop up some greens, fire up the oven, take 20 minutes to invest in your health today.

My favorite go-to meal when I’m busy but want something healthy and filling is to scramble some eggs with roasted broccoli and cheddar cheese.  Yum!

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Love and warmth be with you this week!


Simple Roasted Broccoli

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Simple, healthy, and delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 T. olive oil

Directions

  1. Wash and chop broccoli.
  2. Place in a large plastic bag, sprinkle in the salt, pepper, and drizzle in the olive oil.
  3. Seal the bag and give it a good massage and toss to coat all the broccoli with the seasonings.
  4. Lay out the broccoli flat on a cookie sheet on parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Recipe: Homemade Broth

Today on the blog I want to show you how I turn my kitchen vegetable scraps into yummy homemade broth!  It is ridiculously simple. I use my instant pot, but if you don’t have one, use your crock pot or even a big soup pot on the stove.

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I keep a baggie in my freezer specifically for scraps.  So when I chop an onion for dinner, the peels and ends go into the bag.  Or when I cut up celery for Tim to take to work, I put the leafy bits and the bottom in the bag.  Carrot ends and peels also work really great for broth.  Most any veggie will work, but the flavor and color will change depending on the veggies you use.

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So when the bag is filled up, I take out my instant pot, dump the veggie ends in the pot and cover with water.  I’ll add a bay leaf if I have one for some extra flavor.  I don’t generally add any salt, but you could if you would like.  I just usually add the salt when I am making my finished product.

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Put on the soup setting for 30 minutes, or cook for 8 hrs on low in the crock pot.  Seriously.  That’s it!

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Here’s the finished product, and it smells amazing!

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Strain the big chunks out with a colander and what’s left is golden amazing homemade broth that didn’t cost you anything!  It’s low sodium, since you are controlling the salt.  And there’s no preservatives or funky stuff in there, either.

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I let it cool, then pour it into old yogurt or cottage cheese or sour cream containers.  I like using a variety of sizes, so if a recipe only calls for a cup of broth, I can pull out one of the smaller containers.  When it’s soup time, I pull out one or two of the large containers.  It really is soooo easy, and it’s easy to fit into my busy schedule, too.  The only extra thing I’m really doing is taking the time to wash the instant pot and colander, and freeze the broth into containers.  I’d say 5 minutes is a good trade off for quality, homemade, free broth.  I love free stuff!

Adventure: Austin, Texas!

Austin Texas Railroad

Get comfortable, because today we are headed into downtown Austin, Texas!  Austin is the best city in the state, and not just for the usual reasons.  You know, live music capitol of the world, great weather, lake and trails for fun outdoor activities… need I go on?

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But even though it is so amazing, it takes something extra special to lure me away from home.  I’m a homebody, in case you didn’t know.  I LOVE being home.  But when I heard that the new Austin Public Library Central branch was complete, I decided that it was just the nerd kind of fun that we all needed.

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And, I figured it would make a great excuse to visit one of my old favorite restaurants that I haven’t been to in years- Maudie’s, Too.  In fact, it’s been so long that even Tim has never been and he’s been here for 6 years.

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Everything is so built up along south Lamar, I didn’t recognize where I was until we were just upon the restaurant!  If you are visiting town, Maudie’s is a great place for good ole’ Tex-Mex comfort food.  This is the kind of deliciousness that Texans dream about when they are out of state.

Side note:  One time when I was living in New Jersey, I asked a new friend of mine where to get Mexican food in the area.  She thought really hard and…. wait for it…. she said, “Chili’s is in town.”  I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.  Yeah.  All my fellow Texans are shivering in horror, right?!?

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Nothing green on this plate!

I decided to have migas, which is a breakfast plate that has scrambled eggs, onions, peppers, tomatoes, broken bits of tortilla chips, and QUESO.  Yep, queso.  So delicious!  And what’s a breakfast-for-lunch meal without a few beers, too, right?

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If you go, you have to sit out on the patio.  You can chill and watch the traffic go by on South Lamar.  And because it’s November in Texas, it was perfect patio weather for us at a balmy 80 degrees.  You’ll have an audience of pigeons, which actually adds to the charm.  Or maybe it was charming because of the beer.  Either way, it’s a magical place that you can settle in and absorb some good Austin culture.  Every now and then an acorn falls off the tree above the tin roofed patio and gives a satisfying clang and everything feels right with the world.

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Who are those crazy people in the reflection?

After filling up, we headed to the library.  Their parking garage was at capacity, so we parked at one down a few blocks and walked some pretty landscaped paths.  I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of the boys, of course.

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We rounded a corner, and there it was!  The new library looking gorgeous and modern and inviting.  Tim said that the Seattle Public Library is better.  And I suppose to a mechanical engineer, it might be!  But this one looks perfect for Austin.

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The ground floor level will eventually have a cafe, and since it faces the lake, I’m sure it will be very popular.  The library is also home to an art gallery space and it opened featuring the work of Lance Letscher, a local collage artist who works on old books!  Here’s a few of my favorites on display:

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We enjoyed tromping around all 6 floors of the library and found some really neat work spaces, gardens, patios, and places to explore.  If you go, look up when you are in the atrium to the door on the 6th floor.  You’ll know which one I’m talking about!

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Gorgeous main atrium

This hands on art is in the children’s patio.  I showed Will, and his eyes lit up.  He looked at me and I looked at him and in that one glance we both knew without saying anything that that would have been his favorite place in the entire library when he was little.  So of course, it’s got a special place in my heart already.

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After all of the exploring, we were ready for our last treat of the day.  I’ve been hearing about Gordough’s food truck for a long time.  It’s practically legend, and I can see why.  It’s one of those unique Austin experiences, for sure.  It’s casual and unassuming like most of Austin and not to be missed.

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Who’s in that reflection again?

They have crazy, gluttonous donut concoctions, like the Elvis and even one called the Flying Pig with a nest of bacon on top and drizzled in maple syrup!  These are not regular donuts, so come hungry and ready to indulge. I told the boys we had to stop here “for the blog” ha!  I hope you guys enjoy my sacrifice.  I’m such a team player.

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We got ours to go, but couldn’t resist sitting down at the picnic tables and tasting a few bites before we headed home.  They were warm and gooey and delicious.  Every bit as amazing as everyone says!

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Mama’s Cake.  This donut actually has a hole, but you can’t tell because it’s filled with warm chocolate and cake batter drizzle.  This is the one I had and it was amazing.

 

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The ODB.  This was Tim’s choice, of course, ha!  Donut holes smothered in frosting and rolled in coconut.

 

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The Big E-Z.  This one was right up Will’s alley, with sugar and more sugar.  It came with literally mounds of powdered sugar and honey to drizzle.

I hope you enjoyed our peek into a classic Austin day!  What are your favorite local Austin hot spots?  I’d love to hear, and maybe I’ll head that way next!  And click follow on the right if you want more Austin features.

Recipe: Life Changing Loaf of Bread

Have you heard of this kind of bread?  It’s pretty amazing, actually, considering it has zero flour!  I’d call it more of an oat and nut bread, I suppose.  But it was invented by the genius at My New Roots and is even used at Josey Baker’s bakery in San Francisco under the name Adventure Bread.

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On the San Francisco bucket list!

Okay, let me be tacky for just a minute…. If you were putting an image of your bakery on your website, would you use the picture that has the TRASH CANS out front?!?  I love the lighting in this picture, but couldn’t they have moved the cans for the photo?   Okay, rant over.

So the recipe.  It’s realllllly easy.  I’m not just saying that either.  There’s no kneading, shaping, or anything finicky about this recipe.  Basically, you dump the ingredients into a bowl, combine, and smash down into the loaf pan.  If you use one of those handy silicone ones, you can even combine it in the pan and boom.   That’s it!

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Here’s my loaf precooked.

This bread slices up and freezes like a dream.  And you can be really flexible with the variations.  For instance, tonight, I used an extra bit of sweetener, a tablespoon of cinnamon, and a half cup of raisins for a mock cinnamon raisin bread.  Delicious.  In fact, I’m eating a slice toasted and smeared with butter right now, yum!

Since I don’t have permission to recopy the recipe, I’m just going to direct you to My New Roots so you can get it at the source:

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Try this, and let me know how it goes!  Also, have you signed up for notifications on the right hand side of this page?  Don’t be shy, use the comment feature and tell me if you think you might give this a try!

Recipe: Oatmeal Raisin Protein Balls

Oatmeal Raisin Balls-2Last Tuesday was my birthday, and I maaaaay have over-indulged in sugar and white flour.  #noregrets.  However, later that night, I was fantasizing about roasted broccoli.  That’s when you know your good eating habits have really become a major part of your life!

So when Custodian Appreciation Day rolled around, I wanted to bring something special to work, but I also didn’t want to hop on the sugar merry-go-round again.  In place of a delicious cookie, I made these delicious protein balls!  They are inspired by my favorite cookie of all time- Oatmeal Raisin.

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These are no-sugar, no-bake, totally easy guilt-free treats!

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

p.s. Did you see my Instagram story on my birthday?  If so, you got a peek into my fun day playing hooky with my husband!

 

Oatmeal Raisin Protein Balls

  • Servings: 16 balls
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

An easy, no-sugar, no-bake treat!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (not quick oats)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 T. cinnamon
  • 2 servings sugar free plain protein powder- I use Jarrow’s
  • 2 T. honey
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Soak raisins in 2 cups of hot water for 5-10 minutes to plump them up.
  2. Drain the water and pulse the raisins in a food processor until they become a thick paste, about a minute.
  3. Scoop the raisin paste into a bowl with the remaining ingredients and incorporate fully with your hands. If the balls do not stick together enough, add a teaspoon of warm water at a time until they come together. This step was not necessary for me, but your mileage may vary!
  4. Divide the mixture evenly and roll into balls. Place on parchment paper in the freezer for a few minutes if desired. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe: Crockpot Black Beans

If you follow my Instagram, you will know that I LOVE to prep my breakfasts and lunches for each week.  On the weekends, I pick a new recipe or an old favorite to make.  Some things are just good to have on hand all week long.  It’s something that I’ve done for years and years as a working mom.  Sometimes I prep a bunch of veg, or some meat to use in various iterations through the week.

Black Beans

This week, the weather is supposed to cool down, and I’m so excited!  It’s got me in the mood for something warming and cozy, and a great big mess of black beans sounds perfect.  Plus, it’s so versatile.  This week, these beans will be starring in my lunches, and also making appearances in tacos on Monday and quesadillas on Friday.

This recipe starts with dried beans, and I’d recommend you do the same.  I suppose you could use a few cans of beans, but the flavor and texture is so much better using dried.  They aren’t hard, give it a whirl!

You should put the dried beans in a bowl and soak them overnight.  In the morning, dump the water, rinse the beans, and then you are set to begin.  But if you are like me, and you forgot to soak your beans, you can put them in a medium pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil for a few minutes, turn off the heat, pop a lid on, and let them sit for about an hour.  Then, you are set to rinse your beans and begin.

At this point, add your seasonings and bulk them up with some good veg.  Experiment with variations that make you happy.  Here, I’ve added onion and carrot, but you could switch out the carrots for diced tomatoes or even diced eggplant.  Be creative!

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I added a bay leaf, because I think they make everything better.  Then salt, because the same.  Some cumin adds a smokey flavor, but you could use smoked paprika instead.  I added two cloves of roasted garlic.  If yours isn’t roasted, you might want to rough chop it.  I’ve also got a small bit of canned chipotle pepper roughly chopped up for heat.  If you don’t have any of those, feel free to add some jalapeno if you’ve got some.  Or, add both if you want more kick.  Then give it all a good stir.

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Cover with water.  If you like some good beany liquid, add slightly more water.  If you like drier beans, add less, but make sure they are covered.

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Turn your crockpot on high for 3 hours.  After 3 hours, check the texture of the beans.  If they are not soft enough for your liking, let them set for another hour.

Here’s my beans all prepped and ready for lunch this week!  I’ve got a take of beans and rice going on here, but instead of rice, I’m using a different whole grain- freekah.  Isn’t that a cool name?  Freekah is a type of ancient wheat that is high in fiber and protein, so it’s popular with those of us who are vegetarian, or vegetarian-ish, as the case may be.  I’ve got a side of yellow bell peppers, and topped the whole dish with crumbled queso fresco and fresh cilantro for flavor.  Not pictured is the hummus for dipping with the peppers.

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Crockpot Black Beans

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A versatile budget stretching meal option that can be used in dinners all week long.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag dried black beans
  • Vegetables as desired, choose two from these below and be creative:
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1-2 chopped carrots
  • 1 chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup chopped eggplant
  • Seasonings as desired, pick as many as sound good from below:
  • 1 teaspoon cumin or smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2-3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Spicy to add kick, pick one of what you’ve got on hand from below:
  • 1 de-seeded and diced jalepeno, or
  • Use spicy salsa as a vegetable above, or
  • 1 canned and diced chipotle pepper in sauce
  • water to cover

Directions

  1. Soak the beans overnight as directed, or follow the quick soak directions on the package. Drain and add to crockpot.
  2. Add vegetables, seasonings and spicy bits, as listed above. Stir to combine. Cover in water.
  3. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 6-8 hours.