Thursday, August 8, 2013

Good Eats:: Pickled Eggs with Fresh Beets (sugar-free)

A new trend has been developing in my kitchen...taking even the most modest, ordinary recipes and making them free of anything I find unnecessarily unhealthy and replacing those ingredients with a healthy alternative. For example, sugar in my house now equals honey, applesauce, brown rice syrup, and truvia when I really need a sugar flavor and not just sweetness. For this specific recipe, I traded out the forbidden white powder for my faithful raw honey. Raw honey is sooo good for you and plenty sweet!

The inspiration for making this recipe healthy...I grew up eating pickled eggs as a kid. And if you didn't know, it's a culinary tradition of the Pennsylvania dutch - they know their food - but most of it is loaded with unhealthy ingredients by my standards. But there's just no way I'd live without a pickled egg ever again because it had sugar in it. I like most anything pickled, really, and even have my own pickle recipe - sans the sugar of course - which I will share soon.  For now, try this tasty recipe and enjoy your beautiful pickled eggs!

3 large beets or 5 medium (I like a lot of beets!)
6 eggs
2 Tbsp raw honey
1/2 C apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp ground cloves (or 3 whole)
1 tsp cinnamon (or 1 stick)
Generous pinch of sea salt

*read all instructions on this before you begin - there is more than one method noted in the instructions*

How to::
1. Roast beets with skin covered in EVOO for 30-45 minutes until soft and skin is beginning to separate from beet or wrinkle. Cool and peal skins. Slice and place in glass jar. Cover with water and place in fridge overnight.
Note: I roast my beets instead of boiling. I just like them this way and I'm usually roasting many of them for more than just this recipe. They are a staple in salads and other yummy veggie recipes for me. Plus, when I'm pickling I'm never in a hurry, it's a process. If you're in a hurry, boil them to get your beet liquid fast!
2. Hard boil your eggs. A few days old eggs are best for hard boiling so they peel easy. My method is to submerge in warm water, bring to a rapid boil. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and let sit for about 20 minutes. Then submerge in an ice bath. If peeling right away, place back in very hot water for a few minutes. (Or do this when you are ready to peel.)
3. Pour your beet juice that is now a dark, dark purple water (whether they sat overnight or you just boiled them and let them cool) into a larger container that will hold your beets, liquids, and 6 peeled eggs.
4. Add the honey, apple cider vinegar, and spices to beat juice and mix well.
5. Add eggs and beets. Place in fridge overnight.

Serve when entertaining in a buffet of pickled veggies and olives. Or just keep on hand as a quick, yummy protein snack.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Crafty DIY:: Crocheted Graduation Owl

Okay, so it's been forever since I've been posting and then I'm suddenly back and diving right in with no explanation. Well, we had a good reason to be out of commission for so long here on ahomebeautiful blog...we were growing our little family from two to three. And it's been the best time of our lives! While I wasn't blogging, I did have *some* time to craft, decorate our new home and discover and create some healthier-than-normal recipes - some of which I've already started to share here, here, and here.

We've had many exciting events this past year for our family. One was our younger sister graduating. For her graduation I made her this adorable little owl graduate. You can get the free pattern here, but you do need a login to the Lion Brand site, also free and worth it if you crochet often since they have good patterns.

I changed the colors to match her school and I also added a little rolled up piece of textured paper that I tied on with yarn as a diploma but I didn't seem to get a picture with it. I love this little guy and had a lot of fun making all his little parts - wings, webbed feet, eyes, cap, and one horned ear - and then figuring out how to put them all together. I don't know if she named him, but in my imagination his name is Eli.

- Eli the owl -

Monday, August 5, 2013

Good Eats:: Homemade Almond Milk

I am so excited to be making my own almond milk. It's one of those things where I found myself thinking, "Why haven't I been doing this all along?" Well, when I realized how easy it is with a little foresight and a great blender (If I haven't shared before, I my Ninja blender!), I had to try it. 

I learned how to master this little task by following these instructions at The Kitchn (by apartment therepy). Voila! My very first bottle of homemade almond milk.

So far, I've used it in my morning oatmeal, my tea latte (I make a heavenly, frothy and delicious tea latte - possibly a recipe share in the future), smoothies, and I'm sure something else I can't remember right now. 

1 C almonds
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tbsp honey (optional)

How to::
1. Place almonds in a glass jar, cover with water and soak overnight or all day (roughly 12 hours).  Drain and rinse thoroughly. Add to blender with 3 cups of water. Add cinnamon and honey to taste. Blend until almonds are finely ground.  Strain with a fine mesh strainer over a wide bowl (you can also use cheese cloth, but I never seem to have it around when I need it). Let sit until most of the liquid drips out.  

2. Next, get a metal cookie sheet for your almond meal. Oh yeah, this lovely little recipe also yields you the bonus of some healthy almond meal for baking. The almond meal will be left over in the strainer still sopping wet with milk. I just squeeze out the milk with my hands and crumble over my cookie tray. Then set the oven to 400 degrees and toast the almond meal, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. (This will make your house smell all warm and toasty like a fresh bakery. Do this before having company over instead of lighting candles.) Pulse the almond meal quickly in the blender to break it up and make sure it is a fine meal for baking. Store in an airtight container.

Don't forget to also store your almond milk in a sealable container you can keep in the fridge. Don't make too much at once as it only lasts a few days.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Banana Nut Muffins: Gluten Free (GF) & Sugar Free

Seriously?! GF and SF?  Yes, it's possible for something so healthy and tasty to exist. With a little research and finesse, it can be done.

This recipe is based on one from my trusty Joy of Cooking cookbook. For me, it's that cookbook I've owned forever, because my mom, and her mom, and her mom before her had one just like it - it's been a staple in our kitchens. It has everything in it.  While I rarely make a recipe straight from the Joy book anymore, it's a great starting place for deciding what ingredients should be in most basic recipes. It has a lot of cooking and food storage tips as well...I learn a lot here.
- a glimpse of the original recipe -
The next step was to research an all-purpose (AP) gluten-free (GF) flour mixture. I have a coconut AP flour mix that I found online, but have yet to create anything successful with it. Fortunately, I came across this amazing GF site Gluten Free Girl and their trusty advice on how to make your own gluten-free all-purpose flour mix.  I discovered that using the Coconut flour mix on it's own wasn't sufficient. It needed to be anchored with a wheat flour. Coincidentally, the original Banana Nut Muffin recipe also called for wheat flour. I was in business.

1 C coconut flour blend (I like Mama's Coconut Blend by Gluten Free Mama)
1/2 C whole wheat flour (Bob's)
1/4 C ground flax seed
1/4 C Almond meal
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 C coarsely chopped walnuts
1 large egg
1/2 C applesauce
1/4 C brown rice syrup (or honey)
3 very ripe bananas
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C almond butter

Servings:: Makes 12 standard-size muffins

How to::
1. Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl.
2. In stand mixer (or in a large bowl for a hand mixer), beat wet ingredients until mixed.
3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients a third at a time making sure to incorporate. Since you are using GF flours you don't have to worry about over mixing since there is no gluten to break down! You want to make sure all the flour is mixed in so you don't end up with white lumpy patches in your muffins - ew, gross.  If you so choose, add in some walnuts for added healthiness and yummy texture.

4. Divide the batter among muffin cups. You can line your muffin tin with liners or I used a little coconut oil to grease them up.

5. Bake at 375 degrees for the following times::
mini - 10-12 minutes
standard size - 20-25 minutes
jumbo - 22-25 minutes

6. Insert a toothpick in 1 or 2 muffins to be sure they are done. Let cool 2-3 minutes before removing from pan, which makes them easier to remove. Preferably serve the day they are baked, but I store mine in the refrigerator to enjoy all week for breakfast and snacks.

**Baby and husband approved** I love giving these to my little guy because it's an easy finger food when cut up and his favorite food is currently bananas.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Good Eats:: Arugula Salad with Strawberry Rhubarb Vinaigrette


This salad is sooo good! When you want something summery, light, fresh and seasonal this salad is perfect.  I've been inspired to start eating more seasonally and to get braver with my food choices lately. Mainly for health reasons - my nutritionist had me make some changes that had me exploring my fruits and veggies in a whole new light, and I've been a part of a cooking group recently that has motivated me to try new things (more on that later...).  This salad incorporates several foods that are in season now:  arugula, radish, rhubarb and strawberries

If you want to explore eating more fun and seasonal foods, I suggest using the site Eat The Seasons. I bookmarked the site on my phone and pull it up at the grocery store to use it as my fruits and veggie list. The more unique foods have the useful feature of linking to info on how to make the best selection of your produce, how to prepare it, and links to unique recipes featuring the item. 

While I had several seasonal foods incorporated in this dish, my main focus was rhubarb. And I was seeking something light and fresh (i.e., probably a salad). I found this recipe at The Rhubarb Compendium (who knew?) and adapted it to my own tastes here for you. I love that this dressing is a thick, beautiful pink shade and covers the salad ingredients very well so use sparingly.

Make and enjoy! 

Pairs nicely with::
I think this would be a good entertaining salad and would go nicely alongside roasted chicken for dinner or a delicious deli sandwich for lunch.

**This recipe is husband approved**
(For those that don't husband, as many others like him, likes the foods he is used to but since I started my dinner club he's opened up to trying a lot more things. Arugula would've had him running in the past!)

1 C chopped fresh rhubarb (1 stalk)
1 C chopped fresh strawberries
1 large shallot, chopped
1/2 T honey
1/3 C red wine vinegar
3/4 c EVOO
1 tsp spicy brown mustard
1 bunch arugula (and spinach)
8-10 sliced strawberries
4-6 thinly julienned radishes
sliced raw almonds
1 oz fresh grated parmesan cheese

How you make it::
1. Simmer rhubarb and shallot in saucepan until almost tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Add strawberries and red wine vinegar. Cook with lid on until strawberries wilt a bit. Set aside until cool enough to add to a blender.
4. Puree. Pulse in EVOO and mustard.
5. Serve at room temp or chill.  Use on a salad of mainly arugula, some spinach, julienned radishes, sliced raw almonds and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. You could top with some black pepper for added spice but I preferred it without.