coconut rice fritters {happy chinese new year!}

Yesterday was Chinese New Year’s Eve, probably the most significant day of celebration for Chinese families.  The lunar new year festivities continue for two weeks, but on the eve of the new year, families travel long distances to come together for a reunion and a feast!

drawing2

We have plans to celebrate over hot pot with friends next week, but we didn’t do much to commemorate yesterday — besides the kids spending a good part of their day making Happy New Year cards for each other.  So after a dinner of creamy Crockpot Lemon-Artichoke Chicken, I flipped through one of my Chinese cookbooks with Calla, hoping to find an idea for a quick and fun way to enjoy some Asian-inspired dessert.

We settled on “Rice Fritters with Coconut and Vanilla,” which might not be a traditional new year treat, but it fully satisfied our craving for a fun, Asian-y snack!  As usual, I modified the recipe to make it gluten-free and overall just a bit healthier.

rice fritters

Here’s how we made these delicious little morsels, crispy on the outside, soft and lightly sweet on the inside…

Coconut-Rice Fritters (adapted from Complete Chinese Cooking, Amy Tai)

3 c. cooked medium-grain rice

3 eggs, beaten

2 T. coconut milk

1/4 c. coconut sugar (any type of sugar will work)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 c. almond flour*

1/4 c. coconut flour*

4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3 T. shredded coconut

coconut oil for frying (any type of vegetable oil will work)

powdered sugar for sprinkling

  *The almond and coconut flours can be replaced with 3/4 cup all-purpose flour if you don’t want gluten-free. Also, 3/4 cup gluten-free baking mix such as Pamela’s can be used, but be sure to reduce the baking powder to 1 tsp, and eliminate the 1/4 tsp salt.

Directions:

Combine the rice, eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl.  Add flours, baking powder, salt, and coconut; mix well. 

Heat the oil to 350F in a deep fat fryer or a large, deep pot.  (I like to use my stainless steel wok for deep frying — I add enough oil to make it about 2 inches deep.)  When oil is hot enough, gently drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the rice mixture into the oil.  Fry until golden brown on all sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve hot!

(These can be reheated in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes to make them somewhat crispy again!)

Yield: about 30 fritters

Posted in Cooking, Family fun, Nutrition, On the Crunchy Side, Recipes | 3 Comments

make your own almond milk

I’m learning that there are two kinds of homemade: one that’s worth it and one that’s not.  Some things are just not worth the massive amount of effort required when you can buy the same thing for not much more money, or when the store-bought version just tastes better.

But — some things are definitely worth the time and effort, in my opinion.  When, ONE – you can save a significant amount of money by making it yourself, or TWO – you can avoid the additives in packaged versions, or THREE – the homemade version is so dang delicious you don’t even want the store-bought kind any more.

Homemade almond milk fits the bill in all three categories!  I started making my own almond milk several months ago after an Instagram friend posted about it.  She talked about the creaminess and yummy flavor of homemade almond milk, and she mentioned that the leftover almond meal can be used for making Lara bars or as almond flour (for use in things like breading or baked goods.)  I had to try it!

If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, I recommend using a nut milk bag.  I purchased a 2-pack from Amazon for about $7 (view the item here.)  Also, homemade almond milk doesn’t last as long as the store-bought kind, so don’t make more than you can consume in about three days.

The milk can be made in either a blender or food processor — try both and see what you prefer!  I like the extra creaminess of almond milk made in a blender.

Here’s how I make almond milk!

Homemade Almond Milk

1 1/2 c. raw almonds

Water for soaking

3 c. water (to make milk — use more or less to taste)

3 T. sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave, sugar, etc.) OR 3 medjool dates

1 tsp. vanilla extract, optional

1/8 tsp. salt, optional

Soak the almonds in enough water to cover at least an inch over the top.  Allow them to soak at room temperature at least 12 hours, or as long as 48 hours.  (The longer they soak, the creamier the milk will be.)

Drain the almonds and rinse them with cold water.  Place them in a blender or food processor with 3 cups of water.  Blend for about 2 minutes.  (If using a food processor, it might take up to 3-4 minutes to fully process the almonds.)  Add salt and sweetener of choice and blend an additional 30 seconds.

Line a large measuring cup or pitcher with a nut milk bag or cheesecloth.  Slowly pour the mixture into the cup.  Gather the top of the nut milk bag or cheesecloth over the almond meal and gently squeeze out as much milk as possible.  (Save the almond meal for later use.)

Taste the milk and add sweetener as needed.  Store in a glass container in the fridge up to 3 days.  Be sure to shake the container before pouring as the milk quickly separates when it sits.

{Yield: approximately 3 cups of milk and 1 1/2 cups of almond meal}

**To use the almond meal for breading or as flour in baked goods, spread the meal on a baking sheet and place in a 150-degree oven for 2-3 hours, stirring once or twice.  Allow to cool.  If you want a fine flour like what you can purchase at the store, process the meal in a food processor until it reaches desired texture.  Almond meal can also be used “as is” in baked goods or in homemade Lara bars.  Store almond meal/flour in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!  Let me know if you have any questions about making your own almond milk.  I’d love to share more about what I’ve learned!

-Abby

Posted in Cooking, Nutrition, On the Crunchy Side, Recipes | 4 Comments

make your own elderberry syrup

It’s not technically winter yet, but it certainly feels like it here in Colorado!  We’ve seen several inches of snow and temperatures below zero over the last few days.  It’s also the season of cold, cough, and flu — yuck!

Elderberry syrup is an effective, natural immune-boosting remedy that we started using last winter.  This type of herbal syrup is a proven remedy for preventing and recovering from the flu, colds, and sore throats.  It contains lots of antioxidants, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C… but it does get a bit pricey with a family of six.  This year, I decided to try making it at home.  I’m so glad I did!

The cost savings between buying packaged elderberry syrup and making your own is incredible.  The brand of syrup I was buying cost me $1.60/oz, but it was only about $0.30/oz to make it at home!  I ordered Frontier brand organic elderberries on Amazon, which cost around $20 for a one-pound bag.  (One pound of elderberries yields about three of my double batches of syrup!)  I already had the other ingredients on hand.

I browsed the web to find the best homemade syrup recipe, and I ended up with a blend of two recipe from Oh Dear Drea and Mountain Rose Herbs.  I made what most would consider a double batch, and I give everyone in the family a teaspoon or two per day.  If you have fewer family members or don’t plan on using the syrup daily, you might want to halve the recipe.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

1 c. dried elderberries

6 c. water

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

large chunk of fresh ginger root (about 2″ long), sliced

1 1/2 c. raw local honey

Combine elderberries, water, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger slices in a large saucepan.  (Don’t add honey yet!)  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 45 minutes, or until liquid has noticeably reduced.

With a fork or potato masher, smash the berries in the mixture to draw out as much juice as possible.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a glass container.  When the mixture has cooled, add honey and mix well.

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

**The standard dose for taking elderberry syrup as a preventative measure is 1-2 tsp daily for kids, and 1-2 Tbsp daily for adults.  If a cold or flu hits, take the normal dose 2-3 times a day until symptoms are gone.  (This remedy is not recommended for infants under one year of age because it contains honey.)**

-Abby

Posted in Cooking, Nutrition, On the Crunchy Side, Our home, Recipes | Leave a comment

irish cream truffle fudge

If you ever take a peek into our pantry, you might wonder about our apparent obsession with Irish cream whiskey.  Eric’s boss gives his employees a gigantic bottle of Baileys every year at Christmas…and we discovered a few nights ago that we still had the bottles from 2010 and 2011 (plus last year’s bottle.)  The oldest one was expired so we had to dump it out…and I hate throwing away food, even if it IS Irish cream.

So I made fudge.  Baileys makes some great desserts, and I think Baileys fudge is my favorite.  Here’s the basic recipe I follow — it’s so easy and so delicious!

Irish Cream Truffle Fudge

1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 c. white (vanilla) chips

2 T. butter

1 c. powdered sugar

1/2 c. Irish cream liqueur

Top layer:

3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 T. butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Lightly grease an 8×8″ baking dish.  In a heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips, white chips, and butter over low heat, stirring often.  Be careful not to overheat or burn the mixture.  When melted and smooth, remove from heat.  Add powdered sugar and Irish cream.  Stir until well combined, then pour into greased pan.

Using a separate saucepan (or the original pan, washed and thoroughly dried) over low heat, melt the chocolate chips and butter for the top layer.  When melted and smooth, remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Spread over the top of the fudge.

Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour (or the freezer for 15 minutes, if you’re impatient like me!) before cutting and serving.  Allow the fudge to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!

 

-Abby

Posted in Cooking, Recipes | 1 Comment

paleo peach-banana pancakes

We’re taking steps to eat less grains in our home, particularly wheat.  It’s hard for me.  I really really like my breads — quick breads, yeast breads, sourdough breads, pancakes.  Pancakes are one of Calla’s and my favorite foods. We still eat them (the yummy, fluffy, “real” kind) once in a while, but we’ve cut back a lot.

These grain-free pancakes (which qualify as paleo for those who are interested) are pretty tasty.  They’re obviously not like wheat flour pancakes but they do satisfy my craving.  I make a big batch but I think I might have to start doubling it — the kids devour these little cakes!

*I like to use bananas and peaches for this recipe, but you can just use banana if you want.  Just replace the two peaches with two additional bananas!*

Paleo Peach-Banana Pancakes

2 bananas, peeled

2 peaches, pit removed

6 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 c. almond flour (feel free to add a little more if the batter is too thin)

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Place bananas and peaches in a food processor or blender; process until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.  (If you keep the skin on the peaches, you will see some small pieces after the ingredients are blended and that’s ok.)

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.  Lightly coat with cooking spray, oil, or butter.  Pour batter onto griddle in 2-3 tablespoon portions.  (If pancakes are too big, they might be difficult to flip!)  Cook 3-4 minutes or until you can see the edges starting to brown, then flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.  Remove and serve!

Yield: appx. thirty 3-inch pancakes

{We like ours topped with a warm fruit compote and some chopped walnuts or pecans.  These pancakes are sweet enough that syrup isn’t really necessary.}

Enjoy!

-Abby

 

Posted in Cooking, Nutrition, On the Crunchy Side, Recipes | 1 Comment

pad thai at home

It took me a long time to work up the nerve to try cooking Asian food at home.  Just in the last year or two, I’ve learned a lot (mostly by trial and error) and I think it’s safe to say my experiments are getting better and better.

Green Curry and Pad Thai are probably my favorite dishes to order when we go to a Thai restaurant.  I haven’t yet tried homemade green curry, but I made pad Thai for the second time last night…and we have a winner!

Most pad Thai recipes call for tamarind juice to give the dish its characteristic tangy background flavor.  I tried using tamarind juice the first time and something just didn’t taste right to me.  (Maybe I needed a more concentrated juice?  Or I should have used tamarind paste instead of juice?)  I don’t know, but the second time I decided to try lime juice + brown sugar instead since I’d seen it listed as a substitute.  We all loved it!

Here’s my basic recipe for pad Thai…I tend to do lots of tweaking and taste-testing along the way, so you might want to do the same to make sure it’s working for your taste buds.  Also, making pad Thai in a large batch guarantees unevenly distributed flavor and soggy noodles, so I make this recipe in two batches.

{Recipe updated 10/16/13}

Pad Thai (loosely adapted from this recipe)

Thinly sliced beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp (or none of these if you want vegetarian)

2-3 carrots, grated

2 bunches green onions, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 T. shredded preserved radish, optional

4-5 T. cooking oil (I use avocado + coconut oil)

12-14 oz. package dried rice noodles (labeled M or Medium)

4 eggs, beaten

Sauce:

1/2 c. lime juice

3/4 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. fish sauce

1/2 c. water

2 T. soy sauce

splash of Worcestershire sauce

salt to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

Garnish: chopped peanuts, additional raw grated carrots, lime wedges, cilantro

Directions:

In a large bowl, soak rice noodles in cold water for 30 minutes.  Use this time to start preparing the other ingredients.  After noodles are done soaking, drain them well and cook in boiling water for about 4 minutes, or until al dente.  Drain and rinse with cold water. (They will continue cooking later in the skillet or wok.)

Combine sauce ingredients (lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, water, soy sauce, Worcestershire, salt, red pepper) in a medium saucepan.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until mixture begins to reduce and thicken slightly.  Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Cook meat of choice until done; remove and set aside.  Add another tablespoon of oil and cook carrots, green onions, and garlic for 1-2 minutes or until starting to brown.  Remove and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil, then add half of the cooked noodles to the pan.  Leave them untouched for at least 30 seconds, then stir and add half of the sauce.  After noodles are coated, add half of the veggies and half of the meat.  Push the entire mixture to the side of the pan and add half of the eggs to the skillet.  Scramble the eggs, then mix them into the noodles.  Remove everything from the pan and repeat with the remaining half of the ingredients.

Pile the noodle mixture into bowls and top with chopped peanuts, raw grated carrots, and cilantro, and serve with a lime wedge.

Yield: 4-5 servings

-Abby

Posted in Cooking, Recipes | 1 Comment

savory salmon croquettes

Wild salmon has been a decent price in grocery stores lately, so I thought I’d post this recipe (that our family loves) for salmon croquettes.  They’re fantastic served with tartar sauce, mango chutney, corn relish, or just as is!  I typically use canned wild salmon for this recipe, but cooked-and-flaked fresh salmon works just as well.

Salmon Croquettes

14 – 18 oz canned salmon (depending on can sizes) or 1 1/2 – 2 c. flaked fresh salmon

1 c. panko bread crumbs

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

1/4 c. finely diced onion

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Oil +  butter for frying

Coating:

1/4 c. panko bread crumbs

1/4 c. cornmeal

1/4 tsp. salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine salmon, panko crumbs, eggs, parsley, onion, and spices.  Mix until combined, then form into 10-12 croquettes.  Combine coating ingredients on a plate or shallow bowl.

Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat.  Press both sides of the croquettes into the coating mixture.  Just before frying, add a few tablespoons of butter.  When butter is melted, place croquettes in pan.  Fry 3-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Serve with the sauce or topping of your choice, and enjoy!

-Abby

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Recipes | 2 Comments

family portrait challenge

A couple of months ago, my friend, Cindy — another mama of four — suggested a monthly photo challenge: taking a family portrait as well as a portrait of each individual child, preferably with our “real” cameras rather than with our phones.  I said YES!  I tend to let my camera sit in the corner collecting dust, so I welcome the accountability to help me get it out and actually use it on a regular basis.

That was back in May, and I’ve already been slacking. Oops.  I DID manage to take portraits of the kids individually and together, but I haven’t taken the time to get photos of all six of us.  I’ll get it done this month.  (I hope.)

I know I won’t always be able to catch everyone looking at the camera, or smiling, or sitting still, but really, that’s not the point.  I want to document the kids in real life, which translates into messy hair and dirty faces and holey clothes and silly expressions.  I know, down the road, I’ll be glad I took the time to do this.  I’m already excited to look back and see how our family has changed, month by month.  (I’ll do my best to post the photos here!)

You can see the individual kid photos from May in this post, and here’s a couple of the together shots I took…

Which one do you like more?

And here are the individual shots from June… (I love these kiddos so much!)

The next one makes me laugh.  I took at least twenty pictures and could NOT get anyone to look at me for more than half a second. :)

But yesterday, the last day of June, I snapped this pic on my phone…and everyone was looking in my general direction!

 

Feel free to join us in this photo challenge, and please let me know if you do!

-Abby

 

Posted in Family fun, Kiddos | 1 Comment

chewy granola bars

I’ve found it!  Finally.  I discovered a recipe for CHEWY granola bars (from Smitten Kitchen, of course) and after several tweaks and test runs, I don’t think the recipe can get any more delicious.  These granola bars are good.  As in every time I make a double batch, they’re gone within two days.  I need to start quadrupling the recipe!

I usually make them with raisins and flaxseed, but the recipe is versatile!  Try changing it up with dried cranberries or cherries, chia seeds, chopped peanuts or pecans, flaked coconut, or mini chocolate chips.  Be sure to keep the total amount of additions to about 3 or 3.5 cups, as too much extra stuff will prevent the bars from holding their shape after they’re cut.  Also, the spices I included in the recipe are optional — use whatever spices you prefer!

These bars are thick, moist, chewy, and satisfying.  Wanna try them?  (You do, believe me.)

Chewy Granola Bars {adapted from this recipe}

3 1/3 c. rolled oats OR Coach’s Oats (available at Costco)

2/3 c. oat flour (I pulverize rolled oats in the food processor to make oat flour)

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. salt

2 1/2 c. raisins

1/2 c. ground flaxseed

6 T. melted butter

6 T. melted coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. honey OR maple syrup

1/4 c. corn syrup

3 T. water

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Line an 13″x9″ pan with parchment paper.  Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with cooking spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the raisins and flaxseed (or other fruits and nuts, if including them.)  In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter and coconut oil, vanilla, liquid sweeteners, and water.  Stir together the wet and dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly.  Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly.

Bake the bars for about 45 minutes, or until they’re just starting to brown around the edges.  Be careful not to overbake them, since (speaking from experience) the edges will become hard as a rock after cooling.  They might seem underbaked when first taking them out of the oven, but the bars will set up as they cool.  

Cool the bars completely in the pan.  Setting the pan on a wire rack will speed up this process.  Once cool, use a sharp or serrated knife to cut them into rectangles.  Store in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.

Enjoy!

-Abby

 

Posted in Cooking, Nutrition, On the Crunchy Side, Recipes | 4 Comments

little after-hours helper {video}

Shepherd is a night owl.  I think I was in denial for the first year of his life, but I’ve finally accepted this fact.  He likes to stay up late, even though I don’t let him take more than one nap during the day.  He just doesn’t require as much sleep as his siblings did when they were babies.

Now that I’ve realized his late night sleeping habits are going to stick around for a while, I don’t mind it so much.  I’m thankful for the one-on-one time I have with him after his sister and brothers are asleep.

Last night, I was sweeping the kitchen floor and he came running over with the dustpan.  I grabbed my phone and took this video… (Warning: cuteness overload ahead!)

My Little Helper

{click the link above to watch the video}

 

-Abby

 

 

Posted in Kiddos, Our home | 2 Comments