Pumpkin Porter Oat Bread

Ah, fall…..my favorite time of year. I am a fan of pumpkin everything (almost). This pumpkin porter beer bread does not disappoint. How I got to this recipe is kind of funny though.

Picture it…..the grocery store….2018. A 38 year old mom who is perpetually sleep deprived is trying to check out at the grocery store. Suddenly, she sees a black box with Pumpkin written on it and thinks “ooh, score. I can buy Pumpkin in bulk now.” Imagine her surprise when her husband asks why she got Pumpkin Porter when she doesn’t like beer. Please tell me you read that in a Sophia Petrillo voice? Golden Girls is still one of my favorite shows. If you haven’t watched The Golden Girls, stop what you’re doing and go watch.

But, back to this bread. I look at the box of pumpkin porter and think WTF am I gonna do with this crap? And then it hits me, beer bread. Baking bread is not my strong suit. But beer bread is so much easier because you don’t have to worry about proofing the bread and making the yeast all happy because….beer.

For this recipe, I added in oats because I thought oats and fall and pumpkin go together. This takes about 10 minutes to prep and an hour to bake. I added 1 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour-oats mixture. I used brown sugar to give a little sweetness but not a lot to be overpowering. Ok, I really added the brown sugar because I was out of white sugar. Hard to believe I ran out of sugar before holiday baking season hit. I added a splash of rice milk to bring it all together because I’m at a higher altitude and I needed the extra moisture. If you’re not a half-mile above sea level, you probably don’t need the splash of rice milk.

I sliced the bread and served it with an amazing honey mustard chicken, green beans and a baked sweet potato for a very yummy feast.

Pumpkin Porter Oat Bread

Simple and easy beer bread perfect for fall.

  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (plus some extra to sprinkle on top)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 12 oz can of pumpkin porter beer
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 splash rice milk if needed.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  2. Mix dry ingredients with a fork to break up clumps

  3. Add beer to dry ingredients and mix well.  If the mixture is too dry, add a splash of rice milk, or milk if that’s what you have.

  4. Transfer mixture to a greased loaf pan.  Pour melted butter on top of loaf and sprinkle with oats (optional).  Bake at 350 F for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool a bit before serving.

  5. I like to have this warm with butter all melted in the bread.  So so so good.

Pecan Praline Shortbread Bars

A tribute to my Cajun heritage……

History of Pralines

pralines

Pralines made by my sister

Pralines are a French dessert typically made with almonds or hazelnuts. Legend has it that pecan pralines became “a thing” when Ursuline nuns tossed pecans into the praline mixture because they had no almonds or hazelnuts. Others claim that pralines were named for the Duke of Choiseul-Praslin in France where pralines originated as one of those happy accidents….you know, like the discovery of penicillin. What we do know is that pecan pralines are truly a New Orleans dessert that were made famous thanks to African-American women who are credited with not only creating the shape of the pecan praline but also the recipe of the pralines we know today. New Orleans pralines have such a rich history and tradition as one of the first street foods. The shape and appearance of the praline has been compared to the murky swamps of Louisiana. The history of pecans has strong ties to the African-American culture as emancipated slaves made the pralines as a means of income. For more on this rich history, click here to read a wonderfully written article detailing the cultural ties of one of New Orleans signature desserts. Recipes were passed down from generation to generation and many families had their own recipe as a closely held secret.

Growing up all over the state of Louisiana, my fondest memories were always visiting my grandparents in LaPlace, LA. We would drive all day and arrive when it was dark outside. I remember walking into their house right into the kitchen where my grandmother would be standing at the stove cooking gumbo or rice and gravy. Thinking of the aroma of the food cooking on the stove takes me back to those days. The long green table in the kitchen/dining room where bourre games would go long into the night while my sister and I slept on the sofa bed in the next room; sitting on the red swing outside and petting Smokey, their gray cat; driving in the car sitting between my grandparents in the middle seat that was in the front of the car because I was the youngest. The case of cookies my grandfather had from his friend who worked for Nabisco who we affectionately called “the cookie man.” And the food…..all family visits and family gatherings were centered around the food. There was always a pot of something on the stove (gumbo, red beans, etouffee) that was served over rice, which was in the other pot on the stove and a big bowl of potato salad that would be spooned on top of the gumbo. Sometimes we’d cover the green table with newspaper and have a shrimp boil with potatoes and corn or a crawfish boil. I remember after the crawfish boil, the women of the family would sit around the table gathering up all the leftover crawfish meat (from the tails) and save all the abdomen shells and other parts to make a crawfish stock or a shrimp stock and stuff later for making etouffee.

Pecan pralines and red velvet cake were had on special occasions. I can remember my mom making pralines every Christmas for us to have. We always knew when the kitchen counters were covered with newspaper and wax paper on top what was happening that day. We also knew to stay out of the kitchen and not bother my mom because cooking pralines was a bit of a delicacy. My grandmother’s recipe doesn’t have any kind of cooking time associated with it. She could just feel it when the pralines were ready. This is the same recipe that has been passed down to all of us and I have far more trouble “feeling” my way to making pralines. Maybe with more practice….Instead, I have started making other pecan praline desserts. The dessert I have for this blog post is a pecan praline shortbread bar. I love love love shortbread and pralines so marrying the two together seemed like it could be a match made in heaven. And boy, was I right. If I may toot my own horn, these bars are so rich and tasty. Have a cup of coffee or a glass of milk with these babies.

Pecan Praline Shortbread Bars

For this recipe, I used a standard shortbread recipe like the one you can find here.

Pecan Praline Shortbread Bars

A yummy twist on a New Orleans favorite. 

  • 1 c butter (softened)
  • 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c half & half
  • 1/2 c pecans
  • 1 pinch salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Beat 1 cup softened butter until creamy.  Add in powdered sugar and beat butter and powdered sugar until they are combined.  Add 1 tsp vanilla and beat until vanilla is incorporated into the butter powdered sugar mix. Add in flour 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition to mix the flour.  You may have to fold in the last bit of flour with your hands or a spatula.  Press shortbread into bar mold or into an 8×8 pan.  For the bar pan, I make sure to leave a little bit of room for toppings.  With a fork, make some hold in the shortbread.  Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes.  I like to leave these a bit underdone so they are soft and chewy.

  2. While the shortbread is cooling, make the praline topping.  Melt 2 Tbsp. butter and 1/2 c. brown sugar in a small pan over medium heat.  Add in a pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon.  Slowly add in half and half and whisk until incorporated. Cook for an additional 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Add pecans if you want to at this stage and let the mixture cool to room temperature.  Alternatively, place pecans on top of shortbread bars.  When the mixture has cooled, remove shortbread bars to a wire rack.  Pour praline mixture over the top of the bars and let it set for about 10-15 minutes.

My Pecan Praline Shortbread Bars

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. If you make them, drop a comment to let me know how they turn out.

 

Cheers!

The Nerdy Cajun Chef

DIY Popsicles

DIY Popsicles

Ah, popsicles……frozen, messy treats that were the perfect treat on a hot summer day as a child.  We used to love hearing the ice cream truck music and beg our mom to let us get a treat.  Of course, the best popsicles were the ones in the bags because no sticky hands and no accidentally losing a chunk of popsicle when it fell off the stick.  I have fallen in love with the Pampered Chef Quicksicle maker because I can make my own frozen concoctions with only about 10 minutes in the freezer.  Moms out there will know that a 10 minute wait can sometimes save the day (especially when kids are hot, thirsty & hungry).  Oh, who am I kidding?!  A 10 minute wait saves the day when adults are hot, thirsty & hungry too.  Continuing on in my series of freezer treats, I give you an epic list of popsicle flavors to try at home.  There are even some boozysicles (is that a word?) for the adults.  Check out my tips for making your own popsicles first to help save you from the failures I had trying to make some of these.

Untitled design (13)Tips for Making Your Own Popsicles:

1. Use fruit juice or chocolate milk

2. If making “adult” popsicles (AKA ones with alcohol), use no more than 1 Tbsp. alcohol in each pop.

3. Fruit should be thinly sliced.

4. Before pouring liquids into the mold, make sure they are chilled so you don’t heat up your freezer molds.

5. Add a bit of a natural sweetener to something that is sugar-free.

6. Use fruit that is thinly sliced instead of the whole fruit (this is true for berries too).

7. If you are using alcohol, carbonated beverages, puddings, yogurt and/or ice cream, make sure to blend these mixtures with something else (fruit juice, for example).

8. For recipes with granulated sugar, dissolve in water and heat on the stove to make a simple syrup.  Then proceed with blending, pureeing, processing, whatever you like for the rest of the recipe.

For more tips on making your own popsicles (or paletas), check out this article from Epicurious.  Also, their blackberry, honey & yogurt popsicle sounds heavenly.  j/s

Recipes for making your own popsicles.

Popsicles for the Family

1. Kiwi Watermelon

2. Kiwi Strawberry: Use the kiwi watermelon above but substitute pureed strawberries in place of the watermelon.

3. Watermelon mint

4. Strawberry Lemonade

5. Key lime: My super easy hack for this is to use graham crackers at the cookie sides. Then spoon some key lime yogurt in the middle and freeze. This recipe is so easy and tasty that my husband made a second batch all on his own. He does not bake y’all….like, at all.

6. Mint Chocolate Chip

7. Cake batter

8. Cookies n’ Cream

9. Lemon Icebox Pie: Using a packet of lemon pudding, mix with dairy free milk (I like the Rice Dream Enriched) according to the packet directions. Pour into freezer molds and freeze. Before serving, dip in coconut cream (for dairy free) or regular whipped cream. Sprinkle crushed graham crackers onto the whipped cream layer (or cookie crumbs) and a little lemon zest.

Lemon Pie Ice Pops

10. Orange Strawberry

Boozy Popsicles

1. Corpse Reviver: This recipe is in the current BHG magazine, so it’s not up on the web as of this post.  I’ll keep looking for it though.

2. Adult Ice Pops from the folks at Better Homes & Gardens

3. 15 Boozy Ice Pops from the folks at Buzzfeed.

4. Followed by Buzzfeed’s 23 Boozy Ice Pops That Will Get You Drunk.  (please drink some water so you don’t dehydrate though.  k?)

5. Piña Colada

Let me know if you try any of these and how they come out.

Cheers!

The Nerdy Cajun Chef

Freezer Jam

Untitled design (9)

Have you always wanted to make your own jam? Have you been afraid to use pressure canning to preserve foods (I know I am)? Have you wanted to make your own jam but didn’t want to spend a fortune purchasing a pressure canner and all the accessories? Say hello to freezer jam! Make your own favorite jam recipes and experiment with new combinations. Store in the freezer until you are ready to use and then keep in the fridge. Yummy! Below are some tips for making freezer jam along with a list of my favorites.

What do you need?

**Freezer safe glass jars or plastic jars with tight-fitting lids**

Fruit: use fruit that is in season and at its peak of freshness. You won’t be cooking the fruit so it’s important to use ripe fruits. Trust me, you’ll know if the fruit isn’t quite right with freezer jam.

Pectin: 1 packet plus 3/4 c. water.

Sugar

How to make freezer jam

  1. Prep the fruit:  wash all fruit, remove stems, pits, cores, etc and mash the fruit in a bowl with a potato masher or toss in your food processor.
  2. Add the sugar to the fruit and fold to mix.  Let this sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Add 1 packet of pectin to 3/4 c. boiling water.  Whisk the pectin until dissolved.  Remove from heat.
  4. Add pectin-water mixture to the sugar fruit mixture and stir to mix. Let the jam thicken and spoon/scoop/ladle into your freezer safe jars.

Helpful Tips  Untitled design (11)

  • Freezer jam is good in the freezer for up to 1 year (so, put a date on those jars please) or in the fridge for 3 weeks.
  • Wash and thoroughly dry all jars and lids before use.
  • Follow the steps above in order.  Pectin will not dissolve in water that is not boiling.  Also, let the fruit and sugar mingle a bit.
  • Freezer jam will not be as firm as cooked and canned jam.  Just FYI…
  • Use smaller jars.  The jam only last for 3 weeks in the fridge, so smaller amounts will be more likely to get used and not go to waste.

 

Favorite Recipes

Favorite recipes

Raspberry-Peach Freezer Jam: I love love love raspberries. This is summer in a jar people!

Clementine Jam: If you’re a citrus lover, this jam is for you AND is pectin-free!

Blood Orange Jam: I love blood oranges. I would have no trouble sitting down with a spoon and a jar of this jam and just eating it on its own. Hey, wasn’t there a Friends episode about Monica and her jam plan?

Blueberry Jam: My daughter eats blueberries by the pint and if I let her, she would eat this by the jar without hesitation. This link takes you to a printable recipe too, so an added bonus.

Piña Colada Jam: “I ordered a Mai Tai but they brought me a pina colada.”-Office Space. I have watched way too much TV I think. Every time I read piña colada, I have to read it in Milton’s voice from Office Space. In other news, if you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain….this jam might be just what you need in your freezer.

Need more ideas for freezer jam? Check out this list of 17 Freezer Jams. I’m looking forward to trying the jams with peppers added. I love the sweet and spicy combo.

Have you tried any of these recipes? Do you have a favorite freezer jam recipe that I haven’t listed here? Let me know and share the recipes. I love trying new recipes.

Cheers!

-The Nerdy Cajun Chef

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Well, we’ve entered the “feels like the surface of the sun” season out here in the Southwest. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want is a hot meal when we are dealing with record breaking heat. I’m kicking off a week of frozen treats and tips for freezing foods with this post devoted to ice cream sandwiches. Is there anything better really? These are so easy to assemble and you can really flex your creative muscle with these. I’m offering suggestions for ingredients you can mix and match to make your own dreamy treats.

Tips for making ice cream sandwiches:

Ice cream sandwiches can be tricky and I’ve had my fair share of epic fails trying to make these. Here are a few tips to help you make amazing ice cream sandwiches.

  • use soft cookies: If you’re baking cookies from scratch or using pre-made cookie dough, be sure to under bake these. If the cookies are crispy fresh out of the oven, they will be like a rock coming out of the freezer.
  • use mini-sized add-ins: Adding in chocolate chips, peanut butter cups, cookie pieces, cake pieces or any other add-in? Remember, these will freeze and become hard when frozen. I recommend using mini-chocolate chips or candies. For larger add-ins, just chop them up before mixing into the ice cream.
  • make in small batches: Because you’ll be working with melting ice cream, I recommend making small batches at a time. You can always wrap individual sandwiches in freezer paper and store them in larger containers.
  • match cookie halves in advance: There is nothing more stressful than trying to find a cookie half to complete your sandwich while ice cream melts and drips all over the place. Not that I’ve ever done that before or anything. For this reason, I love to use my Pampered Chef Ice Cream Sandwich Maker. This ensures uniform cookie halves and is easy to assemble and release. As an added bonus, you can bake your cookies, brownies, cakes, etc in this handy gadget. As an even bigger bonus, you can toss this bad boy into the dishwasher when you’re done. Holy Dishwasher Safe Kitchen Gadgets, Batman! One more thing, since these are square, buy the square shaped containers of ice cream and slice that up into squares while it’s frozen. Boom, ice cream filling to match the size of the cookie part.

What to use for the cookie part:

So many choices here to create endless possibilities for amazing desserts. My favorites include:

  • chocolate chip cookies
  • peanut butter cookies
  • waffles
  • stroopwaffle cookies
  • pies
  • brownies
  • churros
  • donuts
  • gooey butter cake cookies

There are endless possibilities for making unique ice cream sandwiches. Donuts and cake batter ice cream, lemon sorbet between sugar cookies and so many more.

My favorite flavor combinations

  1. Tiramisu: angel food cake with cappuccino ice cream. Freeze and dip in chocolate. *Friendly tip: after slicing your angel food cake, roll it with a rolling pin to flatten it out a bit.
  2. Dreamsicle: vanilla wafers and swirl orange sorbet and vanilla ice cream or orange cookies with vanilla ice cream
  3. Chocolate cake mix cookies with vanilla
  4. Brownies with peanut butter ice cream
  5. Waffles with maple ice cream or snickerdoodle ice cream
  6. Stroopwaffle cookies with coffee ice cream
  7. Chocolate cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream: Devil’s food cake mix cookies are amazing to use with mint chocolate chip ice cream.
  8. Lemon bar ice cream sandwiches: shortbread cookie/butter cookie, lemon curd and vanilla ice cream for the filling
  9. Frozen Greek yogurt: add sugar, key lime juice, key lime zest, vanilla to Greek yogurt. Freeze between graham cracker sheets. Boom, key lime pie treats. For an added treat, after freezing these, dip them in white chocolate. You can do this with blueberries, strawberries, peaches, whatever kind of fruit combo you like. You can even get really fancy and make some shortbread cookies with basil and pair with a frozen strawberry Greek yogurt mixture.
  10. S’mores: cinnamon graham cracker sheets, caramel Greek yogurt, vanilla, sugar, splash of coffee or coffee liqueur, marshmallow cream, dip in chocolate

Which ones are your favorites? Let me know how these turn out when you try them.

Cheers!

-The Nerdy Cajun Chef

Meal Prepping Post 3: Going to the store

Welcome back to the third post in a series on meal prepping and meal planning.  Today we’re going to focus on taking inventory, going to the store and meal prepping.

Check your inventory

First things first: go through your fridge and freezer and see what you have and what may need to be used up sooner.  Have some veggies that have been hanging out in your fridge for a week?  Find a recipe to use those first.

Step 2: Look to see what’s on sale.  I usually pick 1 type of meat and focus meal planning with that type of meat first.  Is ground turkey on sale?  Then we’re having turkey burgers, turkey tacos, turkey stir-fry bowls, etc.  Are whole chickens on sale?  Great, buy 2 and roast both of them.  Save the bones to make stock and use the chicken for chicken salad, soups, sandwiches, wraps, etc.

Step 3: Pick your recipes.  It seems odd that this is step 3 for going to the store, but once you see what’s on sale, you can better plan your meals.  Several of the couponing sites will post sale ads several days before the sale, giving you extra time to plan.  This is the point at which you want to evaluate your week and see what your schedule will allow you to do.  Do you have a particularly busy week coming up?  If so, select at least 1 slow cooker meal and 1 sheet pan dinner.  Are you trying to spend less money this week?  If so, google for budget dinners.  Pick at least 1 recipe to double so you have ample leftovers.

Step 4: Write a list.  Yes, really, make a list and stick to it.  Also, eat something before you go to the store.  You’ll have more patience and avoid impulse purchases because you won’t be hungry.  Include a back up plan on your list.  This will cover working late, someone getting sick, a last minute school project that must be completed, etc.  I usually grab a frozen pizza to keep in the freezer.

Step 5: Go shopping!  I prefer to go early in the day because I hate crowds.  Talk about setting off my anxiety…..

How to pick meals for the week

choosing_recipes

Welcome back, friends!  Today is post #2 in my series on meal prepping and meal planning.  Yesterday, I gave y’all some tips for stocking your pantry without breaking the bank.  Today we are going to talk meal picking strategies.  There are a few pitfalls to avoid here:

  1. choosing all new recipes to try
  2. choosing recipes with wildly different ingredient lists
  3. choosing recipes that require lots of prep and/or cook time
  4. choosing food that will not give you leftovers

 

So let me share some tips to help avoid these pitfalls, which often lead to spending more at the grocery store and/or eating out because the recipes are too time consuming.

Picking all new recipes to try

I recommend trying 1 new recipe a week.  Planning a week of all new meals can be overwhelming and very time consuming.  Pick recipes that you are comfortable with making so you don’t have to spend copious amounts of time reading complicated recipes.  Try 1 or 2 (at the most) new recipes a week to make meal prepping fun and to keep variety in your cooking.  If I get bored with the food I’m eating, I’ll start eating out.

Picking recipes with wildly different ingredient lists

Using common ingredients simplifies your meal prep and keeps your grocery bill down.  For up front prep work, common ingredients cut down on time spent in the kitchen and cut down on the grocery bill.  If you’re roasting a chicken for one meal, buy 2 chickens at the store and roast both of them.  Use the left over chicken for tacos, enchiladas, salads, sandwiches, soups, pasta dishes, etc.  Cook in the slow cooker and use the meat for tacos and add BBQ sauce to make a pulled pork sandwich (or even BBQ nachos).

Picking recipes that require a lot of cook time during the week.

If you’re spending time on the weekend prepping some food for the week, the last thing you want to do is get home late from work and have to spend an hour or more cooking dinner.  If you need chopped onions for 3 recipes, chop all the onions on the weekend.  If 2 recipes require rice, cook all the rice you need on the weekend and portion it out for meals during the week.

Pick food that will leave you with leftovers.

Hello lunch for the next day!  Leftovers can be easily portioned out and packaged up the night before to save you time in the morning.  Leftovers can be re-purposed into different recipes to add variety to your week.  This roasted chicken and vegetable soup is one of my favorites.  Roasted veggies are great in soups, on salads, in wraps, in tacos, etc.  Roast a couple pans of veggies and use those in multiple recipes.

2 bonus tips: 

1. Make sure you use up the food that needs to be eaten quickly (produce on the verge of going bad? cook with those foods first).

2. Cook food you know you like.  Seems obvious, I know but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve cooked something thinking “maybe I’ll like it this time” and then the food doesn’t even get eaten the day I cook it.  This is where the “1 new recipe a week” rule can help out too.

So, now we’ve covered stocking your pantry and avoiding pitfalls when it comes to choosing recipes for the week.  Up next, sample menus for your week of meal planning.  Stay tuned…..

Stock your pantry without breaking the bank

Meal planning made easier (1)We are gearing up for back to school time around here (year round school will be an adjustment for sure).  This means our lazy days of fixing meals at home whenever we want are few and far between.  It also means I need to get organized and crank out some meal prepping awesomeness to avoid eating takeout or fast food every night.  Not that we don’t do takeout or fast food ever, but I am desperately trying to improve our family eating habits over here.  First up, cleaning out my pantry and seriously taking stock of what we have, what we will reasonably eat and what we need.

What items do I keep stocked during the school year for meal prep and lunches?

Rice & Grains:  I rarely have all of these at the same time.  I try to rotate these around to keep the food interesting enough that we all want to eat it.

brown rice
quinoa
couscous (try Israeli couscous for a more pasta-like taste)
barley
polenta
pasta (I try to keep spaghetti and a smaller sized pasta for pasta salads)

Basic seasonings

olive oil
canola oil or grapeseed oil (these are neutral tasting oils)
apple cider vinegar
red wine vinegar
balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper
cumin
oregano
nutritional yeast
Italian seasoning blend
Southwest seasoning blend
**I stock up on seasonings and pick up 1-2 every time I shop.  I recommend curry, cinnamon, onion powder, garlic powder, garlic salt and pretty much any seasoning you can put in your spice cabinet.  Start small so you’re not breaking the bank.

Baking needs & sweeteners

white whole wheat flour
sugar: white and light brown
maple syrup
baking powder
baking soda
vanilla
cream of tartar
cocoa
cornmeal
cornstarch

Cereal & Breakfast

rolled oats
nuts: cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts (I rotate these based on what’s on sale)
sunflower seed butter (or peanut butter, cashew butter, etc)
dried fruit: craisins & blueberries are a favorite around here
applesauce
breakfast cereal

Snacks

popcorn kernels (seriously, buy these and pop your own.  Saves $$ and doesn’t come with all the nasty chemicals)
crackers
pretzels
cookies
pita chips/tortilla chips

Canned/Jarred items

salsa
chicken broth or vegetable broth
beans (dried and canned)
tomato paste
marinara
pizza sauce
jelly
mustard: yellow & dijon
ketchup

How to save money when it comes to stocking your pantry

  1. Know what you and your family like.  I try to eat clean and introduce new foods into the house, but rather than buying a whole bunch of stuff you’ve never tried, buy 1 new grain to try and stick with staples that you know will work.  Otherwise, the food sits in your pantry until it expires or you move and have to clean it out (speaking from personal experience)a
  2.  Know what’s about to expire and use that up first. 
  3. Look for sales and clip coupons. There are oodles of websites devoted to telling you the best deals at every grocery store in town every week.  These sites are huge time savers so take advantage.
  4. Make it yourself.  At some point, things become so time intensive that it’s so much easier to just buy it already made.  One example of something quick to make at home and save money at the same time are nut butters.  I bought a bag of raw cashews from Trader Joe’s for $7.99.  I used 2 cups of cashews out of the bag (still have 2 cups left in the bag) and processed this in my food processor for 10 minutes.  I can get 2 jars of cashew butter out of 1 bag of cashews making a jar of cashew butter cost me $4 a jar to make.  I’ve seen cashew butter *on sale* for $10 a jar (or more some places).  That’s an insane amount of savings for me.  Also, if you haven’t tried cashew butter, it’s seriously amazing.  So, make yourself some!
  5. Shop online.  Depending on your family’s dietary needs, buying online may be worth the membership prices.  Thrive Market has amazing deals on organic items for all different diets.  Brandless also has great prices (it’s all $3).  **I am not an affiliate for either place.  I just have experience as a customer.**

Blueberry Breakfast Bars

I have a confession to make. I love love love granola bars, but I haven’t been able to make them because every time I cut the bars, the whole thing falls apart. So, I used to be really good at making granola to go on top of yogurt, but a bar that you could easily pack in a lunch was my kryptonite. I needed something nut free and dairy free for school and my daughter’s allergy respectively. I was so excited to get my hands on this bar pan and try it out. Y’all, it did not disappoint. These bars are so good and are loaded with good things (blueberries, quinoa, oats, flax). I was so excited to pop these out of the bar pan and have them all come out with no breaking, no crumbling and no sticking to the pan.

Why oats, quinoa, flax and blueberries?

My kiddo has a dairy allergy and rarely eats meat. We have to make sure she’s getting protein, iron, calcium and all that other good stuff in her diet. Oats, quinoa and flax all have good fiber and iron. Quinoa is a great source of protein (flax and oats have protein too). Blueberries are a powerhouse in their own right with antioxidants, calcium, B-6, fiber and other nutrients.

**Also, and this is important too: I had all of these ingredients in my kitchen. It’s supposed to be 108 here today, so I’m a fan of not having to go outside to make a grocery store run.

How to make these?

I’ve put the recipe on a handy graphic for reference. I hate having to read through pages and pages and step by step instructions before I can see the recipe. So, I made this graphic and you get it with minimal scrolling through some personal story that you’re probably not interested in at the moment if you’re scrambling to find a recipe that works with what you have. At least, that’s how I feel if I’m wanting to try a recipe. Enjoy!

Interesting in the magical bar pan I used??? Click here to see what it’s all about.

Summer Soups

Chilled Soup Recipes

Continuing on with our theme of summer recipes that require minimal cooking, I present to you the chilled summer soups that will knock your socks off! I love a good gazpacho, but these soups take flavor to a whole different level. Salmorejo is one of my favorites because it is so rich. Definitely don’t skimp on the toppings for the soup. Serrano ham is fantastic with some boiled eggs and a bit of manchego cheese. Mmmmmmmm…….Here are my top 5 favorite chilled soups.

1. Salmorejo: A Spanish gazpacho with a richer, more decadent feel. Adding the crusty bread really makes this soup something special.

2. Chilled Macadamia Nut and Asparagus Soup: Ummmm, it’s macadamia nuts. Need I say more? Oh wait! There’s asparagus too. It doesn’t get much more spring/early summer than asparagus. Do you know how to tell what part of the asparagus to cut off? Just bend the asparagus until it breaks on its own. No need to guess. The asparagus will tell you.

3. Chilled Vegan Corn and Cauliflower Bisque: Ok, now this has me thinking of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine says, “No, I mentioned the bisque.” It’s the yadda yadda episode and it’s fantastic. I love this soup because it’s awesome and my daughter adores it. It’s dairy free but oh-so-good and she just devours it.

4. Thai Gazpacho: Sweet, salty, spicy….everything I love about Thai food. The coconut milk adds a richness and I love love love fresh ginger and the s-iciness it contributes.

5. Moroccan carrot bisque: I love a good, carrot bisque and I love a good chilled carrot bisque. Black peppercorn on top is a must. If you like a little extra spice, drizzle some chili oil, hot sauce or Tobasco sauce (I’m part Cajun, so Tobasco is required). Serve it warm, room temp or chilled. Along with some crusty bread and OMG this dish is amazing!

I’m still on the hunt for more chilled summer soups. A lot of the ones I see are very sweet and almost ice-cream like. This is great for a dessert, but not what I want for a light dinner. Have some favorite summer soups to recommend? Leave me a comment and a link below.