Monday, August 10, 2015

Savory Cheese & Sausage Waffles - The "All in One" Breakfast

Our family is on the go, constantly. Nearly every weekend is consumed by some fun activity - skiing, camping, traveling, etc. We love it, though it can be exhausting at times. Completely self inflicted. On the weekends we do end up staying home, it's our time to relax and get some stuff done around the house.

One of my favorite meals to cook on these lazy at-home weekends is breakfast. I have a multitude of pancake and waffle recipes that we rotate between. It's a bit of an addition, and my husband doesn't even really care for them!

Awhile back, someone mentioned the idea of adding sausage and cheese to waffles. Sounded kind of strange, but somewhat intriguing. A "multi-meal" type of breakfast affair. I gave it a whirl, adapting one of my favorite buttermilk waffle recipes, and was incredibly impressed.

These waffles are the perfect balance between fluffy buttermilk waffles with the savory goodness of seasoned sausage and a hint of cheese. Full of flavor and very filling, you'll hardly be able to make it through 1 or 2 of them. Or, if you're me, you fit a bit more in, just because.

You can bake these in a regular waffle iron, or a Belgian waffle iron. I chose Belgian, but am increasingly frustrated by how uneven mine cooks.

Also, as with all the best waffle recipes, the key to fluffiness is separating the eggs and whipping the whites into peaks. Folding them into the batter at the very end allows the air to mix into the batter, leaving you with great texture. Don't skimp here.

I especially love these because my kids really like them, and I'm able to get a bit of protein in them at the same time. A more "balanced" breakfast, if you will. They like to help prepare them, as well, even if I lose a few bits of cheese here and there from sneaky fingers.

Did I mention these freeze/store well? They are perfect for an on-the-go breakfast. Pop one in the toaster to warm it up, and head out into your day with a hearty breakfast to keep you going.

It's fairly straightforward, adapted from the incredible buttermilk waffles recipe shared by Sally's Baking Addiction.

Savory Cheese & Sausage Waffles

- 1 lb ground pork breakfast sausage
- 1 & 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 & 3/4 C buttermilk
- 1-2 C shredded cheddar cheese (depending on your love of cheese)

1. Preheat your waffle maker on medium-high heat. If you're not eating right away, preheat your oven to 200F degrees, as well, to store them while you (not so patiently) wait.
2. Brown the sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces. Similar to how you cook ground beef. Drain, and set a side to cool a bit while you prepare the rest.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, butter, and buttermilk. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and combine until smooth, taking care not to over mix.
4. Fold the sausage and cheese into the batter until mostly incorporated.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. I prefer my KitchenAid mixer with the whisk attachment. My arm appreciates it.
6. Fold gently into the batter until the sausage, cheese, and egg whites are incorporated. Err on the side of under mixing. You don't want to lose all that air in the eggs.
7. All waffle makers are different, so you'll want to pour the amount of batter you typically use. For example, 1/3 - 1/2 cup per "square" is about perfect in my Belgian maker.
8. Once they are golden brown, serve them up! A healthy dose of butter on top is great. Some don't like sausage and maple syrup together, but I do like the combo of sweet and savory.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Mint Chips

Are you ready for a cookie that's the perfect combination of chocolate goodness with a hit of mint in each bite?

Here you go.


Each year before Christmas we have a little family party to make and decorate sugar cookies. The kids love it, and so do I! This past year, I let my older son pick out a few toppings to decorate his cookies. His pick was Andes peppermint crunch mint chips, festively colored in red and white. While pretty, and tasty, they didn't quite jive with the sugar cookies. Just so you know...

Fast forward through the months, and I find myself dipping into the leftovers. They are so good! Finally, I decided we needed to get them out of there for good. I figured they would be best mixed in with chocolate, because... obviously.

This recipe is slightly different than your typical chocolate chip cookie recipe, as it uses melted butter. The addition of the cocoa powder gives it a nice brown color and rich chocolate taste throughout.

I love the mix of color in there, though I'm not sure they sell the red/white ones throughout the year. Regular Andes mint pieces would work just fine, though slightly different "mint" flavor. Still tasty!

My secret to perfectly round cookies is to use a mini ice cream scoop, which I believe may have actually been intended for cookie baking (I can't remember). It makes 2 in round balls that bake into perfectly round perfection.

It's absolutely critical these are not over baked. I'm at about 5,000ft altitude and 10 min was perfect. Let them sit for a few minutes to hold together, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Or your mouth, if you must. They will be nice and chewy on the inside, and stay that way for a few days.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Mint Chips

8 TBLS salted butter
3/4 C. sugar
1 TBLS molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2-3 TBLS cocoa powder
1.5 C. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C. Andes peppermint crunch mint pieces

1. Get the oven going - 350 degrees
2. Melt the butter in the microwave until just liquid, but not hot.
3. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the molasses, egg and vanilla. Beat on low until it all comes together, 15-20 seconds.
4.  Add the cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt and mix until it holds together in a dough. Pour in the mint pieces and incorporate gently by hand.
5. Drop onto cookie sheet in 2 in round balls. I ended up with about 25.
6. Bake 9-11 minutes. They may not spread right away, but have patience. Not too much though, you don't want to over-bake them, you'll lose the chewiness.

* If you prefer, you can substitute 1/4 C. sugar and molasses for 1/4 C. brown sugar. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Simple Facial Toner with Essential Oils

Running in the summer heat is brutal. I don't know how the south does it. Early mornings? Late nights? Treadmills? (yikes)

Outside of making a run feel tougher than it already is, it's hard on my skin. The excess sweat and heat has wreaked havoc on my face, especially since I don't always have a chance to shower immediately after a workout. So far I've been using straight Witch Hazel, but I wanted to take it up a notch.

After some poking around, I came up with a recipe I like using easy to find ingredients. While I generally use this more at night, I also use it post run. I'll splash my face with cold water, dry, and swipe with this toner.

Next up will be a moisturizer to replace my overpriced Philosophy stuff...

So, it's super easy, with a bunch of options for adding essential oils. I rounded up the different oils for various skin care needs. As you see, there are several that work across the board. You could even leave out the oils if you don't have any. The ACV and Witch Hazel are amazing on their own!

If you're not already familiar with these powerhouses, here is a bit more info...

Apple Cider Vinegar - the list is extensive, but this is a great explanation (more info here)

"There are several key attributes to ACV for maintaining beautiful skin, and exfoliation is one of them. Exfoliating is a key element for keeping youthful healthy skin. There are several ways to exfoliate, and one of them is by “digesting” dead skin cells, which the acids in ACV do. This mild cell turnover is widely used as a skin treatment to improve, soften, and smooth skin texture. The new skin layer, once revealed, is more vibrant, youthful, and healthy.

With a pH similar to skin, AVC helps restore and balance your skin’s pH and acid mantle. This too is key to healthy, beautiful skin. The acid mantle is the combination of sebum (oil) and perspiration on the skin’s surface. This barrier protects the skin and makes it less vulnerable to environmental damage (smog, sun and wind), less prone to dehydration, and also inhibits the growth of foreign bacteria and fungi (enabling skin to be healthier and have fewer breakout and blemishes. Acne, allergies and other skin problems become more severe as the skin becomes more alkaline).”Mild” soaps are often alkaline (pH 9.5-11), and remove the natural acid protection as well as extract protective lipids (fats) from the skin. Washing with soap can increase this alkaline state and make the skin even more vulnerable to irritation and infection. Most people are cleansing with products that are breaking down their acid mantle and causing increased skin issues. Balancing your pH is an imperative part of maintaining healthy skin."

Witch Hazel

So good, even the FDA approved it as a non-prescription drug ingredient. It has significant antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, it's a great natural remedy for various infliction's, including:

  • Acne/Skin disorders by cleansing and protecting the skin
  • Bruise and wound healing, due to it's ability to constrict blood vessels
  • Soothe's itchy skin as an anti-inflammatory (bug bites, diaper rash and even irritated scalp)
  • Refresh healthy skin by sealing in moisture and refining pores

What you'll need:

2 parts water (distilled/purified is best)
1 part Witch Hazel
1 part Apple Cider Vinegar
Essential Oils of choice
Glass spray bottle

The quantities are a rough estimate. In my 2 oz spray bottle, I used 2 tbls water, 1 witch hazel and 1 ACV. Feel free to adjust a bit if desired.

The batch I made had about 7 drops Lemongrass, 5 drops Frankincense and 5 drops Tea Tree. It smells mainly of Lemongrass, and any hint of vinegar/witch hazel dissipates almost immediately.

So far, I'm really enjoying it! My skin is clearing up, feels tighter (but not dry) and is super soft.

Also, if you'd like to use the same label, download the graphic below, print and adhere to bottle. Fits my 2oz bottle. Who doesn't love a free printable label!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

3 Ingredient Swiss Chard Chips

The more I find alternatives to processed snacks, the more I enjoy the healthier options over the other stuff. There are so many ways to change it up, I'm only scratching the surface.

My dad asked me raid his garden today since he'll be gone for a week. I ended up with a grocery bag full of all sorts of greens... lettuce, kale, spinach, parsley, basil, and swiss chard. Didn't seem like much until I got home, and spent an hour washing everything.

The swiss chard was the most abundant! I love the red, white, and yellow stalks.  Since I've made, and enjoyed, kale chips in the past, I thought I'd try the same method with this.

Swiss chard is a powerhouse vegetable. Packed with vitamins K, A, and C, plus a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber. What's even better? One cup of these leaves equates to merely 35 calories. How's that for a healthy snack?

Now, you may not feel these would be on par with other salty snacks, often laden with chemicals. However, you just might surprise yourself when you can't stop going back for more. Even my 2 and 4 year old son's cleared out the first batch, and that's a clincher for me.

They are so simple to make, you'll realize it's a practical way to satisfy that craving for a salty snack, while contributing to your daily dose of "green".

The great thing about this recipe is that you can be as flexible as you'd like. Try adding some garlic powder, or perhaps cayenne to kick it up a notch.

Swiss Chard Chips
- 10-12 leaves of swiss chard
- olive oil
- sea salt

Preheat oven to 325.

Wash and dry the chard as much as possible. Tear into "chip" size pieces, removing the tougher inner stalk.

In a bowl, add a bit of olive oil at a time, mixing until all the pieces are just lightly coated. Spread the pieces evenly on a baking sheet. Another option (my method), is to spread them all out on the baking sheet and spray them lightly with the misto sprayer.

Sprinkle salt, or whatever seasonings you'd prefer, evenly across the chard leaves.

Bake for 4-5 minutes, flip all the pieces and bake for another 4-5 minutes. Watch very closely as they can burn easily.

Remove from oven and allow too cool briefly before enjoying.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Finds - Recipes

I love "roundups" - a variety of posts from around the web, showcasing favorites. So, on Friday's, I'll feature a few of my favorites, tried and true, for you to explore...

This week I'll start with a few recipes I've made lately that have been a sure hit around here.

My sons love to help me in the kitchen and a recipe {mostly} allows you to just "throw it in" is perfect. This recipe for Healthy Whole Grain Carrot Coconut Morning Glory Muffins from Ambitious Kitchen is so versatile, healthy, and delicious to boot. We mix up the ingredients here and there depending on what's in the cupboard. They freeze well, too!

For something a bit more hearty, try these Pork Carnitas from Recipe Tin Eats. It's a slow cooker recipe, so it's easy! I used a bit less salt than called for, per the comments. It was perfect as tacos, or quesadillas, or straight out of the pan.

One of our go-to meals for leftovers are these White Chicken Enchiladas from Joyful Momma's Kitchen. We use plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream and they still come out amazing.

These Coconut Lover's Oatmeal Cookies, from Barefeet in the Kitchen are super easy and SO good! I actually used only 1/4 C. organic sugar and added 1 tbls molasses. I also added flax meal. Make sure you pack them really tight so they don't fall apart. If they do, call it granola.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Bars

One of the highlights of the bike ride we did last weekend was the homemade food at the stops along the way. Everything was completely home baked and absolutely amazing.

My husband doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, but he was raving about the oatmeal cranberry bars all the way down the hill. We just had to ask for the recipe, and the gal was thrilled to oblige! The catch though was that it was hastily scribbled notes on a sheet of paper. Don't those end up being the best recipes?

My neighbor has an abundance of rhubarb in her yard, so instead of cranberry, I thought I'd attempt these with strawberry and rhubarb.

It's a winner. The tartness of the fruit with the salty-sweet oatmeal mixture is so good.

Here is my adaption. It's a two part recipe, which doesn't make it as "practical", but I do prefer to make everything from scratch as much as possible. You could easily substitute with a can of whole berry cranberry sauce if that's easier for you.

In an effort to keep it a bit more "healthy", I did use half the sugar, and it was organic sugar (sugar is sugar, but this is less refined). You can also just sub brown sugar for the sugar & molasses.

Some might consider this a dessert, but you can eat for breakfast. I won't judge. However, ice cream.

Also to note - the sauce recipe makes far more than needed, but once you realize how much you've eaten right out of the bowl, it's just about right. Or, you could save it to add to oatmeal, yogurt, etc.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Bars

- 4 cups diced strawberries
  Tip: if you can't find/afford organic, add 1/2 - 1 C. vinegar to sink and fill with water until
   strawberries are covered. Soak for about 5-10 minutes to remove pesticide residue.
- 4 cups diced rhubarb
- 1 lemon, juiced
   or 2 drops Lemon Essential Oil, because you forgot to buy a lemon
- 1/2 C. sugar, add more if you prefer
- 1/4 C. water

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan.
2. Bring to a boil and let it cook on low to medium heat for about 30-45 minutes, cook less or longer depending on how thick you want it. (recommend thicker for this recipe)
3. Allow to cool prior to using in next steps

Oatmeal Bars
- 2 C. old fashioned rolled oats
- 2 C. white whole wheat flour (regular white is fine, too)
- 1/2 C. sugar
- 1 Tbl molasses
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 C. cold (salted) butter, broken into pieces
- 1 3/4 C. strawberry-rhubarb sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13x9 pan
2. Mix dry ingredients
3. Drizzle molasses and fold in
4. Use fingers or a pastry blender to mix in butter until it resembles coarse meal and holds together when squeezed
5. Spread 3/4 of mix in pan and pat down firmly
6. Cover with sauce, spreading evenly
7. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture on top of sauce
8. Bake 20-25 minutes, then allow to cool on rack

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

DIY Cooling Sunburn Relief Essential Oil Spray

Last weekend my husband and I embarked on a fundraiser mountain bike ride, "Gears for Beers". The concept was a poker run style event, but our cards were about as random as they come. It was 17 miles total, the first 6 up to the top of a mountain and the rest mostly downhill.

Since we started at 9 am I didn't think to put on sunscreen. It's Montana, not that hot, and far too early in the day to catch a burn.

I burn easily.

Needless to say, my arms were toast by the time we finished. Note for next time...

In the meantime, I wanted something more than the standard aloe for my poor skin. After perusing the internet a bit, I came up with my own version of a cooling sunburn relief spray.

I'm in love!

My skin doesn't hurt, it's not dry and flaky, and the redness calmed within a day. I might even go as far as to say it looks more tan, which is a feat for me!

Summer is in full swing, so you'll probably want to mix up your own batch. It's safe for kids, too! The recipe is for 2 oz, which will go a surprisingly long way. Naturally, adjust as you need to.

So, gather up your ingredients:

- 2 oz glass spray bottle
- Distilled Water (regular would work fine, as well)
- Aloe Vera Gel
- Lavender Essential Oil (what I use)
   (all around oil reported to be calming, soothing for skin and anti-bacterial)
- Peppermint Essential Oil (what I use)
   (Creates a natural cooling sensation and has reported antiseptic and antimicrobial properties)
The process is super simple!

Fill bottle halfway with the aloe vera gel. Add 6 drops each of the essentials oils. Fill bottle to the top with the water.

When you're ready to use it, start by giving the bottle a quick shake. Spray wherever your skin needs some love and rub it in gently.

Feel the relief.

Bonus! You can download the free printable labels I created. They are a simple design and come in 2 in (fit 2 oz bottles), 3 in and 4 in size. Print on sticker paper, or use packing tape to adhere.

Click here to download
No need to sign in, or register, just close the box with x in top right.

Note: You'll notice I use Young Living Essential Oils. I love them, I really do. A later post will give a few more details about how I chose them. If you are interested, you can order them here. You can also use the contact me box below to learn about how to purchase them at a discount (without "signing up").