Category Archives: WET PAINT

Wet Paint: Giada’s Apricot & Cranberry Chewy Granola Bars

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love granola bars.  Well, I stumbled upon another AWESOME version that may even replace my regular ones (see this link for my old favorite homemade granola bar recipe: Homemade Chocolate Oatmeal Granola Bars).

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So this new granola bar recipe comes out of Giada De Laurentiis’s “Giada’s Feel Good Food” cookbook.  Giada is a regular on the Food Network but not someone I’ve watched regularly.  I was drawn to her cookbook because her focus seemed to be yummy but healthy food.  The recipes also haven’t required a lot of ingredients I had never heard of before.  So far, I’ve made 3 or 4 of her recipes, all of them have been hits which was surprising as I have some opinionated eaters!  Ryan liked these along with both kids.  After their first bite, the kids kept clamoring for more of the bars.  It actually cracked me up!

Back to these granola bars, I know I’ll be making them often as I can’t get enough of them and they’re a great snack or breakfast option.  I LOVE, love, LoVe that there is no sugar in this recipe (she utilizes honey) and that flaxseed meal is included (extra Omegas anyone?).  This recipe also made me realize how amazing walnuts are!  And the granola bar recipe requires parchment paper, which I’ve had in my kitchen FOREVER, and rarely use.  I love that I can use it up making something YUMMY!  Ah, it’s the little joys in life…

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Giada’s Apricot & Cranberry Chewy Granola Bar Recipe

Ingredients:

¾ cup of honey

1 tsp. salt

½ cup of grapeseed oil *

½ cup chopped almonds

½ cup walnuts

3 lg. egg whites at room temperature

½ tsp. vanilla

2 cups rolled oats

½ cups flaxseed meal

2 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

1/3 cup raisins

½ cup unsweetened dried cranberries

6 dried apricots—cut into ½ inch pieces (I used dried mangos I had on hand)

*Ever since I started cooking with Wildtree products, I’ve become a fan of grapeseed oil. The first time I made these bars, I only had Wildtree’s Lemon Zesty Grapeseed Oil in my pantry so I used it.  It was absolutely DELICIOUS.  The second time I made these bars, I did half lemon grapeseed oil and half coconut oil and the bars stayed together better.

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 and ensure oven rack is in the middle of oven. Spray baking dish.  Line the bottom and sides of the baking dish with parchment paper.  Spray the paper with cooking spray too.  104_4080

In a large bowl, whisk together honey, oil, egg whites, and vanilla until smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, flaxseed, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Pour oat mixture into the honey mixture and stir until coated. 

 

Stir in the nuts and fruit. 104_4066

 

 

 

 

Transfer mixture to the baking dish.  Press the bars down.  Bake until light golden, about 35 minutes.  Put baking dish on wire rack to cool for about a half hour.  Cut into one inch square bars.

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Wet Paint: Costco Sweet Kale Salad & KIND Bars

Wow, I have not written anything on this blog since last October.  Crazy!  Life got so busy and since I was writing reports for work, I was not motivated to write on the blog too.  How’ve you been? I absolutely cannot believe it’s May already.  Summer is around the corner.

Speaking of summer, today I wanted to share two foods I absolutely love that are perfect for spring and summer eating.  One is a super easy salad that will travel really well–for a picnic or a get-together with friends.  The other works well as a snack to eat on the go or something you can toss in your backpack when going to the park with the kids or on a long hike.

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The first one is Costco’s Sweet Kale Salad, one of my all-time favorite salads.  It was actually the reason I got a Costco membership, it was that good!  I originally experienced the awesomeness of this salad when a friend brought it to our small group at church.  Over the coming months, she’d bring it again and again when we had dinner together because everyone would rave about it.  And every time she’d bring the salad, I’d ask for the recipe.  Yep, now that I’m a mom, my memory is shot!!!!  Any other mothers out there that can relate?  Anyway, every time I’d ask, she’d remind me that it was a pre-made salad kit she got at Costco.  So I tried to get my friends who did the Costco thing to buy it for me when they went, but because I wanted it so often, this was not a good solution!  So I decided to go directly to the source and have been enjoying a Costco membership ever since!  One more note about the salad itself, not only is it delicious, it also contains SEVEN super foods!  Check it out!

The second food I’ve fallen in love with in the past six months is KIND Bars.  I was first introduced to them through Evan’s feeding therapist.  She had a friend at the KIND company who would give her samples to share with others.  I loved KIND bars from the first time I tried them and pretty soon I was not just looking forward to Evan’s feeding therapy appointments for the practical help but also for the KIND bars the therapist would bring along!  : )

What’s the deal with KIND bars?  Not only are they absolutely delicious, but they are a healthier alternative to typical granola bars out there.  KIND bars are made mostly of nuts and do not have much sugar which is opposite of most other store-bought granola bars.  And they have so many creative flavors, so many that I’m not going to list them all here but I’ll give a few examples: Maple Glazed Pecan & Sea Salt, Madagascar Vanilla Almond, Cranberry Almond, Blueberry Vanilla & Cashew, Apple Cinnamon & Pecan, and Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan.

I’m a chocolate-aholic so imagine my surprise when my favorite KIND bars were non-chocolate ones.  The one that first got me hooked was Cranberry Almond, but I have also fallen in love with the Maple Glazed and the Blueberry ones.

Where can you get KIND Bars?  I originally started buying them at our local natural food store, Natural Grocers-Vitamin Cottage, but have also seen them at Sprouts and Target.  They’re located in the nutritional bar/nutrition supplements section at most stores.  I’m going to warn you, they’re more expensive than a typical granola bar but they’re so much better for you too!  You can also purchase them through Amazon in mass quantities and if you utilize Amazon Prime to get free shipping, the cost per bar is significantly cheaper than buying it in a store.

Evan’s feeding therapist passed my info onto her contact at KIND and imagine my awe when I opened our front door one day to find a huge box FULL of boxes of KIND bars.  I didn’t keep them all for myself, I was KIND and shared the love.  I almost felt like I was a KIND bar dealer, trying to get people hooked with free ones so they would go out and buy more.  Go out and get yourself one….or a box of them.  I guarantee you that you won’t regret it!

WET Paint–Michael Buble, Gwenyth Paltrow, Basil, and Me…

Sorry that it’s been so long!  A lot to juggle with school starting, working some again, and MOPs starting.  Here’s a WET Paint post (i.e. things I’m trying or applying to my life).  Since it’s been so long, I’ll have three things to apply on this post….

A friend sent me an e-card that introduced me to Michael Buble.  I know, I know, he’s big right now but I’ve never really listened to him and now I’m wondering why….

So, liking the song in the e-card, I got one of his CDs from the library and liked several songs but fell in love with his song “Everything” (I’ve included the link for the music video below–check it out).   I listened to it over and over in the car today as we ran errands and some of the words made me think of Ryan…

You’re a falling star, You’re the getaway car. You’re the line in the sand when I go too far.
You’re the swimming pool, on an August day.
And you’re the perfect thing to say.

And you play it coy, But it’s kinda cute.
Ah, When you smile at me you know exactly what you do.
Baby don’t pretend, that you don’t know it’s true.
Cause you can see it when I look at you.

And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times
It’s you, it’s you, You make me sing.
You’re every line, you’re every word, you’re everything.

You’re a carousel, you’re a wishing well,
And you light me up, when you ring my bell.
You’re a mystery, you’re from outer space,
You’re every minute of my everyday.

And I can’t believe, uh that I’m your man,!
And I get to kiss you baby just because I can.
Whatever comes our way, ah we’ll see it through,
And you know that’s what our love can do.

And in this crazy life, and through these crazy times
It’s you, it’s you, You make me sing
You’re every line, you’re every word, you’re everything.

The more I listened to this song (I can listen to songs I like over and over and over–it drives Ryan CRAZY), it made me think about not just Ryan, but also Evan and Makenna.  Because this is a crazy life and crazy times but they are my everything…and it made me smile!

So I decided to listen to this song while I wrote this blog entry and there was Evan looking all cute so we started to dance together.   He had so much fun dancing with his mom, he asked to do it again two more times!  And in the midst of the giggles and spins and smiles, he told me he was going to marry me because he loves me!  Now that was a first…he’s wanted to marry Makenna before but never me…precious!

So that’s my first WET PAINT item in here: listen to more Michael Buble and dance with my kids.  I need to get my husband to dance with me too.  As he’s not one for dancing, I may need to get him a little liquored up!

Number #2….Mango & Avocado Salad with Balsamic-Lime Vinaigrette (thanks GP!)

IMAG0034So I heard about Gwenyth Paltrow’s cookbook, It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great and was intrigued so I got it from the library.  The whole preface to the book explains what’s special about her recipes…after she went one a hard core elimination diet to address some health issues and felt way better.  Then she took her family members to a special doctor and found that they ALL needed to eliminate all these things from their diet too so Gwenyth became on a mission to cook more healthy but also wanted the dishes to be delicious.  I was skeptical…both that her whole family was allergic to all the main food allergens and that her recipes would be delicious.  On the first point I’ll say “to each their own” and on the second point, I decided to make some of her food and see.  All the recipes I’ve made have been DELICIOUS.  Some have been a little time intensive and I’ve done things I’ve never done before, like steam chicken in aromatic steam, but I’m open to experimenting….

Here’s one of my favorites and it’s simple.  Once you have made it once, you’ll have everything you need to make it again besides the mango and avocado.  Since I buy avocadoes religiously, I only needed to grab mango this time….I pair it with a simple salmon filet with minimal spicing.  I was unsure whether Ryan would like this because it is pretty light and seems a bit odd, but both times he’s RAVED over it…

Mango & Avocado Salad with Balsamic-Lime Vinaigrette
Serves 4 (courtesy of Gwenyth Paltrow)

2 ripe mango, peeled, pitted & thinly sliced (I confess, I went on my own blog for the link on how to peel mangoes, AGAIN)
2 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted & thinly sliced
Coarse Sea Salt
Small handful of fresh basil leaves (this is my #3 WET Paint—I’ve been keeping a live basil plant around–IMAG0035it smells AMAZING, provides the basil I need, and I haven’t killed it yet!)
 
Balsamic-lime vinaigrette:
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Brown Rice Syrup (I just used maple)
1 Tbsp lime juice
¼ c. plus 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Coarse Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

To make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, syrup, and lime juice together in a mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Buble + Paltrow = One Amazing Friday Night!

Life is crazy but good!

Wet Paint–Peanut Butter and Oatmeal, Gooey Goodness!

I have always loved peanut butter and adored oatmeal.  Put them together in something and I’m in heaven!  So today I’m sharing two of my favorite recipes that combine them.  Bonus: both recipes can easily be made dairy-free.
When I came across this first recipe for Peanut Butter Breakfast Pudding by Chocolate Covered Katie on Pinterest (Link to Original Recipe), I couldn’t wait to try it.  And it lived up to and exceeded my expectations! It is delicious, warm, gooey goodness!  On top of that, it is healthy and easy to make.

Ryan’s assessment of it?  “Too much peanut butter” to which I said, “How can there ever be too much peanut butter?”  So while I won’t be making it for Ryan, I will continue to make it for myself and for Makenna, who finished off Ryan’s portion with delight!


Peanut Butter Breakfast Pudding

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk of choice (almond is the lowest calorie)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 a ripe banana
  • 1-2 tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • honey
  • optional: chocolate chips

 

1.) The original recipe says “cook the oatmeal” like normal.  I had to google how to do that as I’ve always just made instant oatmeal in those packets for myself!  So for those who don’t know: combine the oats, milk, and salt in a small pan on the stove.  Cook for approximately five minutes on medium heat (until it starts to bubble, some of the milk has evaporated, and the oats look “wet” or tender).  Or microwave same ingredients on high for 2 or 3 minutes.

2.) Using a blender or ninja chop, mix together the peanut butter, banana, honey (just drizzle a bit), and vanilla.

3.) Add half of your cooked oats to the ingredients in the ninja chop.  Puree until it is smooth.

4.) Add the unblended oats (left for texture, I love it!).  If you want more banana, cut up the remaining 1/2 banana on top.

I have made this for breakfast, lunch, and dessert (obviously not on the same day–I love peanut butter and oatmeal but not that much)!  And to save myself from cleaning an extra dish, I’ll actually eat it straight from the ninja chop container…which causes Ryan to roll his eyes at me.  : )

For those who are wondering about calories (especially because of the oats and p.b.), when made with almond milk, it comes out to about 330 – 350 calories (without chocolate chips).  I was adding extra banana and 1 1/2 Tbsp of peanut butter, but when I want to watch my calories, I lower the amount of both.

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My other favorite recipe combining these two delicious ingredients is Homemade Chewy Granola Bars!  These granola bars are delicious, hearty, chewy goodness!  The only downside is that I can rarely stop at eating just one!

This recipe originally came from the Jezierski family about 13 years ago.  I have made it so many times, I almost know it by heart.  It is my favorite granola recipe hands down!  I’ve changed a few ingredients to work for our family so I’m writing the recipe how I usually make it while noting the original ingredients in parenthesis.

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey (or corn syrup)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or butter)
2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup wheat germ (or flaxseed meal)
3 cups of oats
3/4 – 1 cup chocolate chips or M&Ms (depends on how much chocolate you want in the bars)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
optional ingredients: 2T sesame seeds, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 c. coconut, 1/2 c. raisins

 

1.) Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, peanut butter, honey, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Blend well.

If you’ve never used coconut oil before, it usually comes in a glass jar and is solid.  To melt the coconut oil, set the glass container in a bowl or pan full of hot water for a few minutes.

Melting coconut oil in pan in sink

2.) Add remaining ingredients.

I usually “sample” the granola bars at this point
to make sure they taste right! : )

3.) Press into pan.

4.) Bake 15-20 minutes (until the edges are starting to turn a light brown).

Like I said, DELICIOUS, Portable, Chewy Goodness!  Enjoy!

Note: Honey doesn’t seem to hold the bars together well without the coconut oil.  So if you’re using butter, use corn syrup.

Since posting this, I’ve continued to experiment and have found that you can replace the brown sugar with Truvia Baking Blend.  According to Truvia’s instructions, use half the amount of sugar called for (so in this recipe it’d be 1/2 cup of Truvia Baking Blend).

What are your favorite peanut butter and oatmeal recipes?

WET PAINT …Removing Age Spots…

…from our cookie sheet. 

When I saw this link on Pinterest:  New Life for Old Cookie Sheets, I was intrigued.  Ryan and I own a really old cookie sheet that has tons of gunk on it that won’t come off, regardless of the scrubbing.  I don’t have much power in my scrubbing, but Ryan does, and even with his muscles, a speckled cookie sheet remains.  We don’t use it that often, usually only for things that we don’t want to bake on our new cookie sheet.  And when we use it, we put tin foil between the food and the speckled cookie sheet.

So, I thought, what an awesome way to surprise Ryan.  I’ll clean off this old cookie sheet and he’ll see it and be astounded by my homemaking skills! 

1.)    Sprinkle baking soda and hydrogen peroxide on your cookie sheet (she recommends a layer of baking soda, then some hydrogen peroxide, and then another layer of baking soda)

2.)    Let it sit for hours—no scrubbing necessary! So I did steps one and two.  This concoction sat on our speckled cookie sheet for HOURS.  At least three.  And there was not a noticeable difference.  So I thought, “maybe I didn’t add enough baking soda.  She did recommend two layers…” and proceeded to empty the remainder of my baking soda box onto the cookie sheet.  And let it sit the remainder of the day.

When Ryan came home, he found a cookie sheet with a crusty, dry layer of baking soda on it sitting on our counter.  I explained what I had tried to do and he was hopeful that something had happened as we saw a few areas of the baking soda that looked slightly brown. 

So with eager anticipation, we scraped off the baking soda and, I’ll admit, I did some scrubbing despite the “how to” post saying you didn’t need to, just in case our speckles were worse than the poster’s.  I wanted success, not a repeat of earlier.   
Was our speckled cookie sheet now pristine?  Um, no.  After removing the copious amounts of baking soda, we discovered our cookie sheet, speckled as ever!  Well, there appeared to be a small improvement in the top left corner, but that was it.

 

Did I impress my husband?  No.  Did I provide an opportunity for a good laugh? Yes.  Guess that was good enough!  And guess it was time to get some new baking soda anyway….

Have any of you de-gunked your cookie sheets?  If so, what were your tricks?   

Curious why these posts are called “Wet Paint”?  Here’s the original posting that explains it all…Wet Paint?

Washing the Washer? (Wet Paint)

How many of you deep clean your washing machine regularly?  I see one, two…four hands in the air.  Wow, that many.  Good for you!  You all probably keep spring cleaning checklists, right?  Me, not so much…until recently, I hadn’t been deep cleaning my washing machine and I don’t have laminated spring cleaning checklists…maybe I should, but I don’t.   Ryan even has a photo on his phone of me vacuuming since I do it so rarely.  That’s something he enjoys doing, me not so much.  It works well for us. 
Anyway, I had never even thought about cleaning the inside of my washing machine.  The outside, yes, but the inside?  What would you clean it with?  And why?  Wouldn’t something that has soap and water running through it constantly be inherently clean?  

Well, add into the equation a child with eating issues.  Eating issues and a very sensitive gag reflex.  Let’s just say our washing machine and our wet vac ended up becoming two of our most used machines the past few years.  And our washing machine started to smell.  It was GROSS.  I ran some bleach through a full hot water washing cycle but it didn’t do the trick.  I was at a loss.    

Then a few months later, I stumbled on the following link on Pinterest:  How to Clean Your Top Loader Washing Machine.  At this point I was willing to do anything to address the issue.  And this didn’t sound too hard or expensive.  It would just take some intentionality and time.  About two hours.  That didn’t seem to be asking too much to rid me of a problem that was driving me crazy.

Here’s the quick and “dirty” (I couldn’t resist) on cleaning your (top loading) washing machine:
·         Fill up your washing machine with hot water.  Add a whole quart of chlorine bleach.  Let the machine run for a few moments, then let it sit for an hour.
·         Next, let the washing machine finish its longest cycle.
·         Fill the washing machine a second time with hot water.  This time add a quart of white vinegar.  Let the machine run for a few moments, then let it sit for another hour.
·         Again, let the machine do its longest cycle.
It worked!  The smell went away.  And after giving the outside of the machine some attention,
we had a pristine washing machine, inside and out.  Awesome! 

The above link states that your washing machine should be cleaned like this twice a year.  I

know I’ve done ours more than twice a year because its needed it. 
What about you, have you ever deep cleaned your washer?  Any additional tips for those of us
who are new at doing so?

WET PAINT…The Pantry Challenge?

So confession time.  I’ve had a boxed thai dinner mix sitting in my pantry for YEARS.  If I remember correctly, it may have moved with me from Chicago to Colorado Springs in early 2005 and then moved with us from Colorado Springs to Denver in 2007.  It proceeded to hang out in our pantry for several more years until I tossed it out in 2010 or 2011!  What a waste of money and space!  I hate wasting money, I hate wasting food but didn’t want to make it because it was way past its expiration date. 
One thing I’ve started to notice as I’ve started to coupon and watch our pennies is how much food we truly have and how much goes to waste.  Not just the thai dinner mix, but also leftovers in the fridge and produce going bad before we are able to eat it all.  So in the past few years, I’ve really worked on wasting less.  And since I have a stockpile of food (you save money purchasing things proactively—when it’s on sale and you have a coupon vs. reactively—when you’re craving something that night or the recipe calls for it but it’s not on sale and you don’t have a coupon), I’ve needed to have a better understanding of everything that sits in my pantry.  I’ve also started to write expiration dates on my items in my stock pile so I can use them chronologically and write on containers in my fridge when I opened or started
I’m not one of those couponers who buys everything that’s on sale or a good deal.  I mostly use coupons to save money on things we already eat or use.  Occasionally I’ll buy a new product that is a great deal, but for the most part, I stick with our regular grocery list. 
Enter the Pantry Challenge.  What is this you ask?  Well, I found the concept on a blog I read occasionally called Life as Mom.  This blog is full of great ideas for saving money, eating cheap but well, and family life.  I’ve gleaned a lot from this blog the past few years, but one of my favorite things is the Pantry Challenge.  Check out these links to read more from the source: Preparing for the Pantry Challenge and Lessons Learned from Pantry Challenge.
Basically every year the Life as Mom author takes a month and “eats down” her pantry.  Why?  She identifies three reasons she does so: 1.) to use what we have, 2.) to rotate stock, and 3.) to save money.  Because, let’s be honest, we often forget what is in our pantry. 
Another reason I like this challenge is because it also challenges one to be creative.  One of my favorite shows is Chopped on the Food Network.  If you’ve never seen it, you’re missing out.  The show involves four chefs competing for a $10,000 prize.  They are given four random ingredients and a set time to come up with one cohesive, delicious, and good looking dish.  They do this for an appetizer, a dinner, and a dessert with a chef being eliminated at each stage in the meal.  I liked the idea of the Pantry Challengebecause it has a Chopped vibe to it.  What could I make with black beans, cheese crackers, and canned pumpkin?  Kidding, its not that severe, but it does make you think outside of the box to use what you have in your pantry.  And it’s not a far leap to add a “freezer challenge” and “fridge challenge” into the mix. 

I didn’t do this challenge as structured as Life as Mom, but occasionally I will take a week and intentionally “eat down” our freezer or pantry.  It’s made me much more aware of what we have, but also better at meal planning too. 
What can I make with quinoa as it’s been sitting in our pantry? 
Oh yeah, we have Nebraska steaks tucked away in the corner of the freezer, let’s have that for dinner…
Wow, I still have four meals sitting in my freezer from my last freezer meal endeavor… that’s four meals this week! 
And the more I am intentional about using the food we already have, the less likely I’ll impulsively spend at the grocery store or choose to get takeout…both cheaper and healthier for our family…
So, how about you… 
  • How well do you know your pantry contents?  Your freezer? 
  • What strategies do you use to make sure you are utilizing the food you already have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry?
  • What is the longest time you have held onto a food item? 

WET PAINT…The Pantry Challenge?

So confession time.  I’ve had a boxed thai dinner mix sitting in my pantry for YEARS.  If I remember correctly, it may have moved with me from Chicago to Colorado Springs in early 2005 and then moved with us from Colorado Springs to Denver in 2007.  It proceeded to hang out in our pantry for several more years until I tossed it out in 2010 or 2011!  What a waste of money and space!  I hate wasting money, I hate wasting food but didn’t want to make it because it was way past its expiration date. 
One thing I’ve started to notice as I’ve started to coupon and watch our pennies is how much food we truly have and how much goes to waste.  Not just the thai dinner mix, but also leftovers in the fridge and produce going bad before we are able to eat it all.  So in the past few years, I’ve really worked on wasting less.  And since I have a stockpile of food (you save money purchasing things proactively—when it’s on sale and you have a coupon vs. reactively—when you’re craving something that night or the recipe calls for it but it’s not on sale and you don’t have a coupon), I’ve needed to have a better understanding of everything that sits in my pantry.  I’ve also started to write expiration dates on my items in my stock pile so I can use them chronologically and write on containers in my fridge when I opened or started
I’m not one of those couponers who buys everything that’s on sale or a good deal.  I mostly use coupons to save money on things we already eat or use.  Occasionally I’ll buy a new product that is a great deal, but for the most part, I stick with our regular grocery list. 
Enter the Pantry Challenge.  What is this you ask?  Well, I found the concept on a blog I read occasionally called Life as Mom.  This blog is full of great ideas for saving money, eating cheap but well, and family life.  I’ve gleaned a lot from this blog the past few years, but one of my favorite things is the Pantry Challenge.  Check out these links to read more from the source: Preparing for the Pantry Challenge and Lessons Learned from Pantry Challenge.
Basically every year the Life as Mom author takes a month and “eats down” her pantry.  Why?  She identifies three reasons she does so: 1.) to use what we have, 2.) to rotate stock, and 3.) to save money.  Because, let’s be honest, we often forget what is in our pantry. 
Another reason I like this challenge is because it also challenges one to be creative.  One of my favorite shows is Chopped on the Food Network.  If you’ve never seen it, you’re missing out.  The show involves four chefs competing for a $10,000 prize.  They are given four random ingredients and a set time to come up with one cohesive, delicious, and good looking dish.  They do this for an appetizer, a dinner, and a dessert with a chef being eliminated at each stage in the meal.  I liked the idea of the Pantry Challengebecause it has a Chopped vibe to it.  What could I make with black beans, cheese crackers, and canned pumpkin?  Kidding, its not that severe, but it does make you think outside of the box to use what you have in your pantry.  And it’s not a far leap to add a “freezer challenge” and “fridge challenge” into the mix. 

I didn’t do this challenge as structured as Life as Mom, but occasionally I will take a week and intentionally “eat down” our freezer or pantry.  It’s made me much more aware of what we have, but also better at meal planning too. 
What can I make with quinoa as it’s been sitting in our pantry? 
Oh yeah, we have Nebraska steaks tucked away in the corner of the freezer, let’s have that for dinner…
Wow, I still have four meals sitting in my freezer from my last freezer meal endeavor… that’s four meals this week! 
And the more I am intentional about using the food we already have, the less likely I’ll impulsively spend at the grocery store or choose to get takeout…both cheaper and healthier for our family…
So, how about you… 
  • How well do you know your pantry contents?  Your freezer? 
  • What strategies do you use to make sure you are utilizing the food you already have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry?
  • What is the longest time you have held onto a food item? 

The Most Expensive Brownies, EVER (Wet Paint)

My sister, Shannon, told me about a Paleo candy bar her friend made the other day that was DELICIOUS and shared that they seemed much healthier for you than other bars or sweets.  I’ve seen the word “Paleo” all over, especially on Pinterest, but had no clue what it was.  Shannon told me that it was low-to-no-carb, no-gluten, and non-dairy which interested me because I avoid dairy and as I’m trying to lose weight, the low-carb thing might be a good thing.  That was the extent of my Paleo research!  Well, a bit more, the other night I was at Natural Grocers and overheard a woman tell another woman that the Paleo lifestyle is “eating how cavemen ate”.  Huh? 

Anyway, I was intrigued by Shannon’s experience so I looked into Paleo candy bar recipes on Pinterest.  Then I remembered that I had also seen Paleo Brownies so I checked out those recipes too.  Interesting that cavemen ate candy bars and brownies, right?

I thought I might as well pin both recipes and decide later which one to try out.  One night when I was in the mood to experiment in the kitchen (and had a hankering for dessert—let’s be honest, that hankering happens pretty often), I checked in with Ryan to see what he was in the mood for.  We both agreed that the brownie option sounded better so that’s the direction I headed.  Here’s the original posting for the recipe I used:  Easy Peas-y Paleo Brownies.

I didn’t think much of the ingredient list when I first read through it.  Then I ran to pick up the two ingredients I needed and it started to sink in.  Here’s the ingredient list, see what sticks out to you:

Ingredients:

1 cup pure maple syrup ($8.35)
¾ cup natural cocoa powder (had in our pantry)
1 cup almond butter ($8.79)
2 tsp vanilla extract (had in our pantry)
½ tsp baking powder (had in our pantry)
½ tsp salt (had in our pantry)
1 egg (in our fridge)
¼ cup dark chocolate chips (in our pantry)
So those of you who know my thrifty, couponing ways are probably thinking, “why in the heck
did you go ahead with these brownies?”  Well, two reasons, 1.) I was curious about how in the
world you’d get yummy, “healthier” brownies from these ingredients and 2.) I was now
cravingbrownies!  But look at the prices of the two of the ingredients I ran to get, they total
$17.00!  The syrup was 8 ½ ounces and you needed to use 8 ounces (one cup) in your recipe. 
The recipe called for about half of almond butter in the container I bought.  So I guess you could
say that the almond butter cost $4.40 for this recipe….but that is still $12.00 brownies!  My
thoughts…they’d better be worth it!
Directions:
I’ve included the recipe’s instructions with my own comments in italics.

 1.) Heat syrup on low heat on the stove. Stir in cocoa powder over low heat until smooth. This was weird.  At first my cocoa powder just sat on top of the syrup.  It kind of looked like an oil spill!  Even stirring it round and round, it just hung out on top.  I decided to “fold” the powder into the syrup and that seemed to help the two ingredients mix together.

2.) Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients until thoroughly mixed.  Adding the salt, vanilla, and baking powder didn’t seem like a big deal, but adding the large amount of almond butter was very interesting!  It was a big glob that required a lot of stirring to blend in, but eventually it disappeared into the dark batter.

 

3.) Pour into an 8×8 baking pan greased with olive oil or coconut oil. Or spray Pam on it quickly.  Bake at 325F for 40-50 minutes.  Why is the temperature underlined?  Well because I added 100 degrees to it…yep, I cooked our EXPENSIVE brownies at 425.  And even when it smelled like something was BURNING in the oven, I didn’t think anything of it…just thought, “huh, must be the weird ingredients cooking which makes it smell different”…it probably didn’t help that I was juggling cleaning the kitchen, putting Evan to bed, putting Evan back in bed (2x), and keeping an eye on the brownies at the same time!  I guess I’m lucky I didn’t burn down the house, right?

4.) Use a toothpick to make sure it’s cooked through. I could definitely SKIP this step, ours was not just done, but OVERDONE!  Cool before cutting/serving. For us, I needed to make sure I cut and served it BEFORE it cooled and hardened!

So how did it all end? 
Ryan was game for trying out the messed-up, expensive brownies!  And I was definitely going to
try them because I wasn’t going to make them again after realizing how much they’d cost!!!  They
were not going to go to waste. 
The square portion was an edge piece we each tried, the lumpy portion was the chewy stuff from the
middle of the pan! Ice cream brought some moisture to drier-than-normal brownies…
We were both surprised that the brownies were still good.  They were more cakey than they
should have been but the middle part of the brownie pan was moist and chewy, in my opinion,
yummy!  There was also a slightly bitter taste at times—likely from some of the edges burning. 
But maybe we’ll just call that a dark, dark, dark chocolate flavor or a hint of espresso?  Maybe
not.  In the end, Ryan concluded that the $2.00 brownie mix bought at the local grocery store
was just fine for him.   
After all of this, I went back to the original posting to see if anyone else had concerns about how
much it cost to make these brownies and I found some interesting things in the comment
section.  Some suggested using honey or agave nectar instead of syrup not just for the cost
effective element but also because either may be lower on the glycemic index.  The author also
said that instead of using almond butter, you could use any other nut butter, including peanut
butter, which sounded not only cheaper and definitely yummy to me.  So we’ll see, I might take
another shot at Paleo Brownies, using this recipe with the adaptations, or try out another recipe
found on Pinterest because just because I have to avoid dairy shouldn’t mean that I have to give
brownies up, right?
And for those of you who are wondering how many calories were in these brownies made with
so much syrup and almond butter, someone in the comments section indicated that there may
be as much as 1730 calories in the whole pan.  That seemed crazy to me, but Ryan calculated
that it’d probably be about 200 calories per serving.   
Ever had a Pinterest idea go wrong?  Would love to hear about your experience.  I’ve heard there
are actual blogs devoted to these types of adventures! : )

The Most Expensive Brownies, EVER (Wet Paint)

My sister, Shannon, told me about a Paleo candy bar her friend made the other day that was DELICIOUS and shared that they seemed much healthier for you than other bars or sweets.  I’ve seen the word “Paleo” all over, especially on Pinterest, but had no clue what it was.  Shannon told me that it was low-to-no-carb, no-gluten, and non-dairy which interested me because I avoid dairy and as I’m trying to lose weight, the low-carb thing might be a good thing.  That was the extent of my Paleo research!  Well, a bit more, the other night I was at Natural Grocers and overheard a woman tell another woman that the Paleo lifestyle is “eating how cavemen ate”.  Huh? 

Anyway, I was intrigued by Shannon’s experience so I looked into Paleo candy bar recipes on Pinterest.  Then I remembered that I had also seen Paleo Brownies so I checked out those recipes too.  Interesting that cavemen ate candy bars and brownies, right?

I thought I might as well pin both recipes and decide later which one to try out.  One night when I was in the mood to experiment in the kitchen (and had a hankering for dessert—let’s be honest, that hankering happens pretty often), I checked in with Ryan to see what he was in the mood for.  We both agreed that the brownie option sounded better so that’s the direction I headed.  Here’s the original posting for the recipe I used:  Easy Peas-y Paleo Brownies.

I didn’t think much of the ingredient list when I first read through it.  Then I ran to pick up the two ingredients I needed and it started to sink in.  Here’s the ingredient list, see what sticks out to you:

Ingredients:

1 cup pure maple syrup ($8.35)
¾ cup natural cocoa powder (had in our pantry)
1 cup almond butter ($8.79)
2 tsp vanilla extract (had in our pantry)
½ tsp baking powder (had in our pantry)
½ tsp salt (had in our pantry)
1 egg (in our fridge)
¼ cup dark chocolate chips (in our pantry)
So those of you who know my thrifty, couponing ways are probably thinking, “why in the heck
did you go ahead with these brownies?”  Well, two reasons, 1.) I was curious about how in the
world you’d get yummy, “healthier” brownies from these ingredients and 2.) I was now
cravingbrownies!  But look at the prices of the two of the ingredients I ran to get, they total
$17.00!  The syrup was 8 ½ ounces and you needed to use 8 ounces (one cup) in your recipe. 
The recipe called for about half of almond butter in the container I bought.  So I guess you could
say that the almond butter cost $4.40 for this recipe….but that is still $12.00 brownies!  My
thoughts…they’d better be worth it!
Directions:
I’ve included the recipe’s instructions with my own comments in italics.

 1.) Heat syrup on low heat on the stove. Stir in cocoa powder over low heat until smooth. This was weird.  At first my cocoa powder just sat on top of the syrup.  It kind of looked like an oil spill!  Even stirring it round and round, it just hung out on top.  I decided to “fold” the powder into the syrup and that seemed to help the two ingredients mix together.

2.) Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients until thoroughly mixed.  Adding the salt, vanilla, and baking powder didn’t seem like a big deal, but adding the large amount of almond butter was very interesting!  It was a big glob that required a lot of stirring to blend in, but eventually it disappeared into the dark batter.

 

3.) Pour into an 8×8 baking pan greased with olive oil or coconut oil. Or spray Pam on it quickly.  Bake at 325F for 40-50 minutes.  Why is the temperature underlined?  Well because I added 100 degrees to it…yep, I cooked our EXPENSIVE brownies at 425.  And even when it smelled like something was BURNING in the oven, I didn’t think anything of it…just thought, “huh, must be the weird ingredients cooking which makes it smell different”…it probably didn’t help that I was juggling cleaning the kitchen, putting Evan to bed, putting Evan back in bed (2x), and keeping an eye on the brownies at the same time!  I guess I’m lucky I didn’t burn down the house, right?

4.) Use a toothpick to make sure it’s cooked through. I could definitely SKIP this step, ours was not just done, but OVERDONE!  Cool before cutting/serving. For us, I needed to make sure I cut and served it BEFORE it cooled and hardened!

So how did it all end? 
Ryan was game for trying out the messed-up, expensive brownies!  And I was definitely going to
try them because I wasn’t going to make them again after realizing how much they’d cost!!!  They
were not going to go to waste. 
The square portion was an edge piece we each tried, the lumpy portion was the chewy stuff from the
middle of the pan! Ice cream brought some moisture to drier-than-normal brownies…
We were both surprised that the brownies were still good.  They were more cakey than they
should have been but the middle part of the brownie pan was moist and chewy, in my opinion,
yummy!  There was also a slightly bitter taste at times—likely from some of the edges burning. 
But maybe we’ll just call that a dark, dark, dark chocolate flavor or a hint of espresso?  Maybe
not.  In the end, Ryan concluded that the $2.00 brownie mix bought at the local grocery store
was just fine for him.   
After all of this, I went back to the original posting to see if anyone else had concerns about how
much it cost to make these brownies and I found some interesting things in the comment
section.  Some suggested using honey or agave nectar instead of syrup not just for the cost
effective element but also because either may be lower on the glycemic index.  The author also
said that instead of using almond butter, you could use any other nut butter, including peanut
butter, which sounded not only cheaper and definitely yummy to me.  So we’ll see, I might take
another shot at Paleo Brownies, using this recipe with the adaptations, or try out another recipe
found on Pinterest because just because I have to avoid dairy shouldn’t mean that I have to give
brownies up, right?
And for those of you who are wondering how many calories were in these brownies made with
so much syrup and almond butter, someone in the comments section indicated that there may
be as much as 1730 calories in the whole pan.  That seemed crazy to me, but Ryan calculated
that it’d probably be about 200 calories per serving.   
Ever had a Pinterest idea go wrong?  Would love to hear about your experience.  I’ve heard there
are actual blogs devoted to these types of adventures! : )