I have learned a little trick through the years in baking and cooking. Most of the time, the amount of sugar called for in a recipe can be cut by a fourth and no one will notice it is missing. Well, with this recipe, I cut two-thirds of the sugar out, and no one has ever mentioned a word. It is still plenty sweet, incredibly delicious, but not really that nutritious. And that’s ok. This is a dish which makes an appearance once or twice a year at holidays, so we enjoy this as a special treat. I hope you enjoy this slightly more wholesome version of Pretzel Jell-O as much as the Andersen family does!
Strawberry Pretzel Jell-O (Reduced Sugar)
2 Cups Pretzels, crushed into 1/2 pieces
2 Tablespoons Sugar
3/4 Cup Butter, melted
8 oz. package Original Cream Cheese
1/3 Cup Sugar
8 oz. Can Crushed Pineapple, drained
8 oz. Heavy Whipping Cream
6 oz. Strawberry Jell-O
2 Cups Boiling water
20 oz. Frozen Strawberries, sliced
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small mixing bowl combine crushed pretzels, melted butter and sugar. Mix until pretzels are well-coated. Press mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
2. With an electric mixture, beat to whipping cream until firm peaks form. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and pineapple together. Fold the whipped cream into the mixture.
3. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the pretzel crust. Make sure you completely seal the crust with this layer. Otherwise, the Jell-O layer will seep through and make the pretzel crust become soggy. Chill this layer in the freezer while preparing the Jell-O layer.
4. Set the Jell-O with 2 Cups of boiling water, stirring until the sugars are totally dissolved. Mix the frozen strawberries into the Jell-O and let set until the mixture becomes syrupy. Slowly pour this mixture over the cream cheese layer.
5. Set the Jell-O overnight. Cut into squares and use a metal spatula to serve.
Does anyone else get a bit weary of the same old side dishes at summer barbecues? The chips and watermelon just aren’t cutting it for me lately, so I decided to mix it up with these super easy vegetable kabobs. They add some nice nutrition and color to an otherwise ordinary meal. Below is my fail-proof recipe for perfect vegetable kabobs. Enjoy!
Grilled Vegetable Kabobs
2 Yams, sliced
2 Zucchini Squash,
2 Red Onions,
2 Red Bell Peppers,
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Seasoned Salt
1. Soak 12 bamboo skewers in a pan of water while preparing vegetables. This helps to prevent the skewers from burning during the grilling process.
2. Prepare yams by peeling and slicing them into 3/4-inch thick rounds. In a microwave safe bowl, cook the potatoes for 90 seconds. Mix and cook another 90 seconds. Set aside.
3. Slice zucchini into 3/4-inch thick rounds. Chop bell peppers and red onions into large, 2 inch pieces.
4. Combine all vegetables in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Mix just until vegetables are coated.
5. Stack vegetables onto skewers. Be sure to leave just a sliver of space between each vegetable so that the heat will be able to cook between them.
6. Heat an outdoor grill to 450 degrees. Grill the kabobs by turning each skewer with tongs 4 times, cooking for 3 minutes between turns. The potatoes should be soft but not mushy. The zucchini, onions and peppers, should be crisp-tender. Sprinkle with additional seasoned salt if desired. Serve immediately.
This Summer heat combined with being 30+ weeks pregnant is challenging me. Whew! All I want to eat these days is smoothies and anything cold or frozen. Naturally, I was really craving a fudgsicle on a particularly hot day a couple weeks ago, so the kids and I made homemade pudding and froze it overnight in our ice pop molds. We made both vanilla and chocolate, and they were SO GOOD! My 5-year-old took a lick of hers, tipped her head back and exclaimed, “I’m in HEAVEN!” After you taste these, you will agree they are WAY better than any store brand. And since this is a nutrition blog, I should mention that two pudding pops have about 15% your daily value of Calcium. And, true to form, I cut some of the sugar out of the original recipe. So that’s awesome, right?! I hope you enjoy this yummy frozen treat this summer!
1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch (and Cocoa Powder if you are making the chocolate flavor). Stir in Milk.
2. Cook and stir mixture continually over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove pan from heat.
3. Gradually stir 1 cup of hot milk mixture into bowl of egg yolks. Add egg mixture to milk mixture in pan. Bring milk mixture to a gentle boil and reduce heat to low. Cook and continue stirring for 2 minutes more.
4. Remove pan from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
5. Use a ladle to spoon pudding into popsicle molds and tightly secure the lid. Place in a freezer for 8 hours or overnight. Rinse outside of popsicle mold with warm water for about 20 seconds before removing pudding pop from the mold.
I never struggle to get my kids to eat their salad when I serve this one. It has classic, kid-friendly ingredients like cheddar cheese and bacon, but also contains some pretty awesome sources of fiber and vitamins in the peas and fresh romaine. The secret to making this taste so good is the green onions. Yum. Try this one on your kids and let me know how it goes. Enjoy!
Sweet Pea and Bacon Ranch Salad
8 Cups Romaine Lettuce, chopped
1 1/2 Cups Frozen Peas, thawed*
3/4 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/4 Cup Green Onions, sliced thin
1/4 Cup Hormel Real Bacon Pieces
1/4 Cup Ranch Dressing (See directions and notes)
Directions: 1. Prepare Ranch Dressing: In a large jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine 1 Cup Mayonnaise, 1 Cup Greek Yogurt and 1 Packet (3 Tablespoons) Dry Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Seasoning. Shake or stir until well mixed. This can store in the fridge up to 2 weeks.
2. In a large bowl, mix just the lettuce with 1/4 Cup Ranch Dressing. Top with remaining ingredients. Drizzle with more dressing as desired.
*Notes: I thaw my frozen peas by placing them in a strainer and rinsing with hot water. Use a few paper towels to dab the peas dry before adding to the salad. Also, you can use prepared Ranch dressing, but I SWEAR it tastes so much better when you make your own from the dry seasoning packet.
Several Sundays a year, this dish makes an appearance on our dinner table. It’s a perfect Sunday dinner because it’s healthy, full of vegetables, and it can be assembled in the slow-cooker and ready to eat when we return from Church. Or, it can be made in a jiffy in the Instant Pot after Church with little effort and planning. And, of course, it tastes amazing, so I always feel confident serving this to our Sunday dinner guests. We love to eat this with mashed potatoes, but you could do rice or egg noodles as well. Enjoy!
Instant Pot Marinara Chicken Over Mashed Potatoes
3 Pounds Chicken Breasts* (see notes)
1 Can (24 ounces) Pasta Sauce*
1 Can (8 ounces) Tomato Sauce
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 medium Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 1/2 Cups Carrots, sliced
1 medium Zucchini (1 Cup), chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons COLD water
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
8 Cups Prepared Mashed Potatoes for Serving
Instant Pot Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients except half the water, cornstarch, and mashed potatoes in Instant Pot. Mix well so the chicken is coated.
2. Secure lid and select the [Manual] or [Pressure Cook] setting on the Instant Pot. Adjust to [Low Pressure] setting for 15 minutes. If your chicken is larger pieces, increase the cooking time to 18 minutes.
3. When the cycle is finished, allow the steam to naturally release, about 15 minutes before opening. Cut chicken breasts with shears or a metal spoon into 1-inch pieces.
4. Meanwhile, mix the remaining 2 Tablespoons of COLD water with cornstarch until mixture is smooth.
5. Change setting to [Sautee] and add the corn starch mixture to the marinara chicken. Stir until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.
6. Serve over hot mashed potatoes or noodles.
Slow-Cooker Directions: 1. Use THAWED chicken breasts for this method. Combine all ingredients except ALL the water, cornstarch, and mashed potatoes in Instant Pot. Mix well so the chicken is coated.
2. Cover with lid and cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours.
3. Before serving, stir together just 2 Tablespoons water and 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch in a small bowl until mixture is smooth.
4. Increase heat to HIGH and stir into marinara chicken. Cook an additional 15 minutes or until sauce thickens.
5. Serve over prepared mashed potatoes or noodles.
Serves 6 to 8.
*Notes: Remember to use frozen chicken for the Instant Pot Pressure Cook method and thawed chicken for the Slow-Cooker Method. My favorite marinara sauce is Hunts Garlic and Herb because it contains no added sugar. Also, I have made this before when my Instant Pot alerted me that it was beginning to burn. If this happens to you, simply press the [Cancel] button, carefully remove the lid, add 2 more Tablespoons of water, and give the chicken a few stirs. Replace the lid and resume to pressure cooking process.
This salad is worth every bit of the labor it takes to make it. Seriously! It is the spinach salad of ALL spinach salads! It’s got sweet, savory, salty and zesty flavors that work together to make a party in your mouth! I bring this to summer barbecues and serve it to dinner guests alike. Mel over at melskitchencafe.com first introduced me to a version of this salad. I have altered hers so many times that it has my little stamp on it. Everyone LOVES this salad. I hope you do too. Enjoy!
Apple and Bacon Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Salad 16 ounces fresh Spinach
1 Gala or Honey Crisp Apple, diced*
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/4 Cup Red Onion, sliced thin
1/4 Cup Bacon Pieces*
1/2 Cup Feta Cheese Crumbles
Seasoned Glazed Walnuts 1 Cup Walnut Halves
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Dash Cayenne Pepper
Balsamic Vinaigrette 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced Garlic*
salt and pepper to taste
Directions: 1. Warm a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Place onion slices in the pan and cover with a lid. Steep the onions until they become tender. Mix occasionally to prevent scorching. You may need to also add a couple drips of water. This helps take the zing out of the onions without losing their flavor. Let cool on a cutting board.
2. Meanwhile, combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar. With a tight-fitting lid, shake until well-combined. Set aside.
3. Over medium-high heat, warm sugar, salt and cayenne pepper in a nonstick pan until the sugar begins to melt. Give it a little mix until all the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and add the walnuts. Stir until nuts are coated.
4. Let the nuts cool on a cutting board before chopping into pea-sized pieces.
5. Using a large mixing bowl, mix spinach with just 1/3 cup dressing. (A bigger mixing bowl allows for more space to get every leaf of spinach coated with dressing.
6. Top spinach with remaining salad ingredients and glazed nuts. Drizzle another tablespoon or two of dressing before serving.
Makes 8 to 10 side servings.
*Notes: I have subbed out the apples for pears, plums or peaches in the past and each is delicious! You can be flexible with the fruit you use. My favorite way to have bacon is in the form of Real Hormel Bacon Pieces (see link below.) I will forever and always have a problem with the smell that lingers in my kitchen after cooking bacon. This is the best kind I have tasted, because it’s the real stuff. So that’s that. Also, if I have some on hand, I like to use garlic-infused olive oil to make this dressing because it saves me a step and tastes just as good.
Coming up with names for my food is so hard. This one is my attempt to tell you that there is more sauce and chunky tomatoes in here than meat. I’m not a fan of marinara made with lots of meat and only a tint of tomato, because I like my pasta to be juicy. And, of course, I am the type who uses meat for flavor and not typically as the main dish. Anyways, this sauce is amazing. It’s healthy, flavorful, and perfect for a busy day when you need a meal that can be prepped ahead of time. Enjoy!
Saucy Spaghetti Sauce
1 Cup Onion, chopped
1/2 Cup Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1/2 Cup Celery, Chopped
1/2 Cup Carrot
2 Cloves Garlic
1/2 Cup Mild Italian Sausage, cooked*
1/2 Cup Ground Beef, cooked*
8 Cups Diced Tomatoes, (Four 15-ounce cans), undrained
1 6-ounce Can Tomato Sauce
1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dried Marjoram
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil (or 1 Tablespoon Dry)
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
8 ounces Whole Grain Spaghetti
8 ounces White Spaghetti
Freshly Shredded Parmesan
1. In a food processor, finely chop the onion, bell pepper, celery, carrot and garlic. Pour vegetables into a large stock pot along with the sausage and beef. Cook until meat is not longer pink or frozen. *See notes.
2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, covered. Remove lid and let simmer another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add fresh basil and vinegar.
3. Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package directions. Top cooked pasta with sauce and a sprinkle of freshly shredded parmesan.
Pair your spaghetti with a dark green salad like my Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette to make this a complete meal.
*Notes: I often cook my ground sausage and meats 1 pound at a time. Whatever I don’t use goes into 1 cup portions in a zipper baggie, and I freeze it for later use. The amount called for here would be about 1/8 pound each of beef and sausage if cooking it from a raw state.
This year marks my 10th Mother’s Day. Wow. I’m getting old. I feel like the longer I have been a mother, the less I think I know. I laugh at the fact that I used to tell my In-laws how to feed their children based on the textbooks I was reading in school. They would respond by saying, “We’ll see how that works when you actuallyhave kids.” Each of my four children are so different. Some of them eat anything I put in front of them while others protest much of what I make. One of my children is a natural athlete, while the other is an artist. I have one child who prefers wearing a swimsuit year-round, while another refuses to go swimming without a shirt on. One of my children is a ninja in a 3-year-olds body and another is a prima ballerina in the making.
Motherhood has been a fun, challenging, exciting, harrowing, happy, depressing, (enter a gazillion more adjectives here) ride. Nothing has helped me more on my journey than the people around me, supporting me along the way. So, when I get asked what my Wish List is for Mother’s Day, it’s never full of tangible items. Seriously, (I sound like my mom when I say this) all I want for Mother’s Day is peaceful, happy children. That’s it really. Well, and maybe a day of no dishes.
As cute as that sounds, I know there are a lot of sons, daughters, husbands, neighbors, grandkids out there looking for gift ideas for the mothers in their lives. So, I have put together my top 10 list of the most-used items in my home to share with you. Most are for the kitchen, because that is where I spend 85% of my time at home. So if you are looking for the perfect gift for the Moms in your life, maybe there’s something on this list for her. Affliate Links Included.
I use this EVERY. Single. Day. It cuts meal prep time in half! (Pun intended.) I use it to make fresh salsa, ranch eggs, stir fry, salads, and anything else you can think of that needs prepping before a meal. This is $20 bucks very well spent.
This is another kitchen tool that appears on my kitchen counter almost daily. Whether it’s pancakes for breakfast, quesadillas for lunch, or burgers for dinner, this thing is always in use. We have been through a lot of cheap griddles, but this one has lasted the test of time (2 years so far). This is a smart investment of $30 if you are asking me.
While I am not totally in love with this blender, it has to be mentioned that I use this at least every other day for a morning smoothie. I’ve had it for 6 years and it is still running strong. Pretty impressive for a $30 blender.
I use the Instant Pot weekly, and I brag about its features all the time. Most frequently, I am pressure-cooking dry beans with it. It is so impressive the way it can cook two pounds of dry beans in less than 45 minutes. I feel like that feature alone is going to save me money in the long run. I also make a lot of chicken in my Instant Pot. Usually, it is on those days when I forget to take chicken out of the freezer and dinner needs to be on the table within an hour that the Instant Pot comes to my rescue. I have made many chicken dinners from freezer to table in 30 minutes with this beloved appliance of mine.
Now here’s an appliance that I definitely cannot live without. I used to tell people that making bread was too hard for me, and I would just succumb to store-bought bread for my family. That was before I received my Bosch last Christmas. Now I am a bread-making machine! In the winter, I bake bread weekly, and in the summer I make pizza dough every Friday with my Bosch. It saves so much moolah to make my own doughs and breads. And, seriously, what says “home” better than a batch of homemade bread baking in the oven? Or cookies? Or pizza? Or cinnamon rolls? The recipes are endless and WAY simpler with my Bosch mixer.
With the Bosch, I highly recommend purchasing the Food Processor Attachment. I make my own pesto sauce, spaghetti sauce, black bean brownies, hummus, and more with my food processor. In the summer when my garden is laden with zucchini, I shred it up in no time with the shredding blade. If you are planning to buy a Bosch, this attachment is a must!
While we are on the subject of blenders, there’s one more your Mother might like for her kitchen, and that’s an immersion blender. It’s nice to have one of these for when making a large pot of soup on the stove. Instead of pouring piping hot soup into a countertop blender (I’ve been burned a couple times attempting that task), just dip the wand of your immersion blender into the pot and go to town. I also use this a lot when I am sneaking vegetables like sweet potatoes or butternut squash into my cheese sauces. After the sauce is prepared, I pour the cooked veggies into the pan and puree it all together. That way, those sneaky veggies go completely unnoticed!
After my brother-in-law came back from his two-year Church mission in Italy, he made me promise to never buy bottled parmesan ever again. I have followed his counsel and never regretted it. Freshly shredded parmesan has so much more flavor than the bottled stuff! Shredding by hand can be annoying though, so I found this Zyliss Classic Rotary Cheese Grater and it has made the process so much faster. My kids love taking a turn to shred parmesan for me now and then too. I top lots of different pastas and soups with shredded parmesan, and it is a key ingredient in pesto and alfredo sauce—all of which make regular appearances on our table. Thus, a good rotary grater is a must-have item in the Andersen Family kitchen.
My wheat grinder is a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law about 8 years ago. She used it for a couple decades before that. The one linked above is a newer version of mine, so I can’t vouch 100% for this specific model, but I can tell you that the Wonder Mill (Formerly Whisper Mill) brand is a good one. I grind my own wheat to make flour for pancakes, muffins, pizza, bread, and more. I have even made cornmeal out of popcorn kernels before. This appliance can be spotted on my counter at least twice a week.
Lastly, I can’t make a list of all my favorite appliances and tools for my home without including what I call my “sanity booster.” The messes that get tracked into my home from four (soon to be five) busy kiddos can really send a compulsive cleaner like me into frequent anxiety attacks. If you know me at all, you know I am not exaggerating here. My oldest was a car-sick baby, and I was constantly cleaning puke from the upholstery of our vehicles with a bucket of soapy water. One day, my friend offered to let me use her Bissell to take care of the mess. After that I was sold! Santa left one under the tree for me that Christmas and my sanity has been greater ever since. From potty training accidents, couch stains, Spring Cleaning carpets, and spills on my white rug, the Bissell has never failed to take care of the mess. I justified the cost of this vacuum considering it usually costs around $150 to get my carpets cleaned once or twice a year. I feel like my carpets are just as clean or cleaner when I do them myself with the Bissell, so it pays for itself after just a year on carpet cleaning alone.
So there you have it, folks! All my favorite tools and appliances in one spot. Now, make sure you hug that Mom of yours extra tight this year. She does a lot more for you than you know.
Remember that one time when I had one dinner planned, but it wasn’t quite fancy enough for the company that was coming over in just an hour? That’s when I pulled my Instant Pot out and threw together this incredibly delicious dinner from FROZEN* chicken in 45 minutes. Whew! Dodged that bullet! It’s the best. day. EVER. when you find a quick fix like this that pleases the masses at the dinner table. I like to serve this chicken over Brown Rice with a green salad to make it a complete meal. Enjoy!
Instant Pot Teriyaki Orange Chicken with Walnuts and Green Onions
4 FROZEN* Chicken Breasts (2 pounds)
1 Cup Water
1 teaspoon Chicken Better Than Bouillon
1/4 Cup Teriyaki Sauce
3 Cloves garlic, minced
3/4 Cup Orange Marmalade*
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 Cup Green Onions, sliced
1/2 Cup Walnuts, chopped
4 Cups Hot Cooked Brown Rice (2 cups dry)
1. Add COLD water, bouillon, teriyaki sauce, garlic, marmalade, and cornstarch to a large mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Make sure the water is cold. If you use hot water the cornstarch will encapsulate itself and never dissolve into the mixture.
2. Secure the mason lid and shake the sauce mixture until the cornstarch and bouillon are completely dissolved.
3. Place frozen chicken breasts on the bottom of the Instant Pot bowl. Pour sauce over top and turn the breasts to coat.
4. Secure the Instant Pot lid and press the [Manual] or [Pressure Cook] button. Adjust the pressure to high pressure and set the cooking time for 15 minutes. If your breasts are extra large, you may want to increase the cooking time to 18 minutes.
5. When the pressure cook setting ends, let the steam naturally release for 25 to 30 minutes or until the red steam button indicator is fully depressed.
6. Cut chicken into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Garnish chicken with green onions and walnuts. Serve atop cooked Brown Rice.
Makes 8 servings.
*Notes: This recipe is designed specifically for frozen chicken cooked on the high pressure setting of an Instant Pot. The slow cooker setting will require thawed chicken and 1/2 extra cup of water. Also, with the Orange Marmalade, I prefer Smucker’s Natural Orange Marmalade Fruit Spread, because it contains no High Fructose Corn Syrup.
If you are in the mood for a sweet and tart treat, this is the one for you! This recipe is a slight modification of one given to me by a friend in college. I only took out a teeny bit of sugar so it would have more lemony zing to it. Unlike most of my recipes in the treats category, I have not substituted any applesauce for fat, whole wheat flour for white, or flaxseed for eggs. This is just a good ol’ pastry. That’s probably why my husband made the comment after tasting this, “You know, when you actually try to bake, you are really good at it.” Ha! Well, I hope you like this too. Enjoy!
Tart Lemon Squares
2 Cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Cold Butter, cut into eighths
1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 1/2 Cups White Sugar
1/3 teaspoon Salt
Extra Powdered Sugar for dusting the tops
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan and set aside.
2. For the crust, mix together flour, powdered sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and can be pressed together.
3. Press the mixture evenly into the greased pan, and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown on the edges.
4. Meanwhile, whisk together flour and lemon juice until flour is completely dissolved. Then add eggs, sugar, and salt until sugar is completely dissolved.
5. When the crust is golden, pull it out on the oven rack and pour the lemon/egg mixture over the crust. Decrease the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is springy to the touch, between 25 and 30 minutes.
6. Cool completely in a refrigerator or freezer. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into 2-inch squares before serving.