A Little Day-Dreaming

Every Wednesday morning an alarm goes off to remind us to feed our sourdough starter. About 24 hours later, our starter is active, bubbly, and ready to turn into sourdough pizza dough. The dough ferments in the fridge for 72 hours & is ready just in time for our traditional Sunday night family dinner. Sunday afternoons are busy with the whole family helping get ready for our pizza feast. Joel fires up the pizza oven and all 5 kids help me in the kitchen chopping veggies and making salads.

Every year I set baking goals because there are so many things I want to learn to bake or bake better. 2018 was the year of pizza!  I set a goal to make pizza for our family every week. By the end of 2018, we had settled into Sunday Night Pizza Night & had become pros at making homemade pizza. We enjoyed the project so much that we also built a wood-fired pizza oven in our backyard.  Over the last 3-½ years, we have experimented with a variety of flours, sauces, dough recipes, toppings, and more!

At some point we became confident enough in our pizza-making skills that we started hosting dinner parties for our friends & family as well as a local gardening company. May 2021, was a turning point for me. I was approached to teach a pizza demo class which was sponsored by a local church. Women drove as far as 30 minutes & invited their friends and moms to also attend. With just a couple posts on Facebook that only my friends could see, I filled my backyard with women eager to learn how to make homemade pizza. Women stayed for 3-½ hours learning, socializing, and tasting everything from pizzas to salads and homemade desserts. I often day-dream of owning a local bakery or food truck, but after that night, I realized that I have a deep passion for teaching others how to cook & enjoying delicious food with people I love.

I plan to take advantage of the hot summer months by putting together a business plan for how I can continue to teach cooking classes at my home & be prepared to start when the weather cools off this fall. Advertising, menus, hired help, improving my website, and so much more need to be thought through. I have feared moving forward with something like this in the past for fear of rejection or a lack of interest. It is also sometimes challenging to decide on a price point and ask people to pay for my services, but after the response I received for my first class, I’d love to give it a go & see where it takes me!

Out-Of-This-World Rice Krispie Treats

Truth: I’ve eaten a lot of not-so-great Rice Krispie Treats in my life! At some point, I was determined to come up with a recipe that I loved … chewy, gooey, & flavorful!!

My Rice Krispie Treats are out-of-this-world because I use browned butter, a lower ratio of crispy rice cereal, and a French coarse grey sea salt.

One of my favorite places to eat these … backstage between symphony concerts!! Shhhh!! They pack well in my sack dinner, help me avoid the store-bought cookies offered to me {cause if I’m going to eat a treat, it better taste really good!}, & they make me happy!

Out-Of-This-World Rice Krispie Treats

I love Le Guerandais Coarse Grey Sea Salt in the recipe. At the time of me publishing this recipe, Amazon is selling it for a good price with free overnight shipping. You can also use Google to see what other stores are currently selling this special salt. At this time, I can not make any recommendations for salt substitutes, but I can promise this salt is worth the Amazon purchase!!

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 -10 oz. bags of {fresh!} mini marshmallows
  • 8-8-1/2 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 1 heaping teaspoon coarse grey sea salt (like Le Guerandais)

Directions

  1. Prepare a 9×13-inch pan by spraying it with coconut oil. {Avocado oil or butter should work great too!}
  2. In a large pot, melt two sticks of butter. Once the butter is melted, allow it to continue to cook on a low or medium-low temperature in order to brown the butter. Browned butter will turn a light-brown or caramel color, it will smell nutty, and have a thin layer of foam on top of the butter. Watch the browned butter closely because it can go from browned to burnt quickly.
  3. Remove your pot from the heat. To the melted, browned butter, add all the marshmallows & stir until all the marshmallows are melted.
  4. Mix in the salt & crispy rice cereal. Continue to stir the mixture until all the cereal is coated with marshmallow.
  5. Pour the marshmallow-cereal mixture into the prepared pan. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about an hour to cool. Cut into bars & enjoy! Store leftovers in an air-tight container or wrap leftovers tightly in plastic wrap.

To purchase the French grey sea salt from Amazon , click on the photo below.

Classic Carrot Cake

We love cake at our house! We love spice cakes at our house! In fact, my husband Joel often requests carrot cake for his birthday treat. Over the years, we’ve tried a number of recipes, but we keep coming back to this recipe, so I decided to make a few changes to take our favorite recipe from great to amazing!!

This classic carrot cake recipe has incredible flavor, texture, and the frosting is the perfect marriage. I am NOT typically a fan of frosting. It often detracts from the dessert it is paired with & is almost always much too sweet for me. Maybe I’m a party pooper but I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember!

Have you tried coconut oil yet? You may notice that I replaced the fat with coconut oil. Coconut oil is my new favorite fat to add to cakes! It doesn’t leave the cake feeling oily & a good coconut oil is much better for your body than vegetable or canola oil. If you’re not sure about the flavor of coconut, I promise that you will not taste it this recipe. Coconut oil creates a less crumbly cake with a texture that is more dense. Your cake will remain very moist, but keep it mind that coconut oil becomes solid at cooler temperatures so for a softer cake, allow your finished cake to sit at room temperature for may hours or overnight. Added bonus is that the spices in this cake will meld & become even better as it sits on the counter for a day or two.

Coconut oil can now be found at all grocery stores including Sam’s Club & Costco. It is a little easier to use coconut oil in the summer months because it stays in liquid form in my pantry. When my kitchen is cooler during the winter moths, I first measure out the amount I think I will need and then melt it in a glass measuring cup. Once the oil is melted, I can easily see if I have a little too much oil (which I can just pour back into the container) or if I need to add a little more. Keeping your other ingredients (like eggs, milk, etc) at room temperature will help ensure that your coconut oil does not return to a solid state while you’re mixing ingredients together.

Classic Carrot Cake

Notes: Feel free to use light or dark brown sugar in this recipe. Either will work fine, but I prefer and almost always use dark brown sugar!

Ingredients

    CARROT CAKE

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons of other spices (mix & match all-spice, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, etc)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup {packed} dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut oil, in liquid form
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups grated carrots (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded coconut {sweetened or unsweetened}
  • CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 12 oz full-fat cream cheese (1.5 packages), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Optional Toppings:

    Shredded coconut {sweetened or unsweetened}

    Coarsely chopped nuts

    Edible flowers

    Directions

    1.Make the carrot cake. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter or grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of both pans with parchment or waxed paper; grease paper.

    2.In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.

    3.In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy. Gradually beat in both sugars. Beat in the oil and vanilla until thoroughly combined.

    4.On a low speed, or by hand, beat in the flour mixture in two additions until there is no dry flour. By hand, mix in the carrots, nuts, and coconut.

    5.Pour the batter in to the prepared pans ensuring that the batter, carrots, nuts, and coconut are evenly distributed between the two pans.

    6.Bake the layers for approximately 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Remove the layers from the pans, and removed the parchment paper, then set them on wire racks to cool completely.

    7.Make the cream cheese frosting. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining frosting ingredients.

    8.Place one layer of cake on a serving plate or cake stand and spread a layer of frosting over the top. Place the second layer of cake on top and frost the top (and sides, if desired).

    9.If covered {a glass cake dome if preferable since it will not touch the frosting}, this cake will store nicely at room temperature for 2-3 days. You can also store if in the fridge. Experiment by eating the cake at room temperature and straight out of the fridge to see how you like it best. I personally like it best at room temperature 24+ hours after it was baked and assembled.

    Orange-Cranberry Sauce

    Growing up, I never dared to try “that” cranberry sauce sitting on the buffet table. If I remember correctly, it was more like a relish. At some point after meeting my husband, he talked me into trying the stuff out of the can that his grandmother always served. I decided it wasn’t too bad! BUT … over the last several years, we’ve been trying to eliminate canned & processed foods from our diet so we started making it from scratch. I have also become very aware of high fructose corn syrup in processed foods and I refuse to {knowingly} feed HFCS to my family.

    Over the years, we’ve tried a couple different recipes for cranberry sauce, but this is THE ONE that we keep coming back to. This recipe is yummy & easy enough for a 10-year old child to make! At this time of the year, you should be able to find all the needed ingredients at one store & I love that it’s made with pure maple syrup instead of refined sugar.

    Orange-Cranberry Sauce

    Because this recipe yields about 5 cups, it may be enough for a large gathering or to share with friends to enjoy with their Thanksgiving feast. I figure most people are probably going to take about 1 or 2 tablespoons worth of sauce so a little sauce goes a long ways! This is also the perfect recipe to make several days ahead of time because it keeps very well in the fridge.

    Ingredients

    • 12-14 oz fresh cranberries, rinsed
    • 2 large oranges, washed
    • 1 cup pure maple syrup

    Directions

    1. In a medium-size pot, combine the cranberries, zest from both oranges, juice from both oranges, and maple syrup.
    2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat; stirring occasionally. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and allow the sauce to simmer for 10-20 minutes, depending on desired consistency for your cranberry sauce. A shorter simmer time will produce a thinner sauce and 20+ minutes will make it thicker like a jam.
    3. Allow the cranberry sauce to cool and then store in air-tight containers in the fridge. I like to serve mine warm, but it can also be served cold.

    Quinoa Chili

    When I make chili, I make a lot! Everyone always wants seconds! Chili is always delicious for lunch leftovers and leftovers are perfect for creating another meal by topping baked potatoes … quinoa chili is especially good on top of baked sweet potatoes! Trust me!!

    This recipe for chili is vegan, gluten free, and has no added sweeteners, like many chili recipes. I promise you will not miss the meat! Quinoa chili has a variety of textures and flavors and it’s sure to fill your belly on a cool evening. You can also throw some cubed sweet potatoes into the chili when your adding the other veggies like bell peppers to add a little more bulk and flavor.

    Quinoa Chili

    This recipe is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe with a few small changes. Feel free to cut the recipe in half – Mel does! I feed seven hungry people at the end of each day & we love having leftovers around!

    When considering what beans to add, use whatever your family likes! I enjoy a combination of black, kidney, and pinto beans … like maybe 3 cans of black, 2 cans of kidney, and 1 can of pinto, but any combination that sounds good to you will work!

    Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons EVOO or avocado oil
    • large onion, diced
    • 2 bell peppers, diced … I like to use two different colors for variety!
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 4 teaspoons chili powder
    • 2 teaspoons cumin
    • 2 teaspoons oregano
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • a couple shakes or pinches of cayenne pepper
    • 2 cups quinoa (uncooked)
    • 6 (15oz) cans of beans, drained & rinsed
    • 12+ cups vegetable broth (or chicken works)
    • 45 oz tomato sauce
    • frozen corn (as much or as little as you’d like – I like a few cups worth)
    • Optional Topping Ideas: Avocado (a must!), shredded cheese, sour cream, lime, cilantro, crushed tortilla chips

    Directions

    1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil on medium-high heat and then add the onion, bell peppers, & garlic; cooking & stirring each addition for about one minute before adding the next item.
    2. Add in all the seasonings: chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, cinnamon, & cayenne pepper. Cook and stir until it becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds.
    3. Mix in the quinoa, beans, broth, & tomato sauce. Stir everything well then cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil. Once the chili is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Keep the chili on a slow simmer until the quinoa has thoroughly cooked, 20-30 minutes.
    4. Before serving, add corn and season with more salt, to taste. If the chili is thicker than you prefer, add more broth. Add optional toppings to individual bowls & store leftover chili in an air-tight container in the fridge.

    Chia Pudding

    I know I’m super late to the party on this one and that nearly everyone knows how to make chia pudding, but this post is dedicated to my very-soon-to-be college girl. The other night we were brainstorming quick, easy, and healthy breakfast ideas that she can rotate each week. We totally forgot about chia pudding and this is definitely something that can be made on the weekend, kept in the fridge, & eaten on the run! It can also make a great snack, easy lunch, or even be a fun treat for after dinner.

    After researching, talking to a few friends, and trying this recipe a few times, I have found it to be a super flexible recipe! You can use a little more or less milk (personal preference, depending on what you have on hand, or what needs to get used-up) or play around by adding a little more or less chia seeds to the milk. I have been making this recipe with refrigerated coconut milk, but that’s probably not the most cost-effective or practical milk choice for a college student. My daughter will have free cow’s milk available to her from her university “pantry”, so that will probably be her milk of choice!

    I make my chia pudding family-size in a half-gallon mason jar, but personal sized portions made in a half-pint jar work just as well. Just adjust the recipe to suit your needs. I have found that the pudding will stay good in the fridge for many days. It may stay fresh a little longer, but my family eats it quickly so I may never know! Mom tip: the first time I made this, my whole family did not love the flavor and thought it was a little weird. By the second time I served it, they were asking for more!

    Chia Pudding

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup milk (cow, almond, coconut, etc)
    • 3-4 tablespoons chia seeds


    Directions

    1. To a small glass jar, bowl, or whatever you have, add the milk & chia seeds. Stir or shake (if using a mason jar) to combine the seeds and milk well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
    2. Serve with fresh fruit to act as a natural sweetener … peaches, berries, citrus, bananas, dried coconut, pomegranate, or whatever you like. Get creative and add some nuts or a different variety of seeds.

    Mexican Rice

    Homemade Mexican rice is the perfect side for any Mexican dish that you cook. If you have a good salsa in your fridge already, it makes the process pretty quick and easy. We love to eat Mexican rice with enchiladas, tamales, and burritos, but my favorite way to eat it is on top of a bean tostada because I love the flavor and contrasting texture that it adds to a crispy tostada.

    Mexican rice is super easy to make but you do have to baby it a little bit at the beginning before you put it into the oven. Once it’s in the oven, you might check it once to see if it’s done, but you can work on the rest of your dinner and forget about the rice.

    Mexican Rice

    I’ve made this recipe for my family for years. I’ve tinkered with it a little and love it most with a good, homemade salsa! Try my Fresh Garden Salsa!! And because we no longer cook with canola oil, I have found that avocado oil is a perfect, healthier alternative. You can control how spicy the rice is with the salsa you use. We prefer a mild salsa for a mild rice!

    I love to squeeze a little fresh lime juice over my rice … & the rest of my plate! Enjoy!

    Ingredients

    • 1/3 cup avocado oil
    • 2 cups white rice {use your favorite variety}
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 cups fresh salsa {or a homemade-style/refrigerated store bought salsa like El Sol}
    • 2 cups broth {chicken or vegetable}
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons pink salt

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the oven racks so that the pot you plan to use will sit at about the middle of the oven, or just below, depending on how tall your pot is. You will need space to take the lid off the pot to check for doneness.
    2. Add the oil to an oven-safe pot {I use a cast iron enamel Dutch oven} and turn on the burner to medium-high heat. Heat the oil for several minutes {but do not let it burn} and then drop a couple pieces of rice into the oil. When the rice sizzles, the oil it ready to use.
    3. Mix the rice into the oil and stir often until the rice is a light-golden brown color. Stirring often and keeping a close eye on the rice will ensure that it does not burn.
    4. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic. Stir continuously for a couple minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
    5. To the rice mixture, add the salsa, broth, and salt. Stir to combine the ingredients and then turn up the heat and cook on the stove top until the broth starts to boil.
    6. Cover the pot with a lid and place it into the preheated oven. Bake the rice for about 20 minutes, but feel free to check the rice around 15 minutes. You will know that the rice is done when all the rice is soft and no longer crunchy.
    7. Give the rice mixture a good stir to make sure all the ingredients are well combined and serve!

    Nutty Granola

    Nothing beats homemade granola! We are loving it on top of açaí bowls and we also enjoy a healthy-size scoop of granola on top of some plain, Greek yogurt with a few handfuls of fresh berries.

    When I make a batch of granola, I usually times the recipe by 5 so my kids can enjoy it and I still have enough to fill two gallon-size ziplock bags for the freezer. It’s a little bit of an afternoon project, but so worth it!!

    Nutty Granola

    Ingredients

    4 cups organic old-fashioned oats

    1 cup sliced almonds

    3/4 cup chopped pecans

    1 cup flaked coconut, sweetened or unsweetened

    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    1 teaspoon pink salt

    1/2 cup brown sugar

    1/3 cup coconut oil

    1/3 cup honey

    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Directions

    1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats with the almonds, pecans, coconut, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar.
    2. To the oat mixture, add the coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Stir until the all the ingredients are well combined and there are no dry oats.
    3. Spoon the granola mixture onto a baking sheet until the mixtures goes about 1/2 way up the sides of the rims of the baking sheet.
    4. Bake at 300-degrees F for 40-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
    5. Store in an air tight container or ziplock bag. Granola will keep at room temperature for at least a month or in the freezer for a few months.

    Fresh Peach Salsa

    Peach season is winding down in Arizona. Many Arizona gardeners enjoyed beautiful peaches in May and June. My Red Barron peach trees have been cleaned off by kids & birds over the last week, but I will soon be ordering numerous large boxes of peaches from my favorite “fruit lady” who ships peaches and other yummy foods down from Utah. When Utah peaches start arriving, my family will eat pounds and pounds of them and I will have to act quickly if I want to have any peaches for cobblers, pies, homemade ice cream, and peach salsa!

    If you have not tried my peach salsa, you are missing out! I highly recommend making a lot of it because husbands and children seem to drink it by the gallon … you might too! We love peach salsa with Mexican dishes like tacos, tostadas, or just simply eat it with tortilla chips! It’s also good on Mexican-style pizzas, scrambled eggs, and fish.

    Fresh Peach Salsa

    Ingredients

    • 3 pounds fresh, ripe peaches, peeled & diced
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
    • 1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
    • 1-3 jalapeño peppers, seeded & finely diced
    • 1 lime, juiced
    • 1 teaspoon pink salt

    Directions

    1. Combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl & mix to combine.
    2. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container in the fridge. Fresh peach salsa is best enjoyed within a few days of making it.

    Roasted Asparagus with Lemon

    We eat asparagus on a weekly basis. It’s always been one of my favorite vegetables! I can prepare a Costco-size bag of asparagus for dinner, the kids will eat every last morsel, and be looking for more! Usually when I make asparagus, I just toss it with a little oil {EVOO or avocado}, salt, pepper, and throw it in the oven to roast. When I have a few extra minutes, it’s nice to kick it up a notch! If you’re not an asparagus lover, swap it for broccoli!

    Roasted Asparagus with Lemon

    This recipe is for about 2 pounds of asparagus, but I would not worry too much if you have a little more or less than 2 pounds.

    Ingredients

    • 2 lbs (1 kg) asparagus, tough ends snapped or cut off
    • 1/8 to 1/4 cup EVOO or avocado oil {I usually use closer to 1/8 cup}
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • zest of one lemon
    • pink salt & fresh-ground pepper, to taste
    • 1 lemon, cut into 4-6 slices or 8 wedges {use the same
    • lemon that was zested}

    Directions

    1. Preheat the oven to 425-450 degrees F.
    2. Place the asparagus onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
    3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, garlic, lemon zest, salt, & pepper. Brush or drizzle the oil mixture evenly over the asparagus – you don’t need to be a perfectionist here!
    4. Roast the asparagus in the oven until it is al-dente/tender {but NOT mushy!} and starting to get some golden/dark spots, approximately 10 minutes. Serve while hot.

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