November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving



I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving table centerpiece was inspired by some stunning Fall leaves that my daughter found this morning as she and my husband were on a hike. 

Found items from nature make for perfect inspiration!

Blessings,

Diana


November 14, 2014

Cranberry Pear Recipe - Great for Holiday Entertaining

Our family has always loved cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. We used to just open a can, slice it and that was it. However, one year my mom made cranberry pears and we all loved it so much that now it makes a regular appearance each Thanksgiving!

There are two ways to make cranberry pears and I will share both of them with you. One version takes about 5 minutes of preparation (this is the way I used to make them) and the other (healthier version) takes 15 or 20 minutes to prep (depending on how fast you can peel pears).  Either way, most of the work is done by a slow cooker (Crock-Pot).


Last year I started eating Paleo which in short meant no more processed or refined food of any kind.  So for us I make a healthy, free of refined sugars (but still sweet) version of cranberry pears. 

Note: canned cranberry sauces main ingredient (depending on brand) is sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  So, using canned berries is not an option for our family... Fresh cranberries is what I choose to use.

The recipe I make is simple using only three ingredients:  Fresh cranberries, 100% pure maple syrup (from a tree, I like Grade B), and pears (I used fresh organic).  

Directions: (Healthy version)

Turn the crock pot on Low then add the following:

12 ounces of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup of pure maple syrup
4 ripe pears (peeled, cored and cut into slices)

Stir and let simmer on low for three to four hours (sample taste at about two hours to see if more sweetener. Keep in mind that fresh cranberries can be quite tart depending on their ripeness, so you can add extra maple syrup if needed.  

As the cranberries cook they will soften and split open spreading their flavor throughout the pears. Depending on how many people you are feeding you can adjust the recipe size. We like to serve them warm but they can also be made in advance and served chilled. They taste excellent either way. You can substitute the maple syrup with agave, honey and/or a combination of the three. Whichever sweetener you prefer will work.  


Now for the super simple five minute version (3 minutes if you are fast with a can opener)...  

Directions:  (quick and easy)

Turn crock pot on low:

Open a can or two of pear halves (or slices), quickly drain them and pour them into crock pot,

Open a can of whole berry cranberry and pour/spoon it into crock pot...

Simmer on low for three hours.  

Yep, that's it.  Serve warm or chilled.  




It doesn't get any easier than that folks!  We made it the simple way for years... The pears absorb the cranberry flavor and taste amazing :)

Whichever way you choose, cranberry pears will be a hit with your family!

Blessings to you and yours,

Diana


More Crock Pot Thanksgiving Ideas


November 10, 2014

Holiday Entertaining Made Simple - Crock Pot Thanksgiving

Last Thanksgiving I decided I wanted to make the our Thanksgiving dinner simple. I wanted to actually enjoy the holiday visiting with our family and friends rather than working in the kitchen the entire time.   

I got this awesome Crock-Pot Hook Up System. I absolutely love this thing! Each unit can be purchased separately and you can plug in as many as six units into just one outlet. The units push together side by side and connect each other. They come in different sizes, different colors and with different temperatures they make for super easy entertaining!   


I got the double one quart unit (shown on the left),  2 of the two quart units (center) and one three quart unit (on the right). I use them often. You only have to turn on the units that you want to use (as each one has it's own on/off knob and adjustable heat settings). You can cook your entire meal right in these crocks and then turn them to the warm setting until you are ready to serve.  Each unit came with it's own serving spoon and a spoon slot in the crock (so your lids sit on them tightly) while the spoon is in them.  

I originally had one huge crock pot,that I found too heavy so I rarely used it because I didn't like cleaning the heavy beast. These unit being smaller are much lighter and easier to clean. Another great feature is that the units stack for easy storage. I'm surprised how many meals I've been able to make in them. Since buying these I've turned into a crock pot chef.

Last year I made a completely Paleo Thanksgiving in these Crocks.


I have made both seasoned turkey breasts and a full size chicken in the large crock. I'd never even tried sweet potatoes prior to getting these Crock-Pots and now I make sweet potato mash often!  I also made Cranberry Pears in a crock (Recipe Here)

For a healthy dessert I cut apple slices with my Apple Corer Peeler Slicer (that also Peels potatoes) and put them into a crock pot with cinnamon, honey and chopped pecans.  
After a few hours the apples were tender, flavorful and oh so yummy!  I've had my apple slicer for about 14 years and still use it all the time.  They have made improvements on it (like adding a suction cup), but it is still the same amazing tool.  It works great for peeling potatoes and for when I  make homemade apple pie.  

This year Thanksgiving will be a little more traditional. Everyone wants real mash potatoes and stuffing, but again I will be making several items for our dinner in this great Hook up System.  

These little units are also great at Holiday parties for keeping h'orderves and appetizers warm. They'd make a great Christmas gift.

Time for some entertaining.

Blessings,

Diana

October 29, 2014

Simple DIY Candy Sweets and Treats for Halloween and Fall

Here is a fun easy treat to make without having to turn on the oven... I love using candy melts for dipping treats, it is so simple anyone can do it!


To make these we went to our local craft store and bought different color candy melts, sugar eyeballs, candy sprinkles, cellophane treat bags, food coloring markers and lollipop sticks.  From the grocery store we got pretzels, Rice Krispies cereal, marshmallows and butter.

We used just a few items for dipping.. Pretzels, marshmallows and Rice Krispy treats (that we made, per box directions). However you can dip almost anything you like.


If you haven't used candy melts before, they are super easy to use. They come with simple melting and thinning instructions on the back of the package. I put the melts in oven safe dishes, then use the microwave method to melt them. 

I go an extra step and I sit them in an electric skillet (on simmer), with 1" of water at the bottom of the skillet (to keep them melted no matter how long we are working with them. The water in the bottom keeps them from potentially burning at the bottom of the cups).



Making the rice krispy treats was so simple.  It only took about 5 minutes.  We decided this is by far the fastest and easiest treat ever to make!  With only three ingredients, Rice Krispies, butter and marshmallows, it was a cinch!


We used an edible food coloring marker to draw on our cute little Frankensteins and ghosts.


We dipped marshmallows to look like candy corn.  We first dipped the entire marshmallow in white.  Then put it in the refrigerator to harden the coating quickly, then came back and dipped the orange (harden), then the yellow at the bottom.


We put the candies onto wax paper while they hardened.  The wax paper removes easily from them.


We cut the rice krispy treats into triangles and then shaped them into the different things we wanted to make.  They are soft and pliable so it was easy to do.


Candied pretzels are super easy!  You just dip them in the cup of melted candy or chocolate or use a spoon to drizzle the candy onto them.  


Sprinkles are applied while the candy coating is wet (it holds them on like glue).  


This little Frankenstein is my favorite of all the treats we made.  My daughter actually made him and I think he is so cute!


After we were done making all of our candy treats and they had hardened, we put them into cellophane treat bags and tied a ribbon around each. We had gotten a cake box to put them all in for my daughter to take them to work.


I hope these super easy sweets and treats inspire you to make a few treats of your own.

Until next time...
Blessings,

Diana
  

October 2, 2014

10 Days Without Internet... How Does One Survive?

Hi all... For over 10 days I have not had internet or a computer... Yikes. I did have my cell phone but the area where we were only had occasional 3G reception (with one bar)... which when trying to use a smart phone was kinda like using dial up and then having it repeatedly FAIL... Uhg. How did we ever use slow dial up and wait 3 or 4 minutes for one page to load?  

I found myself starting to go stir crazy. We don't realize how attached we are to our computers and social media until we don't have it for awhile. Then when you take away the use of our phone, I personally felt a bit lost. I guess that is a sad statement, but it's true.



As of today we are back among the living :) We finally have actual internet access... It's hard to think back to when we lived without it!  

I hope you are doing well!

Blessings,
Diana