Sunday, March 9, 2014

Slow-Cooker Sauerkraut Brats

I apologize for my absence from the blog... things have been a bit crazy lately. I have quite a few projects going on through work, which is good crazy, and my father-in-law has been challenging the doctors lately, which is bad crazy. We have spent a lot of time at the hospital and skilled nursing facility with him lately, so I haven't been home much at all. Most of my meals have been slow-cooker meals because I am just not here to cook.

That being said, I have made this particular recipe a couple of times now, and I have used different types of brats, and both versions have been great so I am happy to share this one with you!

 For these pictures I have Chicken Brats... slightly healthier than the standard pork brats, and still full of flavor. These came from Chuck's Produce, and they are made in their deli department. Very yummy!

I cut the brats into bite-size pieces and put them in the bottom of my crockpot.

I used an entire jar of sauerkraut. Read the ingredients before you buy jarred or canned sauerkraut... some brands actually use sugar in their sauerkraut. Or, if you happen to have your own lacto-fermented or crocked sauerkraut, feel free to use that! It is about 2 1/2 cups worth in this photo.

Then I added honey, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes and mixed it all together.

 I took two apples and peeled, cored and sliced them, then diced them into bite-size pieces.

 I did the exact same thing with one onion.

 Then I mixed the sauerkraut mixture with the apples and onions and spread that over the top of the brats. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or so. I mixed it when I could, but you don't really have to.

 The bit of honey and the apples gives it a sweet flavor, combined with the tang of the sauerkraut and the heat of the crushed red pepper flakes. Very tasty! I served this with some spicy dijon mustard (sugar-free, of course!) and green beans!

Slow-cooker Sauerkraut Brats

8 bratwurst, cut into bite-size pieces - I used port brats one time, and chicken brats the next
2 1/2 cups sauerkraut
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped - I used gala apples
1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp red chili pepper flakes

Put the cut brats in the bottom of the slow-cooker. Spoon the sauerkraut into a large bowl and mix with the apples, onion, honey, caraway seeds and red pepper flakes. Spoon over the top of the brats. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours.

Serve with Dijon mustard.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pattern Testing for Flurry!

I am so excited to share this with you! I have been biting my blogger tongue for the past few days, but the official pattern release happened today, and now I can share!

Shelley over at Cora's Quilts offered up her new pattern Flurry for some pattern testing before the release. I have to tell you, I love how it turned out. I got to use some pinks, grays, Moda's grunge black (I love, love, love and heart that fabric!) and some scraps from my pink and gray ladder quilt.

This is a great pattern for all levels. It looks complex, and there are a lot of squares and triangles, but Shelley breaks it down so it is easy to put together.

And it makes for really good practice on matching up seams. Practice makes perfect, you know. I think I will go practice some more. :)

These blocks were really fun to make, and the sashing turned out really cool. I like the way the black border  grounds it all. I can't wait to quilt it and bind it. I will post finished pics when I get that part done, too!

So Cora's Quilts has this pattern for sale on the Etsy Shop. It's called Flurry, and for a limited time (until February 28, 2014), you can use the coupon code ThanksHeidi for 25% off the Flurry pattern! 

Photo courtesy of Shelley @

This is Shelley's original, and I think it is absolutely beautiful! Thank you so much to Shelley for letting me pattern test for her!

Photo courtesy of Shelley @

Monday, January 20, 2014

Paleo Chocolate Banana Muffins

These chocolate banana muffins are only my second foray into baking since I have gone gluten-free, processed sugar-free and dairy-free, and I am quite pleased with how they turned out. Most of the gluten-free recipes use a lot of eggs, and I subbed out a couple of eggs for some of my home-made pear sauce (which is like applesauce, only... pears). It is unsweetened, so also really healthy.

To me, these muffins taste like Candy. With a capital C. So good. But I will warn you that Mike, who still eats processed sugar said that they are not as sweet as he would normally like. So keep that in mind as you are making them. If you like things really super-sweet and are used to the taste of processed sugar, you might want to add some additional sweetener. Or frost them. Or something.

I blended the wet ingredients together. This was about 1 cup of mashed banana (2-3 bananas should do the trick), my homemade pear sauce, an egg, and some vanilla extract.

Then I mixed together the wet ingredients: almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt, and evaporated cane juice (or some other sweetener). If you use honey, mix it in with the wet ingredients.

Mix the two together and they come out looking like this. Don't over-mix, just until combined.

Seriously, doesn't that look good?

And then I mixed in some chocolate chunks. My favorite brand is the Enjoy Life. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, and use evaporated cane juice as a sugar replacement.

The recipe makes 9 normal size muffins. Meaning that these are not mini-muffins. Nor are they the gigantic muffins at your local coffee shop. They are plain, normal muffins made in a plain, normal muffin tin. And I like it that way.

I took a close-up of this one because you can see a tiny chunk of banana peaking out of the chocolate-y goodness.

If you heat them for about 10-15 seconds in the microwave before eating, they get all warm and gooey inside. That is assuming they last long enough out of the oven for you to need to reheat them, that is.

These muffins only have about 100 calories per muffin, and make a great snack or breakfast muffin. Or dessert. Or lunch... 

Paleo Chocolate Banana Muffins

Makes 9 muffins

1 egg
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice, or some other sweetener
1/3 cup pear sauce (unsweetened applesauce would work well, too)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2-3 bananas)
1 cup almond flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/2 cup gluten-free Chocolate chips 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a standard muffin tin. This recipe should make 9 muffins. 

Whisk together the wet ingredients (banana, pear sauce, vanilla, and egg). In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (sweetener, almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder). Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing as you go. Mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool in the muffin tin for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate or rack to continue cooling. Or just eat them, like I did.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Salmon Cakes with Avocado Pesto

It's a gray Tuesday outside, but I have a batch of Pear Butter processing in the water bath right now, and a batch of Pear Sauce (like apple sauce but with... wait for it... pears) on the stove, so I figured I would take these few minutes of downtime to share a fantastic recipe with you!

I made salmon cakes the other night for dinner. First time I have ever worked with canned salmon, and I was a bit skeptical, but they turned out fantastic! And really, very easy to make.

 I started with a large can of salmon (14 oz). I really recommend using wild salmon whenever possible for the Omega-3 benefits. Just sayin'. I made sure all the bones and skin were removed, because I am not a huge fan of eating the bones and skin. My cat, on the other hand, was sitting at my feet yowling at the top of his lungs until he got some to chew on. That fat boy LOVES salmon.

Anyway, I added egg yolks as a binder. I saved the egg whites... they make great omelets or crepes, or you can use them in other recipes... but in any case, I recommend saving them.

Then I added onions, garlic and spices and mixed it all together until it was really well incorporated.

 I used my hands to form them into patties, and I baked them on my silpat, because I love my silpat. Seriously. I use it for everything.

Then I made an avocado pesto (one avocado, some garlic, some basil leaves to taste, a splash of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, all in the blender until you get the desired consistency) and served that on top of the salmon cakes. Totally Yummy!

Salmon Cakes

14 oz can of Wild Salmon (remove bones and skin)
3 Egg Yolks
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp White Pepper
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 Cup of Diced Onion
Coconut Oil for browning (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the salmon, eggs, and spices together in a bowl. Incorporate well, and form into patties with your hands. If you have a silpat, use that. If not, make sure you bake your salmon cakes on parchment paper, as they are much easier to get off the baking tray that way! Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

If you would like to brown them (just gives a crispy texture on the outside and makes them look yummy!), heat the coconut oil in a skillet. When it is hot, brown the cakes for about 1 minute on each side.

Serve with some lemon, tartar sauce, or the avocado pesto I mentioned above!

This makes about 4 servings, 3 oz each.

Nutritional Info:
Each serving (not including the pesto) contains:
Calories - 127
Fat - 6g
Protein - 17g
Carbs - 2g

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Homemade Christmas 2013

I hope you all had wonderful holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, and a very happy new year! My family celebrates Christmas, but a little different than most: we make our presents. You may remember some of the items from last year's post (like the art smocks which my nephews still wear all the time!), and the cookies and baked goods. This year featured a lot less baked goods (due to my allergies and food restrictions), but some fun little homemade items I would like to share.

 It started with some pillowcases for my nephew, Enzo. He is three now, and has graduated to a big boy bed, so he needed some pillowcases for his big boy pillow.

The soccer print is a must, since he is in soccer and seems to love all things sports... although he is still working on the sharing and teamwork part. He is a bit of a ball-hog. But what do you want? He's three, for crying out loud.

 The other pillowcase needed to be turtles. His nickname is turtle (given to him by Reney when he was just a baby), so the turtles were a must. And I LOVE this fabric. It's so bright and colorful, and it looks almost 3D - like the turtles are just popping out at you.

 Mike's main present was a video game (which I did NOT make), but since he brews quite a bit of beer, which means he bottles quite a bit of beer, which means he then mops up quite a bit of beer... the beer towel seemed appropriate. Besides... I just really liked the beer fabric!

Then I had some fun making super-hero capes for the boys. One each for Reney, Enzo, Orry... and of course that meant that Aaron needed one, too!

I used a velcro on the straps to hold the capes on. I'm not sure if the boys liked them, but Aaron wore his all evening. :) 

 And for my sister... a Friday night apron! While her boys are out saving the world in their super-hero capes, she can be whipping up a big batch of cookies, since I'm pretty sure they will be hungry when they are done!

I absolutely love the fabric on this apron, and fortunately my sister and I are pretty close to the same size, since I had to fit it to myself instead of her!

She also got some kitchen towels to go with the apron. I am a firm believer that you can never have too many kitchen towels.

 For my mother, we didn't make her gift this year. She really needed a new TV, and I'm pretty sure any TV that we could make her would not be fulfilling her needs. So instead, we made the wrapping paper.

 Each of us made a tree out of our fingerprints.

 This one is mine!

 Enzo and Reney decorated their trees with some glitter paint.

It was a really fun project, and a great, relaxing Christmas with the family. I hope you all had wonderful holidays too! If you got something really cool and homemade for Christmas, send me a picture in the comments! I love to see what others give/got and their ideas for homemade gifts.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Paleo Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I didn't actually have plans to write a post today, but I just had a kitchen experience so frustrating that I had to let it out. Have you ever got all excited to make something new, then once you start you realize that the recipe you are following is so elementally flawed as to not be possible? I had one of those today. And what made it even more frustrating, is that I was trying to bake my very first paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, processed sugar-free cookies. 

I have been on the anti-inflammatory plan for about four and a half months now. I am feeling so much better, my allergies are gone, my joints don't hurt, my stomach doesn't hurt, I'm not choking, I'm not vomiting, my headaches are gone... and there is the tiny added benefit that I have dropped 42 lbs. So this form of eating is obviously working for me, and therefore I need to continue to expand my horizons in the kitchen with this type of eating plan.

So that said, I bit the bullet and bought some almond flour, some evaporated cane juice (since this is a form of sweetener that doesn't make me sick), and dairy-free, processed sugar-free chocolate chunks (I use the ones by Enjoy Life... love them!). Then I started looking for recipes. I have a couple of blogs I follow where I really like the recipes for Paleo and Gluten-Free, so that's where I started. I found a picture that looked good, and I dove in head-first. And then I got mad.

The recipe that I started with indicated that I add the ingredients into my food processor and pulse until they form a dough. My first clue should have been that there was no real liquid in the recipe. Two tablespoons of honey was not going to be enough to turn two cups of almond flour into dough. Never going to happen. So the dough part wasn't going well. Then it occurred to me that even if I added enough liquid ingredients to make a dough, it was going to need to be in my mixer and not a food processor, because the food processor wasn't going to be able to handle the amount of so-called dough that was going to be in it.

So I transferred the ingredients into my super-awesome Kitchen-Aid Kick-Ass Mixer (I think Kitchen-Aid left out the "Kick-Ass" part because they didn't want to gloat, but that's what I call it). Then I started experimenting. I added 2 eggs and beat them into the ingredients. That got me a bit closer. Then I added about 1/4 cup of So Delicious Coconut Milk Eggnog (but the Silk Eggnog, or even regular would work, or probably regular coconut milk, too). That got the consistency I wanted. Then I tasted the dough and realized that two tablespoons of honey wasn't enough to make that amount of dough actually taste like cookies, so I added 1/4 cup of Evaporated Cane Juice. That did the trick. Then I folded in 1/2 bag of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks. Then I crossed my fingers and baked.

 And this is what I got: Soft, cakey, light, perfectly flavored chocolate chunk cookies. I was so pleased with the result, I figured I had better share, because the other recipes out there are seriously lacking. You have to wonder if anyone ever tested them before posting them!

In any case, here is what I did:

Paleo, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes about 25 cookies

2 Cups Almond Flour
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
2 Eggs
1/4 Cup Coconut Milk EggNog
2 Tbsp. Honey
1 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Evaporated Cane Juice (Sucranet)
1 Cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks

Take the dry ingredients and put them in a mixer; add in the Coconut Oil and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix in. Pour the coconut eggnog in and mix until combined. Add the honey and the extract. Add the Evaporated Cane Juice. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the Chocolate Chunks.

Drop by tablespoons onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes. Let cool completely before you remove from the rack.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Adventures in Fused Glass

Back in March/April I posted about a website that I had built for a friend. He owns a glass tile and custom art business called Northwest Glass Tiles. I am sharing this now as kind of a shout-out for him and several other businesses that will be featured at a local Holiday Art Show this weekend, at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Vancouver. The show runs from 9 am to 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

In exchange for the website, Hal made me some fused glass dinner plates and matching coasters. I would like to share those with you, as well as some of the other coasters that he is featuring at the show. If you totally love them, you can head over to the show this weekend and purchase some. If you want some of the dinner plates, give him a shout-out on his website (there is a 'contact us' screen) and let him know you are interested. He will contact you about colors, etc. He also does bowls, custom art... all kinds of fun stuff!

 These are the dinner plates that he made for me.

 I have a set of four plates, and four matching coasters!

 These are some other designs that he will be offering at the show. He has a wide variety of colors and patterns available. These make really great gifts, too. Each one is handmade, and an original.

 I like the colors and bold design on the red and black ones.

 These blue and green ones make me think of Monet's paintings, like the Lily Pond or the bridge...

Okay... enough looking at the pictures! If you love 'em, go to Hal's website and give him a shout-out, or just comment below and I will make sure he gets your note.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I am thankful for creative and innovative friends who inspire me and keep my creativity flowing!