recipes, Desserts

Green Tomato “Apple” Crisp (Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan)

One of my favorite things about ordering organic produce from Misfits Market (other than how inexpensive it is) is that I get to try new fruits and vegetables that I wouldn’t ordinarily buy at a regular grocery store, like last week’s leeks for example. This week I got a handful of green tomatoes. I didn’t even know you could eat green tomatoes! I thought that if you ate unripe tomatoes you would die or get sick.

But apparently, you can eat green tomatoes and they have a wide variety of culinary uses. When I asked my dad (my go-to gardening expert) what I should do with my green tomatoes, he promptly replied: “Make a mock apple pie.” Apparently when he was growing up, not a single fruit or vegetable went to waste in the family garden. When tomato season came to a close, the remaining green tomatoes were gathered and made into pies!

Intrigued, I decided to give it a try. I opted to make a green tomato “apple” crisp with a cinnamon-oat crumble topping instead of a pie though because I was too lazy to make a gluten-free pie crust. But, if you’re in the mood for a pie, feel free to plop the green tomato filling into a pie crust instead. Just be sure to adjust your bake time.

When I baked this green tomato “apple” crisp, I was astonished to find how much it tasted like a real apple crisp! It was amazing, really. In fact, when my brother and my husband tried it last night, they had no idea that they were eating green tomatoes until I told them!

I hope you enjoy this recipe! If you make it, let me know what you think! Could it pass for an apple crisp?

Like it? Love it? Share the love on social media #asimplefamilykitchen

Desserts, recipes, Sides

Pumpkin-Spice Zucchini Muffins (Gluten-Free, Reduced Sugar)

Summer is quickly coming to a close. The air is getting colder and I’ve traded my flip-flops and t-shirts for flannels and boots. The once prolific zucchini plants in our garden are winding down and fall flavors are once again beginning to hit the shelves.

As a final salute to summer and a welcoming wave to autumn, I decided to make some pumpkin-spice zucchini muffins. They are gluten-free and have less added sugar than your typical muffin. But they are not lacking in flavor, thanks to a generous helping of pumpkin-spice, fresh zucchini and sweet dates. If you’d like a little crunch, feel free to add in some walnuts!

This recipe makes about 20 muffins, which are perfect for breakfasts, snacks, or desserts. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Like this recipe? Share your muffins on Instagram! #asimplefamilykitchen

Condiments, Sides

Tangy Sauerkraut Quick Pickles (AIP, Gluten-Free, Ketogenic,Low-FODMAP, Paleo, Vegan)

Last fall my aunt taught me how to make sauerkraut from scratch. We made several batches of it with green, red, and savoy cabbage. My favorite sauerkraut turned out to be the red cabbage variety. It not only looked beautiful due to its ruby red coloring, but it also had the most interesting flavor; sort of tangy, with hints of fruitiness.

When we ran out of the red sauerkraut, the jar remained half-full of flavorful brine. Since we had worked so hard to make it, I didn’t have the heart to throw it out and determined to find a use for it. But what do you do with left-over sauerkraut juice?

It sat in our fridge for a while before I figured out a solution: quick pickles.

My inspiration was a couple of giant homegrown cucumbers that I also didn’t know what to do with. Big cucumbers tend to be very bitter. I hoped that soaking them for a couple days in the sauerkraut brine would either mask or neutralize their unpleasant taste.

Turns out that quick pickles was the perfect solution for my big cucumbers. When I tried them today, I couldn’t taste a hint of bitterness. My taste buds were greeted only by tangy, crunchy pickle perfection!

So there you have it. Quick pickles: the solution to the problem of big cucumbers and leftover sauerkraut brine! I’ve included a short recipe below if you want to give these tangy sauerkraut quick pickles a shot!

How to Make Tangy Sauerkraut Quick Pickles

Step One: Eat Sauerkraut! Put in on your burgers, sneak it into salads, and enjoy it straight out of the jar!

Step Two: Save Your Brine! When you are finished with your jar of sauerkraut, don’t throw the brine away. Keep it in a quart-sized mason jar until you have two cups of tangy, salty deliciousness.

Step Three: Slice Your Cukes. Pick some cucumbers from your garden, or buy a couple from the store. Halve them, remove the seeds, and cut them into spears.

Step Four: Dunk the Spears. Submerge your spears into the brine, making sure they are completely covered. Return them to the fridge and forget about them for a couple days.

Step Five: Serve and Enjoy! Congratulate yourself for making homemade pickles and celebrate by savoring the crunchy, tangy goodness.

Stay tuned for next week! I’ll be sharing a sushi recipe that features these tasty pickles.

Enjoy this recipe? Share it on Instagram! #asimplefamilykitchen

Entrées, recipes, Sides

Creamy Lemon-Leek Chicken Soup (AIP*, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Ketogenic, Paleo, Vegan)

Leeks are one of those vegetables I used to walk past in the grocery store because, until this week, I had no idea what to do with them! But our latest box from Misfits Market included two leeks, so I decided to learn a little bit about this versatile vegetable in order to cook it properly.

What is a leek and how do you cook it?

Leeks are a vegetable and part of the genus Allium, which also contains Chinese onions, chives, garlic, onions, shallots and scallions. They have a light, onion-like flavor and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways including boiled, fried, and raw.

After perusing some delicious-looking recipes online, I decided to use my leeks in a soup. I wasn’t in the mood for a potato-leek soup though, so I thought I’d use up some of my many lemons and leftover chicken to make a Thai-inspired soup.

The result was nothing short of amazing!

This flavorful soup will quickly become one of your favorite comfort foods. It features creamy coconut milk, zingy lemons, hot peppers, and fresh leeks which lend a mild, onion-like flavor. Since this soup has an oriental flair to it, I like to serve it with or over rice.

This soup is makes a perfect weeknight meal for anyone on a dairy-free, gluten-free, Ketogenic or Paleo diet, but it can also be adapted to suit an Autoimmune Paleo or Vegan diet as well.

If you want to make it AIP compliant, substitute the peppers and beans for carrots and parsnips or another veggie of your choosing. It won’t have the same kick to it, but it’ll still be tasty. If you want to make it friendly for a vegan or vegetarian lunch or dinner, leave out the chicken.

Love this recipe? Share it on Instagram or Pinterest! #asimplefamilykitchen

blogging

How to Create Great Pins that People Will Save

Confession: I’m a newbie to Pinterest.

It’s only been a year or so since I first created an account and a couple of months since I started making my own pins.

So how do I know what kind of post is a winner and what kind of post is an instant turn off to your audience?

By experience, the experience of being a Pinterest user.

After scrolling through hundreds and hundreds of pins, I’ve noticed that certain pins were attractive while others held no appeal. Some pins that I found initially interesting turned out to be a disappointment when I clicked on the graphic for more information. I observed that there were a select few type of pins that I not only save, but interact with further by visiting the pin’s source.

Here are my observations about the qualities that make a great Pinterest post, one that will generate more traffic for your site. Keep in mind that even though I’m not expert on Pinterest, I am your audience and there are a lot more people like me out there!

Here are my top four tips for making a great Pinterest post that will increase your traffic.

4 Tips for Creating Attractive and Effective Pinterest Posts

1. Use High Quality Photographs and Graphics

We’re always told not to judge a book by it’s cover, but seriously who actually follows that advice? I know I don’t and I know I’m not alone in that! Your graphic is the first thing that people see and interact with, so it’s the most important part of your post to get right. If your graphic has poor quality images that are dark, low resolution, or not composed well, people are less likely to click on them. For some reason, I personally find that good quality images feel more trustworthy. I’m not sure if I’m alone in that. If your graphics or photographs are subpar, I’m more likely to scroll by your post because I’m skeptical about the rest of it’s content. Is your blog post as sketchy and low quality as your photographs? Maybe, but maybe not. Either way, I don’t want to spend time finding out!

Okay, so maybe you’re like me and you’re not a professional photographer and you don’t have tons of cash to spend on a fancy camera or editing program. There’s a few ways you can get around that and improve your images. The first is to spend a little time composing your shot. Look up how to use the rule of thirds. You’ll be amazed at how much better your photos are when you apply this simple technique. If you still struggle with taking pictures, try using free stock photos. Unsplash and Pexels are a couple options I like. Finally, find a good free editing and design program like Canva to create graphics that will really wow and woo your audience.

2. Use Proper Spelling and Grammar

Nothing turns me off faster from a Pinterest post than improperly spelled words and poorly punctuated sentences. It ties in with that trust thing I mentioned earlier. If you can’t spell “spaghetti” correctly, can you cook it well? You probably can, but you lost my trust and therefore my traffic when you spelled it wrong. Sorry!

Not everyone is a great speller and that’s okay. That’s why we have dictionaries, Google and spell-check. You can even have someone proofread your post if you know that spelling and grammar aren’t your strong suit. Just be sure to take your time and fix your typos and mistakes. I guarantee it’ll increase your credibility.

3. Display Important Information Visually

I know some people like a nice clean image with no text. I often skip right over a pin like that because 1) I don’t know what it’s about or 2) I don’t know for sure if it’s a good fit for what I’m looking for. If I see a delicious, gooey-looking plate of chocolate chip cookies, but I don’t know for certain that they’re gluten-free, I’m probably going scroll by and click on the graphic that’s labeled “gluten-free” instead.

I suggest labeling your pins with any information that people might find important. Otherwise you’re going to lose traffic from people like me who are looking for quick answers and don’t want to have to click on your image to find out what it’s about or whether or not it’s gluten-free. People are busy and expect instant gratification, so remember to label your images.

4. Write A Solid Description

Sometimes I’ll click on a pin only to find that there’s no description! The only way for me to find more information about the pin is to click on a link to the author’s blog or website. I don’t want to do that because I don’t have the time for it; I’ve got a busy toddler on the loose! So if the initial graphic doesn’t answer my question and there’s no description, I’ll go back to searching and you’ll lose my traffic. Why? Because you didn’t give me enough information to know for certain that you will answer my question or meet my need with your blog post or website.

I like to think about it this way. Your Pinterest graphic is the initial answer to someone’s search. It’s a teaser that draws a person in to want more information. Once they’re hooked, your description further builds your credibility and assures your reader that you can deliver what they’re looking for, which happens to be on your website. That’s why it’s important to have one. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. A few short sentences should be enough to assure your reader that you will answer their question.

What Do You Think?

Those are the four characteristics of a post that I find most compelling when I’m browsing Pinterest.

What about you? What are the qualities of a pin that compel you either to save it or visit its source site? Which ones totally turn you off? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Cleaning & Organization, Lifestyle

5 Tips for a Tidy Home

Are you tired of tripping over toys and overwhelmed by your constantly cluttered counters? Don’t believe that little voice in your head that’s telling you “You don’t have time to clean” or “My house will always be like this, I’m just not an organized person.” You do have time to clean and you can be an organized person – you just need a new strategy for keeping a tidy house!

If you consistently apply these five tips, you will begin to develop new habits that will help you create and maintain an orderly home. According to science, it will energize you, increase your productivity, decrease your stress, and improve your overall well-being. When your outside world is organized, your inner world reaps the benefits. Happy cleaning!

1. De-accumulate

This step is probably the most challenging, but it’s essential. Most of us have too much stuff in our homes: stuff that we don’t like, stuff that we don’t want, stuff that we don’t need, and stuff that’s broken that we need to throw out, but don’t. The more possessions you own, the more clutter you will have, and the harder it will be to keep your place tidy.

The solution to the problem of too much stuff is to de-accumulate. Grab a friend (preferably one of those no-nonsense type of friends), grab a trash bag, and grab some boxes. Then pick a room (or even corner of a room if it’s really messy) and start sorting. Throw out the trash and broken things. Then, put the things you don’t absolutely love, want, or need in boxes and donate them to charity.

Having a hard time deciding what to keep and what to get rid of? Use common sense and your friend. Use common sense to tell yourself that if you haven’t used something in a year (or if you forgot you even had it), you probably don’t need it. Use your friend to help you decide on the more difficult items, because unlike you, they won’t have a personal attachment to it. Believe me – they will have no problem telling you that don’t fit in that sweater anymore and you really don’t need 30 coffee mugs in your cupboard!

2. Have a Specific Place for Every Item in Your House

Once you’ve sorted your things, you need to find homes for the possessions that you love, need, and want. Why? Because it is so much easier to keep your house tidy when everything has a specific place to come from and go back to.

One of my problems is having stacks of paper accumulate in the kitchen. It drives me crazy! But the reason that it happens is because I don’t have a specific place for things like incoming mail, receipts to be recorded, to-do lists, etc. I used to have this problem with my daughter’s toys. Because I didn’t have a shelf designated for toys, they ended up all over the place. So, my advice to you is to find a home for every single one of your belongings.

What about those things that are hard to classify or that you’re not sure if you should get rid of? Sometimes it’s handy to have an extra tote for items that defy classification or a drawer for stuff you’re not sure you’re ready to get rid of yet.

But, my question to you is; if you don’t have a home for it, do you really need it? If you must have a “junk drawer,” make it a habit to go through it occasionally and reevaluate if you should be keeping all that stuff anyway. Just sayin’.

3. Put Everything Back in It’s Place When You Are Done with It.

What is wrong with this picture? Nothing? Look again! There’s a homeless book on the desk! That’s a big no-no. If you’re anything like me, you know how tempting it is to simply walk away from something when you’re done with it. “Eh, I’ll get it later,” you think. And then later never comes. Pretty soon your house is full of dirty socks, unwashed dishes, and random pieces of paper and you feel overwhelmed because it looks like a tornado hit!

Don’t fall into the sneaky trap of laziness – it only makes more work for you in the end! Instead, make a habit of putting things away when you are done with them. Every. single. time. No matter how small the item is, put it away where it belongs.

Okay, but let’s be real. Sometimes you have to leave your stuff where it is because there’s a minor commotion going on in another part of the house. Maybe your toddler discovers toilet paper for the first time or someone dumps the fish bowl out in the living room, who knows? After you’ve calmed the chaos, try to pick up where you left off. If you can’t, don’t worry because I have another tip that will help you out with those little messes that pile up despite your best efforts.

4. Clean As You Go

This method is handy when you’ve got a busy household and things just aren’t making it back to home base. It’s really simple: clean as you go. Find some dirty clothes in the bathroom? Put them away on your next trip to the laundry room. Spy a toy under the kitchen table? Give it to your toddler to put away. Making dinner? Wash those dishes while your casserole is cooking. The trick here is to always be on the lookout for things that need to be returned to their homes and to put them away on your way to do other things. It will help you stay ahead of the mess.

5. Make a Final Sweep Before Bed

Before my husband and I got married, my pastor reminded us of the Scripture “Never let the sun go down on your anger.” It’s great advice for marriage and it can be tweaked a little to help you keep your house tidy: “Never let the sun go down on your messes.” If you’ve got kids, chances are good that despite your best efforts to put everything away and to clean as you go, you will still find stray toys strewn around your house at the day’s end.

I know you’re tired and you can hear your pillow calling your name from the other room, but turn a deaf ear for a minute. Rally the troops and have everyone pitch in to do a final clean. Gather up those remaining toys, books, and pencils and tuck them in for the night. Locate any Legos lurking on the floor because, trust me, you do NOT want to step on those in the dark! Do the dishes, wipe the counters, and sweep the floor. You’ll feel much better if you wake up in the morning to a clean house, I promise.

What are some strategies that you use to keep your home tidy? Share your tips below!

DIY and Crafts, Fun

DIY Beard and Mustache Wax

Lately, my normally bearded husband has been on a mustache kick. I’m not sure when it started, but at some point in the recent past he decided to grow out his mustache (in addition to his beard, thankfully.) He’s also been telling me all about how to care for facial hair when he comes home from work, and about the special combs, brushes, shampoos, conditioners, and waxes that are required for facial hair perfection.

The other day I found him trying to wax his mustache with this.

It’s a hand and body bar made of things like beeswax, almond oil, and “fragrance.” I probably would have let him continue using it, but I just couldn’t stand the smell of it! Not only that, but “fragrance” is always suspicious ingredient in my book and I figured he probably didn’t need any weird chemicals so close to his face.

So I decided to make him some custom homemade beard and mustache wax. He ended up liking the scent and the texture much better than the hand and body bar lotion he had been using.

If you’ve got a bearded man in your life, or if you are one yourself, here’s a simple recipe for beard and mustache wax. It’s a great DIY gift idea for men because it’s cheap, all-natural, gluten-free, and only has two basic ingredients: beeswax and avocado oil. It’s also customizable so if you like scented facial hair care products, feel free to add in your favorite combination of essential oils for a unique scent.

How to Make Your Own Beard and Mustache Wax

The first step is to gather your ingredients and equipment.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup beeswax
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 48 to 80 drops of essential oils (optional)

Equipment:

  • a pot filled with two inches of water
  • an old jam jar
  • a wooden popsicle stick
  • a silicone mold (I used a baby food tray)

Note: Melted wax is difficult to clean up. Use equipment you don’t mind throwing out afterwards in case you spill the wax.

Next, pour the beeswax pastilles and avocado oil into your jam jar.

Place your jam jar in the pot filled with water and turn the heat up to medium. Bring the water to a boil and allow the wax to melt. This will take 20-30 minutes.

After the wax has melted, turn off the burner. Stir the mixture with the popsicle stick until combined well. Then using oven mitts or gloves, lift the jar out of the water. Carefully pour the hot mixture into your molds. I used about a 1/4 cup per mold.

Stir in your essential oils, using 12 to 15 drops per mold. Here are some oils that I used.

Clove, cinnamon, rosemary and orange blend nicely together as do peppermint, grapefruit, and lavender.

Allow your beard and mustache wax bars to cool. When they are cool to the touch, you may pop them out of the mold and they’ll be ready for use!

Did you make this recipe? What scents did you choose? Share it with us on Instagram! #asimplefamilykitchen