Winter Cranberry Mandarin Jam

There's no need for cranberries to disappear after Thanksgiving, and if you're anything like me, you have a few bags sitting in the freezer that you bought at bargain prices around the holidays. If you don't find something to do with those delicious berries, however, they might just sit there until next Thanksgiving rolls around. 

Psssst… By the way, if they do, they'll still be perfectly edible. Trust me. 

So what's a girl to do with her now random bag of cranberries? Pair it with some juicy, sweet mandarin oranges, which are currently in season, and you've got yourself a tangy, delicious winter jam. Biscuits just got an upgrade, y'all.

Winter Cranberry Mandarin Jam

1 bag fresh cranberries
3 Mandarin oranges, peeled and separated 
1 cup water
3/4-1 cup sugar {or sugar substitute}
1/4 cup chia seeds

Place the ingredients {except chia seeds} into a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low until berries start to burst, about 10 minutes. Mash and continue cooking another 10 minutes until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup chia seeds. As the jam cools, the chia seeds will soak up the remaining water and thicken it further. Place in an airtight container once cooled and store in the refrigerator. 


November 23: Eva's Party & Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

We had Eva's 1st Birthday Party today, and she liked the cupcakes!! Homemade cupcakes for the win! :) She was SO CUTE "opening" her presents! She was very opinionated, which kind of surprised me, and got excited about each and every one, wanting them opened immediately so she could play with them. She kept saying, "Mom!! Mom!!" I think she says that when she wants something, too, because she sure wanted those presents. Mom is a pretty universal word, after all. I have to say, I think she had a great time!!

I had some helpers with the cupcakes.

The birthday girl. I had a hard time getting a good picture of her because she wouldn't stay still!

Who turned 1? Who?

Little cousin friends.

Lunch! Pizza, peas, and carrots.

Sadie liked the presents, too! 

Happy Birthday to you, Happy birthday to you!!

Score!!! :)

 The aftermath.

Playing with her new toys.

The party was just a small family one, and I definitely didn't go all out this time. I had grand plans of "healthy" cupcakes with beet-dyed pink frosting and cute decor, but sometimes Pinterest is overrated and it's okay to just have simple birthday party. Can I just put that out there for ya'll? As much as I love all that stuff, I just wasn't feeling it this time. And she's 1. She don't care.

But the cupcakes, although not whole wheat, were homemade, very good, and even kind of cute. Here's the recipe in case you wanted to try them out for yourselves! The batter is silky, smooth, chocolatey heaven, and it produces a rich, delectable cupcake. I'll call them Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes because they have cinnamon and coffee in them. When my husband and I honeymooned in Mexico {almost 10 years ago?!?!}, the coffee they served at the resort always had cinnamon in it, and that's apparently a Mexican thing. So there you go. I frosted them with a homemade cream cheese frosting, but feel free to use what you like! Enjoy!

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes
{yields 24 cupcakes}

1/2 cup {1 stick} butter, softened*
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2-3/4 cup brewed coffee, cooled
1/2 cup whole milk*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the muffin pans with liners. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl as needed. Once eggs are fully incorporated, stir in the vanilla. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk/coffee mixture, beating well after each addition. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until cooked through. *To make a dairy-free version of this recipe, substitute coconut oil for the butter and almond milk for the whole milk.

Simple Cream Cheese Frosting

2 sticks {1 cup} butter, softened
1 package cream cheese {8 oz}, softened
5 cups powdered sugar

Cream the butter until fluffy. Add the cream cheese and mix until combined. Add the powdered sugar a cup or two at a time until fully incorporated. Continue to beat a few minutes longer until very white, light, and fluffy. Yields enough frosting to generously frost 24 cupcakes. Then lick the beater, bowl, and spatula clean because it is Just. So. Good. I'm sure it has nothing to do with all that butter and sugar. Nothing at all. 

You're welcome.

November 5: Cabbage & Noodles

I may or may not have started listening to Christmas music on Pandora today. Don't judge. We had a fun play date with Miss Emily today, and it just so happened that I made her delicious recipe for cabbage & noodles tonight for dinner! If you like cabbage and bacon {who doesn't like bacon??}, then this one is for you!! Cabbage is in season and very cheap, as are noodles, so this is a great, frugal meal. 

Now, I changed up the ratios a little, making less, because I wasn't sure if my family would like it or not; and if not, I'd be stuck eating a LARGE amount of cabbage for the next week. That wouldn't work out very well for anyone, if ya know what I mean. The basic recipe is very versatile & would work with whatever you had on hand! I added some balsamic vinegar to mine {and I thought about blue cheese, too?} because I love the taste combination with the cabbage and caramelized onions. And I just happen to think vinegar makes everything better. It's a sickness. Anyways, here it is!

Miss Emily's Cabbage and Noodles

8 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 large heads of cabbage, shredded
3 medium onions, halved and sliced 
2 1-lb bags of egg noodles (we use Mrs. Weiss's Kluski variety, but whatever you like will work)

Cook bacon over medium heat until crispy on a large, heavy-bottomed pot.  Remove bacon and set aside, leaving drippings in the pot.  Add onions to pot, stirring to coat in the drippings; cook 5-7 minutes over medium heat, until just soft.  Add cabbage to onions, stirring well to combine.  You may need to add the cabbage a few handfuls at a time, depending on the size of your pot.  Cover and cook over medium heat until the veggies reach your desired level of doneness (we like them pretty well caramelized, but do what you like).  When the veggies are done, add the noodles and enjoy!

*Add whatever veggies & seasonings you want - it's a very flexible recipe!
*Add some Parmesan cheese if desired.
*Dumplings can be used in place of the noodles.  

"Basta" Salad

Ever since my sister introduced me to "Basta" Salad, it's been one of my favorite dishes. The barley, a whole grain, replaces the refined pasta you would normally see in a pasta salad, thus coining the term "basta" salad. Loaded with vegetables & beans, it's a perfect complete meal in and of itself, but it also makes an excellent side dish.

Basta Salad

4 cups pearled barley, cooked according to package instructions
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 of a red onion, diced 
1 pint grape tomatoes, chopped
1 English cucumber, quartered & chopped
1 can small black olives, drained
1 jar green olives, drained
2 cans beans, rinsed & drained
A few handfuls of baby carrots, chopped
Mild banana peppers to taste 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. I like to mix and match the beans. I've used kidney & great northern beans as well as black & garbanzo beans, & it always tastes great! Chef's secret: pour a little juice from the jar of banana peppers into the salad for extra flavor.

For the dressing:

1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil

Mix and pour on the salad, stirring to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate. This is very much a {Whatever} recipe and is completely adaptable to whatever you happen to have in your pantry or fridge. This recipe yeilds a lot, as my recipes normally do, which makes it a great dish to bring to a potluck or to keep in the fridge for easy lunches during the week. 


Whole Wheat Pancakes

It's not like the world needs another pancake recipe, but these are very easy to make and would be worth a try if you're looking for a nice basic recipe. Whole grain pancakes are very tasty, so there's no reason to depend on that box of Bisquick any longer! This is a perfect recipe to double and freeze for easy breakfasts later, too. Simply pop the frozen pancakes into the toaster and voila!

Whole Wheat Pancakes
{makes about 18 pancakes}

2 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted*
{use coconut oil for DF}
2 cups whole milk
{use almond milk for DF}
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine the wet ingredients and whisk together. *Feel free to use less butter {2 tbsp} if you'd like. And I must say, whether you have a milk intolerance or not, using coconut oil instead of butter yields a far superior tasting pancake, in my opinion. Combine the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients and whisk until most of the lumps are gone. Pour batter by the 1/4 cup full onto a greased pan over medium heat. Cook until lightly browned, when bubbles appear on the surface, and flip. 

This is a great basic recipe, but feel free to get creative by adding in 1/2 cup of blueberries, pumpkin puree, dark chocolate chips, or apples!