Friday, November 29, 2013

Non-Dairy Grain-Free Stuffing

I hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving! We sure did! I had GREAT brain day, so I spent a good amount of it in the kitchen making all sorts of yummy things for our Thanksgiving gathering with friends.

All six recipes were new to me, but the one I was most excited to try was the non-dairy, grain-free stuffing created by my amazing sister, Carisa, who runs the Clean & Lean Facebook page. If you want to be inspired to live a healthy life, you are going to want to check out her page. If you want inspiration to eat clean and move your body, you'll find it with Carisa's recipes, ingredient substitutions, motivational thoughts, and workouts.

If you are in Minnesota, you can catch Carisa on Fox 9's cooking segment. Follow her page for show times. Two weeks ago, she was on the show making this non-dairy, grain-free stuffing recipe.  Fortunately for those of us not in Minnesota, she posted the recipe to her Facebook page, as well.

It was such a big hit at dinner tonight, I asked Carisa if I could blog about it here, and she graciously agreed. So here are your step-by-step directions to my new favorite healthy stuffing alternative. And did I mention that it's made in a crock pot? Throw it in and take it easy, or, in my case, whip up five other recipes!

My Sister's Stuffing
created by Carisa Rasmussen of Clean & Lean


  • 3 cups low sodium, organic chicken broth 
  • 1 cup wild rice 
  • 1 cup quinoa (rinsed) 
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 package of sliced mushrooms (Sorry, Carisa, I skipped these!)
  • 1 large onion, chopped  (I diced them)
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 4 celery ribs with leaves, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 1 cup finely cut chives (I used 1/2 cup dried)
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning (or two, if you prefer)
  • 3 tsp sea salt 
  • ½ tsp black pepper 

1.  Add rinsed quinoa and wild rice to the crockpot. I've yet to figure out the best way to rinse quinoa without making a mess. Anyone have any hints for me?

2. Add 3 cups chicken broth. I used to buy a ton of chicken broth until a friend told me about Better Than Bouillon.

3. Add 3 Tablespoons olive oil. (Ignore the mess. It was crazy in my kitchen today!)

4. Dice 1 onion, 2 carrots, and 4 celery ribs (including leaves). Add to crock pot.

5. Add 4 cloves garlic (about 2 teaspoons).

6. Add 1/2 cup dried chives (or 1 cup fresh chives)

7. Add 2 bay leaves.

8. Carisa said to add 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning. I like seasoning. I added two. I make my own poultry seasoning. Eventually I'll make a post about that.

9. Finally, add 3 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set the crockpot to 3 hours on high.

10. Three hours later, the stuffing is done!

11. I put the stuffing in a casserole dish for easier transport to our friend's house.

A few notes from Carisa.
This is a stuffing that you can cook ahead of time because it reheats well. (She cooks hers overnight on low). This is a very moist stuffing, it’s not dry at all. If you prefer a more dry stuffing, start by leaving out a half cup of chicken broth and a Tablespoon of the oil. I love the flavor of this stuffing, it’s my absolute favorite, but my husband prefers it with more salt. You may need to add salt depending on your personal preference.

A few notes from Jen:
I thought the texture was just right, not too dry, and not too moist. It's really savory and with my particular poultry seasoning, I think I will cut the salt by half next time, and believe me, there will be a next time! Also, this recipe makes a very generous amount of stuffing. If you are making this for a smaller group, you may want to half the recipe.

I've made a printable recipe so you can get a started on next year's menu!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Indonesian Pilaf

Several years ago, Kashi ran an ad in Real Simple magazine. Included in the ad was a recipe for Indonesian Pilaf. In my pre-Pinterest days, I tore it out and added it to my recipe binder. I've tweaked it over the years and it has become a staple in our house. I usually have all of the ingredients on hand, so it's an easy switch on those days when I'm not feeling up to making whatever recipe I had on the menu plan.

For a long time, I kept skipping over this one because I thought I had to buy the Kashi packet, and as a general rule, I avoid mixes and packets. Finally I read the fine print and realized I could use any grain I wanted. Dutch cuisine includes a lot of Indonesian foods, given the whole Dutch occupation. Politics aside, it sounded yummy and I loved all the colors.

adapted from

  • 2 cups grain of your choice. (In this iteration, I used a combination of wheat berries, spelt berries, and barley. Other options include brown rice, couscous, or quinoa)
  • 1/2 cup whole peanuts
  • 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 1-1/2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 cup raisins (or cranberries, or a combination of both)
  • 1 small carrot, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup organic red cabbage, diced 
  • 2 cups kale, chopped (or spinach, if you prefer)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/2 organic red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped or 2 Tablespoons dried
  • 2 Tablespoons katsap manis, or soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoons brown rice vinegar 
  • 1 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoons raw sugar or coconut sugar

1. Cook grain according to instructions.

Couscous works well with this recipe if you want dinner on the table quickly. But after making this recipe with barley, wheat berries, and spelt berries, I now prefer to take the extra time for a more filling version of this versatile recipe.  

Start cooking your grain first. That way, it will be ready by the time the veggie mix is prepped and ready.
2.  Dry toast peanuts in a small skillet until golden brown and set aside. I'm not able to multi-task when roasting. It only take a couple of minutes, so I give the nuts my full attention so I can take them off the stove when they start sweating and before they burn.

3. Once the grains are cooking and the peanuts are roasted, start prepping your vegetables.

We use red cabbage a lot, as it is very common in Dutch meals. To save time, we chop up a whole head at a time and freeze it.

4. Sauté garlic and onion in  the first 2 teaspoons of sesame oil in a large skillet until limp. I usually keep pre-chopped red onion in our freezer, like I used in this picture.

Unless, of course, you are out of red onion, in which case you skip it! I'm telling you, this recipe is very flexible.

5. Add cumin and coriander and stir.

5. Add cranberries, raisins, carrots, cabbage, kale, salt, water and stir well.

If I'm using fresh garlic, I usually add it now. If I'm using ground garlic, I add it later. 

Cover with lid, reduce heat to low, simmer for 3 minutes (or until kale is wilted), then remove from heat.

6. In a large mixing bowl, combine sauté mixture with cooked grain, red bell pepper, cilantro, and toasted peanuts and mix well. (I was out of red peppers. Our son is a pepper thief!)

7. In a small bowl, combine remaining 2 teaspoons sesame oil, katsap manis, rice vinegar, ground ginger (if grated ginger was not added to the pilaf mixture), red chili flakes, and coconut sugar. Whisk together.

8. Add liquid to pilaf mixture, stir well and enjoy.

Eet smakelijk!

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Sparkle Box

We have a rule in our house: no tree before the turkey. So even though we are still in the midst of fall and preparing for Thanksgiving with things like our Thankful tree and even a little mantle decor, this mommy still has Christmas on the back of her mind. 

One way we try to keep the spirit of Christmas alive year round is with a tradition we started last year based on the book, The Sparkle Box (<--Amazon affiliate link) by Jill Hardie.

The book tells the story of a little boy named Sam who is curious about a sparkly box sitting on the mantel at home. As Christmas day approaches, Sam and his family find ways to show kindness to others. On Christmas morning, Sam is finally allowed to open the Sparkle Box, in which he finds slips of paper that describe the good deeds they did for others. Sam's parents explain that when those acts of service and kindness are really gifts for Jesus, based on Mathew 25:40: The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me."

It is important to us as parents that we raise our son to be grateful for what he has and generous to those who have not. Throughout the year, we look for opportunities to serve and be generous. Granted, this can be a challenge for me, as my brain injury prevents me for participating in some traditional service activities. But we are teaching our son to have a mindset of looking for ways to meet the needs in others, from a simple act of offering to take back a shopping cart for a mother with young child to a more difficult choice to offer his spend money to a medical center in Peru. The acts themselves are not nearly as important to us as is cultivating a mindset of generous giving.

The Christmas season for us is the perfect time to work on our attitude of giving and receiving. As a Dutch family, we celebrate Sinterklaas, who brings gifts on December 5. Our son's birthday is December 9. And then of course, Christmas is December 25. That's a lot of gift-giving occasions in a very short window. Early on, we decided that for each occasion, our son would receive four gifts from us: something he wants, something he needs, something to experience, and something to read. We keep a wishlist handy for D to write down the things he would like, and as December draws closer, he will often cross out some things and prioritize the rest. It's not a guarantee that he will receive those things, but the process of him noting how much things cost and knowing he won't get everything he wants when he wants it is a good foundation for budgeting as he gets older. 

We do let our son have a bonus gift at Christmas, that ties in to the Sparkle Box. He gets to choose one gift (we give him a specific dollar amount to spend) that he would like to donate to Toys for Tots. He selects something he would like, and we buy two of the same thing. Then he helps me wrap both gifts. We take one to our Toys for Toys drop off and the other goes under the tree. We like the idea that as he plays with that toy, he knows there is another boy enjoying the same thing.

Throughout the year, as we give to others or meet a need, we write down what we did on a piece of paper for The Sparkle Box. This year, I bought some heart notepads for this purpose. I looked everywhere for little gifts, but the hearts are growing on me. 

As a general rule, the events we record for our Sparkle Box do not include regular chores or gifts that expected, like a birthday gift, but are either gifts that we're given "just because" or acts of service, or anything done with a cost of time or money.

As the year goes on, our love notes to Jesus pile up. 

The book includes a little box, but I liked the idea of making my own. I found the white sparkly photo box at Big Lots on clearance last year. All I had to do was make my own insert for the photo slot, which I made by raiding my fabric scraps.

Our sparkly Sparkle box.

One of my favorite photos from last Christmas is this one where Niels is reading the Sparkle Box story, D is holding the box excitedly, and Marissa looks on, munching on Christmas goodies while taking in her first American Christmas. 

 I'd love to hear about your favorite Christmas traditions!

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Keeping Time with Our Family Around the World

command center clocks

Our command center has been organized and put to good use since we moved in back in February 2012. But one aspect has been unfinished: our clocks.

A few months before we moved into our new house, I had the idea of putting up four clocks in our new command center, to represent the time zones in which my mom, my dad, Niels' parents, and we live. 

While we were still in our little apartment, I bought four modern clocks at Target and added a name of each location on each clock with foam letters. I loved the way it looked.

I brought the clocks to the house and found the perfect place for them above our command center.

My boxed clocks were on display when I posted about organizing the command center, and can now be seen on Pinterest. And sadly, the clocks stayed in their boxes for many, many months after we moved in. (Seriously, how long does it take to put in batteries!)

Finally, after about six months after we moved in, and I was in the middle of my photo gallery phrase, I climbed up to free the clocks from their boxes. (Sounds like I've been reading Dr. Seuss!) And...

The batteries kept dying! I was so disappointed! I love Target and their products, but these clocks are totally battery eaters. After replacing the batteries several times--after only a few days use each--we ignored them for awhile.

Then, in May, I found these fun clocks at Ikea. 

This time we took them out of their boxes right away, put in batteries and hung them up! (Pardon the space shuttle. It was in time out.)

It took me awhile to figure out how to label the clocks. The ceilings are ten feet high, so using vinyl would be pretty dangerous for me. And I couldn't mark the clocks itself without losing the impact of the map image I liked so well. 

Then inspiration hit when I was doing a little paint touch up.

We have a lot of paint sticks left over from the build, so it was a pretty cheap project. I painted the sticks the same color as the wall, Sherwin Williams Oyster Bay.

I used black felt sticker letters like these (<--Amazon affiliate link) that I bought at Joann with a coupon.

I checked them out on our weekly calendar magnets before climbing up on the command center. 

I used washi tape for a quick cosmetic fix to the clock hands.

Once again I turned to my trusty Command strips to hang up the labels.

I kept the home clock green.

Done! And it only took 21 months!

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