Cook the Book: Homemade Salsa (from “The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet”)

Here’s a fabulous salsa recipe that’s super easy to whip up This recipe comes from Laura Fuentes’ cookbook, The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet: More than 200 Healthy Homemade Snacks You and Your Kids Will Love. While this is a perfect Summer recipe, when tomatoes & cilantro are growing in your garden, you can definitely make this a Winter staple too, using canned whole tomatoes (chopped) or diced tomatoes. So, no need to deny yourself this goodness in the cold Winter months!! πŸ™‚

Recipe adapted from The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet: More than 200 Healthy Homemade Snacks You and Your Kids Will Love.

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DIY Silver Polish Total Cost: $0.18/use

If you are anything like me, you have very little use for silver polish. If I were to have a bottle of the store-bought stuff, I would either lose it before I needed it a 2nd time & if I were so lucky to find it, it would likely be expired. It’s a total waste of money for my lifestyle. Until I need it.

So lucky for us, there is a totally crazy fun way to get silver polished & it involves all the stuff I already have on hand! There are many sources for this “recipe” on the Internet, so it’s difficult to thank any 1 person/group. The one I ended up using was found on apartmenttherapy.com!

Here is the before picture of my beautiful little necklace w/ all the tarnish:

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The Crumby Son & I got our supplies out & set about on our science experiment.  It came together very quickly & ended up working very well!

Not all the tarnish was taken out but after a quick buff, the necklace now looks like this:

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This was a great experiment to try out with my science loving, curious Son – and I’m so glad it worked!  It saves us some money & it’s always available when I need it.  What a great recipe to have in our arsenal!!

Recipe adapted from apartmenttherapy.com.

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Shrimp Pad Thai with Zoodles! Total Cost: $13.28 ($3.32/serving)

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Zoodles, zoodles & more zoodles!!! Zoodles (or curly zucchini noodles for those that can resisit the word ZOODLES!) are having a moment. Thanks to the super fab spiralizer (like the one I bought on Amazon => click here), spiralized veggies are totally easy to make. So far, I’ve only tested out zucchini (thanks to the explosion of fruit in my garden), but I’ve heard that a spiralizer will spin out beautiful curls for everything from potatoes to beets to sweet potatoes. (Stay tuned for future curl-based recipes!)

So, back to my zoodles…. As most have probably heard, zoodles are a great substitute for standard noodles. Not only do these faux noodles cut the overall calories of any dish (assuming a 1:1 swap) but it also gives you an extra dose of nutrients too! I was craving pad Thai this weekend but couldn’t justify a calorie bomb in my diet. I was inspired to pull out my new toy & see if I could make a healthier version!! And I actually did!!! πŸ™‚

This shrimp pad Thai is modified from a recipe from Vegan Planet. While it’s no longer vegan, it’s still super yummy. (You can replace the shrimp w/ diced tofu to return it to veganism!) More importantly, using zoodles in lieu of rice noodles, you’ll save 1,000 calories!!! Yes, you read that correctly – 1,000 calories (or 250 calories per serving!) That’s so incredible! Imagine all the ways you can eat those “found” calories – a bowl of ice cream, some cookies, an egg roll, a small bag of Cheetos. The list can write itself. πŸ™‚

So, here’s to happy spiralizing – and making fun use of found calories! Let me know your favorite way to spiralize in the Comments section – I’m really excited to keep twirling! πŸ™‚

Recipe adapted from Vegan Planet.

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Mexican Wedding Cookies Total Cost: $4.31 ($0.12/cookie)

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Mexican wedding cookies. Russian tea cakes. Butterballs. Italian wedding cookies. This cookie has many aliases. How a new one -> Super delicious?? πŸ™‚

These round dollops of shortcake goodness are a welcome addition to many events – potlucks, birthday, parties in general, holiday cookie exchanges…. I think that really they can fit in most anywhere. Having just needed a yummy treat for a recent potluck, I was inspired to make these cookies. I know them to be really tasty & a batch can make a large amount, which is ideal for the potluck setting!

I found a recipe on pillsbury.com that was pretty straightforward & had a lot of great reviews. And, as promised, the cookies were awesome!! I substituted 3/4 c. coconut oil for the 1 c. butter. (It’s a matter of preference. I’m sure butter is still really tasty!) Even more important, they were gobbled up @ the potluck! That’s a sign of a popular treat!

One note of warning – the cookies are really crumbly. So, you’ll have to be gentle with handling them, if you don’t want to lose any along the way! I’m not above eating pieces of cookies – but others may frown on it! πŸ™‚

Recipe adapted from pillsbury.com.

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DIY: Almond Paste Total Cost: $5.07 ($2.54/serving)

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The Crumby Family is on a cookie making spree! (And unfortunately, for our overall health, it’s also a cookie eating spree. :-/ I guess I need to step up my long-distance training!!) But, I digress. So, back to the topic of yummy almond paste!

I was digging through Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero’s cookbook, “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats” for a new cookie recipe & found a very non-traditional (at least for the Crumby Family) recipe: Pignoli Almond Cookies. I had most of the ingredients, except for almond paste, which was a new one for me. I love almonds but my initial reaction was that almond paste would be akin to almond butter & not a very exciting ingredient. I also figured that this specialty ingredient may not be sold at my local grocer & if it was sold, it would be buried in the shelves, close to the expiration date. πŸ™‚

So, I took to the Internet to find out WHAT almond paste is. To my delight, it’s a super sweet paste, made from equal parts almonds & confectioners’ sugar. The consistency is very close to almond butter (hence the term “paste”) & creates a great binding ingredient (as opposed to eggs.)

In addition to finding out what the ingredient was, I also found a super fabulous recipe to DIY! Thanks to the fine folks @ Taste of Home, I didn’t have to leave my home to find this item! I am lucky to have all the ingredients on hand so I could experiment to my heart’s delight!

There was one part of the recipe that caused me alarm. The recipe required an egg white but there was no baking to actually cook the egg. While I suspect this is fine, I didn’t want to take any unnecessary chances so I substituted a flax “egg” in lieu of the egg white. This type of substitution may offend some purists, but I don’t know any different, so it was fine (& perfectly safe) for me!

Finally, making your own almond paste is significantly cheaper than buying it at the store. Even though I made it @ home, I checked prices anyways. A standard 7 oz. tube runs ~$4.50. This 12 oz. recipe costs $5.07. That’s a savings of 34% per ounce – not too shabby! And, I’d argue that the quality of this recipe would allow you to use 6 oz. (in lieu of the standard 7 oz.) & not sacrifice taste. This results in a more economical use of your $$!

For this particular recipe, I relied heavily on Vitacost! If you’re a first-time Vitacost shopper, you can save $10 off your 1st $30 order! Just use this link – http://goo.gl/B4fqQP – to claim your savings. Don’t forget – they offer free shipping on orders $49 or more. Vitacost sells a ton of products (from food to beauty) so I can easily load up $49 in my virtual cart! I suspect it may be easy for y’all too! πŸ™‚

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

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Cook the Book: Pignoli Almond Cookies (from “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar”) Total Cost: $5.42 ($0.18/cookie)

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If I were to film the show “My Strange Obsession”, it would be about my obsession with cookbooks. I have a LOT of cookbooks. The Crumby Hubby would claim that I have too many cookbooks but I feel that my collection is always almost perfect. The only problem with having a cookbook selection as large as I do is that I often forget about the hidden gems, as I search for the next best thing!

I was going through my beautiful selection & found an aforementioned forgotten treasure: Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero’s cookbook, “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats”!! There are many excellent recipes in this book!! While I would love to go all “Julie & Julia” & commit to making all the recipes, I will have to think smaller now & slowly chip away at it!

Having made a few more traditional cookies from the book before, I turned my attention to a recipe slightly more exotic than others: Pignoli Almond cookies. I’ve never heard of pignoli cookies & the starting syllable seems unusual for a vegan cookbook. πŸ™‚ Apparently these are traditional Italian cookies, so I guess I was feeling a little fancy! With this in mind & as a perpetual cookie optimist, I figured it was worth a shot!

Eyeing the ingredients, I was pleasantly surprised to find pine nuts as a main ingredient. Pine nuts, as we know, are rather expensive & not something everyone has on hand. I bought a ginormous bag @ Costco, where the prices are more down-to-earth (but still pricey, especially for this cheap chick). Not wanting to waste this expensive product (due to age), I pounced on the chance to put them into a cookie!

Looking past the pine nuts for a moment, I focused on a new ingredient: almond paste, which I was totally unfamiliar with. A simple Internet search reveals that this is a super sweet paste, made from almonds (duh) & confectioners’ sugar. You can buy it @ the store or make your own (which I did, of course!) πŸ™‚

With all my ingredients properly inventoried, I set out to make my cookies. They are slightly labor intensive, primarily at the end – with all the rolling & smushing pine nuts. But, once baked, the labor was totally worth it! There’s an amaretto taste to this chewy cookie (obviously influenced by the almond extract) & the pine nuts give a savory element that balances out the sweetness (the latter thanks to both almond paste & granulated sugar.) hint of for a new cookie recipe & found a very non-traditional (at least for the Crumby Family) recipe: Pignoli Almond Cookies. I had most of the ingredients, except for almond paste, which was a new one for me. I love almonds but my first reaction was that almond paste would be akin to almond butter & not a very exciting ingredient. I also figured that this specialty ingredient may not be sold at my local grocer & if it was sold, it would be buried in the shelves, close to the expiration date. πŸ™‚

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Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup Total Cost: $7.50 ($1.50/serving)

After many unseasonably warm days in my Southern city, today is decidedly cooler & PERFECT for a yummy soup! πŸ™‚ I’ve been digging into this soup for many months now; it hits all the requirements for the Crumby Son & I can doctor it up to make it quietly healthier, since I have yet to convince my munchkin that green veggies are delicious. :-/

I’m totally obsessed with Laura Fuentes’ cookbook, “The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet: More than 200 Healthy Homemade Snacks You and Your Kids Will Love” & when I saw that she has a blog (who doesn’t, right? :)), I knew that it would contain a lot of fun recipes to test out.

That’s where I found this gem of a recipe, on Momables. I loved all of it, except the calories that I knew would come with the half-and-half. While I knew the half-and-half would be totally delish, I need to maintain my weight loss & wanted to find an acceptable substitute. Let the substitutions begin!! πŸ™‚ So, instead of 2 1/4 c. half-and-half (which adds ~720 calories), I break it out into 1 1/4 c. low-fat Greek yogurt (~163 calories) & 1 c. unsweetened almond milk (~30 calories). This is a savings of 527 calories – over 100 calories per serving!!

In addition to the half-and-half substitute, I also will throw in some Orange Puree, White Puree and/or White Bean Puree (also from Missy Chase Lapine’s cookbook, “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals”. Each of these purees are nearly invisible in this soup & give an extra amount of nutrition for my growing son! (Depending on how much I add, I may throw an additional teaspoon of Italian seasoning to trick his taste buds. :))

While I’m sure the original recipe is great, I think this version is totally amazing & makes me happy that I’m reducing calories & improving the amount of vegetables (by way of added purees) my family is eating!

Since I’m making it for dinner tonight, I’ll add a picture (finally!!) of the final product. Don’t let the lack of picture stop you though; it’s absolutely amazing!!

Recipe adapted from Momables.

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