Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Chirstmas2014

Every year during Christmas I love to make chocolate covered pretzels to give out to my family and friends.

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These pretzels are insanely easy to make and my friends can’t seem to get enough of them.

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The recipe is simple

Ingredients:

2 bags of pretzels

1 bag of pretzel rods (optional)

1 package of chocolate almond bark

1 package of vanilla almond bark

Sprinkles of your choice – This year I bought the Wilton Holiday Mix with 6 sprinkles to choose from. ($5 @ Michael’s)

xmas sprinkles

Directions:

1. Get out a few baking pans and line with wax paper. (I like to tape mine down to the pan so that I can easily reuse the paper.)

2. Cut the almond bark up into smaller pieces and place in a microwave safe bowl.

3. Heat the chocolate up in 15 second intervals. (This is to ensure the chocolate does not burn.)

4. After the chocolate is completely melted, stir with a spoon until the consistency is smooth.

5. Next, dip one pretzel at a time in the chocolate and lay onto the wax paper.

6. Before the chocolate dries (which dries very quickly) add sprinkles on top.

7. Place in fridge for a few minutes until the chocolate on all covered pretzels has dried.

8. Package and give out to family and friends. (I found my packages at Hobby Lobby 20 for $3)

pretzelpackage

**Note: There will be a lot of broken pretzels left over. To ensure I don’t waste any pretzels, I’m planning on buying a chocolate mold from Michael’s and mixing some of the broken pretzels and leftover chocolate into the mold.

This is a great way to spread a little bit of Christmas cheer! If you decide to try this simple recipe let me know how it turns out by emailing me at thelittlewifethatcould@gmail.com. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter @brittyvallen to keep up all of my little adventures.

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Frozen Crockpot Meals

In order to make life a bit easier when it comes to making dinner, I decided to throw together a few pre-made meals to throw in the crockpot on those busy days. I like to try and prepare several crockpot meals in one night and freeze for later use, but for now I’m just going to use two recipes. Lable each bag with the Meal and how long it cooks for.

First on the list is the easiest meal ever… seriously you can’t mess this one up if you tried.

Ham with Pineapple

Ingredients:

2.5 lb Ham (pre-sliced is preferred)

2 cans of pineapple chunks in pineapple juice

2 tbsp brown sugar

Directions:

1. Slice Ham if it is not pre-sliced then divide in half and place in separate ziploc bags.

2. Add one can of pineapple in pineapple juice to each bag, sprinkle brown suagr and freeze. (Don’t forget to label!)

3.  When ready to eat, pull bag out of freezer and place in crockpot with just enough water to cover the bottom of the crockpot.

4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

That recipe is so ridiculously simple, a caveman couldn’t screw it up.

 

Next, we will prepare Mediterranean Pork Chops

Ingredients:

6-8 Pork Chops

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups chicken broth

1-2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp paprika

1-1.5 tsp Italian Seasoning

2 tsp dried oregano

1.5 tsp dried Basil

Directions:

1. Divide ingredients into two ziploc bags. (Again, don’t forget to label)

2. When ready to cook, pull out ziploc bag, add enough water to cover the bottom of the crockpot and add pork chops.

3. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Serve with rice or noodles.

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Daze

garden“To grow a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” – Audrey Hepburn

I know I am little late posting this, but this was done in over a week’s time. My husband tore up and tilled our garden bed that was covered in weeds and lord knows what else. I ended up making several trips to home depot just to get enough soil to fill this bed and honestly it was more soil than I care to admit. After talking to a few of my green thumbed friends I found out, here in my home town, you can purchase a truck bed full of organic soil for only $50. Let’s not tell my husband about that, seeing as I learned this after purchasing over a dozen bags of soil.

Before adding the soil I laid down a layer of newspaper to help prevent weeds from coming back. Of course a huge gust of wind decided to intervene during my garden daze and I lost half of the newspaper until I wizened up and laid bricks to hold it down.

BedNewspaper

Here I planted 8 tomatoes (of which only 6 survived), 5 bell pepper plants, basil, lavender, rosemary and oregano. I have indoor compost bin where I add used coffee grinds, tea bags, dried banana peels (great source of phosphorous), ground egg shells, and orange peels which all creates a rich plant fertilizer.

One of my beautiful bonnie pepper plants.

One of my beautiful Bonnie pepper plants.

Depending on which region you live in,  your soil may hold in too much moisture which can drown your plants. In a situation like this you to add need more drainage to your soil by adding rocks to the bottom of the bed to help eliminate this issue.

If your soil needs help holding in moisture you can add leftover hay to it. If your garden is not too big you can build individual irrigation systems for each plant with old plastic bottles by drilling them with holes and filling with water, allowing the plant to soak up water as needed. Although this is a great way to re-purpose plastic bottles this was not on my agenda for this project.

Surprisingly many vegetables can be regenerated from kitchen scraps such as onions, celery, potatoes, pineapple, cabbage, romaine lettuce, etc. I attempted a white onion, although I haven’t seen any results yet I remain hopeful that I will. To regenerate an onion keep the root end intact and plant root down. Simple enough right?

Onion1

 Onion2

Update: Two weeks after putting these white onions in the ground I have a few sprouts growing. I’ve researched and learned that after harvesting it is important to allow the onion to sit out intact with it’s sprout for two to three weeks allowing them to completely dry and outer layer crisp. Harvest when the green is about 6 inches off the ground for best flavor. If the onion sprout produces a flower harvest and use right away, they are not good for storing.

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     I’m so thrilled with the way these onions grown from kitchen scraps turned out I planted a few other different kinds like red, yellow and sweet onions for a variety of dishes. Red onions are great raw in salads or guacamole, yellow onions are good for cooking with meats, sweet onions are best for frying and white onions are crunchy and great in salads or stir-fries.

 **Tip: During the summer a fun way to water plants is to fill water balloons with water and freeze. Once frozen take the balloon off and use the mini ice dome in the plant, it will absorb the water as the ice melts in the summer heat. I also add the ice domes to my dog’s water bowl which he loooves!

 If you have any garden tips or tricks you would like to share, please feel free to email me at thelittlewifethatcould@gmail.com

 

Squish Squash & Zucchini

SquishSquash

 Squash and Zucchini are both very healthy vegetables and make a wonderful side dish with any type of meat. I have constantly been looking for new heart healthy dishes to try to help my mom maintain her congestive heart failure and diabetes. Pinterest has most definitely been one of my go to sources with it’s never ending stream of recipes.

I love to use recipes for inspiration and then go into my kitchen to see what I can come up with. Of course I can’t make everything according to it’s recipe on Pinterest without making several trips to the store. So, I like to create my own recipe with the ingredients I have in my kitchen at the time and see how it turns out.

Squash is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, magnesium (which helps to reduce blood pressure), fiber, potassium and many more beneficial components. It benefits the body by aiding in processing fats, carbohydrates and glucose. Squash and Zucchini are very similar vegetables especially because they both contain practically no fat or cholesterol.

Squish Squash & Zucchini:

Preheat oven to 450. Slice squash and Zucchini into 1/4 inch pieces. Combine in a ziploc bag with 1-2 tbs olive oil (enough to coat vegetables evenly), pepper, garlic and other favorite seasonings (I tried it with rosemary). Squish around in the bag to mix the seasoning and oil with the squash and zucchini. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.

SquishSquash2

Pork Tenderloin:

1 pork tenderloin

Choppped Rosemary, thyme and sage. Dales, Worcestershire sauce, cavender’s, and garlic powder.

I decided to marinade my tenderloin overnight in the seasonings listed above. Again, I generally use the country cooking rule of thumb where I don’t measure anything, I just season to my family’s taste. Place tenderloin in baking pan and fill bottom with a little bit of water. Preheat oven to 450 and bake for 30-40 minutes until no longer pink in the middle.

My grandfather has never been a huge fan of pork and usually never eats it, yet when I use this recipe he cleans his plate. I highly recommend investing in a rice cooker, my mother-in-law gave us a rice cooker a few years ago and I will never cook rice without it again. My rice is cooked to perfection every time, I no longer have to worry that the rice won’t be done on time.

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Please feel free to share any healthy recipes or dishes that your family cannot live without at thelittlewifethatcould@gmail.com

 

 

Colorful Cacti

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Planting can seem like such a chore but this project cost me less than $10 and took less than 15 minutes to complete. Having living plants around the house can help to purify the air and bring a sense of nature inside. Cacti are great for beginner gardeners because they do not require a lot of maintenance, so no green thumb required!

cactimaterials

Materials Needed:

– Planting Pot

– Cacti (I found mine on sale at Home Depot)

– Potting soil

– Spray Paint (optional)

Spray pot, allow to dry then apply second coat for safe measures. Once dry simply add soil and cacti.


sprayedpot

* Tips: 1. It is probably a good idea to wear gloves when planting the cacti. I did not have any around and ended up pulling out at least 50 cactus needles from my hands. 2. Add rocks or broken terra cotta pieces to the bottom of the pot to increase drainage.  

Bristlebrushcacti

Bristle Brush Cactus:

Native to Guerroro, Mexico. Forms a cylindrical column that may reach up to 15 inches in height and produces bright flowers. Requires bright sun light and thorough watering when soil is dry.

ballooncactus

Balloon Cactus:

Once established this cactus is hardy and drought tolerant. Requires well drained soil and thorough watering when soil is dry.


GraftedCactus

Grafted Cactus also known as “Moon Cactus”:

These colorful cacti must be grafted onto another cactus because the  grafted cactus lacks chlorophyll. These seedlings die because all plants require chlorophyll and can only grow and survive when transplanted onto another cactus. The body color of the grafted cactus becomes ruby red rather than green because of the lack of chlorophyll.

I may not have the greenest thumb but I’m pretty confident I can keep these little guys going. Not only do they brighten up any room but they let off oxygen into their environment. These cacti will go best in a bedroom because they let off more oxygen at night than non-desert plants.

Please feel free to share your cacti gardening stories with me at thelittlewifethatcould@gmail.com

 

 

Quick Italian Baked Chicken

italianbakedchicken

 

This is my go to recipe when I am in a crunch for time to prepare a meal for dinner. I know it may sound crazy but this recipe cooks frozen chicken breasts in 35 minutes or less, that’s right no thawing needed! There are so many days that I forget to pull out the meat I need to prepare a meal and end up with no time to defrost anything. This recipe is perfect for those kinds of days and never fails to satisfy at dinner time.

Italian Baked Chicken:

-Boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins or breasts frozen

-Olive oil

-Italian seasonings, garlic, basil

– Preheat oven to 450. Place frozen chicken in baking dish. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle seasonings (Country cooking = no measuring needed). Bake chicken tenders for 20-25 min or breasts for 30-35 min. Check that the chicken is cooked thoroughly and serve with your favorite side dishes.

Red Potatoes in a Hurry:

– Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces. Drizzle pan with oil and heat over medium. Toss potatoes in oil in a separate bowl and season with favorite seasonings, I used paprika, parsley and garlic powder. Add taters and cook 15 min or until evenly browned, stirring occasionally.

*Tip: Cleaning as you cook allows more family time at and after dinner. While waiting on water to boil or a pan to heat up start throwing dirty dishes into the dish washer.*

Overtime this has become one of my family’s favorite meals. I usually end up cooking it twice a week but by changing out the seasonings and using different sides it feels like a new dish. It’s easy to reinvent a recipe by simply switching the type of seasonings.

Please feel free to email me with any questions or healthy recipes at thelittlewifethatcould@gmail.com

 

 

Spaghetti, It’s Elementary my dear

skettiingredients

Clearly it has been ages since I have been able to make a post but believe me, my life is anything but boring. Since my last post, I have graduated from Auburn University, moved back to my hometown and finally married my food loving fiance. After graduation my fiance and I moved home to help take care of my mom and grandfather. My mom who has had congestive heart failure for the past ten plus years was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Anyone who lives with a diabetic knows that the entire household’s diet must accommodate to the diabetic’s nutritional needs. One important nutritional aspect of daily meal planning for a diabetic is watching carbohydrate (starch and sugar) intake. Many types of foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and milk products contain carbohydrates so be sure to check the Nutrition Facts food label where the Total Carbohydrate information is given. Understanding that carbohydrates are the primary nutrient consumed that raises your blood sugar level is essential in managing diabetes, it’s elementary my dear.

I am not a diabetic nutritionist, nor do I claim to be, but I did study Animal Sciences at Auburn where I was required to take quite a few nutrition and biochemistry courses which sparked my interest in helping my mom to maintain her diabetes. Be aware that I am new to diabetic cooking and I welcome any and all input from those who have experience.

One my family’s favorite meals is spaghetti but it is a very starchy and sodium dense meal. It is okay to realize that carbohydrates are unavoidable but the solution is simple; portion control. A serving size of 1/2 cup of spaghetti is best. Spaghetti is also a dish that often contains 400 mg or more of sodium per serving so it is necessary to use seasonings that are sodium/salt free.

Elementary Spaghetti (4-5 servings)

1 lb ground beef

1/2 package noodles

1 can diced tomatoes

2 8oz cans tomato sauce

Cavender’s (A family favorite that now comes salt free!)

Oregano, thyme, basil, garlic powder

Brown meat over medium-high heat. Drain fat. Add diced maters, tomato sauce and seasonings. Let sit for a while on low to allow the flavors set in (I usually allow at least an hour). Once you’re ready boil the noodles for 9-12 min depending on desired tenderness. Toss noodles in butter (salt free or skip this step) then mix the meat and noodles together before serving. I know not everyone will like that but my family loves it mixed together.

*Tip: Place a wooden spoon over the boiling pot to keep from foaming over, however this will not work if you overfill your pot. My rule of thumb is to never fill past the handles on the side *

As a family favorite meal I felt the urge to try to cook spaghetti in a diabetic friendly way. While most diabetic foods are unsavory and bland, I hope to change that in the healthiest way possible.

If you have a diabetic friendly recipe you would like to share with me please feel free to email at thelittlewifethatcould@gmail.com I am always willing to try new recipes!

Meatloaf Murder

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So I know that last night I wrote about how easy meatloaf is to make. Well my meatloaf did not at all turn out the way I planned.

I am one of those people who tend to work on 50 projects at once and sometimes, I will admit, I get side tracked by my ADD and OCD tendencies. While cooking last night I was doing laundry and had moved a load into the dryer, which I eventually forgot about. Usually this is not problem, but in the process of cooking and cleaning the house before my fiancé got home, I completely forgot that there was any laundry in the dryer.

While my meatloaf was happily baking in the oven I was stuffing my face with the fried green maters I just cooked. I sat on the new couch Mikee just bought me (only because he caught me dumpster diving) and started to doze off.

After about 40 minutes I was woken up by the terrifying sound of my smoke alarm. I was so disoriented I wasn’t sure if it was the smoke alarm, an ambulance or the tornado sirens. So naturally, I just hit the floor and sat there for a few seconds until I finally realized there was smoke in the house.

Of course I run to the stove to turn everything off and grab the meatloaf out of the oven. I thought surely it was the meatloaf smoking up the place so I threw it on the porch. I sat there looking at it and finally figured out that it wasn’t the meatloaf smoking up the place.

I ran back inside in search of whatever was smoking. At this point I was so confused I had to ask myself if this was real or was I simply dreaming. Nope, not a dream, smoke was pouring into the kitchen from the laundry room!

Not thinking I ran in there and put my hand on the top of the dryer before turning it off and it was scalding hot! The dang dryer’s heating element went out and fried.

Luckily there was no fire and it was only a minor tragedy. I thought my meatloaf should still be salvageable and it should only need a few minutes in the oven to warm back up.

Well, I start to go outside and realize my front door is wide open and all of animals have escaped. Not only that, they managed to knock the meatloaf onto the ground.

All of my precious babies had turned to savages and were tearing into it like wild beasts. My meatloaf had been murdered. I was so angry I couldn’t even look at them.

Although a majority of the meatloaf went into the trash, in the end I’m just glad someone was able to enjoy my meatloaf. Next time I’ll be sure there will be no napping while cooking!

Fried Green Maters & Meatloaf

My first attempt at Fried Green Maters was extremely successful.

My first attempt at Fried Green Maters was extremely successful.


Being raised in the Heart of Dixie you would think that I have tried fried green tomatoes at some point in my life, but for some reason I have never eaten them. Fried Green Tomatoes are huge in the south, especially with a big ole glass of ice cold sweet tea.

Well I decided eating just fried green tomatoes for dinner may not be such a good idea, so I threw together a meatloaf for this evenings main course. I know meatloaf can be done in many ways and is really very simple but I thought I should mix things up and make a zesty sauce to pour on top before baking.

Meatloaf Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb ground chuck
1 egg
1 onion chopped
1 cup milk
1 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons mustard (I used spicy mustard to add a bit of a tang to it)
1/3 cup catsup (again a southern way of saying ketchup)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl combine the ground chuck, egg, onion, milk and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste and place in a lightly greased 5×9 inch loaf pan or a 9×13 inch baking dish will do.

In a separate bowl mix together the brown sugar, mustard and catsup. Mix thoroughly and pour over meatloaf.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Now while I was waiting on the meatloaf to cook I nearly starved to death so I figured the fried green tomatoes would make an excellent snack and boy was I right.

I honestly have never said this about anything (besides my loving fiancé of course) but, biting into these perfectly seasoned fried green tomatoes changed my life. It was the most delicious fried anything I have ever tasted. Mikee is pretty lucky I saved him a few because it was very tempting to eat them all!

Southern Fried Green Maters

Ingredients:
4 large green tomatoes
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (Again I did not have regular cornmeal, I used the Jiffy cornbread mix)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 quart veggie oil

Instructions:
Slice tomatoes in 1/2 inch thick slices (throw out the ends)

Fill the pan with a 1/2 inch of veggie oil and heat on medium high.

Whisk eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. On a separate plate mix the cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper together.

Dip maters into the flour coating them evenly, next dip them into the milk and egg mixture. Then completely cover them in the breadcrumbs and cornmeal mixture.

Next, place the tomatoes into the frying pan in batches, but be sure not to crowd the tomatoes and DO NOT let them touch one another or the batter will start to fall off. Once they are browned flip them and fry the other side. Finally drain them on a few layers of paper towels and LET COOL!

I got really excited about my fried green tomatoes because they smelled so heavenly that I only gave them a few minutes to cool off before I stuffed one into my mouth quickly realizing I’d made a horrible mistake. I have never burnt my mouth so bad in my life and now anything super hot or cold burns. I figured it would be a good idea to let them cool off for another good 10-15 minutes before I tried to eat them again.

Once they had cooled off enough I sat down and ate two.. or five and was amazed. I mean I know that pretty much anything fried is going to be awesome but I had no idea what I have been missing out on my whole life!

Fried Green Maters from here on out will be a must have summer snack in my household. They certainly go great with a classic southern sweet tea or you can spice it up with a tangy glass of lemonade, Toomer’s lemonade in Auburn, AL will always be the best! War Eagle!

Catsup Pork Chops

Catsup Pork Chops

Catsup Pork Chops

 

Everyday I find myself exploring my kitchen for any ingredients I can just throw together to make a meal. So far in my 24 years of existence, I have only mastered the art of spaghetti and eating it multiple times a week (including leftovers) gets pretty old after a while. So I have been experimenting with some new recipes made up with only the ingredients I have in my kitchen.

Because I have always heard the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I figured I should brush up on my cooking skills to show my fiancé just how much I appreciate his hard work. After all, he does everything he can to provide for me so I should fill his belly each night with my gratitude.

Today I stumbled upon some brown sugar, vinegar, pork chops and few different vegetables. Honestly I have never cooked pork chops before and frankly I have no idea what I was thinking when I bought them in the first place. Anyhow, I decided to make an attempt at creating my own sauce to cook the pork chops in.

Ingredients:

Salt & Pepper

4-6 pork chops

An assortment of veggies, today I used onion, carrot and celery

3/4 cup catsup (a southern way of saying ketchup)

1 cup water

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

Instructions:

Salt and Pepper the pork chops and place in a shallow baking dish, top with chopped veggies.

Combine water, catsup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and chili powder in a pan sauté on medium high until the consistency thickens a little bit. Next pour the sauce over pork chops, cover with aluminum foil and bake at 300-325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Finally uncover and cook for another 20 minutes.

I enjoyed these pork chops over saffron rice and I even caught my fiancé, Mikee, literally licking his plate clean. I think he is enjoying this cooking challenge  I am taking on more than I am.

Cooking at home every night may seem like a chore because trails of dishes are always left over, but making a deal with your partner or roommate that who ever cooks shall not clean makes it less of a mess. Remember is you are simply hungry, simply cook.

Please feel free to e-mail me any “must have recipes” or feedback at thelittlewifethatcould.com