Need New Christmas Recipes? Try Spiced Nuts!

Spiced nuts are probably one of my favorite Christmas recipes. They’re basically our only Christmas goodie tradition around here. It’s the one thing that I WILL manage to cook up during the holidays and disperse among friends.

Spiced nuts

 

I have convinced myself that they’re a “healthy” alternative to the usual goodies you are bombarded blessed with during the holidays. I don’t know how much that is reality and how much is denial, but it makes it easier to sleep at night.

 

Plus, they’re so easy to make. Hence my ability to do them consecutive years in a row.

 

After you’ve set your oven to preheat at 275, scrounge up these ingredients:

 

Cinnamon Spiced Nuts Ingredients:

  • 1 Egg

  • 2 Tablespoon Vanilla

  • 1 Cup Sugar

  • 4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

  • 6 Cups of nuts

Whisk together your egg and vanilla until it’s a tad frothy. Then add your sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. You’ll have a nice, brown, gooey mixture. You may think it won’t be nearly enough to cover 6 cups of nuts, but I promise it will.

Next, mix in your nuts until their coated nicely. I usually use salted, roasted peanuts but any nut will do.

Spiced nuts - A Christmas Recipe

Shiny, sticky, deliciousness.

Spray something non-sticky onto a large baking pan and then spread those puppies out. Bake at 275 for 30 minutes. Give the nuts a bit of a mix and respread at the 15 minute mark.

As soon as they’re done, transfer your nuts to some other bowl or container. They’re going to cool off and crunch up so you do not want that solidifying in your pan. In fact, go ahead and wash your pan out immediately. Trust me.

Spiced nuts - A Christmas Recipe

The finished product.

 

You’ll fall in love, I promise. They’re fast, easy, delicious and if we squint hard enough and float down that river in Egypt, a healthy alternative to most Christmas goodies.

 

Spiced nuts - A Christmas Recipe

Your taste buds and your friends and family will thank you.

-Jessica

The Simplest Cookie Butter Recipe

Cookie butter is so 2014. I don’t know if you know.

 

So when me and my BFF decided to do fast and easy gifts in a jar this Christmas this was the first thing we knew we needed in our lives.

 

(Btw, I love Christmas gifts you can give in a jar. I mean, what’s better than getting a free jar? Who even cares what’s in it? I’m pretty sure getting a jar as a gift is the grown up equivalent to kids playing with the box their toy came in. )

 

After a quick googling we realized there are tons of variations for cookie butter. Some we saw involved coconut oil and milk, some involved condensed sweetened milk and evaporated milk, some butter and spices.

 

In the end we decided to keep our recipe pure. We went with . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . cookies and butter.

 

DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

 

And a dash of water.

 

cookie butter recipe

And the heavens declare: OREO COOKIE BUTTER

 

What you are looking at, my friends, is the glorious concoction that is oreo cookie butter. Seriously. We also made peanut butter nutter butter and thin mint varieties (made with keebler grasshopper cookies).

 

Cookie Butter Recipe

 

For one package of cookies we melted one stick of butter and mixed with 1/4 or so of water until it was the consistency we liked. That’s all. Seriously.

 

I saw elsewhere on the internets that you should scrape the filling from your cookies but we ignored that bit of blasphemy. Whole oreos and nutter butters went into the food processor until they made a delicious cookie flour.

 

I highly recommend making yourself some cookie butter. Or at least making some to give away this Christmas. It’s what Jesus would want.

 

Have you ever made this delectable stuff? Do you love or hate this trend?

 

-Jessica

Save Money – Reuse.

saving money

 

Continuing with our Three R’s today, Ima talk a little bit about Reusing.

 

Since finding ourselves in a tight spot, financially, we’ve begun to embrace the simple art of reusing a lot more. Again, I feel like this time in our life is in some small way preparing us for missionary life one day.  How? Well, for one I’m officially washing and reusing ziplock bags like my missionary mother-in-law.

 

I admit, I used to throw away plastic bags. Appalling, yes?  But when you have plenty of money the opportunity cost of washing out the nasty ground beef bag or just buying a new box is a no-brainer. But no more. We also reuse plastic grocery bags as garbage bags so that we never have to buy the latter. (We only have small cans)

 

But, without a doubt, the biggest thing that we reuse now is . . . leftovers.  That’s right, there’s no such thing as wasted food in our house these days. I don’t care if it’s just a cup of leftover oatmeal, it’s going to get reused in some capacity.

 

Even a bunch of sunflower seeds that no one wanted to snack on get pureed up and added to waffle batter.

 

Interestingly, I find healthy meals are easier to make when using leftovers. If I already have a base of rice to work with in the fridge, it’s easy to whip that into soup or taco filling. Because I’m using whole foods, I’m not relying on convenience foods with low nutritional value like frozen pizzas.

 

So, if you haven’t already, try cutting the convenience foods from your shopping list and getting creative in the kitchen.

 

ways to save money

How are you using (or reusing?) this principle to save money?

 

Save Money – Do Without.

save money

 

So you want to save money? Well, I have a really radical idea for you today.  One you may not be too familiar with.

 

Go without.  You heard me, survive for periods without things that are luxuries but not necessities.

 

Two things that we go without are Cable/Satellite and home phones.  Boom.  That’s a good chunk of money saved each month.  Another thing you can do is pair down on subscriptions.  Our daughter had a membership to one of her favorite sites, Animal Jam, last year and when the subscription recently ended, we had to break the news to her that we couldn’t pay for it this year. Thankfully, she took it well.

 

This is going to sound silly, but one of my recent sacrifices is half and half.  I have long been a coffee creamer snob – only half and half would do. But I had to slash it from the spending recently when I realized it was just one more thing that I didn’t need in my shopping cart.  I am now (sob) suffering with milk in my coffee. Oh the horror.

 

The Shopping Day Challenge

 

Another way to do without is to pick a grocery shopping day of the week and do not waiver from it. Listen carefully, people, do not run to the store for “just one thing”.  That “one thing” will cost you $50 bucks every. time.  I’ve gone back and forth with this rule in the past but have been much more strict about it now that saving money is imperative. Also, I usually cross the border for my dairy and produce, so that’s not something I can simply run out and do any day of the week.

 

The result is, sometimes we run out of milk.  So we do without it.  For days, if need be.  Sometimes the kids eat up the two bags of apples in two  days and they have to wait a week to get more. Sometimes we run out of cheese or oatmeal, or eggs – and so we eat other things.

 

The Pantry Challenge

 

Also, at least once a year I think everyone should take the pantry challenge.  Don’t buy a single dry good until that puppy is cleaned out.  Get creative here – find uses for that can of beans or box of spaghetti noodles that have been lurking in the dark recesses of your pantry for ages.  You can probably cut your grocery bill in half or more for one glorious month.

 

No, it’s not always convenient or comfortable.  Particularly for those of us who are tried and true North Americans who aren’t necessarily used to having to do without staples in the kitchen. Fishing out that old can of tuna for dinner instead of pouring another lazy bowl of cereal may not be what you wanted, but one thing you can’t deny – it definitely saves money.

 

ways to save money

Have you ever tried these two methods for saving money?  Do tell.

 

 

 

-Jessica

 

Save Money – Eat Whole Foods.

save money

 

No doubt, eating whole foods and cooking from scratch is the number one biggest step our family has taken to save money.

 

Food is a huge expense, especially in British Columbia where we’ve recently moved. So I can’t afford to run all willy-nilly to the store and buy breakfast cereal or granola bars or individual packages of yogurt. Not if I also want to make rent.

 

Instead, I’m baking our own bread, cooking hot breakfast (yes, every morning), and snacking on leftovers.

 

I’ll admit, it can be an adjustment, especially when you’re used to the kiddos being able to help themselves in the kitchen with pre-packaged snacks and meals.  It takes more time to prepare homemade granola ahead of time instead of having convenient larabars lying around. But the benefits far outweigh the transition period.

 

Not only can you save money by buying real potatoes instead of boxes of instant mashed potatoes, you can rest easy knowing that your family is eating healthier. Simply cutting the junk food and/or processed foods can save a ton of money. Want proof?

 

Go find your last grocery bill receipt (if you’re like me, it’s probably still in your purse). Now, get a sharpie and cross through everything that is technically a luxury food item.  Cross through the soda, the brownie mix, the frozen dinners, the pre-packaged cereals and snack foods.  Now, tally up the number and tell me the end result.  If you’re like most Americans, it was probably a substantial number.

 

Imagine how much money you could save if you fed the kids oatmeal (no, not the instant kind. blegh) for breakfast and started making your own tortillas. Yes, it does involve a bit more effort, but not as much as you might fear.  And there’s a certain pride that comes from being more involved in the food that gets put on the table.

 

Since we’ve made the sudden switch to a completely whole foods diet, I’ve lost about 10 lbs in the past 2 months with no effort.  I didn’t count a calorie or nuthin’.  My food is just naturally more nutritionally dense now, resulting in my being dramatically less hungry – with nary a craving.  (Unless I’m sick.  Then I just want to eat Hardees.  Which thankfully there are none of here).

 

ways to save moneySo, with all the benefits of whole foods, I say the scale tips in favor of making the switch. ;)  Give it a try.

How do you save money on food?

 

 

 

-Jessica

Learning to Eat on a Canadian Dime {Saving Money On Food In Canada}

Now that we’re here in Canada, and Husband’s last paycheck has stopped coming in, and we haven’t found a new job, and our G.I. Bill hasn’t started coming through yet, we find ourselves not exactly in a place of worrying, but a place of … food Nazism.  That’s right, I said The N Word.

 

Saving money on food in Canada – yes please.

 

With a family of six, we can easily spend a fortune on food.  And now we find ourselves in a place where the cost of food is even greater.  So we’re gettin’ all kinds of serious about the num nums.  Before the move we had gotten quite careless, nutritionally, and were rather wasteful, as well. (Unless you consider that we fed the dog leftovers, which lessened our dog food costs ?…)  But all that is out the window now, y’all.

 

On my first shopping trip in Canada I (even in my drive-lagged state) tried to buy only whole, real foods, as cheaply as I could. But the price still rose quickly.  Thankfully a kind blog reader turned Canadian friend had gifted us a giftcard which took care of half the price tag.

 

All that yellow is the color of Canadian generic, hey?

And so I’ve been painstakingly doling out the goods this week.  We’ve, literally, not wasted a bite of food.  It’s become a new requirement that a person, big or small, must eat every bite of what they’ve already been given before they can get something different.

 

It’s an adjustment for everyone, since we were used to much more food freedom before.  But you do what you’ve gotta do.  And so far everyone is adjusting pretty well to the new waste not, want not system. (Which isn’t to imply that very small people are always happy with having to eat every bite of their oatmeal or having less choices than normal, but we’re getting through it okay)

 

It’s been a sort of fun new challenge for me, as I navigate my way around a frugal kitchen. For example, on my first night that required me cooking an actual meal I realized I didn’t have much else but rice.  Even though I had gone shopping recently, I bought a lot of staples, and fresh fruit, no set of ingredients that screams “dinner recipe”.  So, I determined to just … cook rice.

 

The more I fiddled round the kitchen, the more I found to tweak my rice creation.

 

Caramelized half an onion, a big clove of garlic, and threw in some sliced up baby carrots.

 

Caramelized anything makes it smell like you’re cooking something epic.

 

Then I added it to my brown rice when it was finished, in addition to a handful of raisins.  It was really flavorful and delicious, and I felt like it was slightly more of a nutritional punch than just serving rice.

 

Impressively cheap and tasty meal.

One morning, to my dismay, the Wild Boys did not want to eat their oatmeal.  I bought a big bag of oatmeal the other day, expecting it to be a new breakfast staple in our diet instead of cold cereals.  But, again, we are wasters no more.  So I did a quick Googling of “What to do with leftover oatmeal”, and ended up with oatmeal pancakes.

 

Which was actually a rather traumatic experience because of how I set off the smoke-alarm by adding butter and batter to my overheated pan and ran around like a crazy woman in sweatpants and tank top, waving around a hand towel while neighbors came to see if I was on fire, all the while desperately hoping the fire department didn’t show up at my building. Sigh.

 

But, in the end, they were Wild Boy approved.

 

And because I accidentally made way too much oatmeal this morning because of mis-reading the insturctions … looks like we’ll be having oatmeal pancakes for dinner, too.  Hopefully leaving off the side of trauma and embarrassment this time. (Note: later in the evening I did, in fact, set off the smoke alarm again.  Sigh.)

 

Rice was my friends this week (and will probably continue to be in the future).   Again needing a meal and not having any meat on hand, I jazzed up another pot of rice.  This time I blended up a can of black beans, a quarter of a raw onion, and a garlic clove, and mixed it into my cooked brown rice.  And then served on homemade tortillas. (Thankfully, without setting off the smoke alarm).

 

We ate on this for several days.

 

In addition to the homemade tortillas I’ve been making homemade yogurt this week to help pinch pro-biotic pennies from the grocery bill.  My kids love yogurt, but it’s pretty pricey.

 

Mmm, great for drinking with a bit of honey, or with granola mixed in.

 

Even after we find employment, I think the food game is one we’re going to have to play very carefully during our stay in Canada.  We even visited a local food bank this week and were pleasantly surprised to come home with a treasure trove of good stuff.  We may need to make an appointment in the future to see if we’re eligible as long term clients.  I’m not too proud, y’all.  Feeding these Wild Things while Husband studies Greek and Hebrew is no joke.

 

Several organic products including, herbs, produce, broths, and cereals. Plus other produce and whole wheat breads and more.

 

I’ve also taken the time create an Amazon wishlist of Bohemian grocery products you can browse if you’d like to send us a gift.  It’s a short list of staple dry goods. ( Take note of the grits.  Six Year Old has nearly decided that this whole move was a bad idea, solely based on the evidence of a lack of grits in the stores.)  I tried to only pick things that qualified for super saver shipping through Amazon.  You can find the lit here: Bohemian Bowmans Amazon Grocery Wishlist.  It should be set up automatically to send to a Washington State shipping address where we can drive down and receive packages, but if for some reason it doesn’t work you can ship to:

 

Jessica Bowman

1685 H Street #GD

Blaine, WA 98230

 

We would be honored and appreciative of any care package that comes!

 

So, have any super frugal food tips for me?

 

-Jessica

 

Authentic Guatemalan Tamales

Tamales - the real life of account of tackling tamales with a guatemalen friend.

With our 3000 mile move seriously towering over us and with a billion things left to do, I decided it was time for some prioritizing.  Which led me to the conclusion that I should definitely spend half of my weekend making tamales with my Guatemalan friend, Linda.  It’s something we had been meaning to do for forever, but one thing or another had always gotten in the way.  But no more!

 

My tamale team.

 

Tamales

 

Linda took us shopping for all the ingredients the day before and I was continuously surprised by what she put in the my cart.  Pumpkin seeds?  Dried plums?  But I figured she knew what she was doing, so I just rolled with it. She took us to a small store that sells Hispanic foods and showed us where to buy frozen plantain leaves. The lady at the register looked at me skeptically and asked me with thick accent, through an air of skepticism, “You make tamales?”.  I assured her that I was going to learn.

 

We toasted everything under the sun for the sauce.  Red tomatoes, green tomatoes, garlic, onions, cloves, cinnamon, bell peppers, dried chiles, bread, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds.  Seriously, we toasted everything.

 

Making tamales

Linda assures me this is an essential part of the process.  Apparently, her auntie makes the sauce without toasting the ingredients first and “es no as good”.

 

Once we’re finished toasting, we start blending.

 

Making tamales

Making tamales

And then we have to mix it all together.

 

Making tamales

Then she sifted it all through a strainer, like three times.  Apparently this is also very important.  The consistency of the sauce must be just so.  No crumbly bits.  So we mixed and we strained and we mixed and we strained.  Until she finally approved.

 

Making tamales

We cooked rice, we cooked grits, we put whole sticks of butter in everything and hefty amounts of “chicken flavor”.  And then we made the tamale mix.  Which apparently is basically corn flour and water.  That you can’t stop stirring.  No matter what. Or the world ends.  Or something.

Making tamales

So Linda turned some Shakira on her phone and we stirred and cha cha-ed it out.

Making tamales

Linda told us that in Guatemala the families all work together to make tamales on Saturday, to eat throughout the week.  She said the ladies do all the cooking but the men do the stirring, with paddles as big as brooms.  Giant vats of tamales.  She said they all come together in one house to cook tamales for Christmas and everyone pitches in ingredients.

 

Her son called and she put him on speaker phone and prodded him into asking me “coma esta”.  I manage a weak “muy bein” in return. Her son is 12 or 13 and still lives in Guatemala.  She sends him phone cards to call her with every Sunday and she sends him and her daughter money every week, paying for their clothes, their school, and sending them extra gifts.

 

When she hangs up the phone she asks, “What is xbox? He ask for me to send him xbox and fifa. What is this? Es expensive?”

Finally, with our chicken, sauce, and tamale mix ready, we can wrap them.  But not before we cut a billion plantain leaves.

 

Making tamales

Linda tells me I’m a fast learner.

 

Making tamales

At the last minute the olives, dried plum, raisins, and bell peppers soaked in vinegar go on top.

Making tamales

We filled two giant pots full of tamales.

 

Making tamales

When I asked how long we should steam them Linda says, “Until the leaves are cooked”. I can’t find that on my clock anywhere.

 

Making tamales

And finally, after nearly 6 hours, we had glorious, hot, tamales.

 

Tamales

The picture doesn’t do it justice. I have to admit, they blew me away.  I didn’t expect to like them that much.  I expected to feel pretty passively about them.  But I was oh so wrong.  The sweet of the plum, the salty of the mix, the tang of the sauce.  It was a fiesta in my mouth.

 

Also, my words don’t do the process justice.  There were so many nuances in the preparation.  So many little extra steps that I didn’t understand the necessity for but just kept my mouth shut because I figured if you grow up in Guatemala you know a thing or two about tamales.

Making tamales

 

Over all, I think it was an excellent use of one of my last Sundays in Georgia.  Wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else. ;)

 

-Jessica

Healthy and Easy Summer Snacks for Kids

 

Feeding my children has, routinely, been one of the highest stress points of staying home with them.  So, believe me when I tell you I understand how crazy the food chain can make you and how desperately we want to offer healthy alternatives and teach children about balance and nutrition.

 

So, I offer you our favorite ways to make mama and babies happy when it comes to snacking.  These are the things that you can find little people eating around the Bohemian Bowman house on a daily basis.  For realz.

 

1. Frozen Yogurt.frozen yogurt snack

We never buy Popsicles.  Between the processed ingredients for the bad ones and the price of the good ones, it’s just something I’m not willing to invest in.  However, we make our own freezy treats all the time and this is one great example.  Whenever I find organic squeezy yogurts on sale I snag several boxes of them and get them suckers to freezing.  This is one of the Wild Things very favorite summer snacks.

 

I love it because it’s not only a healthier alternative to classic popsicles, it’s easy peasy.  And I love me a scenario where the kids don’t even need me to access their snackin.  Just freeze, rip, and go.

 

 

 

 

2. Frozen Juicefrozen juice snack

Are you noticing a theme here? Y’all, my kids will freeze anything.  I’m not kidding, we find the most random things in our freezer.  “Hey, why are there chewable vitamins in the freezer?” “I’m freezing them!”   Drinks are at the top of their favorite-things-to-freeze list.  Eleven Year Old freezes orange juice every night to eat for breakfast the next morning.  I also like to pick up the really healthy smoothie-type juices when they’re marked down, for freezy experimentation.

 

3. Green Smoothies. green smoothie snack

Green smoothies are probably my favorite snack to give the wild things because, come on, it’s a victorious day when you get a five year old to suck spinach through a straw.

 

I keep my smoothies very simple – just frozen fruit and spinach.  Maybe a little water to thin it out a bit.  You can add juice or yogurt or any number of other things, but I like the simplicity of keeping the sugars at just fruit.

 

frozen green smoothiesAnd the best part?  They freeze great if your kids don’t finish them.  Der.  Naturally, my kids prefer them frozen.  So even if your little one doesn’t like drinking the smoothie, they’re bound to like it in it’s freezy form.  My kids pretty much treat it like it’s green ice cream.

 

 

 

4. Apples with Peanut butter.

My kids love apples, but if left to their own devices they’ll leave a lot of half eaten ones lying around.  This nips that problem in the bud.  I find they’re much more likely to finish the whole thing if it’s sliced up and on the side of some delicious, dippable nut buttah.  Let’s face it, most sweet things are better with peanut butter.

 

 

5. Bananas with Cinnamon.bananas with cinnamon

Once again, an old favorite with a slight twist. Like apples, my kids do like bananas, but if I just peel one of those suckers and hand it to them, I’m likely to find it lying around later with a single bite taken out of it.

However, slice them puppies up and sprinkle the lightest bit of cinnamon (or in this case, pumpkin spice) and they gobble them up like it’s candy.  Winning.

 

That’s it, the most common healthy snacks around the Bowman house.  Sure, there’s still the occasional cookies or the ever-present Lara Bar, but for the most part, these are the snacks my kids come back to again and again.  And seriously, don’t underestimate the power of freezing.  It really makes kids think they’re getting something extra scandalous.  Try freezing grapes (best bite-sized popsicles ever), chocolate milk, and other things.  Seriously.  Do it.

 

What are some favorite summer time snacks at your house?

 

-Jessica

My (Not So Secret) Addiction.

 

Hello, my name is Jessica and I’m an addict.

 

It compels me.  I love it.

 

But …

 

… I can stop any time I want.  And I don’t really consume that much of it, I just like to have a lot of it around, ya know, in case of emergency. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

 

Besides, I get a good deal on it.  And I only buy it on sale.  My store just happens to have a lot of sales …

 

That’s right, I’m addicted to …

 

Cheese.

 

Gasp.

At any given moment I have entirely too much cheese in my house.

 

Muenster, Monterey Jack, American, Cheddar, Colby, Mozzarella, Provolone, Goat, Swiss, Shredded, Snack Size.

 

I love them all.

 

And you can’t stop me.

 

 

-Jessica

Stop Telling Fat People They’re Not Fat

 

Y’all, I’ve made a bold and serious decision this week.  I’m giving up my beloved vanilla cola.

Why?  Because I am one of the many Americans that are obese according to those annoying little medical charts.  And something’s gotta give, yo. I have to make my health more of a priority.

I know, I know, here it comes…

“You’re beautiful, Jessica!”  “You’re not fat!”  “God loves you just the way you are!”

First of all, them internet headshots are deceiving by definition.  Rare it is to find a person who posts pictures of themselves at unflattering angles.  And I’ve got oh – so – many unflattering angles, y’all.  215 lbs of them worth.  Yes, I am fat.  No sense sugar-coating it to not hurt my feelings.  (not that I want you to hurt my feelings, either).


Second of all, of course God loves me just the way I am.

However, obesity seems to be the one excusable sin in American Christianity.  We sweep gluttony under the big fat rug and pretend it’s not there.  We tell people they don’t need to change, that they’re perfect just the way they are.

Well, guess what.  No one is perfect just the way they are.  Because no one is perfect.  Now, I’m not suggesting you walk up to overweight people and say, “Hey tubby, quit eating so much”.  That would be somewhat … ungraceful.  BUT, if someone comes to you with their problem and admits it openly, don’t tell them that their problem doesn’t exist.

If a drug addict walked up to you and admitted their problem you wouldn’t say, “You don’t need to change!  You’re not addicted!  You’re just fine!”  No, you’d (hopefully) be a part of their support system as they attempted to kick the habit.  And you should do the same with someone who has a food addiction.  Because I truly believe that a great deal of obesity is just that – an addiction.

I have gained 50 or 60 lbs in the past 3 years.  And it’s not baby weight.  I lost my baby weight after my last baby, but then moved to the south and gained it all back and more.

It’s not okay.  And it’s okay for it not to be okay.  I don’t need discouragement.  I need encouragement.

Again, if God is not convicting someone in a weak area of their life yet, it’s probably not your place to force conviction on them. You’re not God.  But if their eyes are opening to an area they need to change, speak the truth in love!

And stop telling fat people they’re not fat.

-Jessica