Easy Pan-fried Cabbage and Apples

Delicious vegetable sides are easy to make, such as this simple Pan Fried Cabbage and Apple dish.

Delicious vegetable sides are easy to make, such as this simple Pan Fried Cabbage and Apple dish.

Green or red cabbage is gently cooked with apples in this simple, but delicious side dish. I find that when you are eating cabbage (or cauliflower) when they are freshly picked from the fields, they are especially sweet and flavorful. Here, I add some sliced apples to continue to sweeten and flavor the cabbage as it cooks. It is a lovely side to go with roasted meats or sausages.

This is an example of how easy it is to vegetables in a lovely way without much work!

I love this easy side dish and have made it several times in the last couple of weeks. I think I could eat the whole pan of it myself! I first tried it out because I was looking for a way to gently encourage my youngest (she just turned four) to eat more of her vegetables. While she wasn’t happy to see her small serving of cabbage on the plate at first, once we got her to try it, she seemed to happily eat the rest of it. I believe that is because of the magic of the apples, which give a delightful sweetness to the dish.

Two additions I am tempted to try is adding either caraway seeds, as they would add so much flavor, and are traditionally used with cabbage dishes, or, to take things in a different route, to add fresh ginger. I think that the cabbage, apples, and ginger together would make a lovely medley of flavors.

I’ve been making good use of my cast iron pans lately, and they served me well in this recipe as well. If using cast iron, I would cook at medium heat or below. If using stainless steel pans (try to use a thicker pan for better heat spread) use medium to medium-high heat.

Other Vegetable Side Dishes:

Easy Pan-fried Cabbage and Apples
 
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
 
Ingredients
  • ½ head of large green or red cabbage
  • 2 small, 1 large tart/sweet apple (green, Pink Lady etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons fat/oil of choice
  • Unrefined salt
Instructions
  1. Core the cabbage, and very thinly slice it. Peel the apples, and very thinly slice it.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat fat/oil over medium heat if using cast iron, and medium-high heat if using stainless steel. Add one piece of cabbage to the pan. When it starts to sizzle a little, add the rest of the cabbage and apples, and sprinkle with a generous pinch or two of salt.
  3. Cook, stirring often, for about ten minutes, or until the cabbage and apples are soft to desired texture. If using a cast iron pan, you can also allow the soft cabbage and apples to brown slightly at the end for a lovely flavor.

 

Grain-Free Pizza “Pockets”

Grain free pizza pockets - These freeze well and are so fun!With a crunchy crust and a flavorful filling, no one complained about eating a grain-free meal last night! These flavorful pockets were very satisfying and filling, and make a very fun lunch or dinner (I’d recommend serving it with a homemade salad with a yummy homemade salad dressing!). We aren’t a grain-free family, but since we are gluten-free, our meals often end up being grain-free. And with beautiful foods like these homemade pockets, everyone is happy (even those in the family who CAN eat gluten!).

Proving that advertisement to children really does work, I still remember when “Hot Pockets” were a new and very cool product. I’m quite certain that I begged and begged my mother to buy me some. I think she did finally once, and I was pretty happy. But I’m not sure I was actually that pleased with the actual product. Regardless, I don’t remember much about my experience eating them, though I still remember exactly where they were placed in the freezer that day.

I think I will remember these ones for the flavor, not where I put them in my freezer ten years from now. ;-)

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My Inspiration

As I talked about yesterday, I have been really inspired to freeze more foods lately. I talked about being inspired by two of the books in the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle (only on sale for a couple more days, by the way). What I didn’t mention was that this project was already on the schedule for my first experiment! They were inspired by the Grain-free Grab and Go eBook by Hayley from Health Starts in the Kitchen. This book is also part of the bundle (hey, when you have 73 eBooks, you end up with a lot of good stuff in there!). She has some a-m-a-z-i-n-g recipes in there. She has pockets for breakfast, pockets for lunch, pockets for dinner. Some are very American, some are Ethnic. They all sound great. I knew I had to try them.

Here’s Hayley’s book, among the other books in one of the categories of the bundle.

Following my own advice, I wasn’t so much trying to make huge amounts to freeze, but try out a few recipes to see what we liked best. These were such a hit, I’m definitely adding them to my list of recipes that are “good to freeze.”

Here’s what I tried out

I made three crusts. I made a slight adaption of Hayley crust from her book (I didn’t have the same seasoning, so I substituted), which was a tapioca and almond flour based crust. Technically, almonds are a food I am not supposed to have a lot of, so I wanted to also try out a very interesting alternative – yuca root crust. The third crust was completely accidental! When attempting to make Hayley’s crust the first time, I accidently poured in potato starch instead of tapioca starch! Turns out, it works just as well! I figured that was a good substitution tip to share with you all.

The almond flour/starch based crust firms up nicely, and is quite crunchy and delicious when cooked. The taro root crust is quite soft, yet still manages to be “bread-like” when cooked. We also lightly pan-fried these pockets for a crunchy outside, and then they were perfect.

I don’t have permission to share’s Hayley’s beautiful crust recipe with you all, since it’s part of her lovely eBook. However, if you aren’t able to purchase her book or the bundle right now, you could try this similar recipe here (just be aware that the ratios are different and I haven’t actually tried this recipe yet). For the amount of filling below, I’d double it.  I DO want to share my own tips with on making them however, and my own filling recipe.

You can also buy the bundle by clicking on the button below.

Grain-free Pizza pockets - These freeze well and are so fun!

For an almond flour/starch batter:

  • Don’t expect your first few to look perfect. Like most things it takes a little practice. At first I wasn’t spreading out the batter in the pan thin enough, so my pockets were too small for the amount of filling I should have been using. My first few were not beautiful, but they were still delicious!
  • Don’t overcook the batter when pan cooking your pocket dough. If it gets too crunchy, it’s harder to press together (if that happens moisten your fork with a little water).
  • Instead of pressing the edges together in the hot pan, I removed it to a plate, poured in batter for the next pocket dough, and while the first side cooked, moved to the plate, and pressed the edges together.
  • Put some music on and relax while you are making them! It does take a little time, but once you get a rhythm going, it goes much faster.

Grain Free Pizza Pockets - made with a yuca dough!

For the yuca crust

I got my recipe from Predominately Paleo, who I believe first created the “yuca dough.” Kudos to her for developing them!

A few notes:

    • The yuca has to be peeled, boiled, blended, and then cooled before you can work with it. This takes some time, but each step is very simple, and most of the time is not hands-on time, but waiting time.
    • The dough is very soft, and a fairly easy to break, so you have to make much smaller pockets.
    • Pan-frying them after cooking is the way to go. We also found that they could be cold in the refrigerator (as leftovers), and panfrying them warms them up perfectly. Win-win!
    • You absolutely should watch this video to see what you are going to be doing. It should take away any fears about the recipe.

  • Don’t overheat your blender when blending.
  • I loved the dough, but definitely think salt should be added to it. I’d recommend 1 teaspoon during the blending process.

To get the recipe for the dough (and another delicious filling) go here.

I also wanted to note that this method of freezing breakfast burritos would probably work great for these pizza pockets too!

Grain-Free Pizza "Pockets"
 
 
Next time, I am thinking of adding a red pepper, cubed mushrooms, and olives to the mix! This is enough to fill one recipe of the almond/starch crust, or the yuca crust recipe. Our favorite was the pork. Follow the instruction for filling the crusts per recipe you’ve chosen to use.
Ingredients
  • ¾ pound ground beef or pork, grassfed preferred for the beef
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • A generous pinch of thyme and oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced or put through a garlic press
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (we used goat), optional
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, brown the meat with the dried herbs and garlic. When cooked through, if needed, remove any grease with a spoon (tip the pan slightly to allow the grease to run to one side).
  2. Stir in the tomato paste and then salt generously to taste.
  3. If using the cheese, place a couple tablespoons on top of the meat filling before closing.

 

7 Tips for Freezing Nourishing Foods

Freezer meals can be made with healthy and nourishing ingredients. Here are some quick tips to get you started. Home Page and Above Photo Credit: CelioSilva/Freeimages  (Disclaimer: Some links below are affiliate) 

I started out with a bang with freezer meals. I was making freezer meals for my family during my high school years and loved the convenience of it. When I got married, I was so committed to freezer meals that I actually made and froze most of our dinners for our honeymoon and brought them with me! Now that’s commitment. (For the record, yes, my husband and I were total penny-pinchers when we got married, thus the yummy freezer meals on the honeymoon. But we also really loved good food, and so instead of eating out every meal, we made a lot of our own food, and then spent some of the money we saved to go out to a really nice restaurant for a couple of dinners.)

But in the freezer meal department, things have gone really down hill lately. Okay, more like down hill for the last five years! I can directly correlate this downhill spiral to when I started trying not to use freezer bags anymore, and switched to using mason jars. Like many, I had way too many jars break or burst for no reason at all (even when following “best practices”). There is nothing like throwing away good food to cool your enthusiasm.

And the trouble is, plastic really is a problem! I have let it creep back into my kitchen and life lately, but re-reading some of the research on the troubling effects it can have made me remember yet again how important it is to avoid.

Thankfully, there are now better solutions to freezing without plastic that I am so eager to try! And the real reason I got back on this topic again, was because I was so inspired by two of the books in The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle on the topic. I realized how much it would serve me, and my family, if I got back into the habit.

I’ll be honest. We really need freezer meals right now, and I am going to make this a priority.

So with that in mind, I am gathering my tips learned in the past and new ones just learned, and also sharing some of the research I’ve been doing on plastic-free freezing! I’m excited.

1. The short on time freezing method

The first thing that really intrigued and inspired me from the freezer meal eBooks in the bundle was using a different method from what I used to use (which was the achingly long, all-day cooking project that left your feet aching like crazy). Instead of that, there are other ways to build up a freezer full of meals!

One of the eBooks I read was Crystal’s (from Money Saving Mom) Guide to Freezer Cooking. In it she talks about how she also used to do full day freezer cooking, and how exhausting that was! Instead she recommends shorter times, more often. She gives a few other options, such as a 4-6 hour block (enough to get serious work done, but not be so tiring), and even doing (her current preference) one hour, and even 15-minute blocks of time! I may now find it hard to set aside a whole day for freezer meals, but I can definitely set aside an hour or two.

2. The Time Block Method

The other method that was totally new to me was the one outlined in Cara’s wonderful
Grain-Free Freezer Meal eBook. (You can get both of these books as part of the bundle for the next few days, which I highly recommend for the price and all that you get for it, but you can also buy Cara’s book anytime here).

She also doesn’t recommend the “whole day” freezer meal concept. Instead she recommends using “time blocks” working with certain categories. Her method probably makes even more sense for those on a whole food, nutrient dense diet. She says,

“The ‘cooking blocks’ are designed to be easier to fit into busy schedules. I have done freezer cooking in the past, but I would normally spend 8-10 hours straight cooking. Many of us have young families, special needs children, homeschool, work outside the home, or any combination of the above- and separating the cooking into 2-3 hour blocks is much more doable.
To stay the most efficient, these blocks should be planned to be together (i.e. you use meat cooked on meat days to put together Shepard’s pies after you cut/cook the veggies on veggie day), but they can span several days and still fill up your freezer with nourishing foods.”

Her blocks are set up with different categories, such as “meats” “vegetables” and “grain-free baking”. I feel this concept makes so much sense!

3. Start small

Regardless of what method you use, I think the idea of starting small, and taking on bite size jobs is a much more doable task that we can all do! It can be as simple as doubling up the muffin recipe you are making, and freezing half of it. If you are like me, sometimes having too high of standards for yourself and what you’d like to accomplish can actually derail your efforts and enthusiasm. This busy mommy needs doable goals!

4. Double up

With that in mind, use the double up method. Basically, any recipe that would freeze well and you already know you (and your family like), double-up on when you are making it next. It will most likely only take a few more minutes of your time, and you end up with double the food for your effort. I used to do this a lot, and I need to get back into it as it just makes sense to do.

5. Make a growing recipe list

The other thing that ended up derailing my freezer meal project was my changing dietary needs (we found out that one of my daughters and I have multiple food sensitivities). What this meant was that my list of freezer meals no longer worked well for us as I worked on learning new recipes. I now have plenty of meals worked out that would be easy to freeze, I just need to keep a running list of our favorite freezer friendly meals as a reference! Overtime, you can continue to add to your list, so that you have a wide range of meals that you can easily freeze.

6. Freeze components

But don’t feel that you need to freeze whole meals. Freeze components as well! Meats with marinades, homemade broths, sauces, unbaked doughs, chopped vegetables for starting soups, cooked beans, and more are some of the simple components you can freeze for an easier meal start-up in the future. Some methods aim for not having to cook a single dish in the near future. But it can be really simple to start a pot of rice, and reheat a frozen chicken curry. So don’t feel that you have to have every single component of the meal frozen. In fact, I’d encourage you to get out of that mindset as so many fresh vegetables don’t freeze well, and need a little prep work. This type of method can also help when working with small freezer spaces. Just freeze the things that take the most time to make (such as the chicken curry, instead of the rice).

7. Plastic-free freezing

I do have friends that use all sorts of jars to successfully freeze meals. They just make sure to leave plenty of headroom, and defrost slowly, and they have no trouble. I am not one of those lucky souls. However, I didn’t realize that there are specific mason jars that are made to especially withstand freezing. (I certainly was never using them when I attempted to freeze before). I first noticed this at a local store, when I noted that some of the mason jars were marked for freezing and some weren’t.

If you go to the Ball website, you find this chart of jars to select from. Notice that some of the jars are marked as freezer safe and some aren’t.

I am pretty excited to try freezing mason jars again. I have some Amazon credit to use from a gift card, so I was looking there for options. From what I’ve read, wide mouth is the way to go for freezing, so
these jars would be an example of what you could use.

Even with these, I’d make sure you left plenty of headroom, and defrosted in the refrigerator for less temperature shock. Just to make sure.

There are some other, much more expensive items too. If you wanted to still use baggies, you could use these silicone baggies, for example, and there are a wide range of stainless steel and glass containers that are also freezer safe.

Finally, certain items can be frozen with the wax paper and foil method. You can see how that works here with these homemade freezer burritos.

If you do decide to use plastic freezer bags for freezing food, just make sure that you thoroughly chill food before placing it in the plastic, as heat releases more of the chemicals from the plastic.

I’d love to hear your tips, and what recipes work for you. Plus, have you tried freezing in mason jars? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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5 healthy bento boxes for kids (gluten-free, sandwich-free) + giveaway

5 gluten-free and healthy bento box ideas that are fun, and kid-friendly too! Plus, a bento box giveaway!!

Based off of a Japanese tradition, making healthy bento boxes for your children’s lunch is fun for them, plus they can be really nutritious as well! Today I am sharing five healthy bento box ideas, all of which are gluten-free and sandwich-free. Make sure you check out the bento box giveaway as well, where you get a chance to win over $100 worth of bento box supplies, including four stainless steel bento boxes!

My girls have had so much fun helping me make bento boxes for lunch every day this week. We are gearing up for the school year, gathering supplies, and getting lunch ideas for when we are away from the house. We are part of a homeschool program that includes one day “at class,”, but even when eating at home, I’ve found that these help make lunchtime healthy and fun for the girls.

Why bento boxes?

So why I do think that bento boxes are so great? Here are just a few reasons.

1. They encourage variety. Because you are serving smaller servings of a variety of items, your kids get the chance to try out a lot of different types of food. This is important for developing your child’s palate.

2. Variety often makes healthier meals. When you include a variety of fresh produce and other healthy items in a bento box, you are much more likely to give your children a balanced diet.

3. They are super fun! My kids love eating from a bento box all the time, but especially if I take the time to cut some of the food into cute shapes, and use little Japanese food picks (more on that in a second). And when the food is fun, they are so much more likely to eat it.

Quick and easy bento box formula

An easy formula to think of when making bento boxes could be 1 or more servings of protein, 1 serving of carbohydrates, 1 serving of fruit, 1 serving of vegetables. We don’t follow that every time, but it gives a loose format to build on. Just up the servings for older children, but keep the ratio about the same.

I should also note that whether or not what is packed in one bento box is filling enough for the whole lunch will depend a lot on the appetite and age of your child. For example, my seven-year-old is growing like crazy right now and has a big appetite, so I’m adding extras on the side to her lunch for some of these. These specific containers aren’t liquid proof, so I would recommend only packing them in a lunchbag/pail that allows them to lay flat (or using all dry ingredients).

Disclosure: MightyNest is graciously  sponsoring the below giveaway! I will be linking to their website products, used in these photos, as well as a few random Amazon items using my affiliate account. 

Japanese GF bento box, plus 4 other great bento box ideas

Traditional Japanese Bento Box (our favorite)

I think it’s appropriate to start with a Japanese inspired bento box, considering that they are the ones that started this trend! For this specific bento box, I recommend making teriyaki chicken for dinner one night, along with steamed vegetables and sticky rice, but make extra of the chicken and rice. Cut up the leftover chicken for the bento box, and while the rice is still warm, pat into balls with wet, clean hands (we sprinkle salt and sesame seeds on our hands as well when making rice balls). Then all you have to make is the Japanese Cucumber Salad and cut up nori for the lunch. This is all gluten-free, provided you use the recommended tamari sauce, instead of soy sauce, in the recipes as called for.

Food

In the picture: Quad Lunchbot 

Star Struck GF Bento Box, plus 4 other great ideas

Star Struck Bento Box

One of the problems with gluten-free lunches is gluten-free bread, which doesn’t always translate well into packed lunches. My solution? I butter it, and then cut into small shapes, and it ends up like a yummy cracker! This works well even for hearty paleo nut breads, and my girls love it this way. Here I used a small star shaped cookie cutter. It pairs very nicely with my homemade lunchmeat.

Food:

In the picture: Duo Lunchbot

GF Bento box ideas that are kid-friendly and fun!

Healthy Store Bought Item Bento Box

You don’t have to actually cook anything to make a great bento box. Here is an example using only storebought foods.

Food:

  • Nitrate-free Lunchmeat, make into meat rolls
  • Cheddar Goat Cheese (cut in the shape of tulips)
  • Plantain Chips (from Trader Joes – make a great cracker substitution and are even grain-free)
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • Plum on the side

In the picture: Trio Lunchbot 

GF Lettuce Wrap Bento Box, plus 4 other great gluten free bento box ideas

Gourmet Lettuce Wraps Bento Box

This box is labeled “gourmet” (and it is) but it’s the one my daughters planned the most. While a little more expensive because of the specialty goat cheese and salami, it was amazingly delicious! This is a great example of what children genuinely like if you let them experience a wide range of flavors. They already want this lunch again.

Food:

  • Romaine heart lettuce leaves (center cut out) rolled with a slice of smoked goat cheese and Applegate salami
  • Sweet mini peppers
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Sauerkraut

In the picture: Uno Lunchbot 

Mexican Bento Box, plus 4 other great gluten free bento box ideas

Mexican Bento Box

This was the most filling bento box I made, because the Mexican bean dip is quite hearty when served with a side of chips.

Food:

  • Either healthy refried beans or whole beans topped with salsa and avocado – sprinkle avocado with lemon juice (You could also use leftovers of this Paleo Mexican Seven Layer Dip)
  • Organic blue chips
  • Sliced apple

In the Picture: Duo Lunchbot

Bento Box Accessories

Extras for bento boxes

As you might have noticed, there are a couple of extras in the pictures above. 1. First, most helpful are the silicone cupcake liners you see in many of the pictures. They help keep food separate, even if the container you use isn’t bento-style. I find it especially helpful when packing things like sauerkraut, as you wouldn’t want liquid to seep from that onto sliced fruit. 2. We were pretty thrilled to find these tiny bamboo spoons, too! So cute, and easy to pack. We found ours locally, but Amazon carries this set that looks like the same thing. 3. You will also notice the use of food picks, which are glorified toothpicks! My girls love them, and they make everything so cute. I got mine at Amazon (this set and this set), and there are a lot of other options on Amazon as well.

Mightynest is not only including the pictured silicone cupcake liners in our giveaway together, but they are also sending along the pictured above 4. cute reusable napkin and a 5. whole set of bamboo utensils!

Giveaway

Win 4 lunchbots, plus more (worth over $100 dollars!)
I’m excited to partner with Mighty Nest with the following giveaway of stainless steel Bento Boxes and accessories! I’ve found them wonderful to use, and one lucky person will get the opportunity to win this collection, including the uno, duo, trio, and quad, and the silicone muffin liners, bamboo utensils, and napkin pictured above. Plus, you will be entered into a giveaway for a 1,000 dollar donation to your local school (3 winners!).

MightyNest also donates 15% of their profit to your local school when you purchase from them. I love that they offer such a wide selection of nontoxic lunch school supplies, and support local schools at the same time. That’s a win-win!

Enter this giveaway and subscribe to Mighty Nest for a chance to not only win this giveaway, but also to win a 1,000 dollars for your local school. (You can unsubscribe easily whenever you wish.) U.S. Only. You are responsible for communicating with MightyNest if you are the winner (You will be sent an email if you win, so make sure you use your correct email address).

Considering that I’ve just started experimenting with bento boxes, I’d love to hear from readers on your tips for bento boxes!