Homemade Instant Oatmeal

oatmeal

A delicious, warm bowl of oatmeal is a great and hearty way to start your day but the ingredients that are in those instant packets aren’t always the best. Instead of grabbing a commercially prepared packet of oatmeal, grab a jar of your own homemade version! It’s super easy to prep and you can control the amount of sugar you use as well as choose your favorite add-ins. If you’re concerned about your sugar intake you can use less sugar or even replace it altogether with stevia, the Truvia® brand is my favorite.

For the batch pictured above, I used brown sugar, cinnamon and reduced sugar Craisins® however, you can change up the spices and use any other add-in you would like. Try out dried fruits, chocolate chips, or even chopped nuts. You can store your individual serving size oatmeal in cute Mason jars or small resealable bags. Make a few batches at a time, it only takes minutes to pull together and you’ll have a delicious breakfast ready to go each morning. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking or 1-minute oats
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs packed brown sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 tbs mix-ins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.

Instructions

To prepare – Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in a small resealable bag or Mason jar. Makes 1 serving.

To cook – Empty the oatmeal into a small bowl or cook right in the Mason jar. Add 2/3 cup boiling water and stir. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover, stir again and serve hot.

Phthalates Found in Boxed Macaroni and Cheese

Wow! Did anyone else see some of these articles about the chemicals in boxed macaroni and cheese? This article, What Chemicals Are In Your Mac and Cheese? , appeared on CNN and I was actually horrified to hear what was in the powdered cheese. Phthalates!! This is a chemical that is actually found in things like soap, plastics, rubber, and even adhesives! Why on earth would we want to feed our children food that contains a chemical that is found in our common household products? Although the organic versions seemed to fair better with the levels of phthalates found in their product in my opinion, even a little is too much.

Macaroni and Cheese is one of those meals that is so simple to pull together that there really is no reason to rely on the boxed versions anymore. Making a batch of my Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese doesn’t take much longer than making the commercial versions and it’s so much healthier and better for your kids. Real fresh milk and cheese, flour and salt. It doesn’t get anymore basic and simple than that. Make a big batch in the beginning of the week and you’ll have lunch for days. Just splash a little milk in the bowl, heat in the microwave for 30-60 seconds, stir, and you have a hot, homemade lunch for your kiddies. It’s so much better, and just as easy, as making mac n cheese from a box with cheese that’s filled with phthalates!

Before I step down from my soapbox, I want to point out that I am most certainly NOT above giving my kids boxed mac n cheese or commercially prepared chips and snacks because we’re all human and sometimes we just need quick and easy. I totally get it, I’ve been there many times myself but lately I’ve been trying my best to make my family as many things from scratch as I can. I don’t mind that my kids eat cookies, waffles, or ice cream but I feel a little better about those treats when I know what is in them. My best tip is to make big batches of your favorites and freeze them so that you always have a quick breakfast or sweet homemade treat on hand. Also, definitely give this stovetop mac n cheese a try, I promise that your kids will love it and it’s so easy to make that you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it sooner! Bye-bye blue boxed mac n cheese!!

cutlets and macncheese

Kitchen Must Have – Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

litchenaidmixer

My baby!!! If ever there was a kitchen item that I couldn’t live without, HANDS DOWN, it’s my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. I absolutely adore this appliance and while it can be a little pricey, it’s absolutely worth it’s weight in gold. Plus, any money you spend on it will pay off a millions times over. I’ve had this mixer for going on 16 years now and I’ve never had a single issue or problem with it and I use mine A LOT! It’s a fantastic investment and will really be a wonderful addition to your kitchen, trust me!

There are a few choices and price points for a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. They have a Professional Series with a 6 qt bowl which is what I bought years ago. They also have an Artisan model, a 5 qt model, and 4.5 qt model. Each model has a different price point so you should be able to find something that fits into your budget. Amazon usually has pretty great prices on the Kitchen Aid so if you’re interested in checking out a few of the models you can do so by clicking the link below:

 KitchenAid Professional 600 Series KP26M1XER Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer, 6 Quart, Nickel Pearl

Another great thing about these stand mixers, for those who aren’t familiar with them, they also have a host of different attachments that you can purchase. Some of the things they offer are a food grinder, a spiralizer, an ice cream bowl, various pasta rollers, slicers, and even a mini food processor attachment. The attachments can be pricey but if you add to your collection over time you end up with an appliance that can do the job of so many others. One stop cooking and baking!!

Aside from the obvious cookie doughs and batters you can make with the Kitchen Aid I’ve also churned my own butter, made homemade whipped cream, developed the most perfect peaked egg whites, whipped the best mashed potatoes, made bread doughs, and I even ground my own beef for burgers. I kid you not! It’s really such a versatile tool and it makes my life so much easier in the kitchen. You’ll especially appreciate it when you need to combine or whip ingredients for countless minutes. You can just set the speed and walk way until it’s ready which is great because it allows you to prep the next step in your recipe without having to waste precious time standing around and waiting.

It’s super easy to clean up too! Most of the parts and the bowl can go right into the dishwasher. Because I use mine so often I store the basic parts right in the bowl that is attached to the mixer. It came with a whisk, dough hook, and paddle attachment and with those 3 there is pretty much nothing that you can’t whip up.

If I had to choose one large appliance investment I would go for the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer all day long. It really is a must have in my kitchen and if anything happened to my current baby, I’d be on Amazon in two seconds ordering my next one! If you don’t already have one, definitely consider getting. You will not regret it, I promise.

Below are some of the delicious things I made using my trusty Kitchen Aid.

Fresh Homemade Butter

butter

 

Homemade Marshmallows

homemarsh

 

Homemade Whipped Cream

cocoa

 

Deep Dish Pizza

pizadeepdish

 

Cookies

chocchipcookie

 

Cinnamon Buns

cinnbuns

 

 

 

Homemade Coffee Creamers

creamers

I love the idea of flavored coffee creamers but I get a little out grossed out by what’s in them. I’ve tried some of the “natural” ones that they sell now and while they are okay, they don’t have a ton of flavor choices to pick from. So I decided to just make my own!!

I adapted the recipe for these creamers from the link below. I added a touch more vanilla in my recipe and increased the half and half from 1 3/4 cups to 2 cups. Feel free to play around with this recipe until you reach your desired consistency and flavor profile.

Homemade Coffee Creamers

The creamers took me about 5 minutes to throw together and they were delicious! It’s nothing more than sweetened condensed milk, half and half (or heavy cream if you like a thicker creamer) and flavorings. You can make so many different flavor combinations once you have the base down, the possibilities are endless. For the recipe below, I decided to split the recipe and make two flavors, Hazelnut and Cinnamon Vanilla. The creamers are great in coffee but REALLY good in hot cocoa too!!

Store the creamers in a cute Mason jar and give them a good shake before using. They will keep about 7-10 days in the fridge.

**Tip** – If you have any leftover creamer after a few days and you want to use it up, dip a few thick slices of Challah bread in the creamer and grill up some deliciously flavored French Toast. 

Ingredients

  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups half and half or heavy cream

For Cinnamon Vanilla Flavor

  • 2-3 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

For Hazelnut Flavor

  • 2 tsp pure hazelnut extract

Instructions

Combine all of the ingredients together in a Mason jar or other container, shake well to combine, and pour. Store in fridge for 7-10 days.

**Tip** – I like to label anything that I make homemade so I know what it is and when it was made. Ball makes great dissolvable labels for this purpose. You can get them from Amazon using the link below:

Ball Dissolvable Labels, Set of 60

Make It Homemade!

There is just nothing better than making something homemade! Aside from your dish being absolutely delicious you also have the added benefit of using the freshest ingredients and you know EXACTLY what is going into the food you eat.  If you ever take the time to read through the list of 457,000 ingredients that are used for a simple, basic store bought chocolate chip cookie you will appreciate REALLY quickly just how much better it is to make something from scratch.

Now I get it, cooking from scratch can be a big time commitment and it’s not always easy to get in the kitchen and whip up something homemade however, the more you do it the more you’ll realize that it’s not as overwhelming and complicated as you think.  I recommend starting with something super simple such as cookie dough.  There is nothing easier to pull together than a delicious, warm, home baked cookie.  Plus, cookie dough is a GREAT make-ahead recipe because it’s freezes (and keeps in the fridge) really well!  Here is where a vacuum sealer really comes in handy because it will help to extend the life of your cookie dough whether it’s in the fridge or freezer.  That being said, if you don’t have a vacuum sealer just roll up your cookie dough tightly in plastic wrap, put in a labeled Ziploc bag, and it should keep in the freezer for up to 3-4 months.  I like to write down the cooking instructions right on the Ziploc so that I am not scrambling around looking for the recipe down the road when I want to bake them off.  Spend an afternoon making a few different batches of cookie dough and you’ll always have a fresh, warm, homemade treat on hand.

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Cookie doughs are just the tip of the iceberg, you can make virtually anything from scratch and yield results that are as good, if not WAY better, than the processed store bought version.  Some of my favorite things to make are homemade vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, baking mixes, lemonade, ice cream, BBQ sauce, jams and jellies, dressings, and spice rubs.  Some of these things take just minutes to pull together using ingredients that you likely have on hand and they are better than anything you can buy in the store.

I’ve made my own vanilla extract countless times and it’s absolutely delicious.  Split a few vanilla beans, cover with either vodka or bourbon, seal and store in a dark place, and within 8-12 weeks you have homemade vanilla extract.  The longer you let it sit, the more concentrated the flavor will become.  You can see below the difference in color after just a few weeks and let me tell you, it’s absolutely incredible extract!

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Another fun thing to make from scratch, especially with the kids, is ice cream.  Making ice cream bases is so simple and once it’s chilled and ready you just pour it into the ice cream maker and let it do all of the work.  My kids and I made this delicious batch of vanilla chocolate chip ice cream and the flavor was so clean and natural.  Plus, I knew exactly what was in it so there were no weird chemicals or ingredients I couldn’t pronounce.  Just eggs, sugar, cream, vanilla, and chocolate chips!

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Love jams but you’re not quite sure how to can your own?  Try your hand at freezer jams, they are super simple and don’t require a ton of prep.  Or just make your favorite jam, pour it into a mason jar, and store it in the fridge.  There is no need to can it if you’re planning on using it right away.  I happen to LOVE cranberries and I usually end up overbuying bags of them at the holidays so instead of letting them go to waste I make a super easy cranberry jam.  Because I like to have plenty on hand, I’ll double the recipe so I can preserve and can a few batches for down the road.

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One of my most favorite things to make is lemonade, especially on a hot summer afternoon.  I promise you, once you have fresh squeezed lemonade you will absolutely NEVER want to drink the powdered or store bought version again.  This lemonade has such a light, fresh, perfectly balanced flavor that it’s easy to drink ALL day long!  This lemonade takes me no more than 15 or so minutes to pull together and it’s absolutely head and shoulders above any other lemonade I’ve ever had.  Just a few simple, fresh ingredients and you have yourself the perfect glass of cold, refreshing lemonade.

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As you can see, there really is no limit to what you can cook up in your own kitchen, it just takes a little planning and a dose of patience and before you know you can create a pantry, fridge, and freezer full of your own from scratch food!  Don’t be afraid to try your hand at different recipes, the worst thing that happens is that it doesn’t turn out great but then you learn from that, go back and tweak what you did, and try again.  Learning to cook and bake is a process but if you are willing to put in the time to learn you’ll be so pleased with the results.  There is simply nothing like homemade goodness!!!