Category Archives: From Our Kitchens

Healthier Pumpkin Bread

Healthier Pumpkin Bread

As you can probably guess since I haven’t posted since August 30th we’ve been a little busy around here! School is off to a good start and most of our weekends are now spent working on our house!!!! (We started Oct. 1st and already have basement walls!)  And…Courtney is now a mom of FOUR beautiful children after the birth of their daughter earlier this month!  So to help celebrate October,  we’re breaking out the pumpkins and winter squash from our garden and finding fun ways to use it up!

Here’s our latest: Pumpkin Bread! (You could also bake this recipe as muffins!) I say these are healthier since I used whole wheat flour and cut down on the sugar a little.  This bread is still plenty sweet so I may use even less sugar next time.  It’s also dairy-free if you use the coconut oil rather than butter!


  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar (or preferred sweetener)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice mix (or plain cinnamon)
  • 5 eggs
  • 2-3 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 can)
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil (or butter)
  • 1/2 cup preferred oil (we used grapeseed)

Streusel topping  (optional):

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 T whole wheat flour
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 F and grease the bottom only of 3 bread pans.  Mix streusel topping (optional) and set aside.

Mix all other dry ingredients (except the streusel topping!) 

Stir in all the wet ingredients and mix together well.   Pour batter into pans.   Sprinkle wet batter with streusel topping.

Bake for approx. 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  While bread is still hot you can also spread a little butter (1 tsp or so) or coconut oil on the tops to “glue” the streusel topping and make it reeeeeally yummy! 

Another yummy option: add chocolate chips! (Due to my need for dairy-free food I left them out.)


Hope you enjoy a taste of October!!

Other posts you may enjoy: 

Rosemary Pumpkin Soup

Black Bean (Healthier) Brownies

Gluten-Free Almond Cherry Cookies

Lemon-Poppyseed Muffins

Michelle’s Hummus Recipe

Michelle’s Hummus Recipe

We’re baaaaaaack!  Maybe you noticed we’ve been absent from the blogging sphere, SORRY! Life just happened and blogging had to take a back seat for awhile, but here we are again!

So one of the things I’ve been focusing on lately (instead of blogging) is my health. And to help with that, the doctor I’m working with has me on a special diet.  Among other things I’m supposed to have a serving of beans everyday.  Yes, EVERYday. To help bring a little variety with fulfilling that requirement I learned how to make my own hummus with chickpeas (aka: Garbanzo beans) and I thought I’d share!

This is good stuff!  And I know most hummus includes tahini (ground sesame seeds) but that’s hard to find in rural Minnesota…go figure.  So I just used a little sesame seed oil instead.


  • 1  1/2 cups cooked chickpeas drained (I used the crockpot method just like I do for pinto beans!)
  • 1 large (2 small) cloves of garlic
  • 3-5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4-1/2  t. sesame seed oil
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from one small lemon

Put all the wet ingredients in the food processor (I just use a small cheap one I purchased for making baby food and it does the job!).  Add the basil leaves, garlic cloves, and beans and puree until smooth!  (If you need a little more liquid try a little more olive oil or add a little of the water the beans were cooked in.)

I haven’t tried these yet cuz I’m pretty happy with this recipe, but when I need some more variety here are some other flavors I may add:

  • Spinach 
  • Artichokes
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Pesto

Oh and since I’m limited to one serving of grains a day I don’t like to use the typical pita chips to eat my hummus.  I use cucumber slices! I know it sounds weird, but it’s really good!  I still get the crunch and it all taste so fresh and yummy.  And we happen to have a few cukes in the garden so it’s cheaper than chips too! Try ’em!


Hummus with Cucumber “Chips”



A taste of the sea: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

A taste of the sea: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

I’m back from a weekend get-away to the Oregon coast!  I went alone and met up with my brothers, dad, step-mom and all Dad’s side of the extended family. 

Me, my dad, and my “little” brothers!

We had a wonderful time enjoying the ocean views and the company and the yummy seafood! 


Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, OR (Yes, it’s the one on the Goonies movie!!!!)


In celebration of my homecoming I wanted to share a yummy recipe I developed before I left. I used some of the Alaskan Dungeness crab my husband caught and brought back home last month!  If you’re not well stocked on fresh crab I’m sure canned would be just fine! 😉

Here’s a link to the original recipe I used as a reference.


  • I small package of baby Portobello mushrooms (there were about 10-12 mushrooms in the package)
  • 1/2 cup crab meat
  • 1/4 cup soft (whole wheat bread) crumbs
  • half a lemon
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves minced (or 1 tsp dry)
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt
  • 1 green onion stalk (minced)
  • 1 egg
  • dash of fresh or dry dill weed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 T butter or olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly grease the bottom of a 9X13 pan.  Gently wash off mushrooms with a wet paper towel to remove any dirt. Remove the stems from the caps and finely chop the stems. 

2.  With butter or olive oil saute the chopped mushroom stems with green onion, basil, and dill for 2-3 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and dark-colored.  Set aside to cool.

3.  In a bowl mix crab meat, soft bread crumbs, egg, and Parmesan cheese.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture and stir together.  Add the chopped and cooked mushroom stems to the crab meat mix and stir.

4.  Gently spoon mixture into the raw mushroom caps and bake for about 10 minutes until caps are dark brown and mixture on top is a light golden brown.  (I had extra crab meat mixture which I layered with zucchini in a casserole dish and baked! YUM!)


Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms


Now this is the life!

Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean Burgers

If you’re familiar with A Lighter Journey, you already know that I cook/eat a lot of beans at my place.  And sometimes I cook too many. So with an abundance of cooked black beans and mushrooms I decided to try to make some vegetarian-style burgers as a little something different. And they were actually pretty good! Now mind you, I still enjoy the real deal when it comes to hamburgers, but this used up my beans and it was  yummy too {as well as healthy!}


  • 2 cups cooked black beans (I used the crockpot method, but canned beans would work, just rinse and drain first!)
  • 2 cups baby Portobello mushrooms (or other variety of mushrooms)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 to 1  1/2 cups dry old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t salt (optional…take into consideration that with canned beans they may already be salted!)
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • dash cayenne pepper



Chop mushrooms and onion very finely (a food processor would be great, but don’t try a blender! It purees instead of chops! I know this from experience!;))


Rinse beans and drain really well!  It might even help to dry them a little by dabbing them with a paper towel.  My beans were pretty wet.  I worked with it, but it would’ve been easier if there was less liquid!

Mash beans with a potato masher. 


Stir in chopped onions and mushrooms and egg and spices.  Stir in the oats.  My mixture was really wet so I let it all sit for 1/2 hr and the oats really soaked up the extra moisture.  (So adjust the amount of oats according to your mix! You might not need as much if your beans were really dry!)

To freeze line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper.  Form patties (they’re pretty fragile and sticky…that’s okay!)  and set them on the cookie sheet in the freezer overnight.   Store frozen patties in a freezer bag or container. 

This recipe makes 6 bean burgers!

Or form patties and cook right away!  Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan on medium high heat and cook about 4-5 minutes each side.  I cooked the frozen ones the same way without thawing first, just cooking them a little longer.  Both ways worked great! I don’t know about grilling these since that’s more my hubby’s department, but other recipes I saw suggested grilling these on foil coated with olive oil.

Enjoy with your favorite burger toppings!

So if you’re looking for a meatless meal, or a way to use up a surplus of cooked black beans I hope you’ll give this recipe a try!  It was surprisingly good, even for a carnivore like me! 😉

Other posts you may enjoy:

Citrus Mint Quinoa Salad

Southwestern Black Bean Quinoa Salad

 Savory Beans ‘n’ Rice

Savory Beans and Rice {Crockpot}

Savory Beans and Rice {Crockpot}


Being in the dog days of summer {might’ve actually hit 100 degrees yesterday!} I like to use my crockpot rather than the stove top or oven whenever I can! I also like to create frugal healthy meals…meaning I use a lot of beans around here! Here’s the newest recipe from my kitchen: Savory Beans and Rice.  It reminded me of Zatarain’s or Vigo’s Red Beans and Rice.  But this version is much healthier with brown rice and NO preservatives.  And also important: it was a hit with my kids! We covered it with grated cheddar cheese and they gobbled it down and asked for more!


  • 1 1/2 cups dry brown rice
  • 1 cup dry pinto beans
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 a medium onion chopped
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • olive oil

Pour beans and rice into the crockpot.  Mix spices and salt together and add to the crock.  While water is heating up to boiling saute onions in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for 2-3 minutes…until barely translucent.  Add onions to the crock and pour boiling water over everything.  Set crockpot on high and serve 3-4 hours later! 

I think this dish would dry out too much if you over cook it so I would keep a close eye on it!  Ours was done in 3 1/2 hours and thickened up a little after serving. 


  • It’s done!



  • For a little heat add cayenne or crushed red pepper
  • Add smoked sausage for a main course dish
  • Add chopped peppers of choice
  • Serve topped with sour cream or shredded cheese
  • Use left overs for burritos or enchilada filling
  • Add a can of crushed/diced tomatoes, chopped green pepper, and shrimp for a Jambalaya-type dish


***Random announcement:   maybe you noticed we haven’t been posting much this week. The summer is short in Minnesota and we try to take full advantage of the season by playing outside as much as possible. My computer is inside. Courtney is also busy with her little ones and preparing for the arrival of her baby this fall.  So this summer postings may be a little sporadic…just to warn you! Thanks for understanding!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Crockpot Beans

Easy Potato Salad

Freezer Cooking: Meatballs


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Grilled Glazed Pineapple

Grilled Glazed Pineapple

Last week a local store had whole fresh pineapples on sale for a dollar each!  I was super excited because, well, I LOVE fresh pineapple.  We bought a whole bunch and have been enjoying them all week-long.

We had tried a grilled glazed pineapple at a restraunt we love (Tucano’s anyone?) and decided to try on our own!  This was mostly my husbands idea and concoction, and he’s the family grill master, so I left it up to him.  It was fantastic!!!

What you’ll need:

  • A whole fresh pineapple
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 T. lemon juice

Cut your pineapple like this…

Cut the top off…

Slice the skin off lengthwise, from the top down.

Mix together the brown sugar, (melted)butter and lemon juice…rub the glaze onto the pineapple.

Set it on the grill, with low heat, for 5-10 minutes, rotating it to grill all sides.

Slice pieces from the top down and ENJOY!  An amazing and healthy summer treat!


Super Easy and Fast Salsa Verde Enchilda Sauce

Super Easy and Fast Salsa Verde Enchilda Sauce

I wanted to make enchiladas last week.  I had the shredded chicken ready and all my tortilla shells and then I realized that I forgot to buy salsa verde enchilada sauce!  I dug through my cupboards and found a can! Oh joy!  But my joy was short-lived.   It’s been a really long time since I made enchiladas and I’ve made some changes to our diet since then.  So as I read the ingredients listed on the can of green salsa verde that had been in my cupboard since this fall,  I decided I wasn’t gonna use it. The biggest offender in the can was MSG.  That and there were a few other ingredients I’m not familiar with.  So I decided to make my own!

And, yes,  I am using a canned item, but I have yet to find a substitute for canned green chilis.  I’ve tried using fresh ones, and it’s not the same flavor.   At least there’s no MSG!


  • 2 small (or 1 large) can of green chilis
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 T cornstarch

Yup.  That’s it!  If my enchiladas weren’t half-assembled and I had the extra time I might’ve sautéed onions and added tomatillios {if I had them}…but I was in a hurry, this is what I had on hand,  and this worked!

1.  Mix cornstarch into cold or room temperature chicken broth.  Add chilis and heat to boil. Olé!

You can tweak the amount of cornstarch depending on how thick you want the sauce.  And if you’re in the market for canned salsa verde that doesn’t include MSG, I like the Herdez brand Mexican sauces and salsas.  They don’t use preservatives and weird stuff I can’t pronounce! And if you want to get the most out of your chicken, save the bones and scraps and make your own broth!  Instructions are at the end of this post.  You can even do it in your sleep!  😉

Other posts you might like:

Guacamole Recipe

Mexican Rice Tutorial

Refried Beans Tutorial

Tuesday Tutorial: Layered Taco Dip (and 7 uses for Pinto Beans!)

Tuesday Tutorial: Layered Taco Dip (and 7 uses for Pinto Beans!)

One of the things I do sometimes to save money and time is to make a big batch of unsalted Crockpot Pinto Beans and use them throughout the week.    Beans are versatile, healthy, and frugal.  I may use some to make a dessert like these Peanut Butter Honey Bars.  They’re great for bean and cheese burritios (which you can freeze) for my husband to take on the road for lunch.  I can throw in a handful of cooked beans in my Turkey Taco meat which stretches the more expensive turkey meat to feed our family of six without compromising our budget.   I can serve beans over brown rice and a side of fresh veggies for another healthy meatless meal.  I can add beans for protein in soup or chili.  And if I don’t use the beans up in a few days I can freeze them for later.

And this week I used the beans to make refried beans as a base for a Layered Taco Dip!  It’s a nice appetizer served with tortilla chips or veggies!  I use what I have on hand and adapt, so I’m just guessing at the amounts listed here. 


  • 2-3 cups refried beans
  • 1-2 cups sour cream (or softened cream cheese)
  • ½ -1 cup salsa
  • Chopped onion, cilantro, and shredded cheese for garnish

Spread the refried beans on a large tray or the bottom of 2 pie pans. (I split this recipe between the 2 pie pans.)


Spread a layer of cream cheese or sour cream on top of the beans.

Zap the cream cheese in the microwave for 20-30 second intervals until softened enough to spread easily.

Add the salsa.  Sprinkle fresh cilantro and onions with this layer.

Top everything off with shredded cheese!

If you use a clear dish you can really show off the layers of color!


Here’s some ideas of other layers you can add:

The possibilities are endless!


Whole Wheat Pizza Crust Recipe

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust Recipe

Friday night at our house is Pizza Night!  (You might notice when I post the weekly menu there’s always a dinner of pizza listed!).  We have evolved from take out and frozen pizza to making at home from scratch with white flour now to making it with whole wheat flour. (Although we occasionally enjoy a frozen pizza…I’m not gonna lie!) 

 I found this recipe in a book titled Recipes from the Old Mill by Sarah E. Myers and Mary Beth Lind with lots of recipes using whole grains.  This pizza dough is so easy to make, easy to work with and roll out, and so much healthier than my previous pizza dough recipe!  The authors make this ahead of time and refrigerate, but I use the dough right away.  We have loved it!  I hope you will too!


  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar (or honey)
  • 2 pkgs dry yeast (4 ½ tsp)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup flour (for kneading)


  1. Combine warm water and sugar(we use honey instead). Sprinkle yeast in and stir to dissolve. Let set 5 min.
  2. Stir in oil, salt, cornmeal, and whole wheat flour.
  3. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 min) using only as much additional flour as needed.
  4. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place until double in bulk, about 45 min.
  5. Punch down and divide in half.  Stretch each half into 14” round on an ungreased baking sheet. Press around edge to form a standing rim of dough.
  6. Bake at 350 for 10 min.
  7. When cool, wrap tightly and store in refrigerator up to 6 days.
  8. To serve, unwrap and place on ungreased baking sheet.  Top with desired toppings. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

Authors’  Variations:

  1. Pizza dough can be shaped into individual pizzas.
  2. If you wish to use pizza dough immediately, add toppings after Step 5, and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 min.


Michelle’s Notes:

  •  I usually make pizzas right away, but I use a fork and poke holes in the dough and bake the dough alone for 10 minutes and then add toppings and cook again for another 15-20min.
  • Dough is really easy to roll out on a floured surface!
  • This recipe makes a fairly thick crust once it cooks (puffs up a lot) so I roll it out thin as I can and I get two big pizzas and a small one we use to make cheesy stix (just cheese topping, no sauce.) So you can get away with halving this recipe if you want smaller portions.
  • Our favorite toppings are real sliced mozzarella cheese and green olives! It might sound weird, but it’s really yummy!  Sometimes I make a white alfredo sauce instead of using tomato sauce…just to mix it up a bit! :)

What’s your favorite kind of pizza?






Monday Menu

Monday Menu

Now that my hubby has the boat ready for the summer we’re adding fresh caught fish to the menu this week! He catches AND cooks them, so I get a night off kitchen duty! 


  • Eggs & Whole Wheat Toast x 2
  • Kashi cereal x 2
  • Crockpot Oatmeal with walnuts
  • Whole Wheat Waffles & sausage
  • Apple Bran Muffins


  • Homemade Mac & Cheese (with a little broccoli thrown in)
  • Banana & Peanut Butter Towers
  • Nachos and Veggie Stix
  • Cantelope & PBJ’s
  • Grapes & PBJ’s
  • Apples and leftovers
  • Homemade Yogurt and fresh fruit


  • Fresh Fish &  Garlic Rosemary Oven Fries
  • Chicken Tacos & Cilantro Lime Rice
  • Grilled Country-Style Ribs & Spinach Salad
  • Spaghetti & Meatballs
  • Hot dogs & Citrus Mint Quinoa Salad
  • Homemade Whole-Wheat Pizza
  • Leftovers!

    Citrus Mint Quinoa Salad! Fresh and Delicious!