Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dehydrated Watermelon Snacks


A few weeks ago, a status update from my friend, Crystal, hit my Facebook wall - she said she'd made some dehydrated watermelon snacks.

Say what??  I like dried fruit and I have a Nesco dehydrator (that I don't use nearly as much as I should), but I'd never heard of drying watermelon.

I actually tried to talk Crystal into posting about it, but she said something like 'what's there to write about it - slice watermelon. Dehydrate it. Done!"

And that's about it, too.

A couple weeks later, I got a seedless watermelon about the size of a soccer ball in our produce box, and ate some of it fresh but Michael doesn't care for it and at some point, I'd had enough to eat and still had a lot of juicy red melon left.

I remembered what Crystal had said, and decided to go for it.

I like my Nesco, because it is very easy to use - stack each tray - if you don't need them all, just leave some off, top it with the lid and set the dial according to what you're drying - it includes a temperature guide right on the lid for fast reference.

The fan that powers it is in the lid, but you can use it without power if you have a hot, dry place to just leave it, like a closed up car on a summer's day.  Vents in the stacked trays will allow dry, hot air to circulate through it, with or without plugging it in.

Obviously, the time it would take would be a lot more variable that way, but I'm curious to give it a try some time!

I cut my watermelon into 1" thick slices, and then sliced of 1/4" slices from those, filling each tray of the Nesco and then topping it with the next tray.  It wound up using all of them.  The thinner the slices, the thinner (and dryer) the dried watermelon will be.  if you want this to keep, you want it dry, not sticky and moist.

After it was filled, I topped it with the lid, set the dial for 135F, and left it alone for 8 hours.  By then, the top two trays were dry and finished and the bottom two still needed another couple hours.   This seems to be typical, since any moisture from the upper trays would drip down into the lower ones, so they're likely to be slightly damper.

The finished watermelon snacks were about as thin as a wonton wrapper, still pliable but leathery dry, and shrunk down quite a bit from their original size.

The taste was really vibrant - like other dried fruits, the sweetness and flavor is ramped way up once  the moisture is removed.

I popped these in a bag to store in the refrigerator, and have been eating them out of hand.  Michael even likes them and decided his distaste for melon was about texture, not flavor.

I think bite sized bits of this would be really tasty on a green salad with some basil, cucumber and feta cheese, but I'm mostly happy to have a light sweet snack with no added sugar.  A bite or two is enough to satisfy my passing sugar cravings.

I did this mostly on a whim, so I wasn't prepared but I want to do it again while watermelons are still available, and pickle the rind while I'm at it.  If I practice a little bit of self-control, I could then have an at-hand bit of summer to tide me over on wintery cold days.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Slow Cooker Green Beans, Sausage, & Potatoes (Meal Plan)


When planning our Abundant Harvest haul for this week, I noticed some really great deals in their add-ons! The one I was most excited about was 6 heads of lettuce for just $10! Then and there, I decided that we would challenge ourselves to a full week of salads. Every night I wanted to eat a salad, prepared a different way. It sounded like great fun, and would help me achieve my goal blood sugar numbers. (As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I've been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.) I then chose all the rest of my add-ons around what would go great with salad. 

Unfortunately, just before pick-up day, it was brought to my attention that the lettuce was being refunded, as it was too late in the harvest season to accommodate the orders. WAH! That certainly threw my entire planning off course, but here is what I received:

Fruit -
1 small Cantalope
12 Figs
8 white peaches

Vegetables -
1 Celery bun
1 Lettuce head
1 radish bunch
2 pattypan (1 small yellow, 1 large white)
4 sweet corn cobs
2 large orange tomatoes
3 large green tomatoes
6 small red tomatoes
5 small yukon potatoes
1 bunch chives
1 bunch shallots
2 green bell peppers
3 red onions (1 is bigger than a softball!)
1 large bunch Sorrel

Herbs -
1 bunch Catnip
1 bunch mint

Meat/Dairy -
2 lb hamhocks
12 oz precooked/nitrate free Italian sausage
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
12 oz pork breakfast sausage links
1/2 gallon raw whole milk
2qt raw milk Kefir
1 dozen eggs

There are many of these things that we still have to use, but we went through a good bit for our meals this week. 

I am sad to say that more things than I’d like to admit from LAST week, ended up getting thrown out. We just didn’t come up with uses quick enough, and we were dealing with a very cluttered fridge where things were overlooked! Live and learn!

Here is what I DID make happen this week:

Tuna Salad 
made with with lettuce, sorrel, celery, carrot, tomato, chives, radish, cranberry, walnut, parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegarette, tuna, sliced mozzarella stick

Lemon pepper tilapia, mashed potatoes, frozen mixed vegetable medley

My friend Taylor's homemade blueberry pie

cheat day 
(fast food burger…let’s not talk about it)

For breakfast we made an amazing medley of farm fresh goods that was better than anything I’d eaten. Fresh eggs (look at the color of those yolks!), sausage, and Yukon gold potatoes.

Saturday Dinner
Slow Cooker Green Beans, Sausage & Potatoes 
(see recipe below!)

Taco Salad
with lettuce, sorrel, onion, tomatoes, radish, seasoned ground beef, 
black olives, taco sauce, sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

 (this one messed up my numbers because it was SO good, I couldn't resist a second serving!)

leftover taco salad

Bacon Bratwurst Bitessautéed squash with garlic, macaroni and cheese

Overall my eating habits have changed a lot since being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. I don’t snack all day (the way anyone normal at 8 month preggers wants to!) and I actually read nutrition labels! 

Almost everyday my lunch was a tuna sandwich or salad of some sort. I never grabbed for any frozen convenience food. I didn’t have any soda, and only one sugar-free Starbucks coffee. 

Best of all, I am practicing something I have always struggled with - portion control! My biggest problem aera now is the after dinner desserts! I’m not beating myself up too hard, but it certainly is cheating. It’s hard when my husband has such a sweet tooth though, and is always baking something.

Now on to a new recipe for you all!!

This was actually the second time we made this. The first time was about a week ago. I was out with a friend when a crazy craving struck me over the head and I HAD to have it! 

I immediately texted my husband and asked him to throw a bunch of random ingredients into the crock pot. I just started listing off stuff I knew we had, and crossed my fingers they actually went together. My friend and I were a few hours out, and it was ready with perfect timing once we came back.  Needless to say, it was so good, we did it again this week!

Slow Cooked Sausage, Green Beans & Potatoes


2 large fistfuls fresh Green beans
2 large red potatoes
half white onion (chopped)
2 tablespoons dried sage (chopped)
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried Rosemary
3 Italian sausage links (also great with Kielbasa!) 
2 small cans mushrooms
1 can Cream of Chicken and Mushroom
1 ½ cups water

1.Rinse green beans and potatoes. Cut off the ends of green beans, and then chop to desired size. Dice potatoes. Add to crock pot with can of cream of chicken and mushroom and water.

2. Add seasoning and mushrooms

3. Slice sausage and add to crock pot.

4. Turn crackpot on high, and let simmer for about 3-4 hours or until beans and potatoes are tender.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Pupbox Development Subscription Box


I have a 10-11 month old pittbull mix named Cort.  He’s a feisty sucker, but a loveable one.  He loves to bark……… a lot.  He also likes to nip as a form of playing, to the point where sometimes I can walk by and he’ll nip me in the butt for fun.  Like I said...feisty.  However, the moments when he wants to cuddle because he missed me, by putting his paws on my shoulders and nesting his head in the crook of my neck, make his transgressions mostly worth it.

That said, we are still in the market for some training implements to help quell the parts of his personality that are not conducive to a happy self, namely me.

So when I was presented with the opportunity to try out the PupBox developmental subscription box set, I jumped on it.

I received my shipment in about a week and a half, and it came in your typical subscription box size.  

As you can see, Cort is anxious to see what is in this special box that he somehow knows is for him.  Each box will contain up to 6 items that could range from treats, grooming products, supplements, or various accessories.  

You can see some of the variety of products you might receive through their website shop.

The first thing I saw when I opened the box was a really well-made 1-sheet pamphlet that is customized to the age of my particular pup, 10 months.  

The pamphlet went over some basic information on the growth of my pup, the appropriate activity level for his age, a trick of the month to try, what is important to consider for his age, such as sleeping patterns, etc.  

It’s a very educational piece of information that highlights the pertinent stuff I should know at this stage of pet ownership :)  If you had a really young pup, your box may include special items such as pee spray.  They really customize to your dogs appropriate age, which is convenient.

Once through the “boring” stuff, Cort and I were onto the toys and snacks!

My Cort especially loves noisy toys that squeak and krinkle, so I was pleased that all of the toys provided were able to give him the noisy amusement.  

My kit contained:

  • One Monkeez krinkle bone with a squeaker (sad to say he has already torn into this, it’s a thing for him)
  • One JW Good Cuz rubber ball “person” that squeaks
  • One Henry Krinkle leather dog with a water bottle type insert that makes the krinkle sound of an empty plastic bottle (which Cort also loves)
  • A rawhide stick from the Natural Dog Company
  • Some 100% venison treats from Superior Farms (made in America, which is important to me after the Chinese Dog Treat scare last year)
  • And some Puppy supplement treats from PetNaturals of Vermont

So the haul was a good mix of fun, health, and premium treat.  I really like that they included the supplement treats to help boost Cort’s health, and he has already had them and loves to eat them.

PupBox Subscriptions aren't just for puppies - they have subscription offerings that are appropriate to all ages.

So, how do you get your own Pupbox?   You simply go to the Pupbox website and fill in your puppy’s profile information (this helps with the customized box), pick how many months you want to subscribe for (1, 3, and 6 months plans), and they will do the rest.

They even cover the shipping charges for the subscribers.  You can also purchase their items from their website separately, but you do cover the shipping cost for those.  Each box starts at $24 per month.

All in all, this is a very sound way to treat and train your puppy every month.  You receive products that are appropriate as your pup grows, you get a different variety every month, and it’s like Christmas morning for your pup once a month at a decent cost.  

Your pup is worth that, right?  I know mine is, and he probably knows it.

PupBox is generously offering our readers $15 off any subscription - just use the code CHEWS15 when you check out!

Thanks to PupBox, we are able to host a giveaway of one PupBox to a lucky winner in the United States.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, and then leave your Username and email in the Rafflecopter entry. This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.  Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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