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Our Favorite Lentil Soup, in the Crock Pot and now the Instant Pot

I'm going to try this in the Instant Pot tonight 15 minutes on high pressure should do it! I know it will turn out great.....I will let you know if there should be any adjustments.

I love that this soup is so simple to make and that more often then not I have all the ingredients to make it. Super nutritious and full of fiber and.....BIG BONUS the whole family likes it!  Go good on chilly nights.  I hope you will like it too!

Our Favorite Lentil Soup
4 Tablespoons extra–virgin olive oil
1 Large onion, chopped
4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
2 cups chopped carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups water
3 cups dry green lentils
2 Heaping Tablespoons Vegetable Broth Powder
2 (14½–oz.) cans diced tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Turn large 5 quart crock pot on high. Place oil and chopped veggies and garlic in, stir. Add the water and lentils. Place lid on and let cook on high for about 3 hours until lentils are soft. After lentils are cooked stir in Vegetable broth powder and diced tomatoes, turn crock pot to low and let warm until time to eat. Just before serving add 1-2 Tablespoons, or to taste, of Balsamic vinegar. Can optionally mash some of the lentils with a potato masher or blend with a hand blender for a thicker consistency or just eat it like it is. Add salt and pepper to taste!

Good Friday Meal, An Easter Tradition

When Charly was just a baby we started a fun yet very simple Easter week tradition. We start on Palm Sunday and talk/read about what happened each day the last week of Christ's life. We also enjoy finding videos about those same stories. And there is this Because of Him Easter site that was started this year that we have already been using.

Then on the evening of Good Friday we like to have a meal that may have been similar to what Jesus may have had for passover. We even sit on the floor to eat it. The kids love this simple little tradition.

Our meal typically consists of a lentil dish, dried fruit and nut mix, flat bread, hummus and grape juice. So simple but the kids look forward to it every year and always ask if we are going to do it again!

On Saturday the kids get a few fun small healthy "treats" in their Easter baskets. Usually there is something very practical like socks or flip flops and books. And then sometimes a very small toy like a yo-yo or lawn darts or something fun like that.

We hunt eggs and spend the day together and try to spend as much time together with family as we can. On Easter Sunday we go to church some of us sing in the choir as part of the Easter program. Then more often then not we have a spring type picnic meal with extended family and just enjoy being together and being grateful for our Savior.

Curried Lentils Over Rice
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
4 Tablespoons Curry Powder
3 cups brown or green lentils
6-8 cups water, divided
1 1/2 cups hummus
1 heaping teaspoon Vegetable Broth Powder
1 teaspoon Real Salt or to taste
pepper to taste
3-4 green onions, sliced
1 lemon cut into 8 wedges
cooked brown rice

Crock pot instructions:
In a warm crock pot, place the first 5 ingredients stir well and let warm up while preparing the rest of ingredients. Add lentils and 6 cups of water. Let cook on high for 3 hours or until lentils are tender. Add hummus, broth powder, salt and pepper and add more water to get desired consistency. Season to taste turn down crock pot and keep warm until ready to serve. Top with green onion just before serving. Serve over bowls of cooked brown rice, squeeze a wedge of lemon over each serving.

Stove Top instructions:
In a large pot heat olive oil then saute onion, carrots and garlic together. Add Curry powder and stir just until fragrant. Add lentils and 6 cups of water. Cover and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until lentils are done. Add hummus, broth powder, salt and pepper. Add more water if needed for desired consistency. Turn down to low and let heat through, stirring frequently. Season to taste. Top with green onion just before serving. Serve over  bowls of cooked brown rice, squeeze a wedge of lemon over each serving.
recipe adapted from Curried Lentil Soup

You will find my Totally Homemade Hummus recipe here.

Dried Fruit and Nut Mix
50% dried fruit
50% nuts

I just make a mix of about 50/50 dried fruit to nuts. I like to use what maybe would be maybe more traditional foods and that we don't very often eat in our other nut mixes. For fruit I will do figs, dates, raisins, apricots. Sometimes I will do dried cherries and cranberries. Usually I try to work with what I've already got. For the nuts I like to use walnuts, pecans, almonds and sometimes hazelnuts and pistachios.

Flat Bread

You can take about any dough and roll it into the flat shape you want and cook it like a pancake in a hot oiled pan or griddle. I have used My Best Yet Whole Wheat Bread recipe for this (I know not very traditional with the yeast and all;) or even this tortilla recipe just not rolled so thin would work.

This year though, since I have a sourdough start I am going to try a sourdough flat bread recipe. I have tried a few and they have all been eaten up but I haven't been super excited about any of them. So instead of posting an actual recipe I found this very cool sourdough flat bread link up that looks like it has lots of fun options. I'm going to choose one of those or a mixture of a few of them. ;) Hopefully I'll find something we love.

Rejoice for He is Risen and have a very Happy Easter!

Dill Pickle Dip

Dill Pickle Dip
When I first started dating Ryan it didn't take long for his family to introduce me to dill pickle dip. I'm not sure why I had never had it before but I don't remember trying it until then. I thought it was pretty good and was fine with adopting the dill pickle dip tradition........

That was until I started learning about ingredients! Then that poor little container of fun family tradition became the enemy. I mean those tiny letters on the back of the container was an ingredient list that was way to long with many big words some of which were monosodium glutamate also known as MSG.  Which is a big hit list item on my ingredient list.

Ryan was great to be understanding (his family less so...not that I blame them) but I still felt pretty bad and wondered if I could ever figure out how to make it healthy and still taste like the dip he loved.

Well a few years down my healthify all the foods we love road, it was time to take on the dip! It was so easy and we even liked it better than the old store bought version. I was happy to bring back a fun little tradition!

We have been loving this dip for years now. I always make up a bunch at Christmas and New Years!

Hope you all have a fun and Happy New Year!

How to make your own Dill Pickle Dip
Dill Pickle Dip
1 cup Veganaise (did you know my sister has started making her own, I need to get her recipe)
1/2 cup sunflower seed sour cream (optional, in fact I usually leave it out)
1 Tablespoon Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon Real Salt
1 heaping teaspoon Dill weed (more or less to taste)
1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 medium dill pickles chopped fine

Stir all ingredients together. Great to dip veggies and/or crackers in.  Good with potato chips too but you didn't hear that from me. ;)

Favorite Recipes for Fall

From Pumpkins, Apples, Caramel Corn....to Comforting Soups, Cranberries and Pies. These are some of our favorite fall recipes. Great for Fall parties, Thanksgiving dinner and even Christmas. We start enjoying these recipes as soon as there is that nip in the air clear into Winter.

I tried to limit this list to the very favorites that we make most often but there are many more yummy warm fall recipes to be found by searching the archives or clicking on a category. Both options are in the sidebar. May your Kitchen be full of wonderful smells and comforting tastes all season long

Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Pumpkin

Dinner in a Pumpkin
Dinner in a Pumpkin

Healthy Pumpkin Pie
Healthified Pumpkin Pies

Pumpkin Carob Chip Bread Pumpkin Carob Chip Bread

Healthy Pumpkin Cookies
Pumpkin Cookies

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Spicy Pumpkin Soup


Apple Pie Filling
Apple Pie Filling

Spiced Crock Pot Apple Sauce
Spiced Crock Pot Apple Sauce

Apple Butter
Apple Butter

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

Caramel Apples
Caramel Apples


Caramel Popcorn
Caramel Popcorn

Popcorn Balls Popcorn Balls


Homemade Stuffing
Cranberry and Apple Stuffing

Broccoli Salad Broccoli Salad


Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

Creamy Vegetable Soup
Creamy Vegetable Soup

Minestrone Soup
Minestrone Soup

Split Pea Soup
 Split Pea Soup

Cauliflower and Curry Soup Cauliflower and Curry Soup

Broccoli Cheese Soup
Broccoli Cheese Soup

Barley Soup Barley Soup

A Few More Favs

Bread and Butter Pickles Bread and Butter Pickles

Pickled Beets
Pickled Beets 

Pineapple Cornbread Muffins

Dinner Rolls Dinner Rolls

Gut Healing Strawberry Banana Smoothie Bowl

Recently I posted My Favorite Smoothie Mix.....we have been making and enjoying smoothies for a long time now but after a while, even with lots of greens and super-foods some smoothies seemed lacking. They didn't keep me full long enough and often they seemed too sweet with lots of fruit and sometimes added honey or other sweeteners.

I was learning more about the importance of healthy fats so I started experimenting trying to find ways to add lots of healthy fat to my smoothies. Then I found that even natural sweeteners can be overdone and that I was loosing a taste for things that were too sweet.....fruit is plenty sweet and you don't even need a lot.

Then I figured to round things out it needed to have to good amount of protein. Not only did this make it a great pre or post workout smoothie but a perfect meal in and of itself keeping me full for hours.

Then while I was at it why not add some gut nourishing and healing ingredients since most of our guts need quite a bit of TLC.  This smoothie bowl is just the first of many of the fun smoothie recipes I have created that me and my family have been enjoying for quite some time now. I hope you enjoy this one I look forward to sharing even more!

Gut Healing Strawberry Banana Smoothie Bowl
makes 2 or 3 bowls depending on size

1 cup coconut milk (I like to add a bit of kefir here too for the probiotics)
2 heaping scoops of My Favorite Smoothie Mix
1 frozen banana
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 Tablespoon Coconut oil or MCT oil (a handful of walnuts or cashews here works too)
1/2 cup crushed ice (optional if you like them really cold and thick)

Sliced fruit (strawberry and/or banana)
Granola or I used some of my crushed up candy bars in the pictures
sliced almonds, chia seeds (optional)

Blend all ingredients except toppings into blender.  If you want it thicker add more frozen stuff ;) if you want it thinner add more coconut milk or a little water. Pour into bowls add toppings in a fun pretty way!

Don't forget the Herbs and Essential Oils Super Bundle sale ends TONIGHT! If you are interested in learning more about herbs and essential oils this is the perfect place to start also don't forget to email me after you purchase so I can send you My Simple Healthy Life ebook!

My Favorite Smoothie Mix

For quite some time now this has been my favorite mix to put in smoothies. It has a great flavor and is full of fiber, nutrients and multiple sources of protein. With the right amount of added fat and fruit a smoothie will keep me full and energized for hours. It has also done wonders for my hair, skin and hormones. My eyelashes are longer and thicker then they have ever been. Make up a batch a give it a try I started noticing a difference within the first three months of using it consistently.

I'll share some of my favorite smoothie recipes soon but for now here is my basic formula for making a healthy well balanced smoothie.

My typical smoothie formula:
2 cups of liquid (almond milk, water, kefir or combination)
2 scoops of the mix (recipe below)
1-2 Tablespoons Fat (Nuts or nut butter, coconut oil or MCT oil)
1-2 cups frozen fruit
other add ins fresh greens etc. (optional)

My Favorite Smoothie Mix

Makes about 1 gallon

3 cups chia seed
3 cups collagen
3 cups vanilla bone broth powder
3 cups vanilla plant based protein powder
1/2 scant cup acerola cherry powder
1/2 scant cup maca
1 1/2 cups greens powder

Mix everything into a gallon glass jar. Shake well to combine add two large scoops to your favorite smoothie recipes.

For the Greens Powder I have been using Green Smoothie Girl's but she doesn't seem to be selling it anymore so I'm looking for another brand I will probably end up using this Moringa powder (since it is so affordable and super healthy) and another variety greens mix (I haven't really found one I like yet but there are lots of options out there.)

How to Grow Bunches of Tomatoes that Ripen Quickly

It's getting close to that time of year again it may even already be time for some. We always wait until Memorial Day to be confident that we are past the chance of frost date.  I thought I would bring this post forward early this Spring so those of you wanting to try this method will have plenty of time to gather supplies and prepare.

We were taught this by a farmer at our local CSA when we lived up north and have used it ever since.  Now instead of having big green bushes with a few tomatoes that turn red before frost IF we are lucky.  We now have skinny tall vines that are always loaded with bunches and bunches of fruit that can see the sun and turn red in plenty of time before frost.  In fact we have been known to have ripe tomatoes from July clear until Fall.

The cool thing too is that they take up less space.  Yep that's right you get more tomatoes and each plant takes up less space.  Just look in the picture just above (taken in 2011) the first bed has pole beans the next bed has tomatoes.  The bed is about 12x4 and there are almost 30 tomato plants growing in that space.

Okay I'm going to try to explain it as best I can so you can try it if you want.  I think you will be as pleased as we have been.

What you will need -
  • Tomato plants, planted about 18 inches apart closer if you are really pressed for space.
  • Next you will need some sort of clip we love these Tomato Clips
  • Then you will want a bunch of twine some good strong stuff works best don't use string
  • Something to be used as a frame to tie the twine on, you can get creative with this, we use rebar
  • You will need something to tie the twine to and stake in the ground we use whatever we have available at the time, sticks, old tent stakes, pieces of wire hanger, gardening hose stakes or these Garden Stakes would work really well

I wish I had pictures of the whole process but mostly we have just been excited and taken pictures of all the fruit.  Just look at how you literally get bunches of tomatoes.

If you look closely at this picture you can kind of see how we train and clip the vine up the twine.  The pictures below show it even better.

What you do -
  • As the vines get tall enough clip the main center stalk to the stem
  • Also as they are growing pluck off all the suckers.  Sorry we don't have a picture of what a sucker looks like but I noticed that there are lots to choose from here so take a look if you don't know what I am talking about.
  • As the plant grows just continue to clip it up to the twine and pluck off suckers as they come.
  • Then as things start to cool off (usually early to mid-October maybe sooner) cut off the tops with new growth and pick off all little green ones and blossoms.  At this point you don't want the plant producing more fruit you want it to be ripening what's there.  This works really good to ripen them up before frost.

This is the very best way we have found to grow tomatoes especially if you live in zones 5 or colder where chances of late frost in the Spring and early frost in the Fall are common.  Also it seemed to be the only way to get plenty of yield when we only lived on less than a 10th of an acre and had very limited space.  Good luck with your gardens this year!

P.S. Here are a few more recent pictures of how we have been stringing up our tomatoes since we moved 5 years ago.