Sunday, December 29, 2013

Kid's Craft: Painted Snowman T-shirt

With the kids home for the holiday, I am trying to come up with things that are fun for them to do. Painted T-shirts are a fun and quite in-expensive project. I already have quite a few colors of acrylic paint that we have collected over the years. I also have a stash of white t-shirts. I watch for them to be on sale and snatch them up to have on hand for projects like this or tye-dying or whatever else we come up with to do.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

A bowl of this comforting chicken and wild rice soup will make anyone feel better! The addition of brown rice makes this soup just a little more healthy and the white sauce mix leaves out all the fat. That means it can count as one of your "better for you" meals you've resolved to make this New Year. I created this recipe the other night because I was in the mood for something new. Everyone at my table - all 6 of them - gave me a thumbs up and asked for seconds - that's a winning recipe in my book! Hopefully your family likes it too.

The leftovers freeze well so don't hesitate to make a large batch while you are at it. It will give you an easy day down the road.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Baking has Begun

With Christmas just a week and a half away, I am knee deep into holiday baking. My all-purpose cookie dough makes it so easy to get a festive tray of cookies baked in no time. The picture above shows my pinwheel cookies.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kid's Craft: Ice Candles

We took on a fun project with the 3rd graders and the boy scouts. My son's 3rd grade teacher found the idea for these ice candles and asked if I would be willing to help their class make them for gifts this holiday. They turned out to be quite simple and look so fun that my husband decided to tackle them with his boy scouts to make as gifts as well.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Little More Healthy Lasagna

Lasagna is amazing - there is no denying that! When you are in the mood for something Italian, lasagna is a great choice. I wanted to make a little more healthy version so I added just a couple of ingredients.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kid's Craft: Growing Borax Crystals

I'm always looking for something simple, yet fun to do with my kids - these Borax crystals were great! We actually did this with the entire cub scout group a few weeks ago and all the boys loved it! I neglected to take any pictures of the finished product - that required remembering to take pictures the next day and sometimes that is just too difficult. We did snowflake shapes, but there are so many you can try.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Coconut Syrup

If you are looking for something to add pizzazz to your traditional pancake breakfast, look no further! This coconut syrup is amazing! It also tastes great drizzled over cake or ice cream. My cousin's wife served it this summer on a camping trip and I have been craving it ever since.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mexican Lasagna

When you are ready for something different than traditional tacos, you should give this Mexican Lasagna a try. My family loves it! I had a sweet friend share this recipe with me when I was serving a mission for our church in Virginia. It is so very simple to throw together and you can make an extra at the same time to freeze for later.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Freezer to Crockpot Beef Stew

The nights are getting colder and I am ready for a few easy, crockpot meals. I learned to love these freezer to crockpot meals last winter when we were living through a kitchen remodel and cooking on the bathroom counter. The truth of it all is, they also make my evenings run smoother even when I have a functioning kitchen. I can throw a few of these together in what feels like no time at all and then dinners are easier for a couple of weeks or more depending on many I have put in the freezer.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes

Thanksgiving will be here before we know it! We are probably all beginning to dream about the feast and the time with family. The other question on all of our minds is "How will we get it all done in time?" A few recipes that allow you to make things ahead of time are always helpful. I've rounded up recipes from around my blog that I go to every Thanksgiving. I hope you take the opportunity to make these ahead of time and share them with other friends who need a little help in getting it all done this year.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Banana Cookies

My daughter usually requests traditional chocolate chip cookies. The day I developed this recipe and had them ready for an after school snack, she declared them "the best cookie I had ever made!"

I don't feel so guilty serving these banana cookies to our family and friends because the bananas replace so much of the fat that is in traditional cookies. They work great for anyone with an egg allergy as well since the bananas replace those too. Plus, they are delicious!

Move over banana bread - I think we have a new favorite for our ripe bananas!

Banana Cookies

½ cup butter
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups mashed banana
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Cream together the butter and sugars. Add bananas and vanilla. Add remaining ingredients. You can use half wheat flour and half white flour. Mix or stir together. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 350° F 8–10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool for a couple of minutes on a baking sheet before removing to a wire rack. Makes about 3 dozen cookies. You can freeze the dough and thaw and bake later or you can freeze the cookies once they are baked.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Freezer to Crockpot Mongolian Beef

Notice the lovely paper plate - this is another meal we enjoyed during the weeks of our remodel. It's just taken me a bit to get it posted here on the blog. Now that the nights are getting cooler and the kids are busy every afternoon, I am turning to my crockpot much more. Preparing a few meals all at once and then storing them in the freezer for later is a time saver for me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Free Holiday Roll Making Class

I love to teach! It is fun to see others get excited about the new things they are learning. This class is a favorite for this time of year. Food 2 Store has a great room set up in the back of their store for learning and they invite me back often. Be sure to sign up - 

Wednesday, November 13th 1:00 p.m.

Holiday Roll Making

Every holiday meal is better with homemade rolls! This class will cover the art of roll making - beginning with how to make an amazing bread dough. I will share a few favorite recipes and have samples for tasting. Set a goal to WOW your friends and family this holiday season. You'll be excited to learn just how easy it really is. Space is limited so call or email Food 2 Store to reserve your place.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Green Tomato Muffins

We enjoyed these delicious muffins for breakfast. I was trying to come up with one more thing to do with my remaining green tomatoes. My kids devoured these and wanted the leftovers for their snack when they came home from school. I can add a new recipe to my success list! They are very similar in taste and texture to zucchini bread. Hopefully, your family will enjoy them too. The tomatoes hide even better than zucchini so even your little picky eaters won't mind.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Fun From Years Past

I've posted some traditional Halloween goodies in years past and thought that I'd remind you of them. Enjoy this fun week with your kids. Even my middle-schoolers are excited for the events of the week and my first grader can't stop jumping around he's so full of excitement! It's a busy week for moms, but they are memories I will hold onto forever.

Breadstick Bones are a fun "healthy" Halloween snack for school parties or dinners this time of year. We always serve them with "vampire blood" (a.k.a. pizza sauce) for dipping.

Halloween Ghosts are another easy-to-make treat that even my preschoolers love to help with.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Candy Corn Cookie Bites

Remember my All Purpose Christmas Cookie Dough recipe? It's great at other times of year as well. I had a roll of it frozen in the freezer from a previous cooking session. I pulled it out the other day and put these together. The kids loved them! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Faux Strawberry Jam

This jam is tasty and delicious! No one ever guesses that the main ingredient is green tomatoes! (They all just think it is strawberry jam.) We'll let them go right on thinking that way. It's bright red color makes it a wonderful choice for holiday gifts.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Salsa Verde - a.k.a. Green Tomato Salsa

Salsa Verde from my own garden! This is a mild salsa that is wonderful with chips and also great to flavor meats in the crockpot. I like to add it to chicken or pork roast and then use the meat in burritos or enchiladas. It is also good added to white chicken chili in place of the peppers or green chilies called for in the recipe. It is so simple now that I have jars waiting on my pantry shelves. Plus, wouldn't they make festive holiday gifts? (And to think that the main ingredient is something that most people would just throw away.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Saying Good-bye to the Garden

I always have mixed feelings when the first hard frost hits - I know I will miss the fresh produce growing right outside my door, but I also know that without yard work, I can put my time to good use doing other projects that have been put on hold.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Creamy Garden Tomato Pasta

I was in the mood for a new recipe today. I was trying to come up with something that was similar to the creamy pasta you can get at restaurants with sun-dried tomatoes only I wanted to use some of the last of our garden tomatoes. I came up with a winner - everyone wanted seconds!

Begin by cooking the chicken in a little oil. Do this while you have your pasta cooking.

Add spices.

Pour in your diced garden tomatoes (or use a can of diced tomatoes if you aren't lucky enough to have garden ones - just drain off about half of the juice.)

Add the cream or reconstituted powdered milk.

Stir and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Mix in pasta and enjoy! The leftovers taste great as well.

Creamy Garden Tomato Pasta

1 lb pasta cooked (Use penne or bowtie or a mix)
2 chicken breasts, cubed
2 Tbsp oil
1/3 cup bacon bits, precooked
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups diced garden tomatoes (juice included)
1/2 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the chicken in the oil. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer on low for about 5 minutes to let the flavors combine. Stir in the cooked pasta and enjoy.

Note: If you don't have whipping cream, you can mix 6 Tbsp milk powder with 1 cup warm water and use this instead.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Apple Orchard Pancake Mix

I just developed a new mix to store in my pantry that allows us to enjoy the tastes of Fall. If you are lucky enough to have fresh apples on hand, you can leave the dry apples out of the mix and just add 1 large chopped apple to your pancake batter. 

Pantry mixes add convenience to my life, but they also work great as gifts. Add a cute tag and enjoy sharing the healthy goodness!

Apple Orchard Pancake Mix

For the mix, place the following dry ingredients in a ziplock bag or layer in a quart jar.

1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white wheat flour)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped dried apples

2 eggs
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

To make: Pour your mix into a bowl and add the wet ingredients. Mix well. Allow to sit about 5 minuets to allow the apples to re-hydrate a little. Add some more water if batter appears too thick. Cook on a hot griddle just as you do regular pancakes.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Honey Roasted Pretzels

I went in search of a recipe to use up a large bag of pretzels the other day. I had all my cub scouts coming over after school and they always hit the house hungry! My older daughter is my big pretzel eater so I have learned to keep some on hand as part of my short-term storage. The problem is she just got braces and pretzels are now on the "no-no" list - she can only have the sticks. That meant I had a very large bag of pretzels that was in need of being eaten. This recipe was great!

I often change up a recipe just a bit, but this one I did as is and we loved it. You could add some nuts if you wanted a sweet-salty mix. The cub scouts ate a lot of them and then the boy scouts finished them off over their weekend camp out. They would work great for teacher or friend gifts for any occasion or be a quick treat for any pot-luck or party. The topping just adds a hint of sweetness to the salty pretzels.

Start with a few basic ingredients - 

Mix the sauce ingredients after microwaving them.

Pour over the pretzels - notice how the sauce changes color after adding the baking soda. (You could turn making it into a science lesson for your kids.)

Microwave again - 

Stir to break them up.

I used my hand to separate some as well. From start to finish in less than 10 minutes - perfect for my needs!

Honey Roasted Pretzels 
(Makes 9 cups)

9 cups mini pretzels (10 ounces)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1. Place pretzels in 2 or 3 quart microwave-safe casserole or measurer. Set aside.

2. Combine brown sugar, butter, honey, and corn syrup in 4-cup microwave-safe measurer.

3. Microwave mixture on Full Power 45-60 seconds or until mixture boils hard, stirring once.

4. Continue to microwave mixture on Full Power 60 more seconds.

5. Stir in soda mixture.

6. Pour syrup over pretzels. Stir to lightly coat pretzels with syrup.

7. Microwave coated pretzels on 50 % power, uncovered,, 3-4 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring twice. (If you don’t have 50% power, try using the defrost setting for 4-5 minutes).

8. Turn onto lightly vegetable-sprayed waxed paper or foil

9. As mixture cools, break into pieces.

10. Store in tightly covered container or resealable plastic bag.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Freezer to Crockpot Honey Mustard Pork Roast

Now that school is in full swing and the kids keep me busy between the hours of 4-6:00 pm, I am back to loving my freezer to crock pot meals! I purchased a package of pork roasts a few weeks back. The total package weighed just over 5 lbs and there were two pieces in it. I made this recipe and I also packaged up a Cranberry Lemon Pork Roast to use another time.

I let the meal thaw and then placed it in the crockpot at about 3:00 on high. I did cut the roast in half knowing that I was getting a bit of a late start. (I knew two smaller pieces of meat would cook faster than one larger piece.) I basted the roast a couple of times during the cooking process, but otherwise I was free to help kids with homework, piano practice, etc.

Just before serving, I sliced it up and drizzled a little of the thickened sauce over the top. Simple and delicious. I served mashed potatoes and green salad on the side.

Freezer to Crockpot Honey Mustard Pork Roast
2-3 lb pork roast 
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons Dijon or regular mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Add just before cooking:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a gallon ziplock bag. Knead until well mixed. Add the pork roast. Label bag with instructions to add 1 Tbsp cornstarch just before cooking. Freeze. Thaw before cooking. Dump everything into the crockpot. Mix cornstarch with a little cold water and add to crockpot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Coconut Crispy Ice Cream Crunch

We all need a dessert recipe in our collection that allows us to make it well ahead of the occasion. This is a perfect one for that! You can trade it up by choosing a different flavor of ice cream. Using gluten-free rice crispies makes it a gluten-free choice. This is one recipe I turn to when my family members come to visit who have celiac disease and have to avoid all gluten - (Dessert without gluten is tricky to pull off for those of us who don't have to think about it everyday. It would also work as an egg-free dessert which is also tricky to think of on the spot.) It's ready in a snap and can be pulled out of the freezer whenever you need it. This was my version of a gluten-free birthday cake. I made one using Mountain Blackberry Ice Cream and another using Maple Nut. Both were delicious and devoured!

Coconut Crispy Ice Cream Crunch

½ cup butter or margarine
2 cups flaked coconut
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup chopped nuts, optional
3 cups crisp rice cereal
½ gallon ice cream, softened (any flavor)

In a pan over medium heat, cook butter and brown sugar until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Press half of mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Spread ice cream over crust and top with remaining mixture.  Freeze until firm.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chicken Caesar Tetrazzini

This is one of my most requested freezer meal recipes. It's hard to believe it's taken me this long to get it posted on my blog. I've learned to triple the batch when I make this recipe so I can have a couple waiting in the freezer for another day. They make a great baby gift! I've also taken this meal to friends if they are recovering from surgery or are just having a really hectic time. Everyone loves this recipe! I've learned to include a copy of the recipe each time I take it to someone because they all request it.

I had a great friend bring it to me during one of my pregnancies that was especially challenging. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me and now I have shared it with so many others. Hopefully, you will enjoy it as well.

Chicken Caesar Tetrazzini

8 oz spaghetti, cooked
1 (4 oz) can mushrooms, drained
2 cups chicken, cooked
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp dry bread crumbs
1 cup Caesar salad dressing

Combine noodles with chicken. Add broth, dressing, and mushrooms. Mix. Place in a 2 qt casserole dish. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months. To use frozen pasta: Thaw. Mix together Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350° F for 25 minutes or heat in the microwave. If using the microwave, wait to put the crumbs on top until just before serving. You can also use 1 cup of water and 1 tsp chicken bouillon to substitute for the broth.

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's a "best by" date not a "throw away" date -

hd food 03 hd picture

I've always told people that the date on the cans or milk jugs you purchase are not "throw away" dates. You do not have to throw away the food if you have not consumed it by the date on the package. I have read many articles about it.

There is a new article that has just come out restating this same principle. Americans are throwing away way too much food that is still safe and good to eat! This makes everyone's grocery bill far higher than it needs to be.

Here are the shocking numbers! These come from an article posted on CNN. The original article was written for Time Magazine.

"More than 90% of Americans throw out food prematurely, and 40% of the U.S. food supply is tossed--unused--every year because of food dating."

You could reduce your food spending by at least 40% if you just checked your food before throwing it away!

Instead of relying on the date to tell you if something is bad, there are other ways to check. You can determine if the can is dented or bulging. You can smell the milk or other dairy products to see if they smell sour. You can check for the presence of mold. If the product is discolored or has an off smell then throw it out. But don't throw it out just because it is passed the date stamped on the can or package.

Just imagine all the other good things you could spend that money on - 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Home Canned Sloppy Joe Sauce

It's hard to find someone who doesn't enjoy a great sloppy joe every now and then. Having the sauce all canned up using my garden produce is a treat. All I have to do is brown some hamburger and stir in the sauce and dinner is done!

I've never canned sloppy joe sauce before. I searched out a few recipes and played with the spices until I figured out one that I know we will love. (I only played with the spices which did not change the overall acidity of the product so this can still be safely canned in a boiling water bath.)

Mix all the ingredients together in a large pot. Then ladle into jars and cap with lids and rings.

Cook pints in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Remove from the boiling water and allow to cool. Check to make sure the jars are sealed before tucking them away for longer storage.

Home-canned Sloppy Joe Sauce

10 cups tomato puree
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp celery salt
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 - 2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup Ultra Gel *

Make tomato puree using a food mill. To see how I prepare my tomato puree click here. (If you use the food processor, you keep all the seeds and tiny skin pieces - my family doesn't mind. If you use a food mill, the skins and many of the seeds are removed. It all comes down to preference.) Chop the onions and peppers in a food processor. Combine the tomato puree and the onions and peppers in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Process pints for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. To serve: Mix one pint of sloppy joe sauce with 1 pound of browned hamburger. Makes approximately 7 pints.

*Ultra Gel is one of my favorite products for freezing and canning. To learn more about it, read my post on freezer jam. In this sauce, it helps the tomato puree keep from separating over time and also adds a little more thickness without requiring that I cook it down for hours. I really do love this stuff! You may not need an entire 1/2 cup depending on how long you simmered your tomato mixture down.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sinching in a Waistband

In our school district, the middle school kids are required to wear PE uniforms. We could either purchase plain black shorts from the school for $20 a pair or we could provide our own plain black shorts. I was able to find some black shorts on clearance for $3 a pair - quite a savings over buying the school option. The trick was that they didn't have a drawstring which meant they wouldn't stay up on my skinny kids! I had a plan though. I really didn't want to unpick all the stitching around the waistband so I just cut a piece of thin elastic about 4 inches shorter than my kid's waist measurement. (You want it long enough that it easily stretches to fit them, but short enough that is gives a snug enough fit around then middle.) Then I sewed it in place stretching the elastic to fit as I sewed around. 

It worked great! The shorts stay up and it didn't take long at all. I already had the elastic so it was a quick cost-saving fix. I'm glad I know this trick works since I can usually find the athletic shorts without the drawstring marked down to a much better price than the ones with the drawstring. I already bought a cute skirt for my daughter that I plan to sinch in the same way.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Our Very Own Fair Experience - Homemade Funnel Cakes

Our kids all chose to enter some items into the state fair this year. It was fun to go see their projects - each one of them received some sort of ribbon for their category. My one son took first place in the yeast bread category using my Fabulous Homemade Bread recipe. They were all pretty excited.

Before leaving for the fair, we discussed the amount of money it was going to cost to get in, ride the rides, purchase food, etc. We talked to the kids about needing to make some choices to be able to stay within the amount we had budgeted for this activity. They all decided to forgo any food purchases at the fair knowing we could make something at home for a lot less. For breakfast the next day, we made funnel cakes.

After mixing the batter, pour it through a funnel into hot oil, swirling a little as you go. I used a plastic cup for a funnel - just poke a hole in the bottom. It worked great and I could just toss it when we were done.

Fry until it is golden brown on one side and then flip it over to complete cooking.

Drain it on a paper towel when it is done.

The kids were so quick at grabbing them that I had to settle for pictures of half eaten samples. You can top them with powdered sugar like the recipe suggests.

Or honey is tasty - 

My favorite and many of the kids' favorite is raspberry freezer jam. Honey butter would also be delicious! We don't make these very often - once every year or two probably, but when we do, we devour them! Perhaps your family will love them too.

2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups reconstituted powdered milk
½ tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cooking oil (for frying)

Combine milk and eggs. Stir in dry ingredients. Drip through a funnel into hot oil, swirling the funnel a little as you go. Fry until lightly browned, turning once with tongs. Remove to a paper towel covered plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. I use an electric frying pan with the temperature set at 350° F to help control the temperature of the oil.

Note: I use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour