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 -

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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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sally Lunn Bread

I tried a new recipe this week. I know that doesn't come as much of a surprise to those of you who know me - I seem to always find a recipe that peaks my interest. This recipe I found in an older cookbook at my family's cabin a few weeks ago. It caught my attention because it was listed under the bread section, but the only words in the title were "Sally Lunn." I wondered why someone's name would be listed as the title of the recipe. Little did I know how famous this recipe is or the long history behind it.

Now that I've peaked your interest, you are welcome to read more of the history of Sally Lunn bread  here.

I know now why it is famous and I'm wondering why I've never had it before. The texture reminds me of cornbread and it is oh so tasty hot from the oven, smothered in butter and drizzled with honey. It would be great served with chili or bean soup. We had it with beef stew . . . delicious!

There are a few recipes that call for yeast instead of baking powder. Now I want to try one of them and see how it compares. I'll let you know when I do.

Sally Lunn Bread

5 Tbsp butter, softened
2 Tbsp sugar
3 eggs
1 cup milk (3 Tbsp milk powder and 1 cup of water)
2 cups flour (1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup all-purpose)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and the milk and mix well. (If using powdered milk, add the water now and add the milk powder with the dry ingredients.) Add the dry ingredients. (I have used 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup of white flour and it is still very good.) Pour into a greased 8 1/2x4 1/2x3 inch loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean. Slice and serve warm with plenty of butter. Honey is good also.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lofthouse Sugar Cookie Bars

All the softness of the perfect sugar cookie with the convenience of a bar. This is a recipe that I found in a small local magazine - The Eagle Informer Dec 2012. It took me a few months to get around to trying it. It was fabulous! Who doesn't love the soft-textured frosted sugar cookies you can purchase at the local grocery store bakery? This recipe is a little more healthy for you since half the fat is replaced with cream cheese and I also used some whole wheat flour. 

Cream butter, sugar, and cream cheese. Add egg, vanilla, and the dry ingredients.

Press dough into a well greased jelly roll pan. (Spray some foil to keep your hands a little cleaner as you press.)

Do your best to press it into a even thickness.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees - just until the edges are lightly browned.

Here is a close-up of the edge. You don't want to over-bake. Allow to cool and then cut into bars. Frost with your favorite icing - we love cream cheese or butter cream frosting.

Lofthouse Sugar Cookie Bars
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup softened butter
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups white wheat flour (or all-purpose flour if that is what you have)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Cream butter, sugar, and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients. Press dough into a well greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the edges are just starting to brown. Cool and then frost and cut into bars.

Or cut into bars and frost individually if you would like. If I am going to serve the entire pan at once, I frost it as one big cookie and then cut into bars. If I have planned it for a snack for my family to use over a few days, I cut into squares and store in an airtight container and they can frost each cookie as they are ready to eat it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pulled Pork and Black Bean Quesadillas

Having some pulled pork frozen and ready to go in the freezer makes for quick dinner options. I posted about how I cook my pulled pork here.

Add some chopped green pepper and onions as well as a can of black beans (or use some frozen, pre-cooked ones) and you have some tasty quesadilla filling in a flash. Just cook over medium heat until the peppers and onions are tender.

Add a little shredded cheese just before grilling.

I learned to use a stiff spatula to spread just a hint of butter on the tortillas. They brown up so nicely on our large pancake griddle. Flipping them is always a trick. I often end up losing just a bit of my filling.

Slice up using a pizza cutter and top with sour cream, guacamole, and our favorite fresh garden salsa. Everyone is happy at my house!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sautéed Garden Vegetables

Side dishes during garden season are quick and easy. We enjoyed grilled hamburgers with fresh corn on the cob grown at my brother's house and a zucchini carrot stir-fry - simple and delicious!

To sauté vegetables, pour 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Add sliced zucchini and carrots. I also like to add 2-3 Tbsp chopped onion. Heat to med high and cook, stirring occasionally until veggies are tender. Season with your favorite mix of herbs. We love a garlic herb mix we can get in bulk at our local grocery store. Simple and delicious!

Note: If you lost your zucchini in the garden jungle and it grew too big, just scoop the seeds out before slicing. It still sautés up to be delicious.