Monday, January 31, 2011

Chicken Salad with A Surprise Ingredient

We had an unexpected lunch guest yesterday and I needed to come up with something in a hurry, using what I had on hand. I came up with this version and it was great! I had baked bread earlier in the day so this became a sandwich filling although it could easily be eaten on a bed of salad greens and some tomatoes.

And guess what? I ran out of something I needed and had to make a emergency substitution. I think this is what made it so good this time!

This is my recipe and method, but as always, feel free to change it up to suit your tastes.

Chicken Salad

3 cups chopped chicken
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1-2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt

Mix everything except the chicken together. Taste and season accordingly. Add chicken and stir to combine. I don't add all of the dressing at once, just in case I don't need it all. If the chicken is too dry for your tastes, add a little more yogurt until it suits you.

The secret to this chicken salad is the yogurt. When it is blended with the other seasonings and ingredients the tangy yogurt is a great base for the salad. Also, it cuts the richness and fattiness that the mayonnaise will sometimes add.

So, look at it this way: use the Greek yogurt and you can eat more chicken salad! :)

Or, if you aren't into that sort of thing, you can use mayo. It will be fabulous! To be honest the yogurt was a freak accident. I usually use mayo for my tuna and chicken salads, but I was out. I don't think that regular yogurt would be a good substitute here ONLY because it is so thin. Greek yogurt is closer to the consistency of mayo.

Looks good enough to eat, doesn't it? ;)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Baked Tostadas

These aren't going to win any awards for creativity or looks, but they do get lunch on the table in a hurry and are pretty healthy.

The tostada above is one I made for the girls for their lunch recently. I didn't take a picture of mine (I swear I thought I did), but it was much more interesting than this one. I had black beans, onion, tomato, bean sprouts, salsa and a little sour cream.

But, I snuck a bite of one of these and they were VERY good. I might have had to make another one to replace the one I took a bite of.... :)

The Nitty Gritty:

Bake a 6 inch corn tortilla in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until crisp.
Add your toppings and enjoy!

Wasn't that an amazing recipe??

The good news is that I make the tostadas in advance and then send the toppings with my husband for lunch so he can just heat up the toppings he wants warm and have these for lunch at work.

I know you can buy pre made tostada shells, but these taste so much better!

The topping choices can be limitless. Refried beans, beans, taco meat, cheese, onion, tomato, avocado, etc.

Not only are they quick and easy, they are darn tasty too!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

To Dough


Dearest Dough
I love you
I love to bury my arms in you
Push, Pull and Shape you
To make loaves and rolls
sticks and buns

I love to feed my family with you
To know that a few simple ingredients made you
and my work shaped you
and loved you
and made you what you are today

You are manna
and sometimes flavored with banana
but always welcome, wondrous and filling
You are dough

You can be anything you want to be
But to me, you are love.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Carrot Snack Cake

Carrot cake is one of our family's all time favorite desserts. We love it! I usually make this in 2 8 inch round pans and make a double layer cake for Sunday dinners or birthdays, but I was in a rush this week and I just baked it in my 9x13 inch pan. I do this when I need something for snacks more than a dessert. It makes a nice sized snack cake, especially when iced with powdered sugar icing :)

The thing about this cake is that you can add whatever you want to it. Raisins, nuts, pineapple and even coconut if you're into that kind of thing! I like my carrot cake to have walnuts in it, but Kevin isn't a huge fan of them, so I left them out this time. This is carrot cake at it simplest and, just maybe, it's very best.

Carrot Snack Cake
Betty Crocker's New Cookbook

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Mix the first 3 ingredients together, mix well. Add everything but the shredded carrots and stir hard for 1 minute. Fold in the carrots and pout into greased 9x13 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack

Frost with cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting

1-8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 teaspoons milk
4 cups powdered sugar

Mix the cream cheese and butter together. Add vanilla. Mix in the powdered sugar and milk until it's a spreading consistency. Spread on cooled cake.

It's so good your family won't be able to keep their hands off of it!

Did you think I was joking?

This stuff is good!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hawaiian Style Bread

My girls LOVE the bread we can get at the deli that comes in the orange wrapper. Kings Hawaiian Rolls it's called and, let's be honest, it's spendy.

I took the picture of the roll in my hand so you could get a good idea what size I made them. :)

Imagine my excitement when I came upon a recipe at Everyday Food Storage and I knew I had to make it. So, I did. I made it the same day that I found it as a matter of fact, because there is nothing special in this bread! Everything it called for, I had in my pantry. This makes me very happy.

These were proclaimed "AWESOME" by my family, and I am going to be trying them out as burger buns in the near future.

It made 30 large dinner rolls (think school roll size), but you could probably get 48 smallish sized ones. I'm sure that they freeze beautifully. Cook once eat a bunch of times!

I used the Everyday Food Storage recipe but I made some changes to the directions based on how I like to make bread. I think it simplified it, but you can read through mine and then take a look at her instructions and decide for yourself.

It always makes me feel great to have one more thing that we love from the store crossed off the grocery list and replaced with a homemade version.

Hawaiian Bread

7 cups flour
3/4 cup instant potato flakes
2/3 cup sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup milk
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup pineapple juice
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Place milk, butter, sugar and pineapple juice into a saucepan and heat until warm, about 120 degrees, set aside. Place the yeast in the water and let sit 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the flour, potato flakes, salt and ginger into a large bowl. Add the heated milk mixture, vanilla and the water with the yeast, stir until just wet. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add enough flour to keep it from sticking and knead on a floured counter for 6 minutes. Place in oiled bowl and cover. Let raise until doubled, about an hour (more or less depending on the temperature of your house). Deflate the dough and shape into rolls, placing them into a greased pan. Cover and let raise until double. Bake in a 350 degree oven 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and sound hollow when you tap on them with a knuckle. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter if desired (honestly, I never melt the butter, I just unwrap one end of a stick and rub it over the hot rolls. It melts just fine).

I hope this makes someone else as happy as it has made me :)

This overexposed one makes it look like there is a halo around the roll.....they really are that heavenly! :)

I'm in Love!

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time finding gloves that will actually hold up in the garden. Last year, I was trolling through a store (I don't remember which one exactly, but I think it was Fred Meyers) and I saw these babies:

I LOVE them.

They have this grip material that not only makes pulling weeds easier (they are great for keeping hold of the really stubborn ones) it also gives you a little cushion when you are using garden tools like shovels or rakes.

I have tried to abuse these and see if they would last, and let me tell you, they take a beating and keep on going!

I have left them out in the rain, thrown them in the washer and dryer, left them on a fence post in the scorching heat. Nothing, so far, has weakened them at all.

I am so impressed that I plan on getting another couple pairs this year.

Did I mention how nice they fit?

They fit like a glove!

Oh, wait. They are gloves...

Well, you know what I mean.

I just wanted to share something with you that I really love.

*the Joy of Gardening has no idea who I am, I just really like their gloves!*

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Work, Work, Work

It is nearing my most favorite time of the year. The pretty time, the time of the year that is colorful, bright and cheerful. I know it's only late January, but for my neck of the woods winter is (probably) nearly over. Once in a while we get a late winter storm, but not very often.

Yesterday we did a lot of work around our yard. I am more determined than ever to have a garden that not only lives but thrives. I want to can as much garden produce as possible this year and I don't want to have to buy it. I'm cheap like that :)

SO, back to yesterday. It was one of those lovely, rare, beautiful, sunshine filled January days and we took it! Bundled the kids up and we spent close to 5 hours in our garden! What fun we had.

First we cleared 6 of these stumps out of the ground:

They used to be apple trees, but were gone long before we bought this house.

Then, we dug up 3 lilac bushes:

And we divided them so we can plant them along our deck, hopefully they will grow into a nice privacy screen. They weren't doing very well where they were before, so I'm crossing my fingers that they do better where we move them.

So we ended up with a clean fence line that looks like this:

We are going to build a new grape arbor here and relocate our grapes out of the back yard. It will be nice to have some more yard space for the kids to play in! :)

All of that trimming left us with a giant pile of sticks and brush:

Now, all we need to do is till in all of the leaves we spread over the garden this fall:

While I was out there the chickens said "Hi!"

I also noticed that our flowering plums have set some buds:

I know it's going to be a lot of hard work this summer, what with the garden and canning and kids and all, but I am looking forward to it.

Hard work never killed anyone, right?


Friday, January 21, 2011

Sometimes You Need To Prove It To Yourself

Sometimes my body says "You can't do that!" and my brain says "Oh, yes I can!" and then I have to prove to my body that I am more capable than I think I am.

We were working in the garden today and I started to dig up a lilac bush that I want to move. It was really hard and I wanted to give up. But I didn't and you know what? I dig up 2 giant bushes! Plus I took a bunch of branches to the burn pile and I ran the weed torch to burn all the weeds off the fence line in the garden.

I feel accomplished. Not only did I help Kevin out with the outside chores, I knew that my house was clean and dinner was ready to go.

I have been challenging myself to keep our home cleaner and it's working. I'm proud of that, very proud.

Just a couple thoughts I wanted to share with you on this Friday. Just what I have been up to today and such. It feels good to reach some goals that you have set for yourself. And I am reaching some goals baby.

 This mama CAN do a lot more that she thought. And she is very proud of herself :)

Have a great Friday night!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

I have been searching for an apple muffin recipe for a LONG time. I have tried so many and they either lack in flavor or are tough. So, with a lot of muffin baking experience under my belt I set about to make my most perfect muffin.

Behold the deliciousness that resulted:

These are so amazing! They have a perfect balance of sweet and tart, are easy to make and were very kid friendly.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

2 cups flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 -2 cups finely chopped apple

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
4 Tablespoons cold butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, sour cream, milk and melted butter. Stir the wet into the dry and mix. Fold in the chopped apple. Grease muffin cups or use paper liners and fill 3/4 full. For the topping, mix all the dry together and then cut in the butter until it looks like course meal. Put a heaping teaspoon on each muffin and bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

 There is one last step- Enjoy!

I can't get over how good these are. My girls gobbled them up! I will be adding these to our weekly breakfast menu for sure. They don't even need butter....just eat them slightly warm.

One little note, I used a granny smith apple when I made mine so the batter wasn't too sweet. However, if I used another type of apple (like a Fuji) I would cut the sugar back a bit.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Making of the Yogurt

This morning I started a batch of yogurt and I was thinking how easy and cost effective it is. You see, I use my crock pot to make mine. That means that I am not chained to the stove, waiting for the milk to get to a certain temperature. I can set it in the crock pot, check on it periodically and get a lot of other things done in the meantime.

Also, we buy our yogurt in the tubs rather than individual cartons. I don't know what the cost of one of these is, but in my area I can occasionally get them on sale for $1.99. Most of the time I pay about $2.50 for one and by the time I dole it out for Kevin's lunch and we have some for breakfast or a snack, it's gone. A gallon of milk is about $2.40 right now and you can get 2 batches of yogurt from a gallon of milk. A batch is 2 quarts of yogurt, so about 2 of the medium sized tubs that I usually buy.

Much cheaper, and we can make it any flavor that we want, or no flavor at all! And, we can even make it into our own yogurt cheese for spreading on bagels or dipping veggies and crackers into.

I first saw this recipe here, on my favorite website, Chickens In The Road !

Mostly, it is just so simple. It requires nothing but a crock pot, some milk, a starter and time.

My milk in the crock pot, sorry about the blurry picture, it was really early :)

Here is how it's done:

Pour 2 quarts of milk into a crock pot (that's 1/2 a gallon).

Heat it in the crock pot on high until the milk is almost boiling. (212 degrees F)

Unplug your crock, and take off the lid. Let it cool until you can comfortably hold your finger in the milk for 10 seconds.

Add 1 cup plain, store bought yogurt (it must have live active cultures). Stir it in well.

(Yogurt hanging out in the oven, all wrapped up)

Put the lid back onto your crock. Wrap it up with a towel (to insulate it) and let it sit for 6 hours. Check on it after that. It can take as long as 12 hours to get thick.

That's it. Put it into a container in your fridge! Add a dollop of jam for fruit on the bottom yogurt, or cut up fruit, granola, honey and nuts. Whatever you like, you can have.

A couple hints though. It might be worth it to spring for a $2.00 kitchen thermometer if you plan on doing this much. Just to make sure that you temperatures are right on because the yogurt won't set if the milk is too hot when the culture is added.

Also, keep 1 cup of this yogurt to make your next batch. No need to buy any more after this :)

Last thing, I have little kids who are curious. If I leave the crock pot on the counter, it will get messed with. I wrap mine in a towel and put it into the oven (not turned on of course) and let it hang out there.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekly Meal Plan

I'm going to keep posting these every week just. Probably more for my benefit than for yours though! At least if I have it written down here, I can find it later. If I write it on paper, there is no telling where it might end up...

So, here we go:

Monday- Chili and Cornbread, cookies
Tuesday- Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, rolls and a veggie
Wednesday- Chili Burgers and fries, jello salad
Thursday- BBQ Chicken, potato salad, corn, biscuits
Friday- Pizza, brownies
Saturday- Tacos, beans and rice
Sunday- Pork roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and apple pie

Anything new and exciting on your menu this week?

Monday is Washday

Want to guess what I'm doing today?

I'll give you a hint:

I'm going to be using these 3 things plus hot water.

Have a guess yet?


Well, I won't make you guess any more.

I'm making laundry soap!

Did you know you can make your own laundry soap? It's cheap, fast and, best of all, it cleans really well.

I have a front loading washing machine, so the laundry soap for it can be very expensive when you have to do as much laundry as I do. This way I can make it up into a concentrate and it will wash approximately 630+ loads of laundry.

That's a lot of loads of clothes.

Yes, it costs a little up front to buy the things that you need to make it, but it's still less than I would pay for 1 months worth of commercial laundry soap.

If you would like to make your own laundry soap, here are the directions:

4 cups hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
½ Cup Borax
- Grate bar of soap and add to pan with hot water. Stir over medium heat until soap is melted.
-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
-Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser full of the soap. Shake before each use. (will gel)

I got this from this website, but there are a lot of recipes out there if you want to look around. We have had very good luck with this one, and as some of our family has some reactions to scents, we like to make this one. It is unscented and cleans out (sometimes VERY dirty) clothes really well.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The 2 Most Important Things I have To Do Today

I have a LIST of things to do today, but at the very top are my 2 most important, MUST DO things.

#1- I have been keeping track of what we have eaten this winter in terms of fruits/veggies/etc that I could (will!) grow and put away for next winter. This is all kinds of crazy math here, lol. I need to try to figure, based on what we ate this year, how much seed we need to buy to be able to put those crops into the ground, eat as much as we want fresh and can, freeze or dehydrate the rest for later. I do not want to be buying any produce type things next winter. It's one of my goals for this year.

So today, I am down to making my list of seeds that I want. This is the fun part!

I like to try something new every year, just to see how it goes. Maybe this year it'll be some different types of radish?

Or purple garlic?

I think it's going to be popcorn :)

Now, my #2 thing to do is of a very delicate nature. It's going to require the skill of a surgeon and the luck of the Irish (and I'm not Irish!) to deal with this. I have been putting it off because I just don't know if my patient will pull through or not, but today is my last chance at saving her.

Meet Parcy, Lainee's lovey. She has had Parcy since she was just a baby and she loves her like nothing else. She takes her everywhere, dresses her up, has tea parties for her. You name it, Parcy has done it. But, Lainee, like any human mother, likes to take extra special care of her lil monkey.

She saw on a nature program one time that monkey pick fleas and other beasties out of each other's hair. So, Parcy being a monkey and all, she decided that she should do that too. Except she doesn't pick the imaginary buggies off, she chews them off.

This has lead to Parcy having some serious trauma to the noggin. I desperately needs to wash Parcy, but I can't put with her head in this condition. So today I'll stop putting it off and fix it so that I can run her through the wash and she can be (almost) as good as new!

That's what I'm up to today, how 'bout you?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Crafty Bits

It occurred to me today as I was going through some pictures I took at Christmas time, that I had completed a couple of projects that I wanted to show you. Uh, but then I forgot and never did.

The picture above ^ is a play mat that I made for the twins. I know that you can buy those carpets that have the racetrack or whatnot already printed on them, but I could never find one that was plain enough to encourage a lot of creative play. Does that make sense? Anyway, I made this one up with a farm theme so that my girls could use all of their tractors and cars on it.

The back is felt and the top is cotton. All of the appliques are felt. I'm very happy with it and would make another one in a heart beat. This is getting a lot of use at our house. They love playing with it!

This I made for my mom for Christmas. It has all of the kids' hand prints and footprints with appliqued hearts. I used extra fabric and buttons to embellish the top. This picture was before I gave it a final press and it had been folded up and stashed in a drawer. The back had a tiny floral print, almost a calico. It has 3 tabs across the top for hanging and was 40x40 inches when finished.

I had a lot of fun making this one as well. Let me tell you, getting that many hands and feet covered in paint and only stamped onto the fabric was a chore.

I liked what this looked like so much that I am going to make another one for my own house. It was a fast and very rewarding project for me :)

Peanutty Marbled Brownies

Call it what you want, but I seem to be having a bit of the Winter "blah's". It seems like this isn't isolated to me though, two of my favorite blogs have written about the same thing today! It's not so much that I feel trapped by snow or bad weather, or am depressed about anything. It's just that everyone is stuck in the house, getting on each others nerves. When you are stressed it seems easier to focus on the negative, doesn't it?

Anyway, I have been getting a lot done, cleaning wise. Every night when I go to bed, my house is a little cleaner than it started that morning. I'm cooking my family a hot breakfast every morning, as well as a homemade lunch and dinner. I'm reaching some of my goals, so really things aren't so bad after all. :)

Now, to help us all get out of the hum-drum that is Winter, I have a delicious twist on my brownie recipe that I think you will all love. Unless you swell up to the size of a Thanksgiving Day parade balloon if you eat tree might not enjoy this as much as we did!

I apologize in advance for not having a picture, but that tells you how good they were right? ;) I'll be making them again though, they were VERY well loved, and I'll update with a picture then!

Peanutty Marbled Brownies

2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup peanut butter

Measure the sugar into a large bowl. Melt the shortening and the cocoa and add it to the cocoa, mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until fluffy. Add the salt, baking soda and flour. Mix until just combined. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and spread out evenly. Melt the peanut butter and drizzle it over the top of the brownies. Take a thin knife or a toothpick and swirl the peanut butter into the brownies, being careful to not completely stir in all in. You just want to make some swirls so that nearly ever bite will have peanut butter as well. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with some fudgy crumbs.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sharing :)

Today, it's 20 degrees on my porch. It snowed a little last night and then froze solid as a rock. My fireplace is going strong, it's cozy in our house and we had pancakes for breakfast.

Yesterday, we cut, split and stacked a bunch of firewood. Then we had grilled cheese and tomato soup :)

It's been busy around here, really busy. It seems like we have more to do on our 1 day off a week than we do on any other day. Probably because there is only so much I can do by myself and some things just have to wait until Kevin is home and I can help him finish what we need to get done.

I thought that for my first post today, I would share my meal plan for the week with you.

I know that I am always looking for new ideas as far as what to have for dinner and maybe some of what I post here will inspire you. Maybe you could leave a comment and tell me what you are having this week. I always welcome new recipes :)

Monday- Enchiladas, beans and mexican rice.
Tuesday- Spaghetti, salad and rolls. Apple pie for dessert.
Wednesday- Pork roast, mashed potatoes, peas and rolls.
Thursday- BBQ Pork sandwiches, french fries. Baked peaches w/whipped cream
Friday- homemade pizza and salad; brownies
Saturday- Chili and cornbread
Sunday- Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread or rolls. Poke cake for dessert

So, that's what I have planned for this week. How about you, what's on your menu this week?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I Have Resolved To Never Make Resolutions Again

Last year, I made all the usual resolutions...and promptly failed to finish even one of them. This year I opted for making a couple of lists. One was a list of goals I had for myself for the year. I included things that I know I am going to get done and a couple of things I know I might not get to. The second list was shorter term goals, like getting my car clean inside :)

My Goals For 2011

1) Cook our meals from scratch. It's more important than ever for us to watch our budget right now.

2) Grow a successful garden and put up (freeze, can or dry) everything possible.

3) Sew a quilt for our bed.

4) Make enough items over the spring, summer and fall that I can sell them at a craft fair, booth or online.

5) Hand make as many presents this year as possible, preferable using up as much of my craft stash as I can.

6) Pay off debt.

7) Finish remodel

8) But a new (to us) truck.

9) Set up a daily, weekly and monthly routine and stick to it.

10) Remove clutter from my home.

I also set some quicker 3- and 6 month goals for us to accomplish. Those are more like things that we know we need to get done and have been putting off. For example, cleaning out the attic and one large closet, making more shelves for storage and other, simple things. Also, not eating out. We are trying to not eat out for the entire year. I'm sure we will fall off the wagon at some point, but we needed a goal set to at least try for.

Because we are trying to pay off some debt (not a lot really, but enough to make a big difference in our income once it's paid off), I am really focusing on saving money wherever we can this year. I'm going to become a coupon clipping fanatic to try to get all of our non grocery items for cheaper (and some grocery things too I hope, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of coupons for "real food" out there) and make a dent in our monthly pay outs.

I know that I will fail to get some of these done, maybe not even start to accomplish one or two, but I have to have somewhere to start. A jumping off point to give me a little something to work towards.

So tell me, did you make any goals for 2011?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Here is another quick mix that I couldn't live without. Taco seasoning in packets can be overly sweet, bland and extremely salty. I don't like feeling like I need to drink a gallon of water everytime I eat some mexican food, thank you very much. I have seen several different recipes for taco seasoning around the web and whatnot, but we had to play around with one until we liked it. This is what we settled on, and we love it. I encourage you to try it too! Always try it and if you need to do some tweaking in the next batch you can, make it to fit your families tastes and needs!

My recipe:
4 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons chili powder
3 Tablespoons paprika
3 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Mix and store in an airtight container. When I make this, I add the greater amount of cayenne pepper, and sometimes a little more. My kids like spicy food and so it doesn't bother them. I would start with the lesser amount and work up from there, depending on your tastes.
To use, simple mix 2 1/2 Tablespoons with 1 pound of cooked and drained ground beef. Add 1/2 cup water and simmer until it's thick.

This makes enough to season about 6 lbs of meat.

I had to share with you my cute little jar I keep my mix in. It's an antique, something I found in some jars that I got from my Grandma. It's a 1/2 pint, but not stamped with a maker, just little stars around the top edge. Anyway, It's only a 1/2 pint so it's perfect for one batch of seasoning. :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Breadsticks

This is a very washed out picture, but we have cloudy skies so it's the best I could do. However, there is nothing wrong with these breadsticks at all.

On the days when I bake bread, I always have a hard time with the kids wanting to have it hot and fresh. I don't like to cut a loaf until it is completely cool (or even better the next day), but I want them to have something to snack on too.

These were what I came up with. I'm baking anyway, so why not throw a little treat in the oven that they can have that is good hot, warm or cold.

How I did it:

Nothing special here, I made my regular bread recipe (you could use frozen dough here as well). After the first rise I rolled it out into about 1/2 thick rectangle, spread on butter, cinnamon and white sugar. Next I used my hands and really rubbed it onto the dough so it wouldn't all fall off while I was twisting them. I cut the rectangle into 1/2 wide strips, then the strips in 1/2 again. Taking 2 strips, I pinched their ends together and twisted on around the other a couple times. Just like a twist doughnut. I put them onto a greased cookie sheet and let them raise again for about 25-30 minutes. They weren't doubled yet, my house is kind of cold this morning.
Right before I put them into the oven, I lightly brushed them with butter and sprinkled a generous amount of sugar on top. I baked them at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack (or eat them hot) and keep the kids happy while you have a peaceful baking day! :)

Easy Homemade Pudding Mixes

One of my goals for the new year (I don't believe in resolutions, but I think we should all have something to work towards), is to get back on it and cook as much as possible from scratch again.

This being said, from scratch doesn't have to take any more time than cooking from a convenient boxed mix. That is after the initial set up.

What I do:

On a slow day, usually a Sunday, I will make the mixes that I am short on. Taco seasoning, pudding mixes, my own pancake mix, a "Bisquick" type mix, etc. I just keep them in plastic containers, or canning jars, depending on the amount the mix makes.

This frees up my time when I need to get a meal fast, but don't have a lot of time. It's as quick and easy as a boxed mix, but homemade and missing all of those preservatives and additives.

In my book, it's worth my time. It may not be worth it to you. And that's ok, but I really encourage you to try it and see how simple it can be!

For the next couple weeks I thought I would take some of my posts and share some of my favorite mixes with you.

Today, pudding mixes.

Vanilla Pudding Mix

3 cups nonfat dry milk
4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cornstarch

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container. To make, mix 1/2 cup mix to 2 cups milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil (stirring all the time) until the mixture is thick and take off the heat. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional) and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Chocolate Pudding Mix

3 cups nonfat dry milk
5 cups sugar
3 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa

Mix and store in an airtight container. To make, mix 2/3 cup mix with 2 cups milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil and mixture is thick. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Coconut Cream Pudding Mix

3 cups nonfat dried milk
4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cornstarch
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon coconut extract

Mix the coconut with the extract and let sit until all of the extract is absorbed. Let it air dry on the counter, spread out on a cookie sheet or wax paper until it is completely dry. Mix everything together and store in an airtight container. To make, mix 2/3 cup mix with 2 cups milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the mixture has boiled and is thick. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Butterscotch Pudding Mix

2 cups nonfat dry milk
5 cups brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cornstarch

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container. To make, mix 1/2 cup pudding mix with 2 cups milk. Cook over a medium heat until mixture has boiled and is thick. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

I got these out of a Miserly Mom cookbook that I was given when my oldest was just a baby and we have been eating and enjoying them every since.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What DO You Do?

So, over New Year's I got to thinking. Scary, I know, but sometimes useful. One of the many things I thought about was my complete and total lack of a daily routine. I think a lot of this stems from the years of having so many little people that just slept at all different hours, were up at different times and my exhaustion at that time. But now that they are bigger, I never implemented a real routine to our day.

My twins get up at 7:30 on the dot everyday. My oldest girl gets up anywhere from 7:30 to 9:00. My middle kid gets up no earlier than 8:30. I don't know that this is really all that big of a deal, but it's starting to create some difficulties.

For instance, the twins want to eat as soon as they get up, as does my oldest girl. So I am essentially making 4 breakfasts a day, mine and Kevin's, the twins, KayCee and then Lainee (whenever she drags her hiney out of bed). Or, when bedtime rolls around, the twins are exhausted and Lainee isn't. She gets out of bed a million times, keeping her sisters awake. This makes the next morning even harder because everyone is so grouchy and tired. It's been like this for a year. Enough is enough. I need some help, some ideas, some inspiration.

I know that because we don't have to get up and get KayCee out the door to school that our situation is somewhat different from a lot of people, but still the fact remains that this isn't working for anyone and it isn't good for us (personally and as a family) to keep living our easy going hippie lifestyle we are currently employing. (Not that this doesn't work for families, it just doesn't work for OUR family) Nothing is getting done and what little we do accomplish everyday is only due to my constant nagging.

Which brings me to my second question: Do your children have chores? What do you expect them to do? What happens when they don't do it?

I envision a well oiled family machine: everyone up, hot breakfast eaten, get dressed for the day, brush teeth and hair, start our chores and then school followed by some free time before the dinner prep has to start.

We have NEVER one time accomplished this.

We have never even tried. But I keep dreaming of the day when this is our normal.

My Monday morning question to you is this:

Do you have a set daily routine? If so, what (generally) is it?