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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Take A Bough: Sprucing Up the Bathroom

It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas!
   Our Christmas tree  is 8 feet by 10 feet this year.  We had planted rows of trees as a wind break a over a decade ago and they were getting crowded so one became our holiday tree.
   
     When we put up the Christmas tree we had to trim a few branches.  My son asked if we could tuck the extras around the manger.  Then he came up with this fabulous idea.

    He suggested we put the spruce branches in the bathroom to make it smell nice for the holidays.  I had decided to take a cue from my family this year and not just decorate from my own expectations.

    I used a vase we already owned and arranged a few sprigs in it.  It looks cute and smells wonderful.  You could add a ribbon or ornament for a more polished festive arrangement.

    Now I don't have to buy any chemical laden fake pine air freshener or worry about an unattended candle. This simple decoration was made from something we would have tossed anyway, making it a great frugal family project.  Next year I would love to learn to make a wreath for the front door or gather pine cones in a bowl for another natural seasonal decoration.  Thanks for the inspiration out of the mouths of babes.




Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Casual Christmas: 5 Sanity Savers for the Season

Waiting for Christmas can take all month!
     The holidays mean many things to many people.  I shared many of my happy childhood traditions last year in my post Advent-ure.  The holiday time is joyful.  It is also extremely busy.  There are many ways to fill up the month with preparations and parties.

     This year I have a new outlook on the big day.  Would you like to hear it? It is just ONE day.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the wonder of Christmas.  I'm just saying that I am not going to spend every waking moment hustling to create the perfect day.  For one thing, after all that work I'm sure to be disappointed.  No amount of fanfare on the big day is going to satisfy me after all that labor!  So here is what I am keeping in mind:

1. What is really necessary?  

2. What are my limits?

3. Who can help?

4. What do I want from this holiday?

5. Who am I doing this for?

     One way I plan to reduce stress is to knock baking off the to do list.  I am debating about the cards.  I really like to keep in touch with friends and family.  However if the cute family photo shoot doesn't happen it won't be the end of the world.  

   I am shopping local.  In addition to the lack of travel time, I am supporting a wonderful product Save It Bags. They are a practical gift for all the school lunchers on my list. My kids have fun picking out special fabrics for everyone. 

   I will not head to the mall.  We have wonderful small shops in town.  Whatever I can't find there, such as Legos, I can buy online.  I also have an awesome personal shopper.  She calls me whenever she finds something and picks up for me.  Thanks, you are the best!

   I will reduce decorating.  The tree and manger will be featured.  We will cut a big pine from our yard where we planted them over a decade ago. We will decorate together.  Whatever the family wants to do in one afternoon will be enough.

    I will limit our Christmas activities.  We attend an annual children's party featuring a magician, hayrides, sledding and a visit from Santa.  It is a wonderful event that my family enjoys.  Since the big guy will be there, we don't need to visit him anywhere else in town.

   My mother-in-law pulled together an early Christmas within a few days of being in the hospital.  You may be wondering how and so did I.  She shopped for toys and had a simple dinner of a deli platter and side salads.  Instead of focusing on the big meal hubbub, we were able to appreciate the delight as the children opened gifts and had time to talk over the table.  It was a relaxing Christmas gathering and shouldn't we enjoy our holiday time together?  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Play It Again, Ham: 10 Hearty Ham Dishes

     I found a big ham for 99 cents a pound at the store.  The kids had friends over on Friday night and it fed the crowd with plenty to spare.  For our company night I served the ham with mac and cheese and mixed veggies.  I've often used leftovers to make a new dinner creation.  The great thing about ham I found is that it can be used for any meal.  Good luck with your sequels!


10 Hamtastic Meals:

1. Ham steaks for breakfast with eggs.

2. Chef Salad  with ham and chicken, turkey, or roast beef

3. Scalloped Potatoes

4. Pea Soup

5. Ham Sandwiches

6. Ham Salad Sandwiches

7. Ham and Broccoli Pie

8. Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets/Calzones

9. Bean Soup

10. Scrambled eggs with diced ham/ Denver Omelet

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chicken Two: Two Different Meals With One Cooking Night

Chicken Parmesan
   In an effort to clear out any space in the freezer, I defrosted a three pound bag of chicken breasts.  Usually  I buy chicken on the bone since I can find a decent sale price, but I bought the big back to be convenient for camping season. With summer over it is time to cook up these birds.

   I planned to make Chicken Parm.  I made breadcrumbs out of oatmeal mixed with some Italian seasoning and garlic powder.  I sliced the chicken thin, dipped it in the egg and breadcrumbs and into the olive oil it went.     I made a few pans full, so I stored the extra in the oven to keep warm.
There's a whole lotta chicken cooking.


   As the chicken sizzled, I put the spaghetti water on to boil and made a salad.  I topped one skillet of chicken with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.  The rest of the chicken was for another meal.  Before cooking, I cut some of the chicken in smaller chicken strips.  Just don't tell the kids their chicken nuggets are really naked Chicken Parm leftovers.

We'll set these aside for nugget night.
   

Monday, November 26, 2012

Deep Thaw: Time to Defrost The Freezer

The freezer is full!
    My freezer is packed to the gills or rather the wings since I have a plethora of poultry. In case you have been on the edge of your seat wondering if I bought the extra freezer contemplated on in  The Big Chill, I have not. I know I could buy that extra chest freezer and find a place for it in the basement. However,  since I bought these turkey burgers for a summer camping trip I think it is time to clean out the freezer.

    My main motivation for the weeding of the freezer isn't so much that I'm concerned about freezer burn.  It has to do with the sales circular.  I keep hearing about great sales and specials from my couponing friend and there is no where to store the stuff.

   Okay so here we go.  I am not buying any more meat until we free up the freezer.  I bet we can get a week's worth of meals using up what we have on hand. First night is turkey burgers.  I will defrost the chicken too for the next day.  I usually buy whole chickens or thighs.  I got the big bag of breasts again to make it easier for the camping trip.

   Stand by for some creative meals.  I may have to stop at the store for some milk or bread, but dinner is coming from the freezer this week.  Brr! I better get started!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Inside the Box: It's In the Bag

       My September posts focused on packing school lunch.  I mentioned healthy snacksmoney saving sandwiches, and even the lunch box itself.  It's time to unzip and take a look inside the lunch box.  I am not a fan of sandwich bags.  I know they are convenient, but it just seems wasteful to me.  Especially as it wastes my time to have to drive to the store to buy more of them.  I was using Gladware and Tupperware boxes, until I found a product I like better.

Open up and slip a sandwich in.
   Save It Bags are reusable sandwich and snack bags made with custom fabric covers and a wipeable liner.  They are very easy to clean. Once a week I throw them in the laundry.  I meant to air dry them, but found out they are dryer safe when I forgot to pull them out.
Turn it inside out for a quick wipe down.

     My kids love them.  They are space saving and don't squish other foods, preventing surprising messes. We have Star Wars, camouflage, flowers and hedge hogs.  I just purchased these for an upcoming birthday party.
Adorable Hello Kitty Save It Bags

     The adjustable Velcro makes them great for carrying a cell phone or electronic device.  They also make a cute make up bag.  I'm looking forward to purchasing more bags for my Christmas list. They are a great product, made locally. They are available through craft fairs and online.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thank Goodness: Reflections on Gratitude

     We were off to the library for Lego Club today.  They get a different theme to inspire their building each time.  Today's theme was: build something you are thankful for.

     When they are finished, they can share what they have made.  Our librarian takes a picture and asks them about their project. My son tends to not want to speak up in front of the group, but boy does he like Legos.

What are you thankful for?

     He made what he is thankful for, his house and his parents.  The black stepped Legos are smoke coming from the chimney.  Since we had plenty of time left, he decided to add his tree fort that he built with Dad this summer.

     I am thankful for an awesome kid who has gratitude for the simple things in life.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm Not Dreaming Of a Pink Christmas:Holidays Outside the Box

What will be under the tree this year?

     It's time to start thinking about Christmas shopping.  No, I don't mean before the turkey is digested. What do the kids want this year?  Well in my house instead of making a list for Santa we make one for Grandma since we have our celebration at Grandma and Grandpa's house before the big day in December.

     We asked the kids to make a Christmas wish list by circling items from an ad.  I have never been impressed with the overpriced, plastic items that come out this time of year.  I know kids want the "top toy" of the year, but do they actually play with it when the new year comes?
   
     I know I really shouldn't get started on how the massive consumerism of the holiday drives me up the wall.  I never realized until I had kids that I would feel torn buying gifts for those who have plenty when the money could go to those who don't have enough. I look at all the toys, games, and books we already have and wonder why we need to add to it! I don't need to be a Scrooge to my kids though and I know they will enjoy the presents and be thankful. 

     Now my oldest is easy to shop for.  He wants Legos and plenty of them.  He also likes Star Wars.  There are a number of items in these two categories that are age appropriate and I am sure he will put to good use and continue to play with throughout the year.

     My daughter is the one that has me stumped.  In the words of my son, "When I walk down the pink aisle in the toy department, it makes me want to throw up." Now don't get me wrong we have a dollhouse and babies, but I never covered her toys in pink.  She joined in with her brother at the tool bench and trains.  I had no problem with her brother playing with her toys either.  I just didn't think that every item marketed to girls must be dipped in pink.  She could play with a red car or blue stove.

  Also her age is giving me trouble this year.  I am very used to buying her preschool age toys and now that she has started school I would like something that will grow with her.  She is very energetic so an active toy would be great.  She loves to draw making art supplies a welcome addition. What do you buy for a five year old girl for Christmas?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hats Off To Thanksgiving: Fun and Easy Crafts for Kid Company

   Okay so you've cleaned the house, shopped for all the ingredients, and baked up a storm.  Now that your turkey is in the oven and the parade is over, what are you going to do with your company?  I'm not talking about the adults.  They will be happy to pick at appetizers and gab, but the little ones are starting to run up and down the hallway.

   It's time to break out the craft supplies.  My children were very lucky to have the day before Thanksgiving off from school.  They were even happier to get to spend the day with their buddies.  After I read them Thanksgiving at the Tappleton's by Eileen Spinelli, they were ready to get their hands busy with a Thanksgiving project.
 
   Since it was short notice, I had not run to the store for turkey stickers or feathers.  I suggested we make toilet paper tube napkin rings.  They would wrap the tube with plain paper, glue the paper to the tube  and draw a turkey or pilgrim for a little decorative touch to your meal.
Here's your supplies, and go!

   The children had their own ideas.  Armored with paper, glue, scissors and markers they created their own pilgrim hats.  All I had to do was fetch a few supplies and they were happy to create away.  They even stapled bands around the hats by helping each other. Once everyone was decked out they were ready to have their own Thanksgiving parade!
A hat for every head.

   If you are expecting little ones at your feast, don't panic.  Grab a few sheets of paper out of the printer, markers or crayons, and the stapler and you can keep them busy while they have some holiday fun!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

10 Terrific Meals Using Thanksgiving Turkey

Delicious Chef/Cobb Salad
    Once we have cleared the table, there's no need to go cold turkey!  There are lots of ways to re-invent the bird to make it a whole new meal.  You can make your own Thanksgiving t.v. dinner to have the next day. You may want to tuck some of that delicious dark meat in the freezer to keep for one of these great recipes.  

    My new favorite is the Turkey Chef/Cobb salad.  I made a combination between a chef salad and a Cobb salad using turkey and ham with avocado.  It was delicious and a very different presentation for lunch than the usual leftover turkey.

   Another suggestion made to me was turkey pot pie.  Using refrigerator dough, through those bits of meat and leftover veggies together with the leftover gravy to make a hearty meal.  Skip the the gravy and you can fold up individual calzones or homemade hot pockets to store in the freezer for a later lunch.

   One night I whipped up a turkey stroganoff using Laughing Cow cheese and mushrooms served over egg noodles.  Turkey casserole is a yummy combination of rice, broccoli, and bits of turkey.  I skip the cream of mushroom soup and opt for plain yogurt.

   Making new meals out of the holiday leftovers will make you thankful for less trips to the grocery store!   The only thing left to do now with the turkey is make a wish!  


1. Hot turkey and gravy over bread

2. Turkey Club

3. Turkey Cobb Salad

4. Turkey Soup

5. Turkey Stroganoff

6. Turkey Salad Sandwich

7. Thanksgiving Plate

8. Turkey Casserole 

9. Turkey Quiche

10. Turkey Pot Pie

 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sensational Sequels

    I have lost count of how many times I have heard people say, "I just don't like leftovers."  Poor, poor leftovers, nobody wants them.  They pack them up in Tupperware just to throw them out when the fuzz starts to creep up the lid.  I say, "No more!"  We must take our leftover food and use it for good and not science experimentation.

    Leftovers need an image makeover.  I am going to start marketing them as sequels.  Is that leftover chicken? No honey, that is Chicken the Sequel: Night of the Nuggets.

   One of my favorite ways to use up leftovers is soup.  Just about any meat and vegetable can be thrown in the pot for a fantastic meal. All month long I will be bringing you more ideas to help you transform those unwanted bits into a new meal.

   Using leftovers is a great way to stretch the budget.  You can dish up leftovers for lunch instead of eating out. You can make a whole new meal by adding a few inexpensive ingredients.  This is great for when you find a sale and stock up.  Leftovers also help lessen your time in the meal prep department.  The trick is variety.  We can't eat the same meal days in a row.  Sometimes you have to take what is left and freeze it for another day when it will be appreciated again.

   What are your favorite uses for leftovers?  Stay tuned for my reruns, I mean sequels coming soon in my kitchen!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mummy's Nightmare: Attack of the Toys

EEK! A CLOSET TO MAKE ME SHRIEK!
     My youngest child looked up at me and declared, "Mommy you aren't afraid of anything!"  Since I didn't run shrieking at the sight of a bug I had won the bravest person in the world award.  I told her that there was one thing that scared Mommy...messes.  Dirt came into my kitchen on sneakers and spread across the house.  Spills happened and toys tripped me like tangled roots. She giggled at the thought of Mommy running from the dirt, mud, and messy monsters in fear.

     Her room held more surprises then a haunted house.  When I opened her closet to get Playdough it was difficult to reach it without turning my ankle. This was not a boo-tiful closet like her brother's room. It made me think of watching a horror movie and shouting to the screen, "Don't open the door!"  I called in reinforcements for this task.  No it wasn't ghostbusters, more like clutterbusters. I waited until my daughter was on the school bus before my friend helped me tackle this beast of a pile.

   First to find the floor we dragged everything into her room.  Then we sorted pieces, removed outgrown toys, and filed miscellaneous drawings under G. My friend smartly brought a garbage bag in before we started. The stuffed animals  relocated to a bin in her room so she can play with them. The outgrown toys were passed down to younger friends. Dress up clothes were moved to the playroom.
 
     We shelved the books.  My friend suggested we use a clear plastic shoe box for small books.  I combed through the books to find the little readers.  It saved a lot of shelf space by turning the box sideways and made it easier to find skinny paperbacks.

I love this space saving books in a box.
Clear boxes make toys easy to find.

      The addition of  a few clear plastic boxes contained the small toys. I normally used baskets, but these were stacked to save room. All the baskets of craft materials were removed from the closet. There is no work space in the bedroom and I've encountered a few surprises with markers and glue lately.  I have a new 3 bin drawer to house all the craft materials near the homework table outside her room.  

   The result was one happy girl.  After school she immediately went for her closet and played with her favorite toys.  She was happy to get into the closet and find her things. Now for what is lurking beneath the bed!  

   


Monday, October 29, 2012

Boo-tiful: A Dream Closet


There's a floor in the closet.
Books on shelves
      Unlike the skeletons in my closet, my son's closet was a fairly simple job. I didn't take a before picture so let me walk you through it.  I set the timer for 20 minutes on Sunday afternoon and got to work.

     The kids had made a habit of making a secret reading area in his closet.  It sounds like fun, but his sister is not fond of the clean up part.  The result was a twisted pile of sheets and books. He helped me put the books up on the shelf.  That was step one. Next we folded up the sheets and put them away.
 
    Now we had a floor.  The next step was to remove a few games from the top shelf.  They were put up there to keep little hands out of reach years ago.  The outgrown games were donated to the church rummage sale.  What a great excuse to get me to clean things out. I put the games immediately in the car and dropped them off the next day.

    The only other thing taking up a lot of closet space was a bucket of stuffed animals.  I wondered if they reproduced while we were sleeping.  There just always seemed to be a pile of them.  I put his favorites on his bed and the overflow in the camouflage sack so they take up less room.  The bin was cracked so I disposed of it.  Then I triple checked for outgrown clothes and his boo-tiful closet was finished!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Skeletons In My Closet: It's Scary In There!

The Secret Stash of Clutter
Ahh...that's much better!
 
      My favorite blogger Barb from Cleaning Up The Clutter inspired me to take a look at my mess.  I worked hard to keep to a daily chore schedule and tidied up the house.  Meanwhile, my closets were a fright worthy of the Halloween line up.  Somehow out of sight out of mind kept it from getting done.
 
    I set a goal this month to work on making the closets more livable.  I worked 20 minutes a day until it was done. First step was the repair/stain pile.  My Mom is the ultimate stainmaster.  Seriously she could get the mud out of a puddle.  She took a look at my pile and marked stains with pins and sewed a blouse with a tear. Thanks Mom you are the best!

  My husband built me this wonderful storage shelving unit for my birthday.  I needed to clear off the top surface. The box held LL Bean items that didn't fit.  Back to the store they went. What was left?  Clothes that didn't fit.  Time for them to get donated.  Now we had the little surprises I had picked up for the children.  They were moved to an undisclosed hiding place where they were more secure and out of the way.

   With the summer clothes stowed away in the cubbies and the fall apparel in the dresser the closet was complete. I wanted to leave the door open so I could admire a job well done!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Whole Lotta Pumpkin: 5 Things To Make With Pumpkin

    I have a HUGE pumpkin carved in my yard.  Although I do like to bake pumpkin seeds, I don't tend to use the pumpkin itself.  I find the canned pumpkin very convenient.  I buy the plain pumpkin without the spices.  Since it is pumpkin season, what do you do with that canned orange stuff?

1. Pumpkin bread/muffins

2. Pumpkin seeds

3. Pumpkin Pie

4. Pumpkin Oatmeal

5. Pumpkin Harvest Pudding

Pumpkin Harvest Pudding
    After opening up the can for our new recipe pumpkin oatmeal, I had A LOT leftover.  I could just let it sit on the back of the shelf and grow mold, tsk tsk, or find a use for it.  So in the most unlikely of sources What To Eat When You're Expecting I found a pumpkin recipe that used up my pumpkin and my dwindling pile of apples.
   I didn't have frozen apple juice so I substituted unsweetened applesauce.  I was out of pears, so I doubled up on apples and threw two extra in since they were on their way to rottensville. I raided the raisins from the kids snack shelf and I skipped the wheat germ and cranberries since I didn't have any.  I threw in two eggs instead of egg whites, though I did manage to separate them by dropping one on the table. We had some mixed nuts which my little helper enjoyed preparing with a bag and a spoon.
   It took a little work to put together, but it was good!  The recipe said to enjoy it for dessert, snack or topped with yogurt for breakfast.  It was even tastier cold. The crumb topping would make a nice crumble for an apple crisp or granola starter.  I'm not waiting until Thanksgiving for my pumpkin fix!
 



Harvest Pudding from What To Eat When You're Expecting

2 cups canned unsweetened solid-pack pumpkin
1 1/3 cups apple juice concentrate
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 egg whites
1/2 cup raisins, chopped
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
1 medium pear, peeled, cored, and freshly chopped
1/2 cup fresh cranberries (optional)
1 2/3 cups rolled oats
6 tablespoons wheat germ
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pumpkin, 3/4 cup of juice concentrate, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and egg whites in a bowl; beat together until well blended. Stir in the raisins, apple, pear and cranberries. Combine remaining juice concentrate, cinnamon, oats, wheat germ, butter and nuts in another bowl; blend until crumbly. Stir half the oat mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Transfer the pumpkin mixture into a 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture evenly over the top. Bake until crumbs are light brown and pudding is set, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pump-kin you up: Oatmeal With A Seasonal Spice

Pumpkin Maple Oatmeal

    I strayed from my shopping list by picking up a huge can of pumpkin. It was a little early to make pie and I was out of flour so muffins were out.  Could I put a teaspoon in my morning coffee to make a pumpkin spice latte?  I wasn't so sure how that would end up.  Then I spotted a recipe from Dr. Oz's newsletter for pumpkin maple oatmeal.
   
   I used old-fashioned oats, maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon. I skipped the berries to get the full pumpkin flavor.  It wasn't as sweet as I expected so I would recommend keeping the berries or stirring in 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce.

http://www.sharecare.com/question/what-healthy-oatmeal-breakfast-recipe
Pumpkin maple oatmeal with berries is a nutritious treat. Cook 1/2 cup of quick or old-fashioned oats according to the directions. Add 2 tablespoons of 100% pure pumpkin, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1⁄2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries or blueberries. This makes 1 serving and has 198 calories and 3 grams of fat.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Trickless Treats: 5 Healthy Halloween Snacks

    I know kids like candy and I don't expect a sugarless Halloween.  Since they will get plenty of candy from the nocturnal wanderings, I like to put my own spin on the holiday.  These snack ideas will have the kids in the spirit all month long. Let the kids have some fun creating treats that won't trick their teeth!

* Orange-o-lanterns: Take an orange peeler and carve your favorite jack-o-lantern face into the peel.

* Cheesestick Ghosts: Take a Sharpie and draw a ghost face (before you peel the wrapper please).

* Pumpkin Seeds: Scoop the goop and cook up those seeds salted, with cinnamon or pizza flavor.

* Popcorn: We make it the old fashioned way on the stove top with olive oil. You can stuff it a clear glove to make spooky hands.

* Rice Cake Monsters: Smear some peanut butter on a rice cake and add ghoulish toppings.

Fireside Creation: Creepy Cake Spider


    My niece made this delightful rice cake spider.  We were gathered around a rather wet fire camping on Columbus Day weekend.  She used Cheerios for eyes and fruit juice sweetened fruit strips for the legs. I think some of his legs may have been eaten before the photo was taken!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In A Pickle: Cucumber Salad


     With garden season over, all we had left were a few cucumbers hanging around the kitchen.  I needed a side dish one night so I pulled out a cucumber salad recipe.  I had found it in a low carb cookbook no idea what one since I photocopied it eons ago.  I used apple cider vinegar.  It was an easy put together and a hit with the home crowd!

Dilly Cucumber Salad

2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar
salt to taste
coarsely ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Place the cucumber slices in a large bowl. Add the vinegar, salt, pepper, and dill and mix well. Serve immediately or store covered in the refrigerator. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fiesta Pie: leftovers madeover

Taco Pie and please don't call it quiche
   At the end of the week we had a medley of leftovers: a barbecued chicken breast, a bit of steak, and half a serving of taco meat and re fried beans.  I could give everyone an ounce of meat with a vegetable on the side, but that seemed too much like reruns.  It was time for this food to write an alternate ending.  What I had plenty of in the fridge was eggs.  They had just arrived fresh from my neighbor's chickens.  

   I spied this new recipe in the gluten free cookbook. I sliced up the meat and layered in the pan like lasagna.  Then I put in the re fried beans, chopped peppers and poured the  whisked eggs over everything. Into the oven it went, skipping the skillet step to cook until firm.  With a dollop of plain yogurt and a splash of salsa the fiesta taco pie was served. 

Frittata from: Deliciously G-Free by Elisabeth Hasselbeck

10 eggs
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup of canned black beans, drained and well rinsed
1 cup grated mozzarella or cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside. Heat an 8-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, onion, and pepper, Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to small bowl. In the skillet add the egg mixture and cook 1 minute until the edges bubble. Pull cooked egg to center of the pan.  Scatter the cooked vegetables, beans and cheese over the egg. Transfer the skillet to the oven and and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until firm. Let cool for 5 minutes. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cleaning Up the Clutter: No More Mountains of Mail

     Oh how I wish this were true in my house. Once a week I try to tackle the mountain of paper in my home.  Before I can pay the bills, I feel compelled to throw out the ads and flyers that have stacked up all week. When I find the mail that is actually needing action, I set that in one slot of my organizer.  By the time I get that done I start to balance the checkbook, which usually ends in a headache. Then comes social correspondence such as invitations.
     On to the unloading of the backpacks with school information. I try to separate what needs to be done for homework from the artwork, worksheets, newsletters and flyers for fund raisers.  I need an office manager just for my papers at home! All this in a supposedly "paperless society."
   Let's see what Barb has to say about: Cleaning Up the Clutter: No More Mountains of Mail.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Going Green

Sauteing spicy beans
 
    When I was making the Sloppy Joes I had nothing to serve as a side dish. Then I remember the blackened green beans that I had enjoyed at a local bistro.  They came with a side of mustard sauce for dipping. I changed their name to "green bean fries" to give them more kid appeal. Of course I didn't have a recipe so this is my interpretation.

Green Bean Fries

Put a medium flame under a skillet with olive oil.  Add one clove fresh garlic, pepper, and 1 teaspoon Cajun spice. Pour one bag frozen french cut green beans into skillet.  Use fresh green beans if available.  Cook beans until warmed through.  Meanwhile prepare dipping sauce by stirring together 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon horseradish, and 1 tsp ground mustard.  Serve as a side dish to your favorite burger or sandwich.  Happy Dipping!



     

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hamburger Helper


Sloppy Joes with a side of green bean fries

    I spotted ground beef on sale at the market.  I made two meals and had a pound leftover.  I was about to freeze it since I couldn't think of what to do with it, burgers again, taco salad?  I was stumped for an idea. Then I opened up my cookbook and found sloppy joes.  I had never made them without the prepared stuff in a can.  So it was time to try a new recipe.

    I substituted a 29 ounce can of store brand tomato sauce for the ketchup. I omitted the Worcestershire sauce. I stirred in a packet of stevia for slight sweetness.  I diced a green bell pepper and threw that in the sauce. Hamburger buns were 40 cents at Aldi making this an inexpensive meal. Luckily we could eat outside, just in case they lived up to their messy name!
simmering sloppy joes from scratch

Sloppy Joes from Betty Crocker Cookbook

1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 hamburger buns

Cook beef, onion, and celery over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until beef is brown; drain. Stir in remaining ingredients except buns. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender. Fill buns with beef mixture.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wok Around The Clock

Pork fried rice is nice. 

    It's 4:30. Do you know what your dinner is?  Yeah, me neither.  I was going to put a nice roast  in the oven at 3:00 p.m. for that cozy Sunday meal.  Well I got a little too cozy and ended up taking a little snooze. Then dinner time was fast approaching.  What to do?  Don't panic.  Don't call for pizza yet.  I can stir something up. Yes that's it; a stir fry night is just the solution.

I had made a pork roast with sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts two days before so there was meat leftover. We had eaten a second meal of "reruns" already.  Now it was time to transform what was left.

   I pulled out my cook book and found a recipe for pork fried rice.  My friend's daughter has been craving this dish lately so it would be nice to learn to make it at home.  I didn't follow it exactly.  It called for bean sprouts and green onions .  I used leftover peas, green beans and cut up Brussels sprouts.  I was hoping to make the sprouts more popular in this disguised format.

   I had quick brown rice that I had stocked in the camper.  I started that cooking first.  Meanwhile, I trimmed pork from the bone and diced the vegetables.  When the rice was almost done, I threw the veggies in to warm and tossed the eggs in following the recipe.

   What are your favorite meals in a hurry?

Pork Fried Rice from: Betty Crocker Cookbook

1 cup bean sprouts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 cup cut-up cooked pork
2 medium green onions, sliced
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Dash of white pepper

Rinse beans sprouts and drain. Cook mushrooms in oil 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add sprouts, rice, pork and onions. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up rice until hot. Move rice mixture to side of skillet. Cook eggs in oil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until eggs are thickened. Stir eggs into rice mixture. Stir in soy sauce and white pepper.



Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall In Line

Souvenir leaf from our honeymoon
      Despite the weather forecast of 76 degrees it has been a rather blustery day.  I guess the first day of fall has announced itself in my neighborhood.  I really don't want to pack away my shorts and flip flops.  I enjoy summer and all its outdoor activities, parties, and travel.  For no other two months out of the year do I feel compelled to join in on so many activities.  There is something about summer that makes me want to take advantage of every beautiful day.
   
      Although I love the fresh garden produce and Dan's creations at the grill, I am not much of a summer cook.  Shh, don't tell anyone it may ruin my reputation.  After a wonderful day in the sun or visiting with friends it is hard to motivate myself to cook dinner.  Maybe I need the weekday school routine to keep me on schedule.  The heat doesn't help my reluctance in the kitchen.

    Now with that little hint of chill in the air I am looking forward to warming up the oven with roasts and baked apples. With the change of seasons, it's time for me to get back to meal planning making cozy dinners with plenty to spare for another meal later in the week.  I'll have to use my new search box to look for my favorite recipes. What are your favorite fall dishes?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Deli

    When I picked up the roast on sale for $2.99 a pound and looked at the label of $11.96 I thought about putting it back.  It just seemed like a lot of money for one item.  Ironically a pound of roast beef at the deli sells for up to $10 a pound.

    I served the roast with mashed potatoes and green beans picked from our garden.  After dinner, Dan got out the electric slicer my parents gave me for Christmas.   The kids were mesmerized while he buzzed through the roast. Now we had plenty of lunch meat.  Our daughter's favorite lunch is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  After becoming aware of a peanut allergy at school, she was thrilled to pack a nut free lunch.  I was happy not to spend my time and money at the deli counter!

    

Monday, September 10, 2012

Oh Nuts

   When my son began kindergarten, I think I was more worried about packing his lunch then him learning to read.  I knew he was curious and would do fine in school.  After the luxury of lunches at home I wasn't sure how to transport something healthy.  When I thought of school lunches the images that came to mind were corn syrup or salt laden packaged foods disguised as snacks.  Now I know these snacks are convenient, but I was very fussy about what went into my children for the first five years.  Why should I switch to less nutritious choices?  Portioned cups of mixed nuts are a great protein filled snack.  If you encounter nut allergies try these snacks that pack well and keep learners full and focused.

* Cheesesticks
*Babybel cheese. These come in wax packages that are fun to mold and shape after eating.
*Fruit. Apples and oranges travel better than bananas. I include an orange peeler stick.
*Fruit Strips,  the healthy cousin to fruit rollups made with fruit juice.
*Homemade Muffins
*Ants on a Log
*Laughing Cow Cheese on celery sticks or rice cakes.  These are fun for the kids to make.
*Applesauce.  Pour unsweetened applesauce into reusable cups or buy the unsweetened little cups.
*Fruit cups packaged in juice only
*Raisins. My lunchers love the mini boxes of "baby raisins" and we pour them into cups too.
*Pumpkin Seeds toasted or mixed with trail mix.
*Pumpkin seed butter. Tastes similar to peanut butter.  Makes a great sandwich spread or dip.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pack It Up

    I have to state off the bat that LL Bean is not compensating me for this post.

    With the little one starting kindergarten we purchased a backpack online in mid August.  I was going to wait to see if they would be reduced, but my husband was afraid it wouldn't arrive in time for school.  Three days later, they went on sale.  I e-mailed LL Bean and they credited me for the 20% price.
 
    My first purchase with their company was my son's backpack.  Two years later, he is going off to school with the same one.  This year we bought lunchboxes for both kids.  I may even go back and get one for my husband.  I really like knowing that I can return items if they don't last long.  In this economy, who wants to buy items that fall apart?


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Take A Dip


Dill Dip is going on the road

   As the summer winds down, it is time to start thinking about school lunches. I am not a big fan of cold cuts.   I prefer the cost and nutrition of natural peanut butter.  My children love my dill dip and vegetables.  It is a great appetizer for guests and parties.  Now it is going to make it's way into the school lunch box.  The children can choose their favorite vegetable and have a cup of dip to go with it.  The little Gladware containers are inexpensive and make it easier for me to send items without wasteful packing.

    Dipping is a fun way to eat your vegetables. It is also a great way to get a little dairy into the diet.  Plain yogurt is a staple at our house.  With no sweetener it can be used on baked potatoes, in cream sauces or in fruit smoothies.  This recipe is one I made up so I will try to be accurate.  What is your favorite healthy item to pack for lunch?

Dill Dip

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup Vegenaise (or Olive Oil mayonnaise)
1/2 capfull dried dill (approx one teaspoon)
1 clove garlic, pressed

Stir everything up and chill.  It tastes great the next day and can be thinned for a creamy salad dressing.  Serve with your favorite chopped, raw vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, carrots and celery.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Legopalooza

    Before we dove into the Lego cake  we had activities for our young building enthusiasts at our Harry Potter Lego party. First up was the Lego head jars.  On Pinterest, they were prepared ahead of time and filled with candy Lego bricks to bring home as favors.  Instead, I used this as our opening activity as guests arrived.

Notice the additional Harry Potter touch?
Lego head jars:
10 baby food jars (labels peeled)
1 big jar of yellow paint
10 paint brushes
Sharpies

I set out paper plates with globs of yellow paint and let the kids go to town painting their jars.  When the jars dried, they drew Lego head faces.  Each guest took home a jar to use to store those tiny Lego pieces.

Lego artists
Next we painted with Legos.  We had a big bag of outgrown mega blocks.  The kids dipped these in different colored paints and used them as stamps.  I was surprised how much the kids got into this one.  When dried, we used the creations as wrapping paper or place mats.
Where will the sorting hat place you?


Next came the most popular activity of the day, the Lego Hunt.  Thanks to Librarian extraordinaire, Chrissie Morrison for sharing this idea.  The kids took turns hopping up on the stool to be sorted into their house colors.  When I took the hat off, I slipped a post it note from under the edge to reveal their color.  The guests really enjoyed combing the yard to get the hidden Legos.  Then the teams spontaneously built small creations with their found bricks.

 At this point we headed inside for Harry Potter Wheel of Fortune.  Using a dry erase board, I used the words and clues from a crossword puzzle I dug up from my lesson plans. The children remained seated in rows according to their team colors.  After their turn they went to the back of the line.  Luckily I had cousins to assist this activity.  We had to step up the difficulty when the teams solved the puzzle quickly!

We ended the party with cake and presents and every guest went home with their Lego head jar and a Harry Potter potions class Lego set.  It was a fun party to plan and of course, the birthday boy received many wonderful Lego sets to continue the building experience!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Harry Situation

Harry Potter on tape.
   Here's an update on my happy campers this summer.  I suggested some names to do with camping, nature and summer, but the kids voted for a Harry Potter theme.  My oldest is reading the first book and was thrilled when his Aunt sent over the first three books on cassette.  I am trying to stall him from going on to the later books as they get more intense.  He became fascinated with Harry Potter through the Lego sets.

   Now they are earning house points for Gryffindor by completing morning chores and helping out around the house.  When we get to 25 points each a week they are awarded the house cup.  One week the prize was an A to Z Mysteries book.  The next week was a movie night with my husband's wonderful homemade popcorn.  After a great job cleaning up in the morning, I surprised them by inviting a friend over.

  One morning at breakfast we had a "family meeting."  I got out a pad of paper and wrote What can ____________ do to help?  We had a discussion of what they were old enough to do around the house.  Including them makes it more fun than always having me tell them what to do.  They suggested simple chores like feeding the dog, emptying the dryer, cleaning up toys, hanging up a towel, putting away the toothpaste, cleaning up the craft table and UNDER the craft table.  Now if they are looking forward to a family game night or a small prize they ask us, "What can I do to help?"  In their minds it means, "What can I do to get a point or prize?" but I will take it.  I have pointed out that when they wipe the table or clean up toys their Dad and I have more time to take a walk, play a game or take them to the park.

 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

5 Ring Pizza

    This recipe has been in my idea file almost as long as the history of the Olympics itself.  Taste Of Home magazine featured an Olympics party with a pizza covered in pepperoni rings, a cake with M&Ms the color of Olympic rings and colorful veggies in round bowls.

      Rather than the original plan of pepperoni rings, we came up with Olympic ring colors for our pizza.  Pepper rings became the green, red, and yellow rings.  We used black olives for the black ring.  The blue had us stumped.  I did not want to use blueberries on pizza!  I had some Calamata olives in the cupboard and they worked nicely for the blue ring.
   We layered pepperoni circles beneath the cheese so the white cheese of the flag would stand out.

    After the whole team grated cheese, sliced olives and peppers and rolled out the dough our pizzas baked in the oven on 425 degrees for 30 degrees.  We made enough to share and catch the coverage with friends.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Spirits


We are very excited about the Olympic opening ceremony in my house.  I was  leafing through my recipe collection searching for the elusive Olympic snack ideas that I had stashed away years ago. In the meantime, the kids had decided to get ready for the Olympics by making some decorations.  They had out all the paints and asked me what the proper order was for the rings.  My little one made a picture by tracing circles around the Laughing Cow cheese container and then painting them in the Olympic colors.

  Next she created the painting with the Olympic torch bearer.  The kids busily worked away from what we had in the craft box; cutting out circles to turn into medals and turning a popsicle stick into a torch. My oldest took an index card and filled in the lines to create a flag.  I found some stickers to add for stars.  We took a spin around the globe to locate the five continents represented by the Olympic rings.

We ran out to swim a few laps in the pool to warm up for our opening ceremony celebration.  We concluded the day with Olympic swimmer Gertrude Ederle's biograpy.  Her story of swimming the English Channel should inspire some gold star dreams.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Happy Campers

  We are at the kick off point of summer vacation in my house.  Do you know what that means?  Sun, fun and activities for everyone.  It also means everyone is home in my house.  The upside to this is we are free to travel as a family.  The downside is my usual routine gets lost.  Apparently I am a creature of habit.  When we are off schedule I get a bit antsy.

   I feel like I spend the day saying, "Please clean up your room.  Please clear your dishes from the table. Please get ready so I can drive you to XYZ."

   Instead of living moment to moment I am being proactive.  We are going to have "camp at home". This is what I have so far.  The children will come up with a name for their room and earn clean cabin awards for keeping it picked up.  The living room will be the park and they will check it for litter.  This can also be applied to towels left on the bathroom floor.  Instead of nagging them to help out, they will receive prizes or outings for their effort.

   Monday will be our arts and crafts morning.  My daughter has been wanting to get into the Melty Beads, stamps and butterfly garden that she received for her birthday. Tuesday will be art. Wednesday is P.E. time.  Thursday will be a field trip and Friday we will have music time.  This is not set in stone, but is a reminder for me to stop cleaning the house and make time for their interests.

   I will not map out every minute of vacation.  There will be plenty of time for swimming, visiting friends, lounging with a good book and just good old fashioned play.  What ideas do you use for avoiding the "I'm bored" days and keeping the peace over vacation?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hit The Trail Mix Clusters

Crunchy, chewy and chocolaty goodness
    While packing for the weekend I decided to make a batch of trail mix.  It's a great recipe for junior cooks to join in.  You don't need exact measurements so they can pick whatever they want and "dump" it in.  I was thinking of a simple combination of Cheerios and raisins.  Then I saw a bit of carob powder and the mini-Marshmallows leftover from the Lego cake.   I couldn't see how I could roast those tiny marshmallows over the campfire.  I thought of combining the ingredients to make a s'more cookie.

    I decided my fudge recipe would make a good base.  As my helpers were washing up and donning their aprons,  I searched for the needed ingredients.  The bad news was we were low on honey.  I used one half cup honey and one half cup agave nectar. The good news was, we had a whole shelf of trail mix ingredients.  I found unsweetened coconut, walnuts, and a 15 ounce box of raisins. I was planning to give my assistants measuring cups to add a cup of each item.   While I was whipping up the fudge in the food processor they had a ball pouring all of the items together.  I moved everything to my biggest bowl and added the fudge to it.  We decided to add 3/4 cup of peanut butter to the batch. They stirred and got their spoons in there like they were tossing a salad.

    Then we took out the cookie scoop and dropped the batter onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  I took the second sheet and spread the mixture out to cut into squares.  The trays went into the freezer to chill the fudge.  We had enough to share with friends and enjoy over the long holiday weekend!

Micky's Hit the Trail Mix Clusters


Trail Mix: empty out the pantry of Cheerios, nuts, chips, dried fruit, mini-marshmallows
One batch of fudge
3/4 cup Teddie Bear natural peanut butter

Mix the dry ingredients.  Make the fudge.  Pour the fudge and peanut butter over the dry mixture.  Drop by spoonfuls or smooth onto parchment paper.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Use a pizza cutters to make squares.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lucky Seven

Lego cake for a lucky 7-year-old
    I had a request for a Lego cake.  I pulled out my favorite cake recipe.  It is made with carob, but comes out moist and rich and nobody guesses it isn't chocolate!  I have tested the recipe out, unlike my interesting results in Dinosaur Delights.

   Two things, I need to share with you.  First of all, the cake serves 12 so I figured I needed to double the recipe.  The original recipe was for a double layer round cake.  The doubled recipe produced so much batter that I made two sheet cakes.  That was on Wednesday. I froze both cakes.   I learned the hard way that it is easier to shape cakes when they are frozen. The first cake became the party cake.  The day before the party, I mixed up my favorite frosting and added giant mega blocks in the shape of a seven.  I had found interesting Lego cake ideas, but this one came to me and I stuck with my idea.
   
   The second detail  worth noting is that I usually use oat flour to create a gluten-free cake.  I have tried brown rice flour, but it doesn't seem to raise well.  This time I used regular flour and the cake was drier than I expected.  I may have to go back to oat flour only or try a mixture of flours.
 
   The second cake stayed in the freezer for school visit day.  I mixed up a fresh batch of frosting and iced the cake, adding mini-marshmallows to each piece to create Lego blocks.  Note to self: cupcakes are easier to serve at school, since you don't need to slice and serve.  It would also eliminate the need to bring forks and plates.

   This recipe is time consuming compared with a box mix or calling the grocery bakery.  I really like knowing that my kids are eating a caffeine and sugar free cake that is a wonderful treat for their special day.  By baking the cake on Wednesday, I was able to make my mess ahead of time and that freed me up to get the activities (and cleaning) prepped for the party.

   The last time I made this recipe it got smudged with carob powder.  This time I learned my lesson and cut and pasted it to fit on one page.  Then I add I plastic sheet protector.  This time I got to keep my copy, although I did have to sponge it down!


Vegan Carob Cake with Fudgy Carob Frosting
alteredplates.blogspot.com
Serves 12

Cake Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup carob powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil (I used grapeseed.)
2 cups agave nectar (I know this sounds like a lot, but the original called for 3 cups of maple syrup -- an expensive recipe, for sure. Still, it's a LOT of cake.)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (Don't omit this ingredient, whatever you do!)
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups filtered water



Cake Directions:

1. In a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients. Give them a stir for about 2 minutes, until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
2. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, mix the wet ingredients for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are well combined.
3. Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Here's where things are very weird. It's going to be extremely lumpy. Don't overmix this no matter what your head tells you. Mix until the dry ingredients have been moistened -- about 3 minutes.
4. Let the cake batter rest a few minutes while you preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and oil and flour your two 9-in. cake pans. You definitely want to line the bottoms of your pans with a circle of parchment paper as well. Trust me on this. The cakes WILL stick if you don't.
5. When the pans are prepared, pour the batter into the pans. Don't be concerned that there is a lot of batter, it won't over flow. However, feel free to put the pans on top of a cookie sheet with a lip.
6. Bake the cakes for 35 minutes or until a tester comes out with just the barest of crumbs. Do NOT open the oven for the first half hour. This important for the lump-killing abilities of the cider vinegar. You will regret it if you don't leave the layers alone.
7. Cool the layers completely before frosting.
 
For my favorite buttercream frosting, I use salted butter, rather than adding salt at the end.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
 from www.madhavasagave.com

1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 tbl Agave Nectar
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
4 tbl whole milk
pinch of sea salt

Cream the butter with an electric mixer until light in color. Slowly add the agave nectar and beat until fluffy, about one to two minutes. Gradually add the dry milk and beat again.  Add the salt, turn the mixer to high speed, and beat about two minutes, or until very fluffy.  Makes 2 cups. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Egg Mick Muff-FUN

Eggs Make a Comeback With the Egg Mick Muff-Fun!
  

My kids went on an egg strike as in anything that resembled an egg would not pass their lips without an enormous amount of struggle.  This surprised me since we get our wonderful free-range eggs from our neighbor.  They are the best eggs with rich, golden yolks.

   So when I asked them this morning, would you like egg mcmuffins for breakfast like at McDonalds, I was astounded when they answered a resounding yes.  I was just going to toast English muffins with peanut butter if they said no thank you to the eggs. 



Browning the Turkey Sausage
   I started making the homemade turkey sausage. Once that was in the pan I popped the first English muffin in the toaster.  Once the sausage was done, I started the eggs.  They like when I break their egg yolks so they aren't messy, but I left mine whole. I flipped the eggs when they were done on one side and added a half of a slice of American cheese (not the processed kind) turning off the pan to  let the cheese melt while I prepped the remaining muffins.

   I asked my kids if they would rather have homemade breakfast or go to McDonalds.  My son's response was, "This is cheaper since you don't have to pay for gas."  With the English Muffins selling for 50 cents a six pack at Aldi it is a great deal.  They devoured their "special breakfast" and I can't wait to make them again.
  

Drumroll Please...

      I feel like my birthday month is still going on since this week I was able to have a shopping spree and lunch out with my gift certificates. Plus there is the upcoming trip to the theatre this weekend.  I can't wait!  I want to thank everyone for following along with my March Milestones cookbook contest. 

   All the comments really inspired me to reach my goal of 52 posts in a year.  Once I was on a roll, I couldn't stop writing!  I never dreamed when I started my blog a year ago that 3,000 readers would join me on my crazy recipe quest.  All the support from my local friends has been tremendous and having readers across the world is awesome.  Every time a new country was added to my stats, my son searched for it on his map.

       The Rachel Ray cookbook goes to our surprised winner Jenn Hurd.  Enjoy the book Jenn and please share with us your favorite new recipes!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pin to Win

    Please get those final comments in before the cookbook give-away deadline at midnight tonight.  Feel free to comment on past posts; you are not limited to just the ones from March.  Become a follower or pin one of my posts to Pinterest to be entered in the drawing.  Who will the lucky winner be?  Keep reading "Outside the Box" to see.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Little Black Book

    It is time for me to get back on track with my project.  I have been having a ball sharing interesting creations with you.  However, my cooking has been leaning towards the "clean out the refrigerator" style instead of working on my black binder of "New Recipes."  I am taking requests.  What would you like to see: new dinner ideas, meatless meals, desserts, breakfast foods, snacks, international cuisine?  Tell me what you would like to see and I will check my little black book of recipes.  It will be interesting to see what is coming next!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Follow the Yellow Mick Road

* Did you know you can get blog updates from "Outside the Box" delivered to your e-mail?
   
* Simply type your name in the Follow By E-mail box and click Submit.

* You can also become a Follower through Google Friend Connect using your Google, Twitter, or Yahoo acount.

* Sign up to follow me this month and you will be entered in the March Milestones cookbook give-away contest.

*I love to hear from my readers, please comment on a post this month!

  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2 Heads Are Better Than One


Quinoa Stuffed Cabbage
   
Somehow both Dan and I ended up picking cabbage for the St. Patrick's Day boiled dinner.  After our corned beef and cabbage, I was left with an extra head of cabbage to use up. 

   My Mom used to make the most fantastic galumpkis, otherwise known as stuffed cabbage.  I didn't have any ground beef in the house so I decided to get creative and substitute the stuffing. 

   After checking out the Betty Crocker recipe for Cabbage Rolls, I modified it to a meatless meal that would be a good vehicle to use up cabbage.   It turned out fantastic.  Mom enjoyed one for lunch the next day.

First, I boiled up a batch of quinoa. Here's how:
  *Heat 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water to boiling. 
  *Reduce heat to low.
  *Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. 
  *Makes 3 to 4 cups quinoa. 

Since I wasn't using beef I shortened the recipe.
   *Boil the cabbage leaves.
   *Stir boiled quinoa, 1/2 can crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.
   *Fill cabbage with stuffing and tuck the leaves under.
   * Pour the other half can of sauce over the whole pan
   *Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

Stuffing the Cabbage Leaves


Cabbage Rolls
from: Betty Crocker's Cookbook

Cabbage leaves will separate easily if you first remove the core from the head of the cabbage and let the cabbage stand in cold water for 10 minutes.

12 cabbage leaves
1 pound of lean ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked instant rice
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 can (4 ounces)  mushroom pieces and stems, undrained
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

1. Cover cabbage leaves with boiling water. Cover and let stand about 10 minutes or until leaves are limp. Remove leaves; drain.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Mix beef, rice, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, salt, pepper, onion, garlic and mushrooms.
4. Place about 1/3 of the beef mixture at stem end of each leaf. Roll leaf around beef mixture, tucking in sides. Place cabbage rolls, seam sides down, in ungreased square baking dish, 8 x 8 x 2 inches.
5. Mix remaining tomato sauce, sugar and lemon juice; pour over cabbage rolls.
6. Cover and bake about 45 minutes or until beef mixture is no longer pink in center.
7. Remove cabbage rolls to platter. Pour liquid in baking dish into 10-quart saucepan. Mix cornstarch and water; stir into liquid. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Pour sauce over cabbage rolls.