Friday, June 22, 2012

Strawberry Picking Season

Well, I'm back!  I had a some computer issues awhile back (aka my laptop shit the bed) and I was without one, until the Hubs bought me a new one.  By that time winter had a deep hold on me and I kept forgetting to post or when I did think about it I was easily distracted by a million other things.
Soooo summer is FINALLY here and after a long, cold winter I will be the LAST person to complain about the heat.  I love it.  I also love going strawberry picking! This year I took all 4 kiddos and my niece.  Good picking! 
Armed with loads of wonderful strawberries we began our second favorite thing to do, make as many recipes as we can with strawberries!! For lunch we had peanut butter and sliced strawberry sandwiches with sliced strawberries & sharp cheddar on the side. 
As the temperature climbed past 90, I had the brilliant idea to turn the oven on!  Thankfully the Hubs had put the air conditioner in! 

English Muffin Toasting Bread & Strawberry Honey Butter

I've got to tell you, THIS bread is amazing!  It has only 5 ingredients and makes 4 loaves of bread.  You might think 4 is a bit much and wonder about freezing some, but that has NEVER been an issue in my house.  My kiddos can devour a loaf in one sitting...yes, it's that good.  We usually toast this bread and smear butter and honey on the warm slices.  Luckily, I stumbled upon THIS recipe for strawberry honey butter.  Strawberry. Honey. Butter.  The two complimented each other so well.  The kids ate a loaf for breakfast, and another  half for lunch.

I also made an incredible Strawberry Yogurt Cake but that was eaten so fast, I never got a picture of it.  We also made chocolate covered strawberries...those are gone too.  The strawberries (all 18 pounds) are nearly gone.  I think I may be forced to go back to the fields!
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saving Money ~ Making Soap

I am a bit of a freak when it comes to germs.  Truth.  But when there are 6 people in your house, the last thing I want is for one of us to get sick. One gets sick, we're all sick and then continue to re-pass the cold on and on and on... It's aggravating.  So, I make the kiddos wash their hands the second they come in the door from school.  The grocery store?  Freaks me out, yuck.  Wash your hands. Wash your hands.  WASH YOUR HANDS!  And our son, mysteriously always has dirty hands.  I scrub them, he soaks them in the sink, he walks out of the bathroom and 10 minutes later, he's dirty again.  Where is this coming from??! We are going through a ton of soap around here.  I've been wanting to try this for awhile, so #2 daughter and I made some last night after the little ones were in bed.
Here's what you need:
A bar of soap.  Any bar, something you enjoy, this is going to make a LOT of liquid soap.  I got this bar at the natural food store for $4.95, expensive but it smells amazing!
2 Tablespoons Glycerin  This bottle was about $7 at Target.  It was behind the counter, I had to ask the pharmacist for it.
A cheese grater
1 gallon of water

First, grate the soap, or get one of your older kids to do it:
You end up with a nice bowl of shavings.  Don't worry, I didn't make her grate the whole bar.  In fact, she started complaining her arm hurt the second I put my camera down.
Add the water and the soap shaving to a big pot, turn heat on medium.  Add glycerin and stir gently until the soap flakes dissolve into the water.
Here's what you get:  A big pot of soapy water.

Remove from heat and let the pot sit for 10-12 hours.  We did this in the evening, so we just let it sit overnight.  The mixture should start to cloud up in about 3-4 hours.
The next morning our soap looked like this:

It was thick and kind of gloppy.  Gloppy, very technical soap making word.  I used my hand mixer to blend it all up.  You could use an egg beater too, or a whisk if you are feeling especially grouchy and need to take some frustration out on your soap.  It still felt a little thick to me so I added just a little water (maybe 1/2 cup) while I was blending. 
It filled a gallon and the 18oz empty container of hand soap.  The kids happen to love the foaming hand soap, so I tried adding just enough soap to fill about an inch at the bottom of the container, and filled the rest with water:
Worked great!
Here's the cost breakdown:
Bar Soap $5
Glycerin $7
146 ounces Liquid Hand Soap $12
Next time it will be just the cost of the soap because I have plenty of Glycerin left for several more batches.
See?  Cool huh?
I've made enough soap to fill my 18oz bottle a little over 8 times.  The original cost? $5  For a total cost of $40. 
The foam container is a 7.5 ounce bottle that costs about $2.  If I add (let me be generous, but I don't think I added that much) 1 ounce of liquid soap each time..I've made 146 refills!  That's $292!!  I think I deserve a new purse.  Thoughts?
I did want to mention I found a bunch of different "recipes" online but I did find this one that I followed to make my liquid soap.  Thanks to The Farmer's Nest for making this so easy for me to share!
Thanks for stopping by:)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cinnamon Vanilla Waffles

The automated cancellation for school called this morning at 4:50am to inform us that, "Due to inclement weather, school would be closed for today."  The kiddos went to bed last night hoping for such a call.  When I came down the stairs to let the dogs out, imagine my surprise when I see a gray sky,and not one drop of snow on the ground.  It must be snowing somewhere...but it isn't here.  Plans for sledding have now gone on hold.  Don't get me wrong, I have somehow convinced myself that maybe we won't get snow this winter.  I hate the snow.  I hate the cold.  Someday I will live where it never snows.  Someday.  But, not today. 
Only one thing could possibly cheer up my snow-loving children...Homemade waffles!  Here's what you need:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups warm milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a mixing bowl combine all wet ingredients and mix well.  Add all dry ingredients until well combined, and let rest.  While the waffle iron is heating the mixture will rise a bit and get a few bubbles in it.  If you're really lucky, you will have a cutie helper like I did:
She also conviced me that to get a really good picture of her, she needed to be sitting on the counter...
Add waffle mixture to well oiled iron.  They say not to use cooking spray on your waffle iron.  But I always do and it works great.  What can I say?  I'm a total rebel.  Another thought has occured to me lately as I make waffles:  Next Christmas when waffle makes go on sale for $5, I'm going to buy 4 more.  Then I can have a big production line of waffles going!  I wonder how many I could plug into the kitchen without blowing a fuse?  Thoughts?  (I told you I was a rebel.)
While the waffles were cooking, apparently a crime spree broke out in the living room.  Look who "flew" into the kitchen to save the day:
Never a dull moment around here.  Never Ever. Never.
Time to round up the gang, the waffles are ready!
Our kiddos love bananas on their waffles!  Yay fruit!
Little guy wasn't to happy I wanted to interupt waffle eating for a picture...but they gobbled up nearly the whole batch.  These were the few that didn't get eaten. 

Nice thing about these, I cut them in fourths and freeze them.  Then pop them in the toaster next time they want waffles!
Well, just after 10am and it's starting to snow.  I'm secretly hoping it goes out to sea, or to the north, or to the mountains, or anwhere but here.  Upside?  The kids will slide until they pass out.
Thanks for stopping by :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My husband, the chef?

My husband and I have been together for 15 years.  Last week he mentioned that on Sunday he was going to do something really "special" for me.  The possibilities here were endless, and I'm not sure that his special was the same as my special.  Then, because he is notoriously horrible at keeping a surprise, he tells me he is making dinner on Sunday.  Making?  Dinner?  In 15 years do you know how many meals my husband has made?  One.  One meal.  And we both seemed to have blocked the memory of what exactly he made, but agree it was barely edible.  So dinner?  Yayyy! 
Dan and I love the show Hell's Kitchen and two dishes that seem to be featured quite often are beef wellington and risotto.  We've had risotto a handful of times, but have never made it ourselves and neither of us had ever had wellington.  Two very brave choices for my husband the chef.
I have to say, I sat in the kitchen with him and read the recipe and maybe showed him where the tablespoon was, perhaps I passed him a stick of butter...other that he made this one solo.  It was fan-freaking-tastic.  Seriously.  Amazing.
Here is a picture of my plate:
He also bought some massive twice baked potatoes that had to be baked in the oven.  While those were cooking he wrapped bacon around asparagus and cooked those too!  I didn't even eat my potato, the little ones scarfed that.  Everything was so good!  We tweaked both recipes a bit and...did I mention delicious???
The risotto came from a page out of our friends cookbook that they photocopied for us.
One-Pot-Clay-Cookbook-Jenni-Shapter  It was originally Risotto with Chicken, but he left the chicken out, substituted chicken stock with beef stock.  I could have had the risotto as a meal all on it's own!  I will surely be investigating more risotto recipes!
The Beef Wellington came from Food Network's Tyler Florence.  We modified just a bit here too.  Instead of one big 3 pound hunk of beef we had 4 individual portions, wrapped individually.  We also substitued capers for the green peppercorns in the sauce recipe, because that's what our friend had recccomended.  Here is the link to the wellington:
The Ultimate Beef Wellington

Will I allow Dan in the kitchen again?  Oh heck yes!  In fact I think Sunday night dinner is the perfect meal for him to cook every Sunday!  Thoughts?
Thanks for stopping by :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

S is for Sound of Music

Let it be known that at a drop of a hat my siblings and I can burst into song or start quoting random movies.  Let it also be known that every time our mother puts a camera to her eye the 4 of us turn into squirming, hyped up toddlers and the woman has yet to get a decent picture of the 4 of us together.  We are absurd.  The small defense we have is our mother.  Now don't get me wrong, we all love, love, love our mother dearly, but the woman has yet to figure out how to work a camera.  Any camera.  It takes her at least 3 minutes to take one picture, and she usually wants to take 100 pictures.  Feel our pain?  The last time the 4 of us were together out came my mother's camera and there we all stood in our best Sound of Music poses.  Hands clasped with fingers interlocking, elbows out straight, ridiculous looks on our faces...then the singing began.  We were together for 5 days, not one "normal" picture of us.  Sorry Mum. 
OK, my point?  I recently stumbled upon this great artwork by Stephen Wildish and I knew I had to share. Link to His Artwork and Shop Here...Check it out!
Here are a few of my favorites.  How many can you name?
Curiouser, he didn't make one for the 70's?  Maybe it was a bad decade for movies.
S is for Sound of Music...only 25 left

Fun Huh?

Thanks for stopping by :)

Clean out the Veggie Drawer, Stuffed Peppers

First things first...
I know the idea of stuffed peppers is not a new one, but I was inspired to make mine from this recipe I found. My Inspiration Linked Here I just wanted to give credit for my inspiration, even though our recipes are different.
I also want to mention that there are no actual measurements for this recipe.  Unless there is a very specific recipe I am following, I am more of an eye ball chef.  If it looks good, probably going to taste good.
I originally planned on making these in the crockpot (I know it's cool to call it a slow cooker nowadays, but I've never been accused of being crockpot it is!), but they really should be cooked on low for 8-10 hours and I kept forgetting to put them in early enough.  At this point I had the peppers and didn't want them to go to waste, so I plunked them in the oven for 2 hours instead.
Here are the ingredients I pulled out of my fridge and freezer:
Couple packages of ground 99% ground turkey, baby spinach, mushrooms, carrots, a big fat onion, broccoli/cauliflower mix...from the freezer:  basil I froze from my garden this summer, some tomatoes that my Mum gave me from her garden, and some yummy-ummy chipotle pepper in adobo sauce.  The chipotle came in a little can.  I freeze it in a freezer bag and just break off little chunks to add to recipes.  It really adds some spice and a nice smoky flavor AND it really loves to be with basil.  These are the things that I had on hand, but any of your favorites will work.  I'm thinking some diced eggplant or zucchini will go nice too...but not this time!
So one of the bestest gifts my hubby ever gave me was my stand mixer.  Silly I know, but I love it.  He use to buy me jewelry or flowers until I finally told him that it was a waste of money and start buying me stuff I REALLY like.  Don't get me wrong, jewelry is nice, but I will maybe wear it 3 times a year and my mixer I use almost every do the math.  Anyway, I used a package and a half of ground turkey.  I think I was nervous I wouldn't have enough to fill the big ole peppers I bought, but I did.
Next I added veggies to my super duper blender/food processor.  You can chop veggies a fine or as big as you like, but we preferred them chopped up fine.  Everything I added was by the "handful".  Handful of carrots, handful of broccoli/cauliflower mix, whole onion.
Next it guessed it, a handful of frozen garden tomatoes, mushrooms, a BIG handful of baby spinach and some basil.  The smell of the tomatoes and basil coming from my blender made my mouth water!  Nothing, I mean nothing, beats a garden tomato.  The end.
I add all the chopped deliciousness to the ground turkey with a few hearty shakes of garlic powder and onion powder.  Later I realize I forgot black pepper, and mix it well.
Look how beautiful!  And it smells so good!  Mixture is now going into the gutted peppers.  I just cut the tops off the peppers and scooped out the insides and some of the ribbing and rinsed them.
Here are the peppers all stuffed and added to my pot.  This is my pot I use for pasta, but lucky me, it also can go in the oven!  The tops of my peppers looked to pretty to discard, so I kept them, cute huh?  There was also some leftover turkey/veggie mixture left over so I just plopped it down in between the peppers.  I added a 1/2 cup of water to make sure nothing burnt to the bottom.  I also sprayed the inside of the pot with cooking spray.  Now cover and place in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.  If you are crockpotting these I would cook them on low for 8-10 hours.
Here is the finished results!  Dinner is served!  My husband Dan, our oldest daughter Miranda and I ate these for a late night dinner last night.  I didn't make a side dish and I was nervous it wasn't enough food.  I was wrong, these were soooo filling!!  The little side scoop of meat filling was what cooked around the peppers.  A tasty little meatball.  When I asked Dan and Miranda what I should do differently if I made these again the answer they both gave was:  CHEESE!  OK, I was trying to keep it light, but they were right.  Dan suggested a slice or 2 of mozzarella halfway through the pepper...ummm ok! 
I also think next time I will use one package of ground turkey and add even more veggies.  I think it would also be good with some sauteed mushrooms and onions with a can of chopped tomatoes to top it off with after it's cooked.  Suggestions welcome.  What do you think?
As always, thanks for stopping by :)