Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Food Allergies

Poor Bella! We found out last week that she is allergic to milk! Usually you can subsitute the creamy with coconut or banana. Not for Bella, she is allergic to that too! So our newest challange is making all of her favorite foods dairy-free. This has presented some challanges as well as some successes. We have found a good amount of subsitutes for her. I think the most important is the "better then sour cream" and the dairy-free Ranch dressing! Bella is a big time dipper and a life without ranch is  not something she wants to deal with. Thank goodness we live in the northwest and have so many choices for alternitives! I will be posting some dairy free recipes soon and show you how we are adapting to this HUGE change for our dear Isabella.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2 Dollar Box

The Fire House Farm Stand by our house has these 2 dollar boxes that are filled with very ripe fruits and veggies. I thought it would be a fun challange to try to figure out what to do with the random assortment of produce.

1 small red bell pepper
1 small orange bell pepper
1 small green bell pepper
1 lime
1 parsnip
2 bananas
1 large head of broccoli
2 large artichokes
1 jalapeno pepper
2 large tomotoes
1 bunch mustard greens

I know... random! But  I knew I was up for the challange. First I assesed what was still usable. Luckily everything passes with the exception of a few of the greens. After staring at the box for a few minutes I figured it out.

-I took the peppers and diced them up as well as about 1/3 of the broccoli head and used them in tonights dinner, sweet and sour chicken meatballs (which is amazing by the way).

-The tomotoes and jalapeno  were chopped up with some onion and garlic I had at the house, juiced half of the lime and cooked it all into salsa.

-I took the parsnip and diced it up with some potatoes, onions and broccoli along with the greens and made an amazing potato broccoli soup.

-The bananas are being turned into banana zucchini bread.

-I am saving the artichokes for another meal later.

The sweet and sour meatballs were, as I said, dinner tonight. The soup was put into quart jars for lunch tomorrow. I am pretty excited because we have a loaf of sourdough bread the will go prefect with the soup. The banana bread will be for breakfast tomorrow morning. I am sure we will make scrambled eggs tomorrow and we can put our fresh salsa on top! Not bad for 2 dollars! I got dinner tonight, Breakfast and lunch tomorrow as well as condiments as a side dish for another meal! I don't know if they will have more 2 dollar boxes but I will have to keep checking!

Challange completed!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ever Had One of Those Days?

Today just about all of my cooking attempts failed. We tried to make Ravioli and the pasta dough was not working right.It kept ripping and tearing! So we got mad and threw that batch away. We tried it again and that time the dough was ok but after we got them filled that would not seal up right. we did the best we could and stuck them in the fridge to make for dinner. When we pulled them out they were no longer many ravioli but one big oozing glob. At this point we were really mad and tossed the lot of it and swore off homemade ravioli as a bad idea. I decided to make cheesy shells for dinner. This recipe starts out with making a rue. A rue is basicly a white sauce that you add cheese to (I'll post the recipe in a little bit). You start out by melting butter in a pan and adding flour and whisking together for about a minute before adding milk. Well, I got distracted getting the garlic ready and burned the butter! So after another trip to the trash can I took a moment, slowly breathed for about 2 minutes to calm myself down and tried again. Luckly this time I was able to get it all to work and had dinner on the table by 7 pm. Just as a point of refrerence We started dinner prep at 2pm. Also during this time Jacob was making bread. He got through all of the risings and even had it risen in the pans with no incident. He had the idea to use some of the extra egg wash from making the ill fated ravioli to brush on the bread. When he did the loves fell and after they were baked looked more like bricks and less like bread! So to sum it up we are pretty much done with cooking for a bit!

I share this with you to tell you all that sometimes even those who are "good" at cooking still have off days. Everyone messes up now and again and ya know what... it's OK! OK to burn things, OK to get it wrong, OK to fail. When we fail two things can happen. We can get mad at ourselves and never try again or we can learn from our mistakes and try again. I don't know when or if we will try to make homemade ravioli but at least we had something yummy for dinner instead. Thank goodness for store bought pasta!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What To Do With All Those Cucumbers!!!

After a long absence I have returned to doing some cooking! I am so excited. My cousin has a ton of cucumbers in her garden and has no idea what to do with them. We also have many cucumbers and have had fun doing all sorts of things with them. While we were talking last week she asked me to send her some recipes. So after I finished the e-mail I thought I might share them with you. I have collected them ove the years. Most are mine but a few I can't take credit for. The Cucumber Limeade recipe was given to me by a friend. The Cucumber soup is Julia Child's. I hope you have fun with your cucumbers!

Cucumber Limeade


  •  1 can frozen limeade
  •  1 2 litter bottle lemon lime soda
  •  1 small cucumber or 1/2 large cucumber

 Empty limeade concentrate into gallon pitcher. Add lemon lime soda and stir to combine. Firmly scrape washed cucumber lengthwise with a fork all the way around. slice Cucumber thinly and add to the limeade mixture. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


Tzatziki Sauce (Greek yougrat sauce)

  •  6 ounces plain yogurt
  •  1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
  •  Pinch salt
  •  4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  •  1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  •  5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

 This is great on Gyros. I like to put it on leftover meatloaf with tomatoes and feta cheese)




Refrigerator Pickles (This is more of a method the an exact recipe)


 Heat in a saucepan until very hot, not boiling

  •  1 cup white vinegar
  •  1 cup sugar
  •  1/2 cup salt
  •  4 cups of water

you might need a few batches of this depending on how many cucumber you are pickling.

In each quart jar put

  •  1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 dill head
  • 1 bay leaf

 Layer slices (or spears) of cucumbers on top of spices and pack well. Pour hot liquid in jars leaving 1/2 o so head space. Top wit ha lid and ring and let sit on counter till cooled. Once cooled shake to distribute spices and get out air bubbles. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 4 weeks.



Cucumber, Tomato, and Red Onion Salad

 (this one is super easy and the family I nanny for has me make this at least once a week year round!)

  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 smallish red onion (I have used white and yellow onions too but only 1/2 as much)
  • Raspberry vinaigrette

Peel, seed, and dice cucumbers, Seed and dice tomatoes. Dice red onion. combine with vinaigrette and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Toss and enjoy!

Greek salad

  •  1 cup cube tomatoes,
  • 1 cup cucumbers,
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper,
  • 1/2 cup red onion,
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar,
  • 1/4 cup olive oil,
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  •  a few leaves of fresh oregano
Combine first 4 ingrediants in a bowl. In separate bowl whisk together Vinegar, Oregano, and olive oil. Pour vinegar mixture over vegetables. top with some kalamata olives and the cheese.





Cucumber Soup

  •  1 1/2 lbs. cucumbers (3, about 8” long)
  •  2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed, dried, and finely choppe
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • salt and white pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced fresh dill, tarragon, or parsley

Peel, halve, and seed the cucumbers with a teaspoon. Cut 18 very thin slices with a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife and reserve them in a bowl for garnishing. Cut the rest of the cucumbers into half-inch chunks.

 Cook the leeks slowly in the butter for several minutes until tender but not browned. Add the cucumber chunks, potatoes, chicken broth, vinegar, and herbs. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partly covered, for 20-25 minutes. Purée with an immersion blender. Thin out with more broth if necessary; season carefully with salt and pepper.

 Just before serving, beat in 1/2 cup sour cream. Ladle into soup bowls, place a dollop of sour cream in each bowl, float slices of cucumber on top of the cream, and sprinkle with the herbs.



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Some Money Saving Tips

I was in my kitchen today putting things away and was thinking about all of the ways I try to save a few dollars here and there with some of the items I have in my kitchen. I thought I might share them with you.

Like most people who bake I love not having to smear shortening on my pans to grease them by using a Pam type spray. At 3 dollars or more each it can be a little pricey so I found this handy little contraption called the aero mister. You can fill it up with your own oil and pump it up and it sprays just like an aerosol can. I love it because I can put olive oil in it and use it for all of my oiling needs; greasing muffin pans, oiling a skillet before browning something, or spraying the waffle iron. Not only is it much cheaper the buying a lot of cans but it is not aerosol so it does not make me cough!! I got mine from Tupperware (big surprise) but pampered chef has one that is basically the same.

A lot of companys are selling soap in a foam variety boasting how it is saving money and on and on. Well sorry to tell you but you are being lied to. To get the soap to foam they need to water it down so instead of paying 4 dollars for a bottle of soap you are paying $4.50 for a bottle of 1/4 soap and 3/4 water. I have had this product called the Soaper Foamer for at least 10 years and it does the same thing for WAY less. You don't need to go buy the Soaper Foamer to get the same results. I am sure you all have a foamer bottle at your house. When it is empty just rinse it out, fill it 1/4 of the way up with regular soap (1/8 if you have concentrated soap) and fill to just below the foamer insert with SLOWLY running water. put the top on and gently tip back and forth in a swishing motion so the water and soap can combine without creating bubbles. The first few pumps are going to be a bit soapy but after that you will get a perfect foam. Just think, you can use the same soap with the foamer and save a lot. In the past year I have bought 1 bottle of dish soap. I got a bottle of palmolive ultra and put it in my foamer 1/8 full and the rest water and I am only refilling about once a month. So instead of paying up to 20 dollars or more on just soap I have spent $1.50!! (In full disclosure I have to admit I do buy the fancy soap for my bathroom. I just love the way it smells!)

Another tip I use is dish cloths. The initial investment is under 10 dollars and will last a lot longer the 10 dollars worth of paper towels. Now I am not knocking paper towels because I do use them but if I have dish cloths on hand I tend not to grab the paper towels as much.

Here are a few other tips I would like to share

  • go online and look up different spice blends. combining them yourself can save you a bit then going out and buying them pre-made.
  • buy your sponges and scratcher pads and the dollar tree. They only last so long so why spend a ton on them.
  • stick you sponges in the dishwasher every other day and they will stay a bit more smell free and last longer.
  • instead of spending money on wet swiffer sheets get a dish cloth wet and stick it on the swiffer sweeper (the thin ones do fit!) and wipe away. It works great on spilled rice, noodles and other sticky things you don't want to have to get down on you knees to wipe up.
  • become good friends with your dish rack. If you clean whatever dish right away with a small pump of soap foam you can quickly rinse it off and avoid using the dishwasher a ton and can save you money on your energy bill and expensive dish washing liquid.
  • try to use your counter top appliances when possible. They use a lot less energy and can cut down on you eclectic/gas bill.
  • buy meat in bulk, divide and freeze. An oldie but a goodie!!
  • When we shop for food we pre-plan a menu and make a shopping list for the items we need. We get paid at random times during the month so when we get one of the bigger paychecks we buy all of the pantry items for the next few weeks all at once. Then once a week we get the fresh dairy, produce and bread for that week. We have found we spend less on food and have more on hand.

But most important, do what works best for you family. These tips have helped me and I hope they can help you as well. If you have any fun tips I would love it if you would leave a comment with some of your favorites!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cheddar Scallion Bread

So I totally ripped the recipe off the food network website but I tried it and it is by far the BEST cheesy bread EVER!!! Really, everyone needs to try this. It's awesome!!!

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or coarsely grated
6 ounces butter, at room temperature
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (1 pound) loaf ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a food processor, combine the cheese and butter. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add the scallions and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the cheese mixture on the cut sides of the bread. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden.
Using a serrated knife, cut the bread into 1-inch thick slices and serve.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hot Weather Dinner Ideas

With all this hot weather we are having I thought I would give you all some ideas on what to serve for dinner when you just can't bring yourself to turn on that stove.

One of the things I tend to do is get a lot of use out of my counter top appliances that rarely see the light of day. We have a GT XPRESS 101 and when we first got it we used it all the time but now it just takes up space in the cupboard. So on really hot days like this week we pull it out, dust it off and away we go.

We also get out our George Foreman Grill. We use it to grill veggies and meats. We also use it to make panini sandwiches.

But my three mainstays are my crock pot, microwave, and my toaster oven. Without those three items in my kitchen I don't know what I would do!!

So with all that in mind here are some menu ideas and a few recipes to help you all through this hot spell. (Also using counter top appliance's saves money too. Did you know it only costs 3 cents an hour to use a crock pot!!)

Lets start with what I like to call "no heat and eat" meals

  • Salad Bar- Get all of your favorite salad items together and have a salad making party!!

  • Sandwich Bar- Similar concept to the Salad Bar, just switch up the bed of lettuce for bread.

  • Leftover night- Clean out you fridge onto your table and provide forks!! Great for game night.

Next I would like to share some things I like to do with my GT Express 101. Since it can cook on the top and bottom it really does cook things fast but the only problem I have with it is it can be a bit too hot so I tend to stay away from things that require a longer cooking time. But we really like to cook pita pizzas in there. You cut a pita in half, fill it with whatever you love on a pizza, stick it in the wells and let it cook for about 7 mins and serve with a salad. It's a hit every time.

Our George Foreman grill is really handy for heating up hot dogs, making grilled cheese sandwiches, cooking up hamburgers and even butterfly cut chicken. we never do full chicken breasts because the burn on the outside and are not cooked on the inside. A a rule we don't put things in there more then 1/2 inch thick to insure even cooking. I think it cooks a bit hot as well.

Now with the Crock pot, you can do just about anything. I have made everything from cakes to stews to casseroles. You can do side dishes or even desserts. On Sunday I made enchiladas in my crock pot. I just layered up the corn tortillas, meat ,cheese and sauce like I was making a lasagna and cooked it on high for 3 hours and it was perfect. You can make lasagna as well. just layer it up, make sure you use a tad bit more sauce the you normally would and cook it on high for 4 hours and you're golden.

On to the toaster oven. What is there to say about the toaster oven. We love it and use it almost every day. Just tonight for family night we made cookies even thought is was 90+ outside and did not heat up the house. We make french fries, cheese sticks, garlic bread, cookies, mini cakes, broiled meats, leftover pancakes and waffles, and heating up leftover pizza (this one is my favorite, I have never liked putting leftover pizza in the microwave and heating the whole oven for 1 slice of pizza is not a great idea), you name it. If you don't have one I would suggest going and getting one. Trust me they are worth it!

And last but not least the Microwave. I have done some pretty amazing things in my microwave. I guess it helps that I have really good microwave cookware given to me by my mom from Tupperware!! One kind is called a stack cooker.

I don't think Tupperware makes them anymore which is a shame because it is really cool. I have seen them on e-bay, and at thrift stores. I bought one for my sister at Value village for about 10 bucks. It originally was I think 60!

You can load up the different layers with different parts of dinner and cook them all at once. For example, our favorite dish is the stack cooker is meatloaf, potatoes and peach cobbler.

So 1st you take the largest cooker and layer sliced Yukon gold potatoes (DON'T use russet, they will not be done in time!!!) about 2 inches up, takes about 3 potatoes and mix up a packet of brown gravy mix and pour it on top (don't precook the gravy) then put on top the next size smaller cooker. Then on top of that put the strainer cooker (looks the same as all the others but had slots on the bottom. Take your favorite meatloaf recipe and shape it into a ring and put into the cooker. The cooker underneath catches all the grease from the meatloaf. So not only is it fast but really healthy. Next put on the smallest cooker add 1 can sliced peaches and a batch of jiffy mix white cake mix. Pop on the top and microwave for 20 mins. Make a salad and you have an AMAZING dinner while you were busy doing something else.

I hope I have at least started you imagination. Happy cooking!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mac and Cheese

I have had a request for my recipe for Mac and cheese. It is really simple but our family loves it!

1 pound cooked macaroni noodles
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded
1 cup jack cheese shredded
1 cup pepper jack cheese shredded
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 to 1 cups milk
pepper to taste

in a large dutch oven melt butter on med high temp. let Butter brown slightly (that gives it a slightly nutty taste) whisk in flour and continue to whisk until there are no lumps. let cook for about a minute or two to cook out the floury taste. Whisk in milk about 1/2 cup at a time. As the flour absorbs the milk it will start to thicken quickly so keep the milk in hands reach. continue to add the milk slowly, whisking well each time until it is a smooth consistency, can coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and with a wooden spoon stir in the cheese, one cup at a time. continue to stir until all cheese is melted and mixture is smooth again. Add macaroni and stir to coat. Pour mixture into a well greased 13x9 pan. You can top with bread crumbs, crushed potato chips, crushed corn flakes or more cheese. Bake at 375 for 30 to 45 mins or until crusty on top.

Well there it is I hope you like it.

Sub. for cake flour

I just learned a new trick I thought I would share with you. I hope you can use it.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1To make two cups of cake-and-pastry flour (cake flour), combine 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup cornstarch; proceed with your recipe.
2The easiest way to do this substitution is to put 2 tbsp of cornstarch in the bottom of a 1-cup measuring cup, then fill the cup as usual with all-purpose flour and level top. Repeat process to get your two cups.
3If you only need 1/2 cup of cake flour, put 1 tbsp cornstarch in bottom of 1/2 cup measuring cup, then fill and level as above.

I am going to attempt this tomorrow when I try to make a sponge type strawberry shortcake. Wish me luck!!

Monday, June 22, 2009


So, this last week our local berry farm "Spooners" opened up for their annual strawberry harvest. Well for those of you not around the Pacific northwest, Spooners are the BEST strawberries on the planet!! They are grown here and you can even go to the farm on Yelm Highway and pick them yourself! We usually go every year but with a crawler in the family, we decided the sandy strawberry patch was not the best place to go so we bought a flat at the farmers market.

When we brought them home Bella was so excited about all the strawberries. She was such a big help in processing them too. I pinched off the tops with my fingers (messy, I know but it gets the job done better then the strawberry topper thing I have) and put them in the strainer to be rinsed after they were rinsed, Bella, who was standing on a chair, would grab one and slice it with the egg slicer and stick the slices in a bowl. I told her that if she did not eat any strawberries while we were making jam then when we were done we should make strawberry shortcake with whip cream. That did the trick! She never ate one strawberry!!.

Well this year I decided to make cooked jam. I have never done jam cooked before, I always have been a freezer jam person. But we have been really focusing of food storage lately so I thought I would give cooed jam a whack. I got some pectin that was really interesting. It was called no sugar needed. It is used for making sugar free jam. I thought this would be great since the berries are really sweet already so I would not need to add sugar. Well, I cooked the berries according to the instructions and bottled it and canned it. Which was really easy by the way! The batch yielded 6 pints with about 1/2 cup leftover. I but the 1/2 cup in the fridge for breakfast the next morning.

The next morning came and we were sitting down for breakfast and tried the jam for the first time cold. When it was hot it tasted just fine. a little tart but not too bad. But, cold it was REALLY tart. So much so that I had to mix in some sugar. So in the future when we open the jars of jam we will need to add a bit of sugar so it will taste good!! Live and learn!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

What to make for dinner when you can't make dinner

I know I have not posted anything lately but I honestly have not been cooking lately. My poor neck had been acting up and with all the pain meds I am on, putting together a meal takes WAY to much brain power. So I thought I would write about my saving grace. The only way I ever get through these patches of ill health is to be prepared. During regular days when I cook, we always set an extra place at the table. That place it Jacob's lunch container. That way he always has a lunch. For some unknown reason he would rather go hungry then pack his own lunch. So packing up dinner leftovers ensures he has something to eat the next day at work. But every so often I make a HUGE dinner. Sometimes I can't help it. It usually happens when I make casserole, enchiladas, or lasagna. We ALWAYS have a ton of leftovers. Sometimes enough for at least two more meals. I put them in a large container and freeze them for later use.
So this past week or so, we have been living on our frozen leftovers, boxed mac and cheese and Pb&j. So far we have survived pretty well. Although I found the boxed mac and cheese did not settle well with Bella. She has had a bad reaction to it. I like to think it is a testament to how she normally eats. The over processed nature of Kraft Mac and Cheese is something she has never had before. Whenever we have mac and cheese I make it myself. The only time she has ever had boxed mac and cheese it has been Annie's organic, all natural.
The next big project we are going to do as soon as I am feeling better is the make homemade egg rolls. We have done it before and really have fun doing it. So that is what I will blog about next. Thanks for sticking with me. Lets hope my neck get better soon. For more details on that check out my Family Blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quick Hint

Whenever you bake something with flour half it with whole wheat flour. It will add a bit of fiber and nutrition to what you make! (Even Cookies!!)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Recipes I submited for the Family Cookbook

I thought I might share the recipes I submited for the family cookbook. They are not too great but my family loves them. I have a lot more to share but I don't have a ton of time to type them all out. Well anyway, here they are. I hope you enjoy them.

Caramel apple pie
5 apples
¼ cup butter
½ batch of Homemade Caramel warm or 30 premade wrapped caramels, warm
Prepared pie shell

Peel, core, and slice apples. Cook in a medium sauce pan with butter. When apples are about halfway cooked Add caramel and stir. When caramel is melted pour mixture in a prepared pie shell. Add top crust. Cut slits in top crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 mins. Serve with caramel or vanilla ice cream.

Banana “Sushi”
2 slices of bread with or without crust
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 medium banana

Overlap bread slices by about ½ inch. Roll out with a rolling pin. Spread out peanut butter. Roll bread around banana. Slice into circles ½ to 1 inch thick.

Chili and Cornbread Crockpot meal

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
1 can diced chilies
2 cans store bought chili
1 can diced tomatoes
1 package of jiffy cornbread mix or ½ batch scratch cornbread

Sauté ground beef, onion, garlic, and chilies in a large high sided skillet until ground beef is brown and onions are soft. Add canned chili and tomatoes. Pour into 4 qt. crock pot.
Mix cornbread as directed on package or homemade recipe. Carefully spread cornmeal mix over chili. Set crock pot to high and cook of about 4 hour or until toothpick inserted into the middle of the cornbread comes out clean.

Asparagus and Swiss cheese chicken

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in half
4 slices Swiss cheese
12 spears of asparagus
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ cup chicken broth
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Sandwich chicken breast half in between two pieces of plastic and with either a meat mallet of small frying pan pound chicken breast until less the ½ inch thick. Repeat with remaining 3 chicken pieces. Place 1 slice of Swiss cheese on the cut side of the chicken, on one side add 3 asparagus spears and roll chicken up. Using 3 toothpicks close roll up.
In a small bowl mix remaining ingredient. Pour cream soup mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 pan place chicken rolls on sauce bed. Spoon some sauce over chicken. Bake uncovered in a 375 degree oven of 35 mins or until chicken is done. Let cool in pan of 10 mins. Remove toothpicks and spoon more sauce over the chicken. Serve with your favorite salad and rolls.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ground Beef Extravaganza‏

So this past weekend we went to a store in Tumwater we don't normally go to. They had a great sale on Ground beef. We got almost 10 lbs for $16.00. I was pretty excited. We took it home and divided it up into packets in freezer bags. We are going to get at least 20 meals out of it. If the meals make leftovers and we have those leftovers for lunch that is a possible 40 meals just out of 10 lbs of meat. We have always tried to eat meat sparingly and have our main diet be fruits, veggies, and grains.
I have a ton of things I do with ground beef. they are not all recipes but mostly "methods of meal making" as I call it. You can take the same ingredients and put them together in different ways substituting as you go and have many wonderful, filling, healthy meals for your family.

For example, take ground beef, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, saute it up and that is the base mix. The world of dinner making is at you finger tips now. combine that mix with any kind of wet flavorful substance, i.e. tomato paste, cream soup, beef stock, soy sauce, whatever, have a starch/grain (potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, etc) and additional veggies and you have a grand slam dinner in the making. No real recipe needed. Just use your creativity and have fun. It is almost always going to turn out awesome. Here are just a few of my quick dinners with my beef basic mix. ( You could also do the same thing with chicken, pork, or game. Whatever you have on hand.)

If you saute the beef, onions, celery, and garlic add tomato paste, ketchup, water and hot sauce plus whatever seasonings sound good to you and serve it on bread you have sloppy Joe's, you can take the same mixture and nix the ketchup and add Italian seasonings, canned tomatoes and put over pasta and have spaghetti. you can also take the leftover sauce and add beef stock and frozen mixed veggies and barley and have Veggie Beef soup. That is the tomato method.

Another method uses cream soup instead. You can make strogonoff, or creamy beef veggie soup. One thing I do that my family loves is I take the base mix, ground beef, onions, celery, and garlic mix it with milk and cream of mushroom soup and layer it between peeled sliced potatoes. Or you can pour the whole mix in a casserole dish and top with mashed potatoes and you have Shepard's pie.

Also you can take the base mix and add soy sauce and corn syrup and ginger add stir fry veggies and put over rice, stir fry skillet I call it and it is great. I like to use the corn syrup because it leaves a hint of sweet and helps the sauce be a little glossier without having to add cornstarch and sugary stir fry sauces.

Like I said be creative. Anything goes! Have fun with making dinner and include your kids. They might just eat better it they help make dinner. at least that is what they tell me. Someone should clue Isabella in. She will cook with me till the cows come home and still not eat dinner. Oh well, this too shall pass!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Quick Hint-Rising Bread

When I am making bread and need it to rise quickly I use this tip I am happy to say I thought up all by myself. I fill my sink about 2 inches with really hot water and stick in inverted cereal bowl in the water and put my bowl of dough on it and cover the entire sink with a towel and let it rise. The dough kind of steams a bit and since it it nice an moist and warm in there it rises in half the time. It works so well I use that trick every time I make bread.

Baked French Toast

Today we made baked french toast. It was really good. We took a few pieces of bread and ripped them up and made a mixture of 2 eggs, milk, a little bit if cinnamon, sugar and vanilla. We put it in a pie pan an baked it for 25 mins at 350. When it was done we topped it with a little butter and syrup. It was really good. I just put it together and stuck it in the oven and got the girls ready for the day. It was really simple and such a fun change a pace from cold cereal.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Summer Skirts

Every summer I love wearing skirts. This year Isabella is noticing all of my skirts and wants some of her own. So my newest project it to design and make a few skirts for her. I know I won't get them done before her birthday but I think I could have them done before it gets too warm. I am wondering if anyone has any fun pattern idea for the skirts. I already have a pleated skirt half done but I am not too creative when it come designing things from scratch. So any ideas would be great.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thoughts on fried rice and grilled cheese sandwiches

I read a really interesting article today about fried rice. I was looking for a recipe for fried rice and came upon this Asian chef's blog. He said several of his friends have asked him for a really good recipe for fried rice. And the thought amused him. In Asia when they make fired rice it is not anything special. In Thailand, their version "fried rice" translated is "leftovers". It is more of a method the an exact recipe. You have leftover rice, meat or on meat, some kind of veggie and you fry it up in a hot wok add an egg, you got fried rice. he said the only trick is to have everything kind of dry. If it is too wet the rice would stick.

It reminded me of our American grilled cheese sandwich. We all have our own way of making it but never really follow a recipe for it. This past weekend in California they had a grilled cheese sandwich contest. The Idea was really interesting to me. Check out this really fun site about the contest. I love a good grilled cheese but we have an ongoing dispute in my family on the best way to prepare one. I think butter on the outside of the bread and just plain Cheddar on the inside is the best way to make it. My mother on the other hand swears by putting miracle whip in between the cheese and bread. My Mother in law has just plain cheese on the inside and puts miracle whip in the outside of the bread. I am sure you all have your favorite way to make it as well. We might all think ours is the best. I think it might be best to agree to disagree!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hits and Misses

On this blog I am really looking forward to sharing some of the things I am good at. But I am also human and liable to make mistakes. So I thought I would share some of my misses as well as my hits.

Well tonight was a miss. I made chili in the crock pot. I soaked the beans overnight Friday and cooked the beans on Saturday. Today I put in all of the ingredients I usually do but I think I did not put in enough corn flour, which I use to help thicken the chili since I use tomato juice as a base. Well it never thickened up and was more like chili soup. Before I knew the chili flopped I decided to use a Jiffy mix for cornbread instead of making it from scratch like I usually do. Well, when I took it out of the pan it stuck. Then as I tried to scrape it out of the pan in crumbled all over the place. So for all of my shortcuts and underestimating of ingredients I had to serve my family watery chili and crumbled cornbread. I think you can imagine I was pretty disappointed. But my loving husband made the best of it. He took his crumbly cornbread and stirred it into his soupy chili and loved it.
Mental note- shortcuts on cornbread bad... supportive husband very very good!!

Quick Hint- Cutting Apples

I was making an apple pie for Sunday night dinner. I cut the apples up and needed to get something else done so I put them in a bowl of cold water to keep them from browning. The apples kept floating to the top as apples do so I put a plate on top of them and it held the apples under water. No brown apples!

What to do with leftover BBQ fixin's

On Friday we had a family BBQ. Well, it was going to be a BBQ but the baby decided to take a 3 hour nap and by the time she woke up the sun had gone down and it cooled off too much to cook outside. But we still enjoined ourselves with an indoor BBQ.

Saturday I was going to fix dinner and I had a fun idea. I am sure a lot of people have done this before but I thought I would share it anyway. We had a lot of leftover baked beans, two hot dogs 3 hot dog buns and some peas. I cut up the hot dogs into little circles and mixed them in the baked beans with a little BBQ sauce. I heated the up in the microwave. I also heated up the peas. I took the hot dog buns and turned them into garlic toast by mixing butter, garlic powder, and parsley and spreading it on the buns. I stuck them in the toaster oven and everything was done in about 5 minutes. I took some of the peas and mashed them up for the baby and after setting the table it took a total of 10 minutes to get diner done. I love leftovers!

What are some of your leftover BBQ masterpieces?

Friday, April 24, 2009

How to make bar cookies with veggies!

I know what you are thinking, but using veggies in a bar cookies is an awesome way to get your kids to eat more of the green stuff. I made these today and my kids (yes, even the baby!) LOVE them. I packed them as full of good stuff as I could. I got the original recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook. But of course I made some adjustments.

I'll post the original recipe then my substitutions.

Original Recipe Carrot Zucchini Bars

Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
Oven: 350°F
Makes: 36 bars
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot (about 3 medium)
1 cup shredded zucchini (about 1 medium)
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 recipe Citrus-Cream Cheese Frosting

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, ginger, and baking soda. In another large bowl stir together eggs,carrot, zucchini, brown sugar, raisins, walnuts,oil, honey, and vanilla. Add carrot mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Spread batter in an un greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

2. Bake about 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Frost with Citrus-Cream Cheese Frosting. Cut into bars.

Citrus-Cream Cheese Frosting: In a bowl beat one 8-ounce package softened cream cheese and 1 cup powdered sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Stir in 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel.

Leahona's Carrot Zucchini Bars
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 T milled flax seed
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t baking soda
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 c zucchini finely shredded
1 1/2 c carrots finely shredded
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c diced dried plums (but raisins are just as good, I happened to be out of them at the time)
1/2 c large apple shredded (sub. for walnuts- babies can't have nuts)
1/2 c applesauce
1 t vanilla
1/4 c corn syrup (the only reason I sub. the honey is Babies can't have honey till age 1. I have found corn syrup makes a great sub for honey in most recipes)

Prepare same as original

I must confess, I used store bought cream cheese frosting. Adding whole wheat flour, dried plums (I only call them that because it sounds way better then prunes!) flax seed, and omitting the oil and adding applesauce I think helps the bar cookies really become a bit healthier.

I hope you take the challenge and slip some veggies in you cookies! Trust me, it's great!

ps. The serving size is 36 bars per pan.

Welcome to Hona's Helpful Hints!!!


I have started this second blog because I have gotten several requests to share my hints and ideas for things. On this blog I will put my favorite recipes, recipes alterations, hints and techniques and just share what I have learned in the magical art of homemaking. I know I still have much to learn and I welcome any sharing of hints, ideas or whatever! I hope this can be a place of learning, growing and sharing. I hope to learn just a much if not more from you as you do from me.

Bon Apetites!


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