Monday, September 6, 2010

Make it Yourself Monday- Pizza

We make pizza around here A LOT, and it's one of the ways we save a bunch of money. Since we make it several times a week, I've experimented with many different crust and sauce recipes. This week we tried a new crust, Tammy's Matzah Pizza Crust. I didn't change anything besides mixing whole wheat flour in for part of the flour. I'm a total thin crust girl, and I loved it.

Just mix up and knead the dough (I used my hands, although next time I'll use the bread machine) and roll it out flat. I used a plate to cut it into individual pizzas.


The picture doesn't show it, but you need to prick the dough with a fork. Then pre bake for 7 minutes on 375.


Add sauce (maybe I'll post my homemade pizza sauce for next weeks MIYM- could I possibly post two weeks in a ROW?!), cheese and toppings. Although I'll be totally honest- the sauce on this pizza was from a leftover jar of spaghetti sauce that needed to be used up.


Bake until the edges get golden brown. I ended up needing to broil for just a minute to fully cook the onions.

I have no picture of the finished pizzas, but the boys in my house seemed to approve.

DSC07376 DSC07383

Visit Eat From Your Pantry for more homemade inspiration.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Watch Our Garden Grow- Harvesting Strawberries!


Our strawberry plants have begun producing juicy, red strawberries!


Each morning Jack and I head outside to see what strawberries on our plants are ready to be picked (and eaten- they rarely make it inside!). I'm a beginner at the whole gardening thing, but here's what I do know about picking strawberries...

- Pick strawberries when they are a deep red color (they won't really ripen off the plant like some other fruits).

- To prevent bruising snap the stem above the berry.

- Handle strawberries carefully, as they bruise easily.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Make it Yourself Monday- Cheese Crackers

We love our Goldfish around here... but not only are they expensive, they're full of preservatives that probably aren't the best for my kiddos. So, I adapted this recipe for Crispy Cheese Crackers from Laura at Heavenly homemakers to suit our tastes and also to make puffy crackers rather than crispy ones. :)

Wheat Cheese Crackers

1 cup whole wheat flour*

1/2 t sea salt

4 T cold butter, cut into pieces

1.5 C shredded cheddar cheese

4 T water (or as much needed to make a smooth dough ball)

In a food processor pulse flour and salt to combine. Add butter and cheese and pulse until crumbly.


Add water a little at a time and pulse until a ball of dough forms (this takes a few minutes).


Place dough in refrigerator for an hour or so (this helps them puff up more, I've read).


Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment or wax paper until it's about 1/8" thick. I'm very bad at this and my edges are always paper thin, and therefore very... crispy. :) Cut into squares with a pizza cutter or use cookie cutters to make fun shapes.


Transfer to baking sheet, and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes (until golden brown). Turn the oven off and let sit for 30 minutes or so. When cool, break apart.


Here the stars I made for something later this week.


*In one batch I used 1/2 unbleached all purpose flour and 1/2 whole wheat, in the other I used all whole wheat. Other than the darker color, I couldn't tell a difference.

My toddler loves these, and, quite frankly , so do I!

Check out Eat From Your Pantry to see other ideas of things you can make yourself!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My apron

I finally finished a project I've been wanting to do FOREVER- an apron! I didn't use a pattern, just looked at lots of aprons online and decided what I wanted mine to look like!


I made pleats for the first time ever, edged the top with bias tape I made, and lined the bottom with an old towel for easy hand wiping.


I must say, there's little to make you feel more domestic than wearing an apron while you cook.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Seafood Bisque

A few weeks ago I got an intense craving for oh so yummy, but not so good for you, seafood bisque. I happened to be in the grocery store to pick up something, and I did something I don't often allow myself- splurged and bought the seafood for the soup right there on the spot! I love me some creamy soup.

This is one of my favorite things that I remember my dad making when I was growing up- and I still request it on Christmas Day whenever we're with my parents for Christmas. I don't know his exact recipe, but I think this is pretty close.

I made a BIG pot, so I'd have plenty to heat up for leftover lunches this week. :-)

And without delay...

Papa Jack's Seafood Bisque (as remembered by Tori)

2 Cans Cream of _____ Soup (or you can make your own!)

1 1/2 C Chicken Stock

2 C Milk

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 t minced garlic

6 oz each Crab, Shrimp, Scallops (or whatever you have/ whatever your spouse will eat :)

Salt and Pepper to taste

I didn't get a good picture, so you'll just have to trust me that it was great! Even Jack ate some, and he's not really a soup kind of kid.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Beginning our spring garden

This is the first year that I'll get to have a garden. Last year I wanted to, but I was pretty pregnant and tired, so I just did some window box plants. I'm so excited, but a little scared that I might flop. I'm starting most of our plants from seeds, and figure they're pretty cheap, so if they don't grow, at least I can buy plants later.

I took the boys to pick up supplies for our garden the other day. I had intended to use a tutorial I found to make newspaper seed pots, but then I just broke down and bought a big jiffy pot planter. Jack saw this Veggie Tales planter set that he liked, so I bought him his very own little garden (it helped that I had a $10 off of $20 K-Mart coupon and I was close but not quite at the $20 mark). He LOVED planting his very own seeds, and has been very attentive- and maybe a little TOO enthusiastic about watering and checking for "baby planties!"gardening

I was very impressed with K-Mart's selection of seeds, by the way. I was able to get mostly heirloom varieties of my favorite veggies. So far I've planted sugar snap peas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, big tomatoes, lavender, thyme, basil, oregano, chives, and parsley. I used an egg carton for some of my herbs. I have a few other varieties of seeds that will either be planted into the ground, or planted indoors later to be hot weather plants. So maybe I'll get around to making those newspaper pots after all. Jack planted a variety of wide flowers, sunflowers, lavender and a tiny strawberry plant- we'll see on that one. :)

Hopefully I'll be able to share lots of good news about our garden adventuring this year.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mikey's Favorite Noodle Soup

One Pot Wonders

My husband's favorite soup used to be kind of an enigma to me. But now I've been making it for a few years, and I've come to realize it's the perfect pantry meal- pretty much anything you can It's basically mashed potatoes with soup over it.


Here's what I do. I can't really write a recipe, because it's never done the same way twice. Take whatever cooked, shredded or chopped meat you have on hand, add it to some simmering broth, and throw in cooked pasta and some veggies. I think Mike would love it if I'd leave out the veggies, but I love him too much to do that. :-) Then, layer the soup over hot mashed potatoes in a bowl.

I have to say, it's yummy. Who knew soup over potatoes would actually be good?! This time I used shredded chicken and turkey, because I didn't have enough of just one. I also used chicken broth and ham stock I had frozen, along with a random assortment of veggies.

How do you do noodle soup?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fun with Rice

Alternately titled: Why I'm still finding rice in Jack's thick hair


Around here, food's not just for eating! Last week my friend Cheryl and her littles came by to use my sewing machine. Looking for a few minutes to work on her project, I set out the rice sensory bucket for the two bigger kids. This time they decided throwing rice would be more fun then playing with it. :-)


Lucky for me, they also enjoyed "cleaning" it up. :-)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Make It Yourself Monday- Cream Soup

So my friend Anjanette over at Eat From Your Pantry is hosting a new weekly carnival! The focus is on making something that is commonly bought pre-made. I've been meaning to post about making homemade condensed cream of _____ soup, so this is the perfect occasion!

I make lots of casseroles, and cream of chicken or mushroom soup is a large part of many casseroles. Although I can usually get it pretty cheap, the canned stuff has so much sodium along with preservatives and other icky stuff in it. While I still use it when I can get it for free or close to free, I'm moving towards filling my kiddos with more real food, and less chemicals, so I tried my hand at this recently. It turned out great, and would be a good recipe even for someone who simply realized they were out of the condensed soup needed for a recipe. I found a couple of examples online, and experimented until I got the recipe as I liked it.

Homemade Cream of _____ Soup (makes the equivalent of 2 cans)

2 T olive oil

2 T butter

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 t onion powder

1/4 t garlic powder

1/4 t salt

1/8 t pepper

1/8 t paprika

2 cups milk or chicken broth

Heat butter and oil then add flour and spices. Cook to make a roux. Add milk (or chicken broth) and stir until thickened. You may add 1/4 or so of cooked mushrooms, celery or shredded chicken (etc.), if desired.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fall Nostalgia?

While I'm definitely busy celebrating the fact that Spring might actually come this year (was anyone else in doubt?!), I took one look at all the leftover cans of pumpkin in my pantry today and had to try some pumpkin cookies. Here's what I came up with!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 C flour

3/4 C brown sugar

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t nutmeg

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t salt

1/2 C butter (room temp)

1/4 C coconut oil

1 egg, beaten

1 C pumpkin puree

1 1/2 C oats

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In your food processor (or by hand) mix flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Add butter and oil and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Add pumpkin and egg. Stir in oats by hand (I had to transfer to a large bow, since my food processor wasn't big enough). Drop spoonfuls onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 12-15 minutes.

No picture, because the batch I made up was gone too soon! The rest of the batter is sitting in my fridge waiting to be baked, because a certain 5 month old is soooo fussy today, I couldn't finish baking! :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tomato Potato Soup

Sorry for my bloggy absence! After the great sickness of 2010, the little boys and I headed down to Florida to visit my parents, drive to NC for my uncle's retirement service, and so I could go into my office a couple of days. Sickness then vacation= no cooking!

I finally got back to it last night, and here is what we had... no pictures because I was too lazy to go find my camera. :-)

We have lots of potatoes that need to be eaten, so many of our meals this week and next will feature potatoes. I also had an opened giant can of diced tomatoes from Sams Club, so this was definitely a use what you have kind of meal.

Tomato Potato Soup

1 T butter

1 T flour

1 onion, chopped

2 T minced garlic

4 C potatoes (I had half already mashed, half raw diced)

1 C celery, diced

2 carrots, shredded or chopped

2 C zucchini, shredded or chopped

1 T Italian seasoning

2 C milk

2 C diced tomatoes (or I think 1 14 oz can would work)

1 C chicken broth

1/2 c tomato puree

salt to taste

Melt butter in a large pan, add in flour and cook for 3 minutes. Add in veggies, garlic, and Italian seasoning, and saute until slightly tender. Add all other ingredients, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low 20-30 minutes. I then blended the soup so it would be smooth, but you could certainly leave it chunky!

I served the soup with homemade croutons, made from a loaf of bread I stuck in the freezer before we left town so it wouldn't go bad. They topped the soup off perfectly! The potatoes made it creamy, almost like it had cream in it, without a potato-y taste. I just ate some for lunch, and it was even better the second time!

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Kitchen Helpers

Thought you guys might like a look at my kitchen helpers! My boys, in general, are pretty great about entertaining themselves while I play in the kitchen, and even "helping!"

Jack will either play "maydo" (playdough) or do other artsy things at the kitchen table while I cook, or play "painting" in the sink. This involves a sink full of bubble water, plastic and wooden cooking utensils, and paint brushes.


Charlie is my constant companion in everything. As a nursing baby, we are rarely out of each others' site for more than a few moments. The kid will probably be able to peel a carrot before he can walk because he's usually right up in the action. Situated either in a sling or in the highchair, Charlie is a great sport about just hanging with me in the kitchen.


Yep, I'm a lucky mama to have two great kitchen helpers!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Once a Month Cooking- Admitting Defeat

Here's an update of what I accomplished over the weekend. My plans got deterred with two sick littles, and now Mama's the one who's sick! I'm taking it very slow, but determined to finish at least a few more meals. I've even gotten a few done this morning! Things may not have gone exactly as planned, but I'll still end up with several meals for the freezer, and the components for others.

Prep Day #2- Saturday

Sams Club Shopping Trip

Mix pizza dough (for frozen crust dough and sandwich pockets)

Mix pretzel dough

Cook 4 lbs ground beef

Cook bacon

Taco Meat

Sloppy Joe Meat


Cooking Day- Sunday

Bacon Cheeseburger Rollups


Breakfast Burritos

BBQ Chicken Wraps


Cooking Day 2- Monday (Today)/ Tuesday

Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti

Italian Mac n Cheese

Southwest Mac n Cheese

Pizza Pockets

Ham and Cheese Pockets

Pizza Stuffed Pretzels

Tuna Bake

Ham Fettuccini Bake

Form & cook meatballs

Popcorn Chicken


Taking Off the List (for this month):

Shepherds Pie (ran out of ground beef)

Asian Pork Dumplings (didn't get wonton wrappers)

Crab Cakes

Tuna Cakes


Make Later in the Week:


Pancake Mix

Muffin Mix

Friday, January 29, 2010

Once A Month Cooking Plan

This weekend I embark on my once a month cooking adventure! After eating from our pantry and freezer for a month, I'm ready to fill them back up! My list is pretty ambitious, I won't lie. I may not get to it all (compounded by the fact that as of today I have a sick little baby to take into account).

I know the key to my success is to plan ahead, so my first half is actually prep work! I have decided to admit defeat and realize that while I'd like to make from scratch as much as possible, I do plan on purchasing a large package of tortillas at the store tomorrow. Originally on my to-do list, I simply don't have the time to make them. I think it's important to realize that, like balancing family time, cooking isn't an all or nothing thing. Sometimes holding a snotty little baby is more important than slaving over a rolling pin.

One of the things I'm doing differently this time is to specifically make lunch items for both me and Mike. This should make it easier to not only pack his lunch, but make sure that I'm eating nutritiously during the day, too, something I definitely need to work on.

Prep Day #1 (completed this past Tuesday & Friday)

Cook & shred 4 lbs chicken

Cook & shred 3 lbs pork

Bake sandwich bread (4 loaves)

Boil spaghetti, penne and rotini

Prep Day #2- Saturday

Sams Club Shopping Trip

Mix pizza dough (for frozen crust dough and sandwich pockets)

Mix pretzel dough

Cook 4 lbs ground beef

Cook bacon

Cut 2 lbs raw chicken into cubes (for Popcorn Chicken)

Form & cook meatballs


Overnight Saturday-Sunday

Make Fruit Leather and Dried Fruit


Cooking Day- Sunday (Haven't sat down to figure out the order yet, though...)


Asian Pork Dumplings

Italian Mac n Cheese

Southwest Mac n Cheese

Tuna Bake

Ham Fettuccini Bake

Shepherds Pie

Popcorn Chicken

Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Taco Wraps

Sloppy Joe Meat

Taco Meat



Bacon Cheeseburger Rollups


Crab Cakes

Tuna Cakes

Pizza Pockets

Ham and Cheese Pockets

Pizza Stuffed Pretzels




Pancake Mix

Muffin Mix

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Homemade Orange Peel Jam

I said in this thrifty tips post that I wanted to try making Orange Peel Jam, and this was the weekend! I was pretty scared, to tell you the truth, because I hadn't been able to find an actual "recipe" online. Just, cut off the white parts of the peel, cook with sugar and water, then put in the refrigerator and... JAM! I was a little weary with the lack of, you know, measuring.

But, I've been saving orange peels for about a week, and wanted to use them. So I took a deep breath, and here's what I did...

Orange Peel Jam

peel from 4 oranges, cut into thin strips (with white pith cut off)

1 1/2 c sugar

1 1/2 c water

1 T orange juice concentrate, thawed

1 t vanilla extract

You also need:

glass canning jar (I used a sterilized pasta jar)

candy/meat thermometer (optional)

Add orange peel, sugar and water to a pot over medium heat. Bring to a low boil until the mixture thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. The temperature should be between 200-220 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in orange juice concentrate (the original instructions I read said to use lemon juice) and vanilla. Pour into jar and place in refrigerator.

I was all set to add in some Knox gelatin, since I was pretty skeptical that the thick sugar water would really become jam, but found a message board that said adding gelatin can foster bacterial growth. Since I plan on feeding this to my two year-old, that seemed like a bad idea. I figured if it didn't gel, we could have orange flavored syrup on pancakes some morning this week. :-)

Orange Peel Jam

I'm happy to report that after about 6 hours in the refrigerator, the mixture firmed up, and was very yummy, to boot! It's VERY sweet, to the point that next time I'll reduce the sugar by half, if that doesn't affect the consistency. The texture is more like honey than true jam, but Jack and I enjoyed it with peanut butter on our sandwiches for lunch. 

**After making this, I found this resource for making jam without added pectin, which has specifics on quantities, temps, etc.**

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eat From the Pantry Challenge- The End!

This is our final week of eating from the pantry. My freezer and pantry are much more under control- meaning not just that I've weeded through and used some things that needed to be used up, but also that I've taken inventory so I know what I have for future meals!

We were also able to save a lot on groceries this month! While I did exceed our goal of $50 for the month by about $15, $65 for a family of four (well, three who actually eat solid food :-) isn't bad for the month.

This week we're eating:

Taco Soup

Hot Dogs with Pioneer Woman's Chili


Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings (omitting the packaged seasoning)

Dinner with the in-laws

Sweet Potato Manicotti

Mexican Chicken

My freezer is getting pretty empty, so I'm excited to participate in Life as MOM and Money Saving Mom's Freezer Cooking Day(s). I'll be doing the prep for some of my meals tomorrow, since my in-laws will have the big boy, taking my stock-up trip on Saturday (date night with the hubby!) and cooking on Sunday.

I'll blog about my progress with all of that throughout the week!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Random Thrifty Kitchen Tip- Broccoli Stems

My two year-old only eats the "tree" part of broccoli- but he eats a lot of it! That leaves me with a lot of stems to either use up or throw away. I usually save them to put in a soup (Broccoli Cheese, anyone?) or one pot wonder. They have all the broccoli flavor, and none of the tiny pieces in your teeth!

I also recently found this recipe for broccoli pickles, and can't wait to give it a try!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Flour Tortillas

Mike and I were watching Good Eats on the Food Network the other night and Guy was visiting all these Mexican diners. I got a major hankering for tacos. So I dug around the pantry and refrigerator this morning to see what I could find. To my delight, we had everything I needed... except for tortillas. So I set out to make some.

One of my favorite food blogs actually just posted a tutorial for making corn tortillas... but alas, we had no maseca. We did, however, have plenty of flour, so off to work I went. I modified (and halved) this recipe.

Flour Tortillas (makes about 9)

1 C unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 C whole wheat flour

1/4 c olive oil

1 t salt

3/4 C boiling water

all-purpose flour for rolling

In a food processor, mix flour, oil, and salt. Pour in boiling water and mix until a dough forms. Knead on a floured surface until the dough is smooth. Roll into golf ball sized balls, and set on a piece of waxed paper with a towel covering them. Let rest 1-8 hours (the longer the better).


Heat a frying pan over high heat. Roll out each ball into a tortilla (I found placing a piece of waxed paper over the dough worked well for rolling). Place one at a time in frying pan, about 30 seconds per side. Roll out each subsequent tortilla while the previous one is cooking. I suppose you could cut around each one to make them more circular, but I didn't!


We made chicken tacos, which were a huge hit, even with my somewhat picky 2 year-old! I wanted to make salsa to go with them, but said kiddo made that mostly impossible. :-)


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cake Doctor

At the end of the summer I was able to get boxed cake mixes for $.22 a box. These days I'm really more into baking from scratch, but knowing that I had Jack's birthday coming up a mere 6 weeks after giving birth, I thought some boxed mixes were in order. I have about 4 of those boxes left, and tonight when I got a craving for something sweet I set out to see what I could do with one of them.

I started with the side of the box, where it tells you what modifications to make the yellow cake mix into a pound cake, and went from there, according to what I had. If you know me, you know I'm obsessed with coconut, and currently oranges are right up there too. I decided the two would probably pair well, and went to work!

Almost Homemade Coconut Orange Cake

1 pkg yellow cake mix

1 pkg instant vanilla pudding (coconut pudding would be good too!)

4 eggs

1 C sour cream

1/3 C coconut oil (or any other oil)

1 C toasted coconut

1 T orange zest

1/2 C orange juice (about a whole orange)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x11 baking pan. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 32-35 minutes, then cool for 25 minutes. Frost and devour.


Orange Buttercream Frosting (modified from the C&H Website)

2 C Powdered Sugar

1/2 C butter

pinch of salt

juice of 1/2 an orange

1 t orange zest

1/2 T meringue powder (optional)

approx. 3 T water (add until it's the consistency you like)

toasted coconut to top

Beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy. Frost cake and top with toasted coconut.

I spent too much time snacking on the coconut, so the top of my cake is a little sparse. Oops! :-)


And please don't tell my old Wilton cake decorating instruction that this is how I decided to ice my cake. By the time the cake cooled it was late and I was tired. :-)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Random Thrifty Kitchen Tip- Orange Peels

I got a bag of oranges (one of my and Jack's favorite snacks) on sale this week. Here are five simple ways to put orange peels to work for you, rather than tossing them.

  • Use them to clean your sink. The natural oils will make it shine- and smell good!
  • Grate them over a salad or dessert to give a bright hint of citrus.
  • Put them in your crockpot with some water and cloves, and simmer all day on low. Instant potpourri!
  • Place a piece of peel in your brown sugar to keep it soft or soften hardened sugar.
  • Rub peel on your skin as a bug repellent, or boil in water and pour water and peels on anthills/bug problem spots outside.

I've also heard that you can cut them in strips, boil them in some water, and add sugar... making orange peel jam?! I'm going to have to try this. Update soon!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Avocado Salsa

Avocado Salsa

Mmmmm. I love avocados. Really, really love them.

I don't think I ever ate an avocado until college, when my roommates Jenny and Beef would make and eat a whole avocado's worth of guacamole in one sitting. Love those girls. And, because of them, I now love avocado.

Last week at my nephew's birthday party Mike's cousin made an incredible salsa that I really enjoyed! I looked up the recipe on All Recipes (my favorite recipe website, by the way) and tweaked it to my liking/ what I had on hand.

Avocado Salsa (measurements are for 2 servings)

1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 C frozen corn, thawed

1/4 onion, diced

1/4 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 avocado, peeled and diced

1/3 to 1/2 can diced tomatoes

1/2 C fresh cilantro

juice of 1/2 lemon (I'd use lime if I had it!)

1/4 t garlic powder

1/4 t grated orange zest

kosher salt to taste

*next time I think I might try adding 1/2 t of sugar

Combine ingredients in a bowl and squeeze lemon juice. Store in refrigerator overnight before eating. (You can wait to add the avocado until just before eating, if you choose.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eat from the Pantry Challenge- Week 3!


We've been eating from the pantry for 17 days now, and all is still going well. This week's meals included "fake" fried rice, cheeseburger soup, pizzas, and, the biggest hit, sweet potato manicotti. It's a made-up recipe, so I'll have to try to recreate to post it.

Today I reorganized our pantry and took closer inventory. I'd done that with the freezer, but not yet with the pantry. I also made turkey stock (finally!) from the turkey carcass that was in my freezer leftover from Thanksgiving. And, I made crockpot yogurt. In addition, our grocery store had a killer sale this week! I used almost all of the rest of our budgeted $50 for the month, meaning that we will very likely go over. Jack just won't last 14 more days without buying milk again!

Based on that, here are some things we might be eating this week:

Baked Potatoes topped with Broccoli and Ranch Dip (made from yogurt cheese)

Turkey & Rice (and chicken, cause that's what's in the freezer :) Soup

Crockpot Lasagna

Chef Salad

Blackbean Salsa


Looking at the devastation in Haiti this week, I can't help but feel unbelievably blessed. To have such an abundance of food that I can feed our family for a month on very little... I'm so very grateful.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One Pot *Pantry* Wonders- Ranch Cheeseburger Soup

One Pot Wonders

Over Christmas, we were at my parent's house and my sister said something about not liking one dish meals. I was shocked! I'd say about 50% of the meals I make are one pot wonders! She's really healthy, and her point was that she likes to eat a greater ratio of veggies to other food groups. And I guess she'd be right if you're talking about a boxed or canned one pot meal. I'm sure the veggie to, say, meat or carb ratio... or worse yet sodium ratio of a boxed meal isn't very good. BUT, she should fly out to eat with us more often, because one of my favorite things about one pot wonders is that I can hide veggies. But shhhh... don't tell Jack. Or Mike for that matter.

Now, this soup isn't the most healthy option, because of the Velveeta and ground beef. Mike's not really a soup guy, but can get behind most anything that refers to a hamburger... especially if I throw the word Velveeta in (since for him, Velveeta is, in fact, the perfect food). And since we're cleaning out the pantry and all I had some stuff I needed to use up, this was a great option for us. I was able to throw in handfuls of random veggies I had in the fridge/freezer without taking away from the cheesy goodness for my boys.

Ranch Cheeseburger Soup

1 lb. cooked ground beef (I seasoned it with some garlic and a pinch of chili powder)

1 lb. velveeta, cubed

3 c chicken stock

1 can condensed broccoli cheese soup (any condensed soup would do!)

1 onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 T ranch dressing mix (homemade recipe coming soon!)

Handful of leftover broccoli, chopped

1 c frozen zucchini, grated

1 c frozen corn

1 c cooked rice


Place all ingredients in a large crockpot. Cook on low 6-8 hrs. You don't really want to do it on high if you can help it, because the cheese will curdle. This makes a very thick soup. If you want to thin it out, stir in milk or sour cream, and serve!


We decided to serve ours in a bread bowl! Here's my go-to recipe:


Olive Oil Bread (can use for bread bowls, pizza dough, buns, bread, etc)

2 T active dry yeast (or two packages)

2 1/2 cups warm water

2 teaspoons salt

1 T sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 c whole wheat flour (or replace with unbleached all-purpose flour)

4 c ubleached all-purpose flour


1 egg white



In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes. Add salt, sugar, oil and 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture and mix well with dough hook. (You can mix by hand with a wooden spoon if you don't have a stand mixer.) Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time.

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 6 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.

Punch dough down, and divide into equal portions. This recipe makes:

  • 2 standard sized loaves
  • 6 round loaves
  • 15ish sandwich buns (depending on the size)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place stoneware or another baking sheet in the preheating oven.

Shape each portion into a loaf (logs for standard loaves, round for buns and bowls, etc). Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk. In a small bowl, beat together egg white and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the loaves with the egg wash with a pastry brush. Transfer loaves to preheated stoneware.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Brush with remaining egg mixture, and bake 10 to 15 more minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire racks.

Cheeseburger Soup

It seems like a lot of work, but really, most of it is spend waiting on dough to rise. This is definitely a kids are cooperating and we're staying home all day kind of meal, but there's something very satisfying about baking your own bread.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Who needs a box?

Mike and I have a running dialogue in our house. It goes something like this:

Mike: Man, I want pancakes, but we're out of pancake mix.


Mike: Hey, do we have any cake mix?

Me: I don't think so.

Mike: Darn, I really want cake.

Usually, in these situations, I remind him that you don't actually need a boxed mix to bake. As a matter of fact, for the most part baking from scratch is just as easy, and it's definitely healthier and more economical! So the other night when Mike said he wanted brownies, I was up for the challenge. And it was a significant challenge, because we were out of eggs.

After scouring the Internet for a recipe I thought would work, I found an Egg-Free Brownie Recipe at Reading the reviews, I tweaked it a bit and here's what I came up with...

Egg-Free Brownies for Mikey

1/3 c flour

1 c water

1/2 c butter

2/3 c cocoa powder

1 c white sugar

1 c brown sugar (packed)

1 t vanilla

1 1/2 c flour

1 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

3/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

(if they were for me, I'd add 1/2 c chopped nuts :-)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 inch pan. In a heavy saucepan combine the 1/3 cup of flour and water. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until thick. Set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. When the butter has melted, add the cocoa and mix until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Beat the sugar and vanilla into the cooled flour mixture. Stir in the cocoa mixture until well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, stir into the batter until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the pan and bake about 25 minutes. Cool and cut (and if you're Mikey, fish some Cool Whip out of the freezer to top with).


I'm not really a brownie person, but I did take a taste, and I thought they were pretty good! Mike didn't seem to have any problems digging right in, so I'd call them a success!

Egg-Free Brownies

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Breaking Bread- Weeks 1 & 2 Recap

Breaking Bread

I'm cutting myself a little slack, since I hatched this plan last week, and basically had a day to complete a food or fellowship activity for last week. Here's a brief recap, though.

The first week of January (Week 1) I was happy to be able to take a meal (my beef stew) to a friend whose mother-in-law passed away. I feel like the act of taking a meal to someone is more than just giving them a night off cooking. When someone brings me a meal, I feel taken care of, and nourished both in body and spirit. I suppose this is one of the things I'm hoping to accomplish with this little experiment. Sharing the experience of nourishment in the body of Christ.

Last week we celebrated my nephew's birthday, and shared a meal with family. Although I didn't prepare this meal, the act of sharing a meal with family is always a blessing, so I'm letting it slide! :-)

Stay tuned to see what fun my journey takes me on this week!

Eat From the Pantry Challenge- Week 2 update!


Well, it's week 2, and nobody's starved! Last week's meals were great, and our pantry and freezer are still looking pretty well stocked. This challenge has proven to me how much I buy on a regular basis that we simply don't need. While I'm all about stocking up for a good deal, I'm the queen of deciding spur of the moment that I just have to make a certain meal RIGHT NOW (usually one that I see in a cooking magazine or blog) and then going out and buying all the ingredients for it. Yep, that's how we got seven different half-empty boxes of pasta in our pantry. You heard me, SEVEN!

I did buy a dozen eggs, another gallon of milk, a loaf of sandwich bread and some half and half this week. So far our grocery total for the month is 18.75. What I know is that we go through A LOT of milk.

Here's to another great week of scavenging getting creative!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Breaking Bread

"And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts." Acts 2:46

I'm not making any resolutions for 2010. Some years I do, and some I don't. This year I feel like I'm in the midst of several goals for my family and myself, so it seems like resolutions would be redundant.

Something has been on my heart lately, though, so I am making a 2010 commitment.

Four months ago when I had Charlie my wonderful Mommy friends, who I met through my hospital's nursing support group, signed up to bring us meals. Every evening for two full weeks someone came to drop off food and visit with us. TWO full weeks! We were so blessed by those meals. When another member of that group had her little girl a month later, everyone stepped up again. I think this is true for many of us, but my first response when I hear of someone experiencing a hardship, major life event, etc. is to show up with food. It got me thinking... what a wonderful, deep rooted tradition!

In Biblical days, "breaking bread" was a significant event. In Ancient times bread was likely the primary food. God showed his provision by providing the Israelites with manna from the sky. The New Testament calls Jesus the "Bread of Life" and "Bread from heaven," and of course we know that Jesus broke bread during the Lord's Supper, a tradition carried on by his disciples. Breaking bread was a significant part of the worship of the early church, and continues to be though the tradition of the Lord's Supper as a remembrance of Jesus' death and resurrection.

Sure, breaking bread obviously refers to the event of participating in the Lord's Supper- but it also refers to participating in Christian community. It is important for Christians to do both- worshiping and fellowshipping- and as an extension of that, witnessing. Thus begins my commitment in 2010.

Breaking Bread

Each week of 2010, I'm going to use food to fellowship, witness, worship, bless, help, or share, however God sees fit. Whether it sees me taking food to someone in need, donating to a pantry, fellowshipping with a friend over coffeecake, or teaching a new recipe, remains to be seen. I also have seven friends due with a baby between May and June, so I guess I already have a 7/52nd head start on planning! I'll post a Breaking Bread update each Monday to document what might just be my favorite non-resolution ever!

If you take interest and want to join me in my challenge, any random week or for the whole year, just leave your Breaking Bread moment in the comments! Maybe one day I'll figure out the linky thing!

Friday, January 8, 2010

One Pot Wonders- Throw it all in the pot!

One Pot Wonders

With a 2 year-old and an infant, one of the ways I have made dinnertime work is to revamp my repertoire of one pot wonders- dishes that incorporate the whole (or majority of the) meal into one pot. This doesn't have to be the same cream of chicken casserole with a bag of mixed veggies week after week, although I do love those easy, go-to recipes!

I love one pot wonders because they are:

  • easy to prep, cook, and clean-up! Just one pot!
  • a great way to incorporate veggies (i.e. get hubby and the kids to eat them without realizing it) and increase the ratio of veggies to other foods
  • perfect for using up small bits of leftovers
  • easy to dress up with herbs and garnishes

This week, and all month, we've been participating in the Eat From the Pantry Challenge, so I've been working with what's already in my pantry and freezer.

My Beef Stew:

1 lb marinated KC Strip Steak, cooked and cubed (left over from Fondue!)

1/2 box beef broth

1/2 an onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 bag frozen mixed veggies

2 stalks celery, chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper

1 T flour

1/2 t paprika

1/2 t oregano

1/2 t celery seed

1/2 t rosemary

Place all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

(I ended up throwing in 1 c of whole wheat pasta to "beef it up" (haha) a bit, but that was kind of weird, so I'm not sure I'd do that again.)

Make-it-work-for-you Stew:

1 lb cooked meat (beef, pork, chicken... whatever you have!)

1-2 cups (to your desired thickness) water, beef broth, or chicken broth

1/2 an onion OR 1 T onion powder OR 1 T minced onion

Veggies (totaling 2-3 C): carrots, celery, potatoes, frozen or canned mixed veggies, turnip, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sweet potato, etc.)

2-3 garlic cloves, minced OR garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 T flour

Spices: any combo of paprika, oregano, celery seed, basil, rosemary, thyme, chili powder, hot sauce... whatever's in your pantry!

Place all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours OR cook on stove top on low for as long as you can. You can almost guarantee it will taste even better the next day as leftovers!

Why a food blog?

I've wanted to start a food blog for a long time. I love to cook and bake, although there was a time in my life, not very long ago, when I never though I'd say that! I didn't grow up caring much about anything I considered "domestic," but as I got older, and entered the season of my life of having a young family, slowly I found myself loving doing things like cooking and gardening. (Just like you said I would, Mom. :-)

So why now? No particular reason, but... the combination of the start of a new year, some friends asking for advice on thrifty shopping and cooking, a friend of my revamping her food blog, and certain unnamed family and friends saying something to the effect of "more pictures of your kids, less recipes" about my personal blog... and suddenly I'm excited and inspired to start a food blog of my own!

For a disclaimer: I'm not a gourmet chef- in fact I have as many or more big fat fails in the kitchen as I do successes (and yes, I'm sure I'll blog about those too!). I'm just a wife and mom, hopefully doing my best to feed my family well, while being the best steward I can of God's immense blessings on our family. For me, this means cutting coupons, shopping the sales, and slowly moving to more healthful options for our family, while at the same time coming up with food options that work for us: crockpot cooking, one pot meals, baking at home, and getting my toddler involved in the kitchen.

I have so many ideas, and thost of you who know me (well, that's all of you I suppose) know that when I get excited, I want to put it all out there! But I'll restrain myself and stop for now.

Happy Cooking!