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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Quick and Easy Soup Beans

One of my favorite feel-good meals, is simple and very, "country."   Soup Beans or Bean Soup-- whatever you call it,  I could eat it, and eat it 'til I make myself sick.  It is also very simple to make, and is always served with warm cornbread.   My kids LOVE it as much as I do-- and get excited when mommy makes it.

My grandma is the queen of soup beans-- and has really perfected the dish.  My mother made it when I was a child, and every time I would go home or go to my grandma's it was my one request.  But, then I had to learn how to make it myself and for my kids. 

The only thing that keeps me from making it on a more regular basis, is the lack of  ham bones  lying around my house.  To get a ham bone, I buy a ham, cook the ham, eat the ham, and then use the bone.  Some people can pick them up from a grocer or catering business- for cheap or even free- But, since my husband likes ham-- we do it the long way.

Now, my grandma and mom buy the beans in a bag, and soak them-- etc.  But, I have little patience when it comes to Soup Beans-- so I cut the corners a little.

You'll need:

ham bone (with ham pieces sticking to it preferably)
3 cans pinto beans
1 can navy beans (last time I subsituted black beans)
salt
cornbread

Rinse beans, and throw all ingredients into a slow cooker.  Cover beans with water.  Salt to taste.  Let cook until hot and soupy.  Make cornbread with your favorite recipe or box. 

Serve with cornbread and onions if you would like.  Yum, yum, yum.
Friday, December 18, 2009

Melted Snowmen Cookies

So, the neighborhood kids were going to have a Christmas party-- and I volunteered to make the sweets.  My mom had told me about these cute melted snowmen cookies--so, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to give them a try!


Since, the week before we got 15 inches of snow, it was also the perfect weather for the cookies! 

I made simple sugar cookies, in slightly irregular circle shapes.  You can buy the mix, the dough, or make it from scratch.  I feel like I am one of those exercise videos, that tell you what to do if you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced. LOL

After the cookies have been baked and cooled-- (I waited til the next day.)  Make a royal frosting that will be a little on the runny side and with meringue powder in it, so it gets shiny and dries to a harder finish.

Drizzle or frost the cookies with the white frosting, allowing some frosting to drip down the sides, as if it were snow melting.  I chose not to do too much of this, because they were going to several messy children.

The next part is the fun part.  Take the big marshmallows place them on waxed paper on a plate, and place them in the microwave for 20 seconds.  Grease up your hands, and watch the marshmallows.  As soon as they start to plump up, take them out, and quickly press them onto the cookies for the head of the snowman.  This will get sticky, and the marshmallows can be warm or not mushy enough.  Be prepared to play with them a little--they will all look differently. 

After the "heads" are pressed on comes the detail work.  You can decorate however you think is best for your snowmen.  I piped on the arms and face.  I used chocolate chips for the buttons, and cut candy corn for the noses.  Have fun with it, and use what you have in your candy decor cupboard.

The kids loved the cookies, and they turned out too cute to eat almost :).

I am almost positive I will wind up making more of these when my kids are in school, and have to take something in for a party, etc.
Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Christmas Time at the Hamer's


One of my favorite things about Christmas time, is all of the baking

I love it, and I have since I was a little girl.  There are a variety of cookies that we have made over the years, with my parents--oatmeal rasin, Noel nutballs, Buckeyes, Date cookies, fudge-- but everyone's favorite Christmas cookie remains to be the, "Sugar Cookie."  Cut into Christmas shapes, and decorated around the kitchen table with every family member.  (They all didn't stay the entire time, but they all decorated....and ate...at least 1 cookie)

For years, after I left my parents house-- I still went back with  my kids to decorate Christmas cookies.  My kids needed to learn at an early age, how crazy and fun decorating cookies could be!  And, I can remember years where it got very crazy-- but there was always laughter, and frosting covered hands.  We have invited many friends and family over to share with us in this fun tradition-- so if they would share a story of our "Christmas Decorating" days in the comment section--I would love to read it. 

This year, like every other year, I have been baking up a storm.  Kyle cannot seem to keep flour and sugar in the house.  The 2009 Blizzard that snowed us in for 2 days didn't help much either--I though I was going to go crazy wtih only 1/2 bag of powdered sugar left!!!



To date, in December I have made Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Kiss cookies, Pretzel Kiss Treats, Sugar Cookies, Gingerbread Men, Molasses Cookies, and Peanut Butter Fudge.  My sister came to stay for a week also--so, has been a big help with decorating the Sugar Cookies and she also made Revel Bars and Chocolate Fudge.  So, as you can tell, my mixer has not had much of a break!   I still have a list of cookies I plan to make before Christmas Day is upon us....

The only thing I do differently, than my mom...is I don't hide the cookies until the week of Christmas--we eat them as we go.  I just can't see myself explaing to Jaxen that he needed to wait to eat these yummy goodies for 2-3 weeks...it's not happening.  :)

I may post more pictures of my Christmas baking...but,  for now here are some photos of the treats Alexis, Jaxen and Kyle are enjoying :)  Feel free to ask for the recipes I used. 


Oh, and this year I thought it would be fun to do "miniature" cookies-- So, I have lots and lots of mini shaped sugar cookies, and lots of mini gingerbread men.  They are bite-size and perfect this way, imo... But, we will see what everyone else thinks!  I also decided to use Royal Frosting, with Meringue Powder so that it would get hard and shiny, instead of our typical Powdered Sugar Frosting. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You Spice up My Life

I love homemade everything--if I can figure out how to make it from scratch-- I will.  It tastes better, and makes me feel better about giving it to my family.  One thing I have learned to make, that also saves money are spice blends.  Yes, I am still a spice-snob, and do most of my spice shopping at Penzey's nowadays-- but their spice blends as well as everyone else's are so ExpEnsivE...and you can't really change them.  So instead, I buy their amazing spices, and make my own blends.  Then I save my old jars, and fill them with my new spice blends--I can give them as gifts or just always have what I need on hand.

Here are a couple that I love to make and use a lot of:

Taco Seasoning - can be multiplied and adjusted according to tastes.  

  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt or salt to taste if you are on a low sodium diet
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

Old Bay Seasoning
1 Tbsp. ground bay leave
2-1/2 tsp. celery salt
1-1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Mild Chili Powder - can add any other peppers to spice it up some more

3 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. red or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder



Pumpkin Pie Spice


1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground mace (if you don't have mace, use another 1/4 tsp of nutmeg)
1/4 ground cloves




Poultry Seasoning




  • 2 cups dried parsley
  • 1 cup rubbed sage
  • 1/2 cup dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/2 cup dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gourmet Hot Cocoa


There are some things I have become spoiled in, as I have gotten older.  One of them, is hot cocoa.  This grown-up girl is not settling for those powder packets and hot water ever again.  I am just too old to waste calories on a less than yummy version of what should be a delectable treat.

I have tried many hot cocoa recipes, and used a variety of ingredients to get the Hot Cocoa I LOVE!  I know not everyone will think this is the BEST cocoa recipe, because we are all different.  Some of us like it super-rich, some of us like it with a spicy kick.  I like mine foamy, and with a perfect dose of chocolate.  However, after finding the recipe I preferred, I then started to switch the brands of ingredients--and found the best ingredients for this PERFECT cup of cocoa, IMO.  However, you might want to take my word for it, if you know how picky I am about my coffee-- and that I would unhesitatingly pay $5 for a cup at Starbucks.  But, this cocoa--has Starbucks cocoa beat.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe with brand suggestions, please do not feel obligated to use these brands--they are not paying me to write this--(although, I wish they were).

Frothy Hot Cocoa
Makes 1 big mug

2 cups of milk
2 t of Penzey's High Fat, Dutch Process Cocoa
4 t of sugar
3/4 cup of mini marshmallows
1 t of homemade vanilla (message me for how-to)
Sprinkle of Penzey's Cassia Cinnamon

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a pot.  Heat on med. until marshmallows are melted and foamy.  Add vanilla, and then pour into warmed mug.  Sprinkly cinnamon on top-- and sip away! Mmm

Next yummy drink recipe I will try to conquer- Peppermint Mocha
Friday, October 30, 2009

Bug-apillars

With trick-or-treat being tonight, and Halloween tomorrow, I realized I am running out of time for creepy treats! So, for snack today, I made the kids Bug-apillars. They are super easy to make, and took less than 10 minutes to put together.

You could probably figure out the recipe on your own, but if not:

banana, peanut butter, raisins, pretzels
Slice banana and put back together with pb in between.  Add pretzels for legs, and raisins for eyes. You could also use fruit roll up or licorice for a tongue, but I didn't have anything like that.

The kids were surprised by their creepy-crawly snack.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Guts & Mommy Dogs

Tis the season, for Pumpkins!! As I was grocery shopping the other day
I thought I should stock up on pumpkin for all the yummy pumpkin baking that I do every year.  I love to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cookies--anything with pumpkin and cream cheese frosting makes it seem like fall! 

Yes, I could have done it the easy way and bought cans of pumpkin.  All the hard work is done for you, and put in those cans so they are ready when you are-- but, what is the fun in that?  Plus, when you do make pumpkin puree yourself, it does taste so much better and is cheaper.  Also, you can whip up baby food while you are at it, if you have an infant at your house.  I have had a couple people ask how it's done--so, although there is more than one way to skin a pumpkin, I will tell you the way I have found is the easiest.
I purchase a pie pumpkin, which are marked that way in grocery stores--and you will know them because they are much smaller than the traditional jack-o-lantern pumpkins.  However, if you get the wrong kind of pumpkin--it is not that big of a deal.  I used Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins last year.  This year I used 3 pie pumpkins at $2 a piece.

I cut the pumpkins in half- this is a tedious task because I am always afraid I am going to cut off a finger :(.  Some people cut theirs in pieces--but that is just way too much cutting in  my opinion, why higher your risk for lost appendages?  You cover the pumpkin halves with aluminum foil, and place them in the oven at about 350 for about an hour or so.  You want them to be tender enough so the "guts" scrape right out and away from the skin.  You may also choose to sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or pumpkin spice inside the halves before you put them in the oven.  This is not necessarily for taste reasons, but it makes your house smell so yummy.

After the pumpkins are baked, carefully take them out of the oven, and while they are still hot--use a potholder and hang on to them as you scoop out the insides.  I left the other pieces in the oven until I was ready to scrape those also.

Then you will simply place the pieces of, "guts," into your food processor or blender even--and blend until it looks like baby food.  The puree will be much lighter than the can-version, so don't be alarmed.  I think all their additives make it darker?   Then you will need to pour or scoop the puree into a storage container.  I have found that the quart ziploc bags work the best-because they hold exactly 2 cups, which is about how much is in a can of pumpkin puree at the store.  Lay them flat so they freeze nicely.  I did not have quart ziplocs when I made this batch, so I used gallon bags.  It worked fine, I will just have to measure as I go.

My 3 pie pumpkins made approx 1/2 gallon each- I put them into 3 bags, so they would lay flat and freeze well.  I only froze 2, because I plan on making something pumpkin this week yet!  Also, it works nicely if you have a 2nd person holding the bag as you fill them.  My husband did that for me last year--but this year he wasn't here--and I missed that extra help.





The same day, I must have been in the Halloween mood--because I also made the kids mummy hot dogs.  It's very simple to do--and takes very little time.  You purchase pizza dough in a can, and unroll it.  Cut off thin strips of the dough--and roll it between your hands so it creates a "snake."  Then wrap the hot dog like a mummy, leaving space for his face to peek out.  Bake at 350 until the dough looks golden brown on the edges.  I added mustard-eyes and a ketchup-smile.  The kids loved them, but since they had no idea what a, "mummy," was--they called them, "mommy-dogs."  So, apparently, I must walk around the house wrapped in pizza dough?

Pardon the 3rd Mummy who looks as if he is coming, "unraveled."










Bulgar Honey Wheat Bread



My mom has a very giving heart, she loves to give, give, give.  She is constantly thinking of others when she is out and about, and picking up something that they would love-  The two people she does this the most for is her 2 grandkids-- which both belong to me.  There isn't a time that she sees them, that she doesn't have a surprise for both of them.  It could be Hannah Montana candy, clothes, or decorations for their room.  She also gives me things--random things for me do to, "something," with-- it could be craft related or home decor- But, this past weekend she brought me Bulgar Wheat.   She had purchased it for a recipe, and didn't care for the recipe--so in a way she challenged me to find something to make with it--and, I was up for the challenge!

I found a lot of recipes that sounded rather-- yucky--.  Then, I thought that since it was wheat-- it should be good in a bread.  However, since it was pretty course it would need to soften a little--and it would need something sweet to digress the eater from the healthy qualities of the bread.


1 1/2 c. uncooked bulgar wheat (may have to get at health food store)
4 1/2 c. boiling water
3/4 c. honey
3 tbsp. cooking oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 pkgs. active dry yeast
3/4 c. warm water
10 c. flour  -I know-- WOW

****Before I start the rest, if you do not have a big, heavy duty mixer--do not do this full recipe--be sure to half it- I don't want any burnt up motors!  Mine is supposed to be handle -- mine is supposed to handle up to 14 cups of flour, but I am not sure about the smaller kitchenaid. ****

Combine bulgar, boiling water, honey, oil and salt in large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast to warm water and let stand a few minutes. Stir to dissolve. Add to bulgar-honey mixture. Blend in flour in 3 parts beating after each addition until dough leaves sides of bowl. (Dough will be soft)Turn onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, elastic and does not stick when punched with fingers (about 5 minutes). Place in greased bowl turning to grease all sides. Cover with waxed paper and then a towel. Let rise in warm place until double in bulk (about 2 hours). Punch down and divide dough in half. Shape into loaves.
Place in greased 9x5x3 loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Bake at 350 degree oven 45-50 minutes.



At first I was going to make 1/2 this much--but, I screwed up on my salt and oil--and had to make twice as much-  I still just made 2 loaves--but, they were BIG loaves!  Also, I got new yeast, because I had been suspecting my other yeast (which I bought in bulk) was not working any longer--and evidently I was correct- because this bread rose like crazy!

If you are a health-food lover, you will love this bread!  It is hearty with a hint of sweetness.  I love the texture that the wheat creates.  I will be rotating this in, with the breads that I make--at least until my bulgar wheat is gone! Also, it tastes great with homemade apple butter---which is good, because I made another batch with the leftover apples!


Thanks again mom, for the bulgar wheat!
Saturday, October 24, 2009

egg carton is to pumpkin as clothes pin is to bat

Hopefully, I didn't make anyone cringe at the memory of those awful standardized tests we had to take in school---

The kids and I have been lucky enough, to have a regular, "date" on Wednesdays for the past month, with some good friends.  The mommy's hang out and the daughters hang out--and Jaxen hangs on everyone :).

When the weather was  nice, we let the kids play outside on the swingset, while the mommies chatted and baked.  (We both enjoy baking/cooking)  But, since it has gotten cooler outside, we have been planning indoor activities for the kids.  A couple of weeks ago, it didn't seem like we had enough planned for them--because they lost interest quickly.  So, this past week we decided to overload them on activities.  What we didn't realize was that really, we were only overloading ourselves.

We thought it would be fun, to make Halloween-themed sugar cookies- because when isn't it a good idea to make sugar cookies??  While the dough was chilling, we started the kids on 2 other activities-


The first activity was to trace, and cut shapes for bats.  The bats only had 2 body parts--thankfully!!  The bat wings and bodies were free-handed and then traced by the children, and cut out of black construction paper. Then a mommy got the job of gluing the bats to black clothes pins, so the bats could clip onto different things around the house.  These turned out very cute--and are super simple to do!

Now, we should have just stuck to this, "craft," and then did cookies--but, this Mom is a little too "krafty" --(those of you, who know me before I was married, will get this joke ;)).
So, instead we went to the next project-- pumpkins made from egg cartons.  Well, for this the other mom, Jamie, had to cut the cups of the egg carton out so that we could glue them together.  Regular glue did not work, so we got out a couple of hot glue guns and made them work :).  Luckily, they dried fast this way--and the kids could get right to painting, to make them look like pumpkins!!


We covered the kids in smocks, sat them down with these tiny paintbrushes, and let them begin to paint these very porous egg carton pieces.  We knew right away, that bigger paintbrushes would have been smarter-- oh well-- The kids would paint the pumpkin MOSTLY, and then Jamie and I would quickly try to paint the rest of it ;).  Then they were off to dry, while we started to roll out the cookie dough- *are you getting tired yet?

(The faces were drawn on later by a mom with permanent marker, and pipe cleaners were used for the stems)


Well you all should know how to make sugar cookies--so I will spare you the details.  The sugar cookie dough turned out perfect, and the rolling out and cutting went smoothly-- (we sent the kids to play).  They baked and cooled while the moms made 3 different colors of frosting for our pumpkins, bats, ghosts and cats.  Jaxen was very antsy during this part--wanting to get his fingers in the dough and the frosting, whenever we weren't or were looking!  2 mothers and 1 2 year old boy-- We were no match for his sneaky ways!!


The mothers were getting tired, and decided it would be better if we frosted the top layer and then let them decorate with the MANY candy decorations that were available to them.  That was probably the best idea, we moms, had all day!  But, needless to say the candy did get a little out of control!  The first cookie Jamie's daughter made had a piece of chocolate candy on every centimeter I think!  Then, my favorite cookie topping, the "crunchy balls," spilled all over the floor.  (This is not the technical name, at least I don't think so--but, they are the tiny round ball decorations that crunch when you eat them).  The container was nearly full, and then.........not so much.....and, if you have ever tried cleaning those little suckers up off the floor--you would swear you would never buy them again!  We actually had to take the shop vac out, and Jamie swept them towards me, who was holding the shop vac hose.  This seriously took about 10 minutes or so...and while the moms were preoccupied, the kids took the opportunity to frantically eat from their candy buffet!


We should have taken a picture of the moms at the end of our playdate-- we were covered in paint, flour, frosting...with crunchy balls stuck to our feet.  We had used all of our energy, patience, wit and management skills for the day--and we never even got to have any "mom-talk."  But, we have learned our lesson--and learned it well.  There will ever only be 1 craft and 1 food activity--or maybe we will mix them together, because we may enjoy crafting, cooking and baking--but doing those things with 3 toddlers and a baby--is just plain CRAZY!!



However, we do have some mighty cute decorations for Halloween--but as a warning to my readers--DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!!!!!!
Monday, October 19, 2009

Apple Butter and Apple Sauce

A trip to the Orchard is always fun--and we always seem to have more apples than we know what to do with!  This year it was a little cold, so we started off our trip with some hot chocolate and caramel apples.  The kids got to play in the corn, and had a great time!  We went to a chemistry show where Alexis got to be the, "lovely assistant,"  we pretended to be the 3 little pigs, we jumped on a huge air pillow, we slid down a very long slide--and we picked LOTS OF APPLES!

Thankfully. with the help from my PC peeler/corer-- we were able to quickly start making yummy apple treats.  Kyle joined in the fun, and made a caramel apple crisp-- while the kids helped me peel and chop apples for Apple Butter and Applesauce.

The Apple Butter, was a crock-pot version recipe, that I adapted.  I loved the day-long simmering method--because it was easy, and it made the house smell amazing.  The applesauce we made was a pot on the stove, version--but also turned out yummy.

The recipe for the Apple Butter--which is best served warm-- is:


  • 5 1/2 pounds apples - peeled, cored and finely chopped ( I used my apple peeler/corer and vidalia chopper)
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • dash or two of salt
Place apples in a slow cooker. Combine sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt; pour over apples and mix well. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 9-11 hours or until thickened and dark brown, stirring occasionally (stir more frequently as it thickens to prevent sticking). Uncover and cook on low 1 hour longer. Blend with hand mixer, or something similar. Spoon into freezer containers, leaving 1/2-in. headspace (important, one of my containers leaked out overnight). Cover and refrigerate.


I still warm up my apple butter before serving it, because I think it tastes best this way.


Yum Yum Yummy--I think I will go have a slice of bread with some apple butter now!





mmm...Okay, I am back-- Now, for the applesauce.  My DH had a sore throat, and stayed home from work, and was telling me how nothing sounded good to eat, on his sensitive throat.  I named some things that might sound nice on his throat--one of them being applesauce.  He said, oh yeah--that sounds good.  And, of course with all the apples, and no store-bought applesauce--it meant making it from scratch. :)  We like homemade from the heart around here--so, to work I went.  It was actually very easy.





I peeled, cored and chopped several apples and put them in a pot. (approx 3 lbs)  I covered them just enough with water, and turned on the heat.  I let them simmer until apples were tender-- about 15-20 minutes.  Squirt about 1 Tb of lemon juice on top, add a little sugar, depending on how sweet you like it-- and then blend in a blender til desired consistency.  I only added 1/4 cup of sugar, but some people would prefer to add much more.  Chill.

I served this for dinner with my Truffle Pot Roast and the kids just gobbled it up-- adding just a little cinnamon to the tops of their servings.

We still have about 1/2 peck of apples left--so, I will be making some apple pie, and some more applesauce this week!

*note: I made a 2nd batch of applesauce, added about 1/4 cup white sugar, cinnamon  and some freshly ground nutmeg, and a couple shakes of vanilla sugar!! I couldn't stop eating it!
Friday, October 9, 2009

Beer Bread

I love me some beer bread---it is the best reason to go to a Tastefully Simple party :).  However, I don't like paying over $5,00 for simple ingredients I am sure to have in my pantry.

So, I set out to find a comparable bread that I could make without having to contact, order and wait for a TS representative.  I wanted the airy, yet hearty texture--and the subtle sweetness that goes well with EVERYTHING!

After a little research, I quickly realized the only things that come in that little packet for $5.50 is flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.... hmmm... I have that in my pantry on any given day, don't you?


  • 3 cups flour (sifted-this is important!)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar



  • 1 (12 ounce) can beer (experiment with which beer you like best, in the bread)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup melted butter (depending on your personal tastes)



Direction

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients and beer.

Pour into a greased loaf pan.

Pour melted butter over mixture.

Bake 1 hour, remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes. (watch it though, because all ovens are different--I took my loaf 8 minutes early, and it was PERFECT)


Of course, you can just mix up the dry ingredients, with attached instructions and a bottle of beer, to make a beer bread gift!!  If you are giving work or at a school--it is probably a good idea to leave the beer at home!






YUM!
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Upcycling an Oatmeal Container

My darling daughter, is very interested in upcycling.  She likes to save every single container we empty.  She uses a spaghetti jar, for a bug catcher-- a butter container to hold her special treasures--I have to admit, I would rather just throw them into the recycle bin, because I have bought store-made bug catchers, and store-made treasure holders.  But,they are never as loved as her upcycled ones.   My daughter is naturally green, I guess-- and she does not get it from me. 

Recently, she has started to rub off on me.  I saved an ice cream tub, and an oatmeal container. They sat on my counter for a week!  I almost threw them into the recycling bin severeal times.  I resisted, and finally this morning the kids got to make their very own Halloween decoration.


It was a simple kids project, nothing fancy, and no special supplies were needed.  It was perfect for the Rainy day that we are having today!

We used the oatmeal container, construction paper and glue.  I did roll up brown paper for the stem and cut a whole in the bottom of the oatmeal container (top of the jack-o-lantern) to slip it thru.  The kids had a fun time, tearing the construction paper and sticking it with glue all over the container.  So, if you empty an oatmeal container before Halloween, you might want to try this fun and quick activity with your kiddos.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Name Blocks

I had seen blocks with letter on them, and thought it would be a cute idea to have them on our mantle.  My father-in-law works with wood, and tends to have scraps--so he was generous enough to give me 5 cut squares of a 2x4.  (Or, at least I think that is what he cut up)

I took them home, and found letter that would compliment our living room decor.  I then found coordinating paper to go behind the letters.  I glued it all on with a tape runner, and then modpodged on top of the paper and letters.  After the mod podge dried, I then added embellishments such as ribbon, crackets, flowers, etc.

The backs of the letters seemed a little plain, so I decided that I would devote each block to a family member-  So, on the backs of each of them there are individual pictures and embellishments.  They never get turned to that side, but it is a nice surprise when someone picks them up to look at them.

These simple and cheap little blocks have become quite a staple on my mantle--even at the new house.  If you have some scrap wood, I would encourage you to try these.  They are simple, and can be adapted easily to whatever suits you.  You can use any word or name-- Maybe the word, CREATE for your scrapbooking area, or the word BABY for a nursery.  Have fun with it, and let me know if you try it out!
Monday, September 28, 2009

Southern Chicken Noodle Soup on a Cool Fall Day


I was in the mood for soup today, and my family was a little spoiled--since, I was in the mood to cook and bake from scratch.  Or, at least I think they are spoiled--they would rather order pizza ;).

 I keep telling myself, they WILL appreciate this one day, when they go off to college!!  

However, since I was also trying to clean the carpeting in the house, watch 2 toddlers and a baby, and organize my spice cabinet--I decided that getting out the slow-cooker might be a good idea.  

It turned out to be a big hit with everyone-- DH, and kids both gobbled it up!  Well, maybe it's because they knew there would be no peach cobbler, if they didn't finish their soup!! 







Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken pieces 
  • 8 cups of water
  • 4 T chicken bouillon 
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 t of celery seed *because I didn't have celery 
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon  basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6-8 ounces noodles

Preparation:

Place all ingredients except noodles in the Crock Pot. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. Remove chicken and bay leaf from pot; take meat from bones, dice, and return to broth, and add the noodles. Cook another hour or until noodles are done (about 1/2 hour on high). Or, cook the noodles separately and add them just before serving.

So, don't wait 'til you're sick to make this yummy soup- Take advantage of the cool weather, and warm up with a bowl of old-fashioned goodness!

We have a Winning Peach Cobbler

We had quite a few fresh peaches to do something with, before they were wasted--so, I decided to make a Peach Cobbler.  I have made these in the past, because they are my husband's favorite treat--but, none of them were PERFECT, in his eyes.


So, I made something, part pie/part cobbler- It has a pie type bottom crust, and a lattice top, but made in a 9x13 pan.  It does take a little over 2 hours to make--but, I am told it is worth it.   It is very juicy, and I guess--PERFECT!!

I had a great little helper, in rolling out the crust, (or nibbling on it, anyway)--
So, instead of doing just a regular boring ol' lattice top--we cut out a, "J" for Jaxen and a spaceship for Buzz Lightyear!  Sorry, about the picture--I forgot to take a pic, until it was 1/2 eaten!!



The recipe is:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  •  
  • 3 pounds fresh peaches - peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  •  
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Work in the shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cold water. Sprinkle over flour mixture, and work with hands to form dough into a ball. Chill 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Roll out half of dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Place in a 9x13 inch baking dish, covering bottom and halfway up sides. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  3. In a large saucepan, mix the peaches, lemon juice, and orange juice. Add 1/2 cup butter, and cook over medium-low heat until butter is melted. In a mixing bowl, stir together 2 cups sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cornstarch; mix into peach mixture. Remove from heat, and pour into baked crust.
  4. Roll remaining dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into half-inch-wide strips. Weave strips into a lattice over peaches. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon melted butter.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until top crust is golden brown. 

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Truffles

My DH and I were hosting a wine-tasting party.  No dinner, just h'ourderves.  I decided it was the perfect time to make chocolate truffles for the first time.  I wanted to try 2 different recipes, just in case one didn't turn out.   The first recipe was:


  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 oz of rich chocolate (the expensive stuff)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 T whipping cream/heavy cream



  1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until well blended. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla until no streaks remain. Refrigerate for about 1 hour. Shape into 1 inch balls.Roll truffles in ground walnuts (or any ground nuts), cocoa, coconut, confectioners' sugar, candy sprinkles, etc.


  • To flavor truffles with liqueurs or other flavorings, omit vanilla. Divide truffle mixture into thirds. Add 1 tablespoon liqueur (almond, coffee, orange) to each mixture; mix well.
    I flavored these with almond extract.  I dipped them in a combination of finely ground coffee and Penzey's Dutch Process Cocoa Powder.  These were easy to roll, cheap to make, and were pretty tasty.  

    The second recipe I tried, was a richer recipe was found here-- and these turned out VERY rich, with that meltaway center.  I used raspberry flavoring , and dipped them in Penzey's dutch process cocoa.  Yum! This recipe, made significantly less truffles-- 
    I can't honestly say which ones were a bigger hit--because they were ALL eaten-- and everyone had too much wine to really be able to say which one was their favorite.  
    I will for sure make both of these again, since I really only got to eat 1 :(.  



Monday, September 21, 2009

Silhouettes




I decided that it would be cute if I made old-fashioned silhouettes of my children-- I started by searching thru hundreds of pictures, to see if I could find side profile shots of each of them--
There were several of Jaxen, because he never seems to be looking at the camera, but he also never seems to be looking ahead either.

So, I decided it would be best, if I just took brand new pictures of them to use. I took the pictures, at the same distance, for each one. Then I printed them off as 8x10's on regular computer paper. Then I placed the printed picture on top of black scrapbooking cardstock, and cut out both pieces together in the shape of their precious little faces.

I realized two things--upon reviewing my shadow-pictures of my babies. 1. Jaxen has a very BIG head. 2. Alexis has her dad's nose and Jaxen has his mom's nose ;) (okay, I already knew that)

So, I had to find frames that would accommodate Jaxen's melon, and ones that would look good in my living room--Off to Target I went. Luckily, I found frames big enough on sale for $4 a piece!!

I used coordinating paper, and filled the frames--I love, LOVE, love them!! Now, to get them hung.

Oh, also- I looked for a family shot that would still look distinguishable in a silhouette, and only could find one so far. I framed that one also, and hope to find another one that will include daddy next time :).
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Tortilla Chips


Labor day weekend, a few neighbors were coming over for an impromptu get-together. I thought, we needed some kind of fruit basket, because that is what my mom always had at get-togethers. I would cut a watermelon into a basket or a whale or something else not very creative. :)

I sent my DH, to the grocery store to pick up some fruit, along with the watermelon. He came home, with fruit and the tiniest watermelon I have ever seen! There was no way, I could make a basket or a whale out of it--I could possibly pull off a goldfish--but, it wouldn't hold very much fruit--so I began to think of another idea--and decided quickly that I would just make fruit salsa...

I did not have the ingredients I had heard goes into fruit salsa, so I just improvised--and it turned out perfectly--a big hit with the neighbors and my daughter!

I used my amazing Vidalia chopper- as seen on tv, and now at Target :). I LOVE IT!! Anyway, I chopped up some strawberries, some grapes, some apples, and threw in a few tablespoons of preserves, and tasted it--Oh my--I could have eaten a whole bowl!

Here is what I used

1 pint of strawberries
couple handfuls of grapes
1 whole, large apple
3 Tbl plum preserves

For the chips, I had flour tortillas on hand, (thank goodness) and cut them up w/ a pizza slicer into 1/8 sections- sprayed both sides with butter-flavored spray, and then dipped them in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Arranged on cookie sheet, baked at 400 for 10 minutes, or until they start curling at the corners.

Wow--these were also AMAZING--noone could get enough of them! They taste like, sopapillas! And, since they are baked, they are a nice healthier version of the greasy fried, tortilla chips--

Monday, August 24, 2009

Buzz Room





This is the first theme-painting job I have done--and thank goodness I had the help of my Husband. My 2 1/2 year old son wanted a Buzz Lightyear room, so here are the finished pictures. A blue bottom, green stripe--and then coordinating decor...He loves it, and that's all that matters- But, I am finding that I am dragging my feet on starting my daughter's room!! It is a lot of work and NOT my favorite thing to do!


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