Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Tortellini Soup

Sometimes, when I cook a 24 lb. turkey, there's leftovers. Sometimes. This was one of those times. Instead of the same old turkey noodle soup, which I love, I decided to experiment with a few ingredients I had lurking around the fridge and pantry. Time to clean up, tomorrow's a grocery shopping day.

Little known secret...I'm forgetful. If I don't write down ingredients as I go, they're lost for all eternity. Of course, that doesn't mean that I won't lose the list! So I've had to resort to the infamous white board to keep track of my thoughts. I probably need a larger one, but that would require a larger refrigerator, which I'm sure my hubby would not appreciate. Anyway, the white board is too large to fit in my pocket, but large enough that I can see what I've written, without having to wear my glasses. (Foggy glasses while cooking can be a dangerous problem!)

In a large pan, saute 1 diced sweet onion. Then toss in 3 diced celery stalks. For kicks, add 2 minced cloves of garlic. If you like garlic, add a third clove. I did.

When the onions are translucent, add 2 chopped up carrots. Saute for about a minute. Add 1 t. dried thyme, 1 t. sea salt, 3/4 t. ground black pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and 2 t. dried parsley. Stir it up and let it cook for another minute. Remove from heat and dump into large soup pot, or a dutch oven. (My personal favorite.)

Add 1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted, and 3 quarts of chicken broth to the cooked vegetables. This is where I'm supposed to tell you the benefits of making your own turkey broth, but I can't. Not today. You see, after my hubby finished deboning the turkey, he tossed the carcass. Normally, I would've warned him not to do that, but I was busy.

Enjoying this. Honestly, if I had to choose between making my own turkey stock and loving on my granddaughter, well, let's just say, the turkey loses! But it does take second place! If you haven't made turkey stock, you're missing out. But if you have a grandchild, don't miss moments like these. They are what matters.

Back to the soup...I added about 3 cups of turkey meat. I used white because it tends to dry out when reheated. Unless of course, it's in soup! Cover the pot and let simmer for an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

In a separate pot, boil about 8 cups of water. Add a splash of olive oil. To the boiling water, add 2-3 cups of dried cheese tortellini. Cook until al dente, then drain in a colander. Before adding pasta to the soup, mix 1/4 cup water with 2 Tb. arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) and add to soup. Let simmer for 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Menu for 11/30-12/6

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving! I certainly enjoyed mine.

Probably, more than I should have.

I'll be consuming massive amounts of water today to combat the T-day bloat...still wearing the stretchy pants! I'm hoping to be back to my normal flabby self by just wouldn't do to be seen in the post turkey pants! It's kind of like wearing white after Labor Day.

At least in my world.

Since we're starting school again this week, the menu will be pretty simple. There's nothing like good, old-fashioned comfort food, a roaring fire in the fireplace and a few holiday tunes to cap off a hard day of learning.

Here's what's cookin' at our house this week...

Monday: Oatmeal w/ blueberries
P.B & J. sandwiches, sliced apples
Homemade meatballs, buttered noodles, spinach salad

Tuesday: Poached eggs on toast
Corndog muffins, cottage cheese & peaches
Crockpot Barbecue Beef, rice, coleslaw

Wednesday: Cranberry Streusel Muffins, *homemade hot chocolate
Baked potatoes w/ tomatoes, cheese & ranch, sliced apples
Spicy Split Pea soup, homemade multi-grain bread

Thursday: Plum smoothies, cinnamon toast
Lentil soup, crackers
Taco salad, cornbread

Friday: Mom's Cream of Wheat Pudding, peaches
Vegetable Beef soup, homemade rolls
Meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, steamed broccoli

Saturday: Waffles
Fried Chicken, Buttermilk biscuits, salad

Sunday: granola
Chili, cornbread


Hot Chocolate Mix

2 cups organic powdered sugar
1 cup organic cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
2 t. arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1 t. sea salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Sift ingredients together. To make, add 4 Tb. to 1 cup of heated milk. Stir. Top with freshly whipped cream and chocolate shavings or cinnamon.

Waffle Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup cocoa powder
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar (sucanat, rapadura, or organic sugar)
1 t. vanilla
2 cups flour (I use organic white flour for this)
1/4 t. sea salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional (hazelnuts are extremely amazing here!)

Add cocoa & eggs to melted butter. Mix well. Add sugar & vanilla. Mix. In separate bowl, mix flour & salt. Fold flour mixture into wet mixture. Add nuts, if desired.

Drop by tablespoons onto hot waffle iron for 3 minutes. Do not over bake! Frost while warm. Cream cheese or coffee flavored frosting are my favorites!

You can find more menu plans at

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Thanksgiving Blessing

Since it's the Thanksgiving weekend and everyone is happily munching on leftovers, I thought I'd share a couple of pictures of my granddaughter.

This isn't her first Thanksgiving...last year she was a whole month old! This IS her first Thanksgiving, enjoying more than just her momma's milk. The butternut squash and glazed carrots were a hit!

Madison was feeling a little loopy after all the carbs she consumed! We won't worry about that yet...she'll obsess over it soon enough.

For now, she's content playing "doggy". And I'm just happy to watch!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My last minute centerpiece...

A baby chicken feeder (it's new, so no "organic material" stuck to the sides!), filled with mini mums. It's low enough that everyone will be able to see each other!

And on that note...

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours. May God bless you in abundance and keep you safe as you remember what you are most thankful for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No Corn Syrup Pecan Pie...Finally!

A little known fact... marriage got rocky.

Not because of the usual things, but because I denied my husband his slice of pie. Pecan pie, to be exact. Having determined to eat a healthier diet, anything with corn syrup had to go.

Including the pie.

My husband was not amused.

The good news for him is that I found a wonderful pecan pie recipe that does NOT use corn syrup!

My marriage is saved!!!!

And for the lovely lady who shared this recipe with would be in my will...if I had one. (*Note to self...make a will to show my appreciation for this recipe.)

Pecan Pie

1 cup pure maple syrup (NOT pancake syrup!)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tb. unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap)
4 Tb. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 t. salt
6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust, chilled in pie plate for 30 minutes.

Filling: Put oven rack to lowest position, and heat to 450 F.

Heat syrup, sugar, cream and molasses in saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Whisk butter and salt into mixture until combined. Whisk in egg yolks until incorporated into mixture.

Toast pecans: In cast iron or non-stick pan, heat pecans. Shake gently so all pecans are in contact with pan. Toast until lightly brown and aromatic. Let cool.

Scatter pecans in pie shell. Carefully pour filling over nuts. Place pie in hot oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 325 F. Bake until filling is set and center jiggles slightly when pie is gently shaken, 45-60 minutes. Cool pie on rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate until set, about 3 hours and up to one day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

My All-Time Favorite Pie Dough

4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 ts. salt
1 Tb. sugar
1 3/4 cups cold unsalted butter (3 1/2 sticks), cut into small pieces
1 Tb. white vinegar
1 extra-large egg
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk the vinegar, egg, and 1/2 cup ice water together and mix into the flour mixture with your hands until just combined. Transfer to a clean work surface, and gently press to form a dough. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Shape each into a ball, flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour. Roll out as indicated for your recipe.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This past weekend, we got to "go back in time". A time before computers, video games, televisions, and cordless phones.

A time when quiet was just that. Peaceful, blissful quiet.

We didn't ask for it.

We didn't necessarily even want it. (Well, the kids didn' Mister & I NEEDED it!)

But we were prepared for it.

Saturday night, while visions of sugar plums were dancing in our heads, we had our first major windstorm of the season. It knocked out the power and all of the "noise" with it.

And I liked it.

For the first 3 or 4 hours.

Then reality hit the kids.

Then it hit me.

Knocked my visions of family board games by candlelight and old fashioned survival skill training right out the door.

I am extremely thankful to the electricity repairmen and all of the hard work that they had to put in to restore sanity to our household. After 12 LONG hours...

...I liked it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

And So It Begins...

We're off and running. Otherwise known as "The Holiday Season". Officially, it starts the day before Thanksgiving, and ends January 2.

Unofficially, it started in August.

As soon as the back-to-school clothes hit the clearance racks, the fall items come out. I'm still worrying about my tan. Others are worrying about Thanksgiving centerpieces.

So now you know.

I'm a slacker.

The good news a slacker, I get to buy my Thanksgiving centerpiece on the clearance aisle.

In September.

I may be too late for Christmas decorations.

That's okay.

I'll get first choice in the swimsuit aisle!

Please remember to take time and enjoy Thanksgiving with your family. Relax. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Remember what you are thankful for.

At least for one day, nothing else matters.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Menu Plan for Thanksgiving week

I think Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. That said, it is also the busiest holiday around here! Since the focus on food, there are no gifts to distract if the food's not good! Still, it is my favorite. I love cooking family favorites, trying new recipes and of course, enjoying it all with my family. I even have special stretchy pants that are saved just for this holiday! They are ugly, but I can eat until I burst...doesn't get better than that. (I try not to think about Black Friday. It is NOT a shopping day for me. It involves some pink, chalky liquid and lots of water. Usually, while still wearing the stretchy pants!)

I'll be carrying over a couple of meals from last week. Things got nutty and I brought pizzas home one day and my "Mister" took me to dinner on another day. No complaints here! The other meals are coming from the freezers and pantry.

Here's what we'll be eating this week...

Breakfasts: oatmeal/blueberries, smoothies/toast, Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal, Sunshine & Sausage Casserole, Cranberry Streusel Muffins, *Mexican Frittata*

Lunches: Leftovers, soups, sandwiches

Dinners: Chili Rellenos, Mexican Rice, green salad (from last week)
Korean Beef Bulgolgi, brown rice, salad (from last week)
Pasta Alla Vodka, salad
Thanksgiving dinner (see Menu below)
Turkey noodle soup w/ homemade noodles, rustic multi-grain bread
Leftovers OR pancakes

Thanksgiving Menu

Roasted turkey
Cornbread stuffing
Taters & gravy
Butternut squash
Glazed carrots
Homemade cranberry sauce
Rustic While Grain Rolls OR Sweet & Sticky rolls (My life may depend on the sticky rolls!)
Spinach and Strawberry salad

Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie (found a recipe for corn syrup free pie! Yay..Let them eat pie!)
Key Lime Pie
Pear Crisp w/ Vanilla ice cream

Mexican Frittata

4 Tb. unsalted butter
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 (5 oz.) can Mexi-corn, drained
2 (4 oz.) cans mild, green chilies, drained
20 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. salt
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
dash of red pepper
Garnishes: paprika, sour cream, parmesan cheese, mild salsa (all optional)

Saute onion, in butter, until tender. Add corn and chilies. Whisk eggs and 1 cup sour cream together, then add remaining ingredients, mixing well. Combine corn and chili mixture. Pour into 2 greased pie plates. Bake at 325 F. for 40 minutes, or until blonde. Bake another 10-15 minutes, until center is set and golden brown.

This can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until morning.

***After posting this, my daughter, Kelsie, called and requested Pumpkin Layer Cheesecake. Because I love her, or because I want her to think her Momma rocks, or because I'm a big old softie, this has been added to the menu. It's probably a little of all 3. What can I say?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Frugal Fridays...Buying & Cooking in Bulk

Tip #1...Avoid unnecessary trips to town.

Tip #2...Whenever possible, buy and cook in bulk.

Even if you do not have a large family, cooking in bulk can be a time-saver. If you are already frying up some hamburger for a casserole, it's just as easy to double it and bag it for the freezer. Next time you make minestrone, the hamburger can just be dumped into the pot!

One bulk item that I LOVE cooking up in large batches is pinto beans. After soaking the beans overnight, I cook them in a very large pot, remove enough for dinner that night, then separate the remaining beans (and liquid!) into freezer-friendly containers.

Before stacking in the freezer, make sure to write the date on top!

Bean burritos, enchiladas, chili and soups are easy to throw together with beans that are pre-cooked, waiting in the freezer.
A 25 lb. bag of pinto beans cost me around $7. That's less than 30 cents a pound! In the grocery store today, I found a "deal" on canned pinto beans. 2 for $3.oo. Those cans were a lot smaller than my freezer containers! Some "deal".
Another food that is good for bulk cooking is brown rice. We all know that brown rice is a healthier choice than white, but it takes twice as long to cook! Sometimes, I don't have that kind of time...or burner space. Pre-cooked, frozen rice can be added to anything, but is especially good when added to soups. How's that for fast food?
During the summer months, I like to visit the farmer's markets and local farms for fresh produce. When I find a good deal, like red peppers, I'll buy as many as a dare (or can afford), dice them up and freeze. I've even sliced the peppers into strips, to enjoy during the winter in fajitas!
July, in the Pacific Northwest, means blueberries. There is a local farm that has hundreds, if not thousands, of blueberry bushes. It's a U-pick farm, and by taking our family, a couple of hours of picking yields us enough berries to last the entire winter!
And remember, leftover turkey freezes very well.
If there is any!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Going raw...

Every now and then, I decide to try something new. I am generally a creature of habit, tending to stick with "what I know", but lately have been feeling more bold in stretching my wings. I'm not going to go "rebel" and start doing things just because I can, but am going to do things because I should.

It doesn't mean that I have to like it either.

Today, I decided to "go raw".

I lasted until dinnertime.

I am weak.

And hungry.

The day started off with me enjoying a smoothie. I started with some raw milk, added strawberries, 1/2 of a banana, a raw egg, coconut oil and some flaxseed oil and topped it off with a straw. It looked pretty and smelled divine.

Note to self... ALWAYS remember to taste your "to go" food BEFORE you get in the car and drive 15 miles into town. You may have forgotten the raw honey. And that's an ingredient that shouldn't be forgotten.

I managed to get my errands done without stopping at Starbucks...a first for me. I even smiled at the paint guy in Lowe's.

Considering my lack of caffeine and sugar, I think that was pretty nice of me.

I don't think he stopped at Starbucks either.

Arriving home, all I could think about was food. I needed some and I needed it fast. Even the kids knew to stay out of my way as I ran to the refrigerator. But I was determined to continue my raw fest, so I grabbed some raw almonds to munch on while I moved the honey jar to a more obvious place.

As the leftover white chicken enchiladas were reheating for the kids' lunch, I prepared a salad for myself. (Is that self-deprivation or what?) To go with the salad, I sliced up an apple and added raw almond butter to the plate.

Lunch was good. I was on a roll. (Mmmm....a roll.)

For dinner, I was planning on another salad, some fruit and yogurt, and a tall glass of water.

What I actually had was Chicken Tortilla soup and a couple of crackers, smeared with peanut butter.

And it was good.

Maybe tomorrow, I'll go for a jog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Healthier Peanut Butter Cookies

I am sure that my favorite food combination is peanut butter and chocolate. I am also sure that as a man who clearly understood women, Mr. "Reese's" was probably pretty popular with the ladies! In fact, if my home is any indication, he was probably equally popular with the guys too!

Since we have adopted a healthier eating plan, Mr. "Reese's" is only allowed special visits to our home. Christmas, Halloween, Mother's & Father's day, Easter, Flag day...all justifiable holidays for indulging in a little "heaven in a cup". The rest of the year (at least until we can find another holiday!) we must "settle" our chocolate/peanut butter craving in other ways, like peanut butter cookies.

A good peanut butter cookie starts with good peanut butter. Sorry Peter Pan, I'm not going to run to the store in a Jif, and Skippy down the aisle to purchase a partially hydrogenated, corn syrupy product that only lists peanuts at the BOTTOM of the ingredient list! The best peanut butter is one that has peanuts FIRST, followed by salt. Peanuts make their own oil and that is what you see on the top of the healthier versions.

So now you're thinking, "Oh, no! Not the dreaded hard-to-mix stuff that Mom used to make us eat!" I remember that kind too.

In fact, I use it.

The difference is...I use a mixer to mix it up! Not a wooden spoon! Try it. You might like it.

After mixing the peanut butter, do NOT wash your mixing bowl! No reason to, and honestly, why would you want to create more work for yourself? Or, in my case, my children. Wait a minute...did I just say that?

Mix 1 cup peanut butter (I prefer crunchy, but creamy is good too!) with 1/2 cup softened, unsalted butter.

Add 1 & 1/4 cup light brown sugar. Remember to use organic if possible. Takes away a little of the guilt!

Blend well.

Add 3 Tb. cream, 1 Tb. vanilla and 1 egg. Mix it all in.

If you have a grain mill, grind up some soft, white wheat. If not, you can find pre-ground soft wheat at most grocery stores. Peanut butter cookies are one of the only cookies that actually taste better with the wheat.
Add 2 cups of soft, white wheat flour, along with 1 Tb. baking soda and 1/2 Tb. sea salt.

Mix ingredients together until just blended.

While mixing, add a couple of handfuls, or 4, of chocolate chips. This is where I'm supposed to tell you to use a healthier alternative like carob chips, but in all good conscience, I can't. I am not a fan.

Now, this is some good-looking cookie dough! Tastes even better!

Just ask Matthew. Shhhh...don't tell the other kids.
Drop by teaspoon onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I use a small ice cream scoop. Using a fork or meat tenderizer, dip in flour and slightly flatten.

Uh-oh. I may have a mutiny on my hands. The little one ran his mouth. Proof that wisdom doesn't come until later in life. Poor boy.

Bake in 375 F. oven for 7-9 minutes. Let cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack. These stayed in the oven for an extra minute, so they're a little more done than normal. But it wasn't my fault.... was Molly's. She smelled peanut butter. Another fan of Mr. "Reese's".
P.B. & C. Cookies (the condensed version)
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup softened, unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 Tb. cream
1 Tb. vanilla
1 egg
2 cups soft, white wheat
1 Tb. baking soda
1/2 Tb. sea salt
1 cup (give or take) chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375. Combine peanut butter and butter. Mix well. Add brown sugar and mix. Add cream, vanilla and egg. Mix. Add flour, soda and salt and mix just until blended. Add chocolate chips. Add some more. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake 7-9 minutes. Cool for a couple of minutes on cookie sheet then move to wire rack. Make some decaf and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fabric sales!

Usually on Gratituesday, I talk about how grateful I am for the things unseen. The feelings I have for my husband, children, family, granddaughter, in-laws and special vacation spots are all at the top of my most thankful list.

Today, I'm going to be totally materialistic.


I got a great deal on some home decor fabric recently and I LOVE it! I've never worked with the "good" stuff before, and it is pure joy to sew. For 50% off, I was able to get enough to make valances for my 12 ft. long dining room window, that otherwise would be naked right now. And with another sale on until Thanksgiving, I'll be able to purchase the coordinating fabric to make the side panels! Combined with my 15% teacher's discount, the new fabric will be purchased at 65% off!

Where's my keys....?

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's For...Snacks?

One question that I'm often asked is what we do for snacks. In keeping with a healthy meal plan, our snacks have to meet certain criteria to be considered a good choice. They cannot contain hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial dyes and preservatives or artificial sweeteners. That said, no summer vacation is complete without a good bag of greasy, cheesy Cheetohs, which contain most of the above no-no's! But that's once in a very great while! There are also 7 females in my family...once a month (or more), chocolate is a neccessity.

Lives depend on it. Seriously.

And chocolate is a health food. I read it somewhere, so it must be true.

Good snacks to have on hand would be; raw nuts, whole grain pretzels, fresh fruit and veggies, smoothies, frozen berries and milk, (a personal favorite!), yogurt, whole grain tortilla chips with fresh salsa, and popcorn. Even home baked cookies can be a healthy choice!

Here's a few more ideas...

Instead of Koolaid or soda, try pure fruit juice with club soda. A much healthier choice, and it makes the juice last longer!

Try serving sliced apples with peanut butter, or fresh melon and pineapple with a yogurt fruit dip. Or, core an apple, place on a cookie sheet and fill the middle with pure maple syrup and cinnamon before baking for 15 minutes. Even add some raw nuts if you want to!

Make your own trail mix using dried fruit, raw nuts, a whole grain cereal, dried coconut chips and pretzels. Leave out the chocolate candies since they contain hydrogenated oil and dyes.

Here's a couple of recipes to get your family started on healthy snacking. They'll thank you for it.

Maybe not today, especially if you are throwing out all the unhealthy "junk", but someday.

Trust me.

Lemon Fruit Dip

1 (16 oz.) sour cream
1 small box of instant vanilla pudding (use organic to avoid the "yucky" stuff)
1/4 cup milk
4 t. lemon juice
1 t. grated lemon rind
Mix together. Chill for 1 hour before serving. Serve with fresh fruit. Delicious!

Coco-Pop Popcorn

2 Tb. raw, organic coconut oil
1/3 cup popcorn seeds
1-2 Tb. unsalted butter
sea salt

In a medium saucepan with lid, heat popcorn and coconut oil on med-high heat. Make sure the lid is on! When the popping starts, turn off heat and shake the pan lightly. Wait for popping to stop before removing lid and pouring into large bowl. In the same saucepan, melt the butter (you don't have to turn the stove back on for this...the pan is hot enough!) Pour over popcorn. Add sea salt to taste. *This recipe can be changed by adding spices. Try chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder or add organic cheese powder for a different taste.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Menu Plan for 11/16-11/22

I sure do love having a full freezer (and a half!) full of meat! Between the whole beef that was made into hamburger, the leftover beef (from last year) of tasty roasts, the freshly packaged elk and the pork loin that I found at a ridiculous price, we should be set for awhile. Even with all of that meat (including canned salmon and tuna!), we still try to have 2 meatless meals a week. These usually consist of a type of bean and a grain. Together, they make a whole protein, and with a side of salad, makes a very filling meal. This week will be no exception. I am trying several different recipes this week, so the savings I will have in the meat dept. will be spent on a few different ingredients! As my daughters' favorite "teen queen" of the moment says, "You get the best of both worlds!"

Here's what's for dinner...and breakfast...and lunch!

Sunshine & Sausage Casserole (in my blog recipes)
*Golden Potato Bake*
Whole wheat waffles
*Oatmeal* (the Nourishing Traditions way)

Lunches: Leftovers, soups, sandwiches

Dinners: *Pinto Bean Burritos*
Roasted pork loin, Polenta, Creamed Spinach, butternut squash
Oven baked French fries, Homemade Sloppy Joes (in my blog recipes)
*Korean Beef Bulgolgi*, brown rice, spinach salad
Chicken Tortilla soup, cornbread (in my blog recipes)

This week, I've decided not to list our meals by confuses the kids and I like to keep them guessing. We're also not "planning" our lunches because we will have lots of leftovers and we have plenty of bread in the freezer for sandwiches.

Today, Sunday, is my son Tanner's 14th birthday. He is sick...that makes I will be making Tres Leches cake as soon as he is feeling better. God willing, it will be soon.

*Recipes* (Remember to use organic ingredients and whole grain flour!)

Golden Potato Bake (from The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup half & half
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 1/2 t. sea salt
1 t. ground black pepper
1 (30 oz.) bag shredded hash brown potatoes
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)

Heat oven to 400 F. Mix the sour cream, half & half, butter, green onions, salt and pepper in a small bowl, stirring until well combined. Toss the potatoes with the cheese in a large bowl. Pour the sour cream mixture over the potatoes and cheese and mix until combined. Spoon the potato mixture into a 9x13 inch glass baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden brown-45 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 10-12.

Soaked Oatmeal

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup warm water
2 Tb. whole milk yogurt
1/2 t. sea salt
1 cup water
1 Tb. flaxseeds, optional

The night before, mix oats with warm water and yogurt. Stir and cover with cloth. Let sit on counter overnight. Don't worry, this will be fine! In the morning, bring 1 cup of water and sea salt to a boil. Add oat mixture, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for several minutes. Serve with fruit, milk/cream, and a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup. (The idea behind soaking oats is that the yogurt helps to "pre-digest" the oats, making it easier to digest. This method really works!) Serves 4. (I ALWAYS triple this recipe!)

Pinto Bean Burritos

4 cups soaked and cooked pinto beans and their liquid
1 Tb. ground cumin
1 Tb. chili powder
1/2 t. cayenne (can adjust for taste)
2 t. sea salt
1-2 Tb. lime juice
flour tortillas
shredded cheese

In a food processor, combine beans and spices. Pulse for a few seconds. Add lime juice. Pulse again. Slowly add enough bean juice to make beans the desired consistency. Put approximately 1/4 cup in each tortilla, add a little shredded cheese, and wrap like a burrito, making sure that the ends are tucked in. Place on greased (I use olive oil) cookie sheet. Continue until all mixture is used up. Lightly brush olive oil over tops of burritos. Bake in 375 F. oven for 15 minutes. Serve with sour cream and salsa. *Tip* I like to soak my beans overnight with a little yogurt. This helps to alleviate the discomfort associated with beans. I also cook extra beans and freeze with the juice for a quick and easy meal. This is a stand-by...our version of "fast food".

Korean Beef Bulgolgi

1 1/2 lbs. beef or venison, thinly cut 3" long
4 Tb. sugar
2 Tb. sesame oil
6 Tb. soy sauce
2 Tb. sesame seeds
2 Tb. white wine
2 Tb. water or beef broth
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh ground pepper
1 t. grated ginger
3 green onions, cut 2" long
3 carrots, thinly sliced 2" long (matchstick)
1/4 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced

Combine sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, sesame seeds, white wine, water/broth, garlic, pepper and ginger to make marinade. Marinate meat for 4 hours or overnight; stirring every once in a while. Heat 2 Tb. oil (I use grapeseed) in large frypan or wok. Add meat and vegetables. Cook until meat is almost done, then add marinade and cook until meat is done. Serve over cooked rice. *This recipe is a favorite of my "Mister". His family hosted a Korean woman for a time back when he was a kid. She was a stickler for clean hands, but she sure could cook! This is a must-have recipe whenever a family member gets a deer or elk! Awesome!
For more menu ideas visit The Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Notebooking...They Don't Know They're Learning!

Last week, I had a "homeschool meltdown". Most public schooler's have never heard of this phenomenon, but ask any homeschool mom/teacher about it and she'll answer with, "I had 2 just this morning!" It is becoming more wide-spread as the number of home school's increase, and while it is acceptable in the homeschooling community, most do not want to talk about it. It is our "dirty little secret".

A typical "meltdown" usually starts with one or more children conveniently forgetting all that they had learned the day before. Otherwise known as "selective memory recall". (I think most children suffer from this disorder, but mine may suffer more than most.) This is usually followed by a blank look on the student's face, which is typically followed by a horrified look on Mom's! There is usually some sweating involved with the blood pressure being elevated for an extended period of time. This is where Mom will put herself in timeout. With a latte. It's for her own good.

Timeout. This is when Mom has her "aha" moment. That moment where Mom realizes that children remember everything if it's something that interests them. Let me make this clear...CHILDREN REMEMBER EVERTHING IF THEY FIND IT INTERESTING!


My latest meltdown was over science. I had put a tremendous amount of time in preparing the week's lessons, and as such, expected my children to be eager and grateful that they had a mom such as I. There was "eagerness" and "gratefulness" all right, but it was at the end of my "thesis" length speech. They were eager for the torture to end and grateful that my mouth had gone dry! This is when I decided to "change lanes".

For my 9 year old son, that meant choosing something that was of interest to him. As anyone with boys can tell you, for that age, it would be something that parents would find repulsive, such as bodily functions and bugs. I went with the bugs.

After some research and a few prayers (because bodily functions and bugs are in the same category as far as I'm concerned), I confidently (haha) proceeded with my plan to educate my son in everything buggy. I dug, out of storage, a book called "Considering God's Creation", which I had purchased a few years ago for another child. I'm not sure why it was in storage, because it was a book we enjoyed, but sometimes things "just happen". (Great, now I sound like my 9 year old!) The teacher's manual is packed full of information and the student workbook has lots of hands-on projects. I'm not one to follow a curriculum to the letter, but it is helpful to have something like that as a base for building upon.

The second part of our new science program is called notebooking. This is where the student gets to summarize in his own words, what was learned that day.

Or, the notebooking pages can be used to write a story. My son decided to write about a curious bee. He even drew a picture. And in true, boy fashion, managed to "terminate" the bee. At least it's not about bodily functions.

(Translation: Once upon a time there wuse a Bee. A Bee that wuse curious. he wuse curious wut wuse on the other side of the glass he wet there and Got Smashed. that wus the stere of the curious Bee.) Next week, Spelling 101.

For free notebooking pages, click here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Frugal Friday...Cupcake cups

Frugal Fridays

A few years ago, while my husband was transitioning from logger to nurse, we had to get creative on how our money (or lack of) was spent. For a time, our income was only enough to make our house payment and buy a few groceries. In fact, one year, we netted only $12,000! For a family of 11, those were some lean times. A lot was learned during that time, and even though money isn't as tight now, we still work hard to practice frugality. After all, spending a little money on a road trip to Yellowstone is more rewarding than say, an electric bill or a fill-up for the car! So today marks the beginning of "Frugal Friday". Every week, I'll share a frugal "tip" that has worked for us, and I'll even share some that didn't make the cut! (And oh, there's been a few!)

Tip #1: Avoid unnecessary trips to town.

Case in point. On Wednesday, we were asked to donate 2 dozen cupcakes to the annual Pinewood Derby Race at our church. (If you don't know what that is, you are missing out on something special!) There were was a problem in committing to this.

Yep. I ran out of cupcake holders. Of course. I don't make cupcakes enough apparently because I had no idea we were low! And I wasn't about to spend $10 in gas for a 30 mile round trip to town, to pick up $2 worth of cupcake holders! So I got creative.

A little parchment paper, a c.d., pencil and pinking shears to the rescue! Oh yeah, and a lot of patience. Times 10!

This is #1. It has 9 friends. Only took about 5 minutes. 55 minutes less than it would've taken for me to "run" to town!
I shape these by stuffing (it's a technical term) into the muffin holes. (Isn't there a more technical word for these? I don't know.) Then I scooped in the batter which held them in place. Once the batter was in all of the "holes", my homemade paper liners weren't too noticeable. They fit in rather nicely in fact.

Baked, they looked even better! In fact, I'd say, downright tasty!

Okay, with frosting, they look GLORIOUS! Good enough to eat! And since young boys are known for eating paper, parents can rest easily knowing that I used organic parchment paper!
See how thoughtful I am? ( Don't bother counting these...somebody ate a couple!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Green Floor Freshener

Baking soda + essential oil = FRESH!

A couple of years ago, my house underwent a major transformation. It used to be a girl's group home and as such, was decorated with a lot of pink. For the record, I am a fan of pink. Not the singer, but the color. Although there was this one song that she sang that...oh, sorry, got a little sidetracked again! Here's the difficult to keep clean! I could almost hear my steam cleaner moaning every time I pulled her out of the closet. "Oh, please, not again. Even the Lord rested on the 7th day." Maybe that was me...I don't know. Apparently it got loud, because one day my Mister said, "Let's put in wood floors!" Since he is the head of the household, I conceded. (There may have been happy dancing as well.)

We replaced the dining room and hallway with wood floors and had new carpet laid in our living room and bedroom. The wood floors are so much easier to clean up, but we still have to be diligent with dirty feet in the living room. (We have a "no shoes" rule, but our children think that their dirty, BARE feet are still allowed. Not sure how to handle that one!) We were smart and had stain resistant carpet put in, but it still needs to be steam cleaned occasionally. Not so much for the dirt, but more for the peace of mind.

To freshen the carpets in between deep cleaning, I mix 1 cup of baking soda with 5 or 6 drops of lavender oil (any favorite scent will do), then sprinkle it all over the carpet. Of course, the kiddos and dogs are banned to the basement during this time. Hmmm...maybe I should do this daily! Anyway, let it set for about 1/2 hour before vacuuming. Not only does it freshen the carpet, but it is safe for pets and kids.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Toe-warmin' Chili

There are only 2 recipes that I make on Sunday's during the fall/winter months. One is stew, the other is chili. Last week found me measuring and writing while putting together the stew because I don't really "follow" a recipe. If it's in the refrigerator and needs to be used, it goes in the pot. If I find an onion swimming around in the banana's "bowl of death", it goes in the pot. And if the pot isn't full enough, I go on a scavenger hunt, in search of other food items to throw in the pot. For whatever reason, this usually works for me! But for chili...why mess with perfection? Betty Crocker knew what she was doing! Mostly. I had to help her with the rest. She'll thank me for it later.

Toe-Warmin' Chili

2 lbs. ground beef
2 large sweet onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb. chili powder
2 t. sea salt
2 t. ground cumin
2 t. dried oregano leaves
2 t. baking cocoa
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 -1 t. red pepper sauce (more or less, depending on your tastes)
1 quart stewed tomatoes
2 quarts canned kidney or pinto beans (or the equivalent of), undrained

Cook ground beef, onion and garlic together until beef is cooked; drain. Dump in crockpot. Add the remaining ingredients to the crockpot. Cook for 6-8 hours on low. Serve with cheese and sour cream.
Great with tortilla chips or cornbread! Even greater...leftovers tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


On Monday, I mentioned that my "Hunter-man" husband shot an elk on opening day. For the last several days, this elk has been hanging out in the shop. We are an "out of sight, out of mind" kind of family, so needless to say, the elk was forgotten. Not everyone forgot...mostly just me...okay, it was ALL me, but let's not nit-pick. My husband reminded me last night, so today will go down in history (a.k.a. the calendar) as "meat cutting day".

I have never cut up an elk before. It is not like cutting, let's say, cheese. It is work. And the elk is large. Like GINORMOUS!!!! I was concerned. I mean, it's not as if I have nothing else to do, right? Today was a school day, the kiddos needed to eat, I'm sure there was some "plucking" in there was already going to be a full day. "Couldn't we just take it to the meat cutting place?", I whined. (Yes, I whine on occasion..don't didn't see the size of this elk!) My husband informed me that it was up to us to "git er done" and that was that. Then the greatest thing happened! The phone rang! My in-laws called to offer their services. How great is that?

This is my husband, the "hunter man", my dad-in-law and my mom-in-law working on something from the front of the elk. Not sure what.

In case you're wondering, this is where great minds meet. Our garage. Also known as an "organic meat cutting facility". Elk...can't get more organic than that!

The total meat cutting experience took approximately 8 hours. During that time, my car had its 70,000 mile maintenance check, our daughter was delivered to the college and then to her volunteer job, lunch made it to the table, and school was taught. My son, Matthew, even practiced his copywork by marking the meat packages!
It looked like this: ELK ROST 200P. As you can see, I have my work cut out for me! But none of this would've happened if two very special people hadn't offered to help. And for that, I am most grateful to my in-laws. (And no, I am NOT sucking up!) Thank you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

This little piggy went to market...

Isn't this little piggy cute? I had to laugh when I saw this picture, as it best describes our household right now! Child #3 has ended up with the "flu", and we are assuming that it is H1N1, otherwise known as the swine flu. (See how I tied the piggy in?) This time it is our 17 year old son, Cody, who has fallen victim to this illness. But, despite having a fever, sore throat, headache, cough, and body aches, he did manage to grab the last cup of coffee this morning! So, I am officially calling this little piggy "son", and tomorrow will be rising earlier than usual so that I can secure the last cup of joe. Because everyone knows that coffee can stunt a little piggy's growth! It is my duty. And it is my coffee. Maybe I'll have some bacon with it....or maybe I'll become a vegetarian...or maybe I'll just have some oatmeal.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Menu Plan for 11/9-11/15/09

Elk season. The time of year when men lose their minds and women become hunting widows. The time that "spare no expense" takes on a new meaning and "honey-do" lists are a distant memory. Granted, it only lasts for 2 weeks, but a lot can be learned about a spouse during that time. For instance, I discovered that my husband can come up with a thousand excuses as to why we should NOT go shopping in the rain. (He is ever so thoughtful to try and protect me from illness or accident, don't you think?) But on opening day of the hunting season, he will pull out rain gear (with the tags still attached!) and "sacrifice" himself to feed our family. Now that's a man. Luckily for me, my man was able to fill his elk tag in the first hour that he was "self-sacrificing"! Even better? He'll be free to help me with the grocery shopping this week! I am a blessed woman.

Monday: Banana bread with cream cheese, homemade hot chocolate
Chili nachos (leftover from Sunday), apple slices
*Homemade macaroni & cheese, meatloaf, green salad

Tuesday: Oatmeal, fruit
Corndog muffins, carrot sticks with ranch
Elk steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed broccoli

Wednesday: Poached eggs, toast
Vegetable soup, crackers, orange slices
*Cinco de Mayo, tortilla chips

Thursday: Buttermilk biscuits with honey, fruit smoothies
Leftover vegetable soup, crackers, frozen chocolate banana
Chicken Curry, brown rice, cottage cheese with pineapple slices

Friday: Blueberry Coffeecake, orange juice
Toasted tuna-fish sandwiches, carrot sticks
Crockpot Pinto Beans & Rice, cornbread

Saturday: Waffles
Potato Corn Chowder, spinach salad (Tanner's choice for his 14th birthday dinner!)

Sunday: Granola
Beef Stew, sourdough
Dessert: Birthday cake...yet to be determined


Creamy Macaroni & Cheese
(Plan on taking the stairs this week as this is NOT on the "low-cal" plan!)

24 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cut into chunks
1 cup shredded cheese (Swiss, monterey jack, cheddar, mozzarella...your choice)
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted + 1 can milk
1/2 cup cottage cheese
4 Tb. unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour

Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain. In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to make roux. Cook 1 minute. Add soup and milk. Stir. Add all of the cheeses. Stir constantly until cheese is melted. Add macaroni back into pot and stir well.

Cinco de Mayo (taken from "Mega Cooking")

2 lb. ground beef (or turkey)
1/2 lb. ground sausage (beef, pork or turkey)
1/4 chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
32 oz. stewed tomatoes
24 oz. frozen or canned corn
1 (12 oz.) can tomato paste
2 t. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/2 cup black olives, sliced

Cook the ground beef and sausage until done. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients. Pour mixture into greased baking dish.

Mix up your favorite cornbread recipe. Pour evenly over top of meat mixture. Bake at 350 F. for 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle 1/2 cup cheddar cheese over top of casserole. Garnish with a few dashes of paprika. Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Changing Lanes

Ready for another confession? Sometimes my well planned ideas just don't pan out. Kind of like trying to change lanes without knowing where you're going. All it does is just confuse the other drivers and makes you second guess why you even got in the car to begin with! That's how I'm feeling about my choice in science. We started out, heading in the right direction, but somehow got all turned around and lost our way with our science curriculum. It is a good curriculum, but a little more than I can handle at the moment. There is a lot of reading. Let me re-emphasize that. THERE IS A LOT OF READING!!!!

Here's the deal...I love to read. Adore it in fact. I may even be referred to as a book "junkie". I am a regular visitor of our local library, and have accounts for several online bookstores. Eyebrows are being raised because the UPS man is a regular visitor at our house. I have bookshelves in every room and still not enough room to house all of the books. I would rather read than eat...okay, maybe not that about read while eating? The ultimate multitasker. It's a gift.

What I don't like is having to read material that is too easy for the middle schoolers, but way over my 3rd grader's head. (Okay, it's pretty much over my head too, but please don't tell my children!) I wanted to learn...I mean, my kids wanted to learn about "flying creatures", but so far, we are just learning about kingdoms and classes. Now, don't get me wrong, that's great if they are going to be zoologists or veterinarians, but for the everyday...not so great. Really, how often are they going to go outside and classify birds. If there is a bird that they can get up close and personal with, they're going to find a box, make a nest, and hide it in their room. (That's so I can't find it!) I would much rather have them running around in the woods with their magnifying glasses, drawing pictures of little critters, or observing and writing about them. Isn't THAT how kids learn?

So, we are "changing lanes". But this time, we know where we're heading. Back to nature and the library. Back to the simplesness of discovery and notebooking. Call it a homeschooling "perk". Or call it what it is. Learning to love science again!

For free notebooking pages, click here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fall and Pumpkin Spice Lattes

As I mentioned in a previous post, this week is a busy one. With our first major storm approaching, we have been keeping a frantic pace, trying to finish outside projects. With minutes to spare, we did it!

The bounty that we received from our garden this year was well worth the hard work that went into it. We successfully harvested onions, cucumbers, beets, peas, black, pinto and green beans, zucchini, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, potatoes, amaranth, and more tomatoes than we knew what to do with! What was once a beautiful "oasis", has now turned into a very large compost pile! The bean arbor's are put away, the tomato cages dismantled and the water system have all been stored for the winter and it is time for the garden and the gardeners to rest a spell.

We can also put a check next to stacking the firewood and cleaning the chicken coop. With the entire family pitching in, the outside is ready for the long, cold winter. And so are we!

I visited another blog recently and "borrowed" her recipe for Pumpkin Spice Lattes. As usual, I couldn't leave the recipe in its original needed "tweaking". So I tweaked. But just a little...

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

3 cups milk
3 T. canned pumpkin
3 T. pure maple syrup
3 T. pure vanilla
3/4 t. pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup very strong, brewed coffee

Whisk together everything except the coffee in a medium saucepan. Heat until temp. reaches 160 F. Add hot coffee. Pour into coffee mugs and top with freshly whipped cream. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice. This fills 2 large "to-go" mugs or 3 human-sized mugs. The original version called for 3 T. white sugar, since we don't use white sugar too often, I replaced it with the maple syrup. The maple and pumpkin mesh very well together!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mouth-watering Beef Stew

During the colder months of October-April, we rely on 2 favorites for quick, easy, Sunday dinners. One is chili and the other is beef stew. They're not quick as in fast, but once they're in the crockpot, the only thing to worry about is what to serve with them! (Usually cornbread, biscuits or sourdough!) Today I'll share my beef stew recipe. Recently, someone asked for the recipe, and I realized that I didn't have a "recipe" to share! I'm not one to measure or weigh ingredients...again, the "wing it" mentality. So today, I did the correct thing and wrote it all down as I went. Strangely enough, I had never thought to do that before! Looks pretty good on paper, but wait until you try it! Delish!

I start this in a dutch oven on the stove, then transfer to the crockpot. If I'm going to be home all day, I will sometimes put it in the oven. It really depends on what else is going on!

Mouth-watering Beef Stew

1 1/2 lbs. stew meat
1/2 cup flour
2 T. oil (I use coconut oil)

1 cup Merlot (Remember, the alcohol cooks out...this really adds alot of flavor!)
8 cups water (can use 2 quarts of beef broth or homemade stock)
6 T. organic beef soup base, if using water only
1 quart stewed tomatoes
3 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 potatoes, depending on size, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup uncooked barley
1 t. each: dried oregano, dried basil, dried marjoram
2 bay leaves, broke in halves to release flavor
1/2 T. salt (or to taste)
1/2 T. ground pepper (or to taste)

Cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Mix with flour. Heat oil in cast-iron pot and add meat/flour mixture. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. (The meat will still be pink.) Add Merlot and turn down to medium/low heat to simmer for 3-5 minutes. The flour and wine will make a thick roux. Add water and soup base, or beef broth. Stir well to release roux from bottom of pot. Now you can add this to your crockpot if you desire. Add remaining vegetables and spices to the pot. For the crockpot, set on low for 8 hours. For the oven, 325 F. for approximately 4 hours. Or, if you wish, leave on the stove to simmer until veggies are cooked through. Remember to remove the bay leaves BEFORE serving! (We once had to "award" the person/persons who "found" the bay leaves...Momma forgot about them!)

Next week, I'll share my chili recipe. But first, I need to make it so I can write down the correct measurements...this could get to be a chore!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The last couple of days have been tough on me emotionally. My daughter, Valerie, moved away. It's not as if she moved to another state, or even to another town. In fact, we live in the same town. We live outside the city limits, she lives inside. And, it's not as if I didn't know this day was coming. She married her beloved husband, Jake, on July 3 of this year. While he is serving with the Army in Iraq, she is staying here, (well, not HERE), and attending nursing school.

Valerie actually moved out about a year ago. I was okay with that since she just moved across the road. Whenever she needed me, I was a holler away. I enjoyed it when she brought up her laundry because I knew that for a couple of hours, she was "home". There were times that I would make one of her favorite meals, just so I could hear her say, "I'll be right there!" And she was. I'm sure that she knew of my deviousness, but she never said anything about it!

As my husband & I were helping our #3 daughter move into her new apartment, I was filled with such pride. My little girl is all grown up. She is an independent young woman with hopes and dreams of her own. She has the courage to venture into new territory, even if it frightens her a bit. And while she doesn't "need" her momma & daddy quite as much, she respects our need to feel needed.

Today I am grateful that Valerie only moved to town. Because for all of my bravado, (at least, in front of Valerie), I am not ready to let least, not all at once.