Wednesday, September 22, 2010

~Welcome Autumn~

Yesterday I went on a little jaunt down the street to visit the Christmas Tree Shops store less than a mile away from our new house! The result is a newly decorated mantle to celebrate all things Autumn. It's so nice to refresh our home with a new look as each season changes. There is something refreshing and calming about using simple and natural items with pops of color here and there to drink in with the eyes while enjoying the comforts of home. Now that we are in the process of buying our own home, I can start collecting and saving these things for use year after year.

I also have a couple small leaf shaped dishes on our coffee table and a vase filled with squashes, pumpkins, berries, pinecones and Autumn leaves.

Ryan, age 9, rewarded my efforts after school with a big smile of appreciation, with a long happy gaze at the splashes of festivity.

"Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower."

Albert Camus

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile."
William Cullen Bryant

Easy WW Pumpkin Mousse

2 Small pkgs sugar free vanilla pudding or butterscotch -- or one of each
3 cups Skim Milk
1 can Pumpkin 14 ounce
1 teaspoon Pumpkin pie spice
1 cup Fat Free Cool Whip

Beat pudding, milk, pumpkin and spice with a whisk. Fold in Cool Whip. Refrigerate for an hour minimum. This is so good!!
(Keeps about 3-4 days in the fridge).
2.5 Points per serving (3/4 cup)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Easy Meals for Busy Seasons of Life

I am posting some easy recipe here in response to a fellow blogger's request for ideas as her pregnancy nears to full term.

Italian Beef Hoagies (Taste of Home)


* 1 beef sirloin tip roast (4 pounds), halved
* 2 envelopes Italian salad dressing mix
* 2 cups water
* 1 jar (16 ounces) mild pickled pepper rings, undrained
* 18 hoagie buns, split


* Place roast in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Combine the salad dressing mix and water; pour over roast. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender. Remove meat; shred with a fork and return to slow cooker. Add pepper rings; heat through. Spoon 1/2 cup meat mixture onto each bun. Yield: 18 servings.

Make ahead chicken Bake (Taste of Home)


* 5 cups cubed cooked chicken
* 2 cups chopped celery
* 5 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
* 1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
* 3/4 cup mayonnaise
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon pimientos, optional
* 1 teaspoon finely chopped onion
* 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
* 1 can (3 ounces) chow mein noodles
* 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted


* In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Transfer to a greased 3-qt. baking dish; sprinkle with cheese, chow mein noodles and almonds. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
* Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes until lightly browned and cheese is bubbly. Yield: 12 servings.

Beef stew

2 pounds beef stew meat
1/4 cup olive oil
flour for coating meat
salt and pepper
1/2 bottle red (optional)
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped into large chunks
3 cups beef broth
3 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
5 medium yukon gold potatoes
1 cup baby carrots

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Coat in flour. Brown the meat in hot oil in a large dutch oven. You will probably have to cook the meat in batches so you don’t over crowd the pan. Once the meat is browned on all sides, remove it from the pan and set aside.

When all the meat is cooked, pour the wine and water in the pan. Bring to a boil while scraping the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the meat back to the pan then add the garlic, bay leaves, garlic, beef broth and cloves. Turn heat down to medium and allow to bubble for 20-30 minutes. Turn the heat down to lowest simmer, cover, and cook for 1.5 hours.

Add the potatoes, carrots, and sugar (to cut the acidity from the wine). Cook an additional 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Taste broth for seasoning. Add salt/pepper if needed.

Serve this with an amazing loaf of wheat bread, buttered and warmed in the oven. A nice, easy meal that doesn’t require a lot of work just before dinner time.

**If you have leftovers you can use them to make a pot pie, using refrigerated pie crust that rolls out. It's very good actually. I know a lot of us like to cut out prepared items but there are times I like to rely on them when needed.**
Here is a soup I found several years ago on another blog and have made and enjoyed several times since. You can even adapt to making it in a crock pot for those busy days!!

Pasta E. Fagioli
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can Great Northern beans, drained
4 1/2 cups beef stock
3 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tsp pepper
5 tsp parsley
1 jar spaghetti sauce
4-8 oz. ditalini pasta

Put everything except the pasta in a stock pot or crock pot and simmer for several hours. About 30 minutes before serving, cook pasta according to package directions and stir in to soup!

New England Clam Chowder

5 lbs of red potatoes, chopped

About 6-8 stalks of celery, chopped

2-3 onions, chopped

3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, minced

2 lbs of bacon, cooked and crumbled

2--32 to 51 ounce containers of fresh or canned clams--chopped
Just barely cover the potatoes with water and cook until they're tender

Saute celery, onions, and parsley

Add celery, onions, parsley, bacon, clams and all the clam broth to the potatoes

Add salt, freshly ground pepper, and 4 tablespoons of butter

For clear broth chowder serve as is. Be sure and have fresh cream for those that enjoy a creamy chowder to add to their bowls.

Serve hot with oyster crackers.

Chicken Italiana

4-6 chicken breasts - boneless and skinless
1 can cream of mushroom soup (or homemade equivalent)
1 envelope of Good Season's Italian dressing mix
1 cup of dry white wine or chicken stock (wine cooks off so no worries about feeding alcohol to kids or new mommy but if you don't have it chicken stock is just fine)
1 stick of butter
8 oz of cream cheese

On stove melt butter and cream cheese together in a pot and mix together well. Add can of cream of mushroom soup, mix well. Add envelope of italian dressing mix, mix well. Add cup of wine or chicken stock, mix well. Place chicken in 9x13 pyrex casserole dish and pour cream cheese etc. mixture on top. Bake uncovered at 350 for about an hour or until chicken is done. Serve with white rice and ceasar salad and garlic bread.

It's really good, yeah it's got real butter and all that but it's really good and easy.

EASY Apricot chicken

4-6 chicken breasts-boneless and skinless
1 envelope of lipton onion soup mix
1-16 oz jar apricot jam

Place chicken in a crockpot. Mix lipton onion soup mix and apricot jam in a bowl together and pour over chicken. Cook on low 5-6 hours or until chicken is done. Serve with a salad and rice.

Dijon Chicken BreastsJuice from 2 lemons
1/3 cup of brown sugar
2-3 Tbsp of dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper

Family pack of chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise

~~Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Mix first 5 ingredients
Pour over chicken and bake for 10-15 minutes or until no pink remains inside.

Yummy Pork Dish
in a large skillet brown 4 boneless pork loin chops on both sides - season them with salt, pepper, garlic and cinnamon.

remove from skillet - add to skillet 1 cup apple juice, 1 cup of chicken stock and the contents of a long grain an wild rice seasoning packet - bring to a boil - then add the rice mix - stir. Place the chops back on top toss in some craisins and cover and simmer about 20 minutes - top with some shredded cheddar - close lid and let it melt ( I usually transfer to a disposable aluminum pan at this step - put the cheese on and melt it)

This is so good and easy and a great change from chicken!
Serve it with a salad, rolls, fruit and brownies!

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

This recipe makes enough potatoes to fill a 6 quart crockpot, or a large baking pan.

5 lbs of potatoes (we prefer red) washed, peeled/or no--as you prefer, and cut into consistently-sized chunks. Cook until nice and tender-ly done.

Drain water off potatoes, and return to pot, or place in a large bowl.


1 stick of butter

3/4 cup of sour cream

4-6 ounces of cream cheese

and salt and pepper to taste.

Mash all together until smooth. Add in 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup of milk, and continue to blend, until smooth.

Place in your buttered crockpot or baking pan or crock and heat as follows:

Cold in crockpot--cook 3 hours or so

Warm in crockpot--1 and 1/2 to 2 hours

Cold in oven--about 1 and 1/2 hours

Warm in oven--45 minutes to an hour.

Keep warmed until serving time.

They should be hot and bubbly when they're ready.

Overnight layered salad
1 head of lettuce, chopped
1 cucumber chopped
1 red pepper chopped
1 c. of celery chopped
1 onion chopped (white, yellow, red, or a combination)

1 10 oz. package of frozen green peas, uncooked. Thawed under cold water.

1c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. sugar

3 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 1/2 to 2 lbs of bacon fried and crumbled

In a large baking pan or bowl, layer lettuce, cucumber, pepper, celery, onion and thawed peas on top of each other.

Spread mayonnaise over all layers.
Sprinkle sugar over top of mayonnaise.
Toss grated cheese evenly over mayonnaise.
Sprinkle crumbled bacon over all.

Cover and chill in refrigerator overnight, or throughout the day.

We like to leave the veggies fairly chunky, and layer them deeply. You can vary ingredients and amounts to your family's liking. Quickly made and delicious. Great with crusty bread and quiche. Great because it's made ahead during your down time and readily available at dinner time. =0)

Ideas for prepped mains to freeze:

You can buy some fresh ground beef and mix it up with meatloaf seasonings it advance, then freeze it in a ziploc freezer bag, dated. When the day comes to use it you can thaw it out and pop it into a pan and oven without too much fuss.

You can buy chicken in bulk and do the same. Find a few diff. ways of seasoning/marinating them that your family would like and then do so in family meal size portions in gallon freezer ziplocs. The tedious part is done and all that is left is easy. I am thinking sticky chicken, italian dressing marinade for grilling, asian marinade, taco seasoning etc,... add some frozen or canned veggie and a bread or salad. Pretty good!

OR buy a chicken and split it into quarters. Season it in whatever way you will like (salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, dijon mustard, white wine, fresh herbs?) and plop it into a disposable aluminum roaster. A layer of onions, carrots and celery on the bottom will help the chicken elevated and cook. This would probably take about 30-40 minutes (uncovered). That's simply a quick idea, but it's different than the typical lasagna.

You can make meatballs and sauce ahead to freeze like above. Then just cook the pasta and side.

**If anyone asks to help out, let them!! We rob others of being a blessing when we don't accept help. If they ask what you'd like you can use some of these ideas.**

Here is a link for some additional ideas for frozen casseroles and other easy meal ideas.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

When the harvest comes in, can some salsa!

This is a salsa recipe I found online and have used for a couple years now. We love the fresh taste of this when cold packed, so GOOD! I use a HUGE 13 qt stainless steel bowl for this recipe.

About 6 pounds chopped tomatoes
About 2 pounds chopped green bell peppers
About 2 pounds chopped onions
2-5 hot peppers, minced (homegrown ones tend to be spicier so use your best judgement)
2/3 c. apple cider vinegar
2/3 c. fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
lots of fresh chopped cilantro, to taste
1 tablespoon of ground cumin, or to taste
1 tablespoon (or more) of moist grey sea salt

Here's how I do it: First I pick everything...the tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers and cilantro all come from our garden, and this year since we don't have a garden, when the harvest comes in faster than the farmers know what to do with it and the price drops as low as it's going to go, I will buy it then. ;-)

Next, I core all the tomatoes and then I chop them in batches in the food processor...I just pulse the processor 3-6 times depending on how small I want the chop to be.

Then I put them in a big colander to drain the juice off.

Next, I process the bell peppers and put them in a BIG bowl.

Then I process the onions and hot peppers together.

Then I add the chopped onions and hot peppers to the bell peppers in the BIG bowl.

By this time the tomatoes should be drained enough (save the juicee for some yummy drinking later on!), add them to the big bowl along with the vinegar, lime juice, the cilantro, cumin, and the salt.

Mix Well!

We prefer the taste of a raw pack method, if you want you can cook the salsa, boil it for about 10 minutes and then put it into jars :-) Ladle Salsa into hot sterilized jars and leave 1/4 inch head space. Add the 2 piece lid and process for 30 minutes using the boiling water canning method. Yield: 3 Quarts

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fall Means the Oven is Back in Business

Very happy to have comfortable weather enough to once again employ the oven without wilting the entire household, I eagerly prepared some sandwich bread (we had none) along with cinnamon rolls for breakfast yesterday morning. The two littlest boys slept until almost 10 o'clock in the morning, much to my surprise!! As soon as the rolls were almost ready to pull out, the aroma roused them out of beds and beckoned the two downstairs. Their faces alight with merry surprise, they watched me slip the pan from the oven to the stovetop to cool. Below, is my roll making in pictures. ;-)

Start by rolling your dough out into a thin oblong shape

Spread the sauce all over top surface of the rolled out dough

This is the way we roll them up..roll them up..roll them up..

all rolled up nice and snug

all prepped, just after spooning extra sauce to the tops, and ready to rise

fully risen and ready to go into oven

fresh out of the oven

To make cinnamon rolls, take a basic bread dough recipe:

Basic Bread Dough
Yields:3 loaves

3 cups comfortably warm water
2T yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 TBSP salt
9 cups flour

I set this in my Bosch kitchen system on level 1 for a couple short minutes to knead. You can also knead by hand.

Then divide dough into 3 equal amounts. I usually make 2 loaves of bread and 1 batch of cinnamon rolls, but you may do it differently depending on your needs. I take the 2 portions and allow to rise covered, until doubled in size, in a place free of drafts. When risen, punch down, shape into two greased loaf pans and allow to rise a second time while you prepare and rise the cinnamon rolls. At the end, they can all go in the oven together, though the bread loaves will take an additional 10 minutes than the rolls.

Now onto the rolls:
Start a stick of butter to melt on low heat in a small saucepan. Add some brown sugar and cinnamon once it begins to melt and stir until dissolved and uniform. I then take my single portion and roll it out very thin in an oblong shape on a sparsely floured surface (to prevent sticking). Spread a good amount of the sauce all over the surface of the bread dough.

Prepare a lasagna type oblong pan with cooking spray.

Be aware: This will be a messy job! Roll up tightly as you can, length-wise as in the pictures above until all the dough is rolled like a carpet ;) Then slice in about 20-26 slices. I use an extremely sharp knife so that I can cut without flattening. I've also seen it done with floss. You can "loosely tie" the floss around the roll and pull to slice each portion from the roll.

Gently place the rolls into prepared pan and allow to rise in a warm place. I then spoon some of the leftover sauce atop each roll. What I do is preheat my oven to 350 degrees, and set the pan of rolls in the microwave above my stove to rise in a warm and safe place. In about 30 min. they will be risen, and you may pop them into the oven to bake for 20 min or until golden brown. Serious. Yum.

You could glaze with maple syrup, but I leave as is. They don't last long enough with the 8 of us to dry out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

~The best laid schemes of mice and men often go askew~

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

My well laid plans have been put to rest. We moved into our new home with the help of our new friends and set up rather quickly. Unfortunately, immediately following move-in, on Sunday, August 29th, a flare up began.

I don't talk about it often, as I allow myself to forget about it when I am not constantly physically reminded, so for any who may not know, I was diagnosed with MS 3 years ago. May 10th of 2007.

It was our 12th wedding anniversary this day last weekend, and it began with numbness on part of my left foot. Now, a week later I am experiencing almost total body numbness/tingling. The only places not affected are my upper arms, collarbone area, neck and face/head. Thankfully it's mild enough and not total numbness so that I can still do the everyday things. It's just that things like typing is more cumbersome, washing dishes gets tiring, as well as stairs and that type of thing. The crazy part is not "looking" sick and people not realizing you are having an issue.

I thought long and hard, and was already struggling last year with the fatigue and lack of energy I can deal with at times, and decided last minute to sign the kids up for school. On Friday I grabbed my very organized binder with all of our documentation (birth certs, SS cards, immunization and physical sheets etc,..) and ran down to our district (which I've been hearing is very good) and signed the 3 littles up for K, 2nd and 4th grade. They get a bus which comes to our door and may start tomorrow. I have to call and make sure this afternoon, since it was last minute, they may have to wait an extra day.

I am coming to the realization that there are different ways of doing things, and that which cannot be accomplished one way can still be accomplished another. Instead of tormenting myself I am being compassionate to myself finally, and allowing God to do HIS work no matter where we find ourselves, we will bloom where we are planted, and I will be as mightily involved as God wills me to be.

Robert Burns said it best when he spoke To a Mouse so poetically, "The best laid schemes of mice and men often go askew."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Family Portrait

Our family has not had many portraits done over the years as a group. In the past 11 years we've had a family portrait done only twice! Once was 3 years ago done by a lady that went to our church who was a photographer among other talents. Then just this past Sunday, while Autumn was here to visit, I hopped on the opportunity to get another. Each year it may be more difficult to have us all together, so I want to take advantage of every opportunity to do so now that I realize that.

We went to Sears and I am pretty happy with the results overall. It is so hard to get perfect photos for a large group and I know better than to hold out for that. HA!

We ordered a huge 16x20 I believe for our great room. It truly is so nice to be able to gaze at my whole family together throughout the year. ;0)