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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Home Canned Salsa

Today a basket of peppers, chilis and tomatoes that someone graciously shared with me became 14 beautiful pints of salsa. The process began with roasting peppers and ended with boiling the pints. All told, it probably took about 3 hours. The herbs and spices were already in the cupboard, as was the tomato paste. Onions were the only ingredient that had to be purchased just for this recipe...and if you are growing them, maybe this will be an almost free thing for you.

Home Canned Salsa:
6 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped roasted chili peppers (or you can use 1 small can~ I have done both)
1 small can tomato paste
1 chopped jalapeno pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
2 Tbls sugar
2 Tbls vinegar (because tomatoes just aren't acidic enough these days to be completely safe in a boiling bath)
Combine all ingredients and simmer for about 90 minutes. Pour into clean pint jars. Adjust prepared lids and boil for 15 minutes. visit frugal friday, food on friday, friday feasts, foodie friday, grocery cart recipe challenge and family recipe friday

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Putting Together Menus for Entertaining

I am an incorrigible list maker. I make lists for everything. I thrive on organization. Maybe that explains why I decided, a few years ago, to put together some entertaining menus. Besides making weekly menus to save money and time, I have this list for special occasions. It allows me to fit special dinners for guests into a weekly menu without having to wrack my brain for ideas. I keep it tucked in a certain cookbook on the shelf.

When coming up with menus, I try to stay frugal, but also add a bit of something special. I think about what the plate will look like and try to include a variety of colors in the meal. I also try to think about what will be in season, how hot it will be outside and what kind of atmosphere I will be trying to create.

Here is what I came up with (feel free to ask for me to post anything that looks interesting):

(*)means the recipe is already posted on the blog
1. Mexican Chicken, Herbed Tomato Pasta*, Tossed Salad with oranges, Chili Cheese Rolls, Apple Pie*
2. Tuscan Pork Roast*, Risotto, Carrot Coins*, Wilted Green Salad, Hazelnut Torte
3. Lasagne, Garlic Bread, Fruit Salad, Green Salad, Trifle*
4. Rosemary chicken, Petit Pois, Sauted yellow squash, Rolls, Cheesecake*
5. Enchiladas, Refried Beans*, Spanish Rice, Caesar Salad, Homemade Ice Cream*

There are more, but I am afraid I will bore you...

But I did also do some themed meals: fondue, brunch, Chinese, Irish, Pizza party, and an Appetizer fest. Planning ahead allows me to be more spontaneous later. When the Good Guy says, "Let's have So and So over to dinner, I can say, "Sure, how about this week?" I look at what I have on hand and then go to my ready made menus and VOILA the dinner is planned.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Stories: Hard Times Are Nothing New

Everywhere one looks these days, there are news stories, blogs, and what-not about how people are cutting back, saving money, getting out of debt and making do with what they have. My blog is just one of them, but I am not sure that most of us can even comprehend what it means to be truly poor. I still have a computer with internet, I have a closet full of clothes, my cupboards are full of food, I have a newer model car with a tank full of gas. Although I have cut back considerably, meaning I haven't bought any new clothes for myself, gone out to eat recently, gone on vacation, or bought anything that wasn't a necessity, I think I'd still be considered rich in many places in the world. My standard of living is also well above that of my forebears.

I will go back a few generations to illustrate my point.

My mom started working in the family restaurant when she was ten years old. She had three outfits to wear to school that were alternated through the week. When she was a little older, she had to make or buy her own clothes with the tip money she earned waitressing.

My grandmother was the oldest of five children. She was a teenager through the Great Depression. She told of eating "soup sandwiches" where they opened a can of undiluted soup, sliced it and spread it onto bread. Her father owned a plot of muckland in upstate New York, so they always had vegetables of some sort. They were too poor to buy meat, so they would gig frogs and eat frogs' legs to suppliment their diet with a bit of protein. They got their milk from the milkman who dipped out their portion from the old fashioned metal cans. After a while, they lost their home and that land, so they rented for the rest of her growing up years.

My great-grandmother was born in the late 1800s. She was the sixth of nine children. She told of eating lard sandwiches (slices of lard on bread) and once in a while for a special treat, the childen were given clabbered milk instead of lard (picture milk about to go bad, all lumpy and smelly~that was a treat!). When asked what else she ate, she replied, "Mush! Mush for breakfast, lunch and dinner!" Despite their poverty, however, the vagrants marked their property as one that would give a handout. Poorer than dirt, they still found extra for those "less fortunate" than themselves.

How spoiled I am, to complain about what I don't have! Shame on me and the rest of us, too. No matter how little I have, I know that women in my family have done with less, survived, and were happy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Carrot Coins


 Today's recipe is a simple one, but it is always a hit with everyone.  Carrots are naturally sweet, but that little extra sweetness added by the apple juice and sweetener makes them almost like candy....Vitamin packed candy.  I have used agave nectar, maple syrup and brown sugar in this recipe.  All turn out well.  You could change the apple juice for orange juice with good results, too.
We eat carrots in one form or another every week.  They are one of the few vegetables that every single person in my family enjoys.

Carrot Coins:
6 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin slices
1/3 cup apple juice
3 Tbls butter
2 Tbls brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbls parsley
In a medium saucepan, bring apple juice, butter and brown sugar to a boil over medium high heat. Stir in the salt. Add carrots. reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer. Stir occasionally until tender. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, cook uncovered until it reduces. Toss carrots with parsley and serve.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Saturday Stories: An Example of Love

When I was a teenager, full of myself and fairly oblivious to everything else, I witnessed an act of "going the extra mile" that has always stayed with me.

I lived in Michigan and it was winter. Winters on Lake Huron were bitter cold. Somedays the wind chill dipped well below zero.

On Sundays, my dad often drove separately to church because he had extra meetings before or after the main worship services. One such Sunday, we arrived home, mom started making dinner and we waited for dad. He usually arrived home about an hour after us. This Sunday we waited and we waited and waited. This was long before cellphones and Mom was starting to get upset. I think it was a combination of worry and consternation.

Finally, dad pulled into the driveway and walked into the house. We all met him at the door, wondering why he had been so delayed (it was a good couple of hours after he should have been home by now). He said that he had been driving through town and had seen a young man walking north in the cold. He had stopped and offered him a ride. The young man said he was headed for the next town to the north (30 minutes away). Dad drove him the whole way, gave the guy his new leather gloves and hat, and then drove all the way home.

I have always admired my parents' selfless service toward others. This is just one example amongst a myriad of acts of kindness they have shown their fellowmen throughout their lives.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

13 Things About Our New Life in Arizona

We have been here for 3 weeks now. School has started, things are different, here are 13 things about our new life, in no particular order.

1. We are learning about swamp coolers. They work wonders when it is dry, but on days that are rainy or humid, they don't do much. I think they are interesting and a bit scary.
2. Only 2 roads in my new town have speed limits over 25. It's a good sized place (about 40,000) but very residential. I like the slower pace. I think it's a kick to drive down a four lane divided road goin 25!
3. There are 3 grocery stores plus a Costco, Sam's Club and Walmart within 8 miles. That is a big upgrade. I love being able to choose where I shop.
4. The boys are gone a long time during the day (6:30 - 3:45). The younger kids are in a school that requires uniforms. I like seeing my sons tuck in their shirts. I haven't decided about the large amounts of homework. It's good for my oldest. He has coasted for much too long.
5. Cactus. Goat's Heads. Grass that cuts you. Arizona isn't a friendly botanical place.
6. I took a really good picture for my driver's license. Considering it will last until I turn 65, I am glad.
7. Nothing broke in the move. I haven't hung any pictures, but everything is pretty much unpacked.
8. My cat is no longer freaked out by the new surroundings. He spent the first 3 days hiding. Now he ventures throughout the house ~ when the boys are gone.
9. One evening, my husband and I were sitting out on the porch talking when a family of 3 skunks walked up. The Good Guy made a loud noise to scare them off...in hind-sight, I am not sure that was a good idea, but they left and we didn't get sprayed.
10. In front of the police station, there is a statue of a police officer hanging onto the collar of a youth. I am not sure what message they are sending the kids in the area...
11. I found doctors for my kids. I think I am going to be happy with them. I have an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist for my son on growth hormone. The move put a 3 week gap in his meds, but the medical professionals say that won't be a big problem (by the way, he is such a trooper and I am not as squeamish as I thought)
12. I have signed up with the local freecycle and there are second hand and consignment stores all over...There are lots of future treasure hunts to be made.
13. The boys have made friends. They have also drawn closer to each other. I think this move will end up being a good thing. In any new environment adjustments have to be made, but this one changed a lot of things for them. I am proud of their resiliency.

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Family Recipes: Aunt Janice's Cherry-Berries on a Cloud (GF)

I married into a large close-knit family. We travel to reunions every summer and often get together with cousins, aunts and uncles in the spring and fall, too. It's always potluck at the meals. There are many good cooks in the family. This is a favorite dessert among the group made by the Good Guy's Aunt Janice.
CHERRY-BERRIES ON A CLOUD (10 to 12 servings)
CRUST
6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup sugar

FILLING
2 cups chilled whipping cream
2 pkgs cream cheese (3 oz. each) softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup sugar

TOPPING
1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups sliced fresh berries or 1 package (16 ounces) frozen berries. (Any kind can be used)

CRUST Heat oven to 275 degrees. Butter a baking pan, 13x9x2 inches. In a large mixer bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until foamy. Beat in 1 3/4 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until stiff and glossy. (Do not underbeat!)Spread in pan. Bake 1 hour. Turn off the oven; leave the meringue in oven with the door closed for 12 hours or longer. (I do this part at night & leave it in oven all night.) (Do not open oven door before 13 hours)

FILLING In a chilled bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff. Blend cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and the vanilla in another large bowl. Gently fold the whipping cream and marshmallows into the cream cheese mixture; spread over the meringue. Chill 12 to 24 hours. Cut into serving pieces and top with Cherry Berry topping.

TOPPING Stir together 1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling,1 teaspoon lemon juiceand the berries.(As you can see it takes planning to prepare this. It is easy, just plan ahead.)I serve the topping on the side and allow everyone to put on the amount they want. The dessert keeps better without the topping on the filling. The longer it sets together, the better it is.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Zucchini Fruit Leather

Note: If you are diametrically opposed to Koolaid and red dye #40, you shouldn't bother with this recipe.

This doesn't taste anything like zucchini and no one would ever know there was any in it, except it's fun to tell them after they rave about it. I have never seen this recipe in any cookbook. I did a google search and couldn't find it. Whoever it was that actually invented this recipe was a very clever person. If I had had a garden this year, I would have done a stage by stage photo post. I may reserve that for next year. In the meantime, any of you who have an overabundance of zucchini and kids may like this treat. All ages love this stuff, trust me.

Zucchini Fruit Leather
1 package unsweetened tropical flavored Koolaid
1 quart of zucchini, peeled, seeded and shredded
1 20oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup sugar
Place zucchini in a microwavable bowl, cover and cook until done. Drain WELL. Combine all 4 ingredients in a food processor or blender until the consistency of applesauce. Drain off any watery liquid.

Option 1: Spread on a food dehydrator trays lined with saran wrap or the insert for leather that came with the appliance. Dry for 8-12 hours at 125 degrees.
Option 2: Line a rimmed baking sheet with saran wrap. Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. Bake in oven on lowest setting for 6-12 hours or until dry but pliable.

Tear into serving sized pieces and lay them on pieces of saran wrap, then roll them up and store in a tupperware container or ziploc bag.

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Fruit Leather on Foodista

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Italian Sausage Over Spaghetti Squash

This was originally posted in October 2008, when I first started blogging. I thought it may come in handy for some gardeners this year. It is absolutely delish!
Tonight I made Italian Sausage over Spaghetti Squash. My spaghetti squash this year was extra orange with beta carotene. The grocery stores called it orangetti.
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can Great Northern beans, drained
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 can Italian tomatoes (I used fresh)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
1 medium spaghetti squash
Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the insides, prick the skin and lay it cut side down in a glass pan. Pour 1/2 cup water over it and cover. Microwave 15 minutes or until done. Scoop out strands and place on platter. Meanwhile (or maybe first!) brown sausage in a pan, drain. Add onion, pepper and garlic and cook until onions are almost done. Add the zucchini, beans, tomatoes and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Pour over the spaghetti squash and serve.
I normally don't care about presentation but this is one pretty dish!
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Saturday Stories: Some Broken Bones

Most people break bones skiing (my mom and hubby) or in car accidents (my mom-in-law), but some us are lucky(?) enough to do it in weird/stupid ways.
In 5th grade, I was not even remotely athletic, but I liked to play with the gang at recess in whatever game was going on. Often it was kickball or tether ball (I stank at both), but one day a big group of us started playing a game which involved running from one side of a grassy courtyard to the other. The gym wall was on one side and classrooms were on the other. We would run in a herd as someone called out directions. As we ran to the gym wall, I tripped over a rock and stumbled. I put out my left arm and fell against the brick wall of the gymnasium. Both bones in my left forearm were broken. Ever since, I was able to say I broke my arm by running into a brick wall.

My middle brother was the stuntman of the family. He decided one day to see if he could jump off a swing. Backwards. I don't even know how he managed to stand up on a swinging swing and jump. Needless to say, he broke both of his arms and wore two casts for weeks.

My third son broke his left arm when he was three. We were at a soccer practice for my oldest son which was held at an elementary school playground. The Engineer has always been large for his age, but his muscles haven't exactly kept up with his size. He found a fun thing to play on that was sort of like a zipline on a bar. He held on tightly with his arms above him and then rode it over to the other side. Halfway across, he lost momentum and came to a stop. He just didn't have the strength to hang on and dropped to the ground (he was as high as he would have been on monkeys bars). Immediately, all of the moms at the practice knew he'd broken his arm and we made a swift trip to the emergency room.
A year later, the same son was on a different school playground, hanging like a sloth on a bar about 4 feet off the ground. He dropped to the ground and broke his other arm. Would you be surprised to know that he never decided whether he's left or right handed?

Have any of you ever broken a bone in an unusual fashion? I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

13 Additions to Liven up your Food

Here are some things I do to shake things up a bit in my foods. Some are common enough, but maybe you will find one you haven't tried.

1. Add vanilla to homemade pie crust when adding the water
2. Add cream cheese to mashed potatoes in place of some milk & butter
3. Add allspice to pumpkin pie along with cinnamon and ginger
4. Add bacon to green bean casserole
5. Add lemon juice to pecan pie filling before baking
6. Add a can of gumbo soup to your sloppy Joes
7. Add coconut extract to fresh peach pie filling
8. Add powdered sugar instead of regular sugar to whipping cream when whipping
9. Add cut up lemons and oranges to the interior cavity of roast chicken
10. Add Italian seasoning to frozen corn for an extra bit of special
11. Add peppermint extract and flavored coffee mate to hot chocolate
12. Add a cup of hot Postum in place of coffee in baked goods (if you don’t drink coffee)
13. Add 1/3 Provolone to 2/3 mozzerella on homemade pizza

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Spam Fried Rice

Spam might be an aquired taste. But! It's cheap and it is easy to use. I have found ways to use it that are hits in my family. These recipes camouflage the spaminess. Fried rice is an easy Sunday dinner. I start the rice in my cooker just before we leave for church. I also cook the vegetables and spam before we leave. When we get home, I put the refrigerated veggies and meat in a pan, heat them up, add the still warm rice and then add the egg. It goes together in about 15 minutes; just enough time for all of the kiddos to be out of their church clothes and gathered around the table with forks in hand.
1 Tbls oil
1 chopped onion
1 minced garlic clove
2-3 large carrots, chopped or sliced
any other vegetables that need to be used up
1 can Spam, diced
2 cups rice cooked with 4 cups water
2 eggs, beaten
2-3 Tbls soy sauce
Heat oil, saute onion, garlic and vegetables until soft. Add spam, heat through (I like mine a bit browned) Add cooked rice and soy sauce. When warmed, add beaten egg. It's done when the egg is cooked. Add more soy sauce to taste.

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