Monday, December 31, 2012

Frozen Hot Chocolate!

I don't know why I never attempted this before? I have heard people rave about it all the way from New York's famous Serendipity and I love a good hot chocolate why did I not think of this before!?!? Well, good thing it's never too late and we made a quick run to our local all night grocery store last night to create this oh-so-tasty masterpiece before we snuggled in for a movie. Worth spending an hour reading about different recipes, worth going out into the cold to get just perfect ingredients, worth making mess in kitchen after all other dishes were done for day, and worth baby making art with it all over the table as the rest of us indulged. If that doesn't convince you...just make it, you won't regret it! It is really too easy and too tasty not to.

Frozen Hot Chocolate

2 cups whole milk (I would not exchange with anything different)

Five 1.25 ounce packets of Hot Chocolate mix (You can do less, but we loved it with five)
4 cups ice
1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
mini chocolate chips
Chocolate syrup
I have a really nice blender, so it made the ice blend into a perfect consistency.  Use the highest powered blending machine you own! Simply pour your whole milk and hot cocoa packets into blender. Blend well. Add your ice and blend until a whipped like frozen consistency. You will have yummy ice crystals gathering to top. 
Once this is done, pour your heavy whipping cream into a bowl large enough to use your hand mixer in. Add your sugar and blend until you have home-made whipped topping! You could swap for ready made Cool Whip, but I promise this extra step is worth it!
Give your frozen chocolate mix a quick last minute blend and pour into cups, spoon a big dallap of whipped topping on it, sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, and drizzle chocolate syrup over it. And as always, serve with a smile and enjoy!!!
(This serves about 4-5 people...we doubled it :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012's Chili!

As the cooler temps have settled in to stay, most find a big of pot of chili resting on their stove-top. If you haven't yet, now is the time to try it! Chili is one of my favorite soups to make because a.) it's filling b.) it's good and c.) it's easy. Served with some home-made cornbread and you've got yourself a real treat for a few days! The beauty of it too, is that you can pretty much do whatever you want with it. Make it simple or zesty as you turns out different every-time here and that's just the fun of a good chili "recipe".

Mama's Chili

1lb ground beef
1lb pork sausage
hand full of carrots
few celery stalks
1 red onion
1-3 peppers (I used sweet peppers this round)
purple cabbage (only because I needed to use it up)
1-2 can red kidney beans
1-2 cans chili beans
tomatoes (This can vary)
I used 9 frozen tomatoes from my garden, just puree them
2 cans tomato soup
2 cans diced tomatoes
dash of garlic salt or powder
chili seasoning to taste

Simple chop all your veggies and cook over medium heat with your beef and sausage. Once this is all cooked through, start dumping in your tomato varieties and beans. Once you have the consistency you'd like (some like more liquid, some like thick chili), add your seasoning. Let it simmer for an hour for best results and eat with warm cornbread! As always, serve with a smile and enjoy! (Best enjoyed with friends added to your table too...just sayin!!)

 As much as I can, I get veggies into my meals. Chili is just too easy to sneak a little or a lot in!

 Cooking your veggies with your meat is a must to get the desired non-crunch feeling in your mouth.

 There are so many bean and tomato varieties... get creative and use whats in the cupboard!

 I love, love fresh garden tomatoes pulled from my freezer for winter cooking!! It adds so much real flavor.

Now, don't be like me...I burnt this batch. Awful, just awful. Another easy option is to throw it into a crock-pot for the burning and plenty warm for dinner still.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mama's Chicken Noodle Soup

I love food. I was going to type I love fall foods, but then come spring I would write I love fresh spring salads and come summer I would write I love summer foods with grilling and sweet corn. So I might as well be honest and just say...I love food, all seasons of it. Food leaves a taste in your mouth and memory from when you ate it and with who and what is represents. The way cherry cheesecake makes me think of my grandma's table and eating it after many of her yummy meals and ham and potato soup reminds me of my other grandma's house on Christmas day and home-made bread makes me think of my mama in her own kitchen. Food for me is a connection to many hearts in my life and with it I hope to do the same. Food brings people together and good food keeps people coming back!  Good food and good people...doesn't get much better!

With fall comes my taste buds ready for soup season. I personally could live off soups this time of year, but my house full of growing boys would tell you something very different. I have made a variety of the basic chicken noodle soup and this one is my favorite. I never make two soups the same, so bear with me as I walk you through this of my weakness's....I never write my recipes down as I make them and often can't remember what exactly I did. Just tweak this a bit to your tasting as you go :)

Mama's Chicken Noodle Soup
1 bag frozen chicken breasts or tenderloins 
olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
fresh or dried parsley
chicken broth (anywhere from 3-6 cups)
Reames frozen home-made noodles (Do not use anything else! These are the best, I promise! I think the Amish would even agree :)
heavy whipping cream 

Begin by baking your chicken. I put olive oil on a good stoneware pan, lay my frozen chicken out, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 just until chicken turns white. Do not over cook or it will be tough meat in your soup.

In a pan large enough to hold soup, pour in your chicken broth. I use 2-3 boxes depending on how much I want to make. Then start adding your veggies...

I almost always use carrots and celery, but sometimes I just clean my fridge out too with left-over veggies like corn or peas. Chop your veggies and throw into pot of broth. Let cook until carrots are tender. As your veggies cook throw in some seasoning...I like kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and some freshly chopped parsley. You could use anything you like though and even add some onions if you wish.

This is where you must follow exactly, the only thing I always do the same. use Reames frozen home-made egg noodles. I can't even make home-made noodles that taste this good. I love these. I will say it again, I love these. Once your veggies are tender, pour a bag of these tasty things in your soup. While they soak up some juice, you have two options...1.) leave your soup as is with broth. 2.) Give it a creamy taste and texture by pouring in some heavy whipping cream. I usually do about 1- 1 1/2 cups. Its the good stuff!

Your soup is ready to enjoy once the noodles are cooked and it's nice and hot! As always, serve with a smile and enjoy!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Favorite Pumpkin Bars

It's pumpkin season!! Whoo-hoo! I love baking in October. Windows slightly opened, kitchen warm from toasty oven heat, fall colors coming through the windows, candles burning, piano music humming from the ipod. Anything pumpkin makes the house smell amazing and the mouths water. Welcome fall!!  These bars are a result of some of the first recipe experimenting I did over 10 years ago in the little kitchen my husband and I used while we lived in our church's old parsonage apartment. There was a variety of cook-books left in that old kitchen and I had so much fun flipping through them and trying some recipes on my new little man and me. After trying a few pumpkin bar recipes, I tweaked a couple to come up with this favorite.  And of my first creations as a home-maker.  
These are simple and oh so tasty. If you bake anything pumpkin this fall, I strongly suggest these! You won't be sorry!

Pumpkin Bars
4 eggs
2 C sugar
1 can pumpkin 
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 C Oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 C Flour

Mix together eggs, sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and oil. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Bake in greased 15 by 10 pan (stone-ware works best!) and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1- 8oz pkg. cream cheese
1/2 C margarine, softened not melted
3 1/2 C powdered sugar
2 1/2 tsp vanilla 

Cream all ingredients together until smooth, should not be lumpy. Spread over cooled bars.

 I actually added this recipe to our church recipe book years ago. I think it was my only addition to the book!

 If you have stoneware, I strongly encourage doing your baking in it. It makes such a big difference for even baking and no burnt bottoms. Big fan of Pampered Chef stoneware!

  Mmmm, this frosting is everything tasty and nothing lite :) Don't say I didn't warn you!

 Once these are frosted they last about 1-2 days here...

And off they go to neighbors and kids mouths and friends and family. Share the fall love! And as always, serve with a smile and enjoy!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Multigrain Hot Cakes

Brrr, cold mornings make me crave something warm to put into my tummy. I've been playing with multigrain hot cake recipes to replace my basic white flour pancake recipe. My boys eat pancakes, they are easy to make big batches of batter, and they are a good solid breakfast food when loaded with some good grains and a few veggies snuk in. Whip this together in seriously like 15 the extra batter in the fridge and have fresh hot cakes a few days in a row!

Multigrain Hot Cakes
2 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup rolled oats
4 Tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups fat free milk
6 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tsp vanilla
2 eggs
4-6 Thawed Cubes Mama Made fruit or veggie of your choice (optional) ~ we love apple/pumpkin flavors added!

Simply dump all your ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix well and let sit for 5 minutes before you bake over a hot skillet on low to medium heat. Serve with warm maple syrup pr honey...a smile too...and enjoy!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pretty in Pink Parfaits

Some mornings are just busier then others and getting everyone out the door by 8:30 can sometimes feel like a mini marathon. So.Many.Details!!  There are mornings where my hair-washing goal or the extra time to shave my legs quickly get bumped off the morning to-do list, but sending everyone off with a full tummy and eating well to start the day just doesn't happen here. I truly think breakfasts is one of the most important meals of the day and my kids brains and bodies need that boost to start well. So even on the days we are going a little faster pace then most mornings, I try to keep some basics around the house to throw these together. You probably have almost everything you need as I write this and if you don't...get creative with what you do have :) It's got all your basic breakfast items all made into one easy to take in the van jar!

Pretty in Pink Parfaits
Starting with the bottom layer:
strawberry yogurt
crushed frozen strawberries (use your blender "ice crush" mode)
vanilla yogurt
crushed frozen raspberries
strawberry or raspberry yogurt
crushed frozen berries

*You could totally use a variety of fruit, cereals, or yogurts.
Serve with a smile and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

it's apple season!

While I love the season of grilled food every night and fresh veggies from the garden, I also must admit...I love fall foods. Or maybe I just love food? Either way, apple season is here! Down at market the apple farmer made his appearance for the first time this last weekend, so it's safe to say the fall's finest dishes can start being made to enjoy! Between applesauce and apple dumplings and apple crisp comes the most looked forward to apple dish in our pie :) Probably my husband's favorite dessert I make, next to strawberry pie and for sure a must to smell up the house real nice and serve at the end of the back-yard dinner meal. And the best part? You can make this....fairly easily! (yes, YOU, who have never attempted a home-made pie!!) I promise! So gather your apples and warm up that oven. Fall is ready to visit your table!

Easy Crust
1 cup flour
1/2 cup crisco
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup very cold water

Apple Pie Filling
5 cups of peeled, sliced, and rinsed Granny Smith apples
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (I think it's around 1/2 tsp...I just sprinkle some in)
dash of nutmeg
dash of salt
2-4 Tbsp butter (slice and place on top of filling before you lay top crust in)

I think the best apple pie apples are Granny Smith, but any apple can do the job.

I like to add my crust ingredients together in my glass mixing bowl and knead together. Once it is fairly mixed I dump the pile onto a floured surface and knead away the rest until I have a nice round ball of dough. (and I double this crust recipe for two pie crusts)

Once your ball of dough is not too sticky that it sticks to the rolling pin, but not too dry that it crumbles, you are ready to roll out those crusts! You can do this...seriously.

I sprinkle a little flour on the top of the dough ball and roll out in each direction until big enough to fill the pie pan. Roll both crusts out. Lay your first one in the pan and set the 2nd one aside for the top.

Pinch your crusts down against the edge and leave just enough to pinch the top crust together when you are done filling it. You will have a little hanging over the edge of your pie pan.

Next, prepare your filling. Slice your apples and throw together with sugar, flour, nutmeg, salt, and cinnamon.

Set your butter pats on top.

Lay your top crust on top and cut along edge of pie pan to get rid of extra crust. Pinch together or use a fork to mold two crusts together.

Poke a cute design or poke at least a few air holes to let it breathe while it bakes.

Bake in your pre-heated oven at 400 degrees. If you time it well, put it in an hour before your hubs gets home from work... who doesn't love to walk into an apple pie scented house?

And the best part! Serve with a smile and enjoy! Happy pie making mama's!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Banana Cup-cakes

I love traditions. We always bake a cake or cup-cakes for the first day of school and this year was no different. This year, we had a bag of my banana-spinach baby-food to use up, so we found a recipe to tweak and add some fresh flavor! If you like banana bread, you'll love these. These are seriously too easy! The cinnamon peanut-butter frosting tops it off deliciously. Happy 1st day of school week, mamas! Cheers to a new year! 

Banana Cup-cakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas or 6 Banana/Spinach Mama Made cubes (thawed)
2 large eggs (farm fresh is best :)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together and spoon evenly into 14 cup-cake fillers. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until lightly golden brown. For extra fluffiness, set a bowl of water in your oven as you bake your muffins! Let cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter/Cinnamon Frosting
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla 
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk

Whip your butter. Add your peanut butter, vanilla, and cinnamon and whip well. Slowly add powdered sugar. Then add milk as you need to get consistency you want. Frost cupcakes, sprinkle, and as always...serve with a smile and enjoy!

 Little helpers make the baking more fun!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blueberry Bran Muffins

It's blueberry season! I am always looking for ways to sneak a little extra fiber into my children's diet. My kids do not like plain bran flakes, but they sure make for some good baking basics when it comes to making a kid friendly snack. And it is perfect time of year to gather some fresh blueberries for the mixing! If you were at market last weekend, this is what you found at our booth...feel free to share and enjoy!

Blueberry Bran Muffins

3/4 cup Bran Flakes, crushed
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp melted butter

1 3/4 cup bran flakes
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tbsp veg oil
3 cubes Mama Made Apple, thawed
1 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh blueberries

Pre-heat oven to 400. Grease muffin tins. (I prefer stoneware pans for this recipe). Combine cereal, buttermilk, egg, oil, apple in bowl. Let sit for 5 min, cereal should get soggy. Combine rest of ingredients and stir in blueberries last using a folding motion. Batter will be thick! Divide evenly into muffin cups and sprinkle with crunchy topping. Bake for  20-25 min. As always, serve with a smile and enjoy! (Each muffin has 2g of fiber)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Smoothie

Summer is my favorite season to eat! So many fresh fruits and veggies at markets, in stores, and growing in back-yards. Summer around here often is heard by the humming of the blender and the taste of sweet smoothies while we hang out on the back-porch swinging our days away. If you have picky kids, this is one of the easiest ways to sneak in some of their daily vitamins! Really, smoothies are so flexible. I often times just throw in whatever we have around, but there are a few favorite fruits/veggies that have my kids asking for more when their cup gets low. With the heat index in the 100's this last week, I suggest trying these out sooner then later... a perfect summer treat that you can feel good about serving :)

Summer Smoothie
1-2 bananas
large handful of raw spinach leaves
small handful of fresh Kale
1-2 cups vanilla yogurt (Greek yogurt is best) 
1 Tbsp flax seed or wheat germ
frozen strawberries (or frozen fruit of choice)
4-5 cubes Mama Made carrots baby-food
100% apple juice

This is a really flexible recipe. If you want, you can just use bananas, yogurt, frozen strawberries, and juice to get it to the consistency you want. Or you can add the extra's for some great added nutrients. I start by using a really good blender :)  I first put in my greens, yogurt, bananas, wheat-germ or flax seed, and a little tiny bit of juice. Blend that up. Add some frozen berries and your carrot cubes (if you have them). I add a bit more juice to help the frozen berries puree up nice. You've got yourself a sweet summer treat! As always, enjoy and serve it up with a smile!

PS If your blender won't finely blend your greens, purchase Mama Made, Banana/Spinach or Carrots/Kale, to get your greens into your frozen treats easier.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fresh Guacamole

I have an addiction. To avocados. I am so thankful our local ALDI has them for a good price, because I eat enough a week to keep them in supply and demand there! I have been playing around with some guac recipes and finally created the perfect one. This mixes up in about 5 minutes and you probably have everything you need on hand, minus the avocado (which, if you want some cheap, you better beat me to ALDI or I may have bought them all :)

Not only do these taste good, but they are good for you! Did you know avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins C,K, folate, and B6? Half an avocado has 160 calories, 15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and only 2 grams saturated fat. One globe contains more than one-third daily value of vitamin C, and more than half the day’s requirements of vitamin K. This so called "alligator pear" is a good source of nutrition and even my 10 month old loves them. How can you feel bad eating this guacamole recipe almost everyday? :)

Fresh Guacamole
1 avocado
1-2 cap fulls of lemon juice (great flavor add and keeps it from turning brown so fast)
1-2 good shakes of garlic salt
1-2 good shakes of chili powder (or taco seasoning)
1/4 cup of fresh salsa (you can also buy this at your local grocery store in the refrigerated area)

Simply scrape out your avocado and mash with a fork. Stir in the remaining ingredients. A perfect dip for chips, veggies, or mixed in a wrap! Serve with a smile and enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

French Brunch muffins

This tasty muffin reminds me of my grandmother's flavor in her custard that she used to make for us. I love how flavors from our childhood can quickly bring us back to a place and time. As I ate these muffins I remembered sitting at the table in my grandma's house, green table-cloth, windows open blowing the white sheer curtains towards me, as I spooned her chilled custard into my mouth and watched grandma sip her coffee from her apple china coffee cup. These muffins weren't her custard, but they made me think of her just the same.
Empty cupboards in my house had me searching for an easy, yet yummy brunch muffin for after church one Sunday. It's amazing what empty cupboards will make you do with whats on hand. Sometimes we must be stripped of what we think we need to create something wonderful and we wouldn't have attempted had we had what we thought we needed. These muffins are pretty simple and if you are a baker at all, you probably have what you need in your cupboards to whip these up quick!

French Brunch Muffins
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c white sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/2 c milk (I used buttermilk for this batch, just cuz I needed to use it up)
1/3 c melted butter

Combine these ingredients and place in a 6 cup muffin pan. I prefer a stoneware muffin pan for even browning and baking. But a tin pan works just as well. Once you've poured your batter in each cup, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Mmmmmm, serve warm. My kids loved them (and so did the hubs!).  And as always, serve with a smile and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the girls meet the great outdoors!

May has been a faster then usual pace of life, but these gals are still getting some pretty good attention! They are 5 weeks old today! They are growing fast and to celebrate their milestones we let them check out the outdoors for the first time! I'm not sure who loved it more...the chicks or the kids? 

 Loading them up for a wagon ride,

 pulling them to a grassy safe zone, 

 checking out their new skills...perching,






and loving being out and free!

Monday, April 30, 2012

fresh eggs: week 2

By now these girls are just becoming a regular part of our daily routine around here. They go through a little bit of their own newborn stage, needing constant care for a few days to quickly falling into an easy go with the flow of the rest of the family by just a couple weeks old. These gals have brought plenty of laughter to our family as we watch them run around curious and sleepy all at once most times. The boys have done well keeping up with their needs and Jaxon has written out his "business" plan to stay on tract for selling some good ole' grass fed fresh eggs eventually. Check out below for a follow-up from the first week of the girls arriving!

 These chicks really know how to party, but when they are done, they are done! They will literally run crazy and then fall flat on their face and just fall asleep. I crack up every time I witness it. See above photo :)

 The cute little fluff is quickly disappearing as little pin feathers start to grow. How exciting! I didn't think it would be so fast, but it's been so neat to come out each morning and see how much more they resemble chickens and less a ball of fluff. Of course, as any new gal growing new hair, there are some "ugly" moments... bald spots, prickly dangly feathers pointing out but not yet sprouted, and funky looking shafts that turn into feathers. Hey, it takes time to be beautiful!

 One of the most important things with young chicks is a clean brooder. I so badly want all these gals to live so I clean it out about every 3-4 days. I have become a huge fan of the pine shavings, as they smell good and keep things tidier then anything else. I layer a good inch of newspaper and then follow up with pine shavings (I read that anything other then pine can cause respiratory problems, so if you are using this blog as your own guide, do not use anything cedar and do not confuse pine shavings with pine chips!). I layer so much with newspaper, so if there is an accidental spill of water I can quick pick up the wet layers and easily recover with dry fresh pine shavings. A wet or damp brooder can make for some real sick chicks, real fast. The boys are good about filling the feeder twice a day and getting fresh water twice a day. These girls can put it down!

 Our neighbor made me laugh when she sent these chicken shaped cookies home with my kids the other day. What a perfect treat! I loved them!

 Week 2 meant introducing the girls to a roost. All chickens roost, out of instinct for survival. In the wild they will perch high in trees. In the barn they will find a rafter or light poles. In your back-yard coop, they need a place to roost. This is where they will sleep and go when needing to relax or if they feel like they are in danger. Perching for chickens is like a baby's first steps. It gives them a chance to practice their balance, learn to roost, and gives them something to play on. The start of this week, Jaxon and I sawed a few sticks we found to give them a beginner perching spot.  They pecked at it for a bit and went on their way. I know in time they will find their way to the top! (except our silkie banties...they sometimes prefer to sleep in a pile on each other like a bunch of kittens, We'll see what ours do!)

 A close up of their pin feathers falling into place. Their wings are so wide and so pretty. The reds have startled me a few times and almost flown right out of my hands. I guess they are growing faster then I realized! Letting little hands hold them lately has been more of a one on one experience with an adult to be sure these gals aren't flying the nest!

 Austin is still all about anything chicken. Love this kid. Here he is being a good trooper again as we clean the brooder box.

 Week 2 also meant it was about time to introduce grit. Not the kind of grit you eat in the south, but little pebbly grit for chickens that help them digest their food. Chickens do not have teeth or stomachs. Their food goes straight to their crop, the little pouch at the base of their necks.If you've ever seen a bulge on a chicken's neck, you've probably caught them in a moment right after they've eaten. Eventually that food passes into their gizzard where it is digested. They need a grinding agent, called grit. Since these chicks can't find their own pebbles on the ground just yet, we purchased a bag of grit for them at our local feed store. A cheap $4 bag of this will get you a longs way. The first few times I just sprinkled some of this onto their fresh bedding so they could learn to search for their pebbles. Some say you can just place in a dish for them, but I preferred the more natural search and find method :) Sometimes grit is called "scratch", when the birds can find their own by scratching around on the ground and grass.

 Week 2 has had plenty of necessary petting times too. These gals are getting a little more skittish as they grow, so holding and petting them for taming reasons is crucial at this stage so they won't run and hide every time we go to see them in the yard someday!

Little Joanie is still hanging on, but she is much smaller then her brooder pals. Here's the flock mid-way through week two! They already look so different! Stay tuned for week 3 as we bring up the heat lamp a bit to 85 degrees and take the girls outside for their first yard visits! The weather man says 80 this week and these girls are anxious to greet the great outdoors!