Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Homemade Relish

Item #96 -

With the garden in full swing and our kitchen counter looking like the produce aisle, I've been trying to bring purpose to every last veggie that has entered our home from our own garden or another's!

A couple weeks ago after making our first round of pickles this season, I had a bowl full of leftover cucumber chunks after needing to cut a few of my cucumbers to fit lengthwise in the jars, so I decided what better way to use these than some relish.

So I went a googling and found a recipe from Jim and Mary at Old World Garden Farms ... and to be quite honest it was 90% for the name of their farm and 10% for their recipe ;) Either way, they have an inspiring story and some delicious relish {and you know it's delicious when I can convince the Mr. to try it and he's up for trying it on his Chicago Dog!}.

Other than omitting the celery seed (only because it's a very prominent favor that's not overly appreciated by a few in the family) and having to improvise on the process because I was multitasking and didn't read the directions very well the first time through {whooooppsss!!!}, I followed their recipe to a 'T' and was very pleased with the process.

Homemade Sweet Relish

1 onion
1/4 cup pickling salt
3 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
2 teaspoons dill seed
2 teaspoons mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Cut cucumbers lengthwise and remove seeds. Chop cucumbers and onion in food processor, being careful not to over process them. In a glass bowl, combine chopped veggies and salt. Allow to sit for 2 hours. Strain liquid off, pressing to remove excess moisture. In stockpot bring remaining ingredients to a boil. Add veggies. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Transfer relish to clean jars. Store in refrigerator for up to a month. Or can using a water bath for 10 minutes. Makes about 4 pint size jars. 

Cost comparison: 
Price per jar - $1.11 homemade vs. $1.49 for store bought

For 1st timers (based off of Meijer Prices) 
cucumbers - free or ~$3
onion - $1.19
pickling salt - $1.59
vinegar - $2.69
garlic - $0.50
dill seed - $3.49
mustard seed - $2.49
turmeric - $5.89
pint mason jars w/lid - $7.69 12 ct. 
TOTAL - $23.53 not including cost for cucumbers before tax

For next time, I will try using the celery seed and maybe cider vinegar instead of white. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Homemade Celery Salt

Item #95 - 

Who uses that? Anybody? Well, we have never but will be now.

The other day I ran across those amazing Chicago Poppy Seed Buns and I instantly started reminiscing and craving the Chicago Style Dogs I always enjoyed at the ballpark when the Mr. coached in a collegiate summer league before the kiddos came along. SO of course what was my first instinct? To start googling Chicago Style Dogs and what all goes on them!

I knew the basics: poppy seed bun, hotdog, onion, relish, pickle, tomatoes, but I knew there was something special ... like a secret ingredient and sure enough there was! Any guesses? That's right ... CELERY SALT. 

Well of course, I didn't have any of this on hand BUT I did have some celery seed from over ten years ago {sad, I know, but herbs and seasonings can be outrageously priced so it pains me to throw them out and really do they ever go bad?!? if they do, please do not share this with me ... I am okay staying naive in this area. hehehe!} so I figured it was worth a try. After a quick google search, I realized it was as simple as celery seed and salt ground up.

  Homemade Celery Salt

1 part celery seeds
1 part salt

Grind in a mortar and pestle until fine. 

 This is a great job for the kiddos. "Is that good enough, mom?" "No, keep going ... a little more ... take turns." You get the idea ;)

And then of course there's the Chicago Style Hotdog complete with garden fresh tomatoes, banana peppers, homemade relish, homemade pickles, and a dash (yes, only a dash ... too much of a good thing isn't always a good thing!) of homemade celery salt. 

And every one of our kiddos where 100% on board with loading their dog up just like this and devoured the whole thing! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Marinated Pork Burgers

WOW ... it's been WAY TOO LONG!!! There's nothing really outrageous or out of the norm about tonight's post but I promised myself I was going to get back in the swing again since the summer is almost to an end {que the tears or the celebrations ... I know there are always these two extremes that come with the mention of school starting back up}. We are a split household here with a current teacher, a former teacher (who is only slightly ready for a normal routine ... if there ever is such a thing in a family of 6, BAHAHAHAH!), two returning to school, and one getting ready to start kindergarten so we are a prime example of both of these! 

So like I said, I was bound and determined to get a post in and since an evening that involves a home cooked meal (other than frozen pizza, lunch meat sandwiches, or hot dogs) as been few and far between on these summer nights, I decided my efforts for dinner was post worthy ... even if it was just to get writing again!

First was my detailed (not even close) meal planning which consisted of grabbing the local grocery store ad to see what meat was on sale AND would be quick. At $1.99/lb ... pork burgers it was. On a fly-by to the grocery store on the way home from dropping #1 off at open gym it was in and out to grab the pork burgers and some buns {and of course along with a few other items, because really how often do you exit a grocery store with ONLY what you went in for ... for me it's rarely! Unless I have done my homework and my mealing planning is spot on which SO has not been the case this summer :) }. Best part about the pork burgers, they were from Steidinger Foods in Fairbury, IL. OH YEAH! I am going allow myself a little proud moment here since my maternal grandma was a Steidinger from Fairbury, which makes these pretty much from family AND absolutely delish!!!

Marinated Pork Burgers

12 pork burger patties
2 to 3 cups open pit barbeque sauce
1/2 to 1 cup honey

Preheat grill. In a grill-safe pan (foil-lined optional), mix the open pit barbeque sauce and honey. Place pan with marinade on preheated grill. Grill pork burgers until fully cooked. As each one is finished cooking, add it to the marinate pan and let simmer for a 5-10 minutes. Remove marinated pork burgers from the pan to a serving dish as needed to make room the remaining burgers. Cover with foil until ready to eat. Enjoy marinated pork burger on a bun of your choice. 

Along with a side of steak fries and fresh cucumbers, we can call it a complete meal. YUM!!

Pork Burgers - $6.23
Buns - $1.50
Honey - about $1.25
Open Pit - about $0.75
Cucumber - $1.01
Steak Fries - $1.80
TOTAL - about $12.50 for complete meal
Feeding Capacity - 4 adults and 4 kids 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Strawberry Topping

Item #94 - Strawberry Topping

It's the time of year for strawberries and ice cream! But the best part about this stuff  sauce topping {sure wished I could come up with something more fun for a name:) }, we've used it on our PBJs, waffles, Grammy Lou Lou pancakes (aka skinny pancakes ... almost like a crepe), and ice cream. 

This is really just a variation from my Pectin-Free Strawberry Jam but I combined it with the Happy Money Saver's "Old Fashioned Strawberry Jam" recipe admittedly because there's just something about using a recipe that has 'old fashioned' in the title :)

I started with about 2 pounds of strawberries and we ended up with 12 - 8 ounce jars. For the fresh berries, sugar, jars, lids, and rings the total cost was under $20 and didn't take much more than a few hours ... both well spent in my book.

I made this batch just over a month ago and as you can see, some of our first batch made their way to into being a cute gift for some 'berry' special people in our lives :) Due to my days as the student council advisor and one of our council's jobs being teacher appreciation week, I just can get enough of all the punny sayings!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


I missed last week and I was hoping to get something up on the blog tonight but the post I've been working on just isn't ready, so it's going to have to wait. But I can't go another week without acknowledging an amazing feat we have been able to be part of these past few months. 

Our baseball family has been on quite a journey over this postseason as they brought home the 2nd place Class 2A IHSA State Baseball trophy on Saturday, the first state baseball trophy ever in school history ... such an exciting time! So proud of these young men, sad to think this same family will not play ball together again, yet excited to think what next baseball season will bring!

I have to send a HUGE thank you to all the support that was poured into this baseball family of ours from the parents, the community, former players, and the list goes on! It truly is a family and it just keeps growing, each year births a new group of young men we get to share our lives with and although the season may only last just over 3 months they are forever a part of who we are. These guys give their heart and soul, day in an day out!

I wish I could type more but my emotions, my patience, and my attention span are shot, my reserve tank is on empty, and I have officially crashed from my adrenaline rush from these past few months. Apologies to anybody that had to deal with me over these past few days because I know I was not all with it! I feel the need to add that if you happened to see me and I seemed to be cool and calm on the surface that was only Jesus's love encompassing me and holding me together because underneath I was an emotional wreck ... all that is good within me comes from Him and I can take no credit!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Homemade Steak Seasoning

Item #93-

Steak seasoning was a great post for this week since I've been wanting to share my recipe for my cashew chicken and steak seasoning is my secret ingredient for the butter sauce I make to drizzle on top of our fresh steamed green beans and cashew chicken with rice. 

The secret ingredient was discovered by complete accident when I tried to remember {my memory is terrible when it comes to remembering how I make something ... which is one of the main reasons for starting this blog in the first place!} a recipe for Outback green beans off of Pinterest that I had made multiple times, but was too lazy to pull it up. I knew there was one ingredient I always had to substitute for and for whatever reason steak seasoning was what I thought I always used. 

My go to steak seasoning is of course from Aldi, 1) because it's inexpensive and 2) because it's  delish so here is my first attempt at coming up with a recipe that compares to this!

Homemade Steak Seasoning

2 tablespoons salt (coarse salt or sea salt is best)
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 tablespoon crushed dill seed
1 teaspoon cumin or 1 tablespoon crushed coriander
1 teaspoon crushed celery seed or 1 tablespoon fennel
1/2  teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon rosemary

Now for the cashew chicken. I do have to admit this is usually a throw together meal but the basics are the same and it's easy to tweak to your own liking! I also have two version detailed {when I don't have the basics} and simple {when I do}. 

Homemade Cashew Chicken - detailed

Rice - 
3 cups long grain white rice
5 cups water

Put water in sauce pan. Bring to boil. Add rice. Cover and simmer for 15-18 minutes until majority of the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. I always go for a moister rice. 

Chicken -
2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breast
8 ounces cashew halves
1 1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water 
   + 1 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoon rice vinegar (wine vinegar or regular vinegar would work just fine)
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoon honey
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated or minced
1/2  teaspoon hot sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toast cashews for 5—6 minutes. Split and slice chicken breast. Heat oil in pan and fry until fully cooked. Mix remaining ingredients in bowl. Add sauce and toasted cashews to skillet and cook for 5 minutes. 

Butter Sauce
8 tbsp butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon steak seasoning
1 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic
½  tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Melt butter in sauce pan. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. 

Serve chicken and cashews over rice drizzle with butter sauce. A side of fresh steamed green beans is always a must for us. :) 

Simple Cashew Chicken

2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breast
8 ounces cashew halves
1 to 1 1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 to 1 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce (optional - usually make my own, but recently just found some at Aldi and tried it out) 
1/4 cup oyster sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toast cashews for 5—6 minutes. Split and slice chicken breast. Heat oil in pan and fry until fully cooked. Add remaining ingredients and toasted cashews to skillet, stir,  and cook for 5 minutes.

We aren't big rice (or pasta) eaters around here, but this meal as become a favorite ... especially since my accidental steak seasoning mix-up :)!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Homemade Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

Item #92 - 

I would love to sit here and small talk with y'all but this lady is beat and I can't get to my bed quick enough ... how many others are with me! :) Three days into the week and I've been two 6 ballgames ... eek! Busy but there's really nothing better!

Sure glad I saved this post until tonight so it could be simple and quick.

Homemade Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

4 ounces cream cheese (I really need to try making my own)

Whip ingredients together. Enjoy. 


We have completely indulged in the homemade marshmallow fluff this past week ... oh favorite way to eat it is with graham crackers straight out of the jar. YUM!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Marshmallow Fluff

Item #91: Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

Well, for the wife of a high school baseball coach and mother of 4 with 2 playing ball themselves, rain sometimes offers a much appreciated break in the evening schedule which is what today brought! I love spending nights at the ballpark watching one of my favorite past-times but it sure does feel good to come home straight from work, have a home cooked meal on the table by 6:15, and be giving good night kisses and tucking 4 squeaky clean munchkins into bed at 8:20. 

And for the home cooked meal ... I'm not much of one to toot my own horn, but if I do say so myself ... it was a home-run tonight! Some cashew chicken on top of rice drizzled with a not-so-low calorie seasoned butter sauce with a side of fresh, streamed green beans. And for dessert some strawberries and homemade fruit dip. 

If you are familiar with a fruit dip made from marshmallow fluff, cream cheese, and a little bit of vanilla ... you now know one of my kryptonites {peanut butter by the spoonful is a close second, but THIS stuff definitely takes the cake every time in my book}! And don't you worry, if you've never experienced this little bit of heaven, I'll be sharing the very simple recipe for the fruit dip next.

For my first attempt of this fluffy white stuff, I followed a recipe I found on the kitchn

some heavenly fluffiness right here!

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

6 tablespoons water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
candy thermometer

Heat water, sugar, and corn syrup in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it reaches 240°F on the candy thermometer. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes. {It will slowdown around the 220°F, but then should pick back up ... I wasn't patient enough for this and it still turned out amazing, so I can't wait to try it again}. While sugar mixture is heating, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed and add cream of tartar and salt. Continue to beat eggs until soft peaks form. Once the sugar mixture reaches 240°F, carefully remove and allow the mixture to cool for 20 seconds. With the mixer on high, slowing drizzle the sugar mixture into the stiff egg whites. Continue to beat for 7 to 8 minutes or until the mixture returns to room temperature. Add vanilla and mix until it resembles marshmallow fluff {YUM!}. Makes about 4 cups. Use right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks {if it last that long :)}.

fresh off the press ... before all the little fingers came in for a snitch!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Jalapeno Bagels

I've already posted about making bagels from scratch, but I was in need of a chuckle this evening so decided to share the good and the bad :)

I made these for #1 when she was in 2nd grade and was able to make them again for #2 a few weeks ago. It is a fun treat to go along with book Jalapeno Bagels by Natasha Wing and Robert Casilla. 

My plan and execution for getting these bagels made fresh for the classroom activity planned by #2's 2nd grade teacher went off without a hitch ... yet on the same kitchen on the same night I had a frozen pizza meet it's doom! In my eyes crunch is almost always better, right?!?!? or is this TOO crunchy??

bagels from scratch - awesome
frozen pizza - not so awesome
what is wrong with this picture!!!! LOL!
Either way this is a great reminder that some moments in life turn out better than we could have expected and others, well, may just be toast! It's in those toasting moments we are just being refined
into diamonds, just like in Hawk Nelson's song Diamonds

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Homemade Italian Seasoning

Item #90 - Homemade Italian Seasoning

Today's a completely lazy post :) but it's Wednesday and I wasn't about to let it slip by without posting! I'm almost out of Italian seasoning so the timing is great. I've been holding off on making this because I really wanted to include some dried marjoram, which I have never used before. Anytime a recipe has called for marjoram I just substitute in some oregano, but was hoping to try it for the first time in my homemade Italian seasoning ... I guess it'll have to wait until the next time around.

Homemade Italian Seasoning

2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons basil
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon sage
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon marjoram (optional, similar to oregano)

Combine all ingredients into food process. Blend for about 30 seconds. 

The scent of this after a whirl in the food processor was just splendid!