Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Item No. 99 of 365 -

Welcome to the Fall Mini-Series!

After a few weeks off to get things tidied up and back into a somewhat normal routine {not sure if that ever really happens with a family of 6 .... but I sure like to try every now and again :)}, I decided with fall fully upon us it would be fitting to add a little pumpkin pie spice to the mix and cross another item off my list! So simple, I am not sure why it's taken me this long but here it is ... short, sweet and to the point since I have been a slacking and need to make up some ground!

It really is just a combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves. and allspice ... so kinda like a taco seasoning you can go heavier on the flavors you are head over heals for and light on the ones you are not.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/4 cup cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine all the ingredients. 

Since I am all about multi-functional, I began to wonder what would be some other great uses for pumpkin pie spice ... oh world wide web, you amaze me! Thanks to The Kitchn here are 7 other ways!

Cost Comparison
Homemade Cost - $0 for 1 ounce
Store Bought Cost - $4.89 for 1.12 ounces McCormick brand
Time - 5 minutes

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Upside Down Pizza

Because I finally remembered to take a picture!

Upside Down Pizza

1 lb ground beef
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 tablespoons spaghetti sauce mix
1 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 refrigerated crescent roll
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Brown hamburger. Add tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce mix. Pour into greased 9x13 baking dish. Top with shredded cheese. In a separate bowl, mix sour cream and milk. Pour over shredded cheese and meat mixture. Top with unrolled crescent rolls. Spread melted butter over crescent rolls and sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes prior to cutting. 

Starting point and inspiration came from my grandma's recipe in our family recipe book.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Item #98 - Homemade Tomato Sauce

Well, I can say I have given tomato sauce made from garden fresh tomatoes a fair chance! This has been done a couple times over the course of this summer ... I have tried a couple different processes, but after cooking up about 1/3 of the tomatoes Momma Bear brought me I made only 3 quarts of sauce {NO WAY, really?!? all that work for 3 jars, hmmph!!}.

I know, I know, part of the reason for the minimal amount of sauce compared to the amount of tomatoes used was because the majority of tomatoes were beefsteak tomatoes which have a high water content compared to a roma in addition to having a preference for a thicker sauce, but still! Please, any die hard homemade tomato sauce makers out there, feel free to convince me my time is worth this result. :)

On a positive note, I made lasagna earlier this week with store bought sauce followed by some Upside Down Pizza this evening and the Mr. was a big fan of tonight's tomato sauce flavor.

In order to simplify things I knew I wanted to make a straight tomato sauce in which I could then flavor up to my liking depending on what was cooking, but what would be the best way to make a smooth and thicker sauce? With this only being my 3rd time making sauce from fresh tomatoes, I knew I would need a LOT more practice before this would be share worthy, but for the purpose of making note of what I have tried ... here goes!

A friend shared with me a recipe from Foodist Approved and I had come across this article/recipe by Daniel Gritzer at Serious Eats, both sharing some great tips and recipes! I would also like to add a big THANKS to my SIL that accompanied me in the kitchen and provide some great help in the process along with having a grand time chit-chatting!

Homemade Tomato Sauce 

15 lb garden fresh tomatoes, washed and halved
olive oil
sea salt
food mill

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Place tomatoes cut side up in any kind of baking dish you can get your hands on. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and herbs sparingly. Bake for 1 hour or until their skin begins to crispy but not burnt {however, there were a few that got slightly more done than the others for me and it wasn't a problem since the skins were removed through the mill}. Discard excess water from pans. Transfer to food mill for no seeds and skins OR a blender/food processor (multiple batches may be needed depending on your quantity).  If the sauce is still too watery for your preference, then pour pureed sauce back into pans and continue to bake until desired consistency is reached {sorry no pic for this part ... totally forgot to snag one}. Check every 10 to 15 minutes to ensure to not over bake and burn your precious sauce!

Once, the sauce is ready to be canned,  can be transferred to clean prepared jars, topped with lids and rings, and water bathed for 10 minutes.

Cost Comparison:
It cost me nothing other than my time to can these 3 jars (about 100 ounces total) of tomato sauce but I probably used about $1 worth of ingredients and lids. To compare this to the $3 - 105 ounce can of tomato sauce I usually buy at Sams Club, it's definitely a savings in money ... time not so much ... flavor, BIG step up ... but was it all worth it? I am still debating that! ;)

Monday, September 19, 2016

When Life Gets Crazy

... think 1%. 

Francesca Battistelli "Before the Crazy Kicks In"

I love the days when even before I roll out of bed, through usually sleep deprived eyes, I make time for my daily devotion. This is nothing extraordinary or extravagant, but simply simple, yet it's truly all Jesus needs from me ... simply me. After the way my Sunday ended I needed these few moments to be still and listen to get me through my Monday. 

Now my weekend was not terrible, if anything it was quite productive, but a short version goes like this {first did anybody else realize Friday was a full moon!?!? uuhhh, I could have told ya without once looking at the moon! WOAH!} ... 3 eye appointments ... 1 regional baseball game ... grocery shopping and dinner planning for the week ... double meal prep on Saturday so I didn't have to worry about dinner on Sunday ... Church ... almost 7 dozen cookies baked and frosted ... all of this busyness ending with Sunday's what could have been a delicious dinner and the perfect ending to a great weekend on the concrete in a pile of glass {let us take a moment of silence for the lost life of the meatloaf, sigh} ... improtude dinner ... tears shed ... moment of exhaustion and defeat ... JUST. NEED. TO. GO. TO. BED. ZZZzzzz!

Then I awoke to a new day, read through my devotion ... which may or may not have been forced, either way I knew I needed to start there. With this I then followed through with my normal routine of rolling out of bed, turning on Pandora, and going about getting ready as normal. As the Saturday evening happenings started replaying in my mind, "Before the Crazy Kicks In" came on and I had that moment where I still wanted to be mad but you can't help but laugh! I have lived in these moments of the first few lines of these lyrics ... 

Here I go tip toe into the kitchen
And don't you know, crash goes the coffee cup
My only chance to be still and listen
Lord, don't let, don't let the kids wake up
A little time with You, the only way to get me through the day

While everybody's crazy looks different, my crazy today started with putting my hair gel on as lotion ... twice {WHAT?!?!?! it's always a good morning when you have to take 3 showers, right?}, we can all relate to the desire for things to go as planned, the satisfaction that you are doing this thing call life like a rockstar, and of course the longing for those quiet moments to just rest. 

So this morning after God and I had our little chuckle fest, I reminded myself that life needs to be tackled 1% at a time. Much like one step at a time. Do what you can in the moment. While some days will be aces and others nothing you want to have in the record books, but if you can change today by 1% then we have made a difference. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Homemade Jalapeno Jelly

Item #97 -

Last year's jalapeno crop did fairly well, but this year we've only had enough for the summer luxury of being able to walk out to our own garden and grab a jalapeno here diced for tacos, a few there for our delicious PB jalapeno burgers, and a handful every once in awhile for poppers.

only a small portion of the harvest :)
The in-law's garden, on the other hand, has been producing these about as readily as our garden has been producing cukes! So of course we have done some garden swapping; and I knew exactly what I was going to do with the first bucket full ... my MIL's borrowed recipe from Tried and Tasty.

Jalapeno Jelly

4 cups finely chopped jalapenos (2 dozen or so whole)
1 cup white vinegar
5 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 box (1.75 oz) pectin
8 pint size mason jars with seals and rings

Halve and deseed peppers. Finely chop prepared peppers (food processor is an option, just be careful not to over chop). Combine everything in a saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat. Boil for 15 min or until 220 degrees (here's a great resource for when it comes to getting your jam to set correctly). Pour hot jelly into clean, hot pint jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Add seals and rings n. If water bathing is desired process for 10 minutes. 

Just a few disclaimers: 

1 - When working with jalapenos I would strongly encourage the use of rubber gloves. Now, I usually am TOO lazy to take note of my own tip although I'm fully aware of the hazards that can come with cutting up jalapenos; however, after the fact I almost always regret my lack of caution. You can be careful enough to maintain the oils from the jalapenos by touching NOTHING other than the jalapenos until you are completely done handling them AND wash your hands umpteen times while using a scrub brush to make sure you have gotten ALL of the oils out from under your nails (otherwise you will oh so be in pain the next morning when you go to put your contacts in) as wells as a final rinse using some milk and vinegar OR you could just use gloves. Needless to say, but after a few times of suffering to consequences I know have a pair of gloves specifically for cutting up jalapenos {SO much simpler and smarter}. 

2 - If you are dead 'set' :) on having your jam turn out, well, like jam, then the resources link in the above recipe is VERY helpful. The last two batches of jam I have made have not set as well as I would have liked primarily due to (again getting lazy or quite possibly because I didn't want to take the few extra minutes when it was already hours past my bedtime ... zzzz!) and not cooking it long enough. While I followed to time suggested in the recipe, I didn't follow the tale-tell sign that the jam has passed the sheet test. Both of these batches have not and will not go to waste and honestly we have become quite fond of the not-so-set jalapeno jelly as it allows for a few more options as a dip, as a topping, and as a spread.

<insert picture of final product ... not sure how I forgot to grab this one at the time, the final product pic is the easiest one!>

COST COMPARISON: homemade 8 oz jar - $0.70 vs. store bought 10 oz. jar - $4.49 ... yeah it's definitely worth it! Even if you buy new jars it's still only about $1.80 for a 8 oz. jar. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Be More

Photo Credit: Wisdom 4Winning
Over these past couple weeks as we’ve transitioned back to the school routine and into yet another phase in this thing we call life, I’ve taken great notice in the responses of our kiddos.

Our sweet ‘n sassy trailblazer (#3) started kindergarten this year and as I watched the excitement continue to grow in the weeks before the first day of school, I was prepared for the enthusiasm she would take with her, but I could not have predicted just HOW MUCH this little girl had in her! As the Mr. captured one more picture of each one of the kiddos with the school bus fast approaching, he caught {in a single moment} every bit of happy that has ever run through this girl's veins.

Without one ounce of hesitation, she raced off to the school bus and fearlessly boarded with her big sister and big brother; and in a blink of an eye they were off and the mom thoughts started racing … I wondered how it was going, I wished I could be a fly on the wall to take in every candid moment that was taking place {I love catching the moments when they are completely unaware that somebody is watching, it’s during these times you can see straight into their tender hearts :)}, and I hoped her excitement would last FOREVER!

All morning while #4 and I anxiously awaited for the bus to bring them home, I caught myself taking multiple glimpses at this moment of sheer excitement and pondering how this priceless image truly captured what it meant to be childlike. Maybe the saying should be everything you ever need to know in life can be learned from a kindergartener… heehee! Well, on that day in that moment, our 5 year old did remind me of everything that is good and true in this world around us.

The first day of school has since been more than a few weeks ago and even since that moment, I have taken notice in my own reactions and emotions. It has made me realize that as our kids have gotten older and I have seen (in them) some of the not so pleasant side-effects of the way I react to situations and that I really needed work on reigning some of these in, like over-reacting in frustration, worry, disgust, anxiousness, impatience, fear, judgement (I say over-reacting because all of these emotions are normal and we all deal with them on a daily basis, so I have been very cognitive not to discount any of these emotions in myself or our kiddos because it’s not about minimizing or ignoring these but instead working through them and knowing how to handle them).

Nonetheless, as I have worked hard to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19) in order to set a better example for our kiddos in how to handle these more ‘negative’ emotions, there have been times when I have be slow to share in the joy, the happy, the fun, and the excitement when instead at times like this my reactions need to be immediate! 

Seeing of our baby girl's immediate reaction to her first day of school, hit my heart like a mother-load reminding me I need to make sure I never let go of the child within that is trusting, curious, natural, fearless, simple, resilient, forgiving, kind, guileless, happy, naïve, sincere, engaged, honest, frank, energetic, candid, fun-loving, innocent, artless, and unguarded. Of course, there will be times when life will try to stifle these, but in those moments be sure to let your child out and don't hold back!

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!