Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weekly Favorites

There were so many great and wonderful ideas on blogland this week.  Here are just a few of my favorites. 

Baked Zucchini with Mozzarella from Jamie Cooks It Up - This got a 2 thumbs up from everyone in the family except Boo Boo who just doesn't like anything zucchini.  We will be having this again.  I did not have any Johnny's Garlic Bread Seasoning, but I found a recipe for it on Our Best Bites.  We liked it alot too, will be great for garlic bread and pizza.  Check it our here.

I wanted to find a way to preserve the delicious cherries we have had this summer.  I already made Cherry Jam, but I really wanted to find an alternative to the overly red marischino cherries my kids like on top of their ice cream.  I found the solution at Simple Bites.  With cherries BOGO this week, we will be making more than a few pints of these.  I plan on adding vanilla beans to some and almond flavoring to others.  I might even get adventurous and add bourbon and make some bourbon cherries that my husband pays $8.00 a jar for at the distillery.

Finally, what geography teacher can pass up a chalkboard globe!?!  I can't wait to make this great project I found at Under the Table and Dreaming and put it in my classroom.  I will be the perfect place to write down test and project dates so they don't get erased from the whiteboard and forgotten.  Now, if I can just find a cheap globe.......

picture courtesy of Under the Table and Dreaming

Linked to Share Your Faves at Its A Blog Party

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fruit Jar Tomato Relish

This is a great way to use up all those bits and pieces in the garden.  I found this online last summer and it is delicious, especially over chopped lettuce.  The original recipe is credited to the Farm Journal in 1973.

Fruit Jar Tomato Relish

2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped ( I don't peel them)
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped
1/4 c chopped white onion
1/2 c olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar
1 T snipped fresh Italian parsley ( I have used dried)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 t salt
dash ground black pepper

In a 1 quart glass jar, alternate layers of tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and onion until all are used.  Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the vegetables; cover and chill overnight.  Turn the jar upside down during part of the chilling in order to marinate all the vegetables evenly. 

Serve as an accompaniment to fish, chicken and vegetables. 

I usually make this in 2 pint jars and share one with a friend or neighbor.  It lasts about a week in the refrigerator.  You can probably keep it a bit longer, but after a week the veggies get soggy and I don't like soggy veggies. 

Linked to Tasty Tuesday, Tuesday Tastes, Delicious Dishes

Meal Plan Tuesday 7/18/2010

Just one day late this week!  Here's what's on the menu at our house.

Sunday - Chicken and Dumplings, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Cornbread
Monday - Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Tuesday - Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Sliced Tomatoes and Cucumbers (from my garden!)
Wednesday - Shrimp, Shrimp and Shrimp, fresh from FL (minus the tar balls!) and Salad or Cole Slaw
Thursday - Leftovers (just 2 of us tonight)
Friday - Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches
Saturday -   Grilled Chicken, Zucchini Cakes, Salad and Roasted Potatoes (hopefully from the garden)

Tuesday Garden Party #9

Finally a Harvest!

This is more like it!  I just love it when everything in the garden starts to produce at the same time.  In my basket this morning are a couple of strawberries (saved from the chipmunks), Roma and Early Girl Tomatoes, the first cucumber, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers and green peppers.

The strawberries, tomaotes and cucumber will be our lunch today.  The banana peppers and a couple of the green peppers will be made into Sweet and Sour Pepper Relish.  The rest of the green peppers and jalapenos will be made into Jalapeno Pepper Jelly. 

The Jalapeno Pepper Jelly is a TNT recipe from the Ball Blue Book.  I will post it in the next few days, after I make the jelly.  The relish is from the Ball Blue Book too.  I have not made it before, so will hold off on posting for a couple of weeks, until I know it is worth eating. 

For more great garden posts, visit Jami at An Oregon Cottage for her Tuesday Garden Party.
Also posted It's A Blog Party for Weekend Warriors

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Marinatred Grilled Flank Steak

One of our very favorite cuts of meat to grill is flank steak.  It is inexpensive where we live, especially at Costco.  It cooks quickly and the longer it marinates, the more tender it will be.  This makes it perfect for after school/work grilling since I can start it the night before and no matter what time we get home and throw it on the grill, it will be perfect. 

There are of course, a million ways to marinate flank steak, but the one we always go to is a beer based marinade I found through Weight Watchers years ago.  Double bonus - delicious and good for your waistline.  Can't beat that!

photo courtesy of Weight Watchers

Beer Soaked Beef

12 oz. beer
2 T olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 T lemon juice
1 T brown sugar
1 t salt
1/8 t whole cloves
1 1/2 lb flank steak

Combine beer, oil, garlic, lemon juice, sugar and cloves in a 9 x 13 pan.  Add steak.  Cover and marinate in refrigerator, turning once or twice for at least 2 hours and up to 24.

Remove meat from marinade and grill until desired doneness.  Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.  Slice thinly and serve. 

I like to serve this with mashed red potatoes and green beans.  Leftovers (if you have any) are great over a salad the next day.

Linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life As Mom

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Say Cheese

Murphy, North Carolina
Vineyard Creek Vineyard

Linked to Say Cheese at It's A Blog Party
Wordless Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Mom

Meal Plan Wednesday 7/11/2010

Late again....

Sunday - Hot Ham, Turkey and Swiss Sandwiches, BBQ Chips and Fresh Peaches
Monday - Tomato, Basil and Cheese Baked Pasta with Breadsticks (I halve the amount of pasta)
Tuesday - Grilled Dijon Chicken, Zucchini Cakes and Garden Salad
Wednesday - Not sure yet....
Thursday - Leftovers and Garden Salad
Friday - Make Your Own Pizza (experimenting with this....)
Saturday - 5 Guys Burgers and Fries
Sunday - Chicken Quesadillas, Avocado Ranch Dressing, Chips, Natalie's Beans

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Homemade Pesto

I used to think making pesto was so hard.  I can't believe how much yummy fresh basil I like go to waste for years before I realized that if you can run a food processor, then you can make delicious pesto. 

This is 3 basil plants that have kinda grown together.  The larger one is starting to go to seed because we were away this weekend and did not get harvested, which means I really need to make pesto today.  Good thing it is so easy.....

Basil leaves, minced garlic, pine nuts and olive oil ready to become wonderfulness.

Add grated Parmesan cheese and a bit of lemon juice. Whirl it around a few times...


Homemade Pesto
4 cups fresh basil leaves (absolutely no stems or flowers)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c pine nuts (use only pine nuts!)
4 - 6 T extra virgin olive oil (use the good stuff here, it matters....)
1/2 c fresh grated Parmesan cheese (Costco has a great brand.  Please no green can here)
1/2 t lemon juice (this helps keep it nice and green)

1.  In food processor blend basil, garlic, pine nuts and 5 T olive oil until everything is well chopped.
2.  Add Parmesan cheese and chop until desired consistency.  (I like mine a little chuncky.)  Add more olive oil here if you prefer it runnier.  
3.  Add lemon juice and a bit of salt to taste (I never do, the Parmesan cheese is salty enough for me).  

I keep a jar of this in my refrigerator all summer.  It will turn brown where it comes in contact with air over time, but it is still OK to eat.  It lasts at least 2 weeks, maybe longer, but I make it about every two weeks.

I freeze this 3 ways - 
1.  In ice cube trays when I need a small amount to add to soups, etc.
2.  In muffin tins when I need to add it to pasta sauce.
3.  In 1 C Ziploc containers when I am making a dish where pesto plays a prominent role (like Spinach Ravioli Lasagna) or I want to make several dishes with it over a few days time. 

I know it will freeze wonderfully for at least 4 months, I have never had any last any longer than that......

Linked to
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Delicious Dishes at It's A Blog Party
Tuesday Tastes at Crazy Daisy

Tuesday Garden Party #8

This is my entire garden, minus the blueberry bushes.  It has finally taken off, however I found squash borers in my yellow squash and one of my zuchinni plant today.  YUGH!!!!  I thought I had those taken care of.....apparently not!

These beautiful banana peppers will be either in my salad or on my pizza tonight.

My cucumbers are coming right along.  We had 2 inches of rain in the past 2 days and these babies are GROWING.  I just might have one to eat by Saturday.

Aren't these just lovely??

Most of this basil (this is acutally 3 plants that have grown together) will be pesto, happily living in my freezer, by the end of the week.


I harvested most of my jalapenos last week to make salsa.  I have  this guys and a couple of others that are much smaller.  I need them to get bigger so I can make some pepper jelly.

To see some more awesome and inspiring gardens, visit Jami's Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage. 

10 Things in 10 Days Final Accounting

Shabby Chic Cottage is hosting 10 Tasks in 10 Days at her lovely, inspiring blog.  I was late in discovering the event, but decided to play along on my own 10 day timeline.  Today is accounting day.  Let's see just how much I completed!

1.  Clean out Boo Boo's room - Completed!

2. Make 4 different types of jam - Strawberry Jam, Strawberry-Jalapeno Jam, Spiced Cherry Jam and Mojito Jelly - Completed!

3. Inventory both garage freezers - Inventoried, defrosted and because they were so empty, filled again!

4. Put together garage organizers - Completed!

5. Find a home for the plastic bins in the corner of my bedroom - Completed!  Also filled 3 other and found them a home too.

6. Wash porch furniture and porch - Completed!

7. Clean out Boo Boo's playhouse - this might be more than I can handle.....

8. Stain bookcases for office - I have put this off far too long

9. Make 4th of July decorations - 2 wreaths and paper pinwheels - Completed!

10. Write and post 3 book reviews for my much neglected Book Blog - Books chosen and notes made, but no reviews written yet...
 Bonus -

11. Sew table runner for kitchen table - it is cut, pressed and ready to go, just need to sew it together

12. Pedicure! - much needed! I am thinking red for the 4th.
Five tasks were completed as written and two tasks (bins and freezer inventories) became much larger projects than I anticipated.  Check out my Marathon Cooking Session Plans and Final Total The projects I did not get completed, I still plan on finishing before I go back to school on August 2nd.  Real progress on some projects I had REALLY been putting off for way too long. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Marathon Freezer Session Progress

I had HUGE plans for my marathon freezer cooking Session last week and I accomplished most of my goals, with a few detours along the way.  Many of the recipes are linked here in my original plan.  Several will be making an appearance over the next few weeks.

Here are my totals - 42 main dishes, 10 side dishes (many will provide leftovers) and several treats and breakfast items.

Beef Recipes
Beer Chili - 3 meals
Sloppy Joes - 4 mealss
Taco Meat - 3 meals
Meat Mix for Spaghetti - 3 meals
Lasagna - 2 family size and 1 large enough for company
Meatballs - 1 meal

Chicken Recipes
Chicken (Plain, no seasonings) and Broth - 4 meals of chicken and 8 cups of broth
Spicy Chicken and Broth - 2 meals of chicken and 7 cups of broth
All-Purpose Crockpot Chicken (lightly seasoned) and Broth - 2 meals chicken and 5 cups broth
Grilled Chicken Strips - 4 meals
Lemon Chicken Pasta - 1 meal (this is an experiment)
Lemon Pepper Marinated Chicken - 2 meals
Italian Marinated Chicken - 2 meals
All Purpose Marinated Chicken - 2 meals
Bottle O'Beer Chicken - 1 meal
Dijon Chicken - 1 meal

Make Ahead Twice Baked Potatoes - 3 meals
Mac and Cheese - 4 meals
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes - 3 meals
Pizza Sauce - 4 meals
Frozen Fruit Cups - 12 individual servings

Pancakes - 45 individual pancakes
Chocolate Chip Cookies - 5 dozen
M & M Sugar Cookies - 3 dozen

I have not gotten around to making the San Marzano Marinara Sauce or the Kentucky Sugar Cookies. That will happen in the next day or so. 

Adjustments to my plan -
  • The Parmensan Chicken Strips were scratched because I totally forgot these have to be frozen raw.  I had planned to use previously frozen chicken breasts and for food safety reasons I will not do that, so I made extra grilled chicken strips. 
  • Vanilla Muffins - I made them and just did not like them, so they hit the trash can.  You win some, you loose some!
  • I opted to make the Pineapple and Blueberry Orange Muffins closer to the start of school as I really want them for quick breakfasts then. 
All in all, I am thrilled with how much I accomplished and how little money I spent.  Because i used ALOT of items from my pantry I only spent $210 on this entire session.  That includes at least $20 in food storage items (Ziploc containers and freezer bags), so food costs were really around $190.  That averages out to around $4.50/meal.  I will take that!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Say Cheese!

Patriotic Spirit

Linked at
Say Cheese at It's a Blog Party

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cupcake Tuesday - Patriotic Cupcakes

I make these cupcakes every 4th of July and they are always a big hit. 

Patriotic Cupcakes

1 package vanilla cake mix
1/2 c applesauce
3 eggs
1 c water
1 1/2 c (about) small fresh blueberries
1 c fresh cherries, pitted and halved

8 ounces cream cheese
1 c confectioners sugar (more to get consistancy you prefer)
1 t pure vanilla extract

Patriotic cupcake liners and sprinkles

1.  Preheat oven to 350*.  Line muffin tin with patriotic cupcake liners
2.  Combine cake mix, applesauce, eggs and water on low speed for 30 seconds.  Increase to medium speed and beat another 2 minutes.  Fold in cherries.
3.  Diving batter evenly into 24 paper lined muffin cups.  Drop 5 blueberries on top of the batter for each cupcake.  Do not mix or press the blueberries into the batter.
4.  Bake 18 - 20 minutes, until lightly browned.  Cool to room temperature.
5.  Beat cream cheese, confectioners sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Spread frosting on tops of cooled cupcakes (I used my 1M star tip and pastry bag).  Top with red and blue sprinkles of your choice.

Linked up to Cupcake Tuesday at Hoosier Homemade

Garden Party #7

Jamie's theme for this week's Garden Party was all about getting back to the basics.  That is truly the reason I have a backyard garden.  Some of my fondest summer memories are of spending a week at a time on my grandparents farm in eastern Kentucky.  It was a working farm.  My Papal grew tobacco and bell peppers to sell commercially.  My Granny had a HUGE vegetable and fruit garden that provided most of the fruits and vegetables for our family.  I still can't eat green beans out of a can from the store!  My favorite lunch was to go to the garden, pick a tomato and cucumber from the garden and eat them when they were still warm from the sunshine. 

Each summer I would go help her shell peas, string beans, make applesauce, blackberry jelly and a million other treats.  Last summer I started making my own jams and jellies, just like my Granny does, even calling her for advice and suggestions.   I hope one day, my own children and grandchildren will ask me for advice on how to make jelly, can beans or pickle cucumbers.  I will be more that thrilled to share all I have learned from my Granny.

Now, here is what my little backyard garden looks like this week.

Just look at those tiny cucumbers!  Can't wait to put one on my salad.

My herbs are doing great, especially the basil.  I have already made one batch of pesto and I believe I will make at least one or two more this week.

This is my first ripe non-Roma tomato.  I believe he will have a special place of honor on my dinner table tomorrow night.

Look at this beauty!  I have about 5 more just a bit smaller that this one.  Once they all are ready, they will make a wonderful batch of greenpepper jelly. 

For more great gardens, jump on over to the Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage.

Meal Plan Monday - 7/5/2010

Just a day late....

This week consists of using up whatever I can from the refrigerator and freezer as I am doing a marathon freezer cooking session this week and I need all the space I can get!

Monday - leftovers from 4th of July Party - Brats and Burgers, Grape Salad, Pesto-Spinach Pasta Salad, and Homemade Ice Cream

Tuesday - I am meeting some former students for dinner - the rest of the family is having Burgers and Sausages, Broccoli Casserole and Strawberries

Wednesday - Baked Potato Bar (done in the crockpot), Salad and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thursday - Ribeye Steaks on the Grill, Twice Baked Potatoes, Salad

Friday, Saturday, Sunday - hopefully in the mountains visiting some friends :-)

For more fantastice weekly meal plans visit The Organized Junkie

Monday, July 5, 2010

Marathon Freezer Cooking Plans

With the completion of our 4th of July festivities, comes the fact that my summer break from school is half over.  Like most teachers I use my summer break to recover, rest and refuel.  I also use it to try to find ways to make life in our little house run smoother.  Our lives, like everyone elses, go full speed once the month of August makes it appearance.  Not only does school start, but Bubba plays football (3 practices and 1 game each week), DH is an assistant coach for Bubba's team, Boo Boo cheers (2 practices and 1 game each week) and I will be the team mom for Boo Boo's squad.  We just about live at the ball park from August 1st until the week before Thanksgiving (if one or both teams make the playoffs).  One thing I will not give up on during this fun and busy time is eating at home.  We reserve our eating out during this time for the celebratory dinners and lunches with the kids teams. 

How do I do this?  I take 3 - 4 days during July and cook many of our favorite meals and store them in the freezer.  I will make between 40 and 50 meals and meal starters, 15 side dishes, and cookies and muffins during this marathon cooking session.  These meals in addition to several pantry meals I keep stocked will get us through to at least Thanksgiving, if not longer.  This is a HUGE undertaking, but I find the time investment so valuable, especially when we walk through the door at 8:30 PM after practice to a yummy, warm, home cooked meal.  It also cuts down on the amount of time and money I spend at the grocery store. 

The most important part of the process is the planning stage.  I will spend on entire day going through what is in the pantry, what is on sale and recipes my family loves that freeze well.  I will also spend some time at some of my favorite freezer sites and add a couple of new recipes to my selection.  To plan, I use Money Saving Mom's Guide to Freezer Cooking.  She has some great tips and ideas and once I started following her guidelines, my freezer cooking went so much smoother. 

For recipes, I have adapted some of our very favorite recipes to be freezer friendly - Sloppy Joes, Beer Chili, Lasagna, Chicken Pot Pie, Macaroni and Cheese,  Pizza Sauce and Pancakes are just a few favorites I have adapted to freeze well. 

Some of my favorite online resources for recipes are -
Once a Month Mom - each month she posts a full month's worth of recipes and how tos. 
Recipeezaar's OAMC Message Board - readers share their freezer friendly recipes and their cooking plans.  Some even post their entire plan from start to finish.  This is a great resource!

Here is my list of what I plan to cook over the next 4 days.  Please keep in mind that this is an extremely ambitious plan and that I have been doing this for about 10 years.  If this is your first freezer cooking attempt, please try something simple and easy :-).   Listed next to each recipe is the number of meals this will make for our family.

Beef Recipes
Beer Chili (3)
Sloppy Joes (3)
Taco Meat (4)
Basic Meat Mix  (6)
Lasagna (3)
Hubby Will Inhale Them Meatballs (2) - new recipe

Chicken Recipes
Chicken and Broth (4 and 8 c broth)
Spicy Crockpot Chicken and Broth (2 and 4 c broth)
Crockpot All-Purpose Chicken and Broth (2 and 4 c broth)
Parmesan Chicken Strips (1)
Grilled Chicken Strips (2)
Chicken Lemon Pasta (1)
Marinated Chicken - Lemon Pepper, Italian, Marinated, Dijon, Bottle O'Beer (8)

Make Ahead Twice Baked Potatoes (6) new recipe
San Marzano Marinara Sauce (3)
Mac and Cheese (4)
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes (2)
Pizza Sauce (4)
Frozen Fruit Cups (12) new recipe

Blueberry Orange Muffins
Pineapple Muffins
Vanilla Muffins
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Kentucky Sugar Cookies
M and M Cookies  - new recipe

Here is my timeline -
Monday - Inventory pantry and freezers, make list of recipes, create grocery list and write out timeline.  Clean out refrigerators and thaw meat/chicken already in freezers.  Check on storage containers - add to grocery list if needed. 
Tuesday - Shop (I NEVER shop and cook on the same day.  Well, I did it once and them swore NEVER again).  I do some prep work, chopping onions, etc. but no cooking
Wednesday - Make all Beef Items, Mac and Cheese, Red Mashed Potatoes and Fruit Cups
Thursday - Make all Chicken Items, Marinara, Pizza Sauce and Twice Baked Potatoes
Friday - Baking Day

I will be back to update on Friday!

Linking up to these blog parties -
Delicious Dishes at It's A Blog Party
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace
$5 Dinner Challenge at $5 Dinners

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Favorites of the Week

Once again it is time to celebrate all the wonderful, creative ideas we find all over blogland.  Here are just afew of my favorites this week.

Mojito Jelly at Robbing Peter- How can you NOT love something that celebrates this wonderful summer beverage?  I made a batch of this jelly earlier in the week and it is fantastic.  I can't wait to use it as a glaze on fruit this winter to bring a touch of summer to the cold days of February.  I also think it will be delicious on pound cake with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Patriotic Pinwheels at Organize and Decorate Everything - These were the inspiration for my pinwheel bouquets I made to decorate my back porch for our 4th of July festivities. 

Summer 2010 Menu at Once a Month Mom - I truly believe the only way my family eats home cooked food on a regular basis is because I take the time a couple of times a year and cook up lots of our favorite recipes and store them in the freezer.  Once a Month Mom puts together a full month's work of recipes together every month!  What a treasure.  The one I am adding to my Summer Cooking Session next week is Frozen Fruit Cups.  Not only will these be great by themselves, but Bubba can drop one in the blender with some yogurt and a T of protein powder for his daily protein shake. 

For more treasures from blogland, visit It's a Blog Party

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oh, Say Can You See....July 4th Inspiration

It's been a long time since I have had the chance to get in my craft room and be creative.  For the first time in our married life, I am hosting not one, but two 4th of July celebrations at our house.  We typically spend the day at my inlaw's pool, patiently waiting for DH and FIL to get home from the restaurant so we can have our own celebration.  This year the pool had to be totally redone and is not open yet and we are in the process of relocating our restaurant, so we get the chance to do something a bit different this year.  There is sooooo much inspiration for 4th of July decorations online that it was difficult to choose my projects, but I finally narrowed it down. 

This wreath was inspired by Homemade Mamas.  I made two of them, one for each set of windows on our back porch. 

Side tablescape on the back porch.

These pinwheels were inspired by Leanne at Organized and Decorate Everything.  Her step by step directions made this a very easy to do project. 

Linking up to the following parties: