Category Archives: Recipes

Cold-Weather Vegetable Soup with Minestrone Variation

I don’t post many of my own recipes, and that’s because I don’t usually measure. You know what I mean–I add a little of this and a little of that, and it’s hard to figure out just what it I’ve done exactly.

The great thing about soups is that you don’t have to be exact! Add what you have and substitute what you don’t.

VegetableSoup

Hearty Vegetable Soup

1/2 head of cabbage

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 head of celery, including leaves, chopped

I bag of frozen green beans (feel free to use fresh if you have them)

2 cans fire roasted tomatoes

2 32 oz containers chicken or vegetable broth

1 can kidney beans

1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Add everything to a large pot, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for several hours. This recipe makes lots of soup, and it tastes even better the second day!

This recipe is also perfect for making in the slow cooker.

Minestrone Soup Variation (my grandmother’s recipe)

Swap the chicken broth for beef and add a cup of small noodles at the end of the cook time. My grandmother’s minestrone soup was the best ever, and I love to make it and remember her. If you’re a vegetarian, feel free to use vegetable broth instead of beef.

Freezer Cooking – Stocking the Freezer with Staples

There are many different ways to freezer cook. Some people buy ingredients for a month worth of dinners, prepare the meals, and then freeze them. Others simply double the amount they make each night, and then freeze the leftovers (this works great with chili, soups, and stews). My favorite way to freezer cook is ingredient preparation.

I don’t prepare meals to freeze; I prep ingredients.  I’ve tried all methods, and though I will still double some meals, I like ingredient prep the best.

Here’s a list of staples you can prepare and freeze, and a few of the easy ways you can use them. I hope this helps you stock your freezer and make your weeknights a little easier!

Vegetables

If you slice and chop vegetables in advance, it makes them easy to toss in your favorite recipes. We eat a lot more vegetables in dishes if they are easy to add. Toss them in omelets, fajitas, roasts,  soups, stir-fries, and more.

Sliced/Chopped Bell Peppers

Sliced/Chopped Onions

Jalapenos or Green Chilies

Chopped Carrots

Peas and Snowpeas

Chopped Broccoli

Chopped Cauliflower

Corn (kernel and on the cob)

Green Beans

Chopped/Diced Tomatoes – I like to buy huge cans of whole tomatoes at Sam’s Club and then run them through a food processor before I freeze them.

Meat

Both chopped raw and cooked meats are handy to have on hand. Here’s a few of my favorites.

Sliced/Chopped Grilled Chicken Breasts – Add to salads, soups, rice dishes, tacos, potpies, casseroles, soups, and more.

Sliced/Chopped Raw Chicken Breasts – Thaw and then cook fresh for stir-fries or Italian dishes.

Shredded Chicken (boil a whole chicken and then shred the meat–save the broth) – Use in enchiladas or other Mexican dishes, chicken salad, and soups.

Sliced/Chopped Raw Sirloin – Thaw and use for beef tips with rice or noodles, stir-fries, stews, chili, and more.

Shredded Beef or Pork (Simmer on the stove or in a slow cooker–save the broth) – Great for Enchiladas or Mexican dishes, hot sandwiches with gravy, and bbq sandwiches.

Chopped Ham – Toss in omelets, scallopped potatoes, casseroles (cordon bleu type casseroles are amazing), chowders, and more. 

Marinated Raw Meats (chicken breast, pork chops, steak) — Sauce Ideas: Teriyaki, BBQ sauce, lemon pepper, and more. Add the meat to a gallon size freezer bag and pour the marinade in. Freeze, and then thaw before cooking. Drain off the marinade and grill, bake, or pan sear the meat.

Sausage (Italian and Cajun)- use in pastas, soups, Cajun dishes, or grill and serve on a bun.

Cooking Staples

These are ingredients you will need on hand for quick meals. Many you can make fresh and freeze, and others you will need to buy.

Broth or Stock (chicken, beef, pork, vegetable) – Use in soups, gravy, chili, stuffing, and so much more.

Spaghetti and Pizza Sauce – Use as a sauce by itself, or add to chicken Parmesan style casseroles, calzones, or lasagna.

Tomato Sauce – Use in a variety of sauces, mix in meatloaf, and more. 

BBQ Sauce – Use as a dipping sauce, toss with shredded meat, bake over chicken breast, pork chops, ribs, and more. 

Salsa – Serve over meat, with chips as a side, bake over chicken breast or pork, and more. 

Tomatoes and Chilies (Rotel) – Flavor taco meat, use in goulash, flavor soups and chili, and more.

Noodles –  (spaghetti, angel hair, penne, bowtie, macaroni, old fashioned, spiral, and lots more fun varieties) – Use in pastas, soups, pasta salads, casseroles, and more. 

Rice (brown, white, wild) – Use in stirfries, soups, as side dishes, rice casseroles, and more. 

Tortillas (flour and corn) – Use for quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, wraps, and more. 

Cheese (Mexican blend, cheddar, mozzerella, parmesan, pepper jack, and Swiss are all good to have on hand) – Use in Mexican dishes, casseroles, grilled sandwiches, and more. 

Beans (kidney, pinto, black, white, and more) – Use in taco salads, chili, minestrone soup, as a filler for taco meat, and more. 

Spices and Pantry Staples

You can make your own blends or buy premixed.

Salt/Pepper

Italian Seasoning

Cajun Seasoning

Poultry Seasoning

Taco Seasoning (this is so easy to make – You just need chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic, and a few dashes of hot sauce in your recipe)

Chili Powder

Cumin

Garlic Powder (or fresh garlic if you prefer)

Grilling Blends (there are all kinds of wonderful blends in the spice aisle) – Sprinkle over meat before you grill or bake. 

Bread Crumbs & Croutons (Italian and regular) –  In meatloaves, meatballs, over casseroles, as breading, and over salads.

Vinegar (white, balsamic, red wine, and more)

Oils (coconut, olive, canola, and more)

Fresh Foods

These are foods that don’t freeze well, or they last so long there is no reason to freeze.

Milk

Eggs

Butter

Fresh Herbs

Salad Ingredients (romaine hearts last for several weeks in the fridge–they are amazing and you usually buy them in a three pack in the produce section)

Lemon and Lime Juice

Vinegar

Salad Dressings

Mushrooms – I’ve noticed these don’t freeze well. You might have better luck, but I find them rubbery after they thaw.

Potatoes – I do not have good luck with frozen potatoes. 

This list should get your started, but there are so many more things you can prep and keep on hand for easy meals.  I will add more as I think of them.

What ingredients do you like to keep on hand for meals, and what do you make with them? Let me know in the comments, and I will add them to the list!

Favorite Pumpkin Bread

Autumn is my favorite season, and I can’t believe it’s already here! Summer just flew by, didn’t it?

I bought a huge 3-pack of pumpkin while I was at Sam’s Club a few weekends ago, and last night Weston asked for pumpkin bread. Since breakfast bread is always better the next day, I thought it was a great idea to make it last night so it would be moist and wonderful this morning.

Oh, and it is. Yum.

My favorite recipe is a classic–the Betty Crocker original Pumpkin Bread recipe. No matter how many recipes I try, I keep coming back to it. I usually omit the nuts and raisins and add in a cup or two of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  This time I didn’t add those lovely chips, because Weston begged me not to. Silly chocolate hatin’ child. It still turned out wonderful.

I like to make this recipe in a cake pan instead of bread pans and then slice it into squares once it’s cool. It just seems easier to me. If you want to try it like that, just cook it for about 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees F.

What pumpkin confections have you been making? Anything you’re hoping to try? My next project is pumpkin cake doughnuts. They keep popping up all over Pinterest, and they look lovely!

Camping Recipes – Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Using Real Ingredients

***Update–I’ve changed the recipe. I’ll keep the old one on here underneath my changes.***

Hot chocolate is a fairly simple drink–milk, sugar, cocoa powder, a little salt, and maybe a dash of vanilla. My kiddos drink tons of it during the winter, and I don’t mind mixing it up on the stove for them. However, that’s not so easy to do when you’re camping. I’m not packing a whisk with me, if you know what I mean.

We used to buy instant cocoa and take it with us, and then I looked at the ingredients. What in the world is all that junk in there for? This is what was in our cocoa mix in the cabinet: sugar, whey, corn syrup solids, cocoa (processed with alkali), nonfat milk, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of: whey protein concentrate, salt, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, emulsifier (mono-and diglycerides), arficial flavor. 

Um, no. Just no.

So here ya go–my recipe. There are others out there with pudding mix and coffee creamer in them, and I’m sure they’re decadent and delicious, but that kind of defeats my purpose at this time, so mine is a little more straight forward. Not that I have a problem with an occasional pudding mix, but we drink hot chocolate often. In fact, we should probably try to cut back. But not today!

Hot Chocolate Mix:

4 cups dry milk

1 cup sugar (we like turbinado)

1 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp of salt

To Make Mix:

Mix everything together and store it in an airtight container.

For Each Serving:

Add 1/4 – 1/3 cup mix to each mug (more or less depending on the size of the mug)

Stir in hot water.

Optional: Add a splash of half and half to each cup. 

I hope you enjoy it! I’ll be adding more camping recipes soon.

***Old recipe I had posted was 3 cups dry milk, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder***

Homemade Sweet Potato, Banana, and Oatmeal Dog Treats

These are healthy dog treats that require only three ingredients-oatmeal, bananas, and sweet potatoes. Really! All three are ingredients found in expensive natural dog treats. Why not make them at home? Günther loves them.

Dog Cookies

Sweet Potato, Banana, and Oatmeal Dog Cookies

3 very ripe bananas

1 sweet potato, baked and cooled

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1. Mash banana and sweet potato together. Stir in oatmeal.

2. Spoon 24 cookies on a baking sheet (they won’t rise, so they can be close together).

3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 – 30 minutes, or until firm in the middle. Cool completely.

Feed your dogs 1 – 2 cookies a day, and they will love you! You can make the cookies smaller if you have a small breed dog or if you want to make training treats.

 

 

Jazz up Your Morning Oatmeal

We eat a lot of oatmeal. A lot of oatmeal…in fact, we took a break for awhile because I just couldn’t eat anymore. Please, make the oatmeal go away! A  few weeks back it sounded pretty good again. The next day, it still sounded pretty good. I had a few variations that we rotated, but I decided we needed more if we were going to keep eating it on a semi-daily basis. Here’s a few ways we’ve been enjoying it:

This is the recipe I start with:

Serves 4

2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats

4 Cups Water

Couple Dashes Sea Salt

Cook over medium heat until it reaches the consistency you like. 

Add ins:

1. Maple and Molasses – This is very good–especially if you like those instant oatmeal packets, but you want something a little more natural. Just swirl some maple syrup and molasses in your oats while they’re cooking and add a dash of cinnamon. This has been my oatmeal of choice lately.

Maple and Molasses Oatmeal
Maple and Molasses Oatmeal

2. Spiced Raisin – This one reminds me of Grandma’s oatmeal. Add a handful of raisins to your oats before you cook them. Give the whole pot a liberal sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. Top each serving with a little brown sugar.

3. The Deluxe – Swap milk for the water and sprinkle the oatmeal with cinnamon as it cooks. Make sure you stir it constantly or it will scorch – yuck. Top with a teaspoon or two of brown sugar and a pat of real butter.

4. Carrot Cake – Add a handful of grated carrots to the pot before you add the oats. Add some water and let the carrots cook for a few minutes. Add the oats, salt, and the rest of the water (add a little more if needed). Toss in half a handful of raisins. Sprinkle with apple pie spice. Stir in brown sugar, maple syrup, or molasses to sweeten. Top individual bowls with finely chopped pecans or walnuts and a dollop of cream cheese or a drizzle of cream.

5.  Apple Butter – Add a generous dollop of apple butter to each bowl. A drizzle of cream is also good with this. If you want to make your own apple butter, I have a post about it.

6. Super Start – This is how I used to eat my oatmeal every morning. Sprinkle the pot of oatmeal with cinnamon as it cooks. Top each serving with 1 sliced banana, 1 TBSP of Flax Seed, and a drizzle of honey if you want it a little sweeter.

7.   Strawberry and Cream – Add a teaspoon of strawberry preserves to each serving. Add sliced strawberries, a drizzle of cream, and a little sugar if needed. This is good with any berry combination.

8. Apple Cinnamon – This one starts with finely chopped dehydrated apples. I make my own, but you could easily buy some, chop ’em up, and use them as  you need them. Add about a quarter cup of dried chopped apples to the oatmeal as it cooks. Sprinkle generously with apple pie spice. Top each serving with the sweetener of your choice. This is another version that tastes a lot like those little packets…

9. Granola – It seems a little weird to top oatmeal with granola, but let me assure you, it’s really, really good. Top each serving with a generous amount of granola and a little maple syrup.

10 Honey Bear – Stir a little cinnamon into the oatmeal as it cooks. Top each serving with a generous drizzle of honey, cream, and finely chopped pecans.

I hope this helps you jazz up your morning oatmeal! Tell me, what’s your favorite way to eat oats in the morning?

Chocolate Raisin Oatmeal Cookie Recipe – Great for High Altitude Baking

I don’t know about you, but I have found it nearly impossible to find a good oatmeal cookie recipe that performs well at our high altitude–or chocolate chip, for that matter, but I’ll be covering them in a different post. I don’t seem to have trouble with any others types, just those two. I think it’s because they have so much fat in them; they just melt into puddles as they bake.

ChocolateRaisinCookies

These cookies will not puddle. They will be delightfully puffy. Why? I believe it’s the pudding in the recipe. The ‘poof in in the pudding’, if you will. Ha ha! Did you roll your eyes? My husband would have…

Anywho…

Here’s the recipe. I hope you enjoy!

Chocolate Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup coconut oil (or margarine, if you must)

1 scant cup of turbinado or white sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cup oat flour*

1 cup all purpose flour

1 small package instant vanilla pudding

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 old fashioned or quick oatmeal

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup raisins–optional

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream the butter, coconut oil, sugar, and molasses together. Mix in the eggs and vanilla.

2. In a separate bowl, blend together the oat flour, all purpose flour, vanilla pudding, salt, and baking soda.

3. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and blend well. Stir in the chocolate chips, raisins, and oatmeal.

4. Using a tablespoon, roll the dough into balls. Place on a cookie sheet (twelve per regular sheet) and bake 10 – 12 minutes or until just barely brown on top. I use stoneware; you might need to reduce the time with a regular cookie sheet.

5. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack.

*To make oat flour, grind oatmeal in a food processor or blender until you get a course powder. 

Homemade Strawberry Syrup Recipe for Strawberry Milk and More

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on the bottle of strawberry syrup? I did, and then I wished I hadn’t. My son absolutely loves strawberry milk, but after we ran out of the only bottle I’ve ever purchased, I didn’t buy any more. He asked for some yesterday morning. When I told him we were out, he asked me to make some. I have never thought to make strawberry syrup, which is kind of silly because I make elderberry syrup all the time.

StrawberrySyrup

It was very easy to make, and though I didn’t make a large batch this time, I’m assuming it would can well. Here you go: Homemade Strawberry Syrup.

Ingredients:

1 lb of strawberries

1 cup of sugar or honey (I used turbinado sugar)

1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Cut the stems off your strawberries and then cut into quarters. Toss into a small saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.

2. Cook on high heat and then turn to medium once it starts to boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

3. Mash the berries.

4. Strain the juice and berries through a mesh strainer. Make sure to ‘squish’ out all the juice before you discard the pulp.

5. Transfer the juice (it will be about 1 cup) back to the saucepan and add sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil 1 minute and then remove from heat. (If you choose to use honey instead of sugar, simply stir it into the juice–no need to boil it in.)

6. Let cool slightly and then add the lemon juice.

7. Transfer to your jar or container.

Fun ways to use strawberry syrup:

1. In milk

2. In herbal teas (any of the Celestial Seasonings berry teas would be fabulous)

3. Add a few tablespoons to a glass filled with ice, and then fill with sparkling water for a yummy strawberry soda.

4. Over pancakes and waffles

5. In oatmeal

6. Over ice cream

7. Mix with your favorite vinegar to make a strawberry vinaigrette dressing

8. Drizzle over quick breads

9. Drizzle over fruit pies or crisps

10. Whip with cream cheese to make a strawberry dip for graham crackers

Note: Since this strawberry syrup doesn’t contain food coloring, your strawberry milk will not be pink. This is not a problem for us, especially since I was trying to stay away from the dyes. If you have a picky eater that demands pink strawberry milk–I totally understand that–feel free to add a few drops of food coloring.

Now that we’ve made strawberry, just think of the possibilities! Raspberry! Blueberry! Blackberry! Oh my.

Elderberry Syrup in My Tea

I’ve been feeling a little run down for the last week, and I’ve also been consuming entirely too much dairy for a person with a casein intolerance (which is the most obnoxious thing ever). So yesterday, I basically felt horrible. My digestive system was going haywire and I was worn out. To top it all off, this morning I woke up with a sniffly nose and my chest felt heavy. So what’s going on? Well, I haven’t been taking care of myself. I’ve been eating a bunch of junk, despite my resolution to eat clean.

Yesterday was the final straw. I’d already decided to do a detox the beginning of this week, and I woke up this morning feeling determined. I’m not a huge fan of the word detox. It makes me think of crash diets and drinking nothing but grapefruit juice for days. That’s not at all what I’m doing. You can take a look at it here. If I feel run down, I do plan to add in some lean meat at dinner.

What’s my next step to feeling better? Elderberries. These things are amazing. Now, I’m not a doctor, and I’m not giving you medical advise, but take a look here and here to read some information on the immune-system-boosting power these little berries have.

What do I do with elderberries? Well, you don’t want to eat them fresh–they will make you horribly sick to your stomach. Luckily, I didn’t find that out first hand. I make syrup out of dried berries and, when I’m starting to feel sick, I drink two teaspoons in my tea four times a day. It’s yummy, and last time I had a cold, I was better in three days. Nice.

Here’s Monterey Bay Spice Co. Elderberry Syrup Recipe. They have it posted on a YouTube video, but I wrote it down so I don’t have to watch it every time I want to make it:

1/2 Cup Dried Elderberries

1 Cinnamon Stick

5 Cloves

1 tsp fresh grated ginger or 1/2 tsp dry ginger

2 cups water

1 cup raw, unfiltered honey

Combine the elderberries, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, and water in a small saucepan and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain the mixture, and then when cooled to warm, stir in the honey. The original recipe has you cook the honey in with the berries, but I prefer to add it at the end.

Quick side note – Monterey Bay Spice Co’s website is herbco.com and not spiceco dot com. Trust me, you don’t want to accidentally type in the wrong one. On the upside, I realized I needed to take a look into our family security settings, which apparently were not working. Ha ha ha….oh.   

Sugared Butterscotch Cookie with Sea Salt – Ultimate Sugar Cookie Quest

I have found the perfect cookie! Unfortunately, by the time I was done tweaking the recipe, it was no longer a sugar cookie. It was a sugared butterscotch cookie with a sea salt sprinkle. It’s just lovely though, even if it doesn’t fulfill my sugar cookie hunt.

Butterscotch CookiesRemember the Amish Sugar Cookie recipe I posted at the beginning of my Sugar Cookie Quest post? Well, this is the recipe I started with. The original cookies were good. They were very good–but they weren’t the ultimate sugar cookie. They had a pretty good texture, even if they were a little on the soft and crumbly side. They were pleasantly sweet, but maybe just a little bland. I’m going to give the original recipe 4 out of 5 stars. Were they worth my time? Yes. Will I make them again? No.

Will I make the Sugared Butterscotch cookies with sea salt again? Absolutely! The recipe is posted at the bottom of the page, using the Amish Sugar Cookie recipe as a starting point. Let’s get started!

Mix your dough, roll into 2 logs, and then refrigerate for about an hour. After that it's time to cut your cookies!
Mix your dough, roll into 2 logs, and then refrigerate for about an hour. After that it’s time to cut your cookies!
DSC_0070
You need these. Yum.
Pour them into a bowl. You don't want to stick your hands into the bag after they're covered in cookie dough.
Pour them into a bowl. You don’t want to stick your hands into the bag after they’re covered in cookie dough.
Roll the dough into balls, roll the balls in sugar, and then decorate with the chips. This is tedious. Make your kids do it....kidding. No, I'm really not.
Roll the dough into balls, roll the balls in sugar, and then decorate with the chips. This is tedious. Make your kids do it….kidding. No, I’m really not.
Sprinkle with a touch of sea salt...
Sprinkle with a touch of sea salt…
Done! Now you eat one, and then you eat ten more. It's fine--the recipe makes about five dozen!
Done! Now you eat one, and then you eat ten more. It’s fine–the recipe makes about five dozen!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I used coconut)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (I might add a little more next time)
  • 1/2 bag butterscotch chips
  • sugar
  • sea salt (optional)

1. Cream your butter, oil, and sugars together. Add in your eggs and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, blend the flour, soda, cream of tartar, and nutmeg. Gradually mix into your wet ingredients.

2. Divide the dough in half. Form two logs, and wrap in cling wrap. Refrigerate for about an hour.

3. Set your oven to 375 degrees F. Cut an inch-thick slice off one of the logs. Cut into four equal pieces, and then gently roll into a ball. Roll the ball in sugar, and then place on a cookie sheet. Do not press the cookie flat. Decorate the cookies with butterscotch chips. You could also mix them into the dough if you prefer. If you like, you can sprinkle each cookie with a little sea salt.

4. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the bottom. Be careful not to overcook–do not let them brown on the edges. Let the cookies sit for 1 minutes, and then transfer them to cooling racks.