Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Off My Needles: ROAR!

When we moved in to our new home last June, we were blessed to move in to a fantastic neighborhood. We have met many of our neighbors and hang out with them socially quite a bit. It helps that many of them have children the same age as ours. We just met a new neighbor who has a teenage daughter who BABY-SITS and lives RIGHT BEHIND US!

One of our neighbors is a professional photographer (and her daughter is a mere 3 days older than Ella!). We agreed to swap talents -- I'm knitting her photo props and she does our family photography! Last week we sat down and made a long list of items to knit and I finished one this week.

This Roar Stegosaurus hat in newborn size by Tot Toppers. It is very simple; I probably could have figured it out myself, but I wasn't quite sure about the spikes so I just bought the pattern. Miles was not too excited about modeling, but I got a couple of quick shots!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Make It Homemade: Multigrain Bread

I've been baking my own bread for two years. Once we made the switch to homemade bread, we never looked back. I generally make white bread using either the Artisan Bread recipe or this recipe, Real Lovin' Bread. If I want to make the bread "healthier", I sub in a few cups of white whole wheat flour. Now that I'm proficient at white and wheat bread, I wanted to try some other types of breads so when my friend Megan posted her recipe for Mighty Multigrain Bread I knew I had to make it.

After checking out the grains I needed at the grocery store, I decided to wait and order the ingredients from Azure Standard. At half the price and twice the volume, it was the way to go and I now have enough millet to last until my kids graduate from high school. I was unable to find any cracked wheat so I just left it out and added a bit more millet and steel cut oats. I also forgot the wheat germ!

I did make a few small changes to the recipe. First, I substituted honey for the brown sugar and just made sure to watch my water ratio to make up for the added moisture from the honey. I ended up using the same amount of water and flour as called for in the recipe, though. Then during the second rise, I only let the dough rise for about 30 minutes because I wanted the crumb be more on the dense side.  I only made one loaf and froze the other half of the dough for later.

This is a delicious bread and nice change from white or wheat. My three year old doesn't care for the "nuts" in it, but the rest of us love it. I didn't find the bread any more difficult to make than any other recipe I've tried -- it just requires a lot more ingredients! But they are worth effort!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Make It Homemade: Shamrock Shakes

Happy St. Patrick's Day! The corned beef and cabbage is in the Crock Pot; the Irish Creme Brulee is chilling in the fridge; and all the ingredients are ready to go for some rye bread this afternoon!

We hung up some shamrocks this morning and my 3 year old daughter is trying to figure out who this "St. Patrick" person is. She just asked me, "Is it Sponge Bob's friend?" I'll never cease to be amazed by their memories because she's watched Sponge Bob only one or two times (with a baby-sitter because we generally avoid Nickelodeon)!

One of our family traditions is to head to the golden arches for Shamrock Shakes for St. Patty's Day, but we usually find they are either sold out or the machine isn't working. So this year, we're making our own thanks to Kate at Cooking During Stolen Moments! Erin Go Bragh!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Make It Homemade: Tomato Sauce

I started to panic a few weeks ago because my frozen tomato stash was beginning to wan. I was afraid I was going to have to avoid tomatoes because I am not about to pay over $2/pound for those puppies! I was very glad to see Roma tomatoes go on sale a week or so ago and through the power of price matching, I didn't have to drive across town to get them! I picked up 14 pounds of lovelies at Wal-Mart for a mere $4.62!

I am finding that I mostly use tomato sauce and thus decided to cook these tomatoes in to sauce. By "tomato sauce" I mean just that and not marinara or red sauce for pasta. I did absolutely no research -- I just winged it, which was a bit scary but turned out just fine.

First, I dropped the tomatoes in to boiling water for about 2-3 minutes so I could easily slip off the skins. I am not certain this is necessary, but I didn't want tomato skins in my sauce so I did it. I do, however, have little bitty seeds in my sauce from the tomatoes. You can't taste or feel them, but I see them and it bugs me. I think next time I'll seed the tomatoes and leave the skins on and see how that works.

I took the skinned tomatoes and threw them in a large pot, mashed them a bit with my Pampered Chef Chop and Mash thingy and brought them to a simmer. I let them cook like that, mashing every so often, for about 2-3 hours.

Next, I transferred the cooked tomatoes to my blender in batches and pureed until smooth. This is where an immersion blender would come in handy, but I don't have one so I made do. I was planning to cook the sauce further, but it did not seem necessary. So I let the sauce cool and divided it up into 1 and 2 cup servings in freezer bags. Fourteen pounds of Romas made about 14 cups of tomato sauce.

I did not add any salt or flavorings to the tomatoes, but you certainly can! I just wanted plain old sauce to be used to make marinara or pizza sauce. I was a bit worried about taste, but it is so much better than the canned stuff!

Next on my tomato to do list: tomato paste!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Bit of Advice on Corned Beef

St. Patrick's Day is next week which means corned beef is now on sale at a great price ($.97/lb is my goal price). A few years ago I decided to go to pick up some corned beef during this sale and was shocked to find that the store was sold out! Even worse, I couldn't get a raincheck because the ad stated that quantities were limited. I learned my lesson and yesterday afternoon I went to pick up my allotted two packages and they were already running low!

I'm planning to go back and get two more packages because I want to learn to make corned beef hash for breakfast and reubens sound really good!

If you want some corned beef, I'd advise heading to the store sooner rather than later!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Smiley Face Cookies

I saw this recipe for Smiley Face Cookies in a recent issue of Family Circle and had to try them out! I love smiley face cookies and have fond memories of them from my childhood. These were super easy to make and taste just as I remember.

The dough for these cookies is super easy and yummy! I left it in the fridge for a few days and it was fine. Just let it sit out a bit to soften up when you are ready to roll and cut. I spent about a week hunting down "powdered egg whites" for the frosting in the baking aisle. Turns out that Wilton sells it as "Meringue Powder" and thus it is by all the cake decorating items! I was not a fan of the frosting when I taste tested it, but my kids and husband liked it. On the cookie, it is just fine!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Kids

I usually reserve family photos for Facebook,  but my father-in-law (who is not on Facebook) was asking for some pictures of the kids and it is my job to keep the grandparents happy!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Works For Me Wednesday: Drawer Organizers

When we moved in to our home in June, I was thrilled to have SIX DRAWERS (as opposed the two I had in our apartment) in my kitchen. I eagerly divided and conquered and end up with a gigantic mess. I had the drawers divided in to silverware, utensils for cutting, and the baking drawer, but everything was just kind of tossed in. I was constantly getting frustrated trying to find anything.

I had one drawer organizer with the slots for spoons, knives and forks (like the one in front in the picture above), but that didn't work for a long bread knife and kitchen scissors. Then I discovered drawer organizers -- little baskets and bins in different shapes and sizes that you fit right in to your drawers. My first attempt to find drawers organizers was frustrating because they started at $2 and went up in price from there, which was WAY more than I wanted to spend. Good old Wal-Mart to the rescue (I searched everywhere else, but couldn't find the right price!). Wal-Mart carries packs of 2-3 drawer organizers for $1.

I can't tell you how happy those organized drawers make me! It's so nice to reach in a find a tablespoon without spending 10 minutes digging for one!
Drawer organizers definitely works for me!

Make It Homemade: Candy "Bars"

Last year I decided that this year I would do a "homemade" Easter for our kids. I am working on a nice long post on how to do that and should have it up in a week so you have plenty of time to plan ahead if you want to have a homemade Easter, too.

Yesterday Kate at Stolen Moments Cooking posted this recipe for "Empty Pantry Candy" that would work beautifully for an easy and inexpensive Easter basket treat. The candy took me about 10 minutes to make.

I melted 8 ounces of chocolate (Dove Double Chocolate melting bars from Valentine's Day but chocolate chips work) and about 1/3 cup peanut butter. I used natural peanut butter and was a little nervous about the extra oil, but it was just fine. Then I stirred in peanuts, dried cranberries, crushed pretzels, and mini marshmallows. Other items in my pantry that didn't make the cut this time included coconut, pecans, Fritos, raisins, and Girl Scout cookies. The possibilities are endless.

I smoothed the mixture on to a Silpat on a baking sheet and let it cool in the fridge. When it was set, I just broke it into pieces much like a chocolate bark. If you wanted it to be more like "bars", you could easily put it into a greased 8 inch square pan. Package the candy in to cellophane bags or wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper for the Easter basket. I've been storing my candy in the fridge to make sure it doesn't melt so keep that in mind for the baskets!

My daughter discovered the peanuts in the candy so now she won't eat it... darn....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March Freezer Cooking Day Wrap Up

Amidst all the sickness around here (and coming down with it myself), I managed to get some cooking done! But now I'm exhausted. I probably should have just waited until next week. I also figured out that cooking on a weekend just does not work for me. It's easier to work things in to my normal routine on a week day rather than trying to fit cooking in to our rather flexible weekends.

I ended up with (some stuff gotten eaten along the way):

1 dozen meatballs
A huge bag of baking mix
Creamy Chicken Taquitos
3 mini loaves and 1 big loaf of Zucchini Bread
7 Frozen PB and J Sandwiches  (half of these have marshmallow creme on them! I had some to use up!)
A dozen pizza roll ups
1 frozen pizza dough (new recipe that I love and will share soon!)

I can't wait to try the taquitos and I am so glad to have more baking mix ready to go!

You can view more cooking day wrap ups at Money Saving Mom!

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