Friday, September 25, 2009

Super Yummy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (that are healthy, too!)

Ok, I've been going on and on about this recipe I found online for a healthy oatmeal raisin cookie... so here it is!
It is so chewy and yummy, you'd never guess its low-fat. I made a few variations to the original recipe, so I'm sure that changed the nutrition facts, but the original recipe (that calls for no cinnamon or cloves and uses regular flour, unsalted butter and light brown sugar) says it has a serving size of 2 cookies (rounded teaspoonfuls size) with 2g protein, 94 calories, 1g fiber, 2 g total fat and 10g sugar (hey, its a cookie - and some of that comes from the raisins)

When I think of the breakfast cereal that we would consume in this house, back when I bought it, even that is not as nutritious as these (which is why I've let my kids have a couple for breakfast once and a while, and even occasionally refer to them as breakfast cookies)

Applesauce Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
originally from www.foodfit.com, but I've made some changes:

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter (used salted)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar(used dark)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
just under 1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
(cooking spray)

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 375°. Spray 2 cookie sheets generously with non-stick spray. (even with this I needed a sharp spatula to get these off).  I don't use non-stick pans, but they might do a better job.

2. In electric mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugars together for about a minute, until smooth.

3. In separate bowl (while mixer is creaming) combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

4. In mixer, when butter/sugar is done creaming, add in applesauce, egg and vanilla and mix until blended, about 2 minutes. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and the cinnamon and ground cloves and mix well. Add the oats and raisins, mixing by hand, if needed.

5. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls (I used a disher that makes a ball about the size of one of those large gumball machine gumballs, or about 1 Tablespoon). Space about 2 inches apart.
6. Bake until slightly golden, about 11 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on cookie sheet and then remove to baking racks.
--I'm trying out freezing the dough balls and will let you know how they do-- Update: not bad!  They are still a bit gooey to handle even when frozen, though.

--oh my gosh, if you wanted to totally make these bad for you they would be so good sandwiching a glob of cream cheese frosting!--

--if you only have regular cooking oats, you might want to let the dough sit in the fridge for a few hours and then try it. The first time I made these all I had was the regular rolled oats and the oats didn't absorb really any moisture so the texture was a bit off, but the flavor was the same. --

These are so very soft and chewy - and they stay that way for a few days in a ziploc bag. You can't even taste the applesauce in them. I made home made applesauce a week or so ago and used that - so yummy! I actually made a double batch of these today.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No-cost fun!


My little DD3 was feeling left out today when her big sister got home from school today. DD3 doesn't start preschool until next week and told me she wants to go to her big sister's school (which also offers preschool) instead. So to help her think of all the fun she will have at her preschool, I copied a low/no cost game they had there...

I call them "I Spy Things" (real creative, I know!)

What you need:

Clear water bottle/soda bottle (I have 2 milk bottles from Burger King)
dry, non-perishable food, like rice (others that MAY work might be plain popcorn, or craft sand or maybe beads - I think dried beans might get corroded by sharp objects in the bottle)
Lots of knick-knacks that won't melt, rot or deteriorate

I kept my girls' bottles virtually identical because I didn't want them claiming one. I know that wouldn't stop the older one ("My alphabet bead has a "B" on it - not an "H"!! This is YOUR bottle!" so I had to make it clear that they aren't to be claimed. *sigh* kids.

Anyway, with two bottles, they can play I Spy with them. If you just had one made, you could write down or take pictures of each item and list them or cut them into cards. It depends how you want to use them. Mine will be (tightly sealed) in the car.

The preschool ones had Monopoly pieces and tiny animal figurines, quarters, etc. I'm too cheap for that - I used pennies :) Once I got going on our bottles, I was getting really inspired.

Types of I Spy bottles:
  • You could go with a theme (like office supplies for a fun stress-reliever for a co-worker) or legos and Knex for a little builder.
  • You also could spend a day or two looking for treasures on a walk around downtown or on a trip to make a fun keepsake or something.
  • Another idea, for a harder game for tweens and teens would be to put one of each letter of alphabet beads in the bottle and they could hunt out the letters to spell a word.
The more rice and the smaller the pieces (or similar color to the rice), the harder it is to find "new" pieces in the bottles.

Ours had about 20 items in that little 1 cup bottle such as:
  • Buttons (one each of 2 colors)
  • paper clip
  • a stick pin
  • popcorn kernel
  • small lego
  • piece of ribbon
  • sparkly bead
  • alphabet bead
  • craft eyes
  • penny
  • matchbox car wheels
  • small silk ribbon flowers
  • some scrapbooking charms
Some other ideas: Marbles, stray game pieces or toy parts (like that Polly Pocket's leg that has been floating around the house? lol), pop-tabs, pen cap, screw/nail, fishing lures, pebbles (pick a few colors!), acorns, etc. ..Don't forget the buttons that come on your clothing tags or a old shirt!

I tried to keep my objects identifiable to the kids to lessen the "need" to ask Mom a question while she is trying to drive.

If you make one of these I would LOVE to see a picture! I almost wish I hadn't made them with the kids because they would have made great stocking stuffers. But now I can make a set for my nieces and nephews for Christmas.

If you haven't been to Crafts Direct in St. Cloud, MN - you're missing out! They are hosing this scrapbooking/papercrafting weekend this weekend! I'm going to this with my SIL Sarah. I am SO looking forward to it! They said there are still a few spots available! Does anyone want to join us? --click the picture

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stuffed Green Peppers, in the crockpot


Our garden is producing all kinds of peppers right now - I used the skinny ones to make breakfast burritos for my hubby and made stuffed green peppers for our family.

Our ancestry is German. I plan on telling that to the kids when we eat it for dinner. I'm sure that won't matter - now if I told my oldest that this is what they eat in China (she is obsessed with China) she would probably gobble them up! I disliked these when I was a kid, but was secretly amused that you used the pepper as a "bowl" for the meat. Now each year, I have to get my late-summer fix of these things. No one else around here does, lol.

My mom used to always make them in the oven. I avoid using my oven whenever possible. I have made them in the microwave too... This year I decided to try the crockpot since it seems like this would be the perfect recipe to do in the crock.

This is my mom's recipe, from who-knows-where, but she likes things mild(she never ate the peppers and probably omitted the onion), so I'm sure you could add some oregano or something and it will be even tastier. I gut the peppers, removing all the seeds, but I think they add more spice, so chop up the guts and add them to the meat if you like...I think :) )

Stuffed Green Peppers

6 green bell peppers
1 pound LEAN ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked rice (I use brown minute rice)
2 T. of chopped onions
1 small can of tomato soup (I used tomato sauce - about 5-6 oz - but you could use ketchup or paste too)
1/2 c. water (1/4 c. for in crock)
dash of salt and pepper
cheese for top

Cut tops off of peppers, about 3/4 inch from top, remove insides. Spray sides of baking dish with cooking spray for easier cleanup. Place peppers in crock or baking dish, removing tops and laying them in the same order as in the dish (makes matching easier later). You can ball up foil or use toothpicks to help them stand up better if you need to.

Fill full with beef mixture. If you have a little extra meat, just put in in a ball in the pan next to the peppers... it'll be fine. Replace tops and cook (directions below). When cooking is completed, add some cheese to top of beef and replace tops, serve hot.

Be careful removing pan from oven or microwave - there will be lots of juices! You may want to pierce the lower side of the pepper first to allow juices to run out a few minutes before removing from the pan. And remove carefully because the peppers will be fragile.

"Pressure-cook for 10 minutes" --Huh?! Hmm. I guess Mom pressure-cooked these... what a versatile recipe! I'm sure in the oven you'd just cook at 350 for about 45 min?

Cook on high in crockpot for about 4 hours...

My microwave instructions:

Place peppers in microwave roaster pan (or just a microwave-safe baking dish), using toothpicks to prop up if necessary. Cover with wax paper or use roaster cover, loosely. Cook on "High" for 13-17 minutes, rearranging after 1/2 of cooking time.

The verdict:

Kids resisted them, I'm not sure if they really ate much. I let them pick the "vegetable"... they picked corn. I used 80% lean beef which is usually much higher fat content than I'm used to. I'd use a max of 85% lean next time. The beef always comes out moist, so you could use any lean meat (even venison, I bet). Its like a real most, peppery meatloaf. My garden peppers were not as sweet as store-bought bell peppers, but I'm sure they have much fewer chemicals on them. I didn't use any type of fertilizer or soil augmentation, so I'll do some research and see if I can get sweeter ones next year. I have about 4-6 more bell peppers growing on my plants so I'll probably make another batch for the freezer when those are ready.

A few tweaks I'll take note of... It needed a bit more tomato flavor, so I'd probably use "paste" next time or a larger can of sauce and omit the water. I think this would be tasty with about a 1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes. Cooking time probably could have been 2-3 hours. I'm not that experienced with the crock to know how long it takes to cook a 2 inch ball of meat stuffed inside a pepper.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 7, 2009

my heart is inside out right now...

I have a heavy heart. A soldier has lost his own personal battle. My nieces and nephews will no longer have their Dad. The timing... oh, the timing. I have so much anger, frustration and sadness right now for them, him, his parents. I really don't know what led up to this, but I'm sure depression did.

I have struggled with depression most of my life. I have even had times I wanted to end it.

I have had a song stuck in my head today, called "Inside Out".

It's a Christian song, and like depression, I find that whatever thoughts we fill our heads with, our heart takes on. If you fill your thoughts with junk, your heart will inevitably have it too. So rather than listening to regular radio, since I am prone to get songs stuck in my head (who don't!) I listen to the Christian radio station. And because I was listening to that, I got this wonderful song stuck in my head, and the lyrics refresh me...
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
In my heart, in my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
I really wonder how my life would have turned out if I hadn't become a Christian. I had such angry thoughts. A school shooter? Maybe. Suicide? Possibly. Thankfully, the sister that I always fought with in our younger years shared what she learned about Christ with me on one of her college breaks. And 15 years later, I have that faith inside me that when I feel turned inside out, I can lean on Him. I don't have to walk the road with depression and not as perfect health as I'd like alone. Its not about being religious. Its not about being weak. It's about realizing our world is imperfect, full of illness, sin and selfishness. Its full of sin. And so are we. But we are given Grace. Don't get me wrong, the world is full of a lot of beauty too - I'm reminded of that whenever I look at my kids, witness kindness and grace, or walking in my garden--even the weeds, lol. But to imagine heaven, where there is no pain, no illness, no sadness, nothing remotely sinful. The thoughts we will have will have nothing to do with having an achy body, a broken heart or any other daily struggles to deal with...

Hillsong United lyrics - From The Inside Out

album: United We Stand (2006)

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
my heart and my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
In my heart, in my soul, Lord I give you control

Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Chorus 2x
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out Lord, my soul cries out

Jon was 26. He was a soldier in the Army. He had three (beautiful) children as well as their older sister, "S". He was home on leave from overseas when ... he decided he didn't want to go back there, I guess. There are a lot of people hurting because of this. If you could, would you please pray for these people? Thank you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Food for thought...

I have been cooking from scratch a lot recently. I have a lot of reasons why, and my reasons change every day, it seems!

Why:
--Healthier
--I know what's in it
--I enjoy making it
--Cheaper
--Self-sufficiency -- I'm not reliant on stocking a special product to make something.

If you looked at our dining out budget this time last year, you would see an embarrassingly high amount in the dining out category. And not that I budgeted for it - we would just blow it by colossal proportions every month. I know its partially our phase of life - young kids (recently cheap to feed, lol) and lots of big house projects. But then there were the legitamate dining out expenses: a special (rare) date, event or a birthday in addition to the just plain exhaustion and not knowing what to cook drive thru experience. I hated how much was spent on drive thru food. The kids didn't appreciate it at all - they liked the instant gratification of fast food and fought with us about why they couldn't eat it *every* day. By meal planning and cooking double of what we eat (and controlling everyone's portions of the food groups) it has helped our budget, waistlines and mostly our attitude about food. The kids no longer look at the kitchen as a vending machine for food, expecting it NOW. They now see what is involved in cooking it. They see the whole food before it is processed into what they are familiar with and have been willing to give more foods a try. I have to admit - dining out is still a luxury we enjoy but now we tend to have better behaved kids in the restaurant (because its more special) and its money spent more deliberately at times we try to plan on instead of defaulting to a drive thru. (sorry readers, its a rough paragraph, but parenting calls :) )

I've found a few helpful websites that I've been following to get frugal and creative recipes that I've been referring a lot of people to lately. I'd like to give them proper credit and list them here:

Hillbilly Housewife - did you know you can make your own tortillas and bisquick?!
Mommy's Kitchen - lots of yummy stuff here
All Recipes.com - I love how I can adjust the serving size to fit what I have on hand.

There are several more, and I'm a follower of them - you can see many cooking blogs listed in my profile if you want. If you have any website suggestions for me, feel free to leave a comment! Thanks.

Monday, July 20, 2009

50% off Shop N' Save Discount Certificates!


When I go to St. Cloud, MN - which is about an hour away - I LOVE going to Craft's Direct. It's very similar to a Hobby Lobby. I scrapbook, so I go there for crop nights a lot.

Right now, you can get a $25 certificate for Crafts Direct for $12.50.

Wow!

Now imagine if you paired that with a 40% or 50% coupon (they take competitors coupons).

Did I mention they even have a nice fabric department?

I've never used these certificates at Crafts Direct before - so hopefully they would allow purchases with coupons (and credit my purchase to my Passport discount card too!). The only restriction it posted online was that it has to be used all at once - no change will be given. I'm hoping they will also let me use it on my crop night fees :)

Once of my favorite home decor stores, Wooden Hearts is offering $10 certificates for $5. I might have to get those too!

If you live in Central MN, its worth taking a look at what other deals you can find - there are probably over 100 offers! Click the logo above to go to the Shop N' Save website.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

3 GALLONS of fresh blueberries and 2 lbs. bananas for under $24!


At Cash Wise!

Pints of blueberries are on sale for .98 each - so I bought 2 flats (or 24 pints)
The free item after $25 purchase is 2 pounds of bananas.
You can count the value of the free item towards the $25.

SO...

(24) x .98 = $23.52 for blueberries
(2 lbs ban.) $ 1.24
--------------------------
$24. 76

--usually they will let something that close slide, but if you don't have anything else, just make sure you have a little over 2 pounds of bananas.

But the 2 pounds of bananas will be free, so you would get this all for under $24.

If you are wondering why I am buying so many blueberries, its because (1) the freeze well and (2) they are an anti-inflammatory food. For you who don't personally know me, I have Crohn's Disease, which is an autoimmune, or inflammatory disease. I am on more medication than my grandma (most likely, anyway!) because of inflammatory issues. Many times if you are lucky enough to have one, you more than likely have several (like my asthma, eczema, allergies and arthritis). I am even undergoing a round of Entocort, an oral steroid, to give me some relief to my symptoms, and once I'm done with that, I am hoping I will have the courage to change my diet to a more anti-inflammatory diet so I don't need such high levels of daily medication. Prayers are welcome! Thanks for letting me share a little about me. It could be MUCH worse, right? I try to remember that.

Monday, July 6, 2009

YUMMMM! Deep Dish Chicago-Style PIZZA!



I made this for dinner tonight! Yumm!!! It has been YEARS - gosh- can I say - a DECADE since I last had this kind of pizza (at Green Mill, here in MN). Now I feel old. I dont like talking in decades, lol. I have been trying to cook from scratch recently, and this is one of the MANY new recipes my family has been subjected to (though no one complained about this one, lol)

For those who don't know, a Chicago-style pizza has the cheese UNDER the sauce. It came out very light and airy, and I LOVE the tomato chunks in it from the diced tomatoes. I even got to use my own basil from my garden!

I remember having to watch The Frugal Gourmet as a kid. It was one of the cooking shows I think my mom watched. I dont know. We only had 4 or 5 channels. Maybe this was the best thing on. I still remember his pinstriped apron and thinking "frugal" was such a weird word, lol. So, this recipe is based on The Frugal Gourmet's recipe from 1987, or so, but I made some adaptations since things have changed a bit in 22 years...

I'll post my variation of the recipe, but the original is all over the internet, including HERE.

Dough

  • 1 OR 2 packages rapid rise dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 5 1/2 cups flour
I have a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook, and that is what is recommended to use with this recipe. I don't really know how you would make this without it or a bread machine with a dough setting... The dough is pretty sticky. But it makes two batches of dough, so its easy to split with someone if you make it at their place or something... you only use the mixer for about 15 minutes.

SO here is where I made changes. It tells you to beat the yeast with the liquids but my yeast packet told me otherwise. Since the yeast is so important to making the crust, I felt those instructions trumped the original recipe. I had some extra time this afternoon and some fresh packets of dry yeast, so I thought I'd try it with just one packet. The dough was done rising in two hours, so I think thats a change I will keep. The amount of yeast just affects how long it takes to rise, as I understand it.

SO, in my mixer (with the dough hook, but you could use the whisk) I put the flour (spooned into cup, not scooped out with the cup!), cornmeal and yeast packet and mixed at a low speed for a few minutes while I worked on the liquids.

In a microwaveable bowl, I put the two cups of water and the oils and mixed them together and microwaved it and mixed thoughly before measuring with a candy thermomiter to bring the temp up to 125°.

Then with the DOUGH HOOK in the mixer, add the liquid to the dry ingredients on low speed. Once combined, increase speed slightly, if desired. It will look sticky. But when I stopped the mixer and used a spatula to make sure there was no dry ingredients on the sides, the dough was elasticy and sort-of came away from the bowl side pretty easily, so maybe that is a helpful guide to use on the consistancy. I stirred it for a total of about 5 minutes.

Next is the rise. I plopped it on my clean, lightly floured laminate countertop (my recipe said "plastic" countertop, but mine was fine, lol) and covered it with a big plastic bowl (here, my recipe said METAL bowl) but it didn't matter. It doubled in bulk in a matter of 40 minutes or so. I punched it down and folded it up again, putting a little more flour under it and covered it again. About an hour later I checked it again and it was ready. I don't think I needed to even let it do a second rise, just give it more like 60 minutes and that should be good.

Since we are a family of 4, with small kids, I didn't think I needed to use my big 18" deep dish pan. I used a 9x13 instead. I thought the two cake pans that were suggested would be too small. I put half of the dough flattened out in a floured gallon freezer bag and stuck it in my freezer. Hopefully it will come out ok when I use it in a few weeks.

I oiled my 9x13 pan with a little olive oil and learned the hard way that you should NOT oil the sides. I also sprinkled some cornmeal on the bottom to help the dough not just sit in the oil. I pressed out the dough into a rough rectangle before I put it in the pan and tried my best to keep the though about 1/8 inch thick, as suggested.

Now for the toppings! What makes this pizza so yummy is the cheese UNDER the tomato sauce, so be sure to try it made that way at least once. Here is what you need:

Topping (in order):
  • 1/3 pound shredded mozzarella cheese (or sliced)
  • 2 cups diced canned tomatoes ( I used some "crushed" as well)
  • 1 teaspoon basil (I used my FRESH basil from my garden - yum! -about 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • whatever toppings you like
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (I just used more shredded)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil drizzled over top
  • Salt to taste (sprinkle a little salt on the crust edges - they were a little bland)

Put these toppings on in this order on the list. Just try it once this way. Its very yummy.

Bake in a 450° oven for about 35-40 minutes, depending on toppings, until golden brown.

I am so excited to can some tomato sauce again this year! I like how you can customize the texture when you can your own and I LOVE the diced tomatoes in it. Hopefully my tomatoes will grow. My goal is to eventually supply ALL the tomato sauce for our meals, but with us eating out less and me cooking from scratch more, I doubt my little garden could handle that.

Life

After a morning of squabbling with each other, they ask if they can take a nap together. They were reading in DD3's bed while DD6 read to DD3 from her Pony Pals book. So sweet.

I harvested my garlic this week. My biggest one is about the size of a ping pong ball. I have them drying on my front porch because my resource I've been learning about growing from says they need to dry out in a shady place with good air circulation. I have no idea why it underlined so much of that paragraph, but I'll have to leave it because my sleeping beauties just woke up....
-------------------------------------------------------------------

Yesterday, when I was tending my garden, I twisted my ankle again....

I sprained it about 3 weeks ago.

If you want to see a picture of my foot, keep scrolling...

If you don't, I completely understand.

There is nothing more to see on this post besides the picture.

Ok...

Here goes...


I thought the bruising towards the back there was pretty cool, actually. I had trouble getting a good picture by myself, though. Now it hurts all over again *sigh*

Monday, June 29, 2009

2009 Garden pictures

Don’t bother clicking “view full album” because each set of three is all that’s in the album… I just like this LO. Clicking will show you a bigger pic, though.

1. “Red Riding Hood” Diplodania plant that I got on clearance last year for $3 (with the trellis) – it seems to really like the spot I put it in… and of course, a few plants I never got in… I seem to have those every year.

2. My pathetic banana plant. Its just fun to have, but I think it needs to be cut back and repotted. Oh, and the “spinny” is from my niece, Callie :D

3. DD next to my garlic pot. Its ready to harvest any day now. Behind her is some volunteer tree that started growing in my planter. Maybe a maple?

1 & 2. The start of my “Mommy’s Garden”. I had the landscape fabric down last year but it got sun-rotted and the weeds set in pretty fast. We want to move our generic rock in the front of the house back here and replace the front with some reddish granite chips or something. I won a $75 gift card from a farm store last year so I got a lot of perennials for this garden. Landscaping is next summer’s project.

3. My grape vine in its third year, but this is all new growth. It died and got chewed on the first two years but it came back this year and now its growing like crazy!

june 24 garden WEB-08

Here is our two blueberry bushes. Originally, I got a vine for DH for father’s day last year that also got chewed and never regrew. So I thought I’d try two different varieties of blueberry bushes instead. They are right next to the grape vine.

1. My white and yellow onions. Aren’t they enormous?! I really should have put a ruler by them so you could see. They’re huge.

2. My fence around my vegetable garden. We fenced in about 4 feet to the left of the garden so we could just put a gate at the top and bottom instead of a gate for each bed.

3. My carrots. See? Yeah. I don’t see them either. I seeded them twice. *sigh* I always have a tough time with carrots! spinach didn’t come up either (behind where the carrots were supposed to be)

june 24 garden WEB-11 june 24 garden WEB-12

1. Bottom bed: Before we fenced, we planted a pole bean and sunflower house for the girls. Not doing so hot, so I’m not that concerned that they wont have a door for it anymore, lol (its blocked by the fence)

2. Second bed: My herb bed, standing right by those gigantic onions. You can see lettuce, chives and dill right up front.

june 24 garden WEB-15 june 24 garden WEB-14

1. A teeny-tiny strawberry from one of the transplants from my friend’s garden. (we traded a portion of my chive plants for some of her strawberry plants)

2. This picture is from the side, so the front of the bed is the left side where the strawberry plants are. In the back of the picture I have a rosemary plant growing in front of the lettuce, a cilantro plant, then two basil plants, and a spot for leeks (that never came up) and 4 red onions that I just recently got in.

june 24 garden WEB-17

june 24 garden WEB-16

1. Third bed: My bed of peas and corn. Supposed to be three rows of corn, room for about 30 stalks, but only about 10 are growing.

2. About half my peas came up, but they are flowering and starting to get pods, so hopefully we will have a harvest big enough at once for at least one meal of fresh peas.

june 24 garden WEB-18 june 24 garden WEB-19

1. My fourth bed has potatoes in back (red and yukon gold) and along the front I have some sugar-snap peas, salsa peppers and heartland tomatoes (that aren’t growing).

2. Bell peppers and two egg plants (just for fun) and the heartland tomatoes.

1 & 2. Fifth bed: Some more tomatoes along the front of this bed too, with an empty spot for the cantaloupe plant that didn’t come up (but I have a volunteer one growing in my potatoes). Broccoli and cauliflower plants growing with Rhubarb and pickle zukes growing right by it. Crowded but I planned on the rhubarb and cauliflower plants being gone halfway though the season to give the vines some room.

3. Very top of the garden, not really a bed but we needed the room. Loosely referred to as the sixth bed. Pumpkins, watermelon and squash are supposed to be here. DH and the kids planted this one so I really don’t know what’s what.

june 24 garden WEB-25 My pretty (fake) stone I got at Craft’s Direct on clearance for about $6. I keep it by my bottom gate and smile every time I see it. I’m looking forward to landscaping the front of my garden with some flowers and vines to cover the (ugly) fence next year!

I think next year we will get some compost delivered and I will mulch over the seed rows to help keep water in the soil. I really hate using our city water to water and we had a very dry spring. Carrots and spinach are planted very close to the surface so that's my guess why they didn't come up. I also want to look into some sort of soaker hose system because my sprinkler doesn't water the sides very well, and really doesn't do the trick once the growth gets really high. There is always something to do when you have a garden, and I enjoy it.

And guess what DH's father's day present was this year?! A gas-powered weed-whacker with a cultivator attachment! (that part is for me, lol!)

Thanks for checking out my garden tour! I’m having lots of fun!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Banana-Rhubarb Whole Wheat Muffins

I had another overripe banana I had to use. I still have about 2 c. of that Kashi-Nasti cereal that I've been saving for cooking those muffins again... I am trying not to throw out food... like I did today Frosted Mini Wheats crumbs (about 1/2 cup!) at the bottom of the cereal bag today. I didn't even think about it until it was too late and the bag had been thrown out (although still technically retrievable) into the nasty garbage can germ abyss.... I digress.

Anyway, I searched on Allrecipies.com again (my favorite recipe/ingredient search website) for banana and found this recipe.

If I hadn't thrown the cereal crumbs I probably could have used them in place of the whole wheat flour and some of the sugar. Oh well.

One thing I like about Allrecipes.com is that you can adjust the serving sizes, so since the recipe called for 3 bananas and served 12, I cut it down to a serving of 4. I had to put in a partial egg, but that's not hard. Just scramble it and remove a tablespoon or so.

I left a comment about my changes on the website and I'll post them here as well...
"I had a lone overripe banana to use and a pathetically small rhubarb plant that I wanted to make at least something with. Found this recipe and reduced the serving size down to a third of the original (for the lone banana) and doubled the rhubarb (like many did with the strawberry component) and made muffins with it (start with about 20 min for baking time). I don't know if it helped or not but I coated the chopped rhubarb in some of the sugar first to sweeten it a bit while I prepared the rest of the ingredients. Next time I will add a pinch of salt, too, I think."
And here is the original recipe link --it is very simple with very few ingredients. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Quick & Crunchy Ramen Stir-Fry

I had heard of people using Ramen noodles in their stir fry before. Occasionally, I've had a pack of Ramen laying around that I don't know what to do with. Allrecipies.com has tons of cabbage salad recipes... but I'm not really into cabbage. We do like stir-fry though (though the kids dont) My husband and I like going to a make-your-own stir-fry place called Mongo's Grill in St. Cloud, MN when we are there - its wonderful (and like $20+ for just us two). If your in the Twin Cities area and like traditional Asian food, try Kahn's Mongolian Grill - that place is yummy too... But in our small town there is nothing like that for at least an hour drive. So this is what I made. Its super fast, cheap and yummy! I'm sure there are similar recipes to this, but this is my own creation. I call it...

Quick & Crunchy Ramen Stir-Fry

Prep: 5 seconds. Cooking time: maybe 10 min.

Using some of the dry noodles in the finished stir-fry adds an almost nutty taste to this quick stir-fry. You can use what veggies/meat you have on hand, of course, but the frozen stuff is what makes this quick to make.
  • pre-cooked garlic-flavored chicken, in chunks, frozen
    ( I make up my own batches of this stuff)
  • frozen stir-fry veggies
  • Ramen noodles, oriental flavor
  • 1-2 T. olive oil (or other oil)
  • up to 1 cup water
I used a non-stick skillet for my stir fry. You aren't supposed to pre-heat those pans with nothing in them, but obviously a stir-fry needs a hot pan before you add food. So this is what I did (and saved myself some dishes):

Heat pan to almost full heat, immediately add about 1/2 cup water.
Add most of package of ramen noodles, reserving about 2-4 Tablespoons of dry noodles.
Add handful of frozen chicken.
Add some of seasoning packet.

(I made a half-batch today so please double whatever you see in the picture to match the recipe)

Let noodles cook and chicken thaw in water as the pan heats up.

When the water is mostly gone and noodles are fairly cooked(about 2-3 min) and pre-cooked chicken warmed though, add 1 "turn" of olive oil and bag of frozen stir-fry veggies, add the rest of Ramen seasoning packet. Stir to coat.

Allow to cook for about 2 minutes without stirring(I have a hard time with this, lol). Give a good stir and allow to cook another 2 minutes or so. Add some more water if pan is drying out before desired cooking is acheived.

Crumble remaining noodles into stir fry pan, stir to coat and pour into dish.
Just for fun (and to save scrubbing the pan) Deglaze pan with water to get all the yummyness out of the pan and pour over your stirfry. Make sure you do your best Julia Child impression when you say "And now we will deglaze the pan..."

Serve to hard -working hungry husband and then politely demand a few bites of this yummy stir-fry!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Box-tops/ School fundraiser organizer boxes

I know this is at the very end of the school year, but maybe this will make a fun summer project to keep the kids busy…

IMG_1024This would be a fun gift kids could make for their grandparents to support their school, too… just an idea.
I am posting a formal set of instructions on how to make the label organizers, enjoy! (My original post is here)
I used to keep various Campbell’s labels, Box Tops, poptabs, etc. in Ziploc sandwich bags in a shallow basket above my microwave. Although it worked well, it wasted space and I needed something that I could just pop the item in and not have to use both hands – and I needed it in a place the kids could help out with. This was my solution…
Note: I really expanded on the methods to make this adaptable to whatever people have on hand and make this an easy project.
Depending on where you want to put your organizer boxes and what you plan to put in them (like the milk tops are bulky, for example), and how often you want to have to empty them, you may choose a different sized box or choose to place dividers in the boxes. I have 2 full boxes (pop tabs and milk tops) and 2 with a divider in them that open on both ends (Campbell’s/BTFE and generic UPCs (2 brands)). I used generic corn bread boxes (about the size of Jiffy mixes) If you don't think using a shallow drawer like I did will work for you, consider this:
  • Standing up the boxes for deeper drawers (such as bread drawers) and use noodle boxes (bonus -you could leave the window uncovered to see how full it is!) or mac n' cheese boxes.
  • lining them up on a shelf near your kitchen, like books. "Helper" boxes might work well for this or larger noodle boxes.
Wherever you pick to store them, try to make them accessible to the kids, so they can help out. My kids never have complained about dropping them into the boxes!
I will give instructions for using a shallow drawer (3.5 inches), but adapt these for whatever application you choose to use.

Here are the instructions:
  1. Make a list of collectable items. For my area it is these items. If you aren’t sure what to collect, contact your local elementary school to find out what they collect.
    • Pop tabs for McD’s
    • Campbell's UPCs, etc
    • Box Tops for Education
    • Kemps milk lids
    • Our Family generic line UPCs
    • Food Club/Top Care/Full Circle/Paws/Top Crest generic line UPCs (from Cash Wise- UPC starts w/ 368)
    • Econo Foods receipts (I tuck these between the box and drawer front)
      ...I also collect Cash Wise general rental receipts, Land of Lakes milk tops, Coke Rewards (I redeem these on the computer right away for myself, but these can be collected by schools as well) and a few others but these don't have "homes" in the boxes because I rarely have them.
  2. Evaluate how much room you need for each of these items to be able to empty the boxes only a few times a year, ideally, based on your particular consumption.
  3. Measure how wide and tall your drawer is. Figure out how many divisions you need and bring your ruler and notepad with measurements along with you to the grocery store. Have fun measuring for the ideal box. Be sure to pick sturdy, non-crushed/damaged boxes. In addition to the types mentioned above, consider pop tart, cheese, animal cracker or Breton cracker boxes or even foil/plastic wrap type boxes (but these may not take advantage of the height of your drawer as well, and you would have to remove or tape over the sharp edge).

    label test fit
  4. Before starting, check the fit in your drawer to make sure they will fit correctly! Carefully open boxes and remove contents. Either make the contents or copy/scan/photograph the instructions and label the packages before starting!
  5. label what you needGather a glue stick (or other dry-type adhesive), scissors, duct or other tape, sharp craft knife and paper to cover your boxes with to make them all pretty.
  6. Cut rectangles out on the tops of the boxes (I used about .25 inch by 2 inches on most). You can just freehand it or completely open and flatten the b ox, measure and cut with craft knife. For the two without dividers, I simply held the open end shut for stability and cut out the rectangle. You will have to open the box completely to glue in the dividers, though, if you’re going to need to divide boxes.label cut slot
  7. You may want to re-enforce the openings you just cut with duct tape or other tape and repeat cutting a hole in that as well.
  8. Reassemble boxes if necessary.
  9. Now pick your paper you want to cover the boxes with. I chose to cover the boxes to compliment my decor. You could cover your boxes with scrapbook paper, newspaper, gift-wrap, kids' drawings, or even wallpaper or fabric. Cardstock-thickness paper might be a little hard to work with, though. Also, if your covering is thin or light-colored, you may want to completely open your box and cover the "inside" and re-assemble it inside-out.
  10. label glue paperApply glue to the top of the box with the cutouts on it. (if you are using a flattened box, do one section at a time, allowing for the folds.) Firmly press box onto the center of the wrong side of paper. Continue "wrapping" the box by gluing one side at a time label top tab detailand putting the seam on the bottom. Important! Neatly cover small side tabs on the ends of the box that will be on topIMG_0851 when the box is in place. By having those on the outside instead of the larger flaps, you will have a neater presentation when they are all lined up in your drawer. Carefully re-cut holes and cut apart flaps, and re-assemble box if necessary.
  11. IMG_0854I decided to put some nicer paper on the tops of my boxes. To do this, I used a tiny bit of glue on backside of the paper(just to hold it in place) and adhered it to the top of the box. Then, I used a pencil and let the tip of the pencil trace the outline of the slot on the inside of the box. I removed the decorative top and cut out the pencil shape on the wrong side of the decorative paper and re-adhered it to the top of the box, lining up the slots.

    IMG_1024


  12. To hold the ends closed, you can simply wrap the sides of the box with a rubber band, or paperclip the boxes together (ignoring my flap tip above). I got a little fancy and used 2 brads and a baby hair band to hold them shut the first time I made these. You could also try velcro.
  13. Try lining them up in your drawer! You may find they want to fall over. There are many ways to remedy this. You can try:
    • Putting some sort of weight in the bottoms, such as a few small stones or marbles
    • Lining the front and/or bottom of the drawer with a strip of magnet or velcro and doing the same with the boxes (or be cheap and cut up all those excess business card magnets on your fridge and use those instead)
    • Or do what I did and use an old tension curtain rod (or string and 2 small adhesive hooks) in front of the boxes to keep them up against the drawer front.
    • Of course you could tape them as well but that may gunk up your drawer.
  14. Label the boxes by each slot, adhering a picture of what goes in there if need be and let the kids fill them up. Enjoy harnessing the clutter and doing a good deed for your school!
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