Thursday, March 31, 2011
This Friday is April Fool's Day. I don't know about you, but it is so much fun coming up with something to try and fool my family. My favorite by far was the meatloaf cake I made, frosted with mashed potatoes and topped with cherry tomatoes.
Another year I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast complete with frosting--but they were really tuna pinwheels with sour cream. I've also made a pot pie, but instead of a meat filling, inside it had macaroni and cheese.
There is also the mashed potato sundae, topped with nuts, a cherry tomato and gravy for caramel sauce. Another fun thing is to mix up when you serve things, like having dinner for breakfast, breakfast for lunch and lunch for dinner.
The Friend has some great ideas. You can find them here: http://lds.org/friend/1997/04/kitchen-krafts-april-fools-day-celebration?lang=eng&query=april+fools
I would love to read your comments on fun things you have done to "fool" your families!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
We opened up our eldest son's college fund just two weeks ago. Cutting back in groceries has freed up money to help us reach this goal. We have four more kids to open funds for, but at least the oldest has somewhat of a start. In 2009 our budgeted money for groceries was about $350 per month and at times I would spend upwards of $400. (To this day I am still working on staying in budget!) But now that we're spending less money on groceries (which I DO want to increase someday), about $200 to $225, that frees up about $100 to $150 extra a month to put towards goals....like a college fund!
I recently finished this book by Zac Bissonnette. This is my first book I've read about kids and college. My oldest boy is only 7, but after hearing about this book on the Dave Ramsey show I wanted to read it. I am glad I did. I could probably fit all I liked about this book into one, short chapter. But, I would recommend reading the whole thing.
Image from Amazon.com
My husband and I were really blessed and our parents were able to help some financially with our schooling. They didn't pay everything--we definitely had to work--but we were both blessed by their help. We'd like to do the same for our children. Possibly a we'll-pay-tuition-and-books-and-you-pay-housing-and-food type of deal. The old adage Time is Money applies to me right now. I have time on my side and should put it to use and have interest as a partner--not enemy.There were a couple of things I learned in this book that I had never thought of (not too hard for me though!). My favorite was this:
A woman recently e-mailed me to say that she and her husband have a combined $60,000 in student loan debt and refer to it as the little ski lodge in Wisconsin that they'll never actually have.
Wow. I had never though of student loans like that--as being able to reduce my ability to build wealth. If Lee and I had come out of school with no loans, how awesome would it have been to have invested $38,000 right out of school?! We were extremely blessed though, and paid off our loans in one year. And truthfully, I don't know how we would have done school otherwise.
Now we are working hard to have future funds available to our kids when they go to college. This way once kids start college we won't have to use any (or hopefully hardly any) of our income at that future time. And when college rolls around my husband and I can buy a BMW instead of paying college tuition.
So next time I am eating ramen, I just need to remind myself of the future good we're accomplishing.
Image from ednewscolorado.org
Monday, March 28, 2011
You can pick up egg roll wrappers in the produce section of your grocery store. It's by the tofu/organic stuff. You can get a package of 20 for less than $2.50. Or you can make the wrappers yourself. It's not hard, but it does take a lot more time. I'll cover that another day.
Step 1: Open the package of egg roll wrappers, turn them on point, so that they resemble (somewhat) a diamond shape. Turn your oven on to 400 degrees to bake them, or heat your oil to fry them.
Step 2: Have a little bowl or cup of water handy next to you on the counter. This is to dip your fingers in to brush water on to the edge of your wrappers to create a seal on the egg roll.
Step 3: Put 2 tablespoons of filling (the chinese chicken salad) into the center of the wrapper.
Step 4: Fold up the bottom point of the diamond (the one closest to you) up over the filling.
Step 5: Fold in the two middle points to the center of the egg roll.
Step 6: Moisten the edge of the top point (the one away from you) with water (you don't need very much water) and roll the egg roll up.
Step 7: Place on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, seam side down.
Repeat steps 3 through 7 until the wrappers or the salad is all used up. You can refrigerate any leftovers to use another time.
Brush the tops of the egg rolls with olive oil or spray them quick with your cooking spray (skip this step if you opt to fry them). Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Or you can fry them in hot oil for 2-3 minutes on each side.
The back of the package should have these instructions, plus pictures so you know what you are doing!
Round out your meal with plain rice or fried rice.
I like to serve them with Teriyaki sauce. It's really quick and easy to make your own sauce.
Teriyaki Sauce--a variation of Betty Crocker's recipe
1/4 cup water--the original recipe calls for oil, but I think it's great without it.
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Whisk everything together. Serve with egg rolls, tempura meats or veggies, or over rice. Yum!
Pigs In a Blanket--wrap hot dogs in strips of bread, and then bake until the dough is golden brown. We also make these at Halloween and make them into mummy hot dogs with ketchup eyes.
French Onion Soup--I made homemade onion soup, and topped the soup with homemade french bread and Swiss cheese, then put it in the oven to brown under the broiler, for about a minute. It was super yummy!
Chili Relleno Casserole
Fish Cakes--I took 4 cans of tuna fish (this is to feed my family of 6), 3 eggs, a couple of handfuls of oats, lemon juice (about 1 1/2 tsp.), 1/2 tsp. dill weed and 2 tsp. onion powder. Mix together, form into patties, and cook like you would a hamburger. I can't remember how many patties it made, but my husband and teenager were full, and we had one left over. I also make a tartar sauce from mayo, mustard and homemade relish to serve with the buns. This is like a fish sandwich, but since it has no breading and isn't deep fried it is much healthier--if you don't use too much tartar sauce!
Homemade Hamburger Buns
White Chicken Chili
Spanish Rice Fritatta
Slumgullion--layer sliced potatoes, cooked hamburger and onions and diced tomatoes in your crockpot and cook on low for several hours. Very yummy!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Buying fondant at the store can be expensive. I looked into making it at home and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make an inexpensive variation of fondant, called Marshmallow Fondant. Click on the link for an easy tutorial on how to make it step by step.
It requires only 4 ingredients to make.
1 bag Mini Marshmallows
1 bag Powdered Sugar
1/2 cup shortening
Add a couple tablespoons of water to your marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the marshmallows are just melted. The next part gets messy, but is fun and clean up isn't too bad. Grease a good-sized area of your counter with the shortening. You won't use it all at once. Make sure your hands are covered with shortening because the next part it sticky. Dump your powdered sugar on top of the greased countertop and dump the marshmallows on top of that. Then start folding and kneading the sugar and marshmallows together. As your hands and/or counter get sticky, just rub on some more shortening. If the mixture seems a little dry, add a tablespoon of water. Gradually the mixture will come together and the final product will be a nice smooth ball of fondant, similar to play dough. You can color it using gel food coloring. The liquid stuff doesn't work very well because it makes the fondant too sticky. You will want to use rubber gloves on your hands when coloring the fondant. Have tooth picks handy to dip into the coloring and rub onto the fondant. Then knead it in. If you knead it a little, you will create a marble effect. The more you knead it, the better the color will be distributed.
To make fun cakes, figure out the shape you want, and then decide what kind of pan will give you the closest shape to what you want to make.
Mr. Pumpkinhead was an obvious shape to make.
Raggedy Ann was too.
The Sun Monkey required multiple circles. A couple of cupcakes in ramekins and a mini cake pan did the trick.
Mario was done using circles as well.
The butterfly was made from a circle cake too. The body was cut out of the center of the circle and the wings were made by cutting the rest of the circle into fourths and flipping them around.
A lot of shapes can be made from a 9x13 pan too. Once you know your desired shape, you can draw out how you want to get the different parts of the cake. These cakes were made from 9x13 cakes.
Sometimes you need a shape that takes a little more creativity. I've used ceramic bowls and tortilla bowl pans, to get cakes that look more three dimensional.
Cupcakes and mini cupcakes are also great when you need small round shapes for eyes, ears, noses or even small faces.
Loaf pans also work great for cars and trains.
Ramen Queen made this super cute train for her son.
One thing that she and I both love is that you can create a super cool birthday with fun memories for cheap. The most expensive thing you will buy will be the colors for your cake, and even that is cost effective because it lasts for several birthdays/years. I'm still using the same box of colors I got 4 years ago.
After you finish baking your cake in a pan that is greased and floured really well, let it cool completely. Make a batch of buttercream frosting. I know I just knocked frosting at the top, but it is necessary to frost the cake first before you decorate it with the fondant.
2/3 cup butter (or margarine)
4 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla/almond/maple/whatever extract
Beat butter and sugar together, add vanilla and just enough milk so it becomes a spreadable consistency. If you add too much milk, then add a little more sugar, until it becomes easy to spread.
Cut the cake into the shape that you want and frost it with the frosting.
To work with the fondant, dust your clean work surface and rolling pin with Corn Starch. This is used like flour is used with cookie dough or bread dough. Roll to the thickness that you want and lift it gently to place over your cake. Smooth it out on the cake. The frosting underneath creates a cushiony layer that helps with getting everything all nice and smooth. Trim away any excess with a knife. Use the corn starch as needed to prevent stickiness.
To store your fondant, grease it with shortening and wrap in plastic wrap and seal it in a plastic bag. It will keep for 3 months in the fridge.
To use, let sit at room temperature for a few hours, or just start kneading it with your hands. It will be quite stiff at first, but the warmth of your hands will make it pliable again as you work it. Keep the fondant you aren't using covered in plastic, or it will dry out. A few drops of water can be kneaded into the fondant to make it pliable again.
For me, it helps to have a picture of what I want to make handy so I can refer to it as I'm decorating.
Happy Decorating! ~Baker
Don't worry, I did jazz it up a bit. My friend Brooke made this salad a couple of years ago for a get-together at her home, and she gave me the recipe. It's delicious! A great spring/summer salad too. I will be posting my menu for the last week of March in a few days. Stay tuned!
Here is the recipe.
Chinese Chicken Salad
Leah Arnold & Ashley Muller
1 large head of cabbage (I just used a bag of shredded coleslaw)
4 chicken breasts (I used about 2 1/2)
1 large bunch green onions
4 packages Oriental ramen noodles
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Fry until well done. Cool. Slice cabbage into thin strips or use [a food processor] to make like coleslaw. Slice entire bunch of green onions and mix with cabbage. Crunch ramen noodles and place on cookie sheet along with almonds. Roast in oven, stirring occasionally, at 350* for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Add to cabbage mixture. Add chicken to mixture.
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
3 TBLS soy sauce
2 TBLS white vinegar
1 tsp pepper
2 packages Oriental seasoning (from ramen noodles)
Combine all dressing ingredients and mix well. Pour over cabbage mixture and coat all the chicken. Serve chilled. (I served it right away--not chilled--and it was great!!!)
You'll need a BIG bowl to hold this salad--the biggest one you have, or bigger!. If serving no more than two people, I would half the recipe. Ramen does have some uses, right?
Friday, March 18, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Little leprechauns try to pull off shenanigans in our kitchen each year. Our milk always seems to turn green on March 17, and last year even the eggs were green.
Breakfast Burrito with Green Eggs and Ham, and green milk.
A couple years ago we made some traps to catch the little blighters, but they've always managed to escape. We loved the ideas in Family Fun on how to make Leprechaun Traps. The kids liked it so much they made traps again last year, all on their own. As good as the traps were, the kids failed once again to catch those tricksters.
The leprechaun left little notes on the traps
and gold-wrapped candy on their pillows.
He also left some clues around our house and yard to help us find a yummy treasure!
With all the fun headed your way, you might want to pull out your crock pot and throw together cozy Irish Stew that can cook all day and be ready when you are. A crusty loaf of Irish Soda Bread goes well with this stew. Soda breads are simple to make and don't require bread pans to bake! Just form a round loaf with your dough on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven and bake according to the recipe.
End your meal with light and airy Shamrock Cookies.
3 egg whites (have eggs at room temperature for better peaks when mixing)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Green food coloring (optional)
1. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle with cream of tartar and salt; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and vanilla, beating until stiff peaks form, about 5-8 minutes. If desired, fold in green food coloring.
2. Spoon mixture into a plastic zip-top bag. Twist the bag to push the mixture to one side and snip off a corner of the bag. Pipe shamrock shapes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 275 degrees F for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Immediately remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!
Friday, March 11, 2011
Cambria's Pizza Dough Recipe
1 cup Warm Water
1 Tbsp. Quick Rise Yeast
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
2 1/2 cups flour
Mix together first 3 ingredients until yeast is dissolved. Add remaining ingredients--mix. Roll out dough. Assemble pizza (see below) Bake at 500 deg. for 7 min. or until cheese is slightly brown.
Roll out dough and place on pizza pan, preferably mesh wire for crispy crust on bottom. Drizzle and spread around olive oil, about 2 Tbsp. Can use hand, pastry brush or paper towel to evenly coat until shiny. Lightly sprinkle garlic salt making a thin, even coat--a heavier sprinkle may make it too garlicky. Add sauce. Add bottom toppings--Onions, mushrooms, and any other toppings that may slide off the top easily or may need the extra heat to cook. Add cheese. Add top toppings--Green pepper, olives, pepperoni, sausage, ham, pineapple, etc.
Now, for my sauce recipe. I have been making this for years, and I can make a pizza or marinara sauce for about fifty-cents. I like to use tomato paste. A 1 to 2 ratio works well. I can of paste and 2 cans of water. I will also add the olive oil directly to the sauce instead of spreading it on top--this is one of the things that gives pizza such a yummy flavor. I had tried for years to find the perfect recipe that would taste like I wanted it to in my head--and I am convinced that it was the olive oil. Also, adding the sugar takes away the metallic after taste you can get with tomato sauces you make.
Deborah's Marinara Sauce
1 Tbsp. Diced Garlic
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup sliced zucchini or yellow squash
- 2 cups sliced red or green peppers
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 cup evaporated fat-free milk
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 12 ounces whole-wheat pasta (angel hair or spaghetti)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
In a large pot fitted with a steamer basket, bring about 1 inch of water to boil. Add the broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini and peppers. Cover and steam until tender-crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pot. In large saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat. Add the steamed vegetables and stir or shake to coat the vegetables with the onion and garlic mixture. Remove from heat but keep warm. In another large saucepan, heat the butter, evaporated milk and Parmesan cheese. Stir over moderate heat until somewhat thickened and heated through. Stir continuously and don't scald. Remove from heat but keep warm. In the meantime, fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender), about 10 to 12 minutes, or according to package directions. Drain the pasta thoroughly. Divide the pasta evenly among individual plates. Top with vegetables and pour the sauce over the vegetables and pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.
Nutritional Analysis(per serving)
|Protein||17 g||Sodium||224 mg|
|Carbohydrate||55 g||Fiber||7 g|
|Total fat||7 g||Potassium||522 mg|
|Saturated fat||3 g||Calcium||280 mg|
|Monounsaturated fat||3 g|
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
I cut pieces of card stock and traced my design
The back of the pink paper is blue...
Stitch the heart together using the outline of the heart as a guide
A pile of hearts for all! You could also cut out clovers or Easter egg shapes to use for the upcoming holidays!
Saturday, March 5, 2011
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 bag flaked coconut, 14 ounce
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips, 12 ounce
2 tablespoons shortening
Bring the corn syrup to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut. Let cool till you can handle the candy. I put the whole pan in the fridge for an hour or so. (I am sure it would be fine after a half hour too).
Form into balls (or whatever shape you desire!)
After balls are formed, melt the chocolate and shortening together in a bowl. You can melt the chocolate over a double boiler, but I just melt it in the microwave, stirring and checking it often. I put it in for about 30 seconds, stir, then put it in for about 20 seconds then stir. Microwaves are different, so if you aren't sure, just check the mixture about every 10 seconds. If you do use a double boiler make sure you don't get water into the chocolate.
Dip the balls into the chocolate. I use a fork to assist in the dipping process. Here is the lone survivor. I had some leftover chocolate, so I added an extra dollop on top. I love this recipe and need to make it more often!
I made these the other day for a thank-you to a friend who showed me how to make no-knead artisan bread. And just a little side note...the above dish came in a laundry box way back when. When my grandma Ruth was growing up you could buy products that had dishes in them---like a cute little bowl in a box of detergent. Same idea as getting toys in cereal boxes.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Last month I spent $201.43 for the grocery budget (not including any household supplies or personal items). I had a few things stored in the freezer to help keep the budget low, like cheese that I got on sale last year--November--and some beef Lee bought.
Some key things that help me stay in budget:
*Writing a menu before I go shopping
*Buying only what I need (sometimes I buy other things but I try not to stray)
*If I am not quite sure about how much everything is going to cost, I hold back items and see what the total is before I buy them. That way I don't have to ask to have the item voided--I just don't buy it.
*I look for coupons around the store...One luxury I have shopping on base is there are coupons all over. I rarely get coupons on the internet and I don't subscribe to a paper to get them either (which those are GREAT sources!)
*Lee eats lunch at home--we have either sandwiches or leftovers
*We don't go out to eat--we do go out to eat maybe 3 or 4 times a year and when we travel we like to stop at Little Caesars. $10 for dinner for a family of 7, not bad while on the road.
*We don't buy extras, hardly. I do buy apple sauce, animal crackers and pretzels at Aldi ($1 per box/bag) or cheese crackers at the commissary when they're a $1. Things like juice, lunch meat, cheese and yogurt are luxuries here. We have treats for Family Home Evening, Sunday night Conference talks and game/movie nights, but those are mainly things I bake from scratch; cookies, cinnamon rolls, brownies, etc.
*I have a little food storage money set aside each month. For March it's $30. Someday it will be higher. BUT, when fabulous deals come along, like cereal for $0.50 a box, I can buy a bunch and not worry about breaking the food budget!
The key though to all of this IS to have a budget and stick with the pre-determined spending plan. Budget, budget, budget.