Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Italian Meatball Soup

Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

This recipe is so easy, my 9 year old daughter can make it.  You can throw everything into a slowcooker and let it cook all day when you are busy. Just cook the noodles separate and stir them in when you are ready to eat.

Italian Meatball Soup
1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced, or 1 can sliced carrots
2 cups spaghettie sauce
4 cups water
4 beef or chicken boullion cubes
1 recipe of meatballs (see below)
1 16 oz. package of pasta (your choice)

Put everything in the crockpot and cook on low all day, or simmer on the stovetop 30 minutes before you eat.  During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the pasta, cook until the pasta is as tender as you like it.  Serve with yummy garlic bread.

My Meatballs or Meatloaf or Hamburgers (oh my!)
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, diced (diced green pepper is good too, but optional)
1 cup bread crumbs (I like to use my homemade wheat bread.  I pulse the bread in my blender to make crumbs).
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 or 3 Tbs. ketchup (just squirt some in)
1 tsp. mustard (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or to taste)
 Salt and pepper to taste (obviously you won't taste the raw meat, I hope!  Just sprinkle some on.)

Mix everything together.  If the mixture is too dry, add a little more milk.  If it is too wet, add more breadcrumbs.  If making meatballs, form into balls and place on wire racks on top of a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until done.  You can use the meatballs at this point, or cool and place into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 or 4 months.

If you are making a meatloaf, put the mixture into a loaf pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  It will shrink as the fat cooks out.  Drain off the fat.  You can serve immediately, or cool it and wrap it to freeze.  I love to freeze it and then I have a quick meal.  Simply thaw in the microwave and serve.  Instant potatoes work well as a side dish when you are crunched for time.

If you are using this mixture for hamburgers, scoop up the mixture using an ice cream scoop, to make uniform patties.  I put the patties on a baking sheet and flash freeze them.  When they are firm, I bag them up, then pull them out when I need them.  Cook as you would frozen burgers.

I like making this mixture when I have 3-5 lbs. of hamburger to deal with.  I can prep a lot of meals at once with meatballs, meatloaf and hamburger patties, ready to go in my freezer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Resolutions Resolved

January is about gone, and it's been a pretty mild one at that, as far as the weather has been in these parts.  Have you stuck to the resolutions made three weeks ago?  Many of you may have resolved to lose weight, stick to a budget or get organized.  We can probably all do better in these areas of our lives. 
Here are some of my tips for losing weight.  Check back next week for tips on sticking to a budget.

Lose Weight:
I may not be a weight-loss expert, but I have been on the gain weight/lose weight roller coaster for the last 11 years with having 6 kids.  I'm happy to say that so far I've been pretty successful at losing the baby weight each time.  Fortunately, I haven't had any problems that would make it harder for me to lose the weight.  Here are some tips that have worked for me during this time of my life:

#1. Always eat breakfast, and don't wait a couple of hours to get around to it.  After I get up and get dressed, I head to the kitchen.  I may not have time to sit down, but I'll at least eat a piece of toast or a cup of yogurt, and then later eat something else.  Eating breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism for the day, giving you the energy to get going.  Some people like to exercise first and then eat.  I don't agree with this practice.  At least eat a piece of fruit or something, before you exercise.  Once again, this will boost your metabolism.  After sleeping all night, you need to break the fast that your body has had while sleeping. 

#2.  Drink LOTS of water.  This is probably obvious, but there are so many health benefits to drinking lots of water.  Your body is able to function more easily when you've had plenty of healthy fluids.  Stay away from soda pop and limit your juice intake.  These days I'm not a fan of either pop or juice.  Water and milk are my beverages of choice.  Why waste calories on a drink?  I'm getting thirsty.  Hang on while I go get a drink. . .Ahh, I love water. 

#3.  Get Moving!!!  Aim to exercise 3-5 days a week, 30-60 minutes each day.  Hate to exercise?  Find something that you like.  These days there are lots of choices.  I love aerobics, weights, kickboxing, dancing, and walking.  Since baby #6, it's been hard to get back into my regular exercise routine.  Fortunately (or not, depending on my mood), we have a dog who needs daily walks.  If I can get my two miles in for the day, I'm good.  One of my favorite video instructors is Deni Preston.  She has a show, Total Body Workout on  Check her out.  It might take a little while to get used to her instructions, but her step aerobics and yoga workouts are really good.  She also incorporates weights, bands, exercise balls, etc. into her routines.  Very fun.  If you still have a hard time, get an exercise bike or elliptical trainer and use it while watching your favorite shows.  Then you don't have to think about how much you hate exercising and your body will thank you. 

#4.  Change something in your diet.  You don't need to change everything, and you don't need to do anything fadish.  If you eat white bread, change to wheat.  Eat whole grain cereals for breakfast (my personal favorite is bran flakes).  If you use vegetable oil in your baking, switch to canola oil.  Limit fats, and eat more fruits and veggies.  Make more meals from scratch instead of using prepared foods.  This will not only help your health, it will also be good for your budget.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

Whole Wheat Bread

Though my sister Lena has been encouraging me to do this for several years, I just started making my own wheat bread--regularly. I bought 50 pounds of wheat, pulled out my wheat grinder a few weeks ago and I'm still baking bread!  It's been fun using the wheat flour in other things took like brownies, pumpkin muffins and pancakes.

When Lee's parents were here last fall they bought me some cans for bread "pans".  I didn't think I had any traditional bread pans, but turns out I did!  I like baking the bread in these cans. Funny enough, Lee grew up thinking homemade wheat bread was always round. It's fun to have round bread!  I still buy bread for the boys' lunches.  Maybe this fall when 4/5ths of my kids are in school they'll be using homemade bread for sandwiches.

Grease your cans well!
Jan 7 2012 making bread

Jan 17 2012

Jan 17 2012 (2)

My bread also puffs up tall and makes a "mushroom" top.  Let them cool upright.  If you lay them on a cooling rack one side of your bread will be flat...which is fine too.
Jan 17 2012 (3)

Here is my mother-in-law's recipe for whole wheat bread.  Also, my sister-in-law Cindy added her changes too.  I've used brown sugar and honey.  So far I think I like how the honey one turns out better. I use whole wheat flour and have never used wheat gluten. Lee and I like how it turns out. Feel free to play around with the recipe like Cindy has--her comments are in the recipe!  It's a good one!

WHOLE WHEAT BREAD –Raema Robertson (Cindy Robertson)

1. In the large BOSCH mixer bowl, using wire whips, mix the following ingredients [I am sure by hand or a Kitchen Aid would work great too!]:

6 cups hot tap water
2/3 cup oil
2 Tablespoons salt
2/3 cup honey (or brown sugar) (I use brown sugar)

2. Add the following and continue mixing until batter thickens and is sticky (about 5-10 min): (I do the full
10 minutes but watch the Bosch as it may jump off the counter –that’s another story)
6 cups whole-wheat flour (I use 3 c. white flour and 3. c. whole wheat flour to create the gluten along
with 1/4c of Hodgson Mill Vital Wheat Gluten)
3 Tablespoons dry yeast (pour the yeast on top of the flour, not directly into the liquid)

3. Replace whips with bread dough hooks and proceed:
Add 3 cups whole-wheat flour and mix well
Add 1 to 2 more cups whole wheat flour and mix until dough pulls away from the bowl (try not to exceed
a total of 12 c. flour as dough must be soft enough to handle but not too sticky; the softer the better). If
you put too much flour, you can add more liquid to a “hole” in the dough. Knead with bread hooks for 12
Pre-heat oven to 350º.

4. Divide dough into 6 parts and put into 6 well-greased (shortening) tall juice cans (your hands will get

goopy), and cover cans with a plastic bag or sheet of waxed paper. Let bread dough rise until double
in bulk (about 20-30 minutes). Bread is crumbly if you let it raise too long.

5. Carefully set cans right side up and center in the oven on the next to lowest rack (this will keep it from
growing into the heating element). Bake for 30 minutes for Texas [and Virginia!] (35-40 for Utah) Do not over bake. I put aluminum foil over them half way through baking to prevent over-browning the tops.

6. Let set 5 minutes. Remove loaves from the cans and lay loaves down on cooling rack for 20 minutes. If
loaves won’t come out of cans, just let them set for a minute or so and they will come out.

7. Seal loaves in plastic bags and store at room temperature or in the freezer. Don’t store loaves in
the refrigerator. Shelf life is about 3-4 days before bread will mold, but keep for several weeks in the
freezer. (I use the mushroom portion for a bowl of bread & milk with a little sprinkle of sugar )

Dough doesn’t get thick and sticky in Step #2: Wheat doesn’t have enough gluten content to make
good bread. The solution is to add some white flour or add 3 Tablespoons of “Dough Enhancer” with
the yeast in step #2.
Bread is too crumbly—Dough rose too much in the pans. It is better to punch the dough down and let
it rise again than to bake it when it rose too high in the first place.
Bread is too dry—Used too much flour, cooked too long, not bagged soon enough after baking.
Doesn’t slice well—dough raised too much. Loaves were too hot. (use a good sharp serrated knife)

1 cup hard white/red wheat = 1.5 c. flour
1 -#10 can ≈ 20 c. flour. (I used 9 c. and remaining flour fit back into the can w/lid)
For most bread recipes the water should be between 110-115º --this recipe doesn’t do that; it is very
hot tap water so you don’t want the yeast to touch the water or it will kill the yeast; Just be sure to add it
on top of the flour in Step #2.
I used 3 c. white flour (to make gluten) when I did step #2
I cover the pans with wax paper while the bread is rising in the cans. While they are cooking I add the
aluminum foil to prevent over- browning.
If you cook this bread in large juice cans it will appear with a mushroom shaped top upon baking. It’s
normal! There’s no crust with this method. You can also use a regular loaf pan; however remember
you want it to fill about 1/3 of it before rising.

The biggest tip is to keep trying. You will figure out what works best as you practice, practice, and
practice some more!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snowman Craft

Once a week I check up with the 1st grade teachers here at the local elementary school to see if there are any craft projects they would like me to help out with.  A few weeks ago one teacher had me prep some construction paper for snowmen by drawing a snowman outline on each one.  She then told me that she was going to make "snow" by mixing shaving cream and glue.  While the mixture is still wet, one can add buttons, eyes, nose, etc.  Because the glue is in the mixture it will harden (to an extent) and dry.  I thought this sounded fun and wanted to try it with my girls.

We did just that today.  My nephew was in town and I thought he would enjoy it too.  To make the "snow" mix two parts shaving cream and one part glue. 
Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft

Gather items to decorate your snowman.  At school Cal used buttons and pompoms.  I used what we had at home.
Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft (2)

I did make a special purchase...some foam brushes.  There was only one brush at home and I think it was destroyed in its last use.  It was a gorgeous day today (high 50s) so the kids and I took a walk to the local ACE Hardware.  I love that I can walk to so many businesses here in my small town!
Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft (3)

I made too much mixture for four kids.  I added about 3/4 a bottle of Elmer's glue in it.  I am sure my ratio of 2 to 1 was off, but I think it still worked.
Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft (4)

As I mixed the glue and shaving cream together it became somewhat elastic.
Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft (5)

Now to create!
Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Reed Shanna Haley

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Haley

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Shanna

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Reed

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Elden

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Reed Elden

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Elden Shanna Haley Reed

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Shanna (2)

Showing off the finished product...
Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Elden (2)

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Shanna (3)

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Haley (3)

Jan 12 2012 Snowman Craft Reed (2)

What winter crafts have you been making?  We'd love to hear!  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The White Dove

CLN Bookscope invited my mom to share the creation process of her book The White Dove. Check it out!  
I'm proud of you mom and can't wait for the sequel!