Thursday, September 16, 2010

Get those crockpots out!

A Year of Slowcooking:
(I like Stephanie's blog--well written, fun, and filled with great ideas!)

Leave a comment and share:
-how often you use your crockpot
-whether it's a money-saver and/or time-saver for you
-your "go-to" crock-pot recipe

One of my favorite things to make in the crockpot is soup! With autumn almost here I am looking forward to making Chili, Vegetable Soup...

Here is my recipe for Vegetable Beef Soup.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Deep Dish Pizza For Supper!

If you're thinking about what to make for supper, how about this Deep Dish Pizza?
My family loved this when I made it...must add it to the menu plan again soon!
(If YOU have a FAVORITE Tried & True Recipe for Deep Dish Pizza, please share!)

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza ---Recipe from
"Anyone who likes Chicago-style deep dish pizza will enjoy this great recipe. Thick crust pizzas are baked in cake pans. This is the basic recipe for a cheese pizza, but feel free to add more toppings to your liking."

Cook Time:
40 Min
Ready In:
40 Min
8 Servings

1 (.25 ounce) envelope rapid rise yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cornmeal
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
2 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained and squished
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt to taste
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil

Place the water in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the water, and let stand for 5 minutes to dissolve. Pour in the vegetable oil, olive oil, cornmeal and 3 cups of the flour. Mix with the beater for 10 minutes. Add the remaining flour, and switch from the beater to the dough hook. Mix for about 5 minutes. This can be done by hand, but the dough is very rich and moist. Pour the dough out onto a floured surface, and cover with a large bowl. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, and let rise again. This time won't take as long.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C).
Grease two 9 or 10 inch round cake pans. Divide the dough evenly between the two pans. Press the dough out so that it goes all the way up the sides of the pans. Lay the slices of mozzarella cheese onto the crusts like tile. Next put the tomatoes over the mozzarella, and season with basil, oregano, garlic and salt. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top, and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top is golden and gooey, and the crust a light golden brown.

Variations: Italian Sausage - hot or mild, Yellow onions, peeled and diced, Pepperoni, sliced thin, Mushrooms, sliced, Green sweet bell peppers. Put any or all of these on your pizza and then top with the Parmesan and the olive oil.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bread Baking Binge!

This afternoon I am on a bread baking binge! While I rarely eat the homemade bread myself, I love to give it to family & friends. I use a recipe for "Amish White Bread" that I found at I use the help of my bread machine to make the dough. =)

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour
In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.
Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9x5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Recipe: Freezer Cucumber Pickles

If your garden is producing a plethora of cucumbers, here is a quick and easy recipe. (I made it last evening---very quick & easy!)

Freezer Cucumber Pickles

4 pounds cucumbers, washed & sliced
2 cups onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup salt
3/4 cup water
4 cups sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
1 T. Mrs. Dash Tomato, Basil, Garlic Seasoning (optional)

In a large bowl(s) combine sliced cucumbers, onions, salt & water. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Do not drain. Add sugar, vinegar, & seasonings and stir until sugar is disolved. Pack into freezer containers leaving 1 inch headspace. Cover with lids and freeze for up to 6 weeks.

To serve: Thaw at room temperature for 4 hours.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Looking for Vegetable Lasagna Recipe

I am looking for a Vegetable Lasagna recipe (with a white sauce) to prepare in quantity for an event we are hosting in a few weeks. If you have a tried-and-true recipe, please share. Thanks so much!

Welcome Wednesday

Welcome to the "Welcome Wednesday" Blog Hop, hosted by Take It From Me! Welcome Wednesday is a great way to meet new people and learn new things as well as increase your blog followers! So let's have some fun!!

~*~Wordless Wednesday~*~ He knows how to CELEBRATE!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ourlifeinaclick's GIVEAWAY from csnstores

Check out ourlifeinaclick's GIVEAWAY from csnstores

Tuesday Tag-Along

Tuesday Tag-Along

Tuesday Tag-Along Blog Hop, is hosted by Twee Poppets Review and Giveaway! This is a great way to discover new blogs while increasing the number of followers for your own blog. Join us & have FUN!

Monday, August 9, 2010

What is your opinion?

Is it polite and acceptable to offer to "trade" grab buttons with other bloggers?

Your Ideas/Suggestions for Customer Appreciation Day!

It's that time of year again when I am planning my menu for our Customer Appreciation Day. I would love for you to share your suggestions and/or tried and true recipes for a crowd. I am always looking for some new inspiration when I am planning to cook for 150-200 people! Thanks in advance for your ideas and suggestions to add to my repertoire! =)

Family Vacation

(sorry for the repeat post if you read both of my blogs)

What a nice family vacation we had in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida! The beaches were beautiful and clean. My husband and I travelled with our 3 daughters, one son-in-law (The other couldn't go along because of work) and our grandson.

I cannot praise the rental company enough that we used for our condo.
We worked with 360 Blue Properties and they were so helpful, friendly, and easy to work with.

Our condo exceeded our expectations. We stayed in Redfish Village in the Blue Mountain Beach area of Santa Rosa Beach. The pool and pool area was great! (I would love to own one of these condos!!!)

A huge highlight to our trip was that our Grandson, who is 13 months old, started walking while we were all on vacation together...what a sweetheart!

Meet Me Monday!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Follow Friday Forty & Over Blog Hop

Are you a blogger over 40?
Never Growing Old and Mother of Pearl It Is and Mommies Faves are co-hosting this Follow Friday Forty & Over Blog Hop!

Join in the fun and get to know your fellow bloggers!!

The RULES to join in are very simple!

1. Grab the button
2. Add your link to the list
3. Visit as many other blogs as you can
4. Follow the ones you like (and comment on their blog to say that you are following)

NOTE: PLEASE leave your blog address when you leave a comment!! I have had several people wanting to follow back but the blogger can't always be found through the google info page!!

This list is new each week. The links do not carry over. Please link up each week for new participants to find your blogs. It will be visible all week to visit the blogs listed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Twitter Hop Thursday

Welcome to Twitter Hop Thursday, hosted by Simply Stacie,The King's Court IV, Little Yaya's, and Review Retreat!

Would you like more Twitter followers and be introduced to more neat blogs and businesses out there? Come and join us!!

***Twitterer Of The Week***

They have selected a Twitterer of the Week from last week’s entries and the lucky winner is With Our Best!!! They will be in the #5 spot! They will choose next week’s winner from everyone who participated today.
1. Add your Twitter to the MckLinky (you only have to add it to one and it will appear on all).

2. Click on the Twitter for the five hostesses and follow each of them on Twitter. We will follow you back.

3. Follow as many people on Twitter as you like, but make sure to leave comments with links so they'll know where to follow you!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Recipe Swap is hosting a recipe swap. Visit her blog. Share your recipe. Get new ideas!

Tonight we will be having a simple dinner of sweet corn from the patch, sliced cucumbers from the garden, and Grilled Bleu Cheese/Bacon Burgers.

Grilled Bleu Cheese/Bacon Burgers
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
6 strips bacon, fried and crumbled
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Place ground beef in a bowl, working it apart with a large spoon. Add salt and pepper. Gently fold in bleu cheese and bacon. Form the mixture into 4 evenly sized patties. Grill on gas grill, charcoal grill, or grill pan until desired doneness is reached.

We'll have these with no buns, but serve with buns if desired and add toppings of choice.

Vegetable Garden

The vegetables in our 2 raised garden beds are growing---growing---growing! We've picked some cucumbers. The sweet corn patch is ready now! We told all our family to pick it NOW before the racoons get it.

We like to freeze sweet corn and have found an easy way for us is to cook extra batches on the evening that we prepare sweet corn for dinner. We cool it and cut it off the cobs and place in quart freezer bags, label, and freeze. When I make a corn casserole in the cold winter months with the forzen sweet corn, it is just delicious.

I used to do a lot of canning. I hope to get back to more of it. It's so nice to have home grown produce put up, whether it's frozen or canned.

Baked Corn Casserole

4 cups corn
1 cup milk
4 T melted butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 T. Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl except corn. Stir until well mixed and then stir the corn in. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan or similar sized oval or round pan. Bake for 1 hour or until top is slightly browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Welcome Wednesday Blog Hop

Welcome to the "Welcome Wednesday" Blog Hop, hosted by Take It From Me! Welcome Wednesday is a great way to meet new people and learn new things as well as increase your blog followers! So let's have some fun!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Tag-Along

Tuesday Tag-Along blog hop, is hosted by Twee Poppets Review and Giveaway! This is a great way to discover new blogs while increasing the number of followers for your own blog.
Tuesday Tag-Along

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Setting up for reception

I've mentioned it before, but remember to ask for help when planning a big event. We had 240 guests for the wedding reception and enlisted the Bridesmaids to help with the final set-up of setting the tables. The extra hands made it go quickly and efficiently! Thanks ladies! =)

Wedding Reception

My daughter got married on the beach in S.C. with immediate family there. We planned a get-together back home then for all their friends and extended family. We hosted it outside at our home.

Rented Tents, Tables & Chairs


I prepared all the food

I will post the menu and tips & more ideas! =)

It turned out just lovely! =)

Friday, July 9, 2010

How to Celebrate National Sugar Cookie Day

July 9th - - - It's National Sugar Cookie Day! Here's an idea for celebrating today!

Moms and Grandmas...dig out your favorite sugar cookie recipe. Gather the kids and head to the grocery store (or your pantry if you are well stocked) and let each child select their "signature sprinkle/decorations". Then spend some quality time baking up, frosting, and decorating the sweet treat together. This is perfect for all ages and a wonderful way to incorporate some math lessons for the younger ones without them even knowing it. With your teen or tween child or grandchild this may provide a nice relationship building and conversation time in a non-confrontational and enjoyable way. Enjoy your baking efforts together and then consider making up some containers of cookies to share. Share your cookies --- visit an elderly relative or neighbor. They'll appreciate the visit probably more than the cookies and it will provide a lesson in kindness for the children. (Do check on the dietary restrictions of anyone you share your cookies with to make sure they can have sugar and/or other ingredients in your recipe.)

If you have a great Sugar Cookie Recipe...will you share it here? =)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What's Up In The Kitchen?

We've heard it said, "The kitchen is the heart of the home". I find that to really be so true. I live in a farm house with a "great room" set-up. With the entry, family room, eat-in kitchen, and screened porch in an open layout, it really seems to make the kitchen the popular place! Working on my laptop, going over recipes and meal plans, having coffee, talking on the phone, visiting with friends, meetings...these are just a few of the things that happen in my kitchen other than cooking and meals! Sure I have a home why do I almost always bring my computer to the kitchen (or screened porch) to get some work done? Do you find your kitchen to be the "hub" of your home?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Don't be shy in asking for help when hosting a big group!

Wow! Things have been so busy here and my blog has taken a back seat lately. I've missed it and am back! =)

Recently, I had another big cooking project! We hosted a Birthday Party and had 60 guests.
Sloppy Joes
Hot Chicken Sandwiches
Pasta Salad
Potato Casserole
Birthday Cake/Ice Cream
(I had help with Fresh Mixed Fruit, Veggie Tray, Cheese Dip, & a cooler of canned pop/water....Thanks Kristen, Stacy, & Annie!)
Assorted Beverages

What a FUN party! We had lots of children and put up a Kiddie Pool, Bouncy House (Thanks to Michele for bringing it!), & Slide for the little ones. We did get soaked from a late day storm. We moved to the house for a bit, but everyone took it in stride. =)

Tips/Hints: Hosting & cooking for a get-together for a large group doesn't need to be daunting! Don't be shy in asking for help when hosting a big group. Decide on your menu and decide what you can handle and then ask friends and family for help with the rest. People most generally are happy to help and actually like being a "part of the action"!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Impress Your Friends...Entertaining on a Budget

Getting together with friends need not be an expensive venture. Invite the crew over for a "sit-down" dinner on a budget. Impress them with a meal of Fettuccine Alfredo, Salad, Breadsticks, Wine, Dessert, & Coffee!

Let's Start with the Alfredo Sauce. Make-ahead & freeze for easy entertaining!

Freezer Alfredo Sauce
3 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
2-1/4 cups parmesan cheese
1-1/2 cup butter
3 cups milk
Mix cream cheese, parmesan cheese & butter in large sauce pan, heating slowly & stirring until smooth. Add milk and stir well. Pour sauce into freezer containers, label & freeze.
When ready to use, let the sauce thaw in the refrigerator and then heat through in a saucepan on low heat or in the microwave on low, stirring frequently. Serve over cooked pasta of choice.
More Ideas:~Add grilled, sliced chicken, cooked shrimp, or imitation crab to heated sauce~Use whole wheat pasta ~Try using lower-fat ingredients to 'lighten up' the recipe
Simple salad of romaine lettuce, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, chopped tomato, sliced red onion. black olives, & croutons

MYO Salad Dressing Croutons (Make ahead, put in freezer bag & freeze for later use.)
Homemade Breadsticks (Make-ahead & freeze. Just thaw and warm for serving.)
Soft Garlic Breadsticks
1 1/8 cups water (70 to 80 degrees F)
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons sugar 3 teaspoons garlic powder 1
1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh basil
3 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon butter or stick margarine, melted
Directions: In bread machine pan, place the first nine ingredients in order suggested by the manufacturer. Select dough setting (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or flour if needed). When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 20 portions. Shape each into a ball; roll each into a 9-in. rope. Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks. Brush warm breadsticks with butter.
Wine - Pairing the 'right' wine with your meal compliments both the wine & the food!

I have found that there are some very good budget priced wines to be found. We are fortunate to have a local grocery with an amazing wine department. =) I recommend a buttery Chardonnay to pair with the Fettucine Alfredo entree. I like the Night Harvest by R.H. Philips Chardonnay and at $6.99 a bottle, it's very budget friendly. (Actually, I really like most of the Night Harvest line.) Then try pairing a Cabernet Sauvignon with your chocolate dessert. Chocolate + Red Wine = Delicious!
Gourmet Girl's Famous Decadent Rich and Gooey Saucepan Brownies
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 dash salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Directions: Preheat your oven to 350. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and cocoa. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla till just combined. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the nuts. Pour into a greased 8x8x2-inch baking pan. Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over bake. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

My additions/changes: Chopped walnuts could be used in place of the pecans. If you do not care for nuts, leave them out.Almond flavoring would be a nice substitution for the vanilla in this recipe. I often use almond flavoring with chocolate recipes. It makes for a subtle, very gourmet change.This is a recipe that I would double, make-ahead & freeze. Thaw and serve with whipped topping and chocolate drizzled over the top.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend Cooking!

Who's Cooking this weekend?

I have a pretty busy weekend, but I hope to get some cooking-ahead done.
On my list to make and get in the freezer:
-Homemde Pizza
-Stromboli - see recipe in previous post
-Beef Bourguignon

I just purchased 3 new cookbooks. One is: "More, Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer" (I really like the look of the recipes and the way the cookbook is layed out. More on this to come.)

Share what's going to be cookin' at your house this weekend! =)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cooking for a Crowd-Potatoes for a Party

(This is my version of Party Potatoes/Hashbrown Casserole. I make it often when entertaining or cooking for a crowd. My family "has to have it" at Holiday Dinners! Enjoy!)

Party Potatoes
2 - 32 oz. bags frozen hash browns (cubes)
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. chopped onions
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
16 oz. sour cream
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (or cream of celery or cream of chicken)
Salt & pepper
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 c. frosted flakes
4 T. butter, melted
In a large bowl, mix together melted butter, onions, sour cream, soup, salt, pepper, basil & parsley. Stir in shredded cheese and then mix with potatoes. Pour into 1/2 size aluminum deep foil pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Sprinkle frosted flakes evenly over potatoes flakes and drizzled melted butter over top. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes.

I made these ahead a few at a time (a total of 8 pans) as time permitted, covered well with heavy duty foil, and froze them (uncooked) until the day before the party. I thawed them in our spare refrigerator and then baked them on party day.

2 of these half pans fit in my roaster side by side for serving - I kept extra pans warm in the oven to refill serving area as needed.

I purchase the foil pans at our local Factory Card Outlet. They have multi-packs that are very reasonable.

This recipe may also be made in 2 - 9 x 11 pans for use where you're not using a roaster or warming pan. Wrap well in heavy duty alluminum foil and pull out of the freezer for a family meal or if unexpected company arrives.

Cooking for a Crowd-Graduation Party with a Luau Theme

We did a Graduation Party for one of my daughters with a Luau Theme. (Appx 200 guests)

Ham w/pineapple
Party Potatoes
Pasta Salad
Fresh Vegetable Tray/Dip
Fresh Fruit
Strawberry Fruit Pizzas
Ice Cream Machine/Cones/Toppings
Punch, Coffee, Water

Rented a tent/tables/chairs
Covered tables in assorted bright, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple plastic table cloths
Planted assorted annual flowers in colorful plastic flower pots for centerpieces
Had plastic leis for guests to wear.

Crock-Pot Chicken Cacciatore

I put this in the crock-pot this morning for dinner tonight. I will serve it over whole wheat pasta. I think I will also serve a cucumber salad and if I have time, I will make garlic-cheese bread. It's a big batch. I'll either freeze the leftovers or maybe I'll call daughter and her husband to come over for supper. =)

Changes I made:
Used boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Left out the crushed red pepper flakes/husband doesn't like too spicy
Added 1 T. brown sugar
Only used a splash of olive oil
Left out celery powder
Used Italian Seasoning in place of oregano & basil

Crock-Pot Chicken Cacciatore
Recipe from (#41685)

3 lbs chicken, cut up in pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
6 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 green pepper, finely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon celery powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 Place onions in bottom of crock pot.
2 Add chicken pieces.
3 Stir all the other ingredients together.
4 Pour over chicken.
5 Cook on low heat 7 to 9 hours or high heat for about 3 to 4 hours.
6 Serve over pasta or rice

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cooking for a Crowd - Ham Sandwiches/Meat Entree

I find that ham is usually a good value and is very easy to work with when cooking for a crowd. I go to our local wholesale meat store and get nice hams for around $1.69 a pound. (Watch for it to go on sale at your local store and freeze until your event.) Sometimes bone-in hams can be found on sale for .99 per pound. While this is cheaper per pouns, I prefer the boneless because you don't have the bone weight waste with it and the boneless slices stay nice in the roaster over the period of time for an event.

For the wedding reception with 225-250 guests I used 8 whole, boneless, fully cooked, sliced hams. I usually use 6 hams for our Customer Appreciation Day (for 150-175).

My Easy Ham Recipe for a Crowd:
Remove wrapping from hams. Place hams in 18 qt. roaster, remove any ties, and slightly separate slices. Fit in as many hams as you can. Use another roaster if necessary. Per roaster: add 3 cans of no-sugar added sliced or chunk pineapple over ham slices. Sprinkle 1 cup of brown sugar over the pineapple/ham. Pour 2 cups 7-Up, Sprite or other lemon-lime soda over all. When you buy fully cooked hams, you just need to warm the ham though. Watch closely and adjust temperature up to heat it through more quickly & turn it down once heated through to maintain serving temperature.

The great thing about ham is you could serve it as sandwiches on buns or serve it the entree meat.

One Pound at a Time / Freezer Cooking

I've been thinking how I am going to incorporate the convenience of freezer cooking with the One Pound at a Time Challenge that starts May 1st. I hope to find some Weight Watcher, Low Calorie, Low Glycemic Index Recipes that will freeze well. If you have a recipe that "fits the bill", please share! =)

PS: You can join the One Pound at a Time Challenge at

Cookbooks: OAMC, Freezer Cooking, Make-Ahead-Meals, Co-op Cooking

I would like to add some cookbooks to my collection. I am looking for some OAMC, Freezer Cooking, Make-Ahead-Meals, Co-op Cooking Cookbooks, particular those that feature lower calorie/healthy recipes and where the recipes do not include much canned soup, velveeta...

What cookbooks would you recommend?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

OAMC, Freezer Cooking, Bulk Cooking----What Recipes to use?

Where do you find recipes when planning a freezer cooking session? Tried-and-true family favorites are great to make ahead and freeze. I, however love to look for new recipes. It's funny, I've been cooking since I was around 15 years old and now I tend to search for new recipes for ideas and then completely "tweak" them to our preferences.

There is a plethora of recipes on the web as well as the postings of people who kindly share their recipes, meal plans, and OAMC & Freezer Cooking plans on their blogs and websites. Many thanks to those who share their recipes and techniques! =) I also hope you find helpful hints here on my blog too!

A few of my favorite blogs & websites: - Large Quantity Recipes, Growlies for Groups

I'll add more to my list of favorites soon! If YOU kindly share Recipes, OAMC & Freezer Cooking tips/plans or related content on your blog or website, please comment here with your link so I can visit you and others can too.

Freezer Cooking in Individual Portions

Our household consists of my husband, 21 year old daughter, and myself. I'm sure you can imagine that our schedules differ. With that in mind, I like to keep some individually portioned meals in the freezer for the days we are like ships passing in the night. Between work, meetings, etc, this does happen often. Those frozen individual portions are also nice for me to take to work for my lunch---saves money too by not going out for lunch.

Soup is great to freeze in individual portions. Super Easy: Fill the crock-pot with your favorite soup recipe. Let it cook away and then freeze in portions or as meals. (Keep in mind that milk based soups do not freeze as well.)

Recipe: Kelley's Easy Crock-Pot Vegetable Beef Soup

Night before: Place 1 pound beef roast, beef cubes, or beef of choice in crock-pot, season with salt and pepper, and add 1 cup water or beef broth. Cook on low overnight.
In the morning before work or activities for the day: Break beef apart into bite sized peices right in the crock-pot with a fork. Add vegetables of choice. (I use a 2 lb. family sized bag of mixed vegetables along with 1/2 cup chopped onions.) Add 1 can of diced tomatoes or equal amount of chopped fresh tomatoes. Pour in a 1 quart can of tomato juice and season with 1T. each dried basil & dried parsley flakes. Stir in 1 cup water and 1 cup of red wine such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon (the wine adds a very nice flavor, but if you do not want to use wine, substitute beef broth or vegetable broth) Add 2 beef or vegetable boullion cubes and 2 T. brown sugar. Cook 8 hours on low. Divide the soup into individual portion freezer containers, label & freeze.

Chopped potatoes or beans are also good additions to this recipe.

The key to this soup is cooking the beef first. The beef becomes very tender and brings a real depth of flavor to the soup.

I make my Mom a big batch of this soup every year for Christmas and give it to her in individually potioned freezer containers. For many months, I'll be talking to her on the phone and she'll say, "I just had some delicious vegetable soup for dinner." =) I guess I'll just have to keep this on her Christmas list!

Why Do Meal Planning, Freezer Cooking, OAMC, Weekend Cooking....?

As much a I love to cook, I simply dislike coming home from work and having to deal with deciding what to prepare for dinner. Planning ahead makes a world of difference for me. When I plan our meals for the week, it's so much easier to get dinner on the table. Going one step further and preparing and freezing meals ahead has made the real difference. It's so nice to select from my "freezer inventory" for dinner.

What's great is that anyone can make "freezer cooking" work for them! Whether you do a mega session and prepare a month's work of meals to freeze, or if you simply cook for your freezer when you have some extra time, it is so do-able! Myself, I prefer weekend cooking. On Saturday or Sunday (depending on my schedule) I like to prepare and freeze meals & baked goods.

I'd love to see your comments here about how you make freezer cooking work in your home!

Recipe - Low-Fat Banana Muffins

I substituted an equal amount of unsweeted applesauce for the butter in my Banana Muffin recipe. It resulted in well-raised, tender muffins with great banana flavor. We liked them better than the regular recipe with butter.

Low-Fat Banana Muffins

4 large bananas
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mash bananas, add sugar and the eggs. Stir in applesauce.
Stir in dry ingredients. Spoon batter into muffin pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes at 350F degrees.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Re-Learning to Crochet

New to my hobby list is "re-learning to crochet! My Great Grandma taught me when I was a child. I have such fond memories of her. I figure a good way to quiet some of my "multi-tasking obsession" would be to crochet when I treat myself to some movie and/or DVR watching time. I am hoping to be able to follow some "square" type pattern and then put the squares together in an afghan project. What's easier for a 'repeat beginner'...a granny square or some other type of pattern to form a square?

Low Fat Banana Bread

Since I have bananas at home that I've committed to baking Banana Bread with, I'm going to be analyzing recipes to come up with one that I will make this weekend. If you have a tried-and-true recipe for Low Fat Banana Bread, please share!

8 Week Weight Loss Challenge

I am joining Lisa at 'This Mommy Works' in the 8 week weight loss challenge. I am hoping to add some helpful content here in my blog postings that focus on Healthy, Low-Calorie, Lower Glycemic Index, etc. recipes that can be made ahead and frozen. My thought is that as convenient as it is to have meals ready to go on my busy days, wouldn't it be just as convenient as probably so much easier to "stay on plan" when meals that comply with my plan are "at the ready"? Plus: portion control could be more easily achieved. ....More to come on this along with blog postings on entertaining, cooking for a crowd, freezer cooking, OAMC......=)
1 lb at a time

National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day!

Did you wear your pajamas to work today? =)

Apparantly National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day is always the weekday that falls after April 15th as a way to unwind after the BIG day!

While I would have loved to wear my pj's to work today, it wouldn't quite be appropriate. =) I did dress comfortably though. Whether in an attempt at compliance with today's 'theme' or just my way of saying "TGIF", I am comfy, drinking my coffee, getting lots of work done, and am ready for the weekend!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Customer Appreciation Day Stromboli - Cooking for a Crowd 3

For the Customer Appreciation Day for my husband's business, I have basic menus that I use when Cooking for a Crowd, but I do change it up some. One of my menu plans has bit of an Italian flair and includes Stromboli, Pasta Casseroles, Meatballs, Salad of some kind...We're in the dairy industry, so we always have a soft serve ice cream machine for the day. That ice cream is always a hit! I bake cobblers, cakes... to go with the soft serve ice cream and offer toppings and cones.

I'll start with the Stromboli. For our group of 150 people, I made 20 stromboli. (I had other main dishes to go with it and we had just a few left over. My family make quick use of the leftovers.) I began preparing the stromboli a month in advance and after baking they were wrapped well in foil and frozen. (I do have extra freezer space, so this worked really well for me for advance preparation.)

Recipe I use for the Dough for Stromboli:
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 cup canola oil
3 cups all purpose flour

Each batch of this dough recipe makes 1 stromboli. I just whipped one up whenever I had time...after work, on the weekends, in the evenings...

I used my bread maker on the dough setting and simply added the warm water, sugar and yeast to the pan and let it sit a bit until it becomes a little foamy. Then add the other ingredients and let the machine do the work on the dough setting.

Once the dough has gone through the rising cylces in the machine, remove the dough and place on a greased sheet baking pan. Press/roll out the dough to almost the edges of the pan. Add toppings of choice. Since I made 20 stromboli, I varied the fillings with various meats, cheeses, vegetables. I did combos such as pepperoni & provolone with mushrooms & basil; ham & swiss with mustard/onion/butter/poppy seed spread; browned ground sausage, fresh mushrooms; all veggie. Don't overfill. You'll quickly get the feel for the correct amount of filling where you can easily roll the dough without the toppings coming out. Once you've added the fillings, starting at one of the long side, roll the dough over the fillings forming a log of filled dough. Tuck the seam under the stromboli and neatly tuck the open ends of dough under, sealing and making sure all of the toppings are covered and well secreured inside the dough. With a sharp knife, cut 3-4 small slits in the top of the stromboli. Brush with an egg wash and bake in preheated 400 degress oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool, wrap well & freeze.

I defrosted the stromboli by placing it in the refrigerator the day before our event and then reheating the still foil wrapped stromboli in a 350 oven until heated through. I then stacked them in a roaster to use from while the extras kept warm in the oven on low. Sliced and served.

These were a big hit and I usually keep a couple of stromboli in the freezer for spur of the minute guests. Pepperoni, fresh mushrooms, cheese & a sprinkling of dried basil seemed to be the favorite combo.

I liked making the individual batches of dough and making the stromboli over a few weeks as time permited and freezing them. You could also use ready made pizza dough or bread dough from the freezer case of your grocery.

Cooking for a Crowd 2

Yes, we want our food to taste great for our guests, but FOOD SAFETY needs to be the first and number one concern when cooking for a crowd. Cleanliness of the cooking area, utensils, pans, etc is so very important. I wash my sink and counters with water/bleach mixture prior to starting. Make sure anything that food will be touching is impeccably clean. Pay special attention to your cutting board/knives to avoid any cross contamination between raw meats and other foods. Plan ahead and make sure you are prepared with enough refrigerator/freezer space to keep cold foods cold and that you have enough space to keep hot foods hot. Since I am not a qualified expert and am speaking only from personal experience, I do highly suggest researching Food Preparation Safety through resources such as your County Extension Agent or Health Department before embarking on cooking for a crowd. There is a plethora of information, suggestions, and resources on the web. Play it safe!

Cooking for a Crowd 1

I find myself in the position of cooking for a crowd a couple of times a year. We hold a Customer Appreciation Day for my husbands business, where I cook for 150 guests. I've cooked for 250 guests for my daughter's wedding reception, Graduation Open Houses, and have also cooked for various occasions for anywhere from 25 to 250 people. I am always asked how I can do this, but frankly I enjoy it! It's gratifying to see our guests enjoy what I've prepared and I find that I really save money doing it myself. I thought I would share about events I've cooked for, foods I've served, and how I've done it. With Graduation Parties, Bridal Showers, Weddings, Family Reunions, etc. in mind, I hope this series of blog posts on this subject will help encourage you in "Cooking for a Crowd". =)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another "Time-Saver"

I am very happy that I am doing some OAMC/Freezer Cooking/Meal Planning---Not only am I finding that it is helping on those days that I am super busy with work, meetings, MK facials/parties, is allowing more time for a habit I have. Good or bad habit? I am not sure, but I really like my DVR! =) Currently, I am pretty much addicted to all of the old & new episodes of Grey's Anatomy! I just DVR them and when I have time I watch them! Oh isn't technology great?

It's Inexpensive and Easy to Make Beer Bread Yourself Without Buying a Mix!

Over the weekend, I was making beer bread from scratch like I always do and decided to calculate the cost...
Results: 3 Loaves at a cost of $5.24! It's around $5.00 a loaf for a Mix, not including the beer....Homemade for a cost of $1.75 a loaf including the beer.
Kelley's Cheddar Beer Bread
9 cups self-rising flour (My local store had a bargain of 5# for $1.35)
1 cup sugar
36 oz. beer
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 loaf pans. Mix dry ingredients together. Mix in shredded cheese. Add beer and stir until mixed. Pour batter evenly distributed between the 3 loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on wire rack. I usually wrap, label & freeze 2 loaves for later use and wrap 1 loaf to enjoy right away.

Weekend Cooking

We had a busy weekend, but I was able to get some weekend cooking done:

3 Quick Sourdough Bread (Round Loaves)
Recipe used:
I made 3 batches of the quick-starter early in the morning...ran my Saturday errands and 6 hours later used my bread maker to work the dough in 3 separate batches resulting in 3 huge, beautiful round loaves. I did brush the loaves with an egg wash. It went quickly and was easy. The bread had a mildy sour taste and was very good. I need to take the time and make a traditional sourdough starter. Anyone have a tried-and-true method they use?

3 Cheddar-Beer Bread (See separate post on this.)

3 Pan Pizzas
Recipe I used:

This worked perfectly in 3 cake pans!

9 Freezer Conatainers of Tomato-Basil Soup
Recipes Used:
I doubled the recipe using canned tomatoes and used half & Half instead of cream. I also used dried basil and cut down a bit on the butter.

I'll try to start taking pictures of my endeavors! =)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Freezer Cooking

I've been working over the past few weeks on getting some meals into the freezer. So far I have:
2 pan sauteed chicken meals (ready to pair quickly with some veggies & rice or baked potatoes)
2 vegetable beef soup meals plus some individual servings to take to work for lunch
2 meals of shredded BBQ pork for sandwiches
3 beef stew meals
3 Stromboli with turkey pepperoni, fresh mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, basil
2 Pasta Primavera

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dinner Tonight

Dinner tonight will be Minestrone Soup with Pasta Beans & Vegetables by Robin Miller, which I found at I had most all the ingredients at home already and just ran out over my lunch hour and picked up a few things for it along with some ingredients for recipes for the rest of the week. I'll be serving the soup with loaf of homemade bread I made yesterday.

Meal Planning

I love to cook & I admit that I am a Food Network Junkie! In addition to that, I collect cookbooks and am always on the look-out for new recipes! So, you might be's wrong with that? Well, I am a good cook (or so I am told), but I am lacking in the "Meal Planning" department and when I don't plan well, I end up spending and wasting more. Anyone in this situation too? With the new year, I am going to try to combine my interest in trying new recipes & love of cooking with some real meal planning. I am going to select recipes each week to build my meal plan and shopping list around. Now, I don't plan on cooking 7 dinners a week since it's just my hubby and I at home most evenings now. We usually have leftovers from whatever I make and thank goodness he likes them. I'm going to start by planning 3-4 meals a week, allowing for a couple of evenings out and making planned use of leftovers and/or freezing meals. Flexibility is the key here. On the weekends, we may have our family or friends in or we may take food to a friend's house for an evening of euchre. After I prepare a new recipe, I'll try to post our "review" of it!