Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sweet & Sour Pepper Relish

I've been really sick all of September... as in I spent two straight weeks in bed and I'm still not totally feeling better as we're closing in on week three.  That is SO not like me, but it wasn't avoidable.  I was able to squeeze some canning in right before I was struck down, so I really lucked out!  I ended up giving away a lot of produce during my sick weeks, but at least I was able to get a few things done.  I love having home canned goodies on my shelves!

This recipe is new to me, but I had peppers, apples and cabbage to use up so I thought I'd try it!  I made one batch and it was so yummy I ended up doing another!  It would be so good on rice with meatballs or chicken... or really on anything!  I had a jar not seal and we ate it right out of the jar with a fork!

Sweet & Sour Relish

8 c. chopped green peppers
6 c. chopped green apples
4 c. chopped green cabbage
2 c. banana peppers
1/4 c. salt
6 c. sugar
1/2 tsp powdered mustard
6 c. cider vinegar
1 hot red pepper (if desired)

Combine green peppers, apples, cabbage, banana peppers and salt in a large bowl.  Let sit 2 hours and drain.  Combine sugar, mustard powder and vinegar in a large stock pot.  If using a hot red pepper, cut two small slits in the pepper and add it to the vinegar mix.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, add veggies and simmer 10 minutes.  Remove the hot red pepper.  Fill clean jars with hot mixture, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Makes about 7 pints.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Breakfast Skillet: a great way to use up garden zucchini and day-old bread

I really love breakfast foods.  Like A Lot.  Garden season is the best because I have all sorts of veggies to use up in my breakfasts, including zucchini!  Yummy!

 This breakfast is a really great way not only to use up zucchini, but also to use up day-old bread.  If you're a bread-maker like I am, then you probably often have extra rolls and breads that need to be used up.  The bread I used this time is oregano bread.  To make oregano bread I add 1 cup of chopped fresh oregano leaves (from my yard) along with some garlic and onion powder into my normal french bread recipe.  It comes out fabulous and it makes 2 loaves, so I often have part of a loaf left the next day.  Any sort of rolls or bread will work great.

I like to start my skillet with bacon grease, but butter works well too.  Melt your bacon grease or butter in a frying pan.  Saute diced zucchini and ham (if desired) in the grease.  You can add other veggies such as onions, mushrooms or peppers in if you'd like too.  When the zucchini is almost tender add day-old bread cubes into the mix and cook until they're golden brown.  Add eggs and scramble.  Top with cheese and stir until cheese is melted.  That's it!

The bread cubes get nice and toasted and absorb the flavor of the bacon grease!  Every time I make this I get compliments on the unexpected flavor of the toasted bread cubes.  The zucchini tastes very delicious with eggs and cheese.  This can be served as an inexpensive dinner as well!  I make it without ham as often as I make it with ham and either way it's great!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chore Time

I haven't had a "formal" chore system since my kids were young.  I just write a few chores on our chalkboard each day and they each pick one.   This system works for us... The problem is there were a lot of deep cleaning chores that just weren't getting done.  This past year has been a little insane, plus I babysit my sister's three kids full time and having a baby in the house again takes up a lot of my time!  I don't remember my kids being so time consuming as babies, but I'm sure they were.  I'm just old and don't remember!  I decided in order to keep up on things around the house I needed to have help!  I have three teenagers so there is no reason they can't be helping out more than one chore a day.  My nephews are 4 and 10 so they can help too.

I made a list of all the chores I needed up help with such as dusting, cleaning off the top of the dryer, wiping down the kitchen cupboards, vacuuming the stairs, etc.  I ended up with 20-something chores.  After I figured out what needed to be done I wrote them down with instructions on index cards.  I organized them by room so someone can grab several from the same room and get to work.  On the back I left a place for a name, date and a spot for me to check it off.  I laminated the cards so we could use them over and over with a dry erase marker, which I keep in the box.  I told the kids that each chore should take about 15 minutes.  I wouldn't check off half-done jobs; I wanted them done well.

Each chore is worth $1 and I give a bonus $1 for every four chores done, so basically they can earn $5 for an hour's worth of work.  This chore system has worked beautifully for us!  The chores are stored in a vintage recipe box which fits in with my decor and the kids know if they want to earn some money that's the way to do it!  I require them to do one chore each week from the box plus they still have their daily chore written on the chalkboard.

When Nina gets bored she's been known to whip out 16 chores in a day and earn $20!   Because they are dated on the back the kids know when they can do a chore.  Each chore only needs to be done weekly and there is a spot for chores that have been finished and signed off.  I never have to dish out more than around $25 a week and since the kids use their money for things I'd probably be paying for anyways like popcorn at the movie, makeup or snow cones I haven't even noticed I'm paying for chores.  Once a week is pay day and everyone is happy!  The kids get money and I get my deep cleaning chores done!  Hooray!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Spaghetti Salad

We love going to free outdoor concerts as a family.  Even if they aren't our "normal" type of music, we still enjoy sitting on a blanket, enjoying a picnic dinner and listening to the show.  It's always been our tradition to bring a big bowl of a main dish salad and rolls to these types of events.  My kids were a little nervous about the spaghetti salad, but it ended up being a HUGE hit and everyone had multiple servings.  It's quick and easy to throw together and everyone loves it!  You can adjust the amounts and types of veggies and cheeses to fit your family's likes.  Use up some of those garden tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers!  You could even add pepperoni if you like, but it totally doesn't need it!

Spaghetti Salad

1lb spaghetti noodles, broken & cooked
16 oz Italian salad dressing
1 TBSP Italian seasoning
fresh tomatoes & chopped onions or 1 can of diced tomatoes w/onions
diced celery
chopped cucumber
cubed colby jack cheese
parmesan cheese (the powdery kind)

Mix together salad dressing, seasoning, tomatoes, onions, celery and colby jack cheese in your serving bowl.  Add cooked spaghetti noodle pieces and mix well.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and toss.  Chill before serving.

my niece, Scarlett & I

My girlies chillin' on the blanket

Caleb & my nephews off exploring during the show

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friends Helping Friends

Over the last month I've had a lot of days where I just haven't even wanted to get out of bed, but staying in bed has not been an option.  For those of you who've been following my family's recent going-ons through facebook, I don't even post 1/4 of the negative things that have been happening and yet the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning was all the nice people in my life.  The stress and worry came second.

That's because for every one bad thing happening, two good things show up unexpectedly to remind me I am loved.  I often say how I should have been a homemaker 60 years ago, but that mentality of friends helping friends, neighbors reaching out and people helping a stranger is alive and well in our time today!  Kind words, neighbors dropping off meals, friends and strangers helping however they can.  It's real!  There are good people everywhere wanting to do what they can to help others. 

I try to live my life in a way that at the end of each day I can think back to someone I provided service for.  If I can't think of anyone I feel like my day was wasted just a little bit even if I got a lot accomplished.  Serving others is very important to me.  It's hard for me to be on the receiving end of service, but it's also very good for me.  God wants us not only to provide service for others, He wants us to have the opportunity to be served.  It's a lesson we all need to learn. 

Because I have seen first hand all the good things people do, even if it's "just a hug" (there's no such thing as just a hug), I want this message not to be a reminder to do service, but I want to remind those strong, amazing homemakers out there to let others serve YOU sometimes!  You don't have to be everything all the time.  It's ok to cry, it's ok to let a friend lend a helping hand, it's ok to accept a meal, it's ok to let someone watch your kids or give you a hug if you're having a hard day.    When someone asks, "What can I do to help you?" really think about the question before throwing out the typical "nothing, I'm fine" answer we moms love to give.

By allowing others to serve you, you are allowing them the blessings of service. You are also allowing your family to feel that humbling tug in their heart that only happens when you are served by someone.  I see the amazement in my kids' eyes when someone drops off brownies or brings dinner.  Nina has been incredibly touched when someone bringing spaghetti left the meat out because Nina is a vegetarian or when a neighbor once brought her treats when I had mentioned on facebook she was struggling.  As much as I want my kids to be strong and independent, I also want them to know what it feels like to be served.  Accepting service doesn't make you weak, it helps you grow stronger so that when you're back on your feet you can turn around and do more for others.  It's a beautiful cycle of friends helping friends.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cookies & Milk Vintage Garden Party

I love hosting parties!  I especially love hosting parties when I can get a group of ladies together for food and socializing!

I don't shop at Walmart often, but I popped in there one day and couldn't resist their mason jar drink dispensers!  They're perfect for summer-time parties!

Of course mis-matched china plates are one of my very favorite things!  Everything tastes better on vintage china!

I couldn't decide between a 1 gallon glass mason jar dispenser or a 2 gallon plastic one, so I grabbed one of each!

Some of my milk bottles took a field trip out of my living room to dress up my bbq grill for the Cookies & Milk Party...  Yes, I do have a shabby chic pink and white bbq grill *grin*

Small white boxes made perfect containers for our cookie exchange.  The Radio Flyer wagon held them perfectly!

These wafer paper milk bottle labels from Fancy Flours are what sparked the whole Cookies & Milk party theme!  Mine don't look quite as perfect as theirs, but I think they still came out fabulously!

Chopped salad was served in milk glass punch cups.  Get it...  MILK glass (trying to keep with the theme.  haha)

A little Josef Originals vintage mouse was right at home with the food.

Milk bottles, plants and books on gardening worked well as centerpieces.

This toy cow was my grandma's when she was young.

I've been playing a lot with succulents in all sorts of containers.  I think these mini succulent gardens in egg cups are quite cute!

All the tables were set up under my cherry tree, next to our newly planted vegetable garden.

A vintage beverage cart and bucket make for a great dirty dish drop-off and trash can.

This plant stand holds the milk and milk bottles perfectly!  I love the height it adds to the drink table.

The milk can drink dispenser comes from Target.  It was a birthday gift this year and I love it!  To keep the milk cold without watering it down I filled baggies with ice cubes, sealed them up and floated them in the milk.  At the end of the night the leftover milk was still cold!

I love mixing china, milk glass and melmac all together for a vintage yet casual food table!

I served lots of veggies to balance out all the cookies we'd be eating later on!  Placing the same colors of veggies in each veggie bowl gave it a very vintage feel.

Cucumber and cheese sandwiches were served on croissants with veggie chips and crackers.  Very girly and very yummy!

The food was all so delicious and it looked adorable!

I enjoyed every bite of it!  The milk bottles were as cute with lemonade or water in them as they were with milk!

Vintage hats are a must for a garden party!  We all had a great time!

I had each person bring 3 dozen cookies for the cookie exchange.  We had quite the variety!

Moon Pies are such a fun vintage style cookie!

We had everything from first time trying it recipes to old family secret recipes!  I found light blue gingham basket liners & pink bags at Target.  People had the option of putting their cookies in boxes or bags.  Either way they looked cute!

The displays each lady did were just perfect for a garden party!

Everyone not only ate their fill of cookies, they also each went home with a variety of cookies to share with their family!

This party was so much fun!  I've always wanted to host a cookie exchange, but they're usually done during the holidays which is such a busy time!  Having a summer cookie exchange was a great excuse to get friends together and have a blast!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

German Pancakes & Buttermilk Maple Syrup for a Crowd

Sunday mornings can be quite crazy around here!  Besides me and Eric and my three kids, we also often have Eric's four boys on the weekends along with my sister's three kids who I babysit full time (including most Sundays).  Cold cereal can be expensive for a crowd that large.  How the heck did I end up with 10 kids???  German Pancakes are a quick and inexpensive breakfast (or even dinner!).  I like to pair it with fruit, like grapes or bananas and yogurt on the side.  German Pancakes are fabulous with regular syrup or jam, but I usually make a delightful homemade syrup when making them, just for fun!

German Pancakes for a Crowd

1/4 c. butter or margarine

12 eggs
2 c. milk
2 c. flour

Turn the oven on to 400.  Place the butter in a 4.8 qt (bigger than a 9x13 pan) baking pan and place in the preheating oven.  Meanwhile mix the remaining ingredients in your blender.  It will be FULL, but it will fit.  I usually start with only 1 cup of milk with the eggs and flour, mix it really well in the blender and then add the last cup of milk and mix it on low just until blended.

Move the pan around to even coat with melted butter, pour the blended mixture on top of the butter and bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes until done.  That's all there is to it!  Cut into squares and serve.

Buttermilk Maple Syrup

Boil together for a few minutes in a med-large saucepan:
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. butter
2 TBSP molasses
dash salt

Remove from heat and add: 
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp maple flavoring
2 tsp vanilla

Mixture will foam up at first, but will settle as it cools.  Serve warm or at room temperature.   Store leftovers in the fridge.  Will stay good for a week or so.