Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Make These Cute Christmas Carolers

I just love these Christmas carolers that my kids and I made years ago when they were much younger. The picture really doesn't do them justice. Every time I pull them out of the box, their expressions make me smile.

The year we moved back to the mainland from Hawaii, we moved into my brother's rental house and only had two bar stools and two air mattresses in this big 5 bedroom house. It was just a few weeks before Christmas, so we sat around on the floor making gifts and decorations. These are still my favorite.

If you would like to make some for yourselves, all you need are:

  • empty cardboard toilet paper tubes
  • marker pens and a permanent marker
  • scraps of white paper
  • an old piano music book or a copy of a page from one
  • tiny scraps of wrapping paper
  • yarn scraps
  • little girls socks (old used ones will do)
  • tape and glue
Start by coloring your toilet paper tubes with markers in colors of your choice. Then, cut out the face shapes from the white scraps of paper. Glue these on and draw on the eyes and a mouth with the permanent marker. Be sure to make the eyes low enough that they won't be covered by the hat. Use a colored pencil to make their cheeks slightly rosy. (It's cold out, you know.) You can reinforce the glue by putting some tape up at the top, under where the hat will be covering it anyway.

From the music sheet, cut out rectangles in the size you like. Ours are about 2" x 3". Fold these in half to make their books. Next, cut out mittens from the wrapping paper scraps and tape these to the music books and then to the body. Make sure the books are sticking out away from the body a little (so they can read their lines!)

Last of all, cut the tops from the socks. You just need about 5-6" from the top of the sock for each caroler. Double fold one end for the brim of the hat and tie the other end with a piece of yarn. If the sock is too wide to stay on the caroler, fold a pleat in it before you roll the brim. This will keep the pleat in place. Also, the tie at the other end will hold it, too. I think we may have used toddler ribbed tights or knee high socks. Now, put their hats on and be amazed at their cuteness!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chopped Veggies to Stew

Take out 16 frozen Rhodes dinner roll dough balls and set them on a cookie sheet (or a cake pan lid will work too!) These need to thaw and rise for a couple of hours. We'll get to those soon.
I sent my daughter to the garden to dig up some carrots and she came back with some monster carrots. I knew I should have pulled them up a week or two ago. They really are a pretty orange though. 
I did get the onions diced up real nice, but my picture turned out to be a video. I haven't learned to use my son's camera right and I keep getting one-second videos. I must be pushing the wrong button. You don't really want to see diced onions anyway.

Beside the carrots, I minced the garlic, chopped the celery and green peppers. Then, I did some more homework!

 After your dough balls are nice and puffy, you can make the filling for the Calzones.  Sauté a diced onion in butter, add the Jimmy Dean sausage and browned it up nicely. Then, season it with Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.

Next, mix together a tub of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1-1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, 2 eggs and some salt and pepper. Add a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley and mix it together.  Now, roll out each dough balls on a floured surface and put a couple of spoonfuls of the mix on each. Fold the dough over the mixture and pinch the sides together. Lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight. You can throw them in a zip-top bag in the morning. They're ready to be baked for lunch some busy day.

My last four adventures of the day included making the Sloppy Joes, Chili, Sour Cream Noodle Bake and shredding the DP Pork that I started this morning.

I'll share more about that tomorrow, but right now I'm going to fall into bed after fifteen hours of cooking, freezing and accounting homework.

Tomorrow is a new day with new challenges! Things like Beef Stew, Chicken Pot Pie, Cowboy Chicken Casserole, Spaghetti Sauce, and lots of muffins.

Oh, and by the way, we ended up eating Sloppy Joes for dinner. They were really good. The kids loved them and my son didn't even add Tabasco to his Joe. They had just enough kick to be spicy, but not enough to burn. Just the way I like it.

The Beans, the Pork, and the Taco Meat

The beans are done and ready to mash.

Drain the beans, reserving the liquid, and then pick out the onions and toss. Now, all you have to do is mash the beans, adding back in some of the liquid until you get the consistency that you like. I like to use a hand mixer and just cream them real good. Be sure to taste them to check the seasoning. Yum. Breakfast.

Scoop the amount you normally eat with your meals into a zip-top freezer bag, or more if you are going to use it to make burritos someday.

While the beans are cooling, label your freezer bags. Flatten the bag of beans to get the air out and zip it up. If you flatten them out nicely, it makes it much easier to stack them in the freezer.

DP Spicy Shredded Pork

Clean the crockpot and get out the pork butt and other ingredients.
Cut one onion into wedges and place in the bottom of the pot. Season the pork with salt and pepper and place on top of the onions. Then, open a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and dump the whole thing in on top of the pork. Mix two cans of Dr. Pepper with 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar and dump that on top of everything.
Turn the crockpot onto low for 8 hours. Now, pour yourself a nice big glass of Dr. Pepper. Your going to need it to wash down all of the taste tests. 

Taco Meat

After getting the pork going, start browning five pounds of ground beef for the taco meat. While this is cooking you can debone the chicken. Just toss the bones and scraps back into the pot of broth and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Then strain the broth and set it and the chicken aside for later.

When the ground beef is done, drain off the juice and add you seasoning mix and about three cups of water. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Let it cool and then bag it up in labels freezer zip-top bags. Quart size bags work perfect for one pound.

Now, to the veggies.

Freezer Frenzy Day is Here!

This first post should be title "How not to start you freezer cooking day." You shouldn't start it in the same month that you are starting school. Homework deadlines are much more painful to miss than cooking deadlines. I did stay up doing homework until 10 pm last night, but then my husband started hinting that I should turn the light off and I was too tired to move all my stuff downstairs.

Anyway, I started off this morning (the way I said I wouldn't) by washing the dishes that were left in the sink last night and then bleaching the sink The FlyLady way.

My first step to this crazy adventure was to start two whole chickens to simmering. After bringing them to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. While this is simmering, start clearing of the kitchen counters (which you should have done last night!) and putting away the dishes. If you did that yesterday like you were suppose to, you can get out your cutting board or food processor and begin to chop onions and let the crying begin.

My next post will be all about the veggies. Which ones, how many, chopped, diced? Oh, but the one before that is about the Refried Beans which I did manage to start last night. Get them out of the crockpot and get the Pork Butt going for Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

FF Grocery Shopping & Prep

I think I've mentioned that we live a long way from town a time or two. I try to do most of my errands and shopping after church on Sundays. Today, my daughter and I went to lunch with my dad and his wife to fortify ourselves for the big shopping trip. I had picked up about a quarter of the stuff on my list last week, but there was a lot of shopping left to do. We hit three stores in my quest for the lowest prices.

Last night, I printed out my list and checked off the things I already had at home. Then, this morning, bright and early, I cut out the coupons from Super One's monthly sales ad. So, off to Walmart we went first. Of course, I ran into a bunch of people I know who also do their shopping after church on Sundays. The life of a small town! We bought everything that wasn't on sale for a better price at Super One, and meat, because I only like to buy meat at our IGA. Next, we ran in Super One and tracked down all the coupon items and a candy bar for the road. Last, I ran in IGA for a ton of meat.

The fun started when I got home and we unload the car and piled it on the counters and table.
Calling all reinforcements! If you don't help unload, you don't get to eat for a month! Hey, who forgot to clear out the fridge to make room for all this stuff? At least I gave the dog the leftover this morning. What are friends for, right? Somehow, I got it all stuff in. I should have taken a picture of that! Maybe in the morning.

Refried Beans

Oh, I forgot to mention that I decided to soak my pinto beans last night so I could start the refried beans in the crockpot tonight. This is Because I really need to have my crockpot free tomorrow to make something else, of which I can't remember right now. Too much homework this evening!

I minced some garlic, chopped an onion into quarters, picked a jalapeno and chopped it up fine. Then, I threw that in the crockpot with the soaked and rinsed beans, added 4 cups of chicken broth, 2 cups of water, 1 tsp. of cumin, some salt, and pepper and set it to low for the night. I hope the smell of cooking food doesn't wake my up about 2 a.m. If my stomach starts growling in the middle of the night, I might have to get up and start cooking early! You can get the link to the recipe here.

Tomorrow is the big day. I've already decided to have a smorgasbord for dinner. A little of this and a little of that. I did buy some hamburger buns in case we want to have BBQ pork sandwiches instead. Now, back to the accounting books which will inevitably put me to sleep quick.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I Conquered the Freezer

The reason my freezer never gets cleaned is because I hate doing it. Trust me, it needed cleaning. I didn't even take a before picture, because it was just a jumble of bags and boxes.

I didn't even know what was in there, except the bags of chicken backs and necks that I was going to make into broth from the chickens we raise a few years back. Yuck! I also knew that there were bags of tomatoes from last years garden, but I didn't realize there were still so many. I'm going to thaw a couple of bags and use them for the cans of stewed tomatoes and diced tomatoes for my Freezer Cooking Frenzy this coming week. It will be a good trade-off. Useless lumps of frozen tomatoes for some great tasting spaghetti sauce and chili!

So, after I defrosted, scrubbed and bleached the inside of the freezer, I just had to take a picture of it being all nice and shiny. It probably will not look this good again for several years!

I took mental stock of what was left after I threw away four garbage bags full of old, freezer burnt stuff like bread samples my boss gave me a couple years ago, chicken backs, very old whole wheat pastry flour, and some miscellaneous stuff. Here is what needs to be cooked up soon:

A bag of salmon fillets and cod fillets, about 10 bags of pumpkin and lots of tomatoes from last years garden, 2 bags of zucchini for muffins, a large bag of cheese curds from the neighbor, several packages of side pork (what do I do with this stuff?), 2 bags of venison, 2 bulk packages of yeasts, and some chopped celery. Sounds like we will be eating stew and muffins for a while!

I would really like to be buy some kind of baskets or shelves to put in the freezer before the Frenzy starts, but I'm not sure that will fit in the budget. I'll have to see how much I'm going to save first and how much they cost. I'm sure I can rig something up for free if I put my mind to it. Or my husband's mind! Anyway, I'm sure glad that job is over!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Taco Seasoning for FF

I decided to make my Taco Seasoning today for the Freezer Cooking Frenzy, just in case I didn't have all of the spices and needed to add something to my shopping list. But, guess what? I did!

So, now that task is done and out of the way.

I made enough for 5 lbs. of meat. When I looked at my recipe (cause I usually just wing it) I noticed that I've been doing it a little differently over the last year or so. Here is the amounts for 5 lbs. of meat. I could just buy 5 packets of taco seasoning for a couple of bucks, but since I tend to buy bulk spices, as you can see from the picture, I might as well save some money and make it myself.

Even if you are not making a large batch of taco meat for freezing, you can still make up a batch of the seasoning mix and then just add a couple of tablespoons to your meat each time you make tacos.

5 Tbsp. flour
5 tsp. chili powder
5 tsp. paprika
3 3/4 tsp. salt
3 3/4 tsp. minced onion (I now use onion powder instead)
2 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tsp. sugar
5/8 tsp. ground oregano (I substituted Mexican oregano)
I also started adding garlic powder, so 5 tsp. garlic powder is good.

Of course, you can adjust the amounts to your taste. Some days I add more cayenne pepper when I'm feeling the need for a little more zing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Freezer Frenzy Shopping List

Whew! That was quite a job, but I've finished the grocery list.

I'll be adding prices to the list as I shop. This is not to impress you, because I've lost the ability to do impressive shopping. Between work, school for me, homeschooling my daughter, church music director and bookkeeper, cooking, laundry and blogging, who has time to read the store ads? I'll do my best though.

This is not to say that you can't do some impressive shopping. I use to live on a $40 per week food, health, and beauty budget for four not too long ago, so I know it can be done. The reason I want to keep track is just to know if it is worth the time and effort as far as saving money is concerned. I know it will be worth it to not have the 5pm panic of "what's for dinner?"

I'll list the non-perishables first, then the meat, produce, and dairy, etc. I tried to be thorough, but I'm human. :) At the end, I've made a disclaimer of what I'm assuming everyone has, or should have, in their pantry already. I'm going to double check my spices, because I always think it's chili powder I'm out of, and then I buy another bottle only to find I have three already and it was something else. Cumin, maybe?

Canned Goods/Non-Perishables

1 bag, Tortilla Chips
1 bag, Fritos
1 jar, Marinara Sauce
1 can ,Ro-tel Tomatoes
1 can, diced Tomatoes
2 - 28 oz. cans, Crushed Tomatoes
1 - 14 oz. can, Crushed Tomatoes
1 can, dice Green Chiles
1 can, Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
1 jar, diced Pimentos
Worcestershire Sauce
Chicken Bouillon
Beef Stock, 5 cups
Dry White Wine, 1/2 cup (I usually skip this, but thought I'd let you know)
White Vinegar
24 oz. Dr. Pepper
3 large cans, Tomato Sauce
3 cans, Tomato Paste
1 can, Pinto Beans
1 can, Kidney Beans
16 oz. bag, Wide Egg Noodles
1 bag, Dried Pinto Beans
Flax Seed Meal, 1/4 cup
1 cup, Walnuts (or Pecans)
Molasses, 1/4 cup
Applesauce, 1/2 cup
1 pkg., dry Spaghetti Noodles
1 can, Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 can, Cream of Chicken Soup
1 box, Raisin Bran Cereal (any brand)
Peanut Butter, 2 cups
Oatmeal, 2 cups
1 bag, Chocolate Chips
Aluminum Pans, if you don't have your own pans to freeze casseroles in
Freezer Ziploc Bags, quart and gallon size
Whatever you plan to wrap the pans in: Freezer paper, foil, plastic wrap (I haven't decided yet.)

Frozen Foods

1 bag, Rhodes Dinner Rolls, (16 count, I think)
1 bag, Frozen Peas


Eggs, 3 dozen
Butter, 2 lbs.
12 oz. Mozzarella Cheese
8 oz. Pepper Jack Cheese
24 oz. Cheddar Cheese
16 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Parmesan Cheese, 1 wedge
2 1/2 cups, Cottage Cheese
1 tub, Ricotta, whole
1 large tub, Sour Cream
2 pints, Heavy Cream
Whole Milk, 1/2 gallon
Buttermilk, 1 quart


2 loaves, crusty Sour Dough or French Bread


Limes, 1 bag
Lemons, 1 bag
Garlic, 2 bulbs
Mushrooms, Button
Onions, 1 bag
Green Bell Peppers, 5
Jalapeño, 2 (free from my garden)
Carrots, 1 bag (free from my garden)
Celery, 1 bag
Green Onions, 1 bunch
Turnips, 1 bunch
Blueberries, fresh or frozen
Bananas, 1 bunch


2 - 2 to 3 lb. Chicken Fryers, cut up
5-6 lbs. Chicken Breasts, plus however many more you want to grill
5-7 lb. Pork Butt (shoulder)
18 lbs. Ground Beef
2 lbs. Breakfast Sausage (or Italian)
2 lbs. Chuck Roast for stew meat

The Assumption List

Whole Wheat Flour
Salt & Pepper
Vegetable Oil
Brown Sugar
Powdered Sugar
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Bay Leaves
Lawry's Seasoning
Red Pepper Flakes
And...all the other common seasonings, like Chili Powder, Cumin, Italian Seasoning, Garlic Powder, Cayenne, Oregano, Nutmeg, Peppercorn, etc. There are too many to name, though I think I got most of them. The best places to buy cheap seasonings is in the produce section where they have the little packets or at the Asian markets. Even Wal-Mart has a .50 cent section.

Well, that's all folks! On to the sales ads!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Freezer Frenzy Menu List

First, The Menu

I've chosen 20 recipes for my Freezer Cooking Frenzy. Maybe I'm mad, but it seems doable. I will be cooking, assembling, and freezing over a two and a half day period.

I've decided to have my Freezer Frenzy start on Sunday afternoon, September 8th, because I have Monday and Tuesday off from work. That means I have a couple of weeks to get organized, shop for sales on non-perishables, write information on the freezer bags, and then finish the last of the shopping on Saturday, the day before.

So, here is the list. I've added links to the recipes if you want to see them. You will notice that a lot of them are from The Pioneer Woman's website. Her recipes always turn out well, although they are not calorie-free by any means.

Chicken Pot Pie (2)
Cowboy Chicken Casserole (2)
Chicken Spaghetti (2)
Grilled Chicken Breasts (however many I buy)
Sour Cream Noodle Bake (2)
Calzones (2)
Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork (4)
Sunday Night Stew(2)
Frito Chili Pie (2)
Sloppy Joes (2)
Spaghetti Sauce (4-5)
Taco Meat (5)
Refried Beans  (6-8 sides)
Pizza Dough Balls (4)(double recipe, plus one tsp. extra salt, plus 2 tsp. Italian seasoning)
Baked French Toast-Savory (1)
Baked French Toast-Sweet (1)
Mom's Muffins (12 muffins)
Bran Muffins (72 muffins)
Blueberry Lemon Sweet Rolls (2 pans of 12)
Pie Crust Disks (4)
P.B. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (48 small or 24 large)(doubled, plus one extra cup flour)

The number is parenthesis is how many meals each recipe will make, based on how much my family of four eats in one meal. For instance, The Cowboy Chicken Casserole would normally make a 9x13 pan, but I will be putting it into two 9 inch pans for two separate meals. We are pretty good eaters in this house, so there may not be any leftovers for lunch some days.

When all is said and done, I hope to have 34 dinners, 4 breakfasts, 6-8 lunches, and lots of muffins and desserts. Now onward to sales and shopping. I will post the grocery list tomorrow.