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Friday, June 29, 2012

FRUGAL FEEZER/ FOOD STORAGE FRIDAYS #1: How to eat out of food storage

IN an attempt to post with a purpose I am dedicating Fridays to FRUGAL & Freezer COOKING/ Food storage posts:

Welcome to FRUGAL Freezer/Food Storage Fridays 
The First Installment:

I haven't posted a weekly menu plan in several weeks,bc I haven't really made one. With all the meal prep for freezer cooking and the constant planning & double checking for ingredients I simply eat out of food storage and I'll show you how easy that really is.

I have done my Freezer food storage 2 different ways-

One way is to purchase proteins on sale in bulk, typically 30-40 Lbs,  and package them up in a meal sized portions.
Roasts -
  • I typically stick with top round roast, or English roast- these are lean and tougher cuts, need low & slow cooking to break down the muscle fiber PERFECT for CROCK POT COOKING!
  • ON SALE I can typically purchase for $2.49/LB
  • I will buy the roasts and butcher them myself to save money, cubed, steaks, & strips.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • BUY ON SALE ONLY!!!!!!!-Usually $1.39/LB
  • Basically all my chicken recipes are BSCB.
  • BUY FRESH! NOT FROZEN if you can!!-I will purchase the Quick Frozen type if the price is right, but you mostly purchase the "broth solution", got burned last time I bought 20 bags of 2.5LB of IQFBSCB once thawed the bag was 2 LB!!! 
  • If I do buy I QFBSCB, I will ONLY use them for DUMP recipes

Split Chicken Breasts
  • PURCHASE ONLY ON SALE & ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE!- (I know all should be organic but I can't afford it, however I use the skin and bones to make stock so I feel the extra money is worth it! Most times $2.99/Lb if organic if not can get as cheap $1.99LB)
  • Great for Crock Pot dishes, 
  • I freeze these as is, and will thaw then dump in crock
  • Save skin and Bones for stock later, DON'T THROW THIS AWAY!!- (I keep a bag in freezer & when filled I add in some wings when I get on sale and make gallons on home made stock)
  • Also PERFECT for soups
Ground Beef
  • PURCHASE ONLY on SALE!!!-Used to have rule on only purchase $1.99/Lb, this gets harder to do!
  • Use for Meatballs, Salisbury Steak Patties, Make my own pre-shapped patties, taco seasoned beef, MICI Rolls, Meat Loaves, Frozen in cooked 1Lb portions, and in HEAT & EAT MEALS
  • PURCHASE ONLY ON SALE!- (Usually $1.99/Lb)
  • I tend to stick with the tenderloins, but will purchase the country ribs too-This cut is CHEAP! and with the most meat when you buy ribs. Great for Crock pot cooking too!
  • My family is not big on the strong fish taste so I stick with firm white fish, Orange Roughy is our favorite, Cod, Mauhi Mauhi, White Fish, Talapia, and recently Swai
I also keep Baked Goods in freezer, along with Baking Items {Flour, Sugar, Baking Chips},  Stocks, Shredded Cheeses, Purees, Veggies, Bones...

From that point I look inside and see what protein I have and make a meal from that along with what starches I have in pantry and veggies I have in fridge as I stock pile there as well. I basically have pretty much all I need to pull together a meal even if I pull a random recipe from a blog I have fell in with one the day before, I might need to buy a bottle of wine or some obscure herb here or there to make a special dish.

I have Baskets/Crates one for each freezer items:
*Beef       *Poultry      *Pork       *Fish       *Baking Items {Flour, baking chips, chocolates}
*Veggies   *Stock        *Purees    *Sauces   *Baked Items   * Lunch     *Breakfast   *Misc

After  I have figured out what my protein will be- that is typically the foundation of our family meals, the rest of the meal, starch and veggies, I take care of by stock piling. I stock up when dry goods go on sale. These items I always keep at least 3 lbs of each:

*Brown rice        *Noodles,      *Pasta,     *Couscous,    *Quinoa,    * canned and dry beans

In winter I have frozen veggies some from summer produce & some when they go on sale. This summer I bought a share in a local CSA so each week we will eat whatever fresh veggies are in season, plus this CSA gives a dozen fresh organic eggs, baked good, jam, and popcorn!! Should be a culinary adventure!

The second way I have used my Freezer food storage & the way I most like to utilize my Freezer  is to have a rotation of pre-made meals, crock-pot kits,  proteins in marinades,  SANe meals, breakfast & lunch items, cheeses, baked goods and so on.

This type of organizations helps me to see at a glance what is inside my freezer and when I need to stock up. I used to keep track of the contents but I fell off the wagon and recently I had to throw away 6 gallons of shredded Zucchini, Pumpkin puree, Sweet Potato Puree, and some several gallons of mystery contents.

To keep track of this in a more organized way without opening my freezer 1,000 times & wasting electricity is to make a "Master List" of freezer contents. I made a basic spread sheet with 9 columns and 18 rows with repeating titles of "Meals", "Number Made",& "Number Used".

Then I use it faithfully so I can have an accurate track of what is inside. I will go out to the  freezer look at Master List {spread sheet} I have attached to freezer by magnets to see what is available for meals that day. Plus I have a pencil attached to the freezer handle, if I don't have pencil handy, I know for sure I will forget 5 out of 10 times to record what I have just removed. It makes more sense to me to remove all situations for forgetfulness to happen in the first place to just have pencil handy at ALL time, you feel me?

I am working on a downloadable PDF file you can view and fill in your own blanks, but for now I will just try to explain how easy it is to make your from either RTF from my MAC and I can't do a simple copy & paste here.

But with both PC & MAC users this is really easy to do as well to make your own Master List:
  1. Find your tool bar or drop menu in your Word, Work, or RTF and find " Cells" or "Tables" 
  2. Choose 18 columns in that menu options & 9 rows in the row option. 
  3. Make top row title bar and fill in top rows with the repeating titles of "meals" "number made" & "number used". 
  4. Fill sections Titled "Meals" with your meals in freezer, better yet do this at the beginning of a session & leave some blank to fill in what you might find at the bottom or back of your freezer. 
You could do one for your pantry items or freezer pantry items with blank spaces to fill in as you buy or find items in back of shelf, we all find that random jar of pimentos or tuna days or weeks after we were looking for them.
This is my freezer 1/3 way filled
From this point I have figured out what my protein will be- that is typically the foundation of our family meals, the rest of the meal, starch and veggies, I take care of by stock piling. I stock up when dry goods go on sale so I always have rice, noodles, pasta, couscous, quinoa, & beans in pantry. In winter I have frozen veggies some from summer produce& some when they go on sale, & in summer I belong to a CSA so each week we eat whatever fresh veggies are in season.I just pick rest my meal based on pantry items and call it a day!

An added layer of frugality is the pantry items I use to complete the meal never costs us over $1-2 a person and my freezer meals basically cost me under $7/family of 4-6 with left overs!!!  All together I can put together meals that typically costs me under $9 with dessert of some kind. These meals are not just canned soup and ground meat with gummy sticky noodles/rice and some limp over cooked veggies. These are flavorful meals with caramelized onions with reductions sauces and seasoned to perfection

Now having a menu with Supper, lunch & breakfast options makes life easier for me, I will go back to that when I am done with my freezer sessions, much easier to glance at a menu pull in what I can for the week from the deep freezer to save energy and place in freeze above fridge if I have room. But these days I use that for a "freezer pantry" To learn more about that check this post out. I will probably make one for a month out bc of surgery looming in the horizon.

Both ways have worked for my family, saved us time & money, either way it is much easier to have a plan ahead of time but you have to find what works for your family and what you can handle yourself or what your food budget allows for.

Even if you were able to purchase just a 3 Lb bag of frozen boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, you could break them down into 1Lb increments in a gallon sized freezer bags and pour marinade- store bought or home made over them,  this would help out your family and time out tremendously.

Or make crock pot meal kits out of the frozen breasts by throwing in ingredients that make a crock pot meal, like for my Chicken Paprikash Crock Pot Kits, I use 2 C chicken stock, 1 onion diced, salt & pepper, smoked paprika. Then all you have to is thaw overnight then dump into the crock pot on low for 4-6 hours a delicious meal with only 5-10 min of prep work!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Encouragement Thursdays...#1 The Miraculous Baby the Fearful Hearted Woman

Welcome to the first of many installments of 



In an attempt to be more purposeful with my blog and post in a more organized fashion, I am going to assign Thursdays to Encouragement. 


This First Encouragement Thursday, is dedicated to my son on his 2nd birthday & to all my fearful hearted friends out there. You know WHO you are, you have been disappointed so many times you no longer have the courage to hope, the dispair felt after being deflated still clings to your soul. 


Dear friend, may I encourage you to hang on to that hope, if the Lord placed it there, He WILL be Faithful to FULFILL it!! What we fail to do is release the need to control HOW HE will fulfill that desire...


This is the story I tell my son on his birthday, though he is too young to really understand what I am saying, I still tell him his Miracle Birth story each year. As I did with my daughter & her story-the prequel to this "The Magical Baby and the Broken Hearted Woman".  


Happy 2nd Birthday Baby Boy Blue Eyes, Momma Loves YOU!

The miraculous baby & 

the fearful hearted woman


Once upon a time there was a miraculous baby boy who was waiting to be born. This baby had incredible inner strength and courage. He was created with a will so strong he could over come just about any obstacle life had in store for him as long as he humbled himself before God and allowed God's glory to shine through him.

Each day he would enter the throne room of God and ask, "When will I be born? Is it my time yet?"

And each time God would reply with a knowing smile on his face, "Precious one, it is not your time, not yet"

At the same time the woman whose heart was once broken and now was made whole rocked her precious, magical baby and marveled at the joy she had found in this sweet baby girl.

And God would knowingly smile to himself and say, "You will be blessed in more ways than you can ever image...But now is not the time, no- not yet."

The woman had a secret in her heart she thought she had kept hidden she yearned to give birth again, to give her magical baby a sibling. But after years of barrenness, loss, & heartache she was too fearful to ask God, to even try. So she tried to prevent the miracle of life within her and tucked that hope and dream away on a shelf in her heart.

 God looked at her and shook His head saying to himself, "When will my children get it? They cannot hide their hearts away from me, I created that heart, the hidden places are known to me. There is not one place they could possibly hide, even the darkest place is made light to me- there is no crevice deep enough I could not find or high enough I could not climb."

More time when by and the Miracle Baby Boy entered the thrown room with his beaming smile, and asked God again, "Is it my time yet? "

God knew that the smile the Miracle Baby Boy had been given had healing powers and that the big blue eyes God had fashioned after the sea would melt away the ice caps from even the coldest of hearts.

God began in a gentle voice, "My son your time is soon, prepare yourself for your journey it may not be an easy one, but rest assured I have plans for you my son, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Hold on to my promises, for they NEVER FAIL. Your time is soon, but not yet"

The momma was happy as can be as the Magical baby girl grew and flourished, yet when the night came, the momma tucked away hope and started to place it in a darker corner & on a higher shelf.

God stood by quietly, but this night was different, He spoke out to the quiet part of her soul and asked her a simple question, "IF I intended to bless you, do you think that you could stop it?"

Before she could respond her asked her again,  
"IF I intend to bless you, do you think that even you could stop Me? 

The dreams & hopes you have allowed many earthly fears to block you from believing in 
have already been fulfilled - Doubt me no longer 

 For WHEN I intend to Bless you- EVEN you 
CANNOT stop me!"

At that moment hope sprung from it's shelf she tried to hide away on the highest shelf in the darkest recesses and found it's home in her the center part of her heart where it should have been all along. And she felt the familiar stirring in her belly as God Knit a Miracle against Miracles there, in fact a miracle of the life-giving kind was all ready growing there.

A baby that fought against many odds, and against the doubts and fears of his parents,  was growing and healthy waiting to meet his momma, BUT not yet-his time would have wait a little longer.

On June 26, 2010 a beautiful baby boy with a smile that brought healing and eyes bluer than the sea was born. 
He was amazing and the joyful family that once was heartbroken was now complete a family of 4.

There was peace in the kingdom that short time... yet Confusing and Dark times lingered in the background and tried to shroud the joyful arrival of the Miracle baby Boy.

The momma was sick to her core unbeknownst to all. Once discovered this illness threatened the life of this momma and at times the sickness nearly overtook her. She was lost for awhile & wandered in the desert & lonely places.

The father scooped up his radiant, Magical Baby girl in his arms and tenderly held his lively, Miracle Infant Baby Boy and gazed into his sons eyes that were bluer than the sea & found courage & strength he didn't know he even had there. 

The father cried out to God, "Please we need her, our kids need their momma and I need my wife, please Lord it's not time, no Father, please NOT YET."

A quiet calm came over the father as he held his babies he had believed for and prayed for all those years. A remembrance sparking in his soul that God is good and God is GREAT... in his heart the father knew that her sickness was being healed and she was being restored. Soon she would come back.

After a time the sickness that held the momma at bay was weakening, the echos of her Miracle baby cries were in the distant and her fears started to melt as she remembered who she was. Her eyes opened and she held her Miracle baby Boy stared into his blue eyes finding courage and strength as softly said,

"My son I am here, I was lost for a time, but now I am here, If God chooses to bless me NOTHING can stop him!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Teach ME Tuesdays! Greener Solutions... #1

I have been trying all these green DIY household cleaners, supplies, beauty treatments, you know name it & I have been trying it! Not only to be more green and attempt to leave smaller carbon footprints on the planet, but I am also trying to 
save some money. 

So in that vein I am also attempting to be organized, instead of randomly posting food recipes, green cleaning solutions, family articles and such I will try to post with a purpose and post these on designated "Theme" days. 

Most of my DIY formulas will be on Teach me Tuesdays, The Good, The Bad and The What was She Thinking?? Experiments
We can grow and learn together, maybe we will save the planet, some some pennies, and save some sanity along the way?? 
Sometimes I might post other things along with these on different days other than Tuesdays, but I will try to be more organized in my delivery!

Welcome to the First Ever 

I Think I found the Right Formulas for MY Family!!

Phewwwww! I have tried for months to find the perfect formula for dish washing [Washing by HAND] liquid that works
 for our hard water. 

 I just couldn't get it right
dishes would feel greasy
would be filmy, or 
just didn't rinse right & would have spotty glass ware-
they just didn't' look or feel clean. 

I tried:
  • A bunch of different formulas
  • Different rinse water formulas, 
  • You name it & I probably tried it!!

NOTHING seemed to work for our hard lime filled water. But I am not a quitter and I wasn't giving up, but I starting to feel a bit discouraged to say the least until I started using this secret ingredient...

I tried to make my own toothpaste....

How I store my toothpaste, only this looks neater than mine!
 Uhmm, yeah I have NEVER brushed my teeth
AND then threw up bc of the taste in my mouth afterwards! 

So after some months building up the courage tonight 
I just mixed a batch and 
I think I have found a recipe that I can live with
I still might tweak it but I didn't throw up afterwards, so that is plus, right?


I believe I FINALLY found the right formula that works for us!!!

The Formulas:

I.Hand Dish Washing Liquid
  • 16 Oz clean squeeze bottle (I use an upcycled former dish washing liquid, this is so thin you can use the foaming bottles just fine since those bottles need a thin soap)
  • *7 oz Orange infused white Distilled Vinegar
  • 6 oz water
  • 2 oz Sal-Suds
  • 6 drops of Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • Funnel
  • Measuring Cup with pour spout
  1. Measure Vinegar and pour into bottle or eye ball it, nearly half of the bottle less an ounce or 2
  2. Measure Water and pour into bottle or eye ball it, leaving a good 4" from bottle
  3. Measure Sal-Suds and pour into bottle- I DON'T eye ball this as too much won't rinse well and this isn't cheap, so I NEVER want to waste it.
  4. Use eye dropper and use 6 drops Tea Tree into bottle.
  5. Gently shake to combine

Tips & Hints:
  • I ALWAYS add Sal-Suds LAST it suds so much it will take hours to get the foam down if add it before you add any other liquid.
  • See this post on how to make your own * Orange infused Vinegar {This is my Secret Ingredient weapon!} The orange infused Vinegar makes all the difference, plus using a large amount of it. VERY important with hard water to get that clean rinse on glassware.
  • I have recently made triple the amount and used an old 2 qt juice bottle to have refills handy
  • I tend to go thru this faitly quick, like 1 bottle every 2 weeks (IF I am doing the dishes), other ppl who "want to help" will squeeze the daylights out of my bottle. I keep telling them bubbles don't equal clean...
  • Grrr....Sometimes it just doesn't even make it worthwhile to try explain my life choices...

II.Winter Green Flavored Tooth Paste
  • 5 teaspoons baking soda 
  • 1½ teaspoon hard honey -
  • 1½ teaspoon hydrogen peroxide -
  • 1½ teaspoon coconut oil -
  • 6 drops of wintergreen essential oils 
  1. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl to form a paste. 
  2. If you like half this recipe to test it first then if you do, proceed to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe. 
  3. Store it in an easy to dispense 2-4 ounce bottle/container at the sink, or just as you normally would with any commercial brand toothpaste. 

Tips & hints:
  • I store my toothpaste in an old 4 oz glass jar of baby food jar and use a spoon to apply the paste to my brush. 
  • This will be hard in the cold days and more paste-like if you use it fresh after someone has showered or if you don't have air and it is hot out.
  • I just love these old jars I kept the jars I had from my son when I used to get free baby food (He HATED store bought, only liked my fresh homemade kind) Just so glad I got all those FREE jars.

How has your quest gone to find the 
"RIGHT" Formulas 
for your own DIY household items ?

Monday, June 25, 2012

CSA Veggie Primavera

I picked up my CSA share and we were told in the first few weeks it was going to be slim, well she wasn't kidding- 
she was quite right, bc it was 

CSA Basket Challenge:
  • 5 garlic scapes*{You find the woody parts of this aromatic veggie like you do asparagus and cut it where the tender part starts}
  • 10 peas (had about 10-15 I had to throw away)
  • 4 very small red skin potatoes
  • 2 pickling cucumbers (I had one I had to throw away)
  • 2 Zucchinis
  • 1 Yellow Squash
  • 2 Beets (I roasted them and will puree them and freeze for smoothie drink freezer packs)
  • 3 Shallots
  • Dried Oregano
  • Brownie marshmallow crispy dessert
  • 1 dozen eggs (Will use throughout the week) 
From my pantry/fridge : EVOO, Spinach, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette, noodles, half & half, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, Toasted Almond Slivers, & red grapes.

 I reviewed my share and knew with the small amount of produce 
I wouldn't have enough to last the week,
and with the quality of each veggie 
they were on the "last day of fresheness".
So I had to make something that  
utilized all the veggies in one dish 

I decided the best way cook all the veggies in one dish was to make: 

Creamy & Tasty Primavera.

Veggies coated in flour
This was SOO, soooo good, much better with fresh organic veggies!! 

 I am totally in love with the garlic scapes, especially now that Renae instructed me on the way to use it,* and the shallots are amazing! I want to cook with these 2 aromatics more often!!

I seasoned the sauce with the dried oregano we got in our share this week along with a splash of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, some sumac (which to me tastes bright and has a lemony taste), some kosher salt and pepper and of course half and half for the dairy element. 

After I sauteed the veggies in EVOO & once they were softened and delicious I coated them in flour cooked the flour for a few minutes.

Sauce not get reduced, but doesn't it look rich and fabulous?
Then I poured some rich Half & Half (I cut calories by using half & half instead of heavy cream) & seasoned to taste. 

I allowed the sauce to come a gentle boil to thicken slightly and reduced to simmer until the desired viscosity  was achieved.

Delicious Dinner compliments of our CSA

I hope the next basket shares will be much more plentiful. 
I like the idea of supporting local produce and organic small businesses 
but this has been much smaller than I expected.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Organic Veggie Quinoa

If you haven't tasted it before quinoa tastes to me like a yellow pepper- it is a tasty a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), a grain-like crop grown in the Andes primarily for its edible starchy seeds. It reminds you of brown rice and most people wouldn't know the difference if you didn't tell them.

 This is my favorite side dish and "although quinoa is slightly higher in fat, it edges out brown rice in both amounts of protein and dietary fiber per serving. As a seed rather than a whole grain, "The New York Times" notes that  
quinoa has all essential amino acids in it, 
whereas the whole grain brown rice does not make up a complete protein on its own."
 Read more about this here.

I love to caramelize my veggies, toast my quinoa, and cook my mixture in a homemade, rich, & flavorful roasted chicken stock. 

This is a great pot luck dish or picnic side dish as it holds well with room temp won't curdle or spoil as easy in summer weather

The taste compliments hot dogs and burgers as well as it does grilled chicken, fish or beef kabobs meat main dishes. 

Give this healthier side dish a try at your next gathering or simple family dinner!

Organic Veggie Quinoa

  •  4 C organic free range chicken stock (I make mine homemade)
  • 2 Cups rinsed Organic Quinoa
  • 2-3T kosher salt (Sorry but I use salt, it just doesn't taste right without it!)
  • 1T fresh cracked pepper
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced or grated
  • 1-2 lg vidalia onions, diced
  • 4 oz roasted asparagus spears
  • 3t finely diced red and yellow peppers (hate the texture of peppers but like a little dap of them in this)
  • 10 Oz sliced Button Mushrooms, sliced
  •  EVOO
  1. Heat skillet over med heat, once hot add EVOO
  2.  Add onions & peppers, once onions are clear add mushrooms
  3. When mushrooms have reduced in size and used up their liquid.
  4. Add asparagus and season with salt and pepper cook for about 3-5 min
  5. Add garlic and Quinoa, only cook until garlic is fragrant and quinoa is toasted slightly, 1-3 min max!
  6. Pour in stock and allow to come to a boil, taste and see if seasoning needs adjusted.
  7. Cover and turn to simmer for 10-15 min
  8. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 min, fluff with fork.
  9. Taste again and see if seasoning is ok adjust if need be. 
Linked to Weekend Pot Luck

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Black Bean & Quinoa Patties

I forgot to get a pic of my red scallions, but they looked like this!
In my CSA share I have been talking about I also found about 1& 1/2 Lbs of red scallions and about 5 or 6 garlic scapes in my basket. I really didn't know what to do with the scapes, I have never cooked with them before so I looked up some recipes but didn't really feel inspired by them. What did do slice them up along with 3 C of left over quinoa and 3 cans of black beans and made a protein packed veggie "burger"
Garlic Scapes

The red scallions were AMAZING!!!, beyond delicious, I hope to find these again, they are so flavorful. The garlic scapes were interesting some were soo woody and fibrous I thought if I sauteed them with EVOO along with the red scallions they would soften up. They really didn't, so then I thought I would use my food processor to soften them...nope not all did, reminds me of the stalks of broccoli, however there were a few that were tender and they were really delicious.

Yummy Black Beans being pureed!
I sauteed them with EVOO then added 3 cans of drained & rinsed black beans and seasoned them with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. That was the fantastic, I could have eaten them just like that, they tasted like the best refried beans ever!

I took the left over Quinoa side dish from our Father's Day picnic- day 3 I either finish them up or freeze them by now, I have a strict 3 day policy for food in my fridge- so I  mixed it w/the black bean mixture that was partially smashed with food processor. Added 2 eggs and 1& 1/2 C fresh bread crumbs, seasoned with more kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper along with a  dash of cumin and smoked paprika.

I sauteed the patties in a few tablespoons of EVOO over med-low heat crisping the bottom to a golden brown deliciousness, then flipping, about 3-5 min per side.

I allowed to cool on paper towel lined tray then transferred to was a paper lined cookie sheets and flash froze them.

 I will place them in a freezer storage container lining with wax paper between patties and LABEL according, very important, I won't remember what deliciousness is inside if I don't label!

I placed 2 patties on whole wheat bread then spread a mixture of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise on a bed of arugula and grape tomatoes 
A TASTY little treat I would like to call YUM!!!!  

Very satisfying, even strict carnivores would be satisfied with this "burger"

I still LOVE my regular Quinoa burgers, 
these are a bit different~ more meaty & more "burger looking". 

What a healthy & tasty lunch!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day 2012- Spot Light on Beef Kabobs and Organic CSA Produce

We celebrated Father's Day a little early this year

My Daddy enjoying his Father's Day Cook Out!

 My older sister from Colorado was in town for a few days before a work camp for a local missionary camp in PA- she works for an incredible company called Group Publishing and the experience they give to kids and the adults involved is amazing. If you have a youth group looking for a summer camp experience and missionary work (there is over 40 work camp locations all over the US), but low on funds, you aught to check out this affordable ministry- here is the web site!

Anyhow since my sister would be leaving for PA on Sunday morning so we celebrated with my amazing dad on Sat instead.  I picked up my first CSA for the season from Fox Family Farms in Navarre, Ohio, that morning as well so I incorporated my fresh produce from my share in the menu. Below you will find the menu, recipes and pic of our fun-filled day!

On the MENU:
  • Marinated Steak Kabobs Featuring Farm Fresh Organic Veggies from my local CSA share FOX FAMILY FARMS
  • Roasted Organic Veggie Quinoa
  • Organic Herbed Fresh Shelled Peas and Red Skin Potato Salad (INGREDIENTS FROM FOX FAMILY FARMS MY CSA)
  • Organic Cucumber & Grape Tomato Salad (PARTIAL INGREDIENTS FROM FOX FAMILY FARMS MY CSA)
  • Watermelon
  • Balsamic Vinegar Mascaraed Strawberries with fresh whipped Cream and pound cake cups


-The Marinade
  • 3T EVOO
  • 2T Distilled White Vinegar
  • 2T Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 T Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • 1T Brown Sugar
  • 2-3 T Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1T Smoked Paprika
  • 1T Chipotle Pepper Powder
  • 2T Garlic powder
  • 2T Onion Powder
  • 4 Lbs roast, cut into 1/2-1" cubes
~ Mix together to form a nice wet consistency to evenly coat all the meat, add drops of water if too dry. Place Kabobs in a shallow bowl with a tight fitting lid and coat in marinade overnight if possible.

The Kabobs:
  • 4 Lbs roast (I used top round and cut against the grain to get more tender. Not the best cut of meat for grilling, but refuse to pay $8.00 for butcher to kabob my meat or more per LB for choicer cut of meat.), cubed into 1/2-1" cubes all ready marinaded overnight.
  • 1 large organic Zuccini, sliced in 1/2" slices From my CSA
  • 1 large yellow squash. sliced in 1/2 thick slices From my CSA
  • 1 red pepper, sliced in 1/2" slices
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced in 1/2" slices
  • 1 green pepper, sliced in 1/2" slices
  • 2-3 large vidalia onions, sliced in quarters and seasoned well with salt and pepper
  • 2- 10 oz Buttom Mushrooms kept whole
  • 4 oz of favorite Italian Dressing {Marinated veggies overnight as well for extra flavor}
  • 20-30 Kabob skewers soaked in water overnight
  • non-stick spray
  • 2 serving platters large enough to hold 30 kabobs (one for uncooked, one for cooked)
  • 2 tongs (one for uncooked, one for cooked)

I like to assemble Onions over the beef and over the mushrooms, and over the peppers, other than that I don't really have a pattern. I just LOVE it when the onion caramelizes and juices run into the meat and veggies. Last time I made the kabobs I did marinate the veggies and it was soo good, this time I didn't so from now on I WILL! 

If you soak over night the wooden skewers won't burn so much on grill.

Place on grill over med-low heat and allow to cook slowly will produce more flavor and allow the onions to soften nicely. Remember that meat will continue to cook even after you remove from grill. So I like to remove right before I think it is done and allow to rest covered for maximum juiciness and flavor.

This was my son's plate, he ate ALL his QUINOA

Roasted Organic Veggie Quinoa
  •  4 C organic free range chicken stock (I make mine homemade)
  • 2 Cups rinsed Organic Quinoa
  • 2-3T kosher salt (Sorry but I use salt, it just doesn't taste right without it!)
  • 1T fresh cracked pepper
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced or grated
  • 1-2 lg vidalia onions, diced
  • 4 oz roasted asparagus spears
  • 3t finely diced red and yellow peppers (hate the texture of peppers but like a little dap of them in this)
  • 10 Oz sliced Button Mushrooms, sliced
  •  EVOO
  1. Heat skillet over med heat, once hot add EVOO
  2. Immediately add onions & peppers, once onions are clear add mushrooms
  3. When mushrooms have reduced in size and used up their liquid 
  4. Add asparagus and season with salt and pepper cook for about 3-5 min
  5. Add garlic and Quinoa, only cook until garlic is fragrant and quinoa is toasted slightly, 1-3 min max!
  6. Pour in stock and allow to come to a boil, taste and see if seasoning needs adjusted.
  7. Cover and turn to simmer for 10-15 min
  8. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 min, fluff with fork.
  9. Taste again and see if seasoning is ok adjust if need be.
Fresh Shelled Peas and Herbed Red Skin Potato Salad 
This was invented to use the handful of peas we have left over after munching on some of our fresh produce from the CSA and the potatoes we received.  Won't win an awards nor do I think I will make it again....

There is something very earthy and nearly spiritual about shelling peas, makes me think of an era that has gone by- a nostalgic feeling comes across me and I feel like I am kid again. I think I might have done this when I was a child with the neighborhood Gramma, Mrs. Kautz. My memories are hazy, but I visualize a lap full of peas in the pod while wearing a 40's style apron, a bucket of shelled peas, and elderly hands gently guiding me to "pull the string" just "so" on the pods to remove the shells then use my thumb to properly "shell the peas", "Ploop, ploop , ploop".  Such a simple little thing, but it makes me feel so utterly content and loved to remember the patience she showed me and pride I felt on being able to help & contribute.

I WILL grow peas in my garden next year so my children and I will collect them for dinner, I hope shelling them with me will help them feel as contented to the earth and content as I once felt and still do and see the simple rewards and joy of fresh veggies from your own earth! 

The ONLY way to eat peas in my opinion is FRESH from the garden, freshly picked, shelled and ate withing 24 hours otherwise they ARE GROSS!!! 

I only blanched them for 3 min then placed in a ice bath to stop cooking, it made it crisp tender just took that edge off of them, we ate them in the some of pods as a mid-morning snack on the way home from the farmer's market though, LOL!

Don't know if I would EVER make this again, but it was surprising not half bad and tasted extremely fresh.

  • Fresh Shelled Peas. blanched for 3 min and plunged into an ice bath until cool
  • 2 red skin potatoes, cubed and boiled in salty water
  • Drain potatoes and place back in pan to dry fully
  • Place in a bowl while still warm and season with salt and pepper
  • Add a Tablespoon of Mayo to coat warm potatoes
  • Mix in Organic Dried Basil From my CSA
  • Toss in peas, taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Cover and refrigerate for several hours for flavor to meld.
This platting would get me" Chopped", but doesn't that look sooooooo good?!

Organic Cucumber & Grape Tomato Salad
  • Again not a recipe per say, 
  • just chopped the organic cucumber I received in my CSA share and diced some grape tomatoes to match quantity
  • Poured some Balsamic Vinegar and Evoo 1-3 ratio
  • Crushed some Organic Dried Oregano from my CSA
  • Dash of sugar
  • Kosher Salt and fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Fresh Green Onion from my CSA
  • Mixed together and allowed to sit in fridge for about 4 hours
 Mascerated Strawberries in Balsamic Vinegar and Sugar over Pound Cake and Fresh Whipped Sweetened Cream- orry not real recipe just a "gulg here" and "pinch there"!
  • 2 qt of fresh organic strawberries, sliced
  • A gulg of 2 of organic Balsamic Vinegar
  • Unrefined Sugar about 3 T
  • Pinch of Kosher Salt and smidge of pepper (just to give it a kick and round out flavors)

Slice Berries and place in a deep bowl and add rest of ingredients. Allow to sit overnight and pour syrup and berries over pound cakes and place a dallop of whipped cream over top!! Perfect Summer time fare!

Linked to Pot Luck Weekend,

Friday, June 15, 2012

Easy & Customized Infused-Flavored Truffles

Close to mine found here
 This has to be one of the EASIEST and one of the most FLAVORFUL tasty little treats I have ever made with the most surprising little  flavor weapon!

I just made these delectable and decadent truffles for my besty on her birthday- they have a sweet and milky chocolate coating with an incredible flavor infusion inside that is silky, smooth with a texture that melts in your mouth.

One of the keys to the success of these candies is *GOOD QUALITY chocolate, I like to use a sweeter milk chocolate for the coating, and a GOOD QUALITY bittersweet chocolate for the truffle center. [I like to use Ghirardelli] That mixture of sweet milk chocolate and true bittersweet chocolate taste plus the addition of my super secret FLAVOR WEAPON makes these truffles an out of this world experience and a very satisfying & gratifying treat for the adult sweet tooth..

*[I use Ambrosia Milk Chocolate coating. It is sold in grocery stores and Amish bulk food stores in my area, you don't add any wax of any kind and is so good my kids will fight over who gets to eat the slivers left from chopping. I melt it over a double boiler low and slow stirring frequently]

...But those aren't  all my secrets...


 You MIGHT NEVER guess it...     

Are you ready??

Good Quality TEA!!!
Now that I let the tea out of the bag {Pun FULLY intended BTW!}


Let's keep my little secret just between us friends, ok?? 

I guess it's not so secret since I saw it all over google searching for images bc I forgot to take pics again..but mine are still the BEST EVER!!!

Now without further ado...the recipe!!

Easy Customized Flavored Truffles
  • 2/3 c. whipping cream
  • 2 T. butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 t. light corn syrup
  • 2-4 tea bags of choice
  • 8 oz. bitter-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • Real Milk Chocolate coating

NOTE: I chose Earl Grey bc it is her favorite tea, but you could whatever tea you LOVE, I think Chai would be Amazing, Mint would fabulous, Maple to die for, whatever tea you love would make this INCREDIBLE!!

  1. In small saucepan, bring cream, butter, and syrup to a boil.  
  2. Remove from heat and add tea bags.  
  3. Steep 5 minutes.  
  4. Remove tea bags and squeeze out excess into pan.
  5. Add chopped chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and is smooth.  
  6. Pour into shallow bowl, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

After chocolate has become firm enough to handle:

  1. Roll chocolate into balls by the teaspoonful- I use a melon baller and wear tight fitting non-latex gloves to help ward off the heat from my hands to prevent the inevitable messy hands
  2. Place in freezer to keep firm while preparing chocolate coating.

TO make Coating:
  1. Melt chocolate coating in a double boiler.  
  2. Quickly dip balls in coating, place on waxed paper and shake chocolate sprinkles over the top.  
  3. Refrigerate until firm.  

Store in refrigerator up to 1 week  or in a freezer for up to 1 month.  

Makes 30 truffles.

Linked to Weekend Potluck.





Linked to Homemade Mondays 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Peanut Butter Fudge NO-Bake Cookies!!

These are such AWESOME tasting cookies!! I am really NOT so much of a fan of the chocolate no-bakes and these are similar to them only richer. I found them on a recipe site years ago and I have tweaked the recipe to fit our family's taste over the years, still one of my no-fail cookie recipe, I hope you will like it!


You can make these healthier by making these with raw honey in place of sugar. I always use natural peanut butter so even if I do use sugar in place of raw honey these are a step above regular cookies anyway with protein from peanut butter and oatmeal goodness!



  • 2 &1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats


  1. Measure oatmeal, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla  into a large crock(shatter & heat proof) bowl.
  2.  In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, butter and milk. 
  3. Bring to a rapid boil and boil for one full minute. START timing AFTER the syrup comes to a rapid boil that you can't stir down.
  4. Remove from heat and pour the syrup over Peanut Butter-oatmeal mixture and begin to stir.
  5. Stir until the mixture begins to cool.You can tell by looking at the mixture that it is ready to drop.
  6. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool until set. 
Makes 48 smallish cookies or 2 dozen rather large ones. 

These freeze gr8 are quick and east to make, can make these last minute for kids' bake sales, company dropping by unexpectedly (Keep them in the freezer for that), plus quick to make for pot lucks dinners! 

Linked to weekend potluck dinners, 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Perfect Zuchini Patties

For my Vegetarian Freezer Session I want to make a veggie Burger/pattie. I want to use Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Carrots, Green Onion, garlic. This would be a nice alternative to people who eat vegan at a pot luck!

My Perfect Patty/Burger must have:
  • Depth of flavor plus I love smokey cumin & smoked paprika
  • Chipoltle powder for that background of heat
  • LOVE Quinoa-Really like the Quinoa burgers, w/quinoa cooked in flavorful stock and herbs with aromatics (onion, garlic)-might use that or just flour if time is limited
  • Love the idea of adding some cheese like Parmesan & Sharp Cheddar &/or perhaps cottage cheese.
  • Like the idea of salty soy sauce, might use that one, but wouldn't Feta be Betta for the salty seasoning?? 
  • Definitely needs a sprinkle of sugar to balance out the dish and maybe some sumac to brighten the dish and bring an element of acidic?
Might use my bullet to grind garlic and Vidalia onions, rough chop the green onion, like that in there, wish I had cilantro, I like the brightness it brings, but using sumac might help brighten it up? 

This was soooo delicious!!
Here is what I came up with for my Zucchini patties  I nixed the idea of using the bullet/blender and brought out my BIG GUN, my monster Food Processor and knocked those veggies out in like under 3 min flat! Izak had therapy this morning and both kids were not co-operative so I ended up not using the Quinoa, very sad about that. But I am making Black Bean Burger with Quinoa so I will get some YUMMY quinoa for my other veggie burger/patties!

  • 2 green onions, including white parts
  • 2 1/2  teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2  teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 Vildalia onions, shredded
  • 6 cloves garlic, shredded2 carrots, shredded
  • 3 small summer squash, shredded
  • 6 small zucchini, shredded
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2-1 C Cottage Cheese
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 green onions, including white parts
  1. In a food processor shred carrots, zucchinis, yellow squash, Vildaia onions, garlic cloves. 
  2. Lay the shredded mixture on a paper towel lined baking sheet and cover with another layer of paper towels and press lightly. Salt lightly and allow to sit on counter top for at least 30 min to draw out the extra moisture. (I will even line a colander with paper towels and allow moisture to draw out for another 30-45 min, I just like to really drain the moisture out as best I can so I don't have to use much binder)
  3.  In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, carrot, eggs, flour, green onions, Sugar, pepper, cumin, salt, and garlic powder. 
  4. Heat a frying pan then add a couple teaspoons olive oil over medium-low heat.  *{Hot pan, cold oil}
  5.  Mixture will be slightly sticky, so using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop mixture into pan and lightly flatten to 1/2 inch thick. 
  6.  Fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes on each side.  
Makes approx. 40 patties

Reheat them from frozen in toaster oven until crispy or 350 oven for 10-15 min. Can use Sandwich Maker or skillet with scant bit of EVOO, or if you must can use microwave for 20-30 seconds

Can also flash freeze these uncooked and oven bake them 350 for 15-20 min until crispy or on stove top with EVOO.


I have struggled with my low fat foods or sticky batter type foods sticking to my stainless pans here is what I figured out that has helped me TREMENDOUSLY~!!

*(Hot pan cold & cold oil will prevent sticking The reason hot pan/cold oil works is because when you add the oil to a very hot pan, it starts to vaporize – the oil in immediate contact with the pan creates a vapor layer that prevents it from bonding to the pan. 

Obviously, it will burn quickly if no food is added. But cold oil bonds to cold metal, you don’t get this floating oil slick effect – food sticks to the oil, oil sticks to the metal, and in my experience, cold pan, cold oil leads to sticking. Especially with a sticky batter like the zucchini patties, HOT pan COLD oi-try it and see if you get better results!)

**(To help them stay in patty form and not fall apart, I cook them on med-low slowly so they have longer to set-up without burning.  Makes them easier to flip, too.)
I really LOVE these, I know that some are more brown than others and I prefer them more brown, but since I will be reheating these on a grill top or toaster oven I don't want them so brown. The more crispy ones we ate up, these are soo good!

Linked to Weekend Pot Luck