Sunday, November 30, 2008

Graham Cracker House

The last several years, we have made Christmas cookies on Thanksgiving week with some friends from Ed's job. This year we decided to try making gingerbread houses using graham crackers! The children loved it! And I'm sure that we'll be doing it again! But I was very glad that I wasn't the only adult! Four adults to five young children was just about right!

If you'd like to try is what you need...

graham crackers - you need 7 crackers per house but plan for extras for breakage!
royal icing (recipe below)
cereal, pretzels, sprinkles, and candy for decorations

Royal Icing

1/4 cup butter
2 egg whites 
1 tsp vanilla 
1/4 cream tartar 
1-2 tsp milk 
4 cup 10x sugar 
Beat well. Add more sugar if needed. We placed the icing in a small bag and snipped off a corner to pipe onto the house.  

First we cut points on two crackers for the ends of the house, to hold the roof.
Then, using icing as glue, we attached the floor, sides and ends of the house, making a box. We allowed this to harden slightly before attaching the roof. Setting the house outside in the cold seemed to speed the process.
While we waited,  we spread icing on two crackers for the roof and the children attached Cinnamonn Toast Crunch for shingles.
Then we attached the roof pieces to the house and again let it harden.
Then the real fun begins! Decorate the house however creativity and imagination dictates!

What to do with Leftover Turkey!

As promised, here is our favorite ways to use up all those turkey leftovers! 
All these recipes are favorites at our house. I usually put turkey leftovers in pint boxes for use in these recipes. When I my leftovers are gone, it is time to roast another turkey!

You'll notice most of these recipes are originally for chicken, but I find that roasting a large turkey is much cheaper and simpler way to prepare these recipes! Having cooked chopped turkey in the freezer is my life line to fast home cooked meals! I usually only buy chicken for grilling or for recipe that I want whole chicken breasts.

Chicken and Biscuits

2 cup cooked, chopped chicken (or turkey)
1 cup frozen or cooked vegetables (corn, peas, carrots)
Place chicken and vegetables in 2 qt casserole
3 T butter
3 T flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 c water
Melt butter in pan, add flour, salt and pepper. Stir to blend, lightly brown. Add water. Stir and simmer a few minutes. Pour gravy over chicken and veggies.

1 1/2 cup flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles course meal. Combine egg and milk. Stir into flour mixture. Drop by spoon-full over chicken and vegetables.
Bake 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe brings back memories of a former life as a traveling single when I'd beg Rachel to make this! And she usually complied!

2 T butter
2 chopped onions
2 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chilies (drained)
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, cut up
3-4 cup cooked cubed chicken (or turkey)
16 (8 inch) tortillas
2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup milk or cream

Melt butter in skillet, saute onion for 5 minutes. Add chilies, saute 5 minutes. Stir in cream cheese, add chicken. Cook, stirring constantly until the cream cheese melts. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of mixture in center of tortilla, roll and place, seam side down, in a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle with milk. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Chicken Lasagna

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cup sour cream
2-3 cups chicken, cooked and chopped
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
Combine all of above. ( I use a large batch of homemade cream soup.)
12 lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded cheese
Parmesan cheese

In greased 9x13 pan, layer noodles, soup mixture and cheeses. Repeat for three layers. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, covered.

Favorite Chicken Casserole

8 oz seasoned bread cubes
1 stick butter
1 cup broth
Mix together lightly. Place half of mix in a 9x13 greased pan.
2-3 cup cooked chopped chicken
1/2 cup chopped celery
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup cooked chopped vegetables (brocolli, beans, carrots, etc)
Mix. and place over bread. Top with remaining bread.
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
Beat eggs and milk. Pour over casserole. Cover with foil and refrigerate over night. (May also freeze.)
1 can cream of chicken soup
Spread soup over top of casserole. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes, uncovered. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded cheese and return to oven for 10 minutes.


1 lb spaghetti, cooked
3-4 cup diced cooked chicken
2 can mushroom soup (or large batch of homemade soup)
2 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 diced onion
3/4 cup cheese
Mix all together. Place in 9x13 baking dish. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Chicken Rice Soup

Comfort food at it's best! And a recipe from one of my favorite Titus 2 ladies - Priscilla. Besides my mom and mother-in-law, Priscilla is the lady I most want to be like "when I grow up"!

3 quarts chicken broth
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 pint corn
1 cup brown rice
seasoning as desired (I use salt, parsley and thyme)

Place in large kettle. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
(May also be made in crock pot.)

Southwestern Chicken Soup

1 quart broth
3 cup cooked chopped chicken
2 cup corn
1 quart tomato juice
1 pint diced tomatoes
1 chopped onion
2 chopped garlic cloves (optional)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 cup brown rice

Combine in slow cooker. Cook on low for 4 hours. (Or simmer on stove for 1 hour)

Chicken and Dumplings

I love quick one-pot meals!

4 cup broth
2 cup diced cooked chicken
1 can cream celery soup (or homemade soup)
vegetables as desired (peas, corn, carrots, etc)
Mix together in large pot or dutch oven. Bring to boil
3 1/2 cup baking mix (like Bisquik)
2/3 cup water
herbs (like parsley) if desired

Mix baking mix, water, and herbs. Drop dough by spoonfulls into slowly boiling pot. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.
You could also use your favorite biscuit recipe for the dumplings.

Turkey Quesadillas

Fast, easy, and so good!

4 (10 inch) tortillas
1 cup refried beans (optional)
1 cup shredded cheese - cheddar or Monterrey Jack
1/3 cup salsa
1 cup diced cooked turkey
olives, peppers or any other desired ingredients

Place two tortillas on baking sheet. Spread with refried beans. Mix cheese, salsa, turkey and any other ingredients together. Spread on tortillas. Top with second tortilla. Press firmly. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Cut in 6 to 8 wedges. Serve with salsa, sour cream or guacamole.

Chicken, Broccoli, Rice Casserole

1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
1/3 cup butter
Saute vegetables in butter.
1 1/2 heads broccoli, chopped
1 cup rice
1 cup cheese
1 can cream soup
2 cups water
2-3 cups cooked chopped chicken
Mix all together. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

Freeze Ahead Turkey Pot Pies

This is adapted from my mother-in-laws recipe, and probably the reason my husband loves turkey pie so much! She would make the small individual size pies. She didn't make a bottom crust for the pie, only spreading pastry over the top of the pies. Great memories were made by the boys of surviving on pie when mom and dad were away!

Pastry for 6 or more pies
12 cups cooked diced turkey
6 cup diced potatoes
4 cup corn
3 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup butter
1 medium onion
1 cup diced celery (optional)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp pepper
5 tsp salt
3 cup milk
5 cup broth

Cook potatoes and carrots until tender. Saute onion and celery in butter. Stir in flour, pepper, and salt. Gradually add milk and broth. Stir until thickened. Stir in potatoes, carrots, corn and turkey. Pour into prepared pie crusts. Top with crust. Cut steam vents. Crimp edges. Wrap securely and freeze. Makes 6-7 pies. Bake 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hour (or less)

For a smaller recipe for making turkey pie, go here!

More turkey ideas:
Curry in a Hurry - mentioned in my cream soup recipe
Turkey Salad - Mix chopped turkey with mayonnaise and pickle relish
Turkey and Filling - posted with the filling recipe

Turkey Melts - Spread bread (hopefully something crusty and homemade) with mayo or mustard, layer slices of turkey and some Provolone cheese, toast under broiler

And one more recipe from a reader!
Turkey Croquettes - Joanna

2 T. butter
2 1/2 T. flour
1 cup milk
2 cups minced cooked turkey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 T. minced parsley or celery
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup dried bread crumbs

Make a white sauce of the butter, flour and milk. Add the finely chopped turkey and seasonings.
Cool thoroughly and then shape into croquettes (approx. 1/4-1/3 cup each).
Dip in crumbs, then beaten eggs and again into crumbs. (This part is messy, but you could freeze before doing this step to eliminate that, and then let thaw before baking.)
Fry in oil for 3-5 minutes.  I prefer baking them at 400* for 25-30 min. Serves 6. 
Well, hope you understand a little why I love leftover turkey!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you enjoy Thanksgiving with your family!

Do you have any favorite family traditions? On our first Thanksgiving, Ed and I took a blank notebook and started a "Thanksgiving Journal". The goal was to jot down things we were thankful for, not only at Thanksgiving but any time of year. Well, I just pulled it out, and by the number of pages that are filled, we aren't a very thankful people! At this rate, this one book should last us through 50 years of marriage! But it has been written in at least once a year and hopefully as our children grow older, they can add to it as well.

Here is one excerpt from our journal, with a little editing, written about a year and a half ago, when our children were newborn, 1 1/2 and just turned 3.

"I am a wealthy woman.

No. Not the kind of wealth found in Hollywood or Fortune 500. In fact, to be honest, my life rarely feels like a millionaires! I'd more aptly describe my life as a circus juggler - who is dropping his balls! Keeping up with three children, three and under, can make me feel as if I'll lose my sanity before forty! Cleaning house seems like a completely hopeless task and errand running is highly complicated! When nap time arrives, I'm just relieved to stop answering question, breaking up fights, and balancing children's needs - to wash the dishes without slopping water and use the bathroom in peace!

But in all of the wildness - I'll still say "I'm a wealthy woman!" I wouldn't trade places with anyone in the world! I get to cuddle up with a precious newborn...Snuggle with the toddlers while reading a book...Stay up late talking with my husband and best friend (who I still haven't run out of conversation even after five years!)...Take care of the wonderful home God has given us. My life is rich in those things that really matter - like Love, Joy, and Peace - the things only God can give."

What I found interesting, as I flip through the pages of our journal, is that we seemed to have written more often on the difficult days then the sunny happy ones! Why is it that hard times drive us to remember what we have been given from God?

This past week, I was at the lady's detention center Bible study. Going in, I was thinking of those dear ladies, most of them mothers, who were going to be separated from their families over the holidays. Yes, I know that it is through mistakes they have made or sins they've committed, but I still couldn't help but be discouraged for them. If I was in their shoes, could I find something for which to be thankful?

Our discussion that night centered on forgiveness and as we read verses about God's love and provision of salvation, I was encouraged. These are women who, like us, are claiming God's gift of His Son. Though they have little else that we may call important in life, they truly have the only thing necessary to be thankful!

I have been given so much, a loving husband, good health, dear children, abundant food, and comfortable home. But I am challenged to focus less on the material blessings this Thanksgiving, which can be here today and gone tomorrow, and instead, dwell on the riches of God through Christ Jesus, which never changes.

Turkey Just Got Better!

Last week, I roasted a turkey. I used Crystal's deviled turkey recipe (recipe below) as a guide to make a rub. I didn't set it in the fridge overnight but just roasted it as usual, using the easy slow cook method I mentioned last week.
Here is the turkey, all ready to go in the oven.

The turkey smelled glorious and was HUGE! Almost 25 pounds, which needed 26 hours in the oven! Which means I had to smell that turkey for 26 hours! No wonder when I finally pulled it out of the oven, I tore off strips of turkey, which went straight into my mouth like a ravening beast!
This picture shows the turkey mid way through the roasting time. I took it out to remove some broth. While I was at it, I poured some broth over the turkey, then placed the lid on the pan for the remaining of the oven time. Sorry, I didn't get a picture of the final outcome before we began devouring it!

I don't want to brag but it was the best turkey I've eaten in my life!!! Wonderfully moist and incredibly seasoned! And the gravy made with the broth was good enough to skip the mashed potatoes!

Wow! How I love good food!

Deviled Turkey -
Thanks, Crystal

1/2 Teaspoon Salt per pound of turkey (I use much less!)
2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Sage
2 teaspoons Curry Powder
2 teaspoons Garlic Power
2 teaspoons Dried Parsley
2 teaspoons Celery seed
1 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Dry Mustard
1/4 teaspoon Allspice
3 or 4 Bay Leaves, crumbled

Mix all ingredients together. Rub bird well inside and out with vegetable (or Olive) oil. Make pockets with a sharp knife in the breast. Rub dry mixture all over bird. Any mixture left over, rub in cavity. Let set over night in fridge. Roast as usual.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

I just made this recipe for the first time and loved how they turned out! I thought it would be a good one to share for Thanksgiving week. The rolls are sweet and light. We prefer some whole wheat flour added. This is another winner recipe found at Tammy's Recipes!

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 cup warm milk
¼ cup butter, softened or melted
2 cup mashed cooked pumpkin
2 teaspoons salt
10-12 cup all-purpose flour
7 teaspoons dry yeast

In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, water, milk, butter, pumpkin, and salt. Mix well. Add 7-8 cups of the flour, and yeast. Mix, and then continue adding flour and kneading until dough is elastic and not sticky.

Place dough in greased bowl. Roll dough to grease top of dough, cover with a towel, and set in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour). Punch dough down and divide into thirds.

Shape dough into rolls. I usually roll out the dough and cut with a biscuit cutter. But you can form the rolls by whatever method you choose.

Place on greased baking sheets.
Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until tops are golden. Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven.
Yield: About 4 dozen rolls - depending on how large of rolls you make. You can easily make half a batch if you'd prefer a smaller amount of dough to work with.

Chicken Pie

This is one of those meals that I know will light up my husband's eyes when he gets home! Chicken pie certainly falls under the comfort food category at our house! I am not a pro at pie crusts and you may use your favorite pastry recipe but I included the one I typically use for chicken pie. This is one of the chicken recipes that I use leftover turkey.

2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup milk

Mix flour, salt and baking powder.
Cut in softened butter. Mix in milk. Roll out dough.
Place in two ten inch pie pans. Save some dough for top crusts.

2 cup cooked cubed potatoes
4 cup cooked diced chicken (or turkey)
2 cup corn
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix. Place filling in pie crusts.

I added some carrots as well, I like the added color.

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup broth
1/2 tsp salt
1 heaping tablespoon flour

Whisk all together. Pour over filling. Place top crust. Crimp the edges.
Since I had more filling and used my deep dish pie pans, I didn't have enough pastry dough for a top crust. Should I mix up more? No, time to get creative. Grab some cookie cutters and we'll have us some hearts...
and stars!
Now one pie for supper and one for the freezer!
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Toasty golden brown and smells delicious!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Baking Day!

We woke up with cool temperatures! Eighteen degrees! I was so glad that I had planned to bake today! Nothing like a cold day to make be glad that I'm a homemaker and get to stay in the warmth and make the house smell yummy!

It is such a time saver to make several recipes, while I'm "in the mess"! Today I made three white bread recipes. I don't usually make white bread, as we greatly prefer whole grain bread. But I wanted to do some experimenting and get some pictures before I posted some new recipes on the Home Joys newsletter and the blog.

Here is the results! Wish I could send the taste and smell to you as well! You just need to come visit! Now I have some bread for the freezer, as well as some to give for gifts this week!

Miracle Bread. As good as it looks! We had to cut into these to have with our soup at lunch!

Country White Bread. Look for this recipe soon!

Pumpkin rolls. These taste wonderful but are a little harder dough to work with. I want to adjust the recipe a little more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sweet Potato Crunch

Even if you don't like sweet potatoes, you need to try this recipe! One recipe makes a large amount. If you are not feeding a crowd, the recipe can be easily halved. Or just freeze half for later.

6 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 stick butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla
Mix all together. Spread in 9x13 pan.
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cup nuts (or less)
1/2 cup and 3 T butter, softened
1/2 cup and 3 T flour
Mix topping ingredients. Sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Filling (Or Stuffing or Dressing)

1 lb bread cubes (I save old dried bread crusts, rolls, cornbread, etc in the freezer for this)
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cup celery ( I don't always have this.)
1 small onion
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1/8 tsp sage
1 T parsley
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

Saute chopped celery and onion in butter. Mix with bread and seasonings. Beat egg with milk and mix into bread. Put in greased 9x13 pan. Cover. Bake at 325 for one hour.
This can easily be frozen ahead.
For turkey and filling casserole, add 3 cups cooked chopped turkey and mix well before baking.
Our favorite way to make filling is fry it in a skillet on the stove instead of baking. It only takes about 15 minutes and it is crunchy and "oh, so good!"

Easy Roast Turkey

Years ago, my mom found this in one of Emilee Barnes' books. It is so easy to have a moist turkey with this slow cook method! My husband hated white meat until I used this method. If you wish your turkey skin to brown, do not cover the turkey. I usually cover it because I think I get more broth when covered. In fact, I usually get so much broth that I need to get some broth out with my baster mid-way through the roasting time so that it doesn't spill out over into the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the gibblets. (They will be inside the cavity somewhere in a white bag.)
Wash turkey well, dry turkey with paper towels. Salt the cavity.
Rub outside of turkey with olive oil.
Stick meat thermometer into the turkey. (I skip this.)
Place breast down on a rack in your large roaster. (I don't have a rack, and it works fine.)
Roast one hour at 350 degrees to destroy surface bacteria.
Adjust heat to 180 to 200 degrees for a turkey of any size. Roast one hour per pound.
Once the turkey is done, it will not overcook. You can leave it in the oven for an additional 3 to 6 hours and it will not overcook.

Just a tip: if you have a newer oven, if may have a safety mechanism that will turn off the oven automatically after twelve hours. Since for me, this is usually in the middle of the night, before I go to bed, I turn off my oven, then quickly turn it on again. Then I don't have any surprises in the morning!

I usually get a very large turkey (over 20 pounds) because I like to have lots of leftovers. I was told that turkeys over 20 pound have a greater to meat to bone ratio. I'll chop up the cooked meat, put it in pints and use it for any recipe calling for cooked chopped chicken. A great time saver! But this size turkey can be a real pain to thaw! I can barely fit it into my fridge! I found a simpler way, that I think is rather safe. I place the turkey in a large ice chest, and fill with cold water. The turkey will thaw faster if the water is changed often. I sit in on the counter next to my large laundry sink. It is rather easy to pull the plug on the ice chest, drain out the water, and then refill several times until it is completely thawed.

Note: A reader just told me that she uses an large electric roaster for her turkey. No cluttering up your oven for those long hours!

Reader's Share - Pizza Variations

Two Pizza Topping ideas from Crystal -

Chili pizza. I made my chili a little thicker than usual and spread it on the crust and added cheddar cheese. It was a hit.

Chicken Bruschetta Pizza. I spread the crust with pesto then add chopped chicken, diced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Pesto Recipe:
3 cups fresh Basil
1/2 cup Italian Dressing
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese
Process all in blender. Can be frozen or refrigerated.

Deep Dish Sausage Pizza - Louise
1 dry yeast
2/3 C.warm water
1 3/4 - 2 cup flour
1/4 C.veg. oil
1 tsp.of oregano, basil, marjoram
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp onion salt
4 cups mozzarella cheese
l large onion (chop)
2 med green peppers (chop)
1/2 tsp. oregano, basil, marjoram
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 can (28) oz. diced tomatoes
2 oz. pepperoni
1 lb. sausage cooked, drained
Dissolve yeast in water. Add 1 cup flour, oil, seasonings. Beat till smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead until smooth, elastic, cover, let rise until doubled. (1 hr) Punch dough down-roll out into a 15" circle. Transfer to a well greased 12" heavy skillet (oven proof - I use a cast iron skillet) Let dough over the edge. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. In another skillet- saute onion, green pepper and seasoning in oil until tender. Drain. Layer half of mixture over crust. Layer 1/2 of Parmesan cheese, sausage and tomatoes. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozarella cheese. Repeat layers. Fold crust over to form an edge. Bake for 20 min. at 400 degrees. Sprinkle with pepperoni and remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake 10 -15 min. Let stand 10 min before serving.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Peanut Butter Granola

I have adjusted this recipe for the last several years and we think it is about perfect. It makes a large batch but doesn't last long at our house. Our three year old is usually up at 7:00 asking for "oatmeal". We all like to eat it with my homemade yogurt. The peanut butter flavor is very mild but we think it adds just the right touch.

Peanut Butter Granola

1 cup oil (I use coconut oil.)
1 cup honey
1 cup peanut butter
12 cups rolled (old fashioned) oatmeal
2 cups wheat germ
2 cups coconut
2 cups sunflower seed

Heat oil, honey, and peanut butter together until smooth. Mix dry ingredients together. Pour oil mixture over dry ingredients and mix well. Spread in two jelly-roll pans. Toast in 275 degree oven for one hour. Stir every 15 minutes.

Tips: I place one pan on the upper oven rack and one on the lower rack and switch them each time I stir.

Variations: After cooling, raisins or other dry fruit may be added, but we usually don't. You may also add nuts to the recipe. Just substitute one of the ingredients such as wheat germ or sunflower seeds, or some of the oatmeal.

I buy most of the ingredients at our local bulk food store. Raw wheat germ and raw sunflower seeds are much cheaper then toasted. I figure I'm going to toast them in the recipe anyway!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Review - The Worn Out Woman

The Worn Out Woman: When Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty
by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray

"When your life is full and your spirit is empty" - probably can describe all of us at some point!

My husband hated seeing me read this book! "Do you really feel worn out?" he would ask. 

Well, depending on the day, or time of day- sometimes I do! But I can't say that I would describe "worn out" as my normal state of being.

Still, worn out or not, this book was very encouraging.

In short, easy to read chapters, the authors hit subjects from worry to clutter, dealing with difficult people to starting your day out right. In each area, they point to Christ as the only source of peace and give many practical tips to encourage positive change in your life. 

I think any woman (worn out or not) could find something useful in these pages.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fall Garden Update

After searching numerous greenhouses for broccoli plants and almost giving up. (Next year I know to get my broccoli plants in August!) I'm extra grateful for the broccoli that is growing wonderfully now! We've been eating broccoli several times a week for a couple weeks. We are hardly keeping up with the growth so next week I plan to put some broccoli in the freezer.

I'm again very pleased with the results of using the floating row cover. Since our first frost, and the disappearance of the little white cabbage worm butterflies, I've kept the broccoli uncovered. I've only found two worms in the many heads we've eaten. It is a whole lot easier to harvest the broccoli when it isn't covered with the row cover. But the protection is invaluable! I think this is the greatest advantage of planting broccoli in the fall. In the fall, it is getting cooler by harvest time. In the spring, when you begin picking the broccoli, the weather is turning warmer and infestation is a lot harder to control.

I tried growing broccoli for several years with absolutely no success! I know the discouragement of total crop failure! So if any aspect of gardening is discourages you, keep trying, learn all you can and maybe a huge crop is awaiting you!

Friday, November 7, 2008


Just had to share our meal tonight!

I wanted to try making my own calzones. The response from tonight's experiment was a huge success according to the family! The children picked them up and ate them with their hands! They would also be great frozen and reheated for lunches. You could call them "hot pockets," if you wish.

First, make a batch of pizza dough and divide it into six balls. Then roll out each ball very thinly (1/8 inch). Spread on sauce and desired toppings. To keep from overfilling, I only placed the toppings on half of my dough circle.
My toppings tonight were alfredo sauce, chopped cooked chicken, and brocolli.
Oops! Almost forgot the cheese. And a little Italian seasoning. You could put up a toppings bar and have each person fill their own calzone. Just mark the tops somehow so you knows whose is whose after they bake!
Now fold the dough into a half circle, covering the toppings.

With a fork, squeeze the dough together. For an extra precaution, I folded the edge up again and again pressed it with a fork.
Continue with each circle. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Homemade Christmas gifts

Do you have any ideas for homemade Christmas presents, especially for teachers and grandparents?

What first came to my mind is jar mixes. You can find many recipes for jar mixes for soups, cookies, breads, etc at the library and on the net. With the help of a funnel, children can help, too. Great for those who "have everything".

If you are into sewing, check out Sew mama sew I'm constantly amazed at the neat sewing ideas and tutorials that I find on their site. Last year, every day in November they had simple ideas for handmade gifts, and I was thrilled to see they are doing it again this November! I hope it is as good as last year! My only problem is that my project idea list is already longer then I will ever complete! To check out last year's archives see Handmade Holidays
and keep checking back to see what they add this year. Each day seems to be dedicated to a particular person, such as grandparents, cooks, teens, etc.

One of my Christmas memories is of my mom burning some midnight oil sewing some gifts after the little ones were asleep. Even though she usually did her Christmas shopping weeks earlier, it just seemed that she always wanted to make something herself. I've obviously caught her gene in that area. We try to keep Christmas very simple for our children but I'm always trying to find something that I could make that they would enjoy! There is just something so much more personal about handcrafting a gift, even if it takes you longer, and the supplies may cost you more then just buying the item!

I'd love to hear your ideas for handmade gifts, and not just for Christmas, but anytime!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Make It Yourself - Pasta

I know what you are thinking, why in the world would you make your own pasta. Noodles are so cheap! Well, you are right! But I still find reasons to make homemade pasta!

I learned to make pasta years ago (that makes me sound so old!) from Anna, an elderly neighbor. We had lots of extra eggs and she volunteered to show us how to make noodles. She brought her little hand crank pasta maker with her and we enjoyed our first taste of homemade pasta. Wow!!! Store-bought noodles just can't substitute! I rarely make noodles now. Not that they are difficult to make but I don't have an unlimited supply of eggs. Hopefully, by next year we will have our own chickens, and then maybe fresh pasta will become a regular part of our diet. I've heard that Italians "make poetry with pasta", different regions specializing in different types of pasta. An Italian homemaker will make fresh pasta daily. I doubt I'll ever even make it weekly but I know that my husband loves in homemade pasta, so for now it is something special I can do for him.
12 egg yolks
2 cups flour
2 T water

I've never seen a recipe using only the egg yolks. Most use the whole egg, which would certainly stretch your eggs further. You could use half, or less eggs if using the whole egg. But using egg yolks is the way Anna taught me. We always enjoyed using the egg whites to make angel food cake. So at our house, homemade noodles for supper usually means there is an angel food cake waiting for dessert!
Most commercial American pasta has no eggs and is made with Duram flour and water.
Various types of flour may be used. I've successfully used all whole wheat flour but on this day, I was just using white flour. Two cups is only guide. Depending on the size of egg, the type of flour, or the humidity of your house, you will need to use more. You may add salt but it might make the dough dryer. I prefer to add salt when cooking. I have added herbs to the dough just for appearance!

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl with the water.
Pour the beaten egg over the flour. Stir well.
The dough will be very stiff. You will eventually need to work it with your hands.
And yes, it is rather messy!
Add additional handfuls of flour, if needed. Keep working the dough until you have a nice smooth ball of dough. That looks better!
My mom found a pasta maker at a yard sale for me. This enables me to roll it out very thin. But when I wanted to share this recipe, I figured that few of you have a pasta maker sitting in your attic, so I made pasta using only a rolling pin and knife. It worked surprisingly well. I sure wouldn't go out and buy a pasta maker unless you are a serious pasta maker. My husband couldn't tell the difference between the hand rolled and cut pasta, and the machine rolled and cut pasta.

Hand Rolling:
Cut a thin slice of dough off the side of the ball of dough.
Flatten the dough with your hand and sprinkle with flour.
Roll the dough as thinly as possible.
Dust with flour as needed.
Lay the strip of dough on a fabric tablecloth to dry.
Or hang the strips on a wooden accordion clothes dryer.
You want the strips to dry but not become brittle. They should have a slightly rubbery texture.
Keep checking the strips. Depending on the humidity of your home, it will take 30 min to 1 hour.

Lay your strip on the table and cut into desired width.
A pizza cutter may work for you.
I found the fastest way was to fold the strip several times, and cut on a cutting board with a sharp knife. If the noodles are not cutting cleanly and still sticky, dry a little longer.
Second drying:
After cutting, spread the noodles on cookie sheets to dry throughly. You don't want to pile them too deep, keep the noodles spaces thinly.
You want to the noodles to dry completely to keep from spoilage. A warm sunny spot is best for drying. A wood stove is excellent. Properly dried pasta should keep a long time, but I usually put them in the freezer just as a precaution. They don't stay there long!

Of course, you can skip this step, throw the fresh pasta in boiling water and eat immediately! I prefer to keep the sauce very simple so that we can fully enjoy the flavor of homemade pasta.

And just in case you have access to a pasta machine - here is directions.

Machine rolling:
Cut a thin slice of dough off the side of the ball of dough.
Flatten the dough with your hand and sprinkle with flour.
Set your machine dial to the widest thickness.
Crank the dough through the machine.
Set your machine dial to the next smallest thickness and again roll.
Continue through each thickness (most machines have 6 or 7) getting an increasingly thinner and longer strip.
You may wish for a thicker pasta and not roll as thin as the machine could make it. Dust the strip with flour as needed.

Dry as with hand rolling.
Machine cutting:
Most machines have two blades so you can choose between two sizes of noodles.
Change the handle to your choice of blades, crank the pasta strip through the machine.
This is on the thick blade.
And this is with the thin blade.
Dry on a pan as with hand cutting.
And here is my diligent helper! Children love to help!
Sometime, I'd like to try making homemade cannelloni, ravioli, or tortellini. I have recipes but just haven't been brave enough to try it. Anyone know an Italian granny that would take on an apprentice?


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