Monday, April 30, 2012

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup

The picture is not the most exciting, but how thrilling can cream of chicken soup be.  I try to cook healthier (lower sodium, lower fat).   The canned "cream of ..." soups in that variety are more expensive.  I make my own chicken stock or save chicken broth.  I freeze it in 1 1/2 to 2 cup containers.    Then I have low sodium chicken broth for use in recipes.  It can also be used to make cream of chicken soup.  I have not had the best luck with it in slow cooker recipes, but it works wonderfully in others.

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup

1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 t sage
1/4 t thyme
1/4 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t black pepper (or to your taste)
1/4 t salt (also to taste)
1/4 t parsley
a bit less than 1/8 t paprika
1 1/2 cups milk (I use milk made from powdered milk)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine chicken broth, seasonings, and 1/2 cup milk.  Bring to a boil.  Stir together remaining milk and flour until mostly smooth.  Pour into boiling broth mixture.  Whisk well as you are pouring.  Keep whisking until the mixture is smooth and thickened.  This makes about two cans of cream of chicken soup.  I have frozen this if I only needed one "can" of soup. 

The seasonings can be adjusted to your family's taste.  I have also added in a good portion of chopped fresh (or frozen) mushrooms to make cream of mushroom soup.  You might want to omit the sage and thyme if going that route.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pantry Cleanout and Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

Yesterday I got the idea to reorganize my pantry so I would have shelf space to store items for my Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes.  While I was reorganizing I ended up cleaning out.  I had to throw out several items.  Actually it was about half a garbage bag full of stuff.  I noticed everything I was tossing out was processed, convenience items.  That made me realize that I practically never throw out basic ingredients.  All of the really reiterated the idea that I need to buy less processed stuff.  Sure it is easier to just toss it in the cart at the grocery store, but it is just as easy to toss in flour, butter, sugar, oatmeal, etc.  I honestly find that cooking does not take up an enormous amount of time.  I can usually make enough to freeze the extras for use later. 

I am working on getting the processed junk out of my pantry for good.  Not only are basic foods healthier they also produce less waste.  I packaged my oatmeal cookies in reusable containers.  I can recycle the flour bags.  The eggs came from my chickens and required no packaging.  The shells went into the compost pile.  My only trash was the butter wrappers.

Now for the good part ~ the oatmeal cookie recipe.  I got it from an issue of Martha Stewart Living.  You can find the Anytime Oatmeal Cookie recipe here on the website.  I never add the raisins since my husband does not like raisins.  I also make my cookies a bit larger.  I usually end up with 2 - 2 1/2 dozen as opposed to the four dozen the recipe should make.  The recipe is very easy, and of course, it uses basic ingredients. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Homebaked Goodies

I am trying to keep some homebaked goodies on hand rather than eating processed foods.  I admit it is more work, but freshly made foods are so yummy.  First I baked  a batch of oatmeal cookies.  Part of them went into containers for my husband's lunch box.  I put some into a container for him to eat.  The trash collectors happened to be at our house as I was dividing up the cookies.  I put some cookies in a bag and rushed it out to them.

Next was a treat for me - Cranberry Zucchini Muffins.  I had been craving these and had no shredded zucchini in the freezer.  A week ago zucchini from Florida was on sale at the grocery store.  I picked up a pack and finally got around to making the muffins.  I stocked up on cranberries around Thanksgiving in anticipation of zucchini season.  I made a double batch of muffins and put two portions of zucchini in the freezer. 

See all those gorgeous cranberries.  I love cranberries and can eat them raw.  I actually doubled the amount of cranberries in the recipe.  Luckily for me, my husband hates cranberry zucchini muffins.  I kept a few out and put the rest in the freezer.  A quick heating in the microwave makes them take almost as good as freshly baked.

While I was baking, I decided to experiment just a little.  I put dollops of cookie dough and cupcake paper lined muffin cups of muffin mix in the freezer.  Both are unbaked.  In a couple of weeks I will bake these and see how they turn out. 

While I was baking I was surprised with a sweet gift of freshly picked blueberries.  I kept several portions out for fresh eating.  The rest went into the freezer.  I see blueberry muffins in my baking future!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Yard Sale Finds

This past Saturday a nearby town had a bunch of indoor yard sales.  I only bought a few things and spent less than $10 including the $1 admission fee.  I saw quite a few things that might have been nice.  I talked myself out of them as they were not very practical and would have taken too much space to store. 

I did purchase a tiered serving tray.  I often seem to host baby or bridal showers.  Therefore I am always on the lookout for serving pieces.  I found this tray for $2.  It was in very good shape with no scratches or discoloration.

My second buy was a set of Tupperware parfait containers.  I walked by these several times before actually buying them.  I never buy prepackaged pudding, gelatin, or even yogurt.  These will be perfect for holding my homemade snacks.  It was a set of six with one missing top.  I can put plastic wrap over that one and eat it first.  The set cost me $4.

Monday, April 23, 2012

How Homemade Gatorade Saved the Day

Last Monday night at 11:30 pm I had finished cleaning the kitchen.  I know that is late, but I am a night owl.  Anyway, I wanted to try a recipe for homemade Gatorade from Mom on a Mission.  I mixed up a batch and opened the freezer portion of the refrigerator to get some ice.  I found half ice cubes floating in water.  I realized in a panic that the freezer was not as cold as it should be.  I opened the fridge side and found the same thing.  Then I realized that it was not running at all.  Major panic set in at that point. 

I grabbed a laundry basket and started tossing things from the freezer into it.  All of that was stuffed in the large chest freezer in the laundry room.  Next was the refrigerated stuff.  I knew no one that was awake that late or had room even if they were.  Then I remembered the refrigerator at my church's youth center.  It is always empty, and the youth center is very close to my house. 

Thankfully I only lost a few items, and even better the refrigerator was repaired with a $30 part.  As a bonus, it is extremely cleaned and organized now. 

The homemade Gatorade was delicious.  I decreased with amount of sugar a bit on the second batch.  I drive my husband crazy with the fact that I barely use any sugar in tea.  Now he can have sweeter tea, and I will drink my homemade concoction.  If not for the homemade Gatorade, the refrigerator would have set unworking all night, and I would have had a nasty surprise in the morning.  That is how homemade Gatorade saved the day!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Homemade Bread

I have been busy this week restocking the freezer with homemade bread.  On Monday I baked three items using the bread machines and Kitchen Aid to mix the doughs.  We love homemade bread, and I find it quite easy to make since I have the time at home.  I cannot imagine doing all of this and working outside the home.  Since I am a housewife, baker falls under my job description.

First I made a dozen hamburger buns or sandwich rolls as we use them for other types of sandwiches.  These have some whole wheat flour in addition to the bread flour.

Then I mixed up the dough for sandwich bread using the Kitchen Aid.  The bread loaves are made with only bread flour as my husband refuses any whole wheat near his PB&J. 

Finally I made hot dog buns or rather New England hot dog buns.  They are different than what you would buy in the stores here in the south.  They are delicious.  I made them for a family cookout Easter weekend. 

I used this pan which I purchased from Amazon using a gift card earned from doing surveys.  I was pleased with the purchase.  The pan is heavy duty and the bread just falls out after baking.  It can also be used with a cake mix to make a dessert.  I will be trying that soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Baby Birds

We have a little ledge in the corner of our front porch.  We noticed a bird building a nest and then sitting in it which of course meant eggs.

I avoided going out the front door as much as possible since it frightened her away.  She faithfully sat on those eggs.  I am not sure who was more excited when they hatched - her or me.

Now she stays busy gathering food for her little ones.  We can always tell when she has returned with a tasty morsel as the babies can be heard chirping away.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Homemade Pork and Beans

Pork and beans are an occasional side dish as my house.  I used to be able to keep a few cans on the shelves thanks to sales, but the sales seem to be less frequent.  As a result I started searching for a recipe to make them myself.  I found a recipe for Baked Beans with Tomatoes on the Hillbilly Housewife website.

I opted to cook them in the crockpot rather than the oven to keep from heating up the house.  The coloring is different from purchased canned beans.  The flavor was really close though.  I would also like to point out that they is much more pork in my homemade pork and beans.  I ended up with the equivalent of six cans of beans.  I am sure I saved money over the current cost of purchasing the pork and beans. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Avery's Bucket List

I wanted to share another blog with you - Avery's Bucket List.  Avery is a five month old who has SMA, an incurable disease caused by a genetic defect.  Babies with SMA type 1, which Avery has, have a life expectancy of less than two years.  The goal of the blog is to spread the word about SMA.  She is working on her bucket list, and we get to follow her journey.  I hope you will pop over for a visit.  Your heart will be touched by this amazing family.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Garden Update

First a reminder of what the pumpkins looked like about two weeks ago

Here they are now.  I think you will agree they have grown a bit.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I adore succulents.  Not only are they cool looking.  They are also tough plants.  They do not mind hot, dry, humid summer weather.  I saw a succulent dish garden  on Pinterest.  I knew I wanted one.  I had the succulents courtesy of a friend.  I found a shallow dish in the form of a plastic pot bottom turned bird feeder that the birds never liked.  It had been sitting in a corner of the yard.  I was happy to find a good use for it.  Since it already had holes drilled in the bottom, I only needed to add the dirt, plants, and rocks. 

Mine is not as full as the example.  I think that is a good excuse to go shopping for a few more succulents.  Don't you agree?

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I am sure that is the thought that will go through my friends' minds when they hear I have cut out the fabric for my apron.  I have had the fabric since October of last year.  I have been petrified that I am going to make a big mess of it.  That was never going to get me any closer to having a finished apron.  Monday afternoon I finally sat down and decided on the measurements for my apron.  Since I had that part done, I cut the pieces.  I have not started sewing yet, but that is on my to-do list for this week or weekend. 

I also put together a stack of burp cloths to sew.  I wanted to have some on hand for baby shower gifts.  I have a mix of boy and girl patterns as well as a couple of neutral ones. 

In the pile of material I found these two onesies.  I also had a section of fabric with fusible web already on the back.  I cut out the letter of the first name of two babies to be in my family.  I was pleased with how they turned out.  I will add a matching burp cloth to each and have a pair of nice gifts with nothing additional out of pocket.  I might need to dig a bit more and see what other treasures are hiding in my craft room.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Don't Cry Over Spoiled Milk

Okay I know the saying is spilled milk, but spoiled milk is pretty bad too.  I had an entire half gallon of spoiled milk.  Considering the price of milk that is enough to make anyone a little teary eyed.  I have something else though . . . . . . . . . tomato plants!!

Milk is great for tomato plants.  They love calcium and need it for healthy tomatoes.  Have you ever had tomatoes that rotted on the bottom end while on the plant?  They were deficient in calcium.  Anytime I have spoiled milk, I give it to the tomato plants.  The extra calcium at this stage will help the plants when it is time for the tomatoes.  While I was a bit annoyed at the spoiled milk, I was happy it did not go to waste.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Basket

My husband surprised me with an Easter "basket" this past weekend.  It was a grown-up basket of gardening items.

Of course, the basket itself will be handy for harvesting fruits and vegetables from our garden.  It had a gardening knee pad, leather gloves, and spray nozzles. 

He thought this was cute, and he picked one in my favorite colors - blue and white.

I had been wanting a solar lantern and had the perfect place to put this.  It flickers like a real candle.  It is already hanging up at the deck.  It needs to gather some sunlight today and will be ready to go by tonight.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pineapple Plant

My husband helped me move two pineapple plants recently in our "new to us" pots.  Earlier this week we noticed something happening with one of the plants.

We looked a bit closer with anticipation.  This is our oldest pineapple plant and is a bit over two years old.

We suspect this is the beginning of our first homegrown pineapple!!

I will take updated pictures and share as things progress.  I just planted another pineapple top  yesterday and have two more rooting in the kitchen window.  We love fresh pineapples and I see the plant as a bonus.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Weekly Menu

I am struggling to get back into the habit of making a weekly menu.  I know it helps me make better use of the food we have on hand.  This time of year I tend to get busy outside and suddenly it is 7pm.  Having a meal already planned or started keeps me sane.  I am back to working my menu on a Wednesday through Tuesday plan.  It feels nice to start the week off with a plan. I need to purchase very few groceries for this week's meals so I will use my grocery money to stock up on a few sale items.  Here is what we are having this week.

Today: crab egg salad sandwiches - I hate plain egg salad but like it with a can of crab meat mixed it.  Our chickens are laying a bunch of eggs so we need to eat more eggs.

Thursday:  deli chicken, macaroni & cheese, peas, crescent rolls - The chicken is on sale and I have a coupon which makes it even better.  I am making a big pot of macaroni & cheese today.  I will keep some out for tomorrow and the rest will go in to the freezer. 

Friday: French dip sandwiches - I am trying out a new recipe for these.  I will make the French bread.

Saturday:  Family cookout - I am taking lemonade, chips, and a veggie tray.

Sunday:  Leftovers - I know we will have leftovers from Friday so we will finish that up on Sunday.

Monday:  Fish sandwiches  - Some Monday nights my husband is not hungry.  I have learned to plan a meal that can be pulled straight from the freezer or that is super easy to prepare (sandwiches, big salad). 

Tuesday:  pork & beans with hot dogs & au gratin potatoes - I am going to make my own pork & beans so hopefully it turns out well.  The au grain potatoes are also from scratch.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Freezer Cooking - Mushrooms

I suppose the title is a bit misleading since no actual cooking was involved.  I saw a pin regarding freezing mushrooms.  The original person had gotten a great deal on mushrooms.  I am happy if I can find mushrooms 50 cents off.  When I did I decided to stock up.  I like to use mushrooms in sauces and on pizzas. 

I sliced up three packs of mushrooms and spread them out as evenly as possible.  I wanted them to be separate rather than one big clump. 

This was after spending some time in the freezer.  By time I mean a few days because I forgot about them in second freezer.

Once frozen the mushroom slices went into a gallon freezer bag and back into the freezer.  I have yet to try them.  I could see no major changes that would affect the taste when cooked.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Crafting - Necklace and Bracelet Set

I had some leather type cord and crimp tubes for some time but could never decide what to do with it.  When I was ordering Easter supplies from Oriental Trading.  I found acorn charms.  They came in two sizes and were perfect for a necklace and bracelet set.  I had extras so I can use them for gifts.  I was pleased with how my set turned out.

It was much better than having the supplies just sitting around collecting dust.  I plan to work more on using up what I have.