Birthday Wishes

Looking back on past birthdays and special days like Valentine’s and Mother’s Day I realize now what I really want for those days. Not what you might expect though. I am not a girl who needs a lot of material things. I don’t need jewelry or roses or even an expensive night out.

It means more to me when I receive a homemade card or flowers picked from the roadside. Don’t laugh but I would LOVE a load of compost for my birthday. I know, I am such a nerd, right?

Although receiving a present is wonderful on my God given day, I really just want one specific thing. What is that?

A day free of worry.

What does that mean? What it means is that I want a day free of worrying what I should make for dinner, how I will pay the bills, whether my son will hurt himself dunking his basketball while doing trick shots outside, how my sales will be for the week, how many people will show up for church, whether I covered the butter because the cat likes to lick it when we are not looking.

I want a birthday that I don’t have to worry about running out of gas because I am too busy to remember to fill the tank, or a day without worrying about the van breaking down because it needs it’s transmission repaired. A day without worrying about how to pay the taxes or simply not having to worry if I am being a good mother, wife, daughter or friend.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all worry and deep down what we really want is just one or two days a year when we don’t have to.

So guys it’s not the big, expensive, sparkly gifts we want, though they are nice and often we women dream of those things. No, it’s a day free of thoughts that if you worried about them for us for the day, it would be the best present ever. -MM

Baking for Lent

For me Lent is a journey every year. Easter is less commercial and I get to enjoy and reflect and think in silence without the glitz and mad shopping days of Christmas.

Lent and Easter traditions are handed down from generation to generation. A few years ago I researched recipes for Lent and Easter and found that almost every country has it’s own Easter bread. Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, America, England, Scotland and Belgium to name a few.

In our family we love our St. Joseph’s Day Bread and Hot Cross Buns. St. Joseph’s Day is March 19th and is a traditional Sicilian bread to honor St. Joseph, Sicily’s patron Saint.

Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten in England on Good Friday. The cross atop the bun was said to symbolize the Crucifixion. Although there is no real confirmation on who actually created the Hot Cross Bun it is said they do have ancient origins dating back to the 12th century.

I have been baking St. Joseph’s bread since I was in my 20’s. It can be a difficult bread to master. Humidity, quality of yeast and enough proofing time are all factors in successfully making this bread.

If you have never tasted this bread you have missed out on its soft, anisey, rich flavor. Some have told me the smell of the bread has instantly brought them back in time. I have had people in their 90’s who haven’t had it in years eat it and feel instantly transported back to their grandmother’s table. It is a magical bread I say.

This recipe makes 9 or 10, 1-lb. round loaves (or you can braid them). You may also halve this recipe because not many people have the mixer capacity although this bread was mostly kneaded by hand.

St. Joseph’s Bread Recipe

5 cups warm water

3 Tbsp yeast

4 eggs

1-3/4 cup sugar

1-1/4 cup shortening

2 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp baking powder

2 Tbsp anise seeds

5 lbs. flour

Mix the water and yeast and let sit for a minute or two to dissolve the yeast. Don’t get that yucky yeast from the grocery store. I buy mine in bulk at Sam’s or BJ’s or Costco. I store the yeast in the fridge or you can freeze it.

Next add the eggs, sugar, shortening and salt. Then mix in half the flour. Then add the baking powder and the anise seeds. Mix until the flour in incorporated and then slowly add the rest of the flour. When you have a soft ball of dough and it clears the sides of the mixing bowl or your hands don’t get sticky if you are hand mixing, knead for about 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it gets sticky. Believe me if you hand mix this recipe you will get a full body workout. But it will be worth it!

Place the kneaded dough in a large greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Here is the crucial part. Let rise in a warm place for at LEAST 2 hours. This bread takes a LONG time to rise properly. Also the quality of the yeast makes a big difference too. I have thrown more batches of this bread out because the yeast from the grocery stores sucks. If you want to be a serious bread maker don’t waste your time with the store brand yeast.

After the dough has risen to double it’s original size roll it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Punch it down and divide the dough into 10 pieces. If you have a scale, weigh each one to get even sizes.

Either braid or shape the dough into round loaves and place on parchment lines baking trays or in greased disposable pie pans.

Let double again in a warm spot, covered with a clean dish towel. (At least another hour or so.)

After the dough has proofed again brush the tops of them with an egg wash and sprinkle either sesame or poppy seeds on them.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. They will be a golden brown and smell Heavenly!

 

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Hot Cross Buns Recipe

In my opinion Hot Cross Buns should be made with either raisins or currants but many commercial recipes add candied fruit which is way too close to a fruit cake for me.

1-1/2 cups warm milk

1-Tbsp yeast

1/3 cup  sugar

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup melted butter

2 eggs

4 cups flour

3/4 cup of raisins or currants

1/2 tsp mace

The original recipe I tried had 5 cups of flour and it really dried the buns out. I prefer the 4 cups myself but you can always add more if the dough it too sticky for you. I prefer the soft sticky dough because it makes a softer, less dense bun.

Mix the yeast and the warm milk together. Add the melted butter, sugar. salt, eggs, currants or raisins and the mace in. Add the flour in a cup at a time until a soft ball forms. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes adding enough flour here and there to keep it from sticking too much. Dough will be soft and probably a little sticky. That is ok. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

When doubled in size turn the dough out onto a floured surface and punch down. Divide the dough evenly depending on how big you want the buns to be. I made 12 out of this recipe but they were really big so I would make them smaller next time.
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Form each piece of dough into a ball and place in a greased 9 x 13 cake pan or a parchment lined cookie sheet. Make sure the buns slightly touch each other.

Let rise again in a warm place covered with a clean dish towel.image

After doubling in size again brush the tops with egg wash and bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until golden brown.Let cool.image

For the Cross: mix together a cup of confectioner’s sugar, 2 Tbsp milk and 1/2 tsp of vanilla. Drizzle the frosting in a cross like pattern over each bun. Don’t worry if it is not perfect. Mine never are! Eat with butter and enjoy! (Sorry I forgot to take a pic of them with the cross on them).

 

Does your family have Easter baking traditions? I would love to hear from you! -MM

Seed Starting

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I worked on my gardening goals today and started some seeds indoors. Every year I do this and I thoroughly enjoy it. I take my phone down in the basement with me and prop it on the windowsill and watch Desperate Housewives with my Hulu phone app. Just me, and Susan, Bree, Lynette and Gabby gettin’ dirty with seed starter.

Here are a few pics of what I accomplished today.

Every Fall I dig up my geraniums and pot them and then overwinter them in our basement. Today I cleaned them all up, getting rid of any dead leaves and flowers. Now I will make sure they get plenty of sunshine and fertilizer to get them ready to go outside in a month or so. It is supposed to be mid sixties this week so I might put them outside just for the day to give them a boost.
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Believe it or not this plant is a tomato that I rescued last fall while bringing in the geraniums. It had just sprouted and only had 2 leaves. It has grown steadily and surely over the winter and I just re-potted it this afternoon in it’s new home.
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Last year I posted about starting my seeds in a pop bottle construction container. I liked it so much I decided to expand my pop bottle garden this year.

I started paste tomatoes, regular tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, basil, dill, cilantro and celery. I’ll start cabbages and some other plants in a couple of weeks

Thank you to my wonderful mom-in-law for providing me with the bottles!

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I can’t wait to update you on their progress. I am sure by next week they will have sprouted.

Unfortunately though by the end of the Desperate Housewives episode I was watching, Mike Delfino, Susan’s husband was shot. Damn, he was cute too. Oh well, keep calm and dig in the dirt I always say! -MM

 

My Gardening and Preserving Goals for 2016

In past years when it comes to my gardening and preserving goals I tend to just wing it. Whatever canning recipe sounds good I’ll try. Whatever new plant or seed looks colorful and fun I’ll grow it. Unfortunately this leaves me by the end of the growing season with canned goods I will never use and produce that’s not very practical for our needs.pretty cabbages

This year I want to have a plan in place to eliminate the guess work. In a journal I have written a carefully researched list of herbs that I want grow for their medicinal and culinary purposes. I have also thoughtfully picked out the veggies/fruits I will need for the preserving recipes I want to try and I have listed the goods I want to get preserved

This is a VERY high achieving list. I am realistic in saying I probably will not do all of this this year but it is a goal of mine and now I will have a place to look for inspiration when I need motivation.

Okey Doke! Here we go!

I spent a while researching these herbs, plants and flowers and what they are used for. Many make good companion plants to certain veggies in the garden so I will most likely add those plants to the garden beds to enrich the soil and to aid its companion buddy.

  1. Yarrow (can be invasive so it will have it’s own bed)
  2. Anise Hyssop
  3. Garlic
  4. Chives (Companion for Carrots) (I grow now)
  5. Aloe Vera
  6. Lemon Verbena
  7. Dill
  8. Chervil
  9. Horseradish Companion for Potatoes)
  10. Artemisia
  11. Tarragon (Companion for Eggplant and Peppers)
  12. Borage
  13. Calendula
  14. Caraway (Companion for Peas)
  15. Bachelor Button
  16. Chamomile  (Companion for Cabbages and Onions)
  17. Cilantro
  18. Lemongrass
  19. Dianthus Clove Pink
  20. Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea)
  21. Fennel
  22. Sweet Woodruff
  23. Lavender (I grow now)
  24. Lemon Balm (I grow now)
  25. Mint (I grow now)
  26. Catnip (grows wild around here)
  27. Basil (annual that I start from seed)
  28. Oregano
  29. Parsley (I grow now)
  30. Anise
  31. Purslane (Grows wild here and considered a weed)
  32. Rosemary
  33. Sage (I grow now)
  34. Dandelion (Also a common weed)
  35. Thyme
  36. Nasturtium
  37. Valerian
  38. Violet (Grows wild here)
  39. Pansy
  40. Eucalyptus

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For our vegetable garden I selected plants  based on what I needed for my canning recipes and what I would use fresh.

  1. Asparagus (will not produce until year 3)
  2. Strawberries (will produce better the second year)
  3. Rhubarb (will plant this year and harvest will begin next year)
  4. Corn
  5. Popcorn
  6. Sweet Peppers
  7. Banana Peppers
  8. Eggplant
  9. Onions (My #1 priority every year for storage)
  10. Snap Bean Bush – Purple, yellow and green
  11. Snap Bean Pole
  12. Dry Beans
  13. Peas
  14. Spinach
  15. Lettuce
  16. Cabbage
  17. Swiss Chard
  18. Beets
  19. Radish
  20. Carrots
  21. Cucumbers
  22. Pumpkins
  23. Gourds
  24. Winter Squash
  25. Zucchini
  26. Yellow Squash
  27. Cantaloupes
  28. Water Melon
  29. Sunflowers
  30. Tomatoes
  31. Celery
  32. Broccoli
  33. Potatoes
  34. Jalapenos
  35. Yellow Tomatoes
  36. Paste Tomatoeswpid-20151014_132108.jpg

And finally the preserving list. It’s even longer than the other two. I know, I know. It’s a lofty goal but it’s something I will try my best at accomplishing. And if I get it all done we won’t have to go to the grocery store until Spring. (Just kidding).

  1. Strawberry Jam
  2. Grape Jelly
  3. Black Raspberry Jam
  4. Red Raspberry Jam
  5. Blackberry Jam
  6. Cherry Jam
  7. Peach Jam
  8. Pear Jelly
  9. Apple Jelly
  10. Honeyed Yellow Tomato Butter
  11. Canned Cherries in Syrup
  12. Canned Cherry Pie Filling Sweet
  13. Canned Cherry Pie Filling Sour
  14. Basil Banana Pepper Jelly
  15. Apples in Syrup
  16. Grape Juice
  17. Pear Juice
  18. Tart Cherry Juice
  19. Pickled Beets
  20. Canned Beets
  21. Vegetable Stock
  22. Vegetable Soup
  23. Tomato Sauce
  24. Blackberry, Red Raspberry, Peach, Cherry Cordials
  25. Chili Sauce (Two different kinds)
  26. Bread and Butter Pickles
  27. Frozen Corn
  28. Frozen Peppers
  29. Frozen Beet Greens/Chard
  30. Make my own pectin out of green apples
  31. Sweet Pickle Relish
  32. Dill Pickle Relish
  33. Red Root Relish
  34. Ketchup
  35. Red Hot Sauce
  36. BBQ Sauce
  37. Lemon Sage Wine Mustard
  38. Dilly Deans
  39. Pickled Roasted Red Peppers
  40. Pickled Hot Peppers
  41. Spiced Red Cabbage
  42. Sweet Crisp Pickles
  43. Crushed Tomatoes
  44. Whole Tomatoes Packed in Water
  45. Canned Green Beans
  46. Frozen Peas
  47. Frozen Winter Squash and some stored whole
  48. Chili
  49. Pear Juice
  50. Tart Cherry Juice

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I will also be drying the herbs and many fruits and veggies in our 2 dehydrators.

What I haven’t mentioned is that we have 3 apple, 2 sweet cherry, 1 sour cherry, 2 pear, 2 peach and 1 apricot (1 died) and a hazelnut (1 of these died also). Plus blackberry, red raspberry, black raspberry, and blueberry bushes.

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So these are the goals. Am I missing anything? Am I nuts? We will find out! -MM

 

What’s for Dinner Update

I am going to take a break from What’s For Dinner until Spring. I love my Winter comfort food but there are just some dinner ideas better left for when there are fresh, home grow veggies and a grill.

Thank you for your enthusiasm for this series. I hope I have given you some great ideas for dinner. I will be back with more. I promise!

– MM

What’s For Dinner Week #5

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for our household. I have been sick for most of it with a nasty cold/virus that made me miss 3 days of work, my mom was supposed to have surgery last week on her shoulder and after waiting for hours at her scheduled time of surgery they ended up not being able to do it due to a complication and now poor Doug is sick with the yuck. So I apologize for the late posting again. Here are week #5’s meal ideas.

Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Whether slow cooked in the Crockpot all day or grilled on the grill pan, this is a hearty and relatively inexpensive meal. Add some steak fries and yum!!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

I use a whole bag of wide egg noodles, 2 cans of white tuna packed in water, drained, 1 can of cream of mushroom and one can of cream of celery soup with milk added to both cans and a small bag of frozen peas. After you cook the noodles add in all of the rest of the ingredients stirring gently together then pour into a casserole dish. Top with crushed Ritz crackers or crushed potato chips. Salt and pepper to taste and add fresh parsley if you like too. Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly about 30 minutes.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

In lieu of most people either using their own family recipe or preferring the jarred kind I will let you use whatever recipe you like for this. Meatballs are good homemade or from a freezer bag. Hey it’s a meatball how can you go wrong either way right?

Chicken Stir Fry

Remember those little, tiny corn on the cob that Tom Hanks chewed on in the movie “Big’? This dish always reminds me of that because I can’t resist using a can of baby corn in this recipe.

For the Sauce: Combine 1 cup water, ¼ cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp cornstarch, 1 tsp instant bouillon granules, ¼ tsp ground ginger. Stir to dissolve everything and set aside.

Chunk or thin slice boneless skinless chicken breast. Salt and pepper to taste. Preheat a few Tbsp of cooking oil in a wok or stainless steel frying pan. Add chicken and stir fry until cooked through about 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

To the hot pan add veggies such as broccoli, julienned carrots, mushrooms, onion and/or garlic. Stir fry until the crunch is just gone. Remove from heat.

Next, add the sauce to the center of the pan. Stir and cook until thickened and bubbly.

To the sauce add more veggies like the corn, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, frozen snow peas and bean sprouts. None of these take long to cook that’s why they are added at the end. Cook for a couple of minutes in the sauce to warm everything up and defrost the peas.

Add in all of the rest of the veggies and the meat to warm up and finish cooking. Cook another few minutes in the sauce then serve over rice.

Deluxe Turkey BLT Clubs

An easy meal! Get your favorite deli turkey, cooked bacon, tomatoes and your fanciest lettuce plus mayo of course and start stacking it all on your favorite toasted bread. Three slices of bread make it a club! Put a frilly toothpick through it, add some sweet potato fries and you have dinner. Enjoy!

Crockpot Chili Sauce Chicken with Mashed Potatoes

This has got to be the easiest recipe ever! If you can your own homemade chili sauce like I do just pop open the jar and dump it over cut up pieces of chicken in the Crockpot and that’s it! Turn it on low and let it cook until the meat just falls off the bone. If you don’t have your own chili sauce you can buy a variety of kinds at your local grocery store. Whip up some mashed potatoes and a veggie and you are all set. Easy peasy!!

Leftover Night

Take the night off from cooking and enjoy those leftovers!

 

I would love more ideas for dinners. What are you making for dinner? Please post in the comments. -MM

 

All of these recipe amounts are based approximately on 4 people and might have to be adjusted if you have teenagers with a healthier appetite.

What’s for Dinner Week #4

Sorry this is a day late! I was under the weather all last week and I am just getting caught back up. Here are the dinner suggestions for week #4.

What’s for Dinner Week #4

Chicken Kiev

Ingredients:

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

Salt and Pepper

Cold Butter

Chives and Parsley, Dried or Fresh

Bread Crumbs

Eggs

All Purpose Flour

Frying Oil

In between 2 pieces of wax paper flatten multiple breasts with a flat kitchen mallet or rolling pin. Once flattened and thin enough to roll easily set aside and finish flattening all of the chicken. On a cutting board lay one of the breasts face down and put a pat of cold butter at one end. Sprinkle breast with salt and pepper and parsley and chives. Carefully pick up one end and roll the butter and herbs up into a short log. Secure with toothpick if it doesn’t want to stay closed. Repeat until all of the breasts are used. You will have some large and some small when finished.

Set up your breading station with three wide mouthed bowls. The first with flour, the second with 2 beaten eggs and the third with the breads crumbs. Coat a rolled breast first in the flour then move it to the eggs to coat it and then to the breadcrumbs. Repeat until all of the chicken is coated and ready to fry. This is a messy process so be prepared to wash your fingers multiple times along the way.

Heat oil such as canola or peanut oil in a cast iron skillet. Oil should come to about halfway up the sides of the pan. Fry each breast until thoroughly cooked and golden brown on each side. About 15 minutes for the largest down to 8-10 minutes for the smaller.

Serve with mashed potatoes and my dad’s favorite, green peas.

Build your own Pizzas

I love using pre-baked Naan flatbreads for this because they are quick and easy and come in lots of different varieties. My store carries white, wheat and garlic and two come in a package.

Cheese and pepperoni may be your favorite but don’t hesitate to try something different like artichoke and feta, or spinach, tomato and ricotta. There are endless possibilities!

Stuffed Shells

The reason I like writing this series is to not only give you new recipe ideas but also to perhaps remind you of recipes you haven’t made in awhile for whatever reason.

Stuffed shells is one of those recipes for us. If you have made them in the past, I urge you to go find your recipe in your recipe box and go to town with it. If you have never made them before, here is a classic recipe for stuffed shells from Chrisy at Homemadehooplah.com.

http://homemadehooplah.com/recipes/ricotta-stuffed-shells-with-marinara/

Chili

Everyone has their own favorite chili recipe. I bet some are even award winners. Am I right? Or passed down from previous generations?

In any case here is mine.

Brown 1 lb. of lean ground beef in a heavy bottomed pot along with 1 chopped medium onion, 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 whole sweet green or red bell pepper chopped small.

Add a large can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz. I think?) and a small can of tomato paste, plus water to fill the small can.

Next I add a can of black beans and a can of red kidney beans, including all of the liquids from the cans.

Then, the spices. I swear it takes almost a whole container of chili powder to get it tasting right but let’s just say it is at least 3 Tbsp. Then a couple of bay leaves, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, a couple of Tbsps. of sugar to mellow it and cut the acidity and fresh parsley if you have it otherwise dried will do.

Simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours stirring it frequently to prevent scorching.

Serve with sides of sour cream, shredded cheese and oyster crackers.

If you like it spicier by all means add all the jalapenos or chili peppers you like.

Beef Stew

Beef stew is another one of our cold weather favorites. Stew with warm buttered bread…Yum!

Coat 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of stew meat in flour, shake off excess. In a Dutch oven heat 2 Tbsps of oil. Add the floured meat and brown meat on all sides. I deglaze the pan with a cup of beef stock just so I can scrape up the flavorful drippings on the bottom of the pan. It will also start to thicken because of the flour. If you prefer a bolder flavor you can deglaze the pan with a good red wine.

Add a can of whole peeled tomatoes along with the liquid in the can. Then add 2 celery stalks chunked including the greens and 3 carrots peeled and chunked and 2 medium to large onions chunked to the pot. Add your choice of herbs. I like parsley, and Thyme or Sage. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and let simmer on low for a good two hours in the Dutch oven, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

About 1-1/2 hours into the cooking process I usually add potatoes chunked up. They don’t take as long as the rest of it does and then if you like mushrooms you can add them then too. Mushrooms add that rich earthy flavor to a stew.

Serve when meat is tender and breaks apart easily with a fork. Add more stock if the stew boils down too much and becomes dry.

Serve with homemade French bread.

Baked Ham

There are many different types of hams out there. Some boneless, some bone-in. Some are sweeter like honey or brown sugar, some are saltier. Some are pre-sliced and some are do-it-yourself. Either way any ham you get is already fully cooked so all you have to do is put it in the oven covered until the internal temp is satisfactory. Easy peasy right?

I like the simple approach of just putting the ham in a roasting pan and covering it with tin foil until hot and browned. But for those of you that like to pretty your ham up with things such as pineapple slices, cloves and cherries go for it. Any kind of ham is good to me!

Serve with a side of potatoes or perhaps squash.

Leftover Night

Ham sandwiches anyone?

 

Note: All of these recipe amounts are based approximately on 4 people and might have to be adjusted if you have teenagers with a healthier appetite.

 

 

Domestic Discussions Part I

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Photo provided by Melanie Cifelli-7 month old “Moose” gets his head stuck in the cat door

I have always been fascinated by other peoples’ domestic practices. So much so that I thought I would take my interest to the next level and have a sit down with a few people to see what they do in their homes. How do they handle housekeeping, money, children, spouses, food prep and home improvement? Here is my first “Domestic Discussion.” Hope you enjoy!

Melanie Cifelli is one of my favorite people to talk to because she makes me smile. Melanie, her husband Scott and their three boys, Caleb, Ethan, and Joey along with their 3 cats and 2 dogs, all occupy a rural country home that together, they have been renovating for the past 13 years.

Besides renovations, which I will discuss in a bit, Melanie’s life revolves around teenage boys, school sports like soccer and basketball, her home business, on-the-go meals, and her avid couponing which she learned at the height of the coupon craze and still practices on her weekly trips to the grocery store.

A little background on Melanie: To start with Melanie was born in the UK but grew up in Australia. She married her husband Scott who was an American citizen and after having the three boys they moved back to the US. In 2003 they purchased their current home.

At first Melanie didn’t really know if she was domestic enough to do a Domestic Discussions interview with me. “I am not what you call a Domestic Goddess.” she said to me in her Aussie accent. I assured her that everyone has some sort of domesticness (if that is even a word) in them.

First we discussed couponing. In Australia, she said they don’t have coupons or rewards cards. When she moved to the US she didn’t know how to use a coupon and was a little scared to try. It wasn’t until the extreme couponing craze and multiple television shows about the subject that got her confident enough to try couponing. She started with one, she told me, and it worked, so she tried more. When she first started she didn’t know if she should just hand them all to the cashier or lay them on top of each individual item she had a coupon for. I kind of chuckled remembering my mother laying them on each item on the conveyor belt.

Melanie says some weeks her shopping receipts are cut almost in half by using coupons. If there is a week that the newspaper coupon ads are particularly good she will buy more than one set of newspapers just for the coupons. I asked her which newspaper she liked the best and she said she rarely bought the Democrat and Chronicle, sometimes the Daily News, but most often the Buffalo News. It had the coupons she wanted and it was 50 cents cheaper.

In asking which stores she frequented the most, Tops supermarket was at the top of the list with their bonus card and $1 coupon doubler coupons that come out every few months. She also frequents Save-A-Lot and Dollar General which also take coupons. Aldi is another store she visits but they do not accept coupons.

I asked her if she used Amazon’s Subscribe and Save or Big Box stores like Sam’s, BJ’s or Costco. Yep both Amazon and Costco were favorites of her’s she said.

One of the things I learned from Melanie after our couponing discussion was that Tops let’s you use more than 4 of the $1 Coupon Doubler coupons. I was under the impression you got 4 per bonus card. Nope you can use more but not in the same transaction. Interesting!

Our discussion turned to family next. Her three boys are very active teenagers with sports, jobs, and school. She said most days meals are on the go due to differing schedules but she tries to make them as healthy as possible. Her crock-pot gets used a lot she says. She tries to make extra so there are leftovers and if they are on the road for a game Subway is a healthy alternative to fast food.

Melanie is a stay at-home mom but on the side she sells on Ebay, Etsy and occasionally Craigslist for extra income. The former co-owner of Amelia’s Antiques in Batavia sells antiques as well as crafts online from home after her shop closed a few years ago. She loves to restore antique and vintage items and from the view sitting at her kitchen table I would say she is very good at it.

One major thing that has consumed her life the past decade is the renovation of her home which they have owned for 13 years. Generally her husband is a do-it-yourself kind of guy which can make for some pretty funny stories. She told me about a particularly funny story about when Scott decided to rip out the toilet without quite having everything ready to put another one in right away. “Nine days without a toilet” she grins telling me. Although I am sure she wasn’t smiling at the time it happened. “We were foster parents to two other children at the time so we had 5  children under the age of 7 living in this house and we didn’t have a toilet for 9 days.” Luckily she said they did have a functioning, albeit a not so great to look at toilet in the back of the garage but traipsing out there in the middle of night wasn’t the greatest fun. I told her she should write a book about all of these funny stories.

I finished this Domestic Discussion by asking Melanie what her hobbies were, what she would like to do in the future, and if there is anything she wished she had paid more attention to learning when she was younger.

She said she likes to write and wished she did more, adult coloring books are a new hobby, she has also been teaching herself guitar by watching you-tube videos, and of course her antiques and vintage items are a great inspiration to her. She said as far as what she would like to do in the future going back to school is something she was thinking about and she has always wanted to learn to speak Italian. She finished with she wished she had paid more attention to sewing when she was younger. Her mother who lives in Australia, can sew anything and is a wonderful seamstress. I agreed with her. I wished I had paid more attention when my mother tried to teach me to sew too.

I would like to thank Melanie for being my first interviewee for this Domestic Discussions series. It was so much fun getting to know her even more. -MM

 

 

 

 

What’s For Dinner Week #3

progressive dinner 2012too

Cream of Potato and Bacon Soup

This is one of my son’s favorite soups. It is easy and inexpensive to make but so satisfying on a cold winter night.

Recipe: Wash, peel and cut about 5 or 6 medium potatoes into small cubes. In a medium saucepan sauté a small thinly sliced onion in a TBSP of oil until translucent. Add potatoes, 2 cubes of chicken bouillon and 6 cups of water to the pan with the onions. Bring to a boil and simmer on low until potatoes are tender.

In another medium saucepan melt a stick of butter then add about a ¼ cup of flour to the melted butter. Whisk until it turns to a paste like consistency add more flour if needed. Whisk for about a minute making sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Next slowly add milk to the pan whisking the whole time. I never really measure this but it should be thick, smooth and without lumps so approximately 2-3 cups of milk. You just made your cream for the cream of potato soup!

Add the cream mixture into the potato soup pot stirring it gently. The whole soup should thicken nicely.

Serve with crumbled fried bacon on top. We also have added corn to the soup and topped it with cheddar cheese too.

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas are super easy. I use the fajita packets in the taco section of the grocery store for seasoning. Grill or pan fry seasoned chicken breasts. Add thinly sliced onions and multicolored sweet peppers to the pan until just softened. Don’t overcook the veggies let them be slightly crisp not too mushy.

Use a soft taco that has been warmed in the microwave or oven. Fill the taco with the veggies and the sliced chicken, top with sour cream. Seasoned rice and refried beans make a great side dish.

Chicken and Biscuits

All I do for chicken and biscuits is boil split chicken breasts in a stockpot with thinly sliced onion and small chunked carrots and a few bouillon cubes. I add fresh sprigs of parsley and thyme when I have them in my garden otherwise dried herbs will do. When the chicken is cooked enough to almost fall apart remove the chicken to a plate to rest and cool. Add frozen peas at this point if you wish.

Make your favorite biscuits whether they are a refrigerator biscuit like Grands or a Bisquick biscuit.

To thicken the broth, combine about a cup of the broth and enough flour to make a thin liquidy paste.

Slowly pour the thickener back into the broth stirring gently. Bring to a boil then add the chicken back in after picking it off the bones. Pour over biscuits and enjoy!

Homemade Mac and Cheese

Everyone has a different recipe they like for homemade mac and cheese. I like to use whatever kind of cheese I have building up in the fridge like shredded taco cheese, a chunk of cheddar and some extra sleeves of American that haven’t been used yet.

I think one of the secrets is to slightly overcook the macaroni so it’s softer when it goes into the oven to bake.

The cheese sauce I do is pretty simple but I don’t measure anything either. I put a stick of butter into the bottom of a medium saucepan and melt it. I add milk and the cheese until all is melted together and hot and then I pour it over and stir it into the macaroni. Salt and pepper to taste and add any goodies to make it gourmet if you like.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly and there is a slight crust on the top.

Chicken Spiedies

I first ate a Chicken Spiedie at our favorite out of town hang out, the American Hotel in Lima, NY. It was first created however, in nearby Binghamton, NY. My husband loves these things but unlike the recipe below we like ours with melted mozzarella and caramelized onions too.

Serves 6

The chicken cubes are grilled so if you don’t have a grill pan or don’t want to start your outdoor grill in the winter you can use a cast iron pan and brown them over high heat.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves , minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons grated zest plus 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
6 (6-inch) sub rolls , slit partially open lengthwise

MAKE SAUCES Combine oil, garlic, basil, oregano, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes in large bowl. Transfer 2 tablespoons oil mixture to separate bowl and whisk in mayonnaise, vinegar, and lemon juice; refrigerate. (Sauces can be refrigerated, covered, for 2 days.)

PREP CHICKEN Prick chicken breasts all over with fork, cut into 1¼-inch chunks, and transfer to bowl with remaining oil mixture. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.

GRILL CHICKEN Remove chicken from marinade and thread onto six 12-inch metal skewers. Grill chicken over hot fire, covered and turning frequently, until lightly charred and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to sub rolls or bread, remove skewers, and drizzle with mayonnaise mixture. Serve with fries.

Here is a link to this recipe copied from My Sister’s Kitchen –  Chicken Spiedie Recipe.

Build your own Sliders

Sliders are basically two bite burgers like the original White Castle burgers. And we love them!

Have fun with topping like lettuce, tomato, cheeses, bacon, mayo, mustard, avocado, onion, relish, ketchup, pickles, etc.

Grab some mini rolls, some lean ground beef and some chips and you are all set.

Leftover Night

Take the night off from cooking and enjoy those leftovers!

 

For a printer friendly version here is a link to the original document What’s for dinner week 3  -MM

What’s For Dinner Week #2

doug food
Doug’s school project last year for Home Ec – Not bad huh?

After my first post last week for this series I have decided to write this week’s a little differently.

I removed the total cost for each meal because it was very time consuming and I wanted to be able to use my own items in the recipes especially in the summer when our fruits and vegetables are in full swing. I also did not want to be limited to just what was available in the ad. I wanted to use the ad as inspiration not for total food costs.

So here goes for Week #2.

On the menu this week:

CROCKPOT MEATLOAF – I love this version of meatloaf. The crockpot makes it so tender and when we have an away game I throw it in the crock and set the oven to turn on automatically for the potatoes and by the time we get home we have a wonderful meal waiting for us.

BREAKFAST FOR DINNER – Who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner? I make our waffles and pancakes from scratch and any leftovers get frozen and used for breakfast another day. The pancake batter can be made up the night before and stored in the fridge.

SCALLOPED POTATOES AND HAM – I ask the deli counter to slice nice thick slices of ham so I can chunk them up for this recipe. Deli ham quality is particularly good and much cheaper than ham from the meat department.

CHUCK ROAST IN THE CROCKPOT – It’s crockpot week it seems doesn’t it?Right now being on the go with basketball practice this seems to be the only way we eat without getting takeout every night. I love the mushrooms in this recipe. It makes for very rich and flavorful meat and sauce. Warm blueberry muffins with this roast instead of bread are a wonderful treat.

TACO NIGHT – Make taco night fun for everyone by having a build-your-own taco line with all of the ingredients in separate bowls. So many choices helps with picky eaters.

FRIDAY NIGHT FISH AND CHIPS – Make it easy and more healthful to bake instead of fry your favorite fish and chips. If you like, make a yummy fish sandwich complete with homemade tartar sauce too.

LEFTOVER NIGHT – Take the night off from cooking and enjoy those leftovers!

I would love to hear from you if you have any meal suggestions that you love to cook for your family. You can email suggestions to me at marymargaretripley@yahoo.com.

Here is the link to Week #2’s “What’s for Dinner?” What’s for dinner week 2

-MMR

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