Category: Food

Family friendly meals that are quick, easy, and inexpensive.

Immune Boosting Noodle Soup and Biscuit Quick Mix

Immune Boosting Noodle Soup and Biscuit Quick Mix

All the talk of the CoronaVirus had me focused on immune systems. I started the morning boiling water and adding eucalyptus essential oil, doubled the Vitamin C intake, and encouraged sun time for the son.

For dinner, I doubled down on the immune system focus. Although not actual pantry cooking, it did make use of leftovers.

I started with a large pot and melted half of a stick of butter in it. While the butter was melting, I added about a tablespoon of Kosher salt. Once it was melted, I added a cup of sliced carrots from the freezer.

I let those simmer for a few minutes while I thought about what else to add. I chopped up half of an onion and added those. I added a cup of sliced mushrooms because I like mushrooms. Next to go in the pot was the Chilian Salsa my son had made for a project at school (it had more dices onions, fresh diced tomatoes, cilantro, and some smoked, chopped jalapenos). There was also a half of a can of diced tomatoes in the refrigerator, so I threw those in for good measure.

I let those simmer for a few minutes.

When the onions were almost translucent, I added a ¼ cup of instant chicken bullion and let that mesh with the veggies. I knew I wanted to make use of some of the leftover sliced chicken in the freezer – mainly because I have plenty of uncooked chicken that will be utilized in the days ahead. The chicken went in until it had thawed out and then I added 12 cups of water.

Once all of that was mixed and simmering, I asked my son what he wanted to go with it. My plan had been cornbread, but he wanted biscuits. This meant making up a batch of biscuit quick mix, but having a batch already done just meant I had one less prep thing that would be necessary for the days ahead.

While the drop biscuits were cooking (I don’t even bother to roll them out anymore), I added some large dumpling egg noodles to the soup.

The soup was a HUGE hit and I loved how all of the flavors mingled. Plus, you couldn’t eat around all of the veggies – my son tried. He told me. I wish I had added a cup of broccoli or green beans. The dash of green color would have brightened up the dish.

How are you mastering the Pantry Cooking Challenge?

Share your links or recipes in the comments below.

The Mom

Immune Boosting Noodle Soup

½ stick of butter

1 tbsp salt

1 cup each of veggies (use what you have handy)

1 tbsp diced garlic

¼ cup instant chicken bullion

1 cup chopped or shredded cooked chicken

2 cups uncooked noodles

8 to 12 cups water

Start by melting the butter in your pot over high heat. While the butter is melting, add the salt. Begin adding veggies with the heaviest starchier veggies going in first. Add the diced garlic last. While the veggies are simmering, add in the chicken bullion.

Let the veggies simmer for several minutes.

Add the chicken and then the water. Leave the soup to simmer on low until you are almost ready to eat. 10 minutes before serving, add in the noodles.

Biscuit Quick Mix

Biscuit Quick Mix
Print Recipe
Servings
4 batches
Servings
4 batches
Biscuit Quick Mix
Print Recipe
Servings
4 batches
Servings
4 batches
Ingredients
Servings: batches
Instructions
  1. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly (I use my food processor). Add the softened butter until it is evenly distributed throughout all the dry ingredients. Store the mixture in the refrigerator.

Quick Fix Drop Biscuits

2 cups quick mix

1 cup buttermilk

Mix together until you have a firm mixture. Drop on a Silpat mat or lined cookie sheet one spoonful at a time.

Cook at 350º until the top of the biscuits are a golden brown (about 20 minutes).

Immune Boosting Noodle Soup

Immune Boosting Noodle Soup


Immune Boosting Noodle Soup

Print Recipe

Servings Prep Time
8 cups 20 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour

Servings Prep Time
8 cups 20 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour

Immune Boosting Noodle Soup

Print Recipe

Servings Prep Time
8 cups 20 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour

Servings Prep Time
8 cups 20 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour

Ingredients


Servings: cups

Instructions
  1. Start by melting the butter in your pot over high heat. While the butter is melting, add the salt. Begin adding veggies with the heaviest starchier veggies going in first. Add the diced garlic last. While the veggies are simmering, add in the chicken bullion.

  2. Let the veggies simmer for several minutes.

  3. Add the chicken and then the water. Leave the soup to simmer on low until you are almost ready to eat. 10 minutes before serving, add in the noodles.

Recipe: Quick Fix Nachos

Recipe: Quick Fix Nachos

Have a reservoir of quick-fix meal ideas helps take the stress out of mealtime – no matter who ends up with the job of fixing the meals.

# # #

“What are we having for dinner?”

That may be the only thing my son says to me all day, but you can be guaranteed that at some point – usually around 4:30 pm – that question will make an appearance.

It doesn’t matter that I have the door closed because I am working.

It doesn’t matter that he knows how to cook.

It doesn’t matter that he has to walk past his dad to come ask me.

I am Mom. Apparently, at some point in my life as Mom, I claimed the position of head chef.

Maybe I didn’t touch my nose fast enough.

Either way, I’m it.

I’m usually pretty good at planning meals out. I have a list posted of what they will be having at school and I set a weekly menu with that at mind.

That’s most of the time.

This week was not most of the time. I was still recovering from the yuck my son so kindly brought home from the youth conference the weekend before. I barely had an appetite and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be cooking for anyone else anyway.

My son walked into the room and I could see the words forming, so I beat him to it. “What’s for dinner,” I asked before he could.

He blinked.

I laughed.

He left the room.

I walked into the kitchen where my husband was standing. “What are you fixing for dinner?” I asked.

He blinked.

I laughed.

I felt a little better.

I did a quick inventory of what we had available. Most of the food would take a while to cook. I didn’t want to have to deal with awhile. I needed a quick fix idea.

I did have about a quarter of a block of Velvetta cheese, a half a jar of homemade salsa, some frozen browned ground beef, and tortilla chips.

I tossed together a nacho dish in under twenty minutes. Quick fix magic for the win.

Quick Fix Nachos Recipe:

  • ¼ block of Velvetta Cheese
  • 1 can black olives
  • ½ jar salsa
  • ¼ head of iceberg lettuce
  • 2 cups browned ground beef
  • Tortilla chips

Spray a plastic container with non-stick spray.

Cut Velvetta cheese into quarter-sized chunks and drop them in the plastic container.

Cover the cheese with the salsa.

Heat in the microwave in 45-sec increments, stirring between each bit, until the cheese is completely melted.

While you are melting the cheese, tear off a section of the iceberg lettuce and use a knife to chip into shredded bits.

Once the cheese and salsa are completely mixed, warm up the ground beef.

Now you are ready to build your nachos.

Layer nacho chips on a plate, one chip deep. Drizzle cheese salsa mix over the chips. Add a thin layer of ground beef and drizzle the ground beef layer with cheese salsa. Spread shredded lettuce on the top with black olive slices on top. Add one more layer of drizzled cheese salsa.

Enjoy!

TIP: Keep flour tortillas in the house if you have someone with braces. The corn chips can be too rough but the flour tortillas make for a perfect replacement.

Dinner doesn’t have to be fancy to be done. Use what you have, keep it simple, and make something fun the whole family can enjoy.

How to Spend ONLY $40 at the Grocery Store Each Week

How to Spend ONLY $40 at the Grocery Store Each Week

The first thing you think of when it comes to cutting the budget probably doesn’t have to do with food. After all, you have to have food – especially if you have kids. If you do have kids, you probably have already figured out that you need lots of food.

But when you have cut everywhere you think you can cut, you have to start cutting in places you didn’t think you could.

It started with a new way of budgeting – which is actually an old way.

Many years ago, when I had first started my freelance writing career, I put the envelope method into practice. Every time I got paid, a percentage went into each envelope (based on a outflow budget we set up). I only used the money in the envelope to pay for what was intended.

It worked. Our finances got back in balance, and I could focus on the writing and not worry about how to pay the next bill.

That’s a good feeling.

Flash forward to a new business and a new direction and new financial issues, and it was time for me to implement the envelope plan once again.

The first week, there was only $40 in the grocery envelope, so instead of cheating – which you know I wanted to do – I determined to make it work.

It helped that I had a freezer partway filled with veggies and meats. The pantry also had odds and ends I could piece together. I took cash to the grocery store and got what I could get based on the $40.

Hint: Prioritize the list. Instead of putting the list together by aisle, I put it in order from “must have” to the “would be nice.”

The first week, there was nothing left for pre-packaged snacks. I knew I had zip lock bags back at the house, so I purchased two large containers of snacks and then put them in the baggies when I got home – ½ cup per bag.

The next week was a little tougher. I got sick, and I didn’t want to say the word “food,” much less cook anything. I knew I needed to boost my immune system, so I used what was in the pantry to come up with some soup ideas.

    Do you have a can of diced tomatoes? Sautee some onion, garlic, and those tomatoes – add a dash or two of cayenne pepper and then some cumin, and top off with chicken broth. Call it spicy soup, tortilla soup, or tomato broth – as a matter of fact, you can name your meals whatever you want. No matter what you call it, the entire dish will only cost around $5 to cook – even less if you make your own broth (which is what I do every holiday with the turkey carcass).

Weeks four and five are a little bit of a blur. I was still sick (and tired from being sick). My husband did most of the shopping, so we edged over the $40 a little – but only a little. Still, most of the meals were made from the freezer stash.

By the sixth week, I was back to myself. Even though the freezer was not quite as full as I had last seen it, it still had a few surprises for me. I went back to working off the $40 because that was guaranteed (and because I now challenged myself to keep it up – and I can’t resist a good challenge). I broke down and got some chicken breasts, which I then slowed cooked in the crockpot for a day (add some diced onion, garlic and butter and you can use the cooked chicken in a variety of dishes).

I used the first breast – shredded – in a chicken salad. The second one – again shredded – went into a stir-fry dish. The last went into the freezer.

Hint: Freeze your extras. It will make fixing a quick meal easier if the main component is already cooked.

Last week was week seven. I made my list by priority, but there was way more left than there was purchased. It’s about time for a “once a month” shopping trip and cooking day – I totaled up what that would cost and was shocked it would only be around $220.

After I got home, my husband asked me about sandwich bread. Bread had not been on the grocery list, and if it’s not on the list, then odds are it’s not coming home with me. Instead of trying to figure out how to buy bread from a budget I had already spent, I made bread.

I was blessed to have been given a Kitchen Aide blender as a gift shortly after I got married. I set it up, attached the dough hook, and then added the ingredients:

I will continue to get creative with both my cooking and with my purchasing. My grocery budget has shifted from $250 per week to only $40 per week plus $220 once a month. That is a lot of savings.

It Takes a Plan

I always plan my meals by the week. When I was planning for a picky eater, I rotated the menu so that the main entrée never repeated more than twice in a week, and never within a couple of days of each other.

Here is that template.

This is the template filled out with rotating entrees

When I don’t have to plan for a picky eater, I give myself an idea of what I want to do, but I allow myself grace if something else gets done. Also, be okay with “fend for yourself leftovers” day.

You can see by the picture from my Focus Folder that I don’t fill out all days and I don’t always cook what I do fill out. That’s okay. Move the idea to a blank place in the week or to a different week completely.

Here is that template.

Having a plan – even an outline of a plan – will make it easier to cook your meals quickly so that you don’t find yourself falling into the habit of “it’s quicker to pick something up.”

No matter what you do, there will be an investment. Either it will take more time and less money or less time and more money. You have to choose what is right for you and what works for you and your family.

The Struggles – They Are Real

I always plan my meals by the week. When I was planning for a picky eater, I rotated the menu so that the main entrée never repeated more than twice in a week, and never within a couple of days of each other.

The hardest expense to cover is the snacks. If a bag of chips gets opened around my house, it gets eater. It doesn’t matter if the bag is a single serve or a family sized bag. The same goes for most snack foods. The best bet for me is to buy the large containers and divide them up separately.

OR . . . and this can be more fun than it sounds . . . make the snacks yourself.

Cheese crisps – one tablespoon of shredded cheese topped with a dash of seasoning. Bake on parchment paper or a Silpat for 5 – 10 minutes at a375 degrees. Not only are these a great snack, but they also work as toppers for salads and baked potatoes.

Boiled eggs – my boys love these for meals and for snacks. They even come in their own container. 😀

Granola bars – all you need is some rolled oats, chopped nuts, honey, butter, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract – plus anything you want to add in to spice up or dress up your bars. There are literally hundreds of recipes out there, so try some or make up your own.

The next hardest thing is meat . . . and I have a house full of meat eaters. In the past, we have gone in with a group of folks to purchase a locally raised, grass-fed cow. That meat usually lasts us about a year. When I break down the budget, it fits into my new plan. The key will be to save up for the big buy like I need to save up for the “once a month” buys.

I’ll keep you up to date with the progress.

So, what are your top grocery budget tips?

The Mom

Blue Tropic Smoothie

Blue Tropic Smoothie

(makes approx.. 16 ounces of drink)

1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
¼ cup almonds
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil (not necessary but adds to the health value)
1 cup liquid (or until you reach your desired consistency)

The first time I made this smoothie I used my regular blender. It doesn’t have as much power as I would prefer, but it does the job. Pouring it into my glass caused some uncertainity. I had to remind myself that I like blueberries and I like almonds and I like cinnamon so it HAD to be okay.

It was okay – not anything that would make me jump up and shout, but it was something different from the same ole green smoothie I had been drinking. The blender didn’t break up the almonds, so it was a bit gritty, but drinking it through a straw helped.

Improving the Blue Tropic Smoothie

    1. I recommend soaking the almonds overnight in something. It should help to soften them and make them easier to blend.

    2. I would use a cranberry juice or other beneficial juice to kick up the flavor some.

    3. Definitely use frozen blueberries. It helps create a better “smoothie” consistency”

I suspect there are benefits to eating certain foods in certain ways and at certain times. Someday I might bet to the place where I invest in that knowledge. For now, I am invested in finding foods that I enjoy so that I will continue to make the most of those foods.

Try out the Blue Tropic Smoothie and let me know what you think.

Green Tropics Smoothie

Green Tropics Smoothie

(makes approx. 16 oz.)

1 cup pineapple (fresh or frozen)
2 cups kale (one cup at a time)
1 tsp fresh ginger (ground if possible)
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 cup liquid (water or 100% juice)

I confess that I DO NOT like kale. I do not like it on a boat. I do not like it with a goat. I barely tolerate it my mixed green salads. I have never been a fan in smoothies. Kale is thick and fibrous. It challenges my palette and it challenges my blender as well.

I ended up putting more kale than my blender could handle the first time I made this smoothie. I had to split it, add more liquid, and then blend again. It was okay, but only okay. It would not be my first go to smoothie as is.

Tips to Improve the Green Tropics Smoothie

    1. Get a better blender. I need something that can take on the kale challenge without flinching.

    2. Use frozen pineapple.

    3. Freeze the fresh ginger. It makes it easier to get the ginger chopped fine. Freezing also helps to make the ginger last longer.

    4. A high flavor juice (like a tropical fruit or an orange juice) could be a good pairing with the stark flavor of kale.

    5. Chop the kale before adding it to the blender.

Some people like the taste of kale and I have found that different kale has a different flavor. It is important to try out some and see what you like. The best place to testing flavors is the local Farmer’s Market. The key to making your smoothies a success is to choose those flavors that you prefer.

Simple Ideas for Easy Holiday Meals

Simple Ideas for Easy Holiday Meals

This year things were different for our Thanksgiving because of all the changes that have occurred in recent weeks. I was still determined to make the holiday great. I wanted the boys to have a positive memory from this holiday time AND it will be the last Thanksgiving where they will all be living under one roof.

We had the opportunity to visit with family for the holiday, but we opted to stay closer to home. With that in mind, I was determined that they would have the same cornucopia of options they would find at any large family gathering.

Thanksgiving Plan 2017

Main Event

  • Turkey
  • Ham

Sides

  • Green bean casserole
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Green salad
  • Spinach balls
  • Smashed potatoes
  • Yeast rolls
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Dressing
  • Gravy

Desserts

  • Chocolate pie
  • Peanut butter pie
  • Egg nog cheese cake
  • Pumpkin cake


  • Cooking this much is not as much of a challenge as it would have been before I started doing once a month cooking. I just go into it with a plan based on the length of time each item needs to cook (and I start developing a plan for what to do with the leftovers – or, as I prefer to call them, PLANNED overs).

    My biggest mistake was waiting too long to get started on the prep work. Had I been more prepared, then I would have only had to make one trip to the grocery store. Well, technically I did only make one trip. I sent my husband and my oldest for round two and three.

    What I would normally have done was look at all of my dishes, pull out all non-perishable ingredients, and add any missing items to my grocery list.

    I didn’t do that this time. I know better, but I chose not better. That is a perfect metaphor for how I often end up in trouble in my life journey as well.

    I saw all the social media posts that others were sharing about the food they were making and I felt guilty. Not guilty enough to get up and get started myself, but guilty enough to keep adding items to my list.

    On Thursday morning, I woke up a little late, but still early enough to hit the ground running just before 6 am (which was my designated start time). I prepped the turkey and got it started, then began working down my check list.

    Prep, cook, and clean time was less than six hours.


    Complete Thanksgiving Lunch for 2017

    Main Event

    • Turkey
    • Ham

    Sides

    • Green bean casserole
    • Dijon Brussel sprouts
    • Tossed Green salad
    • Spinach pie
    • Smashed potatoes
    • Refrigerated yeast rolls
    • Dressing
    • Homemade Cranberry Dressing
    • Gravy

    Desserts

  • No bake Peanut butter pie
  • No bake Reese’s pie
  • Apple Crisp
  • Egg nog cheese cake
  • Pumpkin cake


  • What Changed and Why

    I have never been great at following recipes, so I often just do what I need to do to get done. Since I knew I was cooking for the long term and not just for one meal, I made some adjustments.

    1. Out with the mushrooms. I LOVE stuffed mushrooms, but I am about the only one in my immediate family that does love them. I had time and space to do the mushrooms, but just made the call to let them go this year. NOTE: Next time, go ahead and make a full batch of mushrooms then cook up a few but freeze the rest for future meals.
    2. From Spinach Balls to Spinach Pie. As I contemplated my game plan for the next day, I determined that the spinach balls – which are designed to be a finger food/appetizer – could easily be turned into a pie instead. I already knew the pie crusts I had for the baked pies were not going to be used. It worked out great and my spinach lover declared it to be the best spinach he ever had. NOTE: Next time, use the filling to make TWO pies instead of one – that way the filling will get firmer and crisp up on the top without worrying about overcooking the crust.
    3. The chocolate pie and peanut butter pie became no bake versions. My family LOVES the no-bake version, so why mess with a good thing.
    4. Apple crisp was added to the mix. We had a large number of apples and my middle son wanted to do something with them. A crisp was chosen over a pie because originally it was going to be cooked in a crockpot.

    The meal was a complete success. The boys filled up on the sides and dessert was something we were able to enjoy at a later time during the day.

    Making the Holidays Simple

    • Crockpots. I cooked three of my side dishes in the crockpot which left plenty of room for the other items that had to go into the oven. The green bean casserole, Brussel sprouts, and potatoes cooked wonderfully. Just be sure that you plan in the time the crockpots will need to cook (usually around 4 to 5 hours on low for many items).
    • Do make a schedule. Look over the recipes and determine what needs to go into the oven and when. Be sure to take into account any “sitting times.” Things like cranberry sauce and cheesecake need time to settle or set up. The meats should be allowed to rest before they are carved. Also think about PREcook times – like how long the dough needs to rise before you can make the rolls. Write down the schedule so you can keep up with what you are doing and what you need to be doing next.
    • Clean as you go. Do as much of the washing, drying, and putting away as you possibly can. You might even want to add that time into your schedule. You will be able to enjoy the holiday more if you know there isn’t a sink full of dishes taunting you from the other room.
    • Make it a team sport. I started letting my sons cook the sides when they were big enough to see the stovetop and reach it safely. They would choose the sides and we would find recipes together. They also helped with desserts. Now, we are able to work together (safely even) in the kitchen. Cooking and cleaning goes so much easier when we do it together.
    • Think about tomorrow. There are always leftovers after a big holiday. There were years when we had turkey and dressing until either the dressing or the gravy ran out (somehow there was always plenty of turkey). Now I plan dishes around the leftovers and I will even precook or prepackage the PLANNED OVER dishes so they will be easy fixes down the road.
      1. Turkey Pot Pie – perfect way to reuse veggies
        Turkey broth – I use the HUGE pot we had for deep frying the turkey to boil up some broth for the days ahead.
        Turkey soup – just add noodles to your turkey broth.
        Ham and cheese strudel – chopped ham with some shredded cheese rolled up in puff pastry . . . perfect for a relaxed morning meal (or for an easy dinner as well).
        Ham hash – another great morning treat.



    The key to enjoying the holidays is to plan to enjoy it and then work the plan so you can enjoy it. It is not about the food, or even about the day of the month. This holiday, like all days, is about the people around us. Invest in those relationships first – make them the priority – and no matter how the turkey turns our (or even if it gets away) you will still have a blessed holiday to remember.

    Time for Planned-Overs

    • Thanksgiving Pot Pie – normally I would have made turkey pot pie, but I completely forgot to set aside some potatoes to cube for this dish. So, I improvised. I layered a deep dish pie crust with turkey, made another layer of green bean casserole, added in some carrots (saved and frozen from a previous meal), stirred in some raw garlic (because . . . garlic!), smothered in all in gravy, and then topped it off with a mashed potato crust. Turned out good and was a nice change from just repeating the meal from before.

      Confession Time: I really only made this because I had a leftover pie crust that I had to use because I forgot to put it away. It was still good though and will definitely be a repeat in the holidays to come.

    • Ham and Cheese Strudel – all you need is some puff pastry sheets (found in the freezer section usually above or around the pie crusts). Let the pastry sheet thaw over-night in the frig. Roll it out until it’s thin. Spread out a layer of diced ham to within an inch of the sides. Spread out a layer of shredded cheese on top of that. Dampen the edges of the dough (this will help seal the strudel shut) and then begin to roll it up like a log. Put the strudel on a baking sheet – seam side down and then puncture the top with a fork (about 12 holes should be plenty – you are just giving steam from the cooking a place to escape). Cook at 375 F until golden brown.
    • Green Eggs and Ham

      My son came up with this little gem. He started by scrambling some eggs and before they were done he threw in some of the chopped up spinach pie. Fry up a couple of pieces of ham and you have a great breakfast to start the day after Thanksgiving.

    • Chefs Salad. Save a few of your boiled eggs from the Deviled Egg line and you can throw a healthy lunch together in a flash. Make it a T-day special by layering green salad, chopped turkey, chopped ham, chopped boiled egg, and then use home-made cranberry sauce as a tart dressing for your salad (you can even create an actual salad dressing with it as your base).



    Enjoy the holidays but also let the day or two of holiday cooking be a time that you can use to prepare for the weeks ahead. Things can get crazy this time of year, but if you are prepared and have a plan you can find a way to keep it simple.



    Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite holiday time savers?

    How to Power Boost Your System with a Red Smoothie

    How to Power Boost Your System with a Red Smoothie

    Eating healthy sometimes means drinking healthy. Adding foods that you won’t normally eat to a smoothie can give you the nutrients you seek without having to “learn to like” the food that is not at all appealing.

    # # #

    I have never been fond of beets. My disdain for the vegetable probably goes back to my first diet at 14. It involved lots of beets – and was one of those eat this for three days and you will lose weight fad diets.

    It may have caused me to lose weight because I struggled to choke down the beets required.

    Since that time, I have not done anything with beets. The canned cranberry sauce even caused me to look away because it reminded me of those beets from the fad days.

    Today, I made a change, and I believe it will be for the better.

    I tried a red smoothie for the first time.

    Green smoothies and I go way back, and my whole family will delight in the green smoothies. Granted, the smoothies are rarely green, but they do include a high dose of a green veggie.

    I read about red smoothies when I was looking for something to sooth my son’s stomach. The red smoothies include a raw beet. That alone was enough to cause me to pause. But beets are supposed to be a super food (they contain lots of vitamins and minerals including carotenoids, lutein/zeaxanthin, glycine, betaine, dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus, while also being a source of beneficial flavonoids called anthocyanins) so I decided to give it a go.

    I started out with a recipe from the Food Network – because rarely has the Food Network steered me wrong.

    If you have known me for very long, you know I say “started out with” because I have trouble following a recipe. And since I was trying to pack this red smoothie with as much immune building and distestion soothing punch as I possibly could, I pretty much ignored most of what the recipe suggested and just tossed lots of things into a blender.

    NOTE: if you have never tried something before, you might want to follow the recipe first – just trust me on this.

    So, roughly this is what I did:

    1 med beet, peeled and then cubed
    1 med apple, cored and cubed
    Two lemons, juiced
    2 cups Northland Blueberry Pomegranate juice
    4 pitted dates
    1 cup frozen cherries
    1 cup frozen strawberries
    1 cup of Stoneyfield Vanilla Yogurt
    3 tbls Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
    ¼ cup raw (local) honey

    I blended it well and then had a heaping cup with breakfast. My breakfast also included grits (with raw garlic added) so I should be wired to kill any bad guys that may approach or that may be roaming through my body.

    The red smoothie was not what I would call a shouting success, but it was tolerable. The whole time I was drinking I couldn’t decide if it was too tart (from the ACV) or two sweet. In I think it was too many flavors all at once.

    Do you have a favorite red smoothie recipe? Share in the comments below because I still have five more beets I need to do something with!

    Make the Most of Mealtime with Crockpot Meals

    Make the Most of Mealtime with Crockpot Meals

    | Four entrees – One Pork Loin |

    We want to provide our families healthy, preferably home-made meals. We want to balance our household budgets. And we want to do all of this while keeping the house in order, taking care of ourselves, and also getting the kids where they need to be when they need to be there.

    | Bring on the Crock Pot |

    Crockpot Island - TraveLangs
    Can you ever have too many crockpots?

    I have always been a huge fan of “leave it” meals. The kind I can put in a pot, walk away, and it will be ready when mealtime rolls around.

    One year, just before Thanksgiving, our oven died. We didn’t have time to replace the appliance before the big holiday, so I improvised. Almost every dish (we got a smoked turkey that year) was cooked in crock pots or other electronic appliances. I discovered I could LITERALLY cook anything in a crockpot.

    So I did.

    | More Meals from Less Money |

    The more I used my crock pots, the more recipes I found to use my crock pots – and the bolder I got in creating my own recipes. I also found that I could prep my crock pot meals, freeze them, and then all I had to do was put them in the crockpot the night before and I would have a great lunch or dinner when the time was right.

    About this same time, I discovered that our local Foodland Plus sold pork loin that was two feet long – which divided perfectly into four meals.

    (I keep an eye out for any big sales on meats. When they come along – and they do – then I pack them up to freeze for later).

    It’s like someone was watching out for me and helping me get this meal thing in order (and under budget).

    | The Crock Pot Meals |

    I set up freezer ziplock bags – one for each meal I’m going to work on. Then I add the meats, top with the other ingredients, seal the bag, label and date, and then freeze. When it comes time to cook, I cut the bag open and dump the whole frozen concoction into the crock pot.

    Cinnamon Pork

    2.5 lb pork loin
    ½ cup chopped onions
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    ½ tsp coarse salt
    ½ tsp pepper
    1 cup beef broth
    1 tbsp chopped garlic (cause is it possible to have too much garlic?)

    Ginger Pork

    2.5 lb pork loin
    2 tsp ground ginger
    ½ cup onions
    1 tbsp chopped garlic
    ½ tsp coarse salt
    ½ tsp pepper
    ¼ cup honey
    1 cup beef broth

    Barbeque Pork

    (this is absolutely the easiest recipe)

    2.5 lb pork loin
    ½ cup chopped onions
    1 tbsp chopped garlic
    ½ tsp coarse salt
    ½ tsp pepper
    1 bottle barbeque sauce

    Traditional Pork Dinner

    2.5 lb pork loin
    ½ cup onion wedges
    1 tbsp chopped garlic
    ½ tsp coarse salt
    ½ tsp pepper
    1 ½ cup chopped carrots
    1 ½ cup chopped celery
    1 ½ cup baby potatoes (or 1 inch cubed)
    1 cup beef broth

    | Make it Work for You |

    I’ve shared some of the recipes I have used, but I should tell you that these measurements are guestimates on my part. I RARELY measure anything when I’m creating crockpot concoctions. A little salt, a little pepper, some onions, and some garlic and then I just add flavors I think will work.

    I do this with chicken as well.

    Most of my crockpot beef dinners involve ground beef and are more casserole than anything else.

    The more I have played around with the flavors, the more options I have discovered.

    What is your favorite crock pot cooking tip? Be sure you share in the comments below.

    The Mom

    Coming Soon!

    I’ll walk you through my idea of “once a month” cooking and share how putting the prep work in all at once paves the way for quick and easy meals.

    Tempting Veggie Tots that Made Cauliflower a Welcomed Visitor

    Tempting Veggie Tots that Made Cauliflower a Welcomed Visitor

    The Travelangs have been making an attempt to eat more vegetables and a wider variety of vegetables. That should read “The Mom” is making an attempt, but the rest of the TraveLangs are caught up in the journey.

    It all started when the Father-In-Law needed a change in diet. We started preparing all his meals and taking them to him. We wanted to make sure he had fruits and vegetables, so salad became a staple.

    It was only recently that he mentioned to my son that he has trouble chewing salad. I knew he had trouble with other things, but this information was new.

    I made it my goal to provide a full meal without salad as an option (fruit is only a rare option because of high blood sugar).

    So here we are. This week we have had zucchini chips, cheesy tomatoes, spinach loaf, butternut squash, roasted squash, green beans, and ratatouille (which included eggplant, a first for this mom) . . . and it’s only Wednesday.

    Today’s experiments . . . I mean recipes . . . involves a veggie I have never ventured into on purpose. Cauliflower and I have never talked. I’ve seen Cauliflower at parties and it has even visited some of my side dishes at restaurants. But I have never had an initial encounter.

    The Dad LOVES Cauliflower – which is once again proof positive that God does have a sense of humor.

    I will make a confession here. Several years ago, you couldn’t have paid me to make broccoli. It had just been a party companion to cauliflower. One day, my son asked if we could try it. So I did – because when your kids start ASKING for healthy choices you bite the bullet and make the healthy choices. Now I LOVE it.

    After a search for some veggie recipes, I decided I was going to have to extend Cauliflower an invitation.

    | The Cauliflower Saga |

    After my fiasco with ratatouille last night, I decided I should read the whole recipe I had downloaded for the cauliflower dish. The recipe for “Cauliflower Tots” came from CookBookMeals.com and looked simple enough.

    Full disclosure: “recipe” simply offers a starting point for my cooking. I, in no way, believe it is a directive – kind of like most people driving along Hwy 431 in Alabama feel about road signs and driving laws.

    | It Starts with a Pan |

    Not only does it start with a pan, but my goal for every meal is to keep it to one pan. That way there is less for me to clean up. We probably should buy stock in aluminum foil with as much as we use in our cooking (not to mention crockpot liners and parchment paper).

    The recipe called for softening the cauliflower in a skillet. Now, I’m prepared to invite Cauliflower into our home, but I’m not quite prepared to go out of my way for it. I decided to roast Cauliflower in the oven (and for those who are wondering I did have some great punchlines).

    Something else you need to know about me is I rarely measure things. I am a full-on “pinch, dash, splash” kind of cook

    I threw the roasted (and obviously happy) Cauliflower in the food processor, added some onion (what was left in the refrigerator of a sweet onion), about a tbsp. of garlic (because Garlic is ALWAYS invited), some salt and pepper, and chopped.

    After they were chopped together, I stirred in some seasoned bread crumbs. I had about a cup leftover of the Full Circle Italian Style Bread Crumbs I had purchased on Saturday from Foodland Plus in Guntersville (I really like these because they are not as fine as the store brand bread crumbs). I added in two eggs, stirred everything well, and then put the “tots” on the same pan that I had used for the Cauliflower roast.

    Finally, I baked at 425 degrees F, because that was what the oven was set to from the roast. I think the 400 degrees F suggested by the recipe might have provided a crisper finished product.

    | The Verdict |



    veggie tots for lunch


    It’s usually a good sign when everyone is popping the bites in their mouth when they walk through the kitchen. If Cauliflower continues to show up with such flavorful fanfare then Cauliflower will be welcomed in our home!

    Signed,

    The Mom

    P.S. Cleanup only took about 10 minutes total!

    What are some of your veggie favorites?