With Easter coming up, there have been some fantastic prices on Hams. I love having a deep freezer at times like this since it allows me plenty of space to stock up with. I found Smithfield hams for $1/lb and bought three. After cooking them, I slice all the meat off the bone and dice it, storing it in meal sized portions in the freezer. I typically get enough ham for about 20 meals, including using the ham bone. It never ceases to amaze me how many things I can either make, or drastically improve, using ham. Just think of the possibilities! I found this meal on quick & easy recipes, and opted to use the real ham I had frozen instead of some cooked and crumbled bacon. I figured my boys would appreciate the extra protein. While the prep time is relatively quick, the cook time is not and you will need to plan accordingly. That being said, this is delicious, almost like smothered french fries and it tastes just like a baked potato. My boys like ketchup on their ketchup, and opted to drown their potatoes in it, but my husband and I love it with just a dollop of sour cream for that authentic baked potato feel.
Loaded Baked Potato And Chicken Casserole
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 8-10 medium potatoes, skin on and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground pepper
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 6 tbsp hot sauce
- 2 cups Mexican blend cheese, or 1 cup shredded monterey jack and 1 cup shredded cheddar mixed together
- 1 cup cooked, diced ham
- 1 cup diced green onions
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
- In a large bowl mix together olive oil, hot sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
- Add the cubed potatoes and stir to evenly coat.
- Add the potatoes to a greased 9×13 baking dish, leaving behind any extra hot sauce mix in the bowl.
- Bake the potatoes for 45-50 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until cooked through and crispy on the outside.
- Add the diced chicken to bowl and stir to evenly coat all the chicken, allowing chicken to marinate as the potatoes bake.
- Remove cooked potatoes from the oven and add the marinated chicken.
- Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees.
- In a separate bowl mix together all topping ingredients.
- Top the raw, marinated chicken and potatoes with the topping ingredients.
- Bake 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the topping is melted and bubbly.
- Serve with extra hot sauce, ketchup, ranch dressing, or sour cream as desired.
I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact reason, but there’s something about foods in miniature that my boys just love. It’s like they just exude ‘fun’. Anything mini I put in front of them gets eaten with gusto, and gets raved about afterwards, even when it’s larger counterparts don’t. They like fun finger foods, and I love easy. Pigs in a blanket are a match made in heaven for us. Typically, my boys request these for parties, but I also will make them for special snack supper nights. They love eating them for lunch as well, since I use homemade crescent dough and usually have enough leftover to make crescents to go with dinner too.
Pigs In A Blanket
- 1 package lil smokies
- 2 cans crescent rolls, or 1 batch homemade crescent rolls
Homemade Crescent Dough
- 2 (1/4 oz) packets active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup shortening, or butter
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
Making Crescent Dough
- Dissolve yeast in warm water.
- Stir in sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and 2 cups of flour. Beat until smooth.
- Mix in remaining flour until smooth. Scrape dough from the sides of the bowl.
- Knead dough, then cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1-1/2 hours).
- Punch down dough and divide in half.
- Roll each half into a 12-inch circle and spread with butter.
- At this point you can cut the dough into 16 wedges, or tear strips to wrap the sausages with. Strips are a little easier to work with for the tiny weiners.
- Use your crescents, either homemade or canned, and wrap your sausages.
- Place your ‘pigs in blankets’ with the point, or end, down onto a greased baking sheet.
- If using homemade dough, cover and let rise about 45 minutes. Canned crescents need no rise time.
- For canned crescents bake according to package directions, for homemade, bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Let cool slightly and serve.
If you’re just interested in making the homemade crescent rolls. Cut the dough into 16 wedges, as suggested above. Roll your wedges up, and place them point down onto a greased baking sheet. Let them rise for about 45 minutes, then bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
In my effort to cut costs everywhere I can, and to be as all natural as possible on our families budget, I decided to stop buying store bought dish detergent and see if I could replicate it for minimal cost and still get great results. This at home, all natural version is only 3 ingredients, which I keep on hand and only takes a few minutes to whip up. Using equal parts of the two main ingredients, I can make as much or as little as I need. My favorite part, each load only costs pennies! My dishes even seem to be cleaner than when I previously used a store bought detergent. A cheap way to achieve sparkling results? Yes, please!
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
- washing soda
- lemon flavored kool aid packet (optional)
- Mix equal parts borax and washing soda together. Make sure it’s equal parts.
- If using, add in kool aid packet.
- Stir until all ingredients are evenly combined.
- Transfer detergent into a storage container.
- Use 2 tbsp per load.
The kool aid packet is just for scent purposes, and without it the detergent will still clean just as well.
I couldn’t ask for, and haven’t found, an easier all-natural recipe for dish detergent and for only pennies per load!
*For best results, rinse dishes thoroughly before loading them into the dishwasher. This isn’t an issue for me since my husband is a stickler about rinsing dishes pre-wash. Also, to avoid an streaks try using a rinse aid. If needed, I use plain white distilled vinegar as an all natural rinse aid.
Are you struggling to find that perfect gift for someone special? Or the perfect gift for that special occasion? Do you just dislike spending all that money on a greeting card that is just going to be discarded or thrown in s drawer and forgotten? Instead of a boring printed card quip, give a ‘card’ that won’t be forgotten. A card, that is more than a card, that with some simple creativity can be tuned to any holiday or special occasion. My husband has a raging sweet tooth, so anything involving sugar instantly means that much more to him. My sister was graduating high school and I wanted to give her a ‘card’ with a special touch, because I didn’t just want to give her money. These were the resulting ‘cards’ they received with my messages for them. Candy-grams are an awesome way to put your own thoughts into words, some spelled out in sugar, with a personal touch and a little flair. Whatever the occasion and the message, they will certainly leave a lasting impression and memory!
Father’s Day Candy-Gram
“Dad, we were going to give you a ‘whopp’ ing ‘100 Grand’ for Father’s Day, but the money slipped right through our ‘butterfinger’s. We didn’t have an ‘extra’ ‘whatchamacallit’ to sell and it wasn’t ‘payday’. We didn’t think a pet ‘kitkat’, a trip to New ‘York’, or an ‘orbit’ around the ‘milkyway’ would be appropriate. We do want to wish you ‘mounds’ of ‘joy’ both ‘now and later’ as you eat this card. We hope it doesn’t make you ‘rolo’ver and get sick. If it does we promise not to ‘snicker’. Love, your favorite ‘airheads’ (include children’s names).”
“We (or I) thought it would be ‘sweet’ to make you a card. I still remember when we were little; we were like the ‘3 musketeers’. I still can’t believe just yesterday you were in your ‘cap’ and gown and ‘skor’ed a diploma. You’ve come a long ‘way’. You should be filled with ‘mounds’ of ‘joy’ that you’re no ‘dumdum’ and are filled with ‘extra’ good stuff that’ll take you far in life– ‘now and later’. You’re an ‘awesome’ individual and as a sister worth more than ‘100 grand’. I am so proud of you I could just ‘kiss’ you!!!!”
I love cheesecake. I mean LOVE. I make it all the time. For everyone. For everything. For anything. I’ve been making cheesecake since I was 9 years old. Since I was a teenager it has been my go-to special occasion dessert and I’ve experimented with every kind of topping possible, including my favorites: peaches, cherries, and strawberries. However, fundamentally I always make it the same way, using the same methods: a NY style cheesecake batter poured into a delicious buttery graham cracker crust inside my trusty spring-form pan and finally, topped with whatever fruit I am craving. When I came across a sweet new twist on an old favorite of mine, I knew I had to try this. I served these petite ‘cheesecakes’ at a family birthday party and they were gobbled up almost as soon as I had set them out. Everyone loved them. The sprinkle of crushed graham cracker made them! With a perfect balance between rich, creamy cheesecake and the sweet fruity strawberries these are a must try for both cheesecake lovers and non-cheesecake lovers alike.
Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries
- 1 lb large strawberries
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 4 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- graham cracker crumbs
- Rinse the strawberries and, using a paring knife, cut around the top of the strawberry.
- Remove the top of the strawberry and clean out the inside so that you’re left with a nice little hole in the center of the strawberry.
- Prep all the strawberries and then set them aside.
- In a mixing bowl beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla together until creamy and evenly combined.
- Put cream cheese mixture into a piping bag or a ziplock back with one of the corners snipped off.
- Fill the strawberries with the cream cheese mixture and arrange in a single layer on a plate or serving tray.
- Sprinkle generously with graham cracker crumbs.
There are basic toiletries that I think most everyone can agree are necessities, antiperspirants among them. Over the years, I’ve read several medical articles substantiating the claims that the aluminum in deodorants can be linked to an increased risk in women of developing breast cancer, although nothing has ever been completely confirmed. My husband and I try to buy and use as many organic products for our family as possible on our budget and organic deodorant, or even all natural, is just too expensive for us. When I came across a recipe to try making it myself, using ingredients I keep stocked in our kitchen, I couldn’t wait to try it. We, and my teenage sons, have used this for a week and it’s worked as well as anything I’ve purchased from a store. The first batch had no scent, although the coconut oil did give it it’s own faint coconut-ty smell. To the second batch we added a few scant drops of lavender essential oil which made the deodorant smell wonderful, without being overpowering. For something so easy, good for you, and cheap, is there any reason to keep paying for over-priced chemical laced sticks from the store? This deodorant is not only husband approved, but teenage boy proof! Not a single whiff of funk from any of my guys, all for pennies on my part.
- 3 tbsp organic coconut oil
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp aluminum-free baking soda
- 3-4 drops organic essential oil for fragrance, optional
- In a small bowl mix cornstarch and baking soda until evenly combined.
- Stir in coconut oil until evenly combined.
- Put mixture in a container, or empty deodorant stick, for storage and use.
- Deodorant can stay out, but it will be more of a paste to apply. If you want a hard bar to rub on, store in the refrigerator.
Every night before bed we say our prayers. We’ve watched our prayers with our sons evolve from a simple, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep…’ to specific prayers for people they know, things that worry them, and words of thanks and gratitude for the things in their lives. As I’ve had more children, I’ve realized the earlier I can get them acclimated to the idea as normal and second nature, the easier it becomes to connect to God and to really have a conversation with Him about the things that matter to you, and not always having the thing that matters to them most be themselves. When my youngest was 1, he’s almost 4 now, I decided to create a prayer pail. Each night before bed I let him pick out a stick, or two or three, if he feels so inclined and we say a prayer for whoever or whatever is listed on the stick. He has come to look forward to the surprise of who or what he will be praying for and excited about including others in our nightly prayers. Originally, we just did sticks for our immediate family. Now, we have sticks for everyone: extended family, the ‘lost’, and even our church. We also have a ‘thankful’ stick, so he can tell God what he is thankful for too. For us, this has been the perfect tool to teach our son a loose form for prayer in a way that even a toddler can understand.
To make the prayer sticks I just wrote on Popsicle sticks with different color sharpies. I punched holes in them using my crop-a-dile and then threaded different ribbon into the holes and tied to give them a bit of pizzazz. Our ‘pail’ is a metal Batman pail from Target’s $ bins.
I don’t know why, but I’ve been on a ‘cheeseburger’ kick lately. Soup, macaroni, now a casserole. I just crave that meaty, cheesy combo, and for whatever reason recently I’ve been going to new, experimental lengths to get my fix. This is what evolved from a lunch for the boys on a day they were home from school that was incredibly cold, when I had pulled hamburger meat out for, you guessed it, hamburgers for lunch and then realized I had no buns or sandwich bread. It was the perfect comfort food to warm us all up and put a smile on everyone’s face. There were no leftovers.
Cheeseburger and Taters Casserole
- 1 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1 can of refrigerated crescent rolls, or 1 batch of homemade crescent rolls
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 cups shredded mexican blend cheese, divided
- 1 2 lb pkg tater tots, frozen
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 3-4 tbsp mustard
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Brown ground beef until cooked through. Drain.
- Return to skillet, add in onions and saute 2-3 minutes.
- Add in ketchup, mustard, and 1 cup of cheese. Stirring until heated through. Remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Grease a 9×13 baking dish, or coat with non stick spray.
- Lay crescent rolls out flat to cover the bottom of the dish like a crust. Press seams together so there aren’t any gaps.
- Spread hamburger mixture evenly over the crescent rolls.
- Top evenly with tater tots.
- Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until tater tots are done.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over the top of the casserole.
- Return to oven cooking 5 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
- Let the casserole cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Saturday morning we woke up to snow falling. I love snow, and so do my kids, but snow seems to make them a little bit frantic, and crazy. Sadly, even after four kids, I am still not a morning person, but there’s something about snow falling while sipping my piping hot cup of coffee that can make even the most chaotic morning just a little bit magical. Still, there was something missing, and my coffee seemed…lonely. So I decided to use my last can of pumpkin and make some pumpkin bread, the perfect accompaniment to any snowy morning, and another pot of coffee. The kids went out to play in the snow, which wasn’t even sticking, and I waited for our bread to finish baking, soaking up every stolen minute of peace and quiet. Right about the time the troops clomped in feeling frozen the bread was ready to eat. This pumpkin bread is easy and delicious, and sure to get all the kids around the table ooh-ing and aah-ing. It’s so good, that they won’t even want to talk between bites of deliciousness and sips of milk. For a treat I threw in some chocolate chips, around 1/4 cup, and even threw a few on top for a ‘garnish’ because I find chocolate so aesthetically pleasing. I was going for magical in the midst of chaos, remember? Morning, noon, night, what day couldn’t use a little magic in it! Make some ‘magic’ of your own today.
Crockpot (or not) Pumpkin Bread
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar*
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- 1 15 oz can of pumpkin
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp baking soda
- chocolate chips (optional)
*To make your own easy brown sugar, add 1 tbsp molasses to 1 cup of sugar and mix together thoroughly. Just like store-bought brown sugar, extras can be stored in a ziplock bag and put in the pantry, cabinet, etc. for future recipes.
- In a stand mixer, blend oil and sugars together.
- Stir in the beaten eggs and canned pumpkin.
- Gradually add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing until evenly incorporated.
- Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.
- Add 2 cups of water to your crockpot, and then sit the loaf pan inside the crockpot.
- Cover the top of the crockpot with 8-10 paper towels. This is important as it traps the moisture and condensation so the bread doesn’t become ‘mushy’.
- Place the lid on the crockpot, keeping the paper towels securely in place.
- Bake on high 2 1/2-3 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake pumpkin bread 50-60 minutes in the oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
I’m always on the lookout for easy breakfasts I can prepare ahead of time and have ready for my kids to eat on the go on busy morning. I had been eyeing this breakfast ‘cake’ recipe from Alexandra’s Kitchen for awhile and decided to give it a try last month. The result was wonderful! Moist, crumbly, and full of flavor it was a real treat for the everyone. The recipe takes minimal time to prepare, which is a blessing on nights I’m scrambling at the last minute before bed to throw something together for the morning. My whole family, even the picky eaters, love this, whether we’re sitting down at the table for a relaxing breakfast, or grabbing a piece to go, hurrying to school or practice.
Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake
- 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
- 2 tsp lemon zest*
- 3/4 cup & 2 tbsp sugar (7/8 cup) + 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups flour, set aside 1/4 cup of this
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
- 1/2 cup buttermilk**
*If you’re using fresh lemons for your zest, go ahead and zest the whole lemon. Any extra, or leftover zest, not used in the recipe can easily be stored in a ziplock bag and frozen for later use.
**To make your own buttermilk, add 1 tbsp white vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes before using. The recipe can be halved or doubled depending on the quantity needed. Just keep the ratios between the milk the the acidic ingredient equal. Lemon juice can also be used in place of vinegar.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with 1/4 cup flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.
- Fold in the blueberries.
- Grease an 8×8 baking pan with butter, or coat with non-stick cooking spray.
- Pour and spread batter evenly into the pan. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let cool and serve.