Monday, November 30, 2009

Homemade Gift Carnival

***Don't forget to add your own gift ideas- leave a comment, or link to your own blogpost!***


I love food gifts.
I love food.
When I love someone, I want to give them food.
I feel loved when I get food.
And a big plus: it doesn't clutter up the house.
(I've been working on keeping things clean/decluttered and have been blogging about it here.)

My friend Cara posted on her blog the other day, about homemade gifts. She linked to a Handmade Gift Carnival at The Nourishing Gourmet. I really enjoyed browsing through the gift ideas and got some great ones I'm going to try this year!

I typically make up some gift boxes, for employers and friends. Here is a post I did when I first started blogging.
I typically make Gingerbread Men (with frosting), Crab Apple Jelly, and some kind of bread. I have used Whole Wheat Bread and Swedish Raisin Rye Bread.

Last year I included Brian's Muesli and some Peanut Butter Granola, along with some coffee that our friend roasts himself (if you ask for his info in a comment I would be happy to pass it on via email!! He's wonderful with it!).

For teachers we've put a couple gingerbread men into Wilton Clear Party Bags.

So... for the first time ever I am branching out and doing a carnival of my own.
What do you do for homemade gifts and food gifts? Please blog about it and put your link here using Mister Linky:



Menu Plan Monday


Monday: Tortellni

Tuesday: Sausage Skillet

Wednesday: Chicken Mac & Cheese

Thursday: Pizza Rolls

Friday: Lentil Chili

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday: Whatchagot :-)

For more visit I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coconut Oil

I've been hearing alot about the health benefits of oils and fats and I've been hearing some wonderful things about coconut oil. Now, I hate coconut. I can't stand the smell, the taste, the texture- nothing. But the rest of the family likes it and Brian loves coconut.

I typically use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for all my cooking. But then I started hearing things like this:
The higher the temperature to which the olive oil is heated, the more one should prefer the use of refined olive oils. When extra-virgin olive oil is heated above 350 °C (662 °F), the unrefined particles within the oil get burned. This leads to deteriorated taste and even toxicity

I went and visited my friend Cara, who made me lunch and used coconut oil. I hadn't noticed! Yay for me!!

So, I decided to give it a try. I was able to get Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions.

I've been using it in everything to see what I think. I made scrambled eggs with it- tasted slight coconut.
Made cheesecake crust: replaced the butter with coconut oil- very coconutty, my mom loved it.
Greased my pans with it, used a pastry brush- it was like shortening. I could smell the coconut on the bread, but couldn't taste it. No one else noticed.
Used it to fry chicken in- no one noticed, not even me.
Put it in Baked Oatmeal, replacing the applesauce- I noticed it, but no one else did.
I still want to make granola with it, using the coconut oil instead of butter. I will say though, that since I know how strong this oil can be, I won't be tasting that one, but I'm confident everyone else will enjoy it.
I have really enjoyed using this and I'm really impressed with how they process it.
I think next I will try Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil because it's not supposed to have much of a coconut taste, but still very healthy.

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.


**If you are purchasing from Tropical Traditions for the first time you can get a FREE copy of their Virgin Coconut Oil Book. Simply choose "Referred by a Friend" and enter my User ID# 5691384. This gets me credit toward coconut oil too. :-)**

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cheesecake

This last year my friend Kristy and I had a Pampered Chef party. (If you need a consultant, let me know, I know a great one!)
The special for the month was a spring form pan for a really amazing price. I've wanted one, but hadn't needed one... I justified it because it was such a good deal. So I finally pulled it out to try it.

I had to double my regular recipe that I put in a pie pan in order to get the right thickness in the spring form pan. I also had some cream cheese that was given to me, which had been frozen and gets a slightly different texture, similar to working with ricotta cheese, I think.


Cheesecake

Crust:
8 Graham crackers, crushed
1/2 c. butter softened
1/4 c. sugar
Mix and press into bottom of pan

Cheesecake:
4 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
Mix till smooth then add:
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
Pour over crust, bake at 350˚ for 70 minutes.

For the strawberry sauce I made something like this only put strawberries in instead.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Deal on Coconut Oil

Cara wrote about a coupon code for Tropical Traditions. I would encourage you to check out their Black Friday deal!! I'm going to be ordering some oil myself. She gets credit if you use her referral code, so I would encourage you to do that. :-)

The $10 off coupon code is good till midnight Nov. 29th, so check it out!

Pizza Crust and Taco Pizza



My friend Kristy got a new cookbook, she's been coming over about once a month and we've made a few dishes to put in the freezer. I really enjoyed going through the book, the recipes are easy but don't have much with cream soups. I was most impressed with the pizza crust we made.
We've made their Chicken Alfredo Pizza (that was delicious!!) and then we made more crust and put our regular toppings on.
Sunday I had some leftover Lentil Chili so we made some taco pizza. It was so good!!





No-Rise Pizza Dough
2 c. Warm water
2 T. Yeast
3 T. Sugar
1 T. Salt
4-5 c. Flour (can be all white or 1/2 wheat & 1/2 white)
~
Cornmeal
Olive oil

Makes 2 pizza crusts.

Put water, yeast and sugar into a stand mixer bowl, mix slightly and let sit for a few minutes to get the yeast working. Then add salt and mix and add flour until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the mixer bowl. Knead for about 5 minutes.
Dust pizza stone with cornmeal, roll out dough, brush with olive oil and prick with fork every 1/2-1 inch.
Bake at 500˚ for about 5 minutes.

Take out and let cool (I just started piling my toppings on, because it was going right back into the oven).

Taco Pizza
2 c. Lentil Chili
2 c. chopped cooked chicken, tossed with
1 T. taco seasoning
4-6 green onions, chopped
Shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips

Spread the chili over the crust, top with chicken, onions and cheese, bake at 450˚ for 15 minutes. Top with crushed tortilla chips. Now, I didn't do this- but I know it would complete the meal perfectly:
Top with shredded lettuce and diced fresh tomatoes.

I have tried to make taco pizza before, I've had some great ones at pizza restaurants, but it's never been too good at home. This one totally hit the spot though! It was great!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

A continuation from last week:


For more visit Wordless Wednesday.

How to Cut an Avocado

I don't know where I saw this done years ago- but I've been doing it this way ever since.

Cut through to the seed and follow the line all the way around the avocado.

Give a slight twist and pull the halves apart.

Take a spoon and follow the meat going around the whole thing as close to the skin as possible.

Tah Dah!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Soaking Venison


We eat mostly venison for our red meat. It's really healthy, organic (wild) and free range. :-) Some people do not like the gamey taste of wild game. I rarely notice it, if you treat your meat properly it's not overwhelming and most of the time one doesn't notice.
We hang our deer before processing it. Which allows it to be more tender. When I take it out of the freezer, the day before I need to cook with it, I unwrap it, place it in a bowl of water (make sure the meat is covered with the water) and put in about 2 tablespoons of salt and stick it in the fridge. This helps remove some of the blood, which I believe adds to the gamey taste. Also, try to make sure as much of the fat is gone as you can get. Venison fat is not tasty and has alot of gameyness to it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey Soup


With the turkey I made last Sunday, I made a soup stock and thought I would let you know what I did this time.

Turkey Soup
3/4 of a 10-12 qt. pot of stock (directions here under my other turkey soup post, just scroll down)
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 of a celery bunch, chopped
5 carrots, diced
3 cups cooked, chopped turkey meat
16 -32 oz. egg noodles (depending on how much or little broth you like when you eat)
Salt and pepper to taste

The next night, when I reheated it I added about 1 Tbsp. parsley flakes.

This filled my 10 qt. stock pot and fed us for 2 dinners. Now, remember we are big eaters- so that's 5 people eating 2 bowls of soup and 2 (little people) eating 1 bowl of soup. And Titus loved it, so at almost 1 year, he ate a whole bowl himself!

Find out more on how good broth is for you here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Broccoli and Chicken Alfredo


Broccoli and Chicken Alfredo
16 oz penne (or whatever pasta you would prefer)
2 c. broccoli (blanched)
2 chicken breasts
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. grated parmesan cheese

Fry chicken breasts in oil, (I chop them as they cook with the flat spoon) When almost done put in 2 cloves of garlic, pressed.
Cut broccoli into bite sized pieces.
Cook pasta according to package directions.
To blanch the broccoli, I put a colander in the pasta water, place the broccoli inside and boil for 1-2 minutes, then take it out and let it drain.

For Alfredo Sauce:
Heat heavy whipping cream in saucepan, stirring constantly. When it starts to boil sprinkle and mix parmesan cheese in. Do this slowly so the parmesan melts before adding more cheese, if added all at once it will be clumpy.
Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste. Take off the heat.

Drain pasta, mix with broccoli, chicken and sauce. Serve.

Mmmm! So tasty!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Butternut Squash Whole Wheat Pancakes


I baked butternut squash a couple days ago and had it sitting in the fridge, deciding if I want to make a pie out of it or freeze it for something else... So this morning I decided to stick it in some pancakes. I left out the sugar because it was a really sweet squash (I read somewhere online that the longer you bake them the sweeter they get).


Butternut Squash Whole Wheat Pancakes
3 c. whole wheat flour
2 TB baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butternut squash meat
1/4 c. oil
2 1/2 c. milk

Mix thoroughly. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a hot griddle. These pancakes didn't make "bubbles" to show when to flip them, so I just watch and flip when the edges start to get a bit crinkled and the underside is brown. They were thick, so cook them longer than normal pancakes.
This makes a good sized batch, enough for 6 good eaters-- we normally have just a couple pancakes leftover.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turkey Gravy Over Rice



Sunday, I stuck a turkey in the oven before church, Jesse peeled some potatoes and had them sitting in a pot of water ready to be boiled and we came home to a delicious smell!
We enjoyed a great turkey dinner and had quite a bit of leftover gravy, so I stuck it in the fridge and reheated it tonight, stuck in some chunks of turkey meat and served it over rice. It was a hit with everyone.

Turkey Gravy

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday



For more visit wordlesswednesday.com

Butternut Squash

Yesterday I posted how to bake a squash and thought I would include pictures of the butternut squash I did as well. This is a pretty tasty squash, it took almost 2 hours to get soft and it was dryer than acorn squash.
Please excuse the blurry pics...





Monday, November 16, 2009

How to Bake a Squash

This is acorn squash, but as far as I know this works for all types of squash.
Cut the squash in half.
Remove the seeds.
Bake at 350˚ for 1-2 hours, until the outside is flexible.
Scoop the insides out and serve or save.

I bake them upside down.
My mom would put them right side up and put a pat of butter and spoon of brown sugar in the acorn squash. Then she would give person their own half of a squash to eat.









Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fresh Local Honey

Each fall we go to a family farm about 20 minutes away, they are just outside a smaller town. We pick our pumpkins out there- so much cheaper than anywhere in town and I love going to the farm. It's comforting to me, to be out in the country and talk with the person who grew the veggies. They really enjoy what they do and are happy to tell you how to cook/preserve anything. But probably my favorite part of going is getting fresh honey. They sell it as they take it out of the hive-- beautiful! It costs us about $15 for a smaller section, I think that works out to $2/lb.
We don't mind the wax in it, I rather like the crunch and the fresh smell/taste. I have only heard a little bit about the benefits of local raw honey, helping with seasonal allergies. I really need to research that a little more. I do not give Titus honey though (he is still a baby), but everyone else enjoys it.
We scrap it off and put it into jars. I was told if you don't care for the wax to set the honey comb on a sieve and place near the stove where it can heat. Leave it all day and the honey will drip down into the bowl without the wax.






Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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