Friday, November 30, 2012

5 Minute DIY Candlestick Holders

This project was so ridiculously easy, that I almost feel silly even bothering to write about it. But, I figured I'm not the only one who likes quick and easy so I might as well share.

Problem: I somehow ended up with some fun taper candles but no candlestick holders for a taper candle. 
Solution: I scrounged two small scraps of 1x4 from the shop, drilled a 3/4 inch hole and in less then five minutes I had two simple, but perfectly functional candlestick holders for our table. 

Maybe someday I will even paint them...or maybe not.

Materials needed: 2 small scraps of 1x4 (mine are triangles with roughly 3.5 inch sides)
                             3/4 inch bit (I used a hole saw bit)

Find the center on your wood scrap for the most stability. Drill your hole approximately 3/4 of the way through your wood. Insert candle. Stand back and enjoy your creation!

Quick, easy and free. My favorite kind of project!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Honey BBQ Meatloaf with a Twist

I love the taste of meatloaf. I don't love that it takes a whole pound of meat and in our house we don't usually get even two meals out of it. My solution? Sneak in some lentils for to double the volume and protein at a fraction of the cost. I tried finding an existing recipe for what I had in mind, but nothing quite matched. So I used my go-to meatloaf recipe as a base and doubled it.  But here is the twist, I only added one pound of ground beef and swapped out the second pound for lentils. 
         It turned out to be a win-win. We get twice as many meals with the same amount of meat and after six years of marriage I finally have a lentil recipe that is hubby approved! (In other words, the flavor of the lentils is completely undetectable. Honest. It would not be hubby-approved if it you could still taste them!)

Honey BBQ Meatloaf with a Twist

  • 2 tsp beef bouillon granules
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2/3 cup honey barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup uncooked lentils
  • ketchup

In a small saucepan cook lentils in 2 cups of water for 20-30 minutes until tender (more instructions here).

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed. Spread into two loaf pans or a 9x9 casserole dish.

Bake at 350 for approx. 1 hour. Top with ketchup if desired and bake for 5-10 minutes more.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chicken Alfredo Rice (a.k.a. We're out of groceries!)

This little recipe came from a need for a quick easy dinner and not a lot of groceries in the house! We were pleasantly surprised with the results, though.

Chicken Alfredo Rice

2 cups uncooked brown rice
2 cups milk, divided
2 cloves garlic (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp butter
2 oz 1/3 fat cream cheese
1 tsp salt
1-2 chicken breasts, diced
2 tbsp flour
1 c. shredded parm. cheese
1  (28oz) can diced tomatoes

Cook brown rice in 4 cups water. 

In a separate pan saute garlic in butter add chicken and cook through. Add cream cheese and flour to make a roux of sorts. Add milk and stir till thicken. Add tomatoes (slightly drained). Cook until heated through. Serve over brown rice and dinner is on the table.

(If your rice is already cooked then it will only take a matter of minutes to pull it all together!)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Meal Plan - Nov 25

I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving! As you might suspect this week's plan seems to have ended up with a lot of turkey recipes. My freezer stash of baked goods and snacks for the hubby's lunches also seems to have pretty well disappeared so I'm hoping to get in some baking this week sometime. With out further ado...


Turkey a la King (I didn't get to this recipe last week, but I still want to try it)

Buffalo Chicken Chili (or turkey in this case) and homemade bread

Grandma's Chicken Soup and leftover bread


Homemade Yogurt (no fancy equipment needed!)

Peach French Toast Bake - I've started making a big breakfast casserole at the beginning of the week and it's been working out great for Travis to get an easy hot breakfast before work each morning with very minimal effort! 

Any suggestions for yummy breakfast casserole recipes? I'd love some new ideas to add some more variety!

Happy Cooking!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wholesome Almond White Chocolate Cookies

Today I have a little something to give your body a break from all the rich, wonderful holiday food this week if it needs it. I wanted to make a cookie that would satisfy my sweet tooth, but still provide my body with some nutrition. So I came up with these Wholesome Almond White Chocolate Cookies. I used what I had on hand, but I think dark chocolate would be great too or dried fruit like cranberries or raisins to make them even healthier. The batter isn't super sweet, but I think with the white chips it's a perfect balance. Also, the texture of the cookies is more of a cakish/muffinish cookie than a dense chewy cookie. If that strikes your fancy then here's your recipe.

Wholesome Almond White Chocolate Cookies

1/4 cup butter, softened
2 mashed bananas
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups whole wheat baking flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

In a large bowl mix butter, bananas and brown sugar until well combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add but do not mix yet, oats, whole wheat flour, baking powder and baking soda. Now mix them all in together (I find that this method prevents the need for dirtying two bowls but has the same effect). Add in almonds and chocolate chips. 
Drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. 

So tell me, what's your preference for cookie textures cakey or chewy?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Upcycled Onesie Project

You will quickly realize that 99% of my DIY projects come from trying to take what I've got and turn it into what I need (or just want!). Today's need: cloth diaper and EC friendly outfits.

We are cloth diapering Miss T and also starting to work on Elimination Communication neither of which are very conducive to the onesies that a part of nearly all baby outfits. The bulk of the cloth diaper means extra length is required to fit over them and with EC quick, easy diaper access is crucial. So, I decided it was time to whip out the scissors and the sewing machine and start making alterations to some of Miss T's onesies.

I used this tutorial from Make It and Love It to turn three onesies into three adorable dresses perfect for cloth diaper and EC use. It was so quick and easy (well, except for the first one which I had to re-do three times, but that was totally operator error, not poor instructions!) and I love the way they turned out! No fancy sewing required.

Next step is to finish her leggings to make sure she is nice and warm this winter. I'll be back with those once they are done... 

Any other suggestions out there for easy EC clothing or upcycled onesie projects?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cooking Pumpkin the Lazy Way

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I may have discovered the easiest way possible to have a big stash of pumpkin puree in your freezer for winter and it's so cheap, too! Want to hear it? Stab some slits into a whole pumpkin with a large knife (sounds dangerous, but really it felt much safer than trying to cut the thing in half!). If you don't feel like you got good slits made you can always go back and make some more once it has cooked a little and softened, but you do want to make sure there is a way for the steam to escape to you don't end up with an exploded pumpkin in your oven!

Place pumpkin in the oven whole. (You may want to put a cookie sheet under it to catch drips)

Cook for about 3 hours at 350 or until the shell is getting well browned and pumpkin is fairly easy to puncture. Let it cool.

Split it open and scoop out the seeds and guts. This was my favorite part. It was so easy, there was no fighting with stringy pumpkin guts trying to convince them to let go. Nope, they just slid right out, easy peasy.

Now your pumpkin is ready to be scooped out and turned into what every tasty treats you have in store for it. Or, divide it up into quart size freezer bags and freeze for future use. (I find that 2 cups per bag is a convenient amount for cooking with).

So that, that. A $2 pumpkin, about 15 minutes of hands-on time and 16 cups of pumpkin to stash in the freezer.  Frugal and easy, it's a hard combination to beat!

So far I have used this method with Spaghetti Squash as well and it worked wonderful. If you try another type of squash let me know how it turns out!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meal Plan - Nov 19

I haven't really decided if I think having Thanksgiving this week means more cooking with the big day or less cooking because of all the leftovers... either way, here is the plan for the week.

Mashed Potatoes
Apple, Onion and Cranberry Stuffing (minus the giblets and I might throw in some mushrooms)

Turkey a la King (or some variation of this)

Wholesome Almond White Chocolate Cookies (recipe coming this week)

So there you have it.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Pumpkin Cake

My experience in the cake decoration area is pretty much non existent so I was thrilled that my pumpkin cake actually turned out. Or shall we say a pumpkin, pumpkin cake. That's right, a pumpkin spice cake shaped like a pumpkin. Sound complicated? It's not I assure you it is not. Little to no artist ability required, thank goodness. So here's how it went down...

I used this Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting recipe as my base, but did 1.5x the amounts and made a few changes to give me two bunt cakes two work with.

Then I made the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting exactly as the recipe states no changes, no modifications, to increasing the quantity. (Shocking, I know.)

Once my cakes and frosting were made and the cakes were cooled it got to the fun part! 

I started by trimming off the bottom of each cake giving me a flat surface to work with.

Then I spread frosting on the flat surface of one of the cakes, enough to cover the cut part and give the other cake something to stick to. This will be the bottom half of the pumpkin. I gently lifted the other cake on top placing cut sides together. It thankfully slightly resembled a pumpkin! 

With the remaining frosting I drizzled the top of the cake letting the frosting run down the sides to give it an "artistic" flair.

For the stem I rolled up a brown paper grocery bag and stole some leaves from my fall decor to give it a little more character. (Yes, they are maple leaves on a pumpkin. Please don't tell.) 
And voila, a Pumpkin-Pumpkin Cake is created. So festive, but really so simple!

Pumpkin Pumpkin Cake (makes 2 smallish bunt cakes)

2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 scant teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 scant teaspoon ginger
1/2 scant teaspoon cloves
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 (15 oz) cans pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup canola oil
6 eggs

Preheate oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mix first 9 ingredients. Blend until combined. Mix remaining ingredients together and stir into flour mixture just until all the flour is incorporated. 

Pour half the batter in an oiled bunt pan (I used a canola oil spray and it worked well). If you have two bunt pans you can pour the other half of the batter into your other bunt pan. If, like me, you only have one you will repeat this process with the remaining batter after the first cake is done baking.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan until cake is only warm to the touch not hot. Carefully release the cake from the sides of the pan if needed with a knife (a plastic knife works well for this so you don't scratch your pan) and gently flip over and remove cake. Repeat process with the second half of the batter if necessary.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

I cannot take any credit for this recipe. It came from a friend, but I wanted to share it on here so I don't forget it.

Chicken, Bacon and Ranch Pizza

Preparation time: 15 minutes   Cook time: 10-15 minutes

4 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 cup ranch dressing
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1⁄2 tsp each, salt and coarse ground pepper
cornmeal for dusting
prepared pizza dough
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 cups Colby and Monterey Jack blend
10 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled

1. Combine chicken, dressing, pressed garlic, salt and black pepper in large bowl; toss to coat.

2. Generously sprinkle Pastry Mat with cornmeal; place dough onto center of mat. Roll dough to a 12-in. (30-cm) circle. Place dough onto Pizza Pan, gently stretching to cover bottom. Top crust with chicken mixture and tomatoes; sprinkle evenly with cheese and bacon (Freeze at this point if desired).

3. Thaw. Bake in a 425* oven for 10 to 15 minutes or till bubbly.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Meal Plan Nov 12th

Instead of typing up an email each week for the meal plan I decided to start posting on here for a while and see how I like it.

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti and Meatballs with Artisan Bread in 5
Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza
Black Bean and Rice Patties with Roasted Cauliflower

Potato Chowder
Banana Bread
Pumpkin Cake (I'll let you know what I did, if it works!)

Artisan Bread in 5

I know there are several copies of this floating around the web, but I have been loving the Artisan Bread in 5 recipe. It's such an easy way to have fresh bread with minimal work and minimal time!

It literally takes about 5 minutes to mix up and the dough lasts for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Per usual, I don't follow it to the letter - I usually bake it at 350 degrees and forego the the pan of water in the over. Using half white and half wheat works well too, but sometimes requires a bit more water to be used.

Here are some of my favorite variations to the recipe so far:

Italian Herb Bread - starting with the basic bread dough add 
1.5 - 2 TBSP of Italian seasoning
1 tsp of garlic 
sprinkle loaf with a bit of garlic salt prior to baking for an extra touch

Rosemary Bread - starting with the basic bread dough add 
2 TBSP dried rosemary 
1/2 tsp of Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Serve with olive oil for dipping.

Garlic Thyme Bread - starting with the basic bread dough add 
1.5 TBSP dried thyme
1 tsp of garlic

Soon I want to try it for pizza dough so I will let you know how it goes when that happens.

Now go bake some bread!