Thursday, May 29, 2014

Homemade Brownie Mix for the Pantry


I have posted several recipes for homemade Brownies in my blog.  They are all delicious!  Here they are:







I've posted recipes for brownies made with black beans, which is completely DELICIOUS:


I've even posted a one serving recipe for brownies:




Apparently I LOVE brownies ha!  Seriously, what I do love is making something at home that most people make from a box and have to get at the store.  My mission is always to find great substitutes for boxed food that I can make at home. Hopefully this saves me money but also I am looking to eliminate as many unknown ingredients from my  family's diet as possible.  Since brownies make my family super happy, these recipes are great substitutes for boxed brownies!

The recipe I am posting today is for a basic, small batch of brownies.  I love this little batch of brownies.  I keep this brownie mix in pint canning jars in my pantry, ready for action.  This recipe uses few ingredients and is easy to mix up.  I just dump it in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients, which are only eggs, oil, and vanilla.


Often I want a little snack to have around the house, for dessert, for breakfast, or for packing for lunch.  Yes, I realize brownies are not breakfast items, but SOME PEOPLE like chocolate poptarts for breakfast and this is just as good for you (or, not nearly as bad for you) as that, right?



I use my canning funnel and measure the ingredients right into the jars.  I also write the instructions directly on one of those plastic white lids that fit canning jars.  And to top it off, I write the recipe for the mix INSIDE the lid, so that when I use one up, I can mix up another without digging around for the recipe:




I have started placing other recipes that I use all the time right in convenient places.  For instance, I have little notes taped to my bread machine for the recipes for my favorite Homemade Sandwich Bread recipe, Schoolhouse roll recipe, and Cinnamon Raisin Bread recipe.  I make these recipes all the time and they are so much handier to find them right on the bread machine, or in this case, right on the lid to the brownie mix jar.


Here's how I make Homemade Brownie Mix AT HOME MY WAY:



Homemade Brownie Mix
(Makes one 8x8 square or round pan of brownies.)

In a pint size canning jar or quart resealable baggie, add:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Write instructions and additional ingredients on the jar, baggie, or label somehow.

Instructions/Additional Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs (blended)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
INSTRUCTIONS:  Combine jar mix with additional ingredients and stir until well blended.  Bake in sprayed 8 x 8 pan or 8-9 round pan at 350° (fully preheated oven) for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

*Can add chocolate chips, nuts, etc.


Enjoy!


Gina



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Homemade Pigs in a Blanket - Freezer Lunch Idea



I don't know about you, but I'm always lacking lunch inspiration!  I don't have much time in the mornings since we have to be on the road by around 7AM each morning so even if I normally would have inspiration, probably I'm not having it at 6:30 AM.

I was browsing around blogs the other day looking for supper inspiration when I ran across a mom who makes her own pigs in a blanket.  We make pigs in a blanket at our house too but we use canned biscuits.  I just couldn't imagine the combination of homemade bread and hot dog.  

Let me be the first to tell you that these are the best, most delicious things you could ever put in your mouth!  No more, will I wonder what to take for lunch!  

These are pretty easy to make (I used my bread machine for the dough), and I simply let them cool and placed them all in a gallon bag in the freezer.  My morning lunch prep involved opening the freezer, getting one out, and sticking it in my lunch container.  At work, I simply warmed it in the microwave for about 15 seconds and ate it with some healthy dips of mustard.  YUM!!

Here's how I made Homemade Pigs in a Blanket AT HOME MY WAY:


Homemade Pigs in a Blanket
(with yeast dough)

  • One recipe of your favorite yeast dough equal to one loaf of bread - I used my Homemade Sandwich Bread dough recipe, which I made in my bread machine.  The recipe for that can be found HERE.
  • One package of hotdogs (10)
  • *Optional:  You could slice the hotdog lengthwise and insert a slice of cheese before wrapping in the dough if you like cheese dogs!
  • *Optional:  You could also cut the hotdogs into halves/thirds, use smaller dough balls, and make mini pigs in a blanket.

Instructions:

Prepare the dough as you would for one loaf of bread, using the dough setting on your bread machine.  If you are making dough without a bread machine, the dough will be ready for this next step after the first rise.

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray or lightly grease.

Dump dough on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with a little flour so you can handle it. (I don't like dirtying any more dishes or counterspace than I need to, so I just place the dough on the cookie sheet.)



Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces.



Make ropes from each ball - about 9-10 inches long.

Starting at the end of an uncooked hotdog, twist the dough around like the stripes on a candy cane, with the dough spirals touching each other.

Place the wrapped dogs on the cookie sheet with space between them for a little rising.



Preheat oven to 350°.

Place the pan with the wrapped dogs in a place to rise that isn't drafty/cool.  It was warm in my kitchen so the rise time only took about 15 minutes while my oven was preheating, but if it's winter and your kitchen is cooler, this could take a little longer.

Once risen and a little puffy, bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool and eat, or store in ziploc, gallon baggy in the freezer.  To rewarm, heat in microwave 15 seconds or so.  Also could be reheated in a toaster oven or regular oven.


Enjoy!


Gina

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Freezer Food - Meatloaf Singles & Other Food Gifts For New Parents



Pinterest has been hot and heavy lately with freezer food recipes; freezer crockpot meals, cooking once for eating twice, meal plan starters, freezing muffins, cookie dough, etc..  I have been anxious to jump on the band wagon and try my own hand at freezer food.

Since my niece and her husband welcomed baby #2 last week, I wanted to take something special to them (as a form of bribery for letting me hold the little jewel LOL)!  I could think of no better gift to take than some homemade, ready-to-cook meals.  Who doesn't like homemade food?  And I figured my niece and her hubby have LOTS more important things to do than cook.

I also included a written list of the items I made for their freezer and the cooking instructions for each item.  I didn't want them to forget something yummy and I thought the list could be put on the fridge for easy reference.

I did go a little crazy once I got started!  The only mistake I made was that I didn't make anything to eat for Doug and me.  After all the cooking and cleaning to get these meals ready, Doug had to eat Walmart chicken strips and I had Subway.  Ah well... you win some, you lose some.

Here is a list of all the freezer food I made AT HOME MY WAY:


Freezer Food for New Parents




Item #l


Perfect for son #1 who is two years old;
I got a message last night from dad 
who said they were a big hit!

I fully baked these and let cool, then bagged for the freezer with directions on the bag:

"DIRECTIONS:  Warm 30 seconds or so in the microwave."

Item #2

unbaked for the freezer

I mixed up a batch of Homemade Biscuits, placed the unbaked biscuits on a cookie sheet (not touching) in the freezer, and bagged them up when frozen.  Before bagging, make sure to write the instructions on the freezer bag in permanent marker: 

"DIRECTIONS:  Place frozen biscuits in sprayed pan, just touching each other.  Bake in preheated 350° oven for 20 minutes or until browning nicely."

Item #3

Teriyaki Chicken (crockpot freezer meal)

Write on the bag before putting ingredients in:

"DIRECTIONS:  Thaw/partially, place in crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours."

I just put frozen, skinless, uncooked chicken tenders (6) in the gallon ziploc bag, mixed the liquid ingredients/spices, and poured over the chicken.  Then placed the bag back in the freezer.

Item #4

Taco Chicken (crockpot freezer meal)
(Recipe below):

Write on the bag before putting putting in the ingredients:

"DIRECTIONS:  Thaw/partially; place in crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  When done, shred chicken and add 4 ounces of cream cheese.  Let warm in crock until cream cheese can be stirred/blended into the shredded chicken.  Serve with flour tortillas, nacho chips, etc."

Recipe:  Place in gallon ziploc bag:  6-8 frozen, skinless uncooked chicken tenders or 3-4 chicken breasts.  In a separate bowl, combine one jar of salsa with 1 packet taco seasoning.  Pour over chhicken.  Seal and freeze.

Item #5

Shepherd's Pie
Recipe Coming Soon

I made our favorite recipe for Shepherd's Pie and placed in an easy foil pan, topped with the potatoes, and covered with saran wrap, then foil.  Placed in the freezer.  I wrote instructions on the foil:

"DIRECTIONS:  Unwrap.  Place on cookie sheet and bake UNCOVERED in preheated 350° oven for 1 hour."

Item #6


I made a big batch, let cool, and placed in a gallon ziploc bag for freezing.  I placed the full, sealed bag on a flat surface and flattened it to spread out the meat, before placing the bag in the freezer.  I included the following directions:

"DIRECTIONS:  Thaw, heat in microwave in a separate dish (not in this bag), or in a pot on the stove.  Serve with buns."

Item #6



I made my favorite meatloaf recipe, linked here (but I used a full two pounds of ground round) (I hate grease cooking in the pan with meatloaf so I tend to use ground round for making it.)  I placed the uncooked meat in little pans, topped with the sauce, and froze uncovered until solid.  Then covered with foil and wrote the following directions on each foil pan  (you could fill these pans all the way for bigger servings or use one pan and make a big loaf):

"DIRECTIONS:  Unwrap.  Place on cookie sheet.  Bake UNCOVERED at 350° 1 hour or until done."


SIX items for their freezer!  
Ah-ah-ah-ah
(sounding like the count from Sesame Street.)


I told you that I went a little crazy.  I think they are stocked up on easy meals, for a few days anyway LOL.  (And,... yea... I forgot to take a picture of it all ready for the freezer.)  

I'll definitely be making some of these freezer meals for my own freezer!  What a fun way to put something homemade on the table!


Enjoy!


Gina










Monday, May 19, 2014

Corndog Mini Muffins



One of my nieces had a baby about a week ago.  Babies are always so exciting to me!  This baby is the second child for my niece and her husband.  Their older son is a little over two years old.  

I wanted to take them a few freezer meals so that mom could spend more time with the boys and less time in the kitchen.  I tried to make something special for each member of their family.  For the two year old, I thought some mini corndog bites might fit the bill.  This way, my niece could pull them out of the freezer, microwave them until warm, and give her son a pretty nutritious lunch or snack without having to drag something out of a box (eek LOL).

I'll post more about the other freezer meals that I made for them later on this week, but for now I wanted to post about the Corndog Mini Muffins.  I have posted about corndog muffins before (here), but recently I saw a picture on Pinterest of corndog mini muffins.  They feature one chunk of hotdog in the middle of the muffin.  My big girls still love mini corndogs and these turned out terrific!  I think I'll only be making corndog muffins as minis from now on at my house!

Here's how I made Mini Corndog Muffins for the freezer AT HOME MY WAY:

Mini Corndog Muffins (for the freezer)

  •  1 cup all-purpose flour (unbleached is best)
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal (not self-rising)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (white, granulated)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder (not baking soda)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used canola)
  • hotdogs - uncooked
Instructions:

In a medium sized bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients.

In a 2-cup measuring cup, add 1 cup milk.  Add 1/4 cup oil to the milk.  Plop in the egg.  (I find its easiest to measure liquid ingredients as I go - all in the same measuring cup.)

Blend really well to fully mix the egg into the liquid ingredients  (I use a fork or a whisk). 

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until moist.

Spray a mini muffin tin.

Fill the muffin tins half full with the muffin batter.

Cut hotdogs into five equal pieces.

Stick hotdog piece into the middle of each cornmuffin batter. It's okay if it sticks out a little because the batter will bake and puff up.

Place in preheated oven (350 ° for about 20 minutes or until browning).

(If your muffin pan is very dark, lower the temp to 325° or watch closely so they don't burn.)

I remove them to a cooling rack before bagging them up to freeze.


These are great for lunches, snacks, even served hot for appetizers.  Yummy stuff!

Enjoy!



Gina

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Baby Quilt and a Bridesmaid Dress



My daughter was in a wedding last summer with a friend she had grown up with.  Rebecca and I love Pinterest!  A few pins we've seen especially have gotten our attention - making baby blankets out of bridesmaid dresses.  We loved the idea!  What do you do with all of those beautiful bridesmaid dresses anyway, but hang them in the closet or sell/donate them?  Making a baby blanket for a friend using the bridesmaid dress you wore at her wedding seemed extra special and a wonderful keepsake.  Rebecca wanted to give it a shot!


Rebecca has worked on a couple of baby blankets for her friends.  A couple of years ago, I showed her how to make baby blankets using two yards of fabric for the front, two yards for the back (solid front/back), and polyfil quilt batting for the middle; cutting 5 inch square pieces from extra fabric that are folded in half, pressed, and folded in half again and pressed to make little triangles, which are then pinned and sewn in a row around the edge of the quilt.  I showed her how to sew it all together, flip it, and then press and tack the quilt.  The whole process is pretty simple.


Fast forward to this Bridesmaid Baby Quilt.  The dress Rebecca wore in the wedding was dark purple satin and the baby will be a boy.  Hmmm... how to make that work? 





 Rebecca decided to make the quilt a patchwork quilt to best incorporate all the colors.  Rebecca chose dark navy flannel (her friends' baby room color is dark blue), gray/white chevron fabric, and the purple satin.  We think it turned out magnificent!  And what a keepsake for mom and baby!


The patchwork pattern wasa little tricky for us beginners as it was a little tricky to get the seams all straight and lined up, but with me talking and Rebecca sewing, she got it.

I can provide step by step instructions if you like, but for now I just want to show off the steps in pictures and let you see the finished product.  


Here's how Rebecca made a Bridesmaid Dress Baby Quilt AT HOME MY WAY:



Bridesmaid Dress Baby Quilt

  • Fabric in various patterns so that you will have two yards for the top, two yards for the back, and another 1 1/2 yard for the triangles.
  • Sharp scissors or a rotary cutter/mat (sharp is the key word LOL)
  • Pins
  • Bridesmaid Dress (cutting it was SO SAD and hard to do and note that satin is creepy/crawly - tough to sew)
  • Patience for working with the satin :)
  • Polyfil Quilt Batting
  • Thread
  • Sewing Machine (that doesn't jam up and/or make loops in the back-see more on this below LOL)

We worked on this baby quilt for about a week.  It was a little time consuming but well worth the effort.  We both finished this project feeling inspired to buy dresses at thrift stores for making adult quilts, etc. (saving $$$ that way); maybe making keepsake quilts for children with wedding gowns? (for me, I liked this idea as my girls will never wear my gown; maybe the veil, but never the gown; and we have also read about making christening gowns for babies with wedding gowns which is another wonderful idea.  I'm not sure I could actually cut up my wedding gown - it was just a thought LOL.

First thing:

Rebecca decided on the pattern for her quilt.  It took lots of playing around to get something where the colors were well balanced, keeping in mind not to use too much purple satin for a boy baby quilt.  We made a simple drawing assigning each pattern with a number/letter like this:


Rebecca cut the big squares for the top of the quilt 15" squares of the two patterns of fabric she used, counting from the drawing how many she needed.  

She cut the small squares that made up the center block 6" square, and then adjusted using seam allowances so that the finished center block was 15 inches.  

It WAS kind of hard to cut that beautiful bridesmaid dress. Here it is right before the cutting started:







Rebecca cut the small pieces six inch squares to make the center quilt block.



I showed her how to cut 5-inch strips, then fold over and cut to make a square, to the cut pieces for making the triangles for the edges.  You then have to fold in half, press, and fold in half again to make a triangle; press.  Remember to press satin with a thin tea towel between the hot iron and the fabric, or use a cool setting for pressing satin.


Rebecca started with the center block and trimmed it to equal a 15-inch block like the other pieces.  She sewed each strip, pinning each piece so that the seams all match up to a finished sewed row of quilt blocks; then sewed the rows together making sure the seams lined up.


Here is Rebecca sewing on my OLD machine.  My husband got this for me the first Christmas after we got married.  I was 18 years old!  It is very special to me, but the little stinker was a real pill while Rebecca was sewing.  I spent literally hours trying to re-thread it so keep it from sewing loops in the back.  Let me just say we all had to have great patience working with this old machine.

Thankfully, my daughters bought me this new machine for Mother's Day!  I was so exited!



I don't know if I can get rid of my old machine because I sewed many outfits, Halloween costumes, and Christmas presents with her, but I am so thankful not to have to fight it any more!  I think I'll treat her to a cleaning and service and pass her on to Rebecca !


I used my dining room table to tack the quilt with yarn, the last step.  Rebecca was working two jobs that day and the baby shower was the next morning, so I helped out, just a little.

This baby quilt was truly a labor of love.  Fighting the sewing machine, figure out the dimensions, dealing with crawling satin, and Rebecca's new baby kitty - all at the same time, was a little intense, but we got it and we both just love the finished product!

Rebecca's friend was completely surprised and immediately recognized that Rebecca had used her bridesmaid dress.  There were lots of ooo's and ahhs at the baby shower!




Enjoy!


Gina

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

6 Week Bran Muffins (Raisin Bran) - Small Batch



I used to work in a daycare center when I was in about eighth grade.   I really enjoyed it!  I enjoyed spending time with the kids and also enjoyed getting a little bit of spending money.  It was not my first job since I had done lots of babysitting throughout the years, but it was my first job where I got an actual, regular paycheck!  Woo hoo!

I remember the large batch meals that the cook made for the kids as always being VERY delicious (unlike some of the processed, microwaved food that is put out for kids these days ugh)!  So sad it's come to this....  

Anyway, for breakfast, we often had a recipe she called "Six-Week Bran Muffins".  Basically it was a muffin batter made from bran cereal and kept in the fridge for up to six weeks (although I've never kept it that long).  You scoop the cold batter into prepared/sprayed or paper lined muffin tins and bake.  The muffins are lightly sweet, dense, and very moist.  I love them!

I make my 6-Week Bran Muffins with Raisin Bran.  I never buy boxed cereal but my local grocer had boxes of cereal for 99 cents so I couldn't resist making this old time favorite breakfast muffin.  If you don't like raisins, feel free to just get bran flakes.

I have cut the recipe down to make this recipe more manageable for my family.  It still makes several batches of muffins, just not enough for a daycare LOL.

Here's how I make Six-Week Bran Muffins (Raisin Bran) - Small Batch AT HOME MY WAY:

Six-Week Bran Muffins (Raisin Bran)
Small Batch
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 2 cups buttermilk (I used vinegar+milk, instructions below)
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 cups raisin bran
Instructions:

In gallon sized container (I used an ice cream bucket with lid), mix eggs well, then mix in sugar.  Blend well.  Add salt & baking soda, then add buttermilk, flour.  Stir.  Add raisin bran last and stir to mix.  The flakes will still be flakes in the batter.

Place in refrigerator overnight for baking the first time the following morning.  Batter will keep for up to six weeks in the fridge, covered.  

Baking instructions:  Fill greased/sprayed/paper lined muffin cups 3/4 full with cold batter.  Bake in PREHEATED 400° oven for 20-25 minutes (if batter is cold) or until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges are browning.

*To make one cup buttermilk, add 1 Tablespoon vinegar into a 1-cup measuring cup.  Fill up the rest of the way to one cup with milk.  (Double this for the amount required for this recipe.)

Here's some steps along the way:



My batter all mixed up and ready for the fridge.


I label it, and add the date.


Fresh from the oven.  Beautiful!


Enjoy!


Gina

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