Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

In the throes of Christmas and New Years, traveling and family, I've completely lost track of my days.   I'm so thankful that I have lots of extra hands to help so I can get a bit of a break this week.  HandyMan and I got a date while GBaby got time with her grandparents.  Sunday we were on the road and able to join friends for church and lunch which is a rather rare treat for us.  It was especially great to see some of our friends' extended family whom we hadn't seen in a few years

Christmas was a wonderful celebration of faith, family and fabulous food.  We had the spinach linguine that I made and HandyMan made a wonderful roasted red pepper cream sauce and his mom made a great salad, and his brother made a chocolate torte that. he claims is rather healthy (I may have to get him to guest post!)- dinner was delicious.

HandyMan's on vacation this week so we are happily enjoying family time.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monthly Menu - Success!

In the beginning of December, I challenged myself to set a monthly menu and stick to it as a method to keeping the grocery bill under budget.  I'm happy to say that I was able to keep on menu and managed to come in slightly under budget for the month.  Given the extra baking and holiday feasting, I think that this is a pretty notable accomplishment!  If you're wanting to get your grocery bill slimmed down this new year, consider menu planning and batch cooking - with a little energy up front you can save yourself some time and money in the end.

So, since it worked in December, why not try again in January?  I sat down and sketched out a menu for the month, and made the grocery lists.  I've found that one of the biggest time-savers of this method is the shopping - I can plan out the month, buy all the major stuff at the beginning of the month and then it's just the perishables and a few random things here and there for the rest of the month.  So much less time spent making list and shopping!  I also went a step farther and planned out my carry-over ingredients (like browned hamburger) to save time assembling meals.

So, here's what's cookin' in January:

-Breakfast Breads (time to restock the freezer!)

-Caldo de Res (Mexican beef soup)


-Spanish Rice Cassarole

-Ham & Cheese Souffles

-Eggs Benedict



And mixed in from the freezer: Shepherd's Pie, Turkey Barley Soup, Hot Beef Sandwiches, Green Potato Soup and Stuffed Peppers

Monday, December 28, 2009

Creme Brule

_SC02884For our anniversary last week I made one of HandyMan's favorites: Creme brule.  I used this recipe and it turned out very good.  Here are my notes on the process :)

1.  I had to cook mine almost twice as long as the recipe directed.  I'm not sure if my oven was off or what - but make sure to check that the center is set before you remove from the oven.

2.  Cooling - I let ours cool on the counter for about an hour and then to the fridge for another 4 hours or so before we served it and it set up beautifully.

3.  Crispy Sugar Top - I used my craft heat gun :).  If you don't have a kitchen torch, using the broiler is another recommended technique.  But, if you have a craft heat gun - this works too!  Just dust enough sugar on the the top so that it sticks.  Fire up the heat gun and take it to the sugar.  Once it starts to bubble up, add another thin layer of sugar and repeat.  I had to hit it with three layers to get a good crisp top, but it was good!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sunday - er- Tuesday Sunshine

glightsPracticing contentment by remember the graces of the week.

While my to-do list stretches long before me, I think it's important to pause and reflect in this super busy season.  My life is full of joyous things as Christmas approaches.  This is GBaby's first Christmas and watching her discover all the special things that  come with with this festive season is such fun.  HandyMan and I are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary today and with that comes reflection on where the last years have taken us and such contentment with where we are right now.

I have a roaring fire in front of me, dozing dog beside me, and sleeping daughter upstairs.  I get to play in the kitchen today and our Christmas and New Years will be filled with family. For this I am especially grateful.

I have a sewing project to finish up this week too which I can't wait to blog about but it's a Christmas present for someone who follows this blog - so alas - you'll have to wait!

May your Christmas be filled with joy and love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Homemade Spinach Linguine

cmasling5This week I put the MamaMixer pasta rollers to work.  Our Christmas plans are in a semi-fluid state, sort of like a really good molten chocolate cake - but I digress.  So it ends up that we'll have family at our place for Christmas, for which I'm thrilled.  In a moment overtaken by a craving, I've decided to stray from the 'normal' holiday meal of ham or turkey and all the trimmings and go for an Italian feast.

Since the pasta rollers hadn't seen a workout since March and green is a great, festive, Christmas color, I decided to make homemade Spinach Linguine.  I did some google searching to find tips and tricks and below is the recipe and notes I used. We tested some for dinner last night, it's good!

Homemade Whole Wheat- Spinach Linguine


2 cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour

2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (finer than regular whole wheat)

2/3 cups Spinach Puree (as smooth as you can possibly get it)

1/3 cup Water plus 3+Tablespoons for consistency


1.  Make your spinach puree.  I took 1-10 ounce package of frozen spinach and microwaved it until thawed and semi-cooked.  Then took ran it in the blender,carryover liquid and all, and added more water 1/4 cup at a time, until the puree was the consistency such that it would pour smoothly.  (Freeze the puree you don't use in the pasta and add it to another recipe for extra nutrition.)

2.  Combine flours in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your mixer.

3.  Form a well in the center of the flour in the bowl and add spinach puree and 1/3 cup of water.  Blend ingredients with a spoon or fork until crumbly.



4. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time as you (or your mixer) kneads the dough until a stiff dough forms.  If using a MamaMixer once the dough forms a ball and all pulls away from the bowl - you're there.  Knead it for a couple more minutes until smooth.


5. Roll & Cut.  If you have pasta rollers, follow the directions on your rollers to roll and cut the dough.  If working by hand, roll it out as thinly as possible and then slice it up.


6.  Cook or Preserve.  If you're cooking up your pasta right way, place it in a pot of boiling water for 5-8 minutes, drain and enjoy.  If keeping it for a while, allow your noodles to "dry" a bit until they are the consistency of soft fruit leather - usually a couple hours.  Then put in seal-able bag and place in refrigerator or freezer.


A Couple Notes: As I was working with the dough I was really afraid that the texture was going to be off because of the whole-wheat flour.  The dough kind of felt like a fine-grit sand paper and that's not appetizing at all!  I'm happy to say that the whole wheat cooked up beautifully and the texture was soft and fabulous as you would expect a homemade pasta to be.

Also, I was concerned because there seemed to be a lot of fibers from the spinach that I couldn't get out of the puree, these too seemed to disappear in the cooking process.  If you have particularly fibrous puree, you may want to run it through a strainer before putting it in the pasta dough.

Now I have to decide if I want to make an Alfredo Sauce and garnish with roasted red pepper or make a rose sauce.  Decisions decisions!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Sunshine: Snow, Lights, Smiles & Cookies

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

This time of year, as the days keep getting shorter and shorter, I seek out the little things to add light to the dark days.  While is has been bitterly cold, there is a light blanket of snow covering up the dark, dormant earth.  As Christmas approaches, the number of Christmas lights lighting up the dark evenings is increasing, including the lights on our tree this year.  I love looking out our front window and seeing lights twinkling in the evening instead of the inky darkness.

We hosted three young ladies one evening this week for cooking decorating and it was such a pleasure to listen to the giggles and watch the creativity as they iced their cookies.  GBaby joined in jabbering along with the activity in the kitchen.

With a cancellation on the calendar on Saturday, I gained a morning to play in the kitchen and worked on homemade spinach linguine for our Christmas dinner.

We have a warm home, and our daily needs are met in excess.  Life is full and I am blessed.  May this week find your life filled with peace and abundant joy this Christmas season.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Web Design: This has been a very full week and every spare moment I've had, I've been working on re-designing  Look for my new updates early next week if all goes well.  I've also added a bit of winter cheer to this site too - see the snow flurries?

Monthly Menu: I've kept on track with my monthly menu and this week, most of my meals were out of the freezer with a few fresh touches.  A salad here, fresh cornbread there and freezer meals are fresh and new and I didn't have to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.  The souffles were a big hit, GBaby was a huge fan and these will definitely be on next months menu.  They have reheated well too!

Cabin Fever & Reorganization: This week I also begin to feel the wall start to close in on me with the first signs of early cabin fever, exasperated by seeing a friends new, and empty house.  Floor space envy set in and I came home and started rearranging.  My goals were to open up floor space for play areas, to create a sitting/movie area in our upstairs and to add more kid-proofing.  Namely, GBaby has taken quite a liking to emptying bookshelves, I'm not a fan of reloading bookshelves so I moved stuff around to make toddler access a bit more difficult.  We'll see how it works.  Anyone out there have tips to ward off cabin fever?

Giveaway!: One final note: Erin, over at 5DollarDinners has a $100 Visa card to giveaway.  Check it out if you're interested :).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Three Cheese Souffle

3chssouffle8Monday is HandyMan's day off and I like to make brunch as our mornings are usually a little slower paced than the rest of the week.  This week I made this Three Cheese Souffle recipe and it turned out beautifully and rather tasty as well.  I think it has made it on the "Christmas Brunch" menu and I'm going to try the Editor's note and mix it up ahead of time and freeze it and see how it turns out.

Souffles are meant to be a light and airy egg dish and by nature will settle a bit once out of the oven.  While there are a few more steps than a quiche or egg bake, the melt in your mouth results are totally worth it.  Skim over the recipe and here are a few of my own notes on the process.

The Cheese Sauce

-My milk & butter mixture started to thicken before it ever showed signs of boiling.  Once I could stir and see the bottom of the pan, I turned the heat off and added the cheese.

-I grated the cheese with the finest side of my grater - helped it to melt quickly into the base.

-Stop here and you have a great cheese fondue or sauce for homemade mac & cheese.


-I cheated and ran the yolks through my mini-food processor for about 10 seconds so I could do the whites in the Mama Mixer.  It seemed to work fine.

3chssouffle5-I didn't read the directions close enough and didn't let the cheese sauce cool.  It didn't seem to matter.  I poured the cheese along the side of the mixer bowl so that it actually pooled under the egg whites without disturbing them too much.  Then, gently, mixed with a large rubber spatula until it was all combined.  The mixture should be thick and foamy, but pourable. (think airy cake batter)


-This recipe states that it makes 8-1 cup servings.  I got that plus two soup-bowl size souffles too.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Homemade Christmas: Shape Magnets & Sewing Project Link

For all the folks out there that sew and need a relatively easy and inexpensive way to use up all your fabric scraps, you have to check out the Scrap Buster page over at  There are tons of ideas and one that I picked up was originally posted at Chez Beeper Bebe for making a plush alphabet and surf around her site for other simple sewing projects too - she did some neat cloth napkins.

I used her method to make a set of magnetic shapes for GBaby.  Since I wanted them to be multipurpose, I did spring for some clearance rack fabrics so that I could have solid colors to work with.  I also ended up with a fun assortment of fabrics: nylon, denim, cotton and canvas.

I stenciled out squares, triangles, circles, arrows, hearts and stars.  I zig-zagged around the marker lines and then cut out the shapes.  Easy - the whole thing took me about an hour.  I was not concerned with the marker showing through the stitching, so I just  used a Sharpie.  However, if you want a more finished look, you may want to consider a washable marker designed for marking fabric.

Here's the shapes traced and the first batch sewn:


And here are the finished shapes on my dishwasher:


I was intentional about the construction of my shapes as I have plans in my mind that they will serve as a multifunction educational toy in the coming months.

-For now they are fun textures for GBaby to explore.

-She's having fun exploring the magic of magnets and how some things will stick to the fridge and the dishwasher.

-As she begins to learn shapes and colors, they're a quick sorting game while I'm working in the kitchen (or wherever).  For example: all shapes start on dishwasher and a star gets put on the fridge - she then finds all the stars and moves them over.  An orange shape gets moved over and she finds all the orange shapes.  You get the idea.

I'm excited about this project and can't wait to see how she grows into these fun shapes!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Sunshine - Snow, Smiles & Downtime

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

We have had, yet, another very full week.  But amidst the solid block on the calendar, I've had some time to do a quick sewing project and was able to sneak in some baking and make some cookies and Magic Cookie Bars for a events this weekend.

This afternoon has been particularly fun as GBaby has been all smiles and we're getting our first snowfall. It is so pretty out and a wonderful improvement over the winter gray and brown that had set in.   Christmas decorations are beginning to adorn our home and Christmas lights are lighting our 'neighborhood' as it gets dark out so early.  I really do love this time of year!

I've been able to nap when GBaby's napped a couple days this week without feeling like it was going to put me way behind which has also been decadent!

What blessings have surfaced in your week?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Freezer Friday: Soup & Cinnamon Rolls

freezerfridaysmThis was week one of my December Menu Challenge, so I was working towards pulling things out of the freezer, rather than filling it up.

But, Monday was still November so it didn't really count for the Menu Challenge and since I hadn't made the Cinnamon Rolls over Thanksgiving weekend, I just HAD to.  So I made a nice big batch and froze up three pans of them.

I've found that these Cinnamon Rolls reheat wonderfully if they're properly protected in the freezer.  Breads usually have a freezer life of about three months for the best results.  I take my block of cooled Cinnamon Rolls, wrap it in foil and then place the foil packet in a gallon freezer zip top bag.


On the menu this week was Butternut Squash Cream Soup round two.  I had squash to use up, and I also had a small pumpkin.  I combined them and also added more water this time and the final result was great.  GBaby still loves it!  So, one container to the fridge for later this week, three quarts to the freezer for later this winter.

How's your freezer doing?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

I am very fond of warm cinnamon rolls.  This recipe is great for batch cooking and the frozen batches reheat well enough that you'll never guess that they spent time on ice.  Topped with cream cheese frosting, these delectable pastries are great on a brunch menu or on their own.  Along with the recipe below I've included some tricks and time savers for you as well so be sure to read through and the printable recipe is at the bottom of this post.

Cinnamon Rolls



2 packages Yeast

1c. Warm Water

2/3 c. + 1 tsp. Sugar

1 c. Warm Milk

2/3 c. Butter

2 Tsp. Salt

2 Eggs, beaten

7-8 c. Flour


1 c. melted Butter

1 c. Brown Sugar

1/2 c. Sugar

3 Tbs. Cinnamon


1. Place yeast  and 1 teaspoon of sugar into warm water.  Stir to dissolve and let it sit.
2. Warm milk, 2/3 cup butter and remaining sugar in saucepan over low heat until butter is melted and let cool.
3.  Place 6 cups of flour in large bowl.  Place yeast and milk mixtures and beaten eggs in bowl with flour.  Mix thoroughly.
4.  Add remaining flour a bit at a time until dough is workable.  It should be very soft and slightly sticky.  Knead 5-10 minutes or until smooth.
timesaver 5.  Allow dough to rise until at least double in bulk.  Punch down and let rest for 5 minutes. Combine dry filling ingredients.  Time Saver: dough can be mixed up and put in the refrigerator to rise overnight, cutting down prep time in the morning.  Just allow dough to warm a bit before trying to roll it.

6.  Separate dough into 6-8 sections to work with.
7.  Roll each section, one at at time, out into a large rectangle.  Keep in mind that the dough will double again when it bakes, and gauge your thickness accordingly.
8.  Brush dough with melted butter and sprinkle the filling on top of the butter.

9.  Roll dough into a long log, making sure to keep dough tight and slice off cinnamon rolls.  Make sure to use a very sharp, thin knife or Cool Trick: use a piece of thread.  Bring thread under the roll, cross the ends over the top of the roll and pull tight - perfect cut every time - no mashing and mangling!


10.  placed on greased baking pans or sheet.  Allow room for the dough to rise and let rise 30 minutes before baking.

11.  Bake 25-30 minutes at 350* or until golden brown. Another Cool Trick:  immediatly after you take your cinnamon rolls out of the oven, dump them upside down on platter or cookie sheet to cool.  This allows the filling to cool in your cinnamon roll instead of melting all over the bottom of your pan.


12.  Frost with your favorite vanilla or cream cheese frosting. (I use 1 package of cream cheese, 1 stick of margarine (both softened) and 2 cups of powdered sugar add milk 1 teaspoon at a time for desired consistency if necessary).

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Menu Challenge

todays menuI'm a pretty organized person, but I see friends posting month long menus and start making excuses as to why that won't work for us:  "Our schedule is too hectic and changes too much."  "Well, I'll just use my meals out of the freezer",  "I'm staying on budget: and just plain "why bother".

I'm beginning to see a lack of discipline in my life and realized that meal planning is one more of my areas of responsibilities where I'm lacking discipline.  Now I'm not just feeding HandyMan and myself but also GBaby.  Good nutrition is important and when I'm making meals on a whim, we're not always getting all our food groups.

Last week my friend Sarah at Simple Pleasures blogged about how she went about making up her monthly menu.  She and her husband are grad students with classes and jobs.  Surely they have a pretty nutty schedule, right?  She can do this, I can at least give it an honest try. (Thanks for the kick in the right direction Sarah!)

I sat down with a calendar for December and our calendar as well as my list of meals in the freezer and a mental list of what's in the pantry.  My main goal is to cut down the grocery bill and use what we have.  Given our schedule, I usually cook on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and the somewhere in the week we run out of leftovers and I pull in another meal.  So I filled in those days and then made a separate list of 6 ready to go meals to pull from.  I also added a list of breakfast items that are stock in the fridge and freezer so I have a ready-list for breakfast too.

We'll see how it works out.  Any veteran menu planners out there have any tips for me?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The 2009 Turkey

Here it is, the Monday after Thanksgiving and refrigerators around the country are still packed to the gills with the leftovers from the turkey feast of last week.  We cooked a 14lb bird for 5 adults and 3 children age three and under. I got a little creative with the turkey and used this BBQ rub method I saw used for chicken.  I cut the cayenne  way down, and cooked the turkey in one of the bags.  The seasoning was great and made gravy and broth with the drippings which were a nice change from the normal turkey stock.

Once dinner was done we boiled down the carcass and made turkey stock.  Once the meat and stock were separated out, I had about a gallon of stock and about 10 cups of turkey meat.  I made the following soup with some of the stock and meat.

Turkey Butternut Squash Soup

10 cups Turkey Stock

6 cups chopped Turkey Meat

8 cups peeled, chopped Butternut Squash

3 cups chopped Onion

4 cups chopped Celery

2 cups Pearled Barley

Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook for 3-4 hours on high.

The turkey and the stock had all the flavors from the rub that carried through the soup, so it's hard to say how much of the seasonings in the rub you would need to add to standard stock.


I sent some leftovers home with my brother's family and we've made quick work of a lot of them in the chaos of this weekend.  I also made this Turkey Cranberry Encore Salad for dinner last night and it was great!  I left out the blue cheese since I'm not a fan, and used pecans instead of walnuts - YUM!

What did you make with your Thanksgiving leftovers?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Sunshine: Friends and Challenges

sundaysunshinesm Celebrating contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

This week, as seems to be the cases of most holidays, was a bit chaotic. Tuesday I was blessed to have a mom's-helper for most of the day which freed me up to get housework done.  Wednesday I spent getting acquainted with my new computer.  I spent time with family for Thanksgiving.  Friends stepped in to help out when the chaos peaked.  I had a happy evening with a quiet house, glass of wine and a book.  Wonderful food with great leftovers also highlighted this week.

As GBaby turns 10-months old today, we've started climbing stairs (and by 'we' I do mean 'we'.) I'm sure walking isn't too far off.   Her baby hair is growing longer and thicker and she is full of vibrant personality.  Her laughs bring brightness to my world.

I'm enjoying this bit of calm in the chaos and pray that you may see through the chaos that is the holiday season and bring yourself to a place of peace and contentment.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday Sunshine on Monday: Computers & Craft Fairs

sundaysunshinesmPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

This weeks Sunday Sunshine was delayed because shortly after I put up the Cookie Dough post, my computer crashed, or more appropriately was demolished by some evil virus.  But this morning I am thankful that I was able to save my files, including irreplaceable photos and hours and hours of work.  I'm thankful that, while outdated, the back-up that I did have, was useful.  I'm thankful that I had a great craft fair on Saturday and my business cash flow is such that Charity's Candles can help foot the bill for my new computer.

Other things did happen this week and I am praising God and so thankful for a clean bill of health, which marks 4 years of no evidence of cancer for me.  I'm thankful for sunny, crisp fall days. Great deals on books and gifts were another grace from this week as well as some amazing family time and happy GBaby squeels.

All in all, a great week. And this week is Thanksgiving!  What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Freezer Friday: Sugar Cookie Dough and Curry Potato Soup

freezerfridaysm This week there was not much activity in my kitchen.  We were out of town one day and I pulled meals from the freezer to avoid cooking.  I did get a chance to get a triple batch of sugar cookie dough into the freezer (click here for directions to freeze cookie dough).  When it comes time to bake the sugar cookies, instead of rolling them out, I take the cookie dough ball, dip it in colored sugar, smash it down with the bottom of a glass and bake.  When they're done - you have a super festive sweet!

The other thing that made it to the freezer this week was a Curry Potato Soup.  We've taken to "francophone" soups, as HandyMan calls them, that are pureed as they also double as great GBaby meals too!  I wish I had the exact recipe because it turned out great and the leftovers were even better as all the flavors mixed and mingled overnight in the fridge.   However, it was a cooking collaboration with HandyMan and I'm not quite sure what all ended up in the pot, so below is my best guess:

Curry Potato Soup

6 cups peeled, chopped and cooked Potatoes

3 Carrots, chopped

2 stalks Celery, chopped

1 cup pureed Yellow Squash

1/2 a large Onion

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

3 cups Milk

4 cups Water

1 Tablespoon Rosemary

1 teaspoon Cumin

1/2 teaspoon Allspice




1.  Sautee onions, carrots and celery in bottom of a stock pot with oil until onions are translucent.

2.  Add potatoes and water and bring to a boil. Once all vegetables are soft, add milk and bring to a boil again.

3.  Turn off heat and puree mixture until smooth.  Enjoy!

4.  Serve up & Enjoy!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Sunshine


Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

I sit here typing, watching HandyMan reading Winnie the Pooh to a super active GBaby who is busy pulling up on chairs while her daddy reads to her.  My life is full!

We are healthy and enjoying our November.  Friday night we had dinner with a group of friends  who had some local, youthful musicians join the evening.  The trio brought the classical notes of Bach and Mozart to party.  As they played I was torn between watching the amazing musical talent performing and the absolutely enraptured little girl on my lap.  She was so fascinated with the music and it was so much fun to watch her as she studied violin, viola and chelo.  GBaby even sang along with her favorite Bach tune.  It was great.

This morning was the pancake breakfast at our church and this is one of my favorite fundraisers because I LOVE breakfast! They cook up scrambled eggs, sausage and breakfast potatoes to go along with amazing pancakes.  It was so good - and I didn't have to cook or do the dishes!

GBaby continues to be a wonderful traveler, be it on errands or cross-state trips.  This week I'm fully enjoying momhood and can't remember what life was like before she came along (besides being able to sleep in- I do, wistfully, remember that!)

I hope your life is full of experiences and wonder as we enter this Thanksgiving season.  What are your highlights from the week?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Freezer Friday: Cookie Dough

freezerfridaysmUpdated 7/28/2010: If you've stumbled upon this post from Life As Mom's Grab it and Go Recipe Swap, welcome!  This is still on of my go-to methods for a quick dessert.  In the summer, add a small scoop of icecream between two fresh cookies for a great dessert treat!

We are entering the time of year when requests for baked goods and cookie trays seem to come from every direction.  I have a sure-fire system to save you time and energy and put fresh cookies on the table, every time!

The secret: freeze your cookie dough in ready to bake scoops.  The Dough Boy does it and charges you for the convenience.  The fundraiser companies do it.  So why not make your own!  The only special equipment you may need is a cookie scoop.  Mine is a 2 tablespoon scoop (I think). They can be purchased in the kitchen-wares section of many of your favorite retailers.  If you make cookies often, it's worth investing in a solid metal scoop rather than the plastic/metal combo scoops.  I burned through two of those before I got the good one and it's been great.timesaver

This time of year, I usually have a stash of Chocolate Chip, Molasses, Sugar and Peanut Butter cookie dough in the freezer.  Then when the call comes for a cookie tray I can just pull an assortment, bake them up and send them off.  No mixing, no mess and very few dishes!

Whenever I make up cookie dough, I make as large of a batch as my MamaMixer can take- usually triple a normal batch.  So, this week it was time to replenish my Chocolate Chip Cookie dough stash so off I went.  The freezing method will work with any drop cookie dough.  For recipes like drop Sugar Cookies or Molasses Cookies that require a dip in sugar, no problem.  The dough is already "rolled" from the scoop, simply dip frozen dough in the sugar before baking.

cookies6Once your cookie dough is scooped up to go to the oven, continue scooping and fill up a tray. Put the tray in the freezer for 2-3 hours and allow the dough-balls to freeze.  Then, remove the dough from a tray and place in a freezer-grade zip-top bag for the best freshness.

When it comes time to bake your cookies, place frozen cookie dough on a baking sheet.  Bake at the temperature your directions call for and add 3-7 minutes to the baking time to allow for the frozen dough.  Let them cool, plate them up and enjoy.

I've also discovered the joy of portion control by only baking a small tray in the toaster oven at a time - always warm and fresh!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have had a love for chocolate chip cookies for a long time and have been making them myself, for almost as long.  When I got this e-mail from my friend Karen in Germany, I decided it was time to make up a batch and actually pay attention to what I was doing so that I can share the warm-cookie-love!  Karen wrote:

hey sara,
I just thought of making (chocolate chip) cookies with you at your parents house about 15 years ago... a kind I cannot buy over here, they're always too crunchy. so I figured I should make em myself and was wondering whether you could send me a recipy with ingredients and notes on how you do it? nothing fancy, just simple wonderful yummy american cookies? thanks a lot in advance!

So Karen, this post is for you!

A few tips for chewy cookies before I throw the recipe out there for you all.  I achieve my chewy cookies by combining shortening and butter and closely monitoring the cooking time.  There is a "perfect" point of pulling the cookies out of the oven and it happens when the tops of the cookies look "dry".  This usually happens before they hit the "golden-brown" point.  Once you take the cookies out of the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheet for at least 5 more minutes as they cool, they will actually continue to cook a bit.  (Sorry the pictures aren't that great - GBaby was fussy and I couldn't get my hands on the real camera quickly.)

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


1/4 cup Butter, melted on stove
3/4 cup Vegetable Shortening
1 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 cups Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup chopped Pecans or Walnuts

1.  Pre-heat oven to 375*(Fahrenheit).
2.  Melt butter in a saucepan on the stove until bubbly.

3.  Cream together butter, shortening, sugar and brown sugar.

4.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.

5.  Add flour and baking soda and blend thoroughly
6.  Fold in chocolate chips and nuts if desired.
7.  Spoon out teaspoon size portions onto a baking sheet leaving room around each portion for your cookie to spread.

8.  Bake 8-12 minutes or just until to top looks "dry" or set.  Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes.


Cookies will stay fresh for a few days if kept in a sealed container and unbaked cookie dough freezes beautifully.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunday Sunshine - On Monday

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

This has been such a full week that Sunday came and went before I realized it.  Emrys was on vacation so we had a wonderful week away from our normal routine.  We visited with family this weekend and celebrated my dad's 20th year of his business.  All three of the grand-kids here for the weekend and watching my parents play with the Grand-kids was such fun!  Lots of great family time.  We also visitied with Emrys' mom who is doing much better after an injury about 10 days ago.

We have had a wonderful, refreshing break.  Today we drive home to return to our routine.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Freezer Friday: Shepherd's Pies and HV Orange Chocolate Chip Bread

freezerfridaysm This week I managed to get three Shepherd's Pies into the oven and made a bunch of muffins and breakfast breads to take to a party and to stash in the freezer.  I made Pumpkin Bread, this Lemon-Blueberry Bread and a great Hidden Veggie Orange Chocolate Chip Bread/Muffins.  All turned out super yummy and the Orange-Chocolate Chip Bread recipe is below.  Did you get anything stashed in your freezer this week?

HV Orange Chocolate Chip Bread/Muffins


2 Eggs
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Orange Juice
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 cups Pureed Yellow Squash
1 1/2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 1/2 cups Unbleached Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1-1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda

1.  Preheat oven to 375*
2.  Cream together eggs and sugars.  Add Vegetable Oil, Orange Juice and Vanilla Extract and Yellow Squash and mix thoroughly.
3.  Add flours and then Baking Powder and Baking Soda on top of the flours and mix all at once.
4.  Fold in chocolate chips.
5.  Pour into two greased loaf pans or muffin tins.  Recipe will make two loaves or two dozen muffins or a combination of each. Bake muffins for 17-22 minutes and loaves for 45-60 minutes.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Shepherd’s Pies with Garlic Cheddar Smashed Potatoes

My batch meal of the week last week was Shepherd’s Pies.  Generally Shepherd’s pies consist of some combination of ground beef, vegetables and mashed potatoes, this recipe follows the basic formula with a few adjustments.

I doctored up the Shepherd’s Pies and topped off the beef and veggies with Garlic Cheddar Smashers.  I also used TVP to stretch the beef a little bit farther.   This recipe will make two deep dish pie plates or 1-9x13 plate.  I doubled this and made 1 deep dish pie plate and 3-8x8 square pans that and now in the freezer for future meals.

ThrivingMama's Shepherd’s Pie

1 pound Ground Beef

½ medium Onion

1 cup Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)*

1 ½ cups of water

1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup

4 cups of Vegetables (any combination of carrots, corn, green beans, etc.)

½ batch of Garlic Cheddar Smashed Potatoes

3 Tablespoons of Butter


1.  Brown ground beef and onion.  Hydrate TVP with water and add to the cooked ground beef.

2. Combine vegetables and soup.  Add beef to vegetable mixtures and put on the bottom of greased pan(s).


3. Spread Garlic Cheddar Smashers on top of meat and veggie mixture.

4. Dot top of potatoes with 3 tablespoons of butter and bake at 375* for 30-45 minutes or until bubbly around the edges.


Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Garlic Cheddar Smashed Potatoes

Updated 9-23-2010: If you've landed here from LifeAsMom's Ultimate Recipe Swap, welcome!  Fall is all about the comfort foods and there's nothing more comforting in my book than mashed potatoes.  I love to make these in a large quantity and freeze them in "side dish" portions.  They reheat beautifully!

I love mashed potatoes.  The only thing better than some creamy mashed potatoes, are garlic cheddar smashed potatoes.  I was so wrapped up in making these to top Shepherd's Pie with that I forgot to get a picture of the finished product - oops! Shepherd's Pie recipe to come tomorrow :-).  Don't be afraid to make a bunch of these as they freeze beautifully.

Garlic Cheddar Smashed Potatoes

5 quarts chopped and peeled Potatoes

½ cup Butter

1 Tbs minced Garlic

½ teaspoon Black Pepper

1 teaspoon Salt

2 cups small Cheddar Cheese cubes


  1. Cover potatoes in a 6-quart kettle and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are soft.

  2. In a small sauce pan, sauté the garlic and butter.  Add milk, salt and pepper and combine thoroughly.

  3. Once cooked, drain water off of potatoes and add liquid and spice mixture and mash with masher or mixer to desired consistency.

  4. Fold in cheddar cubes and serve.chedgarsmash2

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mommy-Made-It Monday: Corduroy Jumper & Shoes

My sewing project last week was this super cute jumper for GBaby.  I was chatting about patterns on FaceBook and an old college friend passed along a few patterns that she had.  When they arrived in my mailbox, one pattern was for this really cute jumper or overalls.

I made the jumper and made matching shoes.  I like to selvage fabric from unconventional places so, for this project, I started with this large corduroy skirt that I had found at a thrift store ($3.99). jumper1

After I cut out all the pieces, what was left looked like the shredded skirt that the Ugly Step Sisters left Cinderella with. jumper3

But I pieced it back together and ended up with a super cute dress.



It’s not perfect, and I can’t say that I’m a fan of making the ruffle part but I think that the finished product is pretty darn cute!

For the shoes, I made another pair of the soft baby shoes like I did before.  This time I used scrap fleece, the corduroy and for the soles, I used super soft salvaged leather.  The leather was another of my thrift store finds.  A worn suede shirt was mis-marked at $6.99.  The amount of leather I will be able to use from this shirt is a steal next to the craft store sheets of leather – and this is so much softer.  When I finished the shoes, I was wishing I had made a pair for myself!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Sunshine

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

This has been a weird week.  I enjoyed a  day of work at Made In Chenango - this was a nice break away from the mundane of my home routine, it also gave me six hours of fairly uninterrupted project time.  I started and finished another sewing project - it became fair game when I realized I had put it on my to-do list.

In a week when our local schools are recording up to 1/3 of the student population absent due to illness, I am so thankful that we are healthy and that we've had a couple nights this week of uninterrupted sleep for all three of us.  Gbaby hit another milestone and turned 9 months old.  She is so much fun and such a joy to my days - and yeah, I caught myself sucked in and joining her in a middle of the night giggle the other night when she was up.

It was a particular treat to have Handy-Man home a couple mornings this week and on friday, he cooked me breakfast.

It has been a week filled with reasons to be thankful.  What are you thankful for today?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Freezer Friday: Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Cream Soup

freezerfridaysm butternut1 It has been great this week to be back in the kitchen!  With three of my four fall craft fairs a thing of the past, I had some time to play in the kitchen.  We were recently gifted with two lovely butternut squashes from a friend’s garden.  They had graced the window sill in the kitchen for almost two weeks so it was time to do something with them.  I used this recipe for inspiration, and ended up with a slow cooker soup that we’ve also used as a sauce over pasta – it’s that thick and rich! You may want to add more liquid depending on your preference for thick cream soups.  I’ve also filed this under baby food because our 9 month old LOVED this stuff – she ate 3 bowls worth of soup mixed with rice cereal!  It is definitely GBaby approved!  I made this in a 5 quart slow cooker, so if yours is smaller you may need to adjust this recipe.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Cream Soup/Sauce


16 cups chopped Butternut Squash (2 large squashes)

6-8 cups Water (to thin soup to your preference after blending)

6 Vegetable Bullion Cubes

¾ teaspoon Nutmeg

1 teaspoon Marjoram

1 ½ teaspoons Black Pepper

1 teaspoon Salt (may want to taste before adding as bullion can make soup salty)

2-8oz packages Cream Cheese


  1. Peel, gut and chop butternut squash.

  2. Combine all 6 cups of water and remaining ingredients except cream cheese into your slow cooker, turn it on low and leave it for 6-8 hours or until the squash is thoroughly cooked.  It can be cooked on high if you need to shorten the cooking time.butternut2

  3. When preparing to eat, dollop cream cheese on top of the ingredients in the crock pot and leave them to soften.butternut3

  4. Once cream cheese has warmed and is melting, blend soup with an immersion blender right in the slow cooker.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, blend cooled soup VERY CAREFULLY in a standard mixer.  Add more water to thin to suit your preference.butternut4

  5. Enjoy with warm bread, or over pasta.butternut5

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

This post is linked up at Life As Mom's Ultimate Thanksgiving Recipe Swap