Category: Broke Food


Depending upon where you happen to find yourself in the world, the cold weather is upon us- or will be soon. Now is the time to get your arsenal ready- to have your comfort food ducks in a row. And if you have someone in your household that works outside for a living- even in the bitter cold of winter- like I do, then it’s vitally important to have a strong repertoire of hot, filling foods. This dish definitely fits the bill! It even makes fantastic leftovers and can be packed into a hot food jar (thermos) and taken for lunch or dinner. Oh- and as an added bonus, this will make your house smell amazing! Bake it on the same day as you do a maple apple pie (keep an eye out for the recipe) and you could sell tickets for people to come and smell your living room  🙂

The ingredients for this casserole are pretty straightforward. If you don’t have any tomato paste on hand you can use ketchup, but don’t skip it completely. I used to because I couldn’t fathom using tomato anything in gravy. I was sorely mistaken! Even the small amount that’s called for in this recipe adds a layer of flavor and richness that will be lacking if you leave it out. There will be a flat note in an otherwise beautiful composition. And it doesn’t taste of tomato at all, so don’t worry about that.

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Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees so it’s waiting for you. Then get out a skillet or frying pan that is big enough for all of your filling ingredients plus the 4 cups of gravy. So you need a BIG one. Heat the olive oil or bacon fat (adds a touch of smokiness that is awesome!) over medium high heat. Put the chicken in the pan and cook until it’s no longer pink. Add in the ham and carrots and cook them all together until the chicken browns, about 5 minutes.

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Transfer those to a bowl and set aside, then lower the heat to medium. In the same pan, melt the butter and cook the onions until they’re soft. Add in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to incorporate. Congratulations, you’ve just made a roux! Let the roux cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, to get rid of the raw flour taste. Break out your whisk and add the chicken broth and milk to the roux. Whisk while you’re adding the liquids so you don’t end up with huge lumps of roux. Once all of the liquid is in the pan, whisk until there are no lumps except onions and garlic.

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Now you can add the meats and carrots back into the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and peas and bring to a boil. Taste the filling to check for seasoning. Add salt and white pepper to taste. You CAN use black pepper, but I prefer the flavor of white pepper and it eliminates having black specks in a light colored sauce.

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Once you have the filling seasoned to your liking, start on the topping. I usually get the dry ingredients put together while the chicken is cooking. If you didn’t, that’s fine too- just do it now. The filling can sit for a little while. Once you have your dry ingredients mixed (including the Parmesan cheese), grate your butter into them. I just stick the box grater at an angle in the bowl to save on dishes.

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See how nice and small those pieces of butter are? They make it SO MUCH easier to incorporate into the flour! I do this just about every time I have to incorporate cold butter into flour. You could cube the butter and work it in, but why??

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So evenly (and easily) mixed! Yay! Add the milk and stir to make a sticky biscuit dough. This isn’t the type of biscuit dough that you can roll out and have pretty biscuits for sandwiches. This will form a craggy topping of biscuits (looking not unlike the topping of apple crumble dessert, hence the name) that are perfect for eating with stew.

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**There’s a lesson here, boys & girls: if you need to add more liquid to biscuit dough, DO NOT start pouring from the jug, lest the dog bump into you and you add more than you were planning on. Sigh… the dough should be less wet than this; it should look almost like a slightly dry cookie dough at the wettest.**

Spread the chicken filling evenly into a 13 x 9 baking dish and drop the biscuit dough in gobs of about 2 tablespoons (I’m totally guessing!) all over the top. I usually get about 12 gobs (technical term) out of this batch of dough.

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Bake this in your preheated oven, uncovered, for about half an hour. You want the filling to boil for about 10 minutes and the topping to be nice and browned. If your topping gets too brown before the filling boils, turn your oven down to 400 degrees and cover the dish with foil. You may also want to get your oven calibrated, or at least get an oven thermometer so you can make sure it’s at the right temperature. Once the filling boils you can take the foil off and finish the dish. Just don’t let the topping burn.

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**Had my biscuit dough not been too wet, this would look MUCH closer to an actual crumble top. It still tasted wonderful, it just looked differently than it was supposed to. So be careful when adding extra liquids to mixtures!**

This recipe originally came from another blog site, and it was pretty good. But it was overly complicated and the result wasn’t, personally speaking, worth the effort. It also had a few ingredients that we don’t really care for, so I started playing and this is what the dish morphed into. I hope this helps inspire you to start planning for the cold weather to come 🙂

The Recipe:

For the Filling:

About 2 T Bacon Fat or Oil- enough to cook the chicken and onions

1 1/2 Lbs. Chicken, diced (white or dark meat, either is fine)

8 Oz. Ham, chopped (just about any thicker sliced ham will work- just don’t use shaved)

1 Medium Onion, diced fine

4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced

4 Medium Carrots, diced small

6 T Butter

1 t Tomato Paste

1/2 C Flour

3 C Chicken Broth

1 C Milk

1 1/2 T Dried Parsley

3 Splashes Worcestershire Sauce (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)

1 C Peas (fresh, frozen, or canned and drained well)

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

For the Topping:

2 C Flour

2 t Baking Soda

3/4 t Salt

1/2 t White Pepper

6 T Butter, frozen and grated

1/2 C Parmesan, grated (fresh is best, but canned works too)

1 C Milk

 

The Method:

*Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

*In a large skillet, heat the bacon fat or oil over medium high heat and brown the chicken, adding the ham and carrots about halfway through.

*While the chicken is cooking, combine the dry topping ingredients, including the cheese.

*Grate the butter either directly into the bowl or onto a chilled plate (if using a box grater; a chilled bowl will work for using a flat grater).

*Gently mix the butter into the dry ingredients. Set aside in the fridge.

*Once the chicken is brown, transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

*In the same pan, lower the temperature to medium and melt 6 T butter in the same pan.

*Cook the onions until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.

*Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir well. Cook the roux, stirring every minute or so, for about 3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.

*Whisk in the chicken broth until no lumps remain, then add the milk. Whisk together to ensure there are no lumps.

*Add in the Parsley, Worcestershire sauce, peas, and the chicken & veggie mixture. Bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally.

*Turn off the heat and check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.

*Retrieve the bowl of biscuit ingredients from the fridge and pour the milk over the mixture, stirring gently until incorporated. Get the biscuits well mixed, but don’t over work the dough or the topping will be tough.

*Coat a 13 x 9 baking dish lightly with butter or spray with cooking spray and then pour the filling into it.

*Drop the biscuit mixture evenly over the filling in 2 T gobs until you’ve used it all.

*Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the biscuits are a deep golden brown. If the biscuits brown too quickly and the filling isn’t boiling yet, cover the pan with foil or an inverted baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

 

 

 

Ridiculously enough, the Super Target in Duluth (Minnesota, about 40 minutes North of us) has already cleared out their summer seasonal section and is in the process of building their back to school displays and stock. Last week’s ad already had back to college/school deals, even. It’s July for crying out loud! As cringe inducing as it may be, it’s almost time for a new school year to start. Not only does that mean buying school supplies and clothes but it also means, hopefully, coming up with ideas for lunches for your kids. With the new school lunch guidelines (unrealistic demands) firmly in place and making lunch miserable for the majority of schoolkids, it’s often better to feed kids a home lunch anyway. The school my kids go to is extremely small (only about 300 kids total and it’s PreK-12 in one building), so the lunch team makes a lot of their foods from scratch. Their hearts are certainly in the right place but, thanks to the aforementioned dictates, their food still isn’t my kids’ preference a lot of the time. To say the least, it’s a challenge to come up with interesting ideas sometimes; sending lunch 5 times a week can seem an impossible task. Thankfully, there are SO many easy, tasty ideas that can be packed into a lunchbox! One of the simplest lunchbox items out there are the infamous-yet-wildly-popular Uncrustables; the little round, crustless PB&J sandwiches that can be found lurking in the freezer section. These tiny sandwiches are chock full of unpronounceable ingredients- including high fructose corn syrup- and are insanely overpriced. With one simple gadget, your own ingredients, and about a minute and a half you can make your own homemade uncrustables! And they are every bit as tasty as the ones from the store- even more so because you can fill them with anything you want. PB&J or honey? Of course! But how about ham and cheese, turkey and guacamole, or even Nutella and strawberries? When you make your own you can get creative and end up with something WAY more interesting than what you can get pre-made and the price tag is far more manageable.

To get started, you’ll have to make a small investment: at least one pocket sandwich cutter (as opposed to cutters that just cut shapes). You’ve probably seen them at the store, jumping out at you from hangers in the condiment or bread aisles. Or perhaps you’ve seen them on bento or home chef sites. Here are the two I have:

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The metal cutter is a gift from my BFF and will run anywhere from $4.00 (on EBay) to about $20 (from Pampered Chef on Amazon). This has lasted me about 3 years so far and I expect to be using this for years to come. The plastic square cutter was $1.00 from Dollar Tree. It works well, but is starting to curl along the edges from being pushed down to cut the crusts off of sandwiches. I use fairly sturdy wheat bread instead of mostly air white bread, so the cutter has some work to do. It will probably only last another year or two. It’s up to you which you use, but I would recommend getting the best quality cutter you can manage.

Let’s make some sandwiches! Zachariah is still staunchly against cold meat sandwiches, so he gets PB&J or PB&H. **This is important: if you’re going to make a PB&J or PB&H sandwich that’s going to have to sit for more than about 20 minutes, you need to put a protective layer on both slices of bread or the jelly or honey will seep through. That’s terribly unappetizing! You can use either a thin layer of peanut butter on the top slice or, even tastier, a thin layer of softened butter. (Trust me on this: try the butter!)

The classic Uncrustable combination:

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Liliana & Gloriana love them some ham sammiches, but Liliana has to have cheese but no mayonnaise and Gloriana has to have hers with mayonnaise but no cheese. They’re twins but definitely their own people 🙂

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To make pocket sandwiches of any kind you’ll have to be careful that you put all of the ingredients within the shape that will be made after you’ve used the cutter. If it helps, you can press the cutter very lightly into the bottom slice of bread to get a faint outline to use as a guide. Also, make sure you don’t over fill the sandwich or the top slice of bread will burst open when you press down on the cutter. As you can see, these sandwiches didn’t turn out perfect like they usually do. I tried a different brand of bread and it obviously isn’t going to work for these because it isn’t quite as soft as it needs to be. But that’s ok; you live and learn. I’ll go back to the bread I was using 🙂 Once you’ve made a few pocket sandwiches you’ll have a feeling for where things need to be placed and in what amounts.

These are just the super basic models; use whatever your kids love or get creative and have some fun. And happy new school year, ready or not!

I haven’t published since November. That is just astonishing to me. On one hand, it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. But on the other hand, some pretty huge things have happened since then and it feels like an eternity. My husband was furloughed from the railroad (temporarily laid off and waiting to be called to return) which nearly cost us our house and came very close to ruining us financially. The kids started going to public school again, which was a very good thing but was also a blow to deal with because we had wanted to homeschool for SO long and it just didn’t work for us. In early February I was hospitalized for 3 days with what was thought to be Multiple Sclerosis. I had been having problems for 2 weeks before that and for a month after coming home I had to deal with issues. Ultimately it was decided I don’t have MS yet but we’ll watch it and my symptoms eventually went away on their own. Those are just the big things that have happened since my last post. That’s not even mentioning all of the smaller things that piled up. I wanted to blog, but the give a damn just wasn’t there. That, and I just wasn’t properly cooking as much. Life was kindof in this awful limbo where we all wandered around, waiting to see what would happen.

Then in April my husband was called back to work after 4 months of furlough and it was like the world became light again. We were able to start living again and planning again and looking forward to getting up in the morning again. We all had purpose once again. But blogging still just wasn’t happening. I suppose I felt like there wasn’t really any point because I wasn’t a “famous” blogger. I felt like I didn’t make any difference in the blogoshpere at all and no one really cared about or noticed my little space. But recently I’ve had a few people ask me when I was going to start up again because they missed me. They missed me! Me- the small time hack! That’s when I remembered that I always said I would keep doing this even if it helped just one person feel better about themselves in the kitchen. So here I am, back in the saddle. But I’m starting with a trail ride instead of a fox hunt 🙂

I’m sure that, despite my extended absence, most of you will recall my preference for homemade pudding over the boxed stuff (like here and here). But I found this little gem a few years back in one magazine or another while waiting for the kids at the dentist’s office (it might have been the family mag that Disney puts out) and knew I had to try it. It’s insanely easy and who doesn’t seem to always have a box of pudding or two hanging out in their pantry? Here is the very basic group of ingredients:

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That’s it! This recipe can be as simple as just 4 ingredients. I like to add kiwis, grapes, and apple, but I had none of those on hand when the kids asked me to make this last week. The bananas were also about 1-2 days too ripe, but it still worked out fine.

I don’t have step by step photo directions for this one because there’s only three steps: chop anything that needs chopped into 1/2 inch cubes, drain the mandarin oranges (but NOT the pineapple!!), and then mix all the ingredients. That’s all there is to it! I do have some tips that the original recipe didn’t include though:

  1. To be able to eat this salad at it’s best, make sure you give it at least 2 hours to sit in the fridge because the pudding mix needs time to soak up the pineapple juice and get smooth. It will be grainy for awhile and tastes fine, but the texture isn’t great. So give yourself plenty of time.
  2. Mix the pineapple and pudding mix together before adding the rest of the fruit. For some reason if you try to just stir everything together the pudding mix will get lumpy.
  3. If you want to eat this the same day and have it be cold like it’s supposed to be, make sure the pineapple and the oranges are cold before you mix everything.

Once you’ve got everything mixed up and chilled this is what you get:

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Is that a cheerful looking bowl of fruit?! It’s a little on the saucy side because I didn’t have the kiwis, grapes, and apples to add, but the kids didn’t mind a bit 😉 This is also a great fruit salad to make during the winter when the majority of fruits aren’t in season and you can only get your hands on canned fruit.

So there it is: my first post in half a year. It feels good! I may not be famous, and I may not have thousands of followers across the world, but I do have those that like what I do and enjoy stopping by my little corner of the internet. To those who fit that description, thank you- from the bottom of my heart.

The Recipe:

1 Small (3.4 ounce) Box Vanilla Pudding (Lemon works nicely too)

1 Can (20 ounces) Pineapple Tidbits WITH the juice

1 Can (15 ounces) Mandarin Oranges, drained

2 Medium-Large Bananas, Ripe (but with only a few spots of brown), Peeled and Diced to 1/2 Inch Dice

Optional Fruits, all diced to about 1/2 inch and in a quantity to match the bananas:

Apples

Kiwis

Grapes

Strawberries

The Method:

*Chill the canned fruits.

*In a bowl big enough to hold all the fruits, combine the pudding mix and the undrained pineapple tidbits until no lumps remain.

*Add in the rest of the diced fruits and stir to coat.

*Cover the salad with plastic wrap actually touching the surface to prevent the bananas from browning too much.

*Chill at least 2 hours.

*Eat within 2-3 days.

I’m not really one for food fads. I was tired of the make-every-food-rainbow-colored fad in super short order, the macaron fad got boring pretty quickly, and if I see one more carb dish “made over” with cauliflower (yuck!) I swear I’ll scream. However, I have to say that I am totally on board with the pumpkin trend. Every year I look forward to pumpkin season. Not because I can finally have pumpkin flavored things, because I make those year round. No; I look forward to it because canned pumpkin gets cheaper and I can stock my pantry for the year. And, now that I have my own basement with my own pantry shelves, I plan to go a little stock up crazy. It’s already begun; I have eight 15 ounce cans and three 29 ounce cans of pumpkin on my shelves. And these pancakes are a prefect way to use some of them up!

Start with your basic pancake ingredients, plus pumpkin and spices…

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Basically, all you’re doing is mashing the recipes for pancakes and pumpkin pie together! So combine all of your wet ingredients, including the pumpkin. Oh! I’m hoping that by now you know that you should NEVER crack eggs on the side of a bowl, dish, or pan. Not only can it make a mess, but you’re almost guaranteed to end up with shell in your finished product, and when you bash the shell into the inside of the egg you’re also introducing any bacteria or debris that was on the outside of the egg into the inside- of the egg and then of you! So please; ALWAYS crack your eggs on the counter or another flat surface and pry them apart to empty them.

Ok- you’ve got your wet ingredients well mixed, now combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. The amounts I’m working with here make a large batch- enough to have leftovers to freeze. I got 24 pancakes out of this batch, using 1/3 of a cup of batter for each pancake. You could halve the amounts, but you’d end up with half a can of pumpkin in your fridge and unless you already have an idea of what to make with that, it’s easier (and less wasteful) to just make the full batch. So get your biggest bowl and combine the dry ingredients completely. Make a well in the middle, like so:

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That will make mixing in the wet ingredients easier. You want to make sure everything is incorporated, but not perfectly smooth. If you wanted to add something like nuts or chocolate chips, now is the time to do so. You’ll end up with a big bowl of orange…

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Now drop the batter onto a hot griddle or pan using a 1/3 cup measure. (By the way; that will make nice, big pancakes that are about 3-4 inches across. To make smaller cakes, use a 1/4 cup measure. Or you could make mini pancakes by using a tablespoon measuring spoon.) This is a very thick batter that will result in beautiful, thick, puffy pancakes…

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Cook the pancakes 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are a deep golden brown. Remove them to a platter or baking sheet and repeat until you’re out of batter. Then you can serve them up with whatever strikes your fancy! We’re pretty old fashioned in our house;

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Plenty of butter and maple syrup for us! Well, for 3 of us. The girls prefer theirs the way their grandmom taught them to eat pancakes: lots of butter and a light sprinkling of sugar. Either way, these are some of the best pancakes we’ve ever eaten! And if you make the full batch (and your family doesn’t devour all of them at once), you’ll have some left to freeze for later. These warm up easily in the microwave in just a couple of minutes- perfect for busy week day mornings! Even the coldest, dreariest day brightens up a bit when you get to eat pumpkin pie pancakes for breakfast 🙂

The Recipe:

4 C Buttermilk

1 15 oz Can Pumpkin Puree (not pie filling)

8 T (one stick) Butter, Melted

4 Eggs

5 C Flour

2/3 C Sugar

2 T Baking Powder

1 t Baking Soda

1 t Salt

4 t Pumpkin Pie Spice (OR a combination of 2 t cinnamon then ginger, nutmeg, and/or cloves to equal 4 t total)

The Method:

*Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. Set aside to cool a bit while you see to the other wet ingredients.

*Combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs, and butter in a small bowl. Stir until completely mixed.

*In a very large bowl, combine the dry ingredients until mixed completely. Make a well in the middle.

*Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the middle of the dry and mix until well blended but not completely smooth (that would overwork the batter).

*Heat an electric griddle to 325 degrees or a pan or stove top griddle over medium heat.

*Drop the batter by 1/3 cup measures (or 1/4 C for smaller cakes, or 1 T for mini cakes) onto the griddle and cook for about 3 minutes.

*Flip the pancakes over and cook another 3-4 minutes or until a deep golden brown.

*Remove the finished pancakes to a platter and continue until you run out of batter.

*Serve immediately or cool completely and freeze in an airtight container or zip top bag for up to 2 months.

 

I think most of us know that every region of America has it’s own “signature” dish. Texas has barbecue, New England has clam chowder, California has Mexican in the South and wine country in the north, and the Mid West has fried foods and roasted corn. But how many of you know about the “signature” dishes of the far Northern part of our country? Before I moved to South Dakota I had no clue at all. But I learned quick! South Dakota has chislic: small bites of marinated beef, lamb, or venison, grilled or fried and served with toothpicks and hot sauce to dash on each piece. It was on EVERY menu that didn’t belong to a national chain restaurant and everyone thought theirs was the best, naturally. Minnesota, being heavily Scandinavian, is big on lutefisk (pickled white fish) and other northern European treats. And, of course, Wisconsin has it’s cheese; specifically, fried cheddar cheese curds.  But there’s also a wider ranging dish that is ubiquitous throughout the eastern Dakotas, northern Minnesota, and northern Wisconsin: Hot Dish. Much like any other regional dish you’ll find, every person who makes it has their own rendition of it, all are a favorite of someone, and everyone thinks theirs is the best. The ingredients have surprising variation; some people use ground meat, some use cubed. Some use mashed potatoes on top, many use tater tots, and some even use white or wild rice in their hot dish and forgo the potatoes all together. But they are all known as hot dish because they all consist of meat in some sort of sauce, possibly with veggies mixed in, with some manner of starch, and without fail the dish is in casserole form. It shows up at every single pot luck function in at least one iteration because it’s expected to; it’s not a pot luck if there isn’t hot dish.

Being short on time and ingredients one afternoon, I set out to make my own version. I got the basics together and just started adding things as the ideas came to me. I do that a lot. We were pleasantly surprised with the results and it’s a regular feature in the cold weather menu rotation. Thankfully, I was able to remember what I put in the pan!

The ingredients are very basic and very inexpensive. If you can find a really good deal on ground beef or turkey, it’s even cheaper to make, so it’s also a really good broke food dish 🙂

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Yes; that’s canned cream of mushroom soup. This is a super easy dish that is very budget friendly. If you want to make condensed cream of mushroom from scratch, it will work really well in this recipe and the taste will be phenomenal. But for now, canned is fine.

So brown your ground beef, drain it well, and put it back into the pan you used to cook it. Add the white pepper, onion & garlic powders, the soy & Worcestershire sauces, then the soup. Stir everything together and see what you’ve got. It will be super thick, so we want to thin it out a bit. How much varies; add milk or water until the mixture is the consistency of a stew. I usually end up adding about 1/3 cup of milk but sometimes it’s a little more. Once you have the right consistency, heat the mixture to a boil and then transfer it to an 8×8 baking dish. Since I have all stainless steel cookware (which means it’s oven safe) I just spread the mixture evenly in the same pan. Now you can spread the tater tots over the top of the beef mixture. I prefer to use mini tater tots, but use whatever you like or can find.

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Ready for the oven! Put the dish or pan in the oven, uncovered, at 400 degrees until the tater tots are golden brown and crispy on top. Usually that takes about 30 minutes in my oven.

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See how the sauce bubbled up between the tots? That’s how you know it’s cooking properly. If your tots are brown and crispy but the sauce isn’t bubbling, the dish is cooking too fast. Cover it with foil, cook until bubbly, then you can take the foil off and crisp up the tater tots.

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Hearty, tasty goodness that comes together fast! The whole thing is done in about 45 minutes and most of that is baking time. My favorite way to eat this is…

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…with ketchup. This is basically a burger & fries casserole, minus the cheese soup that usually goes into it, so ketchup goes perfectly with it. The rest of the family prefers theirs with BBQ sauce on top; the smoky, sweet flavor it adds is great! Add a salad or some fruit to this and you’ve got a complete meal. Make a double batch and you’ve got an easy offering for the potluck table 🙂

The Recipe:

1 Lb Ground Beef, Turkey, or Chicken

1 t Onion Powder

1 t Garlic Powder

1/4 t Pepper (I use white for just about everything, but black will work fine too)

1 T Soy Sauce

1 T Worcestershire Sauce

1 Can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

1/3 (+/-) Milk or Water

Half of a 28 Oz Bag Frozen Tater Tots, or however many it takes to to completely cover the top of the meat mixture (I use mini Tots, but use what you like or can find)

 

The Method:

*Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

*In a medium skillet or high sided oven safe pan, brown the ground meat then drain it well.

*Put the meat back into the pan and add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the milk and the tater tots.

*Mix very well and add milk or water until a stew-like consistency is reached.

*Heat the mixture to boiling then transfer it to an 8×8 baking dish (unless you are using an oven safe pan or skillet- then you can leave it where it is).

*Layer the tater tots over the mixture evenly, making sure there are no large gaps.

*Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the tater tots are golden brown and crispy.

*Serve with condiments you would eat on a hamburger, or it’s also quite good plain.

 

So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! ❤

Ok, seriously; I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love this sauce! Remember when I told you that my husband loves my sausage gravy so much he wants to eat it in a bowl like soup? Well that’s me with this sauce. And I can do that because this sauce is actually good for you! I’ll get into how I eat it in a bowl later. But first, I’ll get right into the recipe…

This sauce is so ridiculously simple that you’re going to wonder why you ever bought sauce at the store. It’s incredibly inexpensive to make too! These ingredients hardly cost anything:

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I suppose I should clarify: if you have all of these ingredients on hand, this recipe hardly costs anything. If you don’t have them on hand, you should. I’m perfectly serious. Go out and buy these ingredients if you don’t have them. The herbs will last you awhile and will allow you to make SO many other dishes! And having cans of tomato products on hand will allow you to easily and cheaply make your own sauces and soups without the cost and additives/preservatives the store bought stuff has. Ok, enough about that. Moving on…

So I have picky kids when it comes to onions. The girls like the idea of onions; meaning that they like the flavor that onions add to certain foods, but if they bite into a piece of onion then it’s game over. They won’t eat another bite for fear of getting another piece of onion. Any my son is just now starting to branch out beyond the realm of chicken nuggets and mac & cheese, so if he can see pieces of onions he won’t even allow the dish to appear on his plate. To combat this I got creative. Ok, sneaky. Same thing sometimes. Anyway, I grated the onion when I started playing with this recipe and it worked perfectly! Even I prefer it that way and I LOVE onions! So now I grate the onions on the small holes of the grater every time. When you grate the onions, do it on a plate or over a bowl to catch the juice as well as the pulp.

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Now mince your garlic. You do not need a garlic gadget! Use your chef’s knife and hone your skill with it.

Holding your knife as usual, use your off hand to keep the tip of the knife on the board (putting your fingers on the TOP of the blade to steady it) and your dominant hand to do the actual mincing by lifting up and down while also working the blade back and forth over the pile of garlic. It’s MUCH easier than it sounds. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. You’ll end up with a pile of minced garlic…

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Super easy! And it only takes a couple of minutes. Now that those two things are done, all you have left is opening a can and measuring herbs and spices. How much easier can homemade get?! You do have to make a choice, though. You can use olive oil for this sauce and it will turn out amazing. But I use bacon fat to saute the onion and garlic and the slightly smoky flavor it imparts makes the sauce stellar. I recommend using bacon fat, but the choice is yours. So choose one or the other and put it into a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion first, adding the juice as well. It may sizzle a bit, so be careful. Once the onion is beginning to turn golden, add in the garlic.

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Let the veggies cook for another 2 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t begin to burn. Give it a stir every 20-30 seconds to prevent burning. The picture above is as dark as you want it to be; much darker and the garlic will turn bitter and ruin the sauce. Go ahead and add the tomato sauce and mix well. Add the brown sugar (sadly not pictured above), basil, oregano, thyme, white pepper, the smaller amount of salt, and the bay leaf into the pot.

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SO much flavor going into this sauce! Give this a good stir to distribute the herbs, cover the pot, and bring the sauce to a boil. Back the heat down to a slow simmer and set a timer for 30 minutes. If you think of it, you can come back and give the sauce a stir. But even if you don’t stir it at all in that 30 minutes, the sauce will be fine. This is one of those wonderful times that you can set a timer and just let the sauce do it’s own thing while you go do yours.

Once half an hour has gone by, take the lid off and give the sauce a good stir. While it should definitely be a sauce, and as such should be pourable, it should still be a bit thick. It should not be runny or watery. If it is watery, let the sauce continue to simmer uncovered until it looks like this:

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If your sauce was too watery after its covered simmer, it most likely means that the can of tomato sauce you started with was of lesser quality; they added too much water in the process of turning the tomatoes into sauce. That way they can use less tomato and make more money. In short; you got ripped off if you bought the super cheap “bargain” brand. Some bargain or store brands are great and work just fine. But then there are those that really do rip you off. Unfortunately sometimes it’s a matter of living and learning and figuring out which ones do and which don’t. So I usually go for the mid priced tomato products. Not the super fancy “premium” brand that costs a ridiculous amount, but not the super cheap “bargain basement” stuff either. Once again- moving on…

Assuming your sauce is the proper consistency, go ahead and give it a taste. Add more salt if you think the sauce needs it (I almost always do) and the red chili flakes if you want to use them. Remember that if you do use red chili flakes, let the sauce sit for a couple of minutes after you add them for them to take effect then give it another taste and readjust the seasoning if needed. If you want a spicy, arribiata type of sauce, go ahead and add the red chili flakes at the beginning with the herbs. But be warned: it will be SPICY! We like a little kick but still want to be able to feel our lips when we’re done eating, so I add just a little and only at the end.

Just like that, you’re done! And oh; the things you can do with this sauce! You can can this sauce in jars or freeze it in bags or containers. Or it will keep for about a week in the fridge. This amount makes one batch of lasagna or spaghetti with meat sauce for me. If I want to make pasta with no meat, I use what I need and save the rest (trust me; you’ll find a use for it). It’s perfect as a pizza sauce, but you can also make pizza fondue. Really; it’s one of my family’s favorite fun meals! Heat the whole batch of sauce in a fondue pot over low heat (if using an electric pot) or a couple of tea light candles if you’re using an old school fondue pot. Cut up your favorite pizza toppings and lay them out. If you want veggies that aren’t crunchy, saute them lightly before you set them out. I use cooked and sliced Italian sausage, ham, pepperoni slices (they’re easier to eat if they’re cut in half), and pineapple for a super easy spread of toppings. Cut some mozzarella into cubes (the block stuff will do but it won’t be nearly as good as the softer, “fresh” mozzarella you get packed in a little water) and some hot french bread into slices. Spear a cube of cheese and then your favorite toppings with your fondue fork and dip it all in the sauce. Slide the contents of your fork onto a slice of french bread and enjoy! I usually get 2 dips out of one slice of bread, so that helps fill up the hungry tummies gathered around the fondue pot 🙂

OH! I said up above that I would tell you how I eat this out of a bowl… it’s so simple and SO good…

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I make crustless pizza in a bowl. Stay with me on this! Put about half an inch of sauce in the bottom of a microwave or oven safe bowl then put some shredded or cubed mozzarella cheese in the sauce. Cover the bowl and heat it until the edges of the sauce are bubbly. Then add a few pizza toppings evenly over the surface. You don’t want to add a ton or the sauce won’t heat through well- just like real pizza. Cover the bowl again and heat until everything is good and hot. In all honesty, this is one of my favorite meals if I’m making something just for myself. But ONLY if I’m using this sauce. It’s just that good.

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The Recipe:

29 Oz Can Tomato Sauce (plain, no flavoring added)

1 T Bacon fat or Olive Oil

1/4 Large Onion, Grated Fine

8-10 Cloves Garlic, Minced

3-4 t Brown Sugar (start with the smaller amount and add more if needed after the sauce is simmered)

1 1/2 t Dried Basil

Scant 1 t Dried Oregano

1/4 t Ground Dried Thyme (or about 1/2 t dried thyme, unground)

1 Bay Leaf

1/2-3/4 t Kosher Salt (start with the smaller amount and add more if needed after the sauce is simmered)

1/4 t White or Black Ground Pepper (or to taste)

1/8-1/2 t Red Pepper Flakes (or to taste)

The Method:

*Grate the onion (on the smaller holes) onto a plate or into a bowl to save the juice as well.

*Mince the garlic.

*Add the bacon fat or oil into a large sauce pan over medium heat.

*Once the pan is ready, saute the grated onion (with its juice) until it begins to turn golden brown.

*Add the garlic to the pot and saute for about 2 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.

*Pour the tomato sauce into the pot and stir to incorporate the veggies.

*Add the brown sugar, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir well.

*Cover the pot and bring the sauce to a boil. Back the heat down to a slow simmer and leave the sauce to cook for 30 minutes. You could give the pot a stir a couple of times if you think about it.

*Once 30 minutes is up stir and check for proper consistency. If the sauce is too watery let it simmer uncovered until the right thickness is reached.

*Add the red chili flakes if you’re using them, more brown sugar, salt, and/or pepper to taste.

*Use as desired immediately, can, freeze, or store in the refrigerator for about a week.

So here we are in one of the coldest parts of the country, and we moved here willingly- happily even. Believe it or not, we wanted to move to northern Wisconsin. When my husband got his job with the railroad and it became very clear that staying in Colorado wasn’t going to be an option, we started very seriously researching places to live. And when we realized that we didn’t like South Dakota as much as we thought we would, we started taking trips to places we thought we would like. Turns out, northern Wisconsin just immediately felt like home. Some have called us crazy; “I mean, the winters there are awful!” they would exclaim. This is true. But they aren’t a whole lot worse than eastern South Dakota. And from what we’ve experienced in the last 2 months, the rest of the year more than makes up for the winters.

Now, having said that, I do have to say as well that I put a lot of effort into making sure my family is comfortable when it’s miserably cold outside. Sweat shirts, warm socks, hot chocolate, and hearty, piping hot foods that will stick with them for awhile. One of the easiest ways to get a hot breakfast into my family is to make farina for breakfast. You might know it by it’s brand name: Cream of Wheat. I know, I know; it’s old fashioned. Fuddy duddy. Incredibly bland and boring. At least, that’s what you think. But in all reality, farina is the perfect blank canvas for a surprising number of favorite flavors. Don’t believe me? Then read on; I’ll show you some fantastic ideas for jazzing up a classic hot cereal! (I’ll put the recipes at the bottom, giving amounts for 2 large servings.)

First, I want to take a minute to talk about the cereal itself. I use Bob’s Red Mill farina (also called creamy wheat on the package). I do like that it’s organic but, more than that, I like the finer texture of the finished cereal as opposed to the slightly coarser finish of brand name Cream of Wheat. I can also buy the Bob’s Red Mill cheaper on Amazon than I can buy the Cream of Wheat at the store (because we have Amazon Prime so our shipping is free), so that’s what I use. You can, of course, use whichever you like. Just make sure to follow the preparation directions carefully, because if you don’t you’ll end up with a lumpy mess.  Also, I cook mine with one part milk and 3 parts water to give the cereal a little more flavor and a little extra creaminess. You can use whatever ratio you prefer. So without further ado, let’s get down to the tastiness!

How about pumpkin pie for breakfast?? Well… I actually do serve pumpkin pie for breakfast on occasion. But if that’s not your thing, try this on for size! Make your normal batch of farina and add pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Throw some whipped cream on top and you’ve got a bowl of pumpkin pie for breakfast that will fill you up and start your day with a smile!

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Or how about a cinnamon roll for breakfast that won’t leave you hungry 20 minutes later? It’s super easy to make cinnamon roll farina! To your batch of finished cereal add cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. That’s it! You can make an easy powdered sugar glaze to swirl over the top by adding a little milk to powdered sugar; that’s all glaze is. Or if you have some cream cheese frosting left over from something (like I did from my carrot cake), you can add a dollop to your bowl. This is my favorite way to eat farina!

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Ok, so if cinnamon roll is my all time favorite farina flavor, this one is a close second. Two words: BANANA BREAD. Seriously! Banana bread hot cereal! I wouldn’t joke about something like this. Add mashed banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, some walnuts, and a little butter and you’ve got a bowl of warm banana bread. So comforting on a cold morning!

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And here’s my kids’ favorite way to eat farina: french toast! This one was thought up when the kids and I were discussing all the different things one could do with farina. The thought struck me and after a couple of minutes I had a basic idea for the how to. I tried it a few weeks later and it was awesome. All it takes is adding sugar, vanilla, maple syrup, and eggs to the hot farina. You do have to temper the eggs first, though, or you’ll end up with scrambled egg farina and that’s just yucky. I’ll add those instructions below. Add a pat of butter and an extra drizzle of maple syrup and you’ve got a bowl of french toast tastiness. This is such a fun way to serve this old fashioned cereal!

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Mmmmm…. those are some super awesome bowls of comforting yumminess!! And get this: you can make a big batch and reheat it as you need it! That’s right; you can make a double or triple batch and warm it up throughout the week. All you need to do is add a little milk as you microwave it to get it back to the desired consistency. That makes it an even better weekday breakfast! So go ahead and embrace an old fashioned classic; your stomach will thank you on the cold mornings to come!

The Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Farina

2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina

1/3 C Pumpkin Puree

1/4 t Kosher Salt

1/2 t Cinnamon

1/8 t Nutmeg

1/2 t Vanilla

Whipped Cream, Pecans, and/or Butter to garnish

The Recipe: Cinnamon Roll Farina

2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina

6 T Brown Sugar

2 Oz Cream Cheese

1/4 t Kosher Salt

1 t Cinnamon

1 t Vanilla

Whipped Cream, Glaze, Cream Cheese Frosting, Butter, and/or Nuts to garnish

For Glaze, if desired:

1/2 C Powdered Sugar

2-4 t Milk

The Recipe: Banana Bread Farina

2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina

1 Banana, mashed

1/3 C Brown Sugar

1/4 t Kosher Salt

1/2 t Cinnamon

1/8 t Nutmeg

1/2 t Vanilla

Butter and/or Walnuts for garnish

The Recipe: French Toast Farina

2 Servings Cooked, Piping Hot Farina (for this one I usually use half water and half milk to cook the cereal)

2 Eggs, Beaten

2 T White Sugar

1/4 C Maple Syrup (this is one time that the store bought pancake syrup will work fine if that’s all you’ve got)

1 1/2 – 2 t Vanilla

1/8 t Salt

Pat of butter and extra maple syrup if desired

The Method:

*To temper the eggs before adding to the cereal: Beat the eggs in a small bowl then add about 1/4 C of the fully cooked hot cereal a little at a time while stirring the eggs constantly. Once that’s done, you can put the egg mixture back into the pot and stir it in.

*Heat the pot of cereal to a simmer once again to ensure that the eggs are cooked through.

*Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.

 

 

 

 

We are preparing to delve into the world of homeschooling this year. We’ve felt the need to homeschool for years but were never in a position to be able to until now. So we won’t have the hustle and bustle of trying to get out the door in time to meet the bus this year. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be mornings that we need to get in the car and go somewhere earlier and in more of a rush than I’d like- especially since it’s a 40 minute drive from our little village to get anywhere. On those mornings it’s SO nice to have a breakfast that I can put into containers or baggies so we can eat it in the car. And it’s even nicer to know that this “fast food” is homemade instead of processed and super unhealthy. Try to get that out of the little packages of muffins from the store!

Since I like to make these as easy to eat as possible, I tend to make these into mini muffins. They’re easily popable that way and the crumbs are kept to a minimum. They are just as tasty as regular muffins, so use whatever kind of pan strikes your fancy. And speaking of fancy, these make great baby bundt cakes! You can ice them with a simple glaze and presto- you’ve got a pretty little dessert!

One of the great things about these muffins is that they use everyday items that are probably in your pantry and fridge as we speak…

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The second great thing about these tasty little gems is how simple they are. All you have to do is mix your dry ingredients…

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Then mix your wet ingredients well…

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Then all you have to do is mix them together…

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Ta da! Done! Now you just fill the liners and put the pan in the oven…

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It doesn’t get much easier than that! From start to finish these muffins take about 20 minutes (depending on what size you make them). And if you don’t want chocolate chips in them, no problem; use whatever you like. Peanut butter chips (or half chocolate chips, half peanut butter chips), toffee chips, mint chocolate chips, dried fruit, your imagination is the only limit! Oh- and if you really want to make these a little decadent, whip up some cream cheese frosting and smear a bit on top of the muffins. That will brighten the dreariest day 🙂 And you can even make a big batch of these and freeze them for later. Then you can just thaw some on the counter overnight and have a quick breakfast in the morning. Or you can put a frozen muffin in your lunch bag and have a tasty treat at midday.

Autumn is fast approaching (thank goodness!!) and with it comes busier schedules. I hope this simple recipe brings a smile to your hustle & bustle the way it does to mine 🙂

The Recipe: 

1 1/2 C Flour

1/2 C Sugar

2 t Baking Powder

1/2 t Salt

1 Egg

1/4 C Sour Cream (or yogurt; vanilla yogurt adds a nice, subtle flavor)

1/2 C Milk

1/4 C Oil

1/2 C Chocolate Chips (I use mini chocolate chips- especially if I’m making mini muffins)

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Prepare your muffin pan by either greasing and flouring each well or lining them with paper cups.

*In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center into which you can pour the wet ingredients.

*In a small bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients.

*Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir until well combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps in the batter.

*Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. A small ice cream/cookie scoop works well for mini muffins.

*Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

*Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Or you can freeze in a zip top bag or well wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil for up to 2 months.

 

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! ❤