Kitchen Tip #4: How to Cook Dried Beans

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 With food prices increasingly on the rise, I'm finding myself cutting back more and more on expensive proteins like meat and cheese and either substituting with beans or combining the two to make a meal go further. Dried beans are probably the most cost-effective meal-planning option, and they are incredibly versatile and healthy. A great way to cut food costs is to institute a meatless meal one or more nights a week. Every Wednesday is "bean night" at our house. {Doesn't that make you want to … [Read more...]

Chicken Enchilada Bake

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  If I had been sticking to my menu plan, we would have been having Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing on Wednesday night.  However, since I didn't end up going out of town on Tuesday, I decided to use up the roasted chicken from Monday to make this recipe.  Let's just say that what started out as a 9 x 13 pan of enchiladas ended up with one little Ziploc storage container of leftovers.  Cora, the 15-month-old, ate two bowls, and Daniel and I both had two platefuls.  Since I am trying to … [Read more...]

Mexican Hot Chocolate

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Winter is not my favorite season (and, yes, I know technically it isn't winter yet) because I don't like cold weather or being trapped in my house.  Today, despite chilly temperatures, the kids and I went outside to play.  We didn't stay out too long though, but when we ventured back inside, Kate requested hot chocolate.  That actually sounded pretty good, but what I really wanted was a Mexican Hot Chocolate like the one my friend Cristy and I used to get at a local coffee shop in my … [Read more...]

Our Baby’s First Birthday & a Clown Cake

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 Our baby girl turned one on Monday, and while, according to my husband at least, I make a big deal over holidays and birthdays, first and second birthdays are a bit low-key.  Still, I decided the night before to attempt a clown cake for little Cora Jane.  The clown cake is somewhat of a first birthday tradition in my family: my grandmother made it for many of my cousins' first birthdays, and my mom has made it for most, if not all, of the grandkids. Let's just say that I am not creative or … [Read more...]

Homemade Vanilla Extract

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I'm on a "make-my-own" kick lately, thanks to Alicia at Alicia's Homemaking. Today I made some more homemade ketchup. Delicious! On Wednesday, I made whole-wheat bagels for the first time. Double-delicious! Last week I made a batch of blueberry jam (triple-delicious!!). And yesterday, I made vanilla extract. "All -by-my-self," as my two-year-old would say. Yes, I know I can buy it at Kroger or Wal-Mart, but vanilla extract--really good vanilla extract--is EXPENSIVE. We're talking $12 for … [Read more...]

Homemade Berry Cobbler

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After a recent trip to Gram-Gram and Papa's house, my daughter brought home a bag of blackberries and blueberries that immediately went into the freezer for pancakes and oatmeal. Coupled with our weekly trips to the farmer's market where I have been buying a quart or two of blueberries at a time, I have accumulated quite a "berry stash." I am what you might call "a berry hoarder." I LOVE fresh blueberries and blackberries! So, last weekend when my husband brought home a gallon of … [Read more...]

Things I Love: Homemade Ketchup

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We have hit the mother lode with tomatoes. In the past three weeks, I have put up 1 quart and 7 pints of crushed tomatoes, with and without basil. To use up our surplus, I've been making spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and even chili {yes, it's August, but you can't beat a bowl of chili any time of the year in my book!}. So, I was on Pinterest the other day and found this great recipe for homemade ketchup that looked easy enough. Source: kissmyspatula.com via Keri on Pinterest I have been … [Read more...]

What to Do with All Those Jalapeno Peppers

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In 2007, we had a bumper crop of jalapeno peppers--so many that I didn't know what to do with them all. I considered canning them, but I wasn't really sure about how they would turn out. Lucky for me, I have a lot of EXCELLENT cooks in my family, and my mom--one of said EXCELLENT cooks--suggested I email my Uncle Jimmy for his recipe for refrigerator peppers. I'm sure glad I did! That year I put up FOUR QUARTS filled to the brim with jalapeno and banana peppers from our garden. We ate on them … [Read more...]

Things I Love: Tortilla Pie

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Our family eats a lot of beans. Beans are a great source of fiber and protein, and they are also cheap. A one-pound bag of dried black beans will make three to four meals for our family of four and costs less than $2. You can't beat that in my book!This recipe is very inexpensive to make. You can use whatever beans you have on hand, whether cooked dry beans or canned ones, as well as whatever types of cheeses you have available.This recipe is modified from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook's … [Read more...]

Top Ten Ways to Use up a Squash Surplus

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Squash, squash, and more squash. What does one do when the squash come all at once? Here are my top ten ways to use up a squash surplus: (1) Fried squash. A classic Southern dish, fried squash is my favorite way to fix squash. There's just something about crispy-fried-cornmeal-covered squash that takes me back to my Mama's cookin'. I usually fry up some squash with pinto beans and cornbread. You can't get much better than that! (2) Boiled squash. Do people still boil vegetables? I … [Read more...]