The October Birthday Celebration

Okay, well I know it’s not October, but we celebrated early.  Not a crime!! 🙂  A’s birthday is so close to two of his cousins that we had a birthady party for all three while my mom was in town for a visit.  It was a simple celebration yet very enjoyable for all.

E helping me put together some homemade decorations.  We made a “happy birthday” banner and then paper chains out of the leftover paper.  We also made some tissue pom poms instead of buying balloons.

I found paper plates with a circus picture on them so I ended up using the design as my inspiration for the decorations and cake.

A’s “smash cake.”


 

 

He really didn’t eat that much of his cake, but he really enjoyed smashing it all up and playing with it like Play Dough. 🙂

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Chicken Pot Pie

With the cooler weather coming, it’s time to pull out the favorite fall recipes and yummy comfort food that the family enjoys.  One of the things I’ve always wanted to become more experienced making was pie crusts but just don’t have the opportunities needed to practice this art, and trust me, it’s an ART. 🙂

My first attempt at a pie crust ended up with two very happy little boys playing with “play dough” at the kitchen table instead of me creating a culinary masterpiece.  Blah!  However, after watching a ton of Youtube clips on pie crust making, I decided I would give it another try.

A chicken pot pie sounded like a great way to practice my crust-making skills while still staying away from baking any sweets.  I found this recipe online and gave it a try.  To my delight, the crust turned out GREAT and the family really enjoyed the new dish.  Yay!  This one is definitely going in my “keepers” recipe book for future use.

Ingredients for Crust (makes 2):

  • 12 T. chilled butter
  • 2 C. flour
  • 4 T. ice water
  • dash of salt

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 1/3 C. margarine or butter
  • 1/3 C. flour
  • 1/3 C. chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 3/4 C. chicken broth
  • 2/3 C. milk
  • 2 C. cooked, cubed chicken
  • 1 (10 ounce) pkg. frozen mixed veggies

In a large bowl combine flour and salt.  Slice butter into 12 individual pieces and add to bowl.  With a pastry cutter blend until mixture resembles pea-sized balls. 

Add ice water and mix by hand until dough forms a ball.  You might need to add more than 4 T.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place inside the refrigerator until you are ready to roll out into a pie crust.   Begin preparing the filling.

Heat butter over low heat until melted.

Whisk in flour until forming a paste.

Slowly whisk in chicken broth then milk making sure there are no lumps.  Add salt, pepper, and onion.  Heat to boiling; stirring constantly.  Boil and stir one minute.

Stir in chicken and veggies.  (For this pie I used canned peas and carrots that I first strained.)

Prepare your pie crust by removing from the refrigerator and dividing in half.  Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin or place dough between two pieces of parchment paper. 

Parchment paper, parchment paper.. How I love thee, let me count the ways…

Have I mentioned that I LOVE parchment paper?!?!  It has become my new best friend inside the kitchen.  I truly believe it was worth every penny spent on the fabulous stuff! 🙂  Anyway, back to the recipe….

Roll to desired size to fit your 9-inch pie pan.  Line pie plate with prepared bottom crust.

Pour in the filling.

Roll out the other half of the dough and cover the top with the top crust.  Flute edges and trim off any excess dough.  Cut a few slits in the top to vent.  Bake uncovered at 425 degrees for approximately 30-35 minutes.

Without adjusting the time or oven temperature, this pie cooks to perfection as is!

Canning Homemade Apple Sauce

So thankful my mom is here visiting for the week!  One of the highlights is that she brought with her several boxes full of golden delicious apples for me and my sister to make our own apple sauce with.  Yippee!! 🙂  I missed out on making apple sauce last year since I was in the hospital having a baby.  That’s what happens when you go into labor six weeks early…. Oh well, I was determined to learn how to make this food staple, and Mom was more than happy to show me.

On box (or bushel) of apples will make approximately 13-14 quarts (more if you like to add in a little pureed pears).

  • Box or bushel of apples (I used golden delicious because they are so sweet you don’t need to add any sugar)
  • 1/4 C. lemon juice (more if needed)
  • Stock pots
  • Canning lids
  • Canning rings
  • Canner
  • At least 14 quart jars (should have a few more handy in case one is chipped or cracked)
  • Fruit juicer attachment for KitchenAid
  • Bowl

Fill one side of the kitchen sink with water and place as many apples as will fit inside to wash them.

Fill a large pot (or stockpot if you have an extra) with water and at least 1/4 C. lemon juice.  Remove all the bad spots from the apples and quarter.  Remove the core and seeds.  Place inside the pot to let soak in mixture.  If you don’t have lemon juice you can always use citric acid or vitamin C; however, the lemon juice is cheaper and dissolves more easily.  Plus the apples seem to absorb it better.   If the cut apples are turning brown, add more lemon juice or other acidic agent to cut down on the oxidation.

Strain the apples and place them inside large pots (stockpots) cook on medium/low heat on the stove.  The objective is to cook them down WITHOUT burning.

Stir the apples about every 15 minutes until they are completely cooked through to the consistency of potatoes that are ready to be mashed.

Prepare your KitchenAid and attachments placing bowls in the correct areas to collect the waste and apple sauce as it is strained. 

Scoop and pour the apples into the top of the juice and press down with the press.

Apple sauce comes out the strainer while all the excess waste (skins, etc.) comes out the front.

All the apple sauce goes back on the stove on low heat to keep it hot.  You do NOT want the apple sauce to cool down before you can it.

Prepare seven jars (preferably fresh out of the dishwasher so they are piping hot) and fill with the apple sauce leaving a 1/2 inch head space.  Use a clean, wet cloth to clean the rims ensuring that there are no cracks or chips in the glass and no food remaining.  Seal each jar with a canning lid and ring.

Place each jar carefully inside the hot water canner.  Notice the lids on the bottom of the canner?  Just a creative way of keeping the glass jars from coming in direct contact with the bottom of the canner.  You can also use extra canning lids or some butter knives.  Anything to elevate the jars off the bottom will work.

After all jars are placed inside the canner ensuring that the lids are completely immersed in the hot water, cover and let “cook” for 20 minutes in the near-to-boiling water.  DO NOT place the jars in boiling water!!!  You will shatter the jars and end up with a really big mess.

Remove jars from the canner after 20 minutes and let cool on a flat surface.  Repeat the process with the remainder of the apples sauce.

  • One bushel = 50 lbs. of apples
  • $20/bushel = $1.58/quart (13 quarts)
  • Savings = $10.53 (based on the store price of $2.39/quart)

Apple Fritter Bites

I’m sure you can guess that these apple fritters cost a LOT less than the ones you would purchase at your local grocery store or donut shop. 🙂  For a fraction of the price you can make your own warm, savory treats right in your own kitchen.

Now I know I said I wasn’t supposed to “bake” anything until I finished losing all 15 pounds, BUT since I am down 10 pounds, I thought I would celebrate and try out a new recipe.  I’ve been just itching to get back in the kitchen and try out some new goodies.  Hehehe!

I was a little leery about attempting the fritters because you have to fry them like donuts.  For those of you who don’t know, my last attempt at making homemade donuts turned into a nasty failure.  No exaggeration!  Since then I’ve stayed away from any recipe that involves cooking in hot oil.  (I can only take so many failures before I lose my courage to forge ahead and try something new.  I’m still working on that weakness!!!)

Well to my delight this recipe explained how to ensure that your fritters cook all the way through depending on the size of the fritters and the amount of oil and temperature you use.  GREAT!  You can check out the recipe for yourself over at Cooking with K.

Start by slicing and peeling a large apple then cut it into pea-sized bites.  You will need a minimum of 1 1/2 cups.

In a medium bowl, mix:

  • 1 1/4 C. flour
  • 1/3 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
     

In a small bowl, stir together 1/3 C. milk, 1 egg, 1 T. melted butter and 1/2 tsp. vanilla until egg is mixed well.

Pour into dry ingredients and stir just until all ingredients are mixed.

Add apples and fold in gently.

Heat oil around 365 degrees and drop in oil with a small cookie scooper being careful not to over crowd.  Once in the grease turn fritters over and flatten a little and fry until golden brown.  It takes about 35 seconds on each side with this size.  Adjust cooking time on size of the fritter and the temperature of the oil.

When golden brown, remove the fritters from the hot oil and lay on a sheet pan lined with either paper towels or a towel.

In a small bowl mix together 1 C. powdered sugar and 3 T. milk until smooth and creamy. 

When fritters have slightly cooled, dip in the glaze and place on a wire rack over a sheet pan to let the excess drip off.

ENJOY!  I know my boys sure did. 🙂

That’s I’s adamant sign for “eat.”  Haha!

I’m telling ya, eating something this appleiciously-yummy is SERIOUS business! 🙂

Safari Baby Shower for Baby Bean

So excited to welcome my friend’s first baby!!!  It was a great time to get creative and practice lots of new crafty ideas for gifts while helping to put together the baby shower. 

For starters I finished up a baby afghan and nursing cape with a monogram on the bottom corner.  Then I tried my hand out on an onesie applique to be used as a door prize at the shower.

Part of the decorations included a diaper cake.  This was my first diaper cake to experiment with and all I can say about the experiences was IT WAS FUN. 🙂  I ended staying up until past 2 a.m. finishing all the little details because I couldn’t stand the thought of going to bed and not being able to see the finished result.  On top of that, I was getting so much more accomplished without my three boys interrupting me every five minutes.  Haha!

 

(Sorry about all the glue strings in the picture!  It was VERY late and I didn’t notice them at the time I was taking pics.)

Decorations at the church…

 

Indoor Herb Garden

My first experiment with an indoor garden.  I’m hoping that if I can get the hang of growing plants from seeds indoors during the winter and then planting them in a garden when spring comes, it will be a great money saver once we move out to our 20 acres.  One package of seeds (which can potentially grow approximately 50 plants or more) costs $1.28.  One mature tomato plant costs around $8-9.  Get the idea of how much it would save if I can get the hang of this winter growing thing?  Sometimes I wish I had a green thumb like my old roommate Velma.  She could make anything grow!! 🙂

Started out with purchasing four pots on clearance for $2/each.  Also purchased a small bag of gravel, potting soil and seeds.

Put a scoop of gravel in the bottom of each pot for drainage purposes and to keep the plants free of root rot.

Filled the pots with potting soil leaving a 1-2 inch headspace.  Add enough water to get all the soil nice and saturated.

Divide the pot into quarters and place a few seeds in each section.

Gently cover with 1/4 inch potting soil.

Gently sprinkle with water to moisten the top layer of soil but not enough to wash away the seeds.

 

Make labels for your pots so you’ll know what each one is when it starts to grow.

Place containers in an area that receives plenty of sunlight.  Water and rotate pots every day.

What they look like after being planted two weeks ago.

The Value of Hard Work

There are so many different parenting philosophies out there as to boggle the mind when trying to figure out what is the best one to apply to your own children.  There is always this fear that if you pick the wrong one you will be responsible for completely ruining your children and turning them into society’s great menace.  (shudder…)

Well, Tim and I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to teaching our children the value of a dollar or the value of a toy, it is better for them to learn through hard work.  Like most parents, we would love to give our children everything their greedy little hearts could desire, but we don’t because of two reasons – we can’t afford it and we want our boys to appreciate what they have.

Although Tim and I think very similarly on this topic, we actually had very diverse childhoods.  I was homeschooled from K-12th grade while Tim attended public schools.  While being taught school at home, I was subjected more to the day-to-day running of a household and given more opportunities for entrepreneurship.  If I wanted to attend a music camp or summer Bible camp, I had to work and save money.  I did this by cleaning homes with my siblings and mom as young as 12 or 13 years old.  Then I began a baking business and sold homemade cakes and candies. 

Any time I had to pay for my own things, I learned to appreciate them all the more because I knew exactly how much work went into acquiring them.  This is what we desire for our boys!  We want them to appreciate all that they have and are given and to NEVER just expect things to be handed to them just because they want them.

Now that E is almost five years old and really getting a grasp on the “gimmes,” we thought it was time to give him a goal and to teach him about saving his money.  He has been wanting a certain Buzz Lightyear toy for a while and always asks if he can go look at it when we are at the store.  He would beg and beg us to buy it for him every time until he finally understood us when we said, “Sure, we would love for you to have that toy, but you are going to have to pay for it yourself.”

He now has his chore chart hung up on the refrigerator next to a chart showing his $40 goal.  Every time he earns another dollar, he colors in a space.  Every extra little job he helps with around the house earns him an extra 5, 10, 25 or 50 cents.  He is so excited about working to save up for his toy that he has been begging us to WORK (notice the change in what he’s begging us for!).  I love his latest quote he likes to say to me during the day, “Mama, I’m going to be a good boy and help around the house so you’ll want to hire me for a job.” 🙂

It’s going to take him a while to earn that $40, but he’s also planning on saving any Christmas or birthday money to help.  His out-of-state grandma also likes to mail him a dollar every month with a little note encouraging him. 🙂  I’m just proud of my little man for following in his papa’s footsteps in being a joyful hard worker who loves to save.