Recipe Roundup: Appetizers for the Big Game

In our family we are big fans of what we call “Football Food”. My husband coined this term when we were dating and really into cheering for our hometown team each week, and I would fix several things for us while we watched the game.

These days, it is usually a tradition we do each year for the “Big Game” whether we watch the game or not 🙂

So in preparation for the weekend, I thought I would share with you a few of our favorite appetizer recipes from around the web.

First up is Spinach Artichoke Dip. Up until recently, I always made the cold version of this served in a bread bowl, but I recently made the warm, stove top version and really liked it. It was even better later in the week, I reheated it in a small casserole dish in the oven, it was heavenly! You can find it here at Natasha’s Kitchen

Another app we love is sausage balls. These are so yummy, and so versatile! I have served them for brunch, and as football food. Make sure you use Jimmy Dean sausage, and grate your own cheddar.  (Note: I use 8 oz cheddar, and 8 oz. cream cheese) Check out the recipe at South Your Mouth

My go to for homemade salsa is the Pioneer Woman’s Restaurant Style Salsa. I am not a huge fan of salsa, but I could drink this stuff 🙂 It makes about a half gallon, and I promise you will get rave reviews if you make it this weekend. Pop over here to PW’s site  for the recipe.

And finally, my husband loves wings! And I was thrilled to find out after I got my electric pressure cooker a couple of years ago, that they are SO simple to make.

It’s mix, dump, pressure cook, and broil 🙂  Here’s a great recipe from Good Dinner Mom

No matter what your plans are for the weekend, I hope this gives you some good ideas for quick tasty appetizers that are sure to please a crowd.

 

Organizing Our Family Photos

Previously, I have shared how I backup our family photos to keep them safe. That is the first step in managing our photos. The second step is organizing them in such a way that they can be enjoyed and shared.

Have you ever run across an old photo and wondered who it is a picture of? Maybe you turned the photo over hoping to see some writing that would help you, but there is none. Or found a baby photo in an album, and wondered if it was your husband or his brother, because they looked very similar when they were babies?

Those are the types of situations I am hoping to avoid for our family and future generations. Here is how I do it.

For many years I have used Lightroom to organize our photos. It is by Adobe, so I am pretty confident the software will be around long term, but even if Lightoom disappeared tomorrow, my organization would still be in place. Let me explain why that is important.

Years ago,  I organized my digital scrapbooking supplies with a different software program. All my supplies were in one major folder on my computer, but I used the software’s tagging system to label papers, ribbons, stickers, frames, etc. I spent many hours doing that. Wasted time.  The next time the software upgraded, there was a glitch and I lost ALL THOSE TAGS.

It was a hard lesson to learn, but an important one. From that point on, I used folders on my computer instead of proprietary software to organize my supplies.

Now, back to our photos and how this applies. On my computer, I have a Master Photos folder, and inside are individual folders for each month of a year from April 1996 (the month we got married) all the way to January 2018. The basic structure of my photos is built not in Lightroom, but on my computer. The folder names are like this, so they stay chronological within the main folder:  1996-04-April  to  2018-01-Janaury.

Then my photos get imported into Lightroom by folder, so the structure within Lightroom is the same, but if Lightroom crashed or went away tomorrow, my photos aren’t a jumbled mess of dates.

The next step in Lightroom is to apply some basic keywords, to larger batches of photos I see as I am importing. For example, if I am working with a group of photos from May, there might be several from Mother’s Day. I will tag those because I like having holiday photos tagged. I will also do this for things like 4-H activities or photos from church. If someone else has shared a photo with me, the photo gets tag with who it is from. Within our immediate family, I also like to tag when there is a photo of all 3 of us together, or a photo with our daughter and one of us. This has come in handy on a couple of occasions when looking for a photo for a project or gift. Here is an example of what a photo of my daughter and I from Mother’s Day 2002 looks like in Lightroom:

 

The labels on this photo are: Becki, Becki and Katie < 1 Our Immediate Family, Katie, Mother’s Day, photos by MomW.

Those labels mean that I could access that photo using ANY of those words. If I looked up all the photos that my mother in law has shared with me, it’s there. If I look up all photos tagged with Mother’s Day, its there. If I look up all photos with me in them, it’s there. If I look in the May 2002 folder, it’s there.

There is one other way that it is searchable as well, and that is by date. Even though this is a scanned photo, that was scanned in September of 2017, I have changed the creation date of the photo in Lightroom to be the actual date the photo was taken, as shown on the photo: May 12, 2002. So I can also search by date.

And the joy of all this is that Lightoom writes all this information directly in the file. So you do not need Lightroom or Photoshop to see this information. This is huge, because I want all the time that I spend inputting this information to be beneficial for many years to come, and for anyone I choose to share my photos with.

The creation date, keywords, any notes I enter in the caption area, are all visible to anyone I share the photo with, and it doesn’t matter if you are a Mac or a Windows person.

Here is a photo from my husband. He went on a Tiger Cruise with his uncle who was in the Navy in 1983. They were on the USS Eisenhower. Let’s imagine my daughter finds this photo as she is looking at family photos in the cloud someday. (remember my back ups? ) She sees this picture and wonders “What is this all about?”

All she has to do is look at the file info:

And by searching for more photos of the keywords Tiger Cruise, she will find photos of her Dad and great uncle labeled with their names so she can piece the story together a bit.

Now let me share with you a couple of ways this system has benefited us recently. At Christmas time, we hosted the gathering for my husband’s side of the family this year. I was able to quickly put together a slideshow of previous Christmas gatherings dating back to 1995 that we showed on the TV as people were arriving and getting settled. So fun and so easy, and because of a little bit of organization I was able to put my finger on just the photos I needed.

Another example, in November of last year, my aunt passed away and I was able to find some favorite photos of I have of her and share them with our family so they were included in the slideshow at her funeral. Times like that are stressful, so to be able to access treasured photos easily is a blessing.

Our photos should be doing more than just sitting on our phones and hard drives, (and backed up to the cloud). We should be sharing them, displaying them, making gifts with them. If they are easy to find, we are more apt to do so. I encourage you to begin organizing your photos so you can do the same.

How we are protecting against the flu

The flu is raging around the country. Even those who are pro flu shot admit that the flu shot is not effective this year. So what is our family doing to protect ourselves as best we can?

The first thing we are doing is elderberry, every day to help build our immunity. We got some in gummy form to send to our daughter at college, so it is easy to take, no messing with a spoon and a syrup in her dorm room. We also sent oscillococcinum to use if she does contract  the flu. It is a homeopathic alternative to Tamiflu, which can have terrible side effects. In conjunction with elderberry, it helps shorten the length of the flu.

We are also staying home more, not being out in the public when we can help it. When we do need to go out, we wipe down shopping carts and use hand sanitizer after interacting with others, using card readers etc.

Along with getting back on track taking our Vitamin D3 and K2, I also wanted to add something else as an immunity booster. Then I remembered honey & garlic, and lemon, ginger, & honey.

I often will eat a clove or two of raw garlic if I feel a cold coming on. It works, but is definitely not pleasant. Infusing garlic in honey helps mellow flavor of the garlic, and the honey has natural germ fighting and immune boosting properties of it’s own.

So at the store, I purchased organic lemons, ginger root, and garlic, and some raw (not pasteurized) honey. For both of these mixtures together, I used about a pint of honey.

My first step was getting the garlic ready. For my 8 ounce jar I used 3 heads of garlic.

I separated the cloves, and removed the papery skins. Rolling  the cloves vigorously, while rolled up in a silicone pot holder really speeds this process  up.

Once the cloves were ready,  I simply placed them in my jar and covered them with honey. I will let this sit on my counter for a few days, and then refrigerate them, where they will last for several months easily.

The process for the other infusion is very similar. I started by peeling a couple of knobs of ginger. It is really simple to do by just scraping a spoon against the thin skin. Then I thinly sliced the ginger.

Using a mandolin, I thinly sliced 2 lemons. When placing them in the jar, I alternated between the lemons and ginger.

Once the pint jar was nearly filled, I added the honey.

I will take both of these simply by eating a small spoonful once a day. You could add them to hot water or a tea, but I don’t want to destroy any of the benefits of the honey by heating it too much. If you feel illness coming on, you take it multiple times during the day.

I hope this helps give you another tool to help your family stay healthy during this terrible cold and flu season

 

 

 

 

Alexa and My Fridge :)

Around our house, we are pretty geeky. We love anything techy, that can make life easier, more efficient, or just plain fun.

One of the ways I use technology to be more efficient is using apps for meal planning, recipes, and food inventory.

I have a LOT of recipes, and I like having my most important recipes with me when I am in the kitchen, or in my home office when I am meal planning for the week. It can also be handy to have your recipes accessible when you are at the grocery store.  An app that you may already be familiar with that does all these things is Paprika.

I can clip and save recipes while surfing the internet on my PC, retrieve them on my phone or tablet in the kitchen, make a meal plan for the week and add all the ingredients to a shopping list. I can even send recipes to a friend and share shopping lists with my husband. It is a very robust app that I have loved for several years. It saves me time, and helps me feel more organized.

For food inventory, I use an app called My Chef and our Amazon Echo Dots.

Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – Black

A little over a year ago, we added a couple of Amazon Echo Dots to our home. We use our Dots for a little bit of everything- information, news, weather, controlling our thermostat, playing music. More and more skills get added all the time, you never know what new thing Alexa will be able to do for you next.

I was thrilled when I found My Chef, to help me keep a better organized fridge and pantry so I do run out of things I need for a recipe, or buy unnecessary duplicates.

The My Chef smartphone app and Alexa skill also has a recipe part to it, but where it really shines in my mind is the pantry feature. I can use my smart phone and the My Chef app to very quickly enter my grocery items by scanning the UPC, typing in the item, or even scanning my receipt. It also can record the expiration date of the items after it has been entered.

Using an Echo device (or Alexa smartphone app) and the My Chef skill, you can ask Alexa things like “When does the milk expire?” How many zuchinni do I have?” “Do we have spring mix?” “Alexa, add expired items to shopping list”.

There are some bugs to be worked out to be sure, but it is something that definitely makes my life easier and more organized, that in the long run saves our family money as well. I am excited to see future advancements.

Do you use apps or skills to manage your household? Share your best apps in the comments!

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This post is part of the Wise Woman Link Up at A Wise Woman Builds Her Home. Click the link above for more great homemaking posts from around the web.

Chili Cheese Cornbread Casserole

Recently my husband and I had a potluck to attend, and knowing that main dishes as usually few and far between, I set out to find a main dish that was easy to prepare, transport, and wouldn’t break the bank.

I found the perfect recipe at From Valerie’s Kitchen. With the cold weather we have been having, I knew the chili would hit the spot, and a casserole would be easier to transport than a pot of chili.

On the night I made it, I was in a bit of a hurry, so I made a few modifications to mine. I used ground beef, subbed Rotel and an extra can of green chiles for the tomato sauce, and did not add the celery. I also used 2 cans of chili beans.

I try to use dried beans in my kitchen more these days, but the canned ones really came thru in a pinch.

The chili mixture was nice and thick as it simmered on the stove, it didn’t take long at all. By the time I had the cornbread mixture ready, I was able to top it with the chili and pop it right into the oven.

I was thankful this was such a quick meal to pull together. Our potluck last week actually got cancelled due to the terrible cold, so I was able to pull this recipe out earlier this week when I needed a quick dinner. My hubby loves chili and cornbread, and his standard response to what would you like for dinner is “Something hot, meaty, and cheesy.”  This met all the requirements and was very filling on a cold winters night.

Here is the printable for my version of Chili Cheese Cornbread Casserole. Leftovers are even better the next day, and they freeze very well.

 

Chili Cheese Cornbread Casserole

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup onion chopped
  • 2 colves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
  • 1 15 ounce can Rotel
  • 1 4 ounce can chopped green chiles
  • 2 16 ounce can chili beans in sauce
  • 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans or small white beans, drained
  • 2 8.5 ounce packages Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • Milk and eggs see corn muffin mix for amounts
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese blend
  • Sour cream optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large skillet, brown ground beef, onion, and garlic. Cook until beef is no longer pink. Add chili powder, black pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, Rotel and green chiles. Add beans and mix well while simmering. While continuing to simmer, prepare corn bread according to package directions.
  2. Spread cornbread into a greased 9x13 pan. Spoon chili mixture over the top of unbaked cornbread.

  3. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes. Edges of cornbread should be nicely browned and center should appear to be set. Top casserole with cheese and return to oven and bake 5-10 minutes more, until cheese is melted.

  4. When serving you can add sour cream, chopped cilantro, even diced jalapenos on the side.

This post is part of the Weekend Potluck. Check out many more delicious recipes HERE

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Coffee Drinks #1

Our family loves coffee- good coffee. We love finding little coffee shops and small batch roasters. We even enjoy roasting our own beans at home on occasion.

But coffee shops can be a bit spendy, and we like making our own coffee drinks at home in our PJs too. 🙂

Over the last couple of years, I have been gifted with some great coffee tools that help make our weekend coffee drinks just as wonderful as those that come from a coffee shop. I would love to share with you some of the different methods and drinks that we might make any given weekend.

First up is a lazy iced coffee. 🙂 No special tools or gadgets required.

We love cold brew, and in another post, I will show you our method for cold brewing at home. But this morning, I used a frugal and easy method for my iced coffee drink- leftover coffee. Yes, in our house, on occasion we have leftover coffee. 🙂  When that rarity happens, I let it cool to room temperature, and then pour it in these ice cube trays. The trays have a cover, which I love, so the coffee cubes don’t pick up any weird odors from the freezer.

In a day or two, (or when I need more room in my freezer), I dump the cubes into a freezer bag and seal it well. The first time I did this, I was worried that the coffee hahd stained the ice cube tray, but it washed up really well with no leftover stain or coffee smell.

When I am ready for a coffee treat, I dump 5 or 6 of the cubes (they are cute little squares) into a glass, and add 2 pumps of vanilla or classic syrup. We love to shop at World Market or Home Goods for our coffee syrups.

Next, I fill the glass with whole milk, and give it a quick stir.

The coffee cubes start melting almost immediately, so the coffee flavor comes out right away.


So easy and yummy, and  l love that we are saving money by not visiting a coffee shop, and using something that might have been discarded, for this lazy iced coffee 🙂

 

Re-growing Vegetables: the Sequel

Several years ago on the blog, I shared how I had used the leftover scraps from my celery to re-grow some on my windowsill. You can read that post HERE

While I haven’t kept up with my celery, I did have a friend that reported to me that her family did, and they were able to plant it in their garden that spring. Kind of cool, right? 🙂

In my blog post I mentioned that I was going to try green onions, and for me that was easier and a huge success. It’s something I still do 6 years later 🙂

It’s really as simple as can be, and easy to maintain. When I get onions from the store, I put them in a glass with a inch or two of filtered water. I change that water every couple of days and rinse off the bottom of the onions at the same time.  Be careful not to go too long without changing the water, the onions will get slimy and gross, 🙂 I also keep the roots trimmed down, but if your goal is to plant the onions in a pot or your garden,  you would want to let those grow out.

The growth happens very quickly as you can see from this photo taken just 5 days later

I love using green onions in salads and in our omelets we make on weekends, and there is generally enough growth to use frequently.

I have not been successful keeping them going really long term, but even using them 5 or 6 times is more frugal than using them once and tossing. 🙂

Next up for me:  to try basil and cilantro. I haven’t had tremendous luck with growing herbs in my kitchen. I’m hoping to add  a small shelf in my kitchen window that would help immensely. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

If you enjoyed this post, and are looking for more frugal tips, I invite you to join The Frugal Pantry Facebook group. My friend Darcy from The Purposeful  Pantry and I will be sharing different tips that will help you in your homemaking journey. We would love it if you would join us!

a-wise-woman-builds-her-home

This post is part of the Wise Woman Link Up at A Wise Woman Builds Her Home. Click the link above for more great homemaking posts from around the web.

Tortellini Soup Recipe

I wasn’t going to do another soup recipe this week, but our weather got bitterly cold again, and soup just sounded like a good idea. I was reminded in my Facebook memories about a creamy tortellini soup I made that we enjoyed, but I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere.

So I Googled, and came across this tomato based soup that I had all the ingredients for on 365daysofcrockpot.com  You are going to want to head over to 365 Days of Crockpot for tons of great recipes for both your slow cooker and instant pot.

As I looked at the tortellini soup recipe, I saw that her recipe is for the Instant pot, and while I LOVE my pressure cooker, I felt the 2 different cooking steps she mentions might not save me any time over a stove top method. So after making a few tweaks to the recipe, I was able to very quickly get this soup simmering on the stove as I put the french bread I made earlier in the day in the oven.

Since I was pressed for time, I realized I wouldn’t have time for the spices to really flavor the tomato sauce well, so I opted to use a good jarred spaghetti sauce instead.

I also subbed in a quart of chicken broth for 4 cups of the liquid which also added a good flavor to the soup. Lastly, I upped the veggie count in the soup by grating 5 carrots, and using 2 zucchini.

Once I had the vegetables grated and chopped, I started browning the meat. We love Italian sausage, but it can be a little pricey. One way I save a little bit of money is by purchasing ground pork when it is on sale, and then seasoning it myself with either a breakfast or italian sausage seasoning blend. I try to stock the freezer with pork when it is $1.99 or less per pound. Our favorite premade sausage is about $4.39 per pound, so even by adding in all the spices, it still is a significant savings for our grocery bill

After draining the sausage, I added all the remaining ingredients other than the noodles and the zucchini and simmered for 15-20 minutes. Then, about 15 minutes before dinner, I added them in, so that neither would get too mushy.

All in all, I was very pleased with how the soup turned out. Very hearty and flavorful, and quick enough for a weeknight dinner. We garnished ours with some shaved Parmesan cheese. With some warm, buttered french bread, it was a great dinner for a cold winter’s night. Let me know if you decided to try it this weekend, I would love to hear from you.

Here is the printable recipe:

5 from 1 vote
Print

Tortellini Soup

A great soup for a quick weeknight dinner

Course Soup
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 people

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp Better Than Bouillon Beef Base
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 24 ounces spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 5 carrots grated or sliced into quarter inch rounds
  • 1 10 oz package frozen or fresh cheese tortellini**
  • 1 medium green pepper diced
  • 2 medium zucchini diced

Instructions

Brown the sausage and drain off any excess grease. Add in the chopped onion and the minced garlic. Saute for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.

    Add remaining ingredients, but reserve zucchini and tortellini. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add remaining ingredients and simmer until zucchini and tortellini are cooked by not mushy.

      Ladle into bowls and garnish with shaved parmesan and serve with warm french bread.

        If you’re looking for more great recipes to try this weekend, check out the

         

         

         

        An Organized Fridge

        Do you find that you are constantly throwing away food from your fridge that has gone bad? Whether it is leftovers that don’t get eaten because they get pushed out of sight, or vegetables that go bad before you can use them, I know just how you feel.  I felt so guilty wasting food and throwing hard earned money in the trash.

        The first thing I do when something isn’t working is to think about how I could organize things better. Nine times out of ten, this really does solve the problem. 🙂

        So, several years ago, I logged in to Pinterest and searched refrigerator organization. I saw many fridges using clear acrylic trays corralling items together. Such a great idea, and really a cornerstone of organization- group like items together.

        But the real inspiration hit when I saw a picture of a fridge with white plastic baskets that had a pull handle on the front. I loved how it looked, and it would be SO functional. I had to know where to find those baskets. Surely they were from the Container Store, or Ikea. Nope, would you believe Walmart? I believe they were around $3 a piece, and though I have a smaller, older style fridge, three of them fit perfectly along a shelf!  They are made by MainStays and Walmart does not carry the white ones any longer, but I saw some opaque ones at my local store a few weeks ago.

        So I bought the baskets, and an acrylic tray or two and got busy creating zones in my fridge.

        The acrylic trays are great for things like snack cups, sticks of butter and cream cheese, longer vegetables like carrots and celery, and jars of pickles & relishes. I bought them a piece or two at a time, over the next few months as they are a bit more expensive at the time. Now they can be found at places like Home Goods, and even some at Dollar General. I especially love the egg holders, which fit perfectly under my deli drawer.

        The baskets do double duty for me. Some of them hold different types of vegetables like  bell peppers and mushrooms, and others are for condiments and leftover containers. For leftovers I use canning jars and 3 cup rectangular Pyrex containers. These fit perfectly in these baskets, and the handle on the front makes them easy to pull out and see what’s inside.

        Pyrex 3-cup Rectangle Glass Food Storage Set Container (Pack of 4 Containers)

        So here is a peek at my fridge currently. It makes me really happy to open the door and see things grouped together and accessible. Like any project, it takes a little upkeep now and again to keep it this way, but all and all this has been a good system for me to use what we have, not purchase duplicates, and hopefully waste less food.

        a-wise-woman-builds-her-home

        Adding bluetooth to an older vehicle

        I have an older vehicle that has bluetooth capabilities for making/receiving phone calls, but not for streaming music. I love being able to play music from my phone in the car when I am driving, and plugging in the aux cord and having cords dangling really isn’t my thing.

        So I was thrilled when I was scrolling thru a suggested gift list of things on Amazon and saw a bluetooth FM transmitter  for under $20.

        Remember when mp3 players first came out and FM transmitters where one way to listen to them in your car? They never really worked that great, so I was surprised to see this new version of them, and even more surprised that the one listed had really good reviews.

        So, I added it to my Wish List, and when Amazon emailed me about a Lightning Deal that brought the price down to $13, I couldn’t resist, 🙂

        FM Transmitter, Otium Bluetooth Wireless Radio Adapter Audio Receiver Stereo Music Tuner Modulator Car Kit with USB Charger, Hands Free Calling

        The T10 is a really impressive looking unit, and has a sturdy feel despite it’s inexpensive price tag. And it was very easy to get up and running in my vehicle. I paired the T10 with my phone, and found an empty FM station on my stereo (91.5 works well in my area). The sound quality is very good and I love not having cords hanging around, it gives a much cleaner look. Also, if you don’t want to use up your data, there is also a micro SD slot on the side of the device that you can use to play music, instead of streaming over a data connection.

        The T10 will also work as a charger for your phone and even a tablet. Pretty impressive.

        I recommend searching for “T10 Fm transmitter” on Youtube and watching a couple of videos before you set up your device so you can see first hand all of the features, and how to get it up and running in your vehicle.

        The one caveat is that if your charger port in your vehicle has continuous power (does not turn off when the ignition is off) the T10 will deplete your car battery if you leave it plugged in for an extended period of time with the ignition off.

        Ask me how I know this 🙂 So it is best to consult your manual to see if you have a port that is not continuous, or remember to remove the T10 from the charger when you exit your vehicle.  For short stops while running errands you should be fine, but definitely unplug it when you reach your destination.

        All in all, a minor inconvenience compared to streaming music and making phone calls in my car over a bluetooth connection. I highly recommend it if you have an older vehicle and would like to add this functionality to your car.