Monthly Archives: May 2014

Best of the Blog – Most Popular Posts In May

Here is a quick review of the most popular posts this month.  And in case you missed any, you can catch up on reading them by clicking on their title.

How to Care for Your Black Cast-Iron Skillet

(Awesome for baking inside the oven, too!)

image

Easy Strawberry Orange Fruit Jam

 (Made with ginger & lemon.)

image

 

Fresh Raspberry Peach Jam

(Mouthwatering!)

image

 

The Classic Betty’s Salad

(An original from Toledo, Ohio!)

image

10 Frugal Ways to Love Your Home Again!

(Restyle your home for zero cost!)

image

One-Bowl Supper — Toasted Sweet Corn with Avocado

& Crispy Bacon

 (Winner!)

image

8 Simple Steps to Making a Hand-Sewn Slipcover

(Easy-to-do, no machine required!)

image

Before & After: How to Paint A Kitchen Island on a Slim Budget

 (Do-it-yourself and save.)

image

Yummy! Pan Fried Egg Rolls

 (Yes, please!)

image

The Ultimate Turkey Burger with Caramelized Onions

& Creamy Greek Sauce

(Quite possibly the best turkey burger evah!)

image

Bacon & Egg Breakfast Jiffy Cups

 (So moist and easy to make.)

image

Mexican Fried Ice Cream with Cinnamon Cups & Sweet Cream

(Heavenly!)

image

Simple Meatballs with Garlicky Marinara

 (Another helping, anyone?)

image

Thanks for stopping by to read when you can!  I would love to hear your thoughts on these posts and any suggestions you may have for future recipes, crafts and projects.

image

Meatballs With Fresh Spinach and Basil Marinara {Beef or Venison}

image

To keep this recipe simple and a tad healthier, I left Italian Sausage out and sauteed the meatballs and marinara sauce in one pan.  They are delicious made with ground beef or venison.

Serve with fresh Italian bread, pasta, or hoagie style on a bun loaded with parmesan cheese — the more cheese the better! They’re so good!

Simple Meatballs with Fresh Spinach and Basil


1 lb. ground chuck beef or venison
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 Tbsp Italian spices
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper seeds
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 handfuls of fresh spinach, about two cups
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Olive Oil
Simple Garlicky Tomato Marinara Sauce (recipe below) or 1-24 oz jar
 Ragu brand Roasted Garlic Sauce

1. In large bowl mix ground meat, egg, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs by hand, then add in next 5 ingredients and mix well.
2. Add olive oil to large skillet. Roll meat mix into 1-1/2 inch round balls and place inside. Repeat until all meatballs have been rolled.
3. Bring pan up to high heat and sauté meatballs turning every few minutes until all sides are brown.
4. Turn heat to medium-high, cover pan with lid and allow to cook through another 10-15 minutes, turning once. Use cooking thermometer to test meat; they are done at 160 degrees, or test one meatball by removing from pan and cut through to the center to check.
5. Place meatballs on plate and set aside. Wipe away any grease from pan and make marinara sauce recipe below, or jar sauce listed above.
6. Saute fresh basil, spinach and a light dusting of garlic powder and pinch of salt in olive oil until wilted. Add marinara sauce and meatballs. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes.  Dust with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Simple Garlicky Tomato Marinara Sauce
4 to 5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt

In large skillet or saucepan cook garlic and crushed red pepper in hot oil over medium-high heat for 1 minute. (Do not allow garlic to burn which gives bitterness.) Stir in tomatoes and salt. Bring sauce to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. For smoother sauce, use hand-blender to pulsate marinara right inside the pan. Makes 3 cups.

 

Mexican Fried Ice Cream

Picture 6

I recently shared an ice cream dish with my family similar to this one when we were out of town. We loved the cold creaminess of the ice cream mixed with the sweet cinnamon crunch outer shell. In fact we enjoyed it so much we ordered a second one. This dessert is a marvelous Continue reading

Bacon & Egg Jiffy Cups

image

Jiffy Cups are perfect for weekends and holiday mornings. Folding scrambled eggs and shredded cheddar cheese into the batter, then topping with crispy bacon and a bit more cheese before baking brings a unique twist to these breakfast muffins. Allow them to cool until the pan can be handled without an oven mitt to lock in moistness.  Serve with warm Maple syrup.

image

Bacon & Egg Jiffy Cups

4 slices bacon, cut in thirds
6 eggs
2 boxes Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, 8.5 oz each
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil or butter, melted
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Maple syrup (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In large skillet cook bacon just until crispy. Drain and reserve drippings. Return 2 tsp. drippings to skillet. In small bowl, beat 4 eggs, 2 tbsp water, and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook eggs in hot skillet over medium heat without stirring until eggs begin to set on bottom and around edges. With spatula, lift and fold allowing uncooked portion to flow underneath. Cook until set but still moist. Lightly break cooked eggs apart into medium chunks. Transfer to bowl and set aside.

Brush twelve 2-1/2″ muffin cups with remaining bacon drippings. In medium bowl stir together Jiffy Corn Muffin mixes, milk, oil and remaining two eggs. Fold cooked eggs into batter along with cheese. Spoon into muffin cups until full.

Place one bacon piece on each muffin and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Bake 15 minutes or until light brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack until pan can be handled without a mitt. Run a table knife around edges of muffins to loosen; remove from pans. Serve with warm Maple syrup if desired.

Toasted Sweet Corn with Avocado & Crispy Bacon

image

This sweet corn recipe has become my favorite summer supper.  It satisfies my husband’s hungry appetite, which is a big deal to me.  The first time I served it I had my doubts that he would like it because it’s a one-bowl dinner, and being the meat and potatoes kind of guy that he is, one bowl of food usually leaves him hungry. But we were both pleasantly surprised to find the loaded mix of flavors and plentiful ingredients to be quite hearty.  Diced red bell peppers add sweetness, fresh basil brings a peppery spice, and citrus juice gives this dish a nice zing. Add crispy bacon, creamy avocado and garbanzo beans with bits of feta to toasted corn from the cob, and this is one scrumptious meal!

This handy-dandy gadget makes shaving corn easy and safer!

This handy-dandy gadget makes shaving corn easy and safer!

Toasted Sweet Corn With Avocado & Crispy Bacon


3 – 4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled & set aside, 1 tbsp of bacon grease reserved
4 ears of fresh sweet corn, kernels shaved from cob
1/8 tsp red pepper seeds
2 green onions, chopped fine
1 small sweet red bell pepper, diced
1/2 can garbanzo beans or chick peas, drained
1 ripe avocado, removed from pit and diced
1 small bunch fresh basil or cilantro, chopped
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 lime or lemon for squeezing
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

In medium sized pan on medium-high heat, saute red pepper seeds, green onions and sweet red peppers in bacon grease, about 2 minutes. Add garbanzo beans and corn and cook several minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until corn is slightly toasted, but not brown.  Add chopped basil and feta, turn to mix and pour into glass or ceramic bowl for serving.

Add avocado, bacon, salt then squeeze fresh lime or lemon juice over the top. Turn to mix and it’s ready to serve. Enough for 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a meal.

What is your favorite summer supper to serve to your family? I would love to hear from you!

image

 

20% Discount Off Entire Bill at Olive Garden

Happy Memorial Day a little early! I hope you have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend. I also wanted to share with you this 20% off discount coupon to Olive Garden Restaurants. You can print direct from your computer or show your wait person the coupon from your phone. Enjoy!

Here’s the link:

http://link.olivegarden.com/YesConnect/HtmlMessagePreview?a=Si8GGesUjZ-HB4IfkcaE5&msgVersion=web

image

Before & After: Painting A Kitchen Island On A Budget

After 13 years our maple kitchen cabinets had become worn and dark, more gold than light maple in tone. I also noticed our light maple laminate floors had taken on a pink cast, while the interior doors and trim were more pecan in color. The different tones clashed making the room look tired and worn and this bugged me. It was time to freshen things up.

I’ve always appreciated the easy on the eyes classic white kitchen, but my husband prefers the look of natural wood.  Thankfully he was onboard with my ideas for change. We agreed on a budget and I called two professional painters for cabinet quotes. Both had different thoughts on how to do the job, and their prices seemed fair for the big job, but way more than we wanted to spend. My husband suggested I paint them and use the savings to replace our old countertops. That got me excited! Still, I had to mull it over because looking at all those doors and cabinets, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and much more than a weekend project. I finally mustered the courage and went for it starting with this island.

image

BEFORE:  This is the spot where we stood to do most of our food prep. The island was fairly small with no extra counter space to sit and eat, even though we kept a stool at one end. The outdated black, white and salmon laminate top was scratched and dull.

 

image

AFTER:  Sanding, priming and painting the island Acadia White by Benjamin Moore made a tremendous difference. A carpenter friend added thick, decorative trim moulding to each end and gave the cabinet a really nice custom look.

 

image

We chose a black soapstone countertop with creamy pearlescent waves running through it. This particular stone is similar to granite and very dense and hard to scratch. It’s easy to clean, too. We had the corners squared to give it a more updated look.

 

 

image

Adding six inches to one end of the counter made it much more comfortable to sit at for the kids. And we saved $600 by purchasing a remnant already in stock and ready to cut.

 

image

Mouldings give the island the look of a custom piece of furniture now.

 

image

I replaced birdcage medal knobs we had on the unpainted cabinets with glass knobs from Hobby Lobby for $2 each when on sale at 50% off. The birdcage knobs sold on eBay for $2 each so the knobs were a wash in cost. Love it when that happens!  To avoid adding holes to the drawers I kept to one knob on the three main drawers like we had before. The cup pull is from Lowes and cost $4.

Kitchen Island Savings: 

SAVED $500 DIY sanding, priming, painting island cabinet and trim moulding

SAVED $600 by purchasing an in-stock remnant top

No cost for new glass knobs

Labor to install wood trim: Priceless. We got a really good price from our friend and he added crown moulding to the ceiling in the room, also.

Total savings was about $1,000 after buying paint, supplies, trim moulding and paying for carpenter labor.

 

I’m happy with how the island turned out and it has made a huge difference in the look of the kitchen. The room feels airy, light and clean. It has that classic look I’ve always dreamed of having for my kitchen. It was well worth the effort. And overcoming my fears for taking on a big project like this gave me the courage to paint the rest of the kitchen cabinets. I will post about those soon.

image

 

4 Steps To Saying No Gracefully

image

Are you someone who enjoys helping people but can get overwhelmed by too many obligations all at once? You do your best to juggle the calendar and be there for everyone but stress and dread creep in to try and defeat you. One of the simplest words can be the most difficult to say. So how do you say no gracefully without the guilt?

Accept that you can’t be a part of everything. Your heart knows your priorities. Saying yes to one thing, may mean saying no to what matters to you the most. If it’s your faith and family, write your intentions for them on your calendar. Writing it down will help you keep your top priorities. And don’t forget to set aside time for taking care of yourself!

Decline honestly and leave out the details. Simply state, “I’m so sorry I won’t be able to attend your fundraiser.” If declining feels awkward to begin with, offering a reason why may add to your discomfort. It could also invite the other person to twist your arm. Simply saying you are unable to attend will eliminate challenges. Have confidence in your decision, and yourself, and leave it at that.

Decline with kindness. Most people realize not everyone they invite will be able to accept.  Thank the person and offer her encouraging words. Let her know you will be thinking or praying for her on her special day. Follow-up with a notecard telling her how excited you are about her future endeavors. She will feel good despite your decline, and you will too!

Negotiate what you can do.  Offer the time and efforts you are able to give. Find out what help is needed and say yes to a portion of the request.  If you have been asked to volunteer during a program, agree to a specific time to greet guests or serve appetizers, for example. If the invitation is to a special occasion, like a baby shower, let the hostess know you are excited to attend but can only stay until 2 p.m. Setting boundaries in advance will alleviate stress you may feel when it is time to depart.

Staying focused on who is most important to you during those hectic seasons in life will give you the confidence to say no gracefully.  And you will feel good about what it is you can do for others, even if it’s on a smaller scale.

image

5 Good Family Habits For Daily Decluttering

image

 

Maintaining a clutter-free home isn’t always easy with a family, kids, pets, crazy schedules and all the other attention getting things that go on in our home every day. And seeing stuff in disarray all over countertops, floors and furniture can bring up the stress meter, especially if you prefer your home to be in order. When my home gets messy I feel scatterbrained and unorganized. But when my home is picked up, counters clear, and the sofa covers and cushions straightened, my happy scale moves up a notch. I just like it neat most of the time.

If you are like me, a well-kept living space brings calm to your chaotic day.  And your family may not say it, but they probably like it, and you, that way, too.

Developing these five good habits will keep your home mostly clutter-free:

1. Put things back where you got them. It takes less time to put an item back as soon you are finished with it then it does to backtrack and return it later — along with other things left out. This may take some retraining of yourself and the family, but with persistence new habits will form and become a natural part of everyone’s daily routine. If you see it, get it!

2. Unclutter as you go along. Every morning sift through your house, pick up stray items and put them back where they belong. If you’re in a time crunch, gather stuff in a basket and return items to their spot later. Unclutter as you move through rooms during the day. In the evening run a 30-second clutter-buster race and have the kids put stuff back as fast as they can to beat the clock. They will have fun doing it and you will feel more relaxed knowing your home is in order before heading off to bed.

3. Designate task areas. Set-up workstations to complete daily tasks. Sort mail near the trash bin; arrange a bill paying area with pens, stamps and envelopes; designate a spot for movie and library book returns. Hang small, mesh laundry bags for collecting dirty socks near the dirty clothes hamper and label with each person’s name. Throw the bags in with the wash, then when dry return each to its owner to sort and put away. A good lesson in responsibility and no more stray socks.

4. Spend a little, get a lot of storage. Install closet systems yourself to save money and create storage space. In our house we generally know where to look for gloves and hats when needed, but other items can end up in a variety of places, which can confuse and frustrate everyone. Not a good way to start the day!  Labeling storage compartments for extra things keeps everyone organized and in a good mood.

5. Quietly tuck things away. If your floors are overrun with toys, games and other stuff — quietly put some of them away in a closet.  When the kids ask for an item, bring it back out. Rotate items monthly to keep pile-ups and boredom at bay. They will find new excitement in a toy if they haven’t seen it for a while. Anything they don’t ask for, or play with much, gets donated to a child who will use it. My sister used this trick to keep her home neat as a pin, even with two little boys running around playing all day.

No family wants to live in a museum, and daily decluttering is well worth the extra few minutes it takes to keep your home neat and enjoyable for the whole family to relax in.

image

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: