Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spinach Veggie Dip

I sampled this dip at a Christmas Potluck, and finally decided that I needed to make it at home so I didn't have to hide how many times I kept going back to get more dip.

So to the store two days before Christmas, and our Walmart was sold out of Vegetable Mix. I ran into one of my neighbors in the frozen food aisle, and after I revealed that I had to run to Publix to find the mix to make this dip, she said she was making this dip, too! Not a super-secret recipe, but definitely tried-and-true!

If any of you are looking for a yummy New Year's Eve recipe, this would be great!


Spinach Veggie Dip
adapted from Knorr

1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 package Knorr Vegetable soup mix
1 - 8 oz can water chestnuts, drained and chopped


Combine all ingredients and chill about 2 hours.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Acorn Squash in the Slow Cooker

More squash in my Produce Club!...I don't have a ton of recipes for squash, and I have a limited number of ways to prepare it. I love my slow cooker, and I'm always looking for new recipes for it. Here's what I found at A Year of Slow Cooking and I revised it a little to what I had on hand:

Acorn Squash in the Slow Cooker
recipe adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

Acorn Squash
juice of a orange (could use water)
2-3 tablespoons butter
Cinnamon for sprinkling on top

Wash squash, cut in half and scoop out the seeds. I microwaved the whole squash in the microwave for 2 minutes to soften up the peel before I cut into it and that seemed to reduce the whole squash-stuck-on-my-knife slamming actions that usually happens when I cut squash.

Cut into quarters or smaller pieces.

Put pieces into the slow cooker, cut up the butter and top the pieces with the butter. Top with the orange juice or water.

Cook on High for 3 or less hours, depending on how full the slow cooker is. I scooped out the squash, and put it in a bowl, then sprinkled cinnamon on top.

The verdict?
The orange flavor didn't come through as much as I hoped, but it was an easy way to steam the squash. It was a super easy dish and I'll be using my slow cooker for squash again!

I am also sharing this at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap and at Ultimate Recipe Swap!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How to Can Strawberry Jam

I know this post is a little late in the rest of the country, but it's now strawberry season here in Florida.

I received a big box of strawberries, which were very ripe, so I needed to do something with them quickly. I love having jars of jam on hand during the holidays, for un-anticipated gifts and hostess gifts. The original recipe I use is from Sure-Jell, which I started using a few years ago, isn't on their site anymore, but slight variations of the recipe are on there.

I tried my best to document every step, but I was trying to get all the jam canned during one episode of "Curious George", so I missed a few photos. It's best to have everything ready to go before you start cooking the fruit, the whole process moves pretty quickly.


Strawberry Jam

6 cups prepared fruit
1 - 1.75 oz box pectin
1/2 tsp butter
7 cups sugar, measured into a seperate bowl.

Fill the boiling water canner halfway with water and bring it to a simmer. Wash the jars and bands in hot soapy water and rinse with warm water. It is best if the jars and bands are warm when the hot jam is added. My mom would run them in the dishwasher and keep them warm in there until ready to use.

Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use.

Stem berries, and crush them. The more berries you leave whole, the chunkier the jam will be. Measure exactly 6 cups crushed strawberries into the large sauce pot.

Stir pectin into the fruit in the saucepot.

Add butter to reduce foaming (this I forgot) and bring mixture to a full roiling boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
Stir in sugar. Return to a full rolling boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off foam with a metal spoon (again, I forgot...see all the foam?)

OK, this is where my camera was forgotten!

Ladle immediately into jar, filling within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and thread with a damp cloth. Cover with a lid, the screw the band on tightly. Using the canning tong thingys, lift into the canner. When all the jars are in the canner, the water must cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add some water from your lid pot to the canner, if necessary. Cover the canner and bring water to a gentle boil, and process 10 minutes.

Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. This is the best part of the process is when you hear your jars "popping" because you know you did it correctly! After jars cool, check the seals by pressing the middles of the lids, and if they spring back, the lids are not sealed and those should go into the frig.

This is just the way I do it, so I would love any tips or tricks you experienced canners can add!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Stocking Stuffers for a 2 year old

My mom was always big on stockings, and now I'm trying to carry on the tradition in our family. I found some great ideas at The Grocery Cart Challenge, and kinda went to town at the Dollar Store.

Toothbrushes (my Grandma always gave toothbrushes, so this seems normal to me :)
Flashlight
Calucator (solar, so no batteries!)
notebooks
"magic" Diego towel

There are actually two boxes of band-aids in there, one Diego, and one bright colors. My son LOVES band-aids, so now he'll have ones to show off!

The favorite of my son's? the flashlight, hands down. It also beat out most of this other Christmas gifts as the most treasured toy of the day.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Everyday Food Giveaway Winner!

Thanks for all the great entries to my First Blog Anniversary Giveaway! I had a great time reading all the comments.

The top mentioned cooking magazines were:
Everyday Food, (phew, I'm glad this one was mentioned since it was the giveaway!) Cooking Light, Food & Wine, Kraft Food & Family, Southern Living.





The winner of the Everyday Food subscription is:

We've emailed, and the magazine is on it's way. Thanks again to all of you who entered!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bringing Food to a Party

I'm spending the morning making our Christmas goodies, and I've been promised lunch out by my husband, but I'm sure most of you are getting ready to attend Christmas gatherings, and bringing food is sometimes part of that.

I always like to label muffins and cookies when I bring something to a gathering - that way if I'm not around, the people don't have to play "Guess-This-Cookie" Game. "hmmmm.....they might be chocolate chips....or raisins....." With a label, there is no confusion, and it delights the Type-A part of me! :)



Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Giveaway Closed!

Thanks for all of you who entered in my First Blog Anniversary Giveaway! Not too many people entered so you all have great shots at winning. I'll announce the winner on December 26th, so everyone have a great Christmas and eats lots of great food!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Christmas Menu

What are you guys eating for Christmas? We aren't going anywhere, we aren't having visitors, and we don't have any plans. Sounds a little bah humbug, right? We are REALLY looking forward to it, and focusing on our family and maybe making some new traditions.

We don't have any food traditions for meals, so every year we try something new or do something different. We had steaks for Thanksgiving, if that says anything. It made it a little difficult to pick out food this year, plus add in I'm getting braces on Dec 30th and have already started the spacers process. I'm already feeling the pain, if you know what I mean.

So here's our somewhat-menu-plan for Christmas:

Christmas Eve: Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup, homemade rolls

Christmas Morning: Cinnamon Rolls

Christmas Dinner: Roast Beef or Grilled Pork Tenderloin (I even bought both because who knows what mood we'll be in, Hash Brown Casserole, and Roasted Green Beans.

Christmas snacks: Chex Mix, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Meat & Cheese Tray, Spinach Veggie Dip, Crackers

I know, the chocolate chip cookies are bit of Christmas-goodie cop-out. But with the whole braces/spacers/mouth aching issue, nothing chewy, taffy, hard, or otherwise delicious can be eaten. sigh...it's only two years, right? Here's my Christmas goodies from last year for inspiration.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Saving Money on Kids Clothes

My child wears almost exclusively used clothes. I don't know at what age he will actually start to care about what his clothes are and until then, I'm making the best of it!

I've found a mom whose son is 1 year older than my son, and she lets me know when she is ready to sell off a big chunk of her son's old clothes. I've found that her prices are still much cheaper than consignment stores, where the "brand name" labels can sometimes jack up the price.

Since her son is always a size or two ahead of my son, it keeps the storage of the bigger clothes easy, since I'm not storing a LARGE amount of clothes, and they can be kept in a few drawers of his dresser.

Now our attic, which is filled with all the smaller clothes from infant to 24 months, is another story - that needs some organization. One day!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Recipe Roll Call Dec 21st

I seem to hord recipes "links" to try, but I have a huge list that I don't quite know when I'll get around to actually trying. I thought some of you might find these recipes interesting enough to try, so let me know if you do!

*****

This Natural Cough Syrup looks like a great way to avoid all the weird stuff in cough syrup. It's worth a try the next time someone in the family gets a cough.

I'm thinking about making my own Barbecue Sauce from Tomato Paste, to avoid all the sugars and HFCS in all the barbecue sauces out there.

These Sriracha Deviled Eggs look like a combination of two of my favorite foods: Deviled Eggs and Sriracha!

This Roasted Barley Pilaf looks like a great way to use the whole grain barley as a side dish.

The next time I get cucumbers in my Produce Basket, I'm trying this Tzaztiki Sauce. Maybe I'll even try making Gryo's again?

Slowcooker Broccoli Beef
is for our next Make-Our-Own Takeout night!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Just a reminder to enter in my First Year Blog Anniversary giveaway for a year's subscription to Everyday Food. There hasn't been a lot of entries (I think three as of this posting!), so you still have a great chance!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holy Strawberries, Batman!

I received this HUGE box of strawberries along with my regular basket of veggies and fruits from my Produce Club basket this week. It's the very start of strawberry season down here in Florida, and I'm really looking foward to it, along with all the other local, seasonal produce. I can get pretty hard on my state of residence for the endless summer, but the fresh veggies year round are hard to beat!

So back to the strawberries: we've eaten them for about a day straight, but I'm making jam soon. Look for a tutorial for canning jam soon!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First Blog Anniversary and Giveaway!!

**This Giveaway is closed - Thanks to all who entered!**

Today Creatively Domestic turns one! And what a great year it's been. I started this as a fun little side-hobby to my increasingly obsessive domestic tendencies and it's been such a great experience. I've had such great feedback from the all bloggers I've gotten to know and from my *real-life* friends and family who read along with me.

After one year as a semi successful blogger, I've decided to offer a giveaway for a one year (10 issue) subscription to Everyday Food. This magazine is one of my favorites, and I've linked to a lot of their recipes over the months.


TO ENTER:
There are three ways to enter; do one or all three, that is entirely up to you.

1) Post a comment below telling me:

"What is your favorite cooking magazine?"

For example, when you receive aforementioned magazine in the mail, do you rip open the plastic baggie covering the magazine before or after you close your mailbox? I have been known to stand at my mailbox, in the street, reading a few pages of Everyday Food before I come to my senses to step out of oncoming traffic.

2) Add the Creatively Domestic button to your website & then click here to sign up.

3) Blog about this contest on your website & then click here to sign up.

Make sure you sign up after you add a button or blog about this contest so I can make sure your extra entries get counted.

THE RULES
This contest will end on December 23, 2009 at 10 pm, and the winner will be announced on December 26th. Just think of it as late Christmas gift from Creatively Domestic! Good Luck!

**BlogHer Ads Disclaimer: This giveaway was purchased by myself and I am not being compensated in any way for this giveaway. Legal mumbo-gumbo disclaimer complete! **

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

First Blog Anniversary Giveaway coming soon!

This has been a great first year for my blog, and on Creatively Domestic's one-year anniversary I will be having my first giveaway! Check back tomorrow!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad


This salad was made a lot during my husband's childhood, and it is one of his most requested desserts for major holidays. I've made this for Easter a few years, and this year it made an appearance at our Thanksgiving meal!

This recipe calls for a frozen container of strawberries, but I received some strawberries in my Produce Basket the week before I was going to make this, so I cut them up and froze them on a cookie sheet. They worked just as well as the frozen container from the store, with less added sugar!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Makes 12 servings (9" x 13" pan)

2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup sugar
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces whipped cream
6 ounces strawberry jello
2 cups boiling water
1 pound frozen strawberries
8 ounces crushed pineapple chunks
Whipped cream to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
For the crust, mix the pretzels, butter, and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Press this mixture into a 9 by 13-inch pan and bake for 7 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.


In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and 3/4 cup of sugar. Fold in the whipped topping, and spread over the cooled crust. Make sure cream cheese/whipped toping mixture touches the edges of the pan all the way around so when you add the jello, it doesn't spill down into the pretzel crust. Refrigerate until well chilled.

In a small bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, and allow to cool slightly. Add the strawberries and pineapple, and pour over the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until serving time.
To serve, cut slices and serve with a dollop of whipped topping. For 6 servings, use 8x8 pan.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cookie Bars with a Cake Mix


This is such a great, quick, and yummy recipe. I buy cake mixes when they are super cheap and stash them specifically for this recipe.



This came from my extended family cookbook (Thanks Rachelle!) I am also sharing this at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap and Eat at Home's Ingredient Spotlight.

I have also used a Devil's Food cake mix, and it created Brownie-like cookie bars. Very versatile!



Chocolate Chip Bars
Makes 12 servings

1 cake mix, yellow or white
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I have used applesauce here, and it changes the texture a little, but tastes very similar)
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, mini or regular or baking M&Ms

Mix all ingredients together except chips. Put in 9x13 pan.

Press chips on top. (I literally sprinkled the last bits of the chocolate chip bag over top!)

Bake at 350 for 25-30 mins.



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hiding Veggies in Spaghetti Sauce

Remember when I pureed up a bunch of veggies? I'm finally starting to add them into recipes.

I added 1/2 cup of pureed carrots into the store-bought spaghetti sauce the other night...and it disappeared very well into the sauce. I noticed some orange specks in the sauce while I was eating, but I think I was over analyzing it. My son gobbled his noodles right up, so I feel a little better about getting some veggies into him.

The date on the pureed veggies is misleading. I label all my frozen food 3 months out, even though I know that frozen foods have their own storage chart, courtesy of the USDA. It just helps me us 'em up.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins


I know fall is slowly transitioning into winter, but I'm still enjoying eating the flavors of fall! I was in the mood for something pumpkiny, so I evolved my recipe for Pumpkin Bread, but made them into muffins instead.

The only change to the recipe was putting them in muffin cups and not in bread form, so I baked the muffins at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, and the recipe yielded about 3 dozen. I ended up taking about half of them to a party, so they didn't last long around our house!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sausage, Lentil and Kale Soup


So that's what I get for bringing my husband grocery shopping with me. He actually saw what kale looks like before it's cooked and magically arrives on his dinner plate. When this came up on the menu plan, he was kinda dreading it.

BUT! the Kale gods pulled through for me! This soup was really good and the kale added a great texture. Savory and earthy and yummy all in one.


Sausage, Lentil and Kale Soup
recipe adapted from Dec 2009 issue Everyday Food

2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup dried lentils
6 cups chicken stock (I used homemade turkey stock)
1/2 cup water
1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high. Add sausage and brown, breaking into pieces. Add celery and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes.

Add kale and season with salt. Return soup to a rapid simmer, cover and cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat and stir in vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kid's Christmas Craft Ornament


This one recipe of Play Dough is really getting some mileage. A few months ago, my son and I made Homemade Play Dough as a great activity, and I played around with some cookie cutters. I ended up making Halloween Plant Decorations, and had some hearts that I had made that I knew would make a fun project sometime down the road.


I let the hearts dry for a few months (OK, maybe I let them dry for a few weeks then stashed them in a cabinet...and then forgot about them). Then I painted them red, and let my son add his own special metallic gold paint swipes across the hearts. Added some gold twine, and now they are Christmas ornaments for grandparents. My son loves any excuse to paint, so this was a great project!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Smell of Christmas Potpourri Mix

For many years, I treated myself by buying a Christmas-themed Yankee Candle right around Thanksgiving time and lit it throughout the Christmas season. Then, one Christmas (actually the one when my son was 3 months old) I totally flaked on buying a candle. I seemed to have other things on my mind, like preparing to return back to work from maternity leave, and adjusting to life with a newborn, that the candle I bought every year got forgotten. Imagine that, right?

So that year while decorating for Christmas, I was jonesing for my Christmas-smell and remembered this recipe in a 1980's church cookbook. I had a few of the ingredients, and whipped up the smell. I fell in love with the simplicity and the non-chemical vapors. Also, now that I have a toddler, I don't like having open flames around my high-energy son.

So this is year number three without those candles, and we look forward to it every year. I gave this as hostess gifts last year for Christmas and it was well received. This year I added a lime peel because I have a TON of limes and it added a little tweak to smell. If your family doesn't like any particular ingredient (I'm sensitive to cloves), reduce it or leave it out, as this recipe is very forgiving!

I made a double recipe, put one batch on the stove, and stashed the other half in a snack-size zip top bag and threw it in the freezer for later in the season.

I am also sharing this at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap and Get Healthy Cheap Christmas Gift Ideas.

Smell of Christmas Potpourri

1/2 orange peel cut into small pieces
1/2 lemon peel cut into small pieces
1 large cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 bay leaves

Use any amount of water; simmer in small pan

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking