Friday, November 22, 2013

My Thanksgiving Pies

Here are my pies that I made the week before Thanksgiving. The top is a Chocolate Pecan Pie (based on this Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie) and the other two are Basic Pumpkin Pie from Libby's.

I had a pie crust issue in that I bought smaller pie crusts than my recipe called for. So I had leftover filing...hence the second pie. Darn you, Walmart, for being sold out of Deep Dish pie crusts. I had to put on my big girl panties and make some pie crust. I ended up using this Homemade Pie Crust recipe. I'll let you know after Thanksgiving how it was!

After they were baked and cooled, I wrapped them in a double layer of plastic wrap then foil and froze them for the big day. Bakers seem to be spilt on if it's a good idea to freeze Pumpkin Pie - some sites say the pies are custard so the thawed result will be too watery, others swear by freezing their pies each year. One of the common tips was to thaw the pies in frig slowly. I'm sure the taste will still be great.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mongolian Sauce

This sauce recipe is very flexible: it has been used on beef, pork and chicken in my kitchen. I made a regular size recipe, and there is always enough leftover to freeze for another meal.

To use this versatile sauce, I stir fry my chosen meat over high heat, removed it to a plate, then stir fried the veggies (or heated up a bag of frozen veggies in the microwave) then spooned some of the fabulous sauce over the food on individual plates. The kids only wanted a little on the meat, and some on the their plates for dipping, while my husband and I topped everything on our plates with the sauce!

Mongolian Sauce
recipe adapted from Favorite Family Recipes via this pin on Pinterest

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger)
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup water or chicken broth
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water, to dissolve cornstarch

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan, saute for 30 seconds or so until you can smell them. Add the soy sauce and water before garlic burns. Add brown sugar to the pan, and stir to dissolve. Raise the heat to medium-high heat and boil for 2-3 minutes. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, turn the heat to low until it stops boiling, stir in the cornstarch slurry, then turn the heat back up to medium-high and stir until the sauce boils and thickens.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

It's finally fall! Hooray!

Now that we are living in an area of the country that actually gets seasons, I have been in the mood for hot chocolate, but a little sick of buying the boxes of hot chocolate mix at the store. My kids love hot chocolate, so we can burn through those little packets pretty quick!

My mom always made a big batch of this hot chocolate mix when I was growing up. We would have hot chocolate often in the winter...after sledding, after walking home in cold weather, or just as a warm treat on a cold day. I remember making it alot in the winter afternoons after school, after a long cold bus ride.

The proportions don't need to be set in stone. The original recipe called for 16 oz instant chocolate drink mix, but my store had a container that was 21.8 oz, so I just threw the whole container into the recipe. More chocolate is fine by me!  The store also didn't have big boxes of dry milk, so I grabbed three bags, which was about 4 oz over the originally called for 24 oz. Again, I'm not worried about it.

I also used my kitchen scale to measure out the creamer and powdered sugar, which made it easy. If I had a sifter, I should have used that on the powdered sugar to get out any lumps.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
28.8 oz nonfat dry milk powder (3 - 9.6 oz bags)
21.8 oz instant chocolate drink mix
8 oz non-dairy creamer
8 oz powdered sugar

Combine in a large container with a lid 

and shake to combine. (seriously, I tried stirring it for 10 minutes and couldn't get it combined, and with 2 shakes it was all perfectly even.)

I moved it from the Tupperware container with a lot of room to a pretty glass jar. (A canning funnel works great for this.)

Combine 1/3 cup hot chocolate mix with 1 cup hot water.

Also, if you are making this hot chocolate for a group, running a pot of hot water through the coffee pot (without any coffee grounds - duh) makes an easy way to whip up many cups at the same time, instead of standing at the microwave zapping individual cups. If you are serving kids, this makes some VERY hot water, so after I mix up the hot chocolate, I put an ice cube in the cups to cool it down for little mouths. I have also been known to combine this mix with decaf coffee at night for a nice little latte-like treat.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chicken Drummies for the Freezer: Two ways

I found some cheap chicken drummies at the store today and decided to make them into semi-freezer meals. I have found that the more I plan/prep BEFORE dinnertime prep rolls around, the better off I am, even if they are not complete meals.

This one package made two meals for our family, so I decided to spilt them into BBQ Chicken Drumsticks for the grill, and a start to Old School Chicken and Rice Casserole. I was thinking about throwing the uncooked rice in with the chicken and freezing it, but my research (i.e. googling on my phone with one hand while standing in the kitchen) said it wasn't a good idea. Maybe one day I'll experiment with freezing uncooked rice, as I've had good luck with freezing cooked rice. When I am ready to make this meal for dinner, I need to add 1 cup uncooked rice and 2 cups water, and I wrote all of that out on the plastic bag.

So I dumped the respective ingredients into the freezer bags (I like using pitchers to hold up the bags)

then using tongs, added chicken to the bags,

then smushed around the bags until it was a little more uniform and put them in the freezer.

For the BBQ Chicken Drumsticks marinade, I emptied a bottle of Italian Dressing that was hanging out in the frig (about 3/4 cup) and a few long squirts of BBQ sauce (about 1/4 cup) into the freezer bag, mixed it around, then added the chicken, tossed that around in the bag and threw it in the freezer. When we are ready to eat, I'll let them thaw, grill them, then at the last few minutes on the grill, I will brush on more BBQ sauce.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Brown Sugar Peach Jam and Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

I've been busy making jam lately. The produce is much cheaper here in Texas than it was in Florida, so I've been having fun experimenting. A whole shelf in my pantry is slowly being taken over by small jars of jam, but that's just fine by me! The way our family burns through jam on toast and PB&J's, I'm sure it will all get used. (If not, some friends will get a nice jam gift basket for Christmas!)

I made Brown Sugar Peach Jam, following a regular peach jam recipe. I realized when I was measuring out my sugar that I was out of white sugar, and remembered a post from Food in Jars about using brown sugar in jam, so I thought, why not? I believe I ended up using about 2 (maybe 3?) cups of brown sugar out of the total 5 1/2 cups of sugar called for in the recipe.

The jam does have a richer, deeper sugar taste. It is not a super bright and fresh peach flavor, but it's great on oatmeal and toast. The next time I use brown sugar in jam, I'll throw some cinnamon into the pot too.

After we got back from a family reunion and to visit my parents, I made Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. The rhubarb was free from my parent's garden, and I've been excited to finally get my hands on some of their bumper crop!

This recipe was also the first time I utilized my food processor to chop up the fruit. I don't know why I haven't made this realization before, but it saved me a ton of time!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Freezer Cooking Session: Beef & Pork

I did another mini freezer session this morning. This past week has been great just pulling things from the freezer, so I wanted to continue my slacking off taking it easy for another week!

 I mentioned in the last freezer cooking session that I menu planned for two weeks, so this session was mostly about stocking the freezer a little more and adding some diversity in meat choices. I wanted to take advantage of some sales on meat, but I ended up finding some good deals on marked down meat.

I made:

BBQ Beef Roast - for sandwiches &  Dry Onion Mix Beef Roast - I will throw some frozen baby carrots into the crockpot, too

Megan's Pork Chops &  Ranch Pork Chops
This is the first time I've tried freezing both these recipes, but I'm thinking they will be OK in the crockpot.

The best way to mix up these recipes is to put the sauce ingredients into the bag first, squish it together to mix the sauce, then add the meat.

I also browned up 3 pounds of ground beef and spilt them up into 4 meal portions. It made the portions into less than 3/4 a pound, but most of my recipes are fine with a little less meat in them.

I was planning to throw in some onions and garlic into the ground beef, but I got distracted searing pork chops. Instead, I threw in some onion powder and garlic powder, plus salt and pepper. I use my big stock pot to cook up that much ground beef.

Here are some tips for making freezer cooking easier:

Use a canning funnel with a wide opening to portion food out into zip-top bags easier.

Using a rolling pin to flatten out food in the bags makes it easy to stack them later after they are frozen.

All this work took about an hour, almost an entire episode of Sesame Street. My two year old was very happy to watch Elmo while I busted around the kitchen!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Freezer Cooking Session: Back to Menu Planning

I had my first freezer cooking session in our new house today. I haven't been cooking much, or putting any effort into menu planning since we moved. This has resulted in us eating lots of c.r.a.p. and spending a ton of extra money eating out. It's been over a month in our new house, so I can't believe I let it go on this long!

This is also my first time doing a big freezer cooking session without my backup garage freezer. We sold it before we moved to Texas, so I am just using my freezer in my side-by-side refrigerator  That was a big adjustment figuring out how to get all the food in there! I think some Craigslist trolling is on my to-do list, but I can't decide between a small chest freezer or whole frig & freezer. Any thoughts?

I shopped and planned for two weeks, so for the first time I am trying freezing gallons of milk. I couldn't figure out a way to get them into our freezer standing up, so I just laid them down on their side. I poured out 2 cups of milk each (that was the amount of milk I needed for my Mac & Cheese recipe) out of the containers, that way there is room for expansion. The milks didn't leak, the only reason I put the towel down was because I was a Nervous Nelly and didn't want any spilled frozen milk puddles in the freezer. I will let you know how it goes!

One of the areas I struggle with is making lunch for our two boys. They are 5 and 2 now and are in a stage where they will actually eat a lot! Sadly, since I haven't been motivated to cook anything worthwhile, the boys have been eating alot of fast food for lunch. So I pledged to stay away from the fast food for awhile and to make it quick and easy, make some lunches for the freezer.

This afternoon, I cooked:

Freezer Mini Pizzas - we had half of these for lunch, then I froze the other half. The mini pepperoni were a big hit!

Homemade Mac and Cheese - double recipe: made two 8x8 pans and 12 individual "muffins"for quick lunches or dinners for my husband when he works late.

Spaghetti sauce with Italian Sausage - double recipe: I left out the olive and mushrooms, and have also found that this sauce combined with cooked elbow macaroni makes a pretty easy and quick Goulash that my kids will actually eat!

Peanut Chicken - double recipe: My kids LOVE this recipe. I leave out the red pepper flakes so I don't even bother to call it "Spicy" anymore.

French Cranberry Chicken - single recipe: I might throw this into the crockpot if I need to later in the week.

I prepped our dinner for tomorrow night, Catalina Taco Salad, by browning the ground beef and combining the kidney beans, beef and catalina dressing. All I have to do is pop open a bag of chips and cut up some lettuce, tomato and onion.

My other freezer work I did was spilt up a two pound bag of mozzarella cheese into 8 oz bags (perfect size for a pizza!), and split up a large package of chicken breast into bags of four each. I found some two pound bags of baby carrots marked down "Manager's Special", so I spilt those up into one pound each and froze them to use in a crockpot meal (maybe a big roast) down the road.

So there is my afternoon! I'm excited to take it easy the next two weeks!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Movin' to Bloglovin

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Big move from Florida to Texas

So big changes around the Creatively Domestic blog. If you've noticed I've been MIA for a few months and re-hashing old (but still relevant) posts, then you are on the ball.

My husband took a new position in Texas, so we are living in a temporary furnished apartment while we wait for our new house to close. The new house is Texas-sized (huge, at least to us) and has a great kitchen and pantry I'm looking forward to breaking in.

We sold our Florida house, the movers took all of our "stuff" and are storing it in Florida, and we made the 3 day drive from Florida to Texas. We moved into a 2 bedroom furnished apartment, started house hunting, and my husband started his new job. Now we are just slowly moving into our "new" normal and getting adjusted.

Living in a small furnished apartment sounds a lot better than it really is. The kitchen is small, but functional. To say it's adequate is pushing it. To sum up what the shape the kitchen is in, here is a photo of my temporary coffee pot:

It's functional, but not pretty. 

I bought a crockpot to use in the meantime. That means by the time we get all of our furniture delivered from Florida, I will have 3 crockpots ready and waiting for me in my Texas-sized pantry. At least they are all different sizes, but I think I'm a little spoiled in that regard.

The crockpot has saved my sanity and allowed us to eat homemade food without the use of many pans or basic kitchen staples like flour, sugar, spices, etc. These are some of the things I've made with the crockpot:
Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup (we've eaten this at least twice!)
Sticky Chicken Drumsticks (instead of the spice mix, I used Mrs. Dash Chicken Grilling Blend)
Pot Roast with carrots
Pulled Pork

We has also eaten our fair share of simple, quick, and cheap foods. These aren't pretty, but it saved us from eating too much fast food and helped our grocery/new house budget:
Simple Chili (made with a seasoning packet)
and then Frito Chili Bowls the next day 
Hot Dogs & Mac & Cheese
Smoked Sausage and boxed Jambalya mix
Store bought Rotissere Chickens
Take and bake pizzas
Fried Rice
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

Also, I am surprised at how cheap the groceries are in Texas! And at the amount of options for grocery stores! To say my couponing, stockpiling, and overall frugal tendencies will get a workout is putting it mildly. 

So look for some new recipes soon. Just as soon as I get my new house painted!