Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Fresh out of the oven! These will come off the wrapper better once they've cooled a bit---if you can resist!
These are a great muffin for breakfast or for a snack.  You can add flax seeds or other non-wheat flours to make it more healthy too. I usually don't put quite as much sugar in them when I use the full amount of chocolate chips either. They really are quite a treat!

Mix together in a large bowl:

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
 1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 beaten eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups plain canned pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil (I've used applesauce too but they tend to stick in the paper muffin liners.)
1 pkg large milk chocolate chips

Bake at 350' for 20-25 minutes.

OPTIONAL: I added Pampered Chef Sweet Sprinkles to the tops to give them a little more interest and crunch, but really, once a bite is taken, you need no more enticing!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Raising Kids On Purpose for the Fun of It!

While you're reading, I've included some pictures from the fun "tea party" that my daughter and I had. She did our make-up and hair and she was quite thrilled--and giggly-- about the whole thing! 

It's actually the title of a book I've just started reading this week. The whole title of the book is:"Raising Kids On Purpose for the Fun of It- Hundreds of Ideas for Family Fn and Recreation and the Teaching of Christian Values" by Gwen Weising.  I've been inspired to really enjoy these years with my kids through having fun together. I do get to spend a lot more time than some moms do with their kids. I homeschool our 3 children but still a lot of the time is not "fun" time. The days are filled with school, chores, play, cooking, ya know, just normal daily living stuff. Lately, I've really been thinking about quality time with the kids though. When they become adults I want to feel like I spent as much fun time with them as I could!

This book suggests to get with your kids and your husband and write down a list of things you need and things you want. Also gather ideas about things the family could do while they still live at home if money was not an option. This does not mean we will spoil our children and do every little thing they desire but it does mean we can start with small goals and work at accomplishing these goals as a family. For example, if we felt like we needed to spend more quality time together, we shouldn't just say our goal is: "To spend more family time together this year".  We might even write it on the calendar and schedule in days that are special family times. It would be more like this: "Our goal is: Everyday spend 10-30 minutes talking with each child about good things we see in them or their choices". Define just how you could accomplish your goal and by the end of the week/month/year you can look back and measure how successful your goal was, instead of saying "I think we spent more time together".

I'm super excited to sit down with our family and discuss these things. This week I asked some friends what they think was the best things they've done as a family. The reason I asked was to gather more ideas for our family, just in case we left something out! I wanted to see if any of them might be something we would want to do before our kids are grown and leave home.

I've started a journal of sorts for this purpose. There are simple, kind of funny things to do and there are more expensive things that we'll really have to work towards. Part of my thinking in doing "fun" things with the kids is so that when they are older, and they get bored they will realize that you can do many fun things without getting into trouble! Seriously! 

This is what I wrote:

Fun Goals for Our Family:
- go to a 24-hour restaurant late at night and eat or have dessert (especially when they are early teens!)
- visit ghost towns in Oregon
-Take whole days and let all of the kids pick what we should do and eat for the day
-Travel to the Silverwood park in Idaho
-travel back east to see historical buildings and places
-discover old mining camps
-pan for gold
-road trip to California, renting a car
-camp all over Oregon and Washington
-travel to Canada
-ride the fast go-carts in Beaverton, OR
-go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium again
-See a play at the Shakespearean Festival in Ashland, OR
-do random acts of kindness together
-go on a missions trip together
-anonymously give to others (flowers, toys, food baskets..)
-buy a video camera to preserve our family memories
-ride on the Willamette Jet boats as a family
-take a ride on the Sternwheeler in Portland, OR
-get a GPS and go geocaching
-go on a spontaneous road trip (jump in the car with just a few things and go somewhere!)
-go on a trip across Oregon

There will be more ideas I'm sure. These are just the things my husband and I thought of when I told him about having more "fun" together! We haven't really asked the kids yet but when we do we'll have to prioritize and decide what's first!

Remember to stop and have FUN with your kids!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

This week I've been making homemade pasta (that's a recipe for another day...) and one of our meals was Spaghetti with meatballs (another recipe for another day) and Ragu sauce. As much as we like Ragu, I've made some sauce before that we've liked and I really wanted to make a bunch to put in the freezer so we don't have to buy it! I went to Costco and finally bought those HUGE cans of tomato sauce. They are only about $2.50 per can. (I've been waiting for an excuse to buy them because they're such a good deal!)

Here's what I came up with. It works best if you have everything chopped ahead of time so you can keep adding it to the pot and not have to stop to cook, cut, dice, chop, slice...etc. Many of the ingredients I used were already prepared because I had them in the freezer, chopped already- straight from the garden or leftover from another recipe (cooked Italian sausage). The spices are best priced if you buy them bulk from stores like Winco or Fred Meyer. I hope you love it! And be prepared--- it makes a large stock pot FULL! I didn't add a ton of meat because we will use this sauce with meatballs and I also plan to puree it and use it on pizza!

Kristin's Spaghetti Sauce
10 cups chopped carrots ( I used some carrots I had canned and almost pureed them to add more veggies to the sauce.)
3 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped celery
2 cups chopped bell peppers (I used red and I'd add even more if I had more!)
2 cups cooked Italian Sausage
4 cups chopped yellow squash (or zucchini)
1 (#10 can) tomato sauce (these large cans are about 1 gallon and you can find them at Coscto - #10 is the can size. Do not buy 10 huge cans! LOL)
1 (#10 can) tomato paste
1 (#10 can) stewed or diced tomatoes
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 bulbs garlic, sliced (or you could press them but it's spicier when you use pressed garlic)
5 cups sliced Baby Bello mushrooms
1/2 cup sugar (or more if you're used to it super sweet)
4 T Basil
4 T Oregano
4 T parsley
2 T garlic powder
2 T sea salt
2 T Johnny's Seasoning (Or add more salt if you don't have this. We just love the flavor!)
2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp thyme
1 1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix all of these ingredients and simmer very low all day. I don't advise leaving it overnight because you need to stir it every 20 minutes or so. Tomato sauce burns if left alone and you don't want to ruin all of your hard work! Once I had all of the ingredients mixed, I divided it into 3 large pots on the stove. This was to cook it down more easily and to prevent it from burning.

Cool. Store in 4 cup amounts in freezer containers. Label with date. When you're ready to use, get it out of the freezer the morning of the day you cook or defrost it until you can plop it out of the bag/container and heat on the stove or in a microwave safe bowl.
This is a chuncy style of sauce- our favorite! If it's too chucnky for you, just puree 1/2 or all of it in a blender, depending on your preference. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chicken Divan

Chicken Divan is a great comfort meal! I used brown and white rice mixed this time but I usually use just brown.
Chicken Divan

This is one of our family's favorites! Mom has always made it and now I make it for us.

Prepare rice first. I use 2 cups rice in 4 cups water. (Boil water, add rice. Cover, turn onto low for 20 minutes for white, 50 minutes for brown rice. Add 1/2 cup more water for brown.)

Prepare chicken: Bake or boil 2 chicken breasts till cooked. You could also use leftover roasted chicken. Cut into bite sized pieces.

Prepare Broccoli: Steam 2 heads broccoli. (I use my PC Micro cooker and add a 1/2 " water in the bottom. Cook until tender.)

Prepare sauce: Combine 2 cans cream of chicken soup (or try homemade- it's better! This recipe is SO good! It's the one I always use.), 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tsp lemon juice and 3/4 tsp curry powder.


(1) Rice
(2) Broccoli
(3) chicken
(4) sauce
(5) 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
(6) Optional: top with Ritz crackers or breadcrumbs mixed with a bit of melted butter

Bake for 30 minutes at 350' or until heated through.
Double the recipe and take it to someone who's sick, or who's had a baby!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Homemade English Muffins

Who knew you could make these so easily?

This recipe is from "The Old Farmhouse Kitchen" cookbook. They were super easy! Tonight I was thinking, 'why are they so good? Why would I prefer them to the store-bought kind that takes you 5 minutes to get (in and out of the store)?' It's like everything else homemade; because they are FRESH and that is no comparison to something that was cooked 2 weeks ago or longer! You know how good homemade bread is -hot out of the oven with butter melting through?? Ya... it's good.

By the way, have you ever thought about a package of cookies? They were baked and then they sit on the shelf in a store for MONTHS sometimes! EEWW! I wouldn't eat my own cookies that were that old! ha ha And if the cookies have to have preservatives to stay "fresh", they are probably not fresh! LOL Anyway, I hope you are inspired to make something homemade- even if it's not these! (Please do not think that I NEVER buy things from the store because I love Oreos or Nutter Butter cookies too! This is just a fun challenge to 'do things the way they used to' and I enjoy doing baking!)

Homemade English Muffins

1 cup milk

Stir in:
2 T sugar
2 tsp salt (The recipe called for 3 tsp but I thought that seemed like SO much and I didn't want to ruin them. Try it if you'd like- these were not very salty with the 2 tsp.)
1/2 cup butter


1/2 cup cool water
Dissolve 2 pkgs yeast in 1/2 cup warm water (takes about 5 minutes to get frothy)
6 cups flour (I exchanged some of the white flour for wheat. I think I would add other flours to make them more "whole grain" next time.)

When milk mixture is lukewarm, blend in yeast mixture. Mix in flour a little at a time. Knead several times until dough is smooth and elastic. let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size. (I set in a greased bowl with a non-fuzzy towel over it and warm it next to the wood stove) Punch down; roll out on cornmeal. (Set 1/2 of your round on cornmeal, lightly sprinkled on the counter and then roll it out to about 1/2 thickness, maybe a little less.) Cut with a 3-inch cutter (or large drinking glass). Let stand for 30 minutes. Cook on griddle on top of stove, not oven (medium heat is what I used). Turn when bottom is browned.

Cool on a wire rack then cut in half with a serrated knife and toast! Also good just hot our of the oven with butter and jelly or plain!

I made breakfast sandwiches out of them with ham, farm eggs and a bit of Havarti cheese. Comfort food!