Monday, December 31, 2012

Homemade Bread

Two weeks ago while my brother was visiting, he took my son to the grocery store with him.  When they came back, my brother told me that he had a hard time finding several things in the store, but that my son was able to help him find them, everything but the bread.  My brother said that when he asked where the bread was, my son told him "Mama makes our bread."  Homemade bread is easy, how easy, well as easy as sliced bread!

First of all, I don't spend all day in the kitchen making bread.  I use a bread maker to do all  the mixing and kneading.  After adding my ingredients, the bread maker takes about 1 1/2 hours to do its thing.  I don't bake my bread in the maker, I take it out and divide the dough into two loaves then allow it to rise, depending on the heat and humidity in the house anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Then I bake up a couple of golden loaves that my family uses for everything from toast to sandwiches.
A bread machine is an easy find at most thrift stores; however many do not come with manuals.  But using the internet a person should be able to find the basic bread recipe for the machine they find.  I use my basic bread recipe and add what I want.  For the bread pictured, I used 3 cups of white flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour.  Sometimes I add oatmeal, flax or even cornmeal to the mixture to have a whole grain bread that the whole family will love.
Don't spend the whole day mixing and kneading to give your family a loaf of homemade bread.  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Project Snowflake

On December 14, the peace and innocence of Newtown, Connecticut was shattered and 26 people lost their lives. 20 of which were dear, sweet children. I have no words.
Now the students and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary School are preparing to begin classes again in a new location. To ease their return, the Connecticut PTSA has organized The Snowflake Project to create a winter wonderland in their new school.

I think this is a wonderful idea and I am so happy to be able to do something - anything - to help. So who is with me? Let's get the word out and give these kids a gorgeous, snowy wonderland to welcome them to their new school and show them that we care.

Here are the details:
They are asking for everyone to make and send snowflakes for them to hang around the school. Their only request is that the snowflakes have no words on them. Think bright, sparkly, happy, and magical!

Snowflakes are to be sent by January 12, 2013 to:

Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

You can check out the CT PTA website or Sandy Children Help on Facebook for more information or updates. They are also putting together a photo album of the snowflakes; you can send photos to Please include a note to let them know where the snowflakes are coming from (school, grade or age, town etc).

Baby It's Cold Outside

On the day before Christmas Eve, it was warm enough to be outside in a sweatshirt, in fact, I cooked steaks for dinner on our charcoal grill while my son played in the mud next to me.  On Christmas, it turned cold and snowed overnight.  In southeast Missouri; where most of my family lives; a blizzard was predicted and came.  My brother said where he worked the emergency exit doors were closed by 10 foot drifts and my sister posted pictures of three foot drifts outside her door.  Today in the Ozarks we are under a freezing rain advisory.  Earlier when I stepped out to get something from my car, it was misting and pretty slick on the pavement.  Later in the week, more snow is forecasted.  So what's a girl or boy to do in weather like this? 

Snow drifts in Southeast Missouri
(Picture courtsey of my little sis)

If you live on a farm, you go outside in the darkness, feed livestock, break the ice in the waters, and make bedding areas for your animals, just like hubby and I did this morning.  It makes for a busy morning, but the animals must be cared for.  And it's only going to get busier because next week, our son goes back to school and that adds to the morning craziness.  Another thing I like to do when it is cold outside is to make chili.  Yesterday was no exception to the rule.  I like to let the soup part of my chili cook most of the day in the crockpot before I add my meat and onions.  However, yesterday I had a steak left over from grilling on Sunday, so I made chili with it instead of ground meat.  It was too spicy for our tastes so I'll have to modify my recipe when I use the chili ready tomatoes that I used yesterday.

My basic chili recipe:

1 can kidney beans
1 can chili beans
1 quart canned tomatoes chopped
1 pack chili seasoning mix

Let this simmer in the crockpot all day, it will get supper thick, almost like canned chili.  Then:

Cook 1 lb of ground beef with one medium onion.  Add this to the crockpot and allow to simmer another 30 minutes.  When making larger batches, I use two cans of beans per pound of meat, ie: 2 lbs of meat, 4 cans of beans, 2 quarts of tomatoes.

What a great think to come home to after being at work all day.  Just a few minutes in front of the stove and dinner is ready.  And the best part is that there are usually leftovers for lunch the next day.  The batch yesterday was pretty small, so hubby has the chili for leftovers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chicken Carcass Soup

Chicken Carcass Soup

A whole chicken can make at least three meals for my family.  Chicken Carcass soup is usually the third meal that I make.  After using the chicken breasts, I take the rest of the chicken, put it in the crockpot and cook it overnight.  This soup is very easy to make and doesn't take much effort.

2 cups chicken broth from cooking the chicken - strained
2 cups cooked chicken
1 can chili beans
1 can kidney beans
1 packet of chili seasoning
2 cups frozen corn
1 can tomatoes with green chilies
Optional:  cheddar cheese and tortilla chips

Take everything and dump it in your crockpot.  Since everything is already cooked you are basically letting it simmer to blend the flavors and heat it.  Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.

Another great thing about this soup is that it is really cheap to make.  I got my chicken on sale for $0.69 per pound, the kidney and chili beans were on sale for $0.29 per can, and the tomatoes and green chilies were $0.19 per can.  It makes a yummy and filling meal.  It is even better the next day for leftovers.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Peanut Butter Balls

Peanut Butter Balls

There is something about this time of the year that makes me want to make candy.  My mother always made candies during our school's winter break.  She didn't make much fudge but she had several recipes for bon-bons and other candies.  When she recently moved to assisted living, I got most of her cookbooks, but I haven't found her candy recipes, so I've been searching online to see if I can replicate them.  One of the bon-bon recipes that she made was peanut butter balls.  I think this recipe comes close to matching what she made.  However, I have taken it and made a few changes.

Peanut Butter Balls


1 1/2 cups peanut butter  
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 pkg chocolate almond bark

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter and butter until blended.  Add confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition.  (I used my stand mixer for this.) 

Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  Using your hands, shape mixture into 1-inch balls.  Place the balls on the baking sheet and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Following package directions, melt the almond bark.  Using a spoon, dip each ball into the almond bark and place back on the sheet.  One covered, chill about 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 48 balls.