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Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent Calender 2012

Are you guys ready for Christmas!?  The Land of Honey has been buzzing (haha) with excitement about Christmas since before the Thanksgiving dishes were washed!

This past weekend, the Z-Squad took a trip to Lutz's Tree Farm in SC and it didn't take us long to find our perfect tree.  Here are a few pics from the trip: 
 Te-Man is not so sure about this....
But he warmed up pretty quickly! :) 
 Ze-Ra escorting our tree
Looks like both the kids got a ride....

We have our regular advent calendar that we've used for the past 3 years and it's hanging on the front door just waiting for the first day to be checked off tomorrow morning! I'm betting Ze-Ra will get to put the first day up. :)

But this year, I wanted to do something special for the kids.  Not sure if you know this or not, but we are a Hive full of some nerdy bees.  Seriously - huge geeks over here. :)  Ze-Ra loves to read more than anything...I can ground her from her DS for months and hardly hear a peep, but if I ground her from reading for a day - TEARS!  

So, to have some special reading time as a family, I have been scouring the goodwills, the dollar stores, craigslist, freecycle, etc for months and I have scrounged up 24 books!  Some books are for the Te-Man and some are for Ze-Ra and some I think will just be family library books.  Each day, we'll open one book and then we'll read it (or at least of a bit of it if it's a chapter book).  Of course, I saved The Night Before Christmas for the 24th and I marked it with a special tag - but other than that, the kids get to pick which book we open when.

To top off the excitement, we are headed out to Christmas town tonight with Wiley Kat and her family for the Christmas lights and even Santa!

Merry Christmas!

Cranberry Slow Cooker Cake

Want your house to smell amazing?

Want your tummy to be filled with soft, lightly orange scented, cranberry filled deliciousness?




Cranberry Slow Cooker Cake
What's In It:
1 c butter
1 1/2 c sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
zest from 1 orange
1 t baking powder*
1/2 t salt
3 c all purpose flour 
12 oz cranberries

What To Do With It:
Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time.  Stir in vanilla, then orange zest, baking powder, and salt. Add flour.  
Fold in cranberries by hand.
Cut a piece of parchment or wax paper to fit in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Add dough to the slow cooker.  This is some thick dough, so you're going to have to smash it down - I used my hands, you can do what'ch'ya feel. 

Cover and cook on HIGH in slow cooker for 3 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean.  I cooked exactly 3 hours and the bottom of my cake was a little more done that I'd like, so I'm gonna try 2hr 45min next time.  

Allow the cake to cool in the slow cooker.  Loosen the sides with a knife and then turn out onto a plate. 

Mel's Famous Onion Sauce

Who doesn't love a nice juicy burger?  There might be a few that would hold strong and not give in....but none can defy the power of the Onion Sauce!
This stuff is the best sauce I have ever made, hands down.  It is great with veggies, burgers, chicken, salad, fish, fries, I could go on....

Seriously, make this!

Onion Sauce
What's In It:
1 T butter
1 lrg onion, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 c mayonnaise
3 T Spicy Mustard
2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
1 T Agave or Honey

What To Do With It:
 Melt butter over medium low heat.  Add onions and garlic.  
Cook over medium-low heat until onions have caramelized - be sure to stir frequently and that the heat is low enough that the garlic doesn't burn.

In a blender or food processor, blend mustard, vinegar, honey, and caramelized onions until smooth-ish.

Stir in mayo.

Try not to eat too many spoonfuls before serving. ;)

The Burger

I've been perfecting my burger for a few years now.  Never quite happy with the result - until this past spring....I GOT IT!
Tonight, this burger combined with the Onion Sauce, prompted Wolverine to sigh contentedly and tell me how much he loves me.  What's that saying about the way to a man's heart? :)

The Burger

What's In It:
1 lb hamburger
1 T dehydrated onions
1 egg
1 t mustard powder
2 t steak sauce
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t garlic
1/2 t poultry seasoning

What To Do With It:
Combine all ingredients, mix well.  Chill completely before pattying (is that even a word...spell check says no).  
Patty the meat into 4-6 patties.  Cook any way your heart desires.  We prefer them as 6 patties and then cooked on the griddle - kind of Steak'n'Shake style.  
We paired these bad boys with some of our homemade sandwich buns

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Simple and Delicious = A Keeper

A few weeks ago I had so many vegetables in my fridge, I thought it might explode.  I didn't want the produce to go to waste, so I decided to get creative and see what I could come up with. This is one of the recipes.

These are surprisingly good.  So surprising in fact, Ze-Ra didn't even know there were olives in them and she hates olives...well she ate them for lunch at school twice and went on and on about how good they were.  It wasn't until last night at dinner that she exclaims - there are olives in here?! How dare I stoop to such trickery....and not list every ingredient in every recipe to her ;).  Whatever...she digs 'em. :)

When I made them, I put them in the freezer to keep as a just in case kinda thing.  Well, I pulled them out on Monday because we didn't have any food in the house from being gone over the holiday.  They are good cold for lunch and they were awesome last night for dinner!

Stuffed Shells from The Hive

What's In It:
1 box jumbo shells, cooked according to package directions
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
3 bell peppers (I used one each of green, yellow, and orange). diced
1/2 c sliced black olives
1 medium onion, diced
14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 t oregano
1 T lemon juice

What To Do With It:
Prepare shells according to package directions.  Drain and gently toss with olive oil to prevent them from sticking together.
Combine pepper, olives, and onions on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400 degrees F until tender, maybe 20 minutes - just keep an eye on them.
Combine roasted veggies, tomatoes, lemon juice, oregano, and cheese.  Stuff into pasta shells.
You can stop here and enjoy them "al fresco" or you can pour some of your favorite spaghetti sauce into a dish, nestle in the shells, and simmer until heated through.  

Piping is for pansies

I mean, when you can make floor cushions this cute, who needs it?!
Check out these cute floor cushions from Living With Punks.

I didn't have any piping, but figured if my goal was to use up some of the ridiculous amount of fabric that my poor shelves (and desk and bunny table and laundry basket and 2 boxes in the garage) are overflowing with, then going to the store to buy piping was the opposite of that plan because we all know that I can't get within a mile of a fabric store without coming home with a trunk full.
So, I followed her directions pretty closely (minus the piping of course).  The only changes I made were to sew the handle on right away.  I also pinned the top and bottom to the side piece all at once and then had all the pinning done and could sew sew sew!
Te-Man was asleep when Wolverine and I stuffed them and then stitched them shut.  So, they haven't been baby tested, but I can testify that they do make some pretty great footstools! :)
Make one!
Or 10...that's my plan anyway...I want to make the kids a reading nook and figured a bunch of these in different sizes would be awesome!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Parmesan Potato Halves

I was browsing pinterest the other day, because I have so much free time - haha - and I came across this recipe.  It looks fantastic!

It's like if my mom's parmesan oven potatoes had a beautiful delicious baby with potato skins.

Just make them. Seriously. Do it.

Parmesan Potato Halves

What's In It:
6 small potatoes, halved
1/4 c butter
1/2 c parmesan cheese
1 1/2 t garlic salt
1 t pepper

What To Do With It:
Melt butter and pour into a 9x13 pan.  Or you can just place the butter into the 9x13 and put it in the oven during the preheating and the butter will melt that way too.  Tilt the pan around to make sure the butter has coated the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle the parmesan cheese and seasonings over the melted butter.

Place the potatoes, cut side down, into the pan.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 40-45 minutes*.  Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

*The baking time is going to depend on the girth of your potatoes.  Mine were shaped like baseballs and were pretty thick.  I was afraid the parmesan was going to burn, so I tented them with tinfoil for the last 10 minutes or so because the thinner potatoes were done, but the thick guys weren't.  The parm was perfect and didn't burn at all - I was just being a paranoid ninny. :)

Don't eat them all....or do ;)


I am a midwestern girl through and through.  But (and please avert your eyes if you prefer not to curse) damn greens are GOOD!

I had never had them until Wolverine requested them a few years back.  I was a little intimidated at cooking something he loved that I have never tasted - how would I know if it was seasoned correctly?   Well, I just decided to throw caution to the wind, find a recipe, doctor it up, and see where we landed.  Well, we landed smack in the middle of scrumptious.

What's In It:
1 lrg bunch of greens*
1/4 lb bacon, diced
1/2 lrg onion, diced
1 t garlic salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t poultry seasoning
1/4 t sage
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t mustard powder
1/3 c white vinegar
8 c water**

What To Do With It:
Over medium-low heat, brown the bacon.  Once it is about 2/3 done, add in the onion.
While the bacon is cooking, rinse and de-rib the greens.  The easiest way to do this is to fold the leaf in half along the rib while holding it upside down in your hand and just tear the leaf away from the rib all the way down.

Slice the greens.  I usually take a handful of greens and kind of roll them into a log shape.  I then slice them into inch strips or so.  Then I go back and cut them lengthwise down the middle because I hate taking a bite of greens and having a 6 inch strip hanging from my fork.

Once onions are translucent, add in spices.  Stir to coat the bacon and onions.  Stir in vinegar and increase the heat to high.

Once the vinegar is boiling, add in the greens, and cover.  Allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes and then add in the water.

Leave at a rolling boil with the lid half on for about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After a good majority of the water has boiled off, reduce to a simmer for at least an hour, but you could simmer longer adding more water as necessary until the rest of your dinner is ready.

*Mine was just under 2lb prior to de-ribbing
**If you prefer to use chicken stock, you could probably leave out most of the seasonings.

Bacon Wrapped Venison

Being in the military has meant that we are not as geographically close to our families as we would like.  This also means that we aren't able to make it home during the deer seasons and therefore we need to rely on Super Dad to harvest enough Venison for us too.  So far, this hasn't been an issue for him as he is an amazing outdoorsman - have a question, he's got the answer or he'll find it!

I love experimenting with recipes, but the Venison is so precious to me I'm hesitant to branch out and try something that I don't like and then have "wasted" the meat.  This is not a problem, however, because this simple recipe is a tried and true always delicious recipe that I have no problem going back to time, after time, after time!

Bacon Wrapped Venison
What's In It:
1 lb venison chops or venison loin
1/2 lb bacon
1 lrg onion, sliced
Salt & Pepper
Worcestershire sauce

What To Do With It:

If using chops, remove the connective tissue (this isn't mandatory, but can be tough and chewy if you don't remove it).  
I have found the best way to do this is either 1. When the meat is still partially frozen, slice off using a very sharp knife or 2. Just pull it off with your hands.  I usually opt for option 2, it makes me feel like I'm a cavewoman and I think it's just easier.  Just be careful that you don't pull off meat with the tissue. 

If using a loin, slice into 2 in slices. 
Wrap each piece of venison with a slice of bacon.  You can either wrap around the sides or over the top.  I like to wrap over the top so the flavor (aka fat) drips down into the venison.  Tuck venison into a baking dish (I can usually get away with using an 8x8).  

Season liberally with Salt and Pepper.

Splash each venison piece with some Worcestershire sauce.

Cover with sliced onions.  

Bake uncovered at 400 degrees F for 30-45 minutes depending on thickness and desired doneness.  

Not a bad haul for $3

Tuesday was reclaimed produce day here.  I stopped by to see Produce guy and I was secretly hoping there wasn't any cantelope in this box.  I know that I can't be picky with free food, but we have 4 gallon size bags of frozen cantelope already - good thing Ze-Ra and Te-Man like them in breakfast smoothies. :)

While I was waiting for the produce to be packed up, I was browsing the discount produce rack.  I wasn't sure what was going to be in the box, but I couldn't pass up all of this for $3!!
4lbs of organic fingerling potatoes, 2lb fuji apples, and 3lb bananas (can you say banana bread baby!!)

The $3 deal had already made the trip worthwhile, but I was even more pumped when I unpacked the box!
Heck YES!!!  Enough brussel sprouts that we won't be fighting over them ;)  And look at that cauliflower - Ze-Ra and I LOVE roasted cauliflower.  And look at all that know about my coleslaw addiction. :)


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beer Bread

So, last week, I was browsing around over at Table For 7 and I came across this recipe for Beer Bread.  Oh my goodness!  This would be perfect to make with my hamburger stroganoff...but I didn't have any self rising flour. :(  Never fear, google to the rescue!  I found this recipe that is almost the same, but doesn't call for self rising flour! YAY!

The smell was intoxicating! ;)  I can't believe I didn't just sit on the couch eating the whole loaf with my bare hands! Just after it came out of the oven, our new dog sitter came over for a meet and greet with the Bean (she is GREAT! by the way) and it smelled so good, she asked for the recipe. :)

It was perfect with the stroganoff.  Crusty on the outside, dense on the inside, and that amazing beer flavor.  YUM!

Beer Bread
What's In It:
3 c flour sifted*
1 t salt
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
1 12oz beer
1/4 c butter, melted

What To Do With It:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix together dry ingredients, add beer.  Mix well.  Pour into greased loaf pan.  Pour melted butter over the top.  

Bake for one hour.  Allow to cool on wire rack.** 

*I didn't get out my sifter...that seems like a TON of work.  So instead, I just spooned the flour into the measuring cup.  Worked great!
**When turning the loaf out of the pan, be careful, there is a LOT of butter in there and it almost dripped on my arm...wouldn't want anyone to get burned! 

Hamburger Stroganoff

Ah....the delicious memories of my childhood.  I used to LOVE when Super Mom would make this.  I even remember going to the bakery thrift store and she'd always get these little rolls to go with it....she'd brush them with butter and a little garlic salt....heaven.

I haven't made this in probably 10 years (see the soup situation) and now I am happy to say (in my best Bruce from Finding Nemo voice) - Stroganoff is back on the menu boys! :)

Hamburger Stroganoff
What's In It:
1 lb hamburger
1/2 lrg onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
2-3 cans cream of mushroom soup or 1/2 of my mushroom soup recipe
1 1/2 c sour cream
Salt and Pepper
12oz prepared pasta (egg noodles are the most common, but I found a vegetable pasta that I wanted to give a whirl)

What To Do With It:
Brown hamburger in a large pot.  When hamburger is almost browned, add onions.  Continue cooking until almost transluscent.  Add garlic - stir frequently and be sure not to burn the garlic.  Add in the mushroom soup and bring to a simmer.  Stir in the sour cream and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in or serve over prepared pasta.  

Serve with a crusty bread such as some amazing Beer Bread and a salad.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

I haven't purchased a can of "cream of something" soup in probably 8 or 9 years.  The stuff in there skeeves me out...and if I don't want to eat it, I can't justify feeding it to my kids.  But, how can I justify denying them delicious soups and casseroles?!  I can't do that either.  So...I gotta figure it out on my own.  Inspired by Erin over at Table For 7, I set off on a cream of mushroom quest.
Please, please, please do not make your decision on if you are going to try this soup on my terrible photo.  The lighting in here is horrendous and I am a farmer, not a photographer. :)  You have to try this soup! WHOA! It is SO good!  I can't believe I didn't do this sooner.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
What's In It:
16oz mushrooms, any variety*
4 1/2 c chicken broth
1/2 c butter
1 1/2 c chopped green onions
1/2 c onion, chopped
1/2 c flour
2 1/2 c milk
2 T dried parsley
1/2 t thyme
3/4 t garlic powder
3/4 t poultry seasoning
1 1/2 t salt
1 t onion powder
1 t black pepper

What To Do With It:
Clean mushrooms using a dry paper towel.  Finely dice.  
Melt butter in a large pot. Add green and regular onions.  Saute over medium heat until translucent and the butter begins to brown a bit.  Add the mushrooms and cook for another 10 minutes or until they are tender.  Add the flour and stir for 1 minute.  Add a small amount of broth and be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to remove all the tasty goodness there.  Add remaining broth, parsley, and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add milk and season with salt and pepper.  Heat through but be careful not to boil.

*I was extremely displeased with the mushroom quality at my grocery store, so I went with a  2.6oz package of dried oyster mushrooms.  I boiled them for about 3 minutes in the broth, then chopped them finely.  After boiling the mushrooms, I used water to bring the volume of my broth back up to 4 1/2 c.  The texture of these mushrooms was definitely a bit chewier than I would have liked, in the future, I will practice a little more patience and wait until I can find fresh. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkin Seeds are Harvested!

Today, I really needed to get the pumpkin seeds out of the pumpkins that were in my front yard.  Why, you ask?  Well, we have our Christmas tree up and I wanted to put garland up on the front porch and Ze-Ra is going to help me make a wreath in the next few that'd just be weird with fall decorations in the yard. :)  Also, it has been starting to get awfully close to a hard freeze here at night and I didn't want to risk losing the seeds.

Well....let's say I really practiced my procrastination skills today.
Graham Crackers, Ritz Crackers, Bread, Mexican Beans, Enchiladas, Overnight Steel Cut Oats, 2 laps around the neighborhood with my Te-Man, a documentary on the Alligator Kingdom, fertilized the garden, 2 loads of laundry,
I am currently roasting the last jarrahdale....

And then....what's a girl to do, but finally give in and take care of the pumpkins. :)  Te-Man helped and we had a pretty good time of it. Well, he was "helping" me by running off with my pumpkins. :)

Here are all the seeds on my counter prior to being washed and laid out to dry.  All in all, with the seeds I've already harvested and prepped for next year, I'll have 13 kinds of pumpkins and squash next year!
  I guess I'd better go get started on slicing up those beets for the beet chips. They aren't going to make themselves! :)

Welcome Back!

Wow! What a vacation - almost 5 days :)

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving visiting family and friends and then we came home to some GREAT football games and we even cut down and decorated our tree - my fingers are still pink from stringing so many cranberries!  Thanks to some amazing coupon codes and deals, I picked up $450 worth of clothes for the kids from Children's Place yesterday, for $200!  Te-Man is set for clothes until he needs 4T! :)

Will definitely be getting some pictures posted around the various activities we have going on today.  It's another Mexican Monday, a cracker day, a laundry day, there are presents to wrap, a wreath to make, and unless I find enough ways to procrastinate, there are about 10 pumpkins in the front yard that need to find their way to my trash, but they have to make a pit stop in my kitchen so I can harvest some seeds first. :P

Oh...and I need to see if I can find any deals on sewing scissors...mine have officially bit the dust and I'm on a sewing strike until I get more.

What a day!  Anyone else have any big plans today?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pot Pie

I have made this using chicken, turkey, and even just veggies.  You can use any combination of vegetables and/or meat you'd like - just use roughly the same volume as it calls for in the recipe and you're all set.  I don't usually have "peas and carrots" so I just throw in some peas and some diced roasted carrots, sometimes I use a vegetable medley that has green beans, corn, peas, and carrots...just go crazy! :)

Every time I make this, the Z-Squad always comments on how we should have it more even won a prize in a contest at my old job. :)  So this time, I made 2 and put one in the freezer. :)

Pot Pie
What's In It:
2 pie crusts
10oz pkg frozen peas and carrots* 
1/3 c butter
1/3 c flour
1/2 lrg onion, chopped
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 c chicken broth
2/3 c milk
1 c cooked chicken or turkey, shredded/diced

What To Do With It:
If using frozen vegetables, place in colander and rinse to separate, drain.  

Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Saute onion for a few minutes.  Stir in flour, salt, and pepper.  Stir in broth and milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil for 3-5 minutes until sauce starts to thicken.  Stir in meat and vegetables, remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place one pie crust in the bottom of a 9x9 pan.  Pour vegetable mixture into pan.  Place remaining pie crust on top.  Turn edges of pastry under.
I still can't follow directions ;)
Bake about 35 minutes or until golden. 

*I always get a little generous with the veggies, usually adding an extra cup or so. :)


Last week I got a bunch spinach in my reclaimed produce.  We had so much lettuce, we didn't get a chance to eat it, so I steamed it and then froze it.  I figure that way, it's just like frozen spinach I'd get from the freezer section of the grocery store.  (Now that I think about it, my freezer is just about like the freezer section of the grocery store - haha).

Anyway, I've been itching to make Wolverine some feta and spinach something or other.  I'm not the biggest fan of the combo, but he is and I like to treat him every now and again.  I figured that between the free spinach and the free tomatoes, calzones were fate. :)  Problem: I'd never made calzones before. And I have yet to find my perfect pizza dough.  I mean I have a killer deep dish recipe that is AMAZING but I don't have a regular one.  So I thought, maybe I could just use my bread recipe.  I've heard of a similar bread recipe being used for calzones, so I figured....why not?! 
 I was pretty happy with how they turned out.  I definitely need practice on my pizza dough handling - that is a skill that I have not yet mastered. haha.   Look how ugly that poor guy is in the back!
I had Wiley Kat and her son over for dinner to help us eat the 8!! calzones I made - and their plates were clean, so I think it was a success! :)

What's In It:
1 recipe artisan bread, prepared through the initial 5 hour rise
Pizza sauce

What To Do With It:
Prepare all of your toppings and sauce while your dough is rising.  I used pepperoni, pork and fennel meatballs, onions, peppers, spinach, feta, and mozzarella cheese.  I wish I'd remembered about the olives in my fridge...but oh well.

"Divide" dough into 8 portions. Using WELL floured hands, pull out one portion of the dough and, using as much flour as you need, gently pull/stretch the dough into a circle.  I'd say my circles were about 10" in diameter.  You're going to want to make sure you have enough dough in the center of the circle and not all at the edges.  

Spread sauce on half of the circle to within about 3/4" from the edge.  Add desired fillings on top of sauce - I really loaded mine up and it worked just fine.  

Fold sauceless half over the top of the fillings and pinch along the 3/4" edge.  Carefully transfer to a lined cookie sheet.  
Repeat for as many calzones as desired*

Allow to rest for at least 40 minutes.  

Bake at 450 degrees F for 25-30 minutes.  I had 2 pans in the oven at once, so I rotated halfway through.  Also, if you're worried about the floury look on the top, just brush with some melted butter before baking.  
Serve with left over pizza sauce for dipping.  
*I made 8 with the intention of freezing whatever we didn't eat for future meals.  4 adults and 2 kids only ate 3 1/2. These guys are not messing around.  I have enough left overs for 2 more meals.  Not bad for one batch of dough and a whole lotta free veggies! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three-hundred thirty four.....Three-hundred thirty five....

You didn't think a weekend would go by that we didn't hit the mountains for a hike did you?  :)

We went back to Crowders Mt this past weekend and opted for a shorter hike - only 3 miles, but it also included 335 stairs. :)

Enjoy the view!
There is our challenge for the day!

 Halfway up!
 Beautiful Cliffs
 So pretty!
The TOP!
This is the view of where we took our first hike this season.
I think my college botany prof would be happy to see me taking in the beauty of even our smallest friends. That's for you VanPutte!