Sunday, December 30, 2012

orange gumdrop bars

The holiday season would not be complete at our house without gumdrop bars.

This is one of those recipes that is handed down through the family. They are my Father's favorite. Grandma always made them with the orange gumdrop slices and pecans, the original recipe calls for fruit flavored gumdrops and does not specify any kind of nut.

Orange gumdrop bars

Preheat the oven to 325
Grease a pan measuring about 10x15 inches

1 cup gumdrops cut into small peices
1/2 cup nuts finely chopped
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
Mix together and set aside for later use

into a mixing bowl combine
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup evaporated (canned) milk

beat these together well with a mixer on medium speed (about 2 minutes)
stir in the gumdrop mixture
spread the batter in the greased pan.
bake on a rack slightly below center of the oven for  about 35 minutes.
when done the cake should be slightly pulled from the sides of the pan.
cool completely before cutting into squares
makes 48 squares

haybox cooking the original crockpot/slowcooker

Before there were electric crock pot/slowcookers there was haybox cooking also known as a Norwegian stove.

The idea is simple: bring the food to a boil, insulate well, and let sit. The food will continue to cook at a slow rate for several hours or stay hot for up to 10 hours.

Making your own haybox cooker is quite simple.

You will need:

family sized cooking pot with a tight fitting lid (we use a dutch oven)
a large cardboard box
insulation material. This could be newspapers made into paperballs, shredded paper, sawdust, wood shavings, hay, or anything that can be packed tightly around the pot inside the box. (dirt would even work well in a pinch).
newspapers or other material for a box top
a fabric cover  (optional)

1. Choose a pan  that will hold enough food to serve your needs
2. find a sturdy cardboard box large enough to have about 5 inches of space around all sides of the pan
3. cover the bottom of the box with about 5 inches of tightly compacted insulation (The tighter you pack the insulation the greater heat retention)
4. Place the pan in the center of the box (on top of the insulation). The pan should fit just below the top of the box. Add more insulation to raise the pan to this level if needed.
5. place more insulation around the pot bringing the insulation level with the top of the pot. making it as compact as possible.
6. make a lid for the box. A stack of newspapers 3-4 inches thick secured with masking tape would do just fine for a lid.
7. make a fabric cover if desired.

The temperature in the box will usually range between 180-200 Fahrenheit. This depends on the compactness of the insulation materials and the tightness of the lid.

Cooking in the oven is very simple

bring the food to a boil and then place the pan into the box seal it up and let it be. Try to open the box as little as possible.

rice will be ready in about 30 minutes. Bring to a boil and then into the box for 1/2 hour
dry beans bring to a boil for 15 minutes then place in the box for 2-3 hours
stews bring to a boil for about 15-20 minutes then place in the box for about 2-3 hours
Any of your crockpot recipes can be adapted for haybox use. Just get the cooking process started, then into the box to continue cooking.

This method of cooking is so simple. Because there is no source of heat, the food will not overcook or burn no matter how long you leave the food in the box. Start food in the afternoon, it will be ready and hot for dinner later on in the evening.

Notes adapted from: The next crisis: Surviving in times of scarcity, Inter-American Institute pages 115-17

shared at

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

“This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.”
~Howard W. Hunter

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quinoa, have you tried it?

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) is an ancient grain that has made a real splash in the United States in the past few years. I think that the fact that it is easily and quickly cooked is part of the reason that it has become so popular. For years, people have associated whole grains with brown rice and other grains that take nearly an hour to cook stove top, therefore; whole grains seemed like too much work. Whatever the reason, quinoa is more readily available then ever. It is usually available in the bulk bins at grocery stores, but now is being found prepackaged in the isle with the rice. If you have not tried it yet, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Quinoa is quick easy to prepare.
Always rinse the quinoa before cooking.  The seeds are naturally coated with saponin a slightly sticky substance that is bitter tasting. It is removed during processing, but sometimes there is some residue left. It is advisable to soak the seeds in cold water for 5 minutes then rinse well before cooking.

Cooking time is quick; about 15 minutes.
1 cup will yield 3 cups cooked.
1 part grain to 2 parts liquid is standard (some people will go a bit less on the liquid for a firmer texture)

basic cooked quinoa

1 cup quinoa
2 cups stock, water, or broth

In a medium saucepan, begin warming the liquid that you are going to use. While the liquid heats,
rinse the quinoa under cold running water for 2-3 minutes. Drain of any excess water.
Combine the quinoa and hot liquid. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a medium low and cook until the liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Fluff with a fork before serving.

Quinoa seems to be a great substitute for rice in many households. It is finding it's way into casseroles, soups, salads, and desserts. Many people starting to get whole grains into their diet find quinoa appealing. Its light and creamy texture doe not scream "whole grain, or high fiber". It is a small grain that is easily added to dishes with little or no resistance from the clan. Parents and children alike seem to enjoy quinoa as it is added into the diet. If you have been thinking of adding more whole grains this is a good place to begin.

Additional resources:

savvy vegetarian (a great how to cook guide plus a question and answer section about the grain)

cooking quinoa

quinoa basics

Friday, December 14, 2012

Master cookie dough

Make several variations from one master cookie dough recipe.

I used to be quite adept at making cookies. It was one of the first things I learned to cook. I worked at an establishment where cookies were to be available every afternoon.  Instead of creating two or three seperate batches of cookies, I made a basic cookie recipe. With the basic cookie batter/dough in hand, I could create several different kinds of cookies in and instant.

                                                              © Didden | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

I really like this recipe because it is easy to handle. You roll the dough into balls. This is great to help in getting nice round beautiful cookies.

To make the basic cookie dough you will need

1/2 pound margarine (or you can use butter and 1 Tablespoon water)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
Cream these ingredients together until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes) then add
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
mix all this together into quite a stiff batter

roll the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter
place about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets
bake in a 350 oven for 8-10 minutes on a middle rack
 remove just as bottom and edges start to turn brown (You want them to still be chewey in the center).
Let the cookied cool on the pan for about 5 minutes to finish cooking and firm up, then remove from pan to finish cooling.

Once you have the basic dough creating many flavors is easy;  divide the dough, then mix in extra ingredients, roll, and bake as in the basic recipe.

Chocolate chip
to half the master dough add
 1/2-3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

buttersotch chip
to half the master dough add
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

maccadamia white chocolate
to half the master dough add
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2-3 Tablespoons chopped  maccadamia nuts

to half the master dough add
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1/2-3/4 cup M&M candy coated chocolate peices

candycane /white chocolate chip
to half the master dough add
 2 Tablespoon crushed candycane peices
1/2 cup white chocolate peices

to half of the master cookie dough recipe add
1/2 cup coconut

Granola crunch
to half the master cookie dough recipe add
add 1/2 cup crushed granola clusters

to half the master cookie dough add
1/2 Tablespoon milk
3/4 cup crushed cornflakes cereal

Oatmeal raisin graham
to half the master cookie dough recipe add
1 Tablespoon milk
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup raisins

peanut butter
to half of the master cookie dough recipe add
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)
roll into 1 inch balls, toss balls in sugar to coat. place on baking sheet and flatten with a fork, turn the pan halfway, and press with a fork again to create a crosshatch pattern.

cranberry orange (my favorite and most requested cookie recipe)
to half the master cookie dough recipe add
1/2 Tablespoon orange juice concentrate (can use straight from the freezer)
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2-3/4 cup dried cranberries

cinnamon sugar  (Similar to snickerdoodles) Not quite as good as the classic recipe I still use a classic recipe when I want real good snickerdoodles.
roll the dough into one inch balls then roll in a mix of
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon

caramel filled cookies
wrap the dough around a rolo (chocolate caramel candy)
you can also use other small miniature size chocoate candy bars
(snickers, milkyway etc.)

I love being able to divide the dough into parts quickly making several flavors. It makes it real easy to set up a holiday cookie tray this time of year. These recipes are for half the dough, It would be really easy to divide the dough in thirds and make three kinds of cookies. All you have to do is adjust the mix-ins a little, or leave it. (who cares if you have extra chocolate chips in the mix, some will add extra anyways).


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

handmade salami

 Ground beef and a few spices turn into a wonderful treat for the holidays. It is so easy.....

To make your own salami

5 pounds ground beef (the fattier the better)
4 teaspoons Morton's tender quick curing salt (I easily found this at my local grocery store)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
2 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
Mix spices and beef together let stand in the refrigerator for several hours
Roll the beef mix into 2 inch wide logs.
bake in a very slow oven 175 degrees  for 8 hours.
Store tightly wrapped in the fridge for up to a month.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Easy flavored nuts

I love smoked almonds. Making your own is  super easy with surprisingly few ingredients.

                                                               © Mickeyd600 | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

smoked garlic almonds

1 egg white
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons celery salt
2 cups whole raw almonds

Mix egg white and spices together
toss in the nuts. Strain off any excess egg mix
Spread  nuts on a baking tray lined with parchment paper
bake in a low 275 degree oven for 40 minutes stirring halfway through

Lemon spiced pecans

2 egg whites
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
mix together, then  add
1 pound (4 cups pecan halves)
strain out the pecans to get rid of excess egg. Coat with spiced sugar mix

sugar mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons lemon juice

bake on a parchement paper lined baking sheet in a low 250 degree oven for 35 minutes

                                                            © Dbvirago | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Orange glazed pecans

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
3 Tablespoons orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
2 cups pecan halves

mix all but nuts in a medium saucepan. bring the mix to a boil stiring only once if needed to help disolve the sugar.
add the nuts, bringing it back to a boil without stirring.
Remove from the heat and stir to evenly coat the nuts.
Spread the nuts out on a greased baking sheet. Seperate the nuts with a fork. Let cool completely.

I enjoy making my own spiced nuts. They are so easy and you get a nice clean flavor. No artifical flavors or colors, no msg, just a nice flavorful healthy nut.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Super easy broccoli salad

This is a great salad. It may help children and others to try broccoli. Whats not to love, bacon and broccoli together YUM!

to make a basic broccoli salad you will need

1 large bunch broccoli washed, then cut or broken into bite sized pieces (about 2 cups)

6 slices of bacon cooked and crumbled

 3-4 green onions sliced thin (or 1/4 cup chopped red onion)

1/2 cup grated cheese

toss together in a bowl, add dressing and stir to coat.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

This is the basic salad.

Additional ingredients can be added depending on what you have on hand. some suggestions are

1 cup frozen green peas thawed
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup red grapes (halved)

This salad comes together very quickly and can be served right away or be held over until the next day. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Getting Christ back into Christmas

This time of year is my favorite. One of my favorite things about the holidays is the Nativity. It makes me sad  that Santa has overrun the real reason for Christmas. It used to be that people would put out nativity sets in their front yards, now it is rare to see a nativity except for the churches.

The Nativity is an integral part of our Christmas decor. We keep our decorations simple, with less Santa and more of a winter theme. We have several  nativity sets including one handmade set that belongs to my husband.  Having a nativity that the kids can play with, allows them to touch, feel, and experience the Christmas story in a real way.

© Welburnstuart | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

There are many other ways to get Christ back into the holiday season. I have listed a few ideas below.

Many people have an advent calender. One of my neighbors has a large advent calender and instead of little treats, they have a scripture to enjoy each day. It sounds like a wonderful idea to me.

The Music of Christmas! There are many  beautiful Christ centered songs. Make sure you teach the children the songs of Christ's birth, they will learn plenty of Santa, snowmen and reindeer songs in school and other places. Fill your home with good Christmas songs, the messages will sink deep into their hearts.

Tell the stories of Christmas. There are so many great Christmas stories to share. Last year we were given twelve days of Christmas stories along with little treats. It was fun to share a treat and a story each night counting down to Christmas.

Serve. This is a great time to serve others. There are many opportunities to get out in your community and serve others this time of year. Some of my most memorable holiday moments are those of years when we served others.

Share the symbolism of our Christmas traditions. For example, the evergreen tree we decorate represents everlasting life. The candy cane represents the Shepard's crook and so on.

Slow down, worry less and worship more. Let the true spirit of Christmas overcome you this year.

additional resources
the holiday spot a history of christmas
happy home school activities to teach Christmas symbols