Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cast Iron Cooking: Blueberry Bread Pudding

My husband had a puzzled look on his face the other day when I came home with not one, but three loaves of Aldi's gluten free bread the other day. "Bread Pudding", was my answer to the puzzled, but sweet look.

"Is this going to be one of those mythological things that you'll get around to some day, in between making baskets and everything else that you have going on?"..."You know, sort of like rice pudding (that he loves, that costs $0.89 a serving carton at the store) and chocolate chip cookies." (enough said)

Well, to make a long story short, I got it done! We had it for Sunday dinner dessert. It's one of those things I'd been craving for awhile, and it was well worth the wait. I doubled the recipe in my cookbook, except the milk and sugar. I was wondering if it would work using gluten free bread and I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't overly sweet, but we put a little cream and maple syrup over the top which made it sweet enough. It turned out to be the perfect dessert to have along with our Dijon Chicken Dinner and when all was finished he said, "You can make this again! All of it."....Sweet words.

And...Yes! You can make it in cast iron.

Print Recipe

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Children: Learning Through Play

Vintage Image by Old Design Shop

Perhaps for most of us, we needn't be told how quickly time passes and how in the blink of an eye our children are grown. I was writing to someone this week about enjoying the precious moments of time they have with their little one and how important it is to learn together as a family.

When our grandchildren come to play, they can't wait to get out the set of blocks and the toy cars. They seem to never get tired of playing with them and every time they're here, it's a new structure, a new bridge, something different than they've ever built before. It wasn't too long ago that I bought some new toys, but all the bells and whistles of the new stuff just doesn't compare to the simple building blocks.

In a warm, nurturing environment they are happy, healthy, outgoing little people with boundless energy and creativity. And yes, it isn't just free time, it is indeed very serious learning!

I remember being at the beach once, with one of our own boys. He was building dams in the sand, pouring water in his "river" and watching the outcome. It wasn't long before he had half the kids on the beach interested in what he was doing and they were all building together. Today he's almost 17 and looking at schools for engineering.

Building a strong and vibrant young adult takes lots of work, patience and prayer. We mustn't ignore the chief cornerstone of our faith when raising children. We must also remember that the home is the center of learning and that play is a very vital activity. Play nurtures independence, fosters creativity, empowers critical thinking and develops many other very important skills that will stay with our children and grandchildren as they grow to be men and women. Enjoy the laughter of their playtime and maybe even get down there on the floor with them. You might just feel a little bit younger!

That's it for today! God bless and have a great week.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Coffee Filter Christmas Craft

Merry Christmas from Pearls and Precious Stones

The old fashioned charm of this Merry Christmas Typography from The Graphics Fairy was the inspiration for this simple little project. Wouldn't these make cute table favors, teacher gifts, or a stocking stuffer? Fill them homemade ornaments, candies or any other small gift.

You'll need:
  •      a cone type coffee filter
  •      paper punch
  •      ribbon, buttons or other decorations
  •      computer printer and paper
  •      masking tape 

  1. Copy and paste your image into a document. I decided to change the color on mine from black to green and resized it to 2.00" x 1.29"  You want to center it in about the middle of the page.
  2. Now print your image on to a regular sheet of printer paper. 
  3. Using masking tape, tape your coffee filter over your image, where you want it to appear on the filter. I just taped the upper edge or opening of the coffee filter. For proper orientation I had to lay my paper and coffee filter face down in the printer, with the filter opening toward the printer. This printing technique is very similar to printing on paper bags as shown on The Graphics Fairy here.
  4.  Fold over the top, punch holes with a paper punch and thread a short piece of ribbon through. So simple! 
Just a side note, these went very easy through the printer. No problem at all. You could probably streamline the process by having several ready to go through the printer, but still feed them one at a time. Then just remove the tape and reuse the sheets for more coffee filters.

That's it for today! Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your family time this week and for the rest of the Holiday season.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Make Ahead Meals: Twice Baked Potatoes with Cheddar and Bacon

Easy, make-ahead, comfort food, is on the list this week with these delicious Twice Baked Potatoes. Few meals will warm up the house, satisfy the hunger of a growing bunch and keep the money in your wallet like this frugal meal.

I walked into a local grocery one day and bought the ingredients to make 5 of these for a little over a $1.00 a serving. I didn’t get the small spuds either. I hand picked some large bakers and adapted this recipe for my teenage boys who quickly ate theirs, asked for seconds and then wondered what we were having for dessert!

I probably shouldn’t bore you with all the nutrient value of a potato, but let’s start with B6 which is important for the brain and nervous system, cardiovascular system and the athletic performance of those teenage kiddos.

If you’re a stay at home mom, you can bake the potatoes while you go about the rest of your work. If you work outside the home, make them in the evening or on the weekend so that you can have them on a busy weeknight. If you need a bit more to call it a meal, just add a veggie, muffin, salad or other side dish.

Make Ahead Twice Baked Potato

with Bacon and Cheddar

Medium Russet Potatoes (7-9 ounces) rubbed, dried and rubbed with olive oil
Slices of bacon
medium yellow onion, minced
ounces sharp cheddar cheese shredded, about 1 ½ cups
cup sour cream
tablespoons butter
green onions, sliced thin

Adjust oven rack to upper middle and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place potatoes directly on rack and bake until crisp and deep brown, and a skewer pierces through the flesh easily. This takes about an hour (give or take your definition for a medium potato)  Set your timer for about a half hour and flip your potato half-way through baking.

After potatoes are done baking, cool for about 10 minutes before handling.

While potatoes bake (or when your hands are free) fry bacon in skillet until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towel lined plate. Save for crispy bacon bits.  

Add minced onion to bacon grease and saute.

To stuff potatoes:

Cut each potato in half lengthwise, and hold each half with an oven mitt. Scoop out potato into bowl leaving ¼-½ inch of potato around the edge of the skin. You don’t want to scoop it all out or you’ll have a flimsy shell to put your mashed potato mixture back into.

Transfer potato skins to a large baking dish.

Mash the potato flesh until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, sour cream, butter and sauteed onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now comes the fun part. Scoop the potato mixture back into the saved potato skins.
Mounding it up slightly in the center. Sprinkle remaining cheese and crisp bacon on top the potatoes. Bake about 10 minutes (or until heated through) at 475 F.  Sprinkle with green onions before serving.

To store:

Cover dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bake at 475 F. until heated through, 15-25 minutes.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cast Iron Cooking

Some of our favorite family memories are eating Saturday morning pancakes, made from scratch and cooked on my favorite cast iron. The morning would start out with kids from all corners of the house, piling in on the end of our bed. Then after lots of giggles and kids begging for breakfast we would make our way downstairs.

That was then. My favorite griddle, having nearly retired from pancake duty is working full time again. I've given up some of my previous notions about them being less than modern, most suitable for pancakes and camping, too hard to maintain...and you get the drift. Some of it has just been lack of education. Yep, still learning.

In short, I've fallen in love with cast iron. Truth be told, it is my oldest son's doing. He's brought home some wonderful old pieces from thrift stores, cleaned them up and made them into amazing work horses that would be sad to part company with. 

How about this loaf of bread? Yep...baked in cast iron. 

Pizza anyone?

Breads, pies, cakes, biscuits, pizza, meats, veggie dishes and a whole host of wonderful foods all cooked in what was almost a forgotten tradition. You'll even find them outside those quaint country style restaurants. Grandma's pans aren't forgotten.

I love frugal and free so I've found a great resource at the public library. Dutch Oven and Cast Iron Cooking, foreword by Colleen Sloan. The recipe for the sourdough bread up above came from that book. It's a great book to start out with.

Another great book is A Skillet Full by Lodge Press. There are lots of main dishes, soups, sides and even desserts found there. 

Here are also few links to get you started.

In case you were wondering about the pizza? Check out the recipe to my Easy Pizza Sauce and the Gluten Free Pizza Crust recipe here

Fall is in the air here in the Midwestern United States. If you have cast iron, pull it out of your cupboard. If not, start looking around for a couple pieces of your own. Warm up your home with the aroma of some delicious comfort food. It is a pleasure you won't want to miss.