Category Archives: Homemaking

Bert & Ben’s Sweet & Sour Green Beans

By far, one of the best, and most favorite, gifts I have ever received is my Aunt Bee’s Mayberry Cookbook.  I’ve found some really delicious recipes here and the book is loaded with pictures and funny stories/scenes from my all-time favorite show.

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We are gearing up for softball season now, so that means we will have quite a few nights where I need to find a quick and easy solution for supper.  Menu planning at my house is at least an hour and a half job.  I love to cook and I don’t like eating the same things every week, so I put a lot of thought into each meal and try to keep a lot of variety. I try to keep us in 80/20 range on the healthy vs. not so healthy meal range.  You know, 80% clean meals, to keep us all healthy and 20% good ol’ stuff we love to keep us content.  Southern Fried Fitness is a great blog that posts recipes for each of those categories.

Making an appearance on the menu this week will be BLT’s with my favorite Mac & Cheese recipe from another beloved book, Autumn From The Heart Of The Home by Susan Branch.  And from the Mayberry Cookbook, I’ll be trying out Bert & Ben’s Sweet & Sour Green Beans.  Sounds yummy, hope it turns out that way.  I usually just make P-Dub’s green beans because they are so delicious and a huge hit around here, but I also want to try new stuff as much as possible.

So, this is what Bert & Ben’s Sweet and Sour Green Beans looks like:

2 cans green beans (I’ll be using fresh)
4 strips bacon (we like Simple Truth brand)
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons sea salt (I’ll be using kosher)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 T. sugar (will probably use Stevia even though this is technically a “20% meal”)
1/2 C. cider Vinegar
2 T. flour (all I have is whole wheat)*Original recipe calls for the liquid from one can of green beans, I will just use chicken broth in place of that.

Fry bacon til crisp, reserve drippings.  Crumble bacon.
Saute onion in bacon drippings. Grease.  It’s bacon grease.  Calling it drippings doesn’t change what it is!  But that’s what the recipe says, so that’s what I’m calling it too. :)Stir in liquid, flour, salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar.  Bring to boil.
Add green beans and bacon.
Heat until warmed through.  (I will cover the skillet and let them cook a while since I’m using fresh instead of canned.)

And here’s the yummy Mac & cheese recipe from Susan Branch’s Autumn book.

Product Details

10 oz. elbow macaroni (I’m using whole grain rotini because that’s what I have in my pantry)
2 eggs
1 T. dry mustard
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 C. half & half
1 lb. sharp cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 375.  Cook and drain macaroni.
In large bowl, lightly beat eggs, salt, pepper and mustard.
Stir in half & half, then cheese, then macaroni.
Pour into buttered 2 qt. casserole. Bake 25 min.
Put under broiler 1 min to brown and crisp the top.

Homemade Produce Wash

Chinese scientists report that eating apples extended the lifespan of ...

 

I ran out of my fruit & veggie wash today and was surprised to find that I hadn’t posted it here….what a slacker, I am.

I decided a while back that we were going to go organic completely whenever possible.  Yes, it is more expensive but the bottom line for me is this:  If I’m going to splurge on something, shouldn’t this be the area?  I mean, it’s the food we are eating every day.  Anyway, I shop at Kroger and they have a nice selection of organics, probably the best among the local grocery stores.  I can’t get everything, but I can get pretty darn close.  When I can’t get organics, I especially want to get all that crud off of my fruits and veggies, so I give them a good dousing with my spray, swish ’em around, and even scrub them when possible.

I bought grapes the other day.  (Not organic because Kroger didn’t have them.)  I rinsed them with water, which basically does nothing.  Have you ever really looked at a grape?  They’re covered with a white powdery film.   I took one and just wiped it real good with a towel and you should have seen how shiny it was after I did that!

I think this wash does a pretty good job and definitely better than  just rinsing with water.  And way cheaper than the kind you can buy.  I’m sorry, I can’t remember where I got this recipe….I’ve been making it for years and I’ve been away from the blogging world for a while, but if I can come up with it, I’ll be sure to post a link.

Here’s the recipe:

Produce Wash

1 C. water
1 C. white vinegar
1 T. baking soda
1/2 lemon, juiced

Pour all into a large bowl or container (to allow for the chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda).  Pour into a spray bottle, using a funnel.  Spray fruit and rinse well.  Use a scrub brush for firmer produce.

Homemade Caesar Dressing + One More

This post is for a couple of my FB buddies who were asking about those homemade dressings.  Without a doubt, every single time I’ve gone to the trouble to make homemade salad dressing, it has been received to rave reviews.  Yes, it does take a little bit of time.  And no, it won’t stay good in your fridge for months on end like the store bought kind does.  But if you think about it, why would we want to consume something that has such a long shelf life?

There have been times when I’ve taken this to the extreme, making everything myself from bread, buns, tortillas, pitas, sauces, ketchup, jellies & jams, etc.  When my girls were little I had a lot more time for this.  However, we don’t eat even remotely close now to how we did back then.  The bulk of our diet now is made up of lean meats, loads of fruits and veggies and brown rice….and bread occasionally makes an appearance at our dinner table, but not often anymore.

Now that I’m done with school and I’ve got a very small (by design) training business going, we’ve settled into a bit of a more normal schedule and I’m finding more time to get back to doing these things.  Yesterday, I made a delicious salad for supper and we enjoyed it with this homemade Caesar dressing that I found over at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  I love her site.  I use it often for recipes and have never been disappointed.  She makes a lot of things herself vs. buying them at the store and I really like that.

You can pretty much find a homemade recipe for any dressing or sauce out there.  You can find my favorite BBQ sauce recipe here.

Today I will be making up a homemade batch of mayo to be used later in the week for potato salad.  So, I’m going to share that recipe today.  Homemade mayo is the bomb and nothing at all like what you get in the store.  I think once you try it, you’ll be hooked.  We don’t use it a lot, so I don’t mind making up a batch now and then.

Okay, so first the Caesar Dressing.  This stuff is so good.  My picky little Nanner Head will even eat it, which is really saying something.  I made up enough for us to all have some with our salad last night, Brian has some to take to work for his lunch and I have enough for my lunch today too, that will finish it off.  It literally takes 10 minutes to make.  I use my immersion blender and just mix it all up right in my handy dandy Ball plastic jars so I can put it right in the fridge.

Homemade Caesar Dressing (from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

1/4 C. mayo (I use homemade)
1/4 freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 T. fresh lemon juice (one large lemon, juiced)
1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 large clove garlic
1/4 C. olive oil

Just put all into a mixer or you can put in a jar like I do and mix with an immersion blender.  Super easy!

And now for the mayo recipe.  My Mamaw makes the BEST potato salad and I have mastered that recipe.  The girls and Brian actually squeal with joy when I make her potato salad, and especially when I use the homemade mayo.  It’s so creamy and flavorful…and I say that even though I’m not a huge mayo fan.  But this stuff is GOOD.  It takes a bit more time than the Caesar, but if like me, you don’t use it often, it’s definitely worth the effort.

Homemade Mayo (from What’s Cooking America)

2 egg yolks, room temperature*
1 whole egg, room temperature*
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice, plus more if needed**
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Big pinch freshly-ground white pepper
Up to 2 cups olive oil

*** For best results, the fresher the egg the better since you are using raw eggs in this recipe.  If you plan to refrigerate your mayonnaise, then choose a refined oil such as pure olive oil or sunflower oil. An unrefined oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, will solidify when chilled and cause separation later as it returns to room temperature.

Preparation:

Put the egg yolks, egg white, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and white pepper in the work bowl of the food processor or blender; process for 10 seconds or more, until creamy.

With the food processor or blender running continuously, pour in the oil very slowly in driblets at first, to start the emulsion process. Add 10 to 15% of the oil at this time. The first addition should be small and gradual. Wait about 30 second between additions.

When the sauce has definitely thickened, you may add the oil in a thin stream. Do not stop the machine at this point, but cease pouring every few seconds to be sure the oil is being absorbed. Add about 50% of the oil at this time.

Then continue until the remaining 1 1/2 cups of oil are incorporated. You may not need to use all the remaining oil at this time.

Stop the machine and check the mayonnaise for taste and consistency. Adjust the seasonings and, if the mayonnaise is very thick, process in additional drops of lemon juice or warm water to thin. The mayonnaise may be used at this point, or you can process in some of the remaining oil for a thicker sauce.

Transfer the finished mayonnaise to a bowl or jar and store in the refrigerator. If not using right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for a good week. The fresher the eggs used, the longer the mayonnaise will keep.

Makes approximately 2 to 2 1/4 cups.


Precautions for Preparing Mayonnaise:

IMPORTANT: All the ingredients must be at room temperature. If necessary, eggs may be immersed in warm water for 10 minutes to bring them up to temperature before breaking them into the blender jar.

Since raw eggs are being use, only use the freshest eggs you can buy (the fresher, the better). As an egg ages, lecithin, a protein that acts as the central emulsifying agent, breaks down and the power of the egg yolk to stabilize the mayonnaise weakens. You may also use pasteurized eggs.

Eggs keep the fat (oil) and the liquid (vinegar or lemon juice) of the mayonnaise evenly blended together. If egg yolks weren’t used to emulsify the mayonnaise, the heavier liquid would sink and the lighter fat would float just as they do in vinegar and oil dressing.

Never use aluminum bowls or saucepans to prepare mayonnaise, as they will turn the mayonnaise gray. Stainless steel, enameled, plastic (food processor) or glass may be used.

Add the oil very slowly, especially at the beginning.

Since homemade mayonnaise has fresh eggs in it, the mayonnaise should not be left at room temperature for more than a couple hours, as food poisoning is always a concern.

Repairing “Turned” or “Broken” Mayonnaise:

Mayonnaise frequently breaks when stored overnight in the refrigerator and should be reconstituted before being used. If mayonnaise breaks at any point, it can be brought back together by beating the broken mixture bit by bit into a fresh egg yolk. As soon as this new mixture begins to thicken, the broken mayonnaise can be added more quickly.

Eating with the Seasons

Do you eat seasonally?  We do a little bit, but I really want to try to start making a better effort here.  Not only do you save money (buying in-season produce costs less), but always eating with the seasons will ensure that you are getting a nice variety of fruits and vegetables. It takes some planning ahead, but I’ve been meal planning for a long time now, so that’s nothing new.  The trick will be to start plugging in seasonal recipes instead of the same old same old, which is going to require some investigating.  Here are a few links I’ve found that have some recipes for eating seasonally:

 

http://www.marthastewart.com/276955/seasonal-produce-recipe-guide

http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/Recipes_for_Winter_Menu_Plan/1911

http://thymeforcooking.com/

Do you have any sites that you use to help with ideas for seasonal recipes?

 

AND – on a completely unrelated note:  I am freezing.  I went for a walk this morning and ever since I have done nothing but sit and drink coffee.  Worst. Winter. Ever.

Exhausted

Switching out the winter clothes with the summer ones…

Yikes.

And that’s just the beginning.  I’m spring cleaning this week.  The girls are on spring break, so they’ll be outside playing most of the time.  Brian starts his new job today, so he’ll be gone & I’ll pretty much have the place to myself except for the occasional, “We’re thirsty!” or “We’re hungry!” or “She hit me!”, so I’m planning to hit the cleaning pretty hard. I’ve already taken the handle & glass pane off of the oven door & scrubbed them both.  They were filthy!  And I’ve got the oven auto-cleaning right now.  Later I’m going to pull out the oven & fridge and clean behind and under both. And try to get the rest of the kitchen done today if at all possible.  I’m tired just thinking about it!

We are redecorating the girls’ room right now and they want to have a garage sale so they can make some money off of all of their old stuff.  So…at the same time that I’m spring cleaning, I’ll also be purging out things for a garage sale.

All of this on a day that’s supposed to be 81 degrees.  I can already hear my bicycle calling to me…

Why Multi-Tasking Is Not My Strong Suit

This past week has been a complete blur.  I have been subbing a lot again, even though I said I wasn’t going to do it anymore.  I feel bad because I heard through the grapevine that there aren’t as many subs this year as last and so I have a hard time saying no.  I told the lady that schedules the subs to only call me when she can’t find anyone else and I’m still getting called about twice a week.  On top of that, I am volunteering on Wednesdays & Fridays in the girls’ classes.  Then running the girls to basketball & softball practices, and taking George to get his errands done along with my own.

My house is suffering for it.  I have a mountain of laundry in the basement.  And the rest of the house is a wreck.  I decided that today I would really get organized because the coming week promises to be another blur.

I’ve been washing & hanging clothes on the line, vacuuming, dusting, etc., trying to get as much done as possible.  Trying to get ahead of the game, if you will.

A few weeks ago, Brian & the girls & I had a little bonfire in our backyard.  My cousin lives across the alley from us, so we went over & borrowed their skewers for roasting marshmallows.  I’ve been meaning to wash them & give them back to him.  So, I started the water in the sink & put the skewers in.  I walked out of the room and somehow got the idea to vacuum the stairs real quick.  However, I forgot one little thing…the water in the kitchen sink was still running.  It probably took me 10 minutes to vacuum the stairs.  I walked back in to the kitchen & found this…

I ran over & shut the water off just in time.  The water was teetering on the edge of spilling over.  This is typical for me.  You would be surprised at how many times I do absent-minded things like this.  Actually you probably wouldn’t be that surprised, would you?

Last week I was watching this famous athlete on TV (can’t remember who) and he was talking about how he really puts everything he has into whatever he happens to be doing in that moment.  For example, if he is playing with his kids, then he’s playing with his kids and not letting his mind wander to all the other things that he needs to be doing.  Or if he’s playing whatever his particular sport is, then his mind is completely into that while he is doing it, etc…

Okay, so I’m gonna go with that from now on.  Multi-tasking is just not in my wheelhouse.

A Few Thoughts On Motherhood

I was recently watching some old home movies and looking at pictures from when the girls were babies.  I did the usual “where does the time go?” thing and just sat there thinking of all the memories we have made thus far.  Hannah is 6 and Katie is almost 9.  How did that happen?

But as the words of my favorite Tracy Lawrence song go:  time marches on.

That it does.  Sometimes that makes me so sad.  I want to rewind the clock and go back to those babies with their chubby cheeks and be able to rock them to sleep again and hold them (I can’t even pick Katie up anymore and Nanner is getting heavier every day!).

It seems like it can be so easy to get tunnel vision with parenting.  Cooking, cleaning, homework, volunteering at school.  I sometimes get stressed and think that I’m failing because there is so much to do and there never seems to be enough time.  Fortunately, I have come to learn that when I start feeling that way, I just need to take a little breather and remember that this is what makes me happy.  This is what providing a sense of comfort, peace and “home” for my family is all about.  It doesn’t matter if the house is perfectly clean 24/7.  It’s not the end of the world if the fact that I worked at school for a few hours cutting out Christmas trees and ornaments made me get a little behind and we had to improvise for supper that night.  What matters is that my girls can come home every day to a loving home after school where I am waiting to hear about their day.  And seeing their faces light up when I show up at school to help out in their classes makes it totally worth the fact that I didn’t get to finish all the laundry that day.

In a perfect world, the chores would always be done, supper would always go according to plan and I would still have time to volunteer without ever getting behind on anything.  But in this real world, things can get a little off-kilter.  The key is to remember these things that seem to be a hindrance at times are the very things that we wanted when we decided that I should quit my job and stay home.  Looking at it in that light certainly takes the stress out of these ordinary days.

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