Holidays and stress go hand in hand. We want to enjoy family and friends but our need to have everything perfect, only leads to a huge build up of stress.

The expectations of social events, gift shopping, and entertaining guests can become too much for even the most festive types. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association 8 out of 10 people expect to experience an increase in stress over the holiday season.

With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression, and reports from the Mayo Clinic show that depression is frequently an unwelcome guest over the holidays.

All is not lost however, there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow you to truly enjoy the season.

Set A Budget

A lot of the stress that we experience during the holidays is due to financial pressure and the Mayo Clinic suggests that setting a budget can be beneficial to your stress levels. Work out how much you can afford to spend on food and gifts, and stick to it, even if you have to leave the mailman off the gift list.

Exercise

The American Heart Association wants you to stay active all the time, and it’s extremely important to keep that up during the holidays. Any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. It’s going to stimulate endorphin production and trigger a positive feeling in your body.

You might be busy, but if you can find time to exercise for half an hour three times a week, you will feel better. You can go walking or jogging, swimming or biking, play sports with your kids or just plain get off your butt and move!

Take It Easy

There are parties and gatherings and we are constantly surrounded by people. It’s great to be with the ones we love and laugh about the old days.

You shouldn’t miss all those great times, but what you should be careful of, is setting unrealistic expectations. You can’t do everything, and it’s okay to take time out for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes.

If you do a whole lot of hosting, make sure you delegate, whether you ask everyone to bring a different dish, or you rope in family to take on certain tasks.

Stay Smart

The holiday season is a time of indulgence, but, it doesn’t mean you should abandon your healthy ways. There’s no need for a free for all that will just add to your stress.

Enjoy yourself, but try having healthy snacks before holiday gatherings so you don’t over snack while you’re out. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep, as you are more likely to overindulge after a poor night’s sleep.

Bottom Line

Self-care is conscious choice and this is even more true during times of more stress, such as the holiday season. Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan! Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, family and relaxation, don’t let stress interfere with this great time of year.

Food safety and barbecues should go hand in hand. Keeping your food at the right temperature before and after cooking is very important.

food safety

Barbecues are a great time to get together with friends and family. The noise of loved ones, fresh air and the wonderful aroma of barbecued foods is a recipe for a great time. But with this fun comes the responsibility of knowing all of the food safety tips for barbecues.

Proper Refrigeration

No one wants food poisoning, and because of this you need to make sure to keep your foods properly refrigerated before and after they are barbecued.

Foods, and especially meat of any kind, needs to be kept in the refrigerator as long as possible before being cooked. Don’t let the meat marinate on the shelf, as bacteria can begin to grow under these circumstances. Play it safe and move the items in your fridge around the night before so that you have ample room to store all your various foods there on the day of the barbecue.

Keep an Eye on the Temperature

Always know the temperature on the day you are having your barbecue. Whether your meat is being brought back into the house or sitting outside, know what conditions you are working with temperature-wise.

If it is a hot day, be sure to keep the meat in the shade or indoors. Don’t ever allow food to sit in direct sunlight as it can spoil very quickly. If it is hot both indoors and out, put the most sensitive items in the fridge or in a slow cooker, with a sign directing guests where to fill their plates.

Make Only as Much as Needed

When you are cooking items such as meat, make only as much as needed, plus a little more. Although everyone loves leftover barbecue, it is much more important to keep food safety rules as first priority, and to get rid of any leftovers.

Because of this, make smaller batches of food and simply quit once everyone seems to have gotten their fill. If this means that individuals have to wait for second helpings, this is preferable to food spoiling and harming your guests. Besides, they will surely be able to find someone to chat with while waiting for their steak or burger to cook.

What Meat Can Be Eaten Pink?

There are rules of barbecue safety that must be followed if you want to have an incident-free event. Pork and chicken must always be cooked thoroughly.

When it comes to beef, there is a rule of thumb that should be followed. Any meat that has ever been exposed must be cooked. That means that when it comes to steak, you can leave the inside pink if you wish, as long as the outer edges are well-cooked. For ground beef, since all of it has been ground up and exposed at some point, it must be cooked through.

Don’t Cross-Contaminate

Vegetables will not need to be cooked as long as meat. For this reason, leave your vegetable skewers and other non-meat items separate from the meat. Add the vegetables to the grill near the end when the meat is almost cooked, instead of the beginning when raw juices are on the grill.

Barbecues are a good time to showcase your cooking skills. Keep it safe and learn how to make your time enjoyable and free of food poisoning episodes. Follow these rules and you will have a great time as you barbecue, leaving your food safety worries aside.

 

 

 

 

Pizza anyone?

When kids are at that difficult stage where everything is “mine”, you can make their little hearts go pitter-patter by serving them an individual pizza and letting them choose their own toppings. This thin crust recipe may be the answer to that age old question of , how do I do that?

Everyone's Favorite, Pizza

You will need these ingredients:

1 cup of warm water

½ package of active dry yeast (about 1 & 1/8 teaspoon)

1 and ½ teaspoon of granulated sugar ½ teaspoon of salt

3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

3 cups of bread flour

Blended Pizza Cheese (Mozzarella and Provolone)

Instructions:

This dough does not have to rise.  Using a large bowl, combine the warm water with the yeast, sugar, oil and salt. Mix until the yeast dissolves. Use a wooden spoon, to mix in the flour, ½ cup at a time. Once it’s all mixed together, knead it on a floured counter until it feels elastic.  Divide into 4 parts, roll each into a ball and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Assemble your favorite toppings.  You can use a jar of prepared pizza sauce or make a simple sauce yourself by combining a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce with 1 and ½ Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a pinch of sugar.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. A pizza stone will deliver a crispy crust, whether thick or thin. Otherwise a baking sheet will do. Shape each individual dough ball into a round crust about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Add the sauce and a few toppings (not too many) and sprinkle on pizza cheese.

Bake at 425 degrees for 11 to 17 minutes turning once or twice after 10 minutes if needed to achieve the crust to your liking.

Yay, pizza for everyone!

Not long ago I read that you should not place your fruits and vegetables into the drawers that are provided for that use in our refrigerators.  Of course I though that can’t be right, why would they be there if it was for the storage of fruits and vegetables?  I had to check this out.
fruits and vegetables
Well, after moving my fruits and vegetables to one of the shelves in my refrigerator, using two of those small plastic baskets you can by at any dollar store, for a week, I found the article was right.  By having the fruits and vegetables where I could see them, I used them more often and had less waste in my food and food budget.

So now my fresh foods are on the shelf and my ketchup, mustard and mayo are kept in the drawers. Sometimes we just need to rethink things in a new light to get a better look at them.  I love having my favorite foods up where I can see them and know what I have on hand.  Not only do I eat more of them but it stops me from buying extra and wasting my food budget.

Did you know that fresh corn on the cob, should not be stored in the refrigerator?  By doing so, you allow it’s natural sweet flavor to turn to starch, loosing it’s moisture, thus becoming hard to eat and digest.  Store it with it’s natural covering left on, for up to 48 hours, in the coolest part of your pantry. Generally on the bottom shelf or floor.   Fresh corn should be eaten as soon as possible.

Another [fruit] vegetable, Tomatoes, should not be stored in the fridge either.  They also loose most of their natural sweetness in the cold.  Keep a pretty bowl on your counter and let their beauty shine.

As I keep saying, savings are all around us, we just need to keep our minds and eyes open to them.

What is your favorite savings tip, comment below?

Sometimes it’s just hard to come up with a recipe to feed a large group for breakfast.  One of these recipes could be your answer to that problem.

Veggie Cheese Breakfast Casserole

 

You will need:

1 12-16 ounce package of Country Sausage

2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

9 eggs, beaten

1-2 Cups of fresh veggies, chopped in bite size pieces

[carrots, broccoli, onions, peppers, etc]

If you don’t have fresh, frozen will do but do not use canned. There is too much liquid in canned. Your casserole will not bake good. The bread will become soggy and it will taste terrible.

2 cans of refrigerated crescent rolls

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crumble and brown the entire package of sausage and pour off any fat.

Coat a 9” x 13” baking dish with a non-stick spray and line it with one package of the crescent rolls. Put the cooked sausage on top of the rolls and top with the cheese.

Add in the veggies, then pour in the eggs and top with the second package of crescent rolls. Bake 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve warm with a buttery maple syrup on the side.

Breakfast Bacon Egg Cup

breakfast egg cup

You will need:

A muffin pan

Enough sliced bread to fit one in each muffin hole, crust removed [save the crust]

12 ounce Package of Bacon, cut in half

An egg for each muffin hole

1-2 Cups of Shredded Cheese, your choice

Directions:

Coat each hole in the muffin pan with cooking spray.

Criss cross 2 pieces of bacon in each hole

Press a slice of bread into each hole, to form a pocket

Break and drop an egg into each pocket.

Top with the cheese, then pull the bacon up over the top of the pocket.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until the bacon is

crisp and the egg is done.

Serve with fresh fruit and a warm drink for your complete breakfast.

**Vegetables can also be added to the egg pocket, just remember to keep

them bite size so they will cook in the same temperature.

You can organize one or both of these recipes the night before and be ready to cook breakfast in no time, come morning. 

How do we make it meatless and still enjoy our meal?  The latest food guide at MyPyramid.gov is still based on grain foods, but now it recommends from nine to thirteen servings of fruits and veggies a day along with more servings of legumes, dried beans and peas, lentils and the like. It’s not an impossible task to make it meatless, not if you combine several items in a single dish.

make it meatless

For dinner, it’s easy to make a nutritious meatless casserole with a grain and assorted vegetables. With the exception of soy foods, though, the protein of plant foods is incomplete. So, for good nutritional balance, many casseroles also include an animal protein food, such as eggs. In addition to providing the highest quality protein next to mother’s milk, eggs are nutrient-dense, their nutrient total is high compared to their calorie count.

In Rice, Bean & Veggie Casserole you have one of the best ways to make it meatless, using eggs to bind together a short list of have-on-hand ingredients. You can layer the minimal-prep casserole in almost no time one evening, refrigerate it and pop it into the oven when you arrive home the next day. For the rice base, cook the instant variety or make good use of what’s left over from take-out. With handy bottled salsa, any hotness level your family prefers, a can of beans and corn, all you need to do from scratch is chop some colorful peppers. Simply beat the eggs, then add the shredded cheese before layering it into the casserole. To round out a no-fuss meal, add only a tossed green salad to the flavorful, hearty entree.

Rice, Bean & Veggie Casserole

6 servings

Cooking spray

6 eggs

1 cup (4 oz.) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese

3 cups cooked rice (1 cup raw)

1 jar (16 oz.) thick and chunky red salsa, divided

1 can (15 oz.) red kidney or black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup whole kernel corn (about 3 oz.)

1 cup chopped green, yellow and/or sweet red pepper (about 5 oz. or 1 medium)

Evenly coat 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking pan with spray. Set aside. In medium bowl, beat together eggs and cheese. Stir in rice. Pour into prepared pan. Smooth with back of spoon or gently shake pan to spread rice mixture evenly in pan. Gently spread 1 cup of the salsa over rice mixture. In medium bowl, stir together beans, corn and pepper. Evenly spoon bean mixture over salsa. Drizzle remaining 1 cup salsa over bean mixture.  Add a layer of cheese on the top and place into the oven.

Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven until casserole is puffed and begins to pull away from sides of pan and knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes.

Making it meatless from time to time, will not only save you money but improve your health by incorporating more veggies into your diet.

Nutritional information per serving of 1/6 recipe using kidney beans and red pepper: 334 calories, 10 gm total fat, 226 mg cholesterol, 815 mg sodium, 346 mg potassium, 42 gm carbohydrate, 19 gm protein and 10% or more of the RDI for vitamins A, B12 and C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, dietary fiber.

Frugal Meals Using A Whole Chicken

When money is tight or you’re just in the mood to cook something you can then turn into a few different delicious frugal meals for the coming days, look no further than a whole chicken and your slow cooker or crock pot.

Chicken is such a versatile meat and once it’s cooked, it’s easy to add it to sauces, casseroles, salads, you name it. It all starts with nothing more than a whole chicken from the grocery store.

frugal meals

Slow Cooking The Chicken

Get out your slow cooker and look around for some veggie scraps, onions, carrots or the likes. It doesn’t take much. All you want is to line the bottom of your slow cooker with a few sliced vegetables so your chicken doesn’t stick. Of course, the vegetables will also add flavor.

This is also, a great time to use up that celery that’s starting to go limp, or that open bag of baby carrots that doesn’t’ look fresh anymore. Slice your onion, break your celery into chunks and toss in your baby carrots. If you’re in the mood for it, add a garlic clove or two to the mix for extra flavor.

Take your chicken out of the bag. Check for the little baggie stuffed inside the chicken with the *neck, liver, gizzards etc. Toss those in your crock pot and rinse your chicken. Pat it dry and lay it breast side up on top of the veggies. Season with salt and pepper.

Close the lid and cook your chicken on high for about 6 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours. You know it is done when the legs start to pull away from the body.

The chicken will be tender and falling from the bone. You’ll also notice some cooking liquid in the pot. Pull the meat off as best you can, focusing on the large chunks of breast, thigh and leg meat. Set the meat aside, but leave everything else in the slow cooker.

Making Chicken Broth

What makes this a frugal chicken is that we’re going to make use of every little bit, including the bones, skin and bits of meat that are left in the slow cooker along with the veggies. It’s time to turn this into delicious, wholesome chicken broth. You can sip the broth as a hot drink when it’s done or use it as the base for soups, stews, beans or cooking vegetables. This is good stuff and it has a lot more flavor plus nutritional value than the stock you buy at the grocery store.

When you are done pulling the meat off the chicken, add plenty of water to the slow cooker along with a splash of apple cider vinegar if you have it. The vinegar is optional and is there to help leach as many minerals as possible from the bones. Skipping it won’t affect the flavor of your broth.

Turn the slow cooker on high until your mixture comes to a boil, then simmer the broth on low for several hours. The longer you cook it, the more intense the flavor will get. I usually cook it overnight.

Get out a large bowl, pot, or heat-safe pitcher and a strainer. Ladle the finished broth through the strainer. Discard the bones and veggie scraps.

Allow the broth to cool until it is safe to handle, then pour it into containers. Glass jars work well, as do plastic freezer containers. If you plan on freezing your broth, leave some room in the containers when you fill them. You can even pour some of the broth into ice cube trays, freeze them and then use the little cubes of frozen broth when you’re cooking veggies for added flavor and nutrition.

As the broth cools, you’ll notice that it will thicken up and that there is a layer of fat on the top. That’s what good homemade broth is supposed to look like. It has plenty of healthy fat and the main part of the broth has thickened up with the collagen you’ve cooked out of the cartilage of the chicken bones.

If you want low fat chicken broth, set the container in the fridge for a few hours, until the fat rises to the top and solidifies. You can grab the whole solid chunk and remove it from the broth. I usually take out about half of the fat but if you want to keep it, stir it back into the broth, as you are heating the broth for cooking.

Get Creative

Slice and serve of the freshly cooked chicken breast with rice and a salad or some steamed veggies the first night.  After that, it’s time to get creative with your frugal meals.  Remember, By day two you also will have some delicious chicken stock to work with.

Make a batch of chicken and cabbage soup with some of the shredded chicken, a cup of rice, the broth and whatever other vegetables you want to add. I have found that cubed potatoes, corn and green beans work well with this soup.

You can make chicken sandwiches or chicken salad anyone, serve it in tacos or burritos. Add it to your favorite chicken casserole recipe, or make some creamed chicken and pasta. Can any one say multi frugal meals?… 

The broth makes a great base for any type of soup or stew plus you can even cook your dried beans in it for another frugal and nutritious dish.

The next time you see whole chickens on sale, grab up a couple or more. Their possibilities are almost endless.  It’s easy to make 3 or 4 frugal meals from one chicken.

*I normally cook these in a small pot, adding them and their liquid, to the slow cooker when it’s time to make the bone broth. I discard the liver at this time as I do not like the flavor it puts in my cooked broth. But that is up to you if you want to use it or not.

What does Chicken Noodle Soup have to do with a wedding, you might be thinking?  Last week my grandson got married.  He and his new bride did something at their reception that I had never seen before.  They ask some of their family members to make soups for the reception.  My grandson ask me to do his favorite home made Chicken Noodle Soup.

It’s a simple recipe that doesn’t take long to put together in a slow cooker. It’s a soup I have made for him and others several times over the years. I’m going to share the recipe with you, you never know when you might need a memory to share.

Zac’s Chicken Noodle Soup

hassieskitchentable.com

You will need:

8 Cups of Chicken Stock

2 Cups of Cooked Chicken, cubed

3 Stalks of Celery, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

2 Carrots, sliced into 1/4 pieces

1 Medium Onion, diced

1 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Pepper

1/4 Teaspoon Poultry Season

2 Cups of Pasta, I used bow ties but any pasta will do.

Place everything except the pasta into the slow cooker.  Stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Cook on high for one hour then lower the heat to the low setting.  While the mixture is cooking on low, cook your pasta on your stove, as directed on the package, until they are almost done, el dente`.  I have found trying to cook pasta in a slow cooker, will reward you will a gummy mess, most of the time.  So I prefer to cook it on my stove, then drain and add to the slow cooker, stir to well incorporated.  You will want to cook for another 30 minutes on low, allowing the pasta to absorb the Chicken Noodle Soup flavor, then serve while hot.*

*If you have a newer slow cooker, it might have a keep warm setting, if so, place the soup on that setting.  Refrigerate your leftover soup within 2 hours after removing the heat source.

As you can see from the picture, because I was making two gallons, I had to make it in my large soup pot.  If you have a large gathering, you can double the recipe and do like wise.

12 Tips for Soup and Salad Lovers

1. With soup, it is easy to “Cook Once, Eat Twice” (or three times!). Soup is the perfect freezer food, which means leftovers won’t go to waste. Soup will keep in the freezer for a couple months, so don’t hesitate to whip up extra large batches to enjoy now and later.

soup and salad lovers

2. Freeze leftover soup in muffin tins for easy-to-transport single-serve lunch portions.

3. Allow soup to cool overnight in the refrigerator before freezing. Putting hot soup into your freezer can briefly increase the internal temperature of your freezer, which could negatively impact your already frozen items.

4. Don’t add cold milk or cream straight from the refrigerator to your soups while cooking. To prevent curdling, warm the milk and cream up before adding to the simmering soup.

5. Mirepoix is a combination of diced carrots, celery and onion used to add flavor to soups, stocks and broths. The smaller the pieces are cut, the faster they will release their flavor.

6. When making soup, “sweat” aromatics, like onions or garlic, first. Simply sauté these ingredients in a little olive oil or butter until they are soft. This will release their flavors and enhance the final taste of your recipe.

7. Give your soup a chance to cool a bit before adding final seasoning. When soup is boiling hot, it is difficult to tell whether or not it actually needs more salt or other seasonings.

8. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to broth-based soups before serving to “brighten” up the flavors. Citrus has a natural fresh taste to it that will liven up the other flavors in your soup.

9. Save time cleaning up by making your salad dressing in the same bowl you plan to serve your salad in. Mix up your dressing ingredients and let them sit for a while to give the flavors a chance to meld. Then add the rest of your salad ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat right before serving. If you make more dressing than you need for one salad, simply pour off the excess into another storage container before adding your salad ingredients.

10. When making homemade vinaigrette, add a little Dijon mustard or mayonnaise to emulsify the mixture. This will help hold together the oil and vinegar (or other acidic components) longer.

11. No one likes a soggy salad. Don’t add dressing until right before you serve it to keep your lettuce crisp.

12. It’s important to thoroughly wash lettuce before eating it, but it can be challenging to get it dry enough to hold your dressing. If you eat a lot of salad, a salad spinner is definitely worth the investment.

Ingredients for A Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup

hassieskitchentable.com

Potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables. You can do so many things with them, including this wonderful simple soup.

You will need:

4 Cups of Chicken Broth

1 ½ Cup of Whole Milk

2 to 2 ½ Cups of Potatoes, cubed

¼ Cup Celery, thinly sliced

¼ Cup Carrots, thinly sliced

½ Cup Sweet White Onions

¾ Teaspoon of Salt

¼ Teaspoon of White Pepper

4 Ounces of Cream Cheese, room temperature, cut into one inch pieces

1 Tablespoon Corn Starch

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Add the oil to a six quart soup pot, heating it over medium high heat.

When the oil gets hot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Cook for two – three

minutes while stirring. Turn the heat down to simmer.

Add the chicken broth, potatoes and spices, cooking until the potatoes are

fork tender [about 10 minutes].

Add 1 Cup of the milk, while stirring, to avoid curdling. When the milk has reached the same temperature as the cooking soup, drop in the cream

cheese, allowing it to melt for a couple of minutes before stirring the soup,

once more.

Taste the mixture to be sure you do not need to add more salt or pepper.

If more is needed, do so now.

Add the corn starch and the rest of the milk to a small bowl and mix well.

Slowly pour the mixture into the hot soup, stirring, until the soup thickens. Reduce the heat to warm and allow the soup to cool.

Serve with a good hardy bread or an assortment of crackers.

Options:

[1] Top with your favorite shredded cheese.

[2] Slice a couple green onions and sprinkle on top.

[3] A couple tablespoons of Bacon Bits will add lots of extra flavor.

[4] Add a pinch or two of Red Pepper Flakes to the cooking soup,

to add a little kick to the soup.

[5] Float a pat of butter on top of the hot soup.