As most of you know, I grow my own fresh vegetables, nine months out of the year.  One of the most ask questions I get is, “What do you do with all those fresh vegetables”?  I eat the most of them but I do give about 25% of them to family and friends.

When I pass them on, I also try to give them one of my favorite recipes for this easy dip.  I use this on cold and hot, fresh vegetables.

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This can be used as a cold dip, salad dressing or drizzled over steamed vegetables.

Recipe:

1/2 cup of your favorite Italian Dressing

1/2 cup of Mayonnaise

Shake in a lidded jar until completely incorporated.  Chill for 2-3 hours before using.  Store in the refrigerator between uses.

Option Recipe:

When I use the recipe on hot fresh vegetables, I change it a little bit with a little Cream Cheese.

1/2 Cup of your favorite Italian Dressing

2 Ounces of Cream Cheese [room temperature]

1/3 Cup of Mayonnaise

Follow the directions from above, making sure the cream cheese has mixed throughout the dressing before refrigerating.

If you want some help growing your own fresh vegetables, check out www.GrowingWhatYouEat.com where I share all my gardening secrets.

Eating fresh organic vegetables every day is one of the top ways to keep yourself healthy and alert for the future.

Try this recipe at your next gathering but be ready to chop a lot of fresh vegetables.

 

 

 

Are you getting enough iron in your diet? Many people don’t get enough iron in their diet. It’s an important element because it carries oxygen throughout your body. It’s required for digestion and many functions on a cellular level. Without enough iron in your diet, you will feel fatigued and can get sick easier. Women and children are particularly susceptible to iron deficiency and supplementation is often recommended to help them prevent anemia.

Red meat and shellfish are both easy sources of iron. However, there are many vegetable options, too. The following are a few of the vegetable choices that are richest in iron:

Seeds

Squash and pumpkin seeds are among the highest in iron. One ounce contains 4mg of iron or 23 percent of your recommended daily value. An ounce of sesame seeds also contains 23 percent of your daily value, sunflower seeds have 11 percent and flax seeds have 9 percent of your daily value. As you can see, a handful of seeds can help you get the daily iron you need.

Nuts

Nuts including cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, and almonds all have a good amount of iron. An ounce of cashews has 1.7 mg or 9 percent of your daily value. An ounce of pine nuts also contain 9 percent of your daily value. Hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, and pistachios all have 7 percent plus Macadamia nuts have 6 percent of your recommended daily value of iron in your diet.

Beans

Lentils and white beans have a good amount of iron in them. A cup of cooked beans has 6.6mg or 37 percent of your daily iron in your diet value. Other beans that are high in iron include soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas, Lima and navy beans, black beans, pinto beans and black eyed peas. For many, a diet of beans and rice is a staple because it also provides a complete protein.

iron in you diet

Whole Grains

Whole grains also have iron. Quinoa is the highest with 15 percent of your daily value in one cup. Oats, barley and rice also provide iron for your diet and fortified grains plus many cereals contain more. Read the ingredients on their box to choose one high in iron for your diet.

Finally, let’s not forget dark leafy greens like spinach, beet tops, collards and chard which have 36 percent of your daily iron needs, per cup. The next time you make a pot of vegetable soup, drop in 3 or 4 handfuls of the leafy greens to enrich the iron in your diet. The goal is to make sure that you get enough. If not, your doctor may recommend supplementation to keep your body supplied with the right amount of iron it needs to run properly.

Have you ever tried to come up with a new desert but drawn a blank? Try using a cake mix and see what you can come up with for that special treat.
Here are three of my favorites.

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Apple Spice Cake
1 Yellow Cake Mix
1/2 Can of Apple Sauce
1-2 Teaspoons of Apple Pie Spices
2 Eggs

Pour the cake mix into a medium size mixing bowl. Stir to remove any large lumps. Add 1 teaspoon of Apple Pie Spices and stir to incorporate. Add the apple sauce and eggs, whisk to mix thoroughly until the batter is smooth. If you cannot smell the spices, add more 1/2 teaspoon at a time. The older your spices are, the more you will need as they loose some of their taste and aroma with age.
If you feel the cake mix is not moist enough you may add more applesauce to the batter, 1/4 cup at a time until you are satisfied with it’s texture.  But don’t over do it or you will end up with a dense cake instead of a light airy one.
Bake at 375 degrees until the top is golden and bounces back to the touch, about 35 minutes. Top with a light covering of Powdered Sugar for a beautiful desert.

Cherry Dump Cake
1 White Cake Mix
1 Can of Cherry Pie Filling
1 Stick of Butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Spread the pie filling on the bottom of an 11 inch casserole dish then sprinkle the cake mix over the pie filling. You want to keep the dry cake mix even throughout the covering. Next place the butter pieces over the cake mix and place in a 350 degree preheated over until done, about 30-35 minutes in most ovens. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream for a delightful desert.

Peanut Butter Cookies
1 Yellow Cake Mix
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter, smooth or chunky, your choice
1/4 to 1/3 Cup of Vegetable Oil [start with 1/4 cup and add the extra, a teaspoon at a time, only if you need it.]

Mix all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. You should have a tight dough that you can roll into small quarter size balls. Place each ball on a cool cookie sheet about 3-4 inches apart. You do not need to grease the pan, as the dough has more than enough oil to keep the cookies from sticking. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool for 5-6 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack, to completely cool. You should get 32-36 cookies from one cake mix box.

 

Beets, The Forgotten Vegetable

There are many great vegetables we enjoy during the winter months. While the foods we probably most think about during that time are the turkey, the ham, and the desserts, the vegetables really play an important role, both in that holiday meal and for the rest of the winter.

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Beets In The Garden

Everyone has their must have vegetable at the dinner table but rarely do you see beets on the family table. Beets are a great vegetable to enjoy all winter long. Fall to spring these are in season. They are sweet, especially when roasted, and make a great addition to any salad. So enjoy that garden salad all winter long with some fresh roasted or pickled beets on top.

Mixing beet tops in with your favorite salad greens is another way to get more vitamins and nutrition into your everyday dinner salad. They are packed with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C. Beets also contain Folic Acid, Iodine, Manganese, Potassium, Iron, Calcium, Copper and Phosphorus. All these things are needed for a healthy body.

You can eat beets that have been boiled, steamed, sauteed or roasted. Select beets that are firm to the touch. Older beets become spongy with age. Beets that are between 3 and 4 inches are best for roasting and cooking but smaller ones can be pickled for use in salads and relishes.

Store your fresh beets in the refrigerator until ready to use. Beets have an outer skin that needs to be removed before eating. If you roast the beets, their skin will slide off easily but if you are boiling or using them raw, peel them with a vegetable peeler first.

Beets go well with other root vegetables, can be added to soups but one of my favorite ways is to make chips that are healthier for you than the regular potato chips.

Beet Chips

3-4 Small Beets

Oil for frying

2-3 Tablespoons of flour

Sea Salt to taste

Peel the beets and slice into thin pieces, using a mandolin. Heat the oil on medium high heat. Add the beets to a ziploc plastic bag, sprinkle the flour over the beets and shake to cover. Add the beet slices to the hot oil, shaking off any access flour first and fry until slices are a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the top. Eat and enjoy while still warm.

 

The first thing that comes to my mind, when dealing with leftovers, is soup. You can make a soup out of just about anything you have on hand, including holiday leftovers.

Roasted Chicken Leftovers

This year we didn’t have turkey for Christmas, we had [3] Roasted Chickens instead. After pulling off the meat, I kept the carcass to make our soup of the week. I’ll add them to 4 quarts of water with a teaspoon of salt, 2 celery stalks, 1 medium onion and 2 carrots. I’ll bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat down, allowing it to simmer for an hour or so, then drain off the broth, to use for the soup stock. I’ll reserve any loose chicken meat and the vegetables.

To the stock, I’ll add back in the carrots, celery, onion* and any leftover chicken, vegetables, including the mashed potatoes and gravy. The potatoes will thicken the soup and give it a creamy texture. Taste to see if it needs more seasonings, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, giving the ingredients time to mingle. Serve the soup with a loaf of warm French Bread and a new dessert. No one will know they are eating what was left of their holiday feast.

My second suggestion is a frittata. It’s another easy dinner that can utilize a lot of the stuff you might otherwise have thrown away.

To make one, use two or three eggs per person. Crack into a bowl and beat with salt and pepper. Then, add in vegetable leftovers, using whatever is in the fridge. Cold meat, can be sliced into bite size pieces and added in. Cooked vegetables can go right in. You may want to rinse them in hot water to remove their older seasonings. If so, be sure to drain them well before adding them to the egg mixture or your frittata might become wet and runny.

Firm fresh produce (carrots, broccoli, and even mushrooms) should be sauteed until tender, preferably with a little garlic or onion, before adding to the eggs. Italians even throw in leftover pasta, which is a great way to use those leftovers. Then, heat a little olive oil in a large saute pan, that can also be used in the oven and pour in the egg mixture.

While the egg mixture is cooking, turn the broiler on low. Heat eggs on stove top until they start setting around the edge of the pan. Then, grate some cheese over the top. (Use what you have on hand. Cheddar is really good with broccoli; Italian cheese like Parmesan is delicious with ham and/or mushroom.) Turn off the stove top and place the pan under the broiler until eggs are set and cheese is melted. Allow to cool briefly, then slice as you would a pie and serve.

You have just made good use of food items that might have gotten tossed. In turn, you have a couple of delicious dinners and saved lots of money in your food budget using your leftovers.

* cut the vegetables into 1/2 inch pieces

Cooking Meals and Saving Money on Winter Comfort Foods

The cold weather months are excellent for hearty comfort foods that warm you up and keep you full. Delicious soups, stews, and hot casseroles abound, most so good, that you almost don’t miss the warmer weather. Even better, many wintertime comfort foods can be made without spending a lot and they go a long way.  Often, you can feed a big family or make enough for a week’s worth of meals, and spend very little money on each serving.

enchiladas_nim

Save Time

Most people tend to slow down during the winter. Maybe it’s the cold, or maybe it’s the layer of ice or snow which is keeping everyone in the sloth mode, but people tend to move slower and take their time.  All that extra time spent bundling up and thawing out means you don’t have a lot of extra time to cook a gourmet meal. Luckily, winter is the best time for some simple meal ideas.

Slow Cooked

Slow cookers, or “crock pots” as they are also called, are the perfect solution for family meals on the go. Simply put your ingredients in the cooker in the morning, turn it on, and then come home to a delicious hot meal waiting for you. Most recipes are so simple you just throw everything in and go, while others may require very little prep.

cold weather comfort foods

Fix It and Forget It

Winter cooking is a great time to make use of some super easy “fix it and forget it” type meals. For example, a pot roast with some chopped veggies can be thrown into the oven and a timer set, cooking to perfection while you relax or get some other tasks done.

Savory Staples

To save money and keep your tummies full and satisfied, look to stocking winter staples. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes go well in just about any savory winter dish, keep for quite a while, and are almost always some of the cheapest produce your grocery store has to offer.

Pantry Perfection

For simple, delicious, and hot meals of your favorite comfort foods, to warm you up when the weather gets cold, look no farther than a stocked pantry. Canned goods, rice, and pasta make for fast, easy, and cheap casserole ideas that cost even less than the time it takes to throw them together.

Extra Tips

Keep it simple – The simplest meals are often the most delicious, especially during the winter when anything hot and savory really hits the spot. Very few ingredients can go a long way.

Prep ahead – A little extra prep in the morning, or even spending time to prep once a week, can make meal times easy in the wintertime. For example, chopping up veggies and putting them in bags in the freezer cuts down on time and makes it super simple for you to just grab them whenever you need to.

Coupons – Most coupons tend to be for canned and boxed goods, so winter is the best time to make use of these pantry staples and save a lot of money.

Cooking is easy when you utilize some of these simple solutions. Not only can you make hot, satisfying comfort foods, but you can also save money in the process.

Most of us are busy throughout the year but with the holidays coming we sometimes need a little extra help in keeping up with our duties.  These are a few of my favorite quick and easy dinners to do, just that.

Chicken Pizza Casserole:

Line an oven safe casserole dish or pizza pan with frozen chicken nuggets, get them as close as possible. Then pour a can of tomato sauce over the nuggets. Layer in about ¾ cup of mozzarella cheese and your favorite veggie toppings*. Cover tightly, with foil.

If you are going to use within 48 hours, place it your fridge until needed, then bake covered at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake until the cheese has melted and slightly browns.

*Cut your veggies into bit sizes for even cooking. A Jar of pizza sauce can be used instead of the tomato sauce for extra flavor.

Cheesy Mac and Beans Casserole:

Cook one or two packages of macaroni and cheese, depending on the size of your family, following box instructions. When done, place in oven safe large bowl or casserole dish. Make a dimple or path in the macaroni and cheese then pour in a can of drained dark kidney beans. Chop a large onion and do a quick fry with 1 tablespoon of oil, in a medium skillet until the onion is almost cooked. Spread the partially cooked onions over the cheese and bean mixture. Cover mixture with about 1 ½ cups of chopped chicken, ham or grilled beef, spreading it evenly. Cover with foil.

Cover your casserole dish with foil, then place in fridge until needed or freeze for later use. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the cover and sprinkle about ½ cup of shredded Cheddar cheese over the top and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and turned a light brown.

Serve with a tossed green salad for a nourishing quick meal. 

These two easy dinners, can be time savers for any night of the week.  They are delicious enough for company or just for family night.

More tips for easy dinners can be found at  http://hassieskitchentable.com/whats-dinner/

To me, there is nothing better, than opening my front door and smelling the aroma of my dinner cooking in my slow cooker or crock pot.
When I had five children at home, it was the most used cooking utensil in the kitchen, and still is. Although I am a single person now, I still use my tried and true friend, the crock pot.

Over the years, I have found, these few tips improve my crock pot cooking joy.

cold weather and hot food
[1] Using the right size crock pot, for the job.  I have three different size crock pot cookers, because I never want to over fill the cooking insert.  It would only cause spillage or under cooked food.
[2] Planning ahead by doing the chopping of your vegetables the night before and storing them in the refrigerator is the secret to quickly getting the meal together before leaving for work.  DO NOT, store the vegetables in the crock pot insert.  Starting with a cold insert will only add to the cooking time. So store the chopped veggies in an air tight container overnight, then place them in the cooker in the morning.
[3] You should prepare your meat before hand, too.  Remember you are cooking with low heat, so you do not want to have you meat to be too thick, as it may not reach a safe cooking temperature.  A piece of meat no more than 2 inches thick, should work great.  Keeping your whole chicken or chicken parts to about 2-3 pounds works well, also.  Do a spice rub on your meat of choice, cover or wrap, then place it in the refrigerator with your vegetables.
[4] DO NOT lift the lid on your crock pot, until you are within the last 30-45 minutes of the cooking time.  It will only release the heat and interupt the cooking process.
You can check for doneness or add spices in the last 30 minutes of so but at any other time, you are doing more harm than good.
[5] If time permits, add more flavor to your meal by searing your beef.  Heat a heavy skillet to hot, add a tablespoon of oil, then place the meat in the hot skillet, listen for the sizzle.  Cook on both sides about 1-3 minutes each, depending on the thickness of your meat.  Then place the piece of meat into your crock pot cooker and add any juices from the skillet before placing the lid on the slow cooker and starting your cooking time.  You will get a richer broth and fuller flavor from the beef by doing this extra step.

Fall is coming, we can feel the coolness in the air and see the leaves beginning to turn in color. Today I am passing along one of my Mother’s favorite cool weather recipes for Fried Green Tomatoes. Growing up I was never a big fan of this recipe but as it was one of mother’s favorites, I taught myself to make it when she came to live with me.

While it calls for green tomatoes, I always thought they were too tart, even after frying, so I use tomatoes that are just on the verge of turning pink but are still firm to the touch.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

For this recipe you will need:

About ¾ cup yellow cornmeal

About ½ cup all purpose white flour

Salt and black pepper

About 1 teaspoon sugar, optional

About ½ teaspoon crumbled dried Italian oregano or sweet marjoram

1 extra-large egg or 2 medium

¼ cup of milk

3 to 4 green tomatoes, sliced about 1/2-inch thick

Oil for frying (I use vegetable or olive oil)


In a shallow bowl, mix the flour and cornmeal with the seasonings; season generously with salt and pepper. Beat the egg and milk, in another small shallow bowl.

Pour oil in a large skillet to about 1/2-inch deep then heat over medium heat. While the oil is heating place paper towels on a baking sheet.

One at a time, dip the tomato slices into the egg, and then dredge them, on both sides in the flour/cornmeal mixture. I use a fork or my hands, which ever you like, to handle the tomato slices, taking them from egg to dry ingredients, to skillet. Carefully drop them into the hot oil until the pan is full. Saute them in one layer, you might need to make them in a few batches. Turn them in about 3 to 5 minutes, when they are golden brown on the underside. Saute for another 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown and remove them from the oil, [use tongs for this move], then to the pan with the paper towels to drain, while you cook the rest.

Fried green tomatoes can be eaten, alone, as an appetizer or with a garlic aioli or corn salsa. They are often served as a side dish with supper, or they can also be served on a bed of greens with goat cheese rounds on top, as part of a salad. How ever you like them remember to serve them hot.

Shopping during back to school savings time, can mean large saving for the family, not just for the children that are going back to school.  It seems, most stores use this time of year as a way to get you to buy more by offering you some great saving on household items.   If that is true in your area, now is the time to be looking at bedding, furniture, electronic items plus home office supplies.  

back to school savings

I do my best to buy my yearly office needs during back to school savings time.  This week alone, I can find packages of 10 pencils for 50 cents, 10 pens for 75 cents and 3 reams of computer paper for less than $10.00. All of these on top of writing tablets, markers, other computer supplies and in most places, even the computer will sell for its lowest price of the year.  

Back to School savings are not limited to office supplies or what we think of as things just for the everyday school use. Even when you do not have school age children, back to school saving time, should be an exciting time of the year for a frugal shopper. 

If you have been thinking it’s time to redo a bed or bathroom, now is the time to get around to it.  Department stores will be offering deluxe bedding at regular bedding prices.  Towels and matching wash cloths will be offered in all the latest colors and sizes at their best price of the year.

You should be able to find small refrigerators, office furniture, and microwaves at remarkable savings, too.

It’s not to early to think about holiday shopping either. Make your list of who has been naughty or nice and start working on it, before the prices go back up.  So don’t be shy, read those sale papers, cut out those coupons and go buy, while the back to school savings prices are right for you and your budget.