Friday, December 27, 2013

About Those Recycled Storage Jars...

Since I'm in the midst of a two week vacation from work, I finally got around to finishing some of  these recycled jars for craft storage.

One lid was gold and the other painted black so I just left them as they were. Of the four that were left, I painted two of them red and then mod-podged fabric on the other two.

I received these awesome chalkboard labels for Christmas so I put a label on each jar and wrote the contents on the labels with a chalk marker.

To store zippers, I wrapped an old formula can with burlap and tied it with ribbon. Simple and functional!

Cost for project: Free!  Everything was either recycled or something I had on hand and the labels were a gift. 

I'm super pleased with how the jars turned out--much more organized than before too!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

We're settled in and ready for a quiet Christmas at home since we won't be traveling to celebrate with family until later in the week!

Merry Christmas to all who stop by and read here. Enjoy your time with family and friends remembering the real reason we are able to celebrate the season: a Savior who came so we could live the abundant life!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Crockpot Hamburger Vegetable Soup

Needing a simple nourishing meal to offset the rich holiday foods?

This soup is perfect! Simple, healthy and nourishing plus it can cook for 10 or more hours in the crockpot. It's a great recipe for those long days at work.

1 pound ground beef, crumbled and browned
1- 16 ounce package frozen mixed vegetables
1 quart canned tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
2-4 cups water
Salt and pepper, other seasonings, to taste

Combine all ingredients in 3.5 to 5 quart crockpot. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or on low for 10 or more hours.

Thanks to my mom for sharing this recipe. We've been making this soup at least once a month lately. It makes about 3 meals for the two of us. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

McAbees' Apples

McAbees' Fruit Stand near Hendersonville, NC is our favorite place to stop to buy apples if we happen to head to the mountains in the fall. 

They are located right off I-26 in Flat Rock and can be seen from the interstate. It's a very convenient stop for travelers. 

According to the people at the stand, they should have apples to sell through the winter, until April, I think they said!  
They have a big variety of apples. My favorite thing here is the shelves at the back of the stand that are filled with 1/2 bushel bags of seconds for only $5 a bag. Seconds are typically smaller than first quality and are likely to have some bruising. That is what I usually buy for applesauce and apple butter since it really doesn't matter what they look like because I'm going to cook and smoosh them anyways.    
But first quality apples are still only $8 for a 1/2 bushel so still a great deal in my opinion! 

We filled the van up with apples when we stopped there this year. 

Yum! Homemade applesauce to eat all year long! 

Curried Green Tomato Sauce

After a frost, I ended up with a collection of green tomatoes from my garden plus a bag full from the children's garden at work. A few turned red after setting out for a few days!

What to do with them?

I finally decided to make Curried Green Tomato Sauce because I had all the ingredients on hand! Plus it sounded interesting.

I just poured the sauce into freezer containers to freeze rather than can.

The sauce is a different type of flavor combination for us. It's tasty though and on the spicy side! We ate it with fish and rice the other night and it was quite good.

I loved making something yummy out of these tomatoes instead of throwing them away!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Apples and Sewing

We stopped in Hendersonville, NC and bought five bushels (10-1/2 bushel bags) of apples on our way home from Pigeon Forge. So my evenings have been spent doing apples. My goal has been to do a 1/2 bushel (1 bag) most evenings and so far it's working well. I'm sure there are faster ways to accomplish this but this goal is attainable and not too overwhelming. 8 bags down, 2 to go!

I've been making applesauce, apple butter, dried apples and will also freeze some apples for pies and apple crisps. I think I'm done with apple sauce now; I have over 40 quart. We love homemade applesauce and eat a lot of it!

I've spent an hour or two each morning working on a big Etsy order--5 of these Christmas gift sets. They are packed and ready to ship off today-- I didn't get a picture of them before I boxed them up. But my sewing room looks like this...

Etsy by day; apples by night!

Housework beyond clean dishes, laundry and cooking hasn't been my top priority during this season as you can see. I'll get back to it soon! Starting to drive me a bit crazy as I really like things in order.

Our fall seasons are always jam-packed and super busy. This year is no exception!

What have you been up to?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Foothills Parkway

After two days at Dollywood, I was ready for something less touristy to do on our way out of town. I wanted to see some scenery!

Our GPS took us on the Foothills Parkway coming out of Gatlinburg. It was a beautiful day and the foliage was gorgeous!

There were places to pull over all along the parkway and we stopped at every single one. I took lots of pictures. It was all so beautiful!

As you can see, not all of the leaves have turned yet,but it was still lovely with lots of vibrant color!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dollywood Vacation

A few months ago, Andy's parents asked if we would like for them to take us on a weekend vacation. Of course, we said yes!

We decided on Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN for our destination and chose to go the last weekend in October. We were so excited for the trip and weren't disappointed at all!

Andy loves Southern Gospel music so we were happy to be able to go during Dollywood's National Southern Gospel Festival and Harvest Celebration  and attend a number of concerts throughout the park. Our favorites included Legacy Five, The Mark Dubbeld Family, The Kingdom Heirs and The Smoky Mountain String Band. We also enjoyed a bird show that featured Challenger the Bald Eagle, a 50's show and the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame.

The weather was super chilly the two days we were there but at least it was sunny! Thankfully, some of the events were indoors.

Dollywood includes an amusement park but we both really don't care for rides! I did go on one ride with my father-in-law--one he referred to as a "sissy ride". It wasn't bad but reminded me again that I just don't like roller coasters and such! I seek thrills in other places--like thrift stores.

The park was beautifully decorated for fall with pumpkins, scarecrows , mums and the cutest flower pot people!

We had such a  wonderful weekend and thank  Mom and Dad for inviting us!

Southern Gospel Hall of Fame

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

October Freezer Cooking: Take 2

The first day, I cooked ground beef, made burger patties and assembled crockpot meals. On the second day, I did everything else that was left on my list.

Not quite as organized but I plowed through it anyways! I had to cook some meal components for the casseroles I was making and then assemble casseroles, which do take longer than crockpot meals in a bag!

My list:
My plan of attack:
  • Bake brown rice.
  • Bake bacon. (In the oven at the same time as rice.)
  • Shred cheese.
  • Assemble Breakfast-in-a-hurry.
  • Assemble Cheesy Beef and Rice.
  • Bag up rest of brown rice.
  • Leave the house for a few hours.
  • Assemble Spinach and Cheese Casseroles.
  • Make Gingery Pork and Mushrooms. (Ended up making this for dinner that night!So absolutely yummy!)
I'm happy to have so many  frozen entrees and sides in the freezer to eat this month (and some of next)!

The only picture I took on day 2--I was in a rush!

Do you do freezer cooking? What are your favorite recipes to freeze?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

October Freezer Cooking: Take 1

In September, I did one grocery shopping trip for the month with some serious planning which included a freezer cooking session. It worked so well and saved us money so I did it all again for October!

This month, I split my freezer cooking list into two 2-3 hour sessions rather working non-stop for 5-6 hours like I did last month. Both work and are efficient but a shorter time slot was better for me this time. I made a plan, worked the plan, cleaned up the kitchen and left for work! Then the next morning I did it again!

We are relying on crockpot or easy make-ahead oven meals for dinner these days. Between September and October, I've tried a pile of Crockpot Freezer Meals that I've found via Pinterest. These are fabulous! Most require no prior cooking (except browning ground beef ) so they are extremely fast to put together. And so easy to put in the crockpot on serving day!

I doubled up on a couple of the recipes that we had already tried. I bought two packages of chicken and we got a good deal on a big package of sausages so I made two of the Thai Chicken and the Italian Sausages with Peppers and Onions. This will give me a head start on next month since we probably won't need them this month.
Ingredients for Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce

Most of my 1st cooking session for October was assembling crockpot freezer meals.

Session 1 list:

My Plan Of Attack:
  1. Cook 7# ground beef. Drain and let cool.
  2. Assemble Thai Chicken.
  3. Make burger patties.
  4. Chop/slice peppers and onions. 
  5. Assemble Pepper Steak.
  6. Assemble Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions.
  7. Assemble White Chicken Chili.
  8. Assemble Cheeseburger Soup. 
  9. Bag and label ground beef for Beef and Veggies(3), Taco Soup (1), Cheesy Beef and Rice, Southwestern Lentils(1/2#) and and extra 1/2#. 
  10. Clean up kitchen; fill up the freezer!

I've done lots of freezer cooking over the years. It has saved me hours of time and hundreds of dollars! I've simplified my methods a lot over time and making crockpot freezer meals definitely simplifies freezer cooking day. Making crockpot meals to freeze is a fast way to make a bunch of freezer meals! In fact, this post about crockpot freezer meals promises 20 meals in 2 hours. I could get into that!
Finished meals!

Tomorrow: October Freezer Cooking: Take 2!