Monday, January 23, 2012

Valentine's Day Date Night Giveaway!!!

Hey everyone! I've got a SUPER simple giveaway for you to enter! Just in time for Valentine's Day!

The winner will receive flowers for your hunny (or yourself!), a $30 Gift Card to Applebee's, and a copy of The Notebook on DVD. :D

Do you need a Romantic Date Night this Valentine's Day?


Mom Blog Society, Mom Does Reviews and many other fabulous bloggers are excited to give you a chance to win dinner out, flowers and a movie!

Your day will begin with a delivery of a beautiful Valentine's Day Bouquet. Whatever you're hoping, dreaming or wanting for this special day, these flowers will start you on your way!

Next, grab your honey and head to your Neighborhood Applebees for dinner on us! Our bloggers are so fantastic, we have a $30 gift card, not $20! Don't think about the kids, jobs, dishes or dogs, just relax and have a fun night out!


You will also win The Notebook, one of the most romantic "chick flicks" around. "Behind every great love is a great story. Two teenagers from opposite sides of the tracks fall in love during one summer together, but are tragically forced apart. When they reunite 7 years later, their passionate romance is rekindled, forcing one of them to choose between true love and class order."

Enjoy your night!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Giveaway starts at 1201am Jan 24, 2012 and ends Feb 4, 2012. Open to US residents only. Good luck!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Postponing. . .

 First, I want to apologize to my blog readers. I have been SO inconsistent lately and I feel terrible! I never even posted my Ricotta Cheese recipe for my first theme week! I really wanted to start something great with this blog in the new year, but one thing I didn't factor in was pregnancy.
Yep, you heard that right! I'm pregnant! I was going to keep it a secret for a while on my blog (friends and family already know), but I just need to share my excuse with you as to why the lack-age of post-age lately.
You see, with fatigue, nausea, morning sickness, cravings, food aversions, and even a bout of mastitis. . . I'm having a very hard time in the kitchen lately.
I think out of all of last week, I made ONE meal for my family. Maybe two. I don't know if dried pasta and sauce from a can with some iceberg lettuce for a salad really counts.

I'm going to have to skip the theme week that is supposed to start tomorrow. I just can't do it. I'd already cooked two of the planned recipes for "Sit-Down Restaurant Copy-Cat Recipes" week, so I may still post them on days that I actually feel well. It really all depends on this little baby swimmin' around.

Valentine's Theme week is still a go, and should be really tasty and yummy, so stick around for that. Hopefully I can find a time for this next theme week I am skipping.

If you need some things to tide you over on these cold, wintery days, here are some of my fave recipes that'll warm you right up. :D

Quick and easy, but oh-so comforting.
Cheesy Chicken and Bacon Pillows
Something sweet and sticky and just right.
Cinnamon Tomb Rolls
Fresh and healthy, yet warm and savory. My perfect week-day lunch. (or dinner!)
Mexican Black Bean and Corn Casserole
Notice all the breads and carbs? We're supposed to eat these foods in the winter months, right? It just feels natural!
EASY Artisan Bread
I wish I was eating this RIGHT NOW.
Mini Chicken Pot Pies
Heat up a batch of a warm, creamy soup, or some chili. Mmm!
Bread Bowls
And the most popular recipe on this blog  (for good reason, if I do say so myself). . .
Sweet and Spicy Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese! Well. . . kind of. Though I found this method of making cream cheese on a few different websites, and they all called it "cream cheese," I wouldn't say this is like store bought cream cheese. In reading various comments and things, many people called it "yogurt cheese," or "farmer's cheese." I am going to call it "Yogurt-Flavored Cream Cheese."
Although it's not exactly what you'd get from the store, it IS incredibly easy to make.

Cream Cheese
Plain yogurt (I used my homemade yogurt)

(I REALLY need to figure out this new camera of mine)
 Grab a strainer, some cheesecloth or a tea towel, and a bowl. Oh, and some twine or rubber bands.
I doubled my cheesecloth over to make 4 layers. Lay it over your strainer, which is placed on top of your bowl, and pour in some yogurt! As much as you'd like.
 Next, gather up all the edges and use either some kitchen twine or a rubber band to secure it.
You want to hang this bag over your bowl, so figure out how you want to hang it. I used the same twine to hang it from my kitchenaid with the bowl underneath. :)
Within seconds you can start to see some liquid draining out. Now, depending on how much yogurt, how fine your cheesecloth/towel, the time will vary as to how long you'll need to let this hang. Start with 7 hours and then check on it. After 7 hours, I stirred it up a bit and let it hang for another 2 hours.
 Once it's done, it should look like creamy, room temperature cream cheese!
Go ahead and scrape the cheese out into a container. It should keep for 2 weeks. If you taste it, you'll see what I mean by yogurt-flavored cream cheese. I don't know if I would use this on a bagel, but mixed into mashed potatoes or chicken or something, HECK YES!

Extra notes: After making this, I did a little more research on cream cheese. This is not traditional cream cheese, which typically uses mesophilic m or rennet. I also read many comments about leaving yogurt sitting out for so long. I couldn't seem to find a definitive answer about it. Many people say that if you use raw milk, then leaving it out is totally fine. And then some people say that it doesn't matter either way. For my homemade yogurt, I used organic whole milk and organic plain yogurt as a starter. I used that yogurt for this cheese. Both Brad and I tasted it and are still perfectly healthy, so i'm going to side with the people who say it's all good. :)
OH! I also saw comments about hanging it up in the fridge. I haven't tried that method, but if you're paranoid about bacteria, give it a go and let me know how it turns out! Also, that leftover liquid is Whey. You can totally use it! Replace it for the water in bread recipes, pancakes, biscuits, waffles, etc. . . It adds some good nutritional value. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Butter and Buttermilk

Sometimes I truly wish I lived in the good old days of bonnets and horse-drawn wagons and family farms. I'm grateful for the luxuries we have today, but man, food made the good old fashioned way always tastes SO much better! This butter is no exception.
Sure, if you blindfolded me and gave me store-bought butter and homemade butter, I might not be able to tell the difference. BUT, when you know it's something you've made yourself, and it's slathered on fresh-baked bread, it ends up tasting heavenly. :)
Making homemade butter nowadays, unless you have your own farm animals, is actually not very cost efficient. During a good sale with a coupon, I can get a pound real butter for less than $2. On a good sale with a coupon, I can get enough whipping cream to make one pound of butter for probably around $7-8 dollars. (I would say this quart of whipping cream will make about 1 cup of butter, and this quart cost $3.50.) Of course, when making homemade butter, you get the added benefit of "old-fashioned" buttermilk, which you can't find in the stores. So there!

Butter and Buttermilk
All you need is one thing:
Whipping Cream

(Forgive the pictures. I just got a new camera and have no idea how to use it. Lol)
There are a couple of different ways to make butter at home and I will show you two of them. The first is the regular shaking method. Grab your container and add some cream. Doesn't matter how much. Just leave the container about half empty.
Screw that lid on tight and SHAKE. I will tell you, this can be tiring. I was shaking this jar for just about 10 minutes. Talk about keeping up with all those fitness-related new years resolutions.
After about 5 minutes, it will get to the point where you feel like you just can't possibly shake it anymore because it is so THICK. But, you must press on. If you need to slam the jar against a pillow or couch cushion, so be it. After another 5 minutes, you will suddenly hear some sloshing going on and when you open it up. . .
Go ahead and dump all that stuff through a strainer over some kind of bowl or something. I've got cheesecloth here (I was trying something new) but it isn't necessary. Any fine mesh strainer works fine. I'll get to what to do with the butter later. . .
Here is the second method. It takes just about as much time, but can be a little messier in my opinion. Pour some cream into a bowl and then take your electric beater to it.
After like, 3 minutes maybe, it will turn into whipped cream! However, you need to keep going. It may seem like you are blending forever and that butter will never emerge. But trust me. IT WILL.
 At the end, you'll start to see a bunch of liquid and little yellow chunks.
Turn the bowl on an angle, grab a spoon or spatula, and press as much liquid out of the butter as you can. This liquid is the butter milk! You will need to do this same thing with the butter that we shook up. Get out as much as you possibly can. The more buttermilk left in the butter the faster it will spoil.
Add your finished butter to some kind of container and you are ready to go! You can eat it right now if you like! Use this just as you would store-bought butter, of course.
I also poured my buttermilk into a little jar. Use this stuff for buttermilk pancakes, biscuits, etc. . . It's sweeter and thinner than the store bought stuff, and tastier. :)

From what I know, this butter has the same shelf life as any store-bought butter. I'm not sure about the buttermilk though. To be safe, I would use it within a week. :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Yogurt! I'm gonna admit, we aren't big yogurt eaters around here. It's not that we don't like yogurt, it's just that we all like different kinds, and I hate buying all those annoying little cups of yogurt from the store. Especially when they run, on sale, for $0.50 each. That's how much I pay for a box of cereal with coupons! And cereal will last us for a week or two!
But I digress. . .
Here is a MUCH cheaper way to make a huge amount of yogurt, with very, very, very minimal effort on your part.

Also, to my lactose-free friends, I have read that you can do this same thing with soy milk and soy yogurt as a starter. You can also use rice, almond, and coconut milks with a pro-biotic starter in powder form.But you'd better google just in case.

Homemade Yogurt
ala Crockpot 365

You will need:
A crockpot
Half a gallon of whole milk
1/2 Cup Plain Yogurt (make sure it's got those active culture things) ((You need this to work as a "starter"))
 Pour the milk into your crockpot and set it to Low.
 Cover it up and let it go for 2 1/2 hours. (Hey! There's my sour cream sitting in the background!)
After 2 1/2 hours have passed, Unplug your crockpot! Right now, you are going to let this stuff just sit for another 3 hours.
After the 3 hours have passed, take out about 2 cups of the milk and add the half cup of yogurt.
 Whisk it good. :)
 Go ahead and add that right back into the crockpot.
 Now, mix it all up again.
Here's the tricky part. Put the lid back on, grab a huge, thick towel, and wrap your entire crockpot up! This insulates it. :) Now, let it sit for EIGHT HOURS! Scary right? Don't you just hate leaving dairy out on the counter? Oh well. Get over it!
I went to bed and woke up a little late, so mine was sitting for about 11 hours. I think it just makes it more tangy the longer it sits. Shoot. Anyway, it looked like this when I unwrapped everything.
 Grab a spoon and make sure it set up right. Craziness, right?!
 It actually isn't that thick. Once I mixed it up, the texture was somewhat runny.
Here's the fun part- adding flavors! Grab some fruits and extracts and go to town. Here I tried out lemon, vanilla, peach, strawberry, and mango. (Actually, I didn't end up making the mango. Poop.)
 For the lemon, I zested about 1 tsp of lemon rind.
I then added the lemon zest to about 1/2 Cup of yogurt and squeezed in half a lemon. I also ended up adding about 1 tsp of sugar because man, that stuff was tangy! You can really use whatever sweetener you like though, or nix it all together. But please, if you do lemon, PLEASE add something sweet!
Next up was vanilla, which is my husband's fave. I added about 1 tsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract.
 For the peaches, I whizzed them up in the blender with a dollop of yogurt. Don't throw your whole batch of yogurt in the blender, however, because it will get REALLY runny.
 Then I added my little puree to about 1/4 cup of the yogurt with a little more than 1/2 tsp of sugar.
 Last I blended up some strawberries same as the peaches.
 The strawberry yogurt only needed a little less than 1/2 tsp of sugar because my strawberries were pretty sweet on their own.
 I couldn't find my fifth cute little container, so I nixed the mango. Sorry mister mango!

And the ultimate taste test? Here we go!

Strawberry was a hit. Yes!
Lemon seemed to be lip-smacking (and spilled all over the table.)

Our LO didn't seem to enjoy the peach that much, and I didn't give her the vanilla one simply because I was saving it for the hubs. Overall, I think they taste pretty good. Definitely not as sweet, or as bold of flavors as from the grocery store, but definitely a little healthier and a LOT cheaper than from the store. :)

This stuff should last you about a week. If you want to make more, just go ahead and save 1/2 cup from this batch of yogurt to start your next one!

P.S. I'm sure using honey instead of sugar would be fabulous, and I wish I had. However, I am running dangerously low on honey, and I haven't seen any great prices on local raw honey lately. I'll keep checking so I can sweeten my food better once again! Honey from the store works just fine of course, but, since moving to Utah, i've had seasonal allergies up the wazoo, and i'd never had allergies before, ever! Consuming local honey helps a ton with seasonal allergies, plus I like to support local farms. :D
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