Cooking for a Crowd on a Tight Budget

A couple of days ago, I received a private Facebook message from a Hillbilly Housewife reader. She asked me for some suggestions on what she could cook for her church youth group on a tight budget. I gave her a few ideas, but knew that the HBHW community would come up with some things I hadn’t even thought of… sure enough, they didn’t disappoint.

Reader question about cooking for 12 people on a budget

We’ll get into specific suggestions on what to cook in just a bit. First though I wanted to share a great suggestion from one of the comments. The basic idea is to ask for help. You don’t have to cook for a crowd on your own. No matter if you’re organizing a church supper, or if you’re having a big gathering for a family reunion, birthday or the likes. It is perfectly fine to ask people for help.

Make It A Potluck

You can approach this idea in two different ways. You can take care of the main dish or entree and ask everyone to bring complimenting dishes (assign them if you’d like by asking a few people to bring sides that will go well with your main entree, a salad, a dessert etc.). The second option is to ask everyone what they would be willing to make and bring and just make what you feel is missing.

There are a couple of reasons why I love the potluck ideas. Obviously it is the most frugal option, but also saves you a lot of time in the kitchen. I also like the fact that you end up with a greater variety of food, making it more likely that everyone finds something they like.

But it goes further than that. By allowing people to contribute and bring their favorite dishes, you make them part of the celebration. If you’re feeling a bit embarrassed about “having to ask for help” (which it really isn’t), think back to some times when you’ve been asked if you could bring your famous macaroni salad or apple pie. Did you mind? Did you think the person asking was being cheap or lazy? Nope… You probably felt proud and honored to be asked to contribute to the meal.

Great Frugal Dishes To Cook For A Crowd Great tips for cooking for a crowd on a budget.

Start with some filling but inexpensive appetizers. A platter of deviled eggs is always a crowd pleaser, as are chips and dips. Buy a bag or two of store brand potato chips and make a batch of homemade ranch dip.

Homemade Ranch Mix 

From the Homemade Mixes Kindle Cookbook.

  • 1/4 cup dried parsley leaf
  • 1 tbsp. dried dill leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil leaf
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined. Store in an airtight container.

For homemade ranch dip, stir 1 tbsp (or to taste) into a 16 oz container of sour cream. Keep in the fridge for at least one hour or until you’re ready to serve it.

Main Dish Ideas

My biggest piece of advice here is to use meat as a flavoring instead of main ingredient. Instead focus on some starchy main ingredients like pasta, rice or even tortillas and beans.

Side Dishes

With all-in one meal ideas like above, you won’t need much when it comes to sides. I suggest sticking with some garlic bread and a side salad if you feel the need to add some side dishes.

Drinks

When it comes to drinks, keep things simple. Buying a bunch of soda or even juice can add up quickly. Instead I suggest you stick to one of the options below. They have the added benefit of not being nearly as bad for you as soda is.

  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Koolaid

Dessert

It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to dessert. Most of the time, people just want a little something after a big main meal. Pick something from the list below and make it from scratch or use your own favorite dessert recipe. Of course the simplest option is to ask someone else to take care of dessert.

  • Cake
  • Cupcakes
  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Pie

Ready For More Great Recipes?

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Tips for Grilling Moist Meats

This is a guest post by Christine Steendahl from AuthenticMoms.com 

Spring is here!  One of the first things I think about when spring appears is “time to grill”!  I love a grilled meal and we just don’t grill in the winter.  I know you can, but something about heading outside in our Illinois sub-freezing temperatures just is not appealing to me or my grill-master hubby.  So at our house grilling is reserved for the spring, summer and early fall months.  By the time spring rolls around I am beyond ready to fire up the grill!

Most everyone likes to cook outdoors on a grill, especially when it’s just too hot to cook in the kitchen. However meat cooked in the hot dry environment of a grill, will often dry out if precautions are not taken.  No one enjoys a dry tough piece of meat.  Here are a few tips to help create a tender, juicy, meal.

First, purchase the right meat.  Do not use tiny pieces that will fall through the grates (although kabobs work great for this!).  Also look for cuts that are uniform in thickness.  Finally make sure your meat is fully defrosted before placing it on the grill.  Some great choices for grilling include steak, chicken breasts, chicken legs, pork chops, hamburger patties, or fish fillets.

Second, be sure to get the grill hot before adding any meat. Lock in flavor by keeping the grill closed as much as possible.  Grilling with the lid up is similar to grilling on a camp fire.  It will get the job done, but it cooks slower and does not lock in the moist flavor you get with the quick hot cooking that will be accomplished with the lid closed.  Also, go easy with the spatula. The more pressure placed on the meat, the more the natural juice lost.

Thirdly, use the proper cooking time for the selected meat and remember to let the meat rest after removing from the grill. This gives it time to finish cooking and reabsorb some of its juices.  Here is a link to some recommended cooking times and methods of various meals:  http://help.weber.com/grilling-tips/grilling-guides/  (at the top you can click for various types of foods)

For indirect cooking, a good marinade is the best choice for locking in moisture as well as flavor. The best cuts of beef need only soak for 20 minutes to an hour. For less choice cuts of meat, increase the soak time to tenderize. Always marinate in the refrigerator—never at room temperature, but DO let the meat sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before putting it on the grill. Chicken needs to marinate for at least 20 minutes but generally not more than an hour.  For  a few favorite grilling recipes and marinades check out the Spring Recipe Collection in my spring bundle.

For meat that is to be cooked for a long period of time with the lid down; a simple small pan of water set inside the grill, away from the meat will help replace some of the juice lost during cooking. Flavored chips (Mesquite for example) added to the water will also enhance the taste. An open can of beer set over the hottest part of the fire will boil and saturate the air with vapor and flavor. Sauces should be added during the last few minutes of grilling.

I hope you enjoy getting outside and grilling this spring!  I can’t wait to have that smell wafting in the air.  Grilling always makes for a flavorful, succulent meal the whole family enjoys.

Grill full of meat cooking

10 Yummy Slowcooker Soup Recipes

Winter is here and that means we’re eating a lot of soup. There’s just nothing better than coming home to a nice warm pot of soup. Just whip up some biscuits to go with it, make some toast, or dust of the bread maker and start some bread when you’re starting the soup in your crockpot.

Below you’ll find 10 of my favorite Slowcooker soup recipes. These make a regular appearance on my weekly meal plan. Not only are soups absolutely delicious, they are also quite frugal and by using your crockpot you don’t have to worry about stirring pots all day.

10 Yummy Crockpot Soup Recipes

 

#1 Crockpot Bean Soup

Bowl of Bean Soup From The Slowcooker

  • 1 lb bag or 2 cups mixed beans, soaked overnight
  • 7 C water
  • 1-2 lbs ham, cubed
  • 1-2 pressed cloves garlic
  • salt, celery salt, and pepper to taste
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning and/or Herbs de Provence

Put all ingredients into your crockpot and cook on LOW for 8 hours.

 

#2 Crockpot Ham and Potato Soup

Ham and Potato Soup Cooked in the Crockpot

  • 3-1/2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • ¾ cup diced ham
  • 3-1/4 cups water
  • 6 chicken bullion cubes
  • ½ t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 5 T. flour
  • 5 T. butter
  • 2 cups milk

Stir all but milk, flour and butter into crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, check tenderness of potatoes. 20 minutes before serving, melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and gradually add milk, stirring constantly over med heat until thick. Stir mixture into crockpot. Let cook 15-20 minutes more.

 

#3 Crockpot Minestrone Soup

Slowcooker Minestrone Soup

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced 1” thick
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 t dried basil leaves
  • ½ t. dried oregano leaves
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. pepper
  • 2 cups cooked small pasta
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients except macaroni and Parmesan cheese in the stoneware. Cover cook on Low 8 to 9 hours or on High 4 to 5 hours. Stir in macaroni. Serve sprinkled with cheese. I substitute 1-1/2 t. Italian seasoning for the basil and oregano.

 

 

#4 Crockpot Sweet Potato Soup 

Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 white potatoes
  • 3 Sweet potatoes
  • 2 apples, cut into 1 inch pieces with the skin left on
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground clove (optional)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Start by preparing your veggies and fruit. Scrub the potatoes really well and cut them into one inch chunks.

Peel the onion and give it a rough chop.

Core the apples and cut them into one inch pieces as well. I leave the peel on since it will blend into the soup and adds extra nutrition.

Chop or crush your garlic.

Add the veggies and fruit along with the salt and spices to your crockpot. Pour the chicken broth over everything.

Cook the soup on high for 5 hours.

Puree the hot soup either in batches in your blender or use a hand immersion blender right into your crockpot.

Stir in the butter and serve.

 

 

#5 Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup 

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup

  • 6 large baking potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Extra Shredded Cheese for topping

Peel and cut your potatoes into small chunks. Chop the onion and garlic.

Put your chopped veggies, chicken broth, butter, salt and pepper into the crockpot. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours .

Mash mixture with a potato masher until potatoes are coarsely chopped and soupy is slightly thickened. Stir in cream, cheese and chives.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with sour cream, bacon and a little extra cheese.

 

 

#6 Crockpot French Onion SoupSlowcooker French Onion Soup

  • 3 large onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 t. Worcestershire
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 4-5 slices French bread, toasted
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

In slow cooker, combine onions and butter, broth, Worcestershire and salt. Cover and cook on HIGH 4-6 hours. Pour hot soup into bowls and top w/ bread and sprinkle w/ cheese.

 

 

#7 Slowcooker Beef and Vegetable Soup 

Beef and Vegetable Soup from the slow cooker

  • 6 beef bullion cubes
  • large pkg. 2 lbs. frozen mixed vegetables (I save left over veggies and use those)
  • 2 pounds beef roast, cut into pieces or can use left over beef
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (12 oz can tomato paste
  • 6 cups water

Pour ingredients into 6 qt. slow cooker and stir well. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. Serve w/ cheese toast or grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

 

#8 Crockpot Taco SoupYummy Crockpot Taco Soup

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 cans Rotel
  • 3 cups cooked beans of your choice, (2 cans)
  • 1 can corn (optional)
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning (2-3 T. bulk)
  • 1 pkg. ranch dressing mix (optional)
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 cups water

Brown beef in skillet w/ onion. Drain fat and add to crockpot. Add all other ingredients (do not drain cans), and stir to mix. Cover and cook on low 8 hours or HIGH 4. I usually add more water and a little more bulk taco seasoning powder to make it more soupy.

 

#9 Crockpot Turkey Noodle Soup Yummy turkey and noodle soup made in the slowcooker.

  • 2 cups of cooked turkey
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups turkey broth
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 ounces noodles

Cut your turkey (from leftover roasted turkey) into bite-size chunks. Chop the onion, carrot and celery. Place everything except noodles in your crockpot and cook on low for 4 hours. Remove the bay leaf and add the noodles. Cook another hour on low or 1/2 hour on high until the noodles are soft. Serve the soup hot.

 

#10 Crockpot Butternut Squash SoupHomemade Butternut Squash Soup with Bread

  • 2 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 butternut squash (2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, cubed

Melt margarine in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook onion in margarine, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender.

Mix onion and remaining ingredients, except cream cheese, in 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker, Cover and cook on low heat setting 6 to 8 hours or until squash is tender.

Place one-third to one-half of the mixture at a time in blender or food processor. Cover and blend on high speed until smooth. Return mixture to slow cooker; stir in cream cheese. Cover and cook on low heat setting about 30 minutes or until cheese is melted, stirring until smooth.

Ready to learn more about crockpot cooking? Get my Crockpot Cooking Made Simple ebook today and find out how you can work your crockpot into your meal plan, how to choose a good crockpot, and even how to convert your favorite recipes to work in a slow cooker.

Click on and order your copy of Crockpot Cooking Made Simple today!

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/ebooks/crockpotcooking.htm

25 Easy Candy Recipes – Perfect For The Holidays

One of my favorite things about the Holiday season is all the yummy sweet treats. There are special cookies, cakes and desserts we tend to only make this time of the year. Today I’d like to share 25 Christmas Candy recipes with you from the Dining on a Dime cookbook.

Homemade Peanut Brittle Recipe

  • 3/4 cup corn syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2 cups raw peanuts
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt

Grease 2 jelly roll pans. In a saucepan, add corn syrup, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil and cook to a hard ball stage, 260 degrees. Add peanuts and cook to hard crack at 290 degrees. Add baking soda and salt. Stir well. Pour into pans and spread thin. Cool quickly. I usually make this for Christmas and I don’t have room left in my refrigerator so I just set it outside in the snow for a few minutes until it has cooled. Makes 3-4 dozen pieces.

Homemade Peppermint Patties 

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white (meringue powder may be substituted)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 4 small lids peppermint flavoring (try 1/2-1 tsp. then add more to taste if you need to)
  • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) almond bark OR chocolate melting wafers

Mix the powdered sugar, egg white or meringue, butter and peppermint flavoring. Make into small balls about the size of a quarter and then flatten on a cookie sheet. Put in the freezer. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. When the chocolate is melted, take the mints out of the freezer. Put a toothpick through the center of a mint and dip into the chocolate. If the mints on the cookie sheet begin to soften and thaw, refreeze because they are easier to dip when they are frozen. Put the dipped mints back on the cookie sheet and let the chocolate harden in the freezer. Wrap each mint in a piece of 5×5 inch foil. Makes twenty 2-inch mints.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) chocolate candy wafers or almond bark

Cream the butter. Add the peanut butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Place the chocolate in a microwave safe dish and melt. Microwave until melted, stirring frequently. Pour a small amount of melted chocolate in the bottom of paper holders. Place the filling inside and then pour more chocolate on top until the filling is covered. Let the chocolate harden before serving. Makes 2 dozen.

*When this homemade peanut butter cups recipe was originally written, you couldn’t buy dipping chocolate or the wafers. If you prefer, you can use something like that in place of the chocolate chips and paraffin.

Peanut Butter Balls
Shape peanut butter into small 1 1/2 inch balls. Dip the peanut butter balls into chocolate and place on wax paper to harden.

Grandma’s Million Dollar Fudge25 Easy and Frugal Christmas Candy Recipes

  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 Tbsp. butter

Mix ingredients. Then boil 5 minutes.

Add:

  • 2 1/2 large Hershey’s candy bars, crushed (about 6 oz. total)
  • 1 (12 oz.) bag semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • nuts

Beat until well blended. Pour into 2 greased 9×13 pans for thicker pieces and add another 8×8 pan for thinner pieces.

English Toffee Recipe

  • 1 cup nuts, chopped (pecans or walnuts are best) *
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Butter an 8×8 inch pan. Spread the nuts in the bottom of the pan. On medium heat, bring the sugar and butter to a boil and boil 7 minutes. Spread into the pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Let it sit a few minutes. When melted, spread evenly. Let cool before cracking into pieces. Makes 24 pieces.

*Variations:

White Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts (not cheap but to die for!)
Dark Chocolate with Almonds
Semi-sweet chocolate with Almonds for an Almond Roca flavor

Marshmallow Bonbons Recipe

  • 38-40 large marshmallows
  • 1 (12 oz.) package chocolate chips
  • Coconut
  • Sprinkles
  • Nuts, chopped

Place marshmallows on a pan that is covered with wax paper and place in the freezer. They will be ready by the time you need to dip them.

Pour coconut, sprinkles and nuts on squares of wax paper. You could use a bowl but wax paper saves time and effort in clean up.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for a couple of minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted.

Place frozen marshmallows on a skewer or toothpick and dip in chocolate. Then in roll in your choice of ingredients (below).

Use a fork to slide them back on the wax paper. Chill.

Tasty topping ingredients that work well for Marshmallow Bonbons:
Coconut, toasted
Sprinkles
Nuts, crushed
Graham cracker crumbs (like s’mores)
Peppermint sticks, crushed
Candy, crushed
Candy bars, chopped
Dried fruit, chopped
Sweetened cereal, crushed

Once chilled, you can package in clear cellophane bags.

Candied Orange Peels

  • Peels from 3 large oranges, grapefruits or lemons*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sugar
  • water

Cut the peel on each fruit into quarters. Pull the peel off in these quarter sections. Slice peel into 1/4 inch-wide strips. In a saucepan add salt and cover with cold water. Boil 15 minutes, pour off water and add fresh water. Boil 20 minutes. Change water again and boil another 20 minutes. Drain and cover with 2 1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup water. Simmer, stirring constantly, until all the syrup has boiled away. Do not let the peels scorch. Spread on wax paper. Roll peels in the remaining sugar. Let dry. Store in an airtight container. These will keep one week or can be frozen.

*If non-organic fruit is used, wash the peels thoroughly before peeling.

Easy Spiced Nuts Recipe

  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 cups walnuts, pecan halves, almonds (alone or mixed)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with the water. Stir in nuts, mixing until well blended. In a another small bowl, mix together sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Sprinkle over the moistened nuts. Spread nuts on a pan lined with foil or silpat. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Do not burn the nuts.

Peppermint Bark Recipe

  • 1 lb. white almond bark
  • 1 cup crushed peppermint candies*
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint flavoring (optional)

Melt the almond bark in the microwave according to the directions. Stir in peppermints and flavoring. I like my bark really minty so I add more flavoring. Pour onto waxed paper or silpat on a cookie sheet and let harden. You can put it in the fridge if you prefer. Then break into pieces.

*To crush candy canes, put them in a ziptop bag and smash them with a rolling pin.

Variations: You can put just about anything into almond bark for different flavors!

Almonds
Almonds and Cherries
Peanut Butter Chips
Oreos
M&M’s
Caramel Bits

 

Homemade Caramels Recipe

  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup white corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup nuts
  • melted chocolate (optional)

Combine sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk, butter and salt in a saucepan. Heat gradually to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil until golden brown, 7-10 minutes (240 degrees). Add vanilla and nuts. Pour into a well buttered 8 inch pan. Cool several hours or overnight. Cut into small squares. Dip in chocolate if desired. Makes 64 pieces.

Turtles

  • 72 pecan halves (about 4 oz.)
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 24 caramels

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil, shiny side up, and grease. For each candy, place 3 pecan halves into a “Y” shape on the foil. Place 1 caramel on the center of each “Y”. Bake just until the candy is melted. If they looked deformed after baking, reshape while the caramel is warm. Heat chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly, just until melted. Spoon mixture over candies, leaving the ends uncovered. Refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes). Makes about 24 turtles.

 

Homemade Jelly Candies
(called Applesauce Candy in Dining on A Dime)

  • 1 cup applesauce*
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 pkg. fruit gelatin
  • extra sugar for coating

Combine applesauce and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Dissolve the gelatin in the applesauce mixture. Pour into an 8×8 inch pan. After 24 hours, cut into 1 inch squares and roll in sugar. Roll in the sugar a second time 24 hours later. Makes 64 pieces.

*Puree fruit cocktail, peaches or pears instead of applesauce

2 Ingredient Easy Fudge Recipe

  • 3 cups of chocolate chips*
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Pour both ingredients into a microwave proof bowl. Melt in 30 second increments. Stir after each 30 seconds. When melted, pour into a greased 8×8 inch pan. Let cool in the fridge and then cut into pieces.

Variations:

Add Nuts as desired
Cherry Mash: Use cherry chips to make to the fudge. Then pour melted chocolate chips on top with peanuts.
Peanut Butter: Use peanut butter chips to make to the fudge. Then top with chocolate or don’t, if you prefer not to.
Dark Chocolate: Use dark chocolate chips
Mint- Use mint chips, mint pieces or 1 tsp. mint flavoring

Easy Chocolate Truffles

  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. desired liquor (optional) – (brandy, amaretto, kahlua, rum etc.) or any flavoring (orange, mint, raspberry, coffee)
  • 1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*

Combine the sugar, whipping cream and butter in a 1 quart saucepan. Cook and stir until butter is melted and mixture is very hot but not burned. Remove from heat. Stir in semi?sweet chocolate until melted and well blended. Stir in liquor. (If desired, halve the batch at this point and stir 1 Tbsp. of 2 different liquors into each portion.)

Cover and chill 1 hour or until mixture is completely cool, stirring often. Drop mixture from a rounded teaspoon onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Chill 30 minutes or until firm. Roll balls into nuts or unsweetened cocoa powder. Store in a cool, dry location. Makes 15-20 pieces.

*You may roll truffles in coconut, sprinkles, powdered sugar or dip in melted white, dark or milk chocolate.

  • 2 Ingredient Coconut Haystacks
  • 12 oz. chocolate
  • 3-4 cups shredded coconut

Melt chocolate. Add desired amount of coconut. Place by spoonfuls on waxed paper or silpat on a cookie sheet. Place in the fridge to harden.

Almond Joy Truffle

  • 24 oz. shredded coconut
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 24 oz. milk chocolate (chips), melted
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups whole almonds

Mix coconut, sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar and vanilla until well blended. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper or silpat. Place 1 almond in the center of each ball and reform coconut mixture around the ball. You can use extra coconut to make it stiffer. Place in the freezer to set up for 15 minutes. When set (they won’t be hard), dip in the melted chocolate. Place back on waxed paper and let harden in the fridge.

Lower Your Food Bill With Food You Family Will Love!

Would you like to serve food that will lower your grocery bill and your family will love to eat?

Click here to get the Dining On A Dime Cookbook, with tasty recipes and great tips to make your life easier and save you money!

How To Make Ice Cream Without An Ice Cream Maker

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t fret.  You can make ice cream at home without the aid of either a hand-cranked machine or an electric ice cream maker.

How?  All you need is a freezer, and a little muscle.

Here’s how to do it. This will work with any ice cream recipe.

  1. To begin the process, put a shallow stainless steel bowl in the freezer to get cold.
  2. Now, in a separate mixing bowl, combining the ingredients as stated in the recipe directions.
  3. Set the bowl (with the ingredients in it) in a larger bowl filled with ice and salt. Let chill for five to ten minutes, stirring ingredients with a whisk or spoon until mixture gets cold.
  4. Pour the cold ingredients out of the bowl you mixed them in and into the ‘frozen’ stainless steel bowl in the freezer.
  5. Put ‘frozen’ stainless steel bowl with ingredients back into freezer, then check in about 15 to 20 minutes to see if the mixture is starting to get frozen around the edges.
  6. If so, take a heavy whisk, slotted spoon, or electric hand-mixer and stir the mixture, briskly, breaking the frozen edges up and beating into the rest of the mixture.  Rapid, brisk stirring will help the ice cream get smooth and creamy.
  7. Repeat this brisk mixing every 30 minutes until the mixture becomes a solid ‘ice cream’ texture. You may need to mix the ice cream 4 to 6 times before the consistency is right. (If the mixture freezes too solid too quickly, put in the refrigerator so it softens enough to mix again; mix and put back in freezer and repeat.)
  8. Once the ice cream has set up properly, is smooth, creamy, and semi-solid, transfer it into a freezer container with a cover.  Cover and store in freezer for at least one hour before serving; longer if you like it more firm.

Making Ice Cream Without An Ice Cream Maker

Yes, it’s a little extra work and takes a bit of time, but well worth it when the end result is a creamy bowl of ice cream. Get everyone in the family involved and have them take turns mixing the mixture.

Of course if you find yourself loving this hand-made ice cream, it may be worth looking into ice cream makers. You can often find great deals of them online and at local thrift stores. Or ask around… chances are one of your friends or family members has one sitting around that they aren’t using.

Darn Good & Dang Tasty – Healthy Food Does’t Have To Taste Bad

My friend Tracy from MomsinaBlog.com put together a wonderful new cookbook full of healthy recipes that taste great. I asked her to share her thoughts and inspiration for writing the book along with some recipes with you. Enjoy and don’t forget to check out Darn Good & Dang Tasty

Oftentimes when we think of eating healthy food our brains turn to things like tasteless tuna salad on dry melba toast – or something equally as bland.

We want to eat good food that tastes good, too, ~we really do~ but the reality is that it’s not always easy to come up with a meal, especially on the fly, that isn’t full of (if you’ll forgive my language) crap.  I completely understand how you feel.  There have been many nights when I stare longingly into the fridge and/or pantry for inspiration when, finally, in defeat, I give up and order pizza or call the hubs to pick up something quick from drive thru.  As you can imagine, this leads to a bigger waistline and a smaller bank account and that’s just not good for anyone.

To help get your healthy food mojo going and give your brain some flavorful ideas, I’ve compiled a selection of recipes that are darn good for you and dang tasty to boot.

I hope these recipes give you a jump start to healthier eating with food that tastes just as good as it looks and smells.  Enjoy!

Balsamic Mushroom & Chicken (LOW GI)

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
No-stick cooking spray
8 ounces white mushrooms, quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Parsley (optional, for garnish)

Directions:

Heat skillet and spritz with cooking spray. Saute garlic and mushroom. Add and cook chicken over medium heat until no longer pink. Add chicken broth, thyme, pepper and vinegar. Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.

 

Carrot Muffins (LOW FAT)carrot muffins

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/3 cups shredded carrot
2/3 cup fat free milk
2 tablespoons fat free sour cream
1/4 cup egg whites, lightly beaten

 

Directions:

Line muffin pan with papers or spritz with nonstick spray. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl mix together carrots, milk, sour cream, and egg white. Blend together dry and wet ingredients. Fill each muffin cup a little over half full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Darn Good & Dang Tasty ebook

 

Healthy food doesn’t have to be bland and tasteless.  In fact, it can be Darn Good & Dang Tasty.

In the newest ebook from MomsInABlog.com, Tracy shows you over 100 Low Carb, Low Fat, Gluten Free, Sugar Free & Vegetarian recipes that help you get started on your way to creating a healthier you!

How To Season and Re-Season Cast Iron Cookware

The following is a small excerpt from “The Hillbilly Housewife’s Cast Iron Cookbook“. It’s the most frequent question I get about cooking with cast iron skillets. 

Over time, cast iron cookware develops a thin protective coating known as “seasoning” from the natural fats and oils associated with the cooking process. This coating fills in all the nooks and crannies inherent in the pan metal to create a smooth, uniform surface.

This seasoning is what gives cast iron cookware its wonderful non-stick quality.

Today, most new cast iron cookware comes with this protective coating or “seasoning” already on them. If the package has “pre-seasoned” printed on it, your new pan should be ready for use because the manufacturer has already completed the initial seasoning process for you.

When you buy a brand new pre-seasoned cast iron skillet, all you need to do is rinse it out in hot water and dry completely by placing on your cooktop over medium-high heat. Make sure the entire surface is dry before putting away because cast iron can and will rust if water is left sitting on its surface.

After cooking with your new cast iron skillet, wash it by hand in hot water right away. Avoid putting your skillet in the dishwasher or soaking it in water overnight due to the potential for rust.

Instead, once the pan cools to the touch, rinse it under hot water while using a dishcloth or soft-bristled nylon brush to remove cooked-on particles. Also avoid using any harsh soaps, detergents, or metal scouring pads and scrapers as these items can damage or remove the seasoning.

Cast Iron Skillet How to Re-Season Your Cast Iron Skillet

If your seasoned cast iron cookware loses its sheen for whatever reason, you may need to re-season it to get it back into tip-top shape.

If you search online for how to re-season a cast iron skillet, you may be a bit overwhelmed by all the different points of view out there regarding the best methods and types of oil to use.

For example, there is a lot of debate about what oil to use due to the different smoke points associated with each type of oil and the release of unhealthy free radicals caused by using oils with too-low smoke points. As a result, flaxseed oil is often suggested as an ideal oil to use due to its high smoke point.

According to Lodge, a leading manufacturer of cast iron cookware, the proper way to re-season their products is to start by preheating your oven to 350 – 400˚.  While it is heating, wash the pan with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush. (It’s okay to use harsher soap and a stiff brush for this because you’re not trying to protect the original seasoning at this point).

Once clean, rinse and dry completely before applying a very thin coat of melted solid vegetable shortening or other cooking oil of your choice. Place the pan upside down on the upper rack of your preheated oven, with a metal cooking sheet under it to catch any drips.

Leave pan in hot oven for at least an hour. Turn oven off and allow the skillet to cool completely while still inside the oven. Remove pan from oven and if the coating isn’t as consistent as you’d like, repeat this process until the desired sheen is achieved.

Following these easy tips on how to care for your cast iron cookware will help keep your pieces in great shape. A minimal investment of time and effort on your part will yield delicious meals for you and your family for years to come.

Slow Cooker Reviews

I’m a big fan of crockpot cooking. No matter how busy I get or how much running around town I’ve got to do, I know a yummy home-cooked meal will be ready when we get home.

As you know, I’ve recently written and published a Kindle cookbook of Chicken Crockpot recipes. It’s been very well received and I love reading through the emails from happy readers. I noticed that I received quite a few questions about what slow cooker I recommend. I wish I could point you to one product that’s perfect for everyone, but in reality the answer is that it depends.

crockpot CollageIt depends on the needs of your family, whether or not you need to travel with your slow cooker, your cooking habits and of course your budget. I decided to sit down and take a closer look at a few of my favorite slow cooker models and review them for you. I hope the extensive reviews of the 7 slow cookers in this short report will help you make the right purchasing decision.

Slow Cooker Reviews (PDF) 

For delicious slow cooker recipes, visit the crockpot recipe section on the Hillbilly Housewife website and take a look at Crockpot Cooking Made Simple.

Plus there is a series of crockpot cookbooks I’m publishing on Amazon as Kindle cookbooks. You can find them via my Amazon Author Page at http://www.amazon.com/Hillbilly-Housewife/e/B0093KORPW/

Weekday Cookie Recipes – 99 Cents on Amazon Today

Good Morning and Happy Friday!

The “Weekday Cookie Recipes” Kindle cookbook is only 99 cents on Amazon today. Grab a copy at
www.HillbillyHousewife.com/cookiebook

cookie jar love

Cookies are good any day of the week. But sometimes it takes too long to throw a batch together during the weekday. That’s where these cookie recipes come in handy – they’re quick, easy, and some only require two ingredients.

Here are some of the cookie recipes you’ll find inside:cookie-cookbook

  • Chocolate Chip Weekday Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Weekday Cookies
  • Oatmeal and Cranberry Spice Cookies
  • Coconut Cookies
  • Cinnamon Roll Cookies
  • Flourless Chocolate Nut Cookies
  • Marshmallow Cookies
  • Nutella Cookies
  • Chocolate Puddle Cookies
  • 4 Ingredient Weekday Cookies
  • Everyday Cookies
  • Oatmeal Lemon Cookies
  • Colored Pinwheel Cookies
  • Jell-o Cookies
  • Whopper Cookies
  • Butterfinger Cookies
  • Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • No Bake Cookies
  • Molasses Cookies
  • Date Cookies
  • No Bake Candy Cookies
  • Easy Sugar Cookies With Chocolate
  • Walnut Maple Cookies
  • Healthy Banana Weekday Cookies
  • Chocolate Crackle Cookies
  • Orange Juice Cookies
  • Fudge Crinkle Cookies
  • Fat Free Chocolate Cookies
  • Easy 3 Ingredient Cookies
  • Cream Cheese Cookies
  • Thumbprint Cookies
  • Easy Snickerdoodle Cookies
  • Pumpkin Cookies
  • Gluten Free Weekday Cookies

Using Casseroles For Freezer Cooking

Using your freezer is a smart and effective way to provide hot meals for your family, especially if the majority of those meals are casseroles! Here are a few good tips to making sure your casserole freezer cooking day is successful!

  • Prepare two casseroles any time you make one. Put one in the oven to bake for dinner and put the second in the freezer for another night.
  • Casseroles will stay good in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. Just be sure not to use leftovers in a freezer meal!
  • Freeze in layers so that ice crystals will not form on your food. 2” deep is the perfect depth for freezing casseroles.
  • Use glass pans or metal casserole pans when freezing.
  • Plastic “freezer” bags are thicker and stop evaporation better than the less expensive “storage” bags, insuring a wholesome, tasty food. Don’t reuse bags. This way, you are not passing on germs and bacteria.
  • Make sure any container or wrap you use is completely sealed and will not leak. Press out as much air as possible; this helps avoid freezer burn.
  • Label every container with the recipe name, reheating or serving instructions, and the date on which you prepared and froze the casserole.

Do I Have To Thaw My Food Out First?

There are some tricks to reheating your frozen casserole successfully.

  • To cook a frozen family size casserole, add about 40 minutes to 1 hour to the unfrozen cooking time. Deep dishes and very large size pans cooked from frozen may take up to 3 hours extra.
  • The safest and best way to thaw frozen foods is to put them in the refrigerator the night before. Do not use the microwave.
  • Most frozen foods can be taken from freezer to the oven without any worries or concerns.
  • Foods which get mushy (pasta, rice, etc) get MORE mushy if thawed first. Cook from frozen if you have time.
  • Preheat your oven following the instructions on the label you made when you froze it. Then cook it for the calculated reheating time.
  • If the dish is large and frozen keep it covered and keep the oven temperature between 325 and 375 to avoid both drying out the edges and unsafe time for low temps in the middle of the dish.

If you follow these tips and tricks, your family will be getting a well deserved casserole dinner anytime you need a quick meal!

Preparing Casseroles For The Freezer

Keeping Casserole Ingredients On Hand

If you want to throw together the perfect meal, you need to make sure that you keep all of your casserole pantry staples on hand. Here is a list that you can print to check your inventory against. By keeping these casserole ingredients on hand, you will be able to create a beautiful meal in no time!

Freezer Items

  • Flash Frozen Chicken Breasts
  • 4lbs of ground hamburger
  • 2lbs of ground turkey
  • 2 1lb packages of smoked sausage links
  • Tater Tots
  • Hash Browns
  • Mixed Vegetables, and several types of other frozen veggies: peas, corn, broccoli and artichoke hearts.
  • Chopped Onions

Canned Items

  • Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Cream of Chicken Soup
  • assorted cream soups, celery, etc. (or make your own “Cream of Anything” soup mix)
  • cheddar cheese soup
  • Rotel
  • Chopped green chilies
  • Assorted canned vegetables: peas, corn, creamed corn
  • chicken broth (or bullion powder)
  • beef broth (or bullion powder)
  • green enchilada sauce
  • sliced olives
  • marinara sauce
  • diced tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • tomato paste
  • jars of gravy

 

On Your Shelf

  • dried pasta
  • macaroni and cheese
  • quick cooking rice
  • quick cooking barley
  • Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • stuffing mix
  • breadcrumbs
  • taco seasoning
  • chicken bullion cubes
  • Velveeta

In the Refrigerator:

  • Cheeses:Jack, Mozzarella, and Cheddar, Ricotta and Cottage Cheese.
  • Sour Cream
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Biscuits in tubes
  • Crescent rolls in tubes

Fresh Vegetables to have on hand:

  • Onions
  • Green Onions
  • Garlic
  • Bell Peppers
  • few hot to mild chili peppers
  • Celery
  • Apples

If you keep most of these ingredients on hand, you will have your choice not only of many casseroles, but lots of
other dinners too.

Casserole Ingredients to Keep on hand

How to Make a Quick and Delicious Casserole in Your Crockpot

Most casserole dishes are made in the oven in a piece of bakeware made for creating casseroles. But did you know you can also make casseroles in your crockpot? Here is a simple and delicious recipe that I have been using for years! Quick and delicious casseroles in your crockpot will not only cut down on your time in the kitchen, but it will also help save you money in the process.

 Things You’ll Need

  • 6 thick slices of cooked ham
  • 8 washed and sliced potatoes
  • 1 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • Crock Pot

Instructions

Place two slices of ham on the bottom of the Crock Pot. Add a single layer of potatoes and a single layer of onions, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

Add another two slices of ham, a layer of potatoes, a layer of onions and another 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

Add the remaining ham, potatoes and onions to the Crock Pot.

Pour the soup over the top of the ingredients. Add the rest of the cheese.

Cover the Crock Pot. Cook on high heat for four hours or on low heat for seven hours.

For more delicious crockpot recipes get a copy of my Crockpot Cooking Made Simple cookbook here.

Getting ready to cook a casserole in the slowcooker

Choosing the Right Casserole Bakeware for Your Meal

Casserole bakeware is essential for every day meals and holiday baking. However, choosing the wrong size can mean the difference between a delicious meal or a very dry casserole dish! Here’s how you can make sure that the next time you are making a delicious meal, you choose the right casserole bakeware for your family dinner.

Size Matters

  • For one to two servings, use one cup ramekins to create single serving casseroles. These work great for date nights, taking a meal to a single lady, or just having dinner at home with your sweetheart.
  •  8×8 pans can be used as well for recipes that have been halved. If the food is right to the top of the pan, you will want to change pans. Food often overflows in casserole dishes.
  • Consider buying a couple of oval au gratin baking dishes. I find these handy for gratins, and things like baked spaghetti or stuffed shells.
  • Lasagna pans are named that for a reason! They are built to hold the many layers of a lasagna without having a messy dish.

What are the Best Brands?

Some of my favorite brands of casserole bakeware are:

~Le Crueset—This one is a little on the pricey side, but it is well worth the money spent. The pieces that I own hold up well and help distribute the heat and cooking evenly.

~Corningware—This old tried and true casserole bakeware has been around for ages. It goes over well with holds heat well and cooks the food to perfection.

~Pyrex Bakeware-While I love Pyrex, it can sometimes be hard to cook with. Be sure to follow the directions on how to use this type of bakeware when cooking.

By assuring that you start out with the correct bakeware , your casserole recipe will come out right almost every single time!

Beef stew in casserole dish

How To Cook A Casserole

Every casserole recipe has its own distinctive ingredients and flavors but, for each, the basic cooking process is the same. Here are the four key steps for a perfectly cooked and delicious meat casserole.

Step 1: Place flour on a plate. Season with salt and pepper. Add the meat and toss to coat. Shake off excess. Alternatively, place seasoned flour in a sealable plastic bag. Add the meat and shake to coat. By coating the meat in this way, the flour thickens the liquid in the casserole.

Step 2: Heat oil in am ovenproof casserole dish or large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add one batch of meat and cook for 2-3 minutes or until brown. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining meat, reheating the pan between batches.

Step 3: Add a little extra oil to the dish or pan. Add the vegetables, such as onion, carrot and celery, and any extra ingredients, such as bacon. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and slightly golden.

Step 4: Return the meat to the dish. If using a frying pan, transfer the meat and vegetables to an ovenproof dish. Stir in the liquid ingredients, such as stock, wine and canned tomatoes, and herbs or spices, if desired. Cover tightly and bake in the oven according to your recipe.

Make it ahead

One of the advantages of casseroles is that you can cook them in advance. If possible, make your casserole one day ahead and store in the fridge. To freeze ahead, cool the cooked casserole, then freeze in an airtight container for up to three months. Don’t add dairy products, such as cream, to the casserole before freezing, or the mixture will curdle.

Follow these easy 1-2-3 steps for the best tasting casserole you have ever had! For more tips and casserole recipes check out “Casseroles Made Simple” .

A simple casserole dish with cheese

To Soak Beans Or Not To Soak Them

Do you soak your dry beans before cooking them? For the longest time, I didn’t bother to soak them. They softened just fine after a few hours of cooking. After a little research and some trial and error, I found that my beans cook a lot better and have a nicer texture when I soak them. While soaking does take a little thinking ahead, it’s not a lot of work and if you use my ideas below, you’re not dirtying an extra bowl or pot either.

Benefits Of Soaking

There are a couple of good reasons why you want to soak most beans. The first is that it allows the beans to rehydrate so they are ready to cook as soon as you turn on the stove. If you start out with dry beans, you’ll end up cooking them much longer because the beans themselves don’t start to cook and soften until they rehydrate.

Beans also aren’t washed after they are harvested. Soaking them for a few hours and then rinsing them with clean water removes a lot of dirt and other residues that have collected on the outside of your beans. Even if you don’t soak them for long, at least give them a good rinse in warm water before starting to cook.

Last but not least, soaking beans seems to remove some of the complex sugars in the coating of the bean that can otherwise result in excess gas. In other words, soaking the beans before cooking them allows you to skip the Beano.

beansWhat Beans Should Be Soaked

Most beans should be soaked via either the quick soak or overnight soak I’ll describe below. The exceptions are lentils, split peas and butter beans. They are small and soft enough to cook quickly without a soak. I still recommend you rinse them well before cooking with them though.

That being said, I don’t always soak my beans. I try to, but sometimes I just don’t think far enough ahead and get them started right after rinsing. I am noticing that the texture of the finished beans isn’t quite as good and that the beans often bust open before they are softened all the way. In my experience it’s better to soak them, even if it’s just a quick soak.

Quick Soak vs. Overnight Soak

Depending on how much time you have and how well you plan ahead, there are two different versions of soaking beans. The first is the traditional overnight soak. I use the same pot I plan on cooking the beans in the next day. I pour my dry beans in the pot (looking for small rocks, bad looking beans etc. as I go along), then cover them with plenty of cold water. I put a lid on them and keep them sitting on the stove or counter to soak all night.

If I didn’t think about beans until the day I plan on cooking them, I do a quick soak. I add the beans to the pot, cover it with cold water and then put them on high heat on the stove until the water is boiling well. I turn the heat off and let them sit for about 2 hours.

No matter how I soak them, the next step is to drain the soaking liquid and give the beans a good rinse with plenty of cool water. This will rinse away any dirt and residues. It’s also a good opportunity to find anything else that doesn’t below in the cooking pot. Remember beans are a natural product and you may find small rocks and the likes in your bag of dry beans. My mother-in-law usually spreads the dry beans out on the counter and looks through them before soaking, but I find if I pay attention while I pour them into the pot and then again when I rinse the soaked beans, I can catch anything amiss.

Once your beans are soaked and rinsed, use your favorite recipe and cooking method. The beans can be cooked on the stove or in the slow cooker.

Thrifty Bean CookbookThe Thrifty Bean Cookbook

Ready to cook some beans? Not only are beans a great way to add high quality nutrients to your family’s diet, but they are versatile too. You can easily adjust flavoring or start out with a big pot of pintos to have with corn bread the first night, then turn them refried beans for bean burritos the following night.

You can use them as a main dish by serving them over rice, with tuna or serve them as a side dish. Here are 35 savory bean recipes from simple frugal dinners to dishes you can make for company.

Get your copy of the Thrifty Bean Cookbook today and start cooking.