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.

Out Of The Freezer, Into The Oven – Dinner Is Done

Did you know that you can cook once and eat all week, or even all month?

I know it might sound overwhelming but, in reality, it’s almost as easy to prepare for one meal as it is to prepare for a week’s worth of meals.  Then when you get experience you’ll get so good that you’ll find yourself able to prepare a month’s worth of meals on one day!

Simply called Freezer Cooking, I find that it helps my family eat healthier meals, saves me time in the kitchen and helps me save money in my grocery budget.

By purchasing in bulk and preparing homemade and yes, healthy meals for my family that I take from my freezer and put into my oven I am able to save money.

Freezer Cooking Basics

 Let’s dream for a minute.  What if all you had to do was take one of your pre-made frozen dinners and place it in the oven?  What if you didn’t have all the angst of figuring out what you were going to have for dinner because you’ve already done the work?  What if you could tell your husband or teen to get dinner started?  Sounds like heaven doesn’t it?

And just think!  You’ll be feeding your family food that you were able to choose every single ingredient that went into the making of it.

That’s what Freezer Cooking is all about!

Benefits of Freezer Cooking

It may seem a little overwhelming to think about cooking for your freezer, but the truth is, there are a lot of benefits to doing so. You’ll save time, money, and eat better than you normally do. Plus, you’ll seem like an amazing person when last minute guests arrive and you put a full dinner on the table without breaking a sweat.

 Saves Time

This is true in manufacturing and it’s true in cooking dinner too. It takes just as much time to make one enchilada casserole as it does to make two or four. It just takes bigger pans and containers. The time you save by spending one day cooking will be paid back to you each day that you don’t have to cook a full meal.

 Saves Money

Due to the fact that you’ll be purchasing in bulk you’ll save money. Not going to the grocery store as often as you did before will keep you from picking up those impulse buys. When you do freezer cooking, you limit your grocery store trips to the day before you prepare the food and you shop with a list. This automatically means money savings.

 Better Nutrition for Your Family

You know and I know that when we get too busy we tend to go through the drive-thru. We know it’s not healthy, but we’re hungry, the kids are hungry, and we’re exhausted. But, imagine you have food at home that you can easily reheat and serve that is healthy. No preservatives, actual food unlike that fast food burger. Many people find that with freezer cooking they lose weight because they are skipping the drive thru.

 Delight Last Minute Guests

How many times have people shown up at your home unexpectedly? It happens, especially if you have children. Plus, you probably enjoy having company over, but it always seems like just too much work. Now, you can relax a bit because you don’t need to do more than heat up a delicious entre, make a nice salad, and pour some wine to look like the most amazing host on the planet.

What Freeze's Well?

What Freezes Well and What Doesn’t?

It’s important to understand what freezes well and what doesn’t when embarking on a freezer cooking plan. Keep in mind when you choose meals to freeze, that freezing changes the texture of some foods. For instance high moisture fresh foods don’t really freeze well if you plan to eat them in raw form later. For instance, you can’t freeze a raw chef salad and expect it to taste like a fresh chef salad after freezing. But you can freeze chopped tomatoes to use in a sauce later.

 Do Not Freeze These Items (or freeze with caution)

  •  Apples
  • Basil
  • Celery
  • Cheese
  • Chives
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cream Cheese
  • Crumb Toppings
  • Cucumbers
  • Custard
  • Eggs in the Shells
  • Fried Food
  • Frosting
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Lemons
  • Lettuce
  • Limes
  • Mayonnaise
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Parsley
  • Pasta
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Rice
  • Salad Dressing
  • Salad Greens
  • Sauces
  • Sour Cream
  • Sprouts
  • Watermelon
  • Yogurt

Some of the above items can be frozen if you know what you’re doing and understand what changes freezing will make to it.

Cheese – You can actually freeze cheese as long as you understand the texture will change. It will be crumbly, (shred it first) and you can’t eat it as is, but you can use it in a casserole as a topping. So, if you put cheese on top of a casserole that you’re going to pop into the oven to reheat anyway it’s fine. But if you plan to slice it for a sandwich, you probably don’t want to freeze your cheese.

Fried Food — You can freeze fried food as long as you wrap it right, and then reheat it correctly. For something like fried chicken be sure to cool it down while draining off the extra fat, then wrap with freezer paper and then put it inside an air tight container. To reheat, put in the oven frozen after unwrapping on a greased pan.

Grapes — Everyone knows you can freeze grapes if you plan to eat them frozen. A nice treat and tastes like dessert.

Onions & Peppers — You can chop these and freeze them to use in recipes. Chop and let them dry on a paper towel first to drain off extra moisture. Spread them on a cookie sheet and freeze for about an hour before putting them into airtight freezer bags.

Tomatoes — You can chop them and freeze into serving sizes or recipe sizes in airtight containers. You can only use them for sauces after freezing or in a soup or stew where texture isn’t as important.

Oranges & Citrus — You cannot freeze the fruit but you can freeze the zest. Zest onto a paper towel, and let dry out a bit, then freeze in one layer on a pan for about an hour. Pour into a airtight container to use in recipes.

 Rice &Potatoes – They freeze fine in casseroles and dishes, but it does change their texture a bit. You cannot freeze them raw; you must precook and then freeze.

Pasta – While many places have pasta on the ‘no freeze’ list, you can freeze cooked or frozen pasta. It is recommended that you freeze pasta for some dishes uncooked because it will cook during the reheating and you don’t want to overcook it. But, you need to use prepared dried pasta and not freshly made pasta that isn’t dried.

The important thing is to remember to prepare the dishes correctly for storage and to reheat them properly. You have to be sure that your freezer is the right temperature, (under 0°F) and in good repair and that you consider the moisture content of anything that you plan to freeze. Moisture expands when it freezes.

Tips for Freezer Cooking Success

Tips for Freezer Cooking Success

When you decide to try freezer cooking for the first time it’s important to learn from people who have experienced failure before you. There are some tried and true tips to make sure you have a successful freezer cooking experience that you should follow.

 Be Prepared

It’s important to get prepared for your cooking session if you’re going to cook several freezer meals at once. Even if you are just doubling your nightly meal to “feed the freezer” you want to get everything prepared, make sure you have all the ingredients, the storage containers, and everything set up in an assembly line to make it easier.

 Get Comfortable

This isn’t the time to wear your good clothing or pearls and certainly not uncomfortable shoes. In fact, you probably should wear a good pair of shoes that are meant for standing for long periods of time to make it easier on your feet and back. If you can invest in a comfortable standing mat for your kitchen floor all the better. Have a snack before you start to avoid snacking as you cook.

 Shop with a List

You definitely do not want to shop for a freezer cooking session without a list. It’s a good idea to plan out everything that you do, and a shopping list is a must for successful freezer cooking. You need to know exactly how much and what to buy so that your recipes turn out perfect each time.

 Cook What You Like

Most families actually rotate the same 8 to 10 dishes, and rarely try anything new. It’s important to understand what you and your family like and work within that parameter to truly be successful with freezer cooking. Try only one or two new things in any give month and you’ll be a lot happier with the outcome.

 Get Organized

Before you start, make sure you begin with a clean kitchen and an organized workspace. Get out the pans and supplies that you need in advance and set them out like you work in a factory so that they’re at the ready. The same goes for measuring cups. It helps if you have several sets of measuring cups so that you don’t have to wash anything while you’re cooking. Stick dirty things in the dishwasher as you go to keep your area neat.

 Packaging & Labeling

The best packaging material are either freezer bags that you use a press to seal, or Ziploc® bags. You can freeze these flat for stacking so more will fit into your freezer. Of course, you must label everything because you really won’t know what it is after it freezes. Plus it’s good to know the date you put it in as some things don’t last forever. In fact, most things last about 4 months with a few lasting up to a year.

Handling Food Safely

 Handling Food Safely

When you are preparing everything it’s imperative that you are very careful about cleanliness and handling all the food safely. Cool down items before you put them in the freezer, first on the counter, and then in the fridge and finally move it to the freezer. To thaw items, start in the fridge the day before. Remember to not mix utensils when handling raw meat, especially poultry. Wash your hands a lot in hot soapy water. Use a thermometer to ensure proper internal cooking temperatures. You can read more about the Core Four Practices of safe food handling at fightback.org.

Preparation, organization, and safe handling of food will ensure that your freezer cooking session is a success. Don’t try to skip any of the steps because you will invariably end up forgetting something important and you won’t even know it until you thaw it out to eat later. Keeping a checklist nearby to mark off each step will be very helpful.

Freezer Cooking Tools

Tools To Make Freezer Cooking Easy

To be super successful with freezer cooking it’s important to make sure that you have the necessary accruements. Some of these things you likely already have, some you’ll have to purchase in order to make freezer cooking work out for you.

The Right Freezer — A chest freezer is really the best type of freezer in terms of keeping the food the right temperature. The freezer over your fridge probably isn’t enough for once a month cooking, although you could likely use that freezer for freezing lunch meals. Invest in a good chest freezer (or two) and you’ll be able to freeze enough food for an entire month of meals. Most freezers can easily be stored in the garage or laundry room. Buy the best model that you can afford.

Big Giant Bowls – When you are preparing food in bulk, you’ll need to invest in some large bowls. You can use glass, stainless, or even plastic. Tupperware has some really great large mixing bowls with lids that are perfect for mixing ingredients in and making dough for bread and rolls in too. But any large mixing bowls will do. Shoot for at least a 32 cup mixing bowl.

Big Giant Pots — You need to have plenty of large pots to cook large amounts of items in like a large 62 quart stainless stockpot. If you have more than one large pot that will be very good. A 16qt might work for you too depending on how large your family is.

Wooden Utensils — You want to invest in a few sets of wooden utensils for stirring, like a long wooden spoon to reach inside your giant stock pot. Even though you may not be using non-stick cookware when you cook in bulk, using wooden utensils is great for any type of pan.

2 or 3 sets of Measuring Cups & Spoons — You don’t want to have to wash things while you’re cooking to start over. Instead, just invest in a few different sets of measuring cups and spoons so that you’ll always have them on hand.

Freezer Bags — Many people use Ziploc® bags for freezer cooking and some people prefer to use the Seal-A-Meal Vacuum sealing system. The first time you do it, use Ziploc® and if you like it, then invest in the Seal-a-Meal. You will also be freezing some items in the cooking pan, and plastic freezer/microwave safe cookware.

Glass Baking Pans — Believe it or not you can freeze and bake in glass baking pans. Purchase the kind that comes with the plastic lid for freezing. Be sure to read all directions because you can’t just pop it right from the oven to the freezer or vice versa without a problem.

Ceramic Bakeware — The great thing about ceramic is that it’s not bad for you. You probably hear a lot about how bad plastic is for you, and how bad aluminum is for you, well, there is nothing bad about ceramic bakeware which can go from freezer to oven and vice versa relatively easily.

Silicon Muffin Cups — These are flexible and stick-free. They’re great for freezing broth or soup in handy serving sizes. You just pop the broth out and into freezer bags for later use.

Sharpie — You need to label everything and a sharpie really does work the best for writing directly on the bags. If you don’t want to write directly on something then buy some masking tape, write on that, and stick it to the dish.

Disposable Baking Pans — There will be times that you want to take a dish out of your freezer and donate it to a friend, or take it to a potluck. It’s so much easier if you’re not worried about getting the dish back.

More Freezer Cooking Tools

 Stainless Jelly Roll Pan or Two (or three) — This is going to come in very handy for many things. Don’t buy the kind with nonstick on it. You want the kind without because you’re going to sometimes put it in the freezer and freezing anything with a non-stick coating will ruin it.

Great Chopping Knife — Don’t skimp on the quality of your knives. You want to be able to cut veggies and everything for your dishes easily and quickly without having bad knives. To pick a good knife you want a good 8 inch Chef’s Knife. You might try out some knives at a kitchen store because it also matters how it feels to you in your hand.

Note: Keeping your knives in good working order also depends on the type of cutting boards you use. Avoid glass and ceramic.

2 Large Slow Cookers — This is very handy. Use one for a dish and a second one for dinner the night you’re cooking all that food for the freezer. It’ll make your life a lot easier and whatever’s cooking in there will smell great.

Ice Cube Trays – Great for freezing left over broth and stock to use in recipes later.

Aluminum Foil – Some people aren’t a fan of foil, and you certain don’t have to use it but it can help keep your pans clean, and make storing things easier in some cases.

Parchment Paper — When freezing items with meat it’s good to have some parchment paper between the plastic and the foil to soak up moisture and keep things from sticking.

Dry-Erase Board & Marker — When you put something in your freezer, you should write on the dry erase board what you put in there, and mark it off as you remove it. This way you will always know what’s inside.

2 or 3 Large Wire Mesh Colanders — You’ll need to use these to drain things and the mesh kind are easier since very little other than water can go through, plus, if there happens to be grease it won’t melt like a plastic colander.

Mandolin – Great to use if you want pretty slices that are uniform such as with an apple pie or potato au gratin casserole.

Large Food Processor — Great for cutting up and mixing batches of food fast.

Even More Freezer Cooking Tools

 Large Professional Grade Blender – Awesome for making breakfast dishes from frozen fruit. No need to spend too much money. As you can see from this blender test on Youtube.com, the less expensive Kitchen Aid works just fine.

2 Cutting Boards — Get one for meat, and one for everything else. You still want to keep them washed off during the process, but this will keep you from accidentally mixing during the cooking process. Wood and bamboo cutting boards are easier on your knives but they do get germy faster so be sure to bleach them after use. Plastic cutting boards are the next best thing. Avoid glass and ceramic. They are super hard on knives and can actually shatter after a lot of use.

2 or 3 Aprons – You want to have something clean to wipe your hands on instead of your clothes. Plus, it’s fun to put on an apron and get into the mood to have a few hours of professional level cooking.

3 to 5 Dish Towels & Cloths — Again, you want to be able to wipe down things easier as you go. You can use paper towels too but if you’re worried about the environment get some of these really nice kitchen towels that don’t shed onto your food, or pick up lint. You can also make some out of the same material used for diapers and baby burping cloths.

Comfortable Shoes — You will be standing for a long time so you want to be sure that you have comfortable shoes. Being barefoot is not really a good option because you might drop something on your foot and hurt yourself. A lot of people really swear by Crocs for standing for long periods of time.

Comfort Mat — Even if you do get the shoes, this comfort mat is going to help. Put it beside the counter or island or sink and you won’t mind doing all those dishes. Your feet will feel good and because of that so will your back. No one minds all the hard work if they are comfortable.

Some of these items, as you can tell, are extras to make your life easier and more comfortable, but some are real necessities for freezer cooking. Take the time to ensure that you have what you truly need before giving freezer cooking a try. You’re going to be so much happier with the results when you do it right.

 

Baking in Your Slow Cooker

Many people don’t realize they can actually bake in their slow cooker. In fact, some recipes make baking in your slow cooker easier than baking in an oven. Also on the plus side, slow cooker baking uses less energy.

Here are some recipes and ideas for baking in your slow cooker.

1. Whole Wheat Bread

Yes, you can bake bread in your slow cooker! It avoids a hot kitchen for one thing, and also uses so much less energy than heating up the large oven for just one loaf. Here’s how to make a 12-serving loaf.

First, you’ll need a deep metal bowl or even a 1-lb coffee can that fits into your slow cooker. Grease the bowl well. Then, turn your empty slow cooker on High to preheat (cover on).

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Let it sit while you combine in a bowl:

* 1 cup warm milk or buttermilk
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 2 tablespoons oil
* 2 tablespoons honey
* 1 egg
* 1/4 cup wheat germ

Mix these together, then add:

* 3 cups whole wheat flour

Knead dough until smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes. Place dough in the greased metal bowl or coffee can, and cover loosely with aluminum foil. In your preheated slow cooker, pour 1/2 cup of water and place a trivet in the bottom. If you don’t have a trivet, you can use crumbled foil. Set the bowl or can on the trivet or foil, cover the slow cooker, and bake for 3 hours. The top of your bread may or may not brown, but it will taste good!

Variation: replace 1/4 cup flour with 1/2 cup rolled oats; add oats into milk mixture.

2. Apple Cake

This serves 8 to 10, and you’ll need a bread or cake pan that fits in your slow cooker.Baking in The Crockpot

In a bowl, beat:

* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup oil
* 2 eggs
* 2 teaspoons vanilla

Then stir in:

* 2 cups peeled, chopped apples

Sift together:

* 2 cups flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Add these dry ingredients to the apple mixture along with 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional). Stir well and pour into the greased and floured bread pan you chose. Grease a piece of tin foil and place over the top of the pan; place pan into slow cooker, cover, and bake on High 3 to 4 hours.

Let stand 5 minutes before you take the pan out of the slow cooker. Turn cake out onto a rack and allow to cool; then slice.

3. Chocolate Fudge Cake

Here’s a cake that you don’t need a separate bowl for – you bake it right in the crock of the slow cooker.

In a bowl, mix together:

* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1 cup flour
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir in:

* 1/2 cup milk
* 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
* 1 teaspoon vanilla

Spread this mixture over the bottom of your slow cooker. Then, mix together:

* 3/4 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Sprinkle this over the batter in the slow cooker. Next, boil 1 3/4 cups water and pour over the batter. Don’t stir; just cover and cook on High 2 to 3 hours. A toothpick inserted will come out clean when it’s done.

Adapting Your Favorite Recipes for the Crockpot

“I wonder if I could cook that in the slow cooker…” Have you asked yourself this before? Many of us with slow cookers have eyeballed them and wondered if we could cook our favorite recipe(s) in them. Often, you can. But before you just throw everything into the slow cooker and hope for the best, there are some general principles you should consider as you adapt your favorite recipes for the slow cooker.

1. Temperature

In most slow cookers, “Low” is around 200 degrees F, and “High” is about 300. Cooking takes about twice as long on Low as it does on High.

If the recipe you want to convert calls for a quick baking time, then you can probably get away with a few hours on Low or one to two hours on High. If your recipe calls for long oven baking or stove top simmering, then you can probably get away with 8-10 hours on Low (a standard cook temperature and time for roasts and red meats).

2. Liquid

Slow cookers produce very moist heat. This means your recipe will retain more moisture than it would if it were baked in the oven. So a good rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by about half. However, if you’re cooking rice or some other grain, then you should use an amount of liquid that is just shy of the standard amount.

The book of recipes and fresh ingredients for cooking3. Oven versus Slow Cooker

Here is a handy guide for oven times converted to slow cooker times:

Oven: 20-30 minutes
Slow cooker: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours on High; 4 to 6 hours on Low

Oven: 35-45 minutes
Slow cooker: 2 to 3 hours on High; 6 to 8 hours on Low

Oven: 50 minutes to 3 hours
Slow cooker: 4 to 5 hours on High; 8 to 18 hours on Low

4. Know What Holds Up

Roasts, brisket, and flat steak stand up well to long cooking, usually requiring 10 to 12 hours on Low or 6 to 8 on High. But vegetables don’t usually hold up so well, especially ones like snow peas and broccoli.

If you want to adapt a meat recipe that has vegetables in it, you can add them toward the end of cooking time. However, if you combine meat and chopped vegetables that are more dense, like chunked carrots and potatoes, then you can usually cook the whole dish for 8 to 10 hours on Low.

Poultry cooks more quickly than red meat, and fish cooks faster than both.

Ready to adapt your own favorite recipe? Give it a try and let me know what you made and how it turned out.