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Tuesday
Sep022014

Simple skillet vegetables and rice, my new favorite comfort food

I love simple. I love flavorful. I love comfort foods. 

And this recipe is all three. 

Over the weekend my mother-in-law was in town. Jason and I were cooking her dinner when I was coming up with a side dish. 

Jason said, why don't you cook this rice and add in the carrots and celery in the fridge... Umm... he's a genius. 

So this is what we did. And this is what you'll need:

1 cup uncooked rice or one box Uncle Ben's Rice Pilaf (we used the rice pilaf)

2 large carrots, cut into bite sized pieces 

4 large pieces of celery, diced

1/2 a large white onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp dried dill (see how I dry mine here.)

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper

Cook your rice according to packet directions. In a skillet warm some olive oil and add in your carrots and celery. 

Add in your dill and bay leaf.

Once that has cooked for about five or ten minutes add in your onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is clear.

Mix your cooked rice into the skillet.

Here are some more options:

You can use brown rice cooked in broth.
You could also add in some leftover chicken for a complete meal.

It is so good and budget friendly, I did the math and the entire meal (adding in leftover chicken) cost us around $3.25. 

That is dinner for a family of four for less than $5! 

What is your favorite comfort food? 

Monday
Sep012014

Simple skillet vegetables and rice, my new favorite comfort food

I love simple. I love flavorful. I love comfort foods. 

And this recipe is all three. 

Over the weekend my mother-in-law was in town. Jason and I were cooking her dinner when I was coming up with a side dish. 

Jason said, why don't you cook this rice and add in the carrots and celery in the fridge... Umm... he's a genius. 

So this is what we did. And this is what you'll need:

1 cup uncooked rice or one box Uncle Ben's Rice Pilaf (we used the rice pilaf)

2 large carrots, cut into bite sized pieces 

4 large pieces of celery, diced

1/2 a large white onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp dried dill (see how I dry mine here.)

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper

Cook your rice according to packet directions. In a skillet warm some olive oil and add in your carrots and celery. 

Add in your dill and bay leaf.

Once that has cooked for about five or ten minutes add in your onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is clear.

Mix your cooked rice into the skillet.

Here are some more options:

You can use brown rice cooked in broth.
You could also add in some leftover chicken for a complete meal.

It is so good and budget friendly, I did the math and the entire meal (adding in leftover chicken) cost us around $3.25. 

That is dinner for a family of four for less than $5! 

What is your favorite comfort food? 

Friday
Aug292014

Dinner in 15 Minutes: Beef Fajita Bowl and tips to make cooking faster and easier

One thing I hear time and time again from a lot of busy moms is that they don't have time to cook. They have jobs and children and spouses and homes to maintain and obligations and it just gets to be too much. The last thing they want to do is spend an hour in the kitchen. 

Got it. I hear you. I do. 

Last week I took a break from meal planning. I realized later that this was a BIG mistake. 

The week got busy and I was running around at supper time like a mad woman. 

I had a general idea of what we were all eating until Thursday... and then I just ran out of ideas. 

I asked everyone on Facebook what they thought and I got some pretty good ideas. 

Then I came up with dinner. It was a beef fajita bowl and you can watch that recipe in the video below. 

If you're reading this in your email browser: click here

But I have some tips for making dinner time faster, smoother and easier. 

1. Prechop your vegetables. Okay, so I told you a few weeks ago I got a BUNCH of bell peppers for just $.10 each! I chopped them up and flash froze them. Then when I want to cook with them I just pull out as many as I need and I am good to go.  

2. Precook your meat. Have some meat already cooked and waiting in your freezer to be thawed and thrown in a dish. This is by far the best thing I could have done! A few weeks ago I bought 40 pounds of ground beef (more on that another day) and I cooked some of it in the slow cooker. Then I stored it in 1/2-pound increments in the freezer. It takes little time to thaw.

Of course, this can also be done with chicken. I have cooked chicken in the slow cooker, shredded it and froze it for later use. 

3. Keep your basics on hand. Brown rice, a few cans of beans and some tomatoes in canned in my freezer. That's pretty much the basics to build about 20 different recipes that I already have in my brain. 

Of course the best thing to do is meal plan. But no one is perfect. So if you have a backup plan and know you can get dinner on the table in under 20 minutes you won't be hitting up the drive through. 

What tips do you have for making dinner easier? 


 

Tuesday
Aug262014

How to care for cast iron in a few simple steps

Have I told you lately how much I love my cast iron Dutch oven? I swear everything I cook in it just tastes better. 

A few weeks ago I was at my mother's house. She made me a grill cheese sandwich in her cast iron skillet. 

"I love cast iron," I told her. "I just have the Dutch oven. But I cook everything in it." 

My mother turned and stared at me. 

"You just have the Dutch oven. That's it?" she asked. 

She could not believe that I, a woman of 31 living in the south, only had one piece of cast iron. Apparently I was breaking some sort of law. 

Mama washed her skillet and told me to take it home. 

"I have more," she said. 

 

See my mother knows... cast iron wear is perfect to cook with and it lasts forever. If you take care of it it will last over 100 years. 

But that's the key... you have to take care of it. 

I'm not going to lie. I have made some cast iron mistakes. I have soaked it, put it in the dishwasher, scrubbed it with an SOS pad. Yeah. You're not supposed to do any of those things. That's all a no no. 

Today I am going to show you the correct way to care for your cast iron. 

1. SEASONING. 

The seasoning process is by far the most important thing you can do for your cast iron. This is the first thing you want to do when you purchase it. 

Then you will need to reseason it every once in a while. 

To do this you will need an oil of some. I like to think about what Buck, my great grandmother would have used. Probably lard, or shortening. I don't have either of those in my house... so I will use coconut oil. 

You will also need a paper towel or soft cloth. 

That photo is SUPER blurry, but you get the point. You want to rug the oil on every inch of surface inside the pan. Get into every curve and up all the side. 

Then slide it in the oven and "bake" at 350 for about 30 minutes. 

This will prevent sticking when you cook. 

2. CLEANING.

So if you're a put something in the sink and let it soak kinda lady, cast iron might not be for you. But you can reform that behavior. Trust me, I know. 

In theory if you've seasoned your cast iron properly you don't have to wash it. You can just wipe it out with a hot, wet dish rag and you're good to go. But that's not always reality. Especially if you've cooked something like eggs or cornbread. 

Leaving it to soak will cause it to rust and if you have a white sink like me it will stain your sink. In stead squirt a little dish soap in it, fill it with hot water and use some grease... elbow grease. And a straight brush. I purchase mine at the Dollar Tree. 

It may take a while to clean all the gunk off of it, but you want to make sure there are NO food particles left on it. 

Then you will want to dry it completely. 

To dry my cast iron I put it in an oven that's been preheated to 350 degrees. Then I turn the oven off and let the pan sit there. 

If you do have a piece of cast iron that has rusted you can clean it with a potato. I know... that sounds insane, but it works. You simple cut the potato, sprinkle it with salt and then use it to scrub away the rust. 

That's it. I know it seems like a lot. But it's not. Plus, you can read about the health benefits of cast iron by heading here

Do you cook with cast iron? Tell me about it. Join the conversation below!

Thursday
Aug142014

Freezer Canning Peaches: No blanching, no sugar!

So I like to pretend I am from Georgia. I lived there the first six years of my marriage and I LOVED it. Don't get me wrong, I have come to enjoy living in South Alabama again, but a piece of my heart will always be in Georgia. 

However, I will say, while Georgia claims their peaches are America's best. I have to disagree. Chilton County peaches totally kick Georgia peaches' little peach cheeks. (Peach cheeks. That's adorable.) But I will get more into that later. 

Yesterday while hittin' up the farmer's market I saw they had canning peaches for about $.52 a pound. Score! Done. Let's go home. 

However, what am I going to do with a 25-pound box of peaches? 

Freeze them. 

So here is what I did:

 

What you'll need:

25 lbs. of peaches.*

1/4 cup lemon juice

a pairing knife

a potato peeler

Note: I chose to forgo and sweeteners because I think peaches are delicious just the way they are. I also wanted a health option for smoothes and other things. And since a lot of these peaches will probably be used for baking, I don't need to add extra sweeteners. 

freezer safe containers in which to put your lovely peaches. 

*My farmer's market discounts "canning peaches." These peaches are super soft and have dark spots. Some of them can't be used at all, but I only had two that I couldn't use and I fed them to my chickens

Step 1. Wash your peaches. Then cut, pit, peel and slice. I realize that is multiple steps, but come on... 

Some of your peaches will be so soft you can too all of this with your hands. This is messy, but saves a lot of time! Also, don't forget to compost your peels and what not. 

Step 2. Add your lemon juice to your peaches. You will need to do this to prevent discoloration. I realize if you're freezing them it is not the same as if you canned them. So discoloration isn't a big issue, but I would recommend just going ahead and doing this. 

Step 3. Fill your containers. I chose to use mason jars because they are shatter resistant, the lids are BPA free, I can reuse them multiple times, and the peaches look pretty in the jars. 

You can store the peaches in TIGHTLY sealed containers for up to a year. A year!

I got 10 quarts and I am THRILLED! 

Have you ever freezer canned? Tell me about it!