Cooking with kids~Pumpkin Cookies

Today is the beginning of a brand new series here. Cooking with my kids is something I am trying to do more of. Sometimes it is easier to just get in the kitchen and do it myself. But other times it is easier to involve one of them because then it cuts down on the fighting from boredom.

In celebration of hoping and wishing for fall here in the deep south, Lil Man and I made Pumpkin Cookies. I have to admit I have never tried these. I don’t like pumpkin! *GASP* There I said it while everyone is counting down to Pumpkin this and that, I am looking forward to apple flavored items. But my family loves these easy cookies. And they don’t last long at all, so they must be good.

I found this recipe on Pinterest. It only takes 2 ingredients can of pumpkin puree and box of spice cake mix.

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Mix them up real good.

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And bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. Let cool. These are a soft cookie so they won’t take long to bake and less likely to dry out.

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I am a huge fan of Pinterest! You can follow me at http://www.pinterest.com/jeanetteford/.

Enjoy!

 

Getting challenge ready

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Creating a Master Menu

In my household, it is very easy to jump into the day and get caught up in all the things that need to be done. Homeschooling, laundry, cleaning, chickens and then there is meal time, by the time I get a chance to breathe it is 4:00 and I have no idea what’s for dinner. I need a plan. It’s one of many ways I keep my life organized and our budget on track.

This summer I took my meal planning to a whole new level. I went through my cookbooks (believe me there is a lot!) and made monthly menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner of all of my families favorites. I have enough menus for 5 months worth of dinners. We only have 1 or 2 months for breakfast and lunch, but are trying to expand on those also. We will begin using these menus in September. I love trying new recipes so the weekends are left opened for those. I also only use these during the school year. Summer is all about finding new favorites.

 

Creating a Monthly Grocery List

Another thing I am starting to do is a beginning of the month huge shopping. I make a grocery listing everything I need and then go through and cross off what I already have. From there, I go through and add things that I am getting low on that I know are necessities and we will need before the month runs out.

Now I break down the produce items by the week. Obviously, buying fresh produce for a whole month and expecting it to stay fresh until the end of the month is unrealistic. So I do a quick produce and milk shopping every week.

Why I do a monthly shopping
I live out in a rural area and it is not economical for me to be driving to the store multiple times. Not only that but I have a big family. So I choose to take one weekend to do my huge shopping. One day I drive North to BJ’s and stop at a Publix. And then a few days later, when I go to my mother in laws, I stop at Costco, Fresh Market and a Meat market if need be. These are all close to her house. I am technically not making an extra trip because I have to go pick up which ever kids are at her house anyways. Plus this just works for me. If I lived in the city or closer to these places, I probably wouldn’t shop monthly.

 

Where I Shop

I usually shop at BJ Wholesale, Publix and Walmart. In doing my research of the variety of products, I have decided to drop Walmart stores. The stores are very limited on in store organic or natural products, but online they have an amazing selection with some items cheaper than Amazon. Plus by shopping online and using the mypoints.com website you will earn points towards gift cards for Amazon, Walmart or Visa. I honestly cannot tell you how much I love this site. But that is another post.

 I also just recently purchased a Costco membership after reading many blog post about the amount of organic items and doing a walk-through of the store. I also did this through an email deal from MyPoints and earned extra points. So September will be my first month shopping there.
Near Costco, there is a meat market that sells grass-fed beef for the same price as regular beef at Publix. I am driving by so of course I am going to stop there and get my beef and anything else that looks good. Again I haven’t been there yet. This is based off of my research.
But I have been to the new Fresh Market by my Mother in Law’s house. AMAZING! It was a real food culinary dream. I will definitely be stopping there when I need fresh seafood. Very little meat is prepackaged, it all gets wrapped by the butcher when you order it. Plus they have an amazing bulk section.
I will post updates on my Facebook, instagram and of course here as to how this worked for me.
Throwing out all the junk
Now is the time to begin. Go through the house and throw out all the junk and buy all organic and natural items. NO!
The frugal side of me cannot suggest or even fathom doing this. I hate waste! It drives me crazy! Use what you got until it gone and then switch to the healthier version. This summer, we had already made the switch to organic milk because I was buying a half gallon for me, but realized it would be cheaper to just switch out our gallons for organic. My eggs are 90% farm fresh because my neighbors have been letting me buy their extras for next to nothing. Once in a while I buy eggs at the store and get the vegetarian eggs.
I am finally getting low on some items and I will be switching them over in September. I knew how awful vegetable oil is but I didn’t toss out what I had, I used it up and now can switch to coconut oil. My sugar is almost gone so I am switching to organic. And I am finishing up the meat in the freezer, but am hoping to buy 90% all natural, grass fed or wild for what I need to buy.
If you have some stuff that is unopened and really want to make the switch, then maybe donating to a local food bank is a great option for you. Remember no waste!
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Remember, nobody is perfect 100% of the time. There will be times when the kids are starving or your out running errands and you just NEED to have that Pumpkin Spice Latte to get you through. I know for a fact that this coming month is going to be hard for us because our Disney passes are back and we will be going almost every weekend. But we are going to try our hardest and not fret over the times we can’t. My goal is 80/20. If I am at home, I want to make a meal instead of loading everyone up and going out and then feeling yucky afterwards. I want to feel better not be strict. I want to know I am feeding healthy options to my family, instead of crap that does nothing to for the mind and body. But am I overly crazy about it? NO, just doing the best I can do. One day, week, month and food choice at a time.

Fun weekend!

It’s the little things in life that make me smile. This weekend was one of those times that just made me giddy.

Saturday was the big day! The day I have been waiting for since April, when I bought all those fuzzy chicks home. That’s right folks! I got an egg!

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Here is proud egg layer!

Thing 1

Thing 1

The first egg arrived on Saturday morning. I happen to hear one of the other hens singing the egg song so I went rushing out there thinking she laid an egg. But really she just likes announcing when others have made a nest and our laying their eggs. That is when I found Thing 1, not in the nesting boxes, but in her own little homemade nest. So for about an hour, I kept peeking at her and finally it was there. And I squealed like a girl. But hey, farmer’s can be girly!

Then Sunday, she took almost all day to lay again. And I sent little man out to gather the egg. But she wasn’t done yet. So we found these beauties in the garden instead.

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Thirty minutes later, little man and I went out again and found our 2nd egg.

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Needless to say, my kids are so excited about having to check for eggs everyday.

Check in with my flock

It’s been a while since I have done a chicken post. Mostly because I have been waiting for an egg, but they are almost 19 weeks and nothing so far. So that will have to be another post later; whenever it happens. Let me start by saying that everyone is right. Having chickens is addicting! I am already planning a bigger run for them because they are spoiled rotten. But anyone that knows me knew that was gonna happen.

Photo Bomb! I’m the center of attention!

 

This journey hasn’t been without bumps in the road though. In the beginning, we lost two of our baby chicks to Coccidiosis. It is fatal to chickens, but thankfully because of the internet and some wonderful bloggers, I was able to treat the rest and have had no problems with that.

Then there was the too many rooster problems. I ended up with 3 and one became aggressive towards the others. We had a lot of injuries. So it was time to relocate him to our next door neighbors, where he found a hen that is his twin and fell deeply in love.

Be nice to your new girlfriend, Speckles.

Be nice to your new girlfriend, Speckles.

 

Next, was the summer cold of 2014. It hit a few of our girls pretty hard. I didn’t want too, but had to give out antibiotics. Within a day, they were all good. I am trying to do the natural thing, but with this the oregano, which acts as a natural antibiotic, wasn’t cutting it.

Lastly, I had to escapees. Two different times, two different hens! They got so excited that Mommy was coming in with treats that they ran out the door. As soon as they realized they were out and the others were in, they paced the fence trying to get back. So I was able to easily catch them.

Okay~ on to the chickens now.

Little baby at the beginning of summer.

Little baby at the beginning of summer.

Little baby now

Little baby now

Big Bertha then

Big Bertha then

Nutmeg then

Nutmeg then

Big Bertha (right) and Nutmeg (left)

Big Bertha (right) and Nutmeg (left)

Midnight then

Midnight then

Midnight now

Midnight now

Precious then

Precious then

Precious now

Precious now

Thing 1 and Thing 2 then

Thing 1 and Thing 2 then

Thing 1 now

Thing 1 now

Thing 2 now

Thing 2 now

Luna then

Luna then

Luna now

Luna now

And last, but not least

Ninja then

Ninja then

Ninja now

Ninja now

And I just want to add he is the perfect Rooster. Let’s the girls eat first, watches out for predators and is the first out in the morning and the last one in at night.

UPDATE: I started writing this 2 days ago and as of 15 minutes ago, Thing 1 is in the coop making a nest. We are hoping for an egg by the end of the day. Follow me on Facebook or Instagram for updates.

 

Coffee Cake Muffins

Today is the first day of school here. We have had a long standing tradition of pancakes for breakfast, but my daughter is beginning her junior year.  I felt it was time for a bit of a change to celebrate her grown-ness (yeah I just made that word up). I found a yummy recipe in my 2012 Taste of Home Quick Cooking cookbook that I felt was perfect for your teens first day back to school or a mom’s brunch.

These true (yes, there is coffee) Coffee Cake Muffins have a crumb topping with a jam filled center. Amazing!

 

Coffee Cake Muffins

1 1/2 cups All purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup brewed coffee

1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 egg

1/4 cup apricot preserves I have apricot preserves, but I think peach or strawberry would also be yummy.

 

Topping:

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

 

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and then stir in the coffee, oil and egg.

Fill paper lined muffin tins about a 1/4 of the way full. Drop 1 teaspoon of preserves in the center.

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Cover with remaining batter.

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Time to make the topping. In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon and cut in the cold butter.  Stir in the walnuts. Sprinkle over the tops.

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Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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And yes there are 2 without topping on it. Not because I didn’t have enough, but because my son doesn’t like walnuts.

Enjoy!

 

 

Real Food Challenge

This summer I took the time to really learn about our food. I am tired of hearing my hubby complain about feeling sick and tired. Every week there is something new. I also started thinking about how I could feel better and it really comes down to the way we treat our bodies. I wonder how many illnesses and diseases could be cured just with a healthy diet.  The list of unpronounceable names of ingredients that ends up in our food is disgusting. I mean whatever happen to simple is better. You shouldn’t have a huge list of ingredients in a can of green beans. It’s just green beans, for goodness sake!

Everyone has a different definition of what Real Food is. Some say it is all organic, all the time. Some say it is back to basics like our ancestors. Some say it is raising and growing your own food. I am very jealous of anyone who can do all of these all the time.

I am eclectic, a little of each. As much as I would love to raise and grow ALL of our food, it takes money and time and knowledge.  I do agree with making it from scratch instead of buying prepackaged mixes or food. In all reality, you already have everything on hand for pancakes, waffles and various cakes or cookies. And food should taste like food, not cardboard. Buy organic when you can, but especially try to buy organic for the dirty dozen. Corn is another vegetable you want to grow or buy organic due to the possibility of it being GMO. Also try to buy products that are non-GMO verified.

So here are my starting points:

  • Make small changes each month
  • Farm fresh eggs, natural chicken and pork and grass fed beef, when possible.
  • Organic for the dirty dozen and corn or whenever I can find it for reasonable.
  • Process items must have less than 5 ingredients and for the most part I want to know what they are.
  • Eating out only twice a month and not at drive thru type restaurants.

Remember these are my starting points, you can jump in with both feet or just dip your toes in. It’s up to you. I will be blogging my journey to help others along the way. Our official start date is September 1st. So look for a post next week on our grocery list and goals for month 1.

In the meantime, check out the blog 100 day food challenge. It’s amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Strawberry Pie

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A few months back I took the kids strawberry picking. This is an activity we do every year when the U-pick em’s open up. While we were picking Dakota was listing all the things we could make with our strawberries. Then I hear, “Momma, I want a strawberry pie. Can you make a strawberry pie?” So of course I say yes, because I can’t say no to him. And there began our strawberry pie challenge.

When I am making something new, I usually read several recipes and then mix and mingle them together to accommodate it to my family’s taste or to my pantry supply.

The original recipe is from 2006 Taste of Home Annual Recipes, but this is my version of it.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 pre-made pie crust, frozen or refrigerated. I used the refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust.

1 package of cream cheese, softened

2 tbs sugar

1 tbs milk

Fresh strawberries about a quart, sliced

1 container Sugar free Strawberry Glaze, my kids grabbed the sugar free when I sent them to get it. I couldn’t tell the difference.

1)Preheat oven to 450

2) Unroll your pie crust and place in your pan. Trim edge and flute. Line unpricked crust with heavy duty foil.

3) Bake for 8 minutes, remove foil and bake 7 minutes longer. Cool completely.

4) Beat cream cheese, sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth.

5) Spread over the crust and arrange strawberries on top.

6) Spread Strawberry Glaze over the top and chill until serving.