grated zucchini in square glass Pyrex dish

A Simple Method to Drain and Freeze Grated Zucchini

 

grated zucchini in square glass Pyrex dish

Do you have an abundance of zucchini from your garden, an ambitious neighbor, or a farm CSA program like we have? Once you are tiring of cooking and eating all that green squash, what are you to do with the rest?

Most of us enjoy a good loaf of zucchini bread or another baked good made with zucchini.

And if you really have a lot of zucchini (or access to it), I highly recommend freezing some for later use. How nice would it be to be able to bake up something fresh with zucchini any time of the year?

close-up shot of grated zucchini

Most recipes or kitchen tips involving shredded zucchini instruct you to squeeze out the excess moisture, usually with a paper towel, a clean tea-towel, or even cheese-cloth. While this process is usually necessary, I find it to be a bit tedious and a little messy. It becomes even more of a chore when you have a lot of zucchini to process.

Well, you’ll be happy to know that this summer, I think I found a better way!

I love it when I can learn how to do something better. Working “smarter, but not harder” is a goal for most of us as busy homemakers (and bakers). So why do a step to prepare food when you can simply rely on nature to do it for you?

grated zucchini in metal bowl top view

I entitled my blog “Simply Flourishing Home” because one of my passions is to share tips or ideas that I’ve learned with other busy homemakers, in order to make life just a little simpler.

So here’s what I’ve been trying this summer. I think you’ll agree that this method really does simplify the process of draining the excess liquid from grated zucchini.

First, wash and grate your zucchini into a big bowl or other suitable container.

grated zucchini with hand grater

If you have a food processor to make this step easier I’m jealous please enjoy using that, but right now I’m without one, so my zucchini are currently being grated by hand. That means I either beg or hire my sons to help me, or I just do it myself and call it an arm workout.

Using a fresh container (or remove the shredded zucchini from your original dish and wipe), place a couple layers of paper towel into the bottom of the dish. Next layer an inch or so of grated zucchini over the paper towel. Now continue in this fashion, repeating with layers of paper towel and zucchini until you run out of zucchini (or room in your dish). Make sure to end by topping off the chosen container with another paper tower before sealing on the lid.

bowl of grated zucchini with paper towel on top

preparing grated zucchini

Place your filled dish into the refrigerator and wait several hours or overnight.

Almost miraculously (but not really, because it’s just science), the paper towels will absorb much of the excess zucchini liquid. Remove and discard the saturated paper towel and your shredded squash is now ready to use or freeze.

If you are freezing for later use, simply remove whatever portion you’d like to freeze, and place it in a plastic freezer bag or other freezer container. I usually measure mine out with my adjustable measuring cup (similar to this one), and freeze in increments of around 2 cups in a one-quart freezer bag. If I have a particular recipe in mind, I freeze the exact amount needed for the recipe (or often for a double batch), in each bag.

freezing grated zucchini

 

shredded zucchini prepared for the freezer i

Prepared zucchini – two containers for baking soon and several bags to freeze.

One important note from my experience so far is to not allow the zucchini to stay for too long in your fridge, without either using or freezing it. I admit I may have gotten busy and left some for several days, and then regretfully had to chuck it (into the trash). Another time I left it a couple of days thinking it would be too long, but found it to be just fine. It’s just not worth the risk though, and of course it’s always best to work with fresh ingredients. So my personal recommendations for optimal results (based on my unscientific observations and slightly wild guesses), is to use or freeze it by the next day.

Also, you can experiment with the size and shape of container and how much paper towel to layer to see what works best for you. In one case, I actually found the paper towel had absorbed too much liquid. The zucchini shreds were actually a little on the dry side. Having a refrigerator full of the required vegetable, I simply grated in a little fresh zucchini and mixed it all together. Problem solved. So too much paper towel is also not advisable.

I hope this method of draining the excess liquid from your shredded zucchini works as well for you as it does for me. I’m quite happy to do a little less work with the same results. And I’m looking forward to all the future baked goods I can produce with my prepared and frozen zucchini.

Now if I could just find a natural way to get the zucchini to grate itself.

*****

Have you tried baking with zucchini? Do you freeze some for later use? What’s your favorite recipe featuring grated zucchini? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

beef and eggplant skillet recipe

Ground Beef and Eggplant Skillet – A favorite eggplant recipe!

beef and eggplant skillet recipe

Ground Beef and Eggplant Skillet with Summer Vegatables

I have one question for you today:

How do you feel about eggplant?

I personally have mixed feelings about this common summer vegetable.

First of all, you can hardly deny that eggplant is pretty. It is a shiny, deep purple and looks plump and delicious…..until you reach the inside. That’s where eggplant, in my opinion, loses it’s appeal….and that’s the main part we usually eat.

I also find that many do not care for it’s mild, yet unique taste and somewhat spongy texture.

My family also has mixed feelings about eggplant. And I do not consider them to be fussy eaters. Whereas I pretty much like it (although to me eggplant leftovers often leave something to be desired), I can’t say I love it. My guys seem to either dislike it or tolerate it, depending on the recipe.

There are a grand total of approximately two recipes I can think of that my husband and sons really like that feature eggplant.

This recipe is one of them.

So why even bother with eggplant if it’s so low on our list of foods we like?

Well, first of all, we get plenty with our CSA farm share, and I am of the belief that whenever possible, I do not turn down “free” food, especially if it is healthy. I also like to use what I have, so if it happens be an eggplant, I am bound and determined to make something good out of it.

I originally found this recipe (with a similar name), in a lovely, family cookbook I purchased from a local farm stand many years ago. They not only published a cookbook full of practical and delicious recipes, but most of them feature many of the vegetables you would typically find on a local farm or grow in your own garden. I go to this book often when looking for tasty vegetable recipes to use up nature’s bounty.

I have since found a similar recipe online, as well (see link below).

I hope you find this, as we do, to be a useful and delicious way to use your eggplant. It makes use of tomatoes, green peppers and onions, which are also in good supply this time of year.

 

Ground Beef and Eggplant Skillet

(adapted from Cooks.com)

Ingredients:

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 eggplant, peeled and diced (*or cubed, based on preference)

1 green pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped or sliced

2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 cup tomato sauce (or use jarred spaghetti sauce)

1/2 tsp salt

ground black pepper, to taste

1 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

Brown rice (approx. 4 servings)

Instructions:

Brown beef and garlic. Add eggplant; cook and stir 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients (except rice). Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice.

Notes:

  1. Fresh herbs may be used in place of dried; use about three times as much.
  2. Recipe may alternately be served over potatoes or noodles.
  3. Can be made ahead and reheated; tastes great!
  4. Feel free to adjust the amounts of eggplant, ground beef and vegetables, based on your preferences and what you have on hand.
  5. This recipe makes enough for the four of us (mostly tall adults), to eat with leftovers.

 

I hope that this gives you an enjoyable way to have your eggplant … and eat it too.

*****

How do you feel about eggplant? Do you have any recipe suggestions for eggplant, especially for those of us who are not in love with the vegetable?

 

 

uncooked pizzas

How to Get Help By Asking

 

uncooked pizzas

My two-pizza deal.

 

The Tale of Two Pizzas, a Used Car Battery, and What We Can Learn From All of This

 

Yesterday I had a really nice thing happen to me at the supermarket.

I felt so happy and inspired, that I had to share this simple story… for two reasons.

One, it was truly one of those nice little blessings for which I am very thankful, and two, it shows how we often receive by simply asking.

*****

As I was perusing the vegetable and deli section of our supermarket, I came upon the shelf where the store-made, ready-to-bake calzones and pizzas are located. I was looking forward to taking advantage of a special the store was running, in which if I bought one fresh calzone, I would receive a free fresh pizza. A perfect treat for this Friday’s dinner.

But alas, there were no more calzones to be had.

Not to give up immediately, I looked around for a store worker, and saw a young man stocking shelves nearby. I approached him and asked him if there were any more calzones available to purchase for the special. He in turn asked someone behind the meat counter, and they both looked over at another gentleman who was apparently shopping. The young store guy approached this other man (who was dressed in regular clothes), and they both came over to help me.

I found out the man who was shopping was an employee (must have been a supervisor or manager of some sort), who said he had, “just taken his badge off”, and was shopping. I told him my dilemma apologetically (since he was off of work already), but his pleasant response was in the spirit of true customer service.

First he told me that there were probably not going to be any more calzones today. I said, “OK” with a slight hesitation and a little disappointment, but I would have been OK with this outcome. It was his next question that caught me off guard in a good sort of way. He then said, “What can I do to make this right?”.

I wasn’t sure what to suggest, and so he then offered me a buy-one-pizza, get-one-free deal, and asked if that would make me happy. I told him it certainly would, so he had me give his name to the cashier and said to tell them that he had OK’d the substitution. I thanked him, and with a renewed bounce in my step (and two new pizzas in my cart), off I went to complete my grocery shopping.

You see, I could have just walked (or stomped), off in disappointment without any calzones or pizza in my cart. I would have gotten over it, but it would have left a slightly negative taste in my mouth. But by taking a little effort to politely ask for help, I was blessed with an even better deal (the pizza was less expensive than the calzone I was originally going to buy). I felt happy and cared for as a customer, and very satisfied, and can now happily recommend this particular market to others!

*****

My husband had a similar experience a little while ago at the auto parts store. He had purchased a car battery which stopped working, and in bringing it in to pick up a replacement, he was told that it was just days out of warranty.

He had one of our sons with him, whom he looked over at and basically said, “Now watch and learn.”

He spoke to someone who worked there (probably asked for a supervisor), told him of his problem, and politely asked what they could do for him since it was so close to the warranty date.

This store employee was able to offer him a substantial discount on a new battery, even though technically it was past warranty. My husband was also very pleased and now feels even better about supporting this business.

You see, by the letter of the law, in either case we should have just been “satisfied” going without, but with a little effort and going out of our comfort zones to ask, we were each blessed with something slightly undeserved.

My husband often speaks of how his father taught him to “haggle” or bargain with people at yard sales and such. He was probably embarrassed sometimes when he was young (OK, he said he literally slouched down in the car seat on some occasions), but in the end, he was taught the value of saving money and simply asking for something better than what was offered.

I’m not suggesting we should not ever be willing to pay a fair price for an item without any bargaining; it’s just that although some of us are not naturally comfortable with this practice, many people or businesses would rather profit monetarily a little less in order to gain your trust, confidence and loyalty. There are those in business who truly wish to meet your needs as a customer, and at the very least, it’s a practical business practice to please one’s customers.

It won’t always work out in our favor. We need to be courteous and polite, even if the answer is, “no”.

But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

*****

Now let’s think about some spiritual applications.

The Bible clearly tells us to ask and we will receive.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

– Matthew 7:7 NLT

It also tells us that sometimes we act selfishly and foolishly, but still don’t have something because we simply haven’t asked God.

“You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.”

-James 4:2 NLT

To provide balance, the scriptures also guide us in the principles of being content, living with thanksgiving, treating others with respect, and enduring hardship and persevering through the difficulties that will come in life.

I’m not going to get all theological here, but let’s just simplify things for a moment.

As a Christian, I truly believe that God not only knows and loves me, but he knows best what I need. Sometimes he will give me an obvious blessing or even a miracle, to teach me of his eternal care and his unlimited power.

Other times, like a loving but firm parent, he will answer my request with a “no” or perhaps a “wait”, because he cares less about my comfort, and more about my growth as a person. Sometimes my suffering will result in more good (for myself and/or others), and he sees the bigger picture.

So why not just ask God, just as a child would ask a parent, and patiently and thankfully await his response.

There are some stipulations, such as making sure what I’m asking for is not going against his commandments or his nature, and making sure my heart is right in order to make a wise request. But just as a child with a parent, sometimes I will receive a blessing I don’t deserve or wouldn’t have otherwise received had I not asked.

How we enjoy those moments!

At other times, I will be treated like the loved daughter that I am to God, and will have to wait or even give up my desire. In those situations, I will have the opportunity to learn trust and patience. Sometimes I will have to endure hardship or discipline to make me a stronger, more mature person.

Often the child does not know what is best for them, but a wise and caring parent can see a bigger picture.

God our Father really does know what is best.

In times of suffering and difficulty, or even just minor discomfort, I will gain “tools” which I can use to bless and help others in similar circumstances. I can deepen my understanding for others in difficult situations, and offer them heart-felt compassion and a listening ear or timely advice.

So whether it’s for practical reasons like saving our hard-earned cash, or to receive a non-material or spiritual blessing, I encourage you to go ahead and ask.

You just never know what good may come of it.

*****

 

 

 

 

foaming hand soap dispenser in use

How To Refill A Foaming Hand Soap Dispenser With Regular Liquid Hand Soap

foaming hand soap dispenser on sink beside paper drinking cups

 

Don’t you just love those foaming hand soap dispensers?

I do.

I like that I get just enough soap without having an extra ton to rinse off, but most of all, I really like that because they dispense less actual soap with each pump, my family and I can save money and still get our hands clean!

May I just say something here?

One thing that I really don’t like is paying for water. No; not my water bill, silly (although that can be a little frustrating as well). What I mean is I don’t like paying for watered down products, at the same price (or more?) than the regular liquid product. You’re actually paying for less product and more water.

Examples include “light” salad dressing (just put less on your salad if you’re trying to cut calories or add your own water!), cheap shampoo (I’m actually washing my hair in water, so please just give me shampoo!), and then according to my husband, there’s antifreeze too. Apparently you used to have to add water, but now they provide the “convenience” of the premixed product…..at close to the same price for the watered down product. I’m sure there’s something else I’ve forgotten, but you get my point.

There. End of rant.

So what was I saying? Oh, yes. I do not like paying for water, but I really like my foaming hand soap dispensers.

So what’s a girl to do?

By the way, before I tell you what to do, I wanted to mention that I got this wonderful idea from a foaming hand soap dispenser that I purchased years ago from one of my favorite direct marketing companies. The dispenser came with directions to refill it using regular soap, and lines to guide you on the side of the container.

One day I had the amazing realization that this concept could simply be applied to any foaming soap container!

I purposely went out and bought some foaming soaps, just so I’d have the dispensers. Then I refilled them using this simple method.

One more note: If you wish to purchase a fancy, nicer-looking foaming hand soap dispenser, I found a bunch on Amazon. This is a nice option.

But since we’re discussing saving money, you have the choice to reuse an empty store-bought foaming hand soap container. Either way, you’ll still save money on the refill.

Mrs. Meyer's hand soap refill

Use any liquid hand soap (refill packages are usually more economical).

Here’s the scoop on what to do:

1. First, remove the lid from your empty foaming hand soap dispenser.

empty Dial foaming hand soap dispenser

Any brand will do.

2. Pour in approximately one inch (or less) of regular liquid hand soap

pouring liquid hand soap into foaming dispenser

Add soap to empty dispenser.

 

liquid soap in dispenser

Fill to about one inch (or one quarter of the dispenser). A little less usually works just fine.

3. Next, add water to the dispenser, stopping about one inch from the top (since they need air to operate).

add water to foaming soap dispenser

Simply add tap water.

 

Stop adding water at line (if provided), or about one inch from top of hand soap dispenser.

Stop adding water at line (if provided), or about one inch from top of hand soap dispenser.

4. Screw the pump back on to your dispenser.

5. Gently shake or move the dispenser back and forth to mix the soap and water.

6. Press the spout and enjoy economical, foaming hand soap!

foaming hand soap dispenser in use

I have recently noticed that on one of the brands of soap I use there are instructions on how to refill their dispenser with regular soap refill (and I must say, I’m impressed!). However, their suggested amount of soap to use in the dispenser is one half! I tried my usual, smaller amount and it works just fine!

liquid hand soap in dispenser 2

Experiment with the amount if you wish.

Beware of moisturizing hand soaps, as many foaming-type dispensers will clog with this variety.

So…..you probably have a foaming soap dispenser somewhere in your house. You very likely have some regular soap (or better yet, an economical refill size).

I know that you can hardly wait to try this tip for yourself!

Kudos to those of you who figured this out on your own. If that is the case, you probably didn’t make it much past the title of this post, but if you did read this far, thank you for sticking with me! If you have any further points to add, please feel free to share!

*****

Do you prefer foaming hand soap to full strength? Have you ever refilled your dispensers using this method? Am I the only one who dislikes paying extra for water?

homemade blueberry pancakes with butter and syrup

How To Make Easy, Healthy, Delicious Homemade Pancakes

 

homemade blueberry pancakes with butter and syrup

Homemade fresh blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup.

Happy Fourth of July, friends!!!

Today I realized that it would have been nice to share a festive, patriotic recipe with you, but truth be told, I didn’t make any special holiday recipes this time (sometimes life just happens), and what I really had planned to share was a recipe for homemade pancakes.

Well, this is the beauty of this homemade pancake recipe. They are they quick and simple to mix up (with basic ingredients you probably have in your pantry), they can be made much more healthy than store-bought pancake mixes (by using part or all whole grain flour and healthy add-ins), and they’re economical. And what’s more, with the addition of an endless variety of ingredients, they can be changed up to suit any special occasion or holiday!

pancakes on griddle

The pancakes in my photos are made with fresh blueberries, but you can leave them plain or include any number of different add-ins to create the pancake of your liking. I’m including a list of many ideas for add-in ingredients for your homemade pancakes, but the variety of options is really endless! I often separate out some of the batter and make two varieties at once, just for fun.

If I were planning ahead for the Fourth of July, I would probably add blueberries and strawberries to my pancakes, and serve them with some nice, white whipped cream. Or leave the pancakes plain and top them with fresh blueberries, strawberries and whipped cream. Or put blueberries in the pancakes and top with strawberries and cream. For Canada Day (July 1st), I would just use red raspberries or strawberries and cream. You get the idea.

I got the original recipe for homemade pancakes from a good friend of mine, who is easily the best baker-mom I know of. She and her now older daughters are always posting photos on Facebook of such delicious recipes and baked goods that I’m often tempted to put down what I’m doing, jump in the car, and drive the roughly three hours to get to her house to “share” in the deliciousness. The recipe was jotted down on whatever note-pad paper we had hanging around at the time when she was at my house. For sentimental reasons, I will probably never throw away that original, food-stained, but cherished, hand-written page.

handwritten homemade pancake recipe

Homemade pancake recipe from my dear friend, Donna.

 

A few helpful notes before we begin (if you’re really hungry, you may skip ahead to the recipe below, but I think it will be worth the read):

  •  Although it seems to be cheating somehow, I usually just add all the ingredients to my mixing bowl in almost any order, and thoroughly mix them together. No need to dirty two bowls and be all fancy about the order of ingredients.
  • In an effort to use healthier oils, I prefer not to use liquid oils such as corn or canola (although you certainly can, and I did for years), but instead, melt a little butter or coconut oil to add for the required oil. ( I did find out the other day, however, that if you wish to use coconut oil, you’ll need to be mindful of the fact that it will start to harden and form little lumps in your batter if it comes in contact with cold ingredients.)
  • I like to make these healthier by using at least half whole wheat flour, and very often add some ground flax meal. We are at the point in our family that pancakes made with plain white flour actually taste a little bland to us, so ramping them up with whole grains is, in my opinion, the way to go!
  • The milk measurement can be adjusted according to your preference for thinner or thicker pancakes. Factors such as the other ingredients you use and even temperature may affect the thickness of your pancakes, so I recommend trying a smaller amount of milk at first, then adding more if you decide your pancakes are too thick.
  • Surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve tried this yet, but I’m sure that alternate milks such as almond could be used. I’ll try that soon and let you know.
  • I prefer to use a griddle to speed up the process of making a large number of pancakes, but of course a good, old-fashioned frying pan is fine. I have a nice quality non-stick griddle, but many folks are opting for cast iron (such as this one). I am told that cast iron is wonderful, but as of yet, haven’t used one regularly myself. With cast iron, you may even be able to cook pancakes on your grill outdoors!
  • You may need to experiment to learn your ideal temperature for cooking your pancakes. Generally, medium heat is best. (See this article for more great pancake-making tips.)
  • I cook my pancakes in butter for best flavor, also eliminating the need for serving additional butter on the pancakes (but you may still add some if you like).
  • I love to use my largest cookie/baking scoop from my set (from one of my favorite direct marketing companies) to scoop out the batter. You can find a similar set on Amazon here (for a top-rated, but expensive set), or here, (for a less expensive, but functional set). I would love to try this pancake batter dispenser.
  • I usually make four times the amount called for in this recipe, since with my two tall older sons and 6’4″ husband, a single batch would not even feed us any more. Also, I love to have leftovers. So I will make life easier for you by including a second ingredient list with measurements for a quadruple batch as well. You’re welcome. 🙂
  • To keep your pancakes warm (while you cook up the rest), place an ovenproof casserole or cookie sheet in your oven set to a low temperature (200-250 degrees F). In warm weather (if you just can’t stand to turn on your oven), you can put the casserole dish in your microwave and close the door, or into a large toaster oven like mine, set on low heat.
  • If you have any left over pancakes (or purposely make extra, as I do), you can keep them in the fridge for a few days, or freeze them for later use. Save your money, and serve your own healthy, tasty pancakes from your freezer on busy or lazy mornings, instead of purchasing inferior store-bought packages!

So, without further ado, here is the recipe for homemade pancakes. I hope you discover as I did, that it’s so much better than using a mix from the store, and almost as easy. It’s definitely worth the extra five minutes or so!

pancake ingredients

What you will need (plus sugar….see next photo).

 

making homemade pancakes (batter)

Adding the brown sugar.

 

making homemade pancake batter

Adding nutritious flax meal to the batter (optional).

 

adding fresh blueberries to homemade pancake batter

Adding some fresh blueberries.

 

Healthy Homemade Pancakes

 

Ingredients (single batch):

1 egg, beaten

1 cup flour (I use at least half whole wheat flour)

1 Tbsp sugar (I prefer brown)

2 Tbsp. oil *

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. baking powder

3/4 to 1 cup milk

(* Plus additional butter or oil in which to cook pancakes.)

 

Ingredients (quadruple or my “normal” sized batch):

4 eggs

4 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil*

2 tsp. salt

4 Tbsp. or 1/4 cup baking powder

3 to 4 cups milk

(* Plus additional butter or oil in which to cook pancakes.)

 

“Add-in” ingredient ideas:

  • vanilla or other flavored extract
  • ground flax (or flax meal), for added health benefit
  • fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, or other berries or combinations
  • sliced bananas (or mashed ripe banana)
  • fresh, frozen or dried cranberries (or other dried fruit/berries, such as dried cherries)
  • chocolate chips (or other flavored chips)
  • cinnamon and chopped apple or applesauce
  • pumpkin puree (store-bought or homemade) and pumpkin pie spices
  • chopped apple and almond (use a little almond extract and slivered almonds)
  • coffee granules and chocolate (powder or chips), for mocha flavor
  • peanut butter (or peanut butter powder) with banana or chocolate chips

 

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients. Fold in any “add-in” ingredients of choice. Heat griddle or frying pan to medium heat. Add butter (or oil) to melt. Drop desired amount of pancake batter onto hot griddle. Cook until pancakes bubble and edges look a little dry. Flip and continue cooking until golden brown.

Hold pancakes in a warm place. Add more butter as needed to cook the remainder of the batter.

Serve with pure maple syrup or other desired toppings. Enjoy!

making homemade pancakes with bubbles before turning

Pancakes are ready to flip when they are covered with bubbles and the edges seem dry.

 

cooked homemade blueberry pancakes

Hot homemade blueberry pancakes.

 

Optional topping ideas:

  • pure maple syrup or other syrup of choice
  • flavored syrups or jam
  • fresh, cut up strawberries (or other berries) and whipped cream
  • applesauce
  • yogurt
  • peanut butter or almond butter

 

homemade heart-shaped pancake

Freestyle heart-shaped pancake.

 

heart-shaped homemade pancake

Sometimes I finish off the last of the batter by making a giant or heart-shaped pancake (which usually goes to my husband). 🙂

 

homemade blueberry pancakes -2

Yummy!

 

Now that you have the recipe, what are you waiting for?

Enjoy your delicious, homemade pancakes for breakfast, brunch or even a “breakfast-supper”!

*****

Please let me know how you like this recipe. If you are a cast iron griddle user, please share your experience with us, especially for cooking pancakes. Do you have any personal ideas for add-in ingredients or toppings to share?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

poached egg sandwich and coffee

How to Eat an Egg Part 2 – Poached Egg Sandwich

poached egg sandwich and coffee

 

It’s been awhile since I talked about eggs. Earlier I shared with you  an egg recipe for Potato and Onion Pie that I like to make for my family. I think it’s about time for another.

Since it is finally really, really feeling like spring (or even summer in some cases!), and I think we’re safe even in New England (and New York State?), from any more late snowstorm surprises, I’ve decided it’s a good time to give you another egg recipe.

I know, we get eggs year round, but in spring it just feels right. The chickens are finally able to come out of their coop and poke around in the real outdoor world. Easter may be long past, but I keep seeing bunnies all over our yard, and that makes me think of eggs. (Really? You know; Easter chicks and bunnies; whatever.)

Anyway, unless you have a high cholesterol problem and have to avoid too many eggs, or have an aversion to them as I did for the first part of my childhood (when I would beg for a hamburger every time my family went out for breakfast), I think we can all agree that having eggs on hand is one of the simplest, quickest, cheapest and most filling meals we can get on the table. We can enjoy them at breakfast, as a simple lunch ingredient, or even for “breakfast” at dinner.

I often make this meal idea when I’ve either neglected to eat enough for breakfast and it’s quickly approaching lunch-time, or when all else fails and I need something substantial for my noon-time meal. Sometimes I just plain feel like eating eggs.

So today I’d like to introduce the poached egg sandwich.

poached egg sandwich

Poached egg sandwich with tomato, greens and cheese on whole wheat toast.

 

Poached egg sandwich with avocado 2015-09-18

Poached egg sandwich with spinach, avocado and cheese on whole wheat toast.

Just to note, if you prefer a fried or scrambled egg, that could work nicely as well, but then you will be consuming a little more fat in your sandwich, but more importantly, you’ll have to change the name.

Several years ago I “invested” (a whole three dollars or so, I think), in this plastic, microwave egg poacher at Walmart:

Microwave egg poacher from WalMart

You can get one almost exactly like it here on Amazon….or if you prefer silicone with the option of cooking in boiling water, check out this model.

I know that some are avoiding plastic these days, so there are other options, too. My parents used to have little metal cups to be used for this purpose in boiling water. I’m not sure they’re around any more, or perhaps they still come in some pots and pans sets. I’ve even seen a stoneware version made by one of my favorite direct marketing companies, which I assume is also for use in the microwave.

You can, of course, use the “authentic” egg poaching method of dropping the raw egg directly into swirling, boiling water as described on this page. There’s a nice video presentation, and the gentleman doing the demonstration just happens to have a lovely accent, which I find quite pleasant. In fact, I may have to try this, as it certainly is the ideal way to make a nice, runny-yolked, poached egg.

Which ever method you choose, simply poach your egg (or eggs), to your liking.

adding salt to egg uncooked poached egg

Before I close my egg poacher, I usually add a pinch of sea or Himalayan salt, a little fresh ground pepper (here’s a nice set with both), and sometimes garlic, dill or another seasoning of choice.

seasoning on raw egg

My favorite addition to my poached egg to add flavor, nice color and most importantly, nutrition, is greens. A little spinach is nice, micro-greens are incredible (if you can get your hands on some), or a little of any green you have on hand will work. You may chop it up if the leaves are especially large or of a tougher texture (like kale).

Add your greens to the top of each egg.

spinach on raw egg

 

Top with a little shredded cheese if you’d like. (Yum!)

Meanwhile, prepare your bread. Almost any type of bread will do, but most often I use an English muffin or bagel. A roll would be nice, a croissant exquisite,or a nice, thick slice of homemade bread would be comforting. Apparently in the photos I took for this post, both times I used just regular whole grain wheat bread from the store, and it still turns out a delicious egg sandwich.

Toast your bread while the egg(s) cook.

Once everything is done, carefully put your egg on top of your bread of choice.

making poached egg sandwich

At this point, you may top with additional fresh greens or lettuce and tomato, and add a slice of cheese (if you did not add shredded to your egg cooker). You could also add your seasoning at this point, rather than to the uncooked egg, if you prefer.

Fresh herbs are a nice option, too, and my husband and sons would probably go for a little hot sauce or even ketchup (although I prefer mine ketchup-less).

You could even go one step further and add a slice of cooked bacon or ham for a more hearty sandwich. (Why do I think the guys would like this idea?)

Another really nice topping is avocado, which also significantly boosts the health factor.

Poached egg sandwich with avocado 2015-09-18

Poached egg sandwich with spinach, avocado and cheese on whole wheat toast.

You may top the egg with a second piece of bread and eat by hand like a sandwich (think “healthy egg mcmuffin”), or do as I usually do and eat with only one piece of bread and serve open-faced.

Now your healthy, colorful egg sandwich is complete.

Go ahead and eat.

poached egg sandwich (partially eaten).

And think about chickens…..or spring…..or bunnies…..or spring chickens (which I am not, since a rather significant birthday is quickly approaching for me).

And please don’t forget to tell me how you liked it!

*****

Have you ever made a poached egg sandwich? How do you prefer to poach your eggs? When it comes to toppings, are you more of a greens, tomato and avocado person, or would you prefer bacon, cheese, or a nice slab of meat?

 

 

 

Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits

Simple Breakfast Recipe Idea – Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits

Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits

Do you like yogurt? How about fresh berries or other fruits?

I really enjoy these foods, especially as a light breakfast (or let’s get real here; as a start to my healthy breakfast). We often enjoy yogurt as a healthy part of our breakfasts around here, and always have some kind of fruit first thing in the morning as a habit.

Here’a an idea that many of you, like me, probably find obvious and do on a regular basis.

But as I’m fond of repeating, many of my “obvious” ideas may be something you’ve never thought of, just as some of your “everybody does this” ideas may be enlightening to me. I think you’ll find that these ideas will be a staple on my blog, since these are simple tips that we can share to make our lives easier, less stressful, more healthy, save time and energy, and generally allow us to save our motivation and focus for the things in our lives that really make us flourish.

I’ve already shared tips about putting paper towels in lettuce and about re-using free hangers you already have. I’d just love to hear from you in the comments about any other “obvious” tips you use, or simple foods you make on a regular basis that help you. Maybe we’ll learn from each other.

Back to fruit & yogurt.

Constructing fruit & yogurt parfaits

A “real” shot of my kitchen counter-top at breakfast time.

I often make these yogurt parfaits when we have some assortment of fresh berries (one of our favorites!), with just bananas (which I almost always have on hand), or with any assortment of fresh cut up fruit. It can even be made with thawed frozen fruit or canned fruit, but will have a softer consistency in that case.

 

Fresh strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries

Fresh washed strawberries (cut up), blueberries, and blackberries.

These parfaits can also be made with any assortment of tasty, healthy toppings to add extra flavor, texture, and color.

If you’re one of the resourceful people who make your own yogurt (I have yet to try that), that would be phenomenal! Or purchase good, healthy yogurt without too much added sugar.

If you’re using plain, unsweetened yogurt, feel free to sprinkle a little raw sugar over the top on each dish or mix into your fruit or berries, but try to keep it to a minimum. Most sweetened yogurts already contain an ample amount of sugar.

All you need to do is layer everything in a glass bowl, clear drinking glass, or cute parfait-style dish for each person. You can simply use a layer of each, or divide the ingredients and make several repeating layers (especially if you’re using a tall glass or dish).

Banana-yogurt parfait with dried cherries 2016-05-25

Banana-yogurt parfait with dried cherries (plain and orange-creme yogurt).

 

Simply layer the following into each individual dish:

  1. yogurt – a single flavor, plain unsweetened, or a combination of the two (my favorite)
  2. fruit or berries of choice – try mixed fresh strawberries, blueberries, and/or blackberries; bananas and/or melon or pineapple; a fruit-cocktail-like mixture of any cut up fresh fruits you have on hand; or even thawed frozen fruit or canned fruit
  3. serve as is or top with topping(s) – granola (store-bought or homemade), healthy trail mix (store-bought or homemade), dried fruit or nuts (I particularly like dried cherries and/or almonds or homemade trail mix made with these)

 

Berry & Yogurt Parfait (top view)

 

In the above photo, I made do with what I had on hand, and the parfaits turned out pretty tasty! We only had a little plain yogurt left and one single-serving of (fruit-on-the-bottom) blueberry Greek yogurt, so I mixed them together. I layered the cut up strawberries, the yogurt mixture (I barely had enough for four bowls), then the blueberries and blackberries, and then I topped it off with my yogurt blend mixed with a little scoop of whipped cream I also had in the fridge. I added a dollop to the top of each bowl for a little treat. Voila!

I don’t think I’ve ever constructed these parfaits ahead of time and I probably wouldn’t recommend it, as the flavors would blend together and I think the fruit will absorb moisture from the yogurt. But who knows? It may work just fine. I may just have to try that idea and let you know how it turns out.

If you wish, you may cut up the fruit or strawberries before hand and store in the fridge as a time-savor in the morning .

You can also put out the ingredients and let your family or guests build their own yogurt parfaits to their liking. This would even be a nice idea for a special holiday breakfast or brunch.

I hope that you’re already enjoying your own homemade fruit and yogurt parfaits, or that this gives you another simple, healthy idea for breakfast. Perhaps it will just give you some ideas for new combinations or toppings that you’ve never tried.

Breakfast foods with instructions for son

Am I the only one who leaves instructional notes with food on the counter for my family?

Here’s to quick and healthy breakfast ideas! Enjoy!

*****

Do you make your own fruit & yogurt parfaits? Do you have any suggestions for ingredients that I didn’t mention? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

 

 

miscellaneous hangers 2016-05-18

Let’s Talk Hangers

miscellaneous hangers 2016-05-18

Hold on to your seats! Today I’m writing a short post about…..(wait for it)…..hangers!

Sorry to all you aircraft enthusiasts; this has nothing to do with airplane hangers. Since an airplane is just out of my budget right now, I’m just going to talk about the the run-of-the-mill hangers we use to keep our clothes from off of the floor.

So if there’s nothing good on TV, your homework and housework are all caught up, and you have nothing else to keep you occupied, join me for just a few minutes for some “hanger talk”.

Seriously, this is one of those posts that seems almost silly to write. It’s about hangers, for Pete’s sake.

But it’s also one of those little things I would do almost without thinking, that perhaps you will find mildly enlightening. Besides, many of the mundane, “normal” things we each do are often novel to someone else. When I wrote a post about putting paper towel in my lettuce container, I had at least one very domestic friend tell me that they had never thought of it.

Some of you are probably thinking to yourselves, “Why on earth is she writing a blog post about hangers?” You are the ones who may go watch that TV rerun, catch up on Facebook, or go and water your cactus. I give you permission.

If I still have you at this point, you’re either really bored, or so curious you can’t stand not to read the rest of my post.

Another group who are graciously “dismissed” are my friends who can easily afford to buy whatever nice hangers you like. I have some I really like and would pay good money for again. Although I certainly wouldn’t classify them as “expensive”, they do cost a few dollars. They’re not free. These are a couple of the ones I’ve purchased (for more than a dollar or two), that I find very useful, here on top of my shiny “new” (reconditioned) washing-machine:

 good hangers 2016-05-18

A couple of my favorite kinds of hangers. (See, I told you my washer was shiny. See the pretty colored lights?)

I decided to take these quality hanger photos on top of my washer because I usually hang my clothes from the wash here in the laundry room, so it seems appropriate, and because I still think my washer looks shiny and new, so it makes me happy. You may take your photos of hangers wherever you’d like.

So back to our hanger talk.

But I know that there are a few of you who, like me, would like to save every dollar possible. If I can save even a few dollars on hangers and other items that don’t matter much, it will add up in the end for more important expenses. Hence the reason for this lighthearted post.

Most of the hangers I’ve bought over the years look something like these:

miscellaneous hangers 2016-05-18

The plastic ones can be purchased for just a few cents per hanger in many different stores, so I’m sure you have some of these. They work well and I like the assortment of colors. Let’s face it, anything we can do to make us smile while doing laundry is a “plus”, right? For many similar clothing items I usually use a certain color for each of my sons so that I will not give them the wrong-sized clothes.

The bigger felt-covered ones were bought at the dollar store with two or three in a pack. They are especially good for larger shirts and for sweaters and clothing that either zips or buttons in the front or has a bigger opening at the neck, as the soft coating helps to hold the clothing onto the hanger.

This is all fine and good.

What I would like to suggest then, is that you can simply reuse some of the hangers you get free.

Sometimes when you buy new clothes the store will give you the hangers they came on, and/or when you get clothing back from the dry-cleaners you can utilize some of those. We don’t make a habit of dry-cleaning too many of our clothes, but some cannot be avoided, so over the years we have collected quite a few hangers. You can reuse these wire ones or check to see if they can be recycled, like ours can (at the dry-cleaners). They even provide us with a nifty little weird-shaped box.

recycling wire hangers

I don’t care for these, so I mostly just recycle them, but there’s nothing wrong with using them. They will take up very little room in your closet, so that could be a plus. When I was young, that’s the only kind I remember having, and incidentally, they made excellent hot-dog and marshmallow roasting sticks (although when I tried to duplicate the “simple” transformation of twisting a wire hanger into a roasting stick as an adult, it was less than sucessful), but that’s another story .

You may find, like me, that some of the more sturdy plastic hangers are handy for hoodies and things:

reusing plastic hangers from the store

When your kids’ clothes have outgrown these plastic hangers, they can usually go in your recycling bin.

The hangers I really find surprisingly useful from the dry-cleaners are these that are designed for pants:

reusing pants hangers from the dry-cleaners

They are free and work well, so I use these for the uniform or dress code pants that my sons wore all through school. They have a cardboard piece attached to the wire that has a bit of stickiness to it, so the pants don’t slide off. When the hanger bends (which eventually they may), I always seem to have a few more to replace it. Even though it doesn’t look “special”, they really do work quite well, and I have no desire to spend money on a replacement right now.

Maybe someday I’ll come into money and splurge for some more fancy, new hangers.

But right now I’d rather make do with what I have, and save that extra couple of bucks.

pants on hangers

I’m guessing maybe you would, too.

*****

Do you reuse old hangers? Or are you particular about buying the certain hangers that you like best? Just out of curiosity, is there anyone else who uses different colored hangers for each of your children?

 

 

 

Spring Ham-Bone Soup (in red bowl)

Spring Ham-bone Soup (A Use-What-You-Have Recipe Idea)

Spring Ham-Bone Soup (in red bowl)

So here’s what I did today, on the first mid-seventies, beautiful, sunny, May, spring day here in New England.

I made soup.

Well, I usually “menu plan” by having two or three recipes planned for the week, featuring either ingredients I just purchased (usually on sale), or meat and other foods I’ve transferred from freezer to refrigerator to thaw. It usually works pretty well, except for once in awhile when my timing is off, and suddenly it seems we have either too many leftovers to eat in time, or too much raw meat to cook in time; “in time” meaning before they spoil and we are forced to throw them out, or eat them and become sick; hasn’t happened yet, thankfully.  I’m sure that a daily menu plan would be best, but for now I don’t have that as a regular part of my routine.

All that was to say that today was my day to make soup with the frozen leftover Easter (and Christmas?) ham and ham bone that was in my freezer, because that’s just how it worked out.

Fortunately, there was still enough cool air coming in my open windows (yay!), to make both cooking and eating this soup still enjoyable. I won’t be planning to make soup in July or August, by the way.

So here’s the deal. Not only did I have a nice ham bone and a good amount of leftover spiral ham to use in the soup, but what I did not have much of was vegetables. My grocery shopping will be happening tomorrow. (Can you see what a great plan I had this time???)

I really didn’t feel like making the traditional split pea soup that can be found on the package of dried split peas (and I’m not even sure if I had those; I didn’t check my basement food storage area).

But never fear, I used what I have (I’m a firm believer in this practice), and if I do say so myself (and I do), I made a pretty tasty and healthy soup!

While I will share roughly what I did and the ingredients I used, this is not a recipe, per se. Rather it is an idea, that you can use to whatever degree you like, using what you have on hand. If you really want to buy, cook and eat a spiral ham, almost run out of both fresh and frozen veggies, and make this exact soup, be my guest…..but that’s not the idea.

Spring Ham-bone Soup cooking

 

How I Made My Spring Ham-Bone Soup:

First I half-filled my six quart pot (the big one I usually use for soup, unless I’m using the really big 8-qt. one), with cool water. I put in my ham bone and cooked it for a good half hour to an hour.

Sometime within that first half hour or hour (see; I told you it wouldn’t be exact), I added some onion (from my yellow onions which were growing stored downstairs, as well as a few frozen sweet pepper strips from my freezer (frozen from an excess of green and red peppers this past February). I also added just a little celery (since I only had two small stalks left), and three measly carrots, chopped, to the water.

onion growing sprouts

I let all of that cook for probably an hour to two. Meanwhile, I cut up the ham, cut up some more onion and the little bit of celery that I had scrounged, and ran up and down the stairs to work on a load or two of laundry (although you don’t have to do that part when you make this soup).

Over the course of the next hour or so, I strained the cooked veggies out of the broth (I usually run the whole pot of liquid through a strainer, but decided it wasn’t necessary this time), leaving the carrots (since they were still in pretty good shape). Then I added these additional ingredients to the broth, roughly in this order:

  1. frozen cubed butternut squash (from last year’s CSA, but cut up and frozen some time this winter when I discovered a spot forming one squash)
  2. chopped onions (about one med. to large size),
  3. baby carrots (the one type of fresh veggie I had in good supply),
  4. the two small stalks of celery, chopped,
  5. the remainder of my frozen green and red pepper strips (probably about two cups),
  6. some frozen, chopped kale (from last summer’s CSA, I think), and
  7. the cut up ham.

Please note that between adding each (or almost each) ingredient, a little time is needed to let the broth heat up, come to a simmer, and cook a little, depending on the type of ingredient and whether it was frozen or not. Usually about ten minutes works well, but use your discretion.

ham bone soup cooking (with steam) 2016-05-11

Last, but not least, I added some fresh ground pepper, about a teaspoon of granulated garlic (since I am also out of fresh cloves), and a few shakes of nutmeg. Notice I did not add salt (on account of the already-salty ham), and decided that the nutmeg would go along well with the squash.

I think that’s it. It was surprisingly tasty considering I had added no broth or bouillon to the water. The flavor came from the ham and vegetables and my few spices, and I think the butternut squash broke down and added a little texture and sweetness to the broth as well. I may have to add that to my ideas for using up extra squash, and remember this good method for adding sweet flavor and thickening any appropriate soup.

Spring Ham-Bone Soup (close-up)

I hope you enjoyed my little spring soup-making story and that it gives you some ideas to use next time you have a ham bone and maybe not quite enough veggies in your kitchen…..even if it is sunny and warm and heading towards eighty degrees.

Now we have some nice leftovers for lunch this week, and can look forward to grilling those fresh sausages I purchased from a small local store tomorrow.

*****

Have you ever made a variety of soup from a ham bone other than traditional split pea? Have you ever tried to make soup out of whatever ingredients you have on hand (or items gleaned from cleaning out your freezer)? What do you have hanging around in your freezer or fridge right now that could be used to make a good spring soup?

 

 

 

 

vinegar, water, spray bottle, essential oil

Simple D-I-Y Natural Wrinkle Releaser

vinegar, water, spray bottle, essential oil

Recently I demonstrated how to easily and cheaply make a simple but versatile vinegar-water spray cleaner.

I also told you that with the addition of just one more ingredient you can make another useful and money-saving household product.

Introducing D-I-Y Natural Wrinkle Releaser!

BEFORE:

wrinkled Champion tee shirt

AFTER:

Champion tee shirt after wrinkle releaser treatmen

I’ve occasionally used store-bought wrinkle releaser spray, but never loved the price tag or the fact that I probably didn’t even know what most of the ingredients were. Since finding this useful recipe on this website, and trying it out on our own clothes, I have not and NEVER WILL BUY COMMERCIAL WRINKLE RELEASER AGAIN!

It is comprised of the same simple ingredients as the vinegar-water spray cleaner with the addition of a few drops of clear essential oil for a pleasing fragrance.

essential oils in circle

All you need for this recipe is:

  1. water (tap water is OK, but if you’re concerned about any stray minerals or other funky stuff in yours, feel free to use distilled or filtered water to be safe),
  2. vinegar (white),
  3. an  empty spray bottle, and
  4. a few drops of clear essential oils (such as peppermint or lavender).

Simply fill your clean spray bottle with equal parts water and white vinegar. Then add about 6-8 drops of essential oil for every two cups of liquid. It’s important to note (and I thank Matt & Betsy of DIY Natural for this wise suggestion), that you’ll want to chose an essential oil with a pleasing scent, but also one that is clear, so as not to stain your precious clothing. Peppermint and lavender were suggested, and I’ve tried both. I think that peppermint is my favorite.

To use, simply:

  1. Lightly spray releaser on your wrinkled clothing (hanging on a hanger).
  2. Gently pull and stretch the garment, in order to smooth out wrinkles.
  3. Allow to air dry.
  4. It’s now ready to wear!

I’ve included several “before” and “after” photos for your comparison.

BEFORE:

wrinkled purple tee shirt

AFTER:

purple tee shirt after wrinkle releaser treatment

This is one homemade household product that I have been thrilled with from the first time I tried it. I don’t think I even looked for any more sites for comparison. Not only is it cheap and natural, but quick and easy as well, with a light, pleasant aroma.

BEFORE:

wrinkled grey tee shirt

AFTER:

grey tee shirt after wrinkle realeaser treatment

You may notice a slight vinegar smell along with your essential oil scent. It seems to mostly dissipate after the garment dries. I have not noticed (nor been told by my guys), that there is any noticeable remaining smell when we wear the treated clothes.

BEFORE:

wrinkled collared shirt

AFTER:

collared shirt after wrinkle releaser treatment

I would also note that this works best for “casual” clothes; that being said, it works fairly well on any type of clothing, but if you are looking for a fussy, crisp, smooth surface for a dressier occasion, you may want to resort to ironing. I must admit, I iron as little as possible (which is not very often at all!).

I hope you enjoy this wonderful D-I-Y wrinkle releaser recipe and find it as useful and pleasant as I have.

*****

Please let me know in the comments if you’ve ever tried making your own homemade wrinkle-releaser. Do you use a similar recipe? I’d love to hear how it works for you.