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Dill pickle recipe

So, our family tries to make LOTS of pickles with our homegrown cucumbers! Our very basic brine? 1c. Distilled vinegar + 3 c. Distilled water + 1/4 c. pickling salt boiled in a non reactive pot-I an enamel coated cast iron pot. (Makes approx enough for one quart jar, multiply as needed! YES IT NEEDS TO BE *DISTILLED* WATER AND SPECIFICALLY *PICKLING* SALT!! Both are easily found at the grocery store. Also make sure you sterilize your jars properly before starting!

Start with FRESH cucumbers (or green beans, or okra, or green tomatoes, or celery, or carrots, or Cauliflower, or onions… you get my drift lol, use whatever veggies you want, but do NOT use those big store bought cucumbers, they are coated in wax, and you will have a gross soggy mess!) We trim a little sliver off each end of our fresh pickling cucumbers, and cut them in half. ✨??

Next add seasonings to your own taste. Our fav things to add are: lots of fresh dill, fresh halved jalapeños (or Serranos if you want it a bit spicier!) a few whole peppercorns (5-6?) in each jar, a tablespoon of dried mustard seed per jar , a pinch of red pepper flakes, a dried de arbol chili in each jar (or two, or three!???), LOTS of fresh garlic cloves, and a fresh grape leaf in each jar (optional! But it’s an old recipe and it’s supposed to help keep them crispy!! )

You can always mix it up and see what your family likes best! Pour boiling hot brine over the stuffed Mason jars, put on lids/rings, and let them cool slowly! (We hide ours under a mound of quilts for a few hours!) Once cool, tighten lids more if needed, pop them in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours, but 1-2 weeks is better to pickle! The longer they sit, the more flavorful! And Enjoy!

*An important side note: this recipe doesn’t call for boiling/processing/cooking the filled jars. Personally, I think you end up with mushy pickles that way. Therefore the unopened jars should be kept in the refrigerator at ALL times after cooling and are not considered “shelf stable”- although I’ve had mine sealed tight in the fridge unopened and the jars were perfectly fresh & crunchy 2 years later when opened- Once opened, I’d enjoy them within a week or so.

Homemade Strawberry Jam

For a small quantity of fresh jam for breakfast or tea time without a lot of effort you need just 3 ingredients 4 cups of quartered ripe strawberries, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, 2 tbsp. lemon juice and one cooking pot. Stick a couple of plain saucers for testing the jam consistency later in the freezer before starting the jam.
Marinate the quartered strawberries and sugar for an hour in a bowl.
Tip the mixture in a sauce pan adding lemon juice to it.
Cook on low heat until the sugar completely dissolves.
Turn up the heat to start bubbling the jam and bring it to boil. The sugar must be completely dissolved before increasing the heat, otherwise it will be difficult for the jam to set.
Boil for about 5-10 minutes and turn off the heat.
Now spoon a little jam on one of the cold saucers. Leave for 30 seconds, then push with your finger. If the jam wrinkles and doesn’t flood to fill the gap, then it is ready.
If not, turn the heat back on for a couple more minutes, and repeat the wrinkle test with the other cold saucer until ready. Fill into clean sterilized (boiling water bath) jars. Refrigerate and use within the next two weeks. Can also be frozen for up to a month, in a zip-lock bag once completely cold. Great on toast, scones, ice cream, puddings. Enjoy?

Peach pie recipe

So, my summer fruit love affair continues! ❤️
This summer pie is fresh, light, and absolutely delicious and topped with the most amazing homemade caramel peach sauce. So yes, I am definitely in love with this one! ?
And If you’ve never had a crumble topping on a pie before, you’re in for a treat. The blend of brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and butter with sliced almonds makes for a crunchy topping that brings out the best in the pie ?

Recipe:
For the pie crust
( refer to the cherry pie crust on the feed)

For the filling:
* 5 large peaches, sliced
* 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* 1 teaspoon lime juice
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Method:
* In a bowl, mix peaches, sugar, lime juice and cornstarch and set aside.

For the crumble:
* 1 cup flour
* 2 tablespoon chopped almonds
* 1/2 cup butter
* 2 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
* 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:
* In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, almond, sugars and cinnamon.
* Drizzle melted butter and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until coarse crumbles form.
* Now to assemble the pie, roll out the dough on a floured surface and place it onto a 8’’ pie pan. Spread the filling and top it with the crumble.
* For best results, refrigerate this for 15- 20 minutes and then bake for 40-45 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown.
Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and some peach caramel sauce.?

Weekly Meal Prep

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I’m taking Labor Day to catch up on my reading and writing for my graduate classes and freezer cooking. I made two batches of freezer meatballs here. These will be made into meatball subs this week. We were grilling salmon to eat today and I had my husband grill all the chicken and hamburgers for the week.

I used this new hamburger recipe and they turned out so moist. They will make easy grilled cheeseburgers for tomorrow’s dinner.

Ranch Cheddar Burgers

I’ll use the grilled chicken on top of salads and stuffed inside pitas this week.

chicken gyro

 

In addition to meal prep, homework, packing lunches, laying out clothes and planning lessons, I’ve had a productive LABOR day. How about you? Are you doing any meal prep today?

Here’s What I added to my Freezer

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I love having black beans on hand that cost pennies per bag. My favorite way to make black beans for the freezer is to crock pot a 2 pound bag all day. We eat the black beans with dinner and then I allow the rest to cool. I’ll leave the lid off for about an hour and give it a good stir every now and then to release more heat. Alternatively, I could put the crockpot liner in an ice bath if I want to cool them in a hurry.

Once they’re cool enough for a freezer bag. I have it labeled and ready to go. These beans will be used next week for taco soup. Yummo for fall weather.

IMG_4756 (1)I made some delicious pitas for dinner and we had leftover chicken for salads the next day. I love salads of all kinds. I happen to add feta, cranberries and pecans to this chicken salad. It was so delicious for a school lunch.

IMG_4753One night this week I made a double batch of white whole wheat pancakes. My 7-year-old likes them so much she took pancakes for lunch the next day. I was feeling ambitious and added blueberries for mom and dad, chocolate chips for my daughter and plain ones for the rest of the crew. After they cooled on cooling racks, I bagged them up for the freezer. Here’s an another easy breakfast for dinner night where we’ll add scrambled or fried eggs and fruit and dinner’s complete.

Colby

My oldest son got accepted into Early College unexpectedly and started Monday. We were thrilled for this opportunity and so was he.

It’s been a productive week working on my graduate studies and trying to pace myself, reading and writing a little each night. I balanced family, work and made it to the gym a few times this week. I’m feeling blessed.

How was your week? Have you done any freezer cooking?

First Day of School

Today was back to school for all six of us. I prepared our lunches the night before and we were ready for school. Wouldn’t you know it, I forgot my own lunch in the refrigerator! It’s a good thing I’m the foods teacher at school, I managed to find something in my refrigerator from the week before when we had teacher work days.

I had so much fun listening to the highs and lows of my family’s day while we enjoyed back to school tacos! My school highs were the fun icebreakers we did during class. I thought you’d get a kick out of our Twitter Gallery Walk here

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My youngest daughter loved all her school day. My nine year old son enjoyed getting his first computer in fourth grade since his school is 1:1 now.

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My oldest son is going to early college and he enjoyed math class the best. I had a mom moment dropping him off this morning. I started feeling a little sentimental because he was in a college environment.

My oldest daughter has not reported in yet, since she’s at work. My husband and I are both happy to be back into the swing of school and having our children occupied with education, lol. It’s been a fun filled packed summer vacation.

How was your first back to school day?

World’s Easiest Cookie Cake

Cookie Cake

I make the World’s Easiest Cookie Cake for nearly every occassion. Instead of paying $30 at the Cookie Company I use my pantry staples and make my own. It has become a tradition at our house to celebrate nearly everything with a cookie cake. I’ll plan ahead and make it into a fun shape for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and my latest creation was back to school cheer party. I usually will use my star tip to make it more decorative, but I was in a hurry and loaded the frosting into a ziploc bag. I managed to find some green sugar to incoporate the school colors. These easy to make, delicious cookies are devoured in a matter of minutes. The trick is not to overbake it if you want a soft cookie. This recipe is out of this world and so easy. I lightly flour my dough ball and press flat into my desire shape. Don’t be afraid to press away. You can use parchment paper, silpat mat or lightly floured hands to keep it from sticking. I always bake my cookie cake on a stone for best results.

cheer cookieHave you tried making your own frugal cookie cake? It might save you hundreds of dollars if your family likes them as much as mine. Happy cake decorating, friends.

 

Last Day of Packing Potato (LOVE) at Manna Food Bank

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A happy ending to our last Monday packing potatoes at Manna Food Bank. It’s just like God to provide a few heart-warming potatoes in our summer journey. We walk in on our last hoping that there we no potatoes in the large sacks, but we were wrong. Thankfully, they weren’t as rotten as the last batch that were donated. This made my kiddos quite happy. So we dove into our poatoes, eagerly looking for the bottom of the bag. In the meantime, we find some intersting shapes. Like I said earlier, humor makes a heart happy and volunteering more fun :0

How about a pee wee potato?

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Or better yet, a snail?

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Before we knew it our last 3 hour shift of the summer was over. It’s back to school for David and I next Monday and the kiddos go back the following Monday.

We’ve said it all along and we’ll say it again, “Packing potatoes has kept us humble.”

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Voluntering has been the BEST activity of the summer. It’s not like going to Dollywood, Six Flags, Carowinds, swimming, bowling, cooking, partying, camping or any other activity my kids experienced this summer. It’s an event that will be remembered differently for years to come. The bottom of the bag never looked so good.

IMG_1531They’ll remember the special education friend they made and Caleb will definitely remember his older “girlfriend.” My oldest will never forget the stench of the slimy potatoes. And this momma will never forget the impact that it continues to make on my children. Yes, sign us up again next summer. We’ll have our gloves ready!

 

 

How I Teach the Real World to my Children

manna

It’s been a tradition in the Brown family to serve our community during the summer. I choose different places and schedule our family to work once a week. Some years we have gone to the homeless shelter,  Lord’s Acre and last year we cooked and served at our local Welcome Table. This summer I’ve been taking my four children to Manna Food Bank on Mondays. It’s been an eye-opening experience sorting through rotten potatoes and bagging them. My kiddos couldn’t believe why people would eat them. It was a chance to talk about our local hunger and how were helping.

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The younger kids enjoyed sorting and packing for the school snack packs over potatoes. I guess you can imagine why. Sorting smelly, slimy potatoes or dry packages of oatmeal and granola bars and fruit cups. It was a no brainer for them. They eagerly jumped on the opportunity to sort breakfast for kids their age. So here was another three hours to talk about the importance of breakfast, helping children their age and bonding over green jello fruit cups. It can’t get better than that!

manna

I’m always grateful how God is able to help me help others. Serving inmy community is such a blessing to me! Because my husband and I are both teachers, summer is the best time for us to serve on a regular rotation. We’ve met new faces, heard wonderful stories and shared our testimonies with others. Plus my kids have a blast.

My son met this elder woman who fell in love with his personality. The second day of serving together she calls him her boyfriend. He turns to me and says, “I’m waaaay to young to be her boyfriend, seriously!”

Priceless memories of serving others! My seven year-old looks at the green jello cup and says, “They actually eat this stuff?”

It’s my quest to share the real world experiences with my family. Since I overcame poverty in Korea, I want to help others and give back to my community. Serving keeps me humble in so many countless ways.

help community

I’d love to hear your serving stories. Please share them in the comments below. Let us encourage one another to reach out to the poor and hungry and teach our children about the real world.

How to Make Back-to-School Tacos {Freezer Cooking}

Back to School TacosI scored 5 pounds of lean ground turkey for $5. It’s the little things that make this momma happy. I immediately jumped on it and prepared it for back-to-school tacos. While most parents are stocking up on school supplies, I’m stocking my freezer for the busy school year ahead. T minus two weeks for me and three weeks for my kiddos.

It was such a busy semester last year, I cleaned out my freezer completely. I didn’t have time to freezer cook or blog, sorry friends. I’m trying my best to get back into the swing of things and update my blogs (cooking and teaching).

I’m always jumping into new adventures and my new one this year is my principal license. Last school year it was National Board certification and this year I’m adding another 24 hours onto my teacher duties. So, I need to woman up and start cookin’ again.

Here’s what I’ve done so far. Taco meat and lots of it. 5 batches in the freezer for those easy peasy 5-minute taco nights for hubby take his turn cooking, lol.

Here’s my best tips for freezer cooking taco meat.

  1. Purchase meat on sale
  2. Make sure you pan is large enough for several pounds of meat (I have a huge cast iron that holds 5#)
  3. Add water and use your potato masher to make finely ground meat like Taco Bell (see my tip here)
  4. Add your seasoning with your water to allow the flavors to cook with the meat. (make your own using my recipe here)
  5. Allow it to cool to room temperature before bagging.
  6. Make sure your quart bags are labeled with sharpies with contents and dates.
  7. Squeeze air out and freeze flat.

See my full post how to freezer cook taco meat here. Do you have any questions about freezer cooking? I’d love to answer them!

How are you preparing for back to school?