Pepper Lover’s Peppered Beef Roll

– johanna | October 29th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

I have grown quite fond of my little ceramic pot since I found an old 1970’s crock pot cookbook at the thrift store. Last week we enjoyed Pork Chops with Oranges and now this week we salivated over Peppered Beef Roll. I have not had this much fun or success since I bought the River Cottage Family Cookbook a few years ago.

Most of the heat from the pepper is contained in the stuffing. For a milder version cook as directed but serve without the stuffing. The flank steak I found was in a sealed commercial package meaning the butcher did not wrap it in house. It was a little expensive. I think I paid $10 for 2 pounds. On Sunday’s I like to serve more of a traditional type dinner with pot roast or a roasted chicken. We use the left over meat in subsequent meals during the week. So the price was not too bad. Serve with steamed vegetables.

Source: Slow Crock Cookery by Karen Plageman
1 Flank Steak, about 2 pounds
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 to 2 tsp peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups beef stock

If flank steak is not already sliced, butterfly-cut steak to make it twice as long.

Lay meat out flat. Combine bread crumbs, crushed peppercorns, salt, allspice, and garlic powder and spread evenly over meat.

Roll up meat tightly and firmly and tire with string. Place in slow cooker. Add oinon, water and bouillon cubes. Cover tightly and cook at low for 7-8 hours. High for 4-5 hours. Turn beef roll several times during cooking. Makes 4-6 servings.

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Halloween Mystery Dinner Menu

– johanna | October 25th, 2010

Filed under: CREATING MEMORIES, RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

Art Work: Celebration of Halloween by Ryan Conners

The Witches Tavern


Blood Spritzer – Cherry Fizz


Eyeball Soup – Tomato Soup with Cheese Tortillini


Grave Digger Bones – Bread Sticks

Main Dish

Shrunken Troll Heads – Stuffed Acorn Squash


Stuffed Hobgoblin Hearts –  Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers


Shrunken Stuffed Mummy Heads- Baked Apples

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Crock Pot Pork Chops with Oranges

– johanna | October 22nd, 2010

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

One day while I was snooping through a local thrift store I found an old paperback entitled “Slow-Crock Cookery” dated 1974. I love old cookbooks especially those produced by a local church or organization. It looked interesting enough to spend the $.25 cents on. This little book was well worth the investment. It has become one of my top 5 favorite cook books.

Pork Chops with Oranges makes for a lovely dinner on a fall evening. Pair the chops with a baked sweet potato or use it as a stuffing in Stuffed Acorn Squash. Pork Chops with Oranges can be made in the oven using a dutch oven or casserole. Bake covered at 300 degrees F for the time listed.

6 lean pork chops, 1-inch thick
1 (6-oz) can orange juice concentrate
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp pepper
1 (8-oz) can mandarin orange segments

Sear chops in a skillet over high heat. Place chops in the slow-cooker.

Combine orange juice concentrate, brown sugar, salt cinnamon, allspice and pepper. Pour over pork chops. Cover tightly and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high 3 to 4 hours.

Arrange oranges over the pork chops for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. Serve over a baked sweet potato or brown rice.

Makes 4-6 servings

— Replace the orange juice with 1 cup apricot jam and add 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cloves.

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Family Togetherness: Sunday Family Counsel

– johanna | October 19th, 2010


Photo: property of Lily Jane Stationery

With the start of school also means the addition of all the extra curricular activities. Household schedules can become pretty hectic. Sunday Family Counsel is a way to meet up with the rest of the family to plan the week and work out any conflicting schedules.  In our home we meet together on Sunday night to go over the calendar and finances. We plan the weekly menu inviting suggestions from the gang. We also discuss any needs and reasonable wants. We can plan time for completing both home and school projects, schedule outings and even chores.

Family Counsel encourages communication, teaches leadership, time management and financial responsibility.  Create a suggestion box or a dedicated notepad to jot down notes and ideas throughout the week to be discussed. Be sure to come prepared with the necessary documents and calendars. Follow an itinerary to keep things moving and to insure you do not forget anything. Jazz up the meeting by serving dessert or offering a chance to win a door prize.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

– johanna | October 15th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Stuffed acorn squash is a fun way to present a delicious meal. The kids squealed in delight to see a “pumpkin” on their dinner plate. You can use hulled out squash or pumpkin to serve your favorite grilled meat and roasted veggies in. Acorn Squash in on this year’s Halloween dinner menu. It would also make a wonder side dish on Thanksgiving.

Source: Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine
2 medium acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
1 tbsp olive oil
Coarse salt and black pepper, to taste
2 spicy chicken or turkey sausage, casings removed, crumbled
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 tbsp chopped celery leaves from the inner celery stalk
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh spinach, washed and stemmed
8 oz low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F. Season cavity of squash with salt and pepper. Brush with oil and place cavity-side-down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake squash until fork tender, approximately 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown sausage over medium heat until cooked through. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate, if necessary.

Add onion and celery. Sweat over low heat, scraping fond (sausage bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan) until onions become translucent. Add garlic to onion mixture and sauté 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine sausage, onion mixture, spinach and sour cream. Stir well to combine and season, if necessary. When squash are tender, remove from oven and flip over so cavity is facing upwards. Divide stuffing evenly between the 4 halves. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake squash for an additional 15 minutes at 350ºF until stuffing is heated throughout and top begins to turn golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley to garnish.

— Replace the sausage with black beans, chopped pork chops or curry chicken.

— Add 1 tablespoon cumin and sprinkle with cilantro.

— Skip mixing in the sour cream. Mix 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper with the sour cream and serve on the side.

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October Resolution: Face the Lion- Accomplish a Difficult Task

– johanna | October 12th, 2010


Photo: “Dandelions” by Kitchen Table Medicine,

Source: Courtesy Photo Bucket

I am a horrible test taker. To this day I get sweaty palms and start to second guess myself. I learned in college that the answers to the tests were not straight out of the book as the teacher would profess but their own version of the answer. I am a hands on kinetic learner. I knew back then it was difficult for me to process information spouted out at me from the chalk board. So I always chose to sit in the front row and took almost word for word notes. At home I would faithfully read the text book and dutifully did my homework. I could explain the where and why verbally but once I sat down with a scantron in from of me the lights went out.

I was venting to a friend of mine I worked with one day. She was older than I was but from the first time we met we became fast friends. It was like we were soul sisters. We must have known each other in a previous life. She gave me the best advice. With a big smile on her face she told me, “You have to face the lion before it can become a dandelion.” The following Monday I marched into my professor’s office to see if he could help me figure out what I was doing wrong. I was really scared of the man. Talking to him was a difficult thing for me but I faced the lion and he actually was nice. He encouraged me to take notes then write an essay on the pages I read. An assignment I gladly took on in hopes of scoring higher than a C.

With the final exam approaching fast, I geared myself up. I sat in my usual front seat, took detailed notes (he actually gave us the test questions and answers), then went home and studied. I read the book, took notes and wrote and essay. I memorized the test questions and answers he gave us in class. A funny thing happened on test day. I was perplexed as to how I should answer several of his questions. For you see, there were two correct answers. One, I was certain I had read in the book; however, there was another answer straight from the professors list of questions and answers. I went with the professor’s answers and received my first A. Hallelujah!

My quest to chase the lion was not yet over. I felt cheated. I thought what if every test I took that semester I actually scored higher. According to the book I was right. I was not about to let some arrogant professor fail me. So once again I marched into his office and explained to him my discovery. He was not happy to be told that he was wrong. The following week when the grades were posted I got an A in the class. “Once you face the lion, it will become a dandelion.”

I use the same mantra with my children everyday. The little guys can become frustrated with everyday tasks that we take for granted. Simple actions such as putting on a shirt can drive them into a tantrum. I do not accept can’t in my house. Yoda tells us, “there is only do or do not, there is no try”. If you cannot do it you can ask for help. Accepting defeat and whining about it is not an option. There will be many things we cannot do in life. As long as we can stand there and honestly say that we did our absolute best then we have nothing to whine over. If we never made the attempt, however; how will we know that the lion starring back at us is nothing but a dandelion?

This month’s resolution is to accomplish a difficult task. Think of things in your life that seem overwhelming or that you would like to change. Think of things you have been wanting to do but have not felt up to the task. Seek out help to overcome this burden or research ways to master the problem.

–If you are shy that could mean breaking out of your shell a little.
–Write down your biggest fears and come up with ways to overcome them. Make it your new goal for the New Year.
–Accomplish a task that you have been afraid to do or keep procrastinating.
–Learn that new hobby or trade.
–Take a risk as long as it does not hurt anyone or result in negative consequences.
–Learn to live within a budget to get out of debt.
Host a dinner party.
–Simplify your life and home.
–Reconnect severed ties with family.
–Stand up to peer-pressure. If you do not feel good about something stop participating.
–Break off unhealthy relationships.
–Go back to school.
–Stand up to a bully.
–Be positive.

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Pumpkin Walnut Bread

– johanna | October 8th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Breads, RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

The week after Autumn Solstice the soccer league voted to cancel soccer practice because it was too hot. I wanted to make Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread but the grocery store did not carry cans of pureed pumpkin yet. While I was trying hang up a curtain the rod fell and smacked my forehead. I was behind on laundry. The house was a mess. I took the kids to the shoe store against my better judgment. Alexander would agree with me that it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. The moral of the story? Stock up on cans of puree pumpkin. Then when you are having a bad day no matter what the season you can make Pumpkin Walnut Bread.

This recipe from Joy the Baker is by far our favorite. We love the crunchy walnuts and the wonderful fragrant spices. I have tried walnuts in a pumpkin roll before and was not impressed. Here they add a wonderful layer of texture it is almost like capping the bread with a nutty caramel topping.

This recipe for pumpkin walnut bread is Vegan in that there are no eggs. It makes a great snack for kids who have egg allergies. I would avoid the temptation to substitute applesauce for part of the oil because the recipe already has plenty of sugar from the syrup and sugars. You could reduce the oil slightly and replace some of the sugar with applesauce.

Source: Joy the Baker
–makes 2 loaves–
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour ( or whole wheat flour… or just use only all-purpose flour)
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under two cups
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

In a medium bowl, carefully whisk together pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold all of the ingredients together. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, finding any stray flour bits to mix in. Fold in most of the chopped walnuts, reserving some to sprinkle on top of the batter once in the pan.

Divide the dough between the two greased pans and sprinkle with a few walnut pieces. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Let rest in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

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October Website Review: On Being Frugal

– johanna | October 5th, 2010


This month’s website review covers several websites. I am sure there are thousands of fabulous sites that offer the latest in coupons and deals. These are just a few of my favorites from this year. I use them all. It takes me about an hour to write up my weekly dinner menu and comb the coupon sites, grocery store site and local advertisements for deals.

If you are new to clipping coupons, just curious or even a veteran this story “If I Didn’t See It With My Own Eyes” by Jaye Watson, will take you on a step by step journey on how to get the most for your buck.

The following websites offer coupons, giveaways as well as tips on the trade.

My Frugal Adventures


Money Saving Mom

Coupon Cooking

Hip 2 Save

Coupon Cravings

True Couponing

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Saucy Lemony Mushroom Chicken

– johanna | October 1st, 2010

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

Lemony mushroom chicken is a quick 30 minute meal. You can jazz it up by adding a few tablespoons of capers or cilantro. You can even omit the mushrooms.

In this recipe you will learn a simple technique called deglazing to make the sauce. Deglazing is used a lot in cooking to create sauces/gravy or to add rich flavor to soups or meat. You know that crusty stuff on the bottom of the pan from grilling meat? The stuff you can never get off? When you add liquid to the hot pan you can easily scrape the bits of charred meat off. This is called deglazing. This broth that is formed is chocked full of amazing flavor that will transform a flavorless soup into something mouth watering. Deglazing is also the first step in preparing gravy for Thanksgiving dinner. Once you conquer deglazing feel free to play around with the flavors by adding different types of juices or cooking wines. Try butter and garlic for a garlic sauce with roasted veggies.

4 chicken breasts, purchase the thin fillets or fillet two thick chicken breasts
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock or dry white wine

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Sautée the onions until translucent about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sautée until soft about 7 minutes. Remove the onions and mushrooms.

This next step is optional. If you dredge (meaning to coat) the chicken in the flour now then you do not have to add flour when making the sauce.

Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour until they are coated well. Add oil to the pan if necessary. Place the chicken pieces in the skillet; cook over medium heat until no longer pink in the middle about 3 minutes each side. Remove from pan.

Add chicken broth or wine to the hot pan scraping up the burnt bits on the bottom of the pan. If you did not dredge the chicken in the flour add 2 tablespoons flour now, whisking until completely dissolved. Continue to cook the sauce over medium heat until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat.

Place the mushrooms, onions and chicken back in the pan and toss. Serve over noodles or other favorite grain or with roasted vegetables or squash.

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