Red Enchilada Sauce

– johanna | September 20th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES- Condiments

This is by far my favorite enchilada sauce. In fact it is the only red enchilada sauce I use. So I thought it important to give it its very own post. Flour combined with chili powder are cooked until fragrant to give the sauce a deep robust flavor inherent to Mexican cuisine.

Enchilada Sauce:
Source: AllRecipes
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups water or broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons minced onion, or 1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and chili powder, reduce heat to medium. Stirring constantly to prevent burning the flour, cook until the sauce just begins to smell strong, a sort of burnt smell, and is slightly thickened,

Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder until smooth. Continue cooking over medium heat about 5-7 minutes, or until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yields: Barely enough to make two 13X9 inch pans of enchiladas, without dipping the tortillas.

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Seasoned Tilapia Fillets

– johanna | September 14th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Normally, I season fish with a little lemon and a dash of salt and pepper. One particular night I needed to spice things up a bit. It was a hard week for everybody so dinner needed to be relaxing and yummy. This recipe for seasoned tilapia fit the mood perfectly.

This recipe states the sauce is enough for two fillets. I was able to season five fillets perfectly by combining all the ingredients into a sauce first.

For the kids, I lightly brushed the fillets with the seasoning. Just barely enough to give the fish some flavor. They are a tad finicky when it comes to spices. Although, they can gobble up Chevy’s salsa with no complaints.

Source: Just in a Pinch
2 (6oz.) tilapia fillets
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon steak seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried parsely flakes
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Place fillets in a greased 11×7-inch baking dish.
Brush fillets with mayonnaise. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; sprinkle over fillets.

Cover and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 5-8 minutes longer or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve with a side of quinoa and steamed vegetables.

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Creamy Mac and Cheese

– johanna | September 7th, 2012

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Sides

I have been searching for a mac and cheese recipe that does not contain canned soup or processed cheese. Better yet this recipe does not require flour and can be made completely gluten free just by substituting gluten free pasta for regular pasta. The first time I made this I was overcome with shock at how creamy the pasta came out.

Sadly my subsequent attempts were not as successful. This recipe works great with smaller pastas that cook quickly such as elbow and small shells or gluten free varieties. The larger the pasta the longer it takes to cook and more liquid is needed.

I thought the original recipe was a bit bland so I added the minced garlic and a couple tablespoons ghee or oil before adding the remaining ingredients.The original recipe says to use whole milk. This is primarily because their family drinks raw milk. I have used fat free milk and rice milk without any problems. I cut the milk down by a cup substituting water for the third cup.

Pair with grilled fish or shrimp and a side of peas or steamed broccoli.

source: Adapted from Heavenly Homemakers
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
2 1/2 cups elbow pasta (or other small pasta)
2 cups milk
1 cup water
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the melted butter until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the pasta, water and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, STIRRING ALMOST CONSTANTLY, until the pasta is tender (10-15 minutes).

Remove from heat. Add cheese and stir until melted. Serve immediately.

– Gluten Free Pastas: rice pasta, quinoa pasta.
– Casein allergies: almond milk, rice milk.
– Cheeses: parmesan/cheddar blend, gouda/gruyere blend, ramano or vegan cheddar cheese.

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Steamed Pork Buns

– johanna | August 31st, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

If you are looking for amazing Korean recipes Maangchi’s website is THE place. So far every recipe I have tried has been absolutely delicious. Steamed Pork Buns are no exception.

Steamed pork buns are sort of like a stuffed dumpling. They can be baked in the oven. The result is just ok. Like a loaf of bread, the baked dough is drier with a crisp outside. Ultimately you really want to try to steam them for a lighter fluffy dumpling. I do not own a steamer but I found my canning pot works perfectly.

Pack any leftovers for lunch the next day. They taste fine cold or warm in the microwave or oven.

If you are interested in learning Korean visit the Talk to Me in Korean website. It really makes learning the language simple.

Source: Maangchi

1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 ts sugar
3 cups flour
In a large bowl add water, yeast, salt, oil, and sugar. Mix well until yeast is fully dissolved.

Add flour to the yeast water. Mix with a wooden spoon, then knead for 2-3 minutes.

Set aside in warm place until the dough doubles in size.

After the dough has risen, knead it again for 1 minute to remove any extra gas. Set it aside in warm place with the lid closed for 30 minutes.

Vegetable Filling:
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1 1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 cups chopped white mushrooms
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the onion, carrot, zucchini, green onion, and mushrooms.

Sprinkle salt over top and mix it up by hand. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Squeeze the excess water out.
*tip: using cheesecloth will make this easier. Wrap the chopped vegetables in cheesecloth and gently squeeze the water out.

Meat Filling:
14 oz ground pork
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a mixing bowl, place: pork, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and pepper.
Mix it by hand and set aside.

In a heated pan, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and sauté the chopped vegetables for 2-3 minutes. Transfer them to a large bowl.

Heat up the pan again, and cook the seasoned pork for 3 minutes until fully cooked.

Put the pork into the bowl with the vegetables and mix it all up.

Split the dough into 16 smaller pieces.
Take a few dough balls and put them on a floured cutting board.

(The rest of balls should be in the bowl with the lid closed, to prevent them from getting dried out.)

Roll out each ball into a disk 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.
Place a disk into your palm and add 2-3 tablespoons of filling mixture to the center of it.

Lift the edges of the disk up around the filling, then press the edges together to seal the filling snugly inside the bun.

Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, until you’ve made 16 buns.

Put 6-7 cups of water in the bottom of a large steamer and place each bun on the rack.

*tip: Place cheesecloth or cotton cloth on the steamer rack before adding each bun. Baking cups also work well. When you place the buns on the rack, leave a 1 inch gap between them because they will get bigger when steamed.

Wait for 20 more minutes to let the dough rise even more.
Bring to a boil over high heat, and steam for 20 minutes.

Dipping sauce:
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup chopped onion
Chopped green chili pepper
Roasted sesame seeds

Combine soy sauce, vinegar, and honey in a small bowl.
Add some of onion, green chili pepper, and sesame seeds.

When the buns are cooked, turn off the heat and remove the lid to prevent water from the top of the lid from dripping over the buns.

— if you do not have a steamer you can use a large canning pot or stock pot. Place pint sized jars or glasses in the pot, open side down. fill the pot with water 1-2 inches below the top of the glasses. Place a canning rack or metal plate, small enough to fit inside the pot, onto of the glasses. Put the pork buns in muffin tin liners. Place on top of the rack/plate. Cover and bring to a simmer. cook buns 20 minutes.

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A Touch of Sun Kissed Nectarine Preserves

– johanna | August 24th, 2012


There is something so rewarding about reaching in to my pantry for a jar of homemade jam. Last summer I made certain to stock the pantry well. We ran out of jam in the spring. So I made double batches of strawberry, raspberry, and nectarine. The jam lasted us well into this summer.

For raspberry jam see the post Beginners Raspberry Jam 101.

Making jam can seem daunting at first. But after a couple of tries the fear subsides. It is always easier to make jam for the first time with a friend. Preferably someone who has some experience. So grab a buddy and a bushel of fruit before the season is over.

Large canning pot, with insert
Small sauce pan for sterilizing lids
Large pot for cooking the jam in
Jar funnel
Canning Tongs
4-5 sterilized 1/2 pint jars with lids and rings

4 cups of peeled, pitted, and chopped nectarines or peaches (about 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1 package powdered Pectin

Fill canning pot, sauce pan, and stock pot with water. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, wash jars, rings, and lids.

Lower the temperature of the canning pot to a simmer. Set jars in canning pot.
until ready to use.

Put the lids in a small sauce pan with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Leave the lids in the hot water until ready to use.

Wash the fruit removing any mushy fruit, stems and leaves. Cut a shallow X on the bottom of each nectarine. Place fruit in the boiling water of the stock pot. Let process for a minute (if ripe) or longer (if unripe). Drain water. Pour ice cold water and ice gently over nectarines. Cover with a lid for 1 to 2 minutes. The skins should easily peel off.

Remove the nectarines from the pot. Rinse pot.
Cut fruit into quarters and dice. Place back in stock pot. Mash fruit slightly leaving some whole bits.

Combine nectarines, pectin, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat (stirring often to prevent burning). Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a boil (it continues to boil even when stirred). Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Turn off heat and remove from stove. Remove jars and lids from the water and place on a clean dish towel.

Skim off any foam from the top of the jam. (*Use the sugary foam to sweeten popsicles or smoothies.)

Place the funnel in the mouth of a jar. Use the ladle to pour hot jam into prepared jars; filling up no higher than 1/4-inch from the top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jar with a warm wet cloth or paper towel to remove any syrup.

Cap with the lid and screw on the ring. Return the filled jars to the canning pot of water. Adjust the water level to cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Return the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and process (boil) for 10 minutes. (**boil longer if at higher altitude*)

Turn off the heat. Carefully remove the lid. Use the canning tongs to remove the jars from the water bath. The lids should immediately make popping sounds. This indicates that the jars are sealing. Test each lid by pressing down in the middle of the lid. If there is a slight bump that is raised and pops back up when pressed, the jar is not sealed. Let the jar sit for an hour. If the jar has not sealed store the jar in the refrigerator. Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry.

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New Mexico Sopaipillas

– johanna | August 17th, 2012

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

When I was a teenager I traveled with my best friend Cindy and her mom across the United States from Southern Florida to the Mid West. We saw Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and the Grand Canyon, then drove on to Utah to pick up her sister. While in New Mexico we dined at a local Mexican restaurant. The highlight of the meal was Sopaipillas; a fried square puff of bread, similar to the Native American fry bread, served with butter and honey.

I made these for the kids this week for our back to school celebration party. I dusted some with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or spread with butter and drizzled with honey. They went nuts asking if they could take some to the neighbors. So we ended up feeding most of the neighbor kids too. The way to eat them is you tear a corner off, drop a little butter in the hole, and then drizzle the cavity with honey. So tasty! They have a slight crisp to the outside and the inside is doughnut heaven.

* The heat of the oil is very important. The oil should not be too hot nor to cool. If it is too hot the dough will burn quickly resulting in crunchy not crispy sopaipillas. If the oil is too cool then the dough will absorb more oil as it cooks longer making the sopaipillas soggy. I do not fry foods hardly ever so it is hard to remember from year to year the trick to heating oil. This time I took notes. I started heating the oil over medium heat before making the dough. By the time the dough was ready to rest I could smell the oil. I turned the heat down to medium low while the dough rested. Then turned it back to medium while I rolled and cut the dough. The dough was a perfect light brown after 10 seconds.

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening
3/4 cup warm water
Canola oil for frying

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, powder, and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or your hands. Using a fork or hands, gradually stir in the warm water. Knead and mix the dough until the dough forms a loose ball. (dough will be crumbly) Turn out onto a flat surface and knead. (you should not need any flour but if the dough is too sticky lightly dust the surface with flour.) Knead the dough until it is smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes. Divide the dough in half and let sit covered with a hand towel.

Beginning with one half of the dough, roll into a large square to a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut the dough into 9 equal pieces by cutting the dough into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Repeat with the other half of dough.

* Pour oil 1 to 2 inches thick in a deep rimmed skillet. Carefully place squares of dough in hot oil (careful not to overcrowd). Cook for 10 to 30 seconds each side. The cooked side should be lightly browned. Remove fried dough from the oil and drain on paper towels.

To serve: Dust with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar immediately after removing from the oil or serve with butter and honey.

– Gluten free version to come. Any ideas please comment.
– Use sunflower oil for corn allergies.
– Use coconut oil in place of shortening

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Homemade Condensed Chicken Soup

– johanna | August 10th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

I finally found a homemade substitute for condensed chicken soup. I am so thrilled that I can finally make a family favorite Easy Crock Pot Chicken again. I will have to try it with another favorite recipe Monterrey Chicken with Stuffing.

This recipe is the best I have found so far. It is both fresh and flavorful. Skim through the variations at the bottom of this post for a gluten free version.

Source: Tammy’s Recipes

1 1/2 cups fresh chicken stock*
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon onion powder**
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder***
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (or less; taste to test)
1/4 teaspoon parsley
dash of paprika
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup flour

In medium-sized saucepan, boil chicken broth, 1/2 cup of the milk, and the seasonings for a minute or two (longer if using fresh onions or garlic).

In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk and flour. Add to boiling mixture and continue whisking briskly until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat.

Makes 3 cups (about 2 cans of soup)

– *chicken bouillon + water: you might want to add a little extra seasonings and some bits of chicken.
– If using a good rich chicken broth, you probably won’t need any chicken in it.
– **diced onions (boil with broth for a few minutes).
– ***fresh minced garlic (boil with broth for a few minutes).
– Gluten free version: use gluten free broth (if not homemade). Replace flour with a mixture of brown rice and corn starch. Or use no more than 1/8 cup of corn starch in place of the flour.

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Tomato Red Bean and Barley Soup

– johanna | August 3rd, 2012

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Soup / Salad

During my search for a viable Asian foods shop I came across a tasty Vietnamese restaurant whose specialty is Pho soup and a Spicy Lemongrass Chicken. The highlight though is in the way they serve the meal. The pot of boiling soup is placed in the center of the table accompanied by several smaller bowls of condiments. It sounds silly to be excited over a pot of soup and condiment bowls but it was the one thing that perked my interest in South Korean cuisine.

Every Korean meal is pretty much the same. Each person has their own bowl of rice. There is a large bowl or pot of soup in the center of the table. The smaller bowls and plates are for sauces, meats, and vegetable dishes. There is always some form of Kimchi- a meat or vegetable fermented with red pepper paste. I thought the idea of serving soup with every meal genius. Soup can be filling and if made properly very healthy. I would definitely prefer my kids asking for another ladle of soup rather than a second helping of pasta. So now I always try to have soup on hand. It comes in handy when we come home late from Karate and I have come to enjoy a small bowl for lunch.

2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano
2 stalks celery or 1/2 teaspoon celery seed (smashed)
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
3 carrots, sliced
1/2 yellow or red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup barley
6 cups beef, vegetable or chicken broth
1-2 (15-oz) cans diced tomatoes, or three cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon Herbs from Provence or Italian Seasoning
1 (15-oz) can red kidney beans
1 (6-oz) jar marinated Artichoke hearts

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic. Saute another minute or two until fragrant. Stir in carrots, potatoes, yellow pepper, oregano and celery (or celery seed). Then pour in broth, tomatoes, barley, and herb mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil for 10-15 minutes. Add the artichokes with marinade and beans. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil for about 25-30 minutes until soup has thickened slightly. Taste. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender.

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Paper Plate Tambourine Craft

– johanna | July 27th, 2012


These paper tambourines are so much fun to make. They are a great rainy day activity too. Once the tambourines are done initiate a game of freeze dancing.

Step 1: Using 1 or 2 paper plates, fold the plate in half.

Step 2: Pour in about 1/2 cup of beans.

Step 3: Staple the edges to seal.

Step 4: Glue or staple ribbon or streamers around the edges.

Step 5: Attach bells by poking a hole through the plates. Attach with string or wire.

Step 6: Decorate with glitter, markers, tissue paper, ect.

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Summer Weaving Projects

– johanna | July 20th, 2012


Photo: Lombok Traditional Hand Weaving by Mohammad Fadli

As my children started school I was surprised to find some of my favorite childhood playground games still existed. I naturally assumed hand games like Miss. Mary Mack and Chinese jump rope had dissipated along with dodge ball, metal slides, and merry-go-rounds. Weaving is another childhood pass time that has withstood the pass of time. In the 70’s we called it Macrame. In the 80’s and 90’s we used the same technique to make friendship bracelets.

Weaving has existed since the beginning of time. Our ancient ancestors used their fingers to twist and manipulate strands of wool, plants, and wood into clothing, rugs, brooms, and baskets. The introduction of the loom and spindles created endless possibilities for weaving designs and textures.

Hand weaving is a fun way to develop fine the motor skills in children, youth and adults. You can make a myriad of beautiful projects to use at home or give away as gifts. Most of the ideas listed below are portable. Meaning you can do these projects in the car or at the beach.

Photo: property of Whip Stich

Toddler Weaving:

Toddlers can learn the basics of the up and down weaving motion through the use of lacing cards. Make your own by punching holes in old greeting cards, felt, or cardboard. You can also cut squares or shapes out of rug canvaspegboard or plastic canvas.

Photo: property of Patti's Nursery School Class

Preschooler Weaving:

Teach preschool aged children to weave with fabric, string, yarn, ribbon, foam, or paper. Mediums such as cardboard, fruit baskets, yarn, laundry baskets, paper bags, and wire racks can be use as a loom. Create works of art such as dream catchersplace mats, pot holders coasters, and mini blankets for their little stuffed animals.

Weaving Projects:

Finger Crochet

Friendship Knot Headphone Wire Cover

Sailors Knot Bracelet

Embroidery Hoop Dream Catcher

Friendship Bracelets

T-Shirt Bracelets and Necklaces

Hair Wraps

T-Shirt HulaHoop Weaving

Woven Rag Rug

Trivet Loom

Woven Rope Rug

Woven Placemat

Basket Weaving

Straw Weaving

Cardboard Loom

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