Amee

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Preserving Fresh Strawberries & Cherries

This weekend we picked strawberries and cherries at  local orchards. I always pick enough fresh fruit to preserve some for the off season months. Some of the fruit will be frozen and some will be canned. Of course we eat a good amount of fresh fruit too!

To make your fresh fruit last longer, do not wash it until you are ready to eat it. For cherries, pick them with the stem on to make them last longer. Always pick ripe yet firm berries and cherries.

Cherries Image

If you don’t own a cherry pitter, try using a large paper clip or safety pin. The frugal in me decided not to buy a cherry pitter for the one time a year that I buy cherries. I found that using the rounded end of a safety pin worked very well.

cherry pitting

Freezing fruit is very easy. Wash and de-stem the fruit. Place a single layer of fruit on waxed paper on a cookie sheet. This step is called flash freezing and it is done so the fruit doesn’t stick together. Freeze fruit that is ripe, but not mushy.

Freezing Strawberries

When the fruit is frozen through, remove from cookie sheet and place in freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible. I have a hand held vacuum sealer that I use, but it is not necessary. The fruit will last for several months. Since they are not all stuck together, you can take a small amount out at a time.

This year I am going to try canning Strawberry Butter. It is basically just strawberry puree and sugar. Strawberry Butter requires less sugar than jam which will be healthier for my boys! They love jam but I dislike the amount of sugar that it requires. Canning is perfect for fruit that is a bit mushy and very ripe.

Other fruits I have planned for the summer: Blackberries, Peaches, Blueberries and Apples (and most likely in that order!). Picking your own fruit is a lot of work, but it is a family fun event that we look forward to each summer.

May 21, 2010

Sizzling Sirloin Kabobs Recipe

Last week I attended a webinar put together by Beef It’s What’s for Dinner and Chef Dave Zino. They have launched a new Interactive Meat Case on their website to help people choose the right cut of beef. Many of the same cuts of beef go by different names in different areas. If you are unfamiliar with a cut that a recipe calls for, check out the Interactive Meat Case to learn more! Plus there are some yummy recipes available.

Chef Dave has shared a recipe with us that is perfect for summer grilling! This recipe can be very inexpensive if you have a garden this year as it calls for several fresh herbs and vegetables.

Sizzling Sirloin Kabobs on a Bed of Orzo

Total Recipe Time: 35 to 40 minutes

Kabobs:
1 pound boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1 inch thick
2 green, red and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon prepared Italian dressing
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

Orzo:
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Soak eight 8-inch bamboo skewers in water 10 minutes.
2. Cut beef steak into 1-1/4-inch pieces. Toss beef and bell peppers with 1 tablespoon basil, dressing and garlic in large bowl. Alternately thread beef and peppers onto skewers.
3. Toss Orzo ingredients in medium bowl; keep warm.
4. Place kabobs on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, uncovered, about 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, covered, 9 to 10 minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Serve with orzo.

Makes 4 servings
Nutrition information per serving: 380 calories; 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 4 g monounsaturated fat); 51 mg cholesterol; 163 mg sodium; 38 g carbohydrate; 2.9 g fiber; 34 g protein; 10.5 mg niacin; 0.8 mg vitamin B6; 1.5 mcg vitamin B12; 4.1 mg iron; 31.4 mcg selenium; 5.8 mg zinc; 105.1 mg choline.

This recipe is an excellent source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, selenium, zinc and choline; and a good source of fiber.

Affordable Wedding Gift Ideas

As wedding season rolls around, you may find yourself scrambling for an affordable wedding gift. I have been to several weddings in my life, and I always make sure to bring some type of gift, no matter where I am money wise. There are plenty of thoughtful gifts that won’t break the bank. We wanted to put a list together of some ideas for you to find the perfect gift for the new Mr. and Mrs. that you can afford, and they will love!  Below you will find some ideas on affordable wedding gifts.

Invited to a wedding and a little strapped for cash? Here are some great wedding gift ideas that are affordable and the bride and groom will lo

Affordable Wedding Gift Ideas

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May 5, 2010

Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips

Happy Cinco de Mayo! As many of you know, I was raised in California. Besides my family and friends, the one thing I really miss is good Mexican food! Just before my husband and I moved to Virginia we lived a few blocks from a hole-in-the-wall Mexican Restaurant. They had the best homemade chips! I would sometimes stop just for the chips. They would make the chips when you ordered so they were hot and fresh.

Homemade tortilla chips are easy to make. They are not healthy due to the frying so I do not make them often! At Harris Teeter last week I ended up with FREE corn tortillas. I made tortilla chips tonight and I thought I would share with you! And I will warn you again, this is totally not a  healthy recipe but something that is a yummy treat every once in awhile!

Use a Pizza Cutter to cut the tortilla into triangles. Frying tortilla chips

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Ad the tortilla pieces in the hot oil. Cook for a minute or two. I flip mine half way through cooking.

Tortilla Chips

Drain on a paper towel when done and sprinkle with season salt. I like mine just barely crispy. Cook a bit longer for a sharp crisp. Enjoy with salsa or plain!

 

April 12, 2010

Building Creative Raised Garden Beds

It’s time to get your garden ready! Or at least the soil and the early and more hardy plants. I love having a garden and I cannot wait until we have fresh fruit and vegetables. Our strawberries are already blooming and the blackberry bush has buds. The peach tree is also looking hopeful this year! We have been debating to do a traditional in the ground garden or to go back to raised garden beds this year.

We went back to raised garden beds this year since last years crop was a bust (for many reasons but the soil was part of it). Since our garden area is quite large, building raised garden beds can be costly. My husband and I and big proponents of using what you have. We had a garage built this year and we decided to use the leftover scrap wood to build the raised beds. It’s not perfect, but it works!

My husband continued with his creativity and made me an herb starter box. He used a leftover piece of gutter to make the herb box and some scrap wood to secure it. Isn’t that clever?

We did have to bring in top soil and compost as we have clay. The soil was a bit of an expense, but the rest of the garden is pretty frugal. I planted potatoes, onions, green beans, sweet peas, carrots and lettuce this weekend. I will wait a couple more weeks to plant the squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon.

I encourage you all to make some sort of garden this year. It can be as small as a container on your deck or an herb garden on you window seal. Having fresh homegrown produce is wonderful! My boys enjoy the process too. And there is nothing better than a homegrown tomato!

Have you started a garden yet? What are you planning on planting this year?

 

April 11, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week & Beef Stroganoff Recipe

I am attempting to start menu planning again! There is less stress during the week if I take the time to write up a menu plan. The last few weeks have been hectic so meal planning took a back seat. One thing to note, I have not grocery shopped in over a week! My freezer and pantry were stocked so I decided to take a shopping break. I will have to go this week for fruits, vegetables, bread and dairy products.

Breakfast

Homemade Banana Bread– This recipe comes for Erin at $5 Dollar Dinners Cookbook. It is very healthy with no butter or oil. I used my home canned cinnamon applesauce. The boys love it!

Cereal and Milk

Lunch

Sandwiches, Chicken Nuggets, fruit, yogurt, cheese and pretzels

Dinner

MondayFreezer mashed potatoes, grilled chicken, corn and biscuits

TuesdayPork Lo Mein (Use leftover pork from Sunday night)

Wednesday– Chicken Alfredo- I made Connie’s Alfredo Sauce recipe a couple of weeks ago and the boys LOVED it! It is much healthier than traditional Alfredo sauce and it is only takes a few minuted to whip up.

Thursday– Spaghetti

Friday– Grilled steak, baked potatoes

Saturday– Beef Stroganoff using leftover steak

Beef Stroganoff Recipe

6 Tbsp butter
1 pound of top sirloin, cut thin (or use leftover meat or chicken!)
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
1/2 pound mushrooms (can be fancy variety or just white)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
dash nutmeg
1 cup of sour cream

1) Melt 3 Tbsp. of butter over medium-high heat. Add steak, season with pepper and salt. Cook until browned. Remove steak and keep warm. (If using leftover meat, just skip this step!)

2) Add shallots or onions, mushrooms and remaining butter to pan drippings and cook until tender over medium heat. Add a dash of nutmeg.

3) Reduce heat to low and add sour cream. Mix sour cream in thoroughly and then take off heat. Do not boil the sour cream as it will curdle. Add the beef back in.

4) Serve over egg noodles.

Sunday– Not sure! I will have to see what is on sale this week and what I find at the store!

What is on your menu this week? Do you have the grill out yet? I love grilling season!

This post is linked at Org Junkie.