Thursday, June 30, 2011

Five Minute Bread--(A Refrigerator Mix)

This mix is for your refrigerator and allows you to have have hot homemade bread for dinner whenever you want!

Love this book!
A few years ago I stumbled across this book and it has been one of my favorites ever since!  The whole idea is to make up a batch of bread dough and then be able to keep it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks, allowing you to have fresh, hot homemade bread whenever you  like.  The book is packed full of recipes and tips. Also, be sure to check out their website for more great ideas!

The Master Boule recipe is one of my family's favorite for everyday.  We have made baguettes, cinnamon rolls, bread bowls and even pizza on the grill with it.  It only takes 5 minutes to mix up (hence the name), a couple of hours to rise and then it is ready to bake.

To make the dough you will need:

-four qt. container for mixing
-flour (unbleached or all purpose)
-warm water

Step1: Measure 6 1/2 cups of flour into your container using the scoop and sweep method.

Step 2: Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast to flour (or approx. 2 pkgs.)

Step 3: Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. salt to yeast and salt

Step 4: Whisk dry ingredients together. I use a danish dough whisk to mix my ingredients together and then mix the dough.  It does a great job of mixing up the dough and is easier to clean than a regular spoon.  You can use whatever you have on hand.
Danish Dough Whisk
Step 5: Add 3 C. warm water and mix till flour is all moist.  You do not have to knead!
The dough should be moist with no dry flour in the bottom of the bowl.  It may even seem sticky, but it's okay!
Step 6:  Lay the top on the container but DON'T seal.  Set in a warm place to rise.
Dough before rising
Let rise until doubled in size (about 1 1/2-2 hours).  Pop the top on and put in the refrigerator.
Dough after rising

Baking instructions.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cheesy Potato Casserole

No picture today, the casserole disappeared before I remembered to take a picture.  I will try to get one soon!

Cheesy Potato Casserole

32 oz. bag shredded hash browns-frozen
1/4 C. minced dried onions
1 1/2  C. sour cream
2 C. shredded cheddar cheese
2 C. Corn flakes--crushed
1/4 C. butter or margarine
2 C. milk
1/4 C. flour
1 tsp. chicken bouillon powder

In a large bowl, combine hash browns and minced dried onion.  Set aside.  In a pan, over medium heat, whisk together milk, flour and chicken bouillon.   Heat, stirring constantly, till mixture thickens.  Stir in cheese.   Pour cheese mixture over hash browns and mix thoroughly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place in greased 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Melt butter and add to cornflake crumbs.  Sprinkle over the potato mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until hot and bubbly around the edges and the top is lightly browned.

~To make this for the freezer, place uncooked potato mixture in a gallon sized bag.  Place cornflake mixture in a small bag and attach to larger bag.  Freeze.  Thaw mixture overnight before adding to casserole dish and baking as described above.

~This is a great recipe for potlucks!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Baby Shower & Stuffed French Toast

It's a Girl!
Ready for Brunch
Recognize the flower ball in the center?

close-up view of table

Strawberry and Brownie Cupcakes

A colorful diaper cake

This weekend I had the privilege of hosting a baby shower brunch for a dear friend.  It was a lot of fun!  I opted to keep the decorations simple and let the momma-to-be be the central focus of the morning.  We all managed to squeeze around the table for some orange stuffed french toast, crispy cheesy potatoes, sausage patties, and fresh fruit.  Then we played some silly games (is there any other kind at a shower?). Afterwards we had dessert and then opened the presents.  Many of the women in the group already have children, so the gifts were a reflection of items that they found useful or their kids loved when they were little. It was a nice morning full of laughs, fellowship and fun.

The orange stuffed french is one of my favorite recipes for brunch.  It is simple to make and can be frozen ahead of time and then just heated up on serving day!
Orange Stuffed French Toast

Orange Stuffed French Toast

1 Loaf French bread sliced 1" thick
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. orange marmalade
1/2 C. chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
5 eggs
1 C. orange juice

Cut a pocket in top of each bread slice about halfway through.  Blend cream cheese, marmalade and pecans,  Fill each pocket with approx. 1 Tbsp. of the mix.  Beat eggs and orange juice together.  Dip bread slices in OJ mix and place on wax paper lined cookie sheets.  Freeze until solid and then pack in freezer bags.

To Bake: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush cookie sheet with melted butter.  Place frozen bread slices on cookie sheet and bake 6-10 minutes, flip and bake 3-5 minutes more until golden brown.  Alternately, melt small amount of butter into pan or on griddle and fry, turning once to brown both sides.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Encouraging Words ,Perfect Pancake Mix and Recipes

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thess. 5:11

This morning I received the sweetest note from someone letting me know that she has been encouraged and inspired by some of the things she has read on this blog.  It came at the perfect time, as I have been wondering lately if it was really worthwhile to keep up this blog and if it was really making any difference.  There are certainly fancier and better written blogs (I don't speak html) and sometimes it seems there is not much new, and yet everyone has there own voice and style that makes them unique.  Just knowing that even one person has found something useful in these pages is enough to keep me writing and hoping that others are also finding something helpful.

Today, make it a point to let just one person know how much they have encouraged or inspired you.  Your kind words may be just the thing they need to hear!


Now for a new mix!

Perfect Pancake Mix

6 C. Unbleached flour
2 C. Whole wheat pastry flour
2 C. Nonfat dry milk powder (or buttermilk powder)
1/2 C. sugar
3 Tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients together.  Store in large airtight container.

-You can use all unbleached flour or combination of flours to get to 8 C.  (I found it is best not to go over about 1/2 whole wheat flour with this recipe).

2 C. perfect pancake mix
1 1/2 C. water (or to desired consistency)
1 egg
2 Tbsp. oil

In a medium bowl, combine egg, oil and water.  Whisk in pancake mix.  Let stand 2 minutes.  Add additional water, if desired.  Cook on preheated griddle or pan.

~We love pancakes for lazy weekend morning breakfasts, or busy weeknight dinners!

Easy Waffles
2 1/2 C. Perfect Pancake Mix
2 C. water
3 eggs, separated
1/4 C. veg. oil

Combine pancake mix, water, egg yolks and oil in large bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff.  Gently fold egg whites into batter.  Bake in preheated waffle iron.

Puff Oven Pancake

4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
4 eggs
1 C. milk
1 C. Perfect Pancake Mix

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place 2 Tbsp. butter in each of 2-9" pie plates.  Place pie plates in oven to melt butter.  In a blender, combine eggs, pancake mix and milk.  Pour batter into prepared pie plates.
Bake for 18 minutes until puffy and browned. DO NOT open the oven while pancakes are cooking.
 Remove from oven and top with fruit or powdered sugar.

~These are an easy brunch dish for a crowd.

Topping Ideas:
~Fried apples and pecans
~Fresh peaches, blueberries or strawberries with a sprinkle of powdered sugar
~Sprinkle with powdered sugar and lemon zest and then  sprinkle the juice of a lemon over it (my fav!)
~Bananas, coconut, pineapple and drizzled with chocolate sauce.
~Any fresh fruit and fresh whipped cream

Perfect Batter

1 C. Perfect Pancake Mix
1 C. milk
2 eggs

Combine eggs and milk in shallow bowl, Add pancake mix and stir till combined.

Use this batter to make Monte Cristo Sandwiches, onion rings, or even fried fish.

~For Monte Cristo Sandwiches, make sandwiches using your favorite bread, meat and cheese combo (ham and cheddar, turkey and swiss, roast beef and provolone) and topping (mayo, mustard).  Dip sandwiches and cook on preheated griddle till browned on both sides and cheese starts to melt.  Monte Cristos are traditionally topped with a light sprinkle of powdered sugar and a dollop of jelly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Watermelon-Blueberry Slushie

There is nothing more refreshing on a hot and humid day than a icy cold drink.  And if it can get your kids to eat more fruit, well then it is even better!

You will need:

2 C. frozen watermelon (we always buy an extra melon when they are on sale and cut it up and freeze the chunks).
3/4 C. fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 C. coconut water (or plain water or juice)
1-2 sprigs fresh mint (optional)
juice of 1/2 a lime
Sugar, to taste (if you have a sweet watermelon, you shouldn't need any sugar)

Place the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until desired consistency. Add more coconut water if your mixture is too thick.  Pour in a glass, add a sprig of mint and enjoy!

-Kids love these because it is like a slurpee, only without all the artificial colors and flavorings or the mountain of sugar!

-Substitute your favorite fresh or frozen fruits for the blueberries.

-For a grown up treat, you could add a splash of rum and it would be mojito style!
Watermelon and Mint in blender

P.S. We discovered this tastes best when sitting on a hammock in the shade!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quinoa Veggie Burgers

These burgers are not only healthy and filling, but they taste great!  A welcome change to break us out of the pasta rut we have been stuck in on meatless nights.
Quinoa Veggie Burgers
I cook up a big batch of quinoa in my rice cooker on the weekends and keep it in the fridge to use whenever I need it during the week.

You will need:
2 1/2 Cups of cooked quinoa
4 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
3/4 C. water
1/2 C. chopped basil
1/2 C. shredded carrots (or zucchini and yellow squash)
1/2 Lrg. onion, finely chopped
1/2 avocado, mashed
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 C. coconut flour
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
1 Tbsp. olive oil (plus extra for frying)
1 tsp. sea salt

In a small saucepan, combine flax seeds and water.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes until slightly thickened.  Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients.  Let mixture sit for a few minutes to thicken.  Use a 1/4 C. of mixture per patty, form mixture into 12 patties.  You can add a little more water or flour to achieve desired consistency.  Mixture should hold together, but will not be extremely stiff.
uncooked quinoa patty

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a fry pan.  Add patties and cook until crisp and brown on bottom (about 6-8 minutes), flip carefully and brown the other side (another 4-6 minutes).

-You can freeze the uncooked patties.  Just place on cookie sheet till frozen and then pack in freezer bags.  Thaw slightly before cooking and increase cooking times accordingly.

-You could throw in whatever leftover shredded or cooked, mashed veggies you want.

-Use different herbs instead of basil for variety.

I was inspired by this recipe here, I just made a few changes to suit our tastes and dietary needs. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Canning 101: Simple Grape Jelly

Grape jelly is one of the simplest ways to get started with canning! It only requires 2-3 ingredients and because the jars are small, it is easy to do even in a tiny kitchen. Homemade jelly makes a great gift, especially with a loaf of fresh bread. 
Yummy Grape Jelly

To get started you need 100% grape juice(or any other 100% juice that you like), pectin and sugar.
There are several brands of pectin on the market.  Some of them are specifically designed for low or no sugar jams or jellies.  I prefer the low sugar variety, when I can find it, as I think it sets and tastes better--but it is a matter of personal preference.  Make sure that you follow the recommendations of the pectin that you purchase.  Do not try to use regular pectin to make low sugar jam or vice-versa, the jam will not set properly.

The first step is to prepare your jars.  Wash your jars thoroughly and then place them in a large pan of water and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat and let set.  Or you can run your jars through your dishwasher and use the sanitize cycle, if you have one.  You also need to prepare your lids by placing in a pot of hot water.
Lids in pan

jar rings

Once your jars are ready, then carefully measure your ingredients.  Be sure to check the directions that come with your pectin for juice to sugar ratio.  Also, fill your canner half full of hot water and place on stove.  Be sure to place a canning rack or towel in the bottom of your canner.

Add your pre-measured juice to a large pot and place on the stove.  Stir in your pectin and heat over medium heat until pot comes to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop when stirred).
Juice in pot
When your juice is boiling add your sugar all at once and stir to dissolve.  To speed this process up, pre-heat your sugar in a warm (200 degree) oven or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.  Bring the sugar and juice mixture back to a full boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove jelly from heat (be careful the syrup is REALLY hot!), and begin ladling it into the prepared jars using a canning funnel.
Fill jars, leaving a 1/2 inch of space at the top.  Carefully wipe the rims of the jars with a paper towel making sure there is no jelly or other debris on the lip,  Using a lid lifter, place warm lid on top of jar and use screw band to hold in place, tightening just until tight.
Wiping jar lip
Place jar in your prepared canner.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes and then turn off heat.  Let jars sit in water for about 15 minutes.  Then use tongs to carefully remove jars and place them on a towel in a draft free location.
canner ready for jars
You will hear a soft ping as the jars seal themselves.  After 24 hours check your jars to be sure they are all sealed.  The lid will be concave and not flex when you push it.  If your jar is not sealed, place in the refrigerator to be used first. 
After your jars are cool, you can remove the rings (if desired).  Be sure to label your jelly! 
Store your jelly in a cool, dark place (preferably), but at least out of direct sunlight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Canning 101:The Equipment

 From jams and jellies to ketchup to homemade stocks, canning is a great way to save money and it puts you in control of what your family is eating!

I think it is always best to learn something like canning from a friend, mother or grandmother who can walk you through all the steps, plus you have the added benefit of their years of experience, but for many they do not have anyone close to them to share their knowledge.  I hope that I can share just a little of what I know and give you the confidence to give canning a try!

The first place to start learning about canning is from a good book.  I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book of Canning for anyone starting out or experience.  Not only does it have step by step directions and lots of information on safety, the recipes are tried and true!  You can normally find the Ball Blue Book in with the canning supplies at most stores.

Ball Blue Book of Canning-if you only buy one book, make it this one!

 There are a lot of other great books on canning.  Some are geared for small batches or more gourmet type foods.  Be cautious when using recipes off from the internet--check them against a reliable source for safety.  I have read a few recipes online that if followed would be food poisoning waiting to happen (from unsafe processing times or methods to just plain unsafe food handling procedures).
Assortment of canning books

While canning can save you money in the long run, it does require an initial investment in the proper equipment.  Yard sales, Craigslist, classifieds and even grandma's basement are good places to start looking for canning supplies--especially jars.  Most department stores and grocery stores carry canning supplies in the summer and fall months, also.

Jars: Jars come in an assortment of sizes. What you are canning, as well as the number of people you are serving will determine what size jar you use. The smallest jars are 1/2 C. and are great for specialty mustard, spiced honey, or small amounts of jam or jelly (ideal for singles, or gift giving). Jelly jars are 1 Cup in size are used for jams, jellies, mustard, chutney, etc... The next size up is pint, which is 2 C. These are great for jellies for bigger families, sauces, ketchup and some vegetables.  The largest jar is quart size or 4 C. It is good for tomatoes, sauces, beans, and soups.  You can also buy 1/2 gallon jars, but they are harder to find and can be quite expensive.  The 1/2 gallon jars I own are used to store spices, nuts and dried fruits.
jars from 1/2 cup size to 1 quart
jar rings

jar lids-regular and wide mouth
You also need lids and rings to fit your jars.  If you purchase new jars they will have the lids and rings, but older jars will often come without.  Jars come in two sizes-regular and wide mouth.  Regular jars are great for sauces, liquids and jellies.  Wide mouth jars are great for anything you can whole or in large chunks (potatoes, peaches, apples, etc....).  The jar rings are reusable as long as they are not bent or rusty on the inside.  Jar lids must be replaced each time you can.  The seal on the lids breaks down and won't form a good seal leaving room for bacteria to get into your foods.

Most basic canning kits include a canning funnel, jar lifter and lid lifter.
Jar lifter, canning funnel, lid lifter
The jar lifter is invaluable for lifting hot jars out of the canner!  The funnel makes filling the jar easier and less messy (hopefully).  The lid lifter is nothing more than a magnet on a long piece of plastic which helps lift the lids out of hot water to place on the jars.  While you could probably get by without these items, they make life so much easier!

Last, you need a pot for canning.  If you are water bath canning you can use an pot large enough to hold your jars and cover them with water--you do not have to have a "canner".  The benefit of a canning pot is that they are light weight, most are coated aluminum so they heat up fast, and they are sized to hold your jars, Most also come with a rack that fits in the bottom of your canner.  If you do not have a rack then you need to place a towel in the bottom of your pan to keep your jars from making direct contact with the bottom of the pan.

Assorted sizes of canners

Pressure Cookers

Pressure cookers are used for canning low acid foods like stocks, meats, dried beans and certain vegetables.  Pressure canning usually takes more time to process and can be a little intimidating the first couple of times. The biggest thing is to make sure you read the instructions that come with your pressure canner and understand how it works before you use.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Shortcut Cooking Cookbook Sale

On sale till tomorrow night at midnight!

Normally  $9.95 on sale for $4.95!

According to the USDA the average family of four spends $800 a month on groceries.  For many families this just isn’t possible.   So what is the solution?  How do you save money and still feed your family tasty and nutritious meals?
Shortcut Cooking is a guide for saving time and money in the kitchen.  It is packed full of tips, tricks and recipes including 15 minute dinner ideas, freezer cooking 101, shopping strategies, ideas for packing lunches and over 75 of my families favorite budget saving recipes.

*This is an instant pdf download

Easy Crock-pot Chicken 13
French Dip Sandwiches 13
Fiesta Meat Mix 14
Fiesta Meat Mix Appetizers 14
Fiesta Meat Mix Bowl 14
Freezer Fajitas 15
Hot Chicken Salad 16
My Favorite Meatball Mix 16
Sloppy Joes 17
Freezer Pot Pie Filling 18
Basic White Sauce 18

Soups and Sides
Cilantro LimeRice 23
Twice Baked Potatoes Deluxe 23
Baked Brown Rice 24
Dried Beans 24
Potato Skin Snackers 25
SpinachBalls 25
Dehydrated Tomatoes 26
Breads and Breakfast
Bread Machine Mix 29
French Bread 30
Pizza Crust 30
Honey Whole Wheat Bread 31
Dough Enhancer 32
Flour Tortillas 33
Freezer Garlic Toast 34
Basic Granola 35
Homemade Yogurt 36
Creamy Custard Style Yogurt 37
Crispy Apple Spiced Doughnuts 38
Simple Muffin Mix 39
Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancake Mix 40
Maple Pioneer Syrup 40
Fresh Berry Syrup 41
Granola Bars 42
Everyday Quiche 43
Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal Mix 44
Maple Spice French Toast Sticks 45
Orange Stuffed French Toast 46
Quick Mix 47
Skillet Scones 47
Grapenuts Style Cereal 48
Italian Style Bread Crumbs 48
Stuffing Mix 49
Snacks and Desserts
1,2,3 Sugar Cookies 53
Cookie Glaze 53
Almost Fool-proof Pie Crust 54
Mega Freezer Pie Crust 55
Apple Pie Filling Mix 55
Cinnamon Graham Crackers 56
Easy Fruit Bars 57
Great Grandma’s Peanut Butter Fudge 58
Peanut Butter Balls 58
Brownie Mix 59
Pumpkin Roll 60
Savory Butter Crackers 61
Easy Refrigerator Pickles 62
Chocolate Wafer Cookies 62
Sauces and Spices
Burger Seasoning 64
Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Mix 64
Ranch Dip 64
Italian Seasoning Mix 65
Italian Dressing Mix 65
Mulling Spice Mix 66
Enchilada Sauce 66
Pumpkin Pie Spice 67
Pizza Sauce 67
Speedy Spaghetti Sauce 67
Taco Seasoning 68
SalsaVerde 68
Creamy Caramel Sauce 69
Lemonade (limeade) Syrup 72
Snow Cone Syrup 72
Party Punch 73
Hot Buttered Rum Mix 73

Friday, June 10, 2011

Taco Seasoning Mix

No more expensive packages of taco seasoning with artificial ingredients or fillers!
Taco Seasoning

Taco Seasoning

1 C. minced dried onions
1/2 C. chili powder
1/4 C. garlic powder
1/4 C. cumin
2 Tbsp. oregano
2 Tbsp. salt
2-3 Tbsp. red pepper flakes (optional, add if you like spicy!)

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl.  Store in airtight container.

Use 2-3 Tbsp. of mix to 1 pound of meat.  My family likes more seasoning on their meat--just use what tastes good to you.  You can add a little water if your meat is really lean to help it coat all the meat evenly.

This recipe is great because you can control how spicy (add red pepper flakes) or smokey (add more or less cumin) you like it, plus, you can leave the salt out all together if you need a lower sodium version (this version already has less sodium than most store brands out there).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Grocery Budget Update

So for those of you who took the grocery challenge this year, here are my updated numbers:

2011 Grocery Budget Goal: $3600 ($300 a month)
Year to Date spent: $2357.12
Remaining budget: $1242.88

I know it looks like I am way over budget--but it will even out by the end of the year.  First, $200 of this was party expenses--which I budgeted for separately, so technically I could deduct that amount, but I wanted to leave it in for now to just to show the numbers (plus we had a nice amount of leftovers which has already provided us several meals this week).

Secondly, my freezer is well stocked in meat--a while back I was able to pick up boneless, skinless chicken breast for $1.60 a lb, so I bought 60 lbs which went into freezer meals, marinades and extra chicken.

Third, I just paid for a bulk grain order which was close to $400.  That includes about a years supply of wheat berries, dried beans, salt, and honey plus the storage containers.  With my garden started and my neighbor who runs a little farm stand in his front yard, my fresh fruit and veggie cost over the next few months will be very small.  My freezer is fairly well stocked and I have plenty of baking supplies, so it is likely that my monthly expenditures through the fall will be around $100 a month--although I will keep you updated.  I also plan on doing a lot of canning and preserving this summer/fall to help cut down on our expenses going into the winter.

Because we buy in bulk--we have always built some flexibility into our budget--so we have the extra on months when we need to pay for big orders or buy bulk meat.  I know that is not always possible for everyone, especially when you are first working on cutting your budget--just set aside a little extra when you can (even $5 at a time will add up) for months when there are good sales or to make the bulk purchases.  I can remember one year we even had a yard sale and used the money to buy a side of beef that lasted us a full year.

 Over the next few months I will share some more of my bulk storage area and tips and also cover the basics on canning and dehydrating recipes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Corn Bread Mix

Here is another mix for your collection!
Cornbread w/butter and honey

Corn Bread Mix

4 C. unbleached flour
4 C. yellow cornmeal
2 C. nonfat dry milk (or buttermilk powder or milk powder substitute)
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. baking powder
1 Tbsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir with wire whisk.  Store in airtight container.
Ingredients layered in bowl

When I am making my mixes, I usually put the flour on the bottom and then add the other ingredients in piles on top, it makes it easier to see what I have already put in the bowl.

Mixed ingredients

To make:

1 egg, beaten
1/2 C. water
2 Tbsp. oil
1 1/4 C. cornbread mix

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix egg, water and oil.  Add cornbread mix and stir to combine.  Place batter in greased 8" x 8" pan and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.
baked cornbread

* Use this batter to make homemade corndogs. Add a pinch of dry mustard and 1/4 C. (approx.) more cornbread mix to make a stiff batter.  Place hotdogs on skewers, dip in cornbread mix to completely coat and deep fry  in 2-3 inches of hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Party Pictures, a Recipe, and a Winner

The party was great--great friends, good food and perfect weather--we couldn't have asked for a better day!  Our pulled pork even received the seal of approval from our Texas friends--a definite accomplishment!  The biggest hit of the day was definitely the dessert buffet--and with the exception of some cupcakes, there wasn't much leftover.
The Menu
Dessert Buffet
Cupcake Tower

Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Gingersnaps, Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Pralines, Pecan Tarts

Close up of turtle

Lemon Bars

Beverage Station-Sangria, Lemonade, Iced Tea, Homemade Rootbeer, Water and Beer

Outdoor Buffet Server!

Thanks to a LOT of hard work by my brother, sons, dear husband and a friend--our yard was looking much more presentable than it was two weeks ago.  They raked, hacked, bagged and  hauled leaves, branches, and brush to the dump for over a week (our yard had not been raked in at least a few years when we moved in last summer!).  We also got the pool cleaned and running--although it is still way to cold to swim in--and even some new carpet on the pool deck.  It just made the yard so much nicer to look at and we even found room for a hammock (an early father's day present for my dear husband!).
Deck View

The Pool

Gazebo w/ seating

A little people picnic table, comfy chairs and drink holders

A Hammock in the shade!

One of my favorite treats on the dessert buffet was the pecan tarts--they are easy to make and taste so good.  There is just enough gooey sweetness to the filling without being overwhelming.
Pecan Tarts
 Pecan Tarts
 3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 C. butter
1 C. flour
1 egg, beaten
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 C. chopped pecans
1/4 C. chocolate chips (optional)

Cream butter and cream cheese, add flour.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Divide dough into 24 balls and press into mini muffin tins.  
Combine egg, brown sugar, vanilla, pecans and chocolate chips (if desired).  Fill cups 3/4 full (trust me, don't overfill!).
Bake at 325 degree for 25-30 minutes or until light brown.
Cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan.

The winner of the hope chest cookbook is: Bonnie.  Congratulations!  I will be contacting you shortly to find out what color cover you want.  Also, because we only had 3 people enter, I decided to send a digital copy to the other two people who took the time to comment.  Thank you all so much!
***Hey ladies, if you won, please send me an email at so I can get your info, blogger isn't letting me email you.