Soup up Your Soup – Easy touches that make soup great!

Nothing seems to warm your insides like a bowl of homemade soup. Instead of having soup as usual, why not add a little pizzazz to your next pot? Your family will love you for it!
Homemade chicken soup

Here are just a few ideas to help make your homemade soup a little more special.

* Mix 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 2 eggs, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup milk. Then, right before you turn your stove off, whisk this mixture into the pot (make sure that the soup is still slightly boiling so the mixture will “cook” into the soup broth. I use this technique with our chicken soup.

* Add vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or wine vinegar – adds a great taste! * My kids don’t think they can eat their soup until we add the balsamic vinegar 🙂

* Add small cooked meatballs to any kind of soup. You can use this instead of other costly meat. A little goes a long way!

* Noodle drops – 1 1/3C flour, 1C milk, 1 egg, salt, pepper, mix & drop into boiling soup. They float when done.

Homemade soup…it warms the heart & soul 🙂

Apple Butter Made Easy – Plus a great gift idea!

While growing up, I remember friends of ours planning the annual apple butter making day. It was a huge chore & a very long process! Peel the apples – core the apples – slice the apples – start a huge fire in a pit – cook the apples in a heavy cast iron kettle – stoke the fire – stoke the fire – did I say stoke the fire? This went on for literally hours! Then came the process of canning the apple butter!
Apple butter.

Hopefully I can encourage you to try your hand at this flavorful spread, when you see how easy you can make it in your own kitchen.

Wash apples & cook whole in a large pot with water. When very tender, push through a sieve – now you have apple sauce! No peeling, slicing, or coring needed!

These ingredients make 1 apple butter recipe:

8 cups of apple sauce
4 cups of sugar (2 white – 2 brown)
1/2 cup of vinegar or cider
2 t cinnamon
1 t ground cloves

Put all into a crock pot & cook on high for approx. 7 hours. Make sure the steam can escape when it starts boiling.

You can store in the fridge or freeze for later use. Canning would also be a good option. Fill jelly jars with hot sauce & process in a boiling water bath.

* Here’s a great gift idea – a gift basket with a breakfast theme. Include things like; apple butter, homemade bread, pretty bowl, coffee cup, coffee (make some of those different coffee mixes), tea, and homemade granola cereal. Wrap it up with tea towels and cloth napkins. You could call it – breakfast in bed.

Drink Mix For The Chocolate Lover in 2 Quick steps – Great for gift giving!

After a cool evening walk, one of our favorite things to do is grab a cup of hot cocoa! Here’s a quick recipe that will keep your family warm throughout the season!

hot chocolate

The basic recipe is made by adding 3 parts nonfat dry milk & 2 parts semisweet chocolate chips.

Example:

3 cups instant nonfat dry milk & 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (12 oz.).

After you mix the amount desired, mix 1/2 of the recipe at a time in a food processor. Store in an airtight container.

To serve, place 3 heaping spoons of mix in a cup of hot water.

If you’d like, you could add a bit of vanilla or marshmallows to your cup.

* This recipe can be stored for up to 6 months!

This would make a great gift for friends, teachers, the mail man, bus driver, or anyone for that matter! Simply put mix in a pretty tin or jar, and include the directions for making on a nice card that you could attach to the container.

You could also put some of the mix in a zip lock bag, stuff that into a nice coffee mug, and attach the recipe for the mix on a handcrafted note card (brown paper bag with a stencil or stamp would be really nice!), and add a cinnamon stick or two. This would also make a great addition to a gift basket.

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To stop the mess made by pouring pancake batter from the bowl, squeeze your pancakes into the pan using a meat baster!
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Caramel Apples & Candy Apples – October at it’s best!

Is there anything more delicious at an Oct. party than candy & caramel apples?! These tasty treats hold a special place in my childhood memory! Like cotton candy at a circus, candy apples hold the spotlight at any harvest party.

Caramel Apples with Peanuts & Chocolate

You’ll be so surprised at how easy these wonderful treats are to make! Get the whole family involved – they’ll never forget it!

Line a few cookie trays with wax paper to set your apples on to cool.

Caramel Apples

Choose your favorite apples – wash & dry.
Melt a bag of caramels in the microwave – watch & stir.
Insert popsicle sticks into the apples.
Dip & coat with nuts

Candy Apples

1 C light corn syrup
1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Red food coloring

Bring sugar – corn syrup & water to a boil. Stir often! Let boil without stirring until it reaches “soft crack” stage – 285o (takes approx. 15-20 min). Use a wooden spoon to stir in red coloring & cinnamon. Dip & allow to dry. Coating will harden as it cools!

Here are just a few ideas to make these apples extra special.

After you coat with desired coating, roll the apple in;

– chopped nuts (use your favorite kinds)
– chocolate chips
– cinnamon candies
– coconut
– powdered sugar
– m&ms
– crushed cookies

Enjoy this easy caramel apple recipe & make some memories for you and your family!

Quick & Easy Sugar Cookies

This sugar cookie recipe is such an easy one, that it would make a nice project for family night. You could make up several batches – some for you, and some to share with your neighbors. How easy you say? You simply pour all ingredients into a bowl – then mix, drop, and bake!

2 eggs
2/3C oil
2t vanilla
3/4C sugar
2C flour
2t baking powder
1/2t salt

Mix ingredients in order (1 at a time) in a large bowl. Then drop onto greased cookie sheets. Dip fork into sugar & press cookies into desired shape. Bake @ 375 degrees until golden.

* For a nice change you could: add food coloring – mold into shapes – add colored sprinkles, choc. chips, cinnamon – or have kids flatten dough with hands & use cookie cutters.

Sugar cookies are one of my favorites, and this easy recipe makes it that much more fun to enjoy 🙂

Lots of Creative (cheap ;) Fall Decorating Ideas!

With the colorful autumn season upon us, most of us get an inner urge to fill our homes with beautiful natural items that will warm our hearts during the cold months ahead.

This year, instead of spending large amounts of money on decorator items from department stores, why not use the very materials that are in huge abundance all around us.

I like to suggest that you grab a basket and take a long walk around your gardens and through the woods, and gather lots of things that remind you of fall. We call these items “Fall Findings.”

Here are just a few ideas that you can use to decorate your home for pennies using these free found items!

1. Bring in some of your terracotta flower pots & remove the spent summer flowers. Level out the top of the soil with an old fork. Then, lay some moss across the top of each pot that you gathered from your walk in the woods. Hollow out some apples, gourds, or small pumpkins & fill with small candles! These decorative displays will light up any fall table!

2. Go out & collect some beautiful leaves with the kids & use them for these great decorating ideas.

– Wrap leaves around a glass canning jar & tie with raffia ribbon. Use them for candles, pencils, kitchen utensils, etc.

– Press leaves between pages of heavy book to dry & make framed prints for Christmas gifts.

– Use a solid color shirt & fabric paint to make beautiful new designs! Take several different shaped leaves & paint one side of the leaf with fabric paint (you can use slightly different colors for shading). Gently press the painted side against your shirt, remove leaf & allow to dry.

– Make your own decorator drapes for under $4! Buy cheap fabric or sheets ($2 – $4.50), and use the leaf painting technique described above. Small grapevine wreaths make wonderful natural tiebacks!

– For an elegant look, spray paint leaves with gold or silver metallic paint. There are so many ways you can use these leaves! Here are a few examples:

– Add them to floral arrangements.

– Use as a placement tag for a dinner party (use a metallic pen to add the person’s name for a personal touch).

– Hot glue onto grapevine wreaths.

– Hot glue onto a grapevine swag to drape over cabinets or curtains.

– Line a glass plate with them & add a candle in the center. The glow of the candle will reflect off the silver or gold paint on the leaves.

– Hang them around pictures with picture hanging putty for a temporary display.

– An elegant fall wreath idea – buy a grapevine or twig wreath ($1.50 – $4), decorate with findings from your walk.

– Decoupage leaves onto natural papers to decorate picture frames, journals, or scrapbook covers!

– Give garden containers, walls, cabinets, etc. a slight appearance of falling leaves! Tape a leaf onto the object you’d like to decorate. Spray paint around the leaf. When you remove the leaf, you only have the outline remaining. You can do this in different patterns to create different effects.

– Give your walls an old cottage look! Use a left over tile, or buy some discontinued tiles natural colors work best). They only cost about .50 for a 12 inch tile! Spread some plaster mix (very cheap mix in the craft section) on the back of a leaf & press it onto the tile. Now you have a leaf imprint. Allow to dry, then rub natural paint colors on the leaf print area. These look wonderful framed in a shadow box frame. I’ve seen these types of frames at my local $1 store. This only takes a few minutes & gives a big decorator look for pennies!

Make several & give them as gifts!

3. Use sticks & twigs and gather them into a swag shape. Tie with floral wire and add fall findings or a nice ribbon bow.

* I used this idea for a breakfast nook in our home & I just love the way it turned out! I gathered some vines from the garden, used some wire to hang them up around the ceiling, then added a few white birds here & there – that looked like they were sitting on the branches.

You could choose, as I do, to leave this up all year round. For each season I add different decorative touches. For example, during the Christmas season, I use paperclips to hang up our Christmas cards. Simply punch a hole in the upper corner, insert the paperclip, and hang from the vines. Little white lights also add a great touch!

4. Make a natural twig candle holder. Put a rubber band around the middle of a glass. Insert twigs under the rubber band until the entire glass is covered. Tie raffia ribbon around the rubber band to cover it up.

I hope you & your family have “piles” of fun!