Give Me That (Corn)bread…

We live in the southeast, but we still get some cold winter days, and this cornbread sure hits the spot! I used to make cornbread in a baking dish, but I will never go back after using the cast iron skillet! My daughter was the first to try it, and it was delicious! The sweetness of the cornbread is perfect, and not only does it go good with chili, but for a snack as well!

Iron Skillet Cornbread Recipe:

  • 3/4 Cup Yellow Cornmeal
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 3 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 3/4 Teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1 and 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Place rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425 degrees. Butter a 12 inch cast iron skillet, and put the skillet in the oven while it heats.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
  3. Add the milk, and butter. Stir until mixed.
  4. Once the skillet is hot, carefully remove it from the oven. Pour in the batter. Bake until the cornbread is deeply browned, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with butter

*You can also omit the sugar and drizzle honey over it after it is done baking

You can also try it with a nice cup of tea or coffee!

Reuse and Recycle…

We all have items that we say we are going to use, but they just end up sitting there collecting dust and probably spiders. We don’t want that, so let’s put some of those to good use! You can use just about anything that you have laying around the house, but they’re probably mostly in the garage, attic, or basement. Our family has started to become more thrifty and trying to use items we already have rather than spending money on something, or throwing it out. This past weekend my husband and son built a backstop so they can shoot their bows and crossbows. Everything they used (except the haybales) were from things we had around the house…even that old rug!

Let’s look into some uses for familiar items we have!

Old sheets. We always keep them, thinking we will use them, but they just sit there all lonely. Here are some great uses:

Reusable cleaning towels

A braided style rug

A dog toy

Smocks for the kids

An apron

A tote bag

Old comforters…I am guilty of having bins of these, because I think I will use them. I am usually wrong. Uses:

A dog or cat bed

Bring it to the beach to lay on

A sleeping bag

A play mat

Forts! You can’t go wrong with those no matter your age!

Glass jars or containers. We have plenty of both, especially disinfectant wipe containers. Instead of putting them in the recycling bin, think about their many uses. You can:

Sort your seeds

Sort your nails

Use them for canning

Flower vases

Store crayons

Store closepins

Store hair ties and barrettes

Store pens and pencils

Old clothing. Socks, jeans, and t-shirts all hold useful purposes!

Socks:

Dusting

Polishing cars

Eraser for white boards

Shine shoes

T-shirts:

Make a quilt, especially out of ones that hold special meaning

Pillow cases

Towels (especially for hair)

Art smock

Old Jeans. Raise your hand if you have had many throughout the years! There are some great uses for them!

Denim rug

Coasters

Placemats

A Quilt

A bag

As you can see there are MANY uses for what is laying around your home, and the list goes on and on. Be creative! Find uses for something before you throw it out, or before letting a spider make its new home. There is beauty in reusing and recycling!

Blueberry Goodness…

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

I love comfort food. Always have. This baked blueberry french toast casserole makes your insides all warm and fuzzy! I made it the first time a few years ago for Easter breakfast and it has been a favorite in our home since then. It’s easy to make and even better that it sits overnight so you just need to throw it in the oven in the morning!

Ingredients

  • 1 large loaf of french bread (homemade is best, but store bought tastes just as good)
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (I have also used frozen, but make sure to toss them in a little bit of flour so they don’t bleed)
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, cubed (you can freeze it for a bit beforehand for easier cutting)
  • Sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top

Blueberry Sauce

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups blueberries

Instructions

Butter a 9 x 13 casserole dish

Cut french bread into 2 inch cubes and place in a bowl

In a large bowl combine eggs, half and half, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt  

Whisk until completely mixed

Put one half of bread cubes in dish

Top with half of the cream cheese cubes and half a cup of blueberries

Add remaining bread cubes and top with remaining cream cheese and additional half cup of blueberries

Pour egg mixture over the bread cubes, be sure to press the bread down so it is completely soaked by the egg mixture

Cover and store in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (overnight is best)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Remove cover and sprinkle casserole with sugar

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes

Remove foil and bake an additional 20-30 minutes or until center is firm and bread is slightly brown on top

Cool slightly and serve with the blueberry sauce

Blueberry Sauce

In small saucepan, combine sugar, water and cornstarch until simmering

Add blueberries and simmer for 10 minutes  

Using a fork or whisk, slightly break up the blueberries

*The casserole can store up to 3 days in the refrigerator

Photo by Sneha Cecil on Unsplash

The casserole is not only good for breakfast, but is also a great meal for dinner! I haven’t tried it with anything other than blueberries, but I bet it would taste just as good with peaches, raspberries, or strawberries!

A Saving We Will Go…

My recent Aldi’s haul for the month!

I like to save money, especially on the grocery bill. Feeding a large (or not so large) family can be expensive. Planning, shopping smart, and creating a menu plan for the month has helped me drastically cut my bill. For a family of 7, my bill for the month is about $450.00. That includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks! As I said, it took me a while to get there through trial and error, but I did it! My next step, especially during our homesteading journey, is to start a producing garden, and canning and freezing the bounty!

One of the types of plans I do is a rotating menu. For weeks 1 & 3 I do the same meals, and for weeks 2 & 4 I do the same meals. For example:

Weeks 1 and 3:

Monday: Spaghetti with sauce and Texas Toast

Tuesday: Tacos with rice

Wednesday: Chicken casserole with a tossed salad

Thursday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans

Friday: Homemade pizza with a tossed salad

Saturday: Egg bake with fruit and bacon

Sunday: Lasagna and roasted vegetables

You would then do another menu for weeks 2 & 4. The nice part is that it is flexible. You can move the meals around and you make it tailored to your families likes. When I am finished writing the menu, I put the ingredients I need right under the meal. I do the same with my breakfast, lunch, and snack planning. Then I use that to create my shopping list. For almost everything I need I go to Aldi’s. Shopping there has also decreased my bill, and I find their foods just as fresh as shopping somewhere else!

From ConsumerAffairs.com

You will find what works for you, and I encourage you to try! Budgeting is one of my favorite challenges, and I always love when I can save on the bills! Have faith in yourself, and start with small steps. I know you can do it!

A Simplifying We Will Go…

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

One of the things we first realized along this journey is that we had way too much stuff. We kept a hold of things that we should have gotten rid of a long time ago. Mind you, it wasn’t, and still isn’t, an easy process. As any parent knows we tend to hang onto things our children made. I kept drawings they did on napkins, an old wilted dandelion, and basically EVERYTHING they did in school. I think going through those precious things were the hardest. What helped me was telling myself that I can hold so many memories in my heart, but that I also can still keep a few things that I considered very dear to me. I made sure they fit in a folder, and some I put in the children’s memory boxes. So I physically cleared up clutter, but I more than happily cluttered my heart in the process.

The process of simplifying is starting one room at a time. The garage, attic, or basement, should be the first to go through. Why? Because it is the hardest and most time consuming. Make piles of items to trash, keep, giveaway, and sell. Do one section at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Really look at each item. Do you really NEED it? Do you really NEED 5 of the same thing? After you go through a couple of things the rest will be easy. You will get a flow going.

After you are done going through a section, make sure to box up (we use bins) and label what is in there for easier access. For papers, use a foldable organizer. Follow the rules of how long to keep certain things (paystubs, taxes, etc.) Make sure to shred papers you are getting rid of. Be sure to store your “keep” bins from main rooms in your basement or attic.

Photo by Barn Images on Unsplash

Old clothes can also be used for other purposes. You can use old t-shirts for rags, and sweaters/jeans can be made into bags or skirts. Jeans can also be used to make headbands, pot holders, placemats or even a rug! Old socks are great for dusting or waxing. Repurpose before you throw out! Be sure to check with your local community to see where your unwanted clothes can be best be used. Many have shelters that can use them.

Simplifying doesn’t have to be a painful process. It is meant to keep life simple, less cluttered, and organized. We tend to hold onto things that we may use “one day”, but usually that day doesn’t come. Sometimes we need to let go and let our life feel the decluttering it sorely needs!

A Pumpkin We Will Go..

Who doesn’t like a good muffin? They are great for breakfast and even a snack! I make all kinds of muffins, but the pumpkin ones are one of my favorites! I add dark chocolate chips to them because the family loves it that way (okay…so do I)! They handle well in the refrigerator and freezer, so you can make batches at a time.

Ingredients

  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1-1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup orange juice or apple juice
  • You can add chocolate chips, nuts, etc.

* I double (or triple) this recipe so I can freeze a bunch!

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Grease a muffin pan, or line with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, oil, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and juice until combined (I use my mixer and it works just as well).
  • Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.
  • Divide the batter between muffin cups.
  • Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan and place on a rack or foil to cool completely.

I use a gallon storage bag for freezing, and I put a piece of wax paper in between the layers. They will keep up to 3 months in the freezer. For refrigerator storage I use a airtight container with the wax paper in between layers. It keeps for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. It tastes extra good if you warm it in the microwave, and then butter it up!

Prep in Your Step…

Photo by Ello on Unsplash

I didn’t get into meal prepping until a few years ago. I was tired of spending so much on packaged snacks, meals, and the whole gambit. I wanted to be able to control what was going in the food. Plus, I wanted to have foods ready to go in case the children were hungry (which was and still is basically all the time, lol), or we just had a night where no one felt like cooking. It can take some time to prep, but if you have the family helping it will go by in no time! It can also be a lot of fun, or you may want to run away screaming! Either way, it will be worth it!

One of the first things I do is make my meal lists and put them in the following categories:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Snacks

In each category I write down our meal suggestions. Dinner is usually the only one I have a designated day for. The others are your choice. A sample for each would be as follows:

Breakfast

Pancakes (blueberry, chocolate chip, regular, and so much more)

Egg sandwiches (we usually do cheese and bacon/sausage)

French toast sticks (thick bread, like Texas Toast, is best for these)

Hard-boiled eggs (quick and easy and also great for a snack)

Muffins (some of our favorites are pumpkin with dark chocolate chips and blueberry)

Overnight oats (my husband loves these for work, and you can add anything into them)

Lunch

Bean and cheese/cheese quesadillas

Pizza (french bread, english muffin, bagel)

Peanut butter and jelly (yes, you can freeze them! Whole wheat is the best bread to use, so when it defrosts, it won’t get soggy)

Homemade macaroni and cheese

Bean and cheese burritos

Soups (chicken noodle, minestrone, beef, etc.)

Dinner

Crockpot lasagna

Enchiladas

Foil packets (kielbasa, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, red potatoes)

Sausage, green beans, and potaotes

Crockpot chicken with salsa and rice

Beef stew

Snacks

Tomatoes and mozzerella

Veggies (celery, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers)

Air-popped popcorn (that way you can add all your favorite seasonings)

Corn muffins with hot dogs

Muffins (not just for breakfast)

Pretzels

Photo by Szabo Viktor on Unsplash

Honestly the list and combinations are endless! Meals that you used to think were unhealthy, you can make healthy with different twists. It’s actually fun to experiment! Most of the prepped items can be frozen up to three months. Any dinner meal I put in the refrigerator 24 hours ahead of time so it defrosts thoroughly. Meal prepping may seem like it takes hours of your time, but it doesn’t have to. Get a system going and be sure to get help from your family. Remember, it helps control what is going in your food, saves money, and with a freezer stocked, you can have a night off or two without having to cook!