Ultimate Pasta Salad

DSC_0114

We have all had pasta salad in some way shape and form. Mine usually consisted of  pasta, dressing, and cherry tomatoes. Most people have had it this was and I love this way, it makes for a great side dish at a cook out. But when trying to figure out what to feed kids, it lacks something. It needed more to make it a complete meal and had to be healthy too.

I took the basic idea and added some more veggies and thin slices of ham. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some type of cheese in it. It needed to be a cheese that wouldn’t melt in the heat or have it’s flavor get lost with all the other flavors. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated was my answer. Cost just as much as the pre-shredded but doing it yourself gives it a better flavor. 🙂

Ultimate Pasta Salad

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced ham
  • 1 box pasta,  I used rotini
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Italian dressing
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
  2. Cut the zucchini and squash into 1/2 inch chunks and quarter them.
  3. Place tomatoes, zucchini, squash on a cookie sheet. Add the ham strips. Pour 2 tbs of Italian dressing over and mix until everything is coated.
  4. Cook over the grill or in the oven on 350˚ until the veggies are slightly tender but still have a crunch to them. You don’t want to over cook and have it become mush.
  5. In a large bowl mix together the pasta and cooked veggies. Add the Italian dressing and mix until everything is coated again.
  6. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over and give a quick toss. Serve warm or chilled.

This makes for a great summer time meal that won’t wear you down or heat your kitchen. 🙂 My favorite part is that you can make it a head of time and have an easy afternoon playing with the kids instead of worrying about cooking dinner. Summer time = fun time 😀

Advertisements

Great Tasting Bagels

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

I am a bagel addict. I love bagels! The perfect bagel is crunchy on the outside and yet chewy on the inside. You can top them with eggs and cheese, jam, jelly, cream cheese or even make sandwiches from them. The bagel is a universal food. 🙂 A blank canvas, if you will, that has endless possibilities.

I have two ways I love bagels. Toasted with butter and as a breakfast sandwich with eggs, ham and cheese.

If you think what is needed to make bagels, I bet you already have most of everything that you need. At most you will need yeast, so you can spend $0.99 for a pack of 3 or $3.49 for a jar that you can use over and over again. After all is said and done your homemade bagels come to $0.12 per bagel or you can spend $3.99 for a package of 8 and  have it come to $0.50 per bagel with all those extra additives. You can make 8 bagels for $0.99 or buy them for $3.99. Saving $3 per 8 bagels. And the cost will just go down if you buy the yeast in bulk.

Now you see in my recipe that I used honey instead of sugar and changed out 1/2 cup of all purpose for wheat flour. I just liked the flavor it gave better. You can use sugar and 100% all purpose flour if you want. The bagels take about 2 hours to make from start to finish. But the good news is that most of that is waiting time. 🙂

New York Style Bagels

 

  • 2.25 teaspoons of active dry yeast (one pack of yeast)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of honey or sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups of warm water, divided
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour or bread flour (will need extra for kneading)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • ½ cup wheat flour

 

Directions:

  1. In ½ cup of the warm water, pour in the sugar and yeast. Give a quick stir to mix everything. Let it sit for five minutes, until it all dissolves in the water. Should be very bubbly.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flour and salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture.DSC_0081
  3. Pour 2/3 cups of warm water into the well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. Depending on where you live, you may need to add anywhere from a couple tablespoons to about ¼ cup of water. You want to result in a moist and firm dough after you have mixed it.
  4. On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Try working in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough. Hint: Spray the table top with water then cover with plastic wrap. This will help keep your surface clean and makes for easy clean up when you are done.
  5. Lightly brush a large bowl with oil. Turn the dough in bowl to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Hint: I put the oven on let it warm up to 170˚ then I turn it off and place the dough to rise in the oven. Works great.DSC_0087
  6. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes once dough is done rising. DSC_0092
  7. Carefully divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. To shape each piece into a ball, press it gently against the countertop moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion pulling the dough into itself while reducing the pressure on top of the dough slightly until a perfect dough ball forms. Repeat until you have 8 dough balls.DSC_0097
  8. Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat the same step with the remaining dough.DSC_0101
  9. After shaping the dough into balls, place them on the cookie sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. DSC_0104
  10. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water. Boil as many as you are comfortable with boiling. Once the bagels are in, it shouldn’t take too long for them to float to the top (a couple seconds). Let them sit there for 30 seconds, and them flip them over to boil for 30 seconds. Be careful not to boil too long or they will turn to mush. Hint: Make sure that the water stays boiling when you put the bagels in!
  11. If you want to top your bagels with stuff, do so as you take them out of the water for better sticking.
  12. Once all the bagels have boiled, transfer them to a lightly oiled baking sheet that has been dusted it with cornmeal.
  13. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure to flip them half way through, to keep that round bagel shape. Cool on a wire rack.

 

 

Optional Toppings:
Caraway seeds, coarse salt, minced fresh garlic, minced fresh onion, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds. *Make sure to do this as you are taking the bagels out of the boiling water.*

Just in case you don’t eat all the bagels in day one here are a few tips and tricks to help keep those bagels tasting great.

Do’s

  1. Do eat bagels fresh. 😀
  2. Do share bagels with family and friends. 🙂 Sharing is the nice thing to do!
  3. Do freeze bagels to preserve their freshness.
  4. Do take caution when slicing your bagels. (be safe and use an official bagel slicer, I have a slice scar on my thumb from when I was young, I didn’t remove it from the whole in the middle before the knife came down. BE CAREFUL!)
  5. Do enjoy them with butter and/or jam.
  6. Do make breakfast sandwiches with them. (egg, ham and cheese is the best) 😀

Don’ts

  1. Don’t mix smelly bagels with non-smelly varieties in the same bag. (gross) 
  2. Don’t store salt, onion, garlic or everything bagels in a plastic bag unless freezing them. (they go soggy, gross)
  3. Don’t store bagels in the fridge. (they get hard, hockey pucks anyone!)

 

Healthy Snack Options – Hummus

DSC_0071

Red Pepper Hummus

About three years when I started canning my food I noticed that the things that I buy in the store I have the ingredients already at home and buy on regular basis. Take hummus for example, I already had all the spiced at home and the garlic, I really only needed the bell pepper and chickpeas and tahiti.

The red pepper and chickpeas were easy to find, the tahini not so much. And when I did find it I could not justify sending $10 for it, when I only needed very little. So I left it off my version and honestly I like mine without. I have tried it with and didn’t notice a difference.  My version does have a kick to it, just to be warned.

 

Red Pepper Hummus

  • 1/4 ts red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 ts ground ceyanne pepper
  • 1 lemon, zest and juiced
  • 1 red bell pepper, blackened
  • 16 oz chickpeas
  • black peper to taste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

Directions:

  1. Drain and rise off chickpeas. Place in food processor.DSC_0066
  2. Add in spices, lemon zest, and garlic.
  3. Using either a gas stove or grill roast your red pepper on all sides. You do not want to over do it, just enough to bring out the flavor more. Once done remove most of the blackened spots, you do not need to remove them all. Give a rough chop and add to processor.DSC_0064
  4. Blend everything until it looks like a think paste. Slowly add in the lemon juice with the blender on. At this point if it look really think you can add a little water to help thin it out about 1-2 tbs.DSC_0067
  5. Once everything is blended together enjoy with fresh chopped veggies, pita chips, bagels, what ever you want. Tastes great on sandwiches too. 🙂

With a little work I was about to make over 10oz of hummus for under $2 per batch and considering you can buy it pre made in the store for around $3.50, my version is a steal and you get more for your money.

When you start doing things from home you really to start to see that you have been wasting money doing it any other way. And you are putting less stuff into your system. Enjoy.

 

When Life gives you Lemons..A lemonade Story

lemonade

Simple Lemonade

We all know the old say “When life gives you lemons make lemonade.” I will admit it I use to make the lemonade that came in the powder, and there is nothing wrong with that if you want to add more than lemons to your drink. I mean yellow food coloring, lemons are yellow why do I need to add food coloring? So I stopped using the powdered stuff and started making my own.

There is nothing fancy to this and takes no time at all to make and the money you save is amazing. Sometimes when I am feeling adventurous or my kids are asking for something different I add some pureed strawberries into the mix and make strawberry lemonade.

I buy my lemons in bulk for about $3 and that give me 12 lemons, which turns into making 12 very full pitchers of lemonade or strawberry-lemonade. Or I can go to the store and buy the powdered stuff for about $4 and only get 8 (maybe) pitchers.

Lemonade

  • 1 lemons
  • 10 cups water
  • 3/4 cup sugar

 

Directions:

  1. Take one lemon and finely zest. Then cut in half and juice the entire lemon. Set to the side.
  2. Fill a pot with 10 cups of water. Heat on medium- high heat and pour in sugar. Keep stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add is zest and lemon juice and stir. Taste for sweetness/tartness. You can remove the zest after a few minutes if you want but it really helps add more lemon flavor. 
  4. Pour into a pitcher and let cool down. Or enjoy now with a glass poured over ice. 🙂

Note: To make strawberry-lemonade add 1/4 cup strawberry puree to step two before adding sugar. Since Strawberries are naturally sweet you may end up using less sugar.

I know it sounds weird to heat the water but by doing that step you are dissolving more of the sugar, so you can still make it sweet without using all that sugar. 🙂 I want my kids to be refreshed after drinking it not hyper.

Buying lemons in bulk does have it’s own set of problems. And that is using the lemons before they go bad. My simple solution is to zest, juice and slice everything a head of time and freeze in serving sizes. That way it is ready when you are and no wasted lemons.

Tips: The lemon that was used for zesting and juicing you can toss that rind into the garbage disposal and give those pipes a degreasing. Lemons have many uses, not just for lemonades!

 

 

 

Saving Money with Laundry

DSCN1197

I want my family to eat better and use less chemicals. I have been looking into laundry soap for over a year now. My kids have light colored uniforms, so getting stains out is a big concern for me and my husband has very sensitive skin when it comes to soaps, dyes, and/or perfumes. Talk about a loose loose for me.  So usually we would buy a popular name brand of the no dye or perfumes laundry soap, but with three kids and a husband it never seemed to last long. And at $13 per small bottle the cost really adds up.

One thing that I noticed during my research is that recipes would say 1 bar of soap but never tell you the amount of soap used.  One 5oz bar is going to have a small amount grated than a 14oz bar.

After doing a ton of research on this and doing a few test loads myself, I think I have found a mixture that works how I want it to at a price that I can afford.  Just something to watch for,This is how it breaks down:

  • Borax: $3.99
  • Arm and Hammer Washing Soda: $3.99
  • Zote: $0.97
  • Oxiclean: $3.99

When you total everything up it is roughly $13. Now you are probably thinking that is the same price for a bottle and you don’t have to do extra work. Well that is true but you don’t use all the ingredients at once. You will have enough left over to make at least another batch, minus getting a new soap bar and Oxiclean. You really don’t need the oxiclean, I only added it to give it an extra boost. So if you take that out it makes it even cheaper to make and per load. This is my break down of my soap and the popular name brand. Both are for roughly 64 loads of laundry.

Homemade Laundry soap                                    Popular Brand

  • total price: $7.34                                                              $12.99
  • per load: $0.11/per load                                                  $0.20

I know that the break is only showing a $0.09 difference per load but that adds up. That adds up to $5.65 saves over a 64 loads of laundry and my in house that is goes fast. I say I wash between 6-8 loads a week. At that rate I am making more soap about every other month or buying it. Now add that up a year, that is a savings of $33.90 per year! Keep making this small changed I bet you can start saving a lot of money.

Now some of you are probably saying that it is hard to make the soap and take a lot of time. And the answer is no it doesn’t. I was done with making my first batch in less then ten minutes. That is including the time it takes to grate to soap block, stir it together and put it in air tight containers. This really takes no time at all to make, I swear.

This is the recipe that I used.

Homemade Laundry  Soap

  • 3 cups Borax
  • 3 cups Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
  • 1 Zote bar (14oz)
  • 2 cups Oxiclean

Directions:

  1. Grate the bar as fine as you can.
  2. Measure all powder ingredients into a bowl.
  3. Stir until well mixed
  4. Place into air tight containers.

There is zero smell when the laundry is done. My husband even made the comment that it was too weird not to have any smell. So I guess I will be on the hunt for a fabric softener that he can handle. 🙂

I swear my next post will be a tasty summer time treat. Better than anything you can buy in the store at a fraction of the price. 🙂 I am all about saving money without having to give up on flavor.