Monday, March 31, 2014

Jan's Meatballs

Covered dish, potluck, carry-in, pot-blessing.... There are so many words for one really cool thing we do at our churches:

We eat together!

There's nothing like it. Eating, talking, playing with each other's babies, watching the young people hang out while you wonder if romance is blooming...

...and all with that delectable fragrance of mingled delicious aromas of everyone's favorite recipes.

In all of our moving around the Midwest, we've tasted quite a few varieties of lasgnas, chicken casseroles, green bean casseroles, baked ham, sweet potato casseroles - not to mention the thousand different recipes for cheese grits!

But the one recipe I've been coming back to again and again (because I can throw it together in about five minutes on Sunday morning and let it cook in the crock pot at church) is this meatball dish.

And it's super handy, because you can either use convenient cans and frozen meatballs, or you can make it all from scratch.

Jan's Meatballs


approximately 60 Meatballs
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 cup Sour Cream
2 Tablespoons Caraway seeds

The meatballs can be the frozen kind from Walmart (or any other grocery store).

Just make sure you buy the regular, not the Italian.

Or you can make your own using the recipe I shared last month: Tortellini Soup with Meatballs. You'll have to double the recipe to get about sixty meatballs. Be sure to cook them well before adding them to this recipe.

The Cream of Mushroom soup can be from the familiar cans, or you can use the recipe from last week's blog: Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

Can you make homemade sour cream? Sure you can! Pour 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream into a cup and add about 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Stir, and then let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes (the longer you wait, the thicker it will get).

I can't help you with the Caraway Seeds. I buy mine from the spice section at the grocery store. ☺


Combine the soup, sour cream and caraway seeds in a very large bowl. Add the meatballs (frozen or not), and stir until all the meatballs are covered in the sauce.

Pour the mixture into a crock pot and cook on low for about 3 hours. 

That's it!

While you're making your meatballs, let's talk about spring. ☺

This is what spring looks like in the Black Hills. My dear husband and I went on a research trip to Deadwood, and came home through Spearfish Canyon on Saturday afternoon - absolutely beautiful weather! It was around 70° at home, but up here in the canyon it was a balmy 58°.

You can read about this scenic byway here: Spearfish Canyon

Yes, that white stuff is snow. There was about a foot of snow on the sides of the canyon, and several feet in the bottom.

But with views like this, who's going to be complaining about a little snow?

Spring flowers will get here in June! Meanwhile, we're expecting a winter storm over the next few days. We normally get our heaviest snowfalls in March and April.

April 22, 2013

So. Make me jealous. How is spring coming along in your neck of the woods?

PS - I can't forget a throwback picture! Yesterday was Thatcher and Jeter's birthdays!!!! So we get a gratuitous puppy picture today, and maybe we can get Ruthy to share one of Jeter on Thursday ☺

There's my guy! He's four weeks old in this picture.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Serendipitous Saturday - Kitchen Things I LOVE!

It's no secret that I love to cook. There's just something about starting with a few ingredients that might not amount to much on their own and then ending up with something completely yummy.

Over the years, though, I've learned that the right equipment can make any job easier, even more enjoyable.
But there are so many kitchen gadgets out there, each promising to do something amazing. Some are worth the money, while others are just a waste.

So here are some of my favorite things from my kitchen. Things I use almost every day and really wouldn't want to do without.

I bet most of you have at least seen this. It's a Mix n Chop from Pampered Chef.
Now they give you all kinds of things you can do with this nifty guy, but he really only has one job at my house and that's to break up ground meat as it's browning. I've used forks and potato mashers, but if you want nice, crumbly meat, this fella gets the job done like no other.

I've always loved wooden spoons, but these are the bomb.
These spoons are made from olive wood. I picked up the one in the middle on one of my trips to Ouray. You wouldn't believe the really cool culinary store they have there. At any rate, I loved it so much and used it all the time, so I hopped on over to Amazon to find the other two sizes. 
Why do I like them?
Olive wood has a nice, smooth texture. No splinters here. 
And, with proper conditioning, they are made to last forever.

A fish turner?
You betcha. Once you try it, you'll be hooked (no pun intended :).
I'd seen chefs use these on the Food Network and wondered what all the fuss was about, so, in need of a new turner, I picked this one up on Amazon. Forget about fish, I use this baby for everything from cookies to hamburgers. It's flexible, yet sturdy, making it perfect for any job, tough or delicate.

Meet my addiction.
I love enameled cast iron. I bought the small black pot first to test the enameled cast iron waters and I fell in love with the way it distributed the heat to cook things evenly. But I needed something bigger than 3 quarts.
So I went to Amazon and, after looking at several and reading the reviews, I decided on the 6 qt. red one from Lodge. From the moment it arrived, I was sold. The Lodge enameled cast iron has the same features as some of the high-end enameled cast iron, but at an affordable price. I learned something about buying them on Amazon, though. Yes, their prices are competitive, but be sure to click on each color because the price will vary from one color to the next. That means, unless you have your heart set on a particular color, you might even save some more money. And who doesn't like that?

So what are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets and why?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fast and Delicious Fish with Missy Tippens

Missy, here. My daughter and I recently went searching on Pinterest for a good fish recipe. I had some nice tilapia and she remembered seeing something that looked good. But we couldn't find anything that looked like what we wanted, so we decided to make up our own recipe.

But FIRST! A taste of spring. To show how quickly it can get here…

Our Japanese magnolia at 10 am on March 11th.

Same branch at 4 pm that day…

Pretty amazing, huh?!

And now that fish dish. We sort of based it on the Hellman's chicken recipe I shared here.

Cheesy Dill Tilapia
Created by Missy Tippens and Daughter

I decided to roast vegetables at the same time I was cooking the fish. I coated with olive oil and sprinkled with seasoning salt.

So I placed the baking sheet with fish on the lower rack. Baked at 350 for about 5-7 minutes (depending on thickness of fish).

While it was baking, I stirred together about 2 tablespoons softened butter, 1/4 cup mayo, 1/4 cup grated parmesan and a teaspoon or two of dried dill. Fresh dill would be fantastic.

Remove the pan of fish from the oven. Since the fish was so near the bottom of the oven, I flipped it over, and spread the butter/cheese/mayo evenly on the fillets of fish.

Bake another 5-7 minutes until fish is translucent. I took out the pan of vegetables. Then for one more minute or so, I turned the oven to the "Broil" setting to it could get a nice golden top.

And here it is! Looks delicious.

And believe me, it was! The cheesy parts that melted off and browned on the pan were the best!

A quick, easy dinner! And mostly healthy. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Quick Ice Cream Cake!

We love ice cream cake here. It's one of those often-requested desserts and they're so easy to make... and so stinkin' expensive to buy!

Today's is an easy peasy one that seriously, I could sit down and EAT THE WHOLE THING, it was that good, and the possibilities are endless!

The trick with this one is BUTTER.....

You add butter to coarsely chopped cookies and it's a huge, ginormous, humongous difference!!!

So here's the basic for an 8" square cake:

2 Sleeves of Oreo cookies (or two rows if you buy the normal family-sized package... Also, you can use chocolate chip cookies instead, maybe any crisp cookie would work??? I've tried the Oreos and the Chocolate chip with amazingly wonderful splendorific results.  Am I waxing superfluous?????  :)  There's a reason for it, I promise!!!!

3/4 cup butter, melted

Break up cookies, do not pulverize or over-crush, you want these bad boys chunky/crunchy
Mix with butter.

Line 8" square pan with freezer paper or aluminum foil.

Spread half of the cookie mix into the pan.

Top with 2/3 of a carton of your favorite ice cream. (I used cookies and cream today, but I've used dark chocolate mint (then the whole thing tastes like a Thin Mint sundae), vanilla, cookie dough, caramel swirl... as you wish!)  Then add in the other half of the buttery cookie goodness. Press down lightly. Freeze.

About an hour later, spread 1/2 jar of hot fudge topping over cake.  You can either whip cream then and cover it or use aerosol whipped cream on individual servings. (We did that because it was Elijah's birthday and he's not big on whipped cream.

He does not get that from me!!!!!)  DONE. DONE. DONE.   You could go a layer higher for adults, but for the kids this was the perfect size, about 2-3 inches high, a perfect serving!!!

This is so beyond amazingly delicious as to render me speechless.


Clearly not SPEECHLESS, but oh my stars, I really could have eaten the whole stupid thing. And asked for more after I licked the freezer paper clean.

To Serve:  I put the whole thing in the microwave on defrost for two minutes, (not full power, please pay attention to this very important direction or you're going to be so stinkin' mad at me!!!) then lifted the freezer paper and slid the cake onto a large plate. Cutting was easy with a serrated knife and the kids loved it!

And speaking of kids, here are our current projects..... M&M math (and yes, you get to eat the answers, making this a very popular BRIBING lesson!!!!)

And we've finished our OCEAN unit and we're talking about God now....

And life and death and how Jesus loved us so very much....

This is our new wall poster in the beginning stages:

An empty tomb....  As if rock could hold back our God!!!!  


We'll "frame" our rock tomb and then we're going to decorate it with signs of spring! Butterflies, chicks, new life, re-birth and a cross....

And this has replaced every other Disney movie in my head because it is the NEW AND BEST FAVORITE!!!!!

Love, love, love, love!!!!!!!

And here is a link to the song that every one of my little ones SINGS ALL THE TIME....

And this is my nod to how much fun I had writing "His Montana Sweetheart" part of the Big Sky Centennial continuity for Love Inspired!!!!  I had so much fun writing about ranching and studying... cowboys, that is, studying COWBOYS!!!!!!.... that I think I might come up with a cowboy series....

I mean seriously, can you think of anything more Americana than cowboys???? Unless it's cowboys and BABIES!!!!!  :)


I am smitten!!!!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Healthy (kinda) Egg Rolls - Low Carb and free book!

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a delicious recipe for those evenings when you want something a little different.
These are officially low carb, but they're not low calorie. So, you can decide whether it fits into your diet, or whether you can have just one with a salad. (I didn't have to think too hard about this since I'm not fond of cabbage OR Chinese food. No brainer!) But I knew this would be a big hit with the family, and since we've had wayyyyy too many cookies and sweets lately, this seems a fun way to get back on the road to real food.
 What you see is a doubled recipe (alert- family of EIGHT!) but the measurements I'll give are what is listed on the back of the package.

1lb pork sausage
2 cups cabbage
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1 cup shredded carrots
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp garlic
2TBS oyster sauce
one package egg roll wraps (made with rice)

 Brown pork sausage. Use thirteen year old child who does not appreciate her picture taken.
 After the pork is browned, add in the carrots, cabbage, garlic, ginger and green onions. Stir over high heat for 2-3 minutes, like a quick stir fry.
 Remove from the heat and add 2 TBS of the oyster sauce. I checked the back and there was no MSG but it still made me nervous. So far, so good. Usually anything with that many preservatives gives me a killer migraine but I saw this on a list for people who are sensitive to MSG and derivatives.
 So, let the mixture cool, then remove the rice paper wraps from the container. Put a small bowl of water near as you assemble the egg rolls.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Put about 2 tsp of mix in the middle. It smells DELICIOUS.
 Wrap it up like a little envelope, sealing the last flap with a bit of water.
 Ta-dah. Now, into the oven for about 12-15 minutes, until browned.
 I order these napkins from Macy's because I fell in love with this line of china. (Wait, you say... why order napkins if you love the china!?) The china was sooo crazy expensive, even on sale, that one mug cost $49! I mean, seriously. In this family, we could break hundreds of dollars in dishes a week that way!
 Anyway, so I got placemats and napkins. And they are SOOOO pretty. I'm going to try and paint a replica of it... but it might be a fail. I'll let you knew what happens.
 Looking tasty! Now, the original recipe called for green cabbage an I'm sort of seeing why. These babies look purple!
 Hubby was pretty excited to see this as his appetizer. (This couldn't be his whole meal. He needs a big salad and maybe some corn or green beans. But I took pictures before I put everything on there...)
 Dipping in the soy sauce... And the other sauce is a spicy and sour... my fave!
 Steaming hot and the veggies are still crisp!
 Now, while I was cooking, the kids were out playing in the garden. And across the fence lives a lovely woman named Sandy. She's a cook for one of the elementary schools and she must think my kids are missing out on the goodness of cafeteria food (the good kind, not the horrible kind) becuase she always sends plates of goodies over! So, dessert appeared in front of me... angel food cake with a chocolate glaze and vanilla pudding middle. YUMMY.

I wasn't really sold on the oven baked part, so I fried the last batch in about an inch of oil, turning until each side was crispy. I really thought they tasted so much better... but of course, it raises the calorie content as well. I think if you only have one or two, the frying doesn't make a difference. For hubby, I think I'll keep his baked because he ate about seven. That would be a lot of grease!

Before I get to the free book part, I wanted to show you the coolest thing my husband made. Built in bookshelves! 

That's about 20 feet of bookshelves... isn't it awesome?? It took a while, even with all the shortcuts, but I show you all the pics next week. But I'm still swooning over them. Finally, all our books will be organized!

Here is working on it... and even though I told him, "It will be SO easy!", it really wasn't. But I'll share that next time. For now, enjoy the egg rolls and the... FREE BOOK!
Ok, everyone! Have a wonderful Wendesday and if you haven't read it yet, Purple Like the West is FREE!! It's the second in my historical romance series. And it fits right in with the recipe because the book is all about the Chinese laborers in California at the turn of the century.

 Here's the blurb: 

    Margaret Gilbert, a railroad executive’s daughter, is a pampered princess of San Francisco’s wealthy elite, but she chafes under the expectation that she will marry for status and dreams of independence. When she joins the local Ladies’ Aid Society, she’s horrified by the treatment of the Chinese immigrant laborers. Vowing to expose the abuse, she begins to investigate the complicated system of slave labor provided to the railroads, but no one will listen to a woman like her. 
When she meets Ezra Pendleton, heir to a newspaper empire, she concocts a plan to tell the world- without incurring the wrath of her father. Ezra is the perfect cover. She’ll make her family happy by feigning interest in a very eligible bachelor, become an undercover reporter, and keep her identity a secret.
         At least, that was the idea. Margaret starts to wonder if Ezra will turn out to be her plan’s fatal flaw. He is not the sort of man you can string along with flattery. He’s smart, wary, and is hiding a secret of his own. As the city falters under the stress of the Chinese mobs, the situation turns more dangerous than they could have imagined. Racial tensions in the city hit a breaking point and arson erupts close to home. By the time there is an outbreak of the plague in Chinatown, it seems as if all the darkest parts of the city will be revealed at once.
     Margaret and Ezra are thrown together in a common cause, but will their secrets destroy the love that  is growing between them? A story of faith, honor, and forgiveness.