Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Peanut Butter Balls

  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are one of my favorite candies.  Do any of you have a special way that you eat it?  I eat around the outside, saving the center for last.  That amazing taste of peanut butter and chocolate together.....nothing beats it.

If you are like me and love the pb/chocolate combo, you are going to go wild for these.  A simple, tasty treat for the holidays!

Peanut Butter Balls

Mix together 2 cups smooth peanut butter and 3/4 cup softened butter.  Add 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar and 3 cups crushed Rice Krispies (measure out 3 cups, then crush).

Roll into balls.  Chill for 1/2 to 1 hour.  Melt 1 lb of chocolate.  I used almond bark to keep it simple.  Dip balls into chocolate and cool on wax paper. 


Smooth. Creamy. Slightly crunchy. Chocolatey (from Whitney).  Peanut buttery (from Wyatt).  Good (from Wyatt... he is a boy of few words!).  Awesome (from Ellie).  


Monday, December 9, 2013

The Tradition Continues....

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is our annual cookie baking day.  Since I was 5 years old, my grandma, my mom and I have had a tradition of getting together to spend an entire day baking cookies. As my daughters have gotten older, they have been included as well.....and my sister-in-laws, and someday my nieces.  We all brave the cold temperatures, haul into the house cardboard boxes full of 5 lb bags of flour and sugar, chocolate chips, as many cookie sheets as we have and whomever has a kitchen aid mixer, they are required to bring that as well.  We have several mixers going at once, a cooling table, and a 'display' table....we churn out a crazy amount of holiday cookies.  This year, I hosted and my mom came up to join me, Whitney and Ellie.  What a day!  We ended up with 11 different kinds of cookies.  Some we make every single year....and I mean every single year without fail.  Others, we make every so often.  And each of us always has one or two new ones that we want to try. 

This recipe is one that we make every year.  It's a crowd favorite, so much that last year I entered it into the Des Moines Register Cookie contest......and WON!  Wahoo!  What was the prize, you ask?  52 FREE GALLONS OF MILK!!  It was great.....we go through a lot of milk with 5 in the family, so I was super excited about winning.
This will become a favorite in your house as well.....


3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 T water
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 lb Andes Mints

Place butter, sugar and water in saucepan on low heat until butter is melted.  Add chocolate chips and stir until partially melted.  Remove from heat.  Continue to stir until chocolate is completely melted.  Pour into a large mixing bowl and let stand about 10 minutes to cool slightly.  With mixer at high speed, beat in eggs one at a time.  Reduce speed to low and add combined flour, baking soda and salt, beating just until blended.  Chill dough about 1 hour.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 cookie sheets with foil.  Roll dough into teaspoon size balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.  Bake 11 to 13 minutes---do not overbake!  Immediately place mints on hot cookie.  Allow to soften, then swirl mint over cookies with back of a spoon.  Remove from cookie sheets, keeping cookies on the foil and cool completely.

These will become part of your Christmas baking too!  Your family will begin to ask for them each year.  They will fight over the last ones.  They are moist, minty, cool and chewy.  It makes a very large batch and they freezer very well.  If you store them in plastic containers, keep these separate or every cookie in the container will taste like mint!  :-)


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Whole Wheat Bread

Hey everyone!  Here we are, in the Midwest, minding our own business and enjoying some cooler fall weather--when all of a sudden---IT SNOWED TODAY!  Ufda.  Totally not ready for that kind of weather.  Fortunately, it was wet enough that nothing stuck to the ground. 
But a cold and damp day like today always gets me in the mood to bake and today was no exception.
I toyed with a few different options and decided on this:

Whole Wheat Bread!

Like most of you, we try to stick with a budget when it comes to our grocery shopping.  I usually spend about $130 per week to feed our family of 5.  When I am at the grocery store, I am always frustrated at how much a loaf of bread costs!  Seriously, a good quality, whole wheat loaf is at least $4-$5!  Wowza.  Homemade bread DOES take some time to make, but it is so worth it.  This recipe will make 4 loaves and they freeze beautifully.  Once you taste it, you will not believe the difference.  Plus, you know what ingredients are in this bread--NO preservatives or chemicals or anything fake. 

Take a look at this sad looking recipe card:
Shows you how much I've used it......AND spilled on it!  :-)  It is my late mother-in-law's recipe.  I have tried many other whole wheat bread variations, and I keep coming back to this one for it's texture, little bit of sweetness with the brown sugar, and the fact that it makes 4 loaves.  If you are going to the work to make homemade bread, you might as well get 4 loaves out if it instead of 1.

Whole Wheat Bread
In a very large bowl (this makes a LOT of dough)  dissolve 2 packages yeast (one package=2 1/4 tsp) in 4 cups of very warm water.  Add 4 t. salt, 4 T. white sugar, and 4 cups of white all purpose flour ( I use unbleached).
Set this in a warm place and cover with a tea towel.  Let rest for 20 minutes.  It will get bubby.

In another bowl, place 1 cup hot water, 5 T. Crisco, and 1 cup packed brown sugar.  Microwave for 2 minutes, then stir to dissolve shortening.  Set aside to cool (lukewarm at least or it will kill your yeast when you mix it together)

When mixture is cooled, add it to the bubbly flour mixture.  Add 4 cups of whole wheat flour and 4 cups of white flour.  Mix to incorporate.  The dough will still be pretty sticky.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead it until it is easy to handle.  You may need to add a bit more flour. 

Put in a greased bowl and let rise 45 minutes in a warm place.

Punch dough down and shape into 4 loaves.  Put in pans and let raise 1 hour in warm place.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.  When the top sounds hollow when you tap on it, they are done!

You must try this for toast in the morning and it makes the world's best grilled cheese sammie!

I hope you will give this a try!  Don't be afraid of working with yeast.  Show it who is boss--I know you can do it!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Soup's On! Crockpot Vegetable Beef Soup with Barley

When I headed out last week for my weekly grocery shopping trip, I knew that there was a forecast for snow AGAIN this weekend.  Honestly, I am so sick of winter!  But.....I did wake up on Friday morning and I HEARD BIRDS CHIRPING!  A sure sign that we are heading in the right direction.  Back to the impending knowing that snow was coming, I anticipated being snuggled under my new quilt (A pinterest project and an entire post in itself!), a good book in hand and a crockpot of Vegetable Beef Soup simmering in the crockpot. 
The snow arrived and it has been going off and on all day!  So, the crockpot got drug out early this morning to start the Vegetable Beef soup before church.

This recipe was given to me by a friend and has become one of my family's favorites.  I love that it is:
1)  Easy!
2)  Done in the crockpot so I can get it ready in the morning and forget about it all day.
3)  It makes a huge batch, so there is always enough for leftovers or to share.  We usually take over some to our neighbor lady, Sue.  She just turned 90 and is just a delightful lady that we enjoy visiting with, sharp as a tack and loves sports!  We knew she would be watching the NCAA tournament games and might enjoy something warm for dinner. 
4)  Healthy---Fresh vegetables, barley for fiber, it just speaks 'comfort'.
5)  It gets a thumbs up from all 5 in my family!


2-3 lbs stew meat
Onion, diced
6 C waters
2 C tomato juice
8 oz tomato sauce
1 T salt
2 t. worchestershire sauce
1/4 t. chili powder
1 beef bullion cube
2 bay leaves
celery, diced
carrots, diced
potatoes, diced
1 cup cooked barley
1 can corn
1 can green beans
1 can peas

Cut any fat off of stew meat and cut into bite size pieces.  Brown in skillet.  When brown, pour meat and all pan drippings into crockpot.  Add everything else to crockpot and mix well.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  With about 1 hour to go in cooking time, add cooked barley (just cook quick cooking barley in boiling water for 10-15 minutes.  Don't add it uncooked or it will absorb all of the soup liquid.)  Fish out bay leaves and add 1 can each of peas, corn, and green beans.  Simmer one more hour. 
That's it!  It's yummy and packed full of veggies and tender bites of beef.  Serve it with a crusty loaf of French bread or some buttermilk biscuits. 

This is a super easy meal to whip up before work as well.  Nothing makes you relax like walking in the door of your home after a long day at the office, and being greeted by the aroma of dinner waiting for you!!  The work is done, you can enjoy a healthy meal with your family.  A crockpot is a working mom's best friend many days! 

Thick and hearty, this soup will bring your family to the table quickly!
Enjoy your time at the table with your loved ones,