Monday, April 30, 2012

Homemade Tortillas

I love the convenience of tortillas. You can roll up veggies and cheese for quick snacks or make easy quesadillas. Peanut butter and jelly spread onto a tortilla, then rolled up and sliced into spirals make wonderful afternoon snacks. And of course, you can't forget tacos, burritos, and enchiladas! Tortillas are fantastic!

But the ingredients in store-bought tortillas are not fantastic. They are loaded with preservatives and unhealthy ingredients. So I decided to try my hand at making my own. And I loved how they turned out. I adapted a recipe from Beautiful 2 God.

Let me just admit right off that I'm circle-impaired. Meaning I can't roll out a tortilla in a perfect circle to save my life! Maybe I'll get better with more practice, but right now my tortillas generally turn out egg-shaped. Not to worry, though. When you wrap them around yummy ingredients, the shape really isn't that important. To me, knowing that I've used better ingredients makes up for it!

Here's what you need:

3 cups flour (I use white wheat)
1 cup warm water (if you use any kind of wheat flour, you may need a little more)
1/4 teas baking powder
1 teas salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix the water, oil, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. If you don't have a mixer, just do this by hand. It's not hard at all. Using the paddle attachment, slowly add the flour. Mix on low speed until everything is incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and knead until the dough forms a smooth ball. Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky, or a little more water if it is too dry.

Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape into balls. Allow to rest for another 10 minutes.

When resting time is over, use a rolling pin to roll the dough balls into 10-inch circles. Make sure you do this on a floured surface so your circles come up easily. You want them to be very thin, but if they're too thin, they'll tear easily.

On a hot griddle, cook the tortillas on one side for a couple of minutes, then flip over. Both sides should be lightly browned.

Continue with the process until all tortillas are cooked. Please note - if you want smaller tortillas for tacos or such, simply divide the dough up into smaller balls.

To freeze the tortillas for future use, stack them with waxed paper or parchment paper between each one. Slide into a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible before sealing. To thaw, place as many tortillas as you will need in the fridge overnight. If you forget to thaw them in the fridge, you can reheat them on the stove in a skillet. Be careful that they don't dry out, though.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Menu Plan April 30-May 6

Last week I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, trying out some freezer recipes and healthy meals. I have learned a great deal and hope to share it with you in the near future. I still have some freezer recipes to try, then my friend Suzanne and I will have a marathon cooking session to fill up our freezers.

In addition to that, we bought a cow. Well, half a cow. You should have seen the looks on the kids' faces as they tried to figure out why we would buy half a cow. First we had to expl.ain that it wasn't a cow for the back yard. It was for the freezer. And we wouldn't be getting the cow in one big half-piece. Oh, yes, they learned a great deal about field to table, probably more than they wanted to know. But we're so thankful to have found a local supplier of organic, grass-fed beef. I can't wait until the meat is ready for us to pick up.

Now on to this week's menu. More healthy recipes and some for the freezer, too.

Beefy Spanish rice, green beans

Lentil soup, homemade artisan bread

Orange chicken stir-fry (new recipe), rice

Mini Mexican pizzas (freezer meal)

Pizza sloppy joes, homemade fries

Southwest wraps (freezer meal)


For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, April 27, 2012

One Year Ago

On April 27, 2011, one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in history ravaged the Deep South. In my state alone, there were 252 deaths.

I watched the weather on TV all day, as one particularly deadly tornado crossed the state. It was heading north of us, straight into the community where my best friend Suzanne lives.

When I heard legendary weatherman James Spann mention the name of the road she lived on, I slid off the couch onto my knees. I texted her to see if she was okay. No response. So I called her home phone. Nothing. No response on her cell phone either.

You can imagine my relief when she texted me several minutes later to say yes, there had been a tornado but they were okay. She didn't know about any damage to the house because it was starting to get dark and they couldn't see how bad things were.

But by the light of day, we all realized just how close the tornado came. While her home and her parents' home was spared destruction, there was incredible damage to the property. The entire landscape had changed, and nothing will ever be as it once was.

This was a playhouse where her children and mine spent many happy hours together.

 Looking from the corner of Suzanne's house across the road. Trees had been snapped like toothpicks.

There were 9 deaths in this area alone. And that toll would have been much higher, had it not been such a rural, sparsely populated area.

Every time we drive to visit Suzanne and her family, I whisper a silent thank you to God for watching over my friends. I pray that today on this solemn anniversary, the families of those lost can find some healing and comfort.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

That Works for Me!

Have you heard about this weekly blog carnival hosted by Kristen at We are That Family? Readers submit their favorite helpful tips about household tasks, crafts, cooking, name it.

Well, Kristen has organized over 800 of the best tips into a new e-book, That Works for Me. 


And I'm proud to say, a few of my submissions are included in the book! Yay!
You can purchase the e-book for only $8! It's worth every penny, in my opinions. You will find all kinds of tried and true tips, organized into categories like baby, crafts, organization and travel. It's so handy having all that information in one place. The convenience alone is worth the price.

And part of every purchase will go to help Mercy House, a safe haven for women in Kenya, East Africa. So not only will you help yourself with some helpful, time-saving tips, you'll get to help women in need all the way across the globe! Awesome!

Click here to visit wearethatfamily.

Disclosure: The above link is an affiliate link, so I'll receive a small commission if you purchase the book.

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

We love fish around here and I'm always looking for new ways to prepare it. I bookmarked this Rachael Ray recipe a while back, but never got around to making it until last week. I wondered why I had waited so long. It's incredibly easy and delicious! Of course, I tweaked it a bit, as is my way. Hope you enjoy!

Here's what you need:

4 tilapia filets
1-2 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teas dried parsley
1/2 teas paprika
1/2 teas Old Bay seasoning
the juice from 1/2 a lemon (or about 1 TBSP lemon juice)

Just wanted to say I don't buy Parmesan cheese in wedges to grate up. It's way too expensive. So I get the shredded stuff in the deli and just crush it up with my fingers to get finer crumbs.

Combine the Parmesan cheese and seasonings on a shallow plate. The mixture will be a nice orangey color thanks to the paprika.

Drizzle the fish with a little olive oil, then press each filet into the crumbs, coating both sides well.

 Place the filets on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Sprinkle a little lemon juice over each filet for a nice tang.

I loved the way the Parmesan cheese melted together and formed a nice crust over the fish.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Getting Back on Track

I have a confession to make. During the past few months I've found myself relying more and more on convenience foods. You know, like frozen chicken filets (they're not THAT bad, right?) and poptarts - it's so much easier to grab one of these than to make breakfast, ya know? Knowing all the time that making those choices weren't good for my family.

I've come to the conclusion that what we (as a society) eat is literally killing us. Obesity is at an all-time high. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, you name it. All of these illnesses are actually on the rise. And all of them are linked to diet. Yes, genetics plays a factor in those diseases, and always will. But we're making the problems worse by what we eat.

Just take a look at the ingredient list on a box of crackers. Try to pronounce them. Yeah, those unpronounceable chemicals are making us fat and unhealthy. There's no substitute for whole foods - whole grains, lean meats, veggies, fruits, and nuts. These are the foods we were designed to eat. Not all that processed stuff.

So, why do we make the choice to feed ourselves something that's bad for us? Well, I can tell you why I did. Cost and convenience. Simple as that, and the food industry knows it. They hide ingredients, renaming the bad ones so we don't catch on. But in our busy, busy lifestyles, the industry knows we have to choose between cooking from scratch (which takes a lot of time) or grabbing a frozen pizza that's ready in 20 minutes with no effort on our part. In our rush to get to the next activity, we rely on convenience. But that convenience comes with a price.

I consoled myself by clinging to the fact that I was making some foods from scratch. I made chicken nuggets for my kids instead of purchasing frozen ones. I made my own pizzas. But can I make them healthier by using whole grains? Sure. Can I eliminate other harmful things like processed sugars? Yes, but I like my sweets. Interestingly enough, after using some natural sweeteners like honey and agave syrup, granulated sugar tastes way too sweet to me. So really, it's a matter of retraining my body and taste buds!

So I haven't been posting a whole lot of recipes because I've been trying out some new, healthy ones. I've been revamping some of my tried-and-true favorites to get rid of processed sugars and flours. I've added whole grain flours like buckwheat and oat flour to my repertoire of ingredients.

And I've learned just how dependent my family was becoming on the snacks and packaged stuff. I've heard some complaints about having nothing to snack on, then pointing to the fridge where the carrots and apples are. I've had to manage my time more efficiently. It's not been easy. The Triscuits in the cracker aisle have literally called my name!

But I am determined. We are going to get healthier. Want to join me? Do you have a healthy goal in mind?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Menu Plan April 23-29

This weekend took a sudden cold turn here in the Deep South. I'm not complaining, considering my parents in West Virginia are supposed to get 4-6 inches of snow in the next 36 hours! Crazy, crazy weather.

My friend Suzanne and I have decided to try our hand at freezer cooking, and this week we're going to test some recipes. Both of us are busy homeschool moms, plus she works as a nurse. We're hoping that by planning and preparing ahead of time, we can serve our family healthy, nutritious meals throughout the week.

We're trying some of our families' favorites to see how they freeze, plus we're going to add a couple of new ones. If you have any great tried-and-true freezer meal ideas, please leave me a comment or link. I'd love to hear from you! I already cook and freeze shredded chicken and ground beef, but any recommendations of how to use them would be welcome, too!

Now on to this week's menu:

Stuffed pepper casserole, broccoli

Ranch Bacon Chicken, mashed potatoes

Pasta with Very Veggie Sauce

Beef chimichangas (freezer meal)

Girls' Night

Homemade pizza (I'm going to prebake the crusts and freeze, then finish preparing them today)

Haven't decided, but will probably be a double batch of something I've already served this week! LOL

For more menu planning ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. And don't forget to leave me a comment if you have a suggestion for freezer meals.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Orange Bars

If you want a sweet, citrusy way to end a meal, you need to try these Orange Bars, based on Paula Deen's Orange Brownie recipe.

I tweaked the recipe a bit to reduce the amount of sugar, cause 2 cups is too much. The bars were still plenty sweet with a lovely dash of orange flavor. I served these at our dessert party, and they were a huge hit. So no one missed the extra sugar. Be sure to cut these into small bars, since there is plenty of richness from the butter. It is, after all, a Paula Deen recipe.

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 cups flour - I used half white wheat and half unbleached white
1 1/2 cups sugar - I might reduce this further the next time
1 teas salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 eggs
2 teas pure orange extract
1 teas. grated orange zest

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teas orange juice - you might need a little more to make it pourable
1 teas grate orange zest

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well blended.

Spread into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Using a fork, poke holes all over the surface of the bars.

Mix up the glaze, then pour over the entire surface.

Let the pan cool completely before cutting into bars.

*Click HERE for a printable recipe!*

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Menu Plan April 16-22

Tonight after church we hosted a dessert party at our house. We love to fellowship with our church family. What better way than to invite some friends to bring their favorite dessert and share with each other?

Maybe next time we'll have a sandwich night. That sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Savory roast beef sandwiches (crockpot), homemade sandwich rolls

Crockpot chicken tacos, corn

Ground beef casserole, green beans

Pan-seared tilapia, broccoli

Garlic chicken stir-fry with quinoa

Homemade pizza

Spaghetti and meatballs

For more meal planning ideas, take a peek at Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Party Time with UPB!

Ultimate Blog Party 2012

Well, it's time to party!!! Whoo hoo!

I love to sit and chat with friends. Grab a cup of coffee (I like to make my own Starbucks drinks - so much cheaper!) or some tea.

And what's a cup of coffee without some pie to go with it? I'm going to have some yummy homemade chocolate pie.

Now, let's get to know one another, shall we?

I'm Marsha. I'm a forty-something homeschooling mama who loves to cook and bake. Cleaning up? Not so much.

I'm married to the love of my life, my sweet husband Charles.

We've been married 13 years and have been blessed with two children. Mr. Lego is 11 and the Princess is 9, almost 10. They've grown up while I wasn't looking, I think.

I started blogging to share my recipes with family and friends who live all around the country. It was just easier to put it all in a blog format, like a an online cookbook. I'm known in my family for tweaking, changing recipes according to our tastes and hoping they turn out! LOL

I've branched out a bit now, so you can find tidbits about our life, homeschooling, spiritual lessons I'm learning along the way, and anything else that prompts me to write. I'm a work in progress myself, trying to live a life pleasing to the Lord and setting a good example for my children. I love meeting other bloggers, so leave me a comment and introduce yourself!

I'd be honored if you'd join me here in my corner of the blogosphere for a while. Thanks for stopping by and have a blessed day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Time for a Blog Party!

Ultimate Blog Party 2012

Okay, fellow bloggers! Time to get your party hats on! Every year 5 Minutes for Mom hosts the Ultimate Blog Party, a virtual party where bloggers can meet and get to know each other. It's a fantastic way to find other blogs to enjoy and to get your own blog out there!

Click here to read more about the event. Be sure to check out my party post from last year to give you an idea of how to party on your own blog.

Oh, did I mention there are tons of prizes that will be given away? Who doesn't like free stuff?

C'mon and join in the fun, starting Friday, April 13!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Southwest Pepper Steak

I love steak. I love peppers. I love pepper steak! Most versions of pepper steak have an Asian flair with soy sauce as an ingredient. I decided to add a Southwestern twist and skip the soy sauce all together. The result was delicious - full of flavor AND color.

And it's so easy to pull together. I marinated the steak strips for a couple of hours, but if you only have a few minutes, that's okay, too. I think the hardest part was slicing up the steak and veggies! The rest was a breeze.

Here's what you need:

1 lb. round steak, sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TBSP lime juice
1 teas cumin
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas dried oregano
1/2 teas chili powder
1/2 teas sea salt
3 bell peppers (any color - I used red, orange and yellow), sliced into thin strips
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

Mix the olive oil, water, lime juice and spices together. Place the steak strips and marinade in a plastic bag and allow to marinate for 2-4 hours.

Brush a skillet with olive oil, then heat over medium heat. Add the steak along with the marinade. Cook until the steak is browned on both sides and the liquid in the pan is boiling.

Stir in the peppers and onion. Cook until softened, about 5 more minutes or so. Add the corn and tomatoes to the skillet and heat through. There are no onions in this picture because I was out of onions, so I threw in a couple of tablespoons of minced onions.

Season with a little more salt and dried oregano. Serve over rice.

For more yummy recipes, head over to Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Menu Plan April 9-15

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter! I enjoyed a quiet day with my family which ended with the film "Courageous" shown at my church. It was a touching, inspirational film that was a great picture of grace.

This week seems like it will be a quiet one, but saying that probably invites additional busyness, doesn't it? LOL. One thing that helps me stay calm even through the craziness of day to day life is having a menu plan for the week. I make a grocery list based on the plan, so it's reassuring to know I have the ingredients on hand to make several meals. I won't have to scramble through the cupboards and throw something together.

So here's the plan for the week:

Chicken shawarma, flatbread

Ham and bean soup (using leftover Easter ham), homemade bread

Tasty tilapia, broccoli and cauliflower mix

Ham and broccoli quiche (another use of leftover ham), roasted carrots

Greek chicken pasta, green beans

West Virginia pepperoni rolls

Out to eat

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Make Your Own Cooking Creme

About a year ago, Kraft came out with a product line of cream-cheese based cooking cremes. Some of the flavors included Italian Cheese and Herb, Santa Fe Blend, and Savory Lemon and Herb. I have to admit, I was tempted to try them. Who wouldn't like creamy dishes with the yummy flavor of cream cheese? Until you read the list of ingredients and see all the preservatives and yucky stuff that have been added.

When I read SnoWhite's great idea for making your own cooking creme, I knew I'd found a great alternative. And I finally put her idea to the test this week. I have to say the results were amazing!

Here's what you need:

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup chicken broth

In a small saucepan, combine the cream cheese and broth. Stir over low heat until the cheese is melted.

Yep, that's it! Two ingredients! Now, you spice it up to match whatever flavor you're looking for.

If you want an Italian flair, add 1 TBSP Italian herbs and a few dashes of grated Parmesan cheese.

For the Southwest flavor, stir in 1 TBSP taco seasoning or a couple of teaspoons of taco sauce. A squeeze of lime juice can finish it off.

Add lemon zest and a TBSP of lemon juice plus some herbs for sauce with a tangy twist.

You can easily match Kraft's flavors with some creative combinations of your own without the extra ingredients that you don't need!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Menu Plan April 2-8

One week 'til Easter! I always love this time of year. I'm grateful that we set aside time to reflect on our Savior's sacrifice and resurrection. Because He lives, we can have hope. I love that!

Ham is a traditional Easter menu item, so we'll be having a spiral sliced ham with all the fixings. And I've got plenty of recipes that use leftover ham, so next week's menu should be pretty easy!

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Unstuffed shells, garlic bread

Sausage pepper skillet, fried apples

Chicken rice soup in the crockpot

Sausage veggie calzones, fries

Grilled burgers, grilled veggies

Homemade pizza

Ham, creamy mashed potatoes, carrots

For more meal planning inspiration, check out Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.