Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Birthday America!

I've been wanting to share some ideas to help you add special touches to your July 4th celebration, so I decided I would just share this part of my latest newspaper column in the Leader Enterprise......

My mind has been spinning with numerous recipe ideas to help you celebrate the upcoming birthday of our nation on July 4th.

I decorated this cake with jelly beans to look like 'Old Glory". A pretzel rod was used for the pole, but you could also use a black licorice stick.

It’s easy enough to use a purchased pound cake - lay slices of it in the bottom of a rectangular dish, top with blueberries and strawberries, and then whipped topping, and decorate the top like a flag, with more blueberries and strawberries. Or you can bake a cake from a mix, in a 9" X 13" pan, and decorate it likewise.

You can layer berries with pudding or whipped topping in a bowl, and decorate the top with an outline of blueberries in a star shape, and fill the inside with strawberries, or raspberries, if you prefer. Or just make layers in parfait cups for individual servings.

I love the idea of using the store-bought cake rolls to make ‘dynamite’. Use a little string of licorice to make a wick -Stack a few together and tie with a piece of licorice - to add a ‘blast’ to your holiday.

Bake cupcakes (we love them in ice cream cones) and sprinkle the frosting with red, white & blue edible decorations. Or just celebrate with a McDonald’s healthy yogurt/fruit parfait. I enjoy them often!

If you want more ideas, go to this link for some cool patriotic menu ideas...

For Taste of Home's Top 10 Patriotic dessert recipes....

Whatever you decide to do, make it simple and fun and enjoy yourself as we have so much to be thankful for. We can always be grateful to live in the land of the free and home of the brave, and be proud of our country! Let’s not hesitate to throw a big birthday party for the good ole USA!

May God bless America!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Recipe Organization

I LOVE RECIPES.


I love reading them - I love collecting them - I love sharing them - I love making them!

I have sooo many recipes and need to have an 'extra' day in my life to get things organized as I'd like.  There are times when I get totally frustrated, because I have Too Many Recipes, and can't find the one I'm looking for.

But I do have some thoughts for organizing your recipes that I want to share.

If you have many cookbooks, have you considered the idea of making a 'recipe file' with the name of the cookbook, the recipe name and page number?  I have often kept a list in front of the cookbooks with the recipes I want to try, along with the page number.  It helps save me time looking, but what works for one, may not be good for another.

I have a recipe drawer - this is where I keep my most used/new recipes.  If it's out of sight, it's so often out of mind, so it's something I go through often.

I use the small flimsy-cover photo albums, and have them labeled with different topics: 9 x 13 desserts, appetizers, 'real food', microwave - whatever you use most, to keep recipes handy. I stand them up on end in the front of the drawer, so they're easily accessible and to view.

I do love the 'make your own' cookbooks - with sections for holding magazine (rectangular) recipes. It helps me clear out the recipe magazines that pile up in my kitchen.

I also keep folders in the drawer - color coded - and store favorite recipes in them.  I have one just for 'Favorites from Friends" and write on the manilla folder, which recipe from which gal, because they often get shared too.

I have a friend who tries a new recipe nearly every day of her life and I often get to be a part of taste testing.  She sometimes, leaves a sample at my door - and I don't have to wonder who has dropped it off.  She keeps a 3-ring binder with recipes/pictures and it's wonderful to go through.  I have learned from her,  to always write on a recipe what I thought of it, but if it isn't a 'keeper', it gets pitched.  I do LOVE recipes - and it's easy to get frustrated if you don't have a system.

Hope some of these ideas make things easier for you in the kitchen.

For more ideas, visit my daughter Deb's post at Family Foodies from last week...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The "Kick" of Coupon-ing

I have to say I love shopping! I can't tell you how many times I've offered to do shopping for friends - of course, with their $$ - but I do enjoy getting as much as possible for my money, so going to the grocery store is a pleasant event for me, at least most of the time.

I recently got some great deals because my regular grocery store was running coupon deals for a 2 week period. As you can see by the picture of my receipt, I was able to save 40%. That's quite a savings these days, when we have to spend so much more for products than what we were paying a year or two ago. Paying regular prices these days can be a real killer.

I save coupons that come in our weekly newspaper, but I only save for the items that I would purchase, IF they were on sale. I carry a coupon keeper in my purse at all times, and I'm ready to save all I can.

Occasionally, I am able to save more with manufacturer's coupons, along with store coupons, but it wasn't so this time. I only used store coupons, and was very pleased with my bargains.

My local store regularly doubles coupons up to $1.00, and I have purchased items on sale for 99 cents - used my manufacturer's coupon for 50 cents, and gotten the item for free.

I try to stay stocked ahead, so that when things that I normally use, are on sale, I buy them, even if I don't need them right now. I believe it saves in the long run.

We prefer frozen vegetables. The regular price for a 1# bag, is $1.59. It is rare that I ever pay that price, because they are on sale often, and that's when I choose to stock up. This week, because of a store coupon, I was able to get 5 bags for $4. Thus, a savings of $3.95 there alone.

I also saved $4.00 on the 3# bag of quick frozen chicken breasts, because that was part of the coupon deal. That's nearly half price!

We like to shop at our local bulk food store too. We recently saw a sign posted there for co-jack cheese...our favorite...for $2.40 a lb. That's nearly half as much as the regular price, and we had to buy a big chunk. We got almost 6#. so I chunked some up for a quick nibble, and shredded much of it, and put some in the freezer. Cheese tends to crumble more after its frozen, so having shredded it first, will make it easier to use.

There are so many online sources for coupons, but I really love the look of Coupon Mom! She's a woman after my own heart!

The 'Kick' of Couponing

I have to say I love shopping!  I can't tell you how many times I've offered  to do shopping for friends - of course, with their $$ - but I do enjoy getting as much as possible for my money, so going to the grocery store is a pleasant event for me, at least most of the time.

I recently got some great deals because my regular grocery store was running coupon deals for a 2 week period.  As you can see by the picture of my receipt, I was able to save 40%.  That's quite a savings these days, when we have to spend so much more for products than what we were paying a year or two ago.   Paying regular prices these days can be a real killer.

I save coupons that come in our weekly newspaper, but I only save for the items that I would purchase, IF they were on sale.   I carry a coupon keeper in my purse at all times, and I'm ready to save all I can.

Occasionally, I am able to save more with manufacturer's coupons, along with store coupons, but it wasn't so this time.  I only used store coupons, and was very pleased with my bargains.

receipt



My local store regularly doubles coupons up to $1.00, and I have purchased items on sale for 99 cents - used my manufacturer's coupon for 50 cents, and gotten the item for free.

I try to stay stocked ahead, so that when things that I normally use, are on sale, I buy them, even if I don't need them right now.  I believe it saves in the long run.

We prefer frozen vegetables.  The regular price for a 1# bag, is $1.59.  It is rare that I ever pay that price, because they are on sale often, and that's when I choose to stock up.  This week, because of a store coupon, I was able to get 5 bags for $4.  Thus, a savings of $3.95 there alone.

I also saved $4.00 on the 3# bag of quick frozen chicken breasts, because that was part of the coupon deal. That's nearly half price.

grocery deal

We like to shop at our local bulk food store too.  We recently saw a sign posted there for co-jack cheese...our favorite...for $2.40 a lb.   That's nearly half as much as the regular price, and we had to buy a big chunk.  We got almost 6#. so I chunked some up for a quick nibble, and shredded much of it, and put some in the freezer.   Cheese tends to crumble more after its frozen, so having shredded it first, will make it easier to use.

There are so many online sources for coupons, but I really love the look of Coupon Mom!  She's a woman after my own heart!

Friday, June 19, 2009

On the Lighter Side

Here are some lighter, Weight-Watcher friendly recipes I love!

CARAMEL APPLE SALAD

1 sm. pkg. sugar free butterscotch pudding (dry)
1 cup crushed pineapple with juice
Mix together, then add 4 unpeeled diced apples
and 1-8 oz. tub fat free frozen whipped topping, thawed


Just before serving, sprinkle with 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts. This is my ultimate favorite sugar free dish!

Weight Watchers Points - 1/2 cup = 2 points
*** *** *** *** *** *** ***

PUMPKIN SPICE MUFFINS

1 18 oz. box spice cake mix
1 small can of pumpkin
2/3 cup water


Mix cake mix, pumpkin and water together by hand until smooth.  Fill 18 muffin tins - one heaping spoonful for each  - and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

These are so easy to make a heavenly to eat.

Weight Watchers points - 1 muffin = 2 points
*** *** *** *** *** *** ***


CHEESE SOUP

3 - 15 oz. cans of 99% fat free chicken broth
2 - 16 oz bags of vegetables - preferably California blend or broccoli/cauliflower mix
1 can rotel style diced tomatoes (with green chilies), undrained
10 oz. 2% Velveeta, cubed


Cook broth, vegetables & tomatoes, until tender, then add Velveeta.    Easy and delicious!

Makes 10 cups

Weight Watchers points - 1 cup = 1 point

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Eating Well in the Good Ol' Summertime

Just about anyone could eat more fruits and veggies, and summertime is a great time to enjoy more of them. But you don't want to purchase a lot, and then have to throw it away because they haven't been eaten. That's definitely a waste of money and nutrition.

According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation:

  • Fewer than 15% of school-aged children eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables needed every day.


  • Over half of all elementary school-aged children eat no fruit on any given day.


  • Three out of 10 elementary school-aged children eat less than one serving of vegetables a day.


  • One-quarter of all vegetables eaten by school aged students are french fries.

What's a mother to do?


The amounts recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is - younger children should eat atleast 1.5 cups each of fruits and vegetables every day.  Older, and more active children should be eating up to two cups of fruit and 3.5 cups of vegetables each day.  (Amounts are based on recommended calorie intakes for sex, age, and activity level: Check out www.mypyramid.gov to find out the amounts you and your children should be aiming for.

Here's some ideas to help you get your kids steered in the right direction when it comes to consuming enough of these nutritious foods....

  • Take your children to the grocery store or open air market and let them choose a fruit or vegetable they like or would like to try.

  • How about giving them each $5 and letting them do shopping on their own - not allowing bread or candy to be among their purchases.

  • Add berries to their cereal; shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes to their sandwiches; finely chopped carrots or broccoli added to soups, or other dishes, will give them the nutrition they need, without them even realizing it.

  • Encourage fruits and vegetables as snacks. Serve fruit as a dessert, and keep a dish of fruit visible to your family.  They will be more likely to eat more without thinking about getting something sweet instead.

  • Give them fresh baby carrots and/or celery for snacking, along with their own little cup of ranch dressing for dip.

Apple Smiles


Here's a fun thing I did for my kids when they were growing up and have done it for my grandchildren as well.  If you can make eating 'fun', you're more likely they will eat more nutritionally without a fight.

Take a red apple and cut it in half - core it, and slice it into 8 or 10 slices...to make 'lips'.  Spread one side of two apple slices, with peanut butter, lay mini marshmallows on top to make 'teeth' and put the other apple slice on top.  I can just about guarantee you'll make them smile as well - and that will be good for mom too.

apple smiles

Friday, June 12, 2009

Undeniable Family Favorites

CREAMY TACOS

1 # ground beef
2 cans chili beans, undrained
1 can chili with beans
1 can rotel-style tomatoes (with green chiles)
1# Velveeta cheese, cubed
1/2 pint whipping cream

Tostito chips
Chopped lettuce & tomato
Sour Cream
Salsa
Sliced Black Olives


Brown ground beef - drain grease - add everything but the cheese and whipping cream. Heat to boiling - stir in cheese and heat until melted. Pour in cream - keep warm, but don't boil.

Serve over chips and top with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, salsa, etc.

This is such a great company dish because it's quick and it makes a lot. You can use 'hot' chili or beans, and spice it up if you like.

ICE CREAM PIES

1 pkg. devil's food or chocolate fudge cake mix
3/4 cup water
1 cup prepared chocolate frosting, divided
1/4 cup oil
1/2 gal. favorite ice cream, softened


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour bottom, sides and rims of 2 - 9" cake pans or pie plates (they should be deep).

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, 3/4 cup frosting and oil; beat 2 minutes on high. Spread 1/2 the batter in bottom of each prepared pan. (don't spread up the sides)

Bake 25 - 30 minutes - don't overbake.

Cakes will collapse when cooling. Cool completely.

Spread ice cream in each shell. Heat remaining 1/4 cup frosting and drizzle over the top. Top with chopped nuts if desired. Wrap tightly with foil and freeze up to a month.

Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.

Undeniable Family Favorites

CREAMY TACOS


1 # ground beef
2 cans chili beans, undrained
1 can chili with beans
1 can rotel-style tomatoes (with green chiles)
1# Velveeta cheese, cubed
1/2 pint whipping cream


Tostito chips
Chopped lettuce & tomato
Sour Cream
Salsa
Sliced Black Olives


Brown ground beef - drain grease - add everything but the cheese and whipping cream.

Heat to boiling - stir in cheese and heat until melted.

Pour in cream - keep warm, but don't boil.

Serve over chips and top with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, salsa, etc.

This is such a great company dish because it's quick and it makes a lot.  You can use 'hot' chili or beans, and spice it up if you like.

ICE CREAM PIES


1 pkg. devil's food or chocolate fudge cake mix
3/4 cup water
1 cup prepared chocolate frosting, divided
1/4 cup oil
1/2 gal. favorite ice cream, softened


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour bottom, sides and rims of 2 - 9" cake pans or pie plates (they should be deep).

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, 3/4 cup frosting and oil; beat 2 minutes on high. Spread 1/2 the batter in bottom of each prepared pan. (don't spread up the sides)

Bake 25 - 30 minutes - don't overbake.

Cakes will collapse when cooling.  Cool completely.

Spread ice cream in each shell.

Heat remaining 1/4 cup frosting and drizzle over the top.

Top with chopped nuts if desired.

Wrap tightly with foil and freeze up to a month.

Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Welcome to The Better Baker

I’m thrilled to be able to connect with folks online - this is a new experience for me, and at this point, is rather overwhelming, but with my daughter’s assistance and expertise, I hope to make this an inviting place for you to visit often.

I really do enjoy cooking in general. My mom gave me freedom in the kitchen when I was growing up, I married a man who is willing to eat anything, and we both love hosting company, so my ‘career’ in the kitchen has snowballed over the years, and I’m excited about how my outreaches are being expanded.

I’ve had a few recipes published by the American Profile publication. I won $100 in 2006 for my Butternut Squash Casserole. It is one of two in the AP "Blue Ribbon Winners" cookbook. I also have five recipes in their "Hometown Recipes for the Holidays" cookbook. I truly do enjoy time in the kitchen.

I even like washing dishes.

I recently began typing up recipes to have my own cookbook published...it is a time consuming process, but it feels good to get the ball rolling toward making that lifetime goal a dream come true.

I’ve also had a short testimony of God’s provision for us in a needy time, published in "Christian Miracles". The format is similar to Chicken Soup for the Soul books, with many authors in one book. I enjoy opportunities to speak publicly.

But I have to say that I’m not a professional speaker - only a professional talker!!
After being recognized in our local newspaper for my national recipe ‘fame’ through American Profile, I have recently been asked by a local newspaper to write a monthly column...and include recipes. Appropriately - the column is entitled "The Better Baker".

I married my high school sweetie, Ron "Bean" Baker. We have endured some, but mostly enjoyed, our 41 years of wedded bliss. We have been blessed with 3 children, and 7 precious grandchildren. Being Nana and Papa are the biggest blessings in our lives....and we appreciate the thought...

GRANDKIDS MAKE LIFE GRAND!
Ron is 100% disabled from his exposure to Agent Orange - he served 3 tours in Vietnam as a proud Marine. He’s diabetic, so the last few years, I have leaned more toward healthier dishes, and low/no sugar recipes.

Something I’m fond of are quotes - some would call them ‘wall plaques’, but I appreciate them, and hope to share some with you often. One of my favorites is...

LIFE IS SHORT...EAT DESSERT FIRST.

P.S. - You can probably find new posts from me about twice a week just to get warmed up. Later, when I'm an "expert" at this, I'll be posting more often! Thanks for visiting - and please feel free to leave comments and questions!

Leader Enterprise - June 2009 - Lesson in Humility

A favorite quote, that I often share is...Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to what happens to you. I believe I was recently ‘tested’ to see how much I really believe it.

I am always honored to speak to ladies groups, and have learned to enjoy my time behind the podium. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined myself being able to stand in front of a group. Even 15 years ago, I was nervous about walking through a crowded room, but I have learned to enjoy it, and believe me...it’s a big surprise to even me!

As I had prepared to speak for a Mother/Daughter luncheon in West Unity in May, I was anticipating my time with this group...until the very morning that I speak.

My hubby had just fixed us our first cups of coffee that morning, and as I bit open the protein bar to enjoy it too, a front tooth, broke in half. Not today Lord!!! Not now!! The same tooth had been repaired a time or two before, but hadn’t been a recent problem, so I was stunned when it broke. In fact, the last time it broke was on Christmas Eve, and I had to wait until after Christmas get it fixed.

But now I was suppose to be standing in front of a group of women - in a couple of short hours - to encourage them as moms and grandmas, and I felt traumatized. What a way to begin my day. UGH!

I called a dear friend who faithfully prays for me, and we had some good laughs. I told her how I’d tried putting a marshmallow between my teeth to see if it would fill the gap - and she told me to be sure to share with the ladies about my ‘experiment’, so we did have a good laugh, or two.

When I stood to speak, I felt like I just HAD to explain my predicament before I could begin sharing what I had prepared, and I began crying, then started laughing because I was crying...oh my! They were such gracious ladies, and made me feel at ease. And I told them I had been reminded in a BIG way that my time with them was and not about me, but it was about Him. so we did have a great time together. One lesson in humility lesson learned and will not be forgotten any time soon.

I had to consider that things could have been worse. If we will be determined, I believe we can always find something to be thankful for, even in the worst of times. I could have broken my glasses, and not been able to read my notes. But I was able to talk, even with a broken tooth. Reminds me of something I once read, spoken by a man who had just been robbed. He was thankful that he was the one who was robbed, and not the one who had done the robbing. I find that to be an admirable perspective.

Do we practice what we ‘preach’? It’s so much easier to SAY sometimes, than to DO. I like to think I passed the ‘test’ that God was allowing that day. I truly DO believe life is about how we respond to what happens to us. The next time ‘life hands you lemons’ I trust you’ll be able to make lemonade, and be encouraged to smile (even with a broken tooth).

Hubby and I were recently delighted to go a day trip with Evelyn’s Excursions. We enjoyed a Benny Goodman concert in Toledo. We had a delicious lunch inside the Stranahan Theatre, and the soothing music was relaxing and enjoyable. Evelyn has a lot of great trips planned - many are day getaways. I want to encourage you to take time to enjoy yourself this summer. Call someone you’ve been wanting to visit and invite them to travel with you. You can enjoy yourselves and each other at the same time.

Because this is Father’s Day month, I want to pay tribute to my own dear dad - Bob King. He’s ALWAYS told me I’m his favorite daughter! ( I’m the only one he has, so he’s been safe to tell me that all my life.) My children have always smiled when they’re around their grandpa, and they have told me often “I didn’t even do anything, and grandpa said he’s proud of me!” So...you can imagine just HOW proud he is, when we DO do something worthwhile! One thing my family will always remember about my dad is that he often tells us that he loves us, and to ‘keep the faith’. How thankful I am for a dad who has always made me feel loved unconditionally.

I also had a great relationship with my father-in-love too, John Baker. He was taken from us at the age of 49 in an electrical accident in Montpelier in 1970.

Many of you may remember that John conducted Memorial Day services in

Montpelier for many years. He was definitely an advocate for veterans for the state, and I’m so thankful he loved me as his own daughter. He’s missed much and remembered fondly.

And I don’t want to forget to mention my own husband, who is a wonderful father and Papa to our 3 children and 7 grandchildren. He is such a great example of giving your kids roots, and then giving them wings. Even with all his physical limitations, being 100% disabled, he goes the extra mile for anyone in his family, and is a true friend to others as well. He’s definitely my man of steel and velvet and is greatly admired and respected by all who are fortunate enough to cross his path on life’s journey.

Plans are being made for Pioneer Days, scheduled for June 26-27. We’d love to have a great turnout for a wonderful celebration with a band, the fire department open house, and much more. Many fun activities for kids and their families are set in motion. Come One - Come All!

My mind has been spinning with numerous recipe ideas to help you celebrate the upcoming birthday of our nation on July 4th.

It’s easy enough to use a purchased pound cake - lay slices of it in the bottom

of a rectangular dish, top with blueberries and strawberries, and then

whipped topping, and decorate the top like a flag, with more blueberries and strawberries. Or you can bake a cake from a mix, in a 9" X 13" pan, and

decorate it likewise.

You can layer berries with pudding or whipped topping in a bowl, and decorate the

top with an outline of blueberries in a star shape, and fill the inside with

strawberries, or raspberries, if you prefer. Or just make layers in parfait cups

for individual servings.

I love the idea of using the store-bought hoho cake rolls to make ‘dynamite’. Use a little string of licorice to make a wick -Stack a few together and tie with a piece of licorice - to add a ‘blast’ to your holiday.

 Bake cupcakes (we love them in ice cream cones) and sprinkle the frosting with red, white & blue edible decorations. Or just celebrate with a McDonald’s healthy yogurt/fruit parfait. I enjoy them often!

Whatever you decide to do, make it simple and fun and enjoy yourself as we have so much to be thankful for. We can always be grateful to live in the land of the free and home of the brave, and be proud of our country! Let’s not hesitate to throw a big birthday party for the good ole USA!

Thought for the Day: We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. -

Bertha Calloway