Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Recipes, Tips, and Tricks - Oh my!

As the holidays approach this year, I'm reminded of an interview I gave to my daughter Deb, for her blog The Queen Mommy in 2008.  I thought I'd share that interview here with you - my readers.  Enjoy!

Q: How do you prepare for your holiday activities (calendar, lists, etc.)?

I make notes on a desk calendar for any activities going on from day to day, including cookie baking, cookie exchanges, Christmas concerts, etc.

I keep a pocket file folder in my recipe drawer - I have many - but one I have marked "Holidays". I keep my favorite recipes there so I don't have to dig through all my recipes to try to find a holiday favorite. I also use small photo albums (you know - the inexpensive ones from my local dollar store or walmart) and place recipes from newspaper/magazines in them, and mark each of them with the kind of recipes they contain. I have one marked "Cookies" that I refer to often. Others are 'desserts' '9" X 13" pan desserts' 'snacks and appetizers', etc. etc. I stand these little albums on end so I can easily see the one I'm looking for.

I keep a Christmas Card record book from year to year - that way I can make changes in addresses when needed ( I include the year of change also), and I keep track of to whom I send to, and receive from. Most record books are good for 5-8 years. I keep a list of gifts I give to friends and customers from year to year so I will vary the kitchen 'goodies' I share with them and don't repeat - unless it's one of their favorites, which I record, also.

Q: What shortcuts and time savers do you rely on during your holiday preparations?

As I mentioned previously, I keep a list of recipes written out for review & reference. I try to make every minute count - get up and do something while a commercial comes on TV, and I always make myself lists so I can think of what I need to do next.

One thing I do to keep things moving along in the kitchen, is to keep hot sudsy water in the sink all the time I'm working there, and wash dishes when I have a minute in between things. It helps keep the counter cleared and dishes can dry (use HOT water to rinse) and you can put them away when you have another few minutes.

Sometimes, we just have to prioritize. I do that often during this very busy month. And I have to consider what REALLY needs to be done first - usually, according to the day of the week it needs to be ready. We gotta 'keep the main thing, the main thing'....I always record comments on new recipes - 'excellent'....'rubbery' (just did that today with a sugar free cookie I tried =) If the recipe isn't in a book, and I'm not wild about it, I usually throw it away and keep trying new ones.

Q: What homemade gifts do you like to give? How do you package them?

White Christmas Mix is a really yummy, easy, pretty holiday gift to give. Giving it in the holiday printed zipper-seal bags is nice because you can see how pretty the mix is. Even plain ziploc bags, decorated with curly ribbons is 'fun.'

Pretzel Pretties are fun to make with kids, and make a LOT so giving them away by themselves or along with other goodies is nice. If you can keep from eating them all…

Fruited Oatmeal Mix is a nice gift to give – it’s warm and filling and is a healthier option, too! It can be bagged and tucked into a pretty tin or given in a pretty gift jar.

Q: How do you prepare for last minute party invitations or gift ideas?

I buy things (on sale) throughout the year - candles, books, calendars, Avon, & clearance items I come across. I have two file drawers in my desk with gifts in them, so I can look through and see if I can find anything 'fitting' for the person I desire it for. And I always have something edible made up - even if it's in the freezer.


1 lb. white chocolate (or vanilla almond bark)
Melt in double boiler or microwave according to directions

Mix together:
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex (or combined - 6 cups crispix cereal)
3 cups Cheerios
2 cups mini pretzels
2 cups peanuts
1 lg. bag of M & M's - plain or peanut (optional) (We love using the holiday mix)

Pour white chocolate over everything and mix well. Let dry and place into gift containers.


13 oz bag Rolos (or 6-7 rolls)
1 bag tiny twists pretzels
1 bag peanut M & M's - we like to use holiday colored ones

Line cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Lay out pretzels, place one unwrapped rolo on top of Pretzel. Bake at 300 for 5 -6 minutes or until chocolate becomes shiny.

Take out of oven, place M&M on each one, smashing down rolo. Let cool for 10 minutes, then place entire sheet in fridge or cold room to set for at least 1 hour. This is so great because you can make few or many at a time. A cookie sheet full will make 70-90 treats. May also top with pecan halves instead of M & M's.


6 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apples or dried banana chips or any dried diced fruit
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tsps. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

(Yield: 7 cups of mix/two batches - each makes 7 servings of oatmeal)

Directions to include with gift:

For each serving:
1/2 cup fruited oatmeal mix
3/4 cup water

In a deep microwave-safe bowl, combine mix and water. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds; stir. Cook 20-30 seconds longer or until bubbly.  Let stand for 1 - 2 minutes.

A healthy gift - I use splenda, splenda brown sugar, and reduced sodium salt....Delicious!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My First Interview with The Queen Mommy

Last year, my daughter Deb asked if she could interview me for a few Christmas posts at her blog, The Queen Mommys Cafe.  She asked the questions and I gave the answers. This is the first part of the interview, and I wanted to share it with you this Christmas season...

1) I'd like to start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself, Queen Martha.

I wear a lot of 'hats' in my world, but my favorites are wearing my wife, mom & nana hats. What a privilege to be given those special places of honor. When I was a kid, my mom spent much time at the sewing machine, so I would work in the kitchen. I developed a love for making dishes then, and even more, after marrying a man who is willing to try anything, and then enjoying hosting company, who enjoyed the recipes I shared. It's just kinda snowballed since then.

God has given me the gift of encouragement, and so I spend a few hours a day at the computer, along with several hours a week, at the dining room table, where I enjoy writing out cards to mail to help brighten days for dear ones in my life.

I had a story published in Christian Miracles...Amazing stories of God's Helping Hand in Our Everyday Lives in 2005. I won $100 for a recipe contest in American Profile - a paper magazine distributed in newspapers nationally - for butternut squash bake in 2006. That, plus 5 other recipes of mine were included in their Holiday Cookbook in 2007. I've publicly shared our life's 'God-story' a few times, and have spoken for Mother's Day dinners and also shared encouragement ministry ideas.

I love to say "I'm not a professional speaker, but I AM a professional talker".

2) What are your favorite childhood Christmas memories? What are your favorite Christmas memories as a mom?

I do think my most favorite Christmas memory as a child is the year I realized there wasn't a Santa. My mom had made my older foster sister and me matching plaid nighties, and it dawned on me (though I hadn't had a glimpse of her making them, that SHE made them. I was probably 10 or 11.) Holidays celebrated with the aunts and uncles on both/either sides of the families are special memories also. I've always been so saddened that my own children missed out on those growing up times with family that I so enjoyed...since we were military and lived far from home. We rarely had $funds$ to make it home for the holidays very often.

My favorite Christmas as a mom is tough - I loved them all. Having my children help as we 'worked' together doing the decorating was always so much fun. The music going, the candles burning, as we sampled goodies we'd already made....those are all my favorites.
3) What are your favorite things to do during the holiday season? How do you prepare for them? What tips & tricks can you share about making your preparations simple and time-saving?

I LOVE baking - trying new recipes, a few times a week, and sharing the goods. I begin stocking up on baking items - chocolate chips, nuts, brown and powdered sugars, etc. when they're on sale - probably beginning in October. I usually have an extra 5# bag of flour in the freezer, so I don't run short at the last minute. Shopping with coupons, especially with store sales, and shopping at discount stores like Aldi's, Big Lots, or Sam's Club can really help me get stocked up.

I keep a few lists going at once....I have a running grocery list...I taught my kids when they were younger, to add to the list when they used the last of something, and that really helped keep on top of things.

Now, that I no longer have those ready and helping hands, every day at least, I keep a list handy where I can write things down when I realize I'm almost out. I like to have the salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, out on the counter ready to be measured. After I've used it, I set it on a different place in the counter, so I know it's already been used...just in case I get interrupted in the middle of what I'm doing.

Because I have many cookbooks, and love to sit and read them, I keep a running list of recipes I want to try, with cookbook name, and page number handy, so when the mood strikes, I can review my list and decide which one would work best for my time frame.

I do have a kitchen drawer full of recipe files and collected recipe cards that I use most frequently. It's where I also keep my most recent cookbook magazines. And I normally have a pile of recipes on the countertop...sometimes I need to see the recipe to be reminded of it, and that seems to work for me, since I do have enough countertop to do that.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Making Your Own Cleaners

Yep, just 3 simple ingredients and water and you can make your own laminate floor cleaner that will WOW everyone! 

When we sold our house recently, the realtor and purchaser both begged to know what I used on my laminate floor because it had such an awesome shine.  I think it was a real selling point!! 

Needless to say, they both wrote the recipe down! 

It nearly brought me to my knees to have to pay high dollar for my laminate floor cleaner, so you can imagine the thrill it was to find a homemade recipe....especially one that worked so nicely!


1 cup water
1 cup rubbing alcohol
1 cup white vinegar
1 Tb. liquid dish soap
1 qt. spray bottle 

Mix together and put into a spray bottle.  Use as you would purchased cleaner - and enjoy the $$ savings!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tips for Money-Wise Meals - #2

So we continue with thoughts to help you with meal planning....

  • Don't go shopping without a list.  I like to plan meals around what's on sale and having a list helps you 'stay on track'.  I always end up buying more when I don't have a list! =(

  • Teach your children to write things down when they're running low, or have run out. I like keeping a magnetic list on the front of the fridge - and I write what I need at the bottom of the page (I've been told this is a right/left brain 'thing') - that way you tear off the bottom each time and don't waste the whole page.  Makes sense to me!

  • Go frozen - fruits and vegetables are flash frozen at their peak, so you can buy them out of season for less.  They taste great too!  Again - stock up when they're on sale.

  • Plan for leftovers - make one night a week leftover night, and everyone fixes their own plate. Or use that leftover roast beef for making a pot of beef and noodles.  When you have a few leftover veggies - throw them into one freezer container, adding as the month goes by, and use all the leftover veggies in homemade soup.  Waste not - want not.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tips for Money-Wise Meals - #1

December is here, and we are all busier than ever...I want to share some ideas to inspire you to help you with your food 'management'/meal planning.  I will be sharing some awesome recipes later this month too, but for now....

  • Coupon, coupon, coupon!  If you've followed my blog for long, you'll know I LOVE coupons, and often get to save 60%+ of the total price I spend, because I stick with purchasing sale items, and use coupons also.  Clip weekly from the newspaper (hint: some of the coupons in the file that I always carry in my purse - will be thrown out if I don't find the item on sale). Ask a friend who doesn't use coupons, if they'd be willing to share theirs with you.  It's a great way to save big $$.

  • Shop your pantry - use what you have.  If you stock up on weekly sales, you can learn to cook with what you already have.  Keep vegetables, soups, broths, beans, etc. on hand - and have a system in your pantry so everything doesn't get lost, and you don't know what you really have.  Ex: keep soups together with labels facing the front - use tubs to group some items and/or smaller items together.

  • Shop bulk sections - Go for grains, nuts, dried fruit, cereal and more - You can buy as much, or as little, as you want, and prices tend to be more reasonable because you're not having to pay for name brands or fancy packaging.  I love to buy powdered milk there, as it isn't something I use often, or much of, but it's so handy to have a little bit when I want it.

  • Make your own 100-calorie packs - It's so much more economical to make your own.  Separate chips, cookies, etc. into resealable plastic bags and you will save all the waste of the packaging too.

More ideas again next week...HAPPY SHOPPING & COOKING TOO!!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Leader Enterprise Article - December 2009

This is a decadent dessert and beautiful presentation. You can use lite pie filling, sugar free pudding, reduced fat cream cheese, and lite whipped topping.  Just remember when using sugar free or light-the results will be softer set,  but very tasty - most won’t even know.  And with all the sweets we devour this month,  cutting calories is always a good idea when possible.


1 18-21 oz. Box brownie mix
2 (1.55 ozs ea) milk chocolate candy bars, divided
3 cups cherry pie filling
1 tsp. Almond extract
2 cups milk
2 small pkgs. White chocolate instant pudding mix
1 - 8 oz. Pkg. Cream cheese, softened
1 - 8 oz. Tub frozen whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare brownie mix according to package directions for cake-like brownies; spread batter over bottom of greased jelly roll pan. Bake 18-20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely.  Loosen brownie from sides of pan and invert onto cutting board.  Cut brownie into 1-inch cubes;set aside.  Chop 1-1/2 of the chocolate bars.  Reserve remaining chocolate for garnish.

In medium bowl, combine pie filling and almond extract.  Set aside ½ cup for garnish.  In another medium bowl, pour milk and add pudding mix and beat until mixture begins to thicken.  Add softened cream cheese, in chunks, and blend until smooth.  Fold in whipped topping.  To assemble trifle, place half the brownie cubes in the bottom of a trifle bowl.  Layer with half the pie filling mixture; sprinkle with half the chopped chocolate; top with half the pudding mixture, then repeat layers one more time.  Make chocolate curls with reserved chocolate (using your potato peeler).  Garnish top of trifle with reserved pie filling mixture and chocolate curls.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.  The trifle can be assembled several hours before serving, or the day before.

I’m pleased to say I chose my favorite parts from 3 different recipes, and ‘tweaked’ the spices to come up with this delicious dessert. It’s very pretty too.


1-1/2 cups shortbread cookies, crushed
½ (one half) cup finely chopped pecans
3 Tbsp. Butter or margarine,melted

3-8 ozs. Pkgs. Cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1-15 oz.  canned pumpkin
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1 tsp. Ground cinnamon
½ tsp. Pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. Ground cloves
1 cup crushed toffee candies

1-1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
caramel ice cream topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For Crust: combine cookie crumbs,nuts and butter in small bowl. Press onto bottom and 1-inch up side of 9-inch springform pan.  Bake 7-8 minutes (do not allow to brown).  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.

For Cheesecake: Beat cream cheese and sugars in a large bowl until creamy.  Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, cornstarch and spices; beat well.  Pour into crust. Bake 55-60 minutes or until edge is set,but center still moves slightly. Remove from oven; top with toffee candy pieces.

For Topping:  Combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla in small bowl; mix well.  Spread over warm cheesecake.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Remove side of springform pan.   Drizzle with caramel ice cream topping just before serving.  Refrigerate leftovers.

I decided on Cranberry Pecan Pie Bars for several reasons.  They make a small panful for those not wanting a large dessert, and they are so versatile.  The cranberries and orange peel cut the sweetness of the dish. For another variation, make them without the berries and orange peel - or substitute brown sugar for the white, add chocolate chips instead of the coconut or double the amounts to bake in a 9" X 13" pan, for several minutes longer. I also sprinkled a few extra chopped pecans to the top before baking.  Make them according to your family’s favorite tastes.


1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. cold butter


3 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries,chopped
1/2 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1-1/2 tsp. grated orange peel

In a large bowl, combine the flour, pecans, brown sugar and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly.  Press into a greased 9-inch square baking dish. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla, and flour.  Fold in the cranberries, coconut, pecans and orange peel.  Pour over crust.  Bake 25-30 minutes longer or until set.  Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Yield:12-15 servings.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Oh yum!...this is a favorite recipe!  I don't remember where I got it, but it's probably another one that I came across, and just had to try!

 It's been published in the  (drum roll please)...

American Profile "Hometown Recipes for the Holidays" cookbook -

right across the page from my Poppyseed Bread recipe too. *-*  Pretty doggone exciting!

I think the cloves and the chocolate are an excellent combination.  The bread can be made ahead and frozen to help you get ready for Christmas, if you don't have time to make it for Thanksgiving!


1 cup packed (dark) brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

3 eggs

1 - 15 oz. can pumpkin

1/2 cup milk or water

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

2-1/3 cup all purpose flour

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 5 - 6 " X 3" mini loaf pans, or 3 medium ones.  Combine the sugars, butter and eggs in a large bowl.  Using a mixer at medium-high speed, beat until creamy.  Add the pumpkin, milk, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves and beat at low speed until smooth.  Stir in the flour just until blended.  Fold in the chips.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake 35 - 40 minutes (A little longer if using bigger pans) or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.  Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

(I don't like dry bread either, so I usually begin checking it 10 minutes before time is up)

Hint - I don't normally have dark brown sugar, but you can use light brown, and just add 1 Tb. of molasses to substitute for the dark brown.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spicy Pumpkin Pancakes

I love to get pumpkin pancakes when eating out during this season of the year, so I was tickled to find this recipe to satisfy my craving at home. Hope you enjoy every bite!

pumpkin pancakes


1 cup all purpose flour
3 Tb. brown sugar (lt. or dk.)
2 Tb. baking powder
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
4 tsp. margarine, melted
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (or solid pack pumpkin)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice into a large mixing bowl; set aside. Separate eggs. Stiffly beat the egg whites. Combine, in a separate bowl - milk, margarine, slightly beaten egg yolks, pumpkin and vanilla.  Add to sifted dry ingredients.  Stir, by hand with a spoon, only to combine and moisten dry ingredients.  Fold egg whites into mixture, but do not try to incorporate completely. Heat griddle to 380 degrees.  Grease griddle as needed and cook pancakes according to preferred size.  Turn when bubbles appear on top and begin to dry. Turn only once and complete the cooking process. Serve with warm maple syrup or powdered sugar.

A friend just shared this creation with me so I'm passing it along. I haven't tried it yet, but I trust her recommendation...


3 cups Aunt Jemima pancake mix
1 Tb. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 Tb. brown sugar 
1 cup pumpkin
chopped pecans

Mix dry ingredients together, then in a separate bowl, blend pumpkin with 1/2 cup water before stirring into pancake mixture. Add more water until it reaches the right consistency for pancakes. Before flipping pancakes to other side, sprinkle with chopped pecans. Serve with warmed maple syrup.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yum-Pum-Pum Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting

I prefer crispy cookies, but these are my all time favorite soft cookie. Very easy to make and oh-so yummy! Try ''ll like 'em. 

Top them with browned butter frosting???  Yes please!

pumpkin cookies

1 cup shortening (Crisco)

1 cup white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream together shortening and sugar; add pumpkin and beaten egg.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes. Frost when cool.

Browned Butter Frosting:

Heat 1/2 cup butter until golden brown.  Stir in 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Stir in 2 - 4 Tbs. hot water until spreading consistency.

These are great with cream cheese frosting also.

Linked to Eat at Home Ingredient Spotlight
       Gooseberry Patch Roundup
Recipe of the Week
     Ingredient Spotlight - Pumpkin

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Make Ahead Meals With Taco Meat


I know some of you women are working outside the home, and it always feels good when you can get a few things done ahead for dinner. This is one of those ideas that can help you prepare some simple-to-throw-together meals.


2 - 2/1-2 # ground beef
1 - 2 pkg. taco seasoning, according to taste
1/3 cup water

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef.  Break up the larger pieces with your wooden spoon and stir occasionally until no longer pink.  Drain - place back in skillet and stir in the seasoning.  Add the water and let it simmer a few minutes until liquid has evaporated.

When meat has cooled, place it in a container and refrigerate, or divide into 2 or 3 labeled freezer bags for use later. It can be frozen up to 3 months.  When ready to use - defrost in the microwave and heat through for a quick meal.


10-12 flour tortillas (taco size)
1 tomato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
lettuce, shredded
cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ozs. sour cream
To make the tortillas more pliable, place the stack of tortillas between damp paper towels and place in the microwave for 10 - 20 seconds on high.  Fill each tortilla with meat mixture and your favorite toppings.

(I love tacos with a crunch, and love to use the hard shell inside the soft shell, for easier eating).


1 head of lettuce, torn into pieces
5 plum tomatoes, diced
8 ozs. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 - 12 oz. bag nacho cheese or taco Doritos, crumbled
Catalina dressing
Prepare tomatoes, lettuce and cheese a day ahead. (Don't use a knife to cut the lettuce - the edges will turn brown). Cover and store in refrigerator.  You may heat the meat a little, but not too much, because it will wilt the lettuce if added to the salad when it's hot. Yield 8 - 10 servings

I recommend keeping everything separate - once you mix the tomatoes, lettuce, cheese & chips together, the leftover salad does not keep well.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Clearance & Bargains & Sales - OH MY!

16 savings
I just LOVE my sales and bargains - one of my biggest 'kicks' in having to spend $$. (Or is it having $$ to spend?=) Just wanted to share some extra special things God has blessed me with recently. 

I shop at my local grocery store weekly, and buy mostly sale items and stock up that way.  They have recently begun printing out, not only coupon savings, but the savings on sale items as well, so I've really been thrilled over my savings.

This is what they've looked like the last couple of weeks....

I paid out $19.23 & saved $12.20.

Last week I paid out $19.63 and saved $16.13!


I had a 'mental health' day last week and got to spend the day away with a dear friend.  We shopped til we dropped and got lots of great deals then too.

I love Kohl's stores - their clearance racks are sensational!  Since neither of us had a coupon to take in with us, I decided to open a charge account, because they were giving 15% off when you do.  I did all my shopping at the clearance racks - plus the new cashier 'accidently' gave me a double discount...another 15% senior discount.  (Only to be told AFTER she rang me up, that they don't double discount...but since she had already given them both to me...well, OK. -Thank you Lord!) 

My receipt says I spent $66 & saved $255!  IT DOESN'T GET TOO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT NOW DOES IT???

kohls receipt

I praise the Lord for all the smiles & sunshine He sends my way - these last couple of weeks have been very trying for me, so these special deals are very meaningful and uplifting. No doubt - heavenly gifts to me at this time in my life.

TRYING to keep a Tidy Home


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Funny how it works isn't it?  The plumber's home needs plumbing repair...the mechanic  drives a broken down vehicle, and the housecleaner's home (certainly mine!) needs a good cleaning too.  I like having shortcuts and time savers to be able to clean, and wanted to share a few with you. Even if you try to add one new idea, you'll be better for it.

If at all possible try to spend 10 - 15 minutes first thing in the morning, tackling a specific task/chore. Wash up the sinkful of the vacuum...sort the laundry - whatever you can find time for, and homemaking won't seem so burdensome later in the day.

Every day, choose one task: a paper-covered desktop, a messy drawer, a disheveled closet. Now set your timer for 10 minutes and sort, toss and organize until the buzzer sounds.The goal isn't to finish the job in one session but to chip away at it in short, focused bursts known as "power organizing." Once you learn that, it won't be long before you notice dramatic results.

I have never ever liked going to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.  It always seemed to affect my attitude first thing in the morning to face them, so I try to make that a habit so I can enjoy my morning coffee with ease.

I love the handy window cleaning wipes - I refresh my kitchen window often, so I don't have to keep looking at the world outside through drips, and bathroom mirrors using the same one.  They are great for tackling smudges, and don't leave streaks.   Put on some jazzy music and enlist your kids to help and they'll love cleaning too - the next hint is inviting for kids also.

If you don't have a hand swiffer - please invest in one.  They are so nifty for cleaning spots you can't reach with a rag, and make dusting fun - really!  Try it - you just might like it!  The long handled ones are wonderful for reaching vents up high - and mopboards down low.  You just toss the dirty one and get another - it's something no home should be without.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Better Baker - Leader Enterprise - November 2009 - Being Thankful

It’s that time of year when we stop and think about our abundant blessings and spend more time pondering our ‘attitude of gratitude’.People who are grateful are happy people.Learning to be thankful reduces stress and helps you to be less susceptible to illness.

Robert Louis Stevenson once stated,”The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life.” Have you stopped to count your many blessings today?

Think of some reasons to be thankful.If the only prayer you said your whole life was ‘thank you’ it would suffice. We often take for granted the very things that deserve our most gratitude.

I’m hitting the big “6-0” this week and I’m excited about it.I am in agreement with Mark Twain,who once said “Age is an issue of mind over matter.If you don’t mind,it doesn’t matter”.We can’t avoid birthdays,but they’re much better than the only other alternative.I’m planning a trip to the Caribbean in February and I’m taking along 4 girlfriends to enjoy a belated celebration.(After serving 3 tours in Vietnam,my hubby refuses to leave the good ole USA.)

I think we all need that special something to hope for.I recently read about an idea that we should use up each day,fill it to overflowing with good,and deliberately set out to enjoy life. It’s kinda like being inspired to have a ‘twinkle in our wrinkle.’ . Abraham Lincoln once said “It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”

Our family is extra grateful this year for the many folks who have encouraged us along life’s journey with our grandson,Caden,who has leukemia.And we are still surprised by sweet gestures of care.The new Four Seasons Restaurant at Exit 2 will be open and serving holiday dinners on Thanksgiving Day,with all proceeds going to Caden and his family.It certainly makes us feel blessed beyond measure.

I’m excited to share some yummy recipes for you to try.

This pumpkin dip is easy to make and keeps well up to 2 weeks.It’s great for dipping gingersnaps,graham crackers or apple slices in.You can use reduced fat,or even fat free cream cheese,but I suggest not using fat free when you’re baking. It contains more water than regular,and you may end up with a runny or ruined dish.It shouldn’t be beaten well either-I suggest using a whisk when using ff cream cheese.


1-8 ozs. Pkg. Cream cheese,softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1-15 ozs.Can solid pack pumpkin

1 Tb.Ground cinnamon

1 Tb.Pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp.Frozen orange juice concentrate,thawed

In medium bowl, blend cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.Gradually mix in the pumpkin.Stir in the cinnamon,pumpkin pie spice and orange juice concentrate until smooth and well blended.Allow to blend atleast an hour before serving.

This is a favorite cranberry salad that I’ve been making for several years.The topping is optional.It’s delicious without,but adds a special and yummy touch.I use sugar free jello.


2-4-serving boxes cherry jello

2 cups boiling water

1-15 ozs. Can whole cranberry sauce

½ (one half) cup crushed pineapple, drained

½ cup finely chopped celery

½ cup chopped nuts

Dissolve jello in hot water,add cranberry sauce and stir until mixed well.Cool to room temperature before adding pineapple,celery and nuts.Pour into a 2-qt.oblong dish-chill until set;cut into squares to serve.

Topping:(optional)Combine 1-8 ozs. Block of cream cheese,softened,with 2 Tb. Mayonnaise.Blend in remaining pineapple juice and spread over top after the jello is set. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.

Since my SugarFull hubby eats SugarFree, I’m sharing this delicious recipe that I make for him all year long, and always for the holidays.

Crustless Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie

1-15 ozs. Can solid pumpkin

1-12 ozs. Can evaporated skim milk

2 eggs (or equivalent in egg substitute)

2 egg whites

1 cup Splenda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp.allspice

1/4 tsp.ginger

1/8 tsp.Salt

½ cup(reduced-fat)graham cracker crumbs

Lite Whipped topping

In a mixing bowl,combine the pumpkin,milk,eggs,egg whites,and sweetener;beat until smooth.Add the spices and salt;beat until well mixed.Stir in graham cracker crumbs. Pour into a 9-in. Pie plate that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray.Bake at 325 for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.Cool.If desired,garnish with a dollop of whipped topping and sprinkling of cinnamon.Store in the refrigerator.Yield:8 servings-116 calories each(without topping).

Did you know you can bake squash whole in the microwave?It’s the only way I prepare it.Wash it,poke a knife in it several times to let the steam escape,place it on a microwavable plate and set the timer for about 10 minutes.Depending on the size of your squash,it can take up to 10-15 more minutes,but check it every 3 or 4 minutes.I let it stand for about 10 minutes to finish cooking through,then cut it open and let cool.Scoop out the seeds,and scrape out the pulp.It mashes easily-this is much easier than trying to peel it.

You can find my ‘famous’ Butternut Squash Bake recipe online at www.americanprofile/recipes-type in the name of the recipe at the search engine and you’ll have it.For more pumpkin recipes-my blog is

Enjoy a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving season.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Laundry Day Hints and Helps

Keep your budget out of hot water with these economical laundry tips.

*Save $$ on your heating bill - unless labels specify otherwise, wash your loads on the cold cycle.

*Dry your loads back to back so the dryer doesn't have to cool down between cycles. And make sure to clean your lint filter between loads to keep your dryer working as efficiently as possible.

*I always use half to three-quarters of the recommended amount of detergent. To save more money, you can cut dryer sheets in half.

*Lightweight sheets need far less time in the dryer than heavy towels, so grouping similarly weighted items will cut down on dryer time.


Does your washer have an odor in the tub?

Washer odors are usually caused by leaving the washer lid closed when not in use.  (Who doesn't do that??) This doesn't allow air to circulate and dry out the moisture remaining in the tub area.  The air/moisture mixture become stagnant and creates an odor....not one you care to sniff!

To get rid of odors inside the washer follow these steps:

1. Fill the washer with hot water; set at regular speed and the longest wash cycle.

2. Add 1 cup vinegar or baking soda and allow the washer to complete an entire wash and rinse cycle. (When I do this, I like to wash off the top of the tub (with the water from inside the tub)...where fabric softener/laundry soap has accumulated.

3. Allow the washer to dry out - if odor lingers, repeat process.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

OHMYGOODNESS Cheese Blintzes

I've had the recipe for years in my files, but had never made them until recently.  I had to add the adjective to their name, as they are sooo yummy!!  Pretty easy too, but my suggestion is that you keep a sink or bowlful of soapy water nearby...not only are they a little messy to make, I found myself licking my fingers a lot too.  *-*  They make a great appetizer or snack anytime.


cheese blintzes
12 ozs. block cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 loaf sliced white bread
1-1/2 cups melted butter
1 cup sugar mixed with 1 Tb. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Mix cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and lemon juice until smooth.  Cut crust off each slice of bread and roll flat with a rolling pin.  Spread with cream cheese mixture and roll up into spiral, then cut in half....or leave whole.  Dip in butter, then in cinnamon/sugar mixture and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 15 minutes (or longer if you place them close together).  After they're cooled, they can be frozen or chilled and reheated in the oven or microwave.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Are you a Coupon-er?

google coupon
I have always enjoyed grocery shopping.  I know that's not the case for everyone, but part of the reason I find it 'fun', is because I make the most of couponing, and so I thought I'd share a few ideas and thoughts to help get you get the most for your money.

The best deal I ever had was when I once paid $39 for $63 worth of groceries. But I've heard of women who regularly save as much as 80% of their cost!!

  • Scour your newspapers and magazines weekly.  Sunday newspapers are a treasure when you are able to use many coupons and store circulars with info on sales.

  • I try to stock up on my most-used items when they're on sale.  Many stores allow you - as mine does - to use a store coupon along with a manufacturer's coupon.  And if your store doubles or even triples the coupon, you can go home with free items. WOW! Ex: my grocery store once had a holiday coupon deal - Buy one 5# bag of flour, get 3 free.  That in and of itself is a real deal, but I had a 25 cents off coupon for the flour, that was doubled, and so I ended up paying 49 cents for 20# of flour!!

  • There are some great websites where you can print coupons.  Check out or that can help you save even more.

  • Enlist your kids to help.  Joe Daugirdas of Willoughby Hills, Ohio blogs on his site - and teaches classes at a community college on how to save money.  He suggests having your kids clip coupons and then match them to your shopping list.

  • A fun 'trick' I have learned, is that if I really like a product, I can call their 1-800 number and rave to them.  More often than not, they will send a coupon or two to me, just for taking the time to contact them. I've received a number of FREE coupons!

  • My daughter, Deb, recently had a post about couponing, that I'd like to share here too... check it out...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tips for Simplifying Meal Planning

I always enjoyed planning meals when my kids were growing up, but I think it had to come to me more naturally than for some.
I have tried many new recipes, and still do, and my family probably wished I would have served some things more often.  I would love to share some ideas to help those who tend to have a hard time creating menus for their family.

  • Post your weekly menu on the refrigerator door. You don't have to stick to it, but at least you'll have some ideas to choose from when you're hungry for a certain taste.  If you have teenagers or younger trustworthy kids, maybe they could help by preparing a dish, or even preparing an item for dinnertime, like mixing/making muffins from a mix.

  • Set your own family traditions - have pasta on Wednesdays or grill burgers every Friday.  We love having breakfast for dinner, on Sunday evenings.

  • Come up with 3 or 4 weekly menus and rotate them. Keep them simple and learn to substitute fresh veggies and fruit when they are in season.  To make things easier, plan a week's menu using the same cookbook.

  • Cook a double portion and freeze for a quick meal on a busy night.  This website has awesome ideas to help get you going with this great plan... Freezer Cooking

  • Don't be afraid to try new recipes. Ask a friend who you know is a good cook, to share some of their recipes and menu ideas with you. I have to admit...I try many more dishes, because I've been given the recipe by someone I trust. They have helped me 'blossom' and grow in the kitchen - literally (teehee).

  • I've recently become acquainted online with a new cookbook author, Jane Doiron.  I'm thrilled that she sent me a copy of her new cookbook to review. Check out her website Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms . You can subscribe to her monthly newsletter there and have a recipe sent to your inbox along with it.

If you need some help finding forms to accomplish your meal planning, be sure to check out or Organizing Junkie!
Whether you are someone who relishes your time in the kitchen or spends as little time cooking as possible, just remember that family bonds and memories are made around the dinner table.   Your kids won't remember the meals they were served, nearly as much as they will remember the precious times you spent together.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Signs that make you Smile

Humor is always good for the body, and the soul.  Hope you enjoy these as much as I do....


"Bargain Basement Upstairs"



“Time wounds all heels”



“Yesterday’s Meals on Wheels”


(My personal favorite!)


“To expedite your visit please back in”



“Don’t sleep with a drip. Call your plumber”



“Invite us to your next blowout”



“We don’t charge an arm and a leg. We want tows”



"Toilet out of order - please use floor below"



"Automatic washing machines: Please remove all your clothes when the light goes out"



"Elephants please stay in your car"


Monday, October 5, 2009

Chocolate Eclair Cake (Make Ahead)

choc eclair cake
We've always called this a cake, though it's a simple, no-bake, delicious dessert.

Try'll like it.

(I use sugar free pudding and 50% reduced-sugar frosting, and serve it to company.  No one knows unless I tell them - the only real difference is that using sugar free makes the pudding softer set...frosting doesn't set up as much either, but it's still delicious)


3 cups cold milk
2 small pkgs. instant french vanilla pudding mix
1 - 8 ozs. frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 pkg. (14.4 ozs) graham crackers
1 - 16 ozs. can chocolate frosting

In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mixes for 2 minutes.  Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set.  Fold in whipped topping.  In a 9" X 13" X 2" dish, layer a third of the graham crackers and half of the pudding mixture.  Repeat layers.  Top with remaining graham crackers.  Refrigerate for atleast 1 hour.

Spoon frosting (I rarely use all of it) into a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover and microwave on high for 15 - 20 seconds or until softened, stirring once.  Spread over graham crackers.  Chill 12-24 hours before serving.

Yield: 15 - 18 servings

For a flavor change - use one pkg. of pistachio pudding, in place of one vanilla. This makes a lovely presentation!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

God's Incredible Pharmacy

 This is such awesome info! God knows how much I'm a visual person, and need to have these kinds of 'visuals' to help me eat healthier...

It's been said that God first separated the salt water from the fresh, made dry land, planted a garden, made animals and fish... All before making a human. He made and provided what we'd need before we were born. These are best & more powerful when eaten raw. We're such slow learners...

God left us a great clue as to what foods help what part of our body!

God's Pharmacy! Amazing!

carrot sliceA sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye... And YES, science now shows carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

tomato chamberA Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All of the research shows tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and are indeed pure heart and blood food.

grape clusterGrapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

walnut halvesA Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex. We now know walnuts help develop more than three (3) dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

 Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.kidney beans

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and many more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, thus making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.celery

avocadoAvocadoes, Eggplant and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? It takes exactly nine (9) months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).

figsFigs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm as well to overcome male sterility.

sweet tatersSweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries.olives

orangesOranges, Grapefruits, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Onions look like the body's cells. Today's research shows onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. A working companion, Garlic, also helps eliminate waste materials and dangerous free radicals from the body.onions