How to Stretch a Meal When Extra Company Comes

How To Stretch a Meal When Extra Company Comes 2

Matt only knew my paternal grandmother for a few years before she died.  One of his favorite memories of her is the response she gave after being told that extra people were coming to join us for a meal.  “Great!  I’ll just add more water to the soup,” she said with a chuckle.  Seeing as we weren’t having soup that day, he then watched in amazement as she “added water” to stretch the meal she had prepared.

Grandma seemed to make more food appear out of no where, and in record time, too.  The table was soon filled with all varieties of goodness.  The little bowls of this and the small dishes of that didn’t look like they would feed the number of people we were anticipating.  But sure enough, just like the loaves and the fish, Grandma had enough to fill us all with twelve (give or take) baskets left over.

What was Grandma’s secret?  Well, she just always had a good supply of food on hand.  And not just frozen meat that would take hours of time to thaw and prepare.  I’m talking about home-canned fruits and vegetables, homemade bread and cookies – food that she could pull out and feed people in a moment’s notice.

This Sunday, I was blessed with the opportunity to “add water to my soup.”  We already had plans for another family of 6 to join us for lunch after church.  Their 6 plus our 6 would equal 12.  (Thank you, Laura, for stating the obvious.)  I was making a roast, carrots, potatoes, and gravy.  My friend was bringing rolls.  It would be a simple, nothing-fancy, but tasty meal.

Then, at the last minute, a friend of my brother’s family needed a meet-up place here in Nebraska.  The friend would come here, my brother’s family would drive up from Kansas and pick him up, and guess what?  They’d make it in time for church.  Bliss!  I got to worship with my brother and his family of 6 and feed them all afterward!

So let’s see here.  Six plus six is twelve, plus six more - that’s 18.  Then there was my brother’s friend who was meeting us by lunchtime.  Did I mention he was a 6’8″ college athlete?  And last but not least, a friend of Elias’ needed a place to hang out after church while his family headed out of town.  That made a total of 20 people.  Super fun.

Thankfully, I had decided to make two roasts instead of just one - just in case.  I had loaded the roasting pan with potatoes and carrots.  I caught my friend (the one already planning to come over with her family) between class and worship, filled her in on the crazy, and asked her to pick up extra rolls – plus maybe a bucket of ice cream?  She was happy to help stretch our meal.

Once I got home after church and started making gravy, I also started a big pot of green beans and another big pot of corn.  Our simple meal remained simple, yet because there were so many different foods to choose from (roast, potatoes, carrots, gravy, rolls, green beans, corn, ice cream), it looked like a feast.  We had plenty to go around and even a little bit left over.  Phew!

All of that to say, when it comes to hospitality and being able to say, “The more the merrier!” always try to have a few key foods on hand to help stretch your meal.  Here are a few items I’ve thought of that you might have on hand to pull out and serve quickly, or that you can grab at the store if you have time/accessibility:

  • Frozen food that cooks quickly like green beans, peas, or corn
  • Applesauce
  • Canned peaches, pears, or mandarin oranges
  • A jar of pickles
  • A can of olives
  • Quick breads or muffins you might have in your freezer
  • Fresh fruit like strawberries, sliced apples, oranges, or grapes
  • A fruit salad, mixing several different fruits you have on hand
  • Canned or fresh pineapple poured into a nest of cottage cheese
  • Raw veggies like carrots sticks, celery, sweet peppers, or cucumber slices
  • Crackers and sliced cheese
  • Tossed salad
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Chips and salsa
  • Dessert such as cookies or ice cream

If you’re opening a can or jar, I suggest pouring its contents into a nice serving bowl to make your “spread” look tasty and welcoming for your guests.  Did you grab a bag of prepared salad on the fly?  Pour it into a bowl and throw in some grape tomatoes to make it pretty.

Don’t hesitate to ask your guests to pick something up at the store on their way to your house (especially if they offer or ask what they can bring).  Most of the foods on the list above take little to no prep time, but will stretch your meal and offer your guests a delicious variety.

What would you add to this list?  What have you found works well to stretch a meal to feed extra people?

So, You Don’t Like to Cook?

I don’t understand how it can possibly be true, but from what I hear, some of you don’t get a “high” out of pulling out ingredients and stirring together dishes of deliciousness.  When you see a new recipe - you don’t get giddy?  How can it be?

It seems that instead, some of you very much enjoy mixing chemicals in beakers, changing the oil in a car, running marathons, writing software, organizing closets, crafting adorable items out of old window frames, decorating living rooms, taking pictures, or making quilts.  I’m neither good at any of those, nor do I enjoy them - which is likely because I’m not good at them.  Every time I try to run, I am then unable to walk for several days afterward.  For me, quilting takes three million years of cross-eyed sewing and ripping out mistakes.  And last week – someone handed me a camera with lots of cool lenses and I completely panicked because it wasn’t a simple point-and-shoot.  They all stood there saying cheese, and I was like, what do I do? what do I do?

But put me in my kitchen, and I’m completely at ease.  Ingredients of all kinds give me joy.  (Well, not ingredients like margarine.  But, you know what I mean, right?)  Creating new recipes is one of my favorite hobbies.  Making four dishes at one time is therapeutic for me.

Heavenly Homemaker's Messy Kitchen

Ah yes, we all have different talents, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and interests.  God did that on purpose.  It’s a good thing.  Seriously, if it were all up to me, all living rooms would be painted white, NASA wouldn’t exist,  and there would be no party games.

While I can call in for back-up when picking paint colors, unfortunately, there’s not much of a way those of you who don’t enjoy cooking can avoid the kitchen.  After all, we all need to eat three times each day.  I’ll even admit that while I love cooking, sometimes even I don’t feel like going to all the trouble to once again feed the forever hungry people in my house.

So to all of you who do not enjoy cooking, or who might be experiencing some kitchen burn-out, I have a few suggestions:

1.  Don’t make it hard.

Is it possible that you don’t like cooking because the recipes you try are complex and challenging?  I believe one of the reasons I love cooking is that I always stick with very simple recipes.  Basic ingredients.  Tasty food.  The end.  I’ll leave recipes which require fourteen complicated steps to gourmet chefs.  As for me, I’ll stick with simple prep, real food, and family friendly meals.

2.  Don’t give up.

I promise that cooking gets easier the more you do it.  Make just a few recipes over and over, then slowly add in a few more as you become comfortable.  Don’t overwhelm yourself, feeling like you have to put loads of work into this.  Make a simple main dish, toss a salad, steam a veggie…and you’re done.

3.  Make the most of your kitchen time.

If you don’t enjoy cooking, do everything possible to save yourself effort.  If you’re making one casserole, make three (eat one, freeze two).  Brown several pounds of hamburger at once, freezing one pound portions so you just have to pull out cooked meat to stir into sauce or make into tacos.  Check out more of my Eat Healthy, Save Time Tips.

————————————–

I would say that about 95% of the recipes you’ll find here on my site are very quick to put together.  (Homemade Twinkies are the bomb, but who really has time to bake little cakes, and then pipe filling inside except for the rare special treat?)

Here are some of my favorite, super fast and easy recipes to throw together:

Really, the list could continue – just click through all my recipe links in my Recipe drop-down tool bar at the top of my site.  And don’t forget to make use of the new Heavenly Homemaker’s Recipe Search By Ingredient Box, located at the top of my right-hand side bar.  It can take the thinking out of “what should I make?”

Don’t like to cook?  No problem.  I’ll do everything I can to make this healthy eating journey easier for you!

Let’s get an idea of how many of you love cooking, or dislike cooking.  Share in the comments section!  Those of you who don’t like cooking – what other activities do you enjoy?  :)

Delicious Candy You Can Make Yourself (with healthier ingredients)

As you all know, I don’t mind the occasional healthy food compromise, especially on special occasions.  Christmas qualifies as one of the most special occasions of all, doncha think?  But when I turn over a package and see that the yummy contents therein contain hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup – I just can’t do it.  (I know, I know.  It’s best not to even read the label.  Wait.  What?)

What I love is trying to re-create some our favorite treats so that we can have our Christmas candy and eat it too.  These treats are best shared and in moderation though, because they are full of sugar!  (I know, I know.  It’s best not to even think about how much sugar is in them.  Wait.  What?)

Here are some goodies I make every once in a while for a very special treat:

Homemade Peppermint Patties

These call for none other than mashed potatoes.  Weird, but true.  And they also have tons of powdered sugar in them.  Better than high fructose corn syrup, but wowza.  You’ll be amazed at how much these taste like the “real thing.”

Peppermint Patties 2

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

This is my husband’s favorite.  It’s super fun to make these for him every once in a while.  We think they taste better than the packaged variety.  It’s amazing how good peanut butter tastes when it’s only made with peanuts.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Chocolate Caramel Cups

These are ooey-gooey messy.  But having a drop of caramel resting on one’s chin never hurt anyone.

Chocolate Caramel Cups

Peanut Butter Truffles and Chocolate Caramel Truffles

Making these truffles is easier than you would think.  And the result?  Amazing.

Delicious Homemade Truffles

Peanut Butter Honey Fudge

This is the easiest fudge you’ll ever make.  It contains only three ingredients – peanut butter, honey, and chocolate chips.  So good!

Peanut Butter Honey Fudge

What’s your favorite Christmas candy?  Ever tried making your own?

More Christmas Memories – Making Peppernuts

It seems like all week long, I’ve been traveling back in time to the days I was a little girl during the Christmas season.  Listening to the Muppets Christmas CD has been such a fun blessing as I remember special Christmas traditions with my mom.  And now, I’m thinking about my grandma.  Why?  Because every year she made oodles of little Peppernuts that we would munch on.

What are Peppernuts?  Some of you likely eat them each year just like I did growing up.  If not, allow me to introduce you to the best little cookies in the world:

Peppernuts

These cookies are a little bit time consuming to make, but they make a large quantity for you to enjoy.  They are also wonderful to package up in baggies to deliver to others.

Tell me if you’ve had Peppernuts before!  And be sure to check out the recipe here.

The Tale of the Huge Turkey

I decided this year to order the biggest bird I could find.  It made sense.  The local farmer I was purchasing from offered all free-range turkeys over 18 pounds at a flat rate.  I told him I would take one of their biggest, and on delivery day, the hugest turkey I’d ever seen showed up on our porch.

This week, in preparation for our big Thanksgiving feast, I thawed Mr. Turkey so that I could get him baked and deboned.  (Here’s my easy method for preparing the turkey ahead of time and re-warming it on Thanksgiving day.)  All was well until I got out my big roasting pan.

huge turkey 1

Uh-huh.  I could actually hear the turkey laughing out loud at the very idea of me trying to bake him in what now appeared to be a very tiny pan.

No problem, I thought.  I’ll just get out my large roaster oven.  Surely that would be plenty big enough.

huge turkey 2

At least the turkey fit inside.  But no way, no how was that lid going on.  And a lidless roasting pan would not bake a turkey.  Okay then.  Plan C?

Hmmm, Plan C.  Plan C.  I had not foreseen the need for a Plan C.  As I stared at the huge bird (who by now was rolling his eyes, shrugging his wings, and getting bored with the entire situation), I racked my brain for options.  Go to the store and fork out money for….yeah right.  Just a few days before the holiday?  What would my store even carry that would be big enough to bake this bird?

It occurred to me that maybe I could bake the turkey directly on the oven rack, with a pan underneath to catch the drippings.  I immediately recognized that this was a silly idea since I didn’t have a pan large enough in the first place, so all the drippings couldn’t be caught.  I could just envision a dried out turkey with lots of drippings crusted all over the bottom of my oven.  Not to mention the fact that when drippings drip in a hot oven, the coils can catch fire, smoke can fill a kitchen, smoke alarms can scream for way too long, houses can smell horrible, and Thanksgiving dinners can be ruined.

You realize all these thoughts went through my head in a time span of about 45 seconds?  Nonetheless, I was practically waving a tea towel in front of the smoke alarm just picturing the entire scene.

I moved on to Plan Q – which involved texting a friend.  I remembered that she had mentioned that she had an extra large aluminum pan at her house.  I don’t love baking in aluminum, and I doubted that such a pan existed that would fit my gigantic-sized turkey, but I figured it was worth a shot.  Within an hour, my friend arrived with two roasting pan options.  One pan was tiny – as in, it was made for normal sized turkeys.  But the other one?  Well, I could have leapt for joy.  That pan fit my turkey with several inches to spare!

huge turkey 3

As you can see, the turkey feels exposed, being photographed in all his glory.  He’s even blushing a slight pink.  Here – I’ll cover him:

huge turkey 4

And into the oven he went.  My friend saved the day.  The turkey turned out tasty.  And even though we’ll be feeding 15 people on Thanksgiving, I do believe we might have a bite or two of leftover turkey to enjoy in a sandwich this weekend.

Have you ever seen a turkey that big?  Do you have any fun Thanksgiving preparation stories to tell?

A Nourishing Way to Warm Up

warmvanillasoother2sm

Cold?  Hungry?  Need some energy?  I have the magic potion.  And there are three variations to the recipe!

Have you tried my Warm Vanilla Soother?  It’s the first of the three soothing drink recipes I concocted.  Drinking this is like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold day, and I always feel nourished and energized afterward.

Once I realized how wonderful the vanilla drink was, of course, I had to try making a chocolate variety.  Thus, the Warm Chocolate Soother was born.  It’s like drinking a brownie that is warm right out of the oven. (Be careful that you don’t trip on the kids while rushing to make this.  Yes, it’s that good.  But your kids might need dinner or a diaper change first.)

Last, I created a Warm Pumpkin Soother.  It’s a holiday party in a mug.  Ahhhhhh…..

So, let’s review.  Delicious, satisfying, warm, nourishing, filling, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.  Or pumpkin.  Or vanilla.  Take your pick.

Which is your favorite?

Warm_Pumpkin_Custard

Mom, I Think Your Yeast is Ready

Recently when I was making a batch of Honey Whole Wheat Bread, I mixed the yeast, water, and honey in a jar.  Then I walked away and got distracted by any number of activities that may have included helping to solve a math problem, answering a knock on the door, or switching a load of laundry.

In the back of my mind, I knew I was in the middle of baking bread, but it’s really amazing how time flies while yeast is activating in a jar.  One of my boys finally noticed the growing monster on our kitchen counter and announced with a grin, “Mom, I think your yeast is ready.”

yeast_activated

Oh yeah, ya think?  Sure enough, I do believe that mixture is alive and active and ready to be added to the rest of the bread ingredients.  As you can imagine, my bread dough rose really well that day.  I do believe I will forget I’m baking bread more often.

Mix and Match Oatmeal Bars

Whenever I say something to someone about one of my kids not liking something I make for a meal or snack, I get reactions like, “What?! Your kids are picky eaters?”  No, no.  I say.  All four of them shout, “YES!” and do a fist pump each time they look over and see what has been prepared for them to eat.  They give me a loving squeeze and pick me up off the floor (because three out of four of them can do that now), swing me around, and offer to do the dishes after we eat.  They eagerly dig into each prepared dish, helping themselves to seconds and thirds – no  matter what I have fixed.  I’m four-for-four on every single breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack item I prepare.

Bahahahaha….haha…ha

The truth is that if I ever happen to prepare a meal that all four boys like without making any adaptions, it’s an amazing feat.  They aren’t brats about it (usually), but shucks if two of my boys don’t even like corn.  One won’t eat peanut butter.  One hates bananas.  One likes just about anything…but he’s not a big fan of anything with pumpkin unless it’s pie.  One will only eat green beans if he has ketchup to dip them in.  Only one boy will eat a fresh tomato and it’s beyond me why one of my cute blondies won’t eat a sweet potato fry because it’s orange and you know, tastes a little funny.

Do I baby my kids when it comes to food?  Only in my spare time.  When one of my boys hesitates about the food I’ve made, I remind him that I have not made anything weird or gross to eat, that I’m not going to make anything else for this meal, that most of what I make they do like, and they are to be grateful for the wonderful variety of food we always have at our house.  They always have to eat some of what I make.  If it truly makes them gag, they are on their own to find something nutritious that is less disgusting to them.

Hey, I get it.  I don’t really love bananas either.  We all have different tastes and preferences.  But we don’t get to whine or complain, and we do need to be tough and thankful.  Why yes, I have given that lecture a few (hundred) times.

All that to say, last week I decided to make Raspberry Oatmeal Bars for breakfast.  When I mentioned my plan, one of my boys said, “Okay, but I like apricot jelly better than raspberry.” To which I replied, “And I like summer better than winter, what’s your point?”  Not really.  Although I do…like summer better.  But it occurred to me how easy (and tasty) it would be to make the oatmeal bars half and half.  Not always can I run with the taste preferences in my household, but for this?  Sure, why not?

Mix and Match Oatmeal Bars

I doubled this Raspberry Oatmeal Bar recipe.  I pressed the mixture into a 9×13 pan.  I spread apricot jelly on one half and raspberry jelly on the other half.  I sprinkled the oatmeal deliciousness on top, I baked the bars, and we all had a breakfast we loved.  All six of us.  Even the one who didn’t really think oatmeal bars sounded good that morning.  To which I answered, “This is what we’re having for breakfast.  And don’t forget to drink your milk.”

Next time, instead of making them half and half, I think I’ll make them like a checkerboard – each piece a different flavor.

Bahahahaha….haha…ha

In my spare time.

Does everyone in your house eat everything you make every time?

Cooking Whole Pumpkins

Pumpkin_Puree_Collage_2

My children have informed me that we should have pumpkin pie more often (why wait till Thanksgiving?!).  And pumpkin pancakes.  And pumpkin muffins (chocolate chip or cream cheese, take your pick).

And so, since I acquired another couple of pumpkins last week, I have them in the oven today so that I can be on top of my pumpkin game.  It’s not just the kids who want these treats.  There’s just something about rain, soggy leaves, and wind that make me want to bake pumpkin recipes.

I wanted to remind you about the post on my site detailing how to easily cook a whole pumpkin.  It’s the easiest way to make pumpkin puree – you won’t even chop off any of your fingers!!  Plus this method turns out a puree super delicious and perfect for all your pumpkin recipes.

So kids, pumpkin pie…coming up!

What’s your experience with making pumpkin puree?  Ever cooked a whole pumpkin before?  Do it!!

21 Healthy Fall Recipes

Feeling spicy?  As in – do you have plenty of cinnamon on hand?  You’ll need it after you look through all the recipes in this post.

While I think about food year-round and enjoy all the different flavors each different season brings, I have to say that there is something so exciting about Fall Recipes.  It must be the cinnamon, and the warm drinks, and the comfort that comes along with all of these flavors – not to mention the anticipation of upcoming holidays.

Today I compiled 21 of my favorite fall recipes.  If you don’t have pumpkins or apples around – you’ll need to go get some.  And I believe we already covered the need for cinnamon….

fall_recipe_collage_sm

1.  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

2.  Apple Pie with Whole Wheat Crust

3.  Warm Pumpkin Custard

4.  Pumpkin Pancakes

5.  Applesauce Bread

6.  Cinnamon Apple Toast

7.  Mini Apple Pies

8.  Sweet Potato Streusel Muffins

9.  Apple Crisp

10.  Cream Cheese Apple Dip

11.  Hot Caramel Sauce

12.  Peanut Butter Apple Cookie Bars

13.  Pumpkin Pie Pecan Squares

14.  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

15.  Pumpkin Pie with Whole Wheat Pie Crust

16.  Multi Grain Pumpkin Waffles and Pancakes

17.  Crock Pot Apple Butter

18.  Apple Pie Filling

19.  Apple Fruit Leather

In addition, you’ll definitely want to check out these tutorials:

20.  The Easiest Way to Make Homemade Applesauce

21.  How to Cook a Whole Pumpkin (To Make Pumpkin Puree)

Now your turn.  What are your favorite fall recipes?