Easy DIY Lemon Disposal Refreshers

This morning I was getting ready to participate in another freezer meal swap. We participated in our first a couple of months back and it was a good experience so we decided to try it again. Learn more about freezer swaps from our coordinators post on Dayton Moms Blog.

This will likely be the last one we participate in for a few months since between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have a plan to stock the freezer.

For the last freezer swap, I went with Six Sister’s Stuff’s Chicken Cacciatore with a good helping of fresh veggies mixed right in and jars of sauce and pasta were $1 or less (yay for coupons!). This time I picked One Crazy House’s Lemon Pepper Chicken and Rice recipe since it seems pretty straight forward and I like that the whole meal is in the crockpot – just start it and walk away for the day. Here’s hoping it all goes to plan.

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The recipe calls for lemon slices to top the chicken so after preparing 8 meals, I had a bit of lemon ends left over. Whenever we end up with citrus peels, we put them down the garbage disposal with some ice for a little bit of help cleaning up the blades and to freshen things up.  As I sliced the lemons I started thinking that it may be too much to put down at once right then but what a waste to toss the rest.

That’s when I thought to grab my trusty ice cube tray! I cut up the peels and ends into chunks and put 1-2 in each section of the trays and topped with water. Once they freeze, I’ll move them to a baggie and, whenever we need it, we’ll have some lemon peel and ice all in one to toss into the garbage disposal. All natural and no throwing scraps away – win, win!

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Looking for some crockpot and freezer meal “pinspiration”? Check out my recipes board to get you started.

 

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Garden Fresh

Tis the season for fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere you look. Farmer’s markets, u-pick, farm stands – we are trying to make the most of what is seasonally available. We are still working on the first batch of ice cream I made in my new ice cream maker, Blueberry Ice Cream, and I just put another batch of popsicles in the freezer, Watermelon Mint.

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I have two recent posts on Dayton Moms Blog that I wanted to share with you. While there is some information local to Dayton, Ohio in them, but the ideas translate to where ever you happen to live.

Farmer’s Market Fun for Kids

That’s My Jam: Making Homemade Freezer Jam

I recommend exploring your area’s farmer’s markets. If you are near Shelbyville or Bedford County in Tennessee, check out Bedford County Locally Grown Farmers Market. My sister-in-law is one of the masterminds behind it and it is unique in that it lets you pick exactly what you want from the participating growers. They offer everything from produce, to eggs, to bread, to handmade soaps and you make one stop to pick them all up once a week.

In the Garden

This year we scaled back what we are growing in the garden. We wanted to keep the girls interested in the growing and caring for plants but honestly didn’t know how dedicated we would be able to be to it this year. With all the rain, we haven’t had to water the garden and the flowers too often, but it is a chore the girls enjoy in addition to pulling weeds and just digging in the dirt, just because. Besides, it turns out we are awesome at growing leaves.

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We had a good run of spinach at the beginning of the season and the kale is about ready to start getting picked regularly. We tried broccoli but it didn’t really seem to take. It’s still in the garden in the hopes it attracts butterflies and the girls still pick the little buds and eat them right off the plant.

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The herbs are doing well, as usual. The mint is huge and I am happy we decided to put it in its own container last year because it was the first thing to take off running this year. We got new basil and rosemary plants and they are doing great. The surprise of the season has been the dill Kelsey grew from a seed at a program at our local parks system last year. It came back on its own this year and has been an interesting addition. Although, we still haven’t really figured out anything to do with it.

What’s in your garden this year?

Peach Recipe Round Up

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Oh, The Peach Truck. It was like going to pick peaches in Georgia without having to go pick peaches in Georgia. A half a bushel driven right to our fair city of Dayton (and maybe to a city near you). A knew a lot of peaches were coming my way, but I did not realize how many peaches it would be until I saw the box.

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Cue Pinterest search to figure out what to do with all of them. Apparently, a lot of other people were wondering the same about their The Peach Truck haul because I just had to laugh at all the references to it a came across in my search.

For starters, I knew we would be freezing a fair amount so here is how to peel a lot of peaches and how to freeze them as just plain peach slices, great for future recipes and tossed into smoothies.

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The Peach Truck does have a selection of recipes, but here are the ones we decided to try. Check out my Pinterest board for more ideas.

Peach German Pancake

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Baked Cinnamon Peaches

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Peach Mint Popsicles

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Dutch Oven Peach Dump Cake

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Peach Freezer Jam

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And, here’s one form the last time we a lot of peaches around: Spiked Peaches and Cream

Of course, between two little ones and a weekend camping trip, a fair amount were eaten straight from the box. Have a peachy day!

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Getting Ready for Summer Fun (DIY Popsicles and Magnetic Screen Door Review)

POPSICLE HEADER Summer is upon us! I don’t know about your children, but mine could be outside all day long if I let them. If we are home, we are likely outside riding bikes, playing with water, tending to the gardening, or creating sidewalk art with chalk or paints. When the girls play in the backyard, I can work in the kitchen or sit at the table and work on something. We often have the windows open, weather permitting, and I love the idea of having the door open to see and hear them and allowing them to come in and out, but hate the thought of bugs getting in. I had the opportunity to review this Mega Mesh Premium Magnetic Screen Door and it has lived up to its expectations. It took minutes to install with no tools. The door so easily my 4 year old, 1.5 year old and large dog figured it out quickly and it even closes itself. I like that the mesh is fine enough to keep even the smallest bugs out but I can still clearly see through it and it lets air and sunshine in. It even comes with a 12 month money back guarantee so that gives me confidence that it will hold up against my children and animals. I will say that I wish it was a little wider as I think I have an average door and it fit perfectly into the inside frame. I also would enjoy if it had magnets or some other weight along the bottom as my cat quickly figured out to slide out under it. mesh collage All that playing outside gets my girls wanting something cold to enjoy. If you aren’t making popsicles at home, you are missing out on one of the easiest and healthiest dessert and snack options around. Even in the winter, I’ll make them with leftover smoothie so they’ll be ready to enjoy. Molds come in all shapes and sizes but I personally like molds with a little drip catcher and straw like this Ice Pop Maker Mold Set. popsicle names

** Check out my Heroes of the City Prize Pack Giveaway (thru 6/18/15) to learn more about Heroes of the City videos and crafting shows on YouTube! **

My 4 year old is still stuck on the “winter” setting and after playing outside for a while one morning she asked for hot chocolate. I decided to come up with a Frozen Hot Chocolate popsicle instead. They have a very creamy texture but still has that “hot cocoa” taste to it. These are definitely a dessert, but so yummy!

  • Frozen Hot Chocolate
    • Stir 1 Tablespoon Hershey’s cocoa powder, 1/2 cup white sugar together on the stove. Add 1/4 cup milk, and bring to a boil over medium high heat until smooth.
    • Lower heat then stir in an individual container of vanilla yogurt, 1 packet of hot cocoa mix, and 1/2 cup of milk.
    • Once it is smooth, pour into into molds and freeze.

Did you buy a little too much produce? Did you make a little too much of that last smoothie or puree? Using a few other simple ingredients, you can turn them into a delicious snack that keeps you in control of the ingredients.

  • Watermelon Cucumber – This was the result of too much seedless watermelon and too little time to eat it. We also had a portion of a huge cucumber left. I blended these together with a splash of vanilla simple syrup and splash of lime juice.
  • Iced Coffee – We had half a pot of good coffee left over that I really didn’t want to just pour down the drain. Thankfully, I also had some empty molds so I stirred in some milk and homemade vanilla syrup and poured it straight into the molds. These will be a nice pick-me-up for my husband and I on a hot afternoon.
  • Strawberry Yogurt – We had some strawberries on hand and my daughter recently starting requesting strawberry yogurt. This was about 2 cups of cut strawberries, 1 individual container of strawberry Greek yogurt, and a splash of berry blend juice combined in the blender until smooth. Yogurt in a popsicle is a great way to get kids that don’t usually like yogurt to eat it without a fuss and gives your popsicle a creamy, instead of icy, texture.

The great thing is that you don’t have to get fancy or even exact with recipes. Check out how happy popsicles make this little girl! popsicle laugh Collage *I was provided with a free product through Tomoson in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Post contains affiliate links.

Turkey Day Pre-Planning (and Ribbon Turkey Bow)

Last year was the first year we thought about this and it worked out pretty well. We wanted to do a full on Thanksgiving Day meal but I was concerned that after a couple days of leftovers, we were going to end up with a bunch of it still in the fridge and then, eventually, in the trash.

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We went in to Turkey Day meal preparations with a plan for what to do with  the leftovers. It worked out really well. We had plenty for Thanksgiving, then the dishes below to either have the next week or put in the freezer, and we still had just enough to enjoy some reheated leftovers without getting sick of it.

Just add a few extra items to your shopping list ahead of time and then you can prepare some meals for the future during the long weekend.

Turkey Shepard’s Pie – My husband kind of “winged” it but if you need some instruction, this looks like a good one. Basically, we get a frozen deep dish pie crust, mix together and put in leftover turkey, either leftover vegetables or frozen mixed vegetables, and leftover gravy then top with mashed or sweet potatoes and bake.

Turkey Broccoli Rice CasseroleThis is one of my personal favorite freezer recipes. We usually half this recipe and get 2-3 meals out of it. You can get fresh or frozen broccoli and “cream of’s” pretty cheap leading up to Thanksgiving and then we use turkey instead of chicken. A couple weeks later, we aren’t sick of turkey anymore and this heats up pretty quickly for an easy dinner.

Think ahead for Christmas, too! We are making this cranberry sauce again and freezing half to save for Christmas dinner, as well.

You can also freeze leftover turkey. We ended up with some in the freezer and after Christmas we had lots of ham. I found this recipe and we used them to make Turkey Cordon Bleu Casserole. It sounds weird, but it was really good.

For Thanksgiving Day dinner this year, I am weirdly excited that we are planning on using herbs that we dried or a friend dried for us from our garden on the turkey and in the from scratch stuffing. I’ll be making bread in the bread machine for the stuffing and we are using the green beans we grew this summer in the garden. My husband is making Sweet Potato Casserole and Chocolate Chess Pie from scratch, too.

This year we are looking at doing Turkey Shepard’s Pie again and trying this recipe to make Turkey Rollups with leftovers. We are planning on doing Turkey Cordon Bleu Casserole again, too.

While you are planning for Thanksgiving, check out how to make this Ribbon Turkey Bow for the little girl in your life.

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Don’t forget to check out the giveaways going on right now! And, check out all the great ideas on Happy and Blessed Home for tons of ideas.

 

 

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First Time Strawberry Picking and Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins

We have been enjoying our first week of summer. I made the spur of the moment decision to join a playdate with a local mommy group for strawberry picking the other day and so glad I did. It was the first time I had finally made it to something with this group and it seems like a good group and they are always doing things so it will definitely be nice to do things with other people.

Even though we lived near Plant City, Florida, where LOTS of strawberries are grown, for three years, this was the first time Kelsey actually went strawberry picking and the first time in a long while for me. We had a nice time, with Aubrey playing on a blanket, the nice quiet with clear air, and Kelsey had a blast running up and down the rows, picking berries, and playing with the other children. I used to love doing u-pick with my father growing up so it’s fun to share something with my children.

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Kelsey proved to be pretty good at selecting berries and I certainly put her to work while I was feeding Aubrey. We ended up with about 5.5 pounds of fresh, sun-ripened strawberries. Aubrey pounced on them grabbing a few and squishing them and, of course, Kelsey and I had to sample a couple, too. They are melt in your mouth and sweet.

It was nice to show Kelsey the full circle of gardening since she has been great at helping care for our little garden at home. It was some work and we all got a little muddy, but at least the reward was a big bowl strawberries when we got home. I highly recommend doing a little u-picking this summer if you can. PickYourOwn.org is a great resource for finding locations near you.

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I wanted to do something tasty with some strawberries and eventually decided on trying to make something with oatmeal that would be a good snack or for breakfast. I was able to get Kelsey involved by letting her smash the strawberries, pour things in, and stir the bowls. These came out pretty tasty and got the Kelsey, and even the Aubrey, seal of approval! I started out with this recipe and made some changes.

The Troy Strawberry Festival is this weekend and encourages vendors to use strawberries in creative ways. My favorite from the last time we went is the Strawberry “Sweet Heat” Salsa that is made by The Future Begins Today, which helps students pursuing post-secondary education goals.

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Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins

  • 1-1/2 Cups oats quick or old fashioned, uncooked
  •  1-1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
  •  1-1/4 Teaspoons baking powder
  •  3/4 Teaspoon baking soda
  •  1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  1-1/2 Cups strawberries, mashed
  •  1/2 Cup fat-free milk
  •  1/2 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 -1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  2 Tablespoons greek yogurt
  • 1/2 banana, mashed
  • sugar to sprinkle on top, optional

Heat oven to 400°F. Line twelve medium muffin cups with paper baking cups or spray bottoms only with cooking spray.

Combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in large bowl; mix well. In a second large bowl, combine mashed strawberries, milk, brown sugar, vanilla extract, greek yogurt and mashed banana; blend well. Add to dry ingredients all at once; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not overmix.)

Fill muffin cups almost full. Sprinkle sugar on top, if desired. Bake 15 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool muffins in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pan.

 

Hawaiian Upside Down Deep Dish Pizza, a New Tra-Dish with Ragú

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Ragú challenged bloggers to put their own spin on one of their classic dishes and create, what they call, a New Tra-Dish. I decided to take on their Upside-Down Deep Dish Pizza Recipe and gave it a Hawaiian twist with chicken, ham and pineapple.

This is a good recipe for a weeknight since the ingredients can all be ready ahead of time. This recipe just takes a few minutes on the stovetop, a few more to assemble and, finally, 20 minutes in the oven. For the chicken, you can use prepared chicken breast strips, shred a store bought rotisserie chicken, or bake frozen chicken with your choice of spices for 50 minutes at 375 degrees, shred and put away until you are ready to make your upside-down pizza. Lastly, feel free to add any additional vegetables, like olives or peppers, that your family enjoys or substitute kale (rinse and tear leafy portions off of stems) for the spinach.

Start by heating the Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce in a skillet. Stir in the spinach and stir occasionally until it wilts down. Stir in the chicken. Pour the mixture into your dish.

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Top with ham and pineapple.

2014_03_17_5764Get a helper to spread the cheese out on top.

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Top with the pizza dough, sealing the edges. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then let stand for 10 minutes.

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Hawaiian Upside Down Deep Dish Pizza

Ingredients:
– 1 jar Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce
– 4 cups fresh spinach
– 2 cups shredded, baked chicken
– 1 small package (8 oz.) of cubed ham
– 1 small can of pineapple tidbits, drained
– 2 cups of mozzarella cheese
– 1 tube of refrigerated pizza dough

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Heat Pasta Sauce and bring to a simmer, stir in fresh spinach until it wilts down. Stir in shredded chicken. Pour mixture into 2-quart deep dish pie plate or baking dish.
  3. Top with ham and pineapple tidbits.
  4. Top with cheese.
  5. Place pizza dough over the dish, sealing edges tightly.
  6. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden. Let stand 10 minutes.

Each jar of Ragú® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce is made with 11 juicy tomatoes making it its richest, thickest recipe* and is a great addition to many dishes. Need a few other suggestions for the dinner table? Visit Facebook.com/RaguSauce for more easy and delicious Authentic Italian recipe ideas. Find more recipes on Pinterest with the hashtag #NewTraDish, on Twitter with @RaguSauce and hashtag #NewTraDish and Facebook tag @Ragu and hashtag #NewTraDish.

Enter the Ragú Sweepstakes for a chance to win great Authentic Italian themed prizes, including a grand prize trip to Italy for a family of four at www.RaguSweeps.com!

*versus our previous OWS formula

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