Wrapping Things Up…

In the midst of all of the holiday hoopla and Christmas shopping, I realized that there may be a load of practical gift cards that might be received far better than any piece of clothing or fancy kitchen gadget.  For students, especially those living in highly populated cities, transportation can be an issue.  Gift cards focused on shuttling a person from one destination to another might be much more appreciated versus a piece of clothing.  Train passes, Uber gift cards, bus passes, etc. are all good ideas.  Last year my sister in law gave my children transportation gift cards and they were used to shuttle them to the local grocery store, to the airport, and home from the local burger and brew joint.  (Each of my children are in college and over the age of 21.). They also received gift cards from the local drug store where they were able to by toiletries, milk, and basic groceries while on campus.  Another great idea for college students, gifts cards for sandwich shops and local eateries.  Many dorm cafeterias are closed on Sunday evenings so having a gift card for a local diner is always appreciated.

Be creative as you think of ways to “wrap” your gift cards.  Think of using beautiful paper scraps, college themed papers, Christmas wrap, or themed scrap book papers.  I recently purchased some high-end soap from a local discount store.  The soap was wrapped in a beautiful heavy weight paper that I just couldn’t throw away.  This gave me the idea to use the paper as a wrap for a small gift; hence, a gift wrap for the gift card.  Here’s what I did…

I found a template here. Or, Google various gift card envelope images for the shape you prefer.



I gathered an assortment of scrap paper, and the beautiful wrapping paper found on some milled soaps.

I printed the template and traced the outline on various scraps.I penciled in some fold lines.

I thought it might be nice to have a contrasting liner.Using a few paper punches, I fashioned a gift tag.



Use Christmas paper, shopping bags, newspaper… Whatever you like.This is an enjoyable way to personize and make personal, an ordinary, yet purposeful gift card.



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Dry Soup Mix in a Cone

A couple of weeks ago, our local woman’s club held a holiday craft-making session for all of its members.  During one of the sessions, I saw a group assembling a dry soup mix in a cone shaped bag.  The leader of the session had carefully measured out ingredients for all to use for their individual bags.  The layered mix looked colorful and interesting.  I complimented her on the clever idea of making such an inexpensive gift packaged in a compact and attractive cellophane bag.  Two days later, she left a couple of different soup packages on my desk while she visited my office.  She included a little note card explaining how each of the soup mixes should be cooked.  I was so appreciative of her gift.  What a kind gesture!

Naturally, I made a pot of soup when I returned home that evening. The Italian Curly Soup recipe made just the right amount and tasted delicious poured over a few mini-meatballs.  Warm and flavorful with a crisp green salad and some crusty bread…

I’d like to send a big shout out to my dear friend… Thank you for the delicious mixes.  Can’t wait to try the Wild Rice Soup recipe.  This is a great and inexpensive “anytime” gift to pass along to someone special in your life… A warm and wonderful gift from the kitchen.

I recently remade the soup  and I have posted a slightly different recipe below…

Italian Curly Soup In a Cone

Layer in a cake decorating disposable cone (or quart sized-jar) the following ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 T beef bouillon
  • 1/4 C minced dry onions
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 cups rotini or curly tri-colored pasta
6 cups water
1 jar of Curly Soup Mix
1 (14 oz) can crushed or diced tomatoes
 
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large soup pot. Add the Curly Soup Mix and can of tomatoes. Bring back to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 12-15 minutes or until pasta is tender. Tip: For a full meal pour over Italian sausage pieces or min-meatballs; sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with crisp salad and crusty bread.
 
 
 

How about a piping hot bowl of wild rice soup?   


Here’s another great soup in a jar recipe…

http://foodchannel.com/recipes/creamy-wild-rice-and-mushroom-soup-in-a-jar

 

Butternut Squash Salad in a Jar

I’m always looking for a “silver lining” when I’m inconvenienced or when things just don’t seem to be going my way.  Recently, I found that silver lining in a major road construction project that closed a through-fare  that I frequented on my daily jaunt back and forth to work.  Because of the construction, a detour took me down a winding country road that was quite scenic as the fall landscape was beautiful.  Tucked in among the oak trees and farm land sat a roadside farm stand that was bursting at the seams with an abundance of cool weather vegetables, plump ripe tomatoes, and an assortment of peppers.  The entire front yard displayed a sea of beautiful orange pumpkins where families strolled to pick out a few of their favorites.  I had my eyes on the butternut squash as I pulled my vehicle to the side of the road. Hand written prices were scrawled on a mini chalkboard that was propped up against the old wooden flat bed wagon. A tin can was laid out for patrons to square up their bill and honestly leave the amount due.  It was like a blast from the past.  I was thrilled to have found this quiet piece of paradise alongside the road construction and the hectic traffic of the day. 

Arriving home, I searched the web for a delicious looking recipe where I could use my butternut squash.  I stumbled on this salad in a jar recipe and immediately gathered the ingredients I would need for the colorful dish. I chose this recipe because of the maple syrup in the dressing.  We tapped our trees this past spring and I wanted to use our own maple syrup with the other dressing ingredients.  I made a few slight changes to the recipe…  Instead of pepitas, I used sunflower seeds and instead of the quinoa, I used couscous. I used a container of field greens for the salad mix.  This is a delicious recipe that I will be sure to make again.  Here’s the link for this “Fall Mason Jar Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing”…

https://www.spoonfulofflavor.com/2015/09/14/fall-mason-jar-salad-with-maple-balsamic-dressing/

Footed Market Basket

I had a wonderful time attending a local basketmaking workshop held at a rustic county park in my area. The weather was beautiful and the scenery was gorgeous. We sat under a shelter with several picnic tables that were lined up for all of the class participants. Just prior to the session we were mailed a list of supplies needed for the construction of the basket. We each brought along an old towel, some clips to hold the basket in place, scissors, a large bucket and a spray bottle to keep the wooden strips wet while working with them. We carefully listened to the instructor as she effortlessly managed teaching and assisting the 20 students before her. The item that we would be constructing is called a Footed Market Basket. I tried to take pictures as I worked through the steps while making this adorable basket.

…Can’t wait to sign up for another session!

Semi-homemade Scones

Well, another school year is over… Yesterday we made our annual trip down to campus to load up the car with dorm room accessories and furniture that will be stored away for the summer. Packing and unpacking can make for a long day!  Sometimes it’s hard to find a break to stop for a meal as parking is limited and the anticipation of the heavy traffic on the return trip home makes everyone anxious. 

Having said this, I was prepared for the worst as I loaded up a goodie bag with scones, yogurt, cold pizza, bottled water, sandwiches, homemade applesauce and a few energy bars as we started out on our daylong voyage.  I have a recipe that combines just a few ingredients to make a batch of tasty scones so I got up early to prepare them for the trip.  I must say, I had to slap a few hands as I took the scones out of the oven for everyone wanted to nibble on the treats before leaving the house. I quickly covered the tray with a light tea towel and told everyone to find something else to eat.  These little gems were to be packed in with the other goodies we would eat after a long day of packing and pitching.  Here’s the recipe for the tasty 4-ingredient scones.  They are made using a muffin mix which is super convenient, quick, and easy!  I had an egg white left over from another recipe so I brushed the tops of the scones and sprinkled them with a bit of sugar before popping them in the oven.

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Semi-Homemade Scones

One 18-ounce box of cranberry-orange muffin mix. 

(Krusteaz or another brand with canned berries included)

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)

2 tablespoons water

Extra flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use non-stick spray to lightly coat a cookie sheet.

Pour the muffin mix into a large bowl.  Add egg, yogurt and water. Stir to mix batter. Batter will be thick. Rinse and drain the cranberries that come with the mix and stir into batter. Pour mixture onto a lightly floured surface on pat together to make a flat round about 1″ thick.  Add flour if needed.  Cut the round into 8 triangles by slicing in half, then fourths, then 8 triangles.  Carefully place onto a lightly greased baking sheet.   Bake for 15-20 minutes. Slightly cool; remove to a baking rack to cool completely.

Bumbleberry Jam



As the spring season ushers in warmer temperatures, I am focused on the blossomed plants that will soon produce ripe, succulent berries. My last year’s supply of Bumbleberry Jam is running low so I am hopelessly awaiting the opportunity to pick fresh berries and the prospect of an abundant canning season. 

There is nothing sweeter than a freshly baked scone or a slice of whole grain bread slathered with creamy butter and a heaping scoop of Bumbleberry Jam.  We also enjoy pairing the jam with a hearty helping of extra crunchy homemade peanut butter to assemble the classic PB&J.  Oh, it’s all so berry delicious!

Below you will find the link for this incredible jam.  Always remember that using a reputable source for canning recipes is imperative.  Some of these sources include the National Center for Home Food Preservation, University Extension Websites, and Ball or Bernardin Recipes. These organizations have thoroughly tested recipes making sure to focus on food safety guidelines.  

It’s relatively simple to make jam.  Follow the directions exactly as written and you’ll end up with a safe, delicious product.  Most jam recipes require an abundance of crushed berries…

Then you’ll often need some pectin and sugar…



You’ll need a large pot to mix all of your ingredients together according to the directions…



After processing the jars in a water bath canner for the recommended time, you’ll let the jars sit to cool for 12-24 hours…



The Bumbleberry Jam recipe can be found here:

http://www.bernardin.ca/recipes/bumbleberry-jam.htm?Lang=EN-US

Ball has a recipe for Mixed Berry Jam that tastes delicious as well.  Here is the link:

https://www.freshpreserving.com/mixed-berry-jam-%7C-mixed-berry-recipes—ball-fresh-preserving-br1276.html



Homestyle Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

This post goes out to all the folks that might be suffering from the effects of this year’s harsh cold and flu season…

My week began with a trip to urgent care as I woke on Monday with the symptoms of a bad flu. My chest felt heavy and I had a low hacking cough that shook my core every time it took a hold of me. After being diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, I headed home with a supply of medication to help ease my discomfort.  I knew that a bit of rest and a pot of piping hot chicken noodle soup would certainly help me find relief.  

This is a quick and easy recipe that has become a family favorite over the years.  Chunks of onion, carrot, celery and chicken make for a hearty base while the steaming hot broth warms the throat and nestles down into the tummy.  Comfort food at its best. To save a bit of time, I often purchase a rotisserie chicken from the local grocer and shred up the juicy, well seasoned chicken before adding it to the broth.  My favorite stock base to use is L.B. Jamison’s.  I follow the directions on the back of the jar.  Perfect every time…  What a welcome recipe when you’re feeling under the weather.

Homestyle Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

8- 10 cups water

8 teaspoons chicken flavored soup base (or adjust to taste)

3 medium carrot, peeled and sliced

3 stalk celery, sliced

1 medium onion, diced

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 cup cooked noodles

Heat water to boiling, add soup base.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Add carrots, celery, onions, pepper, garlic, and parsley.  Simmer vegetables until tender.  Add chicken and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Keep cooked noodles separate and add a small handful to each bowl of soup before serving.  This keeps noodles al dente.