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.
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…
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”…
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.
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.
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:
Ball has a recipe for Mixed Berry Jam that tastes delicious as well. Here is the link:
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.
The first day of fall has hit the Midwestern region and it seems that gardens are producing a bounty of veggies that need to be picked and processed before the cooler temperatures set in. Once again, a few local growers were kind enough to share an abundance of beautiful produce that was beyond what they could consume. I was thrilled to see a small bag of assorted hot peppers in the mix. The orange, red, and green, color combination would make for a beautiful display in canning jars. Because I would only have enough to fill one large jar, I decided to make refrigerator pickled peppers rather than canning them with a water bath method. This is a quick and simple way to make the great tasting flavor of the peppers last as they sit on the refrigerator shelf and marinate in the sweet and spicy vinegar solution. Use these peppers to top an Italian salad or to add some flavor to a grilled sandwich. Simply delicious!
Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers
2-4 cups sliced peppers
2 cups white vinegar
1⅓ cup water
1 tablespoon canning salt
2 tsp sugar
Canning jar(s) with tight fitting lid(s)
Wash jar(s) with warm soapy water; air dry. Pack the sliced peppers in jar(s). Set jar(s) aside.
In a saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar completely. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool.
Pour mixture over the peppers making sure they are completely covered. Twist on a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. As the peppers sit, the flavors will develop. Store refrigerated for 4-6 weeks.
Well, it’s that time of year again! Ready for the picking are clusters of deep purple grapes hanging off of the vines in my back yard. While the last couple of years have brought bumper crops to our lot, this year’s pickings have been a bit slim. This didn’t stop me from making a few of our family favorites…flavorful grape juice and grape jam.
There’s no greater satisfaction than to grow and process your own produce. Several years ago I planted two Concord grape pods and they have grown to cover a large open area with a plentiful bounty of fruit. Fresh air, rain and sunshine nourish the plants throughout the summer months until the gorgeous fruit are ready for picking. I don’t water, fertilize, trim or fuss. This is my kind of gardening! The reward for leaving the plant to do what it naturally does; lots and lots of grape jam and juice that will last throughout the year.
Above is the recipe from the Ball Blue Book published by Alltrista Corporation.
Here is another method that produces similar results…
Homemade Concord Grape Juice
TO EACH STERILIZED QUART JAR
2 cups washed and cleaned concord grapes
1/2 cup sugar
In sterilized jar place 2 cups grapes.
Add 1/2 cup sugar.
Fill with boiling water leaving 1/2″ headspace.
Seal jars at once with 2 piece lids. Process in water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove from canner and let sit for 24 hours. Remove metal lid-bands, and label with date and contents. Let juice stand 3 to 4 weeks before using. (The longer you let it sit, the greater the concentration.) Strain juice from grapes and use juice. Refrigerate after opening.
For a great tasting homemade Grape Jam, try this Ball Blue Book recipe…
We recently had a substantial amount of local beef delivered to our home. One of my colleagues owns a beef ranch and I decided to try the product that so many often rave about. The delivery came with a selection of cuts including various roasts, steaks, and ground beef. As I looked at all of the individually wrapped beef packages, I was reminded of a recipe that I first spotted in a community cookbook that I’m fond of. It’s an ole’ time recipe for homemade beef salami and the ingredients are few and common. I substituted Lawry’s seasoning salt for the “tender quick salt” just because I didn’t have any on hand. The beef salami turned out just fine.
As the holiday weekend approaches, I thought this might be a fun recipe to try as I’m often assembling plates of appetizers when friends stop by and the kids open the fridge constantly looking for something to munch on.