Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It can't be that simple, can it?

Fall is my favorite season. I love the cool weather, the changing colors of the leaves, the baked goods....
Especially anything with pumpkin.  Why is it that we save the yummy pumpkin treats just for fall?  I was in the mood to bake morning. 

 Not long ago I came across a recipe for pumpkin muffins that required only 2 ingredients.  I thought this can't work can it?  But I had to try it.  Mr. Bacon was going to visit some old friends and I wanted to send something with so I decided today was the day to give this pumpkin muffin recipe a shot.  And just in case it didn't turn out, I made a batch of pumpkin spice cookies to go along with it!

Simple Pumpkin Muffins
1 spice cake mix
1 - 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

Yes that's all you need! 

Dump the cake mix into a bowl.  Add the can of pumpkin puree.  Don't add anything else to it. I love this there are no eggs, oil or anything.  Just cake mix and pumpkin. 

Mix it up good either with your mixer or a good ol' spoon.

Fill up your paper lined or greased muffin tins about 2/3 of the way full of batter.
Oh another benefit to this recipe, you can lick the bowl clean!!

 Bake your mini muffins in a preheated oven at 350* for 15-18 minutes or until they spring back when touched.  If you are making big muffins, bake for 20-25 minutes. 
 Fresh out of the oven. They smell amazing!!
 Let them cool on a wire rack for a bit, try not to eat any. I dare you! 
They are wonderful.  They don't have as heavy of a feel as a muffin, but more airy like a cake.  They are nice and light. I enjoyed ours with a dusting of powdered sugar.  Mr. Bacon and Bacon Bit approved them right away and I had a hard time packing them up to share.  Good think the mini muffins make 4 dozen, but I have a feeling they won't last until morning!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Yes this is going to be another pizza post! But don't worry it's  not the same ol' pizza. In fact it's the sauce! I'm sharing just how I make that yummy pizza sauce myself.  Three years ago we started a garden for the first time.  I decided I needed 10 tomato plants. Why? I have no idea since I'm the only one in the Bacon house that actually EATS tomatoes!  We had so many tomatoes that year they were coming out of our ears.  I had to figure out something to do with all of them.  A friend gave me an amazing salsa recipe that I quickly made up.  But there were still tomatoes everywhere.  And of course I'm the only one who eats salsa too, so there was no sense in making more of that.  What to do, what to do? I decided to try my hand at pizza sauce.  It was something I knew we all would eat, and we were making more and more homemade pizzas so why not the sauce?

I found a recipe in the Ball canning book and tried it.  Once I got everything in it, I sampled some and it was less than great.  So I started digging though my spice cabinet.  I toss in a little of this and some of that.  And what turned out was amazing pizza sauce!  And thankfully I wrote down what and how much I was tossing in when I did.  This is now the third year of making pizza sauce and we are addicted.  I like that it's not a heavy thick pizza sauce like the cans you buy at the store. Its' actually a mild and slightly sweet sauce.

I know for some canning can seem like a scary process.  It's actually really easy once you get the hang of it and the end results will last you all year and really save you money.   So lets get started!

First you need to gather your supplies.  One batch usually makes 8-9 pint size jars for me.

8-9 pint canning jars and rings
New lids
Canning supplies like funnel, ladle, jar lifter, lid lifter, and air bubble remover.
Canning pot
1 other larger pot to make the sauce in
food processor or blender
2-3 larger bowls for holding tomatoes

 Next you need your recipe:
Ma Bacon's Homemade Pizza Sauce

18 cups tomato puree
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
2 tbsp garlic powder
4 tsp salt
4 tsp pepper
1 cup bottled lemon juice

1/2 cup diced onions
2 tsp chopped garlic
oil for cooking

Lets get started!
This year I had a lot of extra green onions growing in the garden. I decided to use some up in the sauce recipe.  One thing I love about this recipe is you can change it to how you like it.  If you think it needs more of something or less, it's up to you.

I diced up my green onions and added 2 tsp chopped garlic to a pan along with 1 tbsp oil.  I sauteed this just until they started to brown. 

Then I tossed them in my pot that the sauce will go in.
Next it's time to get the tomatoes ready.  Toss your tomatoes in the sink and wash them.  Little Miss Bacon was happy to help with the kitchen sprayer to do this job.  To get 18 cups of puree, I used 3 over-full ice cream pails of tomatoes. I also use at least 2 different kinds of tomatoes when I make sauce. I think this helps give it a better flavor.  But you can use what ever you have on hand. This year I actually used four different kinds because that 's what I planted, Roma, Viva italia, Golden girl (yellow) and cherry tomatoes.
Once you have clean tomatoes, cut off the stem. I do all the big tomatoes at once and pile them into bowls. Don't worry about the cherry tomatoes if you are using them, we'll get to those later. For now you just need to wash them, pick off the stem and set them aside.
Now it's time to remove their skins.  To do this, I use the same method I do to take the skins off of peaches that I described here.  Heat up a pot of water until boiling.  Place a few tomatoes in at a time - I usually do 8-10 depending on their size.  Let them cook in the hot water for about 30 seconds.
Take them out of the boiling water and place them in a sink full of ice cold water.  Toss some ice cubes in to make sure it's nice and cold.  And then watch the magic!  The peels will just about fall off the tomatoes. 

Let them sit in the cold water for a few minutes and then with your hands peel the rest of the skins off.  Place them in a colander that is over a bucket or another bowl so the liquid can drain out of the tomatoes.  I give them a squeeze too to help drain out all the juices. 

After they have drained for a few minutes I place them in another bowl so I can make room for more tomatoes to drain.  You will notice that when they sit in the bowl they will drain out more juice. Can you see it along the edge of my bowl?  Once I have all the tomatoes skined, it's time to do one more final drain to get rid of as much liquid as I can.

Now it's time to break out the food processor! I use the bottom chopping blade in my food processor for this, not the slicing/grating blade.  Toss your tomatoes a few at a time inside and pulse them until they turn into a puree.  Repeat until all those tomatoes are done.  Now I bet you're wondering what I did with those cherry tomatoes right? No? You forgot about them.  Don't worry I almost did too! 

Here they are still sitting in my sink.  And you're wondering how on earth are you going to get the skins off those.  I don't bother. Nope, I toss them in the processor whole and blend away.  The skins blend up and you don't even notice them.  Yes you can skip skinning all of the tomatoes if you'd like.  But if you do it for too many they won't break down and you'll taste them in the sauce. 

Once you have all the tomatoes pureed place it in your large pot.  Now it's time to add all the rest of the ingredients.  Feel free to sample it as you add stuff to see if you want more of something. 

Allow it to simmer on the stove over medium heat for 2 or so hours.  The sauce should reduce by at least a 1/3 and start to thicken up.  This won't be a super thick sauce.  If you are hoping for thicker sauce, feel free to add a can of tomato paste to it.  I actually don't mind the thinner sauce. A good way to see how think the sauce will be is take some in a spoon or ladle and let it sit and cool on the counter.  It will thicken up and you can tell if it's how you like it.

While the sauce is cooking down and making the house smell amazing, it's a good time to get those jars ready if you haven't done so already.  Wash them up and let them sit in a sink full of hot water, make sure to fill each jar with hot water too so they are ready for your sauce.  Pouring hot liquids into cold glass can break them.  Take my word for it, it's not a pretty mess to clean up! 

Once your sauce is ready, it's time to can it. Take a jar and ladle sauce into it until it's about 1/2 in from the top of the jar. 
Take your air bubble stick and run it along the inside of the jar quick and don't forget to wipe the rim clean when you're done.

Now it's time to take one of the new lids out of the warm water it's been sitting in and top the jar with it. Remember the lids need to sit in a hot water bath before they are placed on the jars to help the seal better.  Use the fun lid lifter for this, it saves you from burnt fingers!  Secure the lids with a ring and they are ready to go.
Keep going until all the jars are full!  Then it's time for their bath!

I have mine all ready to go in the boiling water in the caning pot. My canning pot came with this nice rack that has handles so I can easily get the jars in and out.  If yours didn't come with one, use the jar lifter to help get them in and out of the pot. 

Make sure once they are in the water bath that the tops are covered with at least an inch of water over the top of them.  Boil the jars for 35 minutes for pint jars.  Once time is up, remove them and let them cool on a hot pad until cool.  This is the point that I like to savor the 'PING' sounds of the lids sealing!

The next morning I unscrew the lid and gently press my finger against the lid to make sure lid did in fact seat.  Make sure you label your yummy sauce too!  You can see from my picture here that it is a bit runnier that what most think.  Don't worry it will still taste amazing!  Now it's time to make some crust and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Busy Busy Busy!!

 Busy is one way to describe how September has been!  I think I need to write the whole month off from trying to get anything done.  It's been hectic with getting 3 kids ready to back to school.  This week even Little Boy Bacon took his first ride on the bus.  He was quite excited for his first day of preschool.  Last week was just as busy when we celebrated Bacon Bit's first birthday!  I'm not quite sure where a year went but some one told him my baby could turn one.  We had a great day celebrating him and he enjoyed his cake as well.  Like every birthday we have here, I made a special cake.  The kids and Mr. Bacon helped pick out Bacon Bit's cake and the cow won over the owl cake I found.  So cow cake it was!  Even a smash cow cake for Bacon Bit.  And as you can see from the picture, he didn't do too bad demolishing it either!

Other things keeping me busy are getting lunches packed and ready for the school day.  With Bacon Jr. going to school every day and Little Miss Bacon going every other, I have a lot to keep track of.  Packing snacks and lunches is no longer done in the morning, but started at night and assembled into the bag in morning. I just haven't had enough coffee to think straight, much less manage to send a good lunch while getting hair and teeth brushed and shoes tied before they are headed out the door.   I think I need more of that mommy magic Mr. Bacon always tells me I must have in order to get everything done.

I picked up a few helpers to keep my days going a bit easier since back to school started.  One was our lunch menu.  Each day before bed the kids have to let me know what they would like for lunch and snack the next day and then go pick out clothes.  We've always made a list of the things the kids would like to take for school lunches and let them pick what they would like.  But we ran into the problem of not always having what they want for lunch from the list on hand in the house.  And you know we don't make extra trips to the store around here!  My solution?  A dry erase board!  I found these tucked in the dollar spot at Target the other day and picked up two of them.
 The first one is for lunches, one side lets the kids know just what we have in the house to make for lunches.  They pick one choice from the first column, 2 choices from the middle and 1 again from the last.  Works like a charm and the kids like this 'resturauint' style ordering for their lunch.  The back side I list the snacks we can pack them for school snack time.  Keeps everything in one spot and I can easily add what I bake or erase what is used up from the list. 
 I liked the idea so much I took the other board I bought and made our meal plan on it.  One side for week one, the other for week 2.  Now the kids can stop asking what we are having for dinner tonight since it's right on there!  Also it's staring me in the face every time I walk in the kitchen so I know what I need to make for dinner and can plan my day. 
As you can see, last night was curly chicken & peas.  I've had a few readers ask what it is and many more request the recipe.  I had thought it was posted on here already since this is one of our standard easy go-to meals, but I guess not.  I love this one because it's an all in one meal that can be done in 30 minutes or less. Here is what you need:

Curly chicken and peas
(If you are wondering about the name, Bacon Jr named it when we created the meal when he was 3!)

1 lb chicken breast- cut up
favorite seasoning- I use Mc Cormick's garlic and herb
1tbsp olive oil
2.5 cups uncooked pasta(we use rotini)
1.5-2 cups frozen peas
1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

First start your pan of water to boil.  Then saute the chicken with oil and favorite seasonings. 
 Once the water is boiling toss in your noodles and peas. Let the water return to a boil and then turn it down to med. heat and let the pasta cook until tender. 

 Do you notice anything in the right picture?  Did you spy my mystery noodle?!  Mr. Bacon recently started this when making dinner.  Our kids sometimes seem opposed to eating certain noodles, so he thought a game would be fun while we eat.  When we cook our pasta, we toss in a few of each noodle we have in the house.  As we spoon dinner onto the kids plates, they have fun searching to see what kinds and how many mystery noodles they got.  And they have fun eating them and deciding if they taste different from each other. Little Miss Bacon swears they do. 

Once both the chicken and noodles are cooked it's time to assemble it.  Drain the noodles and peas an then dump them in with the chicken (ok plan ahead here and cook the chicken in a big enough pan to hold the cooked noodles too).  Add your butter and grated cheese to them and toss until the butter and cheese are melted.  You can adjust the amount of butter and cheese used to your liking.  Just try some after it's melted and see if it's enough. 

Looks pretty good to me! A super quick dinner for those busy nights. I bet it takes less time than waiting in the drive-thru line too!  Well at least it will taste better and be cheaper than the drive-thru food.   Enjoy!