Friday, August 29, 2014

Freezer Fridays: Pumpkin Zucchini Scones

Last weekend it was certainly very hot and humid here in Iowa. Typical summer weather for us, except it always waits to do this sort of thing after the kids are in school and the pools have all closed for the season. Go figure! But hey, we're just used to it. I really had no plan to do any sort of baking, but we had some big zucchinis on our table that needed used up. Oh and one lone can of pumpkin in my pantry.

These were a total experiment and I'm so glad I decided to take a chance on them. Made with whole wheat flour, pumpkin, zucchini and sweetened only with a bit of honey; I'd say they make for a pretty healthy breakfast option. Since they aren't very sweet I did spruce them up with a little icing drizzle, but you can leave that off if you wish.

Honestly, I wasn't sure what the kids would think of these. Sometimes they don't like my new creations. They surprised me though and kept coming back for more. I froze half of the batch and left the other half on the counter, the container was gone within a day. That tells me they're a keeper!

Pumpkin Zucchini Scones

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup buttermilk

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
splash of milk, for thinning

In a large bowl, combine egg yolk, honey, vanilla, zucchini, pumpkin and buttermilk. Mix together well.

In another bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Then add wet ingredients into the dry and mix just until combined.

Turn dough onto a lightly flour surface and knead a few times. Add a little bit of flour in if needed. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a large circle or make into two circles if needed. Cut into wedges. I made some of mine smaller for the kids. You should get about 18.

Place scones onto a baking sheet that's been lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until turning golden brown. Remove from oven to let cool.

To make icing: combine all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Drizzle icing immediately over the scones.

These also freeze well, flash freeze on a baking sheet before placing in a freezer bag. Thaw and reheat when ready to enjoy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

15 Quick and Easy Meals

I feel like I soon might be able to relate to more of you now than ever before. A lot of you might have seen my pictures on Facebook yesterday. I started working within our local school system this week and am really excited about this new adventure! All three of our kids are officially in school now so it felt time for me to start working outside the home. As scary as that seems, it feels good to be able interact with other adults again.

So, why exactly do I think I can relate to more of you now? Well, not that I wasn't ever busy before. But I did have the luxury to get a head start on dinner while the kids napped if needed. It's always been important that I serve as many home cooked meals to my family as possible. Not that there's anything wrong with eating out. It's just not in our budget to do that real often.

Trying to get back into the swing of things is making me appreciate the fact that I try hard to have a menu planned out for each week. Some weeks are better than others, but I always try to be armed with a plan. It cuts down on my grocery bill and keeps me sane.

A few of my Iowa blogger friends were quick to give me some of their own go-to meals for when time is limited and they need to get dinner on the table stat. Whether you've got kids or not, let's face it, everyone is busy. We all can appreciate a nice homemade meal that isn't complicated. Browse through the selection, pick a few out to add to your menu for the upcoming weeks and let me know what you think. If you've got your own suggestions, please feel free to leave the link or recipe in the comments below. I think we all can use some new inspiration for this busy time of year!

 1.  Chopped BLT Caesar Salad from Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats
 2.  My Go-to Meatloaf from Modern Rural Living
 3.  Kid-friendly Pizza Pasta from Been There Baked That
 4.  Crock-Pot Fettuccine Alfredo from Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats
 5.  Taco Burger from
 6.  Crock Pot Chicken Tacos from Been There Baked That
 7.  Italian Stuffed Meatballs from Been There Baked That
 8.  Crock Pot Maid-Rites from Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats
 9.  Sassy Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches from Been There Baked That
10. Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken from Been There Baked That
11. Spicy Chicken Wraps from Been There Baked That
12. Ham and Bean Soup from Been There Baked That
13. Cheater Runzas from Jeni Eats
14. Ham and Corn Chowder from Been There Baked That
15. Skillet Lasagna from Been There Baked That

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tomato Pesto Tart

I promise I'll chill out with the tomato recipes, I've just had to put them all to use before they rot away on my counter. Along with a gazillion other veggies. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but you probably know the feeling. Way more produce to deal with this time a year than you simply have time for. It's really a great problem to have!

I've always thought I didn't care for tomatoes much, until I really ate one fresh from the garden. My parents were not much for gardening growing up; I do remember my grandma having a small garden though. The ones from the stores, especially in the dead of winter simply do not compare to seasonally, locally grown tomatoes. Now we try to enjoy as many as we can until we cannot stand to set eyes on one more. Because come January, we'd give our right arm for a red, ripe tomato from the garden.

I'm usually all for something sweet baked in a pie crust, not savory. But something about tomatoes, fresh pesto and mozzarella cheese sounded really good! And good is was. I had some prepared pie crusts and pesto in my freezer from all of my freezer cooking in July, it certainly made this dish easy to prepare.

We enjoyed this as part of our meal one night but it would absolutely make for a great meatless main dish. Pair with a nice green salad and you're set. Or what about as an appetizer? Football is just getting started, you could spread this into a rectangle shape and cut into squares instead of slices. So many options. All I know is you must give this one a try.

Tomato Pesto Tart

1 prepared pie crust
1/4 cup pesto
3 large tomatoes
1 cup mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Press pie crust into a tart pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Slice tomatoes and let sit on paper towels for about 10 minutes to help absorb some of the liquid. Spread pesto over bottom of pie crust. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese over pesto. Arrange tomato slices on top and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup of cheese on top.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes and then cut into slices.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Freezer Fridays: Homemade Pizza Sauce

As I stared at a big bowl of tomatoes on my counter last week, I tried to think of new ways to put them all to use. Pizza sauce instantly came to mind, it's something we use quite often in our house. Saturday morning, that's what some of my time consisted of. The funny thing was, as I logged onto Facebook quickly, many of my foodie friends were doing the exact same thing. I found picture after picture of tomatoes, peppers and onions roasting away in the oven.

We all had the same idea but I went a different route. I had other things I wanted to get done so I simply threw all of my ingredients in the crock pot and let it do it's thing.

Lots and lots of tomatoes, different varieties, fresh basil and other spices and that was it. I covered the pot and let it cook Towards the end I added in some cornstarch to thicken up the mixture a bit. I didn't even worry about peeling the tomatoes, because I knew I wanted to process the mixture a bit more in a blender so it wasn't a big deal. If you'd rather peel the tomatoes beforehand, by all means, go ahead.

In the end, I came out with a flavorful sauce that will be awesome on our homemade pizzas and just about anything else I can think of. I threw the jars in the freezer so we can enjoy this deliciousness throughout the winter. It will surely be a welcomed treat!

Homemade Pizza Sauce

15 medium-large tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced {I actually used some garlic scapes from my freezer
10 basil leaves, chopped {don't worry about chopping finely, you'll puree mixture later}
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp cornstarch

Add the chopped tomatoes to a large crock pot. Sprinkle in seasonings and stir together just a bit. Cover and let cook on low for 8-10 hours. Add in a tbsp of cornstarch to help thicken the mixture, make sure to stir well so it doesn't clump. Cover and let cook an additional one hour.

Afterwards, turn crock pot off and let sauce cool. Once cooled, in smaller batches, puree mixture in a blender for just a few seconds. It won't take much at all. Make sure to taste and season more if needed.

Ladle into mason jars, I used 3 pint sized jars and 2 half pint. Place lids on and place sauce in the freezer. When ready to enjoy, all you have to do is thaw.

*If you find sauce is still a little too runny even after adding the cornstarch in, before using, just add in tomato paste in small amounts {1-2 tbsp}. That should help thicken up the mixture.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kale-Broccoli Slaw

Our girls went back to school yesterday, I'm definitely one of those moms that never wants summer to end. Yes, my kids make me want to pull my hair out at times but I truly enjoy spending my days with them and dread sending them off. Our oldest is officially in high school this year, let me tell you, this is scary stuff! I am clearly not ready for all of this, she's growing up way too fast for me.

Our middle child entered into 2nd grade. She's got so much sass and makes me laugh numerous times throughout the day. Just this morning she informed me that I do not need to walk her up to her line at school, she's not little anymore. Ha!

I am enjoying these last few days home with our youngest. She'll start full day preschool on Monday while I begin working with our local schools as a substitute paraeducator. I'm really excited for this new journey! Next week will surely be interesting as we start this new adventure and adjust to a whole different schedule.

I brought this new salad along to dinner at my parent's house this past Sunday. It had been awhile since we've all gotten together for a nice meal. We typically don't get a chance during the summer due to every one's busy schedules. I had some kale in our fridge from our CSA and tried to figure out a new way to use it up.

Well, I came home with an empty bowl that's for sure. So that's a good sign, right? I'm pretty sure everyone enjoyed this, including most of the kids. I made a simple dressing with mayo, apple cider vinegar and honey. You can certainly substitute plain Greek yogurt for an even healthier dressing. The salad was light and refreshing and paired great with our grilled meal.

You know, summer's not over just yet. We've still got Labor Day coming up quickly and plenty of nice fall weekends for grilling out with family and friends. You've got to make this easy salad at least once. And it tastes so good that you won't even notice you're eating something good for you. Trust me.

Kale-Broccoli Slaw

12 oz. package broccoli slaw
2-1/2 cups kale, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dried cranberries

for the dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise {or plain Greek yogurt}
fresh lemon juice {1/2 lemon}
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine together broccoli slaw, kale, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. Gently toss all together.

In another small bowl, mix together dressing ingredients. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Pour dressing over slaw and gently toss together. You may serve immediately or let chill in the fridge until ready to enjoy.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chicken Tacos w/Summer Veggies

You guys! I had a lot of fun this weekend in the kitchen creating new dishes to share with you in the upcoming weeks. Everything turned out amazing, which I promise, doesn't always happen. And these tacos were one of them.

What family doesn't love tacos?! I know it's always one meal I can plan on the kids gobbling up, maybe even asking for seconds. This time though, I added in zucchini to my veggie mixture. We're starting to receive a lot more veggies in our produce box and my fridge is full at the moment with them. While I love sauteing or grilling up zucchini, summer squash, green beans, etc as a side dish; the hubs gets tired of them after a while. I figured if I sort of snuck them into our tacos, no one would really notice they were actually eating something good for them.

The veggies ended up being really flavorful and everything blended so well together. I love how versatile this dish can be, you can substitute any vegetables you have on hand. Fresh corn from the cob, eggplant, summer squash, onion; they are all great choices. Don't feel like tacos? No problem, make up a batch of rice and toss the mixture all together. Or add the chicken and veggie mixture over a nice bed of salad greens for something a little lighter. You could certainly even enjoy this mixture all on it's own.

That is what's great about simple meals like this; many variations so you never feel like you're eating quite the same thing.

Chicken Tacos w/Summer Veggies

1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 garlic clove, minced {garlic scapes are great too}
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
cilantro, for serving
Tortillas shells
Grated cheese

In a large skillet, drizzle olive oil in pan along with the garlic and let warm. Add in cubed chicken breasts along with seasonings and mix together well. Let chicken cook for 3 minutes before adding in veggies. Let cool for another 5 minutes, just until chicken is cooked through and veggies are slightly tender. Remove from heat.

Divide mixture between tortilla shells. Top with your favorite taco toppings; cilantro, cheese, salsa, etc.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Freezer Fridays: Freezer Salsa

Welcome to Freezer Fridays! I've been brainstorming a lot lately; many of you seemed to really enjoy my 31 days of freezer cooking series and I'd like to continue sharing freezer friendly recipes more often.The goal is to showcase a new recipe each Friday that's perfect for making ahead and freezing. What do you think? Are you game? I hope so!

My tomatoes are really starting to ripen in the garden, it's about time. The girls love going out every morning to check and see what's available for the days picking. Fresh salsa is one of our favorites to snack on in the summer. When you can grab most of the ingredients from the backyard, the store bought versions just don't compare!

I hear year after year that freezing salsa is a great way to preserve some of those tomatoes and enjoy it in those cold, winter months. I figured now was as good of time as any to give that a try. Now, I like to make my batches with lots of chunky veggies rather than pureeing into a smooth consistency. Of course my batches probably won't hold up for as long in the freezer than the latter. I expect the veggies to soften quit a bit when I try to thaw out so I will make sure we use these up within a few months.

Has anyone had great luck with freezing salsa rather than going the canning route? I'd love to hear your tips, please share them below! I'll plan to be back with an update on how these really turn out over time. I'm confident they'll taste great!

Freezer Salsa

5-6 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 green pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1-2 jalapenos or other hot peppers, finely diced {I don't add very many seeds to mine so that it's mild for the kids}
1 garlic clove, minced
small handful of cilantro, chopped
1 tsp lime zest
salt, to taste

Add all chopped ingredients into a medium sized bowl and stir together gently to combine. Taste and add additional seasonings if needed. You may enjoy salsa right away or store in the fridge.

To freeze:  Ladle into 2 pint sized jars until almost full, make sure to leave just a bit of room at the top. Place lids on top and seal shut. Immediately place into freezer and store until ready to enjoy. When ready to use, remove from freezer and let thaw. Serve with tortilla chips. Salsa should keep in freezer for up to 3 months.

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