Homemade Beef Stew

IMG_2024I love beef stew and have been making it in my Crock Pot for many years because it was so easy to throw everything together in the morning and let it do it’s thing all day. But, I recently made it in my Lodge Dutch Oven and all I can say is, “Why haven’t I been doing this all along?!”  It was so much better!  It has a nice, thick gravy, and the flavors really do meld better.  I’m pretty sure that I will be making it this way from now on.  In fact, I made it again and decided to share my recipe with you. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take pictures throughout the process.  But, beef stew is super easy and can be ready in about an hour for dinner.  Especially, if  you keep all the ingredients on hand in your pantry.

Beef Stew (made in a cast iron dutch oven)

1 lb stew beef

4 medium-sized Russet potatoes, peeled & cubed (can also use red or gold potatoes – leave peel on, if you do)

2-3 medium-sized carrots, washed & sliced (I do not peel my carrots since most of the nutrients lie just beneath the surface of the carrot.)

1/2 cup each of dehydrated peas & corn (I have used frozen, too)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 Tbs.garlic – minced, optional

approx. 1 cup flour

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp. garlic powder, optional

1 Tbs. smoked paprika, optional

Place flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, & smoked paprika in a bowl – mix well.

Next, I cut my stew beef into smaller pieces (mostly just cut the pieces in half).  This lets the meat distribute better in the stew, and it makes it feel like you have more meat. Place meat into the flour mixture and coat meat thoroughly.

Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the dutch oven.  I used lard, but you can use a combination of olive oil and butter, too.  Once hot, add meat and brown.

Once your meat has browned, add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add enough hot water to fill dutch oven about half way. Add remaining ingredients, including a bit more salt and pepper.  Finish filling dutch oven with water.  Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Cover and continue cooking until potatoes are fork tender.  Serve with fresh, hot, homemade biscuits & enjoy!

This post has been linked to:

Heritage Homesteaders

Chicken Chick Blog Hop

Homestead Blog Hop

April’s Homemaking Meal Planning Link Up

You’re Gonna Love it Tuesday

Oak Hill Homestead

Down Home Blog Hop

Homemade Frappuccino

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(pictured: Chocolate Dulce de Leche Frappuccino)
After reading about all the “wonderful” ingredients that Starbucks so lovingly puts into their drinks, I thought that I would share my recipe for a homemade Frappuccino, which is wonderful to whip up on a hot summer day, but could easily be enjoyed year round.  This could probably be easily adapted to create any number of flavors that you can dream up!  Please note that, since we are eating whole/real foods, the ingredients we use are as natural as we can get, which is why I’ve used whole milk & heavy whipping cream.  I also make my own sweetened condensed milk from whole milk & sugar.  (Be sure to check out Kitchen Stewardship for lots of great recipes!)

Homemade Dulce de Leche Frappuccino

  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 2 cup ice
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tbs Turbinado sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 Tbs Dulce de Leche (caramel can be substituted)

Place all ingredients in blender & blend on medium speed until mixed well.   Pour into glass, topping with whipped cream & drizzled Dulce de Leche if desired, & enjoy! 

Makes approx. 4 (8 oz.) servings

*Chocolate is a nice addition to this drink – just add a little to the mix prior to blending & continue as instructed.
*Milks & sugar can be adjusted to taste.

*How to make Dulce de Leche:  You need 1 can of sweetened condensed milk.  Open can & pour into glass jar, cover with lid.  Place jar is saucepan with just enough water to cover the contents of the jar + about 1/2-inch.  The whole jar does not need to be submerged.  Place over medium high heat until the water begins to boil.  Loosely cover & turn heat down to maintain a good simmer. (Lid can sit on top of jar without touching pan.)   Cook until condensed milk becomes a medium caramel color. 

**The darker the color, the thicker, more caramel-like it will be. 

I haven’t done a lot of experimenting yet, but I can foresee many different flavor possibilities in the future! 

This post is linked with:

Foodie Friday
GCC Recipe Swap
Ultimate Recipe Swap
Comfy In The Kitchen
Foodie Friends Friday
The Peaceful Mom (Show & Tell Saturday)
Homemaker By Choice
Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Perfect Holiday Scarf

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While out shopping with my kids at a local craft store, I saw a similar scarf hanging in the yarn isle with a price tag of $42.99!!!  Eek!  After looking it over, I knew that I could make it myself for a whole lot cheaper!!  So that’s just what I did.  I did, however, make some modifications.  It’s slightly thinner, which makes it hang better & look better, and I extended in a bit more, which also makes it look better.  This is such a quick and easy project.  If anyone would like for me to whip one up for them, just let me know.  I’m asking $15 each. 

Menu Plan: 02/14 – 02/20

 

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I’m late getting my menu up for the week, but I didn’t want to not have a plan in place.  No plan usually equals eating out which equals EXPENSIVE!  So, planning really does pay off!  

Breakfast:

Lunch:

  • Sandwiches
  • Leftovers

Dinner:

The rest of the week will be (in no certain order):

  • Biscuits & gravy, bacon, & eggs
  • Spaghetti with sauce and homemade cheddar bay biscuits 
  • Grilled Cheese sandwiches with soup (?)
  • Country fried steak with mashed potatoes, green beans, & easy yeast rolls.
  • Leftovers

For more great menu plans this week, check out Organizing Junkie

~Happy Valentine’s Day~

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Well, I’m late getting this post up today, but I wanted to get it up any way.  We usually don’t do a whole lot for Valentine’s Day because we believe that we need to try to show our love for each other every day of the year not just one day.  But, we do try to do a little something for each other and the kids.  This year, I made them each (Brian & the kids) a dozen homemade heart-shaped big peanut butter cups.   Brian bought me 2 bags of Lindor Truffles which are some of my favorite chocolates! 

So, I thought I would share my recipe with you all and how I made them.  Since it’s too late to give you an idea for this year’s Valentine’s Day, hopefully you can plan ahead for next year – or maybe for your anniversary!

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

2 cups milk chocolate chips
2 Tbs shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

1.  Place chocolate chips and shortening in a pot and melt on low heat, stirring occasionally.  I used my Wilton Candy Maker Deluxe pots that I had gotten at Hobby Lobby a while back using 40% off coupons! 

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2.  While you’re melting the chocolate, place peanut butter and butter in a pot over medium heat until melted, stirring occasionally.  When completely melted, add powdered sugar and stir until combined.  Continue heating until sugar is well combined.  Remove from heat and let cool until you can safely handle it.  But don’t let it get too cool or it will be too thick use scoop out.

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3.  I use silicone cupcake liners (paper liners work but I like that fact that I don’t have to use cupcake pans for these). 

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Place a spoonful of chocolate in liner and, using a brush, paint the sides with the chocolate. 

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4.  Place on cookie sheet (I used a cutting board) and place in freezer for about 5 minutes or chocolate is set. 

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5.  Using a scoop/spoon, scoop peanut butter mixture into cups, leaving enough room to pour chocolate on top.

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6.  Pour enough chocolate on top of peanut butter mixture to cover but don’t put too much or it will run over the sides of the cup.  (Sorry – forgot to take this pic. )  Return to freezer for about 30 minutes. 

7.  Remove from molds.

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8.  Place them in a nice tin and give them to your sweetheart for him/her to enjoy! 

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Store in a cool, dry place or place in fridge if keeping longer than a few days. 

 

**Note:  If using white chocolate, you may need to add an extra 1 to 2 Tbs of shortening to get desired consistency, depending on the quality of the chocolate.  You want a nice, smooth consistency. **

 

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do.  Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Homemade Ice Packs

 

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You know those times when you’ve got an ache or pain,  or one of your kids has a sprain or a bump on the head and you need an ice pack, but you never have any?  You put ice cubes in a bag but they don’t seem to get to all of the area that you need it to very well? 

Well, I’ve got the answer right here.  You can have all the ice packs on hand that you need and you can make them yourself for next to nothing!  The best part is they’re reusable!  I’ve got one that I’ve been using for several years.  In fact, it’s finally starting to not freeze quite as well as it used to, but it still works! 

 

Homemade Ice Packs

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1 cup rubbing alcohol
2 cups water 
Food Color of choice (optional)
Food Saver bags or 2 Ziploc Freezer Bag (1 quart size)

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Pour alcohol & water into bag.  Add a few drops of food coloring, if desired. 

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Get as much air out of the bag as possible and seal. 

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Katie helped me choose the different colors.  We did a red, orange purple, teal, raspberry, and yellow.  We made 3 large and 3 smaller ice packs. 

If using a Ziploc freezer bag, remove the air and seal the bag. Place that bag seal side down into another Ziploc freezer bag, remove the air and seal that bag. Place in the freezer.  Use (and reuse) when needed (nice and slushy!).  These are great because they can be conformed to fit around knees, elbows, wrists, etc. so that more of the injured/painful area can be covered by the ice pack. 

If the mixture freezes too hard, just add a little more alcohol.  If it’s too slushy, add a little more water.  If you’re using Food Saver bags, you can customize the size a bit more – smaller ones for minor bumps and bruises – larger ones for knee and back aches. 

Hope you find these ice packs as handy and helpful as I have over the years. 

 

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday

How much do you really save on school lunches vs. making your own?

I hear this conversation (aka argument) at the beginning of every school year. How can it be cheaper to send lunch with your kids every day than to buy school lunches, especially when sending fresh fruits & veggies? My answer? It’s easy! Buy on sale, make it your self, and portion control! Do NOT buy prepackaged items! Have you looked at the sodium and sugar levels (not to mention the preservatives) in most of the prepackaged “lunch” items? It’s outrageous! And, if you have a child with ADD like we do, we try to limit the amount of sugars and Red Dye #40 that we give our children. We really see a difference in her demeanor when we do this. She can focus better and get her work done better.

Here’s a few tips:

  • Instead of chips, send pretzels – a bag of pretzel sticks costs me $1.18 and lasts me for about 1-1/2 weeks.
  • Buy fresh fruits & veggies in season as much as possible and give them choices, just don’t give them too many or they will be overwhelmed.
  • Write up a menu and place it where they can see it easily. Let them choose what they would like to take the night before. This makes already rushed mornings easier to deal with because you already know what they want. Also, prep as much as you can the night before. Shaves off a few more minutes of your already crazy morning.
  • Make food fun! Make cut outs in the sandwiches if they’ll eat it better that way. Here’s a tip: Cut the bread before adding the “filling”. If taking things ham & cheese, cut those and then place on the sandwich. You can put the extras on your sandwich at lunch or on a salad. The extra bread can be cut up and made into croutons or turned into bread crumbs.
  • Make roll-ups using tortilla shells and their favorite sandwich ingredients. It’s a nice change from the usual. You can also add a thin layer of cream cheese if using meats and cheeses. It gives it nice flavor and keeps the filling where it belongs.
  • Make homemade cookies instead of buying them and, instead of baking all the dough, freeze half of it in the form of balls so that when you need more cookies, you just pull out the amount needed, place on a cookie sheet, and bake. It only adds an extra minute or two when baking.
  • Instead of baggies, use some small Gladware (or equivalent) containers and reuse them. This saves us about $6.00/month (1 husband and 3 kids) or $72/year. May not sound like much, but it does make a difference.
  • Send leftovers! Soups are really good for this! Get a good metal thermos for this. It’s worth the extra money needed up front, but pays for itself very quickly and it can be used over and over and over again. Here’s a tip. Fill the thermos with boiling water and place lid back on. In the mean time, heat food to extremely hot/boiling. About 5 minutes before they are ready to leave, pour out the water and fill with boiling food items into thermos and replace lid. The food will still be warm at lunch.
  • Instead of prepackaged juice pouches or sodas, invest in a stainless steel thermos and send 100% juice, water, tea, etc. It’s reusable and will quickly pay for itself. Plus, you’re not sending drinks full of artificial flavors and sweeteners.

Here’s a great list of items that you can send that usually go over very well with all ages:

  • cheese (buy blocks and cut it up yourself – it’s cheaper)
  • raw veggies with dip (if they like that)
  • small salad with romaine lettuce
  • fresh fruits (canned will work, just buy lite syrup)
  • air-popped popcorn – very nice change from chips
  • baked tortilla chips and salsa
  • homemade soups, especially chicken noodle during cold/flu season
  • nuts are a good side
  • applesauce
  • homemade pizza roll ups
  • homemade “Lunchable” using crackers, ham, & cheese, or drizzle thin french bread slices with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, season with oregano and toast and send with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni slices.
  • pita bread sandwiches/pizzas are a nice change
  • homemade trail mix
  • yogurt with fruit and granola

Last but not least, I thought I would give you an example of what my kids took this week and how much it cost/saved me. Our school lunches are $1.75 at the elementary and $2.00 at the middle and high school. Each day varies depending on their choices, but here’s what my kids took for lunch one day this week:

Melia:

  • 3 pizza roll ups – $0.36
  • fresh strawberries – $0.45
  • Banana – $0.20
  • Pretzels – $0.05
  • 2 choc. chip cookies – $0.34
  • water – $0

Total: $1.40 Savings: $0.60

Katie:

  • 3 ham & cheese roll ups – $0.29
  • pretzels – $0.05
  • carrot sticks – $0.05
  • 2 peanut butter cookies – $0.14
  • Sweet Tea $0.01

Total: $0.54 Savings: $1.46

Michael:

  • 3 ham & cheese roll ups – $0.29
  • pretzels – $0.05
  • banana – $0.20
  • 2 choc. chip cookies – $.34
  • Apple Juice – $.20

Total: – $1.08 Savings: $0.67

Grand Total: $3.02

Total Savings: $2.73 or 47%

That’s a savings of approximately $10.92/month or $109.20/school year – give or take depending on sales, appetites, and what it costs to make the items.

This doesn’t include what my husband took, but if he were to eat out every day, it would cost us around $30-$50/week depending on where he went. By taking his lunch, we save anywhere from $24-$44/week or $96-$176/month or $1152-$2112/year! That’s a lot of money!

So, in the end sending a sack lunch with your kids to school DOES save money! And it’s not as hard as you think it is! Just a little time and planning ahead are all you need!

For more great frugal tips, check out Frugal Friday.