Homemade Granola

This video first appeard May 7th, 2009.  It’s so easy to make granola that I thought it is worth bringing to the front. It is a great topper for oatmeal, yogurt, or other cereals.

Watch the video to see how easy it is to make homemade granola.  With the choice of the right ingredients, it’s inexpensive and nutritious.  I added mine to an inexpensive box of cornflakes for a multigrain “honey bunches of oats” type cereal.


Here’s the ingredient list:  Syrup:  3 T oil, 1/3 C honey, 1 T water, 1 t real maple extract


Grain:  2 C oats, 1 C rice crispies, 1/2 C cracked wheat, 1/2 C wheat germ, 2 T brown sugar, 1/4 t salt

(Next time I’d replace the cracked wheat with sunflower seeds.)

Here’s the video. I apologize it is so dark at the beginning, it gets better.

Do you have a favorite granola recipe?

Sunday Picnic

This post was originally published May 6th 2009, but it’s a topic worth revisiting! With just a few minutes planning, a lot of food cost can be saved. I don’t usually have time to make 8 sandwiches with all the fixings, but with a change in thought process a large family picnic can be made in record time.  I’ll show you how. 

picnic lunch

Last Sunday Darren preached as a guest minister in Macon, Missouri–3 hours from our home.  Usually, the church there shuts down immediately after the service and we head home.  We have 2 choices for lunch: stop at a restaurant or bring our own food.  We are usually running late in the morning, but in the video below I will show you how I pack a picnic in record time and save expensive restaurant costs.  This plan works for long shopping days too!

Our day ended up going a lot different than planned.  On the way out of the church, Charles, whom we had never met before, offered to take us to lunch.  We were excited for the opportunity to get to know him better and he is an exceptional person.  When we stepped outside, Charles noticed that we had a flat tire!  I’m so grateful that it went flat during the service and not while I was driving.  The repair garage said it was bulged on the side and a blow out risk!  Charles not only took us to lunch, but invited us to his home to rest while he bought us new front tires for our van!  I almost cried.  We’ve needed tires for awhile but kept hoping that they would last until our situation was different.

So the eating you see in the movie was for supper not lunch. Even though our day was far different than we expected, our picnic sill came in handy.

Update:  I forgot to give you the price breakdown on lunch.  Keep in mind too that we had enough leftovers for another meal the next day.  Bread-free, strawberries-$1, carrots-$1, crackers-$1, Cheesesticks-$1, 3 sliced apples-$1, Peanut Butter and Honey–$.25–cost for 5 people (a couple of our kids were with Grandma) $5.25  For the same price we could have stopped and gotten everyone one double cheeseburger from McDonalds.  It wouldn’t have been as filling or nutritious.

Blueberry Oat Custard

I’m not a fan of plain oatmeal, but add a few eggs and cook it in milk instead of water and I’ll change my tune.  It’s also weight loss friendly and will fill you up.

blueberry oat custard

1 Cup rolled oats

2 Cups skim milk

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

2-4 packets truvia

1 cup blueberries (I used frozen wild blueberries from Costco)

Combine all but the blueberries in a sauce pan and mix with a large wisk.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbling.  Remove from heat and stir in blueberries.  Serve with a dallop of whipped topping or vanilla yogurt.

Yields 3 cups of custard.  3 servings @ 223 calories, 43 g net carbs, 5 g fat, and 21 g protein.

If you have a dairy allergy, this recipe works well with almond milk.  Each serving would have 180 calories, 35 net carbs, 5 g fat, and 15g protein

Homemade Wheat Thins

wheat thins 1

(This recipe was originally published in June 2009) I love Wheat Thin crackers. I’ve tried lots of recipes on the web, but never found one quite like the store bought kind.  Last night, in the wee moments before falling asleep, I realized the box has the recipe practically on it!  I took the ingredients off the box, which are in order of amount, and then typed them into the nutrition calculator at www.sparkrecipe.com.  By multiplying the nutrition amount by 10, I was able to build a recipe for serving 10 people.

wheat thins 2

I made a few changes in the recipe, substituting sugar for high fructose corn syrup and malt syrup.  I also decreased the amount of all purpose flour and increased the amount of whole wheat flour.  I left out the corn starch and increased the amount of wheat germ, using raw wheat germ for the defatted germ on the label.  We baked them today and they tasted very close to the original, only healthier.  Next time I’ll roll the dough thinner and they’ll be perfect!

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 plus 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon soy lecithin (optional)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup water

Combine the first & ingredients (saving 1/4 teaspoon of salt).  In a separate bowl, combine the oil and water.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the oil mixture.  Lightly mix until a dough forms.  Divide into 2 balls, wrap each ball in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

Roll one ball 1/8″ thick.  Cut with cracker cutters or a knife.  Poke holes with a toothpick or kabob skewer. Sprinkle with the reserved salt. Bake on a silicone baking sheet (or greased cookie sheet) at 375 for 12 minutes.  Cool completely. Bake again at 375 for 7 minutes or until crackers are crisp.

Slow Cooker Greek Yogurt

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and probiotics.  It’s thick and creamy even when made with skim milk.  The only problem is it can get expensive! A 48 ounce container from Costco is around $6, but I can make 64 ounces at home for the price of a gallon of milk.  This week Aldi has milk on sale for $1.65 a gallon!  It’s yogurt making time :).

I like to do a whole gallon at once, because I use yogurt for a lot of things–eating with fruit, pancake topping, sour cream substitute, to make dip and salad dressing, as a base for cream sauces etc.  It’s a fabulous high protein snack for everyone in the family. If you use less, you can cut everything in half and do just a half gallon if you use less yogurt. So here’s how I make it:

Greek Yogurt and Blackberries

Pour 1 gallon of milk in a 5 quart slow cooker.  Place on low for 2-3 hours or until it is 180 degrees. Do not let the milk boil! If you have a digital thermometer with an alarm, you can walk away and forget about it. You can use any kind of milk–skim to whole.  I prefer skim for the lower calories and we are used to it.  Whole milk yogurt is delightfully creamy  though.

Turn off the slow cooker and let the milk sit until it has cooled to 110-120 degrees. (2-3 hours)  I know heating the milk feels like an extra step if you are just going to cool it down, but it’s necessary to unravel the proteins and allows the yogurt to thicken.  I’ve made raw milk yogurt before and it doesn’t get as thick.

Take 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (reserved from your last batch or purchased) and mix it with 1 cup of the warm milk from your slow cooker.  Then stir this mixture into the rest of the warm milk.  It would seem like adding more yogurt starter would just make yogurt faster and thicker–but it doesn’t work that way.  More is not better. 1/2 cup per gallon is perfection.

Cover with the lid and wrap the whole thing in bath towels to insulate.  Keep the slow cooker turned off and allow it to sit overnight.  In the morning it will look like this:

Slow Cooker Greek yogurtYou can see the whey separated and floating on the top with the yogurt solids underneath.  If you stir all this together, you will have regular plain yogurt.

To make Greek Yogurt:  Layer a large bowl with a large colander and line with 3 layers of cheese cloth.  Pour your yogurt  into this and allow to drain without stirring until half of the volume is reduced.  Save the nutritous clear whey for baking and use it like buttermilk in pancakes, biscuits, bread etc.

Take the strained yogurt and put it in your electric mixture with the wisk attachment and whip.  If it’s too dry add a little fresh milk (or cream) until it has the moistness and consistency you like.

It should be very thick and creamy when you are done.  This recipe yields 1 gallon of plain yogurt or 1/2 gallon of Greek Yogurt for around $3.  This is roughly 1/4 the cost of buying the same amounts at Costco and requires very little hands on time.

If your yogurt doesn’t set up, you can leave it another day.  I’ve forgotten about it before and left it for 24 hours.  The yogurt was perfect and the cultures kept the milk from spoiling.  If it doesn’t work at all, it is possible the yogurt cultures weren’t alive.  This happens if the milk is too hot when they are added (high heat will kill them.)  Or if the starter was too old.  It works best if you can make yogurt once a week or every other week and use 1/2 cup from the previous batch to keep the cultures alive and happy.


Peach Mint Iced Tea

We save a lot of money by drinking water instead of juice, milk, or soda.  I keep a pitcher of water full in the fridge so it’s cold and inviting.  Even then, sometimes, it’s nice to have something flavorful to drink. Even better if it’s inexpensive and healthy too.  Peppermint tea is my favorite summer beverage to add variety to the every day. I save even more by using 1 tea bag for 2 cups of water and letting it steep a little longer so it’s just as strong.

iced tea


Peach Peppermint Tea is a fancier version of my favorite. I first tasted this tea at a wedding shower for my close friend.  The shower was held in a victorian style cottage in a wooded area and everything about it was quaint, delicate and beautiful.  They had tea sandwiches and petit fours with fresh berries. Everything was served on floral vintage china with mismatched pieces.  Serving serfaces were softened with lace and cabbage rose printed table clothes. Dreamy….


The cold refreshing tea was sweetened with honey, but it’s also yummy with stevia. Here’s the simple recipe:

  • 8 cups  boiling water
  • 4 peppermint tea bags
  • 4 tablespoons honey (or 8 packets of truvia)
  • 2 fresh peaches

Steep tea bags in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Discard bags, pressing moisture from them back into the tea.  Dissolve honey into the hot beverage and add sliced peaches.  Cool until room temperature and then chill until ready to serve.  Serves 8.



Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

Meat and Cheese are the two most expensive categories in my grocery budget. I keep costs down by choosing less expensive proteins a few times a week like eggs.   While I’m not a fan of vegan protein alternatives like tofu and TVP,  I do enjoy fresh or dry roasted edamame.

how to prepare tofu

If someone in my home developed food allergies to all dairy and eggs I’d consider tofutti. Until then…. nope.

Eggs, on the other hand, are little compact nuggets of serious nutrition.  2 large eggs have 140 calories, 12g of protein, and everything necessary to grow a chick = lots of nutrients.   Plus at $1.50 a dozen, a serving of 2 eggs is only $.25.

Grant Slicing Eggs

We like to have hard boiled eggs on hand for snacking.  They are also great chopped on top of a chef’s salad, in egg salad, potato salad, tuna salad, creamed eggs over biscuits, deviled (stuffed) eggs….you get the idea.

Boiled eggs are easy to cook, but may not be so easy to peel.  When eggs are freshly laid, they are slightly acidic which makes the shell stick tightly to the albumin in the egg white and impossible to peel cleanly. The hen covers her eggs with a protective coating as they are laid which keeps this acidic level intact and the egg fresh outside the fridge for 10 days.

peeling eggs

Commercial eggs have the protective coating washed off.  This allows the natural CO2 trapped in the egg to dissipate through the porous shell reducing the acidity and the stickiness of the shell.  Commercial eggs will ripen in the refrigerator to be easy to peel in about 10 days. By the time they reach our homes commercial eggs are typically perfectly ripe.

If you have your own hens, you’ll need to wash the eggs you hope to boil with warm water and a soft cloth before storing in the fridge.  Label them so you’ll be able to tell the date they will be ready to boil and peel (10 days ripened.)  Oiling the eggs for storage will make it impossible for them to ripen to easy peel stage.

Eggs in steamer

We enjoy steaming our eggs instead of boiling them in water.  They don’t crack since they aren’t in the rocking boiling water to knock them around.  We think they are easier to peel than boiled eggs and don’t have the grayish green line separating the yolk from the white, unless we forget about them and over do it.

I use our combo steamer/slow cooker/rice cooker to do it, because it automatically starts timing when the water comes to a boil and sets of an alarm when they are done.  I simply fill the bottom with 2 inches of water, fill the top basket with eggs, set it to steam for 15 minutes and go to something productive.

Peel eggs with a spoon

When the alarm sounds , I use oven mitts to lift out the steamer basket and plunge it into a sink of cold water to stop the cooking process.  When they are cool enough to handle, I tap and roll the eggs on a paper towel (or cloth towel) to break up the shell, then slip a spoon between the shell and the egg.  The spoon curves with the egg keeping it protected and the peel slips off pretty quickly this way. If the spoon doesn’t slide well, I oil the tip with a touch of olive oil.

How about you, does peeling eggs frustrate you? Do you have a family tradition for making eggs easy to peel?



Homemade Calzones


Calzones are my favorite to make, because you can tuck almost any combo of leftovers in them and have a portable meal to go.  We especially like ham and cheddar; turkey, broccoli and swiss; pizza combos; and bbq.  They are great for grabbing to eat at the soccer fields or for a picnic meal.  My kids even like to pack leftover calzones for cold lunches. The whole thing can be done from the homemade dough, to the meal in hand in around 45 minutes, and most of that is wait time. Read more