Creamy Alfredo Sauce

I know what you’re thinking.

Why does the world need ANOTHER Alfredo Sauce recipe?!


Good Question. Perhaps it doesn’t. But I would like to suggest that you try this one before dismissing the idea entirely!

Years ago, I would have laughed at the idea of making Alfredo from scratch. Why make something you can easily buy in a jar? Then I started reading ingredient lists. I would never recommend this course of action unless you are ready to rethink the quality of the food entering your body.

I started to make more from scratch, including rolls, soups, desserts, and sauces. This particular sauce is the result of some trial and error and I am rather excited about it!

Alfredo

CREAMY ALFREDO SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 3 TBSP Flour
  • 2/3 C Chicken Stock or Water
  • 1/2 C Milk
  • 4 ounces Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste

SUPPLIES:

  • Saucepan
  • Metal Whisk

 

  1. Melt Butter in saucepan over medium heat, stir in flour and cook 1-2 minutes
  2. Slowly add stock/water to flour mixture while whisking to combine. Add milk in the same way.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened
  4. Add cream cheese, garlic, and salt & peppers, whisking carefully while the cheese melts.
  5. Whisk vigorously until chunks are combined and sauce is creamy.
  6. Enjoy over your favorite pasta

Last Minute Soup: Delicious Soup with Anything You have on Hand!

Last Minute Soup

Guys. I’m writing a novel! Well, that’s the goal anyway. I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo (nanowrimo.org). It takes place every November, so this year I jumped on board and started brainstorming in October. Here’s the thing though, brainstorming leads to an intense desire to write! So I started early, and was so into writing I forgot about dinner last week. (OOPS!)

Last-Minute Soup to save the day! This is a recipe that will let you make soup out of whatever you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Every batch is different, and every batch is delicious!

The ingredients for soup Fall into 5 basic categories:

Liquid Liquids: Water, Milk, Broth, or Stock

Spice Spices: Any dried or fresh herbs/seasonings you prefer!

Vegetables Vegetables: Whatever combination of fresh, frozen, or canned you have Protein Protein: Feel free to get creative here! Not just chicken, beans or beef, try ham or hard boiled eggs, tofu or even hot dogs! Carb

Carb/Starch: This category is completely optional and would include things like Potatoes, Rice, Pasta, Gnocci, etc…

Soup Collage

Once you compile your ingredients, do any prep such as cooking the protein and chopping ingredients to the desired size and shape! (Healthy Tip: Don’t peel your carrots! In soup, no one can tell and the peel adds extra vitamins! Instead, wash well and chop as usual. Same goes for celery leaves, they are delicious and blend in with the herbs when chopped finely.)

2015-10-27 08.54.33

Now is the fun part – the actual cooking! [If you are using a slow cooker, feel free to scroll to the bottom for those instructions!]

Olive Oil

Add 1 Tbsp Olive Oil to your soup pot and head on medium heat.

2015-10-27 08.56.45

Once Oil is hot, add fresh vegetables (minus any greens like spinach or green onions) to the pot with the seasonings. Cook until the hardest vegetable begins to soften, stirring occasionally.

2015-10-27 09.08.36

Add frozen vegetables and greens, cooking until they are thawed and greens begin to wilt.

2015-10-27 09.10.47

Add Canned vegetables, protein, and liquid. (If using rice, add in this step)

 2015-10-27 09.12.26

Stir together and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using a carb, other than rice, add after 15 minutes and let cook with the soup for 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

2015-10-27 09.15.06

If you are using a slow cooker, your steps are easy! Add all ingredients to the pot, give it a stir, and cover. Cook on Low 6-8 hours or High 2-4 hours.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.06.05 AM Last Minute Soup <– Printable PDF!

What do you guys think of the photo instructions? Are they helpful? Annoying? Awesome? Please let me know in the comments below! And share your soup combinations so we can all be inspired 🙂

Mini Pumpkin Scones

Here in Upstate New York the Fall season has officially begun! I’ve pulled out our sweaters, made the switch from iced coffee to hot tea, and developed a taste for all things pumpkin. The first pumpkin thing on my agenda this year was scones.

I LOVE SCONES!

Scones can be sweet or savory, breakfast or dessert, biscuity or dense; basically anything you can dream up! For my pumpkin scones I wanted something fluffy, sweet (but not over sweet), and flavorful. I took my favorite scone recipe and with some adjustments, got perfect pumpkin scones.

You have got to taste the addicting little treats! I mean, look at them:

Mini Pumpkin Scones

Check out this texture:

Scone Close Up

It does not get any better than that, folks. It just doesn’t.

MINI PUMPKIN SCONES

Yield: 32 scones  Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ cup butter or coconut oil
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree (heaping, so a little over)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon + ½ tsp nutmeg)
  • Optional: 3 tbsp mini chocolate chips or chopped nuts
  • Topping:
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, & baking powder
  3. Cut in butter/coconut oil with a fork until mixture is crumbly
  4. In separate bowl, combine pumpkin, egg, vanilla, & spices
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined – dough will be sticky
  6. Fold in chips or nuts, if using
  7. Dump dough onto sheet of wax paper or greased countertop; grease hands and form dough into rectangle (about the size of a 8.5×11 paper)
  8. With greased knife, cut dough into quarters vertically and horizontally, so you have 16 squares. Cut each square diagonally, ending with 32 mini scones
  9. Use spatula to transfer scones to cookie sheets, leaving about ½ inch between scones
  10. Combine cinnamon & sugar for topping and sprinkle generously onto the scones
  11. Bake in oven 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned
  12. Transfer to cooling rack, enjoy warm or cool

I’m going to try something new and give you a PDF so you can easily print the recipe, too! Leave me a note and let me know what you think. Is it helpful? I also would love to hear what you’re adding into these! Please comment so I can try 🙂

MINI PUMPKIN SCONES <– Printable PDF!!

The Secret to a Clean Home – 7 Organizing Solutions

If you are anything like me, you have spent countless minutes looking at the mess around you wondering where to begin. And wondering if it’s worth the effort just to be surrounded by mess all over again. Cleaning is a thankless, never ending job. Sometimes just the thought of picking up one more toy makes you want to weep.

Well, no more! My goal this spring was to clean my house and keep it that way. I started by making a deal with one of my best friends. We would take turns at each others house helping them clean areas that were too overwhelming to start alone. I strongly recommend this!  We only helped each other once, but it was enough to kick our butts in gear!

While this was the start, it isn’t the key to keeping it clean. Are you ready for the secret?

“Everything has a place and everything in its place”

I know you have heard that before! But, guess what? It works! The key to cleaning, and staying clean is easily identifiable organization. If everyone can see where things belong, they can clean up when they are done – even this little ones!

Here are 7 ideas to get you started:

Image

Picture Labeled Toy Bins

The same friend who was my cleaning buddy suggested this one and it’s genius! I took pictures of each filled bin on my phone and sent them to Walgreens using their app for 1-hour pickup. Then I taped them on. Originally I just put scotch tape on the back, but that didn’t last very long, so I used packing tape to tape over and cover the entire photo. Now the kids can easily see what belongs in each bin and I don’t have to go through and re-organize after they clean!

If you don’t already have bins, you can use any baskets or containers you already have.  Even shoe boxes so they stack would work. You can get shoe box size containers with lids at Dollar Tree.

A Side Note: Before you organize the toys, purge them. This corner was overflowing with toys and I ended up tossing 2 black garbage bags full before I got here.  Don’t keep anything that is missing pieces, too young, or not played with. Donating is a good option if you have toys in good condition. I recommend cleaning this sections when the kids are napping or at school or just out of the house. Mine have asked for very little of what I tossed, but if they saw me tossing I know the tantrums that would have ensued.

Image

Shoe Tree

I got this one for $20 at BJs. This vertical storage option really frees up my kitchen floor. We had one of those long horizontal ones with the two poles; it was too wide for Little One’s shoes and too thin for Hubby’s. Then it broke, so we used it even less! When I saw this, I knew it was perfect.  It is easy to move to clean around and let me bring the dog dish over to the corner instead of in the hallway to be knocked over when the kids ran around.

Image

Kitchen Appliance Shelves

That same corner with the shoe tree has a high counter and all this space underneath. The only thing I had under there before was my recycling and step stool (a must-have for us short girls!) As I was trying to brainstorm ways to get appliances off my counter, I realized this space had so much potential! A quick trip to K-Mart later and I had the perfect sized utility shelf for organization. My kitchen is small, so this frees up counter and cabinet space that was overflowing.

Image

Command Hooks

This was one of the cabinets that had an appliance or two shoved inside. My biggest thing here was the command hooks for my measuring utensils. All of my utensils had the holes on the top, so I found items in the house to use as loops for the ones I had lost and hung them on these handy hooks. {I used a second set next to the door for our keys, we haven’t lost them since!}

I also bought a basket at Dollar General for the Lids (notice the label, even Hubby should be able to put them away neatly). Speaking of baskets, check out my pantry!

Image

Pantry Baskets

Can you tell I love bins? All of those white ones happen to be left over from under the changing table when my Little One needed diapers, wipes, and all of the other baby things close at hand. I think they came from Big Lots. While doing my bin organization, I got increasingly frustrated with all of the leaking bags of flour, sugars, etc. So I took a trip to Marshalls (or was it TJ Maxx?) for resealable bins. OXO are much cheaper there, and those round ones are an even less expensive off brand that came highly recommended by a fellow shopper – I am glad I took his advice! They work great and are stackable.  Again, I have everything labeled so anyone who is here can find what they need.

Image

Top of Fridge Storage

When I started organizing, I really tried to look at the places that were being under-utilized. Like under my counter or inside the cabinet door.  This is another one, the top of the fridge.  It sort of became the catch-all for everything I didn’t know what to do with.  After going through and purging the items I really didn’t need, putting seasonal items in the basement with their seasonal bins, and tossing all of the old candy that I kept away from the kids there, I had a nice space! As you can see, I have a bit of a tea obsession, so I organized my teas on a sushi tray that gets little use to easily pull down and find the kind I want. The rest is used for my vases and pitchers, which are useful but not needed often. The dog treats are an added bonus! 🙂

Image

Paper & Mail Folders

This is one of my favorites. Remember that tall counter I told you about? Well, it used to be my junk counter. It was piled high with papers galore, and I had nowhere better to put them. So, I created somewhere better in another under-utilized place – the wall! These file bins came from Target and the folders were already in the house. I labeled them (are you surprised?) and we were good to go. Now its not perfect, my magazine folder is actually filled with instruction manuals and the To Be Filed folder is about stuffed to capacity, so I really need to get it upstairs and get filing.  But, I have my counter back and I can find what I need when I need it (and so can Hubby!)

 

Once you start organizing, you really can’t stop! I have a list of places I am brainstorming better organization. Does anyone know how to control a linen closet? Or keep a large amount of fruit without spilling all over your counter?

The key things I have learned in keeping organized are:

-Use what you already have. Even with the shoe tree and shelf, I have spent less than $100 on my whole house of organizing.
-Use every space, keep your eyes peeled for under-utilized areas
-Label so anyone who uses it can find it and put it back away easily (pictures are great for kids!)
-Bins & Baskets are awesome!
-You can get supplies pretty much anywhere you shop – I mentioned 7 places in this post alone
-Be Flexible, I really wanted to store my pan lids in vertical slots, but couldn’t find anything that would work. I got a bin instead and it works just fine.

 

Don’t give up! If something doesn’t work the first time, redo it until it does. And remember the key to a clean house:

Everything has a place and everything in its place 🙂

“Secret Ingredient” Pizza Sauce (GF & V)

Friday night is Family Movie Night! Boy-O says the highlight of the evening is our Pizza Picnic. We were given an awesome picnic mat that is tightly woven and easy to clean. Little One takes her job of rolling it out very seriously, it has to be just right so everyone can see the movie. Boy-O just wants to get to the eating part, and I don’t blame him!

We don’t eat just any pizza, it’s homemade! Sometimes on fresh crust, sometimes on sliced bread from the local bakery – but regardless the crust used, everyone knows the sauce is the most important part. Through the past year I have played and tweaked my sauce recipe, and it wasn’t quite right until I added the “secret ingredient” on a whim. It was just what was missing! What is this miracle pizza sauce enhancer?

Pure Maple Syrup.

I know what you are thinking. Syrup? With tomato sauce? Try it, I promise you will not be disappointed.

“Secret Ingredient” Pizza Sauce

1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes (Sub Tomato Puree for a smoother sauce)
2 6oz cans Tomato Paste
1/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup
2 tsp Minced Garlic (Double for Garlic Pizza Sauce)
3 Bay Leaves
1 Tbsp Basil
Salt & Pepper to taste (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Once heated through turn on low and simmer, covered, for an hour, stirring occasionally. The sauce can be refrigerated and keeps for weeks! Makes enough for 2 to 4 pizzas, depending on how saucy you like it.

DIY All Purpose Cleaner

Boy-O loves to clean the bathroom. Believe me, I know how lucky I am! He started at 4 and hasn’t stopped.  What Mom wouldn’t let their kid step in for this decidedly icky chore? The problem, of course, is the chemicals involved.  Moderation certainly isn’t part of his vocabulary.  He follows the “more is better” philosophy of cleaning.  If I am not worrying over the long-term effects of the chemical exposure, I am fussing over the bleach spots on his clothes.

One of my friends introduced me to this simple homemade cleaner and I can’t help but share it! It cleans toilets, sinks, mirrors, counters, tables, ovens, microwaves, and whatever other non-porous surface you can think of.

Image

Supplies:

1 TBSP Borax

4 TBSP White Vinegar

1 TSP Liquid Dish Detergent

Water

32 oz Spray Bottle (I reused one from an old cleaner that I washed out)

 

Put some warm water in a pourable container (I used a liquid measuring cup) and dissolve the Borax in it. Stir in the vinegar and liquid detergent. Fill spray bottle halfway with water than add borax mixture.  Fill the rest of the way with water – The less you have to add at the end the better, it can get bubbly. Swish around until combined and VOILA! You are ready for cleaning.

Easy Halloween Ghost Decorations

Easy Halloween Ghost Decorations

It may only be October 4th, but my kids are excited about Halloween. My son is gearing up to be Link from the Zelda games (the geek in me is doing a happy dance right with him) and my daughter is ready to be the cutest Snow White there ever was! To keep the excitement rolling, I decided we needed some decorations. So, we made our own! It was easy, fun, and they are adorable. All you need is:

-White Tissue Paper (Yay dollar store!)
-White Yarn
-Black Marker
-Clear Tape
-Scissors

Start by having the kids ball up pieces of tissue paper, one for each ghost you want to make. While they are balling the paper, cut pieces of yarn into varying lengths. Tie a piece of yarn around each ball of tissue paper. Use the scissors to cut a slice into the middle of a full piece of tissue paper. Pull the string through and tape the tissue paper around the ball. Let your children create whatever face they want on each ghost. I used the tape to affix it to the ceiling.

VOILA – Halloween comes home. 🙂