I love homemade gifts! As the holidays approach I try to think of gifts that I can make myself that might bless others. One favorite idea is homemade gift jars. You can fill jars with all sorts of gift ideas – cookie mixes, brownie mixes, or soup mixes. One of my favorites is a Minestrone Soup Mix. It makes four gift packages and when presented in a jar with a cute tag makes a wonderful gift. Most of the ingredients you probably have on hand in your pantry.

Minestrone Soup Mix

Flavoring Mix;
½ cup dried onion flakes
½ cup dried celery flakes
¼ cup dried parsley flakes
2 Tbsp basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried marjoram
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp pepper

½ cup beef-flavored bouillon granules
1 pound dried navy beans
1 pound dried kidney beans
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked

Combine the first 8 ingredients and divide evenly into 4 gift packages. Add 2 Tbsp of the beef flavored bouillon granules to each package. Label and seal.  Combine navy beans and kidney beans and divide into 4 gift packages. Label and seal. Place ½ cup of macaroni into 4 gift packages. Label and seal

Present one package of herb mix, one package of bean mix and one package of macaroni with a copy of the recipe for Minestrone Soup. You can layer the ingredients  in a jar or decorate a brown bag and include the ingredients in the bag. To each jar or bag attach the following recipe:

Minestrone Soup

1 pkg of bean mix
3 quarts of water
1 pkg herb mix
1 carrot, chopped
2/3 (4oz) of chopped lean cooked ham
1 (14.5oz) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg macaroni

Sort and wash beans; place in a Dutch oven and cover with water, two inches above the beans. Soak for 8 hours. Drain beans; add 3 quarts of water, herb mix, carrot and ham. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender. Add tomatoes and macaroni, cook 20 minutes or until macaroni is tender. Serve hot.

We have company coming this weekend and what better recipe to share today than my Overnight Coffee Cake. This recipe can be made ahead and just popped in the oven when you get up in the morning, it can also be cooked immediately. I love to make it the night before. Then when you are busy making breakfast you can just place it in the oven and it will be ready in thirty minutes. This is a family favorite!

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs

Topping Mixture:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or other favorite nuts)
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine first 7 ingredients, add buttermilk, butter and eggs.  Beat at low speed until moistened, beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan. (I just spray with non stick cooking spray).

Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, pecans and 1 tsp cinnamon (topping mixture). Sprinkle over batter. * Cover and refrigerate 8 – 12 hours. Uncover and bake 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm.

*Can bake immediately 350 degrees for 30 minutes. To reheat cover with foil and bake 350 degrees for five minutes.

Linked to: Yummy Inspirations, FlourMeWithLove, FoodieFriendsFriday, GooseberryPatch

 



Perhaps you’re like me and have some dried beans on hand that you keep forgetting to use. After all it’s so much easier to open a can of beans rather than remember to soak the dried beans overnight so they’ll be ready to use in a recipe. The solution: can your dried beans using a pressure canner. Once they are canned they are ready to use for any instant meal just like a can of beans!

First cover the beans with cold water and let them soak for 12-18 hours in a cool place. Make sure the pot is large enough to allow for expansion, when I got up in the morning the lid to the pot was raised up because the beans had really expanded! Drain the beans and then cover with at least two inches of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes, stirring as needed. While the beans are boiling have some jars heating in a water bath. Pack hot beans into hot jars, leaving one inch of headspace. Add ½ tsp of salt to pints and 1 tsp to quarts, if desired. Ladle boiling cooking liquid over the beans. Leaving one inch of headspace. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar clean and place hot, previously simmered lids on each jar. Screw down ring firmly. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a steam pressure canner.

This is a wonderful way to stock your pantry with beans that are ready to use for any meal. I think I’ll use them in my Black Bean Cassoulet recipe, the perfect recipe for a cold winter night. If you’re interested in this recipe please stayed tuned! I will share it when the snow is a little deeper!

Well my intention today was to get outside and finish putting the gardens to bed. Snow is in the forecast and I really like to have everything cut back and cleaned up before the first snowfall. I worked outside yesterday in my flower beds and just about finished my work but today was going to be spent in the vegetable garden. I need to take down the blueberry net, move the garden stakes to the barn, cut back the remaining perennials and do a general clean up. However it’s raining and yes did I mention snow is in the forecast! Not exactly the type of day I want to spend outdoors, I’d much rather sit with the dogs and enjoy the warmth of the woodstove!

Instead I will soak some dried beans in preparation for canning them tomorrow. I have several jars of dried beans on hand and I want to can them so they will be ready for a quick meal. I’ve not done this before so we will be experimenting together! I will have to use the pressure canner but the process sounds simple.

For my faithful readers that would like to read about gardening today check out Prudent Living Magazine, I have written an article for this winter issue! Just click on the link on the PrudentLivingMagazine.com menu tab on the left. Hope you enjoy it. I’ll be back tomorrow with a lesson on canning dried beans.

 

 

Once you know your prices by keeping track of them in your price book you can begin to buy in bulk and work toward having a well-stocked pantry. When you have a well-stocked pantry you never need to worry about making those unexpected trips to the grocery store. Once you have a well-stocked pantry you will only need to stop at the store for produce, milk and the unbeatable sale that you can’t pass up. Stocking up saves money.

When planning to buy in bulk you must know the options for food buying in your area. Aside from the local grocery store there may be food co-ops, warehouse stores such as BJ’s or Sam’s or even local farmers. Be aware of the loss leader sale items, which appear on the front and back of sale flyers. These are meant to get you into the store and will usually beat any price in a wholesale store. Again, it is important to know your food prices so you can find the deals.

Bulk buying isn’t just for large families either; you just want to buy enough to get you to the next sale. Each family will buy according to their need. Be aware of expiration dates as well, no point in having a pantry stocked with items that are no longer good to eat! Buying in bulk will give you a well stocked pantry. There are many reasons to have a well stocked pantry. This past year we learned first hand the importance of having a well stocked pantry.

In December my husband was laid off. After the security of a steady income we faced the uncertainly of unemployment. It was a good feeling to know that we could eat from our pantry and spend a minimum amount on groceries during that time of unemployment. Thankfully after six months of unemployment my husband found a new job. In late August we experienced another interesting situation. Irene hit our area in Vermont hard. Not only were we without power for six days but also the roads were destroyed and travel was severely limited. To top it off we had a houseful of company that week, all four of our children as well as two spouses and our grand-daughter were visiting! Again we were blessed to have a well-stocked pantry. We ate well that week without having to worry about getting to the store.

 

After making applesauce yesterday I still had some apples left. I decided to use some of the apples and make my Aunt Cathleen’s Fresh Apple Cake. My aunt shared this recipe years ago and it has been a family favorite ever since! It is delicious anytime of the year but especially good in the fall when the apples are fresh. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Fresh Apple Cake
2  1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped
4 cups coarsely chopped unpeeled apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. It is often easier to use your hands to mix everything together as the mixture is quite stiff. Lightly grease a tube pan. Scrap mixture into the tube pan and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.

Bon Appetit!

Nancy

Linked To: IAmAddictedToRecipes

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