I wonder how many people end up with a pile of leftover candy canes after Christmas? I know we do. For some reason everyone likes to have them hanging on the tree but they never seem to get eaten up. I was looking at the pile of candy canes the other day and thought there has to be a way to make use of them rather then throw them out. After spending a little time on the computer I found numerous ideas!

candy, peppermint, frugal tips,prudent living

Leftover Candy Canes.

1. Stir them in your hot chocolate.
2. Use them to stir your tea.
3. Add them to a milkshake.
4. Break off the hooked end and dip the straight piece in melted chocolate.
5. Crush them.

peppermint candy, candy canes

Crushed Candy Canes.

crushed candy, frugal tip

Put the candy cane pieces in your blender.

The last idea had so many uses that I decided that’s what I would do. I took all of our candy canes and put them in the blender and made sugar cane sugar! This sugar can be used in many ways.

candy, peppermint, crushed candy canes

My container of candy cane sugar.

1. Ice Cream Sprinkles (I love this idea, Peppermint Stick Ice Cream is my favorite)
2. Cake Sprinkles
3. Cupcake Sprinkles
4. On top of whipped cream in your hot chocolate
5. Sweeten your hot tea
6. Sweeten your hot chocolate
7. Use the sugar in recipes

Use them in recipes, what an idea! I found all sorts of recipes that you could use the crushed candy canes in.

Here are links to just a few:

1. Candy Cane Fudge
2. Peppermint Four Layer Cake
3. Chocolate Peppermint Bark
4. Peppermint Ice Cream
5. Candy Cane Brownies
6. Peppermint Meringues
7. Candy Cane Cheesecake

What did I do with our candy cane sugar? First I made Candy Cane Brownies, I didn’t use the recipe mentioned above but I will share the recipe I used this Friday, it is a recipe passed down from my husband’s grandmother’s recipe box. I also made some Peppermint Sauce. I’m hoping it will remind me of peppermint stick ice cream! I’ll let you know.

This blog is a part of the Frugal Tuesday Tip!

home cooking, chicken


This recipe originally came from the cookbook Bouquet Garni, a cookbook published by the alumnae of Mount Holyoke College in 1978. It is a collection of recipes from the alumnae and is full of delicious meal ideas. Parmesan Chicken has been a favorite for years, I love this recipe because you can mix up the crumb mixture and just keep it in your freezer. You can use just what you need for the number you are feeding. Once your chicken is defrosted you can put together a delicious meal very quickly. This recipe is good enough for company! The recipe says the crumb mixture is good on fish although I’ve only used it on chicken.

Parmesan Chicken

1-2 pounds of boneless chicken
½ cup butter
2 cups bread crumbs (seasoned work well too)
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup chopped parsley
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika

Melt butter in a small pan. Combine remaining ingredients. Dip chicken in butter, then roll in crumb mixture and place in a shallow greased baking pan.

chicken, homemade

Chicken before baking.

bread crumbs, seasoning, prudent living

Seasoning mixture can be stored in the freezer.

Drizzle butter that is left over the chicken. Cover with foil.

aluminum foil, chicken

Foil Covered Chicken

Can refrigerate till ready to cook. Bake ½ hour at 350 degrees covered; uncover and continue baking for an additional ½ hour. Bake until the chicken is tender.

chicken, parmesan

Dinner's Ready!

Leftover crumbs store well in the freezer. Mixture can also be used on broiler-fryer chickens that have been cut up and skinned.

I am so glad we decided to do a pantry challenge! It gave me a chance to really concentrate on using up those dinners in the freezer. I have spent only a minimal amount at the grocery store, buying fresh fruit and a few fresh vegetables. I also purchased milk from the local farm. Having a small household makes this very easy, our boys are both away at college so it is only my husband and I. There were a few minor challenges including a potluck dinner that I had to bring something to, and company coming over for lunch where I was able to create a hot lunch with food on hand in our freezer (sloppy joes).

The meal plan I mentioned last week was pretty much followed. This is what we’ve eaten this week.

Sunday: Pot Luck (ended up making a cabbage salad with Ramen Noodles both on hand)
Monday: Quiche (leftover)
Tuesday: Meatloaf (leftover)
Wednesday: Homemade Pancakes (breakfast for dinner!)
Thursday: Shepherd’s Pie (freezer)
Friday: Chili Mac and Cheese (freezer)
Saturday: Chicken Soup

Believe it or not we have used up a majority of freezer meals but not all!

pantry challenge, freezer containers

Empty containers!

I am going to continue to challenge myself and work at using up those meals. By the time summer arrives and I’m busy trying to preserve the summer harvest I want the freezers to be empty.

I’ve also been doing some research on using the pressure cooker to preserve “dinners in jars”. I have used my pressure canner to preserve certain things like beans and beef broth but not meals. It would be nice to not have to use my freezer space for all our frozen meals. I will continue to challenge myself!

We’re considering adding to this challenge and continuing it for another two weeks. May be crazy but imagine spending less than $100 on food for the month! How did you do with your pantry challenge? Any words of wisdom or lessons learned? Please share!

As I mentioned last week there are many benefits of composting, the most important is the benefit to your garden. Composting doesn’t have to be hard or labor intensive. You can keep it simple with a small compost bucket next to your sink for vegetable scraps, egg shells, coffee grinds, anything that’s not cooked. Once your bucket is filled you can take it outside and dump it into a larger container. In the spring empty your larger container into the garden and till it in.

There are other ways to set up composting systems. Methods range from mulched paths that are replenished every other year, to piles that are maintained weekly. Many compost systems can be built with scavenged materials. Pallets can be used for example. You want to figure out the most appropriate composting system for your unique circumstance.

Wire mesh bins are the quickest and least expensive bins to construct. They can be used as holding and turning bins, or in combination with one of the larger bins as temporary storage. You simply add yard wastes such as leaves, occasionally add moisture and turn the compost and it will be ready in 6 months to 2 years.

composting, home gardening, prudent living

Wire compost Bin

You can also make a portable bin using scrap lumber or pallets. This type of bin provides moderate volumes of compost with very minimal effort. The location can be changed from time to time as well.

Composting, gardening, prudent living

Pallet Compost Bin

The bin I am planning to build this year is a stationary 3-bin system. This system is used to compost large amounts of yard and kitchen wastes in a short period of time. Compost piles are made and turned on a regular basis. This system may also be used for slow composting of yard wastes without kitchen scraps. A pile made with a balance of fresh greens and woody materials and turned weekly can be ready in three weeks.

composting, gardening, prudent living

Three Bin Compost System

Hopefully you will find room for a compost pile on your property. Compost can be used to enrich your flower and vegetable gardens, to improve the soil around trees and shrubs and as a soil amendment for house plants and planter boxes, and when screened, as a part of a seed-starting mix or lawn top dressing. The best time to dig compost into a garden bed is when preparing the bed for planting. By using compost, organic mater is returned to the soil in a usable form. Start now and save money by making your own free fertilizer at home!



Several months ago I took part in a Raw Dairy Processing Class, the description of the class intrigued me, “Learn how to make delicious soft cheeses, yogurt and butter in your own kitchen! Get acquainted with using butter molds and adding herbs, or other flavors to your final product. With simple instruction and good quality raw milk, it is an easy and exciting activity adding delicious artisanal treats for any occasion.” The class was held on a farm where they raised cows, heritage turkeys, pigs and had large gardens. The house was off the grid yet you never would have known.

Learning to make yogurt was so much fun and very easy. I always thought you needed special equipment. Other than the culture you don’t need any special equipment and the yogurt you can make at home is so tasty! I purchased my yogurt culture from www.cheesemaking.com. You do not need to use raw milk to make yogurt, you just do not want to use the ultra high pasteurized milk.

homemade yogurt

Only two ingredients needed.

Here are the simple directions. Pour ½ gallon of cold milk into a heavy stainless pot for heating. Heat the milk to 185 degrees and then hold it there for 10-20 minutes. This will prepare the whey proteins, which are largely responsible for the thickening of the yogurt body. Set the milk pot directly on the burner and begin heating with careful stirring to prevent the scorching of the milk. Cool the milk as quickly as possible to your target temperature for inoculating the yogurt (116 degrees F). When the milk reaches the proper temperature for inoculation, it is time to add the direct set yogurt culture. The culture will be a mix of Streptococcus thermophiles and Lactobacillus bulgaricus plus and probiotic additions the culture may contain.

yogurt making, prudent living

Cool to 116 degrees F

temperature, yogurt, prudent living

Hold the mixture at 185 degrees.

Incubate the cultured milk for the required time. This can be done easily by pouring your cultured milk into containers and placing those containers inside an insulated cooler. Pour warm water (116 degrees F) into the cooler so that your container lids are just an inch or so above the water line. This “water bath” will maintain the temperature so that the appropriate bacteria will thrive and populate. The time of incubation is about 8-10 hours for most yogurt cultures. Place the yogurt in the refrigerator when the incubation is complete.

making yogurt, yogurt, prudent living

Cultured milk in cooler, water up to lids

yogurt, culture

Cultured milk was poured into two quart jars.

I inoculated my milk, poured it into glass jars and placed them into my cooler. I added the warm water, put the lid on the cooler and let it sit on the counter for 10 hours. Before going to bed I placed the yogurt in the fridge. In the morning I had two containers of plain yogurt ready to enjoy! I have always preferred flavored yogurt but I find this yogurt to be delicious. If you want, feel free to add fruit to flavor it yourself.

yogurt, homemade

Finished product.

This blog is linked to Frugal Tuesday Tip.

We’re coming to the end of our first week of the Pantry Challenge. It’s been a good week, using up various food items that have been in the fridge and the freezer. For today’s recipe I found a delicious recipe that used a butternut squash that had been sitting on our counter. Other than some fresh baby spinach I had everything I needed to make this recipe.

butternut squash, onions, barley and cheese

Ingredients for risotto

I was very pleased with the result; it was creamy, filling and delicious! I imagine it would freeze well although I haven’t tried that yet. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into1” squares, about 3 cups.
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup pearl barley
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
5 ounces baby spinach
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, optional ( forgot to add this and it was not missed!)

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the squash, onion, ¾ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper and cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften, 4-6 minutes.

risotto, butternut squash, onions, prudent living

Saute squash and onions.

Add the barley to the vegetables and cook, stirring for one minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring until evaporated, about one minute. Add the both and bring to a boil, cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Bake until the barley is tender, 35-40 minutes.

Stir in the spinach, Parmesan and butter. Serve with addition Parmesan.

cheese, risotto

Freshly grated parmesan cheese.

spinach, risotto, homemade, prudent living

Baby spinach

The recipe said it serves four – that would be four generous servings!

Vegetarian dinner, butternut squash, barley

Dinner's ready.

risotto, homemade, prudent living

Stir in spinach and cheese.

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