Better than Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni

When my boys were kids it seemed that nearly every day there was some activity we had to get to after school and on weekends. Even in summer there was softball, swimming, Scouts, and 4-H. I hated not being able to cook at home and even on nights I did cook at home it was sometimes something from a box. One meal that was quick and that the boys liked was Hamburger Helper. Then I realized I could do my own version and the kids declared it Better than Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni!

Better than Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni is quick and easy

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Getting Back on Track

In early December I noticed I wasn’t feeling at all  like myself. I was ignoring chores and, worse, ignoring friends and even some family members. Nothing seemed to interest me and I felt just awful physically. Normally I’m so cheerful I have wondered if there was something wrong with me! I should have recognized the symptoms but, since I was already off-kilter, I didn’t. But I finally figured it out and I’ve started on the chores I’ve neglected for so long! Yesterday I spent part of the day cleaning my desk and computer desk. I’m finally getting back on track!

Getting Back on Track

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Get Ready for Garden Season

Every year in the late summer I swear I’m not going to garden the next season. And every winter around this time I get really excited about the vegetable garden I’m going to have in the spring. It may seem early to even think about gardening but, by the time I order seeds, have them delivered, and get them going strong it will be time to put many things into the garden.

It really is time to get ready for garden season!

When I am wearing out from the work of gardening and preserving my crop I forget that I love being outside in my garden. I need to remind myself about the reasons I have a vegetable garden. And, with the sleet and general cloudiness we’ve had for the last few days the idea of being outside under a warm sun certainly sounds great!

I depend heavily on the vegetable garden for our produce.

Not only do I want to save money but I also want to know I’m getting non-GMO produce. I also want to buy heirloom seeds because I try to save as many seeds as possible from one season so I can plant them the next. Another money saver!

Since I want to feed Mr. Comfortable as well as I can as he recovers I’ve been researching different crops. An example is Amaranth. The seeds are about 13% protein which is higher than most other grains. And I can use the leaves in salads, stir-fry, mix it with spaghetti sauce, and even put it in meatloaf! Amaranth Edible Red Leaf heirloom seeds are my choice for my try-out of Amaranth.

I’m also planning some other new crops:

Artichoke – Ahh, the leaves dipped in clarified butter!
Baby Greens Apple Blossom Swiss chard Blend – The young leaves are great in salads, steamed, added to soups, stews, and lasagna. They even go well in omelets.

If you’ve read my recipes you know I love green beans. Last year I tried bush beans and I think I’m going to go that way again. Mr. C likes them better than pole beans; I think because bush beans aren’t flat. He’s a guy. What can I say? I also want to plant some purple pole beans just because they’re purple!

I’m hoping to expand the garden so I can have a separate area just for herbs. There are so many culinary and medicinal herbs but I just don’t have room right now to grow everything I want. I’ll have to get Pete to help me do the work but first I have to talk Mr. C into letting me “steal” the space from the dogs!

This coming season I’m going to grow a lot more peas. We’ve now eaten all the peas I’d frozen from the garden and it’s only January! And there’s something so calming about shelling peas. Maybe it’s just me but I find it very relaxing.

I grow both hot pepper and bell peppers and I want to try purple bell peppers along with the usual green, red, and yellow. They are purple on the outside with a lime green inside. And don’t worry about your family worrying about purple peppers. They turn green when cooked. And of course I must have my banana peppers!

Even if I have to grow a lot of things (like potatoes) in pots again I’m going to concentrate on root vegetables. Another summer project is fixing up the root cellar! It is my dream not to have to buy potatoes, carrots, or onions because my root cellar is so full of them!

I can’t wait to get my new seeds and start planting because so much requires starting the seeds 8 – 10 weeks before the last frost and some things will be planted directly in the garden even before the last frost! I really need to get moving because, believe it or not, it’s time to get ready for garden season!

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Give Peas a Chance

A little over 30 years ago I came up with this recipe and its name for two reasons. Pete had decided he hated vegetables, after months of eating real (not baby food) veggies. I had to come up with a way to get him to eat some vegetable and he had begun toddling around the house singing “Give Peace a Chance” except he sang peas instead of peace. Thus, Give Peas a Chance was born!

Give Peas a Chance with this delicious recipe!

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Moms’ Glazed Pork Chops

Recently there was a recipe on a blog I love, What’s for Dinner Moms? and I just had to try it. It makes me laugh that her kids call her “Moms” instead of just “Mom!” Now I usually play more with recipes but this one was so close to what I would have done myself I decided to make it with only one minor change. Next time I’ve decided to do a couple of things a bit differently but I’m so glad I decided to try this recipe! The pork chops were yummy and I’ll definitely be making them again! They are Moms’ Glazed Pork Chops.

6 simple ingredients make Moms Glazed Pork Chops amazing!
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A Conversation with Spoiled Ducks

In our continuing duckumentary (I know but I couldn’t help myself) series CCNN (Comfortable Coop News Network is proud to bring you the latest in the lives of Penguin and Spot. We will talk to them about how their lives have changed in the last couple of months in the CCNN Special “A Conversation with Spoiled Ducks.

Penguin & Spot are very spoiled ducks!

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The Weekend

Lately I’ve let too much around the house slide. It was frustrating me to no end so I decided to get my fanny in gear and get things done. As of Sunday morning last night’s dishes were still everywhere. The sink, island and counter are all covered in them. The living room desperately needs to be vacuumed and dusted. My recipes are scattered all over my desk and most aren’t neatly put away in their little plastic page protectors. But as I sat here thinking about what I needed to do I realized what I did accomplish over the weekend.

Getting things done on the weekend

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Green Beans Amandine

I grow a lot of green beans in my garden each summer. I probably grow more than I should. But I love green beans and I like to be sure I’ll have enough of them in the freezer to last until the next season’s crop comes in. And I give a lot away because everyone should have homegrown green beans all winter! But, as much as I love them, green beans can get pretty humdrum. One of the ways I make them a bit more special is by making Green Beans Amandine.

Make ordinary green beans special. Make Green Beans Amandine!

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Italian Sausage Strombolis

Oh, my gosh, I love strombolis! Not the island in the Lipari Islands of Italy but the food! When I make it for dinner I feel like I’m cheating and having a treat instead of a sensible meal. Then I think of the ingredients; sausage, peppers, onions, cheese, and the crust, and I realize it really is a sensible meal! If you want a meal to make your whole family think you’re spoiling them I suggest Italian Sausage Strombolis!

Italian Sausage Strombolis

 

I really wish I had made two of these since I could have eaten it for lunch, too! Italian Sausage Strombolis are so tasty that Mr. Comfortable and I could both polish off an entire loaf each in 24 hours! They take some prep but they are definitely worth it.

First I diced up 1/4 cup each of onion, and yellow, green, and red peppers. They add a little crunch, color, and vitamins to the strombolis. Score a point for sensible meal! I set the vegetables aside while I browned some Italian sausage in two teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet.

Italian Sausage Strombolis are chuck full of onions and peppers

Italian Sausage Strombolis are delicious!

You can use whatever type of Italian sausage you prefer. Hot, mild, or sweet it’s up to you! I browned the sausage and then removed it from the skillet with a slotted spoon into a bowl. I didn’t drain it because I want that oil left in the skillet to cook the onions and peppers.

Next I sautéed the onions and peppers over medium high heat, seasoning with salt and pepper, until they were just slightly softened. It takes just about 4 minutes to get them tender crisp but if you want them softer just sauté them a bit longer.

Italian Sausage Strombolis

The Italian sausage went back into the skillet with the onions and peppers and I sprinkled 1/4 teaspoon each of garlic powder, dried oregano, and dried basil over it all. I stirred the mixture to distribute the herbs and then put the sausage mixture into a bowl to cool off.

Italian Sausage Strombolis - a tasty dinner your family will love

While the sausage was cooling I unrolled a loaf of refrigerated bread. It was in in the refrigerator sneaking up on its expiration date and I wasn’t up to making my own dough and it works just fine for my Italian Sausage Strombolis. You can make your own dough if you prefer.

I lightly floured my wooden cutting board and spread the dough out. I rolled it, attempting to get a rectangle shape but I fell short. It doesn’t matter if you have trouble getting a perfect rectangle. This is about taste and the strombolis will still look nice!

While the sausage still needed to cool a bit I preheated my oven to 400 degrees and sprayed a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

When the sausage had cooled enough to touch I spread about 1/2 of it (I kept the other half for the next Italian Sausage Strombolis night) on the dough. Then I sprinkled about a cup of shredded mozzarella cheese over the sausage mixture. Put the sausage and cheese right down the middle of the dough because you’re going to fold 1/2 the dough over it then stretch the other half of the dough over that.

Italian Sausage Strombolis made with refrigerated dough!

I mixed two eggs (use only one if you’re making one loaf – I forgot and used the amount for two loaves) with two tablespoons of water. I brushed some of the egg wash along the edge of the dough that I had folded over the filling.

Italian Sausage Strombolis made with refrigerated dough!

Then I folded the other half of the dough over and carefully placed the stromboli on the baking sheet. I brushed the entire stromboli with the egg wash and put it in the oven. Depending on how hot your oven runs it should take between 15 – 18 minutes to get the dough a nice, golden brown.

Italian Sausage Stromboli made with refrigerated dough

One note: I usually sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese (the kind that comes in the bottle with the green top) over the strombolis after I use the egg wash. I planned to do that last night but when I went to get it I discovered I was out! I really need to get back to keeping up my refrigerator inventory! And for tips on organizing your refrigerator and freezer by temperature zones check out Organization Part 2 — Organizing your refrigerator & freezer

I serve Italian Sausage Strombolis with marinara sauce. We love to dip our stromboli pieces! That hot, gooey cheese and those slightly crisp vegetables make me want to sing! And With a salad this is a complete meal! And a sensible one at that!

Italian Sausage Stromboli made with refrigerated dough

Italian Sausage Strombolis

Italian Sausage Strombolis are a delicious meal your family will ask for again and again!

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