Sunday, December 27, 2015

McDonald's Breakfast at Home

Some mornings we just NEED McDonald's, but in a family our size, we don't NEED the bill that comes with it. So, I "hack" my way through to a cheaper and more wholesome "meal in a hurry" for busy Saturdays.  Here's how:

#1 English muffins.  I admit, I have never been able to successfully make home made English muffins.  They just don't turn out right for me.  So I buy the 12 pack, or horror of horrors! 2 6-packs of the leading brand.  Whatever.  Still cheaper than McD's! :)

#2 Home made sausage patties.  You could buy pre-made patties, but we are all about saving money, right?  I just divide 1 lb of our favorite sausage into 8 thin  patties and fry 'til brown.  If you fry up an extra pound, you can cool them and then freeze in a zippie bag for quick week-day grab-and-go. (Or prepare them on a weekday for that upcoming oh-so-busy Saturday morning!!) You can also brown some sausage links (1 or 2 per sandwich, then just split lengthwise), bacon, or use leftover ham slices or shaved deli-ham.

#3 Eggs. If you like 'em scrambled, just whisk 4 eggs in a bowl, then fry in a small frying pan, flip to cook the second side, and cut into 1/4ths.  Even easier, we just crack 4 eggs into the small frying pan, poke their yolks to make them cook faster, then eat them over-medium or hard.  Easy-peasy.  If you want to go gourmet with your fast food, you could also make omelets and divide them into serving-sized helpings. However you choose to cook your eggs, you can also make up extra ahead and freeze.

#3HASHBROWNS!!!!! Can you tell this is my favorite part of a McDonald's breakfast? ;)  Here's the link for the recipe I used.   As usual, I did not follow the directions totally, and skipped the "freeze and shape" steps.  I also do not deep fry. I just spooned the mix into the well-olive-oiled fry pan, flattened them a little with the back of the serving spoon, and fried them on both sides until brown and crispy.  Delish without all the fat!!

#4 Drinks.  Serve this delicious on-the-go meal with either scalding hot coffee or nice cold orange juice to complete your meal.

#5 Enjoy your McDonald's at home meal!!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Shaker Gingerbread

Shaker Gingerbread is our version of "Christmas Pudding".  Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas I just HAVE to make it.  I grew up eating Mom's very tasty gingerbread, and I learned to like Mincemeat Pie.  THIS is the perfect combination of the two!  I found the original recipe in Country Living Magazine, put out by our local Rural Electric Cooperative.  This is my own unique version of the recipe!!

Shaker Gingerbread
1 C. Brown Sugar
2/3 C. Butter or margarine
3 Eggs
1 C. Molasses
1 C. Plain Yogurt
3 1/2- 4 C. Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/2 C. Mincemeat (see following recipe)
1 tsp Ginger
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Cardamom
1/2 tsp Cloves

Cut butter into sugar.  Blend in eggs, molasses, yogurt, baking soda, mincemeat and spices.  Stir in flour.  Bake in greased 9x13 pan at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

Anna's "None Such Mincemeat"
I can't see buying a jar of mince for $5 or more, when I can make it for $1 or 2!! So, I took the ingredients from a jar, and developed my own.  It is much lighter in flavor, but can be adjusted to suit your personal taste.

1/2 C. Water
2 C. Raisins
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 C. Molasses
3 Apples, peeled, cored, & chopped
1 Tbsp Dried Lemon Peel or Zest
dash of salt
1/4 C. Dried Orange Peel
1 TBSP Pumpkin Pie Spice (See below, or use commercially prepared mix)
1/4 C. Flour or 2 TBSP Cornstarch
1/2 -1 tsp. Rum flavoring
1/2-1 tsp. Brandy flavoring

Combine all ingredients in saucepan or microwave container.  Cook until apples are tender, raisins are soft, and sauce is thickened.  *Note: I buy up lemons and oranges in the winter when they are on sale, and then dry the peels as we use the fruit.  Then, I grind the dried peels in the blender or food processor, and store them in glass jars or clean spice jars for future use.  This is MUCH cheaper than buying store-bought lemon and orange peel or zest.

Pumpkin Pie Spice 
·         4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
·         4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
·         4 teaspoons ground ginger
·         3 teaspoons ground allspice
·         2  teaspoons ground cloves

I stole this recipe from the internet, but I can't remember from where.  It works, and is cheaper than store bought.  Just re-use a spice container, or store in a small glass jar.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


We have pasta night once a week, usually on Friday.  Last Friday we had other plans, so pasta night got bumped, and Daddy doesn't have any leftover past for his lunches.  So, I scheduled pasta night in earlier this week.  Hey, it breaks up the routine, right?  Most of the family really likes spaghetti, but some also like chicken fettuccine alfredo.  So, when I make alfredo sauce, I usually do a red sauce, too.  This Tuesday was one of those nights where I made a big batch of pasta and sauce.  Leftover pasta is always good, it freezes well, and makes for great non-sandwich lunches.  The bread is crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside- great for dipping in pasta sauce, soup, or herb oil.

So, here's my pasta night recipes....

Italian Bread
2 pkgs (4 1/2 tsp) yeast
2 1/2 C warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
7 C flour, plus some for kneading
1 egg white, 1 Tbsp water, cornmeal

Mix yeast, 2 cups flour, salt and sugar in large mixing bowl.  Add warm water and stir until blended. Stir in next 5 C flour until too hard to mix.  Pour onto floured surface and knead in the rest of the flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Oil the mixing bowl well with olive oil.  Place lump of dough in bowl, cover with moist flour-sack towel, and set in warm area.  Let rise for at least 1-2 hours.  Separate dough and place on well-oiled baking stone or baking sheet. Mix egg white and water, and brush mixture on top of loaves. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Allow to rise for 1 more hour, at least.  Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped.  Cool for 15 minutes before slicing with serrated knife and serving.
An alternate method is this: After kneading, divide dough in 2-4 round balls.  Place on greased baking stone or in a dutch oven, or roll into log and place on greased baking sheet like a french baguette. Brush with egg white wash and sprinkle with cornmeal. Cover with moist towel, and allow to rise several hours (all day or overnight).  Follow baking directions as above. Makes 2 large round or long loaves, or 4 shorter, thinner baguettes.

Chicken Alfredo Sauce
1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 stick (1/2 C) margarine or butter
1 C Half and half or evaporated milk
2 cups Parmesan and/or Romano cheese (1 regular size sprinkle can)
2 Tbsp parsley
Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, thyme) to taste
2 cloves minced garlic, or garlic powder to taste

In large sauce pan, cook and shred chicken, garlic, and seasonings.  Add butter and milk. Stir in cheese until mixed and melted through.  Serve over fettuccine or other pasta.

Easy Meaty Red Sauce
1 lb ground meat (beef, turkey, or sausage, or a mix of meats)
1 can or jar of cheap spaghetti sauce
garlic powder

Brown meat in large frying pan or saucepan.  Add spaghetti sauce and spices to taste.  If you use fresh spices from your kitchen garden or farmer's market, you will need 1/2 to 3/4 less than you would dried seasonings (1 or 2 sprigs of each fresh herb and 1-2 cloves garlic).  Simmer for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors marry.  Serve over spaghetti or other shaped pasta.

Serve your meal with green beans (with or without bacon, turkey bacon, or Bacos), and a simple green salad.  We like to pretend to keep our meals "authentic", so we drink grape or apple juice on past night, served in fun plastic goblets.  Of course, you can't truly enjoy pasta without listening to some Pavarotti, Bocelli, Paul Potts, Three Tenors, Il Volo, or other Italian and operatic music! Slainte!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Sports Party

May 3, 2015  Today we had our Spring Birthday Party.  The kids always have fun planning (and executing!) their birthday parties.  Since we have 3 kids born in April and May, and 2 born in November, we have a Spring and a Fall family birthday party.  All 5 kids collaborate on the parties, whether it's their turn or not, with official birthday kids' preferences weighing a little more than those whose birthday is in the off-season.  Over lunch one day on Spring Break the kids just started throwing out ideas, so I quickly grabbed paper and pencil, and here's what we came up with.  This is NOT meant to be a party-planning post, but maybe it will give you some ideas for one of your next get-togethers with family and friends.

So, we started with food.  We made up names based on local sports teams- everything from local high schools and colleges to our favorite pro and semi-pro teams.  Browns Brownies, Smithie Smoothies, Bobcat Burgers, Rubber Ducks $1 Dogs, Indians Ice Cream, OSU Buckeyes, Cavs Corn, Cedarville Yellow Jackets Lemonade, Buffalo Bills-Easy Buffalo Chicken Dip etc.  Some of the other food items weren't tied to a particular team, but were still sports related.  Gatorade, popcorn, peanuts, crackerjacks, Sports themed cake, "adult beverages"= soda pop, and chocolate dipped pretzel rods= baseball bats.  My 13 year-old computer whiz made little labels for all the food and attached them to toothpicks or directly to the dishes.
I found some cheap wrapping paper on clearance, so we used it as a table runner.  The napkins were clearance too!  Sometimes a mish-mash party is more fun than one that's all matchy-matchy.  It can be more laid back and cheaper, too!

Decorations were kept simple.  My 13 year old can do anything with Word and Paint, so she made up a bunch of pennants featuring all the local sports teams, including the colleges of all the guests.  The birthday girl is a big fan of my Little Pony, so big sister even made a pennant for Canterlot High!
College Pennants

Pennants and sports stick-ons

More pennants
As you can see on the middle picture, above, we also had sport shaped stick-on all over the walls.  The little sisters traced cookie cutters onto construction paper, cut them out, added details, and stuck tape on the back.  If you don't have sports shaped cookie cutters, you can use stencils or print templates off the computer.

Middle sister made a "scoreboard" out of cardboard and stenciled letters to highlight the birthday kids' new ages.  Once again, our "100 Cookie Cutters" set came in handy!

Sports memorabilia help with decorating

Mother Goose got a helmet and jersey to help celebrate. $1 games on the coffee tables gave guests something to do in between main events, and doubled as guest prizes.

Little Brother, who was also the youngest birthday kid, dressed up his special friend so they would be twins for the party.  

Party games included backyard baseball (ok, it was really whiffle ball), and basketball with the Little Tykes hoop.  We also had other balls available for impromptu 2 square or other ball games. Some other activities we thought of doing were tug-of-war and bean bag toss.  

Party bags!!  You can't have a party without giving goodie bags to the guests.  We pretty much raided the $1 Store for this part.  We found drawstring sport bags,  referee whistles, balls, and water bottles.  We also added handfuls of candy and granola bars.  A couple other things we had thought of were ball caps, stickers, and individual boxes of cracker jack.

We found these 2 websites to be helpful:

Have fun at YOUR next sports party!

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Watermelon Sherbet
We tried this recipe this weekend.  As usual, I did not follow the recipe to a "T". I doubled the recipe. I used Half and Half instead of cream. Then I poured it into a commercial "1.89 L" plastic sherbet container, and threw it into the deep freeze overnight instead of the ice cream maker. We added the mini-chips when serving. It turned out smooth, creamy and delicious- a great treat for a hot summer day!
Maybe this would be a good time to share another Armstrong Arms favorite summer recipe: Watermelon Lemonade!  We actually have two ways we do it- the quick way, and the "natural" way.  The quick method is this: In a 1 gallon pitcher, mix 1 can lemonade concentrate, 1 quart watermelon mush, and 3 trays of crushed ice or 3 juice cans of water.  This makes a really nice, sweet slushy.  The "natural" way is the way we usually make it.  In your 1 gallon pitcher, pour 1 cup lemon juice (like Realemon), 1 cup sugar, and 1 quart watermelon mush.  Fill the pitcher with water and ice.  This has a lighter flavor.

OK, so I am writing this backwards, but I just realized some people might be asking, "How does HS Farm Mama make her watermelon mush?" Good question.  I don't use seedless watermelon- that's too expensive!  We just buy a big ole watermelon and cut it up in cubes.  By then, most of the seeds have fallen out.  Then, I throw the cubes in the blender and whir them into slurry.  The slurry goes into re-purposed, clean, mayonnaise jars, and then into the door of one of the freezers. Some of the watermelon cubes can go into quart freezer bags and into the freezer, too. These are good for a quick fruit salad for family gatherings, or can be slipped into drinks and used in place of ice cubes. Viola'! Easy watermelon for all your yummy summer recipes.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Better Baking Mix

Better Baking Mix

August 24, 2013 at 10:17am
If the link works from here, good.  If not, try copying and then pasting in your browser.
This is a healthy and possibly cheaper replacement for Bisquick.  It takes about 5 minutes to mix up the mix, and a double batch lasts about a month at the Armstrong Arms. You can use it for pancakes & waffles, biscuits, muffins or quick bread, and cookies!  We also use it in place of Bisquick for Impossible Cheeseburger Pie and other quick supper meals. 

Easy Homemade Fries

Easy Homemade Fries

October 17, 2013 at 1:48pm
OK, so I have to admit, this is stolen from one of a myriad recipes on the web. Here's how we do it here at Armstrong Arms.

12 medium to large potatoes
Olive oil
Lawery's type seasoning OR salt and pepper to taste
(Other fresh or dried herbs work nicely, too)

Peel and rinse the potatoes . Cut each into 8ths or 16ths.  (For hashbrowns just cube your potato pieces.)  Throw into a mixing bowl (or gallon zipper bag). Drizzle with olive oil.  Shake on the seasonings to taste. Mix well. Spread in single layer on 2 baking sheets.  Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.  Serve 1 tray for today's meal, and let the other one cool while you eat.  Toss the second tray of fries into a zippered freezer bag for next time you need fries quickly!

(See another note for our mock Lawery's recipe)