Apple Picking

The Princess and I went apple picking yesterday. Yes, I know it’s October and time for pumpkins, but we wanted to go apple picking. Why? Because we’d never done it, and I wanted some apples for baking – and to eat of course.

So, earlier this week, I asked The Violet Fig and It’s Come To This where they thought I should go. I remembered them mentioning someplace previously on Twitter. They directed me to Mercier Orchards way up in North Georgia. It was going to be a bit of a drive for us, but they assured me it was worth it. And, they were right.

We got up to the orchard about 10:30, and I am SO glad we got there when we did. By the time we were leaving at around 12:45, it was REALLY busy. Like overwhelmingly so.

We purchased our bags for picking and got in line for the tractor. It took us up into the orchards with a guide giving us the history of the orchard and letting us know about the type of apples available for picking today. Who knew there were so many types of apples!?

They have each row of trees labeled with the type. Even though we were so late in the season, there were still plenty of apples left. We just had to go back a bit farther into the rows.

The Princess had a great time filling her bag that she was going to take to Grandma later in the day. She made sure that Grandma had quite the variety in her bag. I filled several bags with apples for us to eat and many to use for baking.

Once we finished picking our apples, we hopped back on the tractor ride and were taken back to the parking lot and store. Then, we went inside the country store to find just about anything you could ever need that has anything to do with apples. The Princess and I walked around for an hour investigating all the different areas of the store. We had a GREAT time playing the “Hey, look at this!” game – it’s one of our favorite games. We bought some more apples so that Grandma and I could both make applesauce and some small apple pies that look just oh so very yummy.

All in all, it was a FABULOUS time picking apples with the Princess. We’re both very glad we went, and I’m thinking that we will make it an annual event. (And, we discovered that they have U-pick strawberries in April. Those are the Princess’s FAVORITE. We will definitely be there for that.)

What will I do with all these apples you ask. Well, I’ll be investigating using some of these recipes for sure!

Life As Mom: Ultimate Recipe Swap – Apples

Once A Month Mom: Apple Cinnamon Pull Apart Rolls (I actually made these yesterday. I’m going to make some for the freezer.)

Apple Cake (Actually, I don’t need to investigate this one. It’s one of my favorites, with some tweaks.)

Did you go apple picking this year? What are you doing with your apples?


Linked to Try New Adventures Thursday

Grilled Chicken Marinade

Several years ago I ate an AMAZING pork tenderloin at a party at a friend’s house. I mean it was AMAZING!! To be accurate, I think she got the recipe and tweaked it out of a Paula Dean cookbook, but I have NO idea which one. A few days later I called and asked her for the recipe. I scribbled it on a piece of scrap paper, and that piece of paper has floated around my kitchen ever since. Don’t you love those recipes? The ones where the fold in the paper is so worn it’s almost ripped and the corners are all turned under. That’s a well loved recipe.

Several weeks ago, I wanted to marinate some chicken and thought, “Hey, I could just use that pork marinade that I love.” and pulled out the ingredients. OH MY GOODNESS! It was SO SO SO good. Now, this is what I do every time we’re going to grill some chicken. It leaves the breasts nice and juicy with just enough flavor that adults love it and not so strong that my Princess won’t eat it. To me, that’s perfect!

To make the marinade, grab your big purple cup (or similar), stick a Ziploc freezer bag in it and add the following ingredients:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 clove garlic – chopped (I cheat and use the jarred kind or Tastefully Simple’s Garlic Garlic)
1 Tbsp parsley (I use dried, but it would be so much better with fresh)
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1.5 tsp pepper

Mix all that up in your Ziploc bag. Throw your chicken breasts in the bag and marinate at least four hours. I usually just make the marinade while I’m getting breakfast if I know we’re going to grill that night.

What do you do to your chicken before you grill it?

Works For Me Wednesday: Muffin Meatloaves

So, last week I was in charge of the meat portion of dinner for my small group. We were doing a potluck, but since it’s always at our house, I always volunteer to do the meat as that’s the hardest thing to transport and keep the right temperature etc. I wanted to make meatloaf. I also wanted to make apple cake since I had tons of apples.

I got home from work and got the apple cake in the oven. Then, I looked at the clock. There was NO WAY meatloaf was going to be cooked in time for us to eat at 7. Panic! Then I remembered I had seen somewhere about cooking meatloaf in a muffin pan! Brilliant! That would seriously cut my cooking time!

Then, I got to thinking. (I do that sometimes.) If I made more than I needed for that night, I could put some in the freezer. I love putting stuff in the freezer for later. It makes me happy. So, I decided to pull out some more ground meat to make a bigger batch. I discovered that I only had ground pork. No more ground beef. I said, “Whatever,” and thawed it really quick. The result was AWESOME!

Here’s the recipe that evolved that night. It’s starting point was a Kraft Recipe that I had from FOREVER ago.

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 box Stove Top Stuffing Mix
  • 1/2 cup quick oats (or more if too wet)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup + additional BBQ sauce (your favorite) – Could use ketchup
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix everything together in a big bowl. Using a scoop (I used the large Pampered Chef scoop), fill muffin cups almost to the top. Press the tops so they are flat. Add additional BBQ sauce to the top of each muffin cup.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

Makes 24 Muffin Meatloaves

Muffin Meatloaves – they certainly worked for me! And, dinner was ready on time!!! Oh, and those extras I was going to put in the freezer. Ya, that didn’t happen. They were so good, they all got eaten except three for My Sweetie’s lunch the next day.

Linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Once A Month Mom Cook Off: The Review

Whew! I did it!!! I made twenty-five meals plus some breakfasts in about 6 hours. Wahooo!

I started my cooking day at 6:30AM. Yes, I know that’s early. However, the Princess is up at 6:00 usually – even on a Saturday. I figured since I was up, I might as well get started. I had my plan in place. I just had to execute it.

The plan actually started Thursday night. That’s the night I went shopping. I twittered that I was shopping for the cook off and even got encouragement from the Once A Month Mom herself. I felt so honored.

I came home with my goodies, and immediately put all the chicken in the crock pot to cook overnight. It is recommended that you put water in with the chicken. I don’t use water. I use Kraft Zesty Italian dressing that I get on sale and with coupons. So, I always have lots in my pantry. For a full crock pot of chicken, I used a whole bottle of dressing. I really like the flavor it gives the chicken. I had never done chicken overnight before. It worked well. The only issue was that the house smelled SERIOUSLY of chicken the next morning. If I had been pregnant and smelling that on an empty stomach, I would have been heaving. As it was, I was slightly queasy. But, the chicken was done! I shredded it Friday morning and put it in the fridge.

My plan was to make the granola Friday night, but that didn’t happen. I had an INSANE work week and was just plain beat by Friday night. I did manage to get the ground beef into the crock pots, and that cooked overnight to be ready in the morning. We had the same smell issue the next morning, but it wasn’t as disturbing as the chicken. And, I was thankful that all the ground beef was cooked. I think in the future, I’ll cook the meat during the day before so as not to deal with the smell issue and then just refrigerate until I am ready to cook.

I had chosen recipes with very little chopping of veggies needed. This was just perchance. I didn’t plan it that way. I did need some onions, but I cheated and just used frozen ones I had purchased at Publix. They’re not as strong in flavor as fresh chopped onions, which My Sweetie actually prefers. I also needed some chopped garlic. Again, I cheated and used the stuff from the jar. So, the only real chopping I had to do on cooking day was some green onions.

I started the morning making pancakes. I had originally planned on making Banana Pancakes, but the Princess wanted some pancakes for breakfast, and I knew she wouldn’t eat the banana ones. So, I just made plain ones using the same recipe. I did however use half wheat flour and half unbleached – trying to get them a bit healthier. They were very good!! We had some for breakfast, and I got 4 BAGS for the freezer.

After I had fed the family, I quickly mixed up a Quiche and put it in the oven. Once it had cooled, I cut it into six pieces for six breakfasts for me at the office. Next, I mixed up the Granola and got that into the oven. That granola – it BE GOOD! My Sweetie had some last night, and I had some this morning with my yogurt. Yummy! It made enough to fill a Tupperware large oval modular mate.

I started the meal preparation off easy by making the two dishes I had chosen that just needed marinades and then went straight to the freezer. I whipped up the Pork Chop Marinade from The Big Cook cookbook and the Asian Pork Loin Marinade from the $5 Dinners cookbook. That was a quick six meals prepared.

I then moved on to the ground beef portion of the morning. I made a triple batch of Ziti. (The noodles had been boiling while the marinade prep was happening.) It made six pans to give away – I usually give away ziti to those who need a meal. I also made one large pan for small group Monday night. I’m really thankful I remembered I was in charge of food this week! Because I added a bit more meat to the small group pan (those men love some meat), I only had enough meat to make two batches of Sloppy Joes (from The Big Cook).

Once I had used up all my ground beef, I pulled out my massive container of shredded chicken. I mixed the topping for the Chicken Ranch Pizza, but didn’t use tomatoes. The House of Hills is not a fan of tomatoes in their natural state. Add a bit of sugar and make some ketchup – then we’re happy. I filled four quart baggies with topping. I then combined everything but the black beans together for Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas. I already have black beans in the freezer, so I’ll just pull a bag of this mixture and a bag of black beans when I’m ready to make the quesadillas. I made enough for six meals.

My final project for the day was Pizza Crusts. They were so EASY to make. I will never buy pizza crust again. And, I used half whole wheat and half unbleached flour, making them better for us than the ones at the store. Those went into the freezer, and I can’t wait to use them.

That was it! During that whole cooking morning, I also helped the Princess do her project for school, made lunch,did two loads of laundry, and cleaned the kitchen as I went. I took my apron off at 1:00, six-and-half hours after I had put it on. 25 MEALS IN SIX HOURS. Not bad for a day’s work. It would take me much longer than that if I made them individually.

How much did these meals cost me? More than they should have. I did the bulk of my shopping on the Thursday before cooking at Publix. I had some coupons, but I wasn’t shopping smart. I was shopping because I needed stuff. NOT the best way to shop. If I had planned better, I would have gotten the pork loin and ground beef at BJs. I would have gone to the Tyson factory and picked up frozen chicken breasts for pennies a piece. I would have been watching the sales all month for what I needed. I would have decided what I was going to cook at the beginning of the month instead of days before. That’s the way Once A Month Mom teaches us. I did not obey teacher. So, I paid more.

I spent $160 on stuff for the cooking day at Publix on Thursday. I already had the pork chops in my fridge and used baking supplies from the pantry. So, let’s say a total of $180 spent. That’s $7.20 a meal. Not bad, but it could be SO MUCH BETTER. I’ve challenged myself that next month I’ll get it cheaper.

Oh yes, I will be doing this next month, and the next one, and the next one. Why? Because it just makes sense to me. I’d rather cook for six hours one day than twenty-five spread out throughout the month. I’d rather have a meal in my freezer to give a friend in need than spend a small fortune picking her up something at the store. And the biggest reason, I HATE not knowing what’s for dinner. HATE IT! I LOVE making my meal plan for the week and just figuring out what I’m going to pull from the freezer. That makes me SO HAPPY and calm and peaceful. Ahhhhh…

If you’ve never cooked in bulk, I recommend you try it. It could change your life – really.

I almost forgot. The coolest thing about doing the cooking THIS WEEKEND!! I can enter this post in the Cook Off contest going on over at Once A Month Mom. I might win a food processor! I SO NEED ONE!

There were going to be pictures right here, but for some reason my computer is NOT cooperating with me at the moment. I will add them when I can.

Once A Month Cook Off: The Plan

As you may have “heard” on Twitter and in reference here on the blog, I’m jumping into the Once A Month Mom Cook Off. I’m doing this for two reasons:

1. My freezer needs some meals – both for the family and for me to give away. I give away several meals a month to folks who need them.

2. There are prizes involved in this here competition. And, I’m competitive. VERY! As in, my husband and I don’t play card games because I hate to lose. That competitive. Did I mention there are prizes. The first place prize is a food processor. I SERIOUSLY NEED a food processor!!! The rest of the prizes ROCK too.

Even if I don’t win one of the prizes, the full freezer is its own win.

If you haven’t checked out, you should. She is AMAZING! Every month, she creates a menu – complete with shopping lists and to-do lists – that you and a friend can do together. If you follow her plan exactly, two families are pretty much set for meals for a month. That would be if you follow it exactly.

I’m not following it exactly. For several reasons:

1. I have picky eaters in my house.

2. I like to cook alone – well, most of the time. This week for sure. It’s been a crazy week.

3. I’m on the Losing It! plan, and want to be VERY careful about what kinds of meals I put in the freezer. That means no casseroles.

That all being said. Here is my cooking plan with recipe links (OAMM=Recipes from this month’s’s menu plan). You thought I’d never get to it didn’t you.

Thursday Night

Cook Chicken – DONE!

Friday Morning

Shred Chicken – DONE!

Friday Night

Cook Ground Beef

Crystal’s Lazy Granola (OAMM)



Pizza Crust (OAMM)

Pork Loin Marinade (OAMM from $5Dinners Cookbook)

Pork Chop Marinade – from The Big Cook Cookbook

Sloppy Joes – from The Big Cook Cookbook


Pizza Topping (OAMM)

Chicken Quesadillas (This is a jump off of a OAMM choice – I’m tweaking what she chose)

Banana Pancakes (OAMM)

Menu Plan Monday 03.01.10

How is it possibly March already?  Seriously DO NOT know how that is possible.


Tried two new to me recipes last week. I made the PORK DUMPLINGS on Saturday. They were SO GOOD that they got their own post on this here blog. AMAZINGLY GOOD!!! However, not for those looking for a quick meal.

Sunday afternoon I made Ina’s GARLIC ROAST CHICKEN WITH VEGETABLES. It smelled INCREDIBLE while it was cooking. I somehow timed it so that it was ready just after the big hockey game. Perfect! I chose not to make the CLOUD BISCUITS I was originally planning to make with the chicken since I have joined the LOSING IT! Challenge. They would have been just too tempting, and the only one who really needs carbs in this family is the Princess!


MONDAY: Small Group (Not Cooking – Whoop! Whoop!)

TUESDAY: Chocolate Chili (from freezer)

WEDNESDAY: Beef Sandwiches (beef from freezer), green beans

THURSDAY: Chicken Burritos (use chicken, rice, and black beans from freezer)

FRIDAY: Leftovers

SATURDAY: Sub sandwiches – hubby pick up

SUNDAY: Taco Soup (from freezer)

You will notice I’m using a lot from the freezer this week. Well, isn’t that the point of putting it in the freezer? To use it later? Tee hee hee. Actually, the reason is that I’m going to do the ONCE A MONTH MOM COOK OFF. Yep, I’m gonna do it. Next Saturday. Which means that I need some freezer space! Why am I doing it? The biggest reason I’m doing it – I need a food processor. Seriously need one. And, that’s the grand prize. So, I’m going for it. Even if I don’t win, I’ll have a freezer full of food to use and give away. So, be looking for more posts on that this week.

To find more great recipes and menu plans, visit Go ahead and click over. You know you want to.

Steamed Dumplings

Are you a fan of the Chinese steamed dumpling? I am a HUGE fan of the Chinese steamed dumpling!!! Like HUGE!!! It’s probably because I was made in Taiwan (seriously, I was – Dad was stationed there) and my parents ate them ALL the time. They would go to lunch and get a big bowl of dumplings and some soup. So technically, it was one of the first things I consumed.

Since my mom is such a fan, we never went out for Chinese food without dumplings being a part of the meal. I introduced them to many friends over the years, and they all thanked me for it. Even now, I’d rather just have steamed dumplings than any other Chinese food. However, in order to have them, you’ve got to go get them or wait for a delivery person. I don’t like the ones in the freezer section at all. So when I saw a recipe for pork dumplings in this month’s FAMILY FUN magazine, I was excited to try them.

You can get the recipe on their website. It’s a four parter. One part on how to make the filling. One on how to stuff them. One on how to cook them. And, the final one for the dipping sauce.

THESE WERE DIVINE. They smelled SO good as I was making them and were just melt in your mouth good. My Sweetie and I enjoyed many! I put some in the fridge, so we’ll see how they warm up. I also put some in the freezer to see how they freeze.

THEY TOOK HOURS TO MAKE. Seriously ¬†– hours. Part of that is because I need a food processor – in a major way. I’m, thinking of doing the Once A Month Mom Cook Off just so I can perhaps win a food processor. There was much cabbage to be shredded, which meant I was mincing it without a food processor. In addition, you had to stuff each one and keep them covered with a damp towel while you were making more. This is a PROCESS! Finally, I was using my little bitty veggie steamer in my big frying pan to steam them. I could only get on about 7 at a time, so it was slow going.

Things I learned:

These are worth the effort. Really. They were that yummy. Especially if they reheat well.

You DO need to cover with a damp towel like it tells you.

You DO need to spray your metal steamer or they will stick.

If I continue to make these, I’ll probably invest in a bamboo steamer. It would make the process a whole lot easier.

Is there something you’ve tried recently that turned out great? Not so great?

Menu Plan Monday: 02.22.10

Last week’s menu plan got all MESSED UP! We ended up with SO MANY leftovers from the week before and then ended up on an impromptu date on Thursday so I hardly had to cook at all. NOT that I’m complaining in the least.

So Sunday night we ended up having the planned Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas from Tuesday night. OH MY! They were SO GOOD! I highly recommend this recipe. I took Amy’s advice and cooked my own black beans by soaking them all day and then cooking them for several hours on the stove.

I had never cooked dried beans before. Ummmm… they SERIOUSLY EXPAND as they soak and cook. If you’ve never cooked dried beans and plan to, USE A LARGER POT than you think you need so you are not having to transfer them in the middle of the cooking process because they are cooking over. Just a bit of advice there.

Now, on to this week’s menu…

MONDAY: Small Group (not cooking – WHOOP!)

TUESDAY: (Soccer Practice) Hot Dogs, veggies, chips

WEDNESDAY: Girl’s Night (WHOOP!) Leftovers for those at home

THURSDAY: Garlic Roast Chicken with Vegetables, Cloud Biscuits (from last week)

FRIDAY: Bingo Night at School – Pizza!

SATURDAY: Pork Dumplings (Gonna try something new – wish me luck!)

SUNDAY: Breakfast for dinner.

What are you making this week? Do you menu plan? If not, DO IT! You’ll save time, money, and your sanity – PROMISE!

For more recipes and meal ideas, visit

Cocoa Krispies LOVE

We’ve all made Rice Krispies Treats. They’re easy. They’re delicious. They can be made into snowmen. Well, they can!

However, have you made Cocoa Krispies Treats? I mentioned them when I talked about my great Christmas Bake of ’09, but I wanted to spend a little more time on them. Why? Because they have become a HUGE FAVORITE at the House of Hills. HUGE!

You are basically making Rice Krispies Treats, but using Cocoa Krispies instead. The official recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of butter and 4 cups of mini-marshmallows. I use 4 tablespoons of butter and a bag of mini-marshmallows. (Who wants to measure marshmallows??)

I added one more tbsp butter in process.

These Cocoa Krispies are SO SO SO SO YUMMY! Like seriously! We had them for the first time at a Christmas party and couldn’t stop eating them. They are amazingly addictive. Everyone who has ever had one, can’t stop at one. Have I convinced you yet that you need to try them? You could even show your love with them.